I found myself on Monday, Commonwealth Day, standing in the falling snow at the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill. It was a simple ceremony which remembered the five million men and women from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Africa and the Caribbean who served in the forces of the Crown in the two World Wars.
It was unnecessary to say too much to those gathered there in the cold, but I recalled how 70 years ago in 1943 the uncle after whom I am named was killed on active service with 1st battalion 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles. He was 22 and died with a number of his Gurkha comrades in one of the battles of the Italian campaign.
It is a deep human truth that many people over the millennia have sacrificed their existence, not for some abstract idea however noble, but for their comrades or for their families. The words of Jesus echo through the centuries of courage and sacrificial living and dying: “greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But oh, my Friend,
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend.
So once again we enter into the yearly rehearsal of our Lord’s passion and respond in offering our lives in his service.
It is always moving to see so many clergy and Readers in the Cathedral on Maundy Thursday supported by such an impressive body of lay Christians. It is a day when we can rejoice in the diversity that God has given us and as clergy, renew our ordination vows, pray for the people we serve and bless the oils used in our ministry.
My brother bishops and I hope you will join us. All are welcome: clergy and people together rejoicing in the love of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus who laid down his life for his friends.
Practical Arrangements for Clergy and Licensed Ministers
Time: all robing in the Chapel of St Faith in the Crypt by 10.15 am at the latest. Enter by northwest crypt door – congregation only through West doors.
Robing: cassock, surplice, and if it is your tradition, white stole for clergy, scarf for Readers and Lay Ministers.
Oil Distribution: collect vials from the Crypt after the Eucharist – please wash and return empty containers from last year and leave them in the receptacles in the Crypt.
Deputies: a parish or chaplaincy representative may collect oils on behalf of the priest. Oils are available from the Virgers throughout the year should you require further supplies.
Coffee will be served in the Nelson Chamber after divesting.