Holy Week Reflections
April 14, 2014
Dydd Sadwrn Sanctaidd - Claddu / Holy Saturday - BurialBy the Revd Canon John Walters, Vicar of the Parish of Llandeilo Tal-y-Bont in Llwchwr and the Bishop's Officer for Welsh Language. Darlleniad Ioan 19. 38-42
38Wedi hynny dyma Joseff o Arimathea yn mynd at Peilat i ofyn am ganiatâd i gymryd corff Iesu. (Roedd Joseff yn un o ddilynwyr Iesu, ond yn cadw'n ddistaw am y peth am fod ganddo ofn yr arweinwyr Iddewig.) Cafodd ganiatâd Peilat, a daeth a chymryd y corff. 39Roedd Nicodemus gydag e hefyd, sef y dyn oedd wedi mynd i weld Iesu ganol nos. Daeth Nicodemus a tua 34 cilogram o fyrr ac aloes, 40i'w ddefnyddio wrth rwymo corff Iesu â stribedi o liain. Dyma sut roedd yr Iddewon yn arfer claddu pobl. 41Roedd gardd wrth ymyl y man lle cafodd Iesu ei groeshoelio, ac roedd bedd newydd yn yr ardd — doedd neb erioed wedi ei gladdu ynddo o'r blaen. 42Am ei bod hi'n bnawn Gwener (y diwrnod cyn y dydd Saboth Iddewig), ac am fod y bedd mor agos, dyma nhw'n rhoi Iesu i orwedd yno.
Reading John 19. 38-42
38After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (NRSV)
Cerddoriaeth / MusicWilliam Orbit - Adagio for Strings “Felly . . . rhoesant Iesu i orwedd yno.” Ioan 19:42 (hefyd Ioan 5:1-18 a 12:24)
Fe ŵyr y sawl a gollodd un sy’n annwyl am y teimlad rhyfedd a ddaw wedi’r gwasanaeth angladdol. Y mae popeth bellach ar ben, prysurdeb y trefniadau, yr ymweliadau gan gyfeillion yn cydymdeimlo, a’r cyfnod o aros rhwng y golled a’r ffarwelio ffurfiol yn yr angladd. Distawrwydd a llonyddwch sy’n aros, yn deimladau eithaf chwithig. Gwacter yn aml yw’r distawrwydd, a llethol y llonyddwch. Cyn hir rhaid fydd wynebu bywyd mewn ffordd newydd, ymgyfarwyddo â’r golled a dysgu byw heb un annwyl.
Dychmygwch ymateb cyfeillion Iesu i ddigwyddiadau Gwener y Groglith. Eu cyfaill pennaf wedi ei ddwyn oddi wrthynt, ei ladd ar groes a’i ddodi i orwedd ar frys mewn bedd ar fenthyg. Dyma Efengyl Ioan yn cyfleu yr un teimladau a ddisgrifiwyd uchod. Llonyddwch a distawrwydd, popeth ar ben a thrannoeth yn ddydd Sabath, diwrnod y gorffwys, fel pe bai’n pwysleisio’r terfyn.
Un tro, medd Ioan, bu dadlau rhwng Iesu â’r awdurdodau crefyddol; hwythau yn ei gyhuddo o dorri’r gyfraith ynglŷn â chadw’r Sabath, gan ei fod wedi iacháu dyn cloff. Trodd Iesu y ddadl ar ei phen. Er i’r hanes yn llyfr Genesis ddweud fod yr Hollalluog wedi gorffwys o’i waith creadigol ar y seithfed dydd, y mae Iesu yn honni mai parhau i weithio y mae Duw.
Wrth fyfyrio ar y dydd hwn rhwng y Groglith a’r Pasg, y mae Ann Griffiths yn deall hyn oll, ac yn un o’i hemynau mwyaf y mae’n ein gwahodd i ystyried gwirionedd y diwrnod hwnnw:
“O f’enaid, gwêl y fan gorweddodd pen brenhinoedd, awdwr hedd; y greadigaeth ynddo’n symud yntau’n farw yn y bedd…..”Boed i ni yn ein disgwyl a’n gorffwys gyda Iesu brofi o’i rym creadigol ar fore’r Pasg. Reflection - "And so . . . they laid Jesus there." John 19:42 (also John 5 1-18 and 12:24)
Anyone who has lost a loved one knows of that strange sensation that can overcome us after the funeral. The arrangements completed and that busy waiting time between the bereavement and the finality of the funeral over. A strange silence and stillness falls, the silence empty and the stillness almost oppressive. Nothing will be the same again, and before long life must be faced in a new way, with the loss accepted and the challenge of learning how to live without our loved one.
