Why Holy Week? Isn’t this week and Sunday just like any other? Why attend extra services on Thursday and Friday that along with Easter are called the Triduum? These are good questions and get at an important dynamic when it comes to our faith lives. One could go on to ask, why have church seasons? Why have vestments or an altar, font, and pulpit? Why have a sanctuary for that matter? One obvious answer to some of these questions is purely practical: we need a place to gather and the facility and furniture can aid and help our mission. However, there is a much more profound and important answer to these questions that goes way beyond our purely functional needs.
Whether we like it or not, we all invest emotional energy in people and things outside of ourselves. I will never forget a specific lesson taught by Dr. George Hoyer, a Seminex professor who was teaching homiletics at PLTS when I was there. He was teaching about the altar, font, pulpit, and the chancel area in general. He encouraged us to “invest” in these holy furnishings and places so that when we really need to encounter God, they will “payoff.” The teaching is that it is good for our faith to invest in special earthly things because we are earthly people – God comes to us through earthly things. Through speech, written words, people, events, art, music, and yes, even through a sanctuary with set apart objects. I suppose some might be concerned that we are worshiping these holy furnishings and vessels but that is certainly not the case. Actually, Jesus himself created a supper where he says he comes to us – even bodily, through ordinary earthly bread and wine. “This is my body…this is my blood,” he says. The church calendar, paraments, vestments, a sanctuary, are all holy (set a part) earthly things that we invest in so that when the chips are down, they can bring us a closer connection to God.
Now back to the initial question: Why Holy Week? Although we d0 know this time of year is for sure the general time of year Jesus was tried, flogged, crucified, and risen, in truth, the days of this week are no different than any others. However, we invest in this week and the services of Holy Week so that as we participate in them they will payoff for us–the payoff being a greater connection and encounter with the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Said another way, we invest our time and energy in the Triduum to make ourselves as big a target as possible for the Holy Spirit. In fact, the services of holy week are actually one single service. Don’t think of them as separate. The three go together – there is no benediction on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday – if you only go to Easter Sunday you miss the first 2/3s of the service. I can promise you that if you invest in what is called the “three days” and attend all the services of Holy Week, your experience of Easter Sunday will be much more profound and celebratory. Why Holy Week? Because God has given us holy times, places, and elements so that we finite beings can encounter the infinite and almighty God. God becomes tangible and finite for us so we can encounter him. Therefore, I exhort you, if you are not hindered physically or occupationally, to come to the whole event of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Invest in the Triduum and it will payoff for you and enrich your walk with the Lord.