Holy Week

Happy Easter, everyone!

When I was a conveyancing solicitor, Maundy Thursday was the most popular day to complete house purchases. It probably still is, and it’s not hard to see why.

For most people in Britain, Easter is a fantastic holiday. It gives you a four or five day weekend, in spring; it has immeasurably less stressful preparation than Christmas; and it makes a duty out of eating chocolate. How could anyone not love Easter?

For Christians, of course, Easter is the crucial festival. The build-up is slow, over six weeks. Things really get going on Palm Sunday, and the start of “the last week of Jesus’ earthly life”. My Revised Standard Version of the Bible actually has headings for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on, ignoring the fact that Holy Week is surely just a church convenience. There is no Biblical warrant for believing that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a Sunday. Up until the Thursday, there is no chronology, and then it can get very complicated. (See Ian Paul’s recent blog post on this.)

Then the three big days, an evening, an afternoon, and a morning.

We celebrate the institution of the Eucharist on Thursday, along with the foot-washing, the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal, the arrest and the denial. That’s quite a lot of theological weight for one day, the least of the three.

Then Good Friday. The atonement. Salvation. The nearest thing we have to an explanation of suffering.

Then Easter Day. The remaking of Friday, the resurrection, the turning upside down of life and death. Hallelujah!

In between, there is Saturday.

Christmas doesn’t have anything like Saturday, the day in the middle. A day for theme park visits and DIY, but what is it religiously? What should we do that day?

When I was a child, the religious one in the family, one of my brothers asked me, “If God died, would they elect a new one?” And for once I managed to think of the snappy answer at once: “He did, and they didn’t.”

(Or maybe I only wished I’d said that afterwards.)

I’ve always found the concept of Holy Saturday, the day when God was dead, a very intriguing one, and am puzzled as to why services and festivals connected with death tend to be held in October/November instead.

Surely the fact that one member of the Trinity was dead, and yet the world didn’t stop, should affect our understanding of what three-in-one means. Jesus after all, wasn’t just a divine man – according to John He is the eternal Word through whom all things were created; and according to Paul it is in Him that all things hold together.

God had a new experience on Friday/Saturday, something that presumably He/They had never experienced before.

The death of God, seen in different ways, is a major subject for modern theology, but I’m not aware of how it relates, if at all, to Saturday.

Effectively, what we do on Saturday is wait. Tomorrow Lent will end, and we’ll sing “Thine be the glory”. That’s what we’re waiting for.

We can think of the world as waiting, and compare this with our waiting for the Second Coming, and the arrival of ultimate justice and mercy.

We can think of God as waiting.

But the disciples we read about weren’t waiting. For them, it was all over. Or rather, the women were waiting for the Sabbath to end, so that they could anoint the body, and then what? Go home? Try to grieve, and deal with the fact that the last three years had been a cruel hoax by God or the universe on all their hopes?

So we can use the day perhaps to reflect on despair in the world, and pray for those without hope. Believing as we do in the Kingdom of God, and the ultimate vindication of goodness, hope and life.

Love from the PPI Blogger

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