A Holy Week Pilgrimage

Written and voiced by the Reverend Doctor Linda Spiers, convener of the Holy Landers Ministry Network and supply priest currently at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Wallingford.

We all have an invitation to enter Holy Week with the whole of ourselves—body, mind, soul, and heart—as if being on a pilgrimage. To borrow words from the staff of St. George’s College, Jerusalem, the difference between being a tourist and being a pilgrim is “a tourist is one who passes through the land while a pilgrim is one who is open to having the land pass through her/him/them.” I believe we’re invited to let Jesus’ last days pass through us.

I carry in my heart blessings of being in our Holy Land multiple times with two powerful Holy Week experiences—walking Jesus’ Palm Sunday triumphal entry into Jerusalem and walking the Stations of the Cross in the Old City of Jerusalem. My Holy Land pilgrimages have not been during Holy Week, and yet these experiences have made it feel such. Along that Palm Sunday road is a stop at a small Mount of Olives church called Dominus Flevit that overlooks the Old City. According to Luke 19:41-42, Jesus wept over the city and said, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” I imagine that Jesus continues to weep for Jerusalem and for all of Israel/Palestine’s living stones, the people who suffer from inexplicable tragedy now. The living stones cry out to us from afar and break open hearts. My heart aches and is broken with the humanitarian crisis that unfolds day by day.

Stations of the Cross are in the hustle and bustle of the Old City and are often walked early on a Friday morning. Amidst our prayers and singing at each station are the noises of carts rolling through the cobble stone streets, people swiftly moving and paying little attention to our devotions. I wonder if today’s noises are from guns or bombs or war planes overhead or children and other innocents crying out for food and water and shelter. Gaza is not within physical hearing distance and yet it is within heart hearing distance.

More than ever our continued prayers throughout Holy Week are needed, just as if we were pilgrims in the land. Prayers work, and prayers lead us to action and discovery of how our body, mind, soul and heart might respond. How will we make a difference in our own small way during this Holy Week to recognize the things that make for peace and remember the peace to which Jesus calls us?

I believe we’re invited to let Jesus’ last days pass through us, and our Holy Week liturgies open us to that possibility. May we each find that way of a pilgrim. May our pilgrimage through Holy Week lead us there with eyes open.

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