Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby thou hast given us life and immortality, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
"That we may enter with joy." Today is our entrance into the center of Christianity, and I want to suggest that this entrance has three aspects. There’s a threefold entry happening here, which means that there is a threefold entry available to you right now, if you make room for it.
Jesus’ entry, the church’s entry, and your entry, into death in order to be brought to new life. Three entries, beginning right now.
All of them build on each other, of course. If Jesus had not been willing to go to the Cross and pass through death into the life of the Age to Come for us, we would not even be here this morning; there would be no church. That first historical entry had to happen for the second to be possible. And that second entry is similar: If the church had not been willing to let the Spirit build in us over centuries this gateway to Jesus’ experience that we call Holy Week, we might be here... but it would all be ideas, theories. We would be able to ponder it, to agree with it, but not to enter, not to go in the door. Thanks to God’s work in his church over the centuries, we together have a way to go in the door.
And the third, your personal entry, depends on both those prior entries. Because Jesus did his work this week, and because the church as a group does ours this week, you get a unique chance, every single Holy Week to gain access to the healing and transformative power of Jesus’ work re-presented here. You get to go in the door and meet that power, targeted right at the places in your life in 2018 where you most need it, through the powerful medicine of the next five days.
The Benedictine monk Gregory Collins, in the book Meeting Christ in his Mysteries, points out that our liturgy over Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Great Vigil functions a bit like dreams do. Psychiatry tells us that we integrate our experience via dreaming. Holy Week, too, works in us the same integration. These liturgies conflate many things, bringing them together, discovering interconnections and new interpretations, and processing them into a meaningful whole. The Holy Spirit heals people through the whole flow of this process in a way too great for us to understand. Things connect and resolve over these days in a way that is beyond what the conscious mind could make happen. Like an iceberg, 80 percent of it lies below the water; that’s where this three-night liturgy reaches – deep. Very very deep.
Every bit of human experience is there in Holy Week, reflected in the greatest story ever told and offered up free for the taking that it may be turned towards your healing and your new life: Loneliness, betrayal, institutional corruption, sarcasm and mockery, dashed hopes, loss of power, death – it’s all there, because God knows how it has hurt you and me, and he wants to heal us. All of these mysteries of life swept up bit by bit, paired in our depths with the movements of Jesus’ story, re-imagined under the interpretative light of the resurrection, noted and commented on and reinterpreted by holy and ancient words and gestures that we know work, because they have worked for 2000 years.
Every Palm Sunday, every Holy Week and especially every Triduum is new, because we are new in the things we bring to it, the experiences that connect directly and unforgettably with the events God makes present here over these intense days. Things have happened to us in the year since last Palm Sunday: Someone we love has received a staggering diagnosis. There has been another shooting. Women have spoken out to power. Dumb laziness has resulted in tragedy. Cowardice has been brought to light. The energy of a crowd has filled us with fear or with admiration. The leaders have lied. The innocent have been blamed. You discovered that your dear friend was not worthy of your trust. You thought you knew what you believed, but now the very idea of God seems like a bad joke.
All of that and more happens this week, and some of it has recently happened to you, and Jesus has done through his Cross and Resurrection all that is necessary for its transformation. That’s why we bring everything together the way we do over the Triduum. Entering into this week is the church’s best repository of powerful, powerful medicine for all these human realities, but it’s only powerful if you take it as directed. Don’t miss what God wants to do for you between now and midnight Saturday. He loves you. He is longing for you. This year, tell him yes.