Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Week Notes

The Church of St Columba and All Hallows, East York, Toronto
by the Reverend Dr William Craig,


Most Christians probably think of the Resurrection as taking place early in the morning of Easter Day, but we must remember that the Gospel accounts of the first Easter describe not the Resurrection but the discovery of the empty tomb. All we know is that the Resurrection occurred sometime after sunset Saturday, which by the Jewish reckoning was the end of the Sabbath and the start of the first day of the week.
In the earliest days of Christianity, Sunday was an ordinary working day, and Christians gathered to celebrate the Eucharist outside of work hours, usually before dawn. At first, every Sunday celebrated the Resurrection and there was no annual festival. But as time went on they began to give particular prominence to the Sunday nearest the Jewish Passover, the time of year when the death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus had happened. It is sometimes said that every Sunday is a ‘little Easter’; it would be as correct, or perhaps more correct, to say that Easter is a Big Sunday
When Christians first began to keep an annual celebration as well as the weekly celebration it was as a vigil from the evening of Saturday to dawn on Sunday. After the lighting of a candle, the night was spent in reading the passages from Scripture which told of the story of God’s mighty work of Salvation, culminating in the reading of the Passion and Resurrection from St John. On this night, new converts were baptized and admitted to communion. It was not merely a celebration of the Resurrection as a liturgy of 'Redemption', the Christian Passover. Indeed they gave it the same name, Pascha, the Greek form of the Hebrew word for Passover, from which most languages get their name for this feast; only some Germanic Languages, I think, use a name like Easter.
But by the fourth century or thereabouts, this original celebration was modified. It began at Jerusalem, where the Church began commemorating the events of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life at the spots where they had taken place, and on the anniversary days. So the Pascha came to be spread out, and rather than one feast of our redemption, it was celebrated in historical commemorations of the particular events of our Redemption. The most important events were marked in the liturgies of the Triduum Sanctum, the Three Holy Days, of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday night (which by Hebrew reckoning is the beginning of Sunday). While we can hardly avoid thinking of these rites as separate historic commemorations, we should try to see them as parts of one celebration, none of which is complete by itself or stands alone.

The Great Vigil “is celebrated at a convenient time between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter morning”. Each of the portions of this liturgy has an introduction spoken by the Presiding Celebrant.
“In the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, the Easter Vigil is the most important Mass of the liturgical year as well as the first celebration of the Eucharist during the fifty-day long celebration of Easter, and is marked by the first use since the beginning of Lent of the acclamatory word "Alleluia", a distinctive feature of the liturgy of the Easter season.” [Wikipedia]


In the darkness outside the church, a fire is kindled and blessed; this is the first symbol of the Resurrection. After the fire is lit, the celebrant reads the Introduction (page 322).

Preparation of the Paschal Candle

In the light of the New fire, a special candle is prepared and blessed. It appears that the Paschal Candle is of considerable antiquity, from at least the fourth century [See].
The Paschal Candle, as leading the procession from the new fire into the Church, reminds us of the pillar of fire which led the Israelites by night in the Exodus [Ex 14]. Just as that pillar, lighting up the night, led Israel into the Red Sea and through safely to the other side, so this candle leads us to the waters of baptism and through to the feast of the promised land.
The pillar in turn was a type of Christ, so the Candle itself is a sign of Christ the light of the world. Traditionally, the candle is marked with a cross and other symbols, as set out on page 333 of the BAS.
The Greek letters alpha and omega are traced above and below the cross, while the numerals of the current year between the arms of the cross. While marking these symbols, the priest says:
1 Christ yesterday and today ; 2 the beginning and the end; 3 Alpha ; 4 and Omega ; 5 all time belongs to him ; 6 and all the ages ; 7 to him be glory and power ; 8 through every age for ever. Amen.
Then five grains of incense may be inserted in the form of a cross; while doing this the priest says:
1 By his holy; 2 and glorious wounds ; 3 may Christ our Lord ; 4 guard us; 5 and keep us. Amen.
Finally the celebrant lights the candle from the new fire, saying,
May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.
Small candles held by the people are now lit from the Paschal Candle.

Procession – The Light of Christ

The deacon (or priest) lifts up the Candle and sings The Light of Christ. To which the people respond Thanks be to God. The Candle is carried into the Church, the people following with their candles. At a suitable pot the deacon lifts the Paschal Candle and sings again at a slightly higher pitch, The Light of Christ, and the people respond as before. When the deacon comes to the Paschal Candlestick he stops and faces the people, singing a third time, and higher still, The Light of Christ, to which the people respond as before.
Other candles and lamps in the Church may now be lighted


The deacon (or if there is no deacon, the priest), standing near the Candle sings the Proclamation of the Resurrection.
This hymn, which includes a blessing of the Candle, appears to have been composed between the fifth and the seventh century. It is a hymn of great beauty, even in the truncated form we have in the BAS. Summoning all creation to rejoice, it tells of this Night which is overcome by light. In a mystical truth the night of the Resurrection is the night in which Israel was led dry-shod through the sea, it is the night when Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave. In this vigil all of God`s saving work is present to us and we are present in it.


