In two days is Palm Sunday and then the profoundly mysterious Holy Week containing ceremonies that we celebrate just once a year. I have to look through the ceremonies in case I have become “rusty” since last year. The space I have to do them in is radically reduced since last year. I have the tiny chapel, the landing on the top of the stairs and my library / bedroom.
Like last year, for my New Fire, I use an old cauldron with a bunch of candles glued with molten wax into a jam jar lid. It gives a small fire, but which is possible indoors without producing smoke or danger of burning the house down!
Palm Sunday will be quite straightforward with a simplified blessing of the palms and some chant from the Sarum books. The Passion of St Matthew will be read in English. Maundy Thursday is also straightforward, followed by the stripping of the altar. In the Use of Sarum, we don’t have the Altar of Repose on Maundy Thursday, but the Easter Sepulchre on Good Friday. That will be set up on the chapel window sill. I have the wooden crucifix for the Good Friday adoration of the Cross.
My Paschal Vigil will take a lot of thinking through, from the blessing of the fire and the procession of the single / triple candle from which the Paschal Candle will be lit during the Exsultet. I will read the four Prophecies from a simple metal foldable music desk. The first Mass of Easter will follow the Litanies which are quite different from the Roman one.
The alternative is to go to a Dominican-style community here in the Mayenne, the Fraternité de Saint-Vincent Ferrier. They use the old Dominican rite, similar to Sarum – – – but, they are Roman Catholics – traditionalists – and I am not. There is nothing wrong with attending services, but I fear their questions. Should I go in my cassock or completely anonymously, looking like an eccentric layman? They are good men, but they are what they are, and I am what I am, a worm and no man. Frankly I prefer to avoid the total humiliation and wonder if it would even be good for my soul! They know who I am, and I prefer to avoid the old shadows, bitterness and self-annihilation.
I shall worship in spiritual and sacramental communion with my Archbishop, with Bishop Damien and the ACC in the UK, with my brother priest in the Netherlands. I will serve in the dignity of my priestly vocation, in empathy with the suffering Christ and all who suffer and die with him at this moment. The Church is a sacramental mystery, not a political authority. She subsists even where the links are invisible and difficult to discern. The Mass and the Office build those invisible links of Communion that go far beyond institutions and human ambition. To stay in my little corner will do much more good.
I wish you all a blessed Holy Week from my tiny chapel and my solitude, asking your prayers in this wonder of the liturgy.