Whilst this continues to be a strange Holy Week, I nonetheless feel very blessed to have the support and encouragement of parishioners who join me, albeit digitally, for the offices and liturgies, especially during the Triduum, and also very encouraged by those who, each day, pop by to make their confessions. Preaching without a physically present congregation has its peculiar challenges: questions of what tone to employ, and whether to use humour (not too much of a problem on Good Friday…) have cramped my homiletic approach somewhat, but making the liturgical prayers and ceremonies of the Church available on a daily basis has been a surprisingly effective tool in the pursuit of fostering a sense of a common parochial celebration. I can only hope and pray that our absence from the Lord, and from one another, is making hearts grow fonder for both.
St John Henry Newman’s shorter meditations on the Stations of the Cross were offered at Noon, and the final meditation (for the Fourteenth Station) was particularly poignant, not only on account of this day, but also given present strictures. Saint John Henry exhorts us to ever hope and trust in Christ and so realise that ‘the greater is our distress, the nearer we are to [God]’. That isn’t the easiest of lessons to learn, but it is one that will help us to see the value in that which God has, in this time, permitted for the sake of our eternal salvation. As Newman famously wrote elsewhere, the Cross teaches us (his present-day brethren) not to live a comfortable life, nor one framed by our own agendas (however good its intentions), but rather ‘to suffer and to die’. As the liturgies of the Sacred Triduum set forth so well, we can have no future glory – no Resurrection life – without first knowing the value and purpose of suffering and, so embracing it, dying to self.
And in the garden secretly,
And on the Cross on high,
Should teach his brethren, and inspire
To suffer and to die.
Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways.
Fr Lee Kenyon