How to Keep Holy Week

In the past, I’ve found myself blogging about Holy Week after the event. As the services have unfolded, I find myself commenting on what happened and how I’ve felt as they have gone along.

It strikes me that it might be helpful to say something about Holy Week in advance for those who are not used to the custom of keeping Holy Week and who might not have grasped that this is something worth doing. My claim every year is that if people keep Holy Week in St Mary’s they will find they understand the faith in a new way and that Easter Day will never be the same again. By keeping Holy Week, I mean:

  • Palm Sunday at 1030 – palms and procession and reading of the Passion
  • Maundy Thursday at 7.30 pm – Eucharist, stripping of the altar and watch of prayer. There is an earlier service too this year at 11 am for anyone who can’t manage the evening service.
  • Good Friday – two or three of the services – 9.30 am liturgy, the three hours (starts at noon) or the musical devotion at night (this year the Crucifixion)
  • Easter Day – the Vigil (starts at 7 am) and the main service at 10.30 am. (To include Good News, Easter Proclamation, Jazz and Fizz).

There are other services along the way, but that for me is the basic way to keep Holy Week. The services from the Thursday through to the Sunday are collectively called the Triduum. The other services are incredibly valuable too, but the priority should be to keep Palm Sunday and the Triduum together as a congregation.

The other things to look out for include Daily Prayer, which we keep at 9.30 each day. Compline on Monday and Tuesday evening. This is a sung service of late night prayer which will include on these days a profound period of gathered silence for meditation and reflection.

On Wednesday evening there is a lay-led devotion folloing The Way of the Cross. In this service a pilgrimage is made around the church remember at different stations events in the last days of Jesus’s life.

We tell a lot of the story of Holy Week through movement and action. Palm Sunday is a good example. We receive palms that have been platted into the shape of crosses. The service begins with a bit of a melee at the back of the church. (The “mob” is a key player in the story of the Passion). From there, we make our way out of the church, process around outside and arrive back in through the South Door. As we do this, we are supposed to remember Jesus arriving in Jerusalem in triumph and being hailed by the mob with the cry of Hosanna. Instead of the Sermon on Passion Sunday, we read the story of the Passion and in recent years at St Mary’s we have developed the custom of the people (who are often called the Body of Christ) reading the words of Jesus.

I’ll try to blog a bit more in advance of some of the other events of Holy Week and would welcome thoughts and reflections from anyone about what it means to keep these days. I remember someone saying to me a couple of years ago that keeping this feast at St Mary’s was like making a retreat, and I think that is true.

To some extent, as Christians, those days keep us, not the other way around.


  1. ChickPea says

    The Rabble, the confusion, palms, procession…… all were there in rich profusion. (Donkeys are rare beasts in Glasgow)

    The reading of the Passion from Luke brought a slightly different perspective to the one I have become immune to…

    Yes. Holy Week has started……….

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