We begin our celebrations of Holy Week recalling the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with the crowds of people waving palms and branches to welcome him. For the two main Sunday Morning Masses at 10am in the Crypt, and 11am in the Cathedral we begin outside for the Blessing of Palms and then process in for the celebration of Mass incorporating the Solemn Reading of the Passion according to St Matthew. There will be a simpler indoor procession at the other weekend Masses. We will have a plan Bb if the weather conditions take a turn for the worse.
There will be no afternoon service of Evening Prayer on Sunday – instead there will be a special Choral Tenebrae for Palm Sunday at 7.30pm in the Cathedral. Tenebrae is a candlelit service of psalms and readings specially celebrated in Holy Week a combination of two of the daily office prayers (Office of Readings and Morning Prayer). It was originally celebrated in the very early hours of the morning and the candles lit in church were slowly extinguished. With the advent of morning Triduum Services the celebration of Tenebrae was moved to the night before the feasts of Holy Week. In memory of this tradition we have incorporated a service on the evening of Palm Sunday as it offers us a prayerful and symbolic entry into the liturgies of the week. The service concludes with the Miserere to a setting by Allegri and then darkness with the re-appearance of the last candle to announce Christ Risen from the dead.
The Mass of Chrism on Wednesday evening is the most important Diocesan gathering of the year in the Cathedral incorporating the Blessing of the Sacramental Oils and Renewal of Priestly Commitment. The Cathedral will hopefully be comfortably full of parishioners from across the Diocese joining with the Archbishop, Bishops and Clergy for this Annual Celebration. I both look forward to this evening as one of my favourite services of the year, and yet approach it with a certain amount of dread. A service of this magnitude takes quite an amount of planning and there are large numbers of clergy, ministers and altar servers involved in the processions with us having to utilise every available room within the Cathedral for the vesting of the different groups and things can at times go awry at a complicated service like this which only happens once a year. The best we can do in these situations is to prepare well and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.
The heart of Holy Week is the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and The Easter Vigil/Easter Day. On each of these days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) we have a Sung Service of Readings and Morning Prayer at 10am in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday is at 7.30pm with Watching in the Chapel until 10pm finishing with a simple Night Prayer. The Solemn Celebration on Good Friday takes place at 3pm at the Cathedral. The Passion according to St John will be sung followed by Solemn Intercessions, Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.
The Celebrations of Easter begin on Saturday with the Easter Vigil. We begin outside for the blessing of the Easter fire and lighting of the Easter Candle. The service continues with the great Easter Proclamation, the Exultet, followed by a series of Vigil readings and the Epistle and Gospel. After the Homily a number of adults will receive the sacraments of initiation and the whole congregation will renew their baptismal promises. Mass then continues with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The services on Easter Sunday are at the normal scheduled times including a Sung Evening Prayer beginning at the Cathedral Baptistry with a blessing with the newly blest Easter Water.
Canon Anthony O’Brien