I wished I had something profound to say in the middle of Holy Week. Perhaps my lack is out of fatigue as I traveled yesterday with some friends to visit a friend in a nursing home. In any case, I urge readers not to skip Holy Week, particularly the darkness of Thursday through Saturday, of the Last Supper and betrayal, of the arrest and trials, of the crucifixion and burial, in order to rush to Easter.
In most of my pre-Anglican years, that is more or less what I did. It is not that I despised the Lord’s Passion; I most certainly did not. An emphasis on Holy Week was just not part of my worship tradition and had not yet become a part of me.
During those years, Easter also did not mean as much to me as it does now. That is no coincidence. Yes, I knew well that my life is bound up in Christ’s resurrected life. But I do not think one can fully appreciate the light and joy of Easter until one goes through the darkness of Holy Week, and of Lent for that matter. And that I did not do.
Carl Trueman has written on how excising the dark and the tragic from our worship impoverishes it and ourselves. I think that applies double to Holy Week. As the risk of using a banal illustration, a movie that proceeds straight from happiness through happiness to a happy ending is likely to be cloying and forgettable. Not only is life not that way, but the dark times help us to appreciate God’s light. Neither good movies nor good religion skip over them. It is not for nothing that early in his Gospel, St. John proclaims, “The light shines in the darkness.”
So my humble recommendation to those who want to have a joyous Easter is first to have a contemplative and, yes, dark Holy Week. Observe and think upon the Passion of our Lord, who – as the Collect for Holy Monday notes – “went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified.” Therefore let the rest of this prayer be our prayer and practice in life and worship. “Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Let the Collect for Holy Wednesday be our prayer also.
Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation; that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts, whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.