In the introduction to his book This is the Night: Suffering, Salvation, and the Liturgies of Holy Week, liturgical theologian the Rev’d Dr. James Farwell writes, “In a human life, suffering is not merely an episode, an event, or a passing psychological state – it is a condition.” He then goes on with these powerful words:
“If Christianity is to be any more than an interesting explanatory system for those who enjoy the diversion of metaphysical philosophy, then it must open in us a way to live abundantly in and with our suffering, give us hope, empower us to live with others in their suffering, and discern the difference between the suffering characteristic of human existence and suffering that demands alleviation or resistance.”
Never is this pathway drawn more clearly for us that in the days of Holy Week. This is the week when we see how God approaches all of human suffering – not by wiping it all away and making our lives perfect (and simultaneously less “our” lives) but by entering into that suffering, taking it upon himself, healing it and redeeming it. This week, we recall how when faced with our suffering, God does nothing less than save us.
So if you are suffering, this is the week for you. If you are suffering with illness or loneliness, this is the week for you. If you are suffering from lack of connection or unemployment, this is the week for you. If you are suffering from depression or addiction, this is the week for you. If you are suffering from the condition of human life, as Dr. Farwell describes it, then this is the week for you. Our changed circumstances only make the meaning of this week deeper, the salvation more profound, our joy more complete.
Welcome to Holy Week.