And it is still the second day of Easter.
It will be Easter every day for forty days to Ascension Day on Thursday 21 May when we hope and pray that life will be a little better.
We might not have Easter eggs, or even fresh eggs, lamb or Easter cake but we can still recall why today is Easter Day just as prisoners of war or those behind the Iron Curtain did. We can live the first Esater Day in real time.
What happened today
Matthew 28.1-15; Mark 16.1-18; Luke 24.1-49; John 20.1-26
It is still dark when Mary from Magdala near the Sea of Galilee, Mary who was mother of Apostle St James the Less, and Joanna arrive at the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Christ.
They are wondering who will move the stone at the entrance and hoping that the guards will do so for them.
When Mary Magdalen realises that the stone has already been rolled back she turns away. Soon after she sees Peter and John who are also on their way and she runs towards them warning that Christ’s body seems to have been removed. The two shocked disciples start running to the tomb. John makes it there first and looking through the opening sees the linen cloths which had been wrapped round the body folded up on the floor.
When Peter arrives he goes straight in and finds the cloth which had been put over the head. Then incredulous John goes inside as the two realise that Jesus’ warnings were true.
The two shocked disciples leave and Mary Magdalen who had remained crying outside goes inside. She sees two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been. They ask why she is crying.
‘They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him,’ she says turning to go. She is confronted by another figure whom she mistakes for the gardener. As she pleads to be told where the body had been taken, the man speaks revealing himself as Christ by saying in his familiar voice ‘Mary’.
‘Master,’ she replies in recognition as he warns her not to embrace him as he is not yet ascended to heaven.
‘Go and tell my brothers,’ he requests. ‘And tell them I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’
The Ascension would happen before the summer. Meanwhile Mary goes to find the others who, of course, do not believe her.
During the afternoon two disciples, not members of the remaining Eleven but Cleophas and another who may have been his wife
Mary, are walking from Jerusalem towards Emmaus seven miles away.
They are joined by a stranger who appears to know nothing of the recent events in Jerusalem involving Jesus. The two recount their experiences and then the stranger recalls all the Old Testament passages which foretell these events. They ask their interesting and sympathetic companion to join them at an inn rather than press on alone. At the table the stranger takes bread, blesses it and hands it to them. He disappears as the two realise that Christ had been with them.
Although it was the end of the day they race back to Jerusalem arriving almost certainly by early evening to tell the Eleven. Still the other disciples do not believe that Jesus has appeared even though he may have risen from the dead.
In the evening in Jerusalem ten of the original Twelve are gathered behind closed doors. Thomas is elsewhere. Jesus appears amongst them saying ‘Peace be with you’. He shows them his injured hands and side before saying: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me so I am sending you.’
He anticipates Pentecost by breathing on them saying ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain they are retained’. Then they watch him eat a piece of their grilled fish.
Late night or later
When Thomas hears about Christ’s appearance from the others he remained doubtful refusing to believe anything unless he can touch the wounds himself.
It’s not Easter yet. Today 11 April is Holy Saturday.
(Easter Saturday is the end of next week, Easter Week.)
This year Holy Saturday feels even more a day of limbo and abnormal. It will feel a long day as it must have for the disorientated disciples. We cannot shorten it by lighting an Easter Vigil Fire outside church at dusk. .
But this afternoon at 4pm there is the opportunity to meditate before the Shroud of Turin via a live online feed.
The Shroud is widely believed, thanks to recent scientific work, to be the cloth which was wrapped around Jesus’s body. It will be found neatly folded tomorrow morning.
A Good Friday meditation before the crown of thorns will be broadcast live from inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral this morning.
The event is being streamed online by France’s Catholic television station, KTO, from 10:30 to 11:30am.
The Good Friday Liturgy with Pope Francis can be seen on Vatican TV at 5pm.
What happened today
Matthew 27.1-61; Mark 15.1-14; Luke 23.1-56; John 8.29-9.42
Following his arrest late last night, Jesus had no sleep. At first light he appears before the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish court, which has his hands bound before handing him to Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
He sends him to Herod who swiftly returns Jesus to the governor. He asks Jesus: ‘Are you King of the Jews?’ Jesus just says: ‘It is you who say it.’ The chief priests made many accusations but Jesus says nothing more.
Being the Passover, it was usual for the governor to release one prisoner and Pilate suggests that it should be Jesus. However, the crowd watching the exchanges and egged on by the chief priests, calls out the name of Barabbas who is also being held.
‘What am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ asks Pilate and in reply the crowd shouts, ‘Let him be crucified’. They do so again even when Pilate asks them what it is that Jesus has done wrong.
Barabbas is released whilst Jesus is led away by the Roman soldiers. This may all have happened by 8.30am.
