Holy Week: Remembering as if We were Participating

My Papa was the greatest storyteller I’ve ever known. When he launched into a story, you were immediately captivated by the vivid imagery, the action, the emotion. I would sit for hours on his front porch completely unaware of the artistry I was witnessing. Papa was more than a storyteller. He didn’t just say some words, he took you with him to 1925 or to 1864 with a story about his grandfather. I miss that porch and the adventures I was able to take without even moving, except to lean in closer.

What I was unaware of at the time is that I was learning about anamnesis. This a Greek word that carries the idea of “remembering.” It’s not merely about passively recalling an image, however. No, it’s far more profound than that. As mystical as it may seem, anamnesis is about remembering in such a way that it is as if we are actually participating in the story, bringing it to life in us a way that is more than a recounting of facts, but as if we were actually present in the story. The meaning and experience of the story get integrated into the fabric of who we are. 

This is what the season of Lent is all about, and to a greater extent, it’s what Holy Week is all about. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday morning, there is a progression that the church has celebrated for centuries that helps us step into the story as if it were happening fresh again. We feel the celebration of Jesus entering into Jerusalem, clearing the temple, spending His evenings in the garden on the Mount of Olives, celebrating Passover, praying through the night with His closest friends, the betrayal, the beatings, the anguish of witnessing the death and the empty feelings that accompany the loss—maybe even believing everything was over. But then the unfathomable, unabashed, exuberant joy of discovering that He had risen to life!

Why do we do it? So the story does not get old, so we do not just recount facts about a man who died and came back to life, but so that we can yearly capture the depths of our need and the overwhelming truth that Jesus rescued us and that HE IS NOT DEAD, HE IS ALIVE!

I want to invite you to step into the story this Easter. Do not just hear about Easter, live it with us through the experiences Westside is curating for the week and through the Scripture. On Palm Sunday we are going to look at the two parades that happened that day. On Thursday we will have the opportunity to pray through the night, just as Jesus invited the disciples to do. On Friday we’ll behold the cross and hold the weight of death. Then we are going to celebrate the Resurrection with every bit of passion we can call up.

I have been celebrating Easter this way for about the past eight years. Every year this significance of Easter has only grown. 

If you want a reading plan for the week to accompany the experience, try this:

Palm Sunday: Mark 11.1-11
Monday: Mark 11.12-19
Tuesday: Mark 14.1-10
Wednesday: Mark 14.12-26
Thursday: Mark 14.32-72
Friday: Mark 15
Saturday: John 16.16-33
Easter Sunday: John 20.1-18