Making Holy Week real again. - Reflection by Canon Nick


Read Canon Nick's blog for Tuesday, 30 March, 2021.

We are now in Holy Week, that great week of weeks, when we travel with Christ through the final days of his earthly ministry.

An early Christian understanding of the liturgy was to ‘make real again’ the events about which we read in the Bible, and which are central to our faith, and over the centuries, the church’s liturgy has evolved with this in mind and the liturgies of Holy Week are no exception.

The offices of the early days of the week call to mind the events leading up to Mandy Thursday and the great triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter does this especially well;  we can add to this the devotion known as the Stations of the Cross, and the Medieval inspired Passion Plays which we in Liverpool came to know only too well with the powerful performances of the ‘Liverpool Passion Plays’, here in the Cathedral in the last decade. 

As with other aspects of the liturgical year, we at Liverpool Cathedral have evolved the traditional liturgies of Holy Week for a twentieth century cathedral and our use of the building to such good effect means that Good Friday especially, has become known as one the great liturgical events of the year. 

Such liturgies help us to stand, unobserved, in the crowd in the temple and watch the tables of the money changers overturned; they help us we weep with Christ at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and marvel at the events which followed; they help us watch from the corner of that far off dining room in Bethany, as a woman anoints Christ with precious ointment; they help us to stand, unobserved in the corner of the upper room, and witness the Last Supper, and Christ’s instruction to, ‘do this in remembrance of me’,  they help us watch with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and no doubt there are times when we fall asleep, as the disciples fell asleep.

They help us stand in the crowds and observe the betrayal and trial of Jesus; they help us walk the way of the Cross and watch, horrified and confused, as Our Lord is crucified; they help us watch and weep and wonder as our Lord is laid in the tomb.

And finally, ultimately, they transport us through the ages and we watch the women walk through the garden in the dawn mist of that far off morning, we see them running to Simon Peter and the others, we see them talk to the Angel and with joy, we hear them proclaim the good news of the resurrection. 

After that, we are transported back to our own age and our own lives and this year, to COVID, and we begin life again, as the disciples on the Road to Emmaus were doing, and as the whole of creation does, fresh with the knowledge that sin and death has been overcome. 

What a lot we have to come back to this year though, despite the wonderful success of the vaccination programme, the effects of the pandemic will be felt for years to come and as we say and sing, Christ is Risen, we have much to reflect on.

We are hoping that we can return the Cathedral to some form of normality just as soon as we can; we are now able to safely welcome you back for worship, we are able to have some music, although we will miss our Choristers at this year’s Easter services, and we are able to grow our online community, thanks to the technology available to us; please do join us this Holy Week; however best suits you, and invite others to do so, whether in person or online and journey with us and with Christ; help us to make these events real again, and in so doing, together, we will bring the Kingdom of God closer to those who need it the most and ultimately, to us all. 

We all look forward to praying and worshipping with you this Holy Week, we continue to hold in our prayers, all who have suffered as a result of the pandemic, and we hope and pray that this Easter we will sing Alleluia as an Easter People, with fresh hope and determination to build a better world for us all. 

Canon Nick 

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