Holy Week and Easter for all of us this year will be very different: churches are closed and the Government has issued strict guidelines on travel and social gatherings. Downside, in line with the rest of the country, has had to close the https://www.downsideabbey.co.uk/a-virtual-retreat-with-downside-abbey/Abbey Church.

Fortunately, we are blessed with beautiful and spacious gardens, but we feel saddened that we are unable to welcome Old Gregorians, their families, parishioners and other friends to share the Holy Week ceremonies and the Sacred Triduum. So many of you have previously played an important part in these special days. We have come to rely on you, and especially for your assistance in the great liturgical ceremonies of the Triduum. 

This year, only the ten resident monks will attend the ceremonies: it will be a different experience. We will not forget you in our prayers and intercessions. Rome has issued strict rules as to how the ceremonies are to be conducted. Fortunately, we are now allowed to have an Easter Vigil, but no fire, blessing of the candle and procession; there will be no blessing of the font and holy water, but we are able to gather in the Abbey Church to pray and remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. At all these ceremonies, our friends and regular visitors will be in our thoughts and prayers, as will all those who are suffering from the virus, those who are caring for them, and all the medical staff across the country and the front-line workers. Remember that all of us have a role to play. The first thing, nonetheless, is to comply with the Government regulations about social distancing.

Wherever you are in the world, these next few days will still be Holy Week. This is the most sacred week of the year, when we accompany Jesus in the last days of his earthly life. We join him at that meal with his disciples when he gave us the command to extend to others our friendship, love, and service. At that special meal, he left the Church the gift of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. On Good Friday we join Jesus at the foot of the Cross as we come up to venerate the Cross at the Service in the afternoon. On Holy Saturday, there is a feeling of expectancy as we pray outside the tomb, waiting for Jesus’ Resurrection, bringing us all new life. 

The Last Supper (1886) by Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911)


Ensure that these days do not pass you by. Pray – spend some time each day in reflection and prayer. You may like to keep in touch with what we are doing at Downside:

Instagram: @downsideabbey    Facebook: downside.abbey    Twitter: downsideabbey     Soundcloud: downsideabbey

You can also visit Universalisrun by Martin Kochanski (U72) and reflect on one of the readings for each day. You will find many other resources to help you, and your own parish will be providing help and guidance. Find a quiet time to pray for the world in this time of global crisis. 

Below is another picture by the same artist, Fritz von Uhde, whose depiction of the Last Supper we have chosen for you.  In his The Road to Emmaus we see Jesus after his Resurrection on Easter Sunday evening walking with two disciples to Emmaus. You cannot see the face of Jesus, nor those of the two disciples, but you can see the two disciples listening attentively as Jesus opens the scriptures to them. ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?’ (Luke 24: 32). Let us all keep walking on that path, as it is the path that leads us to the Light of Christ. 

The Road to Emmaus (1890)  by Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911)


With our prayers and best wishes for Holy Week and Easter. We hope God may grant us to see one another at Downside for Easter 2021.

Fr James Hood (Master of Ceremonies) and Fr Leo Maidlow Davis (Chaplain to St Gregory’s Society)