After a deep and enriching Holy Week and a joyful Easter celebration we continue in this Season of Easter celebrating the assurance of God’s victory over sin and death in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We began our journey on Palm Sunday when we met in the market square along with other churches in Ripon for the annual blessing of the palms.
We imagined ourselves walking with Jesus in to Jerusalem, waving our palms in procession behind the donkey which spoke powerfully of Jesus’ humility and the sort of servant king that he was.
Led by our choir we made our way around the streets and back to the cathedral for our service of Holy Communion.
During the solemn season of Passiontide statues and carvings were shrouded. The Passiontide Veiling with sack cloth was a sign of the church in mourning for the suffering and death of Jesus.
On Maundy Thursday some 600 people attended a Chrism Mass when all the clergy of the diocese (region) gathered with the diocesan bishop, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines to renew their vows.
During our service that evening we found ourselves in the upper room – literally disciples with Jesus – observing him washing feet and sharing bread and wine – the gift of his body and blood at the Last Supper. In an extremely moving service the dean, as leader of the cathedral community, washed the feet of a dozen members of the congregation. This powerful act, prompted by the humility and self-sacrifice of Jesus doing the same for his disciples, reveals how the nature of Christ’s leadership is still a challenge to all leaders 2,000 years later.
At the end of this service the altars were stripped. The reserved sacrament (the consecrated bread from the Eucharist) was processed to the Altar of Repose under the central tower with candles and incense and the congregation imagined itself in the Garden of Gethsemane attempting to keep watch and to pray as Jesus asked his disciples to do. Throughout the evening people were free to come and go and to keep watch, remembering how Jesus struggled in his prayers, resolving to remain faithful in the face of certain death. This vigil came to an end at midnight when we remembered how Jesus was arrested with a kiss of betrayal.
On the morning of Good Friday we held our service for children and adults; Journey to Jerusalem explored the events of the last week of Jesus’ life as the children acted out the story rehearsed during Easter holiday workshops. After the service drinks and hot cross buns were enjoyed by all!
At 12 noon, the time when Jesus would have been hanging on his cross, we gathered to reflect on what it would have been like to be one of his disciples standing nearby and watching how Jesus revealed the extent of his faithfulness to God and God’s love for us. This quiet meditative service included reflections, hymns and periods of silence.
At 1.30pm in the main body of the cathedral we were challenged to remain close to Jesus as his suffering intensified. At the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday The Passion (the crucifixion story) was sung by our lay clerks (adult singers). The congregation was invited to venerate the cross (kneeling before it to touch or kiss Jesus’ feet) as we found ourselves standing at the foot of the cross until the ninth hour – 3pm.
As darkness falls across the land we hear the Saviour of the World lament – ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ before crying out and giving up his spirit. At the end of the service the cross was taken in procession in to the cathedral’s Anglo-Saxon crypt, built by St Wilfrid to represent the tomb of Christ.
On Holy Saturday we held our Great Easter Vigil. A new paschal candle, representing Christ himself and kept for special occasions, was lit from a fire kindled outside and the service ended with the cathedral in a blaze of light as the candle was carried in to a dark church; sin and death were conquered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ’s light can never be extinguished.
On Easter Day the cathedral was packed for a joyful celebration as the Risen Lord brings hope to every human situation. The service was followed by an Easter Egg Hunt for the children.
A great attraction over Easter is the Easter Garden. This sits in the nave crossing and with flowering plants and rocks it depicts Golgotha and the empty tomb.