Easter: a season of great contrasts. Two years ago, it snowed; last year we saw glorious sunshine; this year, Easter Day dawned cold, cloudy and misty. The date of Easter varies, too. But, Holy Week and Easter at St. Mary’s follow the same familiar pattern. Thankfully, in our ever changing world, some things remain constant.
Palm Sunday, on 28th. March (photos), was a day of processions: from the Abbey School to the church, carrying palm crosses, clergy, choir and congregation walked before the main service; in the evening, students carrying a huge, heavy wooden cross, walked to St. Mary’s from the river, part of their pilgrimage from Essex to Walsingham in Norfolk. After sharing supper with us, they spent the night in the Church Centre before having breakfast at St. Thomas Catholic Church and setting off for Framlingham on the next leg of their walk.
The evening of Maundy Thursday, 1st. April, witnessed a most moving service here, with a short but meaningful address by the Assistant Priest, Revd. Dr. John Hare. After the Parish Eucharist, the altar was stripped and a wooden cross laid in its place, dressed with sacking, ropes and crown of thorns. The lights faded, leaving just two spotlights on this poignant symbol, and a silent vigil was kept until midnight.
Good Friday morning brought our children and their parents to a special service, led by the Assistant Curate, Revd. Paul Hambling. The youngsters each wrote a small prayer card and placed this, together with a lighted candle, around the cross as they learned about the meaning of the day. At noon, our three hours of devotion began. This is a most spiritual occasion, brought into focus by three meditations, led by Jill Hawes, Paul Hambling and Peter Prior. Each looked at different aspects of the crucified Jesus: Jill focused on the welcoming, loving gesture of open arms; Paul on the emotions of despondency, exhaustion, anger and anxiety; Peter on the relevance of Good Friday for us today. A most powerful reading of St. Luke’s account of betrayal, trial and death was given by Jill Richardson. The church choir sang beautifully and offerings by Heather Marshall and Mary Hare were read with feeling. And the number of flickering candles at the foot of the cross grew as individuals placed theirs in position, symbolising the giving of themselves and their lives to Christ.
From the bare, sombre church of Holy Week to the glory displayed on Easter Day (photos), the contrast here was breathtaking. Adorned with magnificent arrangements of lilies, donated in memory of loved ones and bearing their names on ribbons, together with the brightness of spring flowers everywhere, the celebrations began. The Easter candle was blessed, representing Christ as the Light of the World, the theme for the whole service. The roof was raised in singing by the large choir and massed congregation, and an amazing atmosphere of rejoicing made this most important day in the Church calendar a very special occasion. In his address, Paul spoke clearly and confidently of his personal faith and considered the feelings of those first century witnesses to the events of Easter. Illustrating his message with a wonderful story of a beautiful church window damaged by vandals, he brought home to us all the presence of God in our lives day by day, not confined to churches but out there where we might least expect to find Him. A very special message which we were privileged to hear on this very special Holy day.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Parish Press Officer.
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