Views from the Vicarage




Name a memorable meal

Last week (as is my custom), I invited the Churchwardens and their spouses from the two parishes, to join Sian and myself to share a meal together. This is both a good opportunity to get to know one another better as the two parishes seek to work a little closer together – and a way of saying Thank You to volunteers who give greatly of their time and talents. The relationship between a Vicar and his Churchwardens needs to be a very close one, where mutual trust and respect are paramount.

Last year Sian and myself celebrated our Ruby Wedding Anniversary. One of the things we did was to share a meal with our sons and their families at the venue where we held our Wedding Breakfast. What a wonderful evening that was – even though I was rather embarrassed when a large, white stretched limousine pulled up outside the Vicarage.

We shall shortly be sharing another unusual meal together shortly, the Passover meal or Haggadah. During the course of the evening you will have: four cups of wine, vegetables dipped in saltwater, flat, dry cracker-like bread called matzah, bitter herbs, often horseradish (without additives) and romaine lettuce, dipped into charoset (a paste of nuts, apples, pears and wine), a festive meal that may contain time-honoured favourites, like chicken soup or shepherds pie. Each item has its place in a 15-step choreographed combination of tastes, sounds, sensations and smells that have been with the Jewish people for millennia.

On the day before Good Friday, Jesus called together his disciples for a very special meal, a meal that was to become his last supper, on a day we now refer to as Maundy Thursday. Those who will come to the Passion Play on Friday 23rd will witness a rather raucous gathering. This last supper was not some kind of genteel gathering, there was a great deal of drinking of alcohol, there would have been singing and dancing, and great quantities of food consumed. We normally have meals to celebrate, to share special occasions as a family or other group.

But here was Jesus facing his inevitable death, a barbaric death on a cross – the sort of death experienced by criminals. More than that, at this meal, in the very room, possibly sitting right alongside Jesus, was the very man who would betray him. Amidst all the food and revelry, the tone darkens, the scene becomes deeply serious. Jesus is taken away to face a mock trial, and subsequently dragged through the streets of Old Jerusalem to his death.

Thus follows the darkest days for all practising Christians, Good Friday – the day when the sky turned black. We cannot fully celebrate the great day of the Resurrection, without first travelling through the dark valley of Our Lord’s suffering. Some Christian shy away from Good Friday, just miss it out, this cannot be the way of an honest faith.

Then there is that glorious Easter Day that we shall all celebrate with family and friends, this year it falls on the first day of April. Some years ago, Sian and myself were very lucky to stay in Jerusalem as guests of a family who live within the walls of the Old City at the Orthodox Easter festivities. We were invited to the family home, effectively a cave above the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to share in a great traditional feast, for which neither of us were ready. There we were presented with a great local delicacy, there, stood upright on the plate, was the Neck of a Lamb! We dutifully sat down and gingerly attempted to chew on small pieces of the meat, so as not to appear discourteous to our kind hosts. This truly was a meal to remember.

As you are aware, we have just moved into a new Vicarage, with all the stress and upheaval that goes with a move. We are ‘straight’ now, and we have found most things. Another very special meal was the first in the new house – after the removal men had left, there was just the two of us, and lots of boxes.

Meals are important, this is why the central act of worship within the Anglican tradition is the re-enacting of that Last Supper, in the form of the Holy Eucharist. It is about sharing together, drinking from the common cup, and celebrating. What we celebrate is not Christ’s death, but his resurrection, the new life – that which he assures anyone who truly believes in him and seeks to follow his example in our daily lives.

So let us experience all the many different aspects of Holy Week, beginning with the Passion Play on the Friday before Palm Sunday, following Our Lord’s dark night of the soul, and culminating in our glorious family meal in the Eucharist of the Resurrection on Easter day. I look forward to seeing you at our many different styles of worship and learning as we walk with Our Lord over the coming weeks of Lent. What is one of the most memorable meals that you can recall? – make this Easter a memorable moment of faith.

Through the darkness of Good Friday - into the bright sunlight of the Easter dawn,                                    

wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter

Your Friend and Vicar                                                                               

Canon Phillip