I am fascinated about how various cultures and regions acknowledge “set apart” seasons differently. In the US, almost everyone practices “Christmas” in one form or another (regardless of “religious” affiliation.) The rest of the Christian holidays remain a mystery (even to most protestant Christians). In Europe, the “Christian” days are still woven into the secular society’s calendar: everyone knows when the Festival of the Annunciation is because its a public holiday, as is Epiphany, Whitsunday, Pentecost, St. Nicolas Day… However, the religious observation of these days is negligible.
In the US we have moved away from the religious notation of “Easter Break” to a more secular recognition of “Spring Break.” While some bemoan this change, what is of interest to me is not the secular world’s varied interest in religious holy days. I am puzzled by the practice (or lack thereof) of people of faith, particularly Christians.
Here we are on the edge of “Holy Week” in the Christian Tradition, and we may be tempted to focus more on getting a parking space or filling out our vacation time, than prayerful preparation. The question on my heart is; How will we enter into the story of Jesus at this moment in our lives?
This week stands out as a central celebration and affirmation of our experience as disciples of Christ. It begins with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (a week of conflicting allegiances), the Last Supper and Gethsemane story, the trials, crucifixion and burial of Jesus and concludes with the Easter witness to New Life. It is a Holy Week, rich in meaning, tradition, rites of remembrance, powerful images and a transforming witness.
Worshiping and praying through Holy Week is not about dutifully complying with a repeated religious practice. Prayer is an opportunity to open ourselves to the mystery of love that perseveres. Gathering with the community in worship offers a moment to step beyond the press to conform, to “fit in” and feel the surge of God’s people leaning into the freedom of a future as kin.
I invite you into a week of holy adventure and discovery; a pilgrimage of renewal personally and a season of resolve as a community. May Christ renew our spirits in this time spent in his company.