It’s Easter!

Easter Candle at Southwark Cathedral

“None rejoice at Eastertide less than those who have not grieved in Lent”, reflected John Henry Newman who later this year will be declared to be a saint.

Easter has arrived overnight after our forty days of Lent and this last week of living with Christ in Jerusalem.

We now begin Easter and break the fast by eating eggs and lamb which all have a significant meaning. The French, who have the death and rebirth symbolism of Notre Dame cathedral, will enjoy chocolate fish -an early Christian symbol.

Christ is Risen!

In Limbo on Holy Saturday

Dawn Easter Fire at St Martin-in-the-Fields in 2017

If we are  following the real time of Holy Week today Saturday  is a limbo with Christ dead whilst  the apostles wonder what will happen next.

But today we know that come dusk there will be the first flickers from Easter fires outside churches and in public areas in Finland and villages in Cyprus.

So confident are we that the resurrection of Christ can be celebrated again that this morning Polish churches will already be filled with families bringing their Easter baskets with hard boiled eggs and sugar lambs for a blessing.

The Easter candle, lit from the fire outside the church door,  represents Christ to those who follow behind into the building for theEaster Vigil. During the coming year this same candle will stand by every coffin as reminder of life after death.


Easter fire on Holy Saturday night in Finland

Good Friday: Hot cross buns

Bread Ahead hot cross buns in Borough Market

On Good Friday 1783 Dr Johnson described his breakfast as “tea without milk, and…a hot cross bun to prevent faintness”. 

Today is a day of fasting and abstinence so a hot cross bun, invented by St Albans Abbey in 1361, should keep one going until after church this afternoon.

The distribution of hot cross buns today at St Bartholomew the Great in London’s Smithfield (11.30am) and The Widow’s Son pub in Bow (3pm); skipping at Firle is Sussex (lunchtime) and marbles at nearby Battle and Tinsley Green all help to mark Good Friday as special and a still an important part of our Christian culture.

That culture draws on the teaching of Jesus who on the first Good Friday refused to deny his words and faced death.

Maundy Thursday

St Peter in Gallicantu sign in Holy Land

Maundy Thursday has several themes including feet washing, institution of the Eucharist, watching with Christ and arrest.

At the distribution of the Royal Maundy, this morning at Windsor, the Queen will be accompanied by clergy and children wearing towels. This is a reminder that once the monarch not only gave out money but washed feet as Christ did today.

In church tonight the celebrant will wash feet during the Mass of the Last Supper.

Afterwards there is procession of the Blessed Sacrament to a flower decorated altar representing the Garden of Gethsemane.

In large cities one can walk from church to church visiting the Gethsemane focus. In the London the most garden-like is at St Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell.

The Watch ends at midnight when Christ was betrayed and arrested.

He was taken to Caiaphas’ house now rebuilt as the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu.

Gallicantu means cock crow recalling Peter’s triple rejection of Jesus “before the cock crows twice” on that site during the early hours of Good Friday.

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.

Leigh Hatts