A Message from Dean Thomason
Holy Week is hard work—it drives to the heart of humanity’s deepest yearnings, fears and joys. It is such a special time that we engage the story differently, marking time by the pulse of Christ as he enters Jerusalem joyfully, as a king preparing for coronation, only to have his head pierced days later by a thorny crown, mocked and lashed and crucified as his followers desert him.
But Holy Week is not, at its core, about listening to the story once more—the story whose ending we think we know, because we’ve heard it so many times before. If we just listen with passive ears—our hearts will not quicken, our stomachs will not turn, our thoughts will keep their objective distance…and we will miss the point of it all.
Holy Week has a telos, to be sure, but there is no contraction of time that gets us to Easter without making the journey of Holy Week.
Many have tried, but they bounce off into orbit once more, thinking perhaps that next time it will be different, and the yearning for weighty meaning persists.
We make our way together, and we go with all the senses engaged, trusting that God emboldens us to speak of eternal life even in the face of death—Christ’s, and our own.
I want to note here three services in particular that have not been in our usual schedule of services:
- Choral Evensong on Palm Sunday. April 2, 4:30 p.m.
- Holy Saturday Contemplative Service. April 8, 12:15 p.m.
- Easter Sunrise Service on the labyrinth. April 9, 6:30 a.m.
The full list of services with description follows. I invite you to join in the procession that is Holy Week at Saint Mark’s.
Peace and prayers,
The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector
The liturgies of this most sacred time are an invitation to enter more fully into the mystery of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Please participate as you feel called. Consider joining in an experience new to you. The entire community is blessed by your presence, whether in person or online.
Sunday, April 2: PALM SUNDAY—The Sunday of the Passion
8 a.m. • Palm Sunday Liturgy • Thomsen Chapel
9 a.m. • Palm Sunday Liturgy • cathedral nave
11 a.m. • Palm Sunday Liturgy • cathedral nave and livestreamed
The Holy Week journey to the Cross begins with Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, greeted by shouts of "Hosanna!" At 8 a.m., palms are distributed and blessed, and at 9 & 11 a.m. an outdoor procession follows (weather permitting). In some traditions, these Palm Sunday processions are a solemn affair, but at Saint Mark's it has been our practice to make this procession as boisterous and noisy as the original would have been. This year we welcome back The Super-Krewe, a New Orleans-style brass band, to lead the parade and rhythm instruments are available for the young and young-at-heart.
Once inside the church, the liturgy makes an abrupt turn, as we hear the entire narrative of Jesus' crucifixion as it is told in one of the Gospels. (This year, the Passion according to Matthew is read.) The reading of the Passion Gospel will be punctuated by reflective instrumental interludes. "Palm Sunday" and "Passion Sunday" were at one time observed on two separate days, one week apart, but are combined into one liturgy in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The dramatic shift in tone marks the beginning of the solemnity that will follow in the remainder of the week. Canon Eliacín Rosario-Cruz will preach.
At the 9 a.m. service, an extended Children’s Chapel will be offered with a gentle, age-appropriate journey through the stories of Holy Week. Children are invited to follow the cross to Thomsen Chapel during the sequence hymn prior to the reading of the Passion Gospel and will return to their families at the Peace.
If you are participating online, you may wish to cut a leafy branch from your own garden in place of the palms, as people throughout the centuries have used what is indigenous in their own context to link them to the story of welcoming the King of Kings.
12:15 p.m. • Bilingual Stations of the Cross Liturgy - Liturgia del Vía Crucis bilingüe • cathedral nave
Following the 11 a.m. Palm Sunday Liturgy, we offer a communal walking of the Stations of the Cross in English and Spanish, as we contemplate the Way that Jesus walked by meditating on scripture and the sculptural interpretations by artist Virginia Maksymowicz. Readings and prayers will alternate languages, and a leaflet with both languages will help you locate yourself in the structure of the liturgy. This will be a moving, prayerful experience, whether or not you speak Spanish yourself. Experiencing these familiar scriptures and prayers in this format may provide a new perspective and fresh insight.
4:30 p.m. • Choral Evensong on Palm Sunday • Thomsen Chapel
Mark the beginning of Holy Week with the cathedral's monthly offering of Choral Evensong on Palm Sunday. The mood of the service will be austere, with an emphasis on plainchant and unaccompanied singing, but the Evensong Choir's anthem will be Antonio Lotti's soaring and hauntingly expressive 8-part masterpiece, Crucifixus. The liturgy will conclude with all singing the beloved hymn, Abide with me.
