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This year the Easter Triduum was celebrated with due ceremonies in both our churches. There were enthusiastic congregations at all our services - especially at St Peter's, where Geoffrey Breeze warmly commends the changes this year.
Easter is always a wonderful happy and spiritual time in our Catholic Church and over the past years we have had many such occasions. However, once in a while we have an extraordinarily special year, which offers us a new insight into this remarkable event in the life of the church.
This year we were overjoyed to learn that Father Thomas would look after Easter for the whole of the three days at St Peterís. Such an arrangement could be perfectly coordinated throughout. It was such a joy to work with him. He may be young, he may have been ordained for only eighteen months, but oh boy, has he got enthusiasm and bright new interesting ideas and innovations!
Maundy Thursday introduced the first of Fr Thomasís new ideas. Instead of just a plain bring up of the holy oils as a single unit as in previous years, Fr Thomas arranged for the oils to be processed individually as normally happens at the chrism mass. A nurse brought up the oil of the sick; the oil of chrism by confirmation candidate and the oil of catechumens was brought up by a catechist. In previous years, our altar of repose has been a simple table at the back of the church, covered with a white sheet, a few leaves and flowers and the tabernacle plonked on top. This year, our altar of repose was a high lectern/table and was situated away from the church, inside our parish hall. Where the theme was the Garden of Gethsemane, it truly looked like a garden with flowers and greenery, enhancing our meditation with Jesus in his agony. We watched until 11.00 pm with the help of Fr Thomasís PowerPoint presentation of the images of the Garden of Gethsemane, after which, we all went home in reflective mood.
Good Friday brought bright pleasant dry weather for the walk of witness through the village. Fr Thomas led us with prayers, encouraging us to witness to the crowd of shoppers for whom Good Friday meant little. He then accompanied us through the village centre and on up to the church. In the service at the end of the procession, the representatives of the three churches in the Witterings (a first for all three churches to be represented) joined in.
The Good Friday celebration of the Lordís passion commenced with a commentary from a parishioner explaining what we were about to experience. This commentary was included for each stage of the celebration and again we were able to experience more fully the meaning of the passion and the death of our Lord.
The Easter Vigil was also an innovative change from former years. Instead of starting as usual with the service of light, we commenced our vigil in darkness with the liturgy of the word. It was not until after the readings that we ventured outside for the service of light after which we returned to church, which was still in darkness for the placing and incensing of the pascal candle. At this stage all of the lights were put on for the Exultet, the Gloria and the epistle.
Our Easter celebrations this year were equal to no other in recent times. They gave us much food for thought. Next year Fr Thomas will be looking after the celebrations at St Richardís and so, if we can use such a term in this context, Chichester has a grand treat in store. Look forward with anticipation and enjoy.