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The readings for Holy Saturday can be found here.

My exegesis, thanks to Matthew Henry and John MacArthur, for one of the two Gospel readings — John 19:38-42 — is here.

The Epistle is as follows (emphases mine):

1 Peter 4:1-8

4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),

4:2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

4:3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.

4:4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.

4:5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

4:7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.

4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

All credit to the Lectionary compilers, this is an excellent Epistle for Holy Saturday.

Peter begins this chapter with the Crucifixion. He tells his Jewish converts how they must live knowing that Christ died for their sins, therefore, they must arm themselves to end their sinfulness (verse 1).

John MacArthur describes the unimaginable pain of sin as Christ experienced it on the Cross:

Christ has suffered in the flesh.  You tell me what did it do to Christ, in one word?  Killed him.  Killed him.  Cost him his life.  Can you enjoy it when you know what it did to Christ?  When you realize that he was made sin.  When you realize that he bore in his body our sins on the cross.  When you realize the body says he was made a curse for us, cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree, in Galatians.  When you realize that he was the spotless, pure and holy second member of the Trinity who never had come into any contact with sin and who then was made sin and bore the sins of the world on his body and they took his life, they killed him.  They separated him from God so that he cried, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  When you realize that it put him on a cross and nails were hammered through is limbs and thorns crushed into his brown and spit dripped off his body and a spear was rammed into his side, when you realize all of that and all of that was caused by sin, it ought to help you to hate sin, right? 

Matthew Henry says much the same and counsels us to address the state of our minds if we are to arm ourselves against sin:

The antecedent or supposition is that Christ had suffered for us in the flesh, or in his human nature. The consequent or inference is, “Arm and fortify yourselves likewise with the same mind, courage, and resolution.” The word flesh in the former part of the verse signifies Christ’s human nature, but in the latter part it signifies man’s corrupt nature. So the sense is, “As Christ suffered in his human nature, do you, according to your baptismal vow and profession, make your corrupt nature suffer, by putting to death the body of sin by self-denial and mortification; for, if you do not thus suffer, you will be conformable to Christ in his death and resurrection, and will cease from sin. Learn, 1. Some of the strongest and best arguments against all sorts of sin are taken from the sufferings of Christ. All sympathy and tenderness for Christ as a sufferer are lost of you do not put away sin. He dies to destroy it; and, though he could cheerfully submit to the worst sufferings, yet he could never submit to the least sin. 2. The beginning of all true mortification lies in the mind, not in penances and hardships upon the body. The mind of man is carnal, full of enmity; the understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18. Man is not a sincere creature, but partial, blind, and wicked, till he be renewed and sanctifies by the regenerating grace of God.

Peter says that shunning sin means living our lives not by human desires but by the will of God (verse 2).

Henry says there is a negative and a positive message in that verse:

The apostle explains what he means by being dead to sin, and ceasing from sin, both negatively and positively. Negatively, a Christian ought no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh, to the sinful lusts and corrupt desires of carnal wicked men; but, positively, he ought to conform himself to the revealed will of the holy God. Learn, 1. The lusts of men are the springs of all their wickedness, James 1:13; James 1:14. Let occasional temptations be what they will, they could not prevail, were it not for men’s own corruptions. 2. All good Christians make the will of God, not their own lusts or desires, the rule of their lives and actions. 3. True conversion makes a marvellous change in the heart and life of every one who partakes of it. It brings a man off from all his old, fashionable, and delightful lusts, and from the common ways and vices of the world, to the will of God. It alters the mind, judgment, affections, way, and conversation of every one who has experienced it.

Peter tells his audience that they have already engaged in enough sin: ‘licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry’ (verse 3).

Our commentators have differing opinions on who Peter’s audience is.

Henry says they were Jews living amongst Gentiles:

those were Jews to whom the apostle wrote, yet the living among the Gentiles they had learned their way.

MacArthur says they were Gentiles:

He knew these people were converted out of a pagan background. They were influenced still by the presence of that paganism. These people had come to Christ because they had enough of that stuff.

MacArthur says that Peter was reminding these converts of their former state of brokenness in sin:

What’s he saying? He’s saying, look, haven’t you had enough of that stuff? Haven’t you had enough of that stuff that pursued Christ, bringing Him nothing but sorrow till it killed Him? Yes it was in the purpose of God but nonetheless it was sin that effected it. Haven’t you had enough of that stuff that rebels against God who seeks only your best? And haven’t you had enough of that stuff that used to be the typical fare of your daily life? I mean, surely it’s true, isn’t it, that when a person is converted, when they’re saved, if they’re not saying anything else they’re at least saying this, I have had enough of this. Aren’t they saying that? I can’t carry the load of my sin anymore. I want forgiveness, I want deliverance, I want transformation. Surely when you came to Christ weren’t you saying, “I can’t bear this anymore”?

When I was in Catholic primary school, the nuns cautioned us against sin. They said if you start with one habitual sin, another will enter in, then another and they will all pile up.

Henry says much the same:

One sin, allowed, draws on another. Here are six named, and they have a connection and dependence one upon another. (1.) Lasciviousness or wantonness, expressed in looks, gesture, or behaviour, Romans 13:13. (2.) Lusts, acts of lewdness, such as whoredom and adultery. (3.) Excess of wine, though short of drunkenness, an immoderate use of it, to the prejudice of health or business, is here condemned. (4.) Revellings, or luxurious feastings, too frequent, too full, or too expensive. (5.) Banquetings, by which is meant gluttony or excess in eating. (6.) Abominable idolatry; the idol-worship of the Gentiles was attended with lewdness, drunkenness, gluttony, and all sorts of brutality and cruelty; and these Jews living long among them were, some of them at least, debauched and corrupted by such practices.

MacArthur explains Peter’s language, including in the original Greek:

… just to remind us what that life was like he said, “You used to pursue that, having pursued a course of sensuality,” aselgeia. It describes unrestrained vice, unbridled sin.  It’s an old word that’s often used to translate it, debauchery, excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure.  You had that and you had the lusts, the evil desires, the feelings, the kind of mindless passions.  And you had the carousals as well as the drunkenness and the drinking parties.  Those all go together kind of, drunkenness speaks for itself, carousals has the idea of a wild drunken party, a sort of a public…a public…it pictures a kind of a group of people sort of going down the street in a public display of drunkenness.  You’ve been in on the drinking parties.  You’ve engaged in the abominable idolatries“Abominable” means they are at variance with the law of God; they are lawless.  You… You were in the whole package, right?  Sexual wickedness, alcoholic excess, ungodly, worshiping the wrong things, the wrong gods, you had the whole package.  You did it all, isn’t that enough?  What is there you want back?  Haven’t you had your fill?  Remember that, will you, that you filled up on that, you overdosed on it and you wanted deliverance once. Now do you want it back?

Furthermore, they malign you.  They don’t even like you, why do you want to act like people that don’t even like you?  The word “malign” is blasphēmeō, blaspheme youIt means to defame, attack you, slander youHere is the cesspool crowd slandering the Christian.  They’re an ugly bunch.  They are an ugly bunch, sexually perverted, drunk, worshiping all their false gods, rushing madly into the cesspool of sin.  You’ve been saved out of thatYou wanted out of that.  You don’t have a thing to do with that anymore.  They don’t even like you anymore Why in the world do you want to do what they’re doing?

