Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Rector's Message

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The Paschal Triduum (2013)

At no time during the year does the Church become more 'liturgical' than during Holy Week, which culminates in the 'Three Great Days' -the Paschal Triduum.  We here at St. James are privileged to be part of a Church which has a long and distinguished tradition in observing the services of Holy Week. Indeed, the 'new' services of Holy Week, which we find so beautifully and carefully written and presented in the Book of Alternative Services (most agree that the Holy Week services are the best part of the BAS) were developed through careful observations of practices in parishes across the country in using ancient liturgies in appropriate and sensitive ways. Nothing in these services is particularly new; in fact these services have all been 'reclaimed' from the liturgical practices of the early church, with the added refinements of tradition and local custom.

 

Maundy Thursday

This day, so named because of the 'new commandment' given by Jesus to his disciples (mandatum), recalls the institution of the Lord's Supper at the last meal which Jesus ate with his friends. This is also the day when the ministry of the Church is particularly celebrated. In some Dioceses, oil for healing and chrism is sometimes blessed on this day by the Bishop; traditionally it is also the day when clergy re-new their Ordination vows. The rubrics (instructions) on p. 304 of the BAS tell us that the Eucharist should only be celebrated once, preferably in the evening. And so we gather to remember the institution of that very special meal, and to wash each other's feet, as a symbol of our servant ministry. At the conclusion of this portion of the Paschal Triduum service, we remove the symbols from our church, to remember the emptiness which Jesus must have felt, and we 'watch and pray' through the night.

 

The Vigil with the Sacrament: Watching and Praying

Just as Jesus asked his disciples to sit with him and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane as he awaited the day of his crucifixion, we are offered an opportunity to sit in the quiet of the barren church to watch and pray with Jesus as well. Christ is indeed present in the Reserved Sacrament which sits attended only by the right of candles and those who accept the invitation to watch and pray. The Church will be open through the night. You are invited to sit with Jesus.

 

Good Friday

The most dramatic difference in Triduum services as a result of the liturgical renewal of the last 40 years has been in the way we celebrate 'Good' Friday. Indeed, we have reclaimed much of the sense of 'good' in the title. Whereas there was a time when Good Friday seemed to celebrate the 'death' of Jesus, even to the point of trying to re-enact it on successive Good Fridays, we now remember the difficult events of that day, but concentrate on the Cross as a symbol of Christ's love for us; particularly seeing the Cross from a post-resurrection perspective. Jesus is not absent on Good Friday; He has not left us; rather, He reigns in Heaven as our Saviour.  I would refer you to the introduction to Holy Week services on p.296 of the BAS and to the various rubrics in the Good Friday liturgy (p. 308 ff.) The liturgy is dramatic and solemn, encompassing St John's version of the Passion; calling us to Solemn Prayer: and offering us an opportunity to offer 'appropriate devotions' to the Cross of Jesus. A simple cross is placed at the foot of the chancel steps and from there we pray together and, as a corporate act, venerate the Cross. We do this simply by being present; some may move towards the Cross and touch it; others may kiss it; still others may simply stay in their pew and pray. All fall into the realm of 'appropriate devotions'. This simple and profoundly moving service ends with all receiving Communion from the sacrament consecrated on Maundy Thursday night. As those for whom Jesus hung and died on his Cross, we receive him in our midst in the forms we know best - the Bread and the Wine of the Eucharist. Other Good Friday observances can include the Way of the Cross, Tenebrae, and other devotional services. All of these services are appropriate and moving, but the principal liturgy of the gathered community should be the Solemn Liturgy, with all its powerful images and actions. I commend it to you.

 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

On Good Friday afternoon, I will be in the chapel from 1-3pm for The Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This sacrament, which, of course, we also call 'Confession', is an ancient and proper rite of the Church. It is for those who wish it, not necessarily for everyone. I would refer everyone to the BAS, p. 166 for a full description of the sacrament. It is an entirely appropriate and moving way for an individual to prepare for Easter, and I would invite any who have read the service in the book to come to the chapel during the appointed hours. As the BAS says (p. 166): "The ministry of reconciliation, committed by Christ to his Church, is exercised through the core of Christians for each other, through the common prayers at Christians assembled for public worship, and through the priesthood of the Church and its ministers declaring absolution."

 

The Great Vigil of Easter

This is our Easter celebration! We gather in darkness, confronting the sin, fears, need, and weakness of our humanity. The darkness is pierced by the light of the great Easter fire from which we light the Paschal candle, the symbol of Christ our light. As the ancient Hebrews were led out of Egypt through the wilderness by a pillar of fire at night, so we process into the Church behind a 'pillar of fire'; the Paschal Candle, and sing an ancient hymn extolling Christ as light of the universe.

Then we listen to many of the ancient stories of faith - each providing us with images that call to mind God's saving power through water (baptism) and food (Eucharist); images of sacrifice and self-offering (the Cross), and the creation of a new community (the Church). These stones, viewed through the eyes of Christian faith, tell us who we are as God's people and the meaning of Christ in our lives.

Having heard the proclamation, we respond by renewing our own baptismal promises and, sprinkled with water (cf. Ezekiel 36:24-28), we then join in our Easter Communion.

Our celebration is followed by a party in which we share food and drink, thus ending our Good Friday/Holy Saturday fast. This is the night of nights! This is the climax, the high point, of our Paschal celebration. This is the night when we most clearly proclaim the meaning of the Gospel and we realize who we are as Christians! This night, our Easter night, is truly a wonderful occasion, not to be missed!

Please join us at 8:30 p.m. on the rotary-side lawn of the Church, as we light the New Fire!

 

Easter Morning

The morning of Easter continues the celebration from the night before. It is the transition from the three-day season of the Paschal Triduum to the great 50 day celebration of Easter! Again, images of Cross and Resurrection, Baptism and Eucharist continue to be held before us. Through participating in the Three Days, we have been renewed. We celebrate Easter because it is not only an incredible event of almost 2000 years ago, it is a power, a reality we know in our lives through the presence of the Holy Spirit today. Together, may we know the power of Easter and live as faithful loving people, in Christ.

 

Join me now as we walk our way of faith through the Paschal Triduum and into Eastertide!

 

Rachael Parker+

Rector - St. James Anglican Church, Armdale