Do I Understand Holy Week?

As I reflect on this past Holy Week and our Easter celebration I keep returning to the question, “Do I understand Holy Week?” The short answer, and perhaps the most honest, is no, not really. I know the story. I even preach the story. I can describe the events of Holy Week but there is much I do not understand and what I do understand I hold pretty lightly. That seems to be the way of authentic mystery. It must always be held lightly otherwise it slips away.

The invitation of mystery is not so much to seek a solution, understanding, or explanation as it is to invite participation. Through the liturgies of Holy Week we participate in the mysteries of Christ’s life, crucifixion, and resurrection even if we do not understand. Participation does not necessarily require understanding. After all how many of us really understand or can explain love?

So I showed up and trusted the liturgy. That is what I did each day throughout Holy Week. What more is there to do? I prayed, I carried the palms, I washed feet, I ate the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, I extolled the glory of the life-giving cross, I sat in silence and darkness at the tomb, I vigiled in darkness and rejoiced at the new fire, the new light, the new life that had been kindled in me. I allowed the liturgy to carry me through the mysteries of the week. And it was enough. It was enough to show up, to participate, and to trust the liturgy. I may not fully understand the story of Holy Week but I absolutely know it to be true. Once again the liturgy has done its work. Christ is risen!

So what was your experience of Holy Week this year?

8 thoughts on “Do I Understand Holy Week?

  1. Beautifully spoken Fr. Mike. I too share in the no, I don’t understand if pressed with giving a conventional response to the question. However, I have also begun to learn that one of the major factors for that evaluation of understanding is because of my western upbringing.

    We are trained in a method of to fully understand a concept or ‘thing’ we must tear it down into it’s pieces. What makes it tick … if we can understand that, we assume then we know what made the ‘thing’. This of course is a form of linear thinking and simply doesn’t work with the mystery. The mystery isn’t linear at all, if we were to attempt to equate it to anything at all it would be more circular or even spiral.

    I experienced Holy Week this year in a total new way. I let the liturgy ‘sing’ and I simply ‘danced along’ with it. To be quite honest, I purposely tried to restrain myself from trying to ‘understand’ the day of the week and what service that meant we needed to attend. I was this year at perfect peace at just showing up.

    Peace,
    Cash

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  2. I did the opposite of Cash this year. I read and studied the last week’s days as set out in the Gospels. And no, I still don’t fully understand the mystery but reading and sitting with the words of the Gospel allowed me to more fully experience the mystery than I ever have. All that says to me is that each year, depending on where one is on their particular journey, will help define how to best experience Holy Week. Next year, I may simply dance in the aisles!

    Mike, your leadership through Holy Week this year encouraged so many of us to delve deeper and more fully participate than we ever have. Thank you!

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    • Kelley, you have described sacred reading – allowing the gospel words to read your life rather than you simply reading the words of the gospel. It is heart work more than mind word and, no doubt, good work.

      Thank you for your kind words. I am grateful for your presence and encouragement.

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  3. For me the high point of Holy Week was–as it usually is–the chanting of the Exultet during Easter Vigil. This was in a Gothic-revival church illuminated by tapers held by about 200 or so people. But it was the message of the Exultet–salvation history leading to the Resurrection–that really moved me(though good props are never to be taken for granted!)This makes up for the fact that I have never really gotten a handle on just how the death of Jesus atones for our sins. But ours is a Resurrection faith, when all is said and done.

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    • It sounds like a beautiful celebration. Though I was not there we “vigiled” together – one of the gifts of liturgy. May this holy season bless you with life abundant.

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