Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to bear the cost
Of giving up our false self.
By your Spirit help me
To stay with you
To follow you in all of life,
To the cross and
Holy Week and Easter Sunday
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scriptures for this Holy Week.
Remember that you were a slave in the land of
of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you
out from there . . . .
You shall not deprive a resident alien or an
orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s
garment in pledge. Remember that you were a
slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed
you from there.
The Passover supper is a feast of remembering, celebrated as a festival to the Lord. Today the Jews still celebrate Passover–they remember how Jahweh freed them from slavery in Egypt — and as they enter into the event any division between historical time and present time collapses; they experience being one with their people.
Jesus invites us into the same spiritual discipline of remembering. At the last supper, he takes a loaf of bread, gives thanks, breaks, and gives it to his disciples, he says, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he does the same with the cup: “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me”. In this partaking and remembering, chronological time collapses, and we are present with these early disciples, and they with us. We remember Jesus giving his life for us, and proclaim his death until he comes.
Across the centuries Christian believers have entered into the practice of this spiritual discipline of remembering–as a way of praying and staying God-aware throughout the day, and as a way of receiving strength and consolation in the face of threat to their life. Hippolytus, bishop of the church in Rome from the end of the second and into the first decades of the third century, offers guidance for the practice of this spiritual discipline.
As we enter into the narrative of the crucifixion, Hippolytus will guide our reflection at the various times and watches throughout this crucifixion vigil.
The third hour: nine o’clock
And they crucified him, and divided his clothes
among them, casting lots to decide what each
should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning
when they crucified him.
As Jesus is nailed to the cross, then the cross hoisted up and dropped with a jolt into the ground, he prays: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Our gospel companions remember Jesus’ teaching: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;” Here, before them, Jesus lives into his own teaching.
Hippolytus offers spiritual guidance at this, The Third Hour:
If you are at home at the third hour, pray and praise God. But if your are elsewhere at this moment, pray to God in your heart. For at this hour Christ was nailed to the cross.
On either side of Jesus two other men are also crucified—for robbery.
Along with those who pass by, one of the thieves also mocks and insults Jesus. “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” The other man challenges what he has just heard, calling his cynical partner to reflect on the reality of their situation, and why they are condemned to die. Then he turns to Jesus and prays, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” When God calls us to enter into remembering, it is because God remembers us. We are never forgotten. Jesus now turns to this man who is facing into his final journey, and speaks words of comfort and reassurance: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Not only does this man know where he will be, but he knows he will not be alone when he arrives. This same Jesus who has heard his request will be there to meet him.
Noon: the sixth hour
Women are also standing alongside us: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and others. They had provided for Jesus out of their own means, and now offer the gift of waiting and being present as he hangs on the cross. Noon comes; the sun is high overhead. But suddenly, the whole sky turns to night, and our vigil turns to waiting in silence and darkness. Hidden from our gaze, the darkness and its powers surge into the soul and being of Jesus. The lamb of God is bearing the sin of the world. The altar is the cross; his body given for us; his life poured out for us.
Hippolytus invites us to prayer:
Pray likewise at the sixth hour. For while Christ was nailed to the wood of the cross, day was halted and a great darkness arose. At that hour, therefore, pray with great power, in imitation of him who prayed while all of creation was buried in darkness. . .
The ninth hour: three o’clock
At three o’clock we hear Jesus’ voice pierce the darkness. A lament sounds from the cross: Jesus crying out to God:
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
He is praying a lament from the psalms: words which are known
and held in his soul:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the
words of my groaning?
O my God! I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Finally, Jesus knows that all is finished, he says,
“I am thirsty.”
A sponge full of sour wine is held up to his mouth on a branch of hyssop. And when Jesus had receives the wine, he announces:
“It is finished! . . .
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Jesus knows he will not be abandoned. The great loving hands of Abba will receive and hold him as he breathes his last, and his spirit leaves the house of his physical body to go home to Abba God.
Hippolytus invites our attention to this hour:
At the ninth hour greatly lengthen your prayer and praise, imitating the souls of the just who bless the true God, who remembered his holy ones and sent his Son, the Word, to enlighten them. At this hour water and blood came from the pierced side of Christ, and (the Lord) gave light to the day as it declined, and brought it to evening. By thus beginning a new day at the hour when he began to fall asleep, he gave an image of the resurrection.
Sunday morning. As the women –and other disciples– gather at the grave, it is empty! The angels announce the good news that Jesus is not here. He is risen! He has walked the path into death and beyond, and defeated all its powers. A new Day has dawned – for these early followers and for all of God’s creation. Death has been swallowed up in the victory God has worked through Jesus Christ.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence
In this Holy Week,
And to learn God’s way
Through death to resurrection,
Holy Week and Easter Sunday
3/25 Monday: John 12:1-11
3/26 Tuesday: John 12:20 – 36
3/27 Wednesday: Psalm 70
3/28 Thursday: Exodus 12:1-14a; Psalm 116:1-2,12-19; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
3/29 Friday: Psalm 22; Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18, 19
3/30 Saturday: Matthew 27:57-66
The Great Vigil (tracing the great story across scripture):
Genesis 1:1-2:2; Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; Psalm 46; Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 14:10-15:1; Isaiah 4:2-6; Psalm 122; Isaiah 55:1-11; Psalm 42:1-7; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Zephaniah 3:12-30; Psalm 126; Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10;
3/31 Easter Day: Luke 24:1-12; Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 118:1-2,14-24; I Corinthians 15:19-26
Easter Evening: Luke 24:13-49; Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 113; I Corinthians 5:6b-8