HOLY WEEK is the final week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter, beginning with Palm Sunday. Special services are held in both churches throughout the week, with the services on Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday alternating between the two parishes year on year: please check our Services and Events page for the specific venue on these occasions.
At the beginning of the service, Palm Crosses are distributed and blessed with these words:
God our Saviour, whose Son Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem as Messiah to suffer and die, let these palms be for us signs of his victory; and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
The procession carrying palms is the first of the commemorative liturgical actions of Holy Week which remind us of the main events in the last week of Jesus’ ministry. But this procession does not only remind us what happened then. It is an act of praise to Christ the King who reigns and triumphs on the cross, and it expresses our own readiness to take up our cross and follow our crucified and risen Lord, as we go with him to the place of suffering and death.
The reading of the Passion Gospel takes us into the heart of Holy Week. The solemn reading of the passion and death of Jesus Christ is an essential part of the liturgy. Coming after the procession, it reminds us that the kingly power of Christ is the power of self-giving love.
Compline (Night Prayer)
8pm: Tuesday of Holy Week in Henlow, Wednesday in Langford
Traditionally held at the end of the day, Compline, or Night Prayer, is a quiet, meditative service. It comprises recollection and confession, recitation of Psalms, and singing of the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon’s Song).
Preserve us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.
8pm: Eucharist of the Last Supper *
Maundy Thursday marks a new beginning, the beginning of the end. From this point on, our Christian worship is a continuum through to Easter morning. The Jewish beginning of the day (in the evening) unites the events of Maundy Thursday with the death of Christ the following afternoon.
There are several emphases within this evening. First, the theme of love and service is demonstrated by Jesus washing his disciples' feet. It is this action which gives us the word ‘Maundy’ from the traditional anthem, ‘Mandatum novum do vobis’ - ‘A new commandment I give to you’ (John 13:34). Second, there is the theme of redemption in the institution of the Lord’s Supper. At the end of the eucharist the altar is stripped and the lights extinguished.
10am: Stations of the Cross, Henlow
We reflect upon Jesus's journey to the cross, assisted in our reflections by the posters situated around the church. At each point in the journey we pause and say this traditional prayer:
We adore you, O Christ,
And we praise you:
Because by your holy Cross
You have redeemed the world.
2pm: Meditation on the Cross, both parishes
The ‘seven last words’, recorded in the gospels as being spoken by Christ as he hung on the cross, have long been used as a helpful structure for reflection on Christ’s passion.
To quote the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams,
Reflecting on the cross does not, for the believer, simply begin with the cross as a historical event; it begins from recognising – as a result of God’s act in the resurrection – what is unique in this cross as well as what in the cross is the universal truth of our untruthful humanity. It begins with recognising that this is a place where God and humanity are displayed in equal clarity and fullness. It is the ultimately irreligious place; and at the same time the Holy of Holies. It changes what holiness means because it changes our estimate of where God is. And if we are serious about it, it changes not simply what we think or feel, but literally where we are, where we find ourselves.
Come and spend some time apart from the world, listen to and meditate upon Christ’s powerful words.
Holy Saturday *
Christ is dead and buried in the tomb. We mourn his absence.
7.30/8pm: Service of Light
Our period of mourning is almost over: we prepare for the amazing surprise of Easter Day...
Easter Day: Family Communion Services
9.30am, Langford; 11am, Henlow
Priest: Alleluia! Christ is risen.
People: He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
So begins our celebration of the resurrection. During the services today we renew our baptism promises and are commissioned to continue in our worship and service of God.
* The services on Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday alternate between the two parishes year on year: please check our Services and Events page for the specific venue on these occasions.
Illustrations from Signs, Symbols & Saints: Images from Turvey Abbey, CD Rom, © McCrimmons Publishing, used under license.
Archbishop's quote from E. Newell (ed), Seven Words for the 21st Century, p.8