An invitation to Holy Week

Welcome to Easter

… is it all about bunnies and chocolate eggs or is it about the redemptive sacrifice of Christ?

This Easter I thought I’d give you something to consider that might give a different flavour to Holy Week. In the Gospel of John, the journey of Jesus and his beloved friends together displays an increasing flavour of intimacy from when he first meets them and they begin travelling and learning together. You get the sense, I think, that one by one, as the relationships between them get more intimate, they begin to know, to recognise who it is that has come amongst them. Jesus himself admits his own identity, he tells us he is the Son of his Divine Father.

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St Mary of Egypt

Venerated as Passion Sunday in the Old Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, the fifth Sunday in Lent is set aside in those traditions for the presentation of Mary of Egypt (344 – 421), prostitute and saint.

Born in Alexandria, Mary leaves home very young, and finds a life fulfilled in insatiable passion, exchanging sexual favours and spinning flax, to keep herself. One day, entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she hears a voice that instructs her to cross the river Jordan, and receive peace. Thus she goes to the monastery of St John the Baptist, and is received into the river.

Upon baptism, she renounces her earlier life of great passion, and becomes a wild-woman hermit, entering the vast desert wilderness. Meeting Zosimas of Palestine in the desert, many years later, naked and unkempt, she manifests great clairvoyance as she recounts her life story to him. He returns a year later to the exact spot, at her instruction, to find that she had died, and the power of the story of her baptism, and the transformation that baptism symbolises, is preserved by him through the oral tradition, and is passed down to us, to this very day.