We are in the middle of the Christian Holy Week. Maundy Thursday is today, Good Friday is tomorrow, and Easter, of course, is this Sunday. My Course Companions Text class yesterday, which was on “The Message of the Crucifixion” (T-6.I), reminded me that as Course students, we have two choices with these Christian holidays.
The most obvious choice is to distance ourselves from them, to treat them as relics of a religion that we have left behind. Yet there is another choice, one that stems from how the Course treats these holy days. This other choice is to reclaim them, to give them a new meaning and celebrate that new meaning.
With this second option in mind, let me go through the new meaning that the Course gives this preeminent week in the Christian calendar:
Palm Sunday signifies the beginning of our spiritual journey. We should, in other words, take that joyous moment in the gospels, when the Son of God triumphantly enters the Holy City, surrounded by celebrating crowds, and begins his journey to the resurrection, with victory already assured—and apply it to ourselves. That was the reality behind the crucial event—whenever it was—in which we started our journey to our own personal resurrection.
Holy Week is all about the peace of Easter, not the pain of crucifixion. With that in mind, we need to treat our brother as the Son of God walking the road to Easter morning. Our job is to speed him on his way by giving him the lilies of forgiveness. If instead we place a crown of thorns upon his head, we will divert his journey and let him “wander into the temptation of crucifixion and delay him there” (T-20.I.4:3). With each brother we meet, we give him lilies or thorns, thus hastening his journey to Easter morning or delaying it.
Maundy Thursday. We must not see communion as taking into ourselves the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and blood. (Interestingly, many historians say that the institution of this at the Last Supper was a later Christian interpolation.) Instead, communion is joining with our brothers’ minds without the interference of the body. This kind of joining is like a feast of love in a quiet garden, “at which everyone is welcomed as an honored guest” (T-19.IV.A.18:2) and where Jesus himself will join us in fulfillment of his ancient promise.
Good Friday. We should not celebrate the crucifixion as Jesus dying for our sins to pay our debt to God. It was not a sacrifice to God, but a teaching device for us. Jesus was teaching us that even in the face of the most extreme assault, we can remember that we are perfectly immune to attack. He was providing a vivid illustration of the fact that, no matter what is done to you, you can “teach only love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.20:2). Good Friday, then, can have a purely positive meaning.
Easter. The crucifixion demonstrated that Jesus saw himself as immune to attack. The resurrection was the proof that he was right. It demonstrated that in fact he was immune, that he was perfectly uninjured by what had been done to him. “The resurrection demonstrated that nothing can destroy truth” (T-3.III.8:1), “that no amount of misperception has any influence at all on a Son of God” (T-3.VIII.10:2). This was the supreme demonstration that his whole life led up to. “It is the final demonstration that all of the other lessons which I taught are true” (T-3.III.8:4).
This year, let’s reclaim these holy days by giving them a new and holy meaning. Let’s make them important days in our calendar, days that illustrate for us the great truths which the Course is teaching us, and which thus hasten our own journey to resurrection.