Holy Week greetings to you and, in the most wonderful and unique of weeks, I continue to assure you of a spiritual remembrance in all the Liturgies which continue to be celebrated in our two churches. Prior to each Mass I light candles at the respective side altars of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady for the intentions that you would like recalling especially that day. This “spiritual communion” between us is very, very important, and that is why, as far as I can, I continue with the celebration of Holy Mass at the usual times over each weekend. These times – 4.30 pm, 6.30 pm, 9.30 am and 11.30 am – are ‘our’ times, and despite your physical absence, you are certainly there in spirit, and because we are all creatures of habit, I can visualise you on the pew that you sit on week in and week out. There are times when I glance at the door awaiting our late-arrivals too!
Personally I would ask that in your homes you create a very visible ‘shrine’ perhaps with a crucifix, icon, statue, Rosary Beads, or even with a crib scene, in order for you to be drawn into an opportunity to focus on these incredible days in the life of ourselves, the Church. I mention the use of a crib scene as I am aware that the Catholic images which were very much a part of the fixtures and furnishings of homes a couple of generations ago have disappeared, but our cribs are beloved by us all, and make their annual appearance in our homes. The baby of the crib is the man of Calvary, and the Christ of the resurrection.
At a time when the vulnerability of the shared cloth of our humanity is so visibly exposed, the eyes of the Christ-child and the image of the suffering carpenter journeying to a place of execution, remind us of the depth of God’s love for us, and Their ability to look us in the eye and share our fragility. At Christmas we sing of the child of Bethlehem being “little, weak and helpless.” These are the exact feelings of so many during this present time. However, faith in its richness, calls us to recognise that in the crumpled wrapping paper of human form, so long ago, dwelt the very Word of God. It is the resurrection of this Word that we look forward to delighting in next week. The great sign and statement that nothing can overcome the love of God for humankind, not even death itself. As so often we witness incredibly well to love and faith, so may we give tangible expression to hope for better things and brighter times.
At a time when we shall all be together again, there will be a gift waiting for you. It is a palm cross or leaf which will be blessed at our Masses this weekend. A reminder of the welcome that Christ received from the people of Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. A symbol too of the joy and delight that we take in being able to be united as God’s people coming together in worship in the ordinary course of events. For now it is a sign of the deep hope that our being together will soon be a reality …
My own spiritual life is much enhanced by commitment to routine at the moment, and despite the absence of music at Mass, I am able to use a hymnbook as a tool for reflection and prayer. The following words seem to reflect something of the solemnity, reality and underlying confident hope of this coming week:
“Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
while in the frailty of human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self-same way.
Still stands His cross from that dread hour to this
like some bright star above the dark abyss;
still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.”
May we all be united in prayer, despite necessary distance, during these special days of Holy Week.
If you are able please watch the Liturgies being broadcast from our Cathedral Church, and at your ‘own’ Mass time in either Heckmondwike or Cleckheaton know that you’re being remembered.
In closing may I assure the Liturgical purists amongst you that, true to form, the statues in our churches are covered, and this weekend our Liturgical colour will be vibrant red !
With prayerful support and encouragement,
As ever, Fr. Nicholas