On Sunday morning we set off at 07:35 for Selkirk in the Scottish Borders—where I grew up, and where my Mum and sister still live—to celebrate Isaac’s baptism.
We chose Selkirk because my sister is really unwell and is unable to travel long distances, and so wanting her to be a part of it we travelled to her, to the church of St John the Evangelist where I had been baptised around 14,450 days earlier.
After the baptism the cake appeared: a magnificent Noah’s Ark cake <whisper>from Marks & Spencer</whisper>.
Reuben, Joshua and Isaac were absolute stars the whole day, I was so proud of them all.
A lovely day with friends and family, and many prayers of thanks to God.
This service on Maundy Thursday is the Eucharist of the Eucharist, the Mass of the Mass. We remember the origin of the Eucharist: Jesus’s last supper with his disciples before he retired to the Garden of Olives and was handed over to the Romans by Judas Iscariot.
Maundy Thursday always reminds me of someone I knew during my curacy at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness. His name was Cathal and he was a member of the L’Arche community in Inverness.
Every Sunday after the service Cathal would process solemnly up the aisle to the west door, holding his prayer book above his head as though carrying the gospel, where he would look you in the eye and would say quite sincerely “the cup goes to the garden. The cup goes to the garden.”
“That’s right, Cathal,” I’d say, to reassure him that I’d understood what he was saying, “the cup goes to the garden”.
And it was about this service, the Solemn Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper, to which he was referring. Because after the Eucharist the priest, deacon and sub-deacon take consecrated bread and wine to the “altar of repose” (which is an altar usually in a side chapel decorated with flowers) to remind us of Jesus moving from the Last Supper to the Garden of Olives.
It showed to me how important the liturgy is. It showed me how these dramatic, choreographed parts of the service can speak to people at different levels and to people of different abilities. It showed to me how liturgy is more than just the words, and that by acting something out it can go deeper than just understanding it with the mind.
(It’s taken me three days to finish this blog post… off now to the Easter Vigil where I’m singing the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation.)
Readings for Sundays, weekdays, festivals (saints’ days) and special occasions (both Eucharists and daily prayer).
Each year the Church produces a guide to the calendar and lectionary which keeps mortals like you and me correct. The Sunday readings are on a 3 year cycle (next year is Year A), while the daily prayer readings and daily Eucharists are on a 2 year cycle (next year is Year 1).
Once you add in saints’ days, and start translating saints days to adjacent days because they clash with feast days of a higher order, it all begins to get a bit complicated.
Since 2005 I’ve provided these dates and readings (in various degrees of completeness) in a digital format that allows users to import them directly into Microsoft Outlook. Outlook requires a simple Comma Separated Values (CSV) file which can be prepared in Microsoft Excel (other spreadsheet applications are available) with the appropriate information in them:
Subject (The name of the day)
Start and end date
Start and end time
Whether it’s an all day event or not
Show time as
For the last few weeks I’ve been preparing the files, sitting for hours in front of my computer typing in line after line of readings.
Most years I do it in a bit of a last-minute panic and end up creating a bespoke file specifically for that year, but this year I wanted to be organised and produce something that can be used year after year.
So this year I’m creating a master Excel file that contains all the readings for each combination of three year and two year cycles:
A1 and A2
B1 and B2
C1 and C2
plus a comprehensive master list of saints’ days, which should in future enable me to compile the files in just a few days rather than 4-8 weeks as it does at the moment.
I’ve just finished entering all the readings for the entire church year—from the first Sunday of Advent to the Week of Proper 34 (Christ the King)—and tomorrow morning will start on the readings for festivals, common saints’ days and special occasions.
Then I’ll be ready to compile everything for this year. For once I may even be done by the start of the church year (which is this coming Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent).
So there I was, up bright and early on a Tuesday morning ready to get started preparing to think about thinking about preparing a sermon for Sunday when I realised that during the summer months the Revised Common Lectionary (the big book with the list of readings for each service) goes a bit gung-ho! in its list of suggestions.
So this coming Sunday we’re offered two streams:
Genesis 24.34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45.10-17 or Song of Songs 2.8-13
Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30
Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30
I’m fairly confident that it’s the continuous stream that Newport-on-Tay follows but play has been delayed until I get confirmation … Ho hum.
It also doesn’t help that the Scottish Episcopal Church lectionary lists 6 July as “Week of Proper 14” while the Revised Common Lectionary believes that the Sunday between 3 and 9 July is the week of “Proper 9”.
Not so common after all, eh!
Turns out it’s the thematic readings … time to get a readin’, a prayin’ and a writin’.