Bishop Martin's Letter to Parishes in the Diocese of Chichester
There are two major Christian festivals in March. They celebrate people whose response to God was tentative, but consistent.
The first commemorates Joseph of Nazareth, the husband of Mary. The second festival celebrates Mary’s experience of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus.
Christians of earlier generations found benefit in presenting the story of Easter as the culmination of Christmas when Joseph and Mary were so prominent.
They did this through a cycle of mystery plays, the most famous of which are still performed in York, telling the Christian story from creation to judgement at the end of time. These plays were a bridge between ordinary daily life and the drama of heaven come to earth in the Church’s liturgical worship.
This year, an early Easter places Holy Week between the festivals of Joseph and of the annunciation. It is one of those periodic occurrences when dates and timing become symbolic.
Mary and Joseph are two ordinary people, from the same working town, who fall in love and get married. In the middle of all that something incredible happens, that transforms their lives. They become players in the divine drama of salvation.
Their festivals stand on either side of Holy Week and they, as it were, invite us to connect with that drama through our experience today of God’s call and God’s power.
In this Year of Prayer, my hope is that the drama of Holy Week will assume greater importance in your Christian life, and in your diary.
I hope that you, like Joseph and Mary, will allow the call of God to draw you into the drama of salvation: not as a spectator, but as a player, or agent, who will attract others to its reality, as you renew your commitment to know, love, follow Jesus.