Why is Holy Week holy?

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This week we have been spending time with Jesus in His last moments of His earthly life. Accompanying anyone into death is very sacred, even more so accompanying God.

When we take part in the liturgies of the Holy Week, I think it is good to have a situation in mind that we will bring into prayer during these days. Either something that we know is happening in the world and we wish to pray more about it, or a situation from our own life.

Lent was our entry on the road towards Jesus’ last hours, towards the Holy Week and Easter. The end of Jesus’ journey on earth was the very purpose why He came – to give us life, so we can have it to the full. As we can witness today, on Good Friday, the journey towards the fullness of life goes through the most excruciating pain, which is very contra-intuitive for us. It goes through humility, littleness, and often the lack of understanding of what will come after. Good Friday as a journey towards the fullness of life is like the first winter that was oblivious to the fact that after winter comes spring. The first winter does not have a memory of any previous spring that it can rely on. It is bleak, stripped of all hope, and very lonely, heavy with sadness. And many people, unfortunately, experience this reality in their lives.

Today is the day when we remember that God died. Can there be anything more mind-shattering and heart-breaking than the death of a loving God? If you have ever had all your hopes shattered, all that you thought about life broken into pieces, if you ever felt like a part of your soul is forever locked into winter, with no hope for further spring, you will understand how this day was for Jesus’ disciples. In the face of such despair, only silence, tears, prayers, sighs of the heart are suitable response. We have not been singing Alleluia in Lent, and I think this is one of the reasons why. In the light of the Good Friday, you cannot sing Alleluia. It would be irreverent. Same as we cannot sing Alleluia in all the situations around the world where evil seems to triumph, where lives are taken so carelessly and cruelly. We cannot sing Alleluia from the desert places, from experiences that break our hearts. Not yet, anyway.

We can only be silent before such mystery of Love of all loves being nailed on the Cross, left to die. Yet this death was Love’s ultimate release; it was Love’s triumph, however at times this remains hidden from our eyes and from our understanding. Because of today we know that no matter what we may go through, God is there with us as well. More so, His love is healing our wounds as He has been to the deepest places of pain in order to saturate them with love. This week is holy because Christ’s presence makes it so.

Let me come back to the Alleluia. As far as I am aware, Alleluia has two meanings. It is “used to express praise or thanks to God”, but it is also “used to express relief, welcome, or gratitude”. Another reason for not singing Alleluia yet, is that we would find it very hard, if nor impossible, to sing a song of relief out of all those experiences that break our hearts. We need the Holy Week to do the deep healing work in us before we can express relief and gratitude from within the exiled parts of our life. We need to let the fresh blossoms on the trees to slowly lead the way before our inner desert places are ready to blossom and sing. We need Jesus to take our pain, disappointments, shattered hopes, the deepest prayers of our heart, and join them with His pain in order to heal us and bring us new life. We need Him to lay them at rest in His grave, and to bring them, bring us towards the Resurrection, though this may take a while for us. When Alleluia slowly rises out of the deep silence of our greatest sadness, then it will be truly real.

At the end of Good Friday Jesus is put to rest in the grave. Whatever we decided to bring into the Holy Week we can leave in the grave with Jesus. By leaving it there we acknowledge we have done our bit. Now is time for God to do His.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 25th March 2016, older reflection edited)
Photo by © Iva Beranek


3 thoughts on “Why is Holy Week holy?

  1. Sunday we sang, “I’m gonna lift my hands ’till I can reach Heaven- I’m gonna shout your name ’till the walks come falling down- I’ve come to worship, I’ve come to worship!” And I felt that cry rising – I’ve brought it to you,God, in this place where he is still in the tomb and I’ll keep crying out until I see the stone begin to move and I know that you have answered all that we left here.”

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