Ten readings from the Old Testament are provided, recalling how God has saved his people throughout history; of these at least three are to be read. One, the reading from Exodus 14 which tells of the crossing of the Red Sea, is never to be omitted. We will be reading four lessons this year:
1. Genesis, 7.1-5,11-18; 8.6-18;9.8-13: The Great Flood
2. Genesis 22.1-18: Abraham is commanded to sacrifice Isaac, but is stopped by God.
3. Exodus 14.10-31; 15.20-21: God delivers his people through the Red Sea
4. Isaiah 55.1-11: An Invitation to Abundant Life
When the vigil is performed in its fullest form, each reading is followed by the singing of a Canticle or Psalm, and a Collect (see p. 325). At St Columba’s, for practical reasons, each reading will be followed by a period of silence and a Collect
After the last reading, the hymn Gloria in Excelsis is sung. The Collect of the Day is then said or sung
The Epistle, Romans 6.3-11, is then read.
In this passage, St Paul declares that by our Baptism we are united with Christ, for in Baptism we share in Christ's death and in the newness of life which his resurrection has made possible for us. This newness of life is a freedom from sin (as foreshadowed by the slavery in Egypt).
The complex of images in Resurrection and Baptism recalls the salvation through the Red Sea in Exodus (and indeed the Flood, as well); this is all celebrated in a great hymn of the Exodus, Psalm 114, in Exitu Israel.
The climax of the Ministry of the Word comes in the Holy Gospel.
In year A we read the Resurrection Gospel from St Matthew (28.1-10)

The Sermon follows


In the early Church Pascha was the normal time for Baptism. The converts who had come to the end of their training (Catechumenate) underwent a final intensive preparation in the last weeks of Lent and came to confess their faith and receive the Water of Regeneration in the Great Vigil. In later years, although Infant Baptism became the norm and the rite was administered at any time. The solemn Blessing of the Font continued to be performed at the Paschal Vigil. From this has arisen the custom of a solemn renewal of Baptismal Vows. In it we remember the words of St Paul that were read in the Epistle: “
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.` We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.”
This custom gives a focus and goal to all of our Lenten disciplines.
It begins with a Thanksgiving for Water, a reminder of the many points in the history of God’s saving work which have involved his gift of water, culminating in thanksgiving for the water of Baptism and a prayer for all the Baptized.Then the Celebrant addresses the people calling us all
To renew the promises we made in baptism, when we rejected Satan and all his works, and promised to serve God faithfully in his holy catholic Church.
The form of the Baptismal Covenant then follow and concludes with the Peace.


The first Eucharist of Easter is then celebrated, beginning with the Preparation of the Gifts and the Prayer over the Gifts.
And so we pass from the Triduum into the joyous Fifty Day of Easter, singing Alleluia wherever it can possibly be added to the liturgy.


Liturgically speaking, there is nothing particularly remarkable about the Eucharists of Easter Day or the remaining days of Eastertide, apart from the addition of Alleluia to the dismissal and the fact that the first reading for each Sunday of Easter is taken from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles rather than from a book of the Hebrew Scriptures.
I may not spend any more time on the notes this week, but will only list the readings for Sunday and provide a quick note on the background of the passage from Acts, which must be important=, for it is read in all three years.
On the first Sunday of Easter the treading from Acts is Acts 10. 34-43, which gives part of Peter’s sermon in the house of the centurion Cornelius, who although a Gentile is already a believer in God. He invited Peter as a result of a vision from God (10. 1-8). Though the law of Moses forbids Peter to associate with or visit a Gentile, he comes anyway, because of a vision and a direct command of the Spirit [10.9-23a], with “some of the believers from Joppa” (v. 23). Peter’s sermon is one of the earliest proclamations of the Risen Lord, and is of particular interest to us because it was proclaimed in a Gentile household.
Psalm 118.1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3.1-4
John 20.1-18

NOTE: There will be no Notes for Easter II, Sunday May 1st 2011.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Week Notes


Pepared for the Church of St Columba and All Hallows, East York, Toronto

by the Reverend Dr William Craig,

Part III

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the first day of the Paschal Triduum, the Three Holy Days, which commemorate the great events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Tonight we commemorate our Lord’s Last Supper, his Agony in the Garden and his arrest; it is a mixture of joy and sorrow, of loud rejoicing and silent contemplation. On the night before he was crucified our Lord Jesus kept the Last Supper with his disciples. At that supper he instituted the Holy Eucharist as an abiding means of spiritual sustenance, and as a memorial for His Church to celebrate, declaring the consecrated bread and wine to be His Body and His Blood of the New Covenant. In the Eucharist, we share in his risen life and take part under earthly conditions in His eternal self-offering in heaven as the great High Priest. On that night he also took a towel and washed his disciples’ feet. It is from the foot washing that today receives its name, Maundy, which comes from the Latin Mandatum, “commandment”. For he said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples that one of them was about to betray him; he went out after supper to to agony, betrayal, and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just so, after we have celebrated the Eucharist and rejoiced in this great gift and sacrament, we take the simple task of removing the ornaments from the church and make it a solemn reminder of Jesus agony in the garden and arrest. In comemoration of the Last Supper the Eucharist is celebrated in the evening of this day. It begins with an Address in which the celebrant sets forth the events we are commemorating. Then the Eucharist proceeds in the usual manner. By an old custom, the bells are rung at the singing of the Gloria in Excelsis, but are then silent until the Easter Vigil If the rite of The Washing of Feet is performed, it follows the Sermon (see BAS, p. 305). After Holy Communion, consecrated bread and wine are taken to a side chapel to be reserved for communion in the Good Friday Liturgy. Then the ornaments and cloths are removed from the altar and other places in the church. During this action, St Matthew’s account of the Agony in Gethsemane (26.30-46) and Psalm 22 may be read.

