Join us in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth in the observance of Holy Week and Easter. Read Bishop Scott Mayer’s Easter message, “Love can bring light”.
Holy Week and Easter Services
Click the town name to open a list of services at different congregations.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Easter Message
The Foundational Story
Holy Week is when the foundational story of Christianity – Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection – is remembered and retold, both in words and in ritual actions, at services throughout the week. It ends at sundown on Holy Saturday with a service called the Great Vigil and the first Easter celebration.
The suffering of Jesus Christ before dying on the Cross to redeem humanity is called the Passion of Jesus. The term is from the Latin passio, which means “suffering.” A gospel narrative of this redemptive suffering is called “the Passion.” Faith in Jesus’ resurrection on the third day following his crucifixion is at the heart of Christian belief.
From earliest times Christians have observed the week before Easter as a time of special devotion. Jerusalem contains many sacred places where Christ suffered and died. For centuries pilgrims have followed the path of Jesus in his last days at these places with processions and worship services.
The rites Episcopalians and other Christians will observe during Holy Week evolved from the observances of the pilgrims at these holy sites. These rites provide a worship experience of the last days of Jesus’ earthly life, as well as the time and events leading up to his resurrection.
The beloved Book of Common Prayer provides special services for each of these days. Some congregations also observe the service of Tenebrae (Latin for “darkness” or “shadows”) on one of these days. The service of Tenebrae is in the Book of Occasional Services. But the heart of Holy Week observance is the three holy days, or Triduum, of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
The Triduum – the Heart of Holy Week
- Maundy Thursday’s name comes from the Latin mandatum novum, “new commandment,” from John 13:34. The ceremony of washing feet also was referred to as “the Maundy.” In some congregations the priest will wash the feet of worshipers in commemoration of Jesus’ washing the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper. Maundy Thursday also commemorates the institution of the Eucharist (also known as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion) by Jesus at the Last Supper. Afterwards, the altar is stripped and all decorative furnishings are removed from the church in preparation for the somberness of Good Friday.
- Good Friday is when the church commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a day of fasting and special acts of discipline and self-denial. The worship service includes John’s account of the Passion gospel, a form of prayer known as the solemn collects (dating from ancient Rome), and optional devotions before the cross, commonly known as the veneration (or adoration) of the cross. The Eucharist is not celebrated in The Episcopal Church on Good Friday.
- Holy Saturday recalls the day when the crucified Christ visited among the dead while his body lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. In The Episcopal Church there is no Eucharist on Holy Saturday, which ends at sunset with the Easter Vigil
The Easter Vigil
The Easter Vigil, also known as the Great Vigil, is the most comprehensive and dramatic worship service of the church. It is the first celebration of Easter. The Greek and Latin term for Easter is Pascha, in Hebrew pesach (Passover). It is used both for the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter. From pascha comes terms such as “Paschal Lamb,” referring to Jesus; and “Paschal Candle,” referring to the tall candle first lit during the Easter Vigil. The Easter Vigil service begins in darkness, sometime between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter, and consists of four parts:
- The Service of Light, which includes the kindling of new fire, lighting the Paschal candle, and the Exsultet, the ancient joyful proclamation of the Resurrection
- The Service of Lessons, with readings from the Hebrew Scriptures interspersed with psalms, canticles, and prayers
- Christian Initiation, in which people are baptized and baptismal vows are renewed
- The Eucharist (Holy Communion or Lord’s Supper)
Easter is the feast of Christ’s resurrection. The word derives from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess Eostre. Christians in England applied the word to the principal festival of the church year, both the day and season. Easter Day is the annual feast of the Resurrection, the pascha or Christian Passover. Throughout the Easter Season, the acclamation The Lord is risen, the Lord is risen indeed will ring joyfully through Episcopal Churches in celebration of the mystery and miracle of Easter. The Easter Season lasts fifty days, from Easter Eve through the Day of Pentecost, this year on May 15. The word “pentecost” means the fiftieth day. It marks the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made of the return of the Holy Spirit, described in scripture as tongues of fire appearing above the heads of the apostles. It marks the Church as the Body of Christ drawn together and given life by the Holy Spirit. It is understood by many to be the origin and sending out of the church into the world.