Tridu-what? Holy Week and the #Triduum at St Nicholas 2014

Holy Week actually begins with Palm Sunday, at 10:00AM April 13th. The service starts with a joyful royal procession with palms, but the mood changes suddenly from triumph to tragedy as the dramatic Gospel reading progresses to its stark conclusion. This mood change will be reflected in the musical anthem "A Brief Processional," which will be sung by the St Nicholas Choir. There will be no 4:30pm Saturday service on April 12. All are welcome to walk with us from joy to sorrow and back again during Holy Week, and especially for the great 3 days (evening services, actually) leading up to the glory of Easter. Each night the services does not end in the usual way, but is suspended in silence and darkness until taken up again the next night. It can be a profoundly moving experience. We encourage you to experience the entire Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter) again this year. If you've never taken the journey of Holy Week, here's a good explanation of what goes on as we at St Nicholas experience it - this post has been updated from last year's version.

Three Days *

The Three Days (or Triduum) slow down time as we move through the climax of the story of faith, Jesus' betrayal, death, and resurrection. Worship throughout the rest of the year skims the surface in some ways, whisking us through the story of Jesus' life. But in these three days we linger. There is so much centered here. We have to take our time to be able to receive it. Worship on these days will cover it all: creation and redemption, death and life, fire and water, desolation and celebration. These days enact the great Christian drama, and the liturgies are, in many ways, dramas that embody the story, the tensions, and the teachings at the core of our faith. The Triduum liturgies are, in effect, one continuous rite spread over three consecutive days. Thus, there is no blessing or dismissal until the conclusion of the First Mass of the Resurrection on Easter Eve.

Maundy Thursday -April 17, 7 PM

Thursday evening marks the beginning of the Triduum. We reach back to the beginning of Lent to recall the confession we made on Ash Wednesday. This service is clearly different from the regular flow of the Eucharist as we celebrate it weekly, because what we commemorate this evening is different. Tonight we begin a celebration that will not end until the exultant conclusion of the Great Paschal Vigil. Tonight, we hear the words of forgiveness in a new way. It is only with the knowledge of being forgiven that we can engage the rest of the story. We watch and we eat a last supper with Jesus. We hear him offer all of himself to us, even his body and blood. We end the service with the stripping of the chancel. Adornment after adornment leaves the sanctuary as the words of the psalm drift through the air, and we are reminded of what this love will cost Jesus. We leave the service lingering. It is holy time.

Good Friday - April 18, 7 PM

CrownofThorns and Nails
When we return to the sanctuary on Good Friday, hours have passed. We hear about Jesus' betrayal, capture and trial. We hear of his humiliation, his interrogation. We know the night was long for him, and lonely. Our visual center is the cross. There is nothing else to distract us. The pace is slow, as those final hours must have been for him. We move relentlessly toward the end. We pray, interceding for the world around us, for our church, and ourselves. We are reminded that Jesus' death was paradoxically, the moment of his triumph. Through his death, he defeated death.

The Great Vigil of Easter - Saturday April 19, 8 PM

REMINDER: There is no 4:30PM Saturday liturgy on April 19
Now we are almost there, almost at the hour when Jesus' death itself was overcome, the death become life -- the victory we so need. Now time stands still for us to remember all that has gone before. No other service is so full of the heritage of faith; no other time in the year do we gather together all of the richest metaphors and symbols of faith. We gather around new fire, itself a sign of creation renewed. From it we light the paschal candle to illumine our way. As the pillar of fire led the people of Israel in the wilderness, so the paschal candle will lead us to Easter -- the light of Christ our beacon. In the silence from Good Friday, the light is rekindled. Gathered around the light, we wrap the great stories of faith like a blanket around ourselves.

We recall our ancestors and God's saving work among us throughout the ages -- creation from a word, the earth washed clean in the flood, the deliverance at the Red Sea, dry bones given life again. The baptismal font beckons to affirm our baptisms, to remember our welcome into the community of faith, and to welcome others newborn into the faith. The Gospel reading draws us out of our holy recollections and into the events of the story again. Now we are prepared. We know where we have come from before we peek into the tomb with the women and Peter. When we hear the angel say, He is not here, but has risen, we know again that life is always God's way with us. Death is defeated. We dance through the holy meal, now each one confessing the truth of the story.

Light the church! Shout Alleluia! Celebrate with high praise! He is risen!

*Adapted from Sundays and Seasons 2004 (Augsburg/Fortress, 2003), pp. 158-159.

The Vicar’s Corner: The Opportunity that Lent Offers

There is a rather endearing sentiment when it comes to a high school play.  I haven’t been to such a play, well, since my senior year and that was back in 1975-76.  Sadly, I can’t even remember the play and I was in it!  Honestly, I figured those were the sort of memories I’d never forget…and sadly, I’ve forgotten.

Nonetheless, recently Douglas and I decided to do something “out of the box.”  So, we chose to support the “local art scene,” brave the cold and dark of night and attend the Johnsburg High School presentation of “Into the Woods.”  We both love the play and Johnsburg is just up the road a piece.

The kids did a very nice job with a very difficult play.  Stephen Sondheim is a genius and this play is wonderful.  Sondheim takes several classic tales, blends and mixes them together with song and dance and weaves a delightful story.  If you have seen it…see it again.  If you’ve never seen it…make a point of renting the Broadway version (Bernadette Peters plays the Wicked Witch in this version) or catch a performance when it’s in the area.  I believe you can catch some or most of the play via Netflix.

At various points in the play, the characters, in turn, share with the audience particularly pointed and rather provocative statements, comments and little nuggets of wisdom.  This may well be my favorite part of the play…those little quips “hit home” and they continue to stay with me.

