26 March 2021
I was writing last Friday how Passover this year begins at sunset tomorrow evening (Saturday 27 March 2021) and continues until Sunday evening 4 April. The Shabbat before Passover is known as Shabbat Hagadol, ‘the Great Shabbat.’
After an entire year of challenge, change, unrest and uncertainty, Passover, the Festival of Liberation, is arriving once again. Although many people of us are still deeply affected by COVID, spring is blooming, vaccines are beginning to roll out, and soon we may begin to hope that the worst is behind us.
As Jewish families sit down tomorrow evening and on Sunday night to relive the Exodus from slavery and eat the shmurah matzah and bitter herbs, these may also be evenings to thank God for the myriad of miracles big and small in daily and personal lives.
Those who have entered a new era of health will not forget those still in isolation. Pesach offers a renewed appreciation and focus on who interdependent all are.
The Jewish calendar is based on a lunar calendar with adjustments, which means that Passover begins on Saturday night about once every nine years. This means that erev Pesach, the day before Passover 2021, coincides with Shabbat, bringing with it a number of unique customs and guidelines.
It is an ancient tradition for the firstborns to fast on the day before Passover. Since Jews generally do not fast on Shabbat, which is a day of feasting, or on Friday which may interfere with the joy of Shabbat joy, this fast of the firstborn was observed in many families yesterday (Thursday 25 March, 12 Nissan).
The widespread custom is for firstborns to participate in a siyum or another celebratory event that overrides the fast and allows them to eat for the remainder of the day. This, too, was followed yesterday (Thursday).
On the night before Passover, households traditionally search by candlelight for chametz, which they are forbidden to own or eat on Passover. These are foods with leavening agents. Chametz is a product that is both made from one of five types of grain – two varieties of wheat and three varieties of barley – and has been combined with water and left to stand raw for longer than 18 minutes and becomes leavened. Some Sephardi Jews from Spain and North Africa, including Moroccan Jews, have different restrictions, such as avoiding rice during Pesach.
Since this search cannot be carried out on Friday night, which is Shabbat, this tradition was observed in families after nightfall last night.
The last bits of chametz must be burned the day before Passover, before the fifth halachic hour of the day. Since this cannot be done on Shabbat, the burning of the chametz takes place at the same time on Friday, even though just enough chametz is kept to eat at the Friday night and Shabbat morning meals.
All chametz that is saved for use after Passover must be sold to a non-Jew and then bought back again after the holiday has passed. This sale typically takes place on the morning before Passover. Since buying and selling are forbidden on Shabbat, the sale is transacted by the community rabbi on behalf of his community on Friday.
Since the house cannot be cleaned on Shabbat, all cleaning must be finished on Friday. Yet it is a mitzvah to eat bread at the Friday night and Shabbat morning meals. It is also forbidden to eat matzah at this time, so that it can be enjoyed fully on Passover eve.
In practice, a small portion of chametz is retained, carefully kept away from all other food and utensils, all of which are strictly kosher for Passover by this time.
On Shabbat morning, services are held early so that the Shabbat meal, which requires two challah loaves, which are chametz, can take place before the deadline.
In a practical way, families are advised to prepare small rolls, one for each participant at each meal, and this can then be handed out and eaten without the use of a knife. But all the chametz that has been left for Shabbat must be eaten before the deadline, as chametz cannot be sold, burned, or taken outside the home on Shabbat.
In practice, any remaining challah pieces and crumbs are flushed down the toilet. At this point, people say the second Kol Chamira declaration, disowning any leftover chametz.
As Shabbat is a day of rest, people cannot prepare for the events after Shabbat in ways that include setting the table, cooking, and preparing. This can only be done once night has fallen on Saturday night. The prayer before these tasks begin says, ‘Blessed is he who divides between the sacred (Shabbat) and the sacred (holiday).’
On Shabbat, the blessing is different for each of the three services, evening, morning and afternoon. On Friday evening, the blessing speaks of the Shabbat of creation, on Saturday morning of the Shabbat of revelation, and in the afternoon of the Shabbat of redemption. In this way, Shabbat becomes a journey through the three phases of faith: God’s creation of the Universe; God’s self-revelation to humanity; and God’s redemptive acts, collectively summoning us to build a world at peace at peace with itself because it is at peace with God.
‘He sustains the living with lovingkindness and with great compassion revives the dead. He supports the fallen, heals the sick, sets captives free, and keeps his faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like you, Master of might, and to whom can you be compared, O King who brings death and gives life, and makes salvation grow?’ (Authorised Daily Prayer Book, p 287).
Many communities sing special hymns at the morning services on Shabbat haGadol. The main theme of these hymns is the laws of Passover, presented in verse form to make it easy for people to become familiar with the laws of the festival
Part of the Passover Haggadah is read on Shabbat haGadol, beginning at the paragraph that opens with the words ‘We were slaves’ and continuing until the words, ‘to atone for all of our sins.’ One reason for this is that the redemption began on Shabbat haGadol. Another reason is so children become familiar with the contents of the Haggadah. Yet another explanation is that the reading from the Haggadah on Shabbat haGadol is like a rehearsal for the Seder night, and allows people to become more familiar with the text.
