“I don’t get it.” My friend looked across the table from me with a puzzled look; he was being honest about his feelings about Holy Week. He doesn’t understand why many mainstream denomination Christians celebrate Holy Week. He tried to explain that, growing up in the evangelical church, Holy week just seemed like a lot of added business, and anything added on was suspect. As much as he ‘doesn’t get’ Holy Week, I don’t get not having Holy Week. Each one of the services leading up to Easter morning helps me understand a different aspect of my faith. I almost don’t know what my faith would look like without the repetitive celebration of Holy Week.
Holy Week has always provided an important rhythm for me. I need to walk the last couple days of Christ’s life with him. From the last meal, to the arrest in the garden, and all the way to the crucifixion, I need to journey with Christ. The story must come alive so that I can be changed by it. Each part of the last week of Christ’s life, especially the last three days, changes who I am and how I live out my faith. I have a forgetful heart and I need to be reminded. I learn best through action, and that is why, for me, just knowing the Easter story isn’t the same as experiencing the services that live out the Easter story. I need to remember why it is that we celebrate the Last Supper the way we do. I need to understand the scandal of Christ washing the disciples’ feet. I need to remember the fear that Good Friday holds. I need to feel the disappointment of Holy Saturday as the tomb held the Messiah. I don’t say I need Holy Week as a judgment on anyone else’s practice; instead it is more a commentary on how I need to have patterns to my faith.
It doesn’t make sense to celebrate Palm Sunday one Sunday and than skip ahead to the resurrection on Easter Sunday. I am afraid if that was my pattern, my heart would never learn the hard truth about faith. Faith isn’t just about celebration and joy, but it is about the patience of struggle. I need to sit with the tough stuff in order to understand that it is part of living, whether we are Christian or not. Being a follower doesn’t exempt us from any of life’s ups or downs, so we must learn how to grieve well. In the book of John, Mary Magdalene weeps when she can’t find Christ’s body. We are told that through her tears she sees the angels, and it is also through her tears that she will be the first to see Christ again. Notice the other disciples who ran ahead didn’t see the angels. Perhaps there is something about seeing through tears. I don’t want to miss anything about Easter: the good and the difficult. I want my faith to be the kind of faith that can sit through the Holy Saturday parts of life, knowing that Easter Morning is coming.
* One of the ways that I help myself explore the rhythm of Holy week is through doing a Lenten art journal. It helps me to explore the passion week narrative- I am blessed to work at a church that does an stations of the cross art walk each year for Good Friday I am participating by submitting a piece I did around Pilate’s denial of responsibility. Below are some images of the different ways I have created around the events of Holy Week. May today bless you as you prepare your heart for Easter morning.
What a wonderful message!
Sarah, thank you for a very thoughtful and beautiful post. You helped me experience the full range of Holy Week experiences.