7 p.m. • Contemplative Eucharist on Palm Sunday • Thomsen Chapel
The Contemplative Eucharist will be offered as usual on Palm Sunday, with music offered by Rebekah Gilmore. Dean Thomason will preside.
9:30 p.m. • The Office of Compline for Palm Sunday • cathedral nave, livestreamed, and broadcast on Classical KING
Compline on Palm Sunday follows the pattern of the other Compline liturgies in Lent, except that this is the only day of the year when the plainchant responsory Into thy hands, O Lord, is replaced by a polyphonic setting. This year the choir will present a version by the English Renaissance composer John Sheppard. The anthem which concludes the service will be We adore you, O Christ, by Richard Proulx (1937–2010), a sometime member of the Compline Choir.
Monday, April 3: Monday in Holy Week
7 p.m. • Contemplative Eucharist • cathedral nave
On the first weekday of Holy Week, experience a special version of the Contemplative Eucharist liturgy that is offered every Sunday at 7 p.m. in Thomsen Chapel. This is a liturgy of silence and stillness, following the familiar structure of the Holy Eucharist, with generous time for reflection and listening to the still small voice within. If you have never experienced the Sunday 7 p.m. service, you are especially encouraged to attend. There is no homily. Instrumental music helps create the meditative mood and will be offered this year by acclaimed composer and improvisor (and cathedral community member) James Falzone.
Tuesday, April 4: Tuesday in Holy Week
11 a.m. • Chrism Mass • cathedral nave and livestreamed
Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Olympia Melissa Skelton and Bishop of the Northwest Washington Synod of the ELCA Shelley Bryan Wee join together for a service in which holy oil (chrism) is consecrated for use by faith communities throughout the Episcopal Diocese and Lutheran Synod in the coming year. Bishop Skelton will preside, and Bishop Wee will preach. The service includes an opportunity for priests and deacons to renew their ordination vows. All are welcome.
New this year: Bishop Skelton will remain in McCaw Chapel after the service to offer prayers and anointing for any clergy desiring that.
7 p.m. • Healing Eucharist • cathedral nave
This service of Holy Eucharist is offered in the cathedral nave, but with the chairs and altar rearranged to create a more intimate experience. To the familiar Eucharistic liturgy, special prayers for healing (for yourself or others) are added. There is the option to participate in the ancient practice of anointing and laying on of hands by a priest. Music will be offered by Rebekah Gilmore and Canon Michael Kleinschmidt. The Rev. Linzi Stahlecker will offer a homily.
Wednesday, April 5: Wednesday in Holy Week
7 p.m. • Tenebrae • cathedral nave and livestreamed
Tenebrae is, for many, a highlight of the liturgical year at Saint Mark's, with its plainchant psalms and laments and a cappella meditations. The liturgy for Wednesday of Holy Week as we have it today was created by combining elements of three prayer offices, originally appointed for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, containing unique elements that have inspired composers through the centuries. These elements include the chanting of portions of the Book of Lamentations, with its distinctive Hebrew letters at the beginning of each verse, sung responsories which serve as small windows into the Passion narrative, and a complete rendition of Psalm 51, known as the Miserere. It is, in the words of The Book of Occasional Services, "an extended mediation upon, and a prelude to" the events of the Triduum.
The word tenebrae means "shadows," and the most memorable element of the liturgy is the transformation of the space itself, without electric light: we begin in twilight and are gradually engulfed by darkness as the service progresses.
If you are participating online, consider dimming the electric lights and experience the shadows in your own setting.
Music is offered by the adults of Evensong Choir. A new element for 2023 is the setting of Psalm 51 which concludes the service, adapted from music by Gregorio Allegri, but quite different from the well-known "Allegri Miserere."
TRIDUUM—The Sacred Three Days
The Liturgies of the Triduum—that is, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Holy Week—are often considered to be a single liturgy stretched over three days. They trace Jesus' journey to the tomb, gradually increasing in intensity, until the proclamation of the Resurrection at the climax of the Easter Vigil, late Saturday night.
