Holy Week, Holy Huddle: A Pastoral Letter

Beloved friends.

In her sermon at Wine Before Breakfast this week,
Joanna Moon quoted a prayer from The Celtic Year of the Wheel:

Praise to you, Forsaken One,
for huddling with [us],
in the smooth-walled corner of abandonment.

A smooth-walled corner of abandonment.
Backed into a corner.
Up against the wall.
No foothold to climb out.
Abandoned.

And yet … not alone.
Huddled with us in our abandonment
is the Forsaken One.

The Forsaken One keeps company with the abandoned.
Who else really could?
Who else knows such abandonment?

And yet … his was not a smooth-walled corner.
There was nothing smooth about the whips.
There was nothing smooth about that crown of thorns.
There was nothing, nothing at all, smooth about that cross.

But it was the abandonment,
not the whips,
not the thorns,
not even the pain of the cross,
that cut him so deeply.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

The Beloved One became the Forsaken One.

I wonder if that cosmic cry of forsakenness,
contained echoes of another deep disappointment.

You see, before Jesus was god-forsaken on the cross,
he was already betrayed, denied, and abandoned
by his friends.

Call it, friend-forsaken.

And just as Jesus’ story is our story,
so also is their story our story.

So here we are, the abandoned ones,
held in the love of the one we abandoned.

And yet … we are called to be present.

We are called to be there
when they crucify our Lord.

We are called to be there
when the sun refused to shine.

We are called to be there
when they laid him in the grave.

We are called, every year,
to huddle with the Forsaken One,
in the week of his abandonment.

We are invited to leave our own
smooth-walled corners of abandonment
to accompany Jesus in the
violence of his passion.

It is called Holy Week.
It is called the path of the cross.

And so, my friends, as a brother and a pastor,
I invite you into a discipline of presence,
a spirituality of accompaniment,
a practice of being there this Holy Week.

This is the one time of our liturgical year
where we enter into the story in real time.

On Palm Sunday,
we enter into a week that
begins with the confidence of loud hosanna’s,
inexorably degenerates to shouts of “crucify him,”
and descends into the darkness of the grave.

If we don’t walk this path
then the joyful acclamations of Easter Sunday
are cheap sentimentality at best,
hypocritical complicity at worst.

What am I asking you to do?

Well … as difficult as this is for so many of us …
I’m saying, “Go to church.”

Every day of this week.

If your church doesn’t observe Holy Week,
then visit the neighbours.
Maybe go to some churches you have never entered.

And, if you can’t join in communal worship every day,
then mark the Holy Triduum of
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.

The point, my friends, is to be intentional about this week.
It is the week of all weeks.
It is the week of abandonment and death
that gives birth to the new age
of belovedness and resurrection.

Praise to you, Forsaken One,
for huddling with [us],
in the smooth-walled corner of abandonment.

May we, in fear and trembling,
in grief and sorrow,
in longing and hope,
huddle with you
this week,
at the rough place of your Passion.
Amen.

In the solidarity of the cross,

Brian Walsh
Campus Pastor

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian and the CRC Campus Minister at the University of Toronto. He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is entitled Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination.

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