Spy Wednesday: Tenebrae

Wednesday of Holy Week is Spy Wednesday and so-called because Judas betrays Jesus.

Judas is paid by enemies for his information that Jesus will be almost alone on Thursday.

This is such a poignant day that it has become customary for many churches to hold this evening the ancient service known as Tenebrae.

Tenebrae means shadows and tonight’s service has many graphic references to Judas.

Fifteen candles are extinguished during the two hours of haunting music and readings.

The late art critic Brian Sewell described Tenebrae as “the most disturbing and convincing service” which was also “poetic, theatrical and terrible”.

Wednesday Evening Tenebrae in London

St Mary Moorfields, EC2, 6pm

St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street EC4, 7pm

St Paul’s Covent Garden, WC2, 7.30pm

All Saints, Margaret Street, W1, 7.30pm

St John’s Smith Square, SW1, 10.15pm

Fig Monday

Ripe figs

It’s Fig Monday today which recalls Jesus pointing out the fig tree on the Bethany-Jeruslem road.

Yesterday Jesus famously rode into Jerusalem. In the evening he returned.

Today he comes back to the city past threw fig tree again and overturns the tables of the moneychangers at The Temple.

The commute with his disciples will be repeated over the next three days during which he will speak deeply to his close followers about what is about to happen.

Expect the action to be triggered on Wednesday by Judas Iscariot.

Holy Week in real time

Palms decorate St Stephen’s Church Bournemouth

Tomorrow we begin Holy Week when we can live Christ’s last days on earth in real time.

So where is Jesus tonight?

He and his close followers are arriving at Bethany which is close Jerusalem. They are welcomed by Martha and Mary.

Also there is their brother Lazarus who was recently brought back to life in his tomb by Jesus on his last visit.

Mary, who it has been suggested is probably the group’s road manager, pours expensive ointment over Jesus’s just washed feet. This annoys Judas Iscariot who as treasurer probably does not get on with Mary.

All will eat together.

Tomorrow Jesus, whose fame has gone before him with the raising of Lazarus, will be cheered by crowds waving palms as he enters Jerusalem.

Best Palm Sunday processions

Hereford Cathedral: meet Bishop’s Palace 10am.

Ripon Cathedral: meet Market Square 10.10am

Southwark Cathedral: meet in Borough Market 11am

St Albans Cathedral: meet High Street clock tower 9.30am.

St Paul’s Cathedral: meet Paternoster Square 11am.

Holy Trinity Sloane Square & St Mary’s Bourne Street Chelsea: meet Sloane Square 10.45am

Winchester Cathedral: meet at The Castle 10.30am.

York Minster: meet St Helen’s Square (Betty’s teashop) 9.45am.

*Ripon, St Albans and St Paul’s are expected to include a donkey.

Mothering Sunday

Clypping at Staplehurst in Kent

This weekend was going to be significant: UK leaving the EU, change clocks, abolition of three south coast councils* and Mothering Sunday.

The first has been postponed but Mothering Sunday cannot as it is the mid Lent Sunday and Easter must start on the night of 20 April whatever else happens

One Mothering Sunday tradition is clypping the church which involves everyone holding hands to hug the building. Being united and talking to each other is good example in these troubled times.

We hug the main parish church because it is the mother church. So mid Lent Sunday is a time to show love to our church as well as our own mother -alive, dead or separated.

The entrance antiphon at Mass likens Jerusalem to a mother: Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning: exult and be satisfied by her consoling breast.

In two weeks our loved church will be our Jerusalem as we keep Holy Week in real time with Christ.

*Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch Councils are being replaced by the BCP super council from midnight on Sunday.


Virgin Mary statue by Diane Corvin (1986) at St Stephen’s Bournemouth

Monday 25 March is The Annunciation when we think of Mary learning that she was pregnant with the Christ Child.

This is why we shall celebrate the birth on 25 December.

There are Annunciation celebrations today in Nazareth’s basilica, Loreto and Walsingham as well as other churches. Today in Lent there is spark of colour and a touch of Christmas.

The Annunciation took place in Mary’s house at Nazareth. Part of that house is now at Loreto in Italy and a replica is at Walsingham in Norfolk.

The Pope is visiting the Holy House at Loreto today.

But in recent years today now has another dimension, especially France and Lebanon, as Christians and Muslims meet together to honour Mary who appears in both the Bible and the Koran.

St Joseph’s Day: another Lent break

Zeppole on sale in Naples

Today Tuesday 19 March is St Joseph’s Day.

If you live in Italy you will find St Joseph buns, called seppole, on sale. They look like the Shrove Tuesday semlor buns enjoyed in Sweden although this time the cream is ricotta.

Joseph has two feast days. Today as spouse of Mary mother of Jesus and 1 May as St Joseph the Worker.

In some countries today is a holiday and in many more Father’s Day. In Krakow the trams are decorated with flags.

Is it St Patrick’s Day?

The statue outside St Patrick’s Waterloo in London includes one of the snakes allegedly driven from Ireland by St Patrick

Is it St Patrick’s Day on Sunday 17 March?

He does not appear in the calendar this year because 17 March is the Second Sunday of Lent.

But this is not as difficult as the rare year when 17 March falls in Holy Week.

It can be St Patrick’s Day on Sunday where the local dedication is St Patrick. So the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin is keeping St Patrick’s Day with the President Michael D. Higgins present. The city’s festival is a five day event.

In London there will be celebrations at St Patrick’s Soho Square on Sunday and Monday with blessing of shamrock at all Masses.

Borough Market next to Southwark Cathedral is opening all day on Sunday to feature Irish food.




This Friday 15 March is Family Fast Day when CAFOD suggests that we forgo our main meal and donate the normal cost to the poor via the charity.

CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, works alongside Christian Aid to build a world without hunger and war by putting faith into action.

Below is soup recipe from CAFOD to help us through the day.

Ash Wednesday: NEW START

Lent Prose Attende Domine dates from the 10th century

‘The Christians go mad but thanks to ashes that the Church puts on their heads they come to their senses and are cured of their madness,’ commented the Turkish ambassador to Rome in the 1690s.

Carnival ended last night and today, Ash Wednesday, we can receive ashes in church at the start of the Forty Days of Lent.

It marks our commitment to keeping Lent.

John Paul II said that going without things in Lent does not only consist of giving away what we do not need.

‘Going without things is to free oneself from the slavery of a civilisation that is always urging people on to greater comfort and consumption, without a thought for the preservation of our environment which is the common heritage of humanity.’

Leigh Hatts