Holy Week and Easter at Christ Church

Alleluia! He is risen!  And what a lovely sound it turned out to be when all the Alleluias were waved in church yesterday. We had buried them at the beginning of Lent – some smallish pieces of white paper with ALLELUIA written on them. They were put in a box and tied up with a bow because we know those Alleluias like to escape when they can. But lo and behold, yesterday they had been transformed into 100 brightly coloured enormous ALLELUIAS which everyone had to wave whenever we said the word. I just didn’t expect the sound. It was like kites cracking, paper snapping, wind rustling in trees, a cacophony of sound.  And the two who were the best at waving their ALLELUIA won a Fair Trade Real Easter Egg. (It would have been three if I hadn’t scoffed one earlier in Holy Week!)

But let’s go back a bit to the beginning of Holy Week. Here in Falkirk there is a tradition of doing Holy Week ecumenically. I shall confess that I struggle a bit with this. Partly because I have been used to doing it on my own and there is nothing quite like the continuity of one person leading you through the journey that is Holy Week. This year I had Maundy Thursday to do, and the Vigil on Sat night.

Maundy Thursday worked well, I think. The problem last year was where to put the Altar/Garden of Repose and I put it on the Requiem Altar which meant the ecumenical choir had to move out of the side chapel and into the pews. This year I had a dream that it was under the high altar – as the crib is at Christmas – so we tried that and it worked well. There was a lovely ‘Ta-Da’ moment at the stripping of the altars when the frontal was removed to show the garden and once the candles were lit it looked divine.  And there is always that lingering smell of Geranium oil which I put in the footwashing jug. However, I can’t get people to stay.  Three of us did for a while but the ecumenical choir marched out as soon as the last hymn was sung, some not even looking at the Garden of Repose. Everyone else followed. Need to work on that next year.

Last year I did the 3 hours on Good Friday but this year someone suggested we do it ecumenically too. I agreed. As it turned out it didn’t really work out because one was ill (not his fault) and I couldn’t fill the other spaces. However we did use The Nail by Stephen Cottrell which was fantastic and well received. And there is nothing quite like 3 hours worth of Passiontide hymns. Aren’t they the best?

This year I also changed the Saturday Vigil because I did it last year and I just don’t think people get that this is the first mass of Easter – at 9.30pm in the evening.  I decided to do an early morning Vigil at 6am so that left me with the problem of what to do on the Saturday night. If I’d thought sooner I would have cancelled it because really there is no liturgy for Holy Saturday but they were all expecting something. In the end, I did three short meditations on Waiting, on Judas, and on Mary interspersed with some music to listen to. (Arvo Part’s Fratres for Strings and Percussion, Alison Moyet’s When I Am Laid In Earth, Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater (Michael Chance) and a lovely Jewish song which is so haunting.) The church was in darkness and it got darker until I could hardly read the words.

So with less to do in Holy Week you’d think that I had a pretty easy time. But no! Who was the mug who accepted an invitation from BBC Radio Scotland to make four programmes for their New Every Morning slot?  Four scripts needed by Good Friday, in fact. AAgghh. Won’t make that mistake again!

Then yesterday we had a baptism of baby Ruaridh before his family move abroad for a couple of years. It was absolutely glorious to have some lovely visitors in church, to have the baptism, to soak everyone with water after, and then Bucks Fizz in the hall while the children went on the Easter Egg Hunt.  Baby Ruaridh was the perfect baptism baby – sound asleep when I was handed him, opened his eyes when I tucked him under my oxters, looked startled by the water but then cooried down again and went back off to sleep.  I suspect I actually peaked at the 9am service but with the help of some Berocca Boost we made it through all three services before I really had to sit down. And slept. And slept. (And missed the baptism party – sorry.) And woke when #1 Son arrived to stay at dinner time.

This holiday week I shall tidy the house, fill the cupboards, and then sit down with a good book or three. I do love Easter but it is quite exhausting. But worth every minute.

