St Bartholomew and All Saints

Royal Wootton Bassett

Dear Friends,

Why Holy Week ?

Elsewhere in this website you will find details of our services for Holy Week – and there are a lot of them. It would seem we are going to have a busy week at the end of the month. But why, some might ask, all this activity? Surely we are an Easter people – and Easter Sunday alone is what we should be concentrating on? Except I think we lose something if we jump too quickly to our chocolate eggs.

Holy Week (sometimes known as Passion Week) is the time from Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday. Also included within the week are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. And it has become a very important time for all Christians, as we commemorate and remember the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. The Lenten season of sacrifice and self-denial is about to come to an end. But before it does we mark several memorable events. There is Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, before setting to and ridding the Temple of money-changers and the sellers of doves. Jesus eats his Last Supper with his disciples in the upper room, then goes to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as he waits for his hour to come. And here, having been betrayed by Judas, he is arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod.

Following the trials, Jesus is scourged at the hands of the Roman soldiers, then forced to carry his own instrument of execution, the cross, through the streets of Jerusalem along what is known as the Via Dolorosa or Way of Sorrows. He is then crucified at Golgotha on the day before the Sabbath. He is buried and remains in the tomb until Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and then appears to his closest friends and followers once again, gloriously resurrected.

It is believed that as early as the fourth century the Church was marking the week before Easter Sunday in this fashion. And the whole structure of services has developed ever since. But why is it important?

Well, by participating in the whole sequence of services we share in Jesus Christ’s own journey, from the excitement and expectation of Palm Sunday, to the despair and fear of Good Friday, to the wonder and the mystery of the empty tomb on Easter morning.

The use of the word Passion for these few days very likely comes from the Latin passio, which originally meant to endure suffering. But perhaps the week is also called Passion Week because it was during those few intense days that Jesus fully revealed his passion for us, in the suffering he endured. All of which suggests that we should be as passionate back - in our worship and in our witness – and be as ready as he was to suffer for the cause of following him.

And who knows, but it might change us for ever? During these days, we suffer with Christ so that we might rise with him at his glorious Resurrection. Holy Week is a time to clear our schedules of unnecessary activities. Our minds and hearts should be fixed on Jesus and what he did for us. For if we forget what came before, then the wonder of that very first Easter morning and Jesus’ resurrection – the reversal of expectations, joy insisting on breaking in, and the impossible becoming the possible – the wonder of that very first Easter morning surely loses something of its wonder. And we might forget fully why we celebrate

In the grave they laid him, Love whom men had slain,

thinking that never he would wake again,

laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:

Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

(from the hymn by the Revd Canon John Macleod Campbell Crum)

Rev’d Canon Jane