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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