Peter reminds his converts that their former friends were surprised at the turnaround in their lives, their refusal to continue to engage in sin; their surprise turned into blasphemy, or assailing their good character (verse 4).

Henry has an excellent analysis about how conversion affects old relationships:

They no longer run on in the same courses, or with the same companions, as they used to do. Hereupon observe the conduct of their wicked acquaintance towards them. 1. They think it strange, they are surprised and wonder at it, as at something new and unusual, that their old friends should be so much altered, and not run with as much violence as they used to do to the same excess of riot, to the same sottish excesses and luxury which before they had greedily and madly followed. 2. They speak evil of them. Their surprise carries them to blasphemy. They speak evil of their persons, of their way, their religion, and their God. Learn, (1.) Those that are once really converted will not return to their former course of life, though ever so much tempted by the frowns or flatteries of others to do so. Neither persuasion nor reproach will prevail with them to be or to do as they were wont to do. (2.) The temper and behaviour of true Christians seem very strange to ungodly men. That they should despise that which every one else is fond of, that they should believe many things which to others seem incredible, that they should delight in what is irksome and tedious, be zealous where they have no visible interest to serve, and depend so much upon hope, is what the ungodly cannot comprehend. (3.) The best actions of religious people cannot escape the censures and slanders of those who are irreligious. Those actions which cost a good man the most pains, hazard, and self-denial, shall be most censured by the uncharitable and ill-natured world; they will speak evil of good people, though they themselves reap the fruits of their charity, piety, and goodness.

Peter reminds his converts that those former friends assailing them now will have to give an account of themselves to Him who judges the living and the dead (verse 5).

MacArthur says:

… they’re going to give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. They’re going to pay a price for this. I mean this is damnable lifestyle. You don’t want anything to do that. They have to give an account. They are amassing a debt to God they will be required to pay forever in hell. And whether they live or die in this world, whether they’re around till the Judge comes, or whether they die before He gets here, they’re going to show up at the judgment. They’re going to be condemned.

Peter says that the reason that the Gospel was preached even to the dead, who were judged according to the flesh, is so that they might live according to the Spirit, according to God’s will (verse 6).

Henry says that this is a difficult verse to interpret and gives us two explanations:

Some understand this difficult place thus: For this cause was the gospel preached to all the faithful of old, who are now dead in Christ, that thereby they might be taught and encouraged to bear the unrighteous judgments and persecutions which the rage of men put upon them in the flesh, but might live in the Spirit unto God. Others take the expression, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, in a spiritual sense, thus: The gospel was preached to them, to judge them, condemn them, and reprove them, for the corruption of their natures, and the viciousness of their lives, while they lived after the manner of the heathen or the mere natural man; and that, having thus mortified their sins, they might live according to God, a new and spiritual life. Take it thus; and thence learn, 1. The mortifying of our sins and living to God are the expected effects of the gospel preached to us. 2. God will certainly reckon with all those who have had the gospel preached to them, but without these good effects produced by it. God is ready to judge all those who have received the gospel in vain. 3. It is no matter how we are judged according to men in the flesh, if we do but live according to God in the Spirit.

MacArthur says that the dead in that verse refers to converts amongst Peter’s audience who have since died, possibly through martyrdom:

This is a simple and profound verse.  “For the gospel has been preached” means the saving message of Jesus Christ.  “Even to those who are dead” simply means those who are now dead.  He has in mind some believers who heard the gospel and are now dead Some of them perhaps had been martyred Maybe some in the association of those to whom this letter was sent had died for their faith in Christ.  And so the whole overarching idea here is that the believer, under persecution, under unjust treatment, under punishment, and even death, even death, should be willing to suffer knowing there is triumph. Because though he may die in the flesh as a man, he will live in the spirit according to the will of God.

What Peter is saying, is that God has promised you that through death you’ll overcome sin. So he reminds his readers that the gospel was preached to those now dead for this purpose That though they are judged in the flesh as men, literally put to death for their faith in Christ, they will live in the spirit according to God And so he takes us back to where we started.  All death can do is bring you into everlasting life into the presence of God You see, it’s a parallel to all that we have been learning at the end of chapter 3 verse 18.  Christ died, but he didn’t stay dead He was made alive in the spirit His body was dead, His spirit was alive.  Same point hereThey may kill your body, but your spirit will be alive And you will enter into the promise of eternal life. So shunning sin in the face of great threats, in the face of persecution, and even death—it’s possible, noble, righteous; it is commanded.  And one way to assist in that overcoming is to remember and to remember what sin did to Christ, what it does to Christians, what it does to God, what it does to the lost. And then remember what God has promised you in the future. 

No matter what they do to us, we can be victorious I guess Jesus said much the same thing when He said, “Fear not those who destroy the body.  But fear the one who destroys both soul and body in hell.” 

Peter says that the end is near, therefore, the converts are to discipline themselves spiritually for the sake of their prayers (verse 7).

Our commentators interpret this verse differently with regard to the first half of the verse, ‘The end of all things is near’.

Because Henry thought that Peter was addressing Jewish converts, he thinks that the Apostle was referring to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Peter wrote this in AD 66. The temple was destroyed four years later.

Henry says:

The miserable destruction of the Jewish church and nation foretold by our Saviour is now very near; consequently, the time of their persecution and your sufferings is but very short. Your own life and that of your enemies will soon come to their utmost period. Nay, the world itself will not continue very long. The conflagration will put an end to it; and all things must be swallowed up in an endless eternity. The inference from this comprises a series of exhortations.

1. To sobriety and watchfulness: “Be you therefore sober, 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 4:7. Let the frame and temper of your minds be grave, stayed, and solid; and observe strict temperance and sobriety in the use of all worldly enjoyments. Do not suffer yourselves to be caught with your former sins and temptations, 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Peter 4:3. And watch unto prayer. Take care that you be continually in a calm sober disposition, fit for prayer; and that you be frequent in prayers, lest this end come upon you unawares,” Luke 21:34; Matthew 26:40; Matthew 26:41

Henry says that the exhortations in the next two verses — 8 and 9 (not included in our reading) — follow on from the warning in verse 7 about the end being near:

2. To charity: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves,1 Peter 4:8; 1 Peter 4:8. Here is a noble rule in Christianity. Christians ought to love one another, which implies an affection to their persons, a desire of their welfare, and a hearty endeavour to promote it. This mutual affection must not be cold, but fervent, that is, sincere, strong, and lasting

3. To hospitality, 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Peter 4:9. The hospitality here required is a free and kind entertainment of strangers and travellers. The proper objects of Christian hospitality are one another. The nearness of their relation, and the necessity of their condition in those times of persecution and distress, obliged Christians to be hospitable one to another

MacArthur understands verse 7 as a reference to Christ’s Second Coming, not the destruction of the temple:

Verse 7.  “The end of all things is at hand.”  Stop right there.  That’s the incentive: the end of all things is at hand I want you to get a grip, if nothing else, on this statement.  The term “end” is the Greek word telos, a very familiar word to any Bible student.  And when it is translated “end,” it could convey the wrong idea It could convey the idea of cessation It could convey the idea of termination It does not mean either of those things It is never used of a temporal end in all of the New Testament It is never used of some kind of chronological end as if it simply means something stops It always has the idea of a consummation

To put it another way, it has the idea of a goal achieved, or a result attained, or a purpose consummated.  It has the idea of fulfillment realized, of ultimate destiny It’s not just the end of something; it is the culmination, the conclusion, the success, the goal, the realization, the fulfillment, the consummation.  So, he says, the consummation of all things is at hand.

