Did you know that I am, apparently, a blogger? I received a telephone-call from a man in Newcastle to say that he enjoyed reading my blog. “What blog?” I asked. ‘The one on-line on your church’s website.” “You mean the ‘Vicar’s Window’ in the parish magazine.” I replied. Does this mean that I have been a blogger since before blogs began. I would like to think of myself as the first blogger, were it not for the fact that clergy have blogged since S. Paul. (His, of course, being declared Holy Writ because the Church said it was. That is how the New Testament came into being.)
So, before we get on to anything religious, may I be allowed space to have a moan about corporate meanness in our society? Here are three examples:
1) Not being allowed to exchange five old £2 coins at the only remaining bank in Tunstall. It was bank policy not to provide that (or nearly any service) for people who did not bank with that particular company. “We look after our clients.” I was told. Maybe, but only until the bank decides to close more branches in order to boost profits. I only called in because my own bank had closed two local branches in recent years.
2) Every year, the car repair organisation presents me with a renewal notice. It roughly amounts to twice what I end up paying. I phone up, query the amount, and it is instantly reduced to half or less.
3) Christmass is a busy time for clergy and I didn’t intend to turn my car upside down so soon after Christmass two years ago. (Yes, that crash with Father Paul in the passenger seat – or do I mean roof?) This meant that the insurance of the replacement car is renewed soon after Christmass Day. I managed, this year, to overlook the notification and only discovered, with the arrival of my credit card bill, that my insurance had doubled. Nearly half a day on the computer and telephone resulted in a cheaper insurance with another company – and the loss of about £100 because of the transfer, not to mention another £80 for some other reason which I couldn’t fathom.
Why my particular gripe about the latter two incidents? For the simple reason that firms make a lot of money out of people of a certain age and/or disposition who assume that loyalty to a company will be rewarded. Not the case. If I had gone on line with the same insurer and asked for a new quotation (“quote” is a verb!) then the same company would have given me a much lower premium. It is exactly the same with home insurers. The outlandish premium is calculated on the assumption that the client will have the nous to look elsewhere or, at least, challenge the calculation. It is a good idea to have the cheapest quotation at the ready, that figure is often matched or bettered. Could it also be calculated in the hope that the client won’t even notice or think of challenging the figure?
I well remember two events involving Margaret Thatcher. The first was the horror at hearing her quote from the (so-called) Prayer of S. Francis at the start of her Term of Office. (“How could she?” I shouted at the television.) The second was her observation that “people like choice”. I don’t. I don’t want to have to calculate the cheapest I train fare or the cheapest route. I don’t want to spend hours finding a cheaper, more ethical gas supplier or, indeed, being at the mercy of the water company. I want a cup of coffee as I know it, not some nonsense of working out which on the board is nearest to a strong, hot coffee with a dash of ordinary milk.
Rant over. I hope everyone is enjoying Lent. I am finding the hour’s silence (with Eucharistic Adoration and, often, Morning or Evening Prayer) a real treat. I am not on my own and nor am I the one to get the chapel ready. I have no idea how much time is spent in prayer but there is prayer as well as recollection and, indeed, sheer silence and stillness. There is still time to come. Why not ask yourself the question, “If the entire congregation was made up of duplicates of myself, what would the worshipping and witnessing life of this church community be?” Don’t be afraid of growing in the practise of your Christian life. I am reading a book by Brother Ramon S.S.F. He writes very clearly about conversion and sanctification. We turn to Christ and then we put on Christ. We become Christ’s brothers and sisters in baptism – and become his brothers and sisters as we grow in Him.
So to Holy Week and, once again, walking in the footsteps of the Lord on His journey to Calvary and the Tomb.
The last day of this month leaves us waiting. Have a good rest of Lent.
Holy Week forms the last week of this month Time to look at what happens during that week, both the original events and the way we commemorate them in church.
Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week. It commemorates Our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, seated on a donkey, while the people placed palms beneath his feet and shouted “Hosanna”. It appears to be a time of triumph but it is short-lived. Jesus himself has already warned the disciples of what is really to come. For this reason, the mass of the day begins with a triumphal procession. We gather in Burslem Park at 10am (the first junction of the path from the entrance opposite the church), hear the Gospel story (Matthew 21:1-13) and then proceed to church waving palm branches and singing. In church, the mood changes with the reading of the Passion narrative. (Mark 14:32-15:41) This is to remind us of what is to come. The congregation receive palm crosses to take home. The tradition is to put them between the figure of Christ crucified and the cross. They remain their until the following Ash Wednesday when they are used to make the ash to mark the beginning of the next Lent.
