The week of celebrations from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday catches me in different ways each year. When I was working in the seminary there was a lot of preparation for each particular ceremony. People really extended themselves to share what this week meant to them. In the Philippines we had people involved in long ceremonies, colourful processions through the streets and all sorts of dramas that drew us into the meaning of the week.
As I prepare for this Holy Week I want to put down on one page what I understand this week to be about. By doing this, I am preparing myself to participate in a drama. The rituals of Holy Week only make sense if we know and believe in the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The more I understand what that story is about the deeper I can participate in the ceremonies. In this way, they are more meaningful for me.
But the story of Jesus is not just an interesting tale of some historical events. For us believers it is the story of our lives too. We cannot talk about our own lives meaningfully unless we talk about Jesus’ life. Unless I talk about my belief in Jesus, I am not talking about what is most important in my life, what is most fundamental.
I know that Jesus is the revelation of God. What Jesus did and how he suffered, died and rose from the dead is the pattern of God’s involvement in our world. What is the pattern of Jesus life? I can see four steps. First step: God created the world because of love. The reason why Jesus came into the world was also because of God’s love. Secondly, Jesus performs miracles and God is always creating the world and bringing it to life. Thirdly, Jesus takes up his cross, suffers and dies and God continues to suffer because of the pain and suffering of the whole world.
The suffering of people and of all creation is shared by God because of God’s love for all that has been made. Finally, on the third day Jesus rises from the dead. This is what God did in the case of Jesus and this is what God continues to do - bring new life to everything, including us humans, forever.
So, the drama of Holy Week draws us into the life of Jesus and the drama of Jesus’ life draws us into the drama of God’s involvement with the whole of creation. We know God through Jesus and in Holy Week we are reminded of him and of all that we believe about him.
What is important for me this year is that I recognise that I am not just an observer of these various dramas. While I may be impressed by the aesthetics of the Holy Saturday rituals or delighted by the memory of a re-enactment of the risen Jesus meeting Mary using life-size statues which I saw in the Philippines, there is much more going on. We are in God. We are in Christ.
The drama of Holy Week gives me further insight into the drama of each of our lives. Our lives are even more wonderful and mysterious because we are caught up into the drama of God and our cosmos. My prayer for all of us is that this Holy Week we may grow into an ever deeper knowledge of God, Jesus and ourselves.
Fr Trevor Trotter
Regional Director of Oceania