Maundy Thursday 2020

Foot washing during the Mass of the Last Supper

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.’

St Peter in Gallicantu, the Cockcrow Church, is on the site of Caiaphas’s house

Spy Wednesday 2020

Today’s readings are available online from Magnificat

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

Holy Week Tuesday

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;
John 12.20

Fig Monday 2020

Ripe figs

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.

Dried figs

Palm Sunday 2020

Palm Sunday procession enters Salisbury Cathedral

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.

Holy Week 2020

Palm Sunday procession in Borough Market sets out for Southwark Cathedral

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.

Passion or Carlin Sunday

Carlin peas ready to eat

This Sunday, between Mothering Sunday and Palm Sunday, is Passion Sunday.

The name comes from the Latin passio meaning suffering and refers to the suffering of Christ as he approached his cruxifiction.

Sunday is the start of the week during which we shall be able to begin following Christ’s last days of his ministry on earth in real time.

Jesus was recently at Bethany and will be again at the end of the week. He has just raised Lazarus from the dead and, this year, that event is the Passion Sunday Mass reading: John’s Gospel 11: 1-45.

It is a story of hope as well as prefiguring Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Carlin Sunday peas

A popular and better known name for this Sunday in the north-east is Carlin (or Carling) Sunday when pub snacks and lunch include warm Carlin peas.

The tradition may have started with peas arriving in Newcastle as relief from hunger after a siege.

Anyone who bought their carlins before the shutdown will certainly be cooking the peas as usual. In these difficult times they are a good legume providing protein and fibre. Any left over should be enjoyed cold on Monday.

Today: Looking to Christmas

Annunciation flowers in Southwark Cathedral last year

Today, Wednesday 25 March, is a bright moment in Lent when we can look ahead to Christmas and the time when we might have conquered the virus.

If today is the feast of The Annunciation then it’s nine months to Christmas, the normal length of a pregnancy.

Were churches open then flowers might be making a brief reappearance and hymns would have a Marian theme reminding us of the moment the Virgin Mary knew that she was to give birth to Jesus.

In some countries, such as France and Lebanon, the Feast of the Annunciation has recently become a time when Christians and Muslims meet together to honour Mary.

At present churches and mosques are closed. Let’s resolve to meet together next year on The Annunciation.

Mothering Sunday 2020

Flowers on Mothering Sunday

Not so many flowers will be presented to mothers this Mothering Sunday.

But we shall be seeking, maybe via phone and email, to help and thank our mothers who have looked after us and, in many cases, worked hard to make home a special place for the coming months.

We pray for mothers alive and deceased.

The origin of Mothering Sunday is St Paul’s description of Jerusalem as ‘mother of us all’ which was read on this mid-Lent Sunday.

Mothering Sunday was not just a time for going home to see the family but also visiting the mother church. This usually meant the main church of a rural cluster or the cathedral.

Today our cathedrals are through social media and live feeds suddenly the focus for those who are looking to the church during this disturbing time.

Archbishop William Temple said: “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

Pray for clergy and musicians who are suddenly called to this online ministry which is giving comfort and a shape to lonely days.

St Joseph’s Day without doughnuts

St Joseph doughnuts

We know Joseph as the faithful husband of the Virgin Mary. Together they brought up Jesus and watched over his early years.

St Joseph’s Day 19 March often passes without much notice in the UK but today we could think of those who usually keep today with much celebration.

It is a holiday in Malta.

It is Father’s Day in several countries including Italy, Portugal and Spain.

In Leichtenstein it is both a holiday and Father’s Day.

In Sicily there would normally be lots of St Joseph tables laden with food in a tradition which has evolved into a food bank for the poor.

There will not be many this year enjoying the Zeppole di San Giuseppe, the St Joseph’s Day doughnut which has regional differences across Italy.

But St Joseph is patron of fathers. We can pray for them at this very difficult time as we shall pray for mothers on Mothering Sunday at the weekend.

Leigh Hatts