Today we are on the edge of a new cycle. We venture to the edge of the new cycle with the Liturgy of Palms followed by the Liturgy of the Passion.
It’s all a bit odd. We know what was to follow this day. The disciples did not know. The people did not know what lay ahead.
Jesus knew what lay ahead.
So, this day is really a paradox. It is a moment of triumph and celebration. The Messiah will overthrow the oppressors and usher in a new age. Certainly, cause for celebration. But you and I know the whole story. We know the full cycle.
There are certain cycles in life. There’s the cycle of day and night. The cycle of weeks and months. The cycle of the seasons. Cycles are part of life.
Today, we stand of the precipice of a new cycle. And beyond the precipice lies the core of the Christian faith.
The cycle actually begins on Maundy Thursday, the night Jesus gathered with his disciples in the Upper Room, the night he gave them the Eucharist, the night he instituted the Holy Eucharist for his Church – for us. That night, Jesus spent a sleepless night in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew what lay ahead.
And then, the crucifixion on the day we paradoxically call Good Friday. The earth shook and the curtain in the temple was torn. Jesus dies. The world falls into darkness. The cycle has begun. We know the outcome.
Three days later, Jesus appears to Mary and then to others. He is alive. He has risen. The cycle is complete. We know the story.
These three days and the cycle of events mark the core of the Christian faith.
In fancy liturgical terms, the three days are known as the Triduum akin to the Latin for three days. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter – the Sunday of the Resurrection. It all begins though today.
Amidst all the cycles of life, there is always this cycle of life, death, descent into darkness, and rising to new life, the resurrected life. The cycles are in the regular ups-and-downs of life too. We all experience things that pull us down into a kind of darkness.
But the darkness is not the end. You will be OK. The descent is a time to put things together, to acquire a new understanding, to gain a new perspective, a new understanding of the life journey—to find meaning in the journey.
Suffering can be like that. We learn and discover. The darkness does not overwhelm. We rise up on the other side. New life.
There is the message of Easter. It applies on every day for the person of faith. Darkness does not overwhelm. In the ups-and-downs, there is the cycle of resurrection, the cycle to new life.
And you and I learn more about our faith along the steps of those smaller cycles. They’re a model of the great Paschal Mystery, the Mystery of Easter, the cycle of these Three Archetypal Days of Holy Week.
The Triduum is a taste of Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a reminder of his promise always to be faithful to us and to be with us always, no matter what. It is a model of his promise to us finally of eternal life – the ultimate triumph over the darkness of any Good Friday.
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. The core message of the Christian faith is modelled in the liturgies of this Holy Week in the Church. The cumulation of all the smaller cycles of life on the pathway of deepening faith and meaning. We act that out in our liturgies during Holy Week.
Now here is something I’ll leave you with to ponder.
If there had been no Palm Sunday, the cycle would not have begun. On Maundy Thursday, if there had been no Gethsemane, there would have been no Good Friday. And without Good Friday there would have been no Easter, no new life, no resurrection.
Today, you are standing on the edge of the greatest adventure in the life of faith …and … Jesus is with you.
The Reverend W Glenn Empey