Moravian Church in North America

In Essentials, Unity; In Nonessentials, Liberty; In All Things, Love.

Moravian Church in North America
North: Bethlehem, Pa.
South: Winston-Salem, N.C.

Contact Us

Readings guide Moravians through Holy Week

042014holyweekintroThe four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—record words and deeds of Jesus. More than a quarter of the Gospel narrative is devoted to Holy Week, from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, through his cleansing of the temple, disputes with religious leaders, teaching about the end times and Last Supper with his closest followers, to his arrest, trial and crucifixion. After a quiet Sabbath comes the story of Jesus, still bearing his wounds, being raised from the dead.

Moravians have had a distinctive way of marking this week, which we in the past often called Passion Week. This is to read through the whole passion narrative from the Gospels, in a series of simple services, using a book called Readings for Holy Week. This custom dates to the late 1700s.

Scholars rightly point out the differences and distinctive emphases of the four Gospels, but for devotional purposes we use a harmony, an attempt to merge the four accounts into one. The first Moravian harmony of the Gospels was prepared by Zinzendorf before his death in 1760.

042014holyweek2The most recent American edition of Readings for Holy Week, published in 1995, uses the New Revised Standard Version. Readings for Holy Week is available from the IBOC in three different editions—regular and large print (with the Gospel readings and hymn texts only) and a music edition (which includes music for the hymns).

The distinctive Moravian custom of using individual hymn stanzas is used in Holy Week, as the reading is interspersed with hymns reflecting on the narrative.

The number of services and their time of day vary among congregations. Some have services on Good Friday, others do not. Some have a special lovefeast or service of music on Saturday.

For many of us, accustomed to stimulation of all our senses, words alone have a limited appeal. But for others of us, who seek quiet meditation on the life of our Lord, Holy Week services are a special opportunity. For those unable to attend services, Readings may serve as a rich devotional resource.

Reprinted from the Mar. 28, 2010 weekly bulletin of the Moravian Church.


From the April 2014 Moravian Magazine

Moravian Daily Texts


Wednesday, November 22 — Psalm 131
Daniel 9:1–10:7; Jude 1:11–25

O save your people, and bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them forever. Psalm 28:9

Jesus says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:16

Good Shepherd, so often as a church we look to those outside our own community as “other.” May we let go of our pride and work together with all people so we will be one flock under your leadership. Amen.

Buy the Book