In season 3 of Call the Midwife, the beloved of one of the main characters dies in a tragic accident. This storyline is paired with a woman, a survivor of the Jewish ghettos in World War II, who has not left her home for 12 years, but finally steps outside her home into the Poplar neighborhood.
They meet on the street at the end of the episode, and Jenny, who suffering the fresh wound of grief, dissolves into sobs. The older woman tells her, “You will feel better than this.”
Jenny shakes her head, responding from the valley of the shadow of death, feeling so certain light and life have fled from her life. The woman speaks, “You just keep living, until you are alive again.”
If we open ourselves, Holy Week touches the deep laments and griefs of our lives. We come face to face with our own acts of betrayal, our own resistance to servanthood and our own rejection of love. We may remember in our souls the pain we’ve felt from loss and disappointment. We stumble upon the places in ourselves that don’t feel alive and maybe haven’t for years.
We are at once the ones who yell, “Crucify him” and the ones who ask why God has forsaken us. That is the mystery of Holy Week.
Each day’s readings and prayers ease us more and more into the places our selves and souls would rather not go. On Palm Sunday, we pray we will walk in the way of Christ’s suffering. Holy Tuesday’s prayers invoke the declaration we will “gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.” On Holy Saturday, our prayers ask for strength to wait.
These are not prayers that easily touch our wounds then immediately dance into joy. They are prayers that confront us on the street, jostle us out of our tentative okay-ness, and may leave us in sobs. They are prayers that move our souls through the motions of living – of all that is living, including loss, betrayal, hate, and grief. They are prayers that confront us with new life, which we may or may not truly be willing to welcome.
Holy Week is a journey with Christ, one we walk in all the awe and mystery that is Jesus’ final days, until we are alive again at Easter.
And that new life, that aliveness, brings greater growth.
May we all walk humbly with Jesus this week, until we are alive again.