Imagine the feelings of Jesus’ friends following the events of Good Friday. Their best friend taken from them and killed on a cross, then his body laid hastily in a stranger’s grave. John’s Gospel seems to convey this same experience of grief as described above. All is over, and the following day being a Sabbath emphasises the silence and stillness.
In another place, John tells of Jesus debating with the religious authorities of his day; they accused him of breaking the law of Sabbath observance, in healing a lame man. Jesus responded by turning the argument on its head. Even though the story in the book of Genesis told of the Almighty resting from his creative work on the seventh day, Jesus tells them that God is still at work.
Meditating on this day, the Sabbath between Good Friday and Easter, Ann Griffiths, author of some of the greatest hymns in the Welsh language, invites us to ponder its significance:
“See, see my soul, the place where lay the chief of kings, the author of peace; all creation moves to life in him yet lifeless he lies in the grave….”As we pause with Jesus on this day, may we know the creative force of his resurrection on Easter morning.
Good Friday - Contract CompleteBy the Revd Canon George Bennett, Vicar of the Parish of Newton in Clyne Reading John 19. 25-30
25Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.Music Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, with soprano Julia Faulkner Reflection - Contract Complete
In the happy summer morning, all is cheerful chat and bustle in the workshop of the Carpenter. A special job is being done; the assistant passes nails and glue. Through the thin wall Mary hears a familiar rhythm - hammer blows knocking the joints in place, the oily rag sliding over the timber, bringing out the deep hues of the wood. She hears her Son’s deep chuckle, responding to a comment she can’t hear. The "ta rah!" A mock roll of drums with the fists on the workbench. A cry of triumph: It is finished!
In a good year with plenty of orders, she heard that several times a week. There have been no good years lately. On this dark and fearful April afternoon, the ultimate nightmare, watching her Son fade away. And then at the end is a croak. Mary alone recognises the familiar cry: It is finished!
She is pierced through and through. No-one understands but she, who held him as a baby, and taught him the words he’s using now. The last words, the very last words; for the contract is complete.
O king of the Cross, Master Carpenter of Nazareth, wield well your tools in the workshop of salvation that we may be transformed by your saving death. Amen.
Maundy Thursday - Loving ServiceReading John 13. 3-7, 12-15
3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. (NRSV)
MusicWhere the Rivers Meet - Jan Garbarek Reflection - Loving Service
“Do you understand what I have done to you?”
Today is Maundy Thursday; a very special day at L’Arche communities around the world, of which one of the smallest ones has been present in Brecon for 25 years now. On this day we gather as a community to do what Jesus told us to - to wash each other’s feet.
Some of us may need help to do it practically. Some of us will resist, others still will have done it many times before, but generally, for those who never experienced this previously in their life, it is a very perplexing moment. Yes, feet can be very problematic for many people. Maybe it’s because we all have stories written into our feet. In some way they are also somehow associated with dirt.
Sometimes I try to imagine the way Jesus was washing his friends’ feet on that day. The way he was using his hands, was he in a hurry? Compassionate tenderness... Covenant love… I am told you can massage the whole body by massaging somebody’s feet.
I can tell from my own experience that washing one another’s feet is an experience of intimacy and vulnerability at the same time especially as you don’t always get to choose whose feet you are going to wash on the day or who is going to wash your feet.
Today, through this simple and somewhat humbling act of care for each other, we want to remind each other that it is in serving our brothers and sisters as they are that we find the true joy of loving.
Wednesday - A Grain of WheatBy the Revd Lucyann Ashdown, Vicar of the Parish of Blaenau Irfon / Irfon Valey in Brecon Reading John 12. 20-26
20Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. (NIV)Music Wheat germination and growing time lapse - filmed by Neil Bromhall Reflection - A Grain of Wheat
Jesus answered them... ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’. John 12:24
I wonder what strikes you from this verse.
For myself, I realise that I’ve previously only really been aware of the focus on the need for the grain of wheat to die. This may seem rather obvious given the emphasis on the necessary chronology of death to resurrection.
As someone who has spent most of my working life as a midwife, accompanying women during birth, I know that the distinction between these two ‘sacred thresholds’ of life and death is not quite so clear. Both hold echoes of the other.
Painting ‘The Seed’ by Silvia Pastore, Reproduced with permission.
In order to give birth, one has to surrender to the process, traversing the terrifying threat of death; physical, spiritual and existential, that the new life of the infant and the parent might be born. Death too, with its accompanying wilderness of loneliness, fear and loss, has the potential to evoke new life out of pain. Each of these sacred liminal moments holds within them the power to transform us.
