Journey From Palm Sunday to Easter with Rowan Williams

This week the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will give a series of Holy Week Lectures entitled ‘The beginning of the Gospel’ over three consecutive evenings at  Canterbury Cathedral.   The lectures will be available at the official site of the Archbishop here.

History & Memory
Monday 29 March

Unveiling Secrets
Tuesday 30 March

A Lifelong Passion
Wednesday 31 March

Tip of the biretta to Norris Battin or this info.

Invitation to Holy Week

There is no more important or life-changing week in the liturgical year than the one we embark on this coming Sunday.  It is a week of extraordinary importance for Christians around the world.

I recently came across a quote from one of the addresses in Archbishop Rowan Williams’s book, A Ray of Darkness.  In his address entitled “Keeping Time,” the Archbishop writes:

Each year, the church renews its understanding of itself and its world in the process, the story, of the Christian Year.  Above all, in Holy Week and Easter, it takes us inexorably through a series of changing relationships, shifting perspectives, that cannot be rushed: it leads us through the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, which is the centre and well spring of what we are.  We can’t do this with selected highlights, saving time; this is a contemplation, a feeding, that requires our flesh and blood, our patience, our passion.  It requires that things are done to us, that we allow ourselves to be changed and enlarged.

The Archbishop rightly reminds us that this week is not one that can be rushed, nor can we really know its power to transform our lives if we do not take it in as a whole.  It requires our presence, our contemplation, our flesh and blood.

In the week ahead, we will relive the specific hours during which Jesus shared a meal with his disciples, was taken by his enemies, endured the horror of crucifixion, died, and moved through and beyond death to be present with his disciples once again.  Far from being an ending, those days so long ago were only the beginning.  What began would grow and spread through the world and through time, until it would come to you and me as the gift of the Way of Christ and the community of faith we call the Church.

In most churches I know, attendance at the  Great Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are historically nowhere near the attendance on the bookends of Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter Sunday.   We are the poorer for it.  Imagine only reading the first and last chapter of a great novel and expecting it to have any impact on your life.  Liturgically, we do the same when we choose not to participate in the Great Triduum of Holy Week.  We continue our routine in chronological time, unaware of kairos time, the eternal now where God’s revelation and love await us.

For parents, this is an extraordinary opportunity to shape the souls of children through sign and symbol, story and song, holy movement and sacred meal.  As “ambassadors” for Christ, we should be aware of friends and neighbors who may be willing, if only invited, to participate in the events that so powerfully reveal the core of Christian faith and practice.  Whatever our schedule allows, I pray we will arrive at Easter inspired and filled with the life that Christ is living now—for the Great Triduum reveals that Easter is far more than a day, it is a way of seeing and living that can transform the world.

Rowan Williams on the “Uniqueness and Finality” of Christ

Archbishop Rowan Williams recently gave a brilliant address at Guildford Cathedral titled The Finality of Christ in a Pluralist World. The Archbishop spoke of defending the uniqueness and finality of Christ, and encountering the truth about God and humanity from a moral, political and philosophical perspective.

The address highlighted the importance of approaching inter faith dialogue with confidence, but also of learning something new:

“If our convictions lead us to believe there is no hope for those outside our own faith or with no faith…” there is a danger of “treating others as if they know nothing, and we have nothing to learn”. “Belief in the uniqueness and finality of Christ allows us a generous desire to share and a humble desire to learn”.

Jumping to the conclusion of the address, the Archbishop states:

“Belief in the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ – for all the assaults made upon it in the modern age – remains for the Christian a way of speaking about hope for the entire human family. And because it’s that, we are bound to say something about it. We are very rightly suspicious of proselytism, of manipulative, bullying, insensitive approaches to people of other faith which treat them as if they knew nothing, as if we had nothing to learn and as if the tradition of their reflection and imagination were of no interest to us or God. God save us from that kind of approach. But God save us also from the nervousness about our own conviction which doesn’t allow us to say that we speak about Jesus because we believe he matters. We believe he matters because we believe that in him human beings find their peace. Their destinies converge and their dignities are fully honored. And all the work that we as Christians want to do for the sake of convergent human destiny and fullness of human dignity has its root in that conviction that there is no boundary around Jesus – that what he is and does and says and suffers is in principle liberatingly relevant to every human being; past, present and future.”

The full transcript of the address can be viewed here:  The audio link for the address is


Jesus Said . . .