|The Crucifixion of Jesus - Good Friday|
For someone living in the 16th century, Easter was a more reverent and holy time than it is for many modern celebrants. Following the fasting and repentance of Lent, Easter celebrated new life. Not just the new life of spring but new life in Christ who rose from the dead to defeat death.
Holy week could include an ebb and flow of emotions as worshipers remembered the sacrifice made for them. Holy Thursday, also called Maundy Thursday, commemorates the Last Supper. In Tudor times this day was spent purifying the church, in confession, and taking communion. Some people may have also experienced the symbolic washing of the feet on this day, just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples before giving them the bread and wine. Maundy Thursday began the service of the Triduum or Three Days that follows Jesus from the upper room, to Gethsemane, before Pilate, and to the cross. The altar was stripped of decor and swathed in black in preparation for Good Friday.
|Queen Mary I Blessing Cramp Rings|
Another hopeful tradition that was included one this day until it was forsaken as a result of the Reformation was the blessing of rings. Catholic monarchs from Edward III to Mary I had held rings in their royal hands, blessing them and asking God to infuse them with healing power before giving them out to those in need. Known as cramp rings for their supposed ability to cure cramps and epilepsy, the rings were blessed by the king or queen and sprinkled with holy water before being distributed from the chapel at St. James Palace on Good Friday. This practice was abolished by Elizabeth I.
The Triduum ended with a joyous celebration of Easter Sunday. This capstone of the Christian calendar was met with great feasting and heartfelt worship during Tudor times, just as many continue to do today. The end of the Lenten fast would include foods that had been much missed during the previous 40 days and that were symbolic of the great resurrection.
|The Resurrection - Easter Sunday|
As I look at the Holy week traditions that some of my favorite historical figures would have celebrated, I am struck by just how similar it is to what I will experience. It is wonderful to feel so close to the people of the past and that great cloud of witnesses.