Holy Week

One of the spiritual highlights for me in the past 6 years has been learning to participate in the whole of Holy Week, and not just Easter Sunday.  I am so grateful to my church community for the opportunities I’ve had to grow in this.  Rremembering the betrayal of Maundy Thursday, horror of Good Friday, and the utter darkness of Holy Saturday make Easter so much more of a celebration of new life. 

John Irving’s character Owen Meany says it this way – “I find that Holy Week is draining; no matter how many times I have lived through his crucifixion, my anxiety about his resurrection is undiminished—I am terrified that, this year, it won’t happen; that, that year, it didn’t. Anyone can be sentimental about the Nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don’t believe in the resurrection, you’re not a believer.”

Like Owen, I find Holy Week draining – Holy Saturday is so dark because Jesus is dead.   I wonder, will it happen this year?  Reflecting on the crucifixion and burial of Christ makes the resurrection and new life that much more significant and real. 

This year, in addition to services Thurs-Sun, I’ve been participating in 7am daily prayer with my church.  I made the commitment in response to some things God’s been showing me, and also as one more step in participating in Holy Week. We’re not having a ‘prayer meeting’ per se, instead it’s liturgical prayer.  So we sit in groups of chairs across from each other, and read antiphonally (one side first, and then the other).  At first, it takes some getting used to – am I reading at the right time, etc.  But there is something very rich about both reading and listening.  As we read back and forth, we are speaking truth to each other, and Scripture sinks in more deeply.  We speak hope to each other.  We have time to pray individual prayers, and the community agrees with each prayer, with a phrase like, “Lord, hear and have mercy.”

We also have Stations of the Cross on display, put together by Mosaic artists.  The Stations are a meditative tool for remembering the suffering of Jesus.  So our space has been available for meditation, prayer, and going through the Stations every day.  It is beautiful to have sacred space open during the day.  We have a yoga class that meets each week, too, so on Tuesday, the Stations were closed for an hour while a group of us practiced yoga.  My mat was situated right in front of “Simon of Cyrene carries the cross,” which has a large cross, tipped on its side.  The station invites us to stand or kneel by the cross and to ‘take up your cross and follow Jesus.’  There was something amazing about sitting in silence there and meditating. 

There’s been a ton that’s happened in the past few weeks, and I’m grateful for the opportunities to meditate, reflect, and pray in this season.  I’m not exactly ‘excited’ for our liturgies this weekend (it’s draining and sad, remember?) but I am so grateful for these times.  Holy Week has often been significant for us in the 6 year history of our church, and it’s great to reflect on how God’s grown us as a community since the beginning. 

Almighty God, life and salvation of all who love you,
grant that we who look forward to the celebration of your Son’s Paschal Mystery with holy expectation
may come to share in the glory of his resurrection.


3 thoughts on “Holy Week

  1. Anonymous

    Hey, you’re turning into a Lutheran! 🙂

    No, it is interesting and nice to see different churches adapt the traditions we Lutherans (and, you know, to a very large degree the Catholics before us) have enjoyed, precisely because they do such a good job of pointing us to and teaching us about Jesus. For a long time, I felt rather out of mainstream Christianity, what with our liturgies that paled — to my young mind — to the upbeat services with modern music.

    Now that I’m older, I realize the reasons behind those traditions (and grant that they’re only that, not commanded things) and I really treasure them.

    That said, I’ve never done anything for Holy Saturday. I always thought that fit well with what the believers probably did on that Saturday long ago: they didn’t gather together, but sat at home and thought about what had happened. What do you do for that day?

    I think your reaction to the week (“draining and sad”) is also interesting. I don’t get that from it. I mean, yes, it is sad to consider how sinful we are and what the ultimate consequence of that was. But we can’t really relive the first Holy Week because we know how it ends: not just with Jesus’ resurrection, but our complete forgiveness and salvation! So it is that we can call it Good Friday — that God loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us, that he who had no sin became sin for us. And he did it all (that is, our justification) for us, which he reminded us with his last words: “It is finished.”

    I have a hard time being all that sad knowing that. 🙂

  2. sabbychan

    Well hello, Todd.

    on Lutheran…Haha, I actually personally draw more from the Anglican practices, but you know, Lutheran might work too. 🙂

    on Holy Saturday – I actually think the disciples might have gathered together.  The women certainly went to the tomb together, and Peter and John were possibly together too.  And the whole group ended up waiting in a room together when Jesus showed up…

    I agree that we can’t really relive the whole week as if we don’t know the ending, but I do think I get more out of the week by walking with the disciples and with Jesus in the last week.  Sorta like watching a movie again that you already know the ending to – if you can suspend the fact that you know the ending, you can identify more with the story.  One of the things I love about my church is that we try and also connect with our faith experientially – through interactive art or alternative worship.

    There’s something about imagining the scene as the disciples lived it that really connects with me.  Remembering the confusion, sadness, and despair of the disciples gives me a frame of reference for some of the confusion, sadness, and despair I experience in my life at different times.  It reminds me that even in the darkest times, God’s redeeming, life-giving power is coming. 

    For example, I just came home from our Maundy Thursday service, where we sat at long tables together and ate a simple meal of crackers and cheese, bread, hummus, and fruit.  After about half an hour of eating and talking about regular-life stuff, someone stood and read a poem about the last supper.  We heard the scripture read that describes the night, and then went through the eucharistic liturgy.  We served each other communion around the table, read more Scripture about Jesus’ betrayal, and sang a hymn about Gethsemane.  And that’s it. 

    Tomorrow, we will come back, and the plates and leftover food will still be there – we will remember Good Friday.  In that service, a large black cloth is draped over the Communion table, hiding the bread and the cup.  Holy Saturday service is almost completely pitch black, with some readings about death.  Sure, we know the end of the story is jubilant, but for those hours we put ourselves in the place of imagining Christ dead.  I think the early church did this in some ways too, traditionally Christians would fast from Good Friday to Sunday morning…

    Anyway, hope that explains a little more of what I meant. 🙂

  3. p00h67

    hey your xanga is really spiffy.

    just picked up my sister and she said she was staying with you. so wanted to say hiii.

    i like your thoughts on Holy Week. + miss ya!


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