Now, beloved, that has to refer to the return of Christ If he had said the consummation of your trouble is at hand, we could say well maybe he was referring to something temporal.  Or if he said the consummation of your persecution is at hand, we could have assumed that maybe a different kind of government might come into play in their lives and treat them more kindly.  But he doesn’t say that.  He doesn’t say the consummation of your difficulty, your trouble, your situation.  He says the consummation of all things.  And the consummation of all things points directly to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ It must refer to that.  It can’t refer to anything less than that, for that and that alone is when all things are consummated And it takes us back to 1 Peter 1:5 again where he says we are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time And then, verse 7 he says that we will be found in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ

It could be read this way, “The end of all things is about to arrive,” or to come near.  It is a perfect tense, and has the idea of a process consummated with a resulting nearness.  And I believe it refers to immanency.  That is, the coming of Christ is imminent; the next event can happen at any time It is near.  Peter is reminding them then that they are to live in anticipation of the nearness of the return of Jesus Christ.  We could say that they are to live with, here’s the word, expectancy.  Do you realize that every generation since then has therefore lived in that same expectancy?  All of us live today, or should live, in the expectancy of the coming of Jesus Christ Not to do that is not to be a faithful church … 

To show you how secretive this whole matter is, I remind you of Matthew 24:36 where Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son but the Father alone.”  God knows, and Jesus in His self-imposed incarnational limitations did not even know.  Peter is saying to his readers, “You must live in constant expectancy as if Jesus was to come at any moment.” 

With regard to the second half of verse 7 concerning prayer, MacArthur says that Peter wants his converts to have disciplined minds in order to make the most of their relationship with God through prayer:

He says, “Be of sound judgment,” and then adds, “and sober spirit.”  And this is a synonym or very close to a synonym.  It means basically to keep a clear head, to take serious things seriously, to be vigilant, to be alertIn Matthew 24:42, it’s translated “Be on the alert.”  Matthew 26:40 and 41, “Be watching.”  You might combine these two terms by putting it this way: good, clear, godly, biblical thinking leads to spiritual alertness, spiritual watchfulness It leads to the ability to view things in the eternal perspective, in the divine perspective, and to establish right responses

This is indispensable, and it is indispensable to one very, very essential element of Christian living that is noted in verse 7.  Please come to the climax of the thought.  Sound judgment and sober spirit are for the purpose of prayer.  Why?  Because holiness flows out of direct communion with a holy God And when that communion is hindered by a cluttered mind, an imbalanced mind, that which is most significant in Christian experience is lost.  A confused mind, a self-centered mind, a mind knocked out of balance by worldly lusts and pursuits, a mind victimized by emotion or passion out of control, a mind that is ignorant of God’s truth, a mind that is indifferent to God’s purposes is a mind that cannot know the fullness of holy communion in prayer with God After all, you bring your mind to that communion, don’t you?  And so, your relationship to God, in a very real sense which is expressed in this matter of prayer, is determined by the attitudes that you bring, which attitudes are the result of your thinking And if you are to pray effectively, and if you are to commune with God deeply and spiritually, then you must think biblically and spiritually as well

So, says Peter, the Christian life summed up is as simple as this: think God’s thoughts What does that mean?  That means every day in the Word of God, every day meditating, thinking, absorbing, drawing out, learning to think God’s thoughts As I often say, it should come to pass that you are so deeply filled with Scripture, that your involuntary responses are godly because you’re so controlled And then, comes the sweetness of communion, then comes effective prayer, then comes powerThat’s the vertical link in Christian living.

Peter exhorts his converts to maintain a constant love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (verse 8).

MacArthur points out that Peter is citing Proverbs 10:12:

He borrowed it from Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all sins.”  Present tense here, I think, indicates that which is constantly true.  It is axiomatic.  It is a self-evident truth.  Love is always by very nature hiding a multitude of sins.  It forgives, and forgives, and forgives, and forgives, and the great, great model of that is God Why did God show mercy to us?  Why did God forgive our sins?  Ephesians 2:4 and 5 says, “For His great love where with He loved us.”  It’s true of God, it’s true of us.

Henry says this exhortation refers to the Christian community:

Learn, (1.) Christians ought not only to be charitable, but hospitable, one to another. (2.) Whatever a Christian does by way of charity or of hospitality, he ought to do it cheerfully, and without grudging. Freely you have received, freely give.

MacArthur concludes on Christian love with this:

Beloved, this is the heart of the church To be honest with you, if we take care of this, we’ve fulfilled the whole law Is that not true?  The whole law.  You can see again the genius of the Spirit of God, how in an economy of words He says so much.  You want to take care of the whole dimension of living before God?  Get a biblical mind, a spiritual mind, be deep in communion with Christ and you’ll have a powerful life You want to know how to function in the complexity of the church?  Just be so full of overflowing love that you cover sin This does not preclude, by the way, the discipline of an unrepentant member That is dealt with in other texts But even in the church, we are much more eager, I think, to point out sin than we are to cover it Hatred will stir up strife Selfishness will stir up strife.  Self-centeredness will stir up strife.  Love will hide sin.  Love will conceal it Love will pass it by in silence And what a transformation that would bring to the church.  It is that which is at the very base of all our spiritual relationships.  It is a complex world, isn’t it?  But there are not complex solutions, simple ones.  Not simply performed, simply stated, performed only in the power of the Spirit.

What a powerful meditation as we make our preparations for the greatest feast in the Church year, Easter, Christ’s resurrection from the dead which brings us to eternal life.

May everyone reading this have a blessed day ahead.

Last week, I was reading through Dr Taylor Marshall’s Twitter feed.

He featured in my Easter Monday post about the Dallas woman who was forbidden from entering her own parish church for not wearing a mask.

Over the 20th century, before my lifetime, the Catholic Church began reforms prior to Vatican II. This post will explore some of them.

The more reforms there are, the more questions the faithful have.

Chrism Mass — Maundy Thursday

In the old days of the Catholic Church, the chrism (oil) used in Baptism and, as it was then known, Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick and Dying) was blessed on Maundy Thursday at a daytime Mass attended by clergy and ordinands.

Now anything goes:

Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil Mass

I was too young to attend Easter Vigil Mass in Latin and wasn’t even around for pre-1955 Masses.

As such, this tweet piqued my interest at the weekend:

To know that this older rite is being celebrated around the world is heartening, indeed.

It took me a while to delve into the background and find out where the church is as well as the identity of the celebrant. Fortunately, the Easter Sunday Mass (below) has the Live Chat operating, which gave me a good start.

The YouTube channel, What Catholics Believe, is run by the priests belonging to the Society of Saint Pius V (SSPV).

The priest celebrating the Mass in the videos below is the Revd William Jenkins, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, in Norwood, Ohio, near Cleveland.

The SSPV is a group of priests whose founding members broke away from Bishop Lefebvre’s Society of St Pius X (SSPX) in 1983.

The SSPV did not think that the SSPX had returned to the traditional Latin Mass and Catholic teachings sufficiently. They formed their own group, named after the pope who developed the Tridentine Mass in the 16th century: Saint Pius V.

