We go through Holy Week yet again. Why? It seems we say the same things that we know happened centuries before. Remembrance is important but it sometimes seems overplayed as we celebrate the liturgies of this most special week.
But this is more that remembrance. It is our journey as well and the annual repetition is meant to deepen our understanding and help us relate it to the daily grind of living and the new, surprising and often disconcerting things that happen to us in our daily lives. We connect with Christ since His story is our story and His sufferings are our sufferings. And who of us can say that they do not suffer?
The great Jewish then Catholic philosopher Simone Weil has said that the most meaningful thing a person can ask another person is “What are you going through?” While Resurrection is a strange concept with no content since we have no experience of it, the whole passion of Christ is so real and fraught with terror since we know what it is to feel pain and loss and loneliness. The passion of Christ is embedded in our collective understanding while death is made real by what we have witnessed and by our fears that we project into our personal futures. We have seen people die and we know that we will also die. There is no escape from this.
Since we all share these perceptions (for the saying goes: what is most personal is most universal) it is something that we have to ‘go through’ both individually and collectively as a community. Holy Week is the time we do this par excellence! We walk with Jesus. We think with Jesus. We imagine His thoughts and feelings. We put ourselves in His place. We reach out to our friends. We pray to the Father in our own Gethsemane. We face hatred. We are condemned innocent. We suffer pain. We offer our lives to the Father. And finally the Father vindicates us as we arise from the grave (in our case of our mortality and sinfulness).
I remember one year while I was in High School, I took out from the library a book called “The Day that Christ Died”. It was an hour-by-hour retelling of the Passion story from Holy Thursday to the end of Good Friday. It was set up by hours. Chapters were called “Thursday 6 PM.” So that by the end of the book you have experienced what Jesus lived during those hours. My parents could not understand my staying up all night to be with Jesus on each of those hours and experience even the sleeplessness of that time for Jesus. I never forgot that year’s exercise. For it made the Lord’s passion so real for me.
I have tried to do something like that every Holy Week. Of course, not to the extreme of not sleeping. But I have tried to accompany Jesus in his feeling and thoughts throughout that holiest of weeks. Not only thinking the thoughts but in my imagination, walking the walk. For Jesus is not just an historical character, He is a living friend. A friend whom I love and never want to abandon. A friend to whom I am most grateful. A friend who I have betrayed but who has never betrayed me.
Holy Week is a time of being with this man who I believe is divine and making sure He never goes through His passion alone.