Fifth Sunday of Lent
We are approaching the end of the season of Lent and about to enter into Holy Week beginning next weekend so I would like to use the Cathedral Record this weekend and next to offer a few thoughts on the importance and significance of the week that is also referred to in the church’s tradition as the ‘Great Week’, signifying its central importance to the meaning and celebration of our faith. This is the week in which we commemorate the last days of the Lord’s life. We walk these days reliving the sufferings and death of Christ so that we might rise with him in his glorious resurrection. We bear the cross so that we may be worthy of wearing the crown he wore.
Holy Week starts next Sunday with the Blessing and joyful Procession of Palms followed by the Solemn Reading of the Passion within Mass. The great happiness of the followers of Jesus, welcoming him to Jerusalem and recognising the significance of his mission, is in direct contrast to the sorrowful account of the suffering and death of the Lord proclaimed in the Gospel. We begin the Great Week with a joyful procession because we see in the Lord’s passion the source of life for the whole church and that by walking this way of the cross with Him we will be renewed and affirmed in our faith. By accepting a blessed palm we are copying those who walked alongside Jesus into Jerusalem and similar to them conscious of our weaknesses and betrayals we want to be there at the foot of the cross and at the empty tomb to experience the fullness of life in Christ.
The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week are days of quiet reflection and devotion focussing on the mystery of the Cross as a symbol of suffering and death but also a proof of God’s love of all humanity and a symbol of triumph and transformation. On these three days the special passages from the Prophet Isaiah known as the Suffering Servant readings are proclaimed as the first readings at mass. It is our Diocesan tradition to celebrate the Mass of Chrism on the Wednesday evening of Holy Week. This is the annual occasion when the Bishop gathers the Diocese together for the blessing of the Sacred Oils used in the celebration of the sacraments. At this celebration the priests of the Diocese renew their commitment to living a faithful priestly life and also through the symbols of the oils the whole Diocese renews its priestly service to the sick and the young and our calling to go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news. The final days of Holy Week are known as the Paschal Triduum and I will cover these days in next weeks record. The more we can enter into the liturgies of this time the more we will draw strength and life from Jesus our Saviour.
It was announced this week that one of our Cathedral community, Mr Peter Woods, has been appointed as the new High Sheriff of Merseyside, and he will be invested and begin his year of office from April. The role of High Sheriff is a very ancient one going back as far as Saxon times and for many centuries they had significant powers collecting taxes and coordinating the judiciary. As Merseyside is one of the counties that come within the Duchy of Lancaster the ratification of the appointment is made by the Queen and since the time of Elizabeth 1 the monarch pricks a hole in the parchment against the name of the person chosen for the role. I congratulate Peter – thankfully the role today is mainly a charitable one along with supporting the police and judiciary, so he won’t be going round trying to collect in the taxes for the government.
Canon Anthony O’Brien