Daily Devotion 17 March 2021

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Luke 18:31-33 ‘Sharing the Journey of Christ’s Passion’

31 Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’

Travelling by train to Portsmouth an employee doing market research questioned me about the purpose of my journey. “So why are you on this train?” she asked, to which I replied “I’m on my way to stay at a Benedictine monastery on the Isle of Wight”. She was intrigued and wanted to know more. There began a half hour conversation about my forthcoming Holy Week retreat at Quarr Abbey. I was one of eight guests receiving generous hospitality, with invitations to any of the daily prayer offices with their impressive Gregorian music. We ate in silence in an atmospheric refectory surrounded by the twenty resident monks. Our evening meals were accompanied by the reading of Cardinal John Henry Newman’s sermons which were also enriching.

My week began with a Palm Sunday procession around the abbey garden (an intimation of both Gethsemane and Easter) bearing our palm leaves prior to a Solemn Mass. The Maundy Thursday ‘Evening Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper’ also included the washing of 12 pairs of feet (including mine!) by the Abbot. As a trainee minister this was a timely lesson in how compassionate service is itself sacramental. On Good Friday the ‘Veneration of the Cross’ included the opportunity to kiss the feet of Jesus on a large crucifix. While a meaningful act of devotion for some, for me as a questioning Nonconformist it was somewhat OTT! I was pleased that the 14 devotions of the ‘Stations of the Cross’ were earthed in the contemporary world with its various joys and sorrows. As this was a day of fasting there were some rumbling tummies during the ‘Three Hours’ service with thoughtful meditations on Christ’s spoken words from the cross.

The two-hour long Easter Vigil on Saturday evening saw a full church of local people experiencing 9 Biblical readings, the baptism of a small child and the first mass of Eastertide. In the semi-darkness we all held candles that had been lit from a fire, which for me linked the Easter celebrations with the symbolic fire of Pentecost. Easter Sunday began with a quick lesson in campanology – the guests were invited to ring one of the abbey bells to summon people to worship. The bell ringing was both scary and fun! The packed-out main Easter Mass was a joyous occasion with hymns, plainchant, smells (the incense of prayer) and bells.

On Easter Monday I caught the train home from Portsmouth. If there had been a market researcher on board I would have had so much more to share. Alongside the various liturgies, the symbolism of palms, feet, bread and wine, baptismal water, candles, smells and bells and a garden all conveyed their own unique message of Christ’s self- giving and redemptive love. As we approach Holy Week this year – whilst it will be different – may it remain a time of learning and deepening of the spirit as we prepare for the life-giving message of Easter.

Prayer:

Dearest Lord, grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace. Amen.

Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Gordon Harrison.
Image freely available online.

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