Holy Week is the last week of Lent, the week immediately preceding Easter Sunday. It is a time when Christians commemorate and enact the suffering (Passion) and death of Jesus through various observances and services of worship. Observances during this week range from daily liturgical services in churches to informal meetings in homes to participate in a Christian version of the Passover Seder.
Holy Week calls us to move behind the joyful celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter, and focus on the suffering, humiliation, and death that is part of the passion of Christ. It is important to place the hope of the Resurrection, the promise of newness and life, against the background of death and endings. It is only in walking through the shadows and darkness of Holy Week and Good Friday, only in realizing the horror and magnitude of sin and its consequences in the world incarnated in the dying Jesus on the cross, only in contemplating the ending and despair that the disciples felt on Holy Saturday, that we can truly understand the light and hope of Sunday morning!
Why did Jesus have to die? Not to buy us with his life, not to pay Satan or satisfy God’s righteous indignation at human sin, but as a sign of love. Sharing in the reality of this infinite love, we are already aware from our own relationships that love requires self-giving involvement and that self-giving can be costly and often incurs pain. God’s love for us is total and so is God’s willingness to give himself for us, even to the point of death.
In observing this truth, that new beginnings come from endings, many people are able to draw a parable of their own lives and faith journey from the observances of Holy Week. In providing people with the opportunity to experience this truth in liturgy and symbol, the services become a powerful proclamation of the transformative power of the Gospel, and God at work in the lives of people.