Grace Abounds
A media ministry of Grace Episcopal Church
The Kalendar
Lent continues through the first thirteen days of the month.  As discussed in last month’s newsletter, the season takes precedence over Holy Days.  Nonetheless, let’s not neglect a saint with a prominent local connection, Tikhon of Moscow (d. 1925).  Tikhon served as Lord Archbishop of the Aleuts and North America, of the Russian Orthodox Church.  In this capacity, and as a result of the efforts of our own Bl. Charles Grafton, Tikhon participated in the consecration of Bishop Weller as suffragan in Fond du Lac on 8 January 1900.  A photo of the participants may be found here:  The consecration caused a strong negative reaction in much of the wider Church, being referred to as “The Fond du Lac Circus”.

Following the 1917 fall of the Russian monarchy, Tikhon was consecrated as Patriarch of Moscow.  There had been no patriarch from the 17th century reign of Peter the Great (who had essentially made the Church a department of the State).  Tikhon was martyred by the Bolsheviks in 1925.  Under the floorboard of his prison camp hut was found a copy of the “circus” photo.  The cope worn by Tikhon in Fond du Lac was given to Bishop Grafton, and was presented by Bishop R. Jacobus to Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev (principal officer of the Russian Orthodox Church for external relations) at a ceremony at Nashotah House in 2013.  The Russian Church now retains the cope as the second order relic of an important martyr.

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (9 April) with the procession of palms, recalling Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  Worship also includes the entire Passion (this year from Matthew).  Traditionally, the entire passion is experienced on Good Friday. This practice continues (at Grace the Passion is sung), but with the advent of the new prayer book in 1979 it became common to include the Passion on Palm Sunday, on the theory that it was less common for businesses to close to allow people to attend Good Friday services. 

Services are held on each day in Holy Week.  A highlight is Maundy Thursday.  “Maundy” is Middle English, from the Latin mandatum (commandment), commemorating Jesus’ “new commandment” to His disciples, to love one another (Jn. 15.12), given at the last supper.  The day also recalls the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and prepares us for the desolation of Good Friday with the stripping of the altar, a process traditionally accompanied by the hymn (166) Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle, a plainsong setting of the 6th century words of the Christian poet Venantius Honorius Fortunatus. 

On Good Friday itself there is no Mass.  Holy Eucharist is distributed in the liturgy of presanctified gifts which follows the sung Passion.  A brief service on Holy Saturday (said in the parish columbarium courtyard) commemorates Jesus’ descent into hell.

Easter is, of course, the high point of the Church year.  The first Mass of Easter occurs at the end of the Great Vigil, after sundown on Saturday.  The vigil allows us to relive the history of salvation, with our attention being first focused (in darkness lit only by candle light) through the words of the ancient chanted prayer Exsultet (“Rejoice, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels …”), in which we recall the great gift that God has made in the life of His only-begotten Son.  At the end of the vigil, the lights will come up in the church; we will ring bells of celebration (and to chase away the devil!); the organ will make a “holy noise”: and we will begin with the first Gloria of the season.

St. Mark the Evangelist is remembered on the 25th.  Mark was the son of a woman who owned a house in Jerusalem, perhaps the same house where Jesus ate the Last Supper with His disciples.  He may have been the young man who fled naked when the soldiers came to the garden to seize Jesus (Mark 14.52), and Paul refers to him as Barnabas’ cousin (Col. 4.10).  Mark is thought to have written his gospel on the basis of Peter’s recollections, and Peter refers to Mark as his “son” (1 Pet. 5.13).  Mark is thought to have been the first bishop of Alexandria.  Mark is reputed as an early bishop of Alexandria, Egypt (anciently a Greek city), but His relics are claimed by Venice.