Monday, 25 April 2011

Post-Triduum Thoughts

These first pictures were taken early on Holy Saturday in All Saints, the Altars stripped and bare, the Cross used for the veneration during the Good Friday Liturgy clearly visible.

Holy Saturday began with a gathering for Morning Prayer and the Litany, together with a Reading from an ancient Homily, on the Harrowing of Hell, the Christian poetic imagination's response to 1 Peter 4.6, where the Gospel is preached even to the dead.

As the day wore on, gatherings of the faithful descended on both churches, to clean, decorate and prepare for the great day. By late afternoon, as these pictures show, Holy Saturday has given way to Easter Eve.

The Font and High Altar at S.Mary's, ready for Easter Day.

On Holy Saturday, the Aumbry in the S.Nicholas Chapel at S.Mary's still empty, awaiting the joyous restoration of the Blessed Sacrament:

All the services of the Great Three Days have been noticeably well attended this year, from Bishop Stephen presiding for us at the Maundy Thursday Liturgy, right through to the Dawn Liturgy, and the 4 celebrations of the Holy Eucharist on Easter Day. Despite some exhaustion on the afternoon of Easter Day, having surfaced at around 3.45am, my conscience, my faith and my Church all instruct me that this day is the Queen of Feasts , meaning that some feasting and drinking is obligatory.....

A few more pictures of All Saints, taken in the early evening of Holy Saturday, awaiting the visit of the women to the Tomb:

In the middle of the Medieval East Window at S.Mary's, you can just see on this picture a wonderful Resurrection Image, based on the account in St Matthew's Gospel, as Christ holds the Royal Victorious Banner, and the soldiers cower in terror.

Thou Art Risen, O Lord!
Let the quiet Altar dazzle with light;
let us haste to thy Presence, wondering, incredulous for joy;
and partake of thy Risen Life.

(Eric Milner-White)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Palm Sunday, of the Lord's Passion

A well-attended Sunday, some of the faithful away, but  well balanced by a sprinkling of occasionals, and one or two new folk. The happy, holy chaos of the procession around the streets at All Saints, and then our Bishop Stephen, presiding at the Liturgy at St Mary's. This year his pilgrimage through Holy Week sees him based principally in our Deanery. The first time I have ever heard a Bishop begin a Homily with the words, 'I have only been tear-gassed once...'.

Despite being Ordained for over 20 years, there always seems to be a sense of Holy Week suddenly taking me by surprise. This year has been no exception, despite an attempt to get ahead. Palm Sunday has taken us where we need to be, spiritually and practically, and I trust we are ready with readers, and with feet to wash and eyes to watch for Maundy Thursday. There will be Holy Oil Stocks to prepare, various bits of furniture to move, service sheets to find or produce which, together with the Daily Liturgies, will take us through the next three days. An encouraging number of folk have come forward and responded to the invitation to Confession or Counsel.

A helpfully reflective Evening Prayer and Benediction tonight - the Lord turned up. As there are houses built quite close around All Saints, its often possible in the silence to hear conversations going on outside, children shouting and playing, car doors being shut - a real sense that we are the Church in the world, and the Lord's Blessing is given for all in our Parish, whether they are aware of it or not. As we pray in a petition we often use on Sunday evenings, may the Lord remember those who have said no prayers on this Lord's Day, and those who do not know how to pray.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Mothering Sunday

The 4th Sunday in Lent is known by various titles; Refreshment Sunday, Laetare Sunday or Mothering Sunday. It marks a mid-point in the season of Lent, when fasting rules and Lenten disciplines are relaxed, so we can be refreshed when we take them up again! Words traditionally used in the Liturgy today, from the prophet Isaiah, encourage us to rejoice:

Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you, says the Lord: you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. Isaiah 66.10,13

We give thanks today for our Holy Mother, the Church, and the spiritual Jerusalem; for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God; for all mothers, and for all who care for children. The flowers offered in many churches today are gifts from Mother Church.

The Christian tradition for today is therefore much richer and more inclusive than the commercial Mothers’ Day; (before the false idol Hallmark got involved, the origins of the secular Mother's Day are to be found in an anti-war movement by Mothers of American Soldiers in World War 1.) Today we pray also for those whose experience of motherhood is difficult, or for families and relationships that are broken or estranged. Our life in community as Christians reminds us that we are all children of one Heavenly Parent and Creator, the God and Father of us all.