Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the peoples of the earth: his birth, the coming of the Magi, his baptism, and the Wedding at Cana where he miraculously changed water into wine.
Early Christians observed "a season of penitence and fasting" in preparation for the Paschal feast, or Easter (BCP, pp. 264-265). The season now known as Lent (from an Old English word meaning "spring," the time of lengthening days) became attached to, or overlapped, another fast of forty days, in imitation of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. The forty-day fast was especially important for converts to the faith who were preparing for baptism, and for those guilty of notorious sins who were being restored to the Christian assembly. In the western church the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Today Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism. Joining with them, all Christians are invited "to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word" (BCP, p. 265).
The first of the forty days of Lent, named for the custom of placing blessed ashes on the foreheads of worshipers at Ash Wednesday services. The ashes are a sign of penitence and a reminder of mortality, and are imposed with the sign of the cross. Ash Wednesday is observed as a fast in the church year of the Episcopal Church. The Ash Wednesday service is one of the Proper Liturgies for Special Days in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 264). We burn the palms from the previous Palm Sunday to make the ashes for our Ash Wednesday service.
The Sunday before Easter at which Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mt 21:1-11, Mk 11:1-11a, Lk 19:29-40) and Jesus' Passion on the cross (Mt 26:36-27:66, Mk 14:32-15:47, Lk 22:39-23:56) are recalled. It is also known as the Sunday of the Passion. Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week. Red is the liturgical color for the day. The observance of Palm Sunday in Jerusalem was witnessed by the pilgrim Egeria in about 381-384. The Palm Sunday observance was generally accepted throughout the church by the twelfth century. The liturgy of the palms is the entrance rite for the service. It includes a reading of one of the gospel accounts of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. Palm branches are distributed to the people after the prayer of blessing. All the people hold branches in their hands during the procession. The service changes focus abruptly from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the solemnity of the Passion. The Passion gospel is drawn from one of the three synoptic accounts of the Passion, one of which is appointed for each of the three years in the Eucharistic lectionary. The Passion gospel is read with specific roles assigned to different persons, with the congregation taking the part of the crowd. We observe a brief time of silence when the moment of Jesus' death is described by the narrator and end by singing "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"
Part of the Triduum, or three holy days before Easter, it comes from the Latin mandatum novum, "new commandment," from John 13:34. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples and the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus "on the night he was betrayed." Egeria, a fourth-century pilgrim to Jerusalem, describes elaborate celebrations and observances in that city on Maundy Thursday. We meet for an agape meal in the Parish Hall then process to the sanctuary for the Eucharist. Following this, all crosses are covered with violet netting and the altar is stripped, washed, and set askew. We leave in silence.
Stations of the Cross
We decorate the sanctuary with lilies given in memory of our loved ones.
Pot luck celebration
Cook hotdogs and everyone brings sides.
Pets of non-members are blessed alongside those of members.
We place photos and mementos of our loved ones who have crossed over under the altar and have special prayers for them. After the service, we share memories of our loved ones.
We use only greenery in the sanctuary, no flowers. One of our parishioners made nativity figures for the church. During the Sundays of Advent we show Mary and Joseph moving toward the manger under the altar.
The Jewish day begins at sundown so we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve at 6 pm. We decorate with poinsettias given in memory of our loved ones. The figures of Mary and Joseph arrive at the altar and Baby Jesus is placed in the manger. We sing Christmas carols and have a celebration in the Parish Hall.