In our house, it is the busiest time of the church year because my husband is an Episcopal priest. We have extra services at the church almost every day and sometimes more than one service a day. It is the week that defines our faith, and recalls the last week of Christ’s life. This year, Easter also coincides with the Passover, so everyone in the Christian and Jewish faiths have their mind’s eye focused on Jerusalem and the Holy Land. However, my husband and I look to the “Other” Holy Land, England because the Church of England is the Mother Church for the Episcopal Church in America.
Nearly 30 years ago we each took our first trip to England – I went in the spring and He went in the fall. My trip happened to coincide with Holy Week, so I remember where I was during each of the days in Holy Week every year. I also recall Holy Week as the time when my maternal grandfather died and so does my mom.
I was a pilgrim. On Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) I was in Canterbury Cathedral. I remember looking down at the worn stone floor and wondering how many thousands of pilgrims had come this way and experienced the cathedral for the first time in the midst of a Mass, just like me. It took my breath away. Later, as I toured the cathedral, I was taken by the fact that at the chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket there was a call to prayer on clear plastic wrapped around a column saying, “Pilgrim, prayer for martyrs of our own time.” This sort of thing was repeated throughout the cathedral.
The next Holy Day in Holy Week is Maundy Thursday. I remember being in Lincoln Cathedral for a Maundy Thursday service.
My friend and I sat in the choir and heard the Lenten liturgical music written by William Byrd while he was the organist, choirmaster at Lincoln in the early 1600s (Click here to sample some of Byrd's music for Holy Week). One of the reason I was in England was to hear just this sort of music in its “natural setting”. This place also propelled me into a whole new direction in my life. I discovered the exquisite beauties of Gothic cathedrals but with a human touch.
Most cathedrals seem perfect, but there are so many inconsistencies at Lincoln, I fell in love.
Good Friday was spent in York Minster. My friend and I went to the noonday service for Good Friday and sat in the choir. Again, it was very moving and beautiful. There were no tourists allowed, and no photography, but I remember that I took a shot of the crossing tower just as I was leaving the quire.
I have lost my photograph, but here is a similar one. York is incredibly beautiful, light, white, high – perfect. I saw the cathedral in the spring before the fire in July of 1984. My husband saw it afterwards.
Holy Saturday I was ill and did not go to church, but I did watch the special service televised from Westminster Abbey which I had visited before.
Easter Sunday I was at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
St. Paul’s is not Gothic, it is baroque with all the swirls and flourishes and the acoustics are amazing. It was the perfect place to experience and celebrate Easter and to end my first Pilgrimage to the other Holy Land.
Have a blessed Easter.