In Monday’s chapel, guest speaker Russ Kirby asked students how many have celebrated Holy Week since childhood. A few hands hesitantly went up while the rest of us tried to figure out if he was joking or not. Although the week’s opening chapel featured palm branches and a Shades performance, there was little explanation about the historical background of Holy Week. And so the low murmur of disinterested students mixed with an occasional ringing cell phone continued.
Our worries that a legitimately important seven-day period is being robbed of its original significance is two-fold. First is the concern that in an attempt to make chapel interesting, Holy Week has become just another outlet for contemporary Christian attention-grabbers. Our second fear follows the first:Â the historical context of this time period is lost in translation amidstÂ the rush to deem the seven days prior to Easter a “trendy” theme week and popularity.
Although this year is the first time ACU has celebrated Holy Week, recognition of the final days of Jesus’ life dates back to the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century. The week includes three well known religious holidays – Psalm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday – leading up to Easter Sunday. In the traditional Eastern Orthodox and Catholic traditions, Christian followers partook in practices such as fasting, all-night vigils and the Divine Liturgy among others.
Centuries of followers have made use of Holy Week as a means for preparing their hearts for an Easter celebration. It is a time to remember the weight of Jesus’ sacrifice as well the joy of His resurrection.
It is not that we disagree with ACU’s recognition of Holy Week. Clearly this time has played an important role in the history of our faith. What we find fault with is grouping it -whether intentionally or unintentionally – with the rest of the theme weeks and then filling it with unrelated events such as Monday’s Shades performance and Kirby’s slam poetry. While these events are certainly entertaining, they fail to display what we would deem “Holy.”
We suggest a Holy Week where a return to the practices rooted in remembrance of Jesus’ last days on earth are clearly explained and clearly directed. Perhaps less entertaining on the surface, we believe this kind of week could escape the dangers of contemporary trend and actually succeed as an identifiably separate and special period of time. Maybe then we would finally put our iPhones away and listen in chapel.