Some Notes on the Readings for Maundy Thursday

A Reading from the Book of Exodus [12.1-4 (5-10) 11-14]: This is the account of the institution of the Feast of Passover, which God commanded the people of Israel to keep as an everlasting memorial of the delivery from bondage in Egypt. The feast is called “the Passover of the Lord” because the Lord passed over the land of Egypt in judgement (verse 12), but passed over the houses where the Israelites were, which were marked with the blood of the Passover lamb (verses 7, 13). The first Passover meal was, as it were, the “last supper” of Israel in Egypt. The whole of the Exodus is celebrated in the Passover. The whole of the Exodus is seen in Christian tradition as a type or foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Christ, the true Paschal Lamb. This is why we read about the institution of the Passover on the night we commemorate the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The word ‘passover’ translates the Hebrew pesach, which is from a verb meaning ‘to pass over, spring over’. An old Hebrew commentary on this passage says, “The sacrifice is called פֶּסַח because of the skipping and the jumping over, which the Holy One, blessed be He, skipped over the Israelites’ houses that were between the Egyptians houses. He jumped from one Egyptian to another Egyptian, and the Israelite in between was saved.” In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures and in Christian writings, pesach became pascha, which in turn became the name for Easter in many languages. Pascha is surprisingly similar to the Greek word for ‘suffering’ (paschein). Psalm [116.1, 10-17]: This psalm is a thanksgiving for recovery from illness. It is part of the group of psalms [113-118] known as the “hallel” because they all contain the words “praise the Lord” (in Hebrew, Hallelujah). Psalms 115 -118 are sung after the Passover meal. In part then, this psalm is used at the Mass today as a comment on the first reading. It also looks ahead to the institution of the Holy eucharist: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” To say that something is “precious in the sight of the Lord” (verse 15) means that it is rare. A Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians [11.23-26] It is an interesting fact that the earliest surviving account of the institution of the Eucharist was written because of the bad behaviour of certain Church members. In the first letter to the Corinthian Church, St Paul found it necessary to write in reprove of their behaviour at the Eucharist. At this time the Eucharist was still part of a real meal as the Last Supper had been. Paul has heard that when the Corinthians assemble, there are divisions among them, so that they do not really come together to eat the Lord’s Supper but each goes ahead with his own supper. It has been suggested that one root of this abuse was a Roman custom of classifying guests socially and giving little or nothing to those considered inferior. Since the church met in private houses, members had to eat in separate rooms. So some ate lavishly, and others poorly; one went hungry, another got drunk [verse 21]. By this some were displaying their affluence and over-indulging. St Paul indignantly declares that if what they care about is eating and drinking, let them do it at home. In order to call the Corinthians to celebrate the Eucharist in the right spirit, he reminds them of how Christ instituted the feast. In his account he makes use of the important words “received” and “handed on”; these were technical terms for transmitting an oral tradition. Indeed the Latin trado, “I give on”, or “hand on” is the meaning at the heart of the idea of tradition. Paul may have received the factual tradition by human means but received the interpretation of it directly “from the Lord.” His message is that every celebration of he Lord’s Supper is a proclaiming of Christ’s death, by which we are freed from the bondage of evil. The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John [13.1-17, 31b-35] The Fourth Gospel does not report the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper; its Eucharistic teaching is found elsewhere, particularly in the discourses on the Bread of Heaven in Chapter 6. Nonetheless, Jesus’ teaching about love and service in this account of the Last Supper are properly read together with St Paul’s teaching about the true celebration of the Eucharist. The centrepiece of John’s account of the Last Supper is Christ’s new commandment “love one another as I have loved you,” and his acting out of that love in the washing of the disciples’ feet. NJBC says that this section falls into three parts: Jesus’ action (vv. 1-5) and two interpretations (vv. 6-11, 12-20). The second interpretation generalizes the action so that it teaches a lesson to all of Jesus’ later disciples. If I, then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. Obviously Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet is an example of service. If we read the passage carefully however, we will see an even deeper significance. The Gospel relates that Jesus rose from supper, that is, he left his place at the table. Then he humbled himself to take on the dress of a servant, for he laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a bowl and washed his disciples’ feet , wiping them with the towel. When all was done, he took back his garments and returned to his place at the table. As we hear this account, we are reminded of the hymn quoted by Saint Paul in the second chapter of Philippians, which was read on Palm Sunday. Christ’s action of washing the disciples’ feet shows the same descent to humility and return to glory that is proclaimed here. This is how he has loved us. Thus we may see it a parable of not only of service, but also of Christ’s giving of himself to the Father, which is as it were the reality of which even servanthood is the outward sign. In our attempts to fulfil the great commandment of love we do more than simply try to obey, than simply try to imitate Jesus; we begin in our weakness to live the life of the Triune God. Later, in John 14, we read of Christ’s commandments: those who keep them are those who love him; those who love him will be loved by is Father, “and we will come to them and make our home with them” (14.21, 23). The Stripping of the Altar Because Jesus expressed his love for us in willingly humbling himself to death, in the stripping of the altar our thoughts are brought back to the story of his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest. During this act we hear read the account of Christ’s agony from St Matthew, which we heard on Sunday. Three times Christ affirms his obedience to the Father’s will despite any desire to escape suffering . It might be helpful to remember that this agony of obedience which led to our salvation took place in a garden; unlike the disobedience of our first parents in another garden, which was the cause of all our woe (Milton). The Reserved Sacrament By long custom the Holy Eucharist is not celebrated on Good Friday; and by ling custom people have desired the strength of the sacrament on that solemn day. So the consecrated elements are reserved over night for a very practical reason. The place of reservation is away from the main body of the Church in order to symbolize the “absence of the bridegroom”. This also provides a place where the people of God may take the opportunity of watching before the reserved sacrament as an answer to Christ’s question in Gethsemane to St Peter, “So could you not watch with me one hour?” There is no blessing or dismissal at the conclusion of the liturgy tonight, for this is only the first part of a single celebration.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Holy Week Notes

