Well this post is a little weird to write - a bit out of my comfort zone, and a bit more personal than I normally am, but hey, you're all friends, right?
Last Wednesday, MrNoo took me all the way to Norwich to go to the Chrism Mass, at Norwich Cathedral. The reason we travelled all that way, instead of going to a local service, is that the Bishop in question is a very good friend of mine. And the reason that it was important to go, is that he really shouldn't have been there.
You see Bishop Michael Evans (as you will find if you google him) has prostate cancer, and has had for 5 years or so, and in December when his pain levels increased significantly, he was told he probably only had a few weeks left to live..... Three months later, a little frailer, a lot more tired, and still with a smile on his face, he celebrated Chrism Mass in his cathedral....... and I was there!!
I'm an Anglican, but went to a Catholic school. And whilst I do call myself a Christian, I am by no means a good one. (In fact somewhat embarrassingly the last Mass I went to was Bishop Michael's ordination 8 years ago) The Catholic church has always welcomed me though, and I love it's warmth and joy, the very essence of what believing in God should be about. (to my mind anyway)
Anyway, my religious preferences are not really the issue here. More is how the evening progressed. We arrived with half an hour to spare before Mass started, thinking we would find a quiet out of the way corner somewhere where no one would notice us! Not so much! The Cathedral was rammed, almost all seats already taken, so we took what we could and tried to blend into the background a bit! Not long after we arrived there was a little hymn practice, and it was announced that Bishop Michael would indeed be taking the Mass.......... the Cathedral immediately erupted into spontaneous applause, which seemed to last for such a wonderfully long time. We had a quick hymn practice, and were commended on our voices (not mine it must be said! but the congregation as a whole) and then the Mass started, with the priests and deacons from all the parishes in East Anglia coming down the centre aisle..... and there started the most wonderful, peaceful, joyful, way to spend an hour and a half. So many smiles, so much warmth and love. The Mass was celebrated, and the congregation were invited to stay for tea/coffee and hot cross buns..... I mean really, can you ask for anything more? LOL MrNoo and I stayed for a short while, taking an opportunity to walk round the now quiet Cathedral, which is just such a beautiful place, and I have to say if ever you visit Norwich is certainly worth a quiet half hour. We both marvelled at the intricacy, the majesty and the beauty of such a fantastic building.
This Mass had been so important to Bishop Michael, he had set it as a milestone that he really wanted to reach, and I have to say I am...... (I want to say surprised, but that's not the right word, cos I happen to know he has a little streak of determination, erring on the side of stubbornness) but anyway, I am so pleased for him that he made his first milestone (He reliably informs us he has more!) There had been a few mentions of this upcoming mass on his website and as soon as became more than a vague possibility that he would make it, MrNoo and I decided that we should make all efforts to be there to share the evening.
So, I am soooo lucky that I have a partner, that despite not sharing my beliefs, understands and loves me enough to know how important they are to me, and will drive me 2 1/2 hours each way to spend an hour in a cathedral. and, just to make me feel better, will even tell me he enjoyed it!
I am so lucky and so blessed, that I can call this inspirational Bishop a friend, who has been there for me for nearly 30 years now, who has been my priest, my mentor, and my dearest friend. I am going to miss him so very much, when the inevitable happens. But he has taught me to believe in the Resurrection, and in everlasting life........... the very message of Easter.
Happy Easter everyone. - Love Noo xx