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Holy Week and Easter 2019

Holy Week

Holy Week is the most important time of the Christian year. The way in which we keep these days has long been a strength within our parish. The liturgical provision expresses not only the most fundamental Christian memories and the climactic events of our Saviour’s passion, death and resurrection, but also lays out the treasures and rich insights of a catholic Anglican understanding and expression. This is a time not to be missed when we recall who and what we are as the baptised people of God. This is our opportunity to do all we can to ensure that our Easter joy is genuine. For posters showing details of all Holy Week and Easter Services, please go to our Special Services Coming Up page.

Palm Sunday - 14th April

Palm Sunday has a double focus – the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, and the celebration of his passion and death. The Liturgy of the Palms and procession contains the first commemorative actions of Holy Week which remind us of the main events in the last week of Jesus’ ministry. Palm branches are carried, although they are secondary to the procession itself. The procession is also an act of praise to Christ the King who reigns and triumphs on the cross, and it expresses our own readiness to take up our cross and follow our crucified and risen Lord, as we go with him to the place of suffering and death.
The practice of blessing and giving palm crosses is a well established one with devotional value. However, in the procession it is not as telling a symbol as the carrying of branches whether of palm or of other trees, perhaps brought by members of the congregation.

Central to the Liturgy of the Passion is the reading of the Passion Gospel. On this day, the narrative comes from either Matthew, Mark or Luke, and takes us into the heart of Holy Week. Although the services of this week are shaped by the historical commemoration of the events of the last week in Jesus’ earthly life, taken together they form an extended celebration of the victory he won over death.

The solemn reading of the narrative of the passion and death of Jesus Christ is an essential part of the liturgy of Palm Sunday. For this reason the full form of the Passion is used. Coming after the procession, it reminds us that the kingly power of Christ is the power of self-giving love alone.

Please note that Mass begins in the Parish Centre at 9.30am from where we process to church around the perimeter of the church grounds.

Pre Easter Confession times

As is our custom at St Matthew’s, especially before the major festivals, parishioners are given the opportunity to avail themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation, otherwise known as confession. The Church of England has in fact long offered this particular ministry, a basis for which may be found in the Book of Common Prayer. Essentially it is our opportunity to address those matters which lie between us and God, to unburden ourselves, receive God’s liberating forgiveness, and priestly guidance. A leaflet will be made available to all worshippers to help us grow in our understanding, and prepare. Confession times this Holy Week are as follows:

Monday 15 April at 6.00pm
Wednesday 17 April at 3.00pm

Confessions will be heard in the Lady Chapel, and penitents are asked to come and go quietly via the north door facing Collingwood Road, and sit in the body of the church well away from the Chapel until the coast is clear.

Tenebrae - Wednesday 17 April at 7.30pm

Tenebrae, from the Latin word for ‘darkness’ or ‘shadows’, is a form of the monastic Office of Vigils, originally recited at night, combined with that of Lauds, originally celebrated at dawn. Tenebrae took on a specific and dramatic form when celebrated on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. From the medieval period the whole service was ‘anticipated’ or held on the evenings before the days in question, beginning on the evening of the Wednesday of Holy Week. It would be difficult nowadays to celebrate the whole service on three successive nights. What follows, therefore, is an adaptation that draws on material from the office of Tenebrae to build a meditative service around three themes: the Prayer and Agony of Jesus in Gethsemane, the Trial of Jesus, and the Death of Jesus.

Tenebrae begins by candlelight and ends in darkness. It is thus the inverse of the Easter Vigil, which begins in darkness and blazes into light as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. As a service that traditionally accompanies the last days of Holy Week, Tenebrae is a dark prelude to the light of Easter, a celebration of Christ’s Passion in anticipation of his rising from the dead.

The passage from light to darkness is brought about through the gradual extinguishing of candles at regular points throughout the service. Fourteen candles positioned along the central axis of the church building are extinguished one by one. At the end of the final reading, the fourteenth candle is put out at the words, ‘And it was night’, and, simultaneously, the congregation blow out their candles. A solitary fifteenth candle is left burning, representing the Light of Christ. This candle is symbolically ‘buried’ by being hidden behind the High Altar, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil.