Prepared for the Church of St Columba and All Hallows, East York, Toronto
by the Reverend Dr William Craig,
The liturgy of Holy Week and our attention in that week centre on the great events of the Triduum, the Three Holy Days; but we should not neglect what might be called, if it is not too flippant, the three little days, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Nonetheless, because the ‘great days’ take so much attention, we can only provide here a slight introduction to the readings of these days, which we hope to imporve in later versions of this book.
The days between Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday are known as Holy Monday (or Fig Monday), Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday (sometimes called Spy Wednesday). The Gospels of these days do not attempt to give a chronological sequence of events between the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and his Last Supper. For instance, the Gospel on Holy Monday relates the Anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-9), which occurred the day before the Entry (John 12:12-19).
A custom of the Roman Church which has been adopted in many Anglican dioceses is the Chrism Mass of Maundy Thursday, at which the bishop celebrates with the priests of the dioese, or as many as can be there, and consecrates the holy oils used in baptism and in the sacrament of healing. As in the Roman church, this rite may be brought forward to one of the earlier days in the week. This is partly for the practical reason of enabling as many priests as possible to be present with the bishop, and partly for the liturgical reason that the evening mass on Maundy Thursday should be the only one that day. In the Diocese of Toronto this rite is celebrated on Holy Tuesday at 10.30 a.m. at the Cathedral.
These ‘little days’ should be kept as much as the ‘great days’ of Holy week. If it is impossible for you to atttend a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, you can still use the Collect for the day and read the appointed passages of Scripture, thereby joining your prayers to those of the whole Church. To this end, we print the Collects here.

The name ‘Fig Monday’ is derived from the Gospel account of Jesus cursing the fig tree the day after the Entry into Jersualem (see Mark 11.12-14).
Almighty God, whose Son was crucified yet entered into glory, may we, walking in the way of the cross, find it is for us the way of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Isaiah 42.1-9: 1-4: The first Servant Song (see also 49.1-6; 50.4-11; 52.13-53.12: for a good understanding, they should be read together). poems about God’s special agent who will fulfill his purpose for the faithful community; though innocent, he will suffer for his people. The first Servant Song is read at Mass on Holy Monday, the Second on Holy Tuesday, part of the Third is used at Mass on Holy Wednesday, and the Fourth at the Liturgy of Good Friday.
Psalm 36.5–11 is a hymn in praise of God’s love and justice and a prayer for his continuing protection.
Hebrews 9.11–15 contrasts the repeated and limited sacrifices of the old Covenant with the sacrifice of Christ, the mediator of the new Covenant.
John 12.1–11 tells of the dinner at Bethany the evening before Palm Sunday, at which Mary anointed the Lord Jesus with precious oil of nard, and Judas scolded her for wasting what could have been sold and spent on the poor. Jesus rebuked Judas and praised Mary, saying, ‘Let her alone that she may keep it for the day of my preparation for burial’.

(BAS, p. 302)
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son, you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. May our lives be so transformed by his passion that we may witness to his grace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Isaiah 49.1–7: This is the second of the Servant Songs.
Psalm 71.1–14 is described in NOAB as ‘an old man’s prayer for deliverance from personal enemies’.
1 Corinthians 1.18–31: St Paul declares that the message of ther Cross is the wisdom and power of God, wiser than the wisdom of this world.
John 12.20–36: When Gentile inquirers come to see Jesus, he declares that now his hour has come. The hour is the moment of his manifestation as the One sent by the Father. The hour is fully come when he is lifted up on the Cross.

(BAS p. 303)

The name ‘Spy Wednesday’ refers to Judas's agreement with the high priests, traditionally said to have been made on the Wednesday before the Crucifixion, to betray Jesus. This is refelcted not only in today’s Gospel, but in the proper Psalm for Morning Prayer. In Psalm 55 we read:
13 For had it been an adversary who taunted me, then I could have borne it; * or had it been an enemy who vaunted himself against me, then I could have hidden from him.
14 But it was you, a man after my own heart, * my companion, my own familiar friend.
15 We took sweet counsel together, * and walked with the throng in the house of God.
21 My companion stretched forth his hand against his comrade; * he has broken his covenant.
22 His speech is softer than butter, * but war is in his heart.
23 His words are smoother than oil, * but they are drawn swords.
Compare these some verses from Psalm 41:
7 All my enemies whisper together about me * and devise evil against me.
8 “A deadly thing,” they say, “has fastened on him; * he has taken to his bed and will never get up again.”
9 Even my best friend, whom I trusted, who broke bread with me, * has lifted up his heel and turned against me.
Lord God, your Son our Saviour gave his body to be whipped and turned his face for men to spit upon. Give your servants grace to accept suffering for his sake, confident of the glory that will be revealed, through Jesus Christ our Lord who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Isaiah 50.4–9a: this reading is from the third song of the Lord’s Servant [Isaiah 50.4-11].
Psalm 70 is a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies.
Hebrews 12.1–3. In this exhortation to ‘run the race’, Christians are exhorted to look to the example fo Jesus, who endured the pain of the cross and its shame.
John 13.21–32. Jesus identifies his betrayer, who oes out from the Last Supper into the night.

Holy Week Notes

Prepared for The Church of St Columba and All Hallows, East York, Toronto
by the Revd Dr William Craig, Priest-in-Charge


From ancient times Christians have observed the last week of Lent with special solemnity and called it the Great Week and the Holy Week. As early as the days of St. John Chrysostom (died 407), Christians generally ceased their daily business; they fasted with greater strictness than in the other weeks of Lent, and engaged in special acts of mercy and charity. From a litle before Chrysostom’s time we have the detailed account of the services that were carried out at Jerusalem recorded by a Spanish pilgrim named Egeria or Aetheria. She refers to Holy Week as the “the week of the Pasch, which they call here the ‘Great Week’”.

From the Blessing and Procession of Palms to the Great Paschal Vigil of Holy Saturday Night, the purpose of the liturgies of Holy Week is that “we may enter with joy into the celebration of those mighty acts whereby God give us life and immortality” [BAS. P. 297]. Our modern liturgies are an adaptation of the rich heritage of rites and practices that have served the Church since about the fourth century, when the keeping of Holy Week began.