14 thoughts on “Holy Week and Easter at Christ Church

  1. No liturgy for Holy Saturday!? What about the ceremony of the new fire, the Light of Christ entering the church, the deacon singing the Exsultet (complete with bees), the litany of the saints, the OT readings outlining the history of salvation, …? It’s a complete ceremony in itself; you don’t have to follow it with a Vigil Mass.

    On the other hand, you CAN start the vigil at 11:15pm. Then by the time you get to the mass, it’s Easter Day! (Guess where I was on Saturday night/Sunday morning).


    • Nigel, she wasn’t there that night. And as I never took my eyes of Our Lord I would have spotted any mishaps immediately!

  2. Having just re-experienced the vigil sans Mass in Berwick upon Tweed this year (used to be what we did when i was a Curate in Glasgow) I have to say I find it unsatisfactory. All the build up to the Exsultet & Gloria then – phut! Early morning makes sense – just never expect me to get up for it:-). I’ll stick with the Vigil after sunset Saturday thanks!

  3. Yes, Robin, the only liturgy for Holy Sat is the Vigil but they just don’t get it here. And all the books say there is nothing else to say. I need to do a bit of training methinks.

  4. Curiously, our Holy Week liturgy booklet (which has the imprimatur of an SEC bishop from the 1970s – can’t check the details as it’s at home) states explicitly that the Easter Saturday vigil CANNOT be followed by a Mass unless the Mass takes place after midnight (which presumably makes it a very early Mass of the Day, not a Vigil Mass). On the other hand, the Roman Missal does allow for a Vigil Mass on Easter Eve, as for any other feast.

    I’m afraid that my sympathies lie with Ruth’s congregation and the bishop; if you’ve been following the events of the Passion throughout Holy Week, then the timing IS significant in a way that it isn’t for (say) Trinity Sunday; 9:30pm just seems too early to celebrate the Resurrection.

    I also appreciate Fr Dougal’s point about the Vigil being an anti-climax without a Mass following. I guess that means that the only satisfactory options are to start at 11:15pm-ish as at St Margaret’s or else shift the whole thing to around sunrise on the Sunday.


  5. Is that the 1967 booklet authorised by + Francis Moncrieff? If so it pre-dates the Vatican II amendments and doesn’t take them into account. More recent rites (Lent Holy Week Easter by the Church of Englandshire and the Canadian BAS and American 1979 BCP) do go for the Sat pm vigil with Mass.

  6. Graham Kendrick’s “No scenes of stately majesty” (written after the death of Diana, it compares the public mourning then with the borrowed tomb for Jesus) has a Celtic sound and might be worth using. It has very visual language that could inspire ritual.

  7. Robin, my home church (Spikey Mike’s) always had it at midnight and it worked beautifully. But I think unless you do it then, the earlier ones just don’t work. I’ve tried various variations over the years and folk just don’t get it. Next year I’m going to keep quiet on Holy Sat and then be up with the lark on Easter Sunday doing my thing!

    James, I rather like that one. Never heard it before. Thanks.

  8. I was asked to sing the Exultet this year (I believe that’s the older spelling!) which was something I didn’t think would happen again, so my Holy Saturday was very special even without considering the experience of the church becoming darker so that we couldn’t see the print, the swoosh of the bonfire igniting under the huge tree outside, the candles, the smoke, the cacophony on organ and bells … and the Eucharist. We had the whole lot this year, and the effect as far as I’m concerned far outweighs any procedural niggling about clocks. Give me darkness, mystery and flames any day. Easter morning has never felt anything like as powerful – and I’m not saying this is anything other than the fact of my experience. And in the past, we’ve had to wait till Easter Sunday afternoon for our Eucharist, which was even less exciting. It’s not really anything to do with reason, is it?
    I feel for you, saddled with the ecumenical bit.

  9. Just had a thought as I ponder how to make lots of noise on Sunday in the churches – are you going to get those Alleluias out for another aring welcoming the Holy Spirit?

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