Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As you will be aware from my letter last week we shall be entering the second and final week of Passiontide, “Holy Week” as it is named nearly universally among western Christians (except where it is incorrectly termed “Easter Week”), on Sunday the 28th March, which is the Sunday Next Before Easter, commonly called Palm Sunday. We are still in the Season of Lent, with Holy Week counting as the final week of the Season, and climaxing with what many call the Triduum, the great three-day observance culminating in the Paschal Feast with the mighty Resurrection of the Lord Jesus in our joyful minds and hearts. For us the three day observance is immediately prepared for with the ceremony of the Washing of Feet and Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday evening; the Triduum then proceeds through the One Hour Good Friday service at noon and the Easter Vigil on Easter Eve (“Holy Saturday”) at 7.30 pm culminating with the Easter Eucharist on Easter Day at 10 a.m. There are, of course, among congregations and different branches of the Body of Christ and many of all who are called Christians, multitudes of ways of observing and commemorating the huge fact and significance of the Lifting up upon the Cross and the Rising from the dead of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Easter Day or Pascha as it is known among many Eastern Christians will not be celebrated by them until the 2nd May this year. The date of Easter is different on different years because of the fact that the Jewish Passover was the “feast” referred to in Scripture at the time of the Events commemorated and that the Jewish Passover celebration operates on the lunar calendar. Who knows (I don’t) whether, if the Synod of Whitby in AD 664 had made a different decision about calculating the date of Easter than the one they did, we too might in 2021 be celebrating it on a Sunday other than the 4th April? There are a considerable number of calendrical events and circumstances that make this subject extremely complicated. In this we do well to major on the majors and allow the “minors” a background position only.
By the way (although it might seem to be a “minor” to everybody else except me) do you remember that I asked you a couple of weeks ago about your views on the website? Can it really be true that nobody has responded? Did I miss something? I’m quite capable of being a bit of a nag, you know. You can find my request at http://www.truthwithlanguage.com/Let10mar21.html and will look forward to all your responses with great eagerness.
Also … as the election cycles continue every election seems to qualify as “the most important one yet”. Perhaps this is really so, and undoubtedly the sort of government that will result from the April 2021 election choices will be profoundly important regarding the Christian identity of these Islands that “He has founded upon the seas”. As with other countries of the Western world, with that identity comes the challenge of the extent to which we want to live in a real world or in an “Alice in Wonderland” world, in which there is no moral or any other anchoring kind of reality but only the force of the most loudly expressed “wants”, which, without basic responsibilities are falsely promoted as “rights". Let us choose wisely, and let us as Christians pray for right discernment in the choices made; and let us also pray that the “majority” that is formed after the election will actually portray the tenor of what was rightly chosen on election day - unlike, some may say, what has happened here at times previously.
The Collect for next week, Holy Week, is
Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
and following this for the last time this year for much of Holy Week will be the Ash Wednesday Collect:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Collects remind us that the “Palm Sunday” theme of the Sunday Next Before Easter is not actually the predominant theme of this Sunday, but rather a secondary one, albeit important. The spreading of palm branches and our tokens of palm crosses on this day importantly remind us of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem when He was acknowledged in a similar way that victorious kings may have been in ancient times; yet of course His Kingship was of an absolutely unique character, one that should “take upon him our flesh” and “suffer death upon the cross” for all mankind. None of this was understood at the time of the entry into Jerusalem, and indeed was not understood by anybody until some time after Jesus’s Resurrection.
For directions about the services this Sunday the 28th March, please see the website www.truthwithlanguage.com. You are asked again to note that on this Sunday the service will take place at Peter Westin’s residence, 615 South Church Street.
In the kingly and gracious Name of our Lord Jesus,