Holy Week

28th March 2024

As we enter Holy Week and remember the dramatic events of the Passion story, I have been pondering the words of our Assistant Archdeacon in the diocese, Gary Philbrick, who has written movingly of the ‘Hands of Holy Week’ – the hands of both Jesus and those around him, which were used for either healing or hurt. He writes…

“On the Wednesday of Holy Week, we read of the Hands for Anointing, when Jesus was at supper and a woman came in who anointed Jesus’ feet with a very expensive ointment and wiped them with her hair – a beautiful act of love which Jesus interpreted as preparation for his burial. Then the Hands of Betrayal, as Judas Iscariot agrees to betray Jesus into the hands of the Chief Priests, and receives into his hands the price of the treachery, the ‘thirty pieces of silver’. Then on Maundy Thursday, Jesus washes the feet of the disciple with the Hands of Service, demonstrating the path of loving and self sacrificial leadership with which they are to lead the Church after his death and resurrection. He then, with the Hands of Blessing, breaks the bread, shares the wine, in remembrance of himself, giving the disciples and the whole Church a memorial of his sacrifice, a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

“In the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is given over into the Hands of Hate, to those who arrest him, mistreat him, beat him, unjustly condemn him, and finally lead him out to the Cross, to which they will nail him and crucify him. But not before Pontius Pilate washes his Hands of Cowardice, fully knowing that Jesus was innocent, having found no crime in him deserving death, but not being strong enough to stand up against the crowd. And lastly, at the end of Good Friday, the Hands of Love, as his disciples and those others around him, lovingly took his dead body down from the cross, and carefully prepared it for burial in the stone tomb.”

In reflecting on the hands in the Passion narrative, perhaps we can also consider our own hands, and the ways in which we use them for good and for ill. This reminded me of a powerful sermon I once read by John V Taylor, former Bishop of Winchester, who said to the congregation: “Stretch forth your own hand. See the familiar lines in the palm, the shape of its fingers, the little scars. Feel its warmth, the pulse at the wrist, that make it yours. This is my body which is for you, which I formed in my own image to be you and no-one else. Have you learned to love it and reverence it as mine? Or do you fear it and despise it… [even though] I ask you to present your bodies to me as a living sacrifice?”

As Christians, in a mysterious way there is a sense in which we must all go to the cross with Jesus this Holy Week. It’s a time when we don’t just consider how we treat others, but how we treat the image of God in ourselves. In our own journey of faith, what is our place in the ongoing story of the life of Christ and what might God be calling us to?

May God bless you richly this Holy Week, Revd Jemima