Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Wednesday in Holy Week: March 27, 2024

The liturgies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter — collectively known as the triduum, or three days — are the summit of our Christian liturgical year. Though spread over multiple days, these services are intended to be experienced as one epic liturgy, inviting us to participate in the events of Jesus’ last supper, crucifixion, and resurrection. The music for these liturgies is designed to elucidate the story and deepen our contemplation. While each of these liturgies is packed with wonderful music, I’ll spare you an unduly lengthy essay and instead share one highlight for each day.

On Maundy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper, a profound moment wherein Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist. This year, our noon service will include William Byrd’s sublime Mass for Five Voices sung by the wonderful St. John’s Choir. A master of Renaissance polyphony, Byrd is among the most celebrated composers in the Anglican tradition. The intricate interplay of voices in his mass might be thought to mirror the unity of believers gathered around the Lord’s table, reflecting the sacredness of community and the bonds of Christian fellowship.

Good Friday confronts us with the stark reality of Christ’s crucifixion, inviting us to meditate on the depth of his sacrifice. Following the reading of the Passion, our voices unite in the haunting strains of Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? This spiritual, rooted in the African American tradition, captures the profound sorrow and anguish of witnessing Christ's crucifixion. Its plaintive melody and evocative lyrics transport us to Golgotha, where we stand as witnesses to the ultimate act of love. Through song, we express our solidarity with Christ in his suffering and our gratitude for his sacrifice.

On Easter morning, we kindle a new flame that gradually overcomes the darkness of the preceding days and fills our lives (and our church) with light. The chandelier is lighted, and the brass ensemble joins in the fanfare: Christ is risen! Amidst the celebration, we honor our longstanding St. John’s tradition of singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at the end of the service. The whole congregation is deputized to join the mass choir in singing “Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” affirming our faith in the risen Christ and the promise of eternal life. Over the years, parishioners have asked for help in preparing for this wonderful moment, so I’ll once again share our Halleljuah Chorus Preparation Video.

I look forward to seeing you throughout the week and to hearing you sing out on Easter morning.

Brent Erstad
Director of Music and Organist

Links to the appointed readings for today