Dear St. Paul’s family,
Once again we are invited to walk with
Jesus through Holy Week, as we have done year after year. But this year
we don’t have the same company on the way. It’s a lonely walk for some,
a painful walk for those who are ill or who have loved ones who are
ill, a contemplative walk for others.
It is very strange for me
to not be preparing to spend a lot of time in a stripped and darkened
church, participating in somber and beautiful sung liturgies, kneeling
at the cathedral’s altar rail, processing to the garden of repose in our
chapel, noticing the scent of the Easter lilies as they are delivered
and stashed in preparation for the Vigil. Instead I am spending a lot of
time in front of a borrowed laptop, recording video and sound,
adjusting the light in my study, learning how to be a TV producer
simultaneously with being a priest. It is a strange time for me, and I
know it is equally strange for all of you.
But it’s still Holy
Week, the sacred heart of our year, as it has always been. If you are
able to participate in our online liturgies you are hearing the
Scripture and prayers that we have always heard; if you are not online I
commend to you the Book of Common Prayer, which provides the Proper
Liturgy for each day along with Scripture references for the readings.
We can still enter imaginatively into the events of Jesus’ last week on
earth. We can still pray the psalms of lamentation, with perhaps more
feeling this year than in other years. The Solemn Collects of Good
Friday, that call us to pray for people everywhere according to their
needs, strike both personal and global notes, as we share with the
entire planet in this time of illness, fear, and isolation, and as we
lift up the hope of life after death.
We are Easter people. The
promise holds sure: that the Son of God, who lived as one of us and
suffered for us, was raised again, and we are raised with him to new
life. This pandemic will end, and we will be reunited, and the
Resurrection will feel all the more powerful for all that we are
enduring now. Theologians like to say we live in the “already but not
yet”: Jesus has already risen and we have been saved, but the Kingdom
has not yet fully been inaugurated. Bringing this idea home, Holy Week
and Easter are already realities in our lives, but this year our full
celebration of the Resurrection belongs in the “not yet” category.
are moments of grace and joy in the midst of every tragedy. I have seen
those moments in the past few weeks and they lift me up and remind me
to keep hope alive. I am sure that you too have experienced such
moments. Those are the moments when we can be comforted and strengthened
by our trust in the love of God that carries us through all challenges
and difficulties. May the three holy days of the Triduum be a time of
profound closeness to God, and may Easter joy be real for you.
Your sister in Christ,
Dear St. Paul’s family,