Of central importance of course are the Three Holy Days (the Triduum): Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday night. In the liturgies of these days the whole of Christ’s saving work is commemorated; together they are the celebration of Easter. Further comments on those days will be made available in the next while; now we have a more pressing question. How are we to keep Holy Week today?

It is hardly a practical suggestion for many of our people that they ‘cease their daily business’. It may well be that to attend the liturgies of Palm Sunday and the Triduum is all that can be managed. Perhaps, though, these suggestions can be of help. Though you cannot ‘cease your daily business’, perhaps you can cease regular amusements and entertainments for this one week and devote the time to prayer and bible reading in preparation for Easter. In the Calendar at the end of these notes the psalms and readings in the Daily Office Lectionary for Holy Week may be found.

As you will see in these notes and those for the rest of the week, there is a large amount of Scripture to be read; and if those who make an effort to read and study all the passages will not find it hard to fill up the time in Holy Week.

As far as possible keep this as a quiet week. If you can, attend a celebration of the Eucharist on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. There are daily celebrations at St James’ Cathedral at 7:30 am and 12.30 noon; many other churches have daily celebrations in Holy Week. (It would be a great help if the diocese were to publish a schedule of Holy Week Services throughout the city!) It may be too late now, but plan ahead, so that Holy Weekl does not come as a surprise The relevant dates in 2012 will be : Ash Wednesday: February 21st ; Palm Sunday: April 1st ; Good Friday: April 6th ; Easter Day: April 8th


This Sunday has had many names, but throughout history its most common name is the one which is most familiar to us, Palm Sunday. It is called Dominica in ramis palmarum [Sunday of the Palm branches] in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, and Dominica in ramis olivarum [Sunday of Olive branches] in that of St. Ambrose. In the former there is a plain reference to the ceremony of branch-bearing as one then in use: "May Almighty God grant unto you, that as ye present yourselves before Him with branches of palms and of other trees, so after your departure from this life ye may attain to appear before Him with the fruit of good works and the palm of victory." The Ambrosian rite does not so clearly refer to a liturgical use of branches , but Chrysostom mentions the shaking of the palm-branches as one of the customs of the day in one of his sermons for the Great Week. In the fourth century it was known Indulgence Sunday, as we know from the Lectionary of St. Jerome, and by many other later writers. This name has several explanations: some say it comes from a custom of the Christian Emperors of setting prisoners free and closing the law courts during Holy Week, other that it is connected with the reconciliation of penitents. Another name is Capitiluvium, which means head-washing, from a rite of washing the heads of the candidates for Baptism at Easter. In Jerusalem, according to Egeria’s letter, the commemoration of Christ's triumphal entry into the city took place in the the same afternoon. Great crowds, including even children too young to walk, assembled on the Mount of Olives and after suitable hymns, and antiphons, and readings, they returned in procession to Jerusalem, escorting the bishop, and bearing palms and branches of olives before him. In the new Lectionary, this Sunday is known as the Sunday of the Passion, a name formerly given to the Fifth Sunday in Lent. This change was made to reflect the fact that one of the three Synoptic accounts of the Passion of our Lord is read on this Sunday. The word ‘Passion’ has several meanings, all of which are derived from its root sense of ‘suffer’. The Passion of the Lord Jesus describes the account of his sufferings and death.

The Readings

The sheer amount of Scripture that is read and sung this Sunday and throughout Holy Week challenges both the preacher and the people to careful reading, study, and reflection before and after attending the liturgies. In Church, it is best to listen and sing, not so much thinking about the words as thinking them, concentrating on them, and receiving them into the depths of our being. With this end in mind, here are some comments (I fear they are too scanty to be of any real use) on the readings for Palm Sunday. I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of using all the resources one can in studying the Bible. “Commentaries: Revised Common Lectionary” is an excellent resource put online by the Diocese of Montreal. See Another handy resource is a study Bible such as the New Oxford Annotated Bible.


Since this liturgy commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jersualem, in its fullest form it is not merely a blessing and distribution of Palms, but a procession from some place apart which enters into the church. It begins with the Anthem Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord and the respose Hosanna in the Highest, which was the acclamation of the crowd that accompanied Jesus as he rode into the City. Then the Priest greets the people with a brief Introduction to both the day itself and the Great Week which it begins, to the journey “from the glory of the palms to the glory of the resurrection by the dark way of suffering and death”. A collect follows asking God that we may enter into the celebration. This is followed by

The Gospel of the Palms

The Lord’s entry into Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels with minor differences in detail (only John’s gospel specifies that the branches were of palm trees). This year (Year A) we read the account from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew (21.1-11). We are tempted to think of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as joyous beginning to events that went tragically wrong. But as the introduction to the rite in the Roman Catholic liturgy puts it, “Christ entered in triumph into his own city, to complete his work as Messiah: to suffer, to die, and to rise again”. In this work the notes of suffering, death, and resurrection are one, and cannot be separated. As we enter with joy into this act we see that it was in triumph that he set his face set like a flint and went to his self-offering, and death. Outside of this and without it, the glory of the palms would only be a parade. It may seem odd that Jesus is described as sitting on the donkey and the colt (verse 7). The Evangelist has apparently misunderstood Zechariah 9.9, in which one animal is described as “a donkey and a colt the foal of a donkey.” This form of speech, called parallelism, is very common in the Hebrew scriptures. The passage appointed ends with the inhabitants of Jerusalem asking who it is that rides by, and the crowd with Jesus replying, This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth. Then it goes on to tell of his cleansing of the temple and his healing blind and lame who were there. It tells us, too, that children in the temple took up the cry of Hosanna (21.15), at which the priests took offence. It is because of this reference that the hymn All glory, laud, and honour says “to whom the lips of children made sweet Hosannas ring”. After the Gospel is The Blessing of the Palms and The Procession. At a suitable place a Station is made: the Procession stops and the priest sings or says the Collect on page 299.


