This years Palm Sunday dawn was very quiet, sombre and still. Walking through Barnsley town centre one would think of a scene of ’28 days later’ as opposed to a normal Sunday morning stroll to work. The silence was extraordinary and slightly disturbing. We are now in the third week of restrictions and it is starting to bite on us all. How much longer will this agony last, how much more are we going to take. But we have to be strong and be able to take whatever is thrown in our direction. In the words of Stoker in his novel ‘Dracula’, ‘we have to taste the bitter waters before we can reach the sweet.’
The world is very troubled, frightened and is facing a incredibly difficult challenge. Many people have lost their lives, people have given their lives to save others. The key workers on the front line, who knowing the potential dangers to their own health have gone fearlessly to work in the supermarkets, warehouses and banks to keep our country going. The brave doctors and nurses of our wonderful National Health Service, who have worked incredibly hard, some of whom have given their lives also have shown inspiration to our nation and its children. As Her Majesty so eloquently said on Sunday evening, ‘we will meet again’, I hope that that dream will come to us in much brighter and more positive times. We pray and remember the ones who have been lost.
It makes me quite sad to think that this will be the strangest Holy Week in living memory. The churches of different Christian denominations will not be celebrating Christ’s resurrection from the grave, and members of the Jewish faith will not be able to go to their synagogues to celebrate their deliverance from slavery. Faith is a bystander for the terror and the darkness that surrounds us. But we have to endure, and we will.
Last year’s Holy week was dominated by the fire of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, as the blazing spire fell into the burning medieval roof. That has been quickly forgotten as the journalists look for different stories and switch attention to other more pressing matters. This year will be focused on looking after each other and staying safe. Celebrating the feast of Easter behind closed doors will be a first for many of us.
Maundy Thursday is also the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of Arras, which in 1917 fell on Easter Monday. As part of a diversionary action designed to help the French offensive on the Chemin de Dames, the British launched an attack around the city of Arras, It is a day which in Canada became more than a dominion of the British Empire, it had become a nation entire. The seizure of Vimy Ridge was a outstanding success for the Canadian army, who had come through the German Gas attacks at Ypres in April 1915 and the autumn agony of the Somme at Courcelette in 1916. By seizing this vitally strategic point the Allies dominated the Douai plain and were able to see what the Germans were up to for miles around with unlimited observation. Their achievement was a astonishing Allied success.
Despite making good progress around Arras the British offensive stalled, the Germans after taking a huge blow immediately put into practice the defensive technique that had worked really effectively on the Somme a year before. The process of ‘Defence in Depth’ held off the British hammer blows. The French offensive failed which led to mutiny, and the Canadians went to their own garden of gethsemane, the calvary of Passchendaele.
Happy Easter and please stay safe!!!!!!!!!!!