Holy Monday is also called “Fig Monday”. When Jesus entered Jerusalem he cursed the fig tree and it withered. (All very odd.) Mass (with devotional address) on this day is at 7.30pm and is preceded by Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at 6.30pm. Evening Prayer will be said at 7pm.
Holy Tuesday does not have a title. Mass will be celebrated at 10am as usual – with Prayer Time at 0900 and Morning Prayer at 0930. The evening will follow the same pattern as on Monday.
Holy Wednesday is also called “Spy Wednesday” – to commemorate Judas’ decision to betray Jesus and to meet with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish authorities. In the morning there will be mass celebrated by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet for his clergy and people at the cathedral. This starts at 11:30am and includes the renewal of vows taken by bishops, priests, and deacons at their ordination together with the blessing of the holy oils used for baptism, confirmation, ordination, consecration and healing. In the evening our pattern of worship is the same as for Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday.
Holy Thursday is commonly called Maundy Thursday in England. This is because the Lord gave a “new commandment” to his disciples to “love one another”. The word “Maundy” is derived from “mandatum”, the Latin word for a commandment. In former centuries, before the Reformation, the monarch would wash and kiss the feet of twelve of the poorest people. This was to show the connection between the earthly and the heavenly monarch in living a life of service to the people. When it was revived during Queen Victoria’s reign, it was changed to handing out bags of money. Who could believe that such a change be made? The irony!
Holy Thursday is mainly celebrated with The Mass of the Last Supper. This celebration marks the institution of the Eucharist. It was during the Last Supper that Jesus took bread and wine and declared them to be Himself. It is at that Supper that He took a towel and washed the feet of the disciples. It was after that Supper that He went with the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane – to pray, to be betrayed, and to be handed over for execution. All these things are portrayed during the mass. The feet of some of the congregation are washed by the priest. There is a procession of the Sacrament (Jesus) with the servers (disciples?) to the Altar of Repose (Gethsemane) in the S. Thomas Chapel where a Watch of Prayer by the congregation (disciples) is kept until midnight, the time of betrayal. Meanwhile, in readiness for Good Friday, the altar is stripped and the furnishings removed to prepare for Good Friday. Psalm 22 is recited solemnly.
Good (God’s) Friday is a day of solemnity. It is a day for fasting and abstinence. No meat. Hot Cross Buns to stave off the hunger pangs through not eating before 3pm, the time of Our Lord’s death. It is not a day for shopping. Gone are the days when the faithful would gather for the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion as well as the The Three Hours Devotion. Children’s activities at Holy Trinity take up the time from noon to 2.30pm. Stations of the Cross then follow.
The great celebration of the Lord’s Passion is the evening Liturgy at 7.30pm. “Liturgy” roughly translates as “The work (worship) of the people”. We gather in a bare church to hear the Scriptures. There is no Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle so there is no genuflection. No holy water in the stoup so no Signing of the Cross. The Passion according to S. John is recited and the great crucifix carried in for adoration and veneration by all who desire to. Being the symbol of the Crucified on that Holy Day, we genuflect and approach to kiss and reverence the Lord’s Cross – as Christians have done since the fourth century and earlier. The Blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s Body is then solemnly processed into church from the Altar of Repose. Holy Communion is received in one kind (the Body) before a final prayer and blessing.
As I have said time and time again (even bishops get this wrong!) this is NOT Easter Saturday. That comes on the Saturday of Easter Week. There is no such thing as an “Easter weekend” – that is BBC Speak!
Holy Saturday is a time of quiet and getting ready for Easter. The church is swept and cleaned and the ornaments restored. The Easter Fire for the Vigil (time of waiting) is prepared and the Paschal (Easter) Candle stand is put in place. At 8pm the People of God gather outside the church for the blessing of the New Fire and the lighting of the Paschal Candle. There then follows a procession into the church hall for the readings from Scripture and Prayers as we wait to greet Christ risen. Don’t forget that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb “while it was yet dark” and found the stone rolled away and the body gone. When the final reading has happened we then sing the GLORIA with bells ringing (the first time since the Gloria of Holy Thursday) as we enter the church for the FIRST MASS OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD. The Gospel of Easter is proclaimed ( Al l i s – the first since Shrove Tuesday) and the people gather around the font for the renewal of baptismal promises. The mass concludes with the restoration of the Blessed Sacrament to the Tabernacle amid much bell-ringing and Al l i_s. There is then food and fireworks to conclude the day.
Don’t leave this to the Faithful Few. This Holy Week is the duty of all Christian people to observe and celebrate. “CHRIST IS !”