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Holy Week: Celebrating the Strangest Things

Fr. Don Hying takes a fresh look at Holy Week.

Fr. Don Hying

Fr. Don Hying
Rector, St. Francis de Sales Seminary

This week, the strangest thing will occur. Millions of Christians throughout the world will gather to honor the humiliation, torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In a global culture that usually celebrates power, strength and beauty, this public reverence of something so horrific is always a little shocking. Could it be that what so many people find absolutely compelling about the Passion narrative is the vulnerability of God?

In the Christ event, God leaves the safety and glory of heaven, in a sense, and embraces the limitations of our human condition, coming to know, in the flesh, both the glory and the tragedy of our nature without ever sinning. In the last week of his life, Jesus completely hands himself over to us. In the foot washing and the Eucharist, in the scourging and the crucifixion, the Son of God loves us completely, without restrictions, conditions or limits. Whether we accept, reject or ignore this Divine Love, Jesus does not change his stance towards us.

In Roman and Greek mythology, the gods are always scheming to manipulate humanity to serve their often-selfish ends and ego-driven schemes. In Christ, we encounter the startling subversion of this oppressive game. God serves us! In total humility, availability, vulnerability and mercy, God has come to love, forgive and save us. The weakness of the cross, the simplicity of the Eucharist, the shock of the foot washing, the love that seeks to embrace a traitor, a thief and a coward is so far beyond the competition of power politics, the whirl of social hubris and the grasp of worldly striving, that it takes our breath away. No wonder that kings will stand speechless in the presence of the Suffering Servant, as Isaiah proclaims.

If God could become that poor, vulnerable and humble to love me, then how can I ever stand on my self-importance? This week we celebrate the strangest things - weakness becomes strength, love conquers fear, wretched despair gives way to resurrected hope and never-ending death is swallowed up by eternal life - and it’s all because a naked criminal was thrown down on a cross 2000 years ago and he embraced it as if it were his marriage bed.

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