The SSPV is based on Long Island, in Oyster Bay Cove, New York. The Society has its own bishop, five permanent priories, and a network of chapels and churches in 14 American states. The SSPV does not have canonical standing with Rome. The SSPV considers the possibility that the Holy See is currently unoccupied, meaning that they have not fully recognised the past few popes, including the present incumbent.

Below is the video of the pre-1955 Latin Mass celebrated on Holy Saturday by the Revd William Jenkins at Immaculate Conception Church. I watched all of it. It took me back to my post-1955 Tridentine Mass childhood, which preceded the reforms of Vatican II:

Look at the number of people attending. Women were traditionally required to wear lace mantillas, although there are a few young women with no head covering. Best of all, during our era of coronavirus: no masks!

As Mass begins, the statues on the altar are covered. That is because the Triduum — period of mourning — ends with the Easter Vigil Mass. After the introductory prayers, two of the altar boys carefully remove the purple fabric from the covered statues.

There is no Paschal candle, so it must have been a later development.

This Mass has more altar attendants than usual because of its ceremonial and celebratory nature. Incense is used to great effect, borrowing early worship traditions from the Old Testament. The fragrance from the incense in the thurifer ascends heavenward in the desire to make all the aspects of worship pleasing to God.

There are only two readings: the Epistle and the Gospel. The sermon follows. The sermon was not as scriptural as I would have liked, but it was good. The only thing I disagreed with was the priest’s saying that Mary anointed her son’s body. There is no mention of that in the New Testament. Other women named Mary did the anointing and visiting the tomb on the day of the Resurrection.

The next part that is worth watching and listening to is the consecration of the bread and wine. The priest prays quietly, therefore, as was true centuries ago, the congregation needs to know when the important parts of the prayer are being read, so that they, too, may bow their heads and pray. Hence the frequent ringing of bells by one or more of the altar boys.

Everyone approaches the altar for Holy Communion. They kneel at the altar rail. The priest blesses each communicant with the Sign of the Cross and places a consecrated host on each person’s tongue. (The cup is a much more recent development.)

It is wonderfully solemn. I was struck by the presence of people of all ages, from small children, to adolescents, to university-age students as well as adults, older and younger. If there were more Latin Masses, there would be more Catholics in the pews, that’s for sure!

Easter Sunday Masses

This video has back-to-back Easter Sunday Masses with the same celebrant at the same church:

All are well attended.

Some viewers might notice red and green lights early on in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. That is a shot of the confessional: red when occupied, green when the next penitent can enter.

Again, many people attended these Masses over Easter. What does that tell us? Traditional liturgy attracts a wide cross-section of worshippers, more that a modern service. Even my fellow Protestants can figure out from this what works and what doesn’t.

Those interested in more pre-1955 Latin Masses from the SSPV can view them here. These are viewed by people all over the world.

Dominus vobiscum.

(This ends my posts on Holy Week and Easter 2021.)

Daytime readings for Holy Saturday — along with posts on Easter foods and traditions — can be found here.

This is one of the two Gospel choices (emphases in bold mine):

John 19:38-42

19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

19:39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

19:40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

19:41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

19:42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

I have chosen this as 2021’s Lenten readings and Holy Week’s have come from John’s Gospel.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John MacArthur tells us of burial customs for people who had been crucified:

Now what would happen normally to a crucified individual? The Romans would simply let them be eaten by birds or thrown like roadkill on the side of a road somewhere, as continuing the example of not violating Rome. They might even end up in the dump. They might even end up dead bodies thrown in Gehenna where the fire never ceased and the garbage of Jerusalem was burned. But the Romans did not bury criminals. The Jews did bury them; that was typically a Jewish thing to do. But I don’t know that they had any particular plans to bury Jesus whom they viewed as a blasphemer.

The emergence of Joseph of Arimathea in wishing to bury the body of Jesus (verses 38, 41) was a fulfilment of prophecy. MacArthur says:

Now there is a prophecy back in Isaiah 53, Isaiah 53:9. Speaking of Jesus, Isaiah writes, “His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, but He was with a rich man in His death.” His grave was assigned to be with wicked men. Sure, He was going to be thrown wherever criminals were thrown. But He was with a rich man in His death …

“After these things Joseph of Arimathea,” – that’s the town – “being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews.” So here is a man who is a secret disciple. He was afraid to entertain any public confession of faith about Christ even though he believed. If you go back into chapter 12 you remember it says, “There were many of the rulers who believed in Him, but they didn’t acknowledge it for fear of the Jews. They were more concerned about what men thought than what God thought.” So here is this secret believer.

MacArthur tells us more about him and what compelled him to reveal his belief:

Now we know a lot about him because he’s mentioned in the other gospels. He is rich. Matthew 27:57, he is very rich. He is a good man. He is a member of the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin that sentenced Jesus to death – no doubt he didn’t vote that. He has been a coward, afraid to acknowledge himself when Jesus was ministering and alive. Somehow, in some dramatic way, by divine work on his heart, the coward becomes almost heroic in bravery; and as soon as Jesus has died – which means he must have been around – he sets aside all that fear and all that dread and all that cowardice, and he goes to Pilate and has to reveal that he is a disciple of Jesus, and he asks that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission after checking to make sure He was dead; and he came and took away His body. So now instead of Jesus, Isaiah 53:9 says, having a grave with the wicked, He’s going to be with a rich man in His death.

It says in Mark 15:43 that Joseph gathered up courage. No doubt power of the Lord came on him. He fulfills prophecy, because Jesus had said in Matthew 12:40 that He would be in the grave three days and rise. He has to be in the grave on Friday. Joseph appears to do that.

Jesus, dead, had moved Joseph in ways that Joseph wouldn’t be moved when Jesus was alive. Jesus, dead physically, brought Joseph to an open confession and moved him into the plan in a critical way; and he was the right guy, because he was a believer; and he was the right guy, because he had a tomb that had never been used, it wasn’t occupied; and he was the right guy, because the tomb that he had was right next to where Jesus was crucified, which meant they could get Him in there Friday.

Nicodemus is similarly moved to help bury Jesus by bringing a very heavy load of myrrh and aloes weighing 100 pounds (verse 39).

Nicodemus first approached the living Jesus at night in John 3. That passage was read a few weeks ago on the Fourth Sunday of Lent — Laetare Sunday (Year B) in March 2021.

Nicodemus was a religious ruler, a Pharisee: very learned in Scripture and Mosaic law. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish hierarchy.

He went to see Jesus at night either because he was too busy to meet him during the day, or, more likely, because he did not want to incur the wrath of the Sanhedrin.

So we have two high-ranking men of the religious establishment, both secret and now open believers, burying the body of Jesus according to Jewish custom (verse 40).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Hereby they showed the value they had for his person and doctrine, and that it was not lessened by the reproach of the cross. Those that had been so industrious to profane his crown, and lay his honour in the dust, might already see that they had imagined a vain thing for, as God had done him honour in his sufferings, so did men too, even great men. They showed not only the charitable respect of committing his body to the earth, but the honourable respect shown to great men. This they might do, and yet believe and look for his resurrection nay, this they might do in the belief and expectation of it. Since God designed honour for this body, they would put honour upon it.

MacArthur is less sure that they — or anyone else — anticipated the Resurrection:

Would you please remember that these are not disciples plotting a resurrection or they wouldn’t have used a hundred-pound weight on Him. They weren’t planning to steal His body. Certainly the other disciples weren’t; they aren’t even there.

Although John does not mention it in his account, the other Gospels tell us that women also helped the two men prepare our Lord’s body for burial.

The new tomb was located near the place where Jesus was crucified (verse 41). MacArthur says we can be sure it belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, because:

Matthew 27:60 says that tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea.

Henry points out the significance of the gardens in our Lord’s life and death as well as in the Bible:

That in a sepulchre in a garden Christ’s body was laid. In the garden of Eden death and the grave first received their power, and now in a garden they are conquered, disarmed, and triumphed over. In a garden Christ began his passion, and from a garden he would rise, and begin his exaltation. Christ fell to the ground as a corn of wheat (John 12:24), and therefore was sown in a garden among the seeds, for his dew is as the dew of herbs, Isaiah 26:19. He is the fountain of gardens, Song of Song of Solomon 4:15.

Because it was Friday, the Day of Preparation for the Sabbath — and at that particular time for the Passover Sabbath — that tomb was chosen to expedite matters for religious reasons (verse 42).

Henry elaborates:

1. Observe here the deference which the Jews paid to the sabbath, and to the day of preparation. Before the passover-sabbath they had a solemn day of preparation. This day had been ill kept by the chief priests, who called themselves the church, but was well kept by the disciples of Christ, who were branded as dangerous to the church and it is often so. (1.) They would not put off the funeral till the sabbath day, because the sabbath is to be a day of holy rest and joy, with which the business and sorrow of a funeral do not well agree. (2.) They would not drive it too late on the day of preparation for the sabbath. What is to be done the evening before the sabbath should be so contrived that it may neither intrench upon sabbath time, nor indispose us for sabbath work.

2. Observe the convenience they took of an adjoining sepulchre the sepulchre they made use of was nigh at hand. Perhaps, if they had had time, they would have carried him to Bethany, and buried him among his friends there. And I am sure he had more right to have been buried in the chief of the sepulchres of the sons of David than any of the kings of Judah had but it was so ordered that he should be laid in a sepulchre nigh at hand, (1.) Because he was to lie there but awhile, as in an inn, and therefore he took the first that offered itself. (2.) Because this was a new sepulchre. Those that prepared it little thought who should handsel it but the wisdom of God has reaches infinitely beyond ours, and he makes what use he pleases of us and all we have. (3.) We are hereby taught not to be over-curious in the place of our burial. Where the tree falls, why should it not lie? For Christ was buried in the sepulchre that was next at hand …

In closing, some will wonder about the three-day period from death to resurrection. MacArthur clarifies this for us:

Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, Friday, since the tomb was nearby they laid Jesus there. So He was in the grave on Friday, that’s Day One. He was in the grave on Saturday, that’s Day Two. He was in the grave on Sunday until the morning, that’s three days.

Any part of a day to a Jew constituted that day. Prophecy was fulfilled. He had power over His dying. He had power over the treatment of His body after He was dead. He had power over His burial to fulfill prophecy. Truly this is the Son of God.

Passiontide and Lent end on the evening of Holy Saturday. Catholic churches hold a lengthy Easter Vigil service at that time with several Bible readings, including the Gospel (Mark 16:1-8) wherein Mary Magdalen, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (not Herod’s step-daughter) are shocked to find the stone rolled back and the tomb empty.

Swieconka basket annhetzelgunkelcomHoly Saturday is normally the time when some Christians around the world, especially those from Eastern Europe, take baskets of Easter food for their priest to bless.

These foods, particularly the basket of Polish items in the illustration, have a religious symbolism. You can find out more in this post:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Four years ago, Britain’s top home cook and culinary television presenter Mary Berry had a short series on food eaten around the world at Easter. It was a fascinating series, summarised below:

Easter food explored — part 1 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Easter food explored — part 2 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

This next post has more about Easter food traditions, in France, Spain, Portugal, Austria and, until a few decades ago, Algeria:

Holy Saturday: preparing for an Easter feast (2017)

Of course, this year, Easter will be different. Because of coronavirus lockdowns, most of us are not allowed to visit with family members or friends outside of our own household.

I could not get lamb this year because of the lack of supermarket deliveries. We will have duck instead. Lamb will be delivered later in April. Oh, well.

Daytime Lectionary readings

jesus-laid-in-a-tomb-f5462516571Spiritually, most of Holy Saturday is mournful. Jesus was in the tomb, having been attended to by friends — but not the Apostles.

Here are the daytime readings:

Readings for Holy Saturday — daytime

This is the Gospel reading, which was read on Palm Sunday (Year A) in the Liturgy of the Passion. The burial of Jesus took place on Friday evening and the sealing of the tomb took place on Saturday (emphases mine):

Matthew 27:57-66

27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

27:59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

27:64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

27:65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Easter Vigil readings

On Saturday evening, the mood changes. Lent comes to an end and many Catholics and High Church Anglicans attend a lengthy but beautiful Easter vigil service, about which you can read more in this post. For centuries, this was the day when catechumens — those studying to be Christians — were baptised:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Although the body of Jesus was still in the tomb on Saturday, His spirit had gone to Sheol, or the place of the dead to free the souls of children and righteous adults.  Jesus descended into this ‘Hell’, although the limbo He went to is not like the Hell or Purgatory that we know today.  His presence illuminated all these righteous souls from the beginning of time — Adam, Eve, Noah, Moses — and Sheol became a paradise until Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven.  Upon His Ascension, Jesus opened the doors to Heaven for them, where they live with Him now and forever.

The Vigil service anticipates the Resurrection, and the Gospel reading is about what happened on Sunday morning.

This service has more readings than usual. Three readings from the Old Testament must be read; the passage from Exodus 14 is mandatory:

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21

14:10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the LORD.

14:11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?

14:12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

14:13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.

14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

14:15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.

14:16 But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground.

14:17 Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.

14:18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

14:19 The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.

14:20 It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.

14:22 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

14:23 The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.

14:24 At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.

14:25 He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

14:26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.”

14:27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea.

14:28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained.

14:29 But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

14:30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

14:31 Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

15:20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.

15:21 And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Psalm

This is one of the Psalms, recalling the Exodus and God’s omnipotence. Verse 8 prophesies Christ as the water of life; Paul refers to it in 1 Corinthians 10:4:

Psalm 114

114:1 When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,

114:2 Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.

114:3 The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.

114:4 The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.

114:5 Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?

114:6 O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?

114:7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob,

114:8 who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.

Epistle

Paul writes of the Resurrection beautifully. Our Lord conquered death and, thanks to Him, so will all believers.

Romans 6:3-11

6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.

6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel

The Gospel reading describes an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone over the tomb where Jesus lay. The angel’s appearance was as bright as lightning. Note that the two Marys are the ones who check on the tomb — not the Apostles.

Matthew 28:1-10

28:1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

28:2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

28:3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

28:4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.

28:5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.

28:6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

28:7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

28:8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.

28:10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

It is impossible to imagine what the two women experienced at that moment in their extreme awe and boundless joy.

I hope we feel the same, knowing that Jesus came to bring us to life eternal.

Below are readings for daytime services on Holy Saturday, applicable to all three years of the Lectionary.

Emphases below are mine.

