Desert Journeys 31
April 12th 2017
Within the wider journey of Lent, Holy Week is the time when our direction of travel is concentrated, focussed on the central events of the Christian story. This is a time when we really need to commit to the journey, because the powerful liturgies of Holy Week ask us to walk alongside Jesus all the way from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his death on the cross and burial.
These are not events at which we are just spectators, armchair travellers watching in safety from afar: we are asked to inhabit the story ourselves, actually to participate in this great drama of our faith. So just as the crowds in Jerusalem did, we wave our palms, sing Hosannas and process outside in the spring sunshine on Palm Sunday; like the disciples we submit shamefacedly to having our feet washed; we share with Jesus in the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday; and we try to watch and pray with him late into the evening in the garden, tempted perhaps to fall asleep and aware of our own massive limitations in the face of his courage and faith.
On Good Friday, the journey focusses down even further. For centuries people have traced Jesus’ actual footsteps along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem as he carried his cross to Golgotha, and many more have joined them in spirit by following the stations of the cross around their church or parish. There is something profoundly important about being physically involved in Passiontide, I think because it reminds us of our own part in Jesus’ death, and the implications this has for our future. In the parish in Gloucestershire where I serve part-time, we have our own ‘green hill far away’, known locally as Cam Peak, and each Good Friday a procession from churches of all denominations carries a heavy, life-size cross two miles from the town centre and past various ‘stations’ to its summit. It’s a stiff climb, but each year around 300 people make it to the top to pray at the foot of the cross, a reminder that, as Rowan Williams has put it ‘God’s future is alive here and now, and it is us’.
Associate Priest, All Hallows by the Tower and
Associate Priest, Cam with Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire