Dear Friends in Christ,
In Lancaster on (last) Palm Sunday, the Cathedral parish and around 50 children and families from the Cathedral Primary School gathered outside Cathedral House for the blessing of the palms. After the blessing of the palms, we sang and processed across the gardens entering the main doors of the Cathedral for Mass. The children in key stage 2 joined in with the reading of the Passion and did so very well indeed!
On the Wednesday evening of Holy Week, in keeping with our diocesan initiative ‘The Light is ON for YOU’, I took my turn in St. Peter’s cathedral at hearing Confessions. This initiative entailed a two hour period on this particular Wednesday in the most of our churches within the Diocese, and from the few initial comments I have heard confessors were kept busy.
I dare to think that there is something of a return to the practice of this wonderful sacrament of Christ’s mercy in the lives of our Catholic people.
The Diocese of Lancaster has adhered to the custom of having the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning, at which the oils of catechumens, the sick, and chrism are blessed. During this Mass all priests throughout the world renew the promises they first made on their ordination day.
From the remarks both priests and people made to me afterwards, many found this Mass to be a very prayerful and moving experience. In truth it is a unique moment and replete with significance.
The Mass of Chrism does not form part of the Triduum of Holy Week, but the renewal of priestly vows and the consecration of the oils which are to be used in the administration of the sacraments in every part of the diocese in the coming twelve months, do focus our attention on the priesthood of Christ and his constant salvific activity whenever his priests administer the sacraments.
This gathering of priests and peoples at the Chrism Mass serves to underline the essential importance of priests in the life of the Church, and the obligation on all of us, priests, deacons, religious and laity alike to create an atmosphere favourable to vocations to the priesthood, above all by prayer and words of encouragement to those considering a call from the Lord to the ministerial priesthood. Wherever you are, dear blog reader, do please beg in prayer the Lord of the harvest to bless his Church with priests!
The Triduum proper began on Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. We remember at this celebration the Lord’s institution of the Holy Eucharist, that permanent sacrificial gift of himself to his Church for all time, until, as St. Paul says, ‘he comes again.’
The deeply symbolic action of the washing of the feet, in imitation of what Christ did to the Twelve, underlines the link between receiving the body and blood of the Lord and service to others.
We need to remember that Holy Communion is not only a private matter between the Lord and myself, but has wider implications for Christian living.
At the end of this Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was carried in solemn procession to the altar of repose where we have the opportunity to spend some time in prayer and reflection, ‘watching with the Lord’ during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
It is indeed a time of quiet, kneeling or sitting silently with our Lord.
The Liturgy of Good Friday, usually taking place at 3.00pm, the moment when Christ died, allows us to live through his last hours as the Suffering Servant, depicted and foretold by Isaiah the prophet in our opening reading, until he was finally laid in the tomb, his earthly life complete.
We hear the Evangelist John’s account of the Passion which is always, in my experience, listened to by the congregation in absolute silence, as if people were absorbed by and caught up in the drama. The unveiling of the cross and the patient queue of those who wish to venerate it in quiet, indicates just how deeply consciousness of the centrality of the Lord’s cross is rooted in the faith of our Catholic people.
The prayers of intercession which follow are universal in scope, reflecting the scale of Christ’s redemption. He has by his cross and death redeemed the whole world.
This solemn, perhaps even sorrowful Good Friday Liturgy, concludes with Holy Communion from hosts consecrated at Mass on the previous evening. By our communion we share sacramentally as a community of believers in the Lord’s paschal mystery. We depart from the church in a subdued silence leaving, as it were, the Lord in his tomb. Each of us is left to his or her own thoughts of how God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…..
Holy Saturday, which we usually try to fill with various activities, has an emptiness to it, for Christ has experienced the full depth of what it is to be human – death and burial in a tomb. There is no evading that reality, not even for him. As we recite in the Creed, ‘He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, and was buried…………………
On this Holy Saturday we await in faith and hope for God the Father to justify his faithful, suffering Servant.
With this I wish all of you the blessings of Easter and the joy of the risen Lord!
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster
N.B. There will be no Bishop’s Blog now until 3 May 2014