Holy Week and Easter, 2023 A.D.
The week before Easter is called Holy Week and culminates the preparation time of Lent. Holy Week is the high point of every Christian Church Year and so also in 2023 A.D. (Anno Domini, “in the year of our Lord”). The events of Holy Week should be focal point of every day of our lives, since “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) is our life and salvation.
During Holy Week, we focus on the events of Jesus’ life from His entrance into Jerusalem until His glorious resurrection from the dead. Palm Sunday (April 2 this year), the first day of Holy Week, commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9). Because the complete account of the Lord’s Passion from Matthew, Mark, or Luke is often read, this Sunday is also called the Sunday of the Passion. At Grace Lutheran Church, we have not traditionally read the whole Passion during the Sunday Divine Service, although this year I did include a selection of the Passion at the conclusion of the service. I encourage you to devote time to reading the Passion from each of the Gospels during Holy Week. Below I have included suggestions for daily readings and prayers for certain days of Holy Week.
On Maundy Thursday (April 6), the Church gives thanks to Jesus for the institution of the Lord’s Supper. We celebrate the Divine Service with Holy Communion at 7:00 p.m. The Maundy Thursday service closes with the stripping of the altar while Psalm 22 (a prophecy of the crucifixion AND resurrection) is chanted. This reminds us of how our Lord stripped to the waist in humility to wash His disciples’ feet, and how He was stripped naked and beaten before His crucifixion.
Good Friday (April 7) is the most solemn of all days in the Christian Church, yet a note of joy remains, as the title of the day indicates. On Good Friday, as we remember that on account of our sin the Lord was crucified and died, we give joyful thanks to God that all sin and God’s wrath over sin falls on Jesus and not on us, and that by His grace we receive the benefit of this ultimate sacrificial act. On this day we gather for the ancient service of Tenebrae, with Holy Communion, at 7:00 p.m.
On Holy Saturday (April 8), we will again hold a vigil, or service of watching, that ushers in the resurrection. The Vigil of Easter is comprised of six parts: the Service of Light, the Service of Readings, the Service of Holy Baptism (or of baptismal remembrance, if no Baptism is being performed), the Service of Prayer, the Service of the Word, the Service of the Sacrament. The service will be at 7:00 p.m. and lasts about 90 minutes (other services are about an hour). In both congregations I have served, a number of people have commented that this was one of the most beautiful services they had ever attended. It is one of my favorites of the church year. I encourage you to come find out for yourself.
On Easter Sunday, we will have our regular Divine Service at 9:15 a.m. During Holy Week and the Easter season, Jesus invites you to come receive His Holy Word and Sacraments from His own hand in numerous Divine Services, for as He says, “Where two or three have been gathered together in My name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20), and “In every place where I cause My name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:24).
Holy Week Scripture Readings and Prayers
In order to focus on and appreciate more fully the Passion of Jesus Christ, the following Scripture readings and prayers may aid your devotion.
Scripture and Prayer for the Evening of Palm Sunday (April 2)
Reading: Matthew 26:1—27:66
Lord Jesus, King of kings, today again I praise You with my hosannas and welcome You as the King of my heart. Enter in and take full possession of me, body heart, mind and soul. As thousands and ten thousands today vow faithfulness to You until death, acknowledging that they have no other Savior, grant that I, too, join this great host of faithful people to realize both the enormity and bitterness of my sin as well as the course of plenteous redemption to which You committed Yourself.
I confess, gracious Savior that I have not been as true to You as You have been to me. Other interests have placed themselves above You in my thoughts. Have mercy upon me and forgive me my transgressions. Sprinkle me with Your blood and wash me clean from the stain of my sin. Strengthen my heart with the assurance of my adoption and transform me according to Your image by the daily renewing of my baptism. Preserve me in the faith until the end of days that I may behold You in glory forevermore. Hear my cry, King of my heart and Savior of my soul. Amen.
Scripture and Prayer for Monday of Holy Week (April 3)
Reading: Mark 14:1—15:47
Precious Savior, Lamb of God for sinners slain, graciously forgive me all my sins, and embrace me with Your tender love. I have failed to fear, love and trust in You above all things. This I confess, O Lord, the allurements of the present world, the glamour of success, the favor of friends, has enticed me away from You. These things would take possession of my heart. O Lord, let me not sell my soul for the passing treasures of this present world. If I have kissed You with the kiss of betrayal, kiss me, Lord, with the kiss of forgiveness, and embrace me again as Your own. Have mercy upon me!
Protect me from the cunning of Satan, the allurements of the world, and the wickedness of my own heart. You are my surest Friend; hold me that I do not stumble and fall. Guard my heart that the love of gold, the smiles of popularity, the eagerness to succeed, may not rob me of my salvation, which You so dearly bought with Your own blood. Above all, gracious Savior, let me not despair of Your mercy, but believe at all times that Your love is as boundless as the heavens and deeper than the sea. O Friend of sinners let me not fall away from You. Keep me standing in Your grace until I shall stand in Your presence forevermore, to love You with a perfect love throughout all eternity. Amen.
Scripture and Prayer for Tuesday of Holy Week (April 4)
Reading: Luke 22:1—23:56
Lord Jesus, compassionate Savior, plead for me in the hour of trial. You know my weaknesses and shortcomings; I cannot hide my sins from You. Pray for me, gracious Redeemer, lest I deny You. O Lord, You know that I have promised to be faithful to You, and nevertheless I have again and again sinned and offended You with my many transgressions and broken pledges. I am ashamed of myself. Yet I come to You for there is no other Savior from sin. I have denied You, if not by word, then by my actions and conduct. O Lord, look upon me in mercy, and forgive me all my sins. I have not always confessed You to the world nor spoken of the hope within me. Gracious Savior, in Your great love forgive me. Do not let me go on in my sin. Look into my heart, and make me ashamed of myself and truly penitent.
O Lord, You know that I love You. I am yours. Help me to be more faithful, more devout, and more zealous. In this Holy Week lead me to a deeper appreciation of the great sacrifice that was necessary for my redemption. And, Lord, in Your mercy look upon all Your erring, sinning, straying children and bring them back and restore them to grace. Draw us all to You with Your constraining love, and keep us steadfast, unfaltering, and true. Hear my petitions and prayers. Amen.
Scripture and Prayer for Wednesday of Holy Week (April 5)
Reading: John 18:1—19:42
Lord Jesus, gracious Savior, I come to You in this sacred week to ponder upon Your great and wondrous love; love that led You to the Cross that my sin might be blotted out and that I might be reconciled to my heavenly Father. O Christ, give me strength and grace to crucify my sinful desires and dedicate myself anew to You, who has loved me with an everlasting love and brought to me eternal salvation. I confess to You my sins. They are many, and You know them all. For each and every one of them You suffered the agony of the Cross and shed Your precious blood that I may be cleansed and made acceptable in Your sight. Let me not go through this day unmindful of Your great love. Let none of the sins of yesterday cling to me. Humbly I come, seeking Your mercy. Daily let me fulfill the tasks and duties to which You have called me with joy, confessing You as my Lord and Savior, and being of service to my neighbor.
Grant that Your suffering and death, proclaimed for the salvation of mankind, may by the power of the Holy Spirit awaken in many a deeper love to You. O Lord, have mercy upon me and all sinful mankind, and create in me and all that seek You a clean heart, holy desires, and an undying love. Hear my prayer, gracious Redeemer. Amen.