I’ve never invested much thought or energy into the Christian liturgical calendar. For some reason, however, as Holy Week begins, I feel like I’ve been missing something rich, ancient, and beautiful my whole life. Seasons have come and gone; sacred rhythms of the years never experienced.
It’s easy to get excited for the “big two” Christian holidays: Christmas and Easter. But honestly, those are the easy ones. What about Advent and Lent; the times of preparation? The often come and go with me barely noticing. And then there are seasons like Kingdomtide; days such as Christ the King Sunday. I had no idea they even existed, these precious cycles that have long been held so dear by so many. It’s no wonder that I so often feel like I’m riding a spiritual roller coaster week to week and even day to day. I’ve missed something valuable and important, something that helps bring order to the chaos of the daily panic of life.
I know I’m not alone. We live within a culture that breathes panic into our lungs, leaving us gasping for peace. We measure our days, weeks, and months by deadlines. This has the consequence of typically constraining us to one mode of action: Undertake the grind by our own strength until we reach our wit’s end then, as we are so prone to do in our moments of greatest desperation, finally call on God to help us. I know all too well the exhaustion this pattern of living brings. And yet, I believe it is often totally unnecessary. Does God want us to become aware of our complete dependence on Him? Definitely. Does He use our times of utter exasperation to reveal our need? Of course. But God wants us to have lasting peace in the midst of our struggles, not just get temporary peace out of them.
Becoming awake to the reality of our weakness is key to experiencing this peace. It’s easy to be aware of how weak we are when we hit those rock bottom moments; when we’ve depleted every ounce of strength we have within ourselves. On the contrary, Jesus wants to illuminate our vulnerability to us every passing minute. The apostle Paul didn’t only understand this desire of the Lord, he fully embraced it. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
I believe the Church Fathers were also mindful of this daily requirement to surrender our strength to Christ. The liturgical calendar can help us become conscious of our weakness as we are guided day by day, season by season, into the majesty of God. For how can we come to trust in our own power when we are regularly drawn into the presence of the Almighty, the one in whom we “live, move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
If I’m honest, I have little to no idea of what I’m talking about. Even if I do, it’s not something I can attest to from experience. Nevertheless, centuries of Church history would seem to provide ample testimony that the pattern and heartbeat of the liturgical year is something is worth cherishing. Naturally, it’s not one-size-fits-all. Perhaps I just have a peculiar affinity for ancient spiritual practices. I did, after all, become rather attached to a certain prayer labyrinth in Knoxville.
Ultimately, God’s grace is sufficient and beautiful enough to connect with us in a way that we can best understand. Perhaps that’s what we should be seeking during Holy Week. We seek that lovely, rhythmic grace that finds us in the weakness we disguise as strength in order to lead us into the true strength that can only be discovered in the weakness of the Cross.