Each and every one of us has lived through Holy Week, some of us multiple times. Only our Holy Week is situated in hospital waiting rooms, in divorce court, in that horrible space between jobs, in the lingering and hoping while a relationship gets better or finishes itself. We never choose Holy Week; it finds us and stays until it’s finished. Our Holy Weeks never care about what we think or want, or how frightened we are.
But this Holy Week, the Christian ritual remembrance of the days leading to Jesus’ execution, is a space we enter willingly. We decide to dwell upon things such as a final meal with friends, betrayal by those we dearly love, and a chaotic mess of events over which we exercise no control.
We allow ourselves to imagine what it would be like if our truest dream met a brutal death. Some of us have already experienced that—when we lost a child to cancer or a happy family to disaster or infidelity. But, just the same, we choose to hang out with horror and longing; we stand through extensive readings and re-enactments. We sit in small chapels quiet as tombs, to “wait and watch” with the body and blood of Christ in their more recognizable forms: bread and wine. We drape our worship spaces in black, drain dry our baptismal fonts, remove all the brass and the flowers; sometimes we even silence our music. Sometimes we lead our children to the garden, where they bury the word “Alleluia.”
We enter this darkness because we choose to. Is this a form of crazy? Perhaps it isn’t crazy enough. Perhaps we are invited, day in and day out, to enter Holy Week, but we refuse the invitation. So many millions of people with whom to watch and wait, whose darkness is ongoing and excruciatingly solitary: prisoners, nursing home residents, victims of war, families just down the street. We are willing to walk the way of the cross with Jesus once a year. What we forget is that the Christ and the Cross march continuously across days and countries, always down, down into death and confusion.
The Gethsemanes and Golgothas are too many to count, in this world. The waiting rooms are brimming. The truest dreams and hopes fall from the skies like firestorms, dirty bombs and smart bombs, flaming and terrible.
Do we want Holy Week, really? No—do I want Holy Week? Will I walk with the Christ to the Immigration Office or the AIDS ward? Will I weep with the Good Friday mother who felt that abortion was her only decent choice? Will I present love and mercy in rooms of the powerful, open my life to the rants of those for whom Easter is success and prosperity and progress?
This Holy Week, the one at the church—it may be the easiest one of all.
Copyright © 2010 Vinita Wright