Holy week and Easter

As I write this, Holy Week has just begun. We are entering into the most profound and meaningful time of the Church’s Year and yet this week will be very different to any other Holy Week or Easter which we have celebrated before. Whereas we usually gather at Furzebank to bless and distribute our palm crosses, to share in a meal and simple Communion Service for Maundy Thursday, to reflect on the cross on Good Friday and to celebrate and rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday; this year, we will not be coming together and celebrating together at all, we will not even be seeing each other. Instead, we will be in our homes – some of us with children, some of us as couples, some of us on our own – trying to worship and to find meaning in the Easter story in our own houses rather than at church. This will be a very different Holy Week and Easter. However, it will still be Holy Week and Easter; and this most significant time of year has never simply been about gathering in church and celebrating together (no matter how wonderful it is to do just that). Holy Week and Easter is actually, more importantly, about marking the last days of Jesus’ life, and his rising from the dead, in ways that enable us to go spiritually inwards and to relate the story of Jesus to ourselves, to our own stories, to our own lives and faith.

A few days ago, I was sent a reflection by the Revd. Mike Marsh, a priest in the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. In his reflection which was posted on his web-site, Interrupting the Silence, Mike Marsh said this about these next few days and the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic:

“Holy Week will not happen in the church this year, at least not like it has in previous years. But here’s the thing, Holy Week never really did happen in the church. It happens in our lives. Maybe this is the year to rediscover that. Maybe this year we rediscover that Holy Week is about more than re-enacting or telling the story of what happened to Jesus. It’s about giving thanks for and experiencing Jesus walking with us through the Holy Week of our life. (And yes, Holy Week often happens more than once a year.)

I have heard clergy and laity alike fretting about Holy Week. What are we going to do? How do we do Holy Week in the midst of a pandemic when we cannot be together in person? How can we make it tangible and meaningful? I get it. I’ve been one of them. But here’s what I also get. This pandemic does not stand as a barrier or in opposition to Holy Week. The pandemic is our Holy Week. We don’t need to try and make Holy Week “normal” or like previous years. We need to experience and connect to Holy Week, not in spite of what is happening, but through what is happening.

Look into the pandemic and you’ll see triumphant palm waving that has given way to loss and brokenness. You’ll see humble and selfless acts of love. You’ll see feet being washed even when shoes and socks are never removed. You’ll see not only the deaths of people, but the deaths of life as it used to be, plans and routines, illusions, exceptionalism, and self-sufficiency. The peoples of the earth really have been made of one blood. You’ll see people waiting in the emptiness, loneliness, and darkness of Holy Saturday wondering, “How long, O Lord?” And who among us doesn’t know what that is like?

Look into the pandemic and you’ll see Holy Week. It has never been more real than it is this year.

I don’t know when or how we’ll get through this pandemic, but I know this. Every cross flowers with new life, every tomb is a workshop of resurrection, and every Holy Week is the raw material for a new creation.”

Amen to that! And may I wish you and your loved ones a meaningful, challenging, life-giving Holy Week and Easter.

A Locked Church by Alan Amos

“Ah my dear Lord, the church is locked

but let my heart be open to your presence;

there let us make, your and I,

your Easter garden;

plant it with flowers,

and let the heavy stone be rolled away.”

Revd. Helen Duckett

April 2020

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