How odd it is planning for Holy Week knowing you will not be in church for that period. I will still pray the Holy Week liturgies and include you in them as much as I possibly can. I will send out readings, prayers, and reflections for the liturgies from Holy Thursday to Easter Day, and we will put as much on our website as we can to aid your involvement in them.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday and I have included the liturgy and reading for the blessing of the Palms which I will do at 10am as part of the weekly Eucharist. Obviously, Palm Sunday usually includes the reading of the Passion which I suggest we each do separately this year as a personal reflection. You can read the extended Passion sequence in any of the Gospels, and here is where they can be found: Matthew Chapters 26 and 27; Mark Chapters 14 and15; Luke Chapters 22 and 23; John Chapters 18 and19.
I will sit in the church porch with the Palm Crosses in a basket from 10.30am to 11.30am on Palm Sunday for those who like to come and collect them. Those who cannot I will try and get them to you during the week if possible.
For the first 3 days of Holy Week, Monday to Wednesday, I will follow the same pattern of worship that we have been using up to now. So there will be prayers each day at 9.30am, and 1pm; and Compline at 7pm. On Wednesday there will also be the Eucharist at 10am. The readings for that are with this mailing. Later in the week there will be another mailing with information about worship from Maundy Thursday to Easter Day. My plan is to follow our usual pattern as closely as possible and I will try and resource you to join in with this as much as I can. On Maundy Thursday I will celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper at 7pm and this will include the ritual of handwashing which I will encourage you to join in with at home; more details of the practicalities of this will follow later – once I have worked them out! I also intend to keep our usual vigil form 9pm to midnight with prayers at 10pm, and Compline at 11pm. Again I will give more details of this later. The Good Friday liturgies will take place between Noon and 3pm. And there will be the lighting of the Easter Fire and Easter Candle on Holy Saturday. But more details of these, and Easter Sunday Eucharist, will follow later.
Holy Week is the most important week of the Christian year and it is devastating for us not to be together in church for our worship. But in another sense, at least we get a little glimpse of how it must have been for Jesus and his disciples. They too became more and more separated and isolated from each other as events unfolded; things were taken out of their control. Their lives suddenly became filled with fear and anxieties, as many of us are experiencing now; and at this stage they too did not know where it would all end. At that time fear caused many to act in a negative fashion, and to protect themselves rather than do the right thing. There were also many who stepped forward with great acts of kindness, like Simon of Cyrene who carried the Lord’s cross, and many of the women who tried to stay close to Jesus. So maybe current events will give us a greater glimpse of Holy Week than merely going through our liturgies in church, and make it more real for us. The disciples scattered when Jesus was arrested; and we are scattered now in our own homes. They had to find a way to reunite, pick up the pieces, and share the Good News that Jesus brought among them. May this Holy Week and Easter draw us together as the body of Christ and inspire us in our calling to serve each other and our community.
In this Holy Week, may God bless us and renew us in our commitment of faith.
Father Gavin’s Pastoral Letter 4 April 2020