So, I wish to share with you today and for the next several weeks, which coincidentally coincides with the holy season of Lent, a few of those “one-liners.”  Granted, some of these one-liners are “play-specific” and wouldn’t make much sense outside the play itself.  However others have a keen connection with faith and life.  If we peel back the surface and look deep within, we may well indeed find some rather wonderful, pleasantly sacred and divinely-inspired material that fits so well with Lent.  Was this a deliberate ploy of Mr. Sondheim?  Who knows.  Regardless, we will take some “liberty” and assume “license” because with God, nothing trumps the Creator and all is fair with God and stage.

“Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.”

Lent is ripe with opportunity.  However, Lent is “limited,” in that this holy and sacred season is only 6 weeks long; a mere 40 days.  Lent truly does not linger very long with us.  Opportunity knocks but not too often.  Lent comes and goes.  Lent’s visit is hardly lengthy.  We are gifted with this rather unique church season to better prepare ourselves to truly celebrate the great Paschal Feast of Easter.  In order to be at “our best,” we have 40 days to prepare ourselves; to cleanse our heart and soul, to refresh and revive the spirit.  Then, we are ready to celebrate, to rejoice and sing out in joy to the victorious Jesus who conquers sin and death, once for all.  Let’s make sure we seize opportunity and make good use of this visitor’s time with us.  Let us make sure, genuinely and sincerely we welcome this visitor, this Visiting Lent, and open ourselves to the experience and make good use of the gifts this seasonal visitor brings.


Father Manny150

Father Manny Speaks: If Hope Springs Eternal, Winter Brings Eternal Snowshoveling (and sports fan anguish)

Just to let you know, this past Sunday, on a cold, damp and cloudy Pennsylvania morning, Punxsultawney Phil indeed did see his shadow.  That means for those who place their meteorological hopes on a groundhog, we are facing six more weeks of brutal, winter weather.  What joy! For all Denver Bronco football fans, this year's Super Bowl was nothing more than a Super Bust!  Seattle Seahawks provided an old fashioned thumping to the tune of 43 to 8.  Those of us who had hoped for a competitive game were sadly disappointed in this rather one-sided affair.  As a long-time (and long-suffering) Lions fan, I have come to understand and appreciate the many levels of frustration and disappointment.  Yet, one thing I have not experienced is watching my beloved Motor City Kitties get trounced in a world championship least not yet.  Still, hope springs eternal and I remain ever faithful and not some "fence sitting, fair weather fan."  It's "all in or all out," for me when it comes to my allegiance to my favorite teams. Being true to our causes, dedicated to the things we hold as sacred and important is often times rather challenging.  Standing up and being vocal for equal rights and fair housing, pay equality for all American workers, ending racial profiling and abuses against women and children...all valid and immensely important causes well worth the energy and effort we put forth. Our country has seen many struggles in her efforts to see that freedom and equality ring true for all her citizens.  This job has not been completed.  Our country must still exercise true freedom for all.   The Civil Rights Movement in the late 1940's and early 50's ushered in that struggle and changed the trajectory of our nation and her treatment and recognition of our sisters and brothers of color.  Rosa Parks refused to surrender her Montgomery, Alabama bus seat after all the "for whites only" seats were filled.  Her actions fueled the growing Civil Rights Movement.  There were others who preceded Rosa with their own actions and civil disobedience of where they sat on Alabama buses:  Irene Morgan and Sara Louise Keys stood tall and firm in the resolution to be treated fairly and with dignity and they refused to surrender their bus seats.  Browder v. Gayle was a landmark court case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Both the lower and Supreme courts ruled the Alabama bus systems must desegregate and found their segregation laws as unconstitutional.  Three days after the Supreme Court ruling in 1956, Alabama desegregated their entire bus system.  The tide was turning, but there was still much to do.  These young women and men stood tall and firm in the beliefs and in their desire to make a difference in the world.  They remained resolute to their cause and in their individual and collective efforts, a huge difference was made. Fighting personal battles is not unfamiliar to any of us.  We all face difficulties and challenges.  Wilma Rudolph was born with infantile paralysis and was forced to wear a brace on her left leg for many years.  Regardless of this impediment and the pain she endured, Wilma was persistent to be "normal" and walk, run and enjoy life.  In 1960 at the Rome Olympics, Wilma won 3 Gold Metals and was proclaimed "The Fastest Woman in the World."  She won the battle.  She kept her course. She was true to her convictions and beliefs. What about our faith?  What about how we demonstrate our beliefs and "personal creeds' when we're not in church?  This is much more difficult and daunting, isn't it?  We all know "what to do" and "how to do" things while in our worship space.  The real test of being a practicing Christian is when we are engaged in the day-to-day actions of the world.  When we're in traffic or in the grocery store, or when we we're asked to wait for just a moment and we don't have that moment to spare.  We are challenged and tested when a family matter become family crisis or when a friend is in dire need and we're already exhausted and pushed to the limit but still need and want to help. What inspires us to continue to sacrifice and to "live out our faith?"  What is our driving force?  It is my hope that, first and foremost, our force is always Jesus; our source and the driving force of life, grace and peace.  Let us also look toward one another: let us inspire and lead in matters of faith and in our day to day interactions.  Let us all receive and share the Light that is Christ Jesus and serve as guide for those who need our assistance to see the true and righteous path.  Let us be sincere and forever true to our cause and stand firm in our beliefs.  There is no telling what the true effect our actions will yield...but how joyful will the noise be that we make and all for God's greater glory. [editor's note: thanks to the kindness of a local schools contractor, our parking lot and sidewalks get plowed and shoveled... on weekdays only, so someone has to shovel and snowblow for weekend services. At least our weekday support groups reap the benefit, and we St Nick's parishioners will soldier on through 6 more weeks of winter - gg]