Holy Week Letter from the Dean

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April 07, 2017

See the Holy Week Schedule

We stand on the brink of the most important week of the year. We are who we are - the Church of God and followers of Jesus - because of what God did for us in this week to end all weeks. My only message to you today can be to encourage you to walk with Jesus anew in this celebration of the last week of his life, that you may be reminded as fully as is possible of the depths of God’s love and the new life which it brings the world.

We have a rich, full schedule of liturgy, which starts on Palm Sunday, April 9, with celebrations of the Eucharist at our usual times of 8:00, 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. At all three of these services, we will bless and distribute palms to remind us of Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, and we will hear the story of his death read, to remind us of how the cheers of the crowds on Sunday turned to cries of hate five days later. At 6:30 p.m. that same evening, we have a remarkable offering of music and poetry -- Le chemin de la croix by Marcel DuPré, performed by our Director of Music, Stephen Buzard, and the poetry of Paul Claudel, read by Carol Symes. This will be a profound and remarkable artistic way of walking the Way of the Cross.
 
On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week, there will be two celebrations of the Eucharist, one at 12:10 p.m. and one at 5:30 p.m. We offer these services in the hope that you will be able to fit one into your daily schedule this week. These will be quieter services, but will help us keep Holy Week holy through prayer and preaching. With one exception, these will all be in St. Andrew’s Chapel. However, the Tuesday lunchtime service will be a larger event in the main cathedral. At this service, the Bishop will bless the Oil of Chrism for use in baptism the coming year, and the clergy of the diocese will renew their ordination vows, supported by the laity, who will also make a renewed commitment to our shared Christian calling. It would be lovely if you were able to support Judy, Jacqueline, Lisa, and me as we reiterate the promises we made at our ordination to serve this parish and the wider church as your clergy.
 
On Maundy Thursday, there will be one great service that will take place at 6:30 p.m. -- the Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper. On this day, the Church remembers the events of the Last Supper -- both the sharing of bread and wine and the washing of feet. At the end of the service, consecrated bread and wine are kept at what is known as the Altar of Repose (the prayer station at the back of the cathedral), and you are invited to spend time in prayer up until midnight, recalling Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to watch in prayer with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. I hope that you can both attend this great liturgy and spend some time in prayer with your fellow parishioners.
 
And so we come to Good Friday when, in a church in which all decoration has been removed and the altar "stripped’, we recall again the moment of Christ’s death in the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. In this 1:30 p.m. service, we hear St. John’s account of the Passion sung by the Choir, and we are invited to come face to face with the cross for a moment of private prayer and veneration, to help us own, personally, God’s saving grace and love. We share the bread and wine consecrated the previous night, and we leave church in the gloomy silence that is the only response to the death of Christ. 
 
For those who cannot attend on Good Friday afternoon, or for those who would like an additional chance to meditate on Christ’s death, at 6:30 p.m. that evening, we have a musical and homiletic meditation on what are called the "Sorrowful Mysteries" -- a phrase taken from the traditional prayers and meditations of the Rosary. This will contain music for strings by the 17th Century Austrian composer Heinrich Biber, interspersed with five meditations by our guest preacher. 
 
When Jesus died, we are told, the sky turned black -- that, in effect, the darkness of night fell during the day. And it is in darkness that we gather to mark the end of Holy Week and be reminded that God’s story did not end with death and desolation. And so, at 8:00 p.m. on the night of Holy Saturday, we gather in darkness as the bishop blesses a newly kindled fire, from which he will light a great candle to signify the light of the risen Christ. On a candlelit journey through portions of the Old Testament, we will hear again God’s plan of salvation for the world, and in a moment of dramatic celebration as the bishop proclaims the resurrection of Christ, we will reclaim our identity as the people of a light which no darkness can extinguish. People will be baptized and confirmed and provide the context for our own renewal of our baptismal vows, and we will celebrate the first Eucharist of Easter, to which no other celebration of act of worship can ever compare.
 
Our guest preacher this Holy Week is Canon David Painter, a canon of Peterborough Cathedral in England, and Archdeacon Emeritus of Oakham. Over 25 years, David has been one of the most important figures in my priestly formation, and is a dear friend to Alison and me. His theme for us this Holy Week, recalling a very popular hymn, is to ask us the question "Were you there?" There is no better question for a Christian in Holy Week.
 
I hope that this year you will be there, alongside Jesus, in these vital liturgies.
 
Your priest and friend,
 
Dominic Barrington
Dean of the Cathedral
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