All over the world, Easter is celebrated with wonderful services, retreats, parades and pilgrimages. If you fancy doing something special for Holy Week, Bible Alive has some suggestions.
The Edinburgh Passion (also known as The Princes Street Easter Play) has been performed annually since 2005 and now attracts huge crowds. This year the free play has been written by Susan Mansfield and presents the death and resurrection of Christ from the viewpoint of some less well-known characters from the Gospels. Please note: minimal seating is provided (for the elderly and disabled) so be prepared to stand; and the play is performed outdoors, so take waterproofs or an umbrella, in case of rain!
Further info: easterplay.org
Trafalgar Square, London
On Good Friday, the streets around Trafalgar Square will come to a standstill as the Wintershall Players once again perform The Passion of Jesus. Now in its fifth year running in the heart of the capital and backed by the Mayor of London, this play attracts a crowd of thousands. This year a cast of 78 actors, two horses and one donkey, will recreate the last day of Jesus’ life. Please note: this 90-minute free play will be performed twice on 3 April, at midday and at 3:15pm. The crowd mostly sits on steps or upon the ground in the square (so taking a blanket or cushion is a good idea!)
Belmont Abbey, Herefordshire
The monks of the Abbey of St Michael and All Angels invite you to join them on their Easter Retreat. Abbot Paul Stonham and his Benedictine brothers will lead a contemplation and celebration of the holiest days of the Church year, looking at how we can live the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The retreat will run from 2 to 6 April. Should you be unable to attend, but still fancy a retreat, the Abbey is also offering an earlier Easter event entitled ‘St Benedict’s Easter Journey’ – this two-day retreat will look at the Rule of St Benedict and living life ‘with hearts delighting in love’.
Further info: belmontabbey.org.uk
Douai Abbey, Berkshire
The Easter Triduum retreat at the Benedictine community of Douai will focus on the Paschal Mystery through pondering the scriptures and sacred art. This 4-day event (17-20 April) will be led by Dr. Caroline Farey, who is Director of Studies at the School of the Annunciation, Buckfast Abbey. There will be much opportunity for quiet time and guests will be welcome to take part in the full liturgy of the Triduum with the monastic community. Residential cost for those in employment is £200.
Further info: douaiabbey.org.uk
Ampleforth Abbey, North Yorkshire
With wonderful music from the Arcadian Singers choir, the services of the Ampleforth Easter Triduum (2-6 April) are special. Make sure you book early (01439 766486 or firstname.lastname@example.org) because the services are very popular. The Benedictine community of Ampleforth Abbey also offers accommodation for quiet retreats, during which you can join the monks at prayer.
Further info: hpo.ampleforth.org.uk
King’s College, Cambridge
The Easter services at King’s are becoming almost as popular as the Christmas celebrations! The colourful programme includes 16th century Passion music, Sung Eucharists and a procession by the King’s College Choir, James Macmillan’s new St Luke Passion, Bach’s St John Passion and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. Some of the performances and services are free – please see the website for more details.
Further info: kings.cam.ac.uk
Shrines and Pilgrimages
Many Christians choose to celebrate Easter by walking a pilgrimage route to the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham. The Holy House was built as a replica of the house in Nazareth where the Annunication occurred, and each year over 100,000 pilgrims walk to it, with many of them choosing to make the journey at Easter. There will be services and processions at Walsingham on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
For further info: walsingham.org.uk
2015 will be the 40th year of the Northern Cross pilgrimage to Holy Island to celebrate Easter. Walkers start off from different locations, including Carlisle, Lanark, Melrose, Bellingham and Dunbar, around 28 March, arriving at the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on 5 April to celebrate Easter. The various paths differ in difficulty (including some very easy routes and some more challenging terrain) so that everybody has the opportunity to join in; the routes will retrace old pilgrim paths towards the island.
Further info: northerncross.co.uk
Spending Easter in the city of the crucifixion is the experience of a lifetime. Every year, thousands of pilgrims journey to the holy city, where a host of events are held over the course of Easter week. There are processions on Palm Sunday (to mark Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem) and on Good Friday (following the path He took through the streets to Calvary). Pilgrims huddle into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (which contains the last five Stations of the Cross) and flock to the city’s many churches for special services throughout the week. It is also possible to visit the site of the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ prayed on the night before the crucifixion. An Easter in Jerusalem is sure to touch your heart.
Spain is one of the most magical countries to voyage to for Holy Week, with wonderful parades upon the streets of most villages, towns and cities. Spanish Catholics don’t hold back during Semana Santa (Holy Week), garbing themselves in elaborate outfits and performing well-rehearsed devout processions. These are walks of penance and participants called Nazareno usually parade barefoot through the streets, wearing medieval robes, which feature conical-tipped hooded cloaks that shield their faces. The processions are more colourful in Southern Spain and more sombre in the North, but all feature penitents carrying floats that depict scenes from the Passion of Christ. Some of the most famous processions are held at Valladolid and Seville.