|April 11, 2012|
Holy Week and Eater Pilgrimage at Canterbury Cathedral
On Monday April 1, with three students and a faculty member from Virginia Theological Seminary, I traveled to Canterbury Cathedral in England. We stayed there during Holy Week until Easter Monday. Being at Canterbury Cathedral was an excellent opportunity to meditate, pray, and worship God. What we experienced at Canterbury Cathedral can be interpreted as a spiritual and theological pilgrimage.
The program for Holy Week and Easter was full and rich with spiritual music, Eucharistic celebration, and theological exchanges. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, presented three lectures on “Paul: The Man and the Letters.” These lectures gave to the festivities an exceptional theological grounding. In the huge and crowded nave of Canterbury Cathedral, Archbishop Rowan discussed Paul’s social world, his universal welcome, and his new creation. Through these three aspects of Paul’s theology, the Archbishop described the tensions between the secular world and the Church. He argued that Paul was a Roman citizen and lived in a metropolitan society. He had freedom and protection as a Roman citizen, but on the basis of his faith Paul stood in opposition to the structures of his society. Paul denounced disparity and inequality in his society as that was not God’s purpose for human community.
According to the Archbishop, Paul believed that the Church was a place where migrants, slaves, and Roman citizens were equal. The Church is then a place where everybody is welcome because God welcomes everybody. In the words of 1 Peter, “Those who were not a people are now a people.” In Paul’s ecclesia there must be mutuality, equality, and freedom for all and everyone. But what kind of freedom do people have in the Church? Christian freedom is different from secular freedom. Archbishop Rowan argued that freedom is limited by what helps the community (1 Cor. 6: 12). This is freedom to please God and not to please ourselves, freedom to build the community and do good to the community, and freedom to serve, love and let God shape us. With a good sense of humor, Archbishop Rowan invited his audience to hear Romans 1-2 and paraphrased, “Do you think you are better than someone else? Think again!” We are all members of the body of Christ and there must be respect of one another as we all belong to Jesus.
The tradition of Easter Triduum begins with the Maundy Thursday Eucharist and ends with Easter. During the Easter Vigil we are invited to reflect on what it means to experience darkness before reaching light in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In our case, we experienced these events in the company of many other pilgrims. It was especially wonderful to worship with students from Westcott Theological College, Cambridge. With other clergy and laity we encountered there, we explored the beauty and mystery of the holy site, praying both individually and in community. We learned the history of Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterburywho founded the Cathedral (in 597 AD), we visited the tomb of Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm, and we prayed at the place where Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury was martyred in 1170. The pilgrimage ended in prayer and meditation on Easter Sunday. We attended the magnificent ceremony of Easter celebrated and preached by Archbishop Rowan and we took communion with the crowd of pilgrims. To be at Canterbury Cathedral helped us to understand much more the relevance of our faith and the importance of spirituality and theology in our journey toward God.
The Rev. Sonley Joseph, MA 2012
Diocese of Haiti