Praying Your Way Through Holy Week, a meditation by Br. Eldridge Pendleton

Now, during our Lenten observance we have come to the beginning of Holy Week, a time of remembrance dedicated to the final days of the life of Jesus, from the exhilaration of the cheering crowds who welcomed him into Jerusalem and then through his betrayal and arrest, his suffering at the hands of an angry mob, his awful crucifixion, death, burial and glorious resurrection from the dead on Easter morning. This is the last week of Lent and whether we have been able and diligent in maintaining our discipline or not, this week, like so much of our relationship with God, offers us another chance to return to it, and to immerse ourselves in the spiritual mystery of this holy season. For it is the supreme mystery of our Christian faith we are about to witness this week. Make no mistake about it. The events of Holy Week and Easter are not merely annual reenactments of the tragic events of the life of an important historical personage. This is spiritual mystery on its deepest and most cosmic scale. Its sacred drama encompasses the depths of sin, human degradation and death, and then carries us forward to Jesus’ triumph over death and resurrection to new life. These are mysteries we, too, struggle with daily all our lives and which remain beyond our comprehension.

There are two ways one can take part in the events of Holy Week. One way would be to practice an ancient Benedictine form of meditation. This would involve reading again the accounts of the passion of Jesus in both the synoptic Gospels, Mathew, Mark and Luke, and the Gospel of John, setting aside a section for meditation each day. The tragic drama of this week as we know it is really a conflation of all these accounts. Read them to refresh your memory of the events. Since holy scripture is the living word of God, as we encounter again the events of the final week of Jesus’ life, look for those passages, those haunting details of the story that seem to rise up from the page to snare your attention, things you had not noticed before. After reading the selection of the Passion narrative you have chose for the day, return to those works of phrases that captured your imagination. Ponder what special meaning they might hold for you this year? Why is God bringing them to your attention at this time? What might God be saying to you? Take time to meditate on these questions.

Another way would be to fully enter into the Paschal mystery, to be there with Jesus, experiencing what the witnesses of those terrible events witnessed. Early Christians, in their worship, tried to enter into the events of the Gospel, to actually experience the drama of what was being recalled in their midst. This might be a new way for you to approach worship during Holy Week. Let your observance be more than a passive remembrance of the drama. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the mystery. Whether you have participated in Holy Week most of your life or only for a little while, make this year’s observance a new experience. After all, in living another year we are different from what we were last Holy Week because our realities, concerns, fears and joys are different. As we take part in the worship each day, be attentive and truly listen to the Word as it unfolds. In your prayer be as honest as you can with God about your needs and concerns, and don’t forget to express gratitude. What are the lessons Holy Week has to offer you this year? Be especially alert to listen because God will be speaking to us through the liturgies, through scripture, homilies and also in other unexpected ways this week.

In our relationship with the God of love all is grace. God who loves us so much and continually delights in our creation, is continually offering us grace in the form of answered prayers, healing, reconciliation, hope and deeper faith, and in the Paschal mystery has given us the means to triumph over death. Remember those Easter egg hunts that thrilled us so much as children and how much fun it was to find what was hidden for us. Those are a fitting metaphor of the life of grace and joy God offers us. And just as the egg is the symbol of new life of spiritual resurrection, so are these gifts of God’s grace. They rescue us from spiritual death and bring us to light and life.

It is my hope that after you open your heart to God and experience the events of Holy Week this year and the glory of the resurrection on Easter morning it will have been a truly transforming personal experience that brings you to a place of new life, new faith and new joy.

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  1. marta engdahl on April 14, 2019 at 23:17

    Thank you for this meditation on Holy Week. I enjoy the benefits of aging and find that each year is a “new” year with new visions and perspectives on old issues.
    The opportunity to attend local Bible Study meetings and discussions on both scriptural texts and noted commentaries has given me a new perspective on the Scriptures for Holy Week, the celebrations during Holy Week, and the opportunity to grow into deeper meanings regarding the viscisitudes of daily life and happenings. The days become richer, Thanks be to God.
    Today I attended a funeral at my local church; the daughter of her deceased father commented on what a wonderful time it was to have a funeral and celebrate the passing of the deceased to Life Eternal and the Kingdom of God. Since my father passed into Eternal Life on April 23 a few years ago, it is another celebration of his life for me as well. Easter Blessings wishes to SSJE and the service you provide for your listeners/members.

