Holy week begins... strangely enough with a sudden shift an hour forward with the move to British Summer Time.... so already we are startled into something different.
Holy week isn't something we can just read about, it is rather about engaging all our senses in the sights and sounds, the tastes and smells, as we journey along. It begins with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with donkeys, and palms and cheers. Yesterday Bishop John led members of the Bishop's Council in an interactive Bible study with small groups entering into the role of a particular character in that Palm Sunday scene, which included the turning of the tables in the temple, and Jesus healing the lame and sick. Not only did it get us to look at one particular gospel account, but helped us see the various participants in different ways, as we challenged them and asked them questions from our own particular perspective. We encountered the fickle crowd, looking for some exciting action, the high priests committed to an old order and not wanting it destroyed, the confused disciples - some wanting a revolution but not in the way it was played out, others perplexed by the change in pace, and then Jesus, doing his Father's will, draw to the city of the King and its temple.
Holy week for me as a parish priest was definitely the busiest week of the year - and has usually meant hours of preparation to ensure that others get the most from the drama from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. For many I know there will have been the ordering of palm crosses, the distribution of passion gospels, the setting up of stations of the cross, perhaps there are preparations for a Seder meal, three hours to prepare for Friday, then fires for Easter Eve before the eggs make an appearance next Sunday. Now, I am very aware of all that I don't have to do and am more than pleased to relieve some clergy of preparation for Friday and Sunday.
For the first time in many years for me Holy Week will be very different and as a deliberate act to sustain my sacred centre, and to counter the busyness that usually comes with this week, I have not booked any appointments in my diary for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Instead I am going to participate in the drama myself, assisted by others I hope to discover new things as I awaken my senses to the most important week in our Christian lives.
An important question for all of us as this week begins is 'What part in the drama do we play during the course of this week?' It may be that we relate to one particular individual, or it may be that we move from character to character as the week progresses, whatever we do I am sure all of us on this Palm Sunday can already sense within ourselves something of the person in the crowd all too easily led, the confused and perplexed disciple, the high priest wanting to keep to some rules, all getting in the way of a commitment to do the Father's will, which in turn is often so misunderstood by others.