Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thoughts on Holy Week

I'm trying to keep a Holy Week, honest.
But there's so much to do, and it's all so demanding, and it's so much more fun to skip from Palm Sunday straight to Easter. We avoid all the blood and the pain and the unpleasantness of those last days of Jesus' life. It lets us opt out of betrayal, denial, the trial, the scourging, the cross. We can go straight from Palm branches to Easter lilies...can't we?
Not in good faith.
We sang an old hymn (1630, I think) called "Ah, Holy Jesus" on Sunday night at our evening service (a modified tenebrae service). We did not like it. It's dark, broody, depressing, and I lost count of all the atonement references. It is slow and almost painful to sing, and there's no resolution to the melody...the end of the song just leaves us hanging, no pun intended.
And although we were tempted to leave it out of the service, we opted to include it, because it was true, and a reminder to us that there is no resurrection without death.
It is a lot more comfortable to preach joy and light and life and hope and try to avoid preaching on the atonement. It feels friendlier not to dwell on the crucifix, with Christ transfixed upon it, but to look only at the empty cross and a transfigured Savior. Yet our salvation is not cheap, and did not come easy.
In faithfulness to the gift of salvation, to the mercy God offers, we can't skip through Holy Week. Although I'd like to have skipped the funeral and the general busy-ness of this week, I'm trying to create space in my life to walk through the events of this share a last supper on Maundy Thursday, to find myself in the crowd on Good Friday, to sit in stunned silence for Holy Saturday.
And then maybe I'll be ready to really appreciate Easter.

A poem for Holy Week:

Join me in the glad parade
marching toward Friday with shouts and songs,
surrounded by spring and life reborn,
laughing out loud with our friends.

Join me in the milling throng
tripping into Friday on the heels of strangers,
hesitant, as singing turns to silence,
echoes of laughter trailing away.

Join me in the weeping crowd
running from Friday's unspeakable pain,
shrouded in blackness, alone in the dark,
cries of abandonment filling the night.

Join me in this line of stragglers
heading toward Sunday with silent despair,
hoping beyond reason for easing of pain;
for a time to laugh together again.

(Annie Bellinger Hammon, Honoring Rob: Poems, Prayers and Meditations, p. 63)
My thanks to Chris and Annie Hammon for sharing this poem with me and my classmates.

I'm taking a blog sabbath until it is time to laugh together again...I'll be back Sunday or Monday. May your Holy Week be blessed, and Easter find you with joy and revelation.


  1. I hope that your week has held grace-filled surprises for you, and that the somberness of the triduum somehow permeated the busyness with its own power for you.

    Sorry you don't like "Ah, holy Jesus." It is one of my favorites during Holy Week. But it definitely doesn't fit the desire to skip through the week.

    Blessings to you.

  2. Yeah, I hear you on "Ah Holy Jesus."


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