11th April 2020 – Holy Saturday

Dear Parishioners,

There is a great temptation to wish you a ‘Happy Easter’ but as it is still Holy Saturday, a time of waiting, or as Sacred Scripture calls it “preparation day”, I shall resist the temptation, at least for the moment !

I do hope that you are all well and looking after yourselves, and those closest to you. You all remain very close in thought and affection, and whenever I celebrate Mass you are present with me, as are those that you hold in your own hearts and thoughts. Despite it being Holy Week, I have lit candles prior to each celebration, offering them for the intentions of parishioners. As yesterday was Good Friday, the candles were not lit, as we are called very especially on that day to be a people who are caught up in the great Sacrifice of Calvary, and the candles were replaced by my carrying the worries, concerns and sufferings of you all – particularly at this time – as I processed with and subsequently venerated the Cross. It was an incredibly moving period of time and liturgical action, perhaps made so, as during the last few weeks I have spoken to so many people who really are afraid for both themselves and their loved ones, their raw humanity exposed, and carrying their own crosses in these necessary weeks of isolation.

Rather than use a large crucifix, I used the one I was given on the occasion of my own First Holy Communion, a year or so ago! It was the gift of two very elderly ladies that my parents often gave a lift home to after the 8 o’clock Mass on a Sunday in Otley. Despite their age, both were probably born at the beginning of the last century, the crucifix has a real contemporary look to it, and it hung in my bedroom at home throughout my childhood, youth and years of studying for the Priesthood. A symbol of familiarity and stability, ever-present and always there. In more recent times it has moved with me from Presbytery to Presbytery; still a sign of continuity and faith-filled hope. Now almost half a century since it was given, that same piece of religious art continues to convey all it was intended to. Our own Faith is rather like that crucifix – familiar, stabilising, ever-present, simply ‘there’. This is my rationale for inviting families and individuals to display a symbol of faith in a prominent place at home; a visual reminder of the hope that our faith conveys, and that we are not alone, but a part of a chain of people who are united in belief; a belief that has its origins in the event of the first Easter. May it these images give us a sense of the familiar, stable and constancy to which we witness, either alone or together, as a community of Faith, quietly watched, observed and – (often secretly !) – admired by so many.

The following reflection was sent to me recently. It is a reminder that despite feeling so far removed from our ‘normal’ experience of Holy Week and Easter, perhaps we are not too distant from the very first Holy Week and Easter.

The very first Easter was not in a crowded church with singing and praising.

On the very first Easter the disciples were locked in their Upper Room. It was dangerous for them to go out. They were afraid.

They wanted to believe the good news that they had heard from the women, that Jesus had risen. But it did seem too good to be true.

They were living in a time of great despair and fear. If they left their homes, their lives and the lives of their loved ones may have been at risk. Could the great event of the Resurrection really have happened ?

Could life really have won the victory over death?

Could a time of terror and fear really have been brought to an end ?

Alone or together in their homes they dared to believe that hope was possible, that the long night was over and morning had truly broken, that God’s love had proved the most powerful of forces … but it all seemed so unreal.

Eventually, they were able to leave their homes, when fear and danger had subsided.

When that happened they went around celebrating and spreading the good news that Jesus was risen and that love was the most powerful force on earth.

This year, we are perhaps having a taste of what that first Easter was like, still in our homes daring to believe that hope is on the horizon. Then, after a while, when it is safe for all people, when it is the most loving of choices, we will come out, gather together, singing and shouting the good news that God brings life out of death, that His love always has the final word.

During these days, we may get the nearest experience we have ever had to the circumstances of the first Easter.

In closing, I wish you all a Blessed Easter, when it dawns with the cry in the darken church tonight, that Christ is our Light ! May we all respond with the exclamation Thanks be to God !

May our Faith be strengthened by Easter,

our Love deepened,

and our Hope be brightened.

Thinking of you all, and assuring you of a remembrance in both the Liturgies I continue to celebrate and the personal prayers I offer.

As ever,

Fr. Nicholas

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