Lent and Easter
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Easter. It is a time of repentance, re-dedication, and renewal. It is a season that invites us to deepen our spirituality by stripping away all that is unnecessary and becoming more aware of how God is working in our lives.
At Incarnation, we celebrate Shrove Tuesday with a pancake supper the night before Lent begins. On Ash Wednesday, we hold three services of Holy Eucharist and offer the imposition of ashes throughout the day, usually seeing upwards of 500 people.
Lent is a time when we also hold our five-week Confirmation and Inquirers’ Class, leading up to Confirmation Sunday. This year, we welcome the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of New York, for Confirmation Sunday on March 26, 2023.
Go to our News & Events page for more information on the Confirmation and Inquirers’ Class and other Lenten offerings for spiritual formation.
The final week of Lent is called Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday, when we recall Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as well as his Passion on the cross. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Eve.
Easter Day is the annual feast of the resurrection, the pascha or Christian Passover. Faith in Jesus’ resurrection following his crucifixion is at the heart of Christian belief. Our celebration of Easter begins with the Great Vigil on Easter Eve and carries through Easter Sunday with much celebration and joy.
Easter Sunday festivities include an Easter Egg Hunt in the Parish House and the Parish Easter Luncheon at a nearby restaurant.
The season of Easter spans fifty days, from Easter Eve through the Day of Pentecost.
Maundy Thursday, April 6
6:30 pm Holy Eucharist with Foot Washing and Stripping of the Altar
Our service of Holy Eucharist on Maundy Thursday celebrates the final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, during which he washed their feet and instituted the Eucharist. The liturgy ends with the Stripping of the Altar, pointing toward Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest, trial and execution.
8:00 pm to 10:00 pm Prayer Vigil
The Chapel of the Nativity remains open for prayer. We remember how Jesus asked his disciples to keep watch while he struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane with his impending sacrifice.
Good Friday, April 7
12:00 p.m. Liturgy for Good Friday
The day of Christ’s death is the most solemn in the church year. Join us for the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. The church remains open until 3:00 p.m.
2:00 p.m. Stations of the Cross Service
Featuring Stations of the Cross created by Incarnation children. During the service, we travel around the sanctuary from station to station to hear a reading from Scripture and offer prayers.
Easter Eve, April 8
6:30 p.m. Great Vigil of Easter
For Christians, this is the holiest night of the year and first celebration of Easter when we celebrate the passing of Jesus from death to life.
Easter Sunday, April 9
8:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist
11:00 a.m. Festal Eucharist with music for organ, brass, and the Incarnation Choir
Easter Day expresses the very center of our faith: Jesus appears, risen from the dead. The joy and wonder of his followers is matched by the joy and wonder of our worship.
Do you know about the Triduum?
At the heart of the Christian faith is our celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The worship we offer on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Eve are actually all one service, the Triduum, which is the summit of our liturgical year. Over this three-day observance, we move through the ancient narrative of betrayal and redemption, journeying through humanity’s darkest hours to the joy of God’s undying love at Easter.
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, believed to be the day when Jesus celebrated his final Passover with his disciples. The English word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, which means “commandment.” As recorded in John’s gospel, on his last night before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then gave them a new commandment to love one another as he had loved them (John 13:34). While John’s gospel does not record the institution of the Lord’s Supper among the events of this night, the other gospels do. We therefore observe this night with celebration at the Lord’s Table.
At the conclusion of the service, we “strip the altar,” meaning we take everything we can out of the chancel – all cloths, candles, kneelers, and everything else that is movable – leaving the altar area as bare as possible. This helps us reflect on the emptiness of the world without Jesus Christ. The Clergy then wash the altar with holy water and dried palms from Palm Sunday, a link to the triumphant arrival in Jerusalem that, in just a few days, became tragedy. The altar is scrubbed in five places, representing the five wounds of Jesus on the cross. At the exact moment the Clergy completes the washing, the organ stops and lights go down. The bare altar is left alone and abandoned.
Maundy Thursday is the night when Jesus prayed and was later arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane following his observance of Passover. Thus we move from our service of Holy Eucharist and Stripping of the Altar to a prayer vigil in the side chapel. The sacrament reserved from that evening’s Eucharist is placed on the altar, which in this context, is called the “altar of repose.” Between the time of his death and resurrection, Holy Eucharist is not celebrated, which means bread and wine cannot be consecrated. In the chapel, we “stay with Jesus” in prayer, as he asked his disciples to keep watch while he struggled in the garden with his impending sacrifice. The reserved sacrament will be consumed on Good Friday.
The Friday before Easter is Good Friday, on which the crucifixion of Jesus is remembered. Good Friday services focus upon prayer and reflection on the death of Christ.
The source of the term “Good Friday” is not clear. It may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.” Yet, it is fitting because Good Friday is a day that proclaims God’s purpose of loving and redeeming the world through the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a day that is good because God was drawing the world to God’s self in Christ. As seen in John’s gospel, particularly, God was in control. God was not making the best of a bad situation, but was working out God’s intention for the world — winning salvation for all people. We call it “good” because we look backward at the crucifixion through the lens of Easter.
At Incarnation, we have an hour-long liturgy for Good Friday at noon, and then a time for silent prayer and devotion until 3:00 p.m., representing the three hours that Jesus hung on the cross before he died.
During this time, we also have a service of Stations of the Cross. This is a devotion to the Passion of Christ, which recalls a series of events at the end of Jesus’ life from his condemnation to his burial. There are fourteen events and therefore fourteen stations spread throughout the sanctuary. We offer prayers and readings at each station, imitating the practice of visiting the places of Jesus’ Passion in the Holy Land by early Christian pilgrims.
Easter Eve is the holiest night of the year, and the Great Vigil is the first celebration of Easter. The service begins in darkness, when Jesus is still in the tomb. We gather outside the church to kindle the new fire, symbolizing the light of Christ. Then we process into the church to recount, by candlelight, stories of God’s loving-kindness and plan for salvation. From there we move to Christian Initiation (Holy Baptism or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows) before the church is filled with light and we proclaim “The Lord is risen!” remembering that through baptism, we share in Christ’s death and resurrection. Then we celebrate the first, festive Eucharist of Easter.