[ Article by Caroline Carr, member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, St. Pete Beach, FL, www.stalbanstpetebeach.org. Thanks, Caroline! ]
For the first time, I participated in church services five times during Holy week this year. At first I thought my whole life during that time would revolve around church and in a miraculous way, I was correct. It all began on Palm Sunday when we all gathered in the Welcome Center and were given palms. We processed into the sanctuary singing a hymn of praise. A make shift table was set to represent where Jesus and his disciples ate on the last night. The Passion was read from the scriptures and props were incorporated into them. For example, when someone read the passage related to the sacraments, the wine or bread was presented and a hammer was hit on the table, signifying Christ’s presence on the cross. The service ended in silence as Holy Week began.
I attended the Wednesday chapel healing service as I usually do and felt the continuing presence of God as we read lessons and received healing prayers and communion. On Maundy Thursday, the service once again began in the WelcomeCenter where an agape meal was served and prayers and singing began. Everyone then had the opportunity to have their feet washed and kissed. After this took place, we proceeded into the sanctuary where we gave each other communion around the altar. Afterwards, we went into the adjoining chapel set up to represent the Garden of Gethsemane which gave everyone an opportunity to reflect on what this night meant to Jesus, his disciples and many generations to come. The Good Friday service was a somber and meditative one. The church had been stripped of any adornment and the focus was on Christ’s sacrifice for us. The passion was once again read and communion was given before departing in silence.
All these amazing services lead up to the glorious celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Flowers adorned the church and everything was decorated to pronounce how “alive” we now are again. Our rejoicing had now begun!
So, now that Holy Week is over, how do I continue to keep that amazing feeling I had during that period of time? Life has gone back to “normal” and I am back to attending church services on Sundays and Wednesdays. The peaceful, positive feeling I experienced has now faded. Could it be that real life has taken over once again? There is a large palm tree outside my living room sliding glass door. I look at it several times a day and ponder its significance. I have always thought it was a reminder of the beauty and peacefulness of living near the beach but now believe there might be some deeper meaning to its existence. Maybe it is a reminder of the beginning of Holy Week with Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The experiences of betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection are significant to those who believe in Him. Each day is a gift from God which tells us that we can have this feeling all the time, in spite of obstacles in our lives and challenges we meet along the way. So, every time I see a palm tree from now on, I will not only realize how fortunate I am to live in such a lush, tropical place but I will picture those people long ago waving palms in the air to express their love and devotion to Christ who sacrificed his life, in such a brutal way, that we might be saved from evil, ourselves.
May 9, 2013