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Soulfood

Walk of Witness down the High Street

Every year on the morning of Good Friday, the Churches Together gather together to process down the High Street in a Walk of Witness. As we walked along attesting to our Faith as Christians, volunteers walked alongside us handing out Bible verses and  Easter treats. There were more Walkers this year and it felt great. I think I ‘m beginning to see a glimmer of light with regard to the Ecumenical gatherings. It’s important for Christians of all denominations to stand firm on of matters  of  Faith, especially on Good Friday. The Choir treated us to beautiful sung harmonies. Overall, and uplifting experience.

I missed the last twenty minutes or so f the service, as we were aiming to get to Trafalgar Square for the twelve o’ clock  showing of the  ‘Passion of Jesus’,  put on by the fantastic cast of the Wintershall Estate. This was our first viewing of  ‘The Passion of Jesus’.

It takes place on an open air stage, viewed by thousands of onlookers, surging to get the clearest view of the actors in this beautiful play. (Next year I’ll make sure we get there early enough for front seat viewing!) The sound was perfect, considering the vast area covered during the performance and the competing central London traffic and hoards of tourists walking by.  There was an enormous screen on which the live acting was being screened, so that it didn’t matter whether you weren’t able to see the actors you would still be able to watch them on the big screen, and hear them clearly.

The story of The Passion began with a narrator’s  introduction, and from that moment on the crowd was hooked! Besides a little shuffling and readjusting to begin with, the group we were standing with were rooted to the spot. As the story progressed I was drawn into the play as an onlooker and participant, as was the rest of the audience. I heard nothing but what the actors were saying. I didn’t hear any traffic, but was acutely aware of this dramatic story being played out in  one of the most exciting, thronging capital cities of the world! As I watched and listened, I was humbled by this ‘simple’ , clear biography of Someone dying a torturous death for me. For me!! It felt like the first time I ‘d heard this story. And it seemed to the same for all who were gathered together on the Holiest days of the Christian calendar. You could literally hear a pin drop as the play progressed. Everyone drawn into the Life-Giving story of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, which is actually so simple. What spoke to me  most was the Humility of Our Lord  in the acceptance of His Work as directed by His Father. His acceptance of the importance of His Ultimate Sacrifice in the story of our salvation.  I was brought to tears by the Crucifixion scene and Our Lord’s reaching out, even on the Cross,  to his fellow humans. Two hours of this Magnificence ended on a high note with shouts of Alleluia, and ongoing clapping from the audience.

The cherry on the cake for me was the appearance of Bishop Vincent Nichols short address and finally praying with thousands of others the Our Father as in one voice.

This has truly been a Holy week to remember for me, and I look forward to next year, when I ‘ll meet the Lord in yet another way, on my Journey of Faith.

(All images taken by 1catholicsalmon)

7 Facts: Holy Week and the Early Church

image from pastorstrey.wordpress.com

1. The Gospels Antiquity of the Celebration of Holy   Week

From an attentive study of the Gospels, and particularly that of St. John, it might easily be inferred that already in Apostolic times a certain emphasis was laid upon the memory of the last week of Jesus Christ’s mortal life. The supper at Bethania must have taken place on the Saturday, “six days before the pasch” (John 12:1-2), and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem was made from there next morning.1

2. 4th Century: Pilgrimage of Ætheria

Of Christ’s words and deeds between this and His Crucifixion we have a relatively full record. But whether this feeling of the sanctity belonging to these days was primitive or not, it in any case existed in Jerusalem at the close of the fourth century, for the Pilgrimage of Ætheria contains a detailed account of the whole week, beginning with the service in the “Lazarium” at Bethania on the Saturday, in the course of which was read the narrative of the anointing of Christ’s feet. Moreover, on the next day, which, as Ætheria says, “began the week of the Pasch, which they call here the “Great Week”, a special reminder was addressed to the people by the archdeacon in these terms: “Throughout the whole week, beginning from to-morrow, let us all assemble in the Martyrium, that is the great church, at the ninth hour.” The commemoration of Christ’s triumphal entry into the city took place the same afternoon.

