Our Holy Week experience begins with a strange switch in emotions. We enter the Church in our Palm Sunday Procession echoing the cries of Hosanna offered to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem; but then not much later we are called upon to shout “Crucify him. Crucify him” as we join in the reading of the full story of Jesus’ suffering and death.
We might think that we’re not like that, that we are more consistent and not easily swayed by things. Yet if we look at our world today we can see people being swayed every day as one fad or another takes our fancy. This is shown up particularly on the Internet where one photo or Youtube clip suddenly attracts millions of people all over the world, whereas another which may have a much more important message is totally ignored. So, as we make that switch during our Liturgy today, we need to admit that we are more fickle, more easily changed by the latest fashion or trend than we imagine.
Our Liturgies for the rest of Holy Week are also meant to get us involved and thinking about the events surrounding the death of Jesus.
On Holy Thursday night you may be one of the people who has his feet washed, or you may be close to someone as their feet are washed. Suddenly the hymn about love takes on a deeper meaning as we see the priest grovelling on the floor washing feet and kissing them just as Jesus did.
The Watch that follows our Mass on Thursday is another time of challenge. Jesus said to his sleepy disciples, “Can you not watch with me one hour. Watch and pray…” Well, I don’t know about you but I find sitting in silence and staying awake in the semi darkness incredibly difficult!
The Good Friday Liturgy starts with that dramatic moment when the priest flings himself full length face down on the floor – a vivid reminder of how often Jesus fell as he carried the cross on his journey towards death. Later we can all come up and kiss the cross – a reminder to us of how much God loves us, as we see him hanging there in pain and anguish and finally entering into death so that we might be given life.
Holy Saturday night is full of even more powerful images. Stumbling into church in the darkness is what our life can often be like. Then, as the light spreads to each of our candles, we can feel what it is like to be united with Christ and one another in the normally invisible bond that is the Church. Sitting listening in semi-darkness to the Bible Readings is often what it feels like when we try to read the Bible and do not fully understand it. But then there is that moment of joy when all the bells ring out and then after we have renewed our Baptismal Vows we feel the Water of baptism on our heads and hands and know that we are part of the glory that is the Risen Christ.
May we use every moment during these great Liturgies to deepen our realisation of who we are and what God is calling us towards.