Easter Sunday is come and gone, but Easter is far from over. Often, people who have made a great effort to get daily Mass during Lent, this year mostly online, see Easter Sunday as the culmination of that journey, and yet the Octave of Easter, and indeed the whole Easter Season, gives us the chance to deepen our faith in the Lord’s Resurrection, and to be transformed from within by the Spirit of the Risen Christ who dwells within us. So, by all means, start consuming chocolate again, or whatever else you may have given up, but don’t give up on Mass too soon, especially as the continuing lockdown provides a rare opportunity.
While we were able to celebrate daily Masses, and provide other services on the internet during Holy Week, Father Antony and I celebrated the Sacred Triduum, just the two of us, in an empty St. Mungo’s church, where unfortunately we have no streaming facility, but holding the thought and the image of all you in the pews before us. You may have seen on the news that a church in the Philippines put photographs of their parishioners on the pews to keep them in mind and heart. We didn’t do that, but we felt your presence with us all the same.
Out at the house, in our oratory, we streamed a Service of Healing and Reconciliation on the Tuesday of Holy Week, incorporating the act of perfect contrition which is the instruction for receiving forgiveness of sins at this time, being unable to celebrate Sacramental Confession. In the afternoon of Holy Thursday, we streamed a Taize Prayer Service with a reflection for that day, something we repeated on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. That night we also streamed a Holy Hour, watching one hour with Jesus in the Garden. For the Holy Thursday Mass of the Last Supper, in the empty church, Father Antony was the main celebrant. There was no washing of the feet, but he reminded me that last Holy Thursday, after I had washed his feet, and proclaimed them the biggest feet I had ever seen in my life, I then told him that it would be his turn this year, as he would by then be ordained a priest. But he needn’t think his turn has come and gone. Please God, he will be washing feet next Holy Thursday.
On Good Friday we had a reading of St. John’s Passion after our Good Friday Taize Prayer, and then we came in to the empty church for the Good Friday Service. Again, we read St. John’s Passion, followed by the Good Friday intercessions, including a special intercession in light of the Coronavirus. We then carried the cross through the church to the altar and venerated the cross. Again, while still just the two of us, it seemed very moving and poignant. That night, back at the house, we streamed the Seven Last Words from the Cross, Fr Antony and I alternating with reflections on each word in turn, a great Passionist tradition. On Holy Saturday night Father Antony and I celebrated the Easter Vigil in the church, blessing and lighting the paschal candle; recounting salvation history through the readings; singing the Easter Alleluia and proclaiming the Easter Gospel; renewing our Baptism promises and celebrating the Holy Eucharist, again holding each of you before us as we did so. On Easter Sunday we streamed the Easter Mass of the Day from the oratory at 12 noon. It may have been the strangest Holy Week ever, but there was still something very prayerful and poignant about it, and we felt a deep connection with all who celebrated with us on the internet, and were quite astounded at the numbers of people who logged in to join us.
Throughout Easter, for as long as lockdown lasts, we will continue to stream Mass each day from the oratory at 12.15pm (7pm on a Sunday); but Mass will also be celebrated quietly in the church on most days. The lockdown routine remains the same for Fr Justinian, Fr Antony and myself. We have seen more of our neighbours than usual and they have been kind in their condolences regarding Fr Lawrence, and in their offer of help of any kind should we need it, an offer we have also gratefully received from parishioners. Fr Gareth has recovered from his sore throat and blocked nose and is discovering new routes to walk in Merthyr Tydfil. So, as always, protect yourselves, protect others, and protect Christ in your life, through prayer.