What makes a week “holy”? Here on this Lazarus Saturday, when the Eastern Church especially celebrates the raising of Lazarus from the dead, followed by Palm/Passion Sunday tomorrow, the ending of Lent and the beginning of The Three Days, or Triduum, Maundy Thursday evening through Easter Vespers on Sunday night, it might be useful to reflect on what makes this week Holy. No other week in the year has this designation.
The dictionary definition of the word “holy” is “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.” The focus of these next eight days certainly are religious and sacred for those who follow Christ. Yet, in North American culture, one can find any number of concerts and events scheduled for the evenings of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The Easter Vigil, the oldest service in Christendom, is little known even among regular church attenders and, unlike Christmas, fewer stores close for Easter. Clearly, for many people, the days the Church in the West enters into are not holy. In fact, they are no different than any other day in their life.
So, then, what makes Holy Week holy? Because Easter is the apogee of the Christian liturgical year. Easter is what makes Christianity unique. The instituting of the Lord’s Supper, which we remember on Maundy Thursday, the Crucifixion of Jesus which we re-participate in on Good Friday, the earth holding its breath and we with it on Holy Saturday, and the final victory shout over death that we begin to celebrate in the dark hours between Saturday and Sunday are the central tenant of the Christian faith! Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again we say in the Eucharistic liturgy.
Each year, we who claim to follow Christ walk with him as he wades into the whirlpool of popular misunderstanding regarding what the Messiah was to be and do. As the week progresses, we join those who go from shouting Christ’s praises to calling for his crucifixion as a fraud. They assumed the Messiah would be of a political nature and overthrow Rome, returning Israel to the glory of its King David days. A Messiah who suffers and dies did not fit their idea or desire. We watch with the confused disciples as Jesus shifts the liturgy a bit during the Seder meal for Passover. We run in fear at Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, hiding behind closed doors, realizing that all the eggs we had put in his basket were now destroyed. But then comes Sunday and all those broken eggs turn into Phoenix-like manifestations of our wildest hopes and dreams.
Oh, yes, this will be a Holy Week here at this old house. May it be so for you as well.