When all have arrived at their places, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist begins with the Collect of the Day and proceeds as usual, except for the reading of the Passion Gospel at which the usual acclamations are omitted. The Creed and Confession and Absolution may be omitted at the liturgy. The First Reading: Isaiah [50.4-9a]: Isaiah prophesied In Judah and Jerusalem between 742 and 687 BC, at the time when the northern Kingdom, Israel, had fallen to Assyria and Judah continued in uneasy “freedom”. Many scholars conclude from differences between chapters 1-39 and 40-66 that the latter part should be attributed to one or more other authors (“Second” and possibly “Third Isaiah”), who wrote at the time of the Return from Exile (ca. 538 BC). A significant feature of Second Isaiah are four passages referred to as the Songs of the Servant of the Lord. This reading is the Third Song of the Servant. It is not clear whether the prophet intended the figure of the Servant to be Israel as a collective person; a king of the past; or a coming individual Servant. (Note Acts 8.34, where the Ethiopian eunuch asks of one passage whether the prophet “says this about himself or about someone else”). In any case the Christian community very early applied these hymns to Jesus – indeed he seems to have seen them as applying to his vocation as the servant (slave) who frees all people. In Holy Week they are used as a commentary on the passion narrative. The first of the four songs [42.1-7] describes God's selection of the Servant who will bring justice to earth. The second song [49.1-6], written from the Servant's point of view, is an account of having been called by God to lead the nations; The third song is darker than the others, with a first-person description of beating and abuse of the Servant. The fourth song [52.13-53.12] declares that the Servant intercedes for others, taking the punishments and afflictions of others. In the end, he is rewarded with an exalted position. It is the first reading for Good Friday. In the third Servant Song, although those to whom God has sent his Servant have rejected him and abused him, the Servant is confident that God is with him. He can set his face like flint [v. 7], and know that he will not be put to shame. We see the like confidence in Jesus as he goes before the Council and before Pilate, as he is mocked and scourged. Setting one’s face is an image common in the writings of the prophets (see Isaiah 48:4, “... I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass”; Ezekiel 3:8-9: “I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. Like the hardest stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead”; also Luke 9:51 “When the days drew near for him [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem”); it is all the more effective here in describing a face covered with spittle. [NJBC] The song ends with a statement of unshakeable confidence in te Lord as vindicator against any accusation. Psalm [31.9-16] One of the categories of Psalms scholars identify as “lament”, by which is meant not a song of mourning but “a song in which an individual seeks deliverance from illness or false accusation, or the nation asks for help in time of distress” [New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 656] Today we use the psalmist’s cry for deliverance from his personal enemies and the his final expression of confidence in God as a reflection on the first reading, which is in itself a companion to and reflection on the Passion narrative. Compare verse 13, “For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life,” with Jeremiah 20:10. The prophet has prophesied the people’s doom as the Lord commanded, and says: “I hear many whispering: ‘Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. ‘Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him’”. The enmity of personal friends is an important theme in Holy Week (see the opening of the Passion Gospel). A Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians [2.5-11]: In this passage St Paul quotes an early Christian hymn (to which he has added v. 8b), which beautifully describes our Lord’s self-giving, even to the utterly humiliating death on the Cross. Other fragments of early Christian hymns on the subject of Christ’s work may be found at Philippians1:15-20; Ephesians 2:14-16; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18-19, 22; and Hebrews 1:3. In Philippians 2.1-4, Paul had urged the Philippians, to at one, “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord ...”. Now he explains that this one mind is not his own clever idea: it is the mind of Christ, which we begin to share and display when we replacing self-interest with concern for others. We tend to interpret the words “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” as referring to the name “Jesus”. While showing reverence at the holy Name is good, that is not what St Paul means here. The “name that is above every name” which God has given Jesus in his exaltation is “Lord”, in Greek Kyrios, which is used in the Old Testament to translate the (unpronounceable) name of God. He means that God has given the Risen Christ the authority which, in the Old Testament, he reserved for himself. (See Isaiah 45:22-25.)

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Year A we read the account of the Passion according to St Matthew. Many Notes can be found at the RCL Site. This year we are adding an Outline of the Passion to our notes:

I. Jesus is betrayed by Judas: 26.14-16. Parallels: Mk 14.10s; Lk 22.3-6; Jn 18.2-5

II. Two disciples are sent to prepare for the Passover: 26.17-19. Parallels: Mk 14.12-16; Lk. 22.7-13

III. The Last Supper: Jesus indicates his Bretrayer 26.20-29. Parallels: Mk 14.17-25; Lk 22.14-23; 20-25: Jn 13.21-20

IV. The Institution of the Lord's Supper: 26.26-29. Parallels: Mk 14.22-25; Lk 22.15-20; also 1 Cor 10.16; 11.23 26

V. Iesus goes out to the Mount of Olives with his disciples; he predicts Peter’s denial: 26.30-35. Parallels: Mk 14:26-31 Lk 22:39; 22:31-34 Jn 18:1; 13:36-38; 16:32

VI. Jesus prays in Gethemane: 26:36-46. Parallels: Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:40-46; Jn 18:1; 12:27; 14:31; 18:11

VII. Jesus is arrested: 26: 47-56. Parallels: Mk 14.43-50; Lk 22.47-53; Jn 18.3-12

VIII: He is questioned by the High Priest and Council: 26: 57-68. Parallels: Mk 14,53-65; Lk 22.54f, 66-71; Jk 18.12-24

IX. Peter denies Jesus: 26:69-75. Parallels: Mk 14.66-72; Lk 22.56-62; Jn 18.15-18; 25-27

X. Iesus is brought before Pilato: 27.1-2. Parallels: Mc 15.1; L.23.1; J.18.28

XI. Judas repents and kills himself 27.3-10 [see Acts 1.16 20].

XII. At the tribunal of Pilate: 27.11-31. Parallels: Mc 15.2-15; L 23.2-5, 13-25; Jo 18.29-19.1

15-18: The people ask for Barabas. 19: Pilate’s Wife . 20-23: The people still demand Barabbas. and that Jesus be crucified. 24-26: Pilate washes his hands and delivers Jesus, flogged, to be crucified. 27-31: The Soldiers mock Jesus and lead him away to be crucified. ParallelL Jn 19.1-3.

