WALKING INTO HOLY WEEK
Christian faith and life from its earliest days has centered on Easter. After all, if the resurrection of Jesus never had happened, we would not be “Christian.” The risen Christ brings hope, joy and clarity to our daily walk in faith and in prayer.
It wasn’t until the fourth century, however, that the days leading to Easter came to be known as Holy Week. Easter’s triumph needed a story to make sense of it all. The walk to the Cross was the way for the empty Tomb to shine all the more brightly.
Jesus entered into the old Jerusalem, the holy city occupied by secular power, so that he could enter the new Jerusalem, the city of God. On Maundy Thursday, Jesus observed the Passover feast celebrating the move of the Israelites into freedom to a feast of freedom in Christ’s sacrifice for the world. Good Friday turned an instrument of shameful death to be the means of eternal life.
So, it’s of great spiritual value to walk and pray through Holy Week. Jesus tells his disciples that he must undergo great suffering, be judged by the chief priests and elders, be put to death, and in three days rise again. The gospel writer Mark then makes this observation: “And he said all this quite openly.” (Mark 8:32) Jesus has to set Peter straight before all of the disciples when he says that we must set our minds on divine things, not on earthly things.
That’s what prayer is all about—stilling our minds and hearts to receive what grace and strength God wishes to impart to us. We set our minds on divine things when we read the Scriptures and when we devote time to pray. We pray to God in praise and thanksgiving for who he is before we bring to God who we are and what we need.
In that moment in prayer and reflection, the Holy Spirit gives us strength to answer Jesus’ call: “Take up your cross and follow me.” To take up the cross of Christ absolutely requires us to have our minds set on heavenly things. Otherwise, the cross would be too much for us to bear. We can bear the cross because we know that the story of Christ reached its conclusion—and beginning—in the resurrection.
Here are four tips to help you to carry the cross during Holy Week:
- Bear the burden. When we carry the cross of Christ in prayer, we carry the challenges of those for whom are praying in intercession, and when we face into the weight of our own life issues. We can carry the cross because Christ has carried it before us, all the way to Calvary. He has borne the weight of our sins and the sins of the world. We are called now to bear the weight of those who need assurance and love found in Christ. A strong intercessor is one who says to another, “Let me carry your burdens in my prayer.”
- Turn pain into power. One of the best remedies for pain—physical or emotional—is to use the pain in your life to help you understand the pain of others. You are in pain, and you can understand what it’s like for others to experience it, too. Christ suffered pain and humiliation on the cross to help carry our pain. Christ’s weakness is our strength.
- Humility is heroic. Jesus says that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. As our full identity is found in Christ, we can be prepared to be praying and working behind the scenes for the good of this world and for those whom we love. We are made whole in Christ. We can let go of self in prayer.
- In death there is life. As we rejoice in Christ’s death that brings about his new life, so we can be grateful that, even in the midst of death in this life, the gate to eternal life is opened. As we pray for those who have died, we give thanks now that they live forever.
As we walk the way of the cross, we find that the road truly is short. And we are caught up in the glory of the cross. Only then is the glory of Easter true and real in the Christian life.
The Rev. Dr. John R. Throop
President, Executive Council
Anglican Fellowship of Prayer