If I’m washing black socks, storing cassocks and bitter herbs in my car boot, and trying to buy charcoal and firelighters (“but there’s snow on the ground,” said the guy in Morrisons when I asked where they kept the barbecue stuff), it must be nearly Holy Week.
I hate what Holy Week means, but my faith cannot do without it and I cannot do without it.
I hate it because… well, who wouldn’t? Even the joy of Jerusalem, the shouts and the cheers and the great clouds of incense, is tainted by the certain knowledge of what we are about to become. The cult of celebrity is fickle. Our love and loyalty are untested. We will be quick, too quick, to turn on the hero of Palm Sunday when it becomes clear that he is too difficult and argumentative and brave for popularity.
But I cannot do without it because I only come to truly know what God means to me when he dies, when I sit in a church on Good Friday and look at the God-shaped hole that is left in the world. My faith cannot do without it because standing at an empty tomb on Easter Sunday, rejoicing in what we have, means nothing unless we’ve also stood at the foot of a cross, grieving for what we’ve lost.
Next week at St Mary’s, there is a service of the Stations of the Cross which uses the representations by Gwyneth Leech, putting the events of that awful week into the context of modern conflicts, reminding us that this ancient story is also a story that is still happening every single day. That service will take place at 7.30pm on Good Friday, and all are welcome. For those who are unable to attend it, I am with the kind permission of Gwyneth going to be posting an image and a reflection based on that liturgy over the course of Holy Week, twice daily for five days.
As we turn towards Jerusalem, we meet, friends and strangers and mourners, grieving for the loss of love in the world, coming together to try to understand the awful things that happened and standing with our God, alongside him on his cross.