Holy Week is finally here. We have spent the past five and a half weeks preparing ourselves to enter into the mystery once again. At Saint Thomas Church, the celebration of Holy Week is the jewel in the crown of our shared liturgical life. I encourage all of us to enter into it and participate in the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
It is easy to remember when the main services are; they are at 5:30pm Monday to Saturday. Also, there are many other services at different times of the day, and some with the choir, so please check the schedule. We are blessed in having Bishop Richard Chartres with us all week and Mother Elaine Farmer for the Three Hours Devotion.
As a minimum, we should all try to be in church on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, in addition to Palm Sunday and Easter. As Christians, we bear witness to our faith in this celebration of Holy Week. May the Lord walk with us on this journey.
Your priest and pastor
- The latest edition of the Rector’s Chronicle can be found here.
- The Holy Week schedule can be found here.
A Meditation for the Beginning of Holy Week
When someone dies – when someone close to us dies – perhaps a little bit of us dies too, inside. That kind of loss prompts us to search for something. I recall once asking my wife, who tragically lost her mother when she was at college, why it was important to remember her. She answered without hesitation, “Because she is a part of me.”
The humanity of Jesus demands that he was, similarly, in need of human love, warmth, and affection. The death of his friend, Lazarus, reminds us very powerfully that the death of loved ones affected Jesus too. I have often pondered on the fact that Jesus stayed away from Bethany, even though he knew his friend was gravely ill. When he did return there, Lazarus had died, and we have an insight into the humanity of Jesus who asks that poignant question, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11: 34). At his grave, Jesus wept.
Some years ago, the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway wrote a book titled “Anger, Sex, Doubt, and Death.” Not a very cheerful title, but a brave one, for he wanted to explore the very subjects that we Christians often find difficult to discuss. In that book I was deeply moved by his description of remembering the dead and why it is so important to do so. He went further and said that, as human beings, we do more than just remember; in our acts of remembrance, we could be called remembrancers for we participate in the memory.
“We would be remembrancers even if we lived for ever, but it seems to be the presence of death that provokes the keenest remembrance. The living we can revisit, but the dead we can only remember. And we do: sometimes in little glimpses, like the credit flashbacks at the end of a film; sometimes in more elaborate sequences, in which we reconstitute as much about a person as we can. It is death that makes us look back in sorrow, makes us remembrancers. But it is also death that makes us look forward in dread.”
This, my friends, is at the heart of our celebration of Holy Week; and if it is at the heart of our celebration of Holy Week, then it is also at the heart of our Christian Journey too – to be remembrancers of Jesus. We celebrate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, not because it is the greatest story ever told, but because we want to participate in the re-telling of that story. “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!” said St. Augustine. Everything we do is seen through the lens of the Resurrection of Jesus (even the Sundays over the past few weeks are ‘in‘ Lent rather than ‘of‘ Lent) but we are also pilgrims on a journey and we need to remember; from the earliest days of the Church, Christians have walked the way of the Cross in order to understand the Resurrection more powerfully. That is what Holy Week is about.
When Jesus celebrated the Passover, he participated in a re-telling of that most formative piece of salvation history – the Exodus. But more than that (Jews will do this at the Seder this year and every year) he entered into the mystery of the Passover and its effect on God’s chosen people. Our Eucharist is rooted in this kind of participating in the mystery; at the Last Supper, Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.” The Greek word that Jesus uses is anamnesis and is at the heart of every celebration of the Eucharist. This kind of remembrance brings the past into the present and changes the future.
Christ has died! Christ is Risen! Christ will come again!
As we enter into the mystery of Holy Week, we walk, as it were, with Jesus the way of his suffering in order to share more fully in the joy of his Resurrection. As it says at the end of the alternative Eucharistic Prayer in Rite 1 of our Prayer Book – “that we and all thy whole Church may be made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him.”
St. Paul says: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
During Lent, a group of us have joined other Christians at St. Mary’s, Times Square and at the Church of the Transfiguration to walk the way of the Cross. Christians have done this ever since St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, went to the Holy Land to re-trace the steps of Jesus and to participate in the mystery of his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Some churches have images or paintings to help people as they meditate on the scriptures and pause or make a ‘station’ on their way. We will do this at St. Thomas on Friday, April 12 at 6:30pm. We do not have any ‘stations of the Cross,’ so we will simply carry a processional cross and enter into the mystery through the scriptures alone. In so doing, we will follow the path of countless Christians who have wanted to be remembrancers of Jesus and participate in his Holy Week.
