Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Holy Week 2020 at All Saints' Benhilton - Surviving

Some weeks ago I began to write a leaflet inviting all of you, as well as our neighbours and school families, to worship with us at All Saints’ during Holy Week and Easter.

Little did I realise that by now, as a result of the Coronavirus, the whole community would be experiencing a war-time style ‘lock down.’ We are living according the rules of ‘social distancing,’ and - in the case of people in high risk categories - ‘self isolating’. All of us go out only when absolutely necessary.

The Archbishops have asked that all church buildings be locked, with even the priest not being allowed to go in and pray on his own. This is to make sure that people are not tempted to embark on ‘unnecessary’ journeys to church and risk inadvertently contracting or spreading the virus.

Needless to say, our very deep gratitude goes out to doctors, nurses, and the full range of other medical professionals (including those among our parishioners) working so hard in difficult conditions. We pray for them every day, as we do for medical and scientific researchers seeking to learn more about this deadly virus and to develop a vaccine.

We pray for those who have died and for their grieving loved ones. We pray for those who have tested positive for the virus and who live in uncertainty as to their future. 

Holy Week is such a special time - the Church’s pilgrimage to the Cross of Jesus and to his Empty Tomb - a pilgrimage in which our experience of Divine Love is deepened. 

It involves special services arranged carefully with music, Scripture readings, art, drama and ancient ceremonial. In fact, at this time our church building really comes into its own as a means of nurturing our prayer and devotion as a community of love.

During Holy Week the Church does not want her children to pass glibly to the joy of Easter without treading the road to Calvary with its pain and sorrow. And so this journey of faith on which we embark as brothers and sisters in the Lord is measured and reflective. No matter how many times we have done it before, it changes us. It is always a fresh experience of God’s transforming love, a deeper knowledge of his forgiveness, and a new grasp of the victory he is trying to win in our lives over sin, evil and hatred. And every year this renewal challenges us to be like the early Christians in reaching out to others, believers and non-believers alike, with the love that has touched our lives.

Many of you have shared with me your deep anticipated grief at not being able to have Holy Week this year in our beloved parish church.

I feel the same. I really do. But while I love All Saints’ - to be honest - it’s more my grief at not being able to have the community all together than the church building itself! 

There is nothing we can do about it. We can, however, be mindful of the Holy Week services being carried out by the priest alone, as is happening in parishes of the Catholic tradition the world over. I will be doing so in the Vicarage dining room which is for the time being decked out as a chapel, where the Daily Mass is offered for all parishioners and their needs.

I have prepared this collection of reflections, prayers, and devotions (most are mine, some have been borrowed from other sources) to help you feel that Holy Week is still holy. It is, if you like, a kind of Holy Week 2020 Survival Kit! That’s why I have included your family’s palm cross, blessed at Mass on Thursday before Palm Sunday. 

Each day throughout Holy Week I encourage you to pause at the time when our parish liturgy is beginning in the Vicarage dining room, and spend a bit of time spiritually associating yourself with what is happening there. 

Read the reflections, pray the prayers, sit silently. You will still experience God’s grace, and you will know his love supporting you and yours in whatever your personal challenges are at this time. You will also have the sense of praying in solidarity with the rest of our parish family. 

The day will come when the present crisis will be a fading memory. We WILL get through it. 

Convincing people of that, however, is not always easy. Nor was it easy for Jesus during that first Holy Week, with all HE was going through, to convince his followers to ‘be of good cheer’, because  he had ‘overcome the world.’ (John 16:33)  

As we stand on the brink of Holy Week 2020, we do well to hear those other words he spoke on the night he was betrayed: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ (John 14:27)

With my love and prayers.


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