Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect for Monday in Holy Week
Before we can arrive at the joy of Easter, or even the solemnity of Good Friday, or Maundy Thursday’s invitation to love each other as Christ loves us, we must be utterly clear about the nature of the journey: it is the way of the cross.
Holy Week’s message of God’s unilateral action of redemption in Christ doesn’t wash away the fact of a broken world where people struggle and suffer. We still must endure the consequence of human sin when we follow Christ the sinless One. But now, we do so in His strength and by His example. We take up our own cross—the reality of our own particular existence—and make the journey with Him and in Him.
Many centuries ago, the prophet Jeremiah had this to say about the journey ahead:
If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you fall down,
how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan?
We cannot bank on the journey getting easier as we go; in fact, it is often quite the opposite. The Christian life is deeply realistic about this. We are not “experts,” but always disciples, first and foremost—and the word discipulus in Latin means a learner. Holy Week is a serious re-commitment to that aspect of faith: learning to find the way of the cross to be “none other than the way of life and peace,” as the Collect used for this day puts it.
Christ’s absolute determination to follow through with His mission on our behalf is a sign that there is no escaping this for anyone serious about being a Christian. The intensity of the rites and ceremonies of Holy Week is not an end in itself: it is an affirmation that if we truly want life and peace, there is only one way to get there—Christ’s way.
Because Christ has cleared the way ahead for us, removing the previously insurmountable obstacles of sin and death, we may follow in His blessed steps toward the Kingdom.
We all know there are very appealing shortcuts to that journey, ways we think we can use to get there without taking up our own particular cross and following our Lord. But in the account of Jesus’ steadfastness to loving us through the cross, we find once more that this is the only way to walk through life in such a way to keep our “eyes on the prize” while yet loving and serving our neighbor.
This is the way we have been given; all other ways have been tried and have failed. In Christ, we see the truth that His way forward, and none other, is the way to "life and peace" for all.