Worshipers at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville focused both on the joy of Jesus’ return into Jerusalem and the pain of his crucifixion in a Palm Sunday service that was both joyous and solemn.
It was a scene repeated at churches across the area Sunday as Christians mark the beginning of Holy Week, the holiest week in the Christian calendar.
Also the last week of Lent, Holy Week is the week prior to Easter, which marks Jesus’ resurrection. Events and services held throughout Holy Week are meant to commemorate the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The week includes Palm Sunday; Maundy Thursday, which marks the Last Supper or Eucharist; Good Friday, which marks Jesus’ crucifixion; and Holy Saturday, which marks Jesus’ burial.
On Sunday, Grace Episcopal parishioners started their Holy Week outside the church.
Gathering in a parking lot with the Rev. Doug Dailey, rector of Grace Episcopal, parishioners heard the Gospel of the Palms, in which Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem by people who spread palm branches on the road in front of him as he traveled through the city.
“Today, we make our own procession to remember the way Jesus was received in Jerusalem,” Dailey told his parishioners.
Holding palm leaves, the parishioners then marched into the church behind the choir, joyfully chanting “Hosanna! In the highest” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
“We begin in a very festive way,” Daly said Sunday morning. “Then, we get to what is the crucifixion.”
The ceremony turned solemn as parishioners read the Passion Gospel, reflecting on the stories of Jesus’ betrayal and denial by his disciples and then his crucifixion. Music from the church organ, playing “O Lamb of God Most Holy” by Johann Sebastian Bach, dramatized the hammering of nails into Jesus’ hands and feet.
Parishioners left the service in silence, reflecting on the week before them.
Holy Week events continue for Grace Episcopal parishioners throughout the week, with an ecumenical service Wednesday at St. Paul United Methodist Church, a foot washing on Maundy Thursday and the observance of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Easter Sunday services will begin at 6 a.m. and continue until the afternoon.