3. Rituals at the Mount of Olives

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. Special services in addition to the usual daily Office are also mentioned on each of the following days. On the Thursday the Liturgy was celebrated in the late afternoon, and all Communicated, after which the people went to the Mount of Olives to commemorate with appropriate readings and hymns the agony of Christ in the garden and His arrest, only returning to the city as day began to dawn on the Friday.

4. Friday

On the Friday again there were many services, and in particular before midday there took place the veneration of the great relic of the True Cross, as also of the title which had been fastened to it; while for three hours after midday another crowded service was held in commemoration of the Passion of Christ, at which, Ætheria tells us, the sobs and lamentations of the people exceeded all description. Exhausted as they must have been, a vigil was again maintained by the younger and stronger of the clergy and by some of the laity.

5. Saturday

On the Saturday, besides the usual offices during the day, there took place the great paschal vigil in the evening, with the baptism of children and catechumens. But this, as Ætheria implies, was already familiar to her in the West. The account just summarized belongs probably to the year 388, and it is of the highest value as coming from a pilgrim and an eyewitness who had evidently followed the services with close attention.

6. Six Holy and Great Days

Still the observance of Holy Week as a specially sacred commemoration must be considerably older. In the first of his festal letters, written in 329, St. Athanasius of Alexandria speaks of the severe fast maintained during “those six holy and great days [preceding Easter Sunday] which are the symbol of the creation of the world”. He refers, seemingly, to some ancient symbolism which strangely reappears in the Anglo-Saxon martyrologium of King Alfred’s time. Further he writes, in 331: “We begin the holy week of the great pasch on the tenth of Pharmuthi in which we should observe more prolonged prayers and fastings and watchings, that we may be enabled to anoint our lintels with the precious blood and so escape the destroyer.”

7. Constantine & Ante-Constantine

From these and other references, e.g., in St. Chrysostom, the Apostolic Constitutions, and other sources, including a somewhat doubtfully authentic edict of Constantine proclaiming that the public business should be suspended in Holy Week, it seems probable that throughout the Christian world some sort of observance of these six days by fasting and prayer had been adopted almost everywhere by Christians before the end of the fourth century. Indeed it is quite possible that the fast of special severity is considerably older, for Dionysius of Alexandria (c. A.D. 260) speaks of some who went without food for the whole six days (see further under LENT). The week was also known as the week of the dry fast (xerophagia), while some of its observances were very possibly influenced by an erroneous etymology of the word Pasch, which was current among the Greeks. Pasch really comes from a Hebrew meaning “passage” (of the destroying angel), but the Greeks took it to be identical with paschein, to suffer.

SOURCE: The entirety of the article is quoted from the first section of the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on Holy Week

The Measure of the World (By John Henry Newman)

”A great number of men live and die without reflecting at all upon the state of things in which they find themselves. They take things as they come, and follow their inclinations as far as they have the opportunity. They are guided mainly by pleasure and pain, not by reason, principle, or conscience; and they do not attempt to interpret this world, to determine what it means, or to reduce what they see and feel to system. But when persons, either from thoughtfulness of mind, or from intellectual activity, begin to contemplate the visible state of things into which they are born, then forthwith they find it a maze and a perplexity. . . .Why it is, and what it is to issue in, and how it is what it is, and how we come to be introduced into it, and what is our destiny, are all mysteries.

In this difficulty, some have formed one philosophy of life, and others another. Men have thought they had found the key, by means of which they might read what is so obscure. Ten thousand things come before us one after another in the course of life, and what are we to think of them? what colour are we to give them? Are we to look at all things in a gay and mirthful way? or in a melancholy way? in a desponding or a hopeful way? Are we to make light of life altogether, or to treat the whole subject seriously? Are we to make greatest things of little consequence, or least things of great consequence? Are we to keep in mind what is past and gone, or are we to look on to the future, or are we to be absorbed in what is present? How are we to look at things? . . .Such is the need felt by reflective minds. Now, let me ask, what is the real key, what is the Christian interpretation of this world? What is given us by revelation to estimate and measure this world by? The event of this season – the Crucifixion of the Son of God. . . .