Before getting to the readings, Holy Saturday sees the end of Lent in the evening and is very much food related, especially in anticipation of Easter. These posts discuss various Easter traditions:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Easter food explored — part 1 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Easter food explored — part 2 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Holy Saturday: preparing for an Easter feast (2017)

For those wondering why we have chocolate bunnies and eggs for Easter, the next post explains these ancient symbols of life. Centuries-old churches even have hares carved on them:

Easter, the egg and the hare (one of the fullest accounts about Easter symbolism)

Mary Magdalene and the legend of the egg (Christian — not pagan!)

This post has more about Holy Saturday in general:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Now on to the readings.

First reading

There are two choices for the first reading.

Option One

This passage from Job concerns intimations of mortality and what happens after death.

Job 14:1-14

14:1 “A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble,

14:2 comes up like a flower and withers, flees like a shadow and does not last.

14:3 Do you fix your eyes on such a one? Do you bring me into judgment with you?

14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one can.

14:5 Since their days are determined, and the number of their months is known to you, and you have appointed the bounds that they cannot pass,

14:6 look away from them, and desist, that they may enjoy, like laborers, their days.

14:7 “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.

14:8 Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground,

14:9 yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.

14:10 But mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they?

14:11 As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up,

14:12 so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.

14:13 Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!

14:14 If mortals die, will they live again? All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come.

Option Two

This passage from Lamentations is more hopeful than the one from Job.

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24

3:1 I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath;

3:2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light;

3:3 against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.

3:4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones;

3:5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation;

3:6 he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago.

3:7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me;

3:8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer;

3:9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.

3:19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!

3:20 My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.

3:21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

3:22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;

3:23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

3:24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm

Here David proclaims his confident faith in God.

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16

31:1 In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.

31:2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

31:3 You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,

31:4 take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.

31:15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

31:16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

Epistle

Peter exhorts his flock to discard the world and embrace a life of righteousness, following our Lord’s example.

1 Peter 4:1-8

4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),

4:2 so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

4:3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.

4:4 They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.

4:5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

4:7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.

4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

Gospel

There are also two choices of Gospel reading.

Option One

This passage from Matthew explains that the Jews encouraged the Romans to seal up Jesus’s tomb, lest the disciples steal His body. This notion that His body was stolen is still a popular one among unbelievers today.

Matthew 27:57-66

27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

27:59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

27:64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

27:65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Option Two

These verses were read on Good Friday.

John 19:38-42

19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

19:39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

19:40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

19:41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

19:42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The mood of all of these readings is sombre, reflecting what Jesus’s friends and disciples must have felt, not understanding that He would rise from the dead.

Easter Vigil readings — heard in the evening — are jubilant, recalling God’s faithfulness to His people throughout biblical history.

When I was growing up, Holy Saturday was our family’s big shopping day.

As Lent would end that evening, we could have a mini-feast then and a grand repast for Easter.

Many countries have Christian food traditions for Holy Saturday. The following post discusses those in Eastern European countries:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

The much-loved doyenne of home cookery, Mary Berry, presented an excellent two-part programme for the BBC in 2016 on other Easter traditions around the world, summarised below:

Easter food explored — part 1

Easter food explored — part 2

However, foremost in our minds is the religious aspect of Holy Saturday:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Joseph of Arimathea fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:9. The whole chapter is worth reading and meditating upon as we approach Easter Day:

53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men,
    a man of sorrows[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;[g]
when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53 is a good chapter to consider as we contemplate the Crucifixion and anticipate our Lord’s Resurrection.

Lent ends on the evening of Holy Saturday, generally timed around the first Easter Vigil service.

Many Christians enjoy attending Easter Vigil services to see the blessing and lighting of the Paschal Candle, which is lit at services for the next 40 days, until Ascension Day.

New holy water is blessed in Catholic and High Anglican churches. (Chrism Masses would have been held on Wednesday of Holy Week, at which time bishops bless the oil used in Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination and the Anointing of the Sick and Dying for the next year.)

Traditionally, catechumens — newcomers to the faith — are baptised at this service.

The following post has more information:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

During the day, families are busy purchasing and preparing festive dishes for Easter Day. A popular custom among Polish Catholics is to have their food blessed at church.

(Image credit: annhetzelgunkel.com)

The following post, with the help of the aforementioned website, explains the importance of these traditional ingredients:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Every Christian culture has certain food traditions. In 2016, Mary Berry, the doyenne of English home cooks, presented a two-part programme for the BBC in which she explored different Easter treats from around the world. Find out more below:

Easter food explored — part 1 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Easter food explored — part 2 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

A French cooking site has an interesting article on Easter food in Europe and Algeria. ‘Gâteaux de Pâques traditionnels’ has excellent close-up photographs by way of illustration. A summary of the article follows along with my own commentary.

France

In Alsace, the traditional Easter cake is made in the shape of a lamb. It was originally called Osterlammele — Easter lamb — suggesting its German origins.

Easter cakes in other European countries are also in lamb shapes, using special moulds. Polish lamb cakes are elaborately iced and decorated.

The one from Alsace is plainer, lightly dusted with icing sugar. Traditionally, it was wrapped in fine paper in the colours of Alsace or the Vatican.

Regardless of decoration, lamb cakes are rich in eggs, which were traditionally forbidden during Lent.

Wherever it is used, the lamb shape reminds us of the goodness of Christ and that we should follow His example.

All Recipes provides the instructions. The video below might not be the most expert, but I did enjoy watching the two young lads make a lamb cake:

Italy

Pasteria Napoletana is a popular Easter tart.

Its origins go back to pagan times, when a special bread made from spelt was offered to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, in springtime.

Wikipedia says that it is possible that early bread evolved into a ritual bread made of honey and milk which catechumens received after their baptism on Easter Eve during the reign of Constantine.

In the 18th century, one of the nuns at the convent of San Gregorio Armeno in Naples, which still exists today, was responsible for the version eaten today. She wanted to create a tart that symbolised the Resurrection, including orange blossom water from the convent’s garden.

The symbolism is as follows: wheat for rebirth, flour for force and strength, eggs for infinity, white ricotta for purity and orange blossom water — along with dried fruit, spices and sugar — for richness.

Wikipedia says that the nuns were ‘geniuses’ in preparing these tarts, which had to be made on Maundy Thursday in order to set properly for Easter. They were then given to wealthy benefactors for the Easter table.

Although variations exist — sometimes with pastry cream added — each must have wheat and ricotta to be considered authentic.

Laura in the Kitchen has a recipe and a video:

Portugal

At Easter, the Portuguese eat folar, bread which can be sweet or savoury.

Sometimes folar is wrapped around whole eggs (before baking) to symbolise new life.

Other variations include chorizo or other charcuterie.

Traditionally, this bread is given to priests, godparents or godchildren as a symbol of happiness and prosperity.

The lady in the video below makes a savoury folar in the most traditional way — in a bread trough. The film is in Portuguese, but you can check it for consistency and shaping while you follow a recipe, in this case from Pocket Cultures:

Austria

Austrians celebrate Easter by including on their tables a rich brioche called Osterpinze or Pinza. (Oster means ‘Easter’.)

This brioche originated in southern Austria. It is shaped into three petals — no doubt to symbolise the Holy Trinity — and sometimes has a coloured Easter egg — the Resurrection and new life — in the centre. Orange blossom water is used in the dough. Some variations also include dried fruits for extra richness.

The Austrians adapted this recipe from pannetone. Italy borders the southern part of the country.

