Holy Week in the Episcopal Church and at St. Matthew’s

The week leading up to Easter Sunday has its own special services. Below you will learn a bit about these services. You are always welcome at St. Matthew’s — or at any Episcopal Church — for Holy Week and Easter services.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the name given to the Thursday in Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday. The word "maundy" comes from the Latin mandatum novum, or “new commandment,” as found in the Gospel of John :

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

John 13:34


Maundy Thursday celebrations commemorate the institution of the eucharist by Jesus “on the night he was betrayed.”

The liturgy service for Maundy Thursday often includes a ceremonial washing of feet, which follows the gospel and homily, and a Holy Eucharist.

Following this service, the altar is stripped and all decorative furnishings are removed from the church in preparation for Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

Maundy Thursday service at St. Matthew’s begins at 6:30. Childcare is available.

Good Friday

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Day — the day on which we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. It is considered a day of fasting and special acts of discipline and self-denial.

At St. Matthew’s, there are Good Friday services at 9am and noon.

The liturgy of the day includes John’s account of the Passion gospel, a solemn form of intercession known as the solemn collects (dating from ancient Rome), and optional devotions before the cross (commonly known as the veneration of the cross).

The Eucharist is not celebrated in the Episcopal Church on Good Friday. People who attend Good Friday services sometimes receive Holy Communion from the bread and wine consecrated at the Maundy Thursday service.

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day before Easter Sunday. It recalls the day Jesus’s body lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

In the Episcopal Church there is no eucharist on Holy Saturday. Instead, our Book of Common Prayer provides a simple Liturgy of the Word with collect and readings for the Holy Saturday service. In the ancient church, those preparing for baptism and perhaps others continued the fast they began on Good Friday.

Holy Saturday ends at sunset. Fasting and other preparations end at sunset or with the Easter Vigil, which begins the celebration of Easter.

This year there is no special Holy Saturday service at St. Matthew’s.

The Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil — sometimes called the Great Vigil — is the first celebration of Easter, and traditionally begins in darkness, sometime between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter.

The Great Vigil follows a pattern set down from ancient times. In the early Church, believers would gather in the hours of darkness ending at dawn on Easter to hear scripture and offer prayer. This night-long service of prayerful watching anticipated the baptisms that would come at first light and the Easter Eucharist. Easter was the time for baptism for new members of the early church. This practice linked the meanings of Christ’s dying and rising to the understanding of baptism.

The Easter Vigil can last up to 2 hours, and has four parts:

The Service of Light
Kindling of new fire, lighting the Paschal candle, the chanted hymn the Exsultet

The Service of Lessons
Readings from the Hebrew Scriptures interspersed with psalms, canticles, and prayers

The Rite of Christian Initiation
Holy Baptism, or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows

Holy Eucharist

This year you may attend the Easter Vigil at Christ Church Cathedral (421 So. 2nd St.) at 7 pm on April 19.

Information taken from the website of The Episcopal Church

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