I know I haven’t finished my easter reflections.. So I’m placeholding
I know I haven’t finished my easter reflections.. So I’m placeholding
I should never be surprised. After the empty day of waiting, the self questioning I arrived back at the cathedral for the Vigil. This first part was held in the darkness in the retroquire, where history, family history and His story mingle , where Bishops, saints and the other many faithful are remembered. In the darkness we listened to the overarching story of God at work: and I remembered once again in the small span of my life he is at work , sometimes unseen, unrecognised, but always there.
The story retold, we moved to join many more waiting in the nave, in silence and anticipation. The fire lit, the Christ light renewed, slowly the cathedral filled with light from hundreds of small candles, a reminder that we pass the light of Christ to each other in our lives. The exsultet, the song of resurrection proclaimed *This* is the night….
And à fanfare, joyful cacophony as we proclaim He is Risen! Alleluia! He is Risen indeed! ALLELUIA.
I had forgotten up to this point that the setting for mass was Mozart’s Kronungsmesse, one of my complete favourite settings and the one that was used at my ordination. Gloria in excelsis Deo.
I love the Easter Vigil and to be in what is, as a priest in the diocese, my mother church, was very special. The joy of the baptisms and confirmations, with renewal of baptismal vows and the Bishop flinging water around with glee all combined to make such a rich celebration. Such tangible joy, such resurrection hope and also moments of quirk. The bishop suggested that as crepuscular creatures perhaps it may have been that among the first witnesses to the resurrection would have been cats.. Who knows.
At some point in the afternoon I had realised that I was free to visit my sending parish for their dawn eucharist & breakfast, the thought of celebrating with long time friends pulled me in. This was what I knew I was missing. The full sense of community in this journey, and despite not having walked Holy Week with them I decided I would go, before returning to the cathedral for the Festal Eucharist. So after a short night I got up at 5 to make the trip, rejoiced with friends, but witnessed too at the moment of lighting of the Paschal candle, a cat creep through the churchyard, look at the unaccustomed activity at that hour, and move on….
Friday night I felt unsettled. Physically on edge. Like something was about to happen, but I didn’t know what. I’m learning to live more in the emotions of this time. I think when we immerse ourselves in Holy Week and the Triduum it’s no surprise our own emotions start to coincide. Perhaps this “detached” Easter is helping me see this with a bit more clarity, earlier rather than later in the moment. The twitchy feeling has persisted, the feeling of being constantly on the brink of tears, the saying the wrong thing, waking too early. But like Mary, I’m in limbo. She was constrained by Sabbath law. Trying to continue through the day as normal, wanting to go to the tomb, and yet fearful, did she need reminding of what happened yesterday? What if she couldn’t get to the body, what if… Not trusting her own emotions her own reactions.. But they are moot reflections. She wasn’t going anywhere.
I’m doing normal too, mum taxi, this blog, coffee. I want today over, to move on, and yet I don’t. Perhaps I’m needing to stay in this waity Holy place. In my in-betweeny state right now it’s the place that fits, that names & owns me. Detached, alienated, having no home. Perhaps I’m scared of Easter Sunday because I’m not there yet. But then I think I think this every year, and when it comes the relief is immense.
Life might not be Sunday yet, staying in Saturday might appeal, but tonight in the Vigil we hear the stories, the pattern of God’s hand through time.. And we know we are part of that story, again & again at different points, in different years, resurrection & redemption come. Even when we’re not there now, Sunday promises is that we will be.
But for today we wait.
Good Friday; a day of sadness, anticipation, emotion, silence, shouting .
In my childhood it was dominated by the Walk of Witness, a gathering of the churches in thetown to walk through the streets, singing badly and in my mind witnessing only to the fact we were a bit weird. We were *supposed* to be quiet, which in some ways made it all much worse, because as soon as you’re supposed to be quiet as a child of course you can’t be. This was too the era of the Baptist black shirt wth full collar, when the minister wouldn’t be seen without suit and shirt front and the ring of confidence.
We would assemble at the green in the centre by the Methodist church where a short service was held, and we could then be let loose on the hot cross buns with margarine (it was the 70s , but this is significant) in the church hall. Honestly. Butter or nothing. Do Not Ever desecrate a HCB with marge….
My teen years allowed me to miss the increasingly straggly Walk because I was involved in preparing for the service, playing or reading or doing some bit of drama. For this relief, much thanks, as the bard said…
My experience of Walks of Witness since has not been much better, they seem only to witness to the fact we’re still weird, nuttery in fact, the increase in Good Friday as a full on Bank holiday shopping opportunity has only emphasised that. What is more we witness to this weirdness and then tend to disappear into a church building for the bit that might make more of an impact – the gathering and vigil around the cross.
I’d scrap the walk for any more than the shortest of gathering processions and have a simple outdoor service, Christians gathered together, the cross at the centre, simplicity, silence, visual more than words and hot cross buns with butter. Good Friday morning is also/alternatively the time to really involve the children. Workshops, simple GF activities, stations, reflective activities and short time of worship. This involves the families and the community and keeps the afternoon free for the Three Hours, it’s more than just icing biscuits though, this is the opportunity to really immerse young people in the story (their parents too) multi sensory stations, visuals and music. The sort of stuff that gets to the non verbal bit of our brains and spirits.
