Saturday, March 19, 2005

I Love Holy Week

Tomorrow it begins in earnest. It truly is my favorite time on the Christian calendar. Sure, Christmas is nice. All Saints Day is interesting. Pentecost is wonderful. But this is Holy Week. This is the time when we especially celebrate the event which all of history hinges upon. To paraphrase Paul, if there is no resurrection you might as well chuck it all out the window. And this week gives us the reason (or maybe excuse) to dig back into the final week of Jesus' earthly walk and absorb more of the meaning of what exactly happened in Jerusalem way back then.

I know that not everybody feels that way. I have debated numerous times the reason for celebrating holidays in spite of their often pagan origins. Some Christians will not even use the word "Easter" because of the pagan roots of the word. I understand why some feel that way, but I think they miss out on the experience if they lapse into a legalistic way of looking at the holiday. God has always been One to look upon the heart. And I know in my heart that when I use the word "Easter" I am not giving any sort of honor to some ancient false goddess. It's the same as a garden variety pagan giving Christmas gifts. Certainly they don't mean to honor Christ, now do they? Holy Week is important because I am honoring the sacrifice to end all sacrifices made on my behalf and the conquering of death so that I can inherit eternal life. It seems like that's worth celebrating, don't you think?

Maybe Holy Week means so much to me because of my upbringing. I was raised in the Church of the Brethren -- Dunkers as we had once been called. One of the distinctives of the Brethren was the Love Feast on Maunday Thursday. As a child, we would go to the basement of the church for a special meal. Ladies sat on one side of the room, men on the other. The meal was always the same -- pot-roasted beef cooked tender, with a side dish of "sop." Sop was bread soaked in the beef broth. I loved that beef. I could have eaten pound after pound of it. The sop I didn't care for. It was good if you like wet bread, but I prefer my bread dry. Picky eater, I know.
We would also wash the feet of the person sitting beside us. A basin of water started at one end along with a towel which tied around the waist. Slowly, the tub would be passed down the length of the tables. I would have my feet washed by the man on one side. Then it was my turn to wash the feet of the man on my other side. Often after a man's feet were washed, he would stand and give a holy kiss to the man who did the washing. I was always a little too squeamish to try the holy kiss, so I settled for a handshake. Later in my life, women that I dated would also try to get out of giving me a kiss by shaking my hand. Perhaps things were just coming around full circle!

The final part of the Love Feast was Holy Communion. We usually only celebrated Communion twice a year at our church; once on an autumn Sunday, the other time at the Love Feast. On the table, covered by a cloth were the elements. There was a small cup of grape juice for each chair at the table and long strips of unleavened bread. When time came to break bread, I took one end of the strip while the person across the table from me took the other. When instructed to, we broke the bread between us and we each ate the part we held. I even loved the taste of the bread. It was like that portion of 1 Corinthians about not gorging ourselves celebrating the Lord's Supper was written by Paul especially for me!

But the beauty of the services from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday have always been a highlight for me. I'm sure that those memories will crowd their way into my posts over this next week. But it's not just the memories. It's the realization of what I will inherit only because of what happened that week. I love Holy Week.


Tom Reindl said...

That was really a nice post. Thanks for sharing that memory of your youth with us. If only "communion" was always this way, huh?

rev-ed said...

Thanks, Tom. I tried to recreate it at my current church, but nobody seemed to care. I guess I can't force my experience on others. Too bad. That really was communion