In some Sephardic communities, it is customary to greet each other on this Shabbat to adding the title of the day: ‘Shabbat haGadol mevorach, a blessed Shabbat haGadol.’
It is a custom in some communities on the day before Shabbat haGadol to bake a small quantity of bread from the flour that has been reserved for making the matzot. This bread is referred to as the ‘challah of the poor’ or the ‘synagogue challah,’ and it is distributed to the poor in the community. The wealthy prepare a large quantity of this special challah, and those less well-off prepare a smaller quantity.
Traditionally, a lengthy and expansive sermon is given to the general community in the afternoon. There is a special Haftarah reading on this Shabbat from the Book of Malachi: ‘Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents …’ (Malachi 4: 5-6).
Shabbat haGadol mevorach
Sunday 28 March 2021
Palm Sunday, the Sixth Sunday in Lent
Due to Covid-19 guidelines from the Government and the Bishops of the Church of Ireland, there is no public celebration of the Parish Eucharist next Sunday, Palm Sunday, 28 March 2021.
However, there will be a celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday, and the sermon and intercessions will be made available online (www.patrickcomerford.com), through the parish Facebook page, and through Patrick Comerford’s YouTube channel.
In addition, the Cathedral Eucharist is livestreamed from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, at 11.15 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
In preparation for this Sunday, or on Sunday itself, you may find it helpful to use the Sunday readings, Collects and Post-Communion Prayers.
The Readings: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29; Mark 11: 1-11.
Liturgical colour: Red (or Violet).
Theme: Moving from Palm Sunday through the disappointment of Good Friday to Easter hope
The Collect of the Day (Palm Sunday):
Almighty and everlasting God,
who, in your tender love towards the human race,
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
Grant that we may follow the example
of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lenten Collect:
Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Post Communion Prayer (Palm Sunday):
Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
134, Make way, make way for Christ the King (CD 8)
231, My song is love unknown (CD 14)
The pandemic restrictions also mean that, despite planning and preparation, there are no public services during Holy Week.
However, a reflection in the form of a poem on the themes of Holy Week, is being planned for the evenings from Monday to Maundy Thursday at 6.30 p.m., and at noon on both Good Friday and the Saturday before Easter.
These Holy Week reflections will be posted each day on Patrick’s blog (www.patrickcomerford.com), on his YouTube channel, and through the Parish Facebook page:
1, Monday 29 March, ‘Lent’ by Christina Rossetti (6.30 pm)
2, Tuesday 30 March, ‘Evensong’ by CS Lewis (6.30 pm)
3, Wednesday 31 March, ‘Marked by Ashes’ by Walter Bruegemann (6.30 pm)
4, Maundy Thursday 1 April, ‘Julian at the Mysteries’ by CP Cavafy (6.30 pm, with the Maundy Eucharist)
5, Good Friday, 2 April, ‘Three Hours’ with three poems by Leonard Cohen, Katharine Tynan and TS Eliot (12 noon to 3 pm)
6, Saturday 3 April, ‘If it be your will’ by Leonard Cohen (12 noon)
During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:
1, a photograph of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;
2, the day’s Gospel reading;
3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).
This week I am offering photographs from seven churches that were designed by Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-1852), the architect singularly responsible for shaping and influencing the Gothic revival in church architecture on these islands.
Friday next (2 April 2021) is Good Friday, and so my photographs this Friday morning (26 March 2021) are from Holy Cross Church, Upper Saint John Street, Lichfield.
The church was enlarged and rebuilt in 1832 by the Lichfield-born architect Joseph Potter (1756-1842) in a mixed Romanesque and Gothic style. When Pugin was in Lichfield in 1837, Potter had completed Holy Cross Church. Pugin was commissioned to add a screen and other furnishings in 1841.
Although Pugin’s additions and furnishings have long disappeared, Potter’s designs for Holy Cross, including his entrance door and his turret of Tixall stone in a mixed Romanesque and Gothic style, later influenced Pugin’s designs for Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey, his only Romanesque-style church in Co Wexford, which is my choice of church tomorrow morning.
The entrance to Potter’s turret in Holy Cross Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
John 10: 31-42 (NRSVA):
31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ 33 The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods” — and the scripture cannot be annulled — 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ 39 Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41 Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ 42 And many believed in him there.
The interior of the Church of the Holy Cross, Upper John Street, Lichfield, today … the screen and furnishings designed by Pugin in 1841 are no longer here (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (26 March 2021), prays:
Let us pray for the people of Bangladesh as they celebrate their country’s Independence Day today.
Holy Cross Church, Upper John Street, Lichfield … the door is reflected in AWN Pugin’s designs for Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org