In some churches, there is also a very old tradition of walking the way of the Cross late on Good Friday in a different way. It is rarely used these days but is very poignant. It is called Maria Desolata and the pilgrims walk the stations of the Cross backwards as if Mary, the mother of Jesus, was leaving the tomb and re-tracing her steps back to Pilate’s judgement hall. It is sad and it is moving; it is very human to re-trace the story of a loved one. Celebrating Holy Week is entering into the mystery and participating in the story of our redemption.
In the Cathedral Close at Salisbury, in England, there is a beautiful life-size sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the artist Elizabeth Frink. It is quite striking because she is walking and, more than that, she is striding forward on her pilgrimage. The sculpture is titled ‘The Walking Madonna’ and her face reveals the mystery that she has entered. Let me share with you a poem an old priest once sent me inspired by the Walking Madonna.
May our celebration of Holy Week truly transform us, and challenge us, and allow us to enter into the mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection more fully.
You always appear
Too good to be true, Mary.
We’ve pictured you always serene,
Never exasperated by a fractious child,
Apparently having no feelings.
But surely that initial Yes came
From a moment of overwhelming terror?
And the birth tore you to the core?
Didn’t he ever cry, that baby,
Give you sleepless nights?
Didn’t he irritate you,
That precocious son
Dismissing your anxiety with
Didn’t you know? And later
That wounding question,
Who is my mother?
My mother would have told him. . .
Perhaps you did too,
But it wasn’t recorded.
Even at the end, you’re pictured
Beautiful in your sorrow,
Holding your dead child.
Not like those ravaged faces
We see on our screens
Raging at the senseless
Killing of the innocent.
What’s the reality?
Is it more like the aged Madonna,
Gaunt, face lined by experience;
With hint of an arthritic hip
Walking towards the complexities of life,
Away from cloistered peace?
Her hand is polished smooth
By the touch of countless hands.
Anne Lewin (from ‘Watching for the Kingfisher’)
–Father Carl Turner
Our Guest Preacher for Holy Week: the Right Reverend Richard Chartres
We look forward to welcoming Bishop Chartres to Saint Thomas Church as our guest preacher for several services throughout Holy Week.
Richard Chartres first visited New York in the early 1980’s as Chaplain to Archbishop Robert Runcie. At that time Canon John Andrew, of blessed memory (who was himself a former Archbishop’s Chaplain), was Rector of Saint Thomas.
Subsequently, Richard Chartres became the parish priest of St. Stephen’s Rochester Row in the Diocese of London. At the same time he served as Gresham Professor of Divinity and co-authored a history of Gresham College.
In 1992, he was appointed Bishop of Stepney, one of the areas of the Diocese of London and was later translated to the Bishopric of London itself in 1995. He served the Diocese during a period of substantial growth for 22 years until his retirement in 2017. He remains Dean of HM Chapels Royal.
During his tenure as Diocesan Bishop, he fulfilled various national roles. He chaired the Church Commissioners who administer the historic assets of the Church of England. He was also Chair of the National Church Buildings Division, and founding Chair of “Shrink the Footprint,” the Church’s environmental campaign. He has also been the Archbishop’s envoy to the Orthodox Churches.
Most significantly, twelve years ago he participated in the founding of St. Mellitus College, which has made a large contribution to the increase of the numbers of ordinands in training. The number entering training this year nationally in the Church of England exceeds the total for any year since 1963.
After retiring from Parliament as a member of the Lords Spiritual, he was, unusually, re-appointed as a Life Peer, and is currently active in the legislative work of the House of Lords.
Richard Chartres is now an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese in Europe, and in his home Diocese of Salisbury.
He is married to Caroline and they have four children.
Our Guest Preacher for the Three Hours Devotion on Good Friday: the Reverend Elaine Farmer
The Reverend Elaine Farmer, our preacher for the Three Hours Devotion on Good Friday, April 19, 12pm-3pm, is a priest of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra & Goulburn and an internationally active scholar, teacher, and author. She was ordained in 1993, among the earliest women ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Australia. She has served in several parishes, taught homiletics and ministry formation, and been Associate Editor of St Mark’s Review, Australia’s oldest theological journal.
She has preached in Anglican dioceses in Australia, New Zealand and in the United States, and preached in 2018 at Westminster Abbey. She has been a keynote speaker at various Australian and international conferences.
A book of her sermons, …And the Angels Held their Breath. Sixteen Reasons for Exploring the God-Option (Australasian Theological Forum) was translated into Bahasa Indonesia by the Jesuits and given episcopal imprimatur. She was also a contributor to Don’t Put Out the Burning Bush, a book on preaching and worship also published by the Australasian Theological Forum.
Elaine now lives in Canberra with her husband, Bill, whose diplomatic career included appointments as Ambassador to Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Indonesia. They have two children and six grandchildren.