The Sixth Sunday in Lent
(The Sunday next before Easter known also as Palm Sunday)
The Church as the Household of God the Father now enters into the last week of Lent. The fasting, inward and outward, of her devout family members will soon give way to rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The cry will be heard, "Christ is Risen," and the response of "He is risen indeed" and "Alleluia" will be made, but only after the solemn fasting, meditating and preparation of the two last days, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
There is provided in the BCP (1662) one Collect for use on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday. However for each of these days there is a separate Epistle and Gospel. In terms of the Gospel, the Church reads the accounts of the crucifixion in Matthew, Mark & Luke on these days, with Mark & Luke being allocated two days each. Good Friday has its own special Collects (three in all) with Epistle and Gospel. The latter concludes the Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion by reading that in the Gospel of John.
Thus by the end of Good Friday the Church has the mind that is in Christ Jesus, the mind in which is stored the word of God concerning the passion and death of the same Lord Jesus.
When and where there is not a Celebration of the Holy Communion on all these days, there is the possibility (requirement?) for the service called Ante-Communion [= the first half of the Order for Holy Communion] to be used after Mattins so that full use is made of the Collects, Epistles and Gospels. If the BCP Lectionary is used for Mattins and Evensong as well as for Holy Communion there is no repetition of any passage of Scripture during Holy Week and one hears the full account of the Passion of our Lord.
For the Eve of Easter Day, there is provided a Collect, Epistle and Gospel which mark the transition from Lent to Easter and recall that in the ancient Church Saturday night was the time for the Easter Vigil and the baptism of catechumens. Some churches which use the classic BCP will have such a Vigil with baptisms. . Various forms of service are available from standard liturgical sources to supplement the Collect, Epistle and Gospel in the Prayer Book for Holy Saturday.
What seems a strange omission at the beginning of Holy Week is that the account of the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the Sunday before Good Friday is not part of the Gospel for Lent VI. It is however the New Testament Lesson at Evensong for that Sunday. In practice this Lesson may be read before the beginning of the Order for Holy Communion when there is a short service of the blessing and distribution of the palm branches or it may even be transferred to Morning Prayer if this service includes the blessing and distribution of palms.
Holy Week is a period of time that demands of baptized Christian believers their full consecration and commitment. Being with Jesus daily in meditation and prayerful imagination as he enters the city of Jerusalem, performs a variety of deeds and provides instruction before returning to Bethany is demanding. Then being with him during his time in the Upper Room, in Gethsemane, in captivity and at trial before being condemned to death by crucifixion is yet more demanding. Finally the walking with him to the hill called Calvary and watching him being crucified, hearing his final words from the Cross and seeing him expire take us to the limits of our human sympathy and feeling. Yet also we know deep in our hearts that He died for us that we might be forgiven, saved by His precious blood.
Where it is impossible for a baptized Christian to attend services in a church or where a church does not provide daily services in Holy Week, it is strongly recommended that each baptized believer reads the appointed Gospel daily, prefaced by the Collect of the Day and followed by appropriate meditation and private prayer.
The Epistle Readings are as follows:
M. Isaiah 63:1-19
Isaiah 50: 5-11
W. Hebrews 9:16-28
Th. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Sa. 1 Peter 3:17-22
The Gospel Readings are as follows:
S. Matthew 27:1-54
M. Mark 14:1-72
W. Luke 22:1-71
Th. Luke 23:1-49
F. John 19:1-37
Sa. Matthew 27:57-66
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, England
& Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large of The Prayer Book Society of America