Journeying in Holy Week

I first started going to church when I was in my late 20s. My very first experience of church was High Scottish Episcopal with bells and smells and all the drama I could have asked for. And I loved it.

I vividly remember my first Holy Week. Each night I went to church and watched the story unfold. Outdoor processions waving palms; listening to the harrowing story of the Passion being sung; compline; footwashing; the stark stripping of the altars; the Watch at the Altar of Repose; Confession; walking the Stations of the Cross; three priests in black throwing themselves to the ground on Good Friday making me gasp; the Veneration of the Cross; the preparation of the church on Holy Saturday; and then the Vigil of Easter at midnight with fire and light and water and alleluias. That first Easter I was so happy and I believed.

By the end of it all, I couldn’t believe how emotional and tired I felt. It was as if I had been to the theatre every night for a week and been traumatised by what I had seen. That first Holy Week has stayed with me ever since. The smells of incense and a myriad of candles; the images and lack of them; the taste of a ‘dry mass’; the dark and the light.

The following year, as Holy Week approached, we were sitting in the pub after church. I asked if there was a book I could get that would explain it all to me. This year I wanted to be prepared so that I knew what was going to happen. A few people shook their heads and muttered that they couldn’t think of a book that would help and then one man said, “Yes, I know of a book that would tell it all.”  I took out my filofax, got my pen, and said, “OK, what’s the name of this book?”

“The bible,” he answered wearily.

2 thoughts on “Journeying in Holy Week

  1. ah – so now you know why I write those stories…

    Seriously, the problem is that it is very hard to understand things written in the Iron Age.

  2. No one can fling (or ‘flick’?) themselves onto the floor with more grace than Father Kevin.

    And even now, in my vegetarian days, Holy Saturday stirs fond memories of the smell of brass polish and cooking bacon.

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