Sunday, 31 March 2013

Good Friday Service

The Good Friday Service is usually the part of the Triduum that I find most emotional, but this year it ran a close second to the Mass of the Lord's Supper the night before.

That said, it was still very touching. The Passion was read by two young people, along with the priest, and they did a very good job. I always find the Passion account of Saint John to be less heartfelt than those of the other Gospels, perhaps due to the scripture references that are included - I know they are there because John's Gospel was written later and for a different purpose, but they do break up the narrative in places.

Even so I was able to focus on the words and consider the Passion deeply as it was being proclaimed. Over the past year I have begun to appreciate the Liturgy of the Word a great deal more than I ever have before; this I think is down to the fact that I actually listen to them and look for the relationships with my own life. Anyone can hear a reading from scripture and not relate to it, even look for the fault in it; but to see its meaning in our own lives requires us to be open to the deeper meaning in what we hear. Again this may be an idea that I explore more fully in a future post.

After the Proclamation of the Passion came the Veneration of the Cross. This is an action that I always saw as quite matter of fact when I was younger, and I am not sure I fully appreciate the significance even now. I have read recently about whether the word 'veneration' or 'adoration' is more appropriate when dealing with the cross (and indeed any cross or crucifix). There are different terms in Greek for worship of God directly, worship of Our Lady and worship of the Saints; these terms translate as adoration (as in ~ of the Blessed Sacrament - as the real presence of Christ) and (high) veneration (of Our Lady and the saints). Given that the cross is not a real presence of God, venerate would seem to be the correct word, but I have seen it listed as 'adoration of the cross' in a number of places. Going up to venerate the cross, there was a nice hymn playing, but it still felt a bit of a functional thing to be doing; it is not that I do not have the highest regard for the Holy Cross, but I would rather spend some time in quiet contemplation (and do, regularly) than queue up to kiss the foot of the cross directly. As I say I think need to consider the significance of the clear, public nature of the veneration of the cross on Good Friday.

Best wishes.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Mass of the Lord's Supper

I know this is a little belated, but over the next few days I will try to put down my thoughts on the different elements of the Triduum, beginning with the Mass of the Lord's Supper:

I truly love attending this mass each year. Whilst recognising the significance of the consecration at any mass, Jesus' words in the Eucharistic Prayer on the evening of Maundy Thursday seem even more powerful than usual.

This year I was asked to be one of the twelve who had their feet washed during the service, and of course I said yes (I couldn't really turn the priest down when he asked directly). This was a very unusual experience. I do some small works in my parish as I am needed to, but always with the deference to the priest that was instilled in me when I was only a child. Now I found myself sitting on the steps of the sanctuary letting a priest wash my feet. In honesty it felt very awkward, but then we had just heard in the Gospel that it was awkward for the apostles. I cannot help but draw other parallels with that Gospel passage: The priest is a servant of those whose feet he washes, whilst at the same time being deserving of respect and of the authority he holds; to turn the priest down would be to recognise one part of his priestly function and ignore the other. I do not claim that the theology behind these parallels is defined, but they did occur to me during and after that part of the mass.

The mass ended with the transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose. I was disappointed that the Pange Lingua Gloriosi was not sung - I think it is one of the most beautiful hymns ever written; but I will say more on music in the liturgy in a future post. The stripping of the sanctuary after this mass is a terribly sad thing to witness; particularly the removal of the sanctuary lamp and the cloth covering the tabernacle.

I stayed at the altar of repose for an hour or so after mass and went through the first parts of the Passion in my mind; the agony in the garden certainly, but also on into what happened to our Lord over that night. I was struck with a sense of despair that I have not felt before; although it seemed entirely appropriate. The closest thing I can liken it to is watching a sad film that you have seen before; you are willing the characters to do something different, to avoid the unhappy ending; but of course they will not - it is the same film as the last time you saw it. How must it have been for Christ in that garden? He knew the ending of his story, and wanted dearly to avoid it, even had the option to avoid it, but he saw it through nevertheless.

To sum this post up in two simple thoughts: The moving example of Christ's service in the mass; followed by the despair of knowing what had to come next.

Best Wishes.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

7 Last Words

Yesterday (Wednesday of Holy Week) I visited the Church of Our Lady and St Bridgid in Northfield (Twitter - @OurLadyStBridgid) for an evening of reflection, meditation and music arranged by a group from the 2nd Friday movement. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

The evening was built around the seven last statements of Christ, each accompanied by a reflection and piece of music. Most of the music was new to me and a little more contemporary than my usual taste, but it worked well with the modern style of the reflections.

In the quiet, candle-lit atmosphere of a beautiful church there was a real opportunity to spend time contemplating the significance of those simple phrases. I will try to find time over the next couple of weeks to share my thoughts on at least some of the phrases in turn.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

First post... Very new to this...

So I'm very new to the idea of blogging, let alone doing my own, but I hope that this blog will become an insight into my faith and how I view my relationship with God.

For a first post I think I should explain why I have decided to put what has, until now, been a private diary of my faith journey out into the public domain:

I been seeking spiritual direction from a priest I know, and discussing various aspects of my faith with him. He advised me to seek a range of views on some matters, so as to better make my own conclusions. We discussed some different methods of how to do this, and as well as reading and talking directly to people I know, the idea of a blog came up. I am hoping that this blog will do two things - firstly, I hope that it will form an account of the development of my faith over time, and secondly it will give people a chance to share their experiences, be they similar or contradictory.

I cannot promise frequent or regular updates, although I'm sure at times there will be both. Perhaps that is a first insight into my own (and I'm sure lots of others') faith - there are times when our faith is rightly at the forefront of our minds, but others when it equally appropriately plays second fiddle to short-term, but vital, personal matters.