Jesus would have known that dead grain doesn’t produce fruit. Whereas good grain sown in the right conditions is transformed from a single grain, into a plant bearing multiple grains. So what’s he getting at? Is he simply stating the bald reality, that there are no short cuts to God? Is he bracing himself with a pep talk? Or is it that being aware of our fickle human nature, he is offering a final kindness by stating the stark, yet fundamental nature of the passionate love of the divine? One thing is clear; this kind of love is not for the faint hearted.
Where do you find yourself at this moment?
- Perhaps you are in a very generative place, forging a new path, barely aware of what you’ve left behind.
- Perhaps you are struggling with death and loss, where darkness is comforting and hope is fragile.
Wherever you find yourself, may the journey ahead find you surprised and comforted by the transforming power and presence of Jesus, the embodied pioneer of love.
Tuesday - NicodemusBy Bronwen Wathan, a lay reader in the Parish of St Thomas with Kilvey in Swansea Reading John 3. 1-16
1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (NRSV)
MusicJohn Stainer - God So Loved the World - by St Paul's Cathedral Choir Reflection - For God so loved the world that he gave his only son
Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover, teaching and healing; probably news of his angry outburst in the temple has been spread through the city reaching the ears of the religious elite, one of whom was Nicodemus.
God's love is for the whole world regardless of ethnic origin, and is without limit; it is gift that no one can earn however 'good' we try to be.
He may have been intrigued by what he has heard of this young man who turned over the tables in the Temple and who seems to be having a similar unsettling affect on the lives of many who heard him. He comes to Jesus very cautiously, possibly because he feared what this encounter could mean for him.
Now he is face to face with Jesus and instead of having his questions answered Jesus immediately throws out the challenge. 'Nicodemus, you must be born from above.'
Quite a challenge for a man of his position in Jewish society, a respected rabbi, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, as we would say in Wales, one of the Crachach. To take up Christ's challenge would mean letting go of all that is certain in his life, a life lived according to the written law of the Torah; a life dependent on following God's law to the letter.
Are our lives changed because of our encounters with Jesus?
Above all Nicodemus would have to accept the truth of what God really is about in His world. The truth that God's love is for the whole world regardless of ethnic origin, and is without limit; it is gift that no one can earn however 'good' we try to be. It is the gift that led Jesus to death on the cross.
After the crucifixion, as Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare Christ's body for burial, did he think about his earlier encounter with him? Was his life changed, we don't know. Did his journey with Jesus end there at the tomb?
Our journey with Jesus can go on, on through Holy Week, on with the risen Christ and out into the world that needs to know the love of God.
Here in John's gospel we have words that express the heart of God's message, and to truly unpack what they say to us could take a lifetime.
But, above all, are our lives changed because of our encounters with Jesus?
Monday - Jesus in the TempleBy the Revd Canon Janet Russell, Diocesan Director of Mission Reading John 2. 13-25
13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” 17His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”18Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20The Jews replied, “It has taken forty–six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21But the temple he had spoken of was his body. (NIV) Music Jesus Christ Superstar - The Temple - Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice. Reflection - Seeing the familiar through Jesus' eyes
It is almost Passover, the Jewish celebration of freedom. Early spring and Jerusalem is busy, warm, dusty and full. The influx of traders, Jewish and gentile pilgrims, of extra soldiers multiplies the usual crush of locals and the occupying authorities.
The vast Temple precinct is busy, the atmosphere thick with the banter of herdsmen and money changers, and with the noise of animals and birds penned together to be traded as sacrifices. The Court of the Gentiles, where all this is happening, smells to high heaven of animals, dung, blood, meat and smoke.
What was the Temple like in Jesus' time? For an animated film click here or for a drawing click here.
Like the run-up to any great carnival, there is excitement in the air, especially for the Jewish worshippers. No-one questions the preparations that are made; everyone knows what to do. It’s all about tradition; one of those times that define what it is to be Jewish. A time for recalling the nation’s deliverance from slavery, remembering together a shared, God-shaped history.
Jesus, in the tradition of the old prophets, intends to make a point. He takes cords and makes a whip. He drives the animals out. Sheep, cattle and traders are in confusion. It takes time, persistence, courage. For good measure he throws out the dove-sellers too - then starts on the bankers with their precious Temple currency. He up-ends their desks, sends the coins flying. There is anger, shouting, aggression.
Who gave him the right to mess with their livelihood? Jesus turns to face them with authority, presence.
The Temple was not made for this. Injustice, sharp practice, the mess of self interest - these things corrupt, eat away at the holiness of the place; obscure the glory of God.
Corruption is an ugly word. It speaks of slow decay, and of a deliberate hollowing-out of justice. We use it for things that happen in other people’s systems, never in our own.