The Holy week has always been for me a roller-coaster of emotions, already as a child: Time off from school. Beginning of spring and resumption of outside activities. And time of long liturgies with plenty of physical exercise. Do you remember the seemingly endless Good Friday’s “Flectamus genua”..”levate”? But it was not all boring. The palms of Palm Sunday, the washing of the feet of Holy Thursday, even the kissing of the cross on Good Friday, were welcome changes from the regular humdrum masses.
The small town in France where I was at that time had a Stations of the Cross through its old winding streets and that was a bag of mixed feelings for me. As many houses as there are Stations would prepare a repository with flowers and sheets draped over balconies. We would process from one house to the next with candles and songs following the priest carrying a wooden cross. That was the fun part. Self proclaimed atheists and other miscreants came out of the Cafés, gawking at us, half serious, half laughing. I would feel partly but extemely, self conscious, but also and as extremely, proud, a martyr of sort, walking through Rome on the way to the Coliseum. After a while the repeated homilies at each Station would drown all feelings in a sea of fatigue and boredom.
At present, this Week embodies for me the main contradictions of our existence: love-hate, death-life, and suffering-joy. All of humanity’s fundamental emotions and mysteries are plaid out in this retelling of Christ’s last days. Some feminists (Christians) object to the veneration of the Cross as a central element of the Christian mystery. They refuse -I do too- the necessity for Christ to pay with his blood for our sins and so redeem us from his Father’s wrath. But they also say that to celebrate Christ as victim is to celebrate all victims and so to condone victimization. There I do not follow. Christ as a victim of violence did not condone violence but recapitulated it and so symbolized the victimization of the innocents. Why? Because it is the deepest and most relevant question we can ask God. It was already Job’s question: Why the suffering of the innocent? WHY GOD, WHY?
I do not want to be flippant in front of such a question, but it can be said that in a literal sense, Christ ‘took the question’ upon himself.
The only answer given to us is the one found by Mary Magdalene on the morning of the first day of the following week: Christ is risen. There is no word to explain, only an invite to adhere to the mystery. “I spoke without knowing” said Job.