“Under the new world order” wrote John Berger the essayist and poet, “…the sharing of pain is one of the essential preconditions for a refinding of dignity and hope.” The Christian perhaps can see in John Berger’s challenge an inkling of the drama of Holy Week. You are invited to share in the drama, that you may be drawn into the suffering and dying not only ‘of’ Jesus but ‘with’ Jesus. So the sharing of the pain and humiliation of Holy Week becomes a ‘refinding of dignity and hope’, which is in such short supply.
Palm Sunday is a day of profound irony that begins with the lauding of Jesus with palm leaves that in a matter of days becomes the humiliation of Jesus with violent palms of the hands and, of course, his killing of Jesus.
From Monday to Wednesday, the Holy Week ‘Pilgrimage’ will look at the impenetrable darkness of the Jewish Holocaust, the ‘crucifixion’ of a whole culture, with the guidance of the addresses of the Dean of Exeter, Jonathan Greener. Each night, music and words, a Eucharist, a singing of Compline, celebrate the mystery of love in the midst of abandonment.
On Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday, we enter The Triduum, the three days of the central drama of Christianity. Vows are renewed, and oils blessed, feet are washed and we stay intimately close to Jesus as he is betrayed: all dramatic signs of healing and hope because of the approaching death of Christ. Good Friday’s liturgy, with the singing of the Passion, has that deeply moving moment when all those present are invited to venerate the crucifix – a unique moment of identification with the humiliation of Jesus’ manner of death. There is receiving of communion, laid aside from Maundy Thursday evening’s Eucharist. This is a dying indeed!
Saturday, rather strangely called Holy Saturday, has no celebration of the Eucharist. An atmosphere of the emptiness of the Divine Death is created in the Cathedral, when our breath is caught in that borderland between despair and hope. This is the day of Jesus descent into the impenetrable darkness of hell. There is no distance from the Love of God that Christ has not already been.
And then the Raising of Christ, Easter Day. At Dawn, the Cathedral begins the Feast of all Feasts: that ultimate mystery which enwraps us, still smarting from the agonies of Good Friday, in the hope that rises in the middle of hopelessness.
Bishop Martin Shaw, Acting Precentor