I love being an Anglican Christian. This Communion is my home, these are the people I’m called to serve with, and I’m thankful for the beauty of this tradition.
But during Holy Week, I’m not an Anglican. I’m not a Baptist either. Or a Presbyterian. Or a Roman Catholic.
On Maundy Thursday, my feet are being washed, and I’m washing feet. There is nothing particularly Anglican about this. Its what Jesus told us to do. I’m celebrating the Eucharist, during the feast of the Last Supper, the Lord’s Supper. This is the table of the Lord, not of us Anglicans in particular. I feel like Judas. Will I depart? I feel like Peter. Will I deny him? Sometimes I feel like John, and I lay my head upon his breast and rest.
And then the altar is stripped bare. What will remain? Nothing that particularly symbolizes Anglicanism. Instead, its a crown of thorns on an empty table, a symbol for the one true God for all people. With each piece removed, I feel the layers of my own soul being peeled away. And I leave in silence with the crown of thorns left, alone, in my heart.
On Good Friday, more than any other time of year, I’m just a Christian. I’m a sinner saved and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. I’m a disciple who is running away from the cross, and yet being pulled back to it by grace. I’m a Peter, denying Christ and needing his restoring love. I’m Pilate, condemning him. I’m the crowd jeering him. I’m Mary Magdalene, crying for him because he saved my life and delivered me.
On Good Friday, I’m lying at the foot of the cross. I’m looking up into his eyes, and witnessing the pain. I’m looking at his mother Mary, and I have to look away. How can she bear this? She isn’t just the mother of us Anglicans. She is the mother of God, and mother of the Church because she is the mother of Christ.
On Good Friday, I’m confused and wondering. I’m listening but not fully understanding. On Good Friday, I’m finally aware that I’m, after all, a human being. A fallen human being that needs to be saved. And he is saving me.
On Good Friday, I’m listening. And I hear him say “It is finished.” The sacrifices are ended. He offered himself to save us, and heal us, and to end our constant offering of our own sacrifices. Animals. Enemies. Slaves. Our own children. Time, money, talent, and more. We humans kept trying to appease the God who loves us, so he came here himself and allowed us to sacrifice him. He ended it. He saved us even when we didn’t think we needed anyone to save us.
On Good Friday I sit with that reality in a darkened church, with God’s people, gathered around the stark, empty altar of God. I wear a black cassock, which sits unusually heavy on me. I’m not focused in particular on being Anglican at that moment, I’m a desperate, confused, loved, and accepted Child of God.
On Holy Saturday I’m always torn between the routines of family life and the utter silence of all creation while Christ lies in the tomb. How can things go on as normal? Why did the earth continue to revolve and people to eat, drink, and be merry as Christ lay in the tomb, dead. Death is silent to the living. He was not moving. He was not there. When will God answer? We had hoped for more. This hope is not just an Anglican hope, it’s a human hope.
And then, at the Easter Vigil, as we shout “He is Risen,” I’m joining my voice with Christians all over the world who celebrate his resurrection.
I do love the way we Anglicans celebrate. It is beautiful! But really, we aren’t Anglicans or Baptists, Roman Catholics or Methodists. On Easter Day, we are the shocked women at the tomb, the slow-to-realize disciples, and the (temporarily) doubting Thomases who kneel and say “My Lord and My God!”. We’re people who love Jesus, and who want to walk with him and be with him and in him all of our days. We are just little children, entering the Kingdom of God.
At that moment, we who have been baptized into the One Body of Christ, are more united in our praise than at any other moment of the year.
We are just Christians, and that’s enough.
Want to read more about Holy Week?
- Read “What is Holy Week? A Rookie Anglican Guide,” by Joshua Steele