Thursday, March 28

A wake-up call to deluded Christians durning Holy Week

Yesterday, as I was listening to the BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, I heard Canon Dr Alan Billings saying:
Go to: or read the transcript reproduced below:

In 1884 an Italian academic came across an old Latin manuscript in a monastery in Arezzo. It was a copy of a travelogue written some three hundred years after the death of Christ by a woman called Egeria. She was a pilgrim, making her way from Spain to the Holy Land, writing about her experiences to other women back home. The letter had lain unrecognised for centuries until the professor realised its significance. It's one of the first pieces of formal writing by any woman in western culture. In it, she describes how in the week leading up to Easter, Christians in Jerusalem sought to commemorate Christ's final days by visiting the places associated with his suffering and death.

Reading Egeria you understand the origins of what is happening in churches across the Christian world this week. For this is Holy Week when Christians seek to replicate in their services what Egeria found happening on the streets of Jerusalem all those centuries ago. Christians can't be in Jerusalem every year, but they can go there every year in imagination, in their liturgies. So yesterday, they processed into churches bearing palm crosses, recalling Christ's last entry into Jerusalem. On Thursday night they will be at the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane. On Friday they walk the way of the cross. On Saturday the dark and silent church will become the tomb in which the dead body of Christ was placed.

All of which raises the question: Why? Why this intense focus on the last days and hours of Christ's life?
One reason, I think, is this. What the Church has always understood is that the greatest threats to faith are not so much intellectual as existential. Intellectual challenges - to beliefs, to doctrines - can be severe; but what really erodes faith is fear: fear that in the end love will be defeated and that suffering and death will finally rob life of any meaning. The intensity of those fears is captured in Christ's despairing cry from the cross, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' Of course, they are not fears confined to believers.

In the seventeenth century the Puritan, Richard Baxter, wrote a hymn in which he calls these experiences the dark rooms of life. What Holy Week makes clear is that faith does not enable anyone – not even Christ - to avoid such dark rooms. Some are simply inescapable. That doesn't mean that faith is irrational or misplaced. On the contrary, as Baxter wrote in his hymn
Christ leads me through no darker rooms
than he went through before.
He that unto God's kingdom comes
must enter by this door. 
In Holy Week, Christians go with Christ into the dark rooms of his last days - to prepare themselves for their own.

End of quote.

Today, I came across an article the synopsis for which reads:

Israel restricts pilgrims’ access to Jerusalem 
By Nasouh Nazzal
March 24, 2013 - The Palestinian Liberation Organisation has denounced Israel’s denial of Palestinian access to occupied East Jerusalem to mark the Christian holy week in Jerusalem, saying that it is a natural right for Palestinians to visit their holy sites. Hanan Ashrawi, PLO Executive Committee Member, has expressed frustration at the situation which has worsened this year on the occasion of Palm Sunday and with the beginning of the Holy Week in Jerusalem. Ashrawi spoke of her outrage at the increasing restriction of entry to Jerusalem for Palestinian Christians...Read the full article / Leggi l'articolo completo:

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