The Bread She Bakes has a recipe in English. Although the video below is in German, watch this gentleman’s techniques:

Algeria

Although Algeria is primarily Muslim today, it is important to remember that North Africa was the cradle of the early Church. One could certainly put forward a case for Christianity being an African faith, because it spread to Europe later.

Christians in Algeria ate Mouna Oranaise at Easter. La Mouna — a mountain — is situated outside of Oran, Algeria’s second largest city. Christians from Oran went to this mountain to celebrate Easter and to break bread.

Although the French article does not say, it seems likely that the bread developed into a brioche when the French arrived and took its present-day form.

All good brioches take time, and the Mouna takes six hours to rise: four initially, after which the dough is divided into two and left to rise for another two hours.

The Mouna has a rich egg glaze and is topped with pearl sugar.

Today, people of all faiths eat Mouna. A Muslim included the recipe on her Pinterest page. A YouTube video appears on the Sephardic (Jewish) food channel.

Christian pied-noirs brought the Mouna recipe to France as an Easter speciality. Make a brioche dough and include orange flower water or lemon zest. Knead the dough well — or use a food processor with a dough hook — to ensure the dough is nice and light:

I am sure that some of these Easter treats cross borders. I am particularly interested in hearing from others with regard to breads and pastries. Feel free to comment below!

In the meantime, I hope that everyone’s Easter preparations go well!

On Holy Saturday, the last day of Holy Week, Catholics and Protestants look forward to celebrating our Lord’s resurrection and preparing a feast for family and friends.

You might find my past posts about Holy Saturday helpful in understanding its significance:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Last week, I summarised the first part of English food journalist Mary Berry’s look at Easter food traditions in various countries and denominations, encompassing those in England, Jamaica, Russia and Poland.

The second, concluding part of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast on BBC2 aired this week. Berry’s enthusiasm for Easter as both a religious and gastronomic feast matches mine, which is part of what made the programme so enjoyable.

Christians make special breads at this time of year to recall Jesus as the Bread of Life. Lamb is also popular, as He is the Lamb of God, the once perfect sacrifice for our sins. As the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd John Sentamu explained, ‘Easter is the Passover of the Lord’.

Greece – tsoureki

Berry visited St Sophia’s Cathedral in London, a breathtakingly beautiful Greek Orthodox church.

Fr Savas, the priest who gave her a tour of the cathedral, said that 1,000 faithful normally attend Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday. Everyone takes a lit candle home and blesses their home with the light of the Resurrection.

Fr Savas’s cousin Katarina made the traditional Easter bread — tsoureki — for Berry. It is a plaited (braided) bread with a red coloured hard boiled egg at the top. The three plaits symbolise the Holy Trinity. The egg symbolises Jesus Christ, and the red colour represents His blood that He shed for our redemption.

Tsoureki dough is an enriched one, resembling a brioche. It is flavoured with two spices: one, mastiha, which comes from tree resin and the other, mahlepi, from ground cherry stones which gives it an almond flavour.

Before baking, the tsoureki is glazed with egg wash and topped with sesame seeds. My Little Expat Kitchen has a recipe that looks like the one Katarina used.

The Netherlands – Easter Men

With the help of her grandchildren, Berry showed us the Dutch Easter Men recipe that she makes every year.

She saw them many years ago on a trip to Holland around Easter and was intrigued.

Berry likes the simplicity of the one-rise bread dough used to make this charming little bread of a man holding an egg — the risen Christ — in his arms.

Once the dough is risen, Berry portions it out and cuts into each one to shape the head, the arms and the legs. She secures a raw egg in the folded arms and decorates the heads with raisins or blackcurrants for simple facial features. She glazes the men with egg wash and bakes them for 25 minutes. The egg cooks as the bread bakes.

This is a simple, straightforward recipe that children will enjoy. They can help shape the limbs, once cut, and decorate the faces.

The Philippines – lechon

Berry visitied a Catholic Filipina, May, who made her a roast pork dish called lechon, an Easter staple in the Philippines.

May explained that, traditionally, lechon is a whole hog roast. Her father used to roast several hogs at Easter when she was growing up in the Philippines. Friends, neighbours and family would then join in for a massive Easter feast.

For home cooks, May recommends pork belly. She brined one with thyme, crushed lemongrass and bay leaves. After several hours, she removed the pork belly from the brine and patted it completely dry, enabling it to crisp when baking.

May laid it out flat, skin side down, and, in the centre, placed a few stems of crushed lemongrass, several spring onions cut lengthwise in half and added a lot of crushed garlic on top before seasoning well with salt and pepper. She then rolled the pork belly tightly and tied it well with butcher’s string.

Once roasted, the lechon had a glossy, dark outer skin. Inside, the meat was moist and tender. The belly fat had cooked out, with some going into the meat. As this recipe has no crackling — the outer skin is too hard to eat — it might be suitable for cooks who prefer less fatty, yet succulent, pork.

May explained that the Spanish introduced lechon to the Philippines centuries ago.

The dish is also popular in Cuba.

England – roast lamb

Berry went to York to watch the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu — a political prisoner from Idi Amin’s Uganda who moved to England 42 years ago — make her own recipe for roast lamb.

Sentamu and his wife Elizabeth both talked about how important Easter was for their large families in Africa. Sentamu’s mother taught him and his siblings how to cook. His father insisted not only on roast lamb on Easter but also curried goat and curried chicken.

He and Elizabeth have been using Berry’s lamb recipe ever since they saw it on television years ago. Berry confessed that she’d long forgotten about it, but it looks very tasty, especially with the touches the Sentamus have added over the years.

The Archbishop cut the main bone out of the leg of lamb. He took several thin slices of deli ham, spread a herb (predominantly rosemary leaves) and garlic mix over each slice and layered them neatly one on top of the other. He rolled the layered ham neatly and inserted it into the middle of the lamb.

He layered his roasting tray generously with tarragon and placed the lamb on top. Around it he put several onion halves. He took a bottle of white wine and poured it until it just covered the onions.

Once the roast was resting, he strained the juices from the roasting pan and made a sumptuous gravy. My mouth was watering. The Sentamu family must surely look forward to lunch on Easter!

Italy – Easter dove bread

Colomba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian bread made in a dove mould, although it can be made in a round one.

The dove symbolises Christ, the Prince of Peace.

To see it made, Berry visited Maria, who cooks for the priests and visiting clergy at St Peter’s Italian Church in London’s Little Italy.

The dough is enriched, as for a brioche, and contains currants and orange peel. It requires a 12-hour rise.

Maria placed the dough into a dove-shaped mould and topped it with whole almonds and crushed sugar. This recipe, which includes a picture, resembles Maria’s. The sugar bakes into the top of the bread leaving an appetising topping.

I wished I’d been with the two very happy priests when she served it to them. They tucked in with gusto.

Easter feast

Nearly all of the show’s participants and their families gathered at Berry’s parish church in the Home Counties not far from London for a sumptuous Easter feast.

They brought their special dishes and Berry brought hers. If you can see the hour-long episode, you’ll agree with me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable occasion. I would love to have been there.

Everyone got along famously and tried to learn each other’s language. It was a beautiful sight as many promised to keep in touch with each other.

I hope that everyone’s Easter feast is as special as Mary Berry’s.

As we eat, may we remember the risen Christ and give thanks for His resurrection from the dead and His promise to us of life everlasting.

jesus-laid-in-a-tomb-f54625165718d606On Holy Saturday we make the transition from Lent to Easter.

