I’m writing to you on the eve of Holy Week, a term relegated to a week in our Christian tradition.
Surprisingly, many people don’t know what “Holy Week” is…only that it has something to do with the church. As I learned early in my life, and as it was reinforced when I was an altar boy, Holy Week is the week which includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, (Holy Saturday for our Roman Catholic kindred) and, finally, Easter Sunday.
I remember all this because if felt as if I was in church forever when Holy Week came around. Mom was so faithful in getting all six of us kids to church…taking time off from work during Holy Week in order to pick us up from three different schools (a circuit of about 24-miles) to get us to Mass on time. That meant getting us to church five times in one week! Add to that the job of filling & hiding six Easter Baskets and fixing Easter dinner (which is a funny term…”fixing” dinner sounds as if it must have gotten broken somewhere along the line). I’m sure Mom was relieved to get back to work!
Unfortunately, people don’t think of Holy Week as a part of their regular lives. It’s sort of relegated to church. No, let me re-state that…it’s completely relegated to church.
I looked up the word relegate and found, “to put someone or some group in a less important position, rank, etc.” My old friend Merriam-Webster tells me that relegate includes synonyms such as “excluded, expelled, run out, rejected, spurned, dispossessed, deported, exiled, displaced. Not a very positive and encouraging nature. We’re talking about a serious demotion, Lord, and nobody likes demotions or to be put aside in a lesser category.
I’ve told you before that I was pretty good in basketball…playing a minimum of three times a week for twenty years and being invited to play on some very good teams. However, by the time I got to the thirty-year old mark I wasn’t being asked to play on the caliber of teams I was used to.
As I got older I found I was relegated, first to no longer picking the teams, second to no longer being one of the top picks, and third to being chosen toward the end of all possible candidates. That hurt. I was still a good shot, but I was slowing down. Finally, the writing was on the bandages of my knees and I figured it would be best to stay out of the gym. The Apostle Paul must have experienced this himself because he referenced his basketball career when he said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (OK, so maybe I’m stretching that one.) I hated being relegated to a lesser position. Had I thought about what the word actually meant I would have likely been in therapy!
So I want to re-interpret Holy Week and not see it relegated to just one week. Holy Week is, indeed the week we are approaching. Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey-colt…a comical sight for a grown man. Maundy Thursday is the day Jesus met in the upper room with his disciples to celebrate the Passover: a day marked by the Last Supper and the betrayal by Judas. Good Friday is the day of his crucifixion by Jewish authorities carried out by the Romans. Holy Saturday is the day of mourning when the world seemed dark and hopeless until the hope of new life on Easter morning.
But what if we saw the Holy in every week? What if our walking through Holy Week allowed us to transform our concepts? How often do we say we “can’t wait for the day to end”, are “glad that week is over with”, and “can’t barely wait” until tomorrow. Lost in this is the precious gift of each new day.
By relegating “Holy Week” to church we may have forgotten that every day is a day of death, hope, resurrection, and new life…and therefore, Holy. It sounds trite, but remember the old ’70’s song from Seals & Crofts when they sang, “We will never pass this way again”? That is the celebration of “the Holy” in every day. Perhaps you can help me to celebrate Holy Week in our Christian faith and then help me carry that awareness of your Divine presence into the rest of the year. I can only imagine how much more profound every new day might be to me and to anyone I meet.
As always, thank you for listening. I love you. Happy Easter!