The soldiers dress Jesus in a purple robe and put a crown made of thorny twigs on his head. Speaking in Greek they mock him saying: ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ After he has been stripped, tied to a pillar and whipped he is allowed to dress before being led outside the walls of Jerusalem to Golgotha for crucifixion, a common Roman sentence.
Simon, a visitor from Libya, is hailed on the way and ordered to carry the wooden crossbeam weighing about 30lb and needed for the crucifixion.
On top of the high ground at Golgotha there are tall wooden posts and the crossbar was fixed to one to create a cross.
After Jesus has declined a drink of vinegar and myrrh, he is stripped and nailed to the cross by his hands and feet. Being crucified on either side are two robbers. The nails are expertly driven into the hands to prevent the bodies from falling off.
Mark suggests this is as early as 9am. The soldiers stick a notice on top saying ‘King of The Jews’ and then throw dice to decide which of them should have first choice of the prisoner’s garments.
Jesus is mocked by some passers-by.
At 3pm, just before dying after maybe as long as six hours on the cross, he calls out in Aramaic the first line of Psalm 22: ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’
A study of the Sudarium in Oviedo Cathedral suggests that the body of Jesus remains on the cross for another hour. Then it is laid on its right side on the ground for about 45 minutes.
Nicodemus has arrived with myrrh for the body just as the Three Kings had brought myrrh at Jesus’ birth in anticipation of this traumatic moment.
Joseph of Arimathea, who has obtained permission to take care of the body, brings a large linen cloth. At 5pm the body is picked up and carried for about five minutes to a nearby tomb which belonged to Joseph. There it is wrapped in the cloth, possibly the Shroud of Turin, and myrrh is sprinkled on top.
By 6pm darkness is approaching and Mary Magdalene sees the stone rolled across the tomb entrance.
The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum meaning commandment found in the gospel acclamation for today: Mandatum novum de vobis (I give you a new commandment: love one another just as I have loved you) from St John’s Gospel 13.34.
On the first Maundy Thursday, Christ commanded followers ‘to love one another’ and washed his followers’ feet.
This happened at the Last Supper which is recognised as the institution of Holy Communion.
Tonight we are unable to be in church for Mass of The Last Supper and join the watch in the ‘garden’ but we can recall the events and keep the hours in our hearts.
What Happened Today
Matthew 26.17-75; Mark 14.12-72; Luke 22.7-65; John 13.1- 18.27
The disciples ask Jesus where they should prepare their Passover meal to be eaten tonight. He sends Peter and John into Jerusalem telling them to follow a man carrying a pitcher of water to a house.
They must ask him to show them the dining room. Jesus assures them that they will be shown an upstairs room where they can make preparations. It was not unusual for families to hire a room for Passover in Jerusalem.
The Last Supper
In the evening, probably after 6pm, Jesus and his twelve inner group of disciples arrive at the chosen house. The Passover meal would always include women and children so Jesus’s mother Mary, who was in Jerusalem, would have been a natural guest.
First Jesus removes a garment and wraps a towel round his waist to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter is overwhelmed at this act, usually undertaken by servants or humble people, and tries to resist but Jesus insists.
‘If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.’
Knowing there was a dispute, about which of them was the greatest, Jesus says that any leader must behave as if he was the one who serves.
During the first course Jesus warns that one of them will betray him. The shocked disciples, including Judas, say: ‘Not me Lord, surely?’
But when John, sitting next to Christ, asks who it is, Jesus replies that it is the disciple ‘to whom I shall give the bread that I dip in the dish’. As soon as Judas accepts the bread he leaves.
Now Jesus breaks a piece of the bread, blesses it and says: ‘This is my body’. He then picks up a cup of wine saying: ‘This is my blood.’ This is the institution of the Eucharist and the first Holy Communion.
By about 8pm Jesus speaks at some length giving what is his farewell discourse to the future leaders of the church. It’s a message of reassurance and he gives a hint of the Trinity saying that he will send the Holy Spirit.
The latter came at Pentecost and the former we celebrate on Trinity Sunday. So the eleven disciples left at the table, instructed to offer bread and wine in remembrance, became the Apostles, or first bishops, and all priests are the assistants of their successors. Tonight Jesus founds the Church by appealing to his followers to remain united and it is this call which is remembered every year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January.
At the end of the meal they sing psalms 113 to 118, as is traditional at the end of a Passover meal, before setting out downhill on a walk of about twenty minutes to the Garden of Gethsemane across the valley at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It is now approaching 10pm.
Jesus stops to pray and urges others to keep awake.
At around midnight Judas reappears and greets Jesus with a customary kiss.
This is the signal for the chief priests deciding to arrest Jesus who is detained at the house of the Chief Priest Caiaphas .
Peter, who has followed at a distance, denies knowing Jesus and as he hears a cock at 6am he remembers Jesus’ words: ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’
In normal times several churches, especially in London, would tonight be offering the opportunity to attend Tenebrae which art historian Brian Sewell described as ‘the most disturbing and convincing service’. It has many graphic references to Judas Iscariot.
