On Palm Sunday, the church enters Holy Week, a period when Christians traditionally focus upon the last days and hours of Our Lord’s life and death. On Palm Sunday, we remember how the Gospels describe Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – hailed as a mighty prophet and man of God, the people were drawn to Jesus out of curiosity and hope that the Messiah had arrived. Jesus’ miracle, raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, had created immense interest and much speculation. But things change quickly! The suspicion of the religious and political authorities, predicting unrest around Jesus, arrested him and after a sham trial, crucified him. The church will through the devotion of its worship, follow that story with intensity during Holy Week.
We can empathise with Jesus and what happened to him since our experience of the world as we know it, confirms that human suffering is part of our story too, in every generation. If those events had ended in Jesus’ death, then it would have been no different to any other awful assassination, execution or cruel murder. Men, women and children suffer daily and have done so throughout the centuries as a result of human hatred. Why would the story of Jesus stand out therefore more than the death of any other victim?
The events that happened after the death of Jesus caused a seismic effect within the community that had surrounded him, causing a new movement to grow. It wasn’t political or even religious – it was a spiritual reawakening in people who discovered that a dimension of a new reality existed beyond death which actually changes how we approach our daily lives and the lives of others. Many witnesses, most of them totally sceptical, received an encounter with Jesus again after his death – they were brought into the presence of Jesus and spiritually that is possible for us today. This terrifying and totally arresting experience was totally transformative to those who first experienced it. Within twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus, there were communities of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. This new community of believers, the church, is a still a place where, despite our human imperfections, any person can be brought to know the transforming power of the resurrection, that of Jesus Christ, and the promise he made that we too can share in that gift.
The Triduum, the solemn worship of the church during Holy Week, will be reflected in the Cathedral beginning with the Blessing of the Chrism on Maundy Thursday at 11am. In the evening of Maundy Thursday we will recall Jesus’ institution of the Last Supper – how he also washed his disciples feet as a sign that we are through Jesus, called to serve one another with the same devotion and love as we might serve God Himself. On Good Friday, the children of our Sunday School will enact the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and later that day, we will gather again for a solemn liturgy which will engage us fully in the drama of that first Good Friday through some of the most powerful religious music inspired and composed to interpret these wondrous events. According to tradition, Jesus died on the Cross at 3 o’ clock on Good Friday, just as the Jewish Passover was about to begin – the great West Doors of the Cathedral are therefore shut shortly after 3pm.
On the Saturday evening before Easter Day, we reassemble to celebrate the Lords’s resurrection from the dead when a number of new Christians will be baptised and confirmed. Then on Easter Day itself these celebrations continue as we join with the whole of Christendom to proclaim that “Christ is Risen”!
Come and join us! We welcome you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ who died, was raised and lives for you and for all. Wherever you may be this Holy Week and Easter, may God draw you closer to Himself and make known to you the power of his life giving love, for you and all those whom you love.
7.30pm Sung Eucharist with
Washing of Feet,
Procession to Altar of Repose
Stripping of Altars
Followed by The Watch of the Passion
9.30am Stations of the Cross – Children’s Liturgy
12.00 noon The Preaching of the Passion (The Dean)
1.15pm The Proclamation of the Passion and
The Liturgy of the Day
8.00pm Paschal Vigil & Choral Eucharist with Confirmation
8.00am Holy Eucharist
9.00am Procession & Parish Eucharist
11.00am Procession & Choral Eucharist
12.30pm Holy Eucharist
3.30pm Solemn Evensong
On Palm Sunday a service of preparation for the journey of Holy Week will take place at 5.30pm. The Stations of the Cross, which find their roots in the experiences of the earliest pilgrims to Jerusalem, who would walk the “Via Dolorosa” as it had been reconstructed there, offers an opportunity for reflection and prayer as, through music and readings, we ourselves walk the Way of the Cross. The music is provided through a recent composition by John Hosking, Assistant Director of Music at St Asaph Cathedral, who writes:
There is nothing pleasant about the 14 Stations of the Cross; indeed one must recall, suffering, grief and torture throughout. My overall aim has been to depict each station as graphically and colourfully as possible, with a constant feeling of unsettlement and not quite knowing what will come next. In this sense, even though the opening theme does appear at various points throughout the work, it has been my intention not to develop any thematic material fully. Rather, one should leave the performance in a state of shock and feeling confused – just as those close to Jesus must have not quite known what was happening or even why. In some cases, a whirlwind of different moods and senses are exploited in a very short space of time; in others, the listener is left wondering what just happened. It wasn’t even in the space of a week that the crowd were cheering Jesus and then shouting “Crucify”. I hope that some of this feeling is depicted throughout the work.
This work is inspired by the various colours the organ can produce, a Stations of the Cross that I improvised in 2012, a walk through the Stations of the Cross at Pantasaph Monastery and some fragments of plainsong.