  2. Jeanne DeFazio on April 14, 2019 at 08:08

    Brother Eldridge, your words of wisdom are eternal! Thanks so much! I am at SSJE today grateful for a week of silence and time with Jesus. Letting go of burdens that are too great to carry. laying them at the foot of the Cross. God bless you for reminding me that Jesus death and resurrection allow us forgiveness of sin access to the Father and empowerment in the Holy Spirit.

  3. Marta e. on April 1, 2015 at 07:25

    I like the image of our life being like an “Easter” egg hunt, watching for the revelation of the mysteries, miracles, etc. as we try to make our way through this life, stumbling or soaring as we go, dependent on our own psyche, or on the grace of God. The only thing we are promised a the redeeming relationship with God through Christ on the Cross. Little, really is up to us, unless we ask, listen, heed, and follow.

  4. David Cranmer on March 31, 2015 at 23:14

    I too want to add my thanks for the series this Lenten season. Some of the questions were ideas that I had not thought about before. They helped me grow. Also the comments by others were extremely helpful. Thank you all.

  5. Martha Paine on March 31, 2015 at 15:08

    Thank you SSJE for giving me the most meaning ful. 6 weeks of Lent that I have ever experienced. I have Stopped, Prayed, Worked, Played and Loved and Became more alive to God,the father, the Son and the HIoly Spirit and myself……thanks to the Brothers and their daily sermons. and now, Br. Eldridge’s sermon has shown me the path to follow for a most meaningful Holy Week….Easter will be a joyous end to the Lenten road just traveled. I

  6. Roderic Brawn on March 31, 2015 at 06:14

    I continue to enjoy this series.

  7. Ruth West on March 30, 2015 at 14:02

    It is amazing to me that, even though this homily was written five years ago, it is still so new and fresh for this Holy Week. I have made some new commitments to my Lord today, to do away with some everyday distractions, and focus on His word and, especially follow your suggestions for meditation. He is my Light and my Strength. Thank you for your message.
    With His presence I have no fear

  8. Muriel Akam on March 30, 2015 at 13:03

    Thank you so much for this lenten series and Br. Eldridge for this sermon. I shall be making myself more open to see God’s healing in unexpected places and ways and look forward Easter Sunday with renewed faith.

  9. Verlinda on March 30, 2015 at 10:12

    A powerful reminder of what this Holy Week is all about, and how every year, if we live into it, it changes us.

  10. Christopher Rivers on March 30, 2015 at 08:04

    So beautiful and so wise. Thank you.

  11. Sarah Acland on March 30, 2015 at 06:46

    Thank you for your introduction to Holy Week.
    I need reminding every day of the path that I am on.

  12. Michele on April 16, 2014 at 10:03

    Thank you very much for this sermon. God does speak through people. Your message was very timely, I have been self-involved this week. I have not taken the time to reflect upon the significance and meaning of this Holy Week. I speak to Abba daily, but I feel as though I have not been expressing my gratitude. I have not taken the time to read and reflect upon the scriptures. Thank you again for reminding me, through you Abba is speaking to his/her child and saying,” I am.”

  13. Margaret Dungan on April 15, 2014 at 20:16

    Thank you Br.Eldridge, This has been a wnderful series.We have been brought close to God through the hearts and minds of all the Brothers with no walls between us. Many wonderful seeds sown. old roorts that neaded to be dug up and disposed of, banished.We have so much to be grateful for,thank you seems like a very small word.

  14. Beth Smith on April 15, 2014 at 14:54

    Dear Brother, This is a simple thank you to you and all the Brothers who contributed to these Lenten devotions. This has been my first association with SSJE and Brother, Give Us a Word which have brought me some peace after the death of a dear family member. Thank you for walking this portion of the journey with me.