XIII. The Crucifixion of Jesus: 27.32-44. Parallels: Mk 15:21-32; Lk 23:26-43; Jn 19:17-24

XIV. The Death of Jesus: 27. 45-50. Parallels to 45-61: Mk 15:33-47; Lk 23:44-56;n Jn 19:25-42

XV. The Reaction: 27: 51-56

51-53: Earthquake; the Temple veil rent; bodies of the saints rise. 54: The Centurion. 55-56: The women at the Cross

XVI. The Burial of Jesus: 27.57-61

XVII. The Tomb is sealed and placed under guard: 27.62-66.

It is an old custom that the acclamations before and after the Gospel are omitted in the readings of the Passion.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Fifth Sunday of Lent in Year A

Sunday, 10 April 2011

This Sunday was traditionally known as Passion Sunday, or the First Sunday of the Passion and the last two weeks of Lent as Passiontide. The reason for this can be seen in the readings appointed for this Sunday in the Prayer Book (for the Epistle and Gospel see page 148; for the readings at Morning and Evening Prayer, see p. xxvi). In the revised Lectionary, the name Passion Sunday is given to the Sunday next before Easter, traditionally known as Palm Sunday, for the obvious reason that the Gospel for that Sunday is one of the Passion Narratives. Old custom is strong; we now find that day given such titles as ‘Palm Sunday of the Passion’. Whatever we call it, this Sunday brings us into the last stretch of Lent, and would be a good moment to reflect on how one has kept the season and to resolve, if necessary, on a greater effort.

The Readings Ezekiel 37.1–14: Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel, whose name means God will strengthen, was a priest who ministered among the exiles from Jerusalem after its capture by the Babylonians in 598 BC. It was in the plain of Mesopotamia that this famous vision of the dry bones took place (note that the word translated as ‘valley’ in verse 1 is rendered by ‘plain’ in 3.22 and 8.4. The bones are the exiles of Israel, who have no more hope of reviving the kingdom of Israel than of clothing a skeleton and recalling it to life. For this reason it should be noted that this vision has no direct connection with the Christian doctrine of resurrection: the prophecy is of the return to the land of Israel where a new life will be given them. Although in light of the Gospel this vision speaks of resurrection, the original meaning is still a message for us. The exiles suffered from despair and said ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off’. Christians can also become dry and broken in faith, disappointed and indifferent, to us this God’s promise that he can and will put a new spirit within us. In understanding the passage it is important to know that one Hebrew word, רוּחַ, ruach, means wind, breath, and spirit: there is an extended play on words in this passage which it is impossible to capture in English, although it is clear in both Greek and Latin. This is especially clear in verse 9, where the words in bold all : —Then he said to me: 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.'

Psalm 130: De profundis

This, one of the psalms of Ascents, or ‘Gradual Psalms’, is known from its opening words in Latin as ‘De Profundis’. It is also one of the seven Penitential Psalms, a name given from the 6th century AD and possibly earlier to Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143, which are specially expressive of sorrow for sin. In the Western Church it has particularly been used in the commemoration of the faithful departed. In deep sorrow the psalmist cries to God (1-2), asking for mercy (3-4). The psalmist's trust (5-6) becomes a model for the people (7-8).

The Epistle: Romans 8.6–11

In reading this passage it is important to know that in St Paul’s opposition between Flesh and Spirit there is no question of a dualism within a human being, but only of a contrast between types of human beings living in different circumstances—either as united with Christ, or as persisting in sin. The baptised are not in the Flesh, but "in the Spirit," and Paul now proceeds to show that their "life in the Spirit" involves a special kind of divine presence which is called the indwelling of the Spirit. Note the almost interchangeable use of ‘Spirit of God’ , ‘Spirit of Christ’ and “Christ’ (in v. 10). The Spirit of Christ and Christ Himself are one in the divine nature, and hence, the indwelling of the Spirit is also the indwelling of Christ. From the Perichoresi$ or circuminsessio, which arises from the identity of the Divine nature in the Persons of the Trinity, it follows that one Divine Person cannot be divided or separated from another, but where the Divine Nature is there are the three Persons. Chrysostom notes here that Paul does not identify Christ with the Holy Spirit, but only says that whoever has the Spirit, not merely belongs to Christ, but possesses Christ Himself

The Holy Gospel according to St John 11.1–45

The following comments are a small selection from my own incomplete notes on this passage. For further comments, please consult the RCL page: In John’s Gospel the raising of Lazarus is the catalyst for the authorities’ move against Jesus which lead to his arrest. This is seen in the verses which immediately follow the passage read today. The passage falls into six moments or scenes.