April 6: Maundy Thursday
7 a.m. • Morning Prayer on Maundy Thursday • in person in Thomsen Chapel
7 p.m. • Maundy Thursday Liturgy • cathedral nave and livestreamed
On this night we remember the Last Supper and Jesus' final teachings to his friends. The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin mandatum, meaning "commandment," referring to "The New Commandment," that is, Jesus' commandment to us to love one another. (The famous text Ubi caritas—"Where charity and love are, God is there"—has its origin in this liturgy, and will this year be sung by the Cathedral Choir in a setting by Morton Lauridsen.) Saint Mark's Deacon, The Rev. Emily Austin, will preach.
This Gospel is followed by a Liturgy of Foot Washing, an enactment of Jesus' gesture of humble service to his followers. At Saint Mark's, it is the tradition to invite the entire congregation to participate in this powerful and intimate act, both washing the feet of others, and allowing your own feet to be washed. It is your choice whether to participate or not.
A service of Holy Eucharist follows the foot washing, after which the ritual Stripping of the Altar is performed. Fundamentally, this ritual is simply preparing the worship space for the next "act" of the Triduum liturgy, since on Good Friday the altar is always kept completely bare. In the context of the Maundy Thursday, the act takes on profound symbolic resonances, reminding us of the stripping of Jesus before his scourging in the final hours before his death, the preparation of Jesus’ body for his entombment, even the stripping bare of our own hearts. At Saint Mark's this ritual contains unique elements—you are invited to find your own meaning in this powerful, ambiguous, and unsettling act.
Music for this liturgy is offered by the Senior Choristers of the Choir School and (for the first time this year) the Cathedral Choir.
If you are watching online, you may wish to prepare a basin of warm water and have a soft towel ready to use with your household for the foot-washing portion of the liturgy.
~8:30 p.m. • Night Watch at the Altar of Repose (in the cathedral nave by reservation and livestreamed)
After Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday, some of the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist are placed on the altar in McCaw Chapel, where they are a focus for prayer and meditation through the night. We remember the agony of Jesus' final night before his crucifixion, and we remember his challenge to the disciples: "Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:37–38)
Volunteers will be present from the conclusion of the liturgy until 8 a.m., and the livestream will be available all night. The livestream will be streamed to the cathedral’s YouTube channel, and available on the usual livestream page of the cathedral website. (You may need to wait a few minutes and refresh the page before the video will appear.)
All are invited to spend some time in prayer and stillness, in whatever way feels meaningful to you: meditating, reading scripture or poetry, journaling, knitting, or sitting in silence.
April 7: Good Friday
11 a.m. • Communal Walking of the Stations of the Cross • cathedral nave
This is a final opportunity to experience this liturgy together with others this year. When we reach Eastertide, the cathedral's Stations will be put away until next year.
12 p.m. • Good Friday Liturgy • cathedral nave and livestreamed
7 p.m. • Good Friday Liturgy • cathedral nave and livestreamed
Recalling the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the Good Friday liturgy is out-of-joint. On this day, no service of Eucharist is permitted. The Passion—the complete story of Jesus' trials, crucifixion, and entombment—is proclaimed. While on Palm/Passion Sunday the crucifixion narratives of Matthew, Mark, or Luke are read, depending on the year, on Good Friday it is invariably the Passion according to John. At the liturgy at noon, the Passion is read; at 7 p.m., it is chanted by members of the Cathedral Choir. Dean Thomason will preach.
The Passion is followed by a long series of ancient prayers known as The Solemn Collects. These prayers are traditionally accompanied by a distinctive pattern of standing and kneeling, which becomes a sort of sacred dance. Like the Passion, the Solemn Collects are read at noon and chanted at 7 p.m.
Finally, a large cross is brought into the worship space. All are invited to use this cross to meditate on Jesus' redemptive self-sacrifice. At Saint Mark's, this is known as The Contemplation of the Cross.
At noon, the liturgy will be accompanied by instrumental music by composer and improvisor James Falzone. At 7 p.m. music will be offered by the Cathedral Choir and the Schola of the Cathedral Choir School.
(It is the tradition at Saint Mark's to offer The Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as “private confession,” on Good Friday. If this is something you would like, please contact any member of the clergy.)
