Holy Week never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Scripture vividly portrays Jesus’ journey that week from Palm Sunday to Easter. I can only imagine the joy of seeing Him and then the immense sadness at his death on the Cross. But, to those believers, his death was not the end of his story as so many of us know.
Several ‘never to be forgotten’ memories occur to me as I’m thinking about Holy Week. Music has always been a major part of my life growing up. Not only did I come from an extremely musically talented family but we always attended church; and, when I was 14, I was asked to join the adult choir. The music we sang re-enforced the significance of Holy Week’s scriptures making the vision of those words come alive. Singing “God So Loved the World”, “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today”, and especially “The Hallelujah Chorus (which still brings chills to my body and tears to my eyes) are some of my favorites. I loved to listen to “The Trumpets Shall Sound” from “The Messiah” by Handel and still do. How inspirational to combine music and Scripture to create the reality of Holy Week.
After Jack and I had married, we moved from Pennsylvania to Sarasota, Florida. We were members of Siesta Key Chapel on Siesta Key. We would park our car on the sand and gravel below the church and walk up the short wooden ramp to a rustic gazebo-type structure where Pastor Jim Blackwood would greet and welcome everyone in his white cassock with a rope tied around his waist. He certainly fit in with this attire on this beautiful island. Then, we would walk up a longer wooden ramp to the deck which encircled the church. This small wooden church tucked among the trees had no stained-glass windows but instead had floor-to-ceiling panes of clear glass surrounding the sanctuary giving the impression of sitting in the trees enveloped by nature. It was a ‘given’ that we would attend Pastor Jim’s Sunrise Service on Siesta Key’s pearly white beach. As Jack and I watched the sun slowly rise from the east over the palm trees lighting up the sky, the beach with the throng of people gathered together, and dancing off the water of the Gulf of Mexico that morning, I never felt closer to God and the new day he had created for us.
What a moving experience it was for me at St. Mark’s Maundy Thursday’s services a few years ago and the re-enactment of the Last Supper with members of the congregation acting as the disciples with Jesus; and, in the darkened Sanctuary a single voice singing “Were You There”. It was all I could do to hold myself together. Upon hearing the three bells, deep emotions bubbled up inside of me. Another ‘never to be forgotten’ memory.
Recently, a new memory will stay with me on the holiest week of the year for Christians—the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 16, 2019. Even though extreme measures had been taken, ongoing renovation was probably the cause. I can only imagine the frantic efforts of those who took it upon themselves to rescue as many of the Cathedral’s works of art and other important religious relics including the Crown of Thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion as well as a nail and piece of wood from the cross. My heart goes out to all who worship at this 12th century church. I visited Notre Dame with my grandparents when I was 11 and even at that young age I was in awe of how significant and beautiful this sacred edifice was. I will never forget the Rose window with panes of stained-glass in shades of pink, rose, blues and lavenders and, now, how can I forget the Parisians kneeling and singing “Ave Maria” as they watched the flames erupting from this stately old church.
MEMORIES, memories--- and I will continue to have new memories. I feel and know that “Christ the Lord is Risen Today Alleluia."
by Doris Martin