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Holy Week

 A Rationale for Holy Week ...

... how our flexible space has enabled us to celebrate Holy Week at St. Paul's, Bow Common

In the Gospels, a turning point in the life of Jesus was his driving out of the traders and dealers from the Temple - indeed, the one glimpse we get of an outraged Christ and, therefore, the inspiration for the great figure in our church for a while. This seems to set the powers and authorities seriously against him. There were many who came teaching and preaching and working wonders and, with caution, Jesus is tolerated by the powers that be. But, for a charismatic figure like Jesus now challenging the economic engine of the Temple, this was something else! His fate is sealed.

Thereafter, the events of Holy Week unfold, as depicted in most of the Gospels, but all of it takes place in the midst of the people and no longer in the Temple. It struck Fr. Duncan a few years ago that it is strange that we then continue to celebrate the drama of these days in our 'Temple' - the distinct 'holy of holies' represented in our canopied altar. And so we have developed a tradition of celebrating these holy days not at the High Altar but in the midst of the people, outside the 'Temple'.

In the past few years, the Seder - the Jewish Passover Meal - has set the scene - and the parameters - for the rest of Holy Week, not only spiritually but also liturgically, in terms of how the church is laid out for this pivotal week. A table is set up in the body of the church and the benches are re-arranged in a square, choir-form arrangement, with people facing one another across a broad aisle. At this table the Seder - the Jewish Passover Meal - is celebrated on the Monday in Holy Week.

  The Seder is celebrated  

The same table is used for the celebration of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.

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The arrangement of seating in church The bench for the Washing of Feet The Mass of the Last Supper
maundy thursday MAUNDY THURSDAY maundy thursday
The Watch of the Passion & Altar of Repose   The church is stripped

In that same spot the Cross is raIsed and venerated on Good Friday ...

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GOOD FRIDAY - a bare church

The Cross will be raised in the same place

in which the Seder & Last Supper were celebrated earlier in the week

... and in that same place the Resurrection is celebrated with the raising of the Paschal (Easter) Candle at the Easter Vigil.

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Easter Vigil The layout for the Easter Vigil Easter Vigil
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The Processional Way built by used on Maguire & Murray is always  Easter Day! Easter Day
easter day


 held after sunset on the night before Easter is one of the most beautiful liturgies of the year


is always a joyful and beautiful time, much enhanced by our amazing building!

easter day

With the Crucifixion of Christ the veil of the Temple was torn in two and no longer was there any barrier between the people of God and the Divine Presence. For Easter Day we therefore return to the 'Temple' of our High Altar. However, at the high point of the consecration of the Sacred Bread and Wine, the people no longer stay at a distance but gather around the altar - now their rightful place after Christ has broken down the barriers which keep us from God.

This is also in accord with the way St. Paul's, Bow Common was designed! There were Maguire and Murray in the late 1950's - way ahead of the reforms of Vatican II which affected so much of the Church world-wide - prescribing that after the Offertory, when the priest went up to the altar, so would the people, to gather on the large area laid out for them for this purpose around the High Altar. The nature of the flooring - white brick rather than paving slabs - marks out this are as being for the people to gather upon.

In 2012, however, with the 'Outraged Christ' still in our midst we turned everything around to focus on that great figure. The above rationale and configuration of the church continued, but was rotated by about 140 degress clockwise, to face that figure. This is shown in other pages of this section, here, here and here.

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