April 8: Holy Saturday
12:15 p.m. • Holy Saturday Liturgy • cathedral nave
A short but moving liturgy is appointed for Holy Saturday in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. For many years, the service was offered in the Chapel of the Resurrection, but since the pandemic it has been moved to an unfamiliar corner of the cathedral nave. This placement prompted an expansion and enrichment of the liturgy, with scripture, a brief homily offered by community member Emily Meeks, and silence holding space to contemplate both the grief and promise of the tomb. Note that the time from 12 to 12:15 p.m. is set aside for silent reflection in the nave.
8:30 p.m. • The Great Vigil of Easter • cathedral nave and livestreamed
This is most solemn night of the Christian year. We begin in darkness, then the Bishop kindles the New Fire with flint and steel—a primal act of creation and a symbol of the return of light and life. From the New Fire is lit the Paschal Candle, and from the Paschal candle the light is spread to the candles held by each participant. In this way a tiny spark grows to illuminate the entire cathedral.
A deacon or cantor standing next to the Paschal candle chants the Exsultet, the church's ancient proclamation of Easter. Then, by candlelight, a Service of Lessons from the Hebrew scripture recounts the mighty saving acts of God in history and God’s promise of redemption and salvation. In the candlelit space, the scriptures take on some of the quality of stories told around the campfire.
When the sequence of readings is completed, Baptisms are performed—the Easter Vigil has been an occasion for baptizing new Christians since the earliest centuries of Christianity, connecting the sacrament of new birth to the commemoration of Christ's triumph over death.
At last, we reach the climax of the Great Vigil, the culmination of the Triduum, and the goal of our entire Lenten journey—the Proclamation of the Resurrection. The cathedral is flooded with light, and we sing Gloria in excelsis! At Saint Mark's, this moment is accompanied by the opening of the great doors that were closed on Shrove Tuesday—another liturgical element that can experienced nowhere else. In the now-transformed space, we hear the Gospel story of the empty tomb, and celebrate the first Eucharist of Easter. The service concludes with hymns of rejoicing.
Incense is used at this service, and music is offered by the Senior Choristers, the Schola, and the Cathedral Choir.
If you are participating online, you may wish to kindle a fire of your own by having a fire in the fireplace or simply lighting a candle, Have a bell ready to ring, or a pan to bang on at the Easter Proclamation, and fling on all the lights!
Following the service, all are invited to join together for a midnight breakfast at Lost Lake Café, a 24-hour diner located between Pike and Pine on Capitol Hill.
April 9: Easter Sunday: The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ
6:30 a.m. • Easter Sunrise Eucharist • outdoors on the labyrinth
First offered in 2021, this simple outdoor Eucharist is offered as dawn breaks on Easter morning.
8:30 a.m. & 11 a.m. • Easter Day Liturgy • cathedral nave; livestreamed at 11 a.m. only
The Easter Sunday liturgy is one of light and joy. The service includes a Renewal of Baptismal Vows. Music will be offered by the Cathedral Choir with organ, brass, percussion, and hand bells. This year, the Cathedral Choir will offer Charles Villiers Standford’s thrilling Te Deum in B-flat, as adapted by the composer for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. The 8:30 and 11 a.m. services are identical in most ways, although incense will be used at 11 a.m. only. Our new Bishop Provisional, The Most Rev. Melissa Skelton, will preach.
9:45 a.m. & 12:15 p.m. • Easter Egg Hunt • labyrinth/front lawn
This year an Easter Egg hunt for kids will be offered on the front lawn immediately after both the 8:30 and 11 a.m. Easter Sunday services. Children turn in their eggs for small prizes, and then may wish to hide eggs for others to find! Please bring your own basket.
7 p.m. • Contemplative Eucharist on Easter Evening • Thomsen Chapel
This evening Eucharist offers periods of silence for reflection, beautiful meditative music, and candlelight. Anointing and healing blessings are offered after the service. Music will be offered by James Falzone, and Canon Rosario-Cruz will preside.
9:30 p.m. • The Office of Compline on Easter Sunday • cathedral nave, livestreamed, and broadcast on Classical KING
Compline on Easter Sunday always begins with the canticle Pascha nostrum, sung by the Compline Choir in procession with hand bells. The joyous musical setting, with its Alleluia refrain, is by the choir's founder, Peter Hallock. This year the anthem will be Christus surrexit, a Latin motet by Jacob Handl based on the Lutheran chorale Christ ist erstanden.