A Letter from the Vicar for Palm Sunday and Holy Week 2020

From Fr Kevin Morris, Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Bedford Park

Dear Friends, 
 
You never miss the water till the well runs dry
It is often said that you don’t know the value of something until you miss it. There will be many things that each of us miss doing and hopefully will value all the more when they are returned to us. 
 
One of the most significant must be ordinary social interaction: being able to pop in to say hello, meet someone in passing or at a usual time and place; celebrate with friends and relatives. It has been particularly difficult pastorally for the clergy when so much of what we do each day involves face to face contact.  I know many of you will identify with the frustration of being unable to see someone – that is, to be physically present – when they are needy, lonely, upset or bereaved, and our instinct is to offer comfort and support. 
 
We are all finding new ways of doing these things and I am grateful to see the neighbourliness, thoughtfulness, sensitivity and practical care that is taking place street by street and through our church community. 
 
Praying and being at Home
The Christian tradition is rich with wisdom. Often it is ignored by society: we prefer to look elsewhere for help and guidance. Yet these days, people have been waking up to the fact that Christian religious communities have something to say to us; have a deep wisdom that can be shared. In one of these Anglican religious communities, one nun put it like this: “We sisters have been practising social distancing for years.”
 
She offers some advice.

  1. Establish a routine – whether it is following your old one or, for many of us, creating a new one. We need this kind of stability to the pattern of our day. In religious communities, this pattern involves time for prayer and worship; eating; studying; working/exercising; and fun. A peaceful rhythm to each and every day.
  2. Reach out in love to others. In times of uncertainty it is easy to get caught up in making sure your loved ones are ok and your needs are met.  She encourages us to reach out beyond our immediate circle to neighbours and others who are in need. 
  3. Get to know and learn to enjoy the company of those you are with: families, friends, housemates, yourselves. Don’t hide from them, under the guise that work needs to be done.  This is a time to strengthen bonds of family and friendship by spending quality time together.
  4. Take some time out to be quiet – even if you are on your own. She says: “People say they want peace and quiet. Then, when it is thrown in their lap, they panic. They don’t know how to be alone. They are afraid to confront their ‘shadow side’, the hard truths about themselves that they don’t like.” In that silence, learn to hear the voice of Christ who loves, affirms, accepts and forgives us. 

Church Services
The live streaming of the Mass each day has received a great deal of appreciation and an astonishing number of people are viewing it and listening to the podcasts. It has become part and parcel of the pattern of their day. I am grateful to Fr Fabrizio and to Jonathan Dods for their hard work in accomplishing these each week (and to the children who have contributed so much to this Sunday’s podcast). You will find the links in the Newsletter below. 
 
If you would like us to pray for you or a loved one, do drop the Parish Office a line, at parishoffice@smaaa.org.uk, and we will incorporate their names into our Morning Prayer each day. 
 
Holy Week
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holiest Week of the year for Christians. This year it will feel very strange indeed as we make our journey to the Cross and to Easter.

The rites of Holy Week seem to demand communal celebrations – the Palm Procession, the Washing of the Feet, the Vigil in the Garden of Repose, the devotions at the Cross, the joyful proclamation of Alleluia on Easter day. 
 
All this we will have to forego this year, but hopefully we shall all participate as best we can in the live streaming of services from St Michael’s on Facebook and by the careful keeping of this Holy Week in our homes.  Masses will also be offered for the wider Italian community by Fr Fabrizio at this time.
 
On Palm Sunday, why not decorate your front door with some greenery? Join the responses of the Mass, and sing along where appropriate. 
 
The Maundy Thursday liturgy of the Last Supper is held at 7.30 in the evening. Give thanks to God for what the gift of the Eucharist means to you. Have a bell handy to ring. Light a candle in the darkness and spend some time with Christ as He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest.
 
On Good Friday, have a cross or crucifix nearby and say a prayer (one is added at the end of this letter) as you thank God for His love in Christ who died for us. 
 
And on Easter Day, have a bell handy to ring and when the priest says ‘Christ is risen, Alleluia’, startle your neighbours by shouting the response: ‘He is risen indeed. Alleluia.’  

The details of the services are in the newsletter below. 
 
You are all very much in our daily prayers. 
May you have a blessed and spiritually fruitful Holy Week and a Joy-filled Easter.
 
Yours in Christ,
Fr Kevin
 

Jesu, by thy wounded feet
Direct our path aright
Jesu, by thy nailed hands, move our deeds to love
Jesu, by thy pierced side, cleanse our desires:
Jesu, by thy crown of thorns, annihilate our pride;
Jesu, by thy silence, shame our complaints:
Jesu, by thy parched lips, curb our cruel speech:
Jesu, by thy closing eyes, look on our sin no more:
 
Jesu, by thy broken heart, knit ours to thee.
And by this sweet and saving sign
Lord, draw us to our peace and thine. Amen  
                                             (Richard Crashaw adapted)

Sent in our Events Newsletter, Friday April 3rd 2020