“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.
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.
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 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.
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.