We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, for by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
This is the affirmation we make at each station during the Way of the Cross. This Lent we have offered Stations of the Cross twice each week, an increase from our practice in the past. On Thursdays Stations is prayed at 11:30 am before the daily mass at 12:00 noon, and on Fridays Stations is prayed at 6:30 pm, after the evening mass.
I had no idea how doing Stations twice a week would work. It felt like a gamble, and I was slightly worried that the attendance would be very low, especially on Thursdays, and that we might split the attendance into two small groups. To my surprise and delight, the opposite has happened, and we have had a substantial increase in attendance, doubling our numbers. Now when people have a Friday evening conflict they can attend on Thursdays at noon time and vice versa. Stations has been particularly vibrant this Lenten season. For those who have not attended Stations this Lent, you still have a few chances remaining this season - this Thursday at 11:30 am, this Friday at 6:30 pm, Palm Sunday evening at 5:30 pm, and Good Friday at 11:15 am.
The Sunday Lenten Series has been a delight as well. We have tackled Arianism, Docetism, Gnosticism, Pelagianism, Adoptionism, Eutychianism, Theopaschitism, Donatism, Marcionism, and Nestorianism. Say that list ten times over! The attendees have been very faithful and diligent. The beauty of studying these heresies is that it has allowed us to understand the orthodox views of Christianity with a greater depth and clarity.
The choir continues to amaze us this Lent. I look forward to hearing what they will accomplish during Holy Week. The Sunday anthems at high mass have been breathtaking, and the choir men continue to improve their performance of the Latin Propers. Our music program is a rare treasure in Honolulu. Every Tuesday afternoon Mike Dupre and I meet to plan the music and evaluate our progress. Our planning, and Mike's eagerness to expand the choir's literature, are producing results. In addition to Sunday mornings at high mass, we now have a small vocal ensemble that volunteers their voices for our weekly service of Solemn Evensong and Benediction. After a full Sunday morning, and a subsequent rest in the afternoon, I am finding Sunday night's evensong to be one of my favorite rituals each week. Everything is chanted by the congregation or sung by the small choir, and the whole experience is one of refreshment and peace. The reception which follows the service each Sunday in the Parish Hall, as coordinated by Sandra Leialoha, is delightful.
Holy Week is upon us. This Saturday we gather at the church at 9:00 am to do some final spring cleaning and to ready the church for Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday we are offering two masses - a Sung Mass at 8:00 am and our High Mass at 10:00 am. For the high mass we begin across Kapahulu Avenue, weather permitting, by the golf course, for the Procession of the Palms. Last year we enjoyed brass during our procession. This year we will have congregational singing, as well as some Hawaiian songs, for our march along Kapahulu Avenue. After the high mass, lunch will be served in the Parish Hall. We need to feed all those hungry walkers! (Acolytes for the Palm Sunday High Mass are to report to the church promptly at 9:15 am.)
During Holy Week we are offering worship every day at St. Mark's. It is a noble St. Mark's tradition to attend church every day during Holy Week, and this year will be no different. The sung masses at 6:15 pm on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday, March 21-23, last less than an hour, and they are positioned so that people may come directly from work and be home shortly after 7:00 pm. During these initial days we let people reserve their energy, because when Maundy Thursday comes, everything shall be full force. I hope you can join us for the Washing of Feet on Maundy Thursday, for the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, and for the greatest night of the year, the Great Vigil of Easter. At this year's Easter Vigil, Alexander James Valadez will be baptized. Afterwards we have our Easter Party, a unique St. Mark's style celebration. Bring your favorite pupus for the reception as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Being a Saturday night, the church will once again offer complimentary valet parking for the Easter Vigil. On Easter Day two glorious masses will be celebrated - the Sung Mass at 8:00 am and the High Mass at 10:00 am. (No evening service will be offered at St. Mark's on Easter Day.)
Before ending, there is one bit of trivia worth mentioning. This year Good Friday falls on March 25 which is also the great feast of the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary. When this happens, Good Friday trumps this celebration, and the Annunciation is transferred to the first open day in the Easter season. As a result, this year most churches will celebrate the Annunciation on Monday, April 4. There is so much that can be said about the juxtaposition of Good Friday and the Annunciation, but I will save such preaching and teaching for the future. St. Mark's will celebrate the Annunciation with a Choral Evensong service on the eve of the transferred feast, Sunday, April 3 at 5:30 pm. Also being the Octave of Easter, it will be a joyous time of worship, complete with Benediction and a Procession to the Garden for Marian devotions. In the midst of our celebrations of the death and resurrection of our Lord, we shall be afforded with a moment to remember how it all begin so beautifully. A young girl named Mary said "yes" to the Angel Gabriel's message, and from that moment everything changed. God entered the world as human flesh, and each one of us discovered that our very lives had been saved. For Mary's "yes," and for the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may all praise and glory be given to God Almighty.
Father Paul Lillie+