I’m writing on Tuesday of Holy Week, forgetting that a) it’s Tuesday and b) that it’s Holy Week all too often today. I have gone from volunteering at a neighborhood school to preparing for a PTA meeting tonight and in the meantime making signs for our Easter Egg hunt. After I write this, I’ll be helping to stuff about two thousand eggs for Saturday. I keep thinking that Thursday night is one night I don’t have meetings this week. I have forgotten it is Maundy Thursday, as it is not my current church’s practice to observe Maundy Thursday. I also keep thinking I have a free day on Friday and can take my day off, forgetting that I do have a 6:30 p.m. Good Friday service. All I can think about is this damn egg hunt on Saturday (note: it was my idea this year). Oh yeah, and on Sunday I’m supposed to celebrate the Resurrection.
Holy Week? What is so darn holy about this week? It’s just like any other week, except with more things to do and I have a fuller scheduled than I anticipated. But it wasn’t always this way. When I first entered professional ministry, I loved the pace of Holy Week. I loved the joy and wonder and the premonition that something different was going to happen on Palm Sunday. I treasured the quiet contemplation along with the preparations that took place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I always felt like I had time to be ready. Thursday’s service was met with darkness, fear, and still hope. Friday was often a day to be gathered with other Christian brothers and sisters in ecumenical services. Saturday was a day of rest. There were no egg hunts then—they were saved for Sunday morning.
There was a pace that brought peace to me, as a pastor, as a Christian, as a human being. That was before I was juggling services with my husband or had a child or became involved in other community activities. Now, Holy Week seems to have lost its holiness for me.
Or is that I am just out of touch with what is holy? Was it just another week back then? Was it just another gathering of friends and family sharing the Passover meal, but then words were shared that were different, actions that went along with those words that turned bread and wine into symbols of remembrance? Was it just another time like so many that happen to the incarcerated today, when a friend betrayed a friend, the authorities arrested an innocent man, and there was a hasty trial? Was it just another death, just another funeral, just another day of mourning and rest?
I wonder if Holy Week felt very holy to Peter, James, John, Judas, Thomas, Mary, Susanna, Joanna, and others. Even Jesus.
It probably didn’t feel holy until they began to remember. Maybe it was on that Saturday when they couldn’t believe that just twenty-four hours before their friend was alive and now dead. Maybe it was when they shared their mid-day meal that they remembered it was just a couple of days ago they had shared the Passover meal together, broke bread and shared the cup with Jesus. Maybe it was on that Saturday night that they remembered it was just six days before when they entered Jerusalem and people were shouting “Hosanna!” Maybe it was only after they got through it that it seemed holy, special, set apart. Memories that they wanted to preserve and never, ever, ever forget.
Or maybe it wasn’t until after they found the tomb empty, after the angels spoke to them, after they saw Christ, after, after, after—maybe it wasn’t until the mourning and crying were done that they were able to rejoice and see how holy the last week had been—how death had died, how sin had died, how love had prevailed.
Maybe for those of us who are church leaders, clergy, lay, committed volunteers—maybe we find the holiness in the looking back, in the memories of washing each other’s feet and the extinguishing of candle flame, in the haunting echoes of “Were You There?” that ring through our head, and in the darkness we leave on Good Friday and the dark cloths we hang on the cross. Maybe we find the holiness in the picking up of broken plastic eggs on Saturdays (or the joy of finding an unfound egg hours after the hunt is over and the kids are gone). Maybe we find the holiness in the living out of these memories, year after year after year, of that time so long ago, when Jesus’ closest friends may have had a hard time finding the holy in the ordinary.
May you find the holy in this week, in whatever act of remembrance, and remember that sometimes the holy moments are found after the week is done.