The Great and Holy Week — one could argue that in the Christian tradition it is the most important week of the year. Followers of Jesus all around the world, in the Western Christian tradition will, beginning on Sunday, April 9, retrace in their minds and hearts, in their worship and in their prayers, the most significant days in Jesus’ life.
They will remember how Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by the hopes and expectations of a people longing for liberation from oppressive, tyrannical rule, longing for God’s Anointed One. They will remember how Jesus went to the temple and declared it a house of prayer, not a place of profiteering.They will remember feet washed, a holy and mysterious meal, the taste of bread and wine, agonizing prayers in a garden, an arrest, a denial, a trial, a state sponsored execution. They will stand at the grave, and they will sit in vigil waiting for the first day of the week to dawn again with a bright and brilliant announcement that “Christ is risen.”
We will sing. We will pray. We will watch. We will wait. We will hope.
During this week that we Christians call holy, we will seek to walk with Jesus from one mount to another, from the Mount of Olives to the cross atop Mount Calvary. We will ponder what it means that this Jesus — flesh and blood, molded dirt and holy breath — this Jesus is the love of God in the midst of us, for us. We will contemplate a God who gives up all, a God who suffers, a God who dies.
Along the way, we will each make our own journey, walking alone together with this Jesus who walks with us. As we walk, we will each bring our own stories of joy and sorrow, expectation and disappointment, hope and despair to the journey. We will each bring our full selves in all of their complexity to this Jesus upon whom we believe our very lives depend.
It is a holy time, this Great and Holy Week — a holy time that both intersects and interrupts all of life’s expectations and demands. With this intersection and interruption, you are invited to step away from your regular rhythm and routine and enter into the journey. You are invited to walk with Jesus, who walks with us.
Through the worship life at the Chapel of the Resurrection, we will make the journey anew. On Sunday, April 9, we will gather with palms and we will hear of Jesus’ passion. In our worship on Maundy Thursday, feet will be washed, sins will be forgiven, and Holy Communion will be celebrated. On Good Friday, we will hear Jesus’ words from the cross, which we will kneel and adore. At the Easter Vigil, on Holy Saturday, we will light the Easter fire, hear of God’s salvation through some of our favorite Bible stories, remember that we are claimed and named in Holy Baptism, and celebrate the first Holy Communion of Easter. And on Easter Sunday, our voices will mingle with those around the world and across time and space as we join with the hosts of heaven to declare that yes, indeed, Jesus lives — and because of that, we shall live also.
In addition to these worship opportunities, and the others in the Chapel’s life — Candlelight, Morning Prayer, and Celebrate! — we extend a special invitation to you to mark the week with your own contemplative pilgrimage. Beginning on Sunday, April 9 — and continuing all through this Great and Holy Week — there will be a canvas labyrinth in the Gloria Christi Chapel (the small chapel on the lower level of the east end of the chapel space).
Come, walk the labyrinth as often as you are able. If the weather permits, walk the one outside! As you walk, contemplate the mystery of God’s love in Jesus for you. Contemplate your own life’s journeys, its twists and turns, its joys and sorrows. Contemplate how God has worked in your life in the past and how God is working in your life now. Contemplate how Jesus has walked with you in ways both familiar to you, and in ways that remain a mystery. Contemplate how Jesus walked the road from the Mount of Olives to Mount Calvary — for you. As you walk the labyrinth, walk with Jesus who walks with you.
If you’ve never walked a labyrinth before, there is nothing special that you need to do or know. Just enter at the beginning. Walk slowly. Stay on the path. Let God lead your thoughts, and you will get to the center — every time. If you want something to help focus your thoughts, some prayer refrains to repeat in your heart and mind might be helpful. “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy” is always a good place to start. Or simplify it if you like: “Jesus, mercy. Jesus, mercy.”
And if all of this is new and unfamiliar to you, if you do not know the story of God’s love in Jesus for the world — and for you — just come. Enter into the journey. Let this holy journey mix and mingle with the journey of your own life, and just might be surprised at how God meets you along the way.
God bless your walking —
April 5, 2017
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.