Holy Week & Easter at St Mary's Iffley

Holy Week & Easter at St Mary’s Iffley

From the Rectory: Lent is a long six-week journey which culminates in the observance of Holy Week, the last week of Christ’s life. Holy Week begins this year on 13 April and during it we slow walk day by day with Christ as he approaches the cross. There is a richness to Holy Week which is unlike any other period of the Church calendar, for in this week, we encounter the most important themes of Christ’s life – the glory of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem; the heartbreaking poignancy of the last supper; the dark hours of the betrayal in the garden and the trial; the horror of the cross; the eerie quiet of the entombment; and then, the sudden, glorious triumph of the resurrection. Holy Week and Easter lies at the heart of the Church’s celebration of its faith and each of the day’s differing moods and events is captured by the various services in church.

Holy Week and Easter poster 2014-page-001

Click on picture for details of services

On Palm Sunday we will gather at 10am and remember Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, starting the service with palm crosses in the church hall and walking to church; once in church the tone will change almost immediately with the dramatic reading of the story from Matthew’s Gospel of Christ’s death. In the evening at 6.30pm we shall be joining with St Mary’s choir to sing and reflect on Holy Week.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday there will be a simple service of Holy Communion in church each morning at 10am with a short address.

Then on Maundy Thursday we will gather at 7.30pm to remember Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. Jesus’ last supper is the model for every Communion service. On this night, we gather and join the disciples as Jesus teaches them that God offers them – and us – a model of self-offering love. ‘This is my body, which is given for you: take: and eat.’ The service ends dramatically. When we have shared in Holy Communion the altar is stripped, the vestments and vessels put away and the candles are extinguished. In the bare church with dimmed light we sit and listen as the story is read of what happened the remainder of Thursday night. How Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane while the disciples slept; how he was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the soldiers; we shall then hear of Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas and how the night concluded with Peter’s denying his friend and master. We shall listen and reflect in the darkened church.

On Good Friday we will gather in the morning at 10am for a Children’s Service before the main service of the day from 12noon to 3pm, the time of Christ crucifixion. It is a great privilege to have Erica Longfellow, Dean of Divinity, Chaplain and Fellow of New College to lead our Three Hour Devotional Service. There will be hymns, readings, prayers, silence and addresses. Those unable to stay for the whole time can come and go when a hymn is being sung. In the evening at 7pm there will be a performance of Pergolesi’s ‘Stabat Mater’ with singers from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, a wonderful conclusion to this most solemn of days.

There is an important silence kept on Holy Saturday reflecting both the fact that the disciples scattered and fled after Christ was crucified and also that Christ did truly die on the cross; it was no pretence.

Then on Easter Day we will gather at 6am; a fire is kindled outside church and the Easter Candle is lit and processed into church; the Exsultet is sung by its light, an ancient hymn of praise for Christ’s resurrection from the dead; we hear the stories of God’s saving actions through history culminating in when the women came to the tomb on the first Easter morning to find the Lord was risen; we renew our baptismal vows and then share together in the first Holy Communion of Easter. Coffee & croissant will then be served in the church hall.

Holy Week takes us step by step from the pomp of Palm Sunday, through the pain and suffering of the passion, to the glorious vindication of Easter. If we walk through each day of Holy Week, we can enter the story more fully. When we do that, we make it our own, entering as fully as we can into the life of our risen Lord. I look forward to sharing with you these momentous events that are the foundation of the Christian faith.


Andrew McKearney