Today I set off for the Cathedral again for the Three Hours ( no walks involved). The Preparation was led by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. I’ve read a lot of his stuff but never heard him, a dead ringer for Dumbledore (see, more Hogwarts !) he spoke in three parts about the companionship of Christ, the true sympathy he has, touched by and sharing in our suffering, sharing it but also showing us the way out. Suffering man, suffering God.
He spoke of the fact that it was not just physical pain that Christ endured, but the emotional agony, perhaps deeper and more severe than physical pain, as he prayed in the Garden. Only with this emotional side too can we begin to comprehend the totality of his suffering.
What more could he have done for us that he has not done?
He is with us in our utter isolation and detached state, in our loneliness and rejection. Truly he has suffered as we do.
“he came to his own and his own did not receive him ”
Christ accepts being cut off even from God for our sakes. All for love.
The Cross was not a disaster put right by the Resurrection. The Cross is victory, hidden victory, the Resurrection makes that victory manifest. The wounds of Christ are seen on his risen body, the continuity. The marks of his suffering will always remain, though risen & glorified he is not separated from the suffering of the world. At this moment Jesus is suffering what you suffer and helping you to overcome.
The Cross and Resurrection are one event, one victory. We need to see this, perhaps they are illustrated in the two sorts of crucifixes, the dead Christ and Christus Victor.
It is finished is not a cry of resignation but of triumph. The victory is won. A victory of suffering love. “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”
That line from John 1 has often seemed to me to sit oddly in its tense, reading it as we often do at Christmas, should it read the darkness did not overcome it? No. For this victory over darkness is not in the past it is continual and present. That hit me again.
The Preparation over the choir sang the Litany, in Procession and the Liturgy of Good Friday followed with sublime music for Psalm 22, and The Passion according to St John.
Sophie Hacker had created an amazing corpus for the Cross, unveiled at this point.
It seems to me to combine a twist of agony and a gesture of triumph the suffering and the victory combined and so spoke directly to me of what the Archbishop had been saying.
So few words are needed to convey so much. The Reserved Sacrament was offered, each host broken into the recipients hand “the body of Christ, broken for you” The Reproaches in a setting by Sanders and Tenebrae by Poulenc, and we left. Pitched into the business and bustle of the bank holiday city.
Father forgive them for they know not. … How will they know unless someone tells them?
Perhaps this post has come full circle.. The walk of witness should be our lives.
The mood on Thursday plummets pretty fast. For clergy it starts with Chrism Mass, a powerful reminder of our ordination vows, a chance to be anointed for ministry once more and a great chance to meet and chat with colleagues.
Then Mass of the Last Supper, churches still dressed in white and gold, a celebration, albeit it solemn, of the gift of the Eucharist given to us. Then the Sacrament is taken from the church, the fittings are stripped, the sanctuary is left in emptiness and just as Jesus and his disciples went out from their party room to the garden, we follow the Sacrament to its resting place in a side chapel, decorated with palms and leaves, lit with just a few flickering candles (In the cathedral for a few minutes this setting was very Hogwarts as the choristers flitted around in their black cloaks before disappearing off to bed in the boarding house or home with their parents.)
I have always struggled with the Watch. in every other circumstance faced with an hour or two praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the dark and silence my soul would, sing, breathe deeply and relax.
On Thursday night I twitch, I fidget, I wonder ( or I have in the past when Ive been at “home”) how many people will stay, I count those leaving, I fret about whether we advertised it well enough, I shiver with cold and fidget some more. Then I feel bad that I can’t do what Jesus asked..watch & pray just one hour even. I feel like this precious time is wasted as my thoughts wander. I feel like the presence of Jesus in the Sacrament is distant and disconnected from me.
and then, suddenly, tonight, it hit me. It’s *supposed* to be like this.. I am feeling exactly how the disciples did, uncomfortable, twitchy, unsure, guilty, probably cold, tired. this isn’t a blissful prayer experience it’s raw uncertainty, waiting; everything I’ve felt on this night before is the right thing to feel. it fits.
I felt a bit better, as I tried to pray struggling with words and pictures in my head, and then another revelation. Jesus is in the garden praying for *me*. I don’t need to struggle with words or thoughts, he just asks me to be aware of his prayers and to join with him in them. As he struggles with what lies ahead, he prays for each of us; as we wait & watch he prays. Holding us.
The watch ended with Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, inebriate me;
Water from the side of Christ, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
0 good Jesus, hear me;
Within Thy wounds, hide me;
Permit me not to be separated from ‘Thee;
From the wicked foe defend me;
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints I may praise Thee
For ever and ever. Amen.
which sent me home with an earworm of Soul of my Saviour
I’m between jobs at the moment, so it is I find myself without services to lead and things to prepare over Holy Week and the Triduum. (or at least after Wednesday anyway) . More on the leaving another time, but conscious of the need to travel through these days in a place and with a community, I have decided to worship at the Cathedral. Beautiful, imposing and intimate; linked with my family’s history and my own personal story this is *my* cathedral and will be ( now I have a job in the diocese) for at least a good few years more. It is not like a stranger that I come to worship in this place, but as someone who belongs, as you do in your parents or grandparents home, even when you do not live there day by day.
I hadn’t thought about blogging until I was on my way home from the Eucharist of the Last supper and Watch. The posts that follow may be slight or they may be momentous. It’s a journey and we shall see how the path winds.