Our family leads a busy life like everyone else. The world does not stop because it is Holy Week. It is a hectic time at work for me. My poor husband even has a big test this weekend in one of his classes.
Nonetheless, our family is taking time to reflect and remember the events commemorated during Holy Week.
My kids are still young, so we’re doing age appropriate things with them. For example, I rented the Veggie Tales Easter Carol video, which we watched last night. It is an Easter version of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Like any video in the Veggie Tales series, the characters are all cartoon vegetables, there are catchy songs and the stories are based on Christian themes.
Easter Carol tells the tale of a Scrooge-like character who misses the point of Easter. His beloved grandma had loved Easter and making Easter eggs. She had told him as a child that Easter meant no more death. He hadn’t really gotten what she was saying, he didn’t listen when she tried to tell him about Jesus. The Scrooge character later built a factory to make plastic Easter eggs that would never go away. He thought that was what Easter was all about. He thought making Easter eggs year round would keep his grandma’s memory alive.
Nonetheless, with the help of a wise pixie played by Christian singer, Rebecca St. James, the main character finally understands the Jesus story. The pixie shows him what the world would be like without the hope of Easter; people would be fearful and selfish, never caring about or daring to help others. Our family really enjoyed the Easter Carol video. Like all Veggie Tales flicks, it was entertaining and had valuable messages. My husband and I often half joke that we’ve learned a lot about the Bible from watching the Veggie Tales.
Today is what is called “Maundy Thursday” or “Holy Thursday” by many Christians. It is the beginning of the “Easter Triduum,” which is the three day intense liturgical period consisting of Maundy/Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Many Christians go to church for services or prayers on these special days. Our family’s church has a special service tonight. It is a remembrance of the last supper. We have a foot washing and then we prepare communion (a.k.a. Eucharist) for the last time before Easter.
The foot washing admittedly seems weird initially. But the point is reenacting Jesus’s act of love and humility in washing his disciples’ feet at the last supper. Jesus knew that his earthly life was nearly over, and he gave the disciples a very powerful example of love for the community. He wanted them to take care of one another when he was no longer physically present. Though strange at first blush, the foot washing is actually a very beautiful part of our service. A lot of people cry. Even me, though I never feel up to having others wash my feet. It is powerful to be reminded how deeply God loves each one of us, and how we are each called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to bring that love to other human beings in need.
After the foot washing tonight, we will prepare communion. We take communion in remembrance of the last supper. Then when communion is over, we read the passage from the gospels about Jesus’s arrest. Then all the lights in the church are turned off and everyone walks out quietly. We contemplate how the disciples must have felt. After the love and intimacy of the last supper, their leader is taken from them. They are lost and crushed without him. Again, it is such a powerful experience, that many of us tear up as we leave the church and head out into the darkness. Among other things, it makes me grateful for having Jesus in my life. I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years now. I cannot imagine how empty my life would have been without the light of Christ.
Tonight, after our Maundy Thursday service, our church will have an all night vigil. The purpose is to remember Jesus’s final hours, and to reenact in a way his agony in the garden. People from our church have signed up to take one hour shifts throughout the vigil. By the time I signed up, there was just one shift without a volunteer and it was in the middle of the night. I may be a little tired tomorrow!
I’m quite partial to sleep in the base case, but I’m really looking forward to the vigil tonight. It is a little crazy to go to the church and pray in the middle of the night like this. But it is exciting that our church is doing this.
Last year I did it for the first time. I was nervous and brought my Bible to read through my shift. The hour before me was covered by an adorable elderly couple—a retired pastor and his wife—who had sat and prayed together for an hour. It turned out that it was too dark for me to read during the vigil. Only one small light was lit, and frankly I couldn’t find the main switch in the chapel area. So I just sat and meditated on God’s presence in my life. The hour went faster than I anticipated.
A sweet friend of mine showed up to relieve me and take the next shift. She was very alert and bubbly for a shift in the middle of the night. The anticipation of Easter was hard for her to contain; she was so obviously excited. The protocol of the vigil is such that there is not supposed to be talking; it is a quiet and somber event. So, when my friend showed up to relieve me, we didn’t talk, but just exchanged big bear hugs. Our excitement for our faith, and our love for Jesus was obvious even without words.
Now before the feast of Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, and having loved his own in the world, loved them to the end.