One thing about celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Anglican church, among others, is that it keeps clergy and their spouses very busy for the week leading up to Resurrection Sunday.
Tonight my husband and I have a prayer meeting with the Bishop and the others on his diocesan prayer team. Tomorrow night is the Maundy Thursday service, where I will have the privilege of being the one at the end of the service to strip the church altar of its accoutrements...Bible, candles, table runners etc. will be taken down from the altar while the congregation sits in silence as the lights dim over the bare altar...symbolic of Jesus being stripped of everything on this earth, including the support of his disciples, as he is arrested and awaits the laborious dragging of his cross out to the hill for his crucifixion. Good Friday marks the end of his earthly life as we talk about his vicious death on a cross, the beginning of his last steps to securing the salvation of those who believe in his divinity and his mandate from God. Saturday evening is Easter Vigil where we wait upon the glorious resurrection celebration that will happen on Sunday morning.
The liturgies are basically the same each year, the prayers reflect the same issues of gratitude, the sermons always talk about the true significance of Christ's sacrifice and what it can mean to and for us, but somehow it never becomes monotonous to listen to or participate in. The reminder that someone who, while a part of God, participated fully in all the joys, sorrows and eventual death that all humanity experiences in order that our eternity can be spent in the Kingdom of God should not be so necessary for believers, should it? Every day we should be on our knees in gratitude because we know who we are without Christ. Unfortunately we seem to forget with sad regularity the forgiveness and mercy and love that is ours from on high. How often we forget to give forgiveness and mercy and love to others who, like ourselves without the grace of God, do not deserve to receive them.
I am grateful each year to be allowed to participate in the services. Participation makes all Jesus went through more real to me. There is something about the hands on action of stripping the altar, or pounding a nail myself into a wooden replica of the sort of cross Christ died on, or seeing that same cross on Resurrection Sunday morning completely bare...no body hanging there, or sometimes with flowers replacing each nail that was put there on Good Friday by those of us in the congregation, symbolic of the resurrection and of new life in Christ.
For clergy it is an exhausting time of year. My husband will be as wiped out from the extra services as all the other priests. He will be very happy though to have had the opportunity to once again remind us what God has done to bring us closer to himself.