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Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & Easter 2012

Maundy Thursday

In so many ways, the Gospel according to St. John is distinctly different to the other three Gospels. When it comes to the Last Supper, for sure John makes it one of the crucial turning points of the Gospel. However, his emphasis is not (unlike Matthew, Mark and Luke) on the table of the Last Supper but upon another highly significant act - the Washing of his disciples' feet. For Jesus this is a sign and a memorial of the 'New Commandment' which he gives on that night of his betrayal and arrest - 'If I, your Master and Lord, have washed your feet, then you also ought to wash one another's feet.' This reveals the basis of how authority and leadership are exercised in the values of the Kingdom of God - by service and mutuality, and not by dominance and the raw exercise of heirarchy.

In the layout of the church on this night both sacramental acts are present and the people sit (as they sat at the Seder) embracing both sacred areas - the altar, where we celebrate the sacrifice of Christ, and the place of Washing of Feet, where we celebrate the Serving Christ. Both have been bequeathed to the Church - sacrifice and service - and both have Christ's command behidn them - 'Do this in remembrance of me' and 'you should do what I have done for you.'

Six people are chosen each year to represent all of us at this church - across age, origin, gender, whether newcomers or 'old-timers' with the hope that everyone present will be able to identify with those who feet are washed by their parish priest. It is a deeply moving thing for the priest and is a profound reminder of what the basis of her/his ministry is to be if Christ is truly to be the model of ministry and service.

There is a unique note of joy, always, on Maundy Thursday to celebrate the giving of the New Commandment and the institution of both Gospel sacraments. We find ourselves in the Upper Room with Christ and the Disciples and at the end of the Eucharist we go to our modest version of the Garden of Gethsemane - the Lady Chapel bedecked with the lilies which will be used at Easter and ablaze with candles. The consecrated Sacrament which will be used for Good Friday is reserved overnight on the Altar of Repose and people pledge to pray in the silent darkened church until Midnight. At Midnight the account of the arrest of Jesus and his desertion by the disciples is read and dramatically all the lights - bar one - are extinguished in the Chapel. The Church is then left in silence until Good Friday.

The views below show the arrangement in 2012 for this dramatic and significant liturgy:

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  MAUNDY THURSDAY LAYOUT  

 Good Friday

As ever, Good Friday started with the church bare of all decoration and the focus for this day solely on the Cross. As through all of Holy Week we gather before the figure of the 'Outraged Christ' which, on this day, has great significance for us.

The Passion Gospel from St. John is read in parts by members of the congregation with everyone joining in the crowd scenes as, no doubt, we, too, would have done in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday. Simplicity is the keynote for this day and today the Eucharist is not celebrated - there is only only One Sacrifice offered on Good Friday.

However, the Sacrament consecrated on Maundy Thursday has been reserved on the Altar of Repose (which for us, last night, was the Garden of Gethsemane) overnight in a chapel now stripped of all the lilies and the blaze of candles extinguished at midnight as the betrayal and arrest of Christ was remembered. Just a single light, a red altar frontal and a cross mark that place now.

After the Passion Gospel and the Sermon - so central on this day - a small procession goes to the Lady Chapel, to the Altar of Repose, to bring the Sacrament - the sacred Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Christ - into the midst of the people. This year, receiving Communion at the foot of this figure of Christ on this day was a very special experience. Somehow it all comes together in this simple but profound act.

The service ends soon after and silence is kept.

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  GOOD FRIDAY ARRANGEMENT 2012  
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View from High Altar Altar of Repose Ralph Beyer's Sedilia and seldom seen design on the Sacrament Altar

Easter

For Christians, Good Friday was tragic and death-dealing - but for us not the end of the story, just as death itself is not, we believe, the end of the fullest story of our lives or of life itself.

Christ has won an eternal victory for us and this bursting of the Tomb and the dawning of the light of eternal life into the deadly dark of the Tomb, to banish it for ever, is celebrated the next night at the Easter Vigil and one of the most beautiful acts of liturgy of the Christian year.

Easter Day is the Day of Days and the glorious celebration of the Resurrection of Christ is the most joyful of the year! Christ's Victory becomes our victory - a victory which cannot be reversed and though we shall, for sure, touch and taste the Cross time and again, for evermore that victory is ours and will prevail. For many who have visited the 'Outraged Christ' and especially for us who have been living with it, this victory of Resurrection is ever present in that figure, even in the depths of his seeming defeat. Charles speaks of the Resurrection being present inthe Crucifixion and how right he is!

The Cross has now done its work. And so, overnight the whole church was turned about again to face the 'Holy of Holies' once more, the High Altar, to which we invited to a heavenly banquet at Easter.  The Easter Candle, however, representing the Risen Christ, remains in the midst of the people throughout the Easter Season - not the select property of the divine realms but Christ our own beloved, who gave his all for us, faithful for ever with his brothers and sisters to lead us himself to our Heavenly Father, to share his eternity with him.

Time and again from now until Pentecost we cry aloud,

'Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!' to which we reply, 'He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!'

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  The Easter Vigil  
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A feature of the church  is a processional way  used always at Easter
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  EASTER DAY 2012  

Over the course of Lent and especially through Holy Week and into Easter 2012, Charles Lutyens' 'Outraged Christ' has very certainly moved from being a striking and admired art object, to becoming for us here an object of devotion, celebrated now with candles and lilies,  which will long be remembered when it eventually moves on from here to a place in which it will be seen and enjoyed - and we hope, honoured - by many more people.

outraged christ at easter

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