This coming Sunday is the fourth Sunday in the month, and so it’s the time for our regular chapel service. The idea with the chapel service is to draw together people involved in different ways with Saint Uriel’s for a monthly Eucharist service to share communion, have some social time and continue the crafting of our parish community. The monthly chapel services are also the place for new folks to come and meet people and get a sense of what our small community feels like. This particular Sunday is Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, the final Sunday in Lent and the gate into Holy Week.
Palm Sunday recalls the Gospel story of Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph on the back of a donkey, while the people cast palm leaves at his feet in welcome – five days before he is arrested, charged and executed. The irony of the apparent triumph followed so quickly by downfall helps create the drama of Holy Week as well as providing some great, fruitful teaching material. In an outward sense, the story cautions us against trusting worldly success and the acclaim of others, in an inward and mystical sense, I feel it cautions us about taking apparent triumphs in spiritual practice too smugly. If you’ve followed a prayer or meditation practice for a few years, you’ve undoubtedly had the experience of wonderful, luminous experiences followed by period of dryness and sometimes dark despair.
Palm Sunday draws our attention to reversals of fortune, warns us about hubris, cautions us about focusing on the opinions of others. It also leads us into the Holy Week – more about that in a moment.
I’ll be using the Johannite Gnostic Divine Liturgy and I’ll introduce everyone to a couple of easy chants to add some music to the service. Don’t worry, you won’t have to chant if you don’t want to – but these should be fun and easy to do. I think chant is a lovely way to help bring mind and body together into the space for worship.
Another thing I’m going to introduce this month is space for regular donations of non-perishable food, canned food and dried goods to go to local charities who provide food for people who need it. Please bring any donations you can make (and even one bag of lentils is great!) along and I’ll get people to bring them up to the altar during the service for a blessing.
Holy Week and Easter
The week before Easter is traditionally called “Holy Week”, it’s the final few days of Lent and a time when it’s traditional to recall the events of the Passion Story – leading from Jesus’s arrest up to his Crucifixion and beyond to the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. For most church communities, this is a time to come together more often than usual; this week is the most dramatic of the year. There are a great series of unusual services that only happen in this week, which I’m very fond of, so I try to celebrate at least a few of them.
Maundy Thursday – Tenebrae
Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, is the day we recall the arrest of Jesus and the beginning of his trial. There is an ancient service called “Tenebrae”, which means shadows. It’s an evening service which shows light give way to darkness.
As the priest chants the verses of the story, the candles on the altar are extinguished one-by-one to symbolise His disciples and friends falling away from him until he stands alone. The end of the service symbolically retells the spiritual story of the Crucifixion and the death of Christ.
This service will be at the house of a parish member. Details to be announced.
Holy Saturday – Lighting of the Paschal Candle
Late on Easter Saturday, the people gather outside in the darkness. A new fire is struck into a brazier as the priest chants and a large candle is lit and the people follow the priest and the servers into the church. The Paschal (or Easter) candle is held aloft as the priest cries “Christ our Light!” and the people respond “Thanks be to God!”
Once inside, each person lights a small candle from the great Paschal candle and the priest or a cantor sings the ancient hymn “Exsultet” by the candlelight and a vigil service continues.
This service celebrates Christ’s triumph over death. I’ll hold it at the Unitarian Church in Darlinghurst, but I’ll announce the exact time and details next week.
Easter Sunday – Baptism at Bent’s Basin
Easter Sunday is the great day of the Resurrection. On this day we celebrate Jesus rising from death to new life – standing as the New Adam who shows us the way to becoming fully human and fully Divine.
Easter is the traditional time for baptism and I have a young man who has chosen to walk into the waters of new life this Easter Sunday. So I’m going to celebrate Easter Sunday with a Pashcal Eucharist service on the banks of the Nepean River at Bent’s Basin, out near Wallacia.
In the middle of the service, he and I will wade into the river and I will dip him three times into the water in the Triune Name and he will emerge a new man – following Christ the Great Exemplar.
A few people have already agreed to come along and you are very, very welcome to join us. Let me know if you’d like to join in and I’ll keep you informed of the final arrangements.
A packed week, with lots to do. I’d love to see you and share some of the blessings of Easter with you. If you’re out of town for Easter or busy and unable to join us for Holy Week, please accept my blessings on your continuing journey toward the Divine.
With love, in light,
Rev Father Tim Mansfield