A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Holy Week Journey

Next week is my favorite week of the year. Holy Week has become hugely important in my life, in my faith walk, and in my worship of God. I cannot imagine a spending that week on the beach as some Christians do as they take vacation. I love the beach! I love Holy Week and all that it means even more!

I grew up in a church tradition where Holy Week was not observed. No church I ever attended while I was growing up had Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services. I attended my first Holy Week worship in college. Of course, the churches I attended in my youth celebrated Easter Sunday. Easter was big for us as in most churches. That was obvious because the church musicians pulled out all the stops that day, we saw people in worship we hadn't seen since Christmas Eve, and more than a few were dressed in the newest and latest fashions. Yes, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus in worship, but we had not journeyed with him in worship to the empty tomb... from his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, through celebrating his Last Supper, and finally walking with him to the cross.

Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus on Easter without the observance of Holy Week prior is like reading the last chapter of a suspense novel where we discover the butler did it but we have no idea why or where or how or what for. In reading the last chapter of the book we miss out on the significance of why the last chapter was written in the first place. In going from Palm Sunday worship right into Easter Sunday worship, I missed out on the all-important middle of the story. I have told folks over the years that when I started observing Holy Week, Easter Sunday took on even more significance for me.

There is something deeply wrong with a Christianity where Easter Sunday is one of the most well attended services of worship and Good Friday one of the least. I know there is more than one reason for this phenomenon, but I strongly suspect that part of it is we believe we can have the victory without the bloody battle, the joy without the sorrow, life without death. Several parishioners over the years in various churches have told me that they do not attend Good Friday service because it is too depressing. But the truth of the matter is that without cross there can be no resurrection.

As we are now coming to the end of another Lenten season, I am very much looking forward to next week. It is an opportunity for me, along with the collective Body of Christ, to travel with Jesus as he takes his most significant journey to the cross and out the other side of the empty tomb into new life. And we must travel that road with him; for he has made the journey on our behalf.


betty newman said...

I totally agree. I have often said that coming to Easter Sunday without knowing the whole story is like coming into a movie at the tail-end. All we see is the white picket fence and the happy little baby cooing in it's mother's arms. We have no idea what it took to get there!

I have spent the last six weeks writing and teaching what we've called "From Supper to Sunrise: Finding Your Footing When the Ground Gives 'Way". This study has "wrung me out!" I am exhausted, but I know every step from Thursday night to Sunday morning. No, of course I don't know *everything* about that event, but I sure know more than I did. It's been tough, but I've loved it.

I agree with you Allen. It's my favorite week, too!

Allan R. Bevere said...

Betty, Your study sounds extremely interesting.

Lisa said...

Lent and Holy week have been personally special to me in childhood and adulthood. So, I'm quite beside myself as I realize I'm struggling as I try to share it with my 5 year old. The struggle is finding the right balance of facts in the story that make sense to my child and still leave her feeling the love and empowerment of the Easter promise.

My child is in such a "literal" mode with everything and I watch her struggle trying to understand the cruelty of the world around her and the cruel treatment of Jesus and the death of his body.

Part of this struggle came to light for me when my daughter overheard a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses who'd knocked on our door to invite us to their memorial service for Christ and to share their opinions concerning the end of the world, people's actions as signs of the end, and the cruxifiction. Even though, we were not engaged long, and I thought I'd left my daughter out of earshot as I stood in the cracked doorway, my daughter still over heard a few things that are now confusing her. So, she's mixing everything up (life observations, different faith practices, harsher points of Holy Week) within the Easter story, which was perfectly clear and wonderful for her last year. We've always gone to all the Holy Week events since she was an infant. Maybe these worries wouldn't be so prominent if we weren't still struggling to find our new home church since our move. That's certainly been different and a struggle in itself as well as a struggle to continue our "normal" practices.

So, the Lenten and Easter journey was once easy to share with my daughter. But, now it suddenly has a new side to it. One that seems hard on her and me both. I'm assuming we are just seeing the threshold of transition from toddler to thinking child that we so happily work toward as parents, but to this forty something, first time Mom, I'm wondering if there truly are times in our lives when it's best to take the easier, lighter side of Easter instead of the deeper, soulful, detailed journey that I've always preferred. Maybe Easter to a six year old makes more sense and I'll feel better about participating in all of Holy Week again next year.

Lent has always been a wonderful time for reflection for me. I've always enjoyed this time to sort things out for myself, re-focus my future, etc. It's quite a different experience to 5 year old who can be anything but reflective, for she hasn't much life experience upon which to reflect (everything is in the moment for her, absorbing life at warp speed as she adjusts to gain her independence in body, emotion and thought.)

At the moment, I really don't know if I should be taking her to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. And, honestly, I feel the pain of skipping it, both personally and parentally. Is it a dis-service to us both? It sure feels like it and it sure feels like a dis-service to the memory of Christ and God's hope for us.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comments.

So much of what you say resonates with me. Carol and I have four children, who are now grown (the youngest are 16). I have no easy answer for you, other than to say that we took our children to Holy Week services from the time they were young and did our best to explain it to them, as much as they could understand. We told them that the Last Supper was about Jesus wanting to be with his disciples in the same we like to be with family and that Jesus died for them because he loved them too. We were content to let them ponder the difficulties of all that while always telling them that Jesus loved them and that Easter meant that Jesus was alive for them and everyone in the world.

I guess what I am saying to you is that it is not necessary for parents to exaplain all the deep profound meaning of Holy Week, as if we adults understand it anyway, but rather that we are taking a trip with Jesus because Jesus loves us and we love him.

I truly appreciate you sharing your struggles.