FOR many of us, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about the Holy Week is suspension of school and work. Such that we call it a holiday. The way we understand holiday is far from its religious nature. During Holy Week most Filipinos are on vacation so the meaning and significance of this momentous event are lost. In the Christian tradition, Holy Week is the culmination of our faith and classes and works are suspended so that we can actively participate in this event as part of our Christian obligations.
The Holy Week presents Christ’s death and resurrection. It was during the Holy Friday that we commemorate the death of Jesus and on Easter Sunday His resurrection. Easter Sunday confirms the victory of goodness over evil, the affirmation of faith because Christ was indeed telling the truth when He told His disciples that He will die but on the third day He will rise again. Indeed, He is the Messiah, He is God. Without the death and resurrection of Christ, there will be no Christianity and there will be no Christians today. If that is the case, the majority of the Filipino could have been Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists like the religions of its Asian neighbors.
After the resurrection of Christ, He showed Himself to the apostles and commissioned them to spread the good news to the world. This was when the Church started to form in the different countries especially in Rome being the center of the world at that time. Rome ruled the known world and this was where Peter lost his life in sharing the word of Christ to the Romans who were worshipping several gods at the time.
If there is one event that shaped Christianity mostly, it is the events that took place in the passion and resurrection of Jesus, the events we commemorate on Holy Week. Last Sunday, we observed the entrance of Jesus to the city of Jerusalem. Today we call it the Palm Sunday. In the Bible, the people of Jerusalem did not particularly lay palms on his way. Anything that the people had with them, their cloaks perhaps robes, they laid on Jesus’ path to celebrate His coming. Why Jerusalem? Jerusalem was the city of Judah. It was the center of Jewish religious and political activities. If was where the temple was. If Jesus was to send a message to the world, Jerusalem was the place.
A day when Jesus was with His other disciples, Judas, the traitor, came with soldiers to arrest Him. This was planned by the high priest all along. Judas kissed Jesus (so we have the popular saying about the kiss of Judas understood as a kiss of death or something about being a traitor) that indicated that the person kissed was the man to be arrested. They arrested Jesus and the passion of Christ began. Remember the interpretation of Mel Gibson of this event when he directed the popular movie “The Passion”? They lashed Jesus, spit on His face, mocked Him, tortured Him, and forced a crown of thorns on His head. The people not particularly Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death by asking his crucifixion. The Roman Pilate would have wanted to free Jesus because of a tradition the Romans do during the Passover Festival but the people instead asked a criminal named Barabbas to be freed, not Jesus. They wanted Him to die on the cross so Pilate because of the pressure from the people and the Pharisees handed Jesus to be crucified. Death on the cross at that time meant a humiliating death. They made Jesus carried His cross on the way to Golgotha. This is our “way of the cross” today. On the cross He uttered His seven last words. On the cross he died yet today, on that cross, He redeemed humanity by giving His life so that He can raised the good souls from the dead that they may have eternal life.
The Church holds several activities on Holy Week which we could participate such as the Palm Sunday masses last Sunday, regular masses on Monday until Wednesday, vigil, visita iglesia (visitation of churches), participating in the station of the cross, meditation (reflection), confession, and praying. The Church also memorializes the seven last words of Jesus by inviting people to share their life experiences and stories of faith. On Sunday, the greatest Sunday of the Christian realm because of the resurrection of Jesus (Easter), we can join the celebration by attending the Holy Eucharist, the thanksgiving mass. Some of us may not be familiar with egg hunting on Easter but we can always celebrate Easter by celebrating our faith through prayers and doing good works. Cook food and celebrate with the family and community.
Sometimes the problem in commemorating Holy Week with a vacation is that it becomes family-centered. Holy Week is a religious event, an event of the faith, and therefore a community event. We commemorate or celebrate in the community and in the church with our brothers and sisters in faith. Death is not always a bad thing for us Christians because the death of Christ means salvation. May we continue to worship Christ and make our faith alive by following His teachings.