My experience of Holy Week in Africa was mostly at Mbaitoli, among the Igbo ethnic group of West Africa. As widely practiced in Christianity, the Palm Sunday marked the beginning of the Holy Week. On that Sunday, a kid would carry the cross to lead us in procession. We sang and danced to the rhythm of the drums, giving all glory to Jesus. Like the crowd in Jerusalem, we waved our palm branches.
One popular song we sang was “ Ride on, ride on in majesty; hark, all the tribes Hosanna cry. O Saviour meek, pursue thy road with palms and scattered garments strewed” At the end of each verse we shouted Hosanna! Hosanna!! to the one who would save us and we laid down some of the palm leaves. On this day, there would be much rejoicing.
After Palm Sunday, we would fast during the week; kids for half a day and grown ups up to 6pm. Our fasting revolved around denying the body the things that it wants most. Some ate only fruits, some abstained from eating completely. Still others observed what was called dry fasting, which meant neither eating nor drinking. There were 6am and 6pm prayers to open and end the fast.
On the Thursday before Easter, we observed what I learned later in seminary was called the Maundy Thursday. It was marked with a communion service and anointing of our foreheads with olive oil. Maundy Thursday commemorates the washing of the apostle’s feet by Jesus and the Last Supper before his crucifixion.
On the Good Friday, my family and about 150 other church members would go to the “wilderness” and be there from 6am to 6pm. The wilderness is a secluded open place in the middle of the bushes. It was a very quiet place and conducive for prayerful reflection. We would sit on the mat, sing meditational songs, read scriptures about the last days of Jesus and we prayed. Not much dancing happened on this day. It was meant to mirror Jesus at Gethsemane with Peter, James and John. It was an agonizing moment for Jesus as He began to bear the emotional weight of our sins and its consequences.
No services happened on Saturday morning but there was a night vigil in the evening. During the night vigil, the youth would dramatize the resurrection of the Lord. At one point in the drama, where the women return to announce that “He is risen,” the beating of the drums would reach their highest crescendo. We all rejoiced greatly as we danced and clapped for Jesus. It was this joy that we carried into the Easter Service.
As you celebrate the Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I pray that you may understand the fullness of what the Lord Jesus did for us; that in His death, we have been set free from the bondage of sin. And now, we rise with Him unto a new life of eternity with God.
HAVE A GOOD FRIDAY AND BLESSED EASTER SUNDAY!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rev Joshua Amaezechi, an ordained Minister in the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA), is the President of the LEMA Institute. He worked formerly as the Lead Chaplain at the Kalamazoo County Jail, Michigan. The opinions and comments expressed in this blog are exclusively that of the author. The LEMA Institute or its Board and faculty is not responsible for any aspects of the information supplied by the blogger.