Wednesday, March 20, 2002

The Right Mindset for Holy Week

Holy Week is "the week of weeks" even as Easter Sunday is "the Feast of feasts" for Christians (e.g. reformed Catholics/Anglicans) who observe the Church Calendar & Year. And Good Friday is the most solemn of all days and thus a day of fasting and waiting upon the Lord.

With what mindset should the baptized Christian enter and go through this unique week?

I suggest that it should be an attitude and presence of mind and a fullness of heart that looks at the Lord Jesus [what he said, what he did and what he endured as he passed from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday] from two perspectives or two directions simultaneously.

(1) In terms of the Church Year it should a meditative, devotional, and imaginative accompanying him as he enters Jerusalem day by day, observing where he goes and what he says, listening to what he says and what is said and done to him, and weeping with his disciples as he suffers, dies and is buried. This can be achieved by participation in public services and by personal devotional exercises before the Lord as the Passion narratives of the four Gospels are read (these are printed in the classic BCP (1662/1928 etc but are in effect chapters from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

(2) In terms of the personal relation to God the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, and within the Body of Christ, it should be a reverential looking back [or looking down from above] from the post-Easter & post Exaltation position. We are baptized believers and we have been baptized into the death of Jesus, buried with him, raised and exalted with him to newness of life. We are justified by faith through the abundant mercy of God and this state of a right relation with the Holy Trinity will be our eternal state by grace with God and the holy angels and saints for ever - though now existing in earthly, sinful bodies soon to be living in heavenly, immortal bodies.

It would be wholly dishonest for us to go through Holy Week pretending that we are not children of the Resurrection and acting as if we were actually to be redeemed on Good Friday and liberated on Easter Day.

We know that the One who was called the prophet and Son of David and greeted in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is the Lord of glory who died and rose again for us. We know that the Master who went through such agony in prayer in Gethsemane was looking at the expiation/propitiation of the Cross and bearing in his pure soul the agonies and pains of our sins. And we know (as the disciples seem not to have known) that the Jesus who was crucified, dead and buried would/did rise from the dead in a new body of glory.

So why do we in Holy Week walk daily with Jesus into and out of Jerusalem as though we did not know the finale of the events we are beholding and participating in?

I suggest - as a starter - that we go through Holy Week meditatively and with empathy in the company of Jesus in order (a) to grow in appreciation and thanksgiving for who he is and for what he did for us and for our salvation; (b) to see more clearly by self-examination the human sin that rejected and crucified him [which sin is also in our hearts]; (c) to see in his disciples weaknesses and strengths to be noted and either avoided or copied, and (d) to gain a lively sense of the transience and fragility of this world and the solidity and eternity of the invisible world that we call heaven.

I must add the following.

Such a walk with Jesus in Holy Week is made effectual and effective because by grace we are already "in Christ" and indwelt by his Spirit. Thus we are enabled to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ, as St. Paul declares.

What we may call the calendar/liturgical perspective requires the being "in Christ" perspective in order truly to become practically and really a means of receiving the grace of the Father through the Lord Jesus by the Holy Ghost.

In closing allow me to state that an unbaptized searcher after God and truth will benefit tremendously from adopting the calendar/liturgical approach, especially if he proceeds in sincerity and repentance.

And we should not forget that the catechumens, who are to be baptized on Easter Eve or Easter Day, will in a real and vital sense experience Good Friday as the Day of Salvation and Easter Day as the Day of Rejoicing for Salvation in Christ.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Lent VI 2002

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