Friday, March 30, 2007

Worship Notes: Good Friday Service

From the early days of her worship, the Church utilized the Passion story either sung or recited from scripture. These passages formed an important element of their Holy Week observances.

In the fourth century, a Spanish nun named Egeria took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the foremost elements in her travel journal was the liturgy and worship observed in Jerusalem. “Her account of the services held during Holy Week includes the earliest surviving reference to the chanting of the Passion story.” Sometime at the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo made a reference to this same tradition, and by the middle of the fifth century, Pope Leo the Great codified the use of the Passion narrative during Holy Week. According to his directives, the Passion story from St. Matthew’s gospel should be chanted in the services for Palm Sunday and Wednesday of Holy Week and the Passion narrative from St. John’s gospel should be utilized on Good Friday.

Subsequent changes over the next five hundred years included the addition of the Passion according to St. Luke on Wednesday and the St. Mark Passion story on Tuesday of Holy Week. The height of musical settings of the Passion occurred during the 18th century with Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion.

Our service at Parish Pres next week continues the great tradition of the Church. We will gather on Good Friday in order to contemplate the death of Christ, mourn for our sins, and seek forgiveness in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. The service includes the reading of the Passion story from the book of John as well as congregational hymns, responses, choral music, and communion.

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