First, I just wanted to take a second and thank our Altar Guild, our Ushers, our LEMs, our acolytes, our musician, our Bulletin crew, our nursery worker, and anyone else who made Holy Week so meaningful. This was St. Nicholas’ first time doing Monday-Friday services and everyone jumped in to help make it happen.
As a new rector, there were a lot of things I was learning, as well, and everyone was very accommodating to my thoughts and ideas…and even my mistakes.
After Wednesday’s, the head of our Altar Guild, Liz, asked me when setting up for Maundy Thursday where I wanted the “sponge and vinegar.” I had NO idea what she was talking about.
Turns out, there is a long-standing Christian tradition of washing the altar after the Stripping of the Altar. Churches wash it in various ways, with water, with holy water, with wine and water, or with vinegar and water. I haven’t found any one way to do it, and all are acceptable. The funny thing was that I had never once heard of such a tradition. My church growing up was fairly high-church and so was my field education site in seminary. Granted, I went to Virginia Theological Seminary, which has a low-church tradition, so it’s not too strange that I never learned about it.
Makes me think about my friend Sam’s experience after serving a church for a few years before someone mentioned, “Back when we used to strip the altar on Maundy Thursday before you came.” Sometimes these details slip past us clergy types!
Of course, this tradition is about preparing the altar for the sacrifice and is also symbolic of preparing the body of Christ (the sacrifice itself). It was incredibly moving to do that.
Like anything, Holy Week was a learning curve for all of us. I appreciate all of you who came to many of the services. We had good attendance at all of them.
Perhaps the highlight for me was Wednesday as we did Stations of the Cross. I asked the acolytes to help out by reading the Scripture portions of the liturgy. You can never be to sure if you’re “forcing” youth to participate, but not this group. We had 7 acolytes show up and all of them were willing to read. I picked 4 to read and the other 3 carried the cross and torches. They all did an outstanding job and it made the service that much more meaningful. I think we might have a new tradition at St. Nicholas. The Martins videotaped the service, I wonder if we could get it on the internet to share with everyone?
Also, if you missed the services this week, be sure to check out the podcast sermons, especially Monday’s from the Rev. Hal Weidman from St. John’s, West Point, and David Johnson’s reading of “Mrs. Pilate Remembers” from Good Friday. David gave two reflections, but the sound quality in the first one was poor. Sorry David!
As I write this, there’s a storm outside which makes me think about that awful day that Jesus died. However, like a storm, we know that this feeling Good Friday brings is not going to last forever. While we sit and wait in this dark hour, let us keep hope for a new tomorrow!