Included in today's update: A GOOD FRIDAY Message from Father Keith, Lessons for the Triduum Devotions, Information about Services on our website, Bishop's Easter Service at the Cathedral
FROM THE RECTOR
We are in the very think of it. This pandemic. This closing of so much around us that is familiar. This cancellation of school, sports events and concerts, movies and Broadway. This Paschal Triduum. This Good Friday. This fasting from family and friends, from gathering, from what often defines our sense of community. When I contemplated giving up something for Lent, I never thought it would go this far!
The church year, with all its holy days, festivals, and cycles of prayer and scripture, will also lead you through times of quiet and darkness, if we will let it.
But why do we do this? Why has the Church asked us to do this for all these centuries: to take the time apart and deliberately dwell upon the suffering and death of Jesus? Why do we hold ourselves back from the brightness of Easter at this time, first forcing ourselves to walk through the darkness of Good Friday, the silence that marks Holy Saturday? Many people, of course, do not. They practice their faith cafeteria style, choosing only the most fun entrees and spending most of their time at the dessert table. Many will arrive at Easter, having come straight from Christmas. They select from the serving line the quiet beauty of Christmas and the exuberant new life of Easter, but decline the holy waiting of Advent and the emptiness of Lent. They are religious picky-eaters, seeking only feel-good religious experiences and the liveliest, most festive church programming - but unknowingly missing out on the life-giving strength and health of the whole buffet.
But it has been the wisdom of the Church, from very early on, to regularly call us into this waiting and emptiness. Why are such things on the menu? What have Christians gained from the Good Fridays of all those centuries?
There are lots of good, deep, theological reasons, of course, discovered and reinforced over all the centuries of practice. But let me focus on just one . . .
Many across our nation and around the world will spend the Passover and Easter holy-days either in the hospital themselves, or worried about family members and friends in ICU units in hospitals, or tents, or convention centers, even the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC. Springtime and sunshine and holy days will come hard for them this year. And none of us will be in church this Easter Sunday - a situation that is understandable to our head, but difficult to bear in our heart.
All of us need our faith to help us with something, especially in this difficult time. We need to be reassured that God is with us in this dark space. We need to know, in a deep and meaningful way, that God is with us here; that God is still God, even in the darkness. That God is God of the valleys, as well as the mountaintops. That God is the God of the bitter, as well as the sweet.
This Good Friday practice of dwelling with the cross, and the suffering, and death and betrayal and violence, helps us to know the depths to which God descends to be with us. But the Cross us to what extent; the Cross tells us that God comes to be with us completely, even into death. The Cross tells us that God descends not just into the good parts of our lives, not just into the successes of our lives, but that God descends all the way into the depths of our fearful lives, our ignorant lives, our painful lives, our betraying and violent and murderous lives. That God descends all the way into the dregs, all the way into the pit. To be with us completely. That is what we need to know. And feel. And experience.
We all know someone for whom Easter, if they let it come at all, will come hard for them this year. For some in our community of faith, for a variety of reasons, Easter will be hard to come by this year. They - and we, ourselves - need Good Friday to help us know, deep in our bones, that God has come, will come, to us anyway - no matter the pain, no matter the fear, no matter the betrayal, no matter the failure. Our God has already been there.
Easter will be different this year - very different. But if we listen to Good Friday deeply enough, descend far enough, feel intensely enough, we will know that God will not abandon us in our pain, and our fear, and our failure. We will discover that our God is just as present in the valleys as the mountaintops.
So, no matter what you bring with you into this Good Friday, do not rush too quickly to Easter. Go down into the valley of this Good Friday. Descend into the depths of the Cross. Do not be afraid of what you will find there. Know in your bones, in your soul, in your tears that your God has already been there. And Easter joy awaits just around the corner.
In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ,
and our God who wants only health and wholeness for his children,
I send you blessings, peace and grace in these uncertain, confusing and anxious times.
LESSONS FOR THE TRIDUUM DEVOTIONS
Here is the Collect and list of assigned readings for the days of the Paschal Triduum.
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 95, 88, and 27
O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of the enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
ONCE AGAIN, DON'T FORGET . . .
THE RECTOR'S HOLY WEEK & EASTER
SERVICES & MESSAGE ON THE WEBSITE
Since safety and health reasons demand that church services be suspended, the Rector will be recording a service of prayers, scripture and homily which will be posted on the parish website (messiahgwynedd.org). Services for the following days will be found on the website:
Please go the church website (messiahgwynedd.org) on these important holy-days and join with the Rector and your parish family in worship.
AND OUR BISHOP'S EASTER SERVICE
FROM THE PHILADELPHIA CATHEDRAL
On Easter morning, 10:00am, Bishop Gutierrez will celebrate and preach at a celebration of Holy Eucharist from the Philadelphia Cathedral. All are invited to participate in this festive Easter liturgy by logging on to the Cathedral website: philadelphiacathedral.org.