In a few days Christians around the world will begin the observance of Holy Week. Holy Week is the week preceding the celebration of Easter and is marked by a range of sacred traditions and celebrations. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, continues with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and concludes with celebrations of the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. Throughout history, throughout the world, and across the many expressions of Christian faith, there are countless variations of how Holy Week is enacted, but the one common theme of all Holy Week celebrations is that they are characterized by a wide variety of dramatic actions.
Palms are blessed. Processions occur around the church, and sometimes around the neighborhood, with some even including a live donkey. The Gospel is proclaimed or sung with many joining in to portray different voices in the stories being read. Feet are washed. Bread is broken. Some of the faithful stay awake for all night prayer vigils. Hymns are sung. Flowers are arranged. Fires are lit. Trumpets are blown. Resurrection is proclaimed.
So what exactly makes Holy Week holy? There are no doubt many responses to this question, but for me the one essential ingredient to what makes Holy Week holy is the intentional and deep joining together of beliefs and actions. Holy is not just about what what we believe, but how our beliefs become expressed in our actions. Holy is as holy does.
We can ask the same question about all aspects of our lives. What makes our work holy? What makes our relationships holy? What makes our caring for our community and our world holy? What makes our very lives holy? My answer to these questions would be similar to what I shared regarding Holy Week. When there is intention to integrate and join our deepest faith and beliefs with our actions and behaviors, then that which we do becomes holy. When I am loving and caring to someone in need, whether a friend or stranger, I am expressing holiness in that relationship. When I seek ways to create a greater good in the world, whether through my work, or volunteer service, or some other way of giving back, I am enacting holiness in the world. When I am mindful of my own need for repentance or forgiveness and seek reconciliation with those whom I have hurt, I am both experiencing and expressing holiness in those relationships. When I take time to observe and nurture signs of new life and resurrection in the world around me, I am participating in a wholeness and a holiness is that is much greater than myself.
As Christians celebrate Holy Week this week, may we all be reminded that every one of us has the opportunity celebrate holiness this week by finding ways to being more intentional about the joining together of our faith and deepest beliefs with the everyday actions of our lives.