Saturday, March 23, 2013

Holy Week Journal 2013: The Sunday of the Passion

Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect at the Liturgy of the Palms on The Sunday of the Passion 

To participate in the liturgies of Holy Week is to contemplate an action already completed, the fruits of which are still being recognized in the world. Christ has already and eternally overcome sin and death once and for all through His death and resurrection in Jerusalem so long ago. All those who confess Christ as Lord and Savior share in this new form of life; yet this fact has not been accepted by a world still utterly entranced with death and its supposed power.

The human addiction to death—and its confines of fear, the 
passions, hatred, pride, envy —is so pervasive and efficiently-deployed that the acceptance of an eternal life perspective cannot be received “naturally.” It can only be received as a gift of divine grace, consented to by human will. This is the mystery of faith: God initiates, humans cooperate. We must be partners in our salvation, though we may never bring it about ourselves.

Palm Sunday marks the initiation of Christ's greatest work of Love, His confrontation with Death itself. Our Lord comes into Jerusalem in the midst of a great celebration. Those heralding His arrival, of course, were still tied to the very system of power and death He was coming to destroy, but they did not understand this. They welcomed One they believed to be a revolutionary, but they had no notion just how revolutionary He truly would be. For, all their expectations about the "ground rules" of life itself were about to be undone.

In the end, they would all abandon Him. Even Christ's closest friends and disciples would turn away from Him. Their loyalty was not to the Gospel, but to the world "as it is"-- not as God desires it. That world, with its substitution of power for Love, was coming to an end. It was about to make its last stand as the final word about life.

When we share in the great liturgies of Holy Week, we are not re-enacting ancient events as people working in a historical theme park re-enact a long lost culture. We are not re-creating another time or place in this week: we are asserti
ng, proclaiming, actualizing the truth that in Christ Jesus God has lifted the claim of Death from us now. We may choose now to live lives based on this fact, to serve others, make decisions, hold opinions, and take action knowing that we are loved by God and are freed from fear's grip. That is loyalty to the Kingdom of God. Holy Week is direct participation and renewal in this loyalty to life from an Eternal perspective.

Or, we may choose to remain loyal to the world as it has become, living estranged from God, living by the powers of this world which "corrupt and destroy the creatures of God," as the Baptismal Liturgy puts its so starkly.

Our response to this week, our openness to its message and its transforming power, will reveal where our loyalty truly is. Perhaps we will be comforted, perhaps we will be troubled or even shocked. If the feeling is strong, it is to be treasured. Anything that brings us closer to the truth, closer to knowing whether Life or Death has the final word in our mind, is worth investigation. To contemplate these "mighty acts" may finally allow us to see the direction in which our lives are headed: to the setting sun of the grave, or to the rising sun of the Day of Resurrection.

May it be a fruitful Holy Week for all of us!

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