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Speaking to the Soul: Holy Week Worship

Speaking to the Soul: Holy Week Worship

by Laurie Gudim

As is usual at this time of year I am engaged, with many others in my parish, in the minutia of planning Holy Week worship services.  We look for the balance of fresh expressions and tradition that allows all of us to open ourselves to the profound mystery of the Triduum.  We are hoping to immerse ourselves in the lovely, rich – and terribly uncomfortable – liturgy of foot washing, the all-night vigil when we struggle to stay awake with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the painful, tearful Good Friday rituals, silent prayer in the empty church on Saturday morning, and then, the crown jewel of all, the Great Easter Vigil on Saturday night.

We Episcopalians do a fairly good job of worshiping during Holy Week.  We embrace our sinful natures and guiltily accept our failure to follow God’s law.  We reenact and remember, ponder meaningful lessons, acknowledge our tendencies toward cowardice and dissembling.  And we witness to Jesus’ horrifying suffering and terrible death.

But, personally, I find there are many impediments to listening as deeply as my soul yearns for me to go.  I get caught up in the performance issues.  Are we all set?  What have we forgotten?  Does everyone know their parts?  Is everyone, leaders and congregation, having a meaningful experience?  And that, of course, keeps me from having my own meaningful experience.

But even when I have let go of all that stuff, I get caught up in memories of Holy Week services from the past.  Or I have a certain set of expectations of what I ought to be listening for or feeling.  For instance, one never ought to be happy on Good Friday, right?  It’s too Polly-Anna.  But what if I am happy?  What if what I need to learn doesn’t fit the molds of what I’ve learned before?

So I have to go deeper. And I have to remember to get really quiet inside – so I can consciously witness to how my psyche is being opened and instructed by the living presence of Christ.  I have to sit in silence and listen for what my heart is telling me.

There is a creativity and love at the center of existence that transforms brokenness.  It reaches through and beyond suffering.  It even vanquishes death.  It is in nature three, and at the same time one.  It is incarnate, as are we – part of the very stuff of the earth.  But it transcends and transforms incarnation – and so, resting in our relationship with it, do we.

Beloved Christ, Master of my heart, help me to really get still and make myself available to know you – again and in totally new ways – in my worshipful contemplation of your Passion, death, and resurrection.  Amen.



Laurie Gudim works is a religious iconographer and writer in Fort Collins, Colorado.  You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.She has recently published her novel, Loving the Six-Toed Jesus, available from Amazon.


Image: Michael D. O’Brien, “Christ in Gethsemane – used by permission


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