Yesterday, I had an appointment with someone, in the conversation my being pastor came up (it wasn’t about anything church or religiously affiliated), but that we met on Maundy Thursday, nor that today was Good Friday came up in the conversation. The person whom I met seemed to have no sense that I as a Western Christian was in the midst of our high holy days, and that Sunday was Easter.
As I traveled to the Oratory’s Maundy Thursday service with a member of the Oratory, the business of the City was unchanged, people coming home from work as any other day. I went out briefly today and the feeling is the same. This week I’m running on a different time than many of those who are about me. In this post Christian and post-Christendom world we have these strange remnants like Christmas, and people talk about the war on Christmas, and of course the Media has been putting out the requisite biblical or Jesus stories (though even that seems less prevalent this year, than in past years.)
This isn’t a complaint. But it does feel like I’m going about this celebration in secret. Part of this is that the week has been less intense for me since, the Oratory will only have held a Maundy Thursday service. We are going together to other congregations for Good Friday and for the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday services. I have more time to see that many others, some of whom may be Christian aren’t as taken up in to this the central holiday of Holy Week and the Three Days. I’m also more attuned I guess that for many Easter Sunday will come and that will be that. The center of our faith will be a blip on events that fill up their lives. That this is so for the Christmas and Easter crowd is fine, what I find more problematic is when due to a variety of factors otherwise committed Christians won’t take the time to sit with the passion, death and Insurrection of Christ.
Even so, I understand. This week has, as I said above, has been less focused then in previous years where we had a dramatic liturgy of Palm?Passion Sunday with Palms and processions and dramatic reading of the passion Gospel, and having the full three days celebrated with one or two other congregations. This year I will be celebrating the three days but this week hasn’t been so consuming.
This isn’t a complaint. There is something of a truth in that Holy Week seems to be something barely noticed and passing by without remark.
What God did in Jesus of Nazareth isn’t obvious. What was happening on that Friday in ancient Roman occupied Palestine, was just another execution of yet another failed resistance to Roman rule. Yet another “messiah” crucified. Move along and make a few snarky comments, nothing more, life goes on.
Tonight, I along with many other Christians will adore this once common implement of execution. Granted it has other symbolic resonances, yet at base we adore tonight what should have been failure and the end of the story. We do something strange, because what we adore is hidden from view. The significance of these three days is almost to common, or rather like a treasure hiden in a field, it isn’t obvious or remarkable on the surface.
This is just another day, nothing special, life will go on. Yet, we assert something remarkable happened and happens. Something slowly is transforming the ordinary into something more, revealing the inner beauty and reality of the ordinary as what is quite extra-ordinary. And this began in a torture and death of one particular human being, a seemingly unremarkable and ordinary human being on the edge of a great empire over 2000 years ago.