But at home we can read about Judas and his secret role in what is about to happen.
Judas Iscariot, the group treasure, is this morning alone in Jerusalem where he approaches the Chief Priests and Elders of the Temple offering to assist in Jesus’ arrest.
It appears that he may be paid thirty pieces of silver in advance,
either the Jewish silver shekel or the Roman silver denarius
This evening Jesus is as usual in Bethany and probably dining at the home of Simon. Maybe the villagers have shared out the task of feeding and finding beds for Jesus and his followers. Lazarus is present and Martha cooks the meal.
Tomorrow the meal will be in Jerusalem.
*Mark 14.1-11; Matthew 26.14-16
Today, on the way in to Jerusalem for the third time, Jesus and his companions pass the fig tree which appears to have withered.
In the city he spends the day teaching in the Temple where the wary chief priests asked him, without direct success, by what authority he acted and spoke. But he attempts speaking to them in parables. The parable of the tenant farmers is an attack on the Jewish authorities which they recognise although they fail to heed the warning about killing the son.
At this time he deals with the trick question from the Pharisees who ask whether they should pay taxes to Caesar. Holding up a coin he says: ‘Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and God what belongs to God.’ This is the quotation used today by Christians when they have to disobey a law which goes against Christian teaching.
He also points out the old lady putting two small value coins in the collecting box saying: ‘This poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’
Among visitors to the Temple are some Greeks who ask to meet Jesus. This both harks back to the visit of the Three Kings of several nations in Bethlehem and looks to the mission of the about to be formed church which will involve many nationalities.
Later, Jesus sits on the Mount of Olives with Peter, James, John and Andrew, who ask what is going to happen. Jesus’s long discourse mentions the fig tree and likens a bud indicating the approach of summer to the signs that the Kingdom of God is near.
In the evening the party almost certainly returns to Bethany.
*Matthew 26.1-13; Mark 11.20-13.37; Luke 19.47-21.38;
Today is Fig Monday which until the end of the nineteenth was the familiar name for this second day of Holy Week.
Flora Thompson, who wrote Lark Rise to Candleford, mentions eating dried figs at this time.
The tradition comes from the mention in the Gospels of a fig tree noted this morning by Christ on the Bethany-Jerusalem road.
Bethany means house of the figs and Bethphage, where the donkeys were tethered, is house of early figs.
Jesus’s curse of the tree for not having any early fruit is illustrating the nation and Temple to be spiritually barren. He mentions the tree again tomorrow when talking to the disciples on the Mount of Olives.
But first is the main event of today: overturning the tables of the money changers at the Temple.
What happened today
Jesus, who had spent the night with his disciples at Bethany, asked two of them to go to nearby Bethphage and bring the donkey and colt tethered there.
Kings would normally arrive by horse but Jesus rode on a donkey when he set out for Jerusalem.
The disciples laid their cloaks on the donkey for a saddle whilst other supporters spread their own cloaks on the ground.
They also laid and waved newly cut palm branches which were a national symbol of Judaea brandished at times of celebration and depicted on coins.
The two mile route was to the top of the Mount of Olives, for the first view of Jerusalem, and then down the rough road behind the Garden of Gethsemane into the Kedron Valley.
Here on the downward slope the crowd shouted: ‘Hosanna
to the Son of David!’, ‘Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord!’ and ‘Hosanna in the highest heavens!’ -all phrases are from psalm 118 sung in procession at Jewish festivals.
Ahead, up the slope, was the Golden Gate leading directly to the Temple in the walled city of Jerusalem.
Church processions & palms
The outdoor procession to church which would normally precede today’s Mass represents Jesus’s donkey ride to Jerusalem.
Canterbury Cathedral’s blessing of palms at 10am is being streamed live.
Viewers with access to a garden might like to hold some greenery. Before dried palms were imported the choice would have been box, willow and yew. In Kent the yew tree was known as the palm.
The late Patrick O’Donovan of The Observer said that Holy Week was the peculiar privilege of Christians and their most important week of the year.
This year it will be unseen by many without the reminders of the outdoor Palm Sunday processions and pictures of The Queen distributing Maundy money.
But throughout the world thousands of people marooned in their homes or working in hospitals and vital medical production plants will be living out the week in their hearts.
In more households than one might guess it will probably be possible to find a palm cross from last year to hold on Sunday morning when we would have been walking in procession to church remembering Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.
As the week proceeds we can recall the movements in real time of Jesus and his followers to and from Bethany.
In our hearts we shall be present at the Last Supper, kneel in the garden of Gethsemane, walk with Christ as He carries the Cross and then watch at the foot of the Cross and rejoice at his rising from the dead.
Tonight Jesus and his followers have arrived in Bethany and are dining at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus . Tomorrow the guests go to Jerusalem.