I. 1-6: At Petra Jesus hears of the sickness of Lazarus but delays going to him. 1. Jesus had gone to Petra, across the Jordan to escape the religious authorities, who were trying to arrest him (10.39-42). Lazarus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Eleazar, ‘God is my help’. Bethany: (Aramaic: Beth anya ,"house of the figs") is a village on the south-eastern slope of Olivet, nearly two miles from Jerusalem (verse 18), now called el-Azariyeh, after the Arabic name of Lazarus. [See] 2. He whom you love: The Greek word (philein) denotes a warmer feeling than the word for loved in verse 5 (agapein), which rather expresses esteem founded on reason and reflection (cf. 21.15,17). The sisters feel that it is enough to acquaint him with their distress without expressly appealing for his sympathy. 4. The Lord does not hasten to Bethany: On the contrary he seems deliberately to delay. This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory : Chrysostom wrote: this signifies not the cause, but the event. The sickness sprang from natural causes, but He turned it to the glory of God. Temple notes: In one sense the sickness of Lazarus was unto death; it was sickness of that and in fact he died of it. But that was not its final issue. It and the death in which it culminated were both for the glory of God as manifested in the restoration of Lazarus to life; and this glory of God took the form of the glorifying of the Son, who was revealed as the Lord and Conqueror of death. But to that end death must first occur. … Perhaps if He had started at once He would have arrived just in time to fulfil the sister’s hope; but Lazarus must have died very soon after the message reached the Lord and his disciples, if not before; as it was be brought them something beyond all their hopes.

II. 7-16: Jesus sets out for Judea. 9. Theophylact notes: Some understand the day to be the time preceding the Passion, the night to be the Passion. In this sense, while it is day, would mean, before My Passion; You will not stumble before My Passion, because the Jews will not persecute you; but when the night, i.e. My Passion, comes, then shall you be beset with darkness and difficulties. NOAB: His life would end when God willed; his enemies could not shorten it. 11. Lazarus our friend has fallen asleep: in Christ friendship survives death. Sleep was a common metaphor for death in ancient Jewish and pagan thought. “But what was before a fancy was turned by Christ’s resurrection into a well-grounded conviction with a fuller meaning, for death among the heathen was generally conceived of as a sleep from which there was no awaking. The Greek word here employed [κεκοίμηται] is the same as is represented in the Eng. cemetery = sleeping-place [Century Bible John].” In v. 12 the disciples take ‘sleep’ literally. 14. Since no mention is made of further news reaching him, we must understand Jesus’ knowledge that Lazarus was dead as more-than-human, like the knowledge of prophets.

III. 17-27: Jesus comes to Bethany and says to Martha: I am the Resurrection and the Life. When the Lord arrives, the time of bereavement is already running its course. It is more than three days since Lazarus died; friends from Jerusalem are coming out to offer consolation. Then the message is brought to Martha, as elder sister. Note that both sisters say to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (21, 32). To Martha, Jesus responds by declaring that he is the Resurrection; to Mary he responds not by words but by action. On the words I am the Resurrection and the life, Temple notes: “How can He actually be the Resurrection? He might be its cause, its donor, its controller; how can He be a future event? Of course there is a forcing of language to express an unutterable thought. But we can put part of what it means in other words. Fellowship with Christ is participation in the divine life which finds its fullest expression in triumph over death. Life is a larger word than Resurrection; but Resurrection is, so to speak, the crucial quality of Life, and the inclusion of it therefore adds vastly to the effectiveness, though not to the actual content, of the saying. There is no denial of a general resurrection at the last day: but there is an insistence that for those who are in fellowship with Jesus the life to which that resurrection leads is already a present fact. ‘If a man believe in Him, although his body dies his true self shall life’ (25); or, as it may be put in other words,. No believer in Jesus shall ever die, so far as his spirit is concerned. ‘Your friend is alive now; for in me he touched the life of God which is eternal; in me, he had already risen before his body perished.; This is the Johannine doctrine of life; it is also the doctrine of Paul (cf Col 3.1).” v. 26: Compare the words from John 4.13-14 in the reading from Lent III.

IV. 28-32: Mary goes to Jesus

V. 33-38: At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus’ compassion is seen. We must hear of Jesus` compassion and tears at the grave of his friend as Good News: for in Jesus we see the very nature of God.

VI. 39-44: Lazarus Raised. VII.45-57: The Reaction Only the first verse of this concluding section is read. We are left with the note that many believed on Jesus because of this sign; but the text goes on to say that some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. From that day the chief priests and the Pharisees took counsel to kill Jesus I am afraid those are the only notes I have been able to prepare for this week.

Note on the Anglican Cycle of Prayer (ACP): The dioceses of the Anglican communion which are remembered in prayer each day are now listed in this Calendar. The name of the diocese is followed by the name of its Church of the Communion in brackets and the name of the bishop.


Anglican Cycle of Prayer: Nagpur - (North India) The Rt Revd Paul Dupare

11 Monday: Commemoration of George Augustus Selwyn, 1st Bishop of New Zealand, 1878
For further information see :
ACP: Nairobi - (Kenya) The Rt Revd Peter Njoka

12 Tuesday: Lenten Feria
ACP: Nakuru - (Kenya) The Rt Revd Stephen Njihia Mwangi

13 Wednesday: Lenten Feria
ACP: Nambale - (Kenya) The Rt Revd Josiah Makhandia Were

14 Thursday: Lenten Feria
7:00 pm Stations of the Cross and Study Series
ACP: Namibia - (Southern Africa) The Rt Revd Nathaniel Ndxuma Nakwatumbah; Suffragan Bishop of Namibia (Southern Africa) The Rt Revd Petrus Hidulika Hilukiluah

15 Friday: Lenten Feria
ACP: Namirembe - (Uganda) The Rt Revd Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira

16 Saturday: Commemoration of Mollie Brant, Matron among the Mohawks, 1796
For further information see:
ACP: Nandyal - (South India) The Rt Revd Dr P J Lawrence

ACP: Bishop of Jerusalem - (Middle East) The Rt Revd Suheil Dawani
Holy Week Begins!