April 2021

 

 

Rev Scott writes…

During Holy Week, we tend to concentrate on the latter days known as the Triduum, from Maundy Thursday through to the Easter Vigil of Holy Saturday. The earlier days tend to get rather neglected. I think that’s a pity, because we could take those events of scripture that lead up to the Last Supper and apply them to those earlier days.

For example, we first have Palm Sunday and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Then we might have Jesus’ cleansing of the temple on Monday, and then on Tuesday, we could have his debates with the Pharisees in the Temple and his denouncing of them. The effect is rather like the movements in a symphony, or the acts of a drama.

Back in the 4th century, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, this was how they commemorated each of these themes from the Gospel of Matthew in Holy Week. Late on the Wednesday, a presbyter would read the passage from Matthew 26 where Judas agrees to betray Jesus to the chief priests.

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions state that Holy Wednesday is the day when Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus to the authorities, and became a ‘spy’ in the disciples’ camp. This day is therefore known in these traditions as ‘Spy Wednesday’.

Spy Wednesday is a sort of calm before the storm. It’s a sudden silence of betrayal and conspiracy after the clamour and noise of Palm Sunday and the drama and accusations flying around the Temple on Monday and Tuesday. In various European traditions, darkness is a theme of this day. In the Czech Republic, the day is known as ‘Ugly Wednesday’ or ‘Black Wednesday’, and in Malta it is known as ‘Wednesday of Shadows’.

Wednesday is a kind of pivot to Holy Week, between the joy of Palm Sunday and the mournfulness of Maundy Thursday. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark suggest it might have been a quiet interim period before Jesus’ arrest. Jesus was resting, possibly in preparation for the Passover. He was a guest at a dinner hosted by Simon the Leper at Bethany, and in Eastern Orthodox tradition, Wednesday is the day Jesus is anointed with nard by Mary of Bethany.

We remember that Judas complained about the cost of that ointment before he betrayed Jesus to the Pharisees. Scandinavian tradition commemorates this as Dymmelonsdagen, or dumb Wednesday, because the metal clappers of church bells are replaced by pieces of wood to give a muffled, mournful sound.

So, Wednesday of Holy Week is a time to pause. It’s an ideal time to search ourselves: will we pursue greed and self-interest like Judas, or will we offer ourselves to God, like Jesus? Wednesday is a chance to recognise our transgressive tendencies as demonstrated by Judas, and our capacity for forgiveness as shown by Jesus.

We are all Christ’s potential betrayers, and Wednesday is a time when we should pray for those who are lost and feel abandoned; those who harbour ambition and envy; those who seek redemption and healing; but also for ourselves and the examination of our motives.

God bless,

Fr Scott


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