Monday, April 06, 2009

EMPS: Easter Preparations

For Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #32: Spring Holidays And Observances, Carly is looking for photos related to upcoming Spring holidays, primarily Easter or Passover. Yesterday was an important precursor to Easter, Palm Sunday, at which I tried out my new camera at church for the first time. So I'll have a selection of those shots for you, plus a more secular image I set up for Easter itself.

The church's most important week of the year (technically, a week and a day) is not around Christmas, but the week from Palm Sunday to Easter, known as Holy Week. Liturgically, it recounts the events from Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the height of his popularity to the Passover seder now known as the Last Supper, through his final vigil, arrest, trial, torture, death, burial and resurrection. Quite a week! My purpose in this entry is not to convince you of anything in particular, but simply to show you the beginning of the commemoration of these events in the Episcopal Parish of St. Michael and All Angels.

At St. Michael's, Palm Sunday begins outside in the Creswell Courtyard, named for a now-deceased former parish secretary. At this early part of the Mass, palms are blessed and distributed in remembrance of the scene in the Gospels in which Jesus rides into Jerusalem on an unbroken donkey colt, and people spread palm branches and garments before him. One of these same Gospel passages is read, and then the people enter the church, singing.

Former senior warden Peter approaches to help distribute palm branches.

Proscovia distributes palms to the acolytes, including me.

John the Acolyte - the Bart Simpson of St. Michael's

Inside the church, the clergy and acolytes process to the sanctuary once the people are seated, and the large ceremonial palms are laid before the altar. There is incense and prayer. The liturgy takes a drastic turn toward the sombre events of the rest of the week as the Old and New Testament readings are, er, read.

And this is where my camera had its first real test. My photos inside the church have always tended to be dark and grainy, because it's indoors and not brightly lit, and a flash isn't usually helpful from a distance in a large space. (Flash photography can be distracting in the middle of Mass, anyway, so I try not to use it.) With the new camera, darkness is less of a problem, but if I don't use the flash blurriness results, especially if I'm photographing people in motion through a cloud of incense.

After the Old Testament reading, the Psalm and the Epistle, members of the choir sing the Passion story, this year from the Gospel of Mark. One of the men sings the role of Jesus, another sings the other major male parts (Peter and Judas and Pilate), our cantor David sings the narration, and the rest of the choir handles the crowd dialogue and bit parts, including David's sister Mary as the servant girl who gives Peter grief about whether he knows Jesus. After that there's a sermon, a prayer for the baptismal candidates who will be baptized at Easter, and the rest of the Mass as usual. I believe the whole thing took about two hours this year - and there will be at least two longer services later in the week.

Okay, I promised you something light and secular to finish up. How about an Easter basket?

Most years, John and I don't give each other candy, but we've kept stuff around from the years when we do. In this basket, which was a fruit gift basket from Harry and David's, you can see a variety of plastic and cardboard eggs suitable for carrying candy.

That's it from me for now! Now go see the other EMPS entries from this week and last!



Suzanne R said...

It's very interesting to me to see how different churches celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Thanks for sharing about yours.

Greg said...

You really went all out for this one didn't you? This has a very photojurnalistic style. Your pictures tell a story very well, and I could just imagine being there.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

I enjoyed this post, It's great that you were allowed to take the photos!

Jama said...

It's interesting to learn about others religions, I'm always curious to know and learn.Thanks for sharing that.

Karen ~Leah Rose's Mom said...

I enjoyed having a peek at the Easter preparations at the parish. Thanks for sharing.

Mike said...

I like the outside shots of the church. It's a very nice looking place.