Making this a Holy Week

Palm Sunday

We have listened solemnly to St Mark’s account of the passion and death of the Lord. With this reading we have entered Holy Week. For the Christian this week is different from every other week of the year. It is a sacred time for us. Our attention is focussed on the commemoration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s liturgy commenced by recalling the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. While the crowds were exuberant, crying “Hosanna to the Son of David”, Jesus knew in his heart what awaited him. He must have sensed the deep irony of the situation, for the crowds would soon change to crying out, “Crucify him, crucify him”.

This is a week in which we allow the liturgies of the Church to carry us through. We don’t need to manufacture anything. We simply participate, as Christians have for millennia, in the Church’s traditions and practices.

The Scripture passages chosen for the Sacred Triduum that we will listen to express profoundly the significance and meaning of what we commemorate. We allow the liturgy to guide our spiritual journey over these coming days.

Thus today, we listened to the prophesy of Isaiah describe the attitude of the suffering servant. These words reflect prophetically the experience of Jesus: “For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away”. Here we have spiritual insight into the disposition of Jesus who knew that he was that suffering servant of God, and so he “offered his back to those who struck him and his cheeks to those who tore at his beard”. Jesus surrendered himself completely to his fate, in faithfulness to what he knew was His Father’s will. As the Scriptures foretold he was like a lamb being led to the slaughter.

Jesus offered up himself as the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. He was willing to pay this price for the sake of the redemption of humanity.

The meditation by St Paul in the second reading speaks of the depths of the humility of God, opening up a radical new way of seeing the character of God. His state was divine, yet Jesus emptied himself of his heavenly state when he took on our human nature. But he went further, as St Paul says, and he accepted death, an ignominious death on a cross. He entered the human condition and for our sake took a path of intense suffering culminating in his death.

He endured the intensity of physical pain when so cruelly tortured. At the same time, he experienced being betrayed by one of his own, being deserted by his closest followers, and scorned by the crowds who only days before acclaimed his entry into Jerusalem. His pain was not only physical but was interior as well. His anguished cry from the cross reveals the depth of his suffering and isolation: “O God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

In this coming week we will be taken to places which are so foreign to the usual ways of seeing things. What is revealed here gives us a whole new perspective on what really counts in life. Not success, achievement, power and prestige. But sacrifice, humility, patience and silent acceptance of rejection. It is though the world is being turned upside down.

So as we participate in Holy Week this year, let us enter into a personal spiritual journey carried by the liturgy of the Church. In this coming week let us follow Christ in his final days. Especially let us, each of us in a personal way, live the Sacred Triduum, the three holy days that will take us to the Last Supper, to Calvary hill, and then at the Easter vigil rejoice in the Lord’s resurrection. In all of this we know that this was all done for us. All this is so that we are saved, we are redeemed, we are given joy and hope, we are enabled to enjoy eternal beatitude.

Let us be with Jesus this week. Let us leave aside our superficial activities and our self-indulgent pursuits. Let us take our eyes off ourselves and direct them to Jesus, our saviour and redeemer. This is a most sacred time. This is a time for us to centre ourselves on spiritual things. This is a time to open our hearts in faith and embrace with deep gratitude the salvation won for us.

Let us make this a truly holy week.

Archbishop Julian Porteous

Tags: Archbishop's Blog, Northern Deanery, Southern Deanery