Throughout Lent Christians have been reflecting on their relationship with God, sacrificing those aspects of their lives which may draw them away from God, in remembrance of Jesus’ self-denial in the wilderness and sacrifice on the cross.
In Holy Week Christians continue this journey by observing the events of this week in almost real time. This weekend is Palm Sunday- named after the palms Jesus’ followers waved, but the celebratory nature of this day is tinged by the knowledge of what would happen only days later. Jesus’ followers did not understand that he was to die and Christians are asked to make a further Lenten sacrifice- to sacrifice the assumptions we make about God.
On Thursday Christians will be observing Maundy Thursday when Jesus shared a meal with his disciples- the origin of Holy Communion- only to be betrayed by Judas Iscariot. The moments before Jesus’ arrest are some of his most human, with Jesus deep in prayer expressing his grief and suffering.
“In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” Luke 22: 44
Christians may remember the events of Maundy Thursday with a vigil. This starts with the altar being stripped of all decoration as Psalms and the story of Jesus’ arrest are read from the Bible. Once the reading reaches the words “then all the disciples deserted him and fled” those stripping the altar run from the Church and slam the heavy door shut behind them. The candles have been extinguished and you are left to sit in silence in the cold, dark building. The juxtaposition of this and the sounds of normal life outside create a sense of uncertainty when remembering Jesus being passed between different authorities to be tried.
After little sleep many Christians gather together for a Walk of Witness through their town following a cross. It remembers Jesus’ journey to his execution while normal life continued around him. This is one of the few services which Christians celebrate outside and the stares and even heckling are repeated each year. By the Last Hour service at 2pm tiredness has set in along with disbelief at how long Jesus was on the cross. At the end of this service any candles are extinguished in the Church. What follows is a strange time when any happiness feels out of place and a feeling of emptiness is apparent.
Easter Sunday is a day of great joy with celebrations starting early in the morning to remember Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. After the solemnity of Lent the festivities of Easter seem even greater with the Church being decorated with flowers, the altar is adorned once more and gifts of new clothes or Easter eggs may be given to symbolise new life.
Through Holy Week Christians remember events that took place 2000 years ago, but on Easter Christians are encouraged to look to the future. Much of life is similar to the period of Holy Week when we face fear and uncertainty, but at Easter Christians look forward to the hope of resurrection through Jesus. Lent inspires reflection on life now, but Easter offers a glimpse of the future.
Katharine Crew – Campus Leadership Manager