  15. Pam on April 15, 2014 at 12:09

    Thank you brother for the egg representing new life. Four Easters ago in a service we were asked to write down what we wanted from God and I wrote that I wanted to die to self and be resurrected to new life in Christ. Life has had a funny way of ‘helping’ me with this…… This Easter has been particularly hard but I have loved the video clips, the sharing and the joy of life from this Lenten series and somewhere deep inside of me I know this year is the beginning of new life, even though nothing has changed in my circumstances. I have come to the realization that true healing and freedom comes through transformation of me and transforming hurtful experiences in positive ways. That a broken heart that still believes in the love of Jesus and in life can truly be beautiful. Thank you brothers for showing me this. I like the sound of the Paschal mystery as this is what I want to experience this year – the real Jesus, my friend, savior and King.

  16. MSamuelsen on April 15, 2014 at 11:18

    Thank you for helping me have a more meaningful Lent. Rich blessings to all who participate.

  17. Claude A. Wheeler on April 15, 2014 at 10:19

    Most insightful and challenging. Thank you.

  18. Anders on February 14, 2013 at 06:35

    Thanks for the reminder that our relationship with the God of love all is grace. In my evangelical past, the Easter story was always a bit depressing for me. First, in not having the good guy win: what kind of defense is that? Secondly, in feeling the anger of the crowd screaming to crucify. It was our anger, our black and white, us and them world view of others.

    Third in the metaphor of pinning down Jesus on the cross. The church was also pinning him down, knowing exactly where they had him and willing to use this understanding to judge and shame others, myself included. Fourth, the resurrection brings me a bewilderment that certainty doesn’t work, for the risen Christ shows up in times, ways and places we don’t recognize him.

    This Lenten season I walk proudly with egg on my face, see the blessed radiance of Christ in those “others” and remember it’s a story of grace.

  19. Katherine Johnson on March 13, 2012 at 10:22

    When I read this portion in the daily Word, “Since holy scripture is the living word of God, as we encounter again the events of the final week of Jesus’ life … haunting details of the story [may] seem to rise up from the page to snare your attention …”, I recalled an experience I had a few years ago when I unexpectedly had to read the Passion Gospel because the lay reader didn’t show up. About half-way through, I got stuck — the details indeed rose up from the page, grabbed me by the throat, and wouldn’t let me continue. I had to hand the gospel book to the celebrant so she could finish the reading. Details often take me by surprise when I’m reading a lesson, either aloud or to myself, no matter how often I’ve read a passage before. I regard these experiences as graces, though it’s a bit awkward when they prevent me from reading the appointed lesson in the liturgy! Fortunately, I can usually continue to the end, but the Passion narrative just overcame me on that occasion.

  20. Polly Chatfield on March 12, 2012 at 10:31

    Thank you, Eldridge for this lovely instruction. As you describe it, each Holy Week is a stairstep on the climb to greater awareness and deeper love. May it be so for you as well as for all whom you teach.

    • Joanna. Cotter on April 3, 2015 at 19:05

      My Lenten Journey has been enriched in reading & responding to the meditations of the Brothers of SSJE. But today I was doubly rewarded to read your meditation, which brought back rich memories of your time @ Christ Church, Portsmouth, NH. The tradition of coloring Easter eggs holds fast for us as Holy Week reaches its climax. God bless & keep you.

  21. Doug Hutto on March 12, 2012 at 07:28

    Brother Eldridge; Thank you for your mediation and instruction. I am Doug Hutto. You picked me up one rainy night in early fall one year, a pilgrim from St Peters Charlotte North Carolina. It had been suggested by Father Gary Jones that I take retreat with the brothers and I spent time at Emery House for silent retreat. Brother Jonathon was the brother that I met with during the hour of the day. I since became an associate with SSJE and pray for the brotherhood and think often of my time spent talking with you, especially the walk at Cape Anne on the way back to the bus drop to Boston. You have no idea the extent of the affect that week had on me and the time you took to talk with me. It is close to time when I should come back to the ‘farm’ for retreat once again. A blest Lenten time and resurrection East to you Brother Eldridge…

  22. andy on March 12, 2012 at 04:42

    keep it up GOD BLESS YOU

  23. Andrew G. Osmun on March 31, 2010 at 03:55

    Thank you so much for this meditation Brother Eldridge. It is a gracious invitation into this week. May God’s presence and love attend all of you as well as you serve Christ and His Body, gathered and scattered.

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