We need to prepare ourselves for a spiritual roller-coaster

By The Dean of Norwich, the Very Revd Jane Hedges - 12 April 2019
From Lighting folder_Norwich cathedral despenser retable 1 Copyright  Paul Hurst Hi res
As we approach the most significant week of the Christian year we need to prepare ourselves for getting on a spiritual roller-coaster! In the days ahead we attempt to walk with Jesus, stepping into the events which occurred from the first Palm Sunday through to Easter Day. So where will this roller-coaster take us, what are the ups and downs and where are the peaks of joy and the depths of despair?

On Palm Sunday we imagine ourselves in the crowd greeting Jesus, shouting “Hosanna to the son of David” and waving our palm branches as he rides down the Mount of Olives on a donkey towards the gates of the city of Jerusalem.

Jesus has come in humility as the Prince of Peace, but the excitement expressed by the crowd will soon turn to hostility as the tension and conflict begin to build over the next few days.

On Fig Monday, Temple Tuesday and Spy Wednesday we recall incidents in the gospels which speak of this growing conflict. After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus cursed a Fig Tree which had failed to produce fruit, signifying his criticism of the Jewish religious leaders whose lives also did not bear fruit.

He went into the Temple and cleared out the money changers, showing his anger towards those who were exploiting others.

On Spy Wednesday we recall how Judas Iscariot went off to find the Jewish leaders who paid him thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus into their hands.

By Maundy Thursday Jesus is preparing his followers for his departure from them, but on this day, ahead of his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, we recall two deeply significant events which raise our spirits. He washes the feet of the disciples teaching them to serve one another and leaving them with the commandment to love one another as he loved them. Then, at the Last Supper he took Bread and Wine and gave thanks before giving it to them with the words, “This is my body”, and “This is my blood … do this in remembrance of me”. Christians for the past 2000 years have continued to know Christ’s presence in the same action of taking bread and wine in the Eucharist and have been fed and nurtured through it.

Good Friday takes us to the depths of despair as we stand at the foot of the cross and recall the sacrifice Jesus made for the sins of the world. This is also the moment when we can hand our own sins over to him, in penitence, nailing them to his cross, assured of his forgiveness just as he forgave those who were crucifying him on the first Good Friday.

Holy Saturday (Often mistakenly called Easter Saturday) is the day when we think of Jesus resting in the tomb. In the life of the Church this is a solemn day of waiting and thinking about how the first disciples must have felt as they mourned the loss of their Saviour and themselves lived in fear of the religious authorities.

Easter Day changes everything! We reach a peak of excitement as we recall the discovery of the empty tomb and join in the shouts of Alleluia – Christ is risen!

The challenge for us all as we make this journey through Holy Week is to let ourselves be changed by the experience, so that we in turn make changes in our world and share our experience with others. The roller-coaster won’t ever stop. Life will still have its ups and downs, but we can be assured that Christ is sitting alongside us as we take the ride!

For details of Norwich Cathedral's events and services during Holy Week and Easter click here

Pictured above is the Despenser Reredos. Picture: Paul Hurst

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