No, we aren't using some exotic kalendar, as perhaps of the Third-Order Antiochian Rite of St. Urho's Monastery. It's just that, for us as for many people who lead worship, the sense of urgency connected to Holy Week begins very far in advance. It comes speeding toward us like a freight train, visible from far off where it looks small and harmless, but seeming to gain speed just before it hits with annihilating force.
Like getting out of the way of a train, you need to be ready for Holy Week well in advance, or it will destroy you.
This year's schedule includes:
- Vigil of Palm Sunday (Contemporary Style)
- Palm Sunday
- Stations of the Cross (adapted for Youth Group)
- Maundy Thursday (with First Communion)
- Good Friday noon prayers
- Good Friday tenebrae
- Vigil of Easter (Contemporary)
- Easter Matins (outdoors, at daybreak, in a contemporary idiom)
- Easter Mass x2
It's actually a fairly mild schedule as these things go. There is no public worship on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, for example. (We interpret this as God's invitation to spend those days hot-tubbing with adult film stars or something.) Many people have more worship services to organize than we do, and in any case our personal plan is to make Mother A. do all the work.
There are two complications:
(1) that this is our first year in a new parish. This means putting a great deal of effort into figuring out just what sort of services are precious to the various sub-communities we serve. Lutherans, the past masters of passive aggression, increase the challenge by saying things like, "Well, Pastor, what do you prefer?" This, being translated from the original tongues, actually means, "I sure hope you plan to do this the way we like. But we're not going to tell you what that is."
(2) juggling idioms. The weekly worship at Paradise in the Piedmont Lutheran Church is divided between "traditional" and "contemporary" services. Each idiom has its devotees, some of whom can be rather strident in their expression of preference. The challenge during the holy days is to show tokens of liturgical respect to both sides, so as to prevent hurt feelings down the road.
The idiom-juggling is rendered comical by two facts:
(1) the fact that our "traditional" service is not particularly traditional at all. No choir robes, and a choir that only sings "anthems" rather than liturgical music. Virtually no music composed before, say, 1650, and not much before 1850. Heinously ugly paraments, especially during Lent. Some nitwit taught them to say the Collect en masse. No lavabo; no aumbry, tabernacle or even ciborium; certainly no crucifix anywhere near the free-standing altar. And let's not even get started on the actual distribution of Communion, which involves self-intinction, small cups, grape juice, oversized ceramic chalices, and every other bad idea anybody has ever seen on vacation and come back to tell their long-suffering priest about with breathless enthusiasm.
Basically, the "traditions" expressed in this service -- as in so many other Protestant worship gatherings each week -- are the traditions of the mid-20th century. Whether these ahistorical practices are expressions of a dying form of Christianity or the instruments of its death is open for debate, but you can guess what we think.
(2) the fact that our "contemporary" service is really quite traditional. It features a dedicated and well-rehearsed choir (they prefer to be called a "praise band," but we're not fooled), who are present every week; confession and forgiveness (unless Fr. A slips in an Introit); a weekly celebration of Holy Communion; use of the lectionary; standing for prayer; etc. Throw in vestments and some incense, improve the distribution, and there really wouldn't be much to complain about. It's certainly no less traditional than the other service, assuming one is able to take a long view of what constitutes tradition.
It may take the Anonymi a few years to sort all this out liturgically. That's fine; we're in no hurry. They're nice people, and it's a privilege to lead them in worship, even if they are a little confused about this "tradition" thing. But you can imagine that we are approaching our first Holy Week -- one of the most tradition-steeped phases of the Christian year -- with a certain amount of pious trepidation.
How are things at your parish shaping up?