I write almost exactly a year after COVID-19 was designated a global pandemic, and the Church was required to suspend in-person worship and on-site day-to-day operations. I remember how strange it felt to walk away from the deanery offices not knowing when we would be able to return.
The initial closure was to last 60 days. We knew immediately, of course, that Holy Week and Easter would be unlike anything we had ever planned. However, I cannot believe now that I was naïve enough to imagine that perhaps we could simply put the Easter Vigil on hold. That sometime – maybe as late as the autumn – we could celebrate a resurrection from this pandemic by lighting the new fire on the front steps of the cathedral, processing joyfully into the space with the paschal candle, and proclaiming new life.
It didn’t happen.
But I do wonder if maybe, just maybe, this is something we can look forward to in 2021.
For here is the thing about the seasons of the church year: we observe them in a particular order, each with its own colour, and music, and a beginning, a middle and an end. But the truth is, these seasons are not so much the regimented imposition of the spiritual themes they announce, as they are symbolic of the spiritual themes that generally govern our lives. I don’t need to wait till Lent to be penitent, and the fact is, given the death of a beloved, I may find myself in deep grief in the heart of Easter. How many times have you heard someone say they just aren’t in “the Christmas spirit?” The Church can’t tell us how to feel: it can only invite us to be mindful of all these movements in our lives, and to make space for them. It can only invite to name our Easter moments, our Lenten moments, our “ordinary” moments.
And if that is so, then should someone or something roll away the stone from tomb of our current imprisonment, let us sound the note of Easter, and rejoice as those who have come out of darkness into a marvellous light, out of death into life, out of sorrow into joy. No matter whether “Easter” is over or not.
No promises – because I’ve been proved wrong before! – but don’t be surprised to see Easter in July!
Yours faithfully, and in hope,
(The Very Reverend) M. Ansley Tucker
Rector & Dean
10.30 a.m. Palm Sunday
A livestreamed commemoration of Jesus’ defiant entrance into Jerusalem and the wild enthusiasm of the crowds. Palms will be available for pick-up at the doors of the cathedral. Check out the Cathedral Check-in on Friday March 26, to learn how to make your own palm cross.
4.00 p.m. Music and Readings for Passiontide
By now a tradition at the cathedral, this service turns the corner from the adulation of the palms to the dreadful chain of events that follow. It is an opportunity to hear some of the most beautiful music in the liturgical repertoire, and to allow it to colour our reading of Christ’s passion.
5.00 p.m. Evensong
The daily office sung by our choral scholars as it might be “in quires and places where they sing.” The recitation of the daily offices of matins and vespers mark time, and thereby sanctify it. So too, does this daily offering of Evensong in Holy Week mark Jesus’ inexorable progress toward the Cross. A simple service, livestreamed, with choir.
7.00 p.m. Compline
Maundy Thursday, of course, is the night of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his arrest and trial, the denial by Peter, and his conviction of a capital offence. But before all that, Jesus gathered the twelve in an upper room to keep Passover, and to give them the means to fortify themselves forever: Take, eat. Drink this, all of you. And know that I am with you.
Sadly, once again this year we are unable to gather on this occasion to eat and drink of the eucharistic sacrament. That time will come soon. Meanwhile, we know that our God is faithful, and is in no way dependent upon, or confined to, our ceremonies in order to be present to us. God is here. Now.
Compline is the church’s nighttime office – and it carries within its symbolism all those things that go bump in the night: darkness, fears, evil, death, the grave, rest, and – hope. We recite this office with the passion of Christ in our hearts, and the knowledge that he has gone already where all of us must one day go.
12.00 noon. The Seven Last Words
Join us for a livestreamed service featuring Haydn’s Seven Last Words played by the Emily Carr String Quartet, introductory chorales sung by our Cathedral choral scholars, and reflections by seven distinguished Canadian preachers.
10.30 a.m. Service of the Word and Renewal of Baptismal Vows
A livestreamed service with big music, which will incorporate the renewal of baptismal vows that normally happens at the Great Vigil of Easter the night before. Bishop Anna Greenwood-Lee is the preacher.
4.00 p.m. Evensong
We tend to think of Easter Day as a “morning event.” The gospel of John says, “Early on the first day of the week while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb…” However, the bible provides us a rich tradition of evening happenings as well. One of these is the encounter of Cleopas and his unnamed companion with the risen Christ on their way back home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. This is traditionally the focus of Evensong on Easter night.