Local churches of various faiths are celebrating Holy Week with both old and new traditions.
The Rev. Mike Dwyer, of St. Paul Episcopal in Munster, said Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter vigil is known as a Triduum. It is actually one liturgy that takes three days to celebrate.
“Churches always celebrated it that way,” he said. “Even way back in the third and fourth centuries there are reports of the church celebrating it that way. It’s very ancient. It is the high point of our liturgical year. It’s the reason why we’re Christians and takes everything into account.”
The Holy Thursday service at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Griffith has its own tradition.
"Everyone who wants their feet washed brings a towel,” Dwyer said. “We take that towel to dry their feet. Then we collect them, launder them and donate them to Sojourner Truth House. It becomes kind of an extension of our liturgy.”
Dwyer said there used to be a tradition of parishioners not speaking on Good Friday from noon to 3 p.m., which is when Jesus hung on the cross.
“It was a discipline,” he said. “I kind of remember that when I was a kid way back in the 1950s. It was just a way we keep in mind what was going on.”
He also said in the old days, stores and offices would close at noon on Good Friday.
“It’s not quite the situation anymore,” he said.
Senior Pastor Stephen Bongard, of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Valparaiso, said a foot-washing service is held for school children on Thursday morning.
On Good Friday Immanuel Lutheran holds two services from noon to 3 p.m., called Tre Ore, which are 20-minute segments in which seven different speakers utter the last words of Jesus.
“That’s a neat thing because we bring in different preachers," he said.
Immanuel Lutheran will have its Easter vigil at 5 a.m. Sunday morning.
“So we start at darkness and go from darkness to light,” Bongard said.
The Rev. Roger Bower, of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Valparaiso, said Holy Week there began Wednesday night with a Christian Seder meal that is a Christianized version of the Passover meal.
“We take elements of the Passover meal and we’re reminded of our Jewish roots,” he said. “It’s a wonderful reminder of our connection.”
In addition to a Holy Thursday traditional service with the re-enactment of washing of the feet, the church has an all-night prayer vigil with people scheduled to come in throughout the evening from 9 p.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Good Friday.
For its traditional Good Friday service at noon the church is trying something new. A local artisan made wooden crosses and at 3 p.m. the church will hold an outdoor stations of the cross.
In Hammond, the Rev. David Bissias, pastor of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, said from Palm Sunday through Easter (April 20 this year for all Christians throughout the world), Eastern Orthodox Christians attend church services each night in preparation for the highest holy day of the year, usually named Pascha rather than the more common "Easter."
These services increase in number and intensity throughout the week as commemorations of particular events.
"Orthodox Christians throughout the days of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday, prepare to stand with their Lord and Savior, passing over from sin, corruption and death into the fullness of life in the Resurrection,” he said. “We do not ‘re-enact’ these events, but remember them prayerfully, praising them in profound gratitude."
Bissias said Pascha is without doubt the feast of all feasts, and festival of festivals for Eastern Orthodox Christians
"The high point of our year, every family will celebrate this holy day with joyful song, the Paschal Greeting and a wonderful feast following over 40 days of fasting from all meat, dairy and oil in our diet."