Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The Crucifixion is more than history; it is a call to participation. The Crucifixion of the Lord is both his and mine. It is also not a calamity; it is a great blessing. Through the Wood of the Cross we are liberated, or, as Joseph Campbell writes, “we are unshelled” as we voluntarily go with him and suffer with him and die with him and not just at Holy Pascha, but day by day and moment by moment.
Holy Week brings us the big picture and calls us to the small one of personal experience. We discover both pictures through the event which is not only history, but metaphor, not only past, but present. Holy Week is illustrative both of the historical event and of life as it is, the human experience that we all share. God has joined himself to us and experienced all the ups and downs of life, the friendships and the betrayals, the joys and the sufferings, life and death. The Great and Holy Week brings all the history and metaphor, hymnography and ritual, theology and psychology to bear on the central salvific event of the Lord’s last week so that our lives may be enlightened and liberated. Campbell writes:
“Through the Crucifixion we are unshelled, we are able to be born to resurrection. That is not a calamity. We must look freshly at this so that its symbolism can be sensed.
"’St. Augustine speaks of going to the Cross as a bridegroom to his bride. There is an affirmation here. In the Prado is a great painting by Titian of Simon of Cyrene as he willingly helps Jesus with the cross. The picture captures the human participation, the free, voluntary participation we all must have in the Easter-Passover mystery.’"
We can, if we will, join Symon of Crete, the Myrrhbearers, the Holy Mother and John and those who stood far off and participate willingly in the death of death for all humanity and for ourselves. We may, if we will, enter into the Paschal mystery and be liberated from the fear of death and the constant desire that drives us to scratch out a desperate survival.
Holy Week presents the big picture and invites us to explore the small one. Holy Week telescopes down like the concentrated heat of the sun in a magnifying glass on the heart of every human being for, if we choose, we can “take up the Cross and follow him.” The Cross is a seed planted in every heart for Christ took upon himself the nature of all humanity. In the Incarnation we all participate involuntarily in the life, death and resurrection of the Savior and now we must enter the narrow gate of conscious participation and become more and more “unshelled.”
Yours in Christ,