Walk in the light of the cross
A reflection for Holy Week
The week after next we begin Holy Week. If we let ourselves be taken on this journey, the Holy Week liturgies we are soon to enter, lead us through a most profound experience. Liturgy is meant to touch us deeply. It speaks into our lives and engages us at that very point where all that is most deeply human and Divine meet. In the ritual we find God’s story entering our own. Where that takes us will depend on how fully we let ourselves be touched and become swept up in the ‘drama’. During Holy Week we begin with Passion Sunday or Palm Sunday and we journey through Holy Thursday and Good Friday, into the Holy Saturday vigil and the joy of Easter Sunday
The Holy Thursday liturgy, along with that of Good Friday, is surely the most moving of all in the Church’s rich liturgical cycle, for there we walk into the light of the cross. We are touched on so many levels. We come to this liturgy knowing that we are going to remember a night on which Love was given to us in an extraordinary way. The story of the cross which we will tell the next day begins there in that hushed and sacred moment of Holy Thursday as we tell its story.
There are, in fact, two Holy Thursday stories, both of them expressing that one Great Love: Jesus breaking the bread and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. As the liturgy unfolds we go through a range of emotions: that last meal of Jesus and his disciples is beautifully intimate and tender, and yet shot through with a sadness and a foreboding of what is to come. We know that those two profound gestures of love and self-giving will be followed by fear and anguish, surrender to God in the darkness of the garden of Gethsemane, condemnation, violence and brutality, loneliness, unbelievable pain, and another final surrender on the cross. And after we tell those two stories, and we ourselves are fed and embraced by that Great Love, the liturgy ends with the silence of the vigil at the altar of repose. (For those unfamiliar with Catholic liturgy, at the end of the Holy Thursday Eucharist, the ‘Blessed Sacrament’, that is, the bread now become the Body of Christ, is taken in procession, usually out of the church, or to a side altar, and placed in what is called ‘the altar of repose’.) For those who choose to remain there in prayer this is a time to kneel beside Him, with Him, watching and waiting.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator