Lent & Holy Week at St. Augustine's

Lent begins forty days (minus Sundays) before Easter and is a season of penitence, fasting and prayer. In the early days of the Church, those who sought to be baptized would spend this time in spiritual preparation just as our Lord spent forty days fasting in the wilderness before His ministry began.  Lent concludes with the first "Alleluia" of the Great Vigil. This season is a unique opportunity to move away from the noise of life, humbly quiet our hearts, and draw close to God. 

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. We call it Ash Wednesday because the faithful are marked with the sign of the Cross using ashes. Ashes signify sorrow and repentance and also remind us that we will return to dust. However, we are signed with a Cross to show that, through baptism, we share the life of Christ and can anticipate eternal life with Him.  

Holy Week commemorates the most pivotal events of our Christian faith: the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the Paschal mystery which is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. Through our participation with liturgy and holy Scripture, we place ourselves in a timeless drama during which God's plan for our redemption unfolds. Each service has a unique, yet interwoven theme of salvation. 

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. On this day the Messiah King rides into the beloved Jerusalem--to a people consecrated and called to be His own. He comes on a humble donkey to the city of God amid shouts of "Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!" The King comes in peace and humility and we, along with all of history, hail Him as King.

Maundy Thursday begins the Triduum (the sacred three days) and receives its name from the mandatum (commandment) given by our Lord. On this night, Jesus fully explains the depth of humility needed to follow Him. He explicitly gives His disciples a new commandment, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34).  He washes the disciples feet to illustrate the nature of servanthood, then celebrates the Last Supper with his friends. In this He gives Himself in the perpetual mystery of Holy Communion. This night we follow His example by sharing in the Body and Blood and washing of feet. 

Good Friday, the most somber of all days, focuses Jesus' sacrifice and the meaning of the cross. We remember that on that day the unthinkable happens. The Messiah is sentenced to death. After being tortured, mocked and betrayed by those who gladly  received Him a week earlier, Jesus is crucified along with two criminals. At the culmination of this agonizing execution, Jesus prays for our forgiveness and pays the final price for our sin. The Lamb of God is slain for the sin of the world. Our hearts are broken as we remember the penalty for our sin. But we also remember that this very Cross has broken our bondage to sin and death.  All is darkness and we leave in silence. 

Holy Saturday begins at sundown. It is a holy Sabbath--the day which our dear Savior rested because the work of salvation was complete. The Great Vigil begins in darkness then moves to the Service of Light. We kindle a new fire by lighting the Paschal Candle symbolizing Christ, the light of the world. We read portions of Scripture that recount the history of God's mighty acts and promises. We renew our Baptismal Vows remembering that we, too, are united to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Finally we celebrate the long-awaited Alleluia by sharing in His feast--the Holy Eucharist.  

Easter Sunday is the joyous celebration of Jesus' victory over death. We marvel with His disciples at the meaning of the empty tomb. We weep with joy with the women met by the angels who say, "He has risen." And we glory in the love of God who sent His only Son to set us free.

Come join us during Holy Week that you too may say:

Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord has risen indeed! Alleluia!

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. John 11:25-26

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