Holy Week, Again

The Mission is a movie that came out in 1986, telling the dramatized story of Jesuits in South America in the 1700s.  In the story, the Jesuit mission is caught up in the politics between Spanish forces (under which enslavement of the indigenous people is not permitted) and the Portuguese forces (under which enslavement is permitted).  As it happens, a joint Spanish-Portuguese assault on the mission results in a massacre.

I left the theater in tears, reflecting on the violence in the then-raging civil war in El Salvador, with peasants being massacred by army troops and haunted by death squads.

See the tears, bitter tears,

of our mother’s, our father’s grief.

Agony, agony caused by gun and greed

Jesus dies again.

“Via Crucis” © 1983 The Benedictine Foundation of Vermont

Today I ponder atrocities in Ukraine, Yemen, Myanmar, South Sudan, Ethiopia . . . the list goes on.

Though still Christ’s body suffers

Pierced daily by the sword

“Three Days” © 1999 M.D. Ridge

So, too, does Christian observance of Holy Week go on, the recollection and celebration par excellence of the redemptive Paschal mystery of Christ.  As if Good Friday were not enough, the world around us reminds us that we cannot be glib with our assertion that death has no dominion.  Yet we must proclaim with “Three Days” and the Christian tradition as a whole that “the risen Christ is Lord.”

The evil and suffering that we humans inflect on each other goes on and on.  Yet it is not the same old, same old.  Events in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago mark a turning of the tide—an irreversible turning.  It is ours to remember and celebrate these events in our liturgies, recognizing the present-day power and reality of the Paschal mystery and the future to which it summons us.  It is ours to live as though we really believe that the risen Christ is Lord.

See also this post from 2018.

One comment

  1. Bishop Rowan Williams is speaking at the Holy Week liturgies this year in All Saints Church, Margaret Street in London UK. It is a well known Anglican Church with a great choral tradition.

    I was struck by a phrase he used at Monday’s evening Mass. Speaking about Jesus and Pilate, he spoke of the ‘cosmic event’ of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    Now I know all this, of course, but somehow I heard those words again, or rather, afresh. They drew me up with a start.

    Maybe it is precisely because there is so much to lament at the moment, and I fear worse to come, that we must insistently speak of the Paschal Mystery as ‘cosmic’ and ‘world changing’ and say with St. Paul that the last enemy to be destroyed … etc.

    This is not ‘glib’ because Christianity’s witness is not that of a terrestrial triumph, but the witness, ‘martyrion,’ of the Suffering Servant, perpetuated in his Body, the Church.

    Yet still, we shall chant the Exultet on Saturday night.


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