From Palm Sunday to Easter Day the great liturgies of the catholic tradition encourage us to walk with Jesus, from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, to his disappearance from the tomb. The journey of this week is an annual opportunity and it reminds us that the life of a Christian disciple is one of movement. It is a movement that is primarily about following, but also involves watching and waiting, and finally it brings an opportunity to witness. Who are we following? What are we waiting for? What are we seeing? What is it that we believe because of what we have seen?
These are questions that each disciple is invited to consider afresh in Holy Week. The movement and the journey work best if we engage with the story in its entirety. After following Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we wait and pray. On Maundy Thursday Jesus calls his followers to gather with him in the Upper Room; it is here that we hear the invitation for the first time to receive the offering of Jesus’ body and blood in the common cup of the wine and the shared bread. It is here that Jesus gathers us around him and mirroring his servant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, serves us his followers, by washing our feet. This intimate invitation and this generous servanthood is broken apart by the prophecy of betrayal, we are confused and worried, what will happen? Amazed and disorientated we try and wait with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, but our desire to be present with Jesus and pray is limited by our fleshly desire to sleep.
Before we know it, aroused from our sleep, Jesus has been betrayed and arrested by the soldiers. Our expectation and joy at the entry into Jerusalem has been dramatically shattered. What sort of king is this? We turn to what we know and try and resist the disruption and the upset with argument and force. But it’s no good, Jesus looks at us like we understand nothing. Desertion and betrayal are at the fore on this day, it is here that humanity is found wanting. Crucified, Jesus is raised up before all the world. Today, Good Friday, Jesus asks us anew: where will you be?
Holy Saturday is a day of darkness and waiting, a day for nothingness, no liturgy, no prayer even, just a hole where hope and faith were. From earliest times followers of Jesus gathered together to read scriptures through the night and into the early morning of Sunday. The Saturday evening vigil service begins informally in half-light with scripture readings from the Old Testament. As the story changes and news of disappearance and re-appearance enter our ears, so we move to re-affirm our faith, lighting the new fire for the Easter Candle and renewing our baptismal vows.
On Easter Sunday, the question again addressed to us is: What have you seen and what do you believe? How, why, if, we rejoice at the presence of the Risen Lord depends entirely on where and when we encountered him as the Risen Lord. Our thanksgiving at his appearing is more personal and more intimate than that which has been experienced so far. His hand may be outstretched towards you now with a wound he’s inviting you to touch. A journey through Holy Week is one which is unlikely to leave you cold – will you accept the invitation?