Night Prayer for Holy Week


May the Lord grant you a quiet night and a perfect end.

Each evening during Holy Week
@ 8pm (9:30 on Thurs & Sat)
Palm Sunday Night to Easter Sunday Night

Join us for a short recitation of the the 
Night Prayer of the Church on Zoom, link here

“Pontius Pilate had sent Jesus to be tried by King Herod.  “Then Herod, together with his guards, treated Jesus with contempt and mocked him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate”. 
Lk 23,8-12.


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The Humiliation of the Christ


 I was a missionary in Port Harcourt, Nigeria in 1971 The Civil War over Biafra has ended only months before.  Our struggling parish on Creek Road was planning a first post-war procession for Palm Sunday.  I had dressed myself in my clerical white soutane to go to the Police Station and request permission to have our Procession of Palms routed along the public road. 

In the centre of the Police compound was a free-standing office, like a small house.  As I arrived, there was a great fuss inside and around this small building. I could not see what was happening inside, but I could see and hear about a hundred very excited people outside, at the door and at three windows, shouting and straining to see the goings-on inside. I had no idea what was happening.  But I recall being chilled by those voices, voices baying as if for blood.  I waited for about fifteen minutes, wondering at the meaning of this huge fuss. 

Then, a dishevelled woman was led out, clothes array, hair tossed, head bowed, a woman obviously and hugely humiliated. She passed close to where I was waiting in the hot late-morning sun, the crowd, now rejoicing, following her.  I wanted to go over to her, to offer her some consolation but, having no idea of the situation and freshly arrived in Nigeria, I was fearful of the volatile crowd, also cautious of the police, not friendly towards the Catholic Mission at that time (following the Civil War).  As this unhappy procession moved away the stentorian voices faded.

After the woman and the mob had gone I went into that same office, cockpit of the wretched woman’s ordeal, to seek the permit I wanted.  I asked the officer what the dreadful scene had been about.  He told me, with a voice of righteousness, that this woman had been accused of being a man who, for unspecified rumoured reasons, had dressed “himself” as a woman.  To prove she was a woman she had been forced to strip herself naked in front of the (male) police chief, in the presence of the policemen and for the entertainment of the gawping crowd.

I felt ashamed and somehow complicit (a Christian priest) in this dreadful event.  Later I wrote a letter of complaint to the Chief Justice of the Rivers State.  But I had witnessed, from outside, an event where a woman was stripped and robbed of her dignity.  The fact that my parish was preparing for Holy Week, for the humiliation and crucifixion of God-become-human as recounted in the gospels of Palm Sunday and Good Friday was not lost on me.

I have never forgotten that event.  I still feel I had witnessed the humiliation of the Christ. 

 

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