Psalm 118 — read in certain years on Palm Sunday — helps us to understand the rejection of our Lord, His excruciating death for us and the promise of eternal life through His resurrection. As Matthew Henry wrote in the late 17th century:

The more our hearts are impressed with a sense of God’s goodness the more they will be enlarged in all manner of obedience.

The Vigil Mass, held in Catholic and some High Anglican churches on the evening of Holy Saturday, heightens the anticipation of Easter Sunday. The priest lights the new Paschal candle to be lit for the next 40 days recalling Christ as light of the world, and, in some churches, those who have been instructed in the faith are baptised.

Earlier in the day, Catholics from Eastern European countries and backgrounds will have taken their food to be blessed by their parish priest.

Those who have fasted and/or abstained from certain foods end this Lenten discipline after 6 p.m. or after they attend Easter Vigil service.

Traditional Eastern European Easter menus include eggs, lamb, cakes or butter shaped into lambs, ham, sausage and horseradish. As the post explains, each has its own religious symbolism.

window_pfcross271w St Mary the Virgin Gillingham DorsetBefore concluding my series on John 17, the following posts about Holy Saturday might interest newer subscribers:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Now for the third and final part of John 17, Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer. You might wish to read Parts 1 and 2, if you haven’t already.

He has already prayed for Himself in advance of the Crucifixion and for His disciples in His absence.

Today’s passage is Jesus’s prayer for us. Emphases mine below.

20“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

If those words do not encourage one to repent, I’m not sure what will.

How marvellous that the Holy Spirit inspired John to include this beautiful prayer in his Gospel, my favourite.

Verses 20 and 21 tells us that not only does Jesus wish for holy unity among His disciples, He desires it for us as well.

That holy unity with each other is not a oneness with lukewarm believers or those in error, by the way. John MacArthur explains:

He’s not praying that some day all denominations will get together and we’ll have one big ecumenical hash. He’s not praying that we’ll have one-world church, as some have thought. He’s simply praying that believers who share common eternal life, the very life of God dwelling in them, will be united in their separation from all that is ungodly and worldly…expressing spiritual love and power and obedience, all affections for God burning with the same flame, all aims directed at the same end, all pursuing the harmony of love and holiness.

Jesus goes on to say that He has shared His own glory with us (verse 22) and He prays that God will unite us ‘perfectly’ with both Himself and the Father, just as they have been perfectly one since before the beginning of the world (verses 23 and 24). That glory enables us to manifest to the world that Christ is our Redeemer and Saviour.

Jesus says that those who believe in Him know that He is the Son of God (verse 25). He has accomplished this during His earthly ministry, now at an end, and will continue to do so afterward (verse 26).

Jesus expresses His enduring, generous love for us in this marvellous prayer. This love is so deep, abiding and comprehensive that we will never be able to appreciate it until we meet Him face to face, sharing His glory.

This is what the Holy Week, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost story is all about. Many of us can hardly wait to be in His presence and give God all glory. And one day we will.

John MacArthur unpacks these verses for us:

This praying first for our holiness, our oneness in holiness even as the Father and the Son are one in holiness. But secondly, He prays for our eternal fellowship with Him. And this is this most overwhelming thing. This is how the whole prayer ends. It really is overwhelming. “Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am.” I mean, there aren’t even too many famous people in this world who are interested in having us around, are they? We’re not many noble, not many mighty. Nobody in the palaces of the world is calling me. Nobody in the Oval Office ever calls me. Nobody in the Supreme Court wants to run around with me. Nobody is interested in most of us. In fact, I guess in some ways we’re sort of the dregs, aren’t we? Especially in this culture we live in today. Is it not remarkable that the glorious Son of the living God prays to His Father that He might have us with Him? Is that not a staggering thing, an overwhelming request? He asks for the Father to grant the eternal presence of all of us with Him …

He’s anticipating the time on the cross and He’s going to be going through the sin bearing and the suffering and He’s really just saying to the Father, “Hang on to them while I’m gone for a while. And, Lord, bring them to glory, I don’t want to lose any of them. Bring them to that place where they’ll trade this vile body for a body like unto His body.” We will have a body like Jesus Christ, reflecting His glory. To be with Jesus, that’s heaven, that’s heaven. To gaze at His glory, that’s heaven. That’s what it is …

And lastly, the final two verses, verses 25 and 26 … 

These two verses just breathe the confidence that the Father will listen, that the Father will hear. He said, “I’m only asking for those who know You. I’m only asking for those who are Yours. I have known You,” and that’s the basis for asking, “and these have known You,” and that’s the basis for the petition and the blessing.

Here is a perfect illustration of prayer. He knows the will of God and He prays for it. Prayer is not so much about changing God’s mind about things as it is affirming God’s will. That’s why we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come…and the next line says…Thy…what?…will be done.” I tell you, when we think about the Lord interceding for us, it is a staggering thing. And the Son always prays like the Spirit, according to the will of God and the Father will always answer.

As I mentioned in my first two posts on John 17, MacArthur has preached extensively about this one chapter in 1972, 1997 and again in 2002. He has several lengthy sermons on this great prayer.

As generous as this prayer is, it is meant for those who truly believe in Christ. MacArthur warns:

And when it says in verse 20: “Who shall believe on Me,” in that word “Me” is everything that Jesus claimed to be and everything that He said … believing in the total content of Christ. The only way a man ever enters into a right relationship with God is by believing in Christ. I don’t care if he goes to church or does this or does that or has religious feelings, it’s only through believing in Christ, accepting His person, His work and everything He said as fact revelation direct from God. Good works, church membership and anything else have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Now pardon for sin, for example, comes by believing. The Bible says that man is a sinner and consequently will pay the penalty, but Christ comes along and pardons His sin by dying on the cross and bearing the penalty Himself. How do you gain this pardon? You gain this pardon by doing something? No. Acts 10:43 says: “Through His name whosoever believeth on Him shall receive remission of sin.” Pardon comes by believing.

The Bible also talks about the fact that a man can be made just before God. You’re dragged into the court of God, God says you’re a sinner, you’re a sinner, you’re a sinner every way you look at it you’re a sinner, every way you slice it, it comes out sin, from the beginning to the end of your life you’re a sinner. How in the world are you ever going to enter into His presence? Well, God has the right to declare you righteous by virtue of what Jesus did for you. But in order to receive that righteousness and be declared just, Acts 13:39 says: “By Him all that believe are righteous.” It is by doing what that we receive righteousness? By believing. You don’t earn it.

The Bible talks about the fact that God wants to make men His children, that He wants to make us sons of God, adopting us into His family. How do you ever get to be adopted into God’s family? How do you become a child of God? John 1:12: “To as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to be called the sons of God, even to them that do what? … believe on His name.”

The Bible talks about spiritual light that is available. How do you get spiritual light to understand spiritual truth? Jesus said: “Whosoever believeth in Me shall not walk in … what? … darkness.” Believing.

The Bible says that God has made available to men peace and joy. How do you get it? Romans 15:13: “Now the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy in believing.” It’s there all the way through the New Testament. Salvation is a matter of believing.

I hope this short series helps to make the Holy Week and Easter story clearer and Jesus Christ more relevant to us.

May we use the time from Easter to Pentecost to contemplate Christ’s immense and eternal love for us. May we turn from sin by asking for more divine grace and profound faith.

Happy Easter to you all!

 

 

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