Beloved people of St. John’s:

Welcome to Holy Week, the days when we retell, remember, and make meaning of the final days of Jesus’ life and his resurrection.

I’m struck this year by how full this time feels, and what an expansive range of stories and emotions we are invited into over the course of just a few short days.

On Maundy Thursday we hear of both the painful anticipation of Jesus’ death as well as the beautiful act of love as Jesus washes the feet of his followers. On Good Friday we are invited to be present to the brutal details of Jesus’ trial, execution, and death. We hear of the shock, confusion, and grief of the disciples who discover the empty tomb, and then, with them, we move into the joy of the resurrection. On Easter we are invited into the hope that no broken relationship, no suffering, no oppressive system is so powerful that it can overpower the love and transformation God offers us in Christ.

In light of the fullness of this week, the expansive range of the stories, services, and emotions that we may experience, I want to invite you over the next few days into a place of experiencing Holy Week. Rather than trying to focus on the explanation of the week, let’s consider our bodies, our hearts, and our emotions in each of these stories and services. What do you feel? What do you see? Hear?

As we strip the altar and watch the church go dark on Maundy Thursday, what do you see that stirs something in you? As you sit in silence after cantors chant the passion narrative on Good Friday, what do you feel in different parts of your body? And as you hear the bell ring out loudly on Easter morning, does the ringing sound different in your ears than it did when it rang 33 times on Good Friday, one ring for each year of Jesus’ life?

During this season of Lent, we’ve been exploring the work of John Phillip Newell and other Celtic writers, theologians, and thinkers who emphasize the sacredness of all creation, including our human bodies. Newell writes about the practice of listening, encouraging us to listen “deep within ourselves … for the beat of the Sacred Presence.”

This week, I invite us to listen deep within ourselves for the movement of God. I hope we can allow ourselves to enter the experiences we will have over the next few days not only with our minds, but also with our bodies, awakening ourselves to what is moving in our flesh, muscles, and bones, and listening to God within us.

Elizabeth Lienesch
St. John’s Seminary Intern