Rosalie Sugrue of Aotearoa / New Zealand offers a program for a small group or worship meditation. The use of a combination of physical objects — like the basins — or projected images from contemporary Israel or from works of art will bring this event alive. The reading can be followed by a conversation to allow people to share which duality was most meaningful. Possibly a pause between images for silent reflection and then sharing words or phrases will deepen the experience.
Dualities of Holy Week
(A reading for several voices; may be illustrated with pictures or symbols)
By Rosalie Sugrue
Leader: Holy Week beings on Palm Sunday with…
Two Processions and Two Cries: One Spring day, around the year 30, two processions entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the Week of Passover. From the east, a peasant preacher / teacher / healer from Nazareth rode a young donkey down the Mount of Olives cheered by peasant supporters. The core of the group had travelled, on foot, from the district of Galilee about 100 miles to the north. The enthusiastic supporters pulled fronds from palm trees, using them as hand-held flags. As Jesus rode by they shouted ‘Hosanna.’
On the opposite side of the city, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. He had left his villa by the sea, at Caesarea Maritima, some 60 miles to the west to be present with military might in case of trouble. It was the standard procedure of the time. The crowd that lined the route voiced the required ‘Hail Caesar’ as the Roman Governor passed by.
Leader: One procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God the other the power of the Empire.
Two sets of Coins: One set was merely two dull copper coins, so small they were known as mites. They belonged to a widow. While wealthy people gave impressive contributions to the temple treasury the widow made her small contribution – a contribution worth more than all the others because hers was all she had.
The other set of coins were large, made from shiny silver. There were thirty of them, a king’s ransom, blood money, paid to a man who betrayed his friend.
Two Basins: One basin was a common household vessel used for washing feet. This task was usually performed by a servant of the host. But not on this occasion, Jesus, the guest of honour, took a towel and the basin with humility washed the feet of all present.
The other basin was an elegant bowl used for washing the hands of the powerful. Pontius Pilate ordered this bowl to make a memorable political statement. With an eye for the dramatic he publically washed his own hands, demonstrating that he would have nothing more to do with this prisoner.
Two Whips: One whip was small, made simply by plaiting cords. It was used to interrupt a wrong. In the name of religion, within the holy courts of the temple, money changers were robbing the poor by charging exorbitant fees. One man took action against this wrong.
The other whip was large and cruel, made to shred flesh and used to flog an innocent man for political purposes.
Two Crowns: Jesus was of King David’s line. The Jewish expectation was for a messiah who would be a king-like liberator. Jesus was a king but he had no use for a bejewelled Kingly crown. As he told his followers, my Kingdom is not of this world. In his final hours Jesus was ordered to stand before and earthly king one who delighted in all the trappings of office. King Herod was glad to meet Jesus as he knew him by reputation and hoped to be entertained with a performance of wondrous signs.
The other crown was a mockery of kingship, a crown of thorns made to inflict pain.
Two Disciples: Peter, the disciple we feel we know best, plunged through that week showing passion, bravado and ultimate fear of being recognised as ‘one of those’.
In contrast a lesser known disciple, not even one of the Twelve, risked telling the authorities he was ‘one of them’ by asking for the body of Jesus and placing it in a tomb he had prepared for himself. Joseph of Arimathea showed fearless compassion and devotion.
Two Gardens: The two significant gardens of Holy Week have been preserved down the centuries to our time, drawing pilgrims and tourists. The Garden of Gethsemane is fittingly bleak, consisting mostly of scruffy olive trees.
The Garden of the Tomb is vibrant with bright flowers and in the midst of the flowers there is an inscription “He is not here – he is risen”. It is a place to ponder the mysteries of death and life.
Leader: ‘He is not here – he is risen’ has been interpreted in different ways from the beginning of Christianity. During Holy Week people of faith ponder these words and what they may mean for themselves.
This week is the most significant time in the Christian year. It is a time to reflect on passion and pathos, a time given to confronting evil and horror, a time to rejoice in goodness and hope, for ultimately life triumphs over death. It is a story of symbols and dualities, pairs and contrasts – a sacred story that enables us to live in the here and now as Easter People.
(Recommend Bill Wallace’s hymn: We are an Easter People; no. 146 from Alleluia Aotearoa)