It’s Holy Week. In the Christian calendar, Holy Week is the liminal space between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and his resurrection on Easter morning. It used to be that if we didn’t go to church during Holy Week, we’d jump over the hard stuff (Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death). Then church leaders recognized that most American Christians were, in fact, not observing Holy Week. So, now it’s standard to read the gospel story with that hard stuff on Palm Sunday as well.
This gives me a sense of spiritual whiplash. It’s a frustrating condensation of a story that needs time and space to unfold. We need that time. We need to dwell in that liminal space. We need to ponder the hard stuff.
I intend to spend time at church during Holy Week. For me, it’s a precious tradition that goes back to my childhood, when my mom was church secretary and Holy Week coincided with spring break. That meant we spent the week with Mom at church. St. Andrew Presbyterian had six different services over the eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter, so there were numerous bulletins to print, fold, and collate, rehearsals to watch, eggs to dye and bread to bake for the festive meal after the Easter Vigil…there was lots going on, with new things happening each year (readers’ theater, liturgical dance). I recall it all fondly.
Over the decades since, I’ve spent many Holy Week evenings in liturgies at churches across the country. I value the darkness, silence, questions, stories, hymns, special music, familiar scenes, and fresh interpretations. I’ve read, prayed, sung, and danced in Holy Week liturgies. I was confirmed at St. Andrew’s first Easter Vigil.
Think for a moment about the disciples. They were entering liminal space on Palm Sunday, though they did not know it. Their beloved leader entered Jerusalem a high note, in the midst of a spontaneous and celebratory parade. People were excited to have Jesus back in town, teaching and healing and making trouble for religious leaders.
In the midst of all this jubilation, there was no way the disciples could know what came next. They couldn’t have imagined betrayal, arrest, trial, and execution. Yet, without all that, resurrection would be incomprehensible. They, and we, can’t jump straight from Palm Sunday to Easter. We need what lies in between.
I invite you to reflect on your own feelings about Holy Week. What have you experienced, and what was its impact on you? How might you participate more fully in Holy Week this year? How can you approach these days with fresh eyes and a curious heart?