The Wealth of Holy Week

It’s no secret that Holy Week is usually the busiest time of the year for a congregation. There are so many festivals packed into a short period of time, all of them distinct, and yet all of them essential to the life of the church. It feels like a lot of activity, too much even. But, it shouldn’t. This is what we’ve been preparing for through the whole season of Lent.

I’ve said previously that Lent is our way of reliving life before Christ, when the world was looking forward to the coming Savior with eager anticipation. Holy Week distills all of that salvation-oriented activity down to the most essential elements. Christ enters into our midst. He alters the way we relate to Him as He establishes His on-going presence among us. He suffers the Curse on our behalf and then rises again to bring to fulfillment the work He began.

Obviously, there is much more to what Jesus does than even what we find in Holy Week. However, this alone could occupy a lifetime’s reflection and meditation. Many theologians throughout the centuries have found the events of these days and the theology associated with them to be momentous enough to warrant numerous books. Theologians today continue to write about these events because there simply is still more to say about them.

In that sense, I encourage all Christians to avail themselves of all of the services of Holy Week. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter are all unique perspectives on the work of Christ in the world and none is truly a substitute for the others. All of this activity often feels like an intrusion into our lives, but really it is these very events that give our lives any meaning. Our life is found in Christ or it is not found at all. It is Christ who is the Vine and we are the branches. Apart from Him we can do nothing. If a Christian has not centered his life on the life of Christ, particularly on the events that define our relationship to Him, the rest of his spiritual life will never function properly.

Holy Week is where we learn about the devastation of sin and the lengths God is willing to go to to save us. We learn about His desire to be with His people. We see Him triumph and, in His triumphant glory and His constant presence, we see a vision of the future. We see our life together with Him and with each other, gathered around the communion table as we celebrate His victory.

Each of these elements can occupy someone in years of thought and study. One day a year hardly seems adequate. Nevertheless, they are each a gift and a tool for us to reorient our own lives according to His. Each day comes and goes in turn because it is only in their unity that we can understand them at all. Easter without Good Friday is meaningless. Maundy Thursday also loses its importance without Good Friday and the glory of Easter. Easter Vigil reminds us that, while a particular task may be done, that doesn’t mean God has stopped working. Palm Sunday reminds us that God has not operated from afar, but has come to us, right in the midst of His people to do what needs doing. So on, and so forth.

Take the time to be in church as much as you are able in Holy Week. See the interplay between the different days and how they build upon one another. Allow yourself the time to reflect on the grace and mercy of Christ and you will find your own life refocused on that grace. Spending the time to see that grace here, where it is at its richest and most abundant, you will start to see it everywhere else too.

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