It was always my practice to provide the congregation with a lengthy booklet which contained the complete texts of all the hymns, chants and motets used from Maundy Thursday until the High Mass of Easter Sunday. The book was lengthy, yes and very detailed, containing all the sung portions of four complex services. Since so much goes on during the Triduum that doesn’t during other times of the year, the book made things easy for the faithful and allowed them to keep track of the liturgical action. The music, of course, during this time was always without accompaniment, according to the long-standing Christian tradition. The first page of each year’s booklet had the following devotional preparation to be used before each service by members of the congregation as part of their private prayers. These little prayers I translated and adapted from a German Lutheran hymnal I own. I like these prayers, especially for Holy Week, when we see the core of Salvation History unfold before us. It often goes unnoticed that this selfsame history also unfolds before us each Sunday in the Divine Service, and that our churches are so arranged that through prayer, even outside of the liturgy, we may enter into it. I am reminded of a sign I saw years ago posted in the Frauenkirche in Munich as a reprimand to tourists: “Dies ist keine Wanderhalle. Dies ist kein Museum. Dies ist ein Gotteshaus!”: This is no excerise hall. This is no museum. This is a house of God!”. If you like these prayers, feel free to print them out and place them in your prayerbook to use in the next days (and every Sunday, for that matter!) in preparation for worship:
Remember that Christendom has long likened the House of God to a ship, in which we are held safe from the storms of time. Pray therefore:
+ Lord my God, I come to you from the stress of my day. Keep me safe in your protection. Let me find peace in your presence, and help me do that which is right. Amen.
In the House of God, our eyes are drawn to the altar. It is the place of Holy Sacrifice and Prayer. It calls you also to prayer and thanksgiving. Pray therefore:
+ Lord Jesus Christ, you are the bread of life. Feed me with eternal food. You are the holy grapevine: let me remain in you, grow and bring forth fruit, which shall endure to eternal life. Renew my spirit both body and soul as a dwelling place for you. Amen.
Above the altar you see the image of the cross. It reminds you of the sin of the world, which is also your own. Remember, that on the cross of the Lord, God’s Love opens his arms for you. Rejoice before it with all the redeemed:
+ Your battle is my victory, your death is my life. By your stripes is won my freedom. Your cross is my consolation, your wounds my cure, your blood, the price of my redemption. Amen.
The candles on the altar remind you of the Lord, the Light of the world. He shines in our darkness, that we may have the light of Life. He desires that you also shine as a light in the world. Pray therefore:
+ Lord, Jesus Christ, illuminate my night. Let me walk comforted and glad in the beams of your light, and make me, your child, a messenger of your light. Amen.
In the House of God stands the pulpit from which the Word of God is preached. Praise God for the blessing of his Word, and ask, that his Gospel continue to guide you:
+ May your word, O Lord, always be a lamp to my feet. May it remain brilliant and pure. Help me, that from it, I may draw strength, council, and comfort in hard times, and that I trust in it always both in life and in death. Amen.
Look at the Baptismal font! In Holy Baptism, the triune God made you his own and assures you: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; You are mine.” Pray therefore:
+ Praise and thanksgiving be yours, O Lord, for you have made me your child and have called me to inherit the kingdom with your Saints. Strengthened by Holy Baptism may I fight the good fight and attain the crown of Life. Amen.
When you leave the church, keep in mind: the House of God awaits your return. Pray therefore:
+ Even one day in your forecourts is better even than one thousand. I would rather stand outside the door of God’s house than to live in the houses of the Godless. For God, the Lord, is Sun and Shield. Grace and virtue come from the Lord. He provides the faithful all they need. Lord, Sabaoth, it benefits him much, who puts his trust in you. Amen.