Enter the Story

By Father Jason Parkin
We know, even before it begins, how the story will end. We know that, after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the cruel betrayal by Judas, the grotesque kangaroo court and the dreadful death, God will raise Jesus to new life beyond the grave. We have heard the story; we have sung hymns and songs about it; we have seen it depicted on television and in movies and in profound works of art. We know, even before it begins, how the story will end.

So why do we re-enact the Passion of Jesus liturgically year after year? We do so for the simple reason that nothing is as powerful when experienced passively as it is when experienced actively and personally. As a culture, we have become accustomed to turning to movies and TV and music and books to provide us with the symbols and myths and stories by which to shape our lives. But there is a more ancient and powerful way of engaging the stories that give our lives meaning and purpose; and that is to enter them directly. It is for this reason that, during the services of Holy Week, we use challenging, striking and unusual actions not only to remind ourselves of Jesus' journey to and through death, but also to enter it ourselves. We sing and kneel, wash feet and baptize children, strip the high altar and get enfolded in darkness, chant timeless hymns and offer our sins and prayers and hopes quite literally at the foot of the cross. We stretch ourselves beyond our normal worship practices, because Holy Week is anything but "normal." The story of the road Jesus walked for us-for you, for me, for everyone-is all the more powerful when we walk it together, when we enter it, when we live it.

Set aside the time to reflect on, and participate in, the victory won by Jesus, at such great cost, for all humanity. Bring the children to the services, that they might know firsthand the power of Holy Week. Resist the temptation to move straight from the "Hosannas" of Palm Sunday to the "Alleluias" of Easter Day. Walk the story of Holy Week. Enter the story. Live the story. It is the very least we can offer to him who offered his all for us. And I promise you that your Easter joy will be all the greater and more sublime.