When we began Holy Week last year all churches were closed and here at St Thomas we hadn’t as yet got our live-streaming cameras up and running. For Fr Sylvester, Mgr John and myself it was really lonely celebrating Palm Sunday and the Triduum without you all gathered round the altar.
This year we will be able to celebrate Holy Week and Easter together. But sadly not all together as there is still strict guidelines on how many can be present in church and we need to adhere to those guidelines regarding COVID 19. I know that some of you will be disappointed that you are not able to join us in person.
As you know we have agreed to put on a second Celebration of the Passion on Good Friday at 5pm because so many missed out being able to book at place at the 3pm service. The guidelines given to us by the Bishops of England and Wales for celebrating at this time mean that all our services will be shortened.
This weekend, Palm Sunday, sadly there will be no blessing of the palms outside the church nor a procession. The palms will be blessed in the All Saints Chapel after the reading of the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. The shortened form of the St Mark’s Passion will be read in parts but you will not be able to shout out the crowd parts. When you leave at the end of Mass you can collect your palm from the table in the All Saints chapel. These will be handed to you by volunteers wearing gloves.
Mgr John, Fr John and myself are able to go to St. George’s Cathedral on Wednesday for the Chrism Mass. This is a ticketed event. We will renew our priestly promises and will bring back the newly blessed Oils of Chrism, Oil of Catechumens and Oil of the Sick.
On Thursday evening we begin the Triduum with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 8pm. This year we will not be able to wash the feet of twelve men and women. There will be no procession to the Altar of Repose after communion. The Reserved Sacrament is to be kept in the Tabernacle in the Church. After the Prayer after Communion the priests will kneel on the bottom step of the back Altar and pray silently for some time. You will be able to remain to pray for only a short time before we close the Church.
At the Good Friday service of the Passion of the Lord we will read the shortened version of the Passion according to St John. After the intercession there is a simple Adoration of the Cross. The priest will unveil the cross and hold it high for the congregation to adore in silence by a genuflection or deep bow in their places followed by a brief period of silent prayer. You will not be able to come up in procession to venerate the crucifix. This is followed by Communion.
Our Easter Vigil will be much shorter because the is no blessing of the New Fire or the Paschal candle outside. The new Paschal candle will be enthroned and lit in the Sanctuary before the Vigil begins. After the shortened form of the Exsultet we will have only three Old Testament readings, the reading from Romans and the Easter Gospel. After the short homily we have the blessing of the baptismal water and the renewal of Baptismal promises. Robert will be baptised on Easter Monday at the 10am Mass and Simon and Geoff will be received into full communion of the Catholic Church and, along with Vestina, they will all be confirmed.
This year, while not ideal, we are at least blessed to be able to celebrate the one event of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. Let us do the best we can either in the church or at home.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, having made this day a day of mourning by his death, changed it into a day of rejoicing by his resurrection. Now that we are solemnly commemorating both these events, let us keep watch in memory of his death and joyfully welcome his approaching resurrection.”