Line by Line

Thoughts for Holy Week

posted April 5, 2012

Tags: religion, Lent

So Holy Week is upon us once again. Sunday is Easter. How the time flies.

Now I'm not an especially spiritual person, sadly, so for me Easter is largely notable for being the day when I get to play video games again. This is unfortunate, because Easter represents so much more than just the end of an arbitrary, self-imposed penance. We're talking about the commemoration of the event that is the lynchpin for all of Christianity. It's the most important feast in the entire Church calendar. (Sorry, Christmas. We still love you.) Easter should be the single most joyous day of the year. And I'm going to try, once again, to keep that in the front of my mind, instead of how much I'm dying to start Portal 2.

But we still have some Lent to get through first.

I tend to be about as good at Lent as I am at easter. Oh, I don't struggle too much with the penance. Which is probably a sign that I need a new penance. Really, that's the problem: I'm not transformed by Lent the way all those Catholic blogs say I'm supposed to be. I guess I'm just not making that much more effort to renew my relationship with God than during any other part of the year.

So for me, Holy Week is something like cramming for finals. It's when I make a feeble attempt to get in all that spiritual-type stuff that I lazily didn't do during the rest of Lent.

This mainly revolves around the liturgies. The Easter Vigil always strikes me as particularly beautiful, despite my fear of setting the misallette on fire. But that doesn't really count as Lent. In that capacity, the one thing that probably most gets my attention is the audience participation Passion narratives on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

Let me explain that for those who don't know what I'm talking about: The Gospel readings at most masses are simply read by a priest or deacon. It's as simple as reading the words. A different passage is selected for each day. In the Mass for Palm Sunday and the service (actually not a Mass) for Good Friday, the selected readings are accounts of the Passion, i.e. the less-than-pretty series of events from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. What's different about these is that there are four parts: the role of Jesus, a narrator, a "voice," and the crowd.

The role of Jesus is played by the priest or deacon. A lector in the role of narrator reads the parts that aren't dialogue. Another lector is the voice, which is pretty much all the other speaking parts. The last part, that of the crowd, is played by the whole congregation speaking in unison. So for example, when the priest as Jesus asks "Whom are you looking for?" we respond, "Jesus the Nazarene." When Voice plays Peter in the courtyard, we ask him, "You are not one of his deciples, are you"? We read lines like "We have no king but Caesar," and "Not this one, but Barabbas!"

Oh, and "Crucify him!"

Wait, what?

Why do they make us say that? I would never say that. Sure, maybe some angry Jews way back then would have said that, but I wouldn't. It must just be that it was the crowd speaking. Yeah, that's it. So we have a whole bunch of voices repeating their words. Their words, not ours. Not mine. It's acting.



See, I do say it. All the time.

Whenever I convince myself that I'm better than a lying politician or a combox troll: Crucify Him!

When I use criticism of some immoral image or idea as an excuse to dwell on it: Crucify Him!

When I make entertaining myself more important than working or helping the poor: Crucify Him!

When I respond to other people with sarcasm and condescention rather than patience and charity: Crucify Him!

Every single sin drives a wedge between me and God. The point of Jesus' crucifixion was to bring God and man back together. Every sin made His terrible suffering and death necessary, so in a very real way, every single sin is just like demanding that Jesus be crucified.

And when I persist in the same sins again and again, it's exactly like the crowd bearing down on Pilate, saying over and over again, Crucify Him!

If I don't want to say "Crucify him," then I should be less worried about reading the words from a misallette twice a year, and more worried about curbing my sinful behavior all year long.

That's what Lent is all about.