Palm Sunday always had a profound effect on me. The last two since joining the St. Paul’s choir have been particularly powerful. Our director Angela Tipps possesses an uncanny gift for choosing poignant liturgical music, perfectly accenting the theology of the service. As someone who often prays through music, Angela’s musical selections move me as much as experiencing the Passion and nearly as much as the act of taking communion.
Sunday, we began the service basking in the sun and singing a lilting “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes” with children’s voices echoing adults and youth. We had handbells and cello, making the peace a joyful start to our triumphant procession around and into the church. We processed to a rousing “All glory, laud, and honor.”
By communion, we were singing “Father if this cup cannot pass,” and finished processing in silence. We had listened to the Passion. We had listened to our priest’s call to feel the suffering and sadness of Holy Week, reminding us that Christ deserved our walking with him through his pain and suffering. We threw our palms on the altar steps, leaving the church to enter a world without Christ–a world of desolation and hopelessness. Our Lord and Savior was dead.
I adore Easter. It defines us as a church–not just the Episcopal church but the entire Body of Christ, the universal Church. For me, however, Easter has such a profound meaning because of Holy Week, because of the journey of Lent. I feel the Resurrection, because I have felt the Crucifixion. I rejoice in the Lord’s triumph over death, because I demanded his crucifixion. Holy Week more than any other week of the year defines my personal Faith and my Anglican identity. I cannot imagine a life without the liturgies of Holy Week.
One of my greatest joys in being a member of the St. Paul’s choir lies in the dedication and heartfelt faith with which the choir attends to its ministry. The choir members share a sense of responsibility for their work and a sense that the Holy Spirit is with us and guiding us. Never do we gather without a prayer. Never do we serve without a request to God through Christ that our hearts and our minds be guided by our Faith.
That dedication filled the air on Sunday. When I walked into the choir room Sunday morning, the room was loud and joyful. There were jokes and laughter. When I walked out, the grief and solemn silences thickened the air. No one was unaffected by the liturgy we had shared.
I can’t remember a Palm Sunday in my adult life where tears weren’t streaming down my face by communion. I can’t remember a Holy Week where I have not felt profoundly sad. I wouldn’t have it any other way.