29 March 2013

Good Friday and Easter in Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral … three days of prayer, retreat and liturgy from Good Friday to Easter Day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford

Patrick Comerford

I am back in Lichfield for the end of Holy Week and Easter in Lichfield Cathedral from today, Good Friday [29 March 2013], until Easter Day [31 March 2013], having taken part in the Chrism Eucharist and the renewal of ordination vows in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, yesterday.

These Three Days (Triduum) are marked by the Eucharist of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, through the Liturgy of the Passion on Good Friday, to the dismal silent emptiness of Holy Saturday, relieved by the merest murmur of liturgical contribution, and on into the darkness and light of the Easter Liturgy, which will be kept in Lichfield Cathedral at 5 a.m. on Easter Morning.

There is a full programme of worship and events in Lichfield Cathedral for the Three Days leading up to the Easter Vigil.

The Vigil is being followed on Easter morning with a celebration breakfast in College Hall in the Cathedral Close. Hopefully, by then, the birds will be singing, the sun will be shining, echoing the Easter proclamation.

The Liturgy of Good Friday at noon today is sung by the Cathedral Choir and the Chamber Choir, with the Rite of Preparation, the Liturgy of the Passion, the Proclamation of the Cross, and Prayers of Intercession and Liturgy of the Sacrament.

This evening, at 7.30 p.m., Ecumenical Worship has been organised by the Cathedral and Churches Together in Lichfield.

Tomorrow morning (Holy Saturday, 30 March), ‘They came to the tomb’ is the title of a stational office at 9.30 a.m., with prayers for those preparing the cathedral for the Easter Proclamation. In the evening, Choral Evensong is at 5.30 p.m.

On Easter Day (Sunday, 31 March), the Easter Liturgy begins early in the morning at 5 a.m. in relative darkness, which is illumined by the new fire, kindled at the west front, and by the Paschal candle. This Easter Vigil lasts about 2½ hours, and with its beauty and drama it is something I do not want to miss.

It begins outside with the lighting of a fire and the hallowing of the Easter Candle We shall then move inside for the singing of the hauntingly wonderful Exultet, in which we join the angels in praising Christ for his victory over darkness.

We then hear the history of God’s dealings with humanity in the Scriptures, each reading followed by a plainsong psalm sung by a choir. We then hear the Gospel and a homily, this year by the Canon Treasurer and Archdeacon of Lichfield, the Ven Chris Liley.

The baptismal font in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

We move then to the font for the renewal of our own baptismal life and promises. Finally, we move into quire for the first Eucharist of Easter at the cathedral high altar.

Later on Easter morning, there is Holy Communion (BCP) at 8 a.m., Morning Prayer at 8.45 a.m., Sung Eucharist with Renewal of Baptismal Vows at 10.30 a.m., with the Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra accompanying the Cathedral Choir in a programme of Mozart, and Solemn Evensong at 3.30 p.m.

This is a very personal retreat, and in between these liturgies, I plan to find time for reflection and prayer, walks in the cathedral city and the countryside, and some time with friends.

Wise words from Dr Samuel Johnson in the Hedgehog Vintage Inn, Lichfield ... I am staying here for the Easter Weekend (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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