What’s So Holy About This Week?

By | April 5, 2009

We enter today into Holy Week. The week begins with Palm Sunday and ends with three worship services called the “Trideum.” These are the worship services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. At these services we remember Christ’s final Passover celebrated with his disciples while on earth, his crucifixion, and the uncertain anticipation the disciples experienced the day before Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.


To understand the significance of these services, we can learn a lot from our Jewish friends. Even though we use a different “liturgical calendar” than the Jewish community, this year the Jewish celebration of Passover happens to fall on the same Thursday as the Christian’s Maundy Thursday. Jews celebrate Passover to remember God’s faithfulness to them in leading their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. During a Passover meal, Jews will eat bitter herbs dipped in salt water to represent the bitterness and tears of slavery.  They’ll eat matzo to remember the unleavened bread to represent the unleavened bread the Israelites made in haste when leaving Egypt. These are just a couple of examples. Every act of the Seder meal recalls the experience of ancient Israel. There is more to the Jewish Passover, then, than just remembrance. The Passover meal is an act of solidarity, a way for the Jewish community of internalizing the story of their ancestors and making it their story.


The “Trideum” serves the same purpose for us as Christians. On each of these days we remember Jesus’ last Passover meal on earth and the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and death on the cross, and the waiting and grieving of Jesus’ followers between his crucifixion and resurrection. But as we move through these worship services, we make it our goal to move beyond mere remembrance and further into solidarity with Christ, his first followers, and all of his followers who have come and gone since. These worship services won’t be “typical” Sunday worship services. They’ll look and feel different, they’ll help us to internalize the story of Jesus and his disciples during that week in Jerusalem. Their story becomes our story.


On Maundy Thursday, the Upper Room will join Waverly Presbyterian Church (corner of Forbes Ave. and Braddock Ave.) at 6:30pm for a “Christian Seder.” We’ll gather in their social hall and have a meal together based on the Jewish Seder meal and adapted for Christian use.


On Good Friday, the Upper Room will join Eastminster Presbyterian Church (corner of Highland Ave and Penn Circle North in East Liberty) and African Christian Fellowship at 7pm. We’ll once again hear the story of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and death. As we do, we’ll also participate in an exercise in which we “crucify” our sins on the cross with Jesus.


On Holy Saturday, the Upper Room will host other churches in our worship space at Botany Hall in Phipps Conservatory at 7pm for an adapted “Easter Vigil” service. During this service we’ll hear a series of readings from the Old Testament (or the Jewish Tanach) that recount God’s faithfulness. We don’t know for certain what was going on in the minds of Jesus’ followers after his crucifixion and before his resurrection. As faithful Jews, though, they would have known these stories. In fact, the gospels tell us that when Jesus was resurrected and appeared to his disciples, he spent time explaining the Old Testament Scriptures to them. The stories and Scriptures texts which we’ll read and listen to on Saturday night are stories that point to God’s faithfulness and to the risen Christ. They’re the stories Jesus wanted his disciples to know and remember. The Easter Vigil service will conclude with a remembrance and renewal of our baptism, the ultimate act of solidarity with Jesus which Jesus commanded us to practice.


So, we invite you to join us for all three of these services of the “Trideum.” Come join us in remembering and internalizing the crucifixion and death of Jesus and the events surrounding it. Come make Christ’s story your story.


Upper Room Holy Week Worship Times and Locations:

April 9 – Maundy Thursday: 6:30pm at Waverly Presbyterian Church (corner of Forbes and Braddock)

April 10 – Good Friday: 7pm at Eastminster Presbyterian Church (corner of Highland Ave and Penn Circle North)

April 11 – Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil: 7pm at Botany Hall of Phipps Conservatory (Schenley Park)

April 12 – Easter Morning – 11am at Botany Hall of Phipps Conservatory (Schenley Park)