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.