The other dramatic feature of Tenebrae is the chanting of passages from the Book of Lamentations, in which a letter of the Hebrew alphabet introduces each verse. In the development of the medieval services, these readings were ‘applied’ as a dramatic commentary on the betrayal, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Scripture readings and psalmody alternate with responsories, which take and juxtapose short texts to amplify similar themes.

At the very end, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of the resurrection – ‘And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it’ (Matthew 28:2). The hidden candle is then restored to its place, and by its light, all depart in silence.

This most distinctive act of worship is a wonderful preparation for the Easter Triduum, the Great Three Days. Please do come.

Foot Washing - Thursday 18 April at 7.30pm

The Liturgy of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday evening is a rollercoaster of emotions and intentions. One of the key elements is the re-enactment of Christ’s example of humble service, in washing his disciples’ feet. I invite you to participate in this part of the liturgy by printing your name on the sheet provided in the display area. You are asked to sit on the end of a row adjacent to the centre aisle; these are indicated by the provision of towels. Please remember that feet must be bare, so ladies in particular please come prepared!

All-night Watch at the Garden of Gethsemane - 18-19 April from c9.00pm

I invite you to help us keep watch with Our Lord in his sacramental presence on Maundy Thursday night and Good Friday morning. The Watch takes place in the Lady Chapel and begins directly after the evening liturgy and continues till Morning Prayer on Good Friday. Mirroring Jesus’ example, we ask that you keep watch for one hour by signing your name against the time slots indicated on the corresponding sheet in the display area. We also ask that, if possible, at least TWO people are present at all times, especially during the ‘small’ hours. You are asked to come and go via the north door facing Collingwood Road. (Please note that, for security reasons, this door will be locked for some part of the night, and you will therefore need to knock).

Good Friday – All Age Stations of the Cross

At 10.30am on 19 April there will be Stations of the Cross for all ages. This service is a moving and accessible telling of the events of this most important and difficult of days. Please do come, and encourage accompanied children to do likewise.

Church Cleaning

On Holy Saturday (Easter Eve) we will be cleaning and preparing our spiritual home for the coming festival. Morning Prayer is at 9.00am in Quire (ALL are welcome) and we begin our labours from c.9.20am until lunchtime. Refreshments will kindly be provided by our Monday Brownies and Guides. Many hands make light work!

The Easter Vigil and First Mass

The Easter (or Paschal) Vigil heralds the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and the celebration of Easter, the so-called feast of feasts. Through readings and psalms it retraces the story of salvation, beginning with Creation, God’s covenant with Abraham, the escape of the Israelites through the Red Sea, the centuries of longing for the promised Messiah foretold by the prophets, and the Easter Gospel itself. The Easter Vigil is the greatest act of Christian worship, it tells the story of the greatest event of the world has ever known.

Sadly, the Vigil is not as well supported as it ought to be. A vigil is about keeping watch, about expectant waiting and anticipation. A vigil is supposed to take time. Those who grumble about its duration (approximately two hours or so) have rather missed the point. Such an attitude has little to do with the tenets of the approaching festival. The first disciples were bleary-eyed on the Resurrection Morning! There are, of course, legitimate pastoral considerations, especially for those of riper years, and with this in mind we have five readings, the minimum required to cover the great sweep of salvation history. The classical Vigil has seven readings, and Common Worship has provided a sequence of readings and psalms to last until dawn! I’m tempted to say, ‘think yourself lucky’, though that too would be a spiritual own goal. Seriously, please do come if you possibly can. Download the Holy Saturday poster here. Please note that the Easter Ceremonies begin at 8.00pm.

Bells for use in the Easter liturgy

Worshippers are asked to bring any bells they may have for use in church to herald the resurrection at the Easter Vigil and during the refrain of the Lourdes Gloria.

Easter Communion

Those who make their communion at the Easter Vigil may do so again at one of the Masses on Easter morning. You will not be struck by lightning!

Easter bonnets and buttonholes

On Easter morning while the ladies show off their Easter bonnets, the gentlemen are encouraged to participate too with their own splash of yellow… It would be good if we can express our resurrection joy in this colourful way. Go on, be brave! Download the Easter Day poster here.

Easter Bank Holiday

Please note that, as is our custom, Mass on Monday 22 April will be at 9.30am.


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Weekday Scripture Readings



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Healing Ministry


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Walsingham Cell


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