The Logic of Holy Week
Why is Holy Week a big deal to so many Christians? It wasn’t so much to the Baptists I grew up with in Texas and California. At least I don’t remember it being so. Easter Sunday? Yes, that was a big day. We celebrated the Resurrection enthusiastically (and I won’t make any snide remarks about Easter hats or chocolate bunnies). And we took Good Friday seriously. But the rest of the week was just the typical Monday to Thursday (as were the weeks prior).
Since that childhood, I’ve hung out more with folks who start the whole ‘season’ with Lent, a full forty-day warm-up for the Big Day (the biggest day in the history of the cosmos since Big Bang Day, with even more significance). And these people have a regular series of “seasons” throughout the liturgical year. I see (and feel) the logic of it and commend it even to non-liturgical believers.
Perhaps the biggest sociological difference between Islam and Christianity, as expressed in the contemporary world, is that Islam integrates all of life around its faith (especially in the Middle East), whereas Christianity is often seen, even among believers, as an addition to life. An important addition to be sure, maybe even an essential addition, but still an addition. We have busy lives and do many things, and we are also Christians.
Islam oversees daily life and all its categories—political, social, religious, and so on—which Westerners, including many Christians, see as legalistic, severely limiting, and even oppressive. I understand that, and I would not choose any kind of religious totalitarianism. But I also see the logic and the benefit of more closely organizing our lives around the things we claim are the ultimate truth about reality. (I think this is essentially what Rod Dreher is trying to get at in his widely read The Benedict Option.)
I’m writing this on Tuesday of Holy Week. I don’t know if doing so counts as a contribution to or distraction from my Holy Week responsibilities. I got ashes on my forehead at the start of Lent. I will likely go to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. I will attend a Saturday night Easter vigil service (at which my grandson Abraham will be baptized, a continuation of the practice of the earliest Christians), and I will shout out “He is risen, indeed!” with my fellow believers on Sunday morning. None of this is required for faith, but all of it will help me better understand and live out the fact that faith ought be the organizing center of my life.