Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday of Holy Week

The Jewish Passover begins tomorrow (April 11th), just as the Christian Holy Week is beginning. The two observances do not always overlap, because they are guided by different calendars, but as we begin this Holy Week, we can greet in solidarity our siblings in faith with their traditional Passover greeting: Pesach Sameach!

Our Christian observance of the death and resurrection of Christ is intimately tied up with Passover. It was the Passover the disciples were celebrating in Jerusalem the night he was betrayed and arrested (well, except in the gospel of John, which intriguingly has the crucifixion occurring before Passover, but more on that anon).

The Passover itself was a celebration of the Israelites freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt.

Most Jewish communities share a meal (with family and friends) remembering the meal established by the Israelites the night they fled in haste from the violent and oppressive regime of Pharaoh. Ever since, all the peoples of the book recorded by the ancient Israelites have carried as one of their central doctrines: Care for the stranger/refugee in your midst, for you were once strangers in Egypt.

There are some wonderful prayers written for each of the days of Holy Week. One written especially for Monday reads:

Faithful Midwife,
as you delivered the Hebrews safely
out of the long labor of slavery,
so, morning by morning,
you draw us forth into the new day.
Surround us with a cloud of witnesses,
and sustain us by your powerful word,
that, in the night of loneliness and fear,
we, being weary, may not lost heart
but push toward the joy that is to come,
laboring with Christ
to give birth to your promised kingdom. Amen.

Here we see the influence of Passover on Holy Week itself. It is a good prayer to pray as we begin this season.

In our congregation, many of our baptisms take place at the Easter Vigil, the Saturday evening worship that serves as culmination of the Three Days.

This year, we have twelve children of God who will be baptized, including eight adults. Praise God! This group of catechumens have been preparing themselves by focusing on the commitments they make as Christians--to live among God's faithful people, to participate in the sacraments, read the sacred Scriptures, and to work for justice and peace in all the earth.

Keeping this in mind, another prayer for Monday of Holy Week is also appropriate.

Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war, and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.

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