But it will be said, that the view which the Cross of Christ imparts to us of human life and of the world, is not that which we should take, if left to ourselves; that it is not an obvious view; that if we look at things on their surface, they are far more bright and sunny than they appear when viewed in the light which this season casts upon them.

But again; it is but a superficial view of things to say that this life is made for pleasure and happiness. To those who look under the surface, it tells a very different tale. The doctrine of the Cross does but teach, though infinitely more forcibly, still after all it does but teach the very same lesson which this world teaches to those who live long in it, who have much experience in it, who know it. The world is sweet to the lips, but bitter to the taste. . . .Therefore the doctrine of the Cross of Christ does but anticipate for us our experience of the world.

            

John Henry Newman by Jane Fortescue Seymour, c. 1875

This being the case, the great and awful doctrine of the Cross of Christ, which we now commemorate, may fitly be called, in the language of figure, the heart of religion. The heart may be considered as the seat of life; it is the principle of motion, heat, and activity; from it the blood goes to and fro to the extreme parts of the body. It sustains the man in his powers and faculties; it enables the brain to think; and when it is touched, man dies. And in like manner the sacred doctrine of Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice is the vital principle on which the Christian lives, and without which Christianity is not. Without it no other doctrine is held profitably; to believe in Christ’s divinity, or in His manhood, or in the Holy Trinity, or in a judgment to come, or in the resurrection of the dead, is an untrue belief, not Christian faith, unless we receive also the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice. . . .

One more remark I shall make, and then conclude. It must not be supposed, because the doctrine of the Cross makes us sad, that therefore the Gospel is a sad religion. The Psalmist says, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy;” and our Lord says, “They that mourn shall be comforted.” Let no one go away with the impression that the Gospel makes us take a gloomy view of the world and of life. It hinders us indeed from taking a superficial view, and finding a vain transitory joy in what we see; but it forbids our immediate  enjoyment, only to grant enjoyment in truth and fulness afterwards. It only forbids us tobegin with enjoyment. . . .

And thus, too, all that is bright and beautiful, even on the surface of this world, though it has no substance, and may not suitably be enjoyed for its own sake, yet is a figure and promise of that true joy which issues out of the Atonement. It is a promise beforehand of what is to be: it is a shadow, raising hope because the substance is to follow, but not to be rashly taken instead of the substance. And it is God’s usual mode of dealing with us, in mercy to send the shadow before the substance, that we may take comfort in what is to be, before it comes. Thus our Lord before His Passion rode into Jerusalem in triumph, with the multitudes crying Hosanna, and strewing His road with palm branches and their garments. This was but a vain and hollow pageant, nor did our Lord take pleasure in it. It was a shadow which stayed not, but flitted away. It could not be more than a shadow, for the Passion had not been undergone by which His true triumph was wrought out. . . .

They alone are able truly to enjoy this world, who begin with the world unseen. They alone enjoy it, who have first abstained from it. They alone can truly feast, who have first fasted; they alone are able to use the world, who have learned not to abuse it; they alone inherit it, who take it as a shadow of the world to come, and who for that world to come relinquish it.”

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was made a cardinal by Leo XIII in 1879 and beatified by Benedict XVI in 2010. He was among the most important Catholic writers of the last several centuriesThese are excerpts from Cardinal Newman’s sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Lent, “The Cross of Christ: The Measure of the World. The full sermon may be read here.


Book, Books and more Books…!

Reading is most definitely a passion of mine. There is always one more page to read or a chapter to finish and nothing is more satisfying than having hours to oneself  and spending that time on reading to your heart’s content.  Please peruse my bookshelves and make recommendations of your own.

The books listed are by no means the one genre that I read, but it most definitely is the information that continues to mould me as a Catholic Christian, and that which is leading on my journey of discovery.