There is really no authentic way of making sense of it all. The cognitive dissonance of Holy Week – the joy and the drama, the celebration and the humiliation, the glory and the darkness – it all makes for a week that should be anything but holy if we think holy means pure.
Holy Week is messy.
This week, which marks Jesus’ final human steps, is holy only inasmuch as it is rooted in the presence Christ – God incarnate – who comes into the middle of all of this dissonance and sets up a home here because holiness is not about purity. Holiness is about where God chooses to make God’s home.
God comes to set up a home here because this is where we are. We live in the middle of all of the mess, trying desperately to run to one side over the other, but always seeming to find ourselves somewhere in the middle. Wrestling, running, tired, weary, and worn-down. Holy Week reminds us that God is here in it all.
Holy Week is holy because through it we are given another glimpse into the Son of God
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 (NRSV))
The Son of God enters enters the human experience and reflects back to us the best and worst of who we are – generous and selfish, loving and filled with hate, compassionate and cold, gracious and begrudging – in order that through his living,
all darkness would be penetrated by his light,
all troubles calmed by his peace,
all evil redeemed by his love,
all pain transformed in his suffering,
and all dying glorified in his risen life.(
Adapted from “Night Prayer” (in A New Zealand Prayer Book, 183.)
Henri Nouwen says that “for a compassionate person nothing human is alien: no joy and no sorrow, no way of living and no way of dying.” (Henri Nouwen. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society, 2nd ed. (Image Doubleday: New York, 2010), 45.)
As we enter the awesome and terrible mystery of Holy Week, I want to close with this poem from Walter Brueggemann that he wrote on the occasion of the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The poem is called “The poem conflict us:”
The intrusion of pain,
the eruption of anger,
the embrace of rage,
and then bewilderment and wonderment and awe.
Our lives in faith are situated among the poets:
The poets talk about,
swords to plowshares,
spears to pruning hooks,
and unlearning war.
But answered by a shadow poet who bids us,
plowshares to swords,
pruning hooks to spears,
be not a weakling!
The poems conflict us, as we are conflicted
sensing and knowing better,
Knowing better, but yielding.
Do not deliver us from the clashing poems
that are your word to us.
But give us courage and freedom and faith… O Prince of Peace.
Amen. (Walter Brueggemann, “The poem conflicts us” in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2003), 77.)