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Resist. Repair. Regenerate.
RESIST. REPAIR. REGENERATE.
The Holy Week Triduum 2021
Regenerative design is a pivotal objective in the practice of architecture. It is part of a movement for change … to transform the practice of architecture … to achieve a zero-carbon, resilient, healthy, just, equitable future for everyone. “… It is using the influence we have to improve the world, whether through social justice or environmental health,” says Ann Kosmal, FAIA.
During this Holy Week I wrestle, as others have, with its effectiveness in our lives. Does the enactment of the holy week rites have anything to do with social action? I wonder what it would be like if religions in general and the Catholic Church in particular adopted a strategy of regeneration to transform themselves to achieve a more resilient, equitable future for everyone?
Why ask these questions this Holy Week? Why not just focus on the biblical texts and hymns as they have been handed down to us? Why not carry out the rituals as they are prescribed in the books without any question? Can traditions evolve?
For years, during this springtime cornucopia of religious festivals, I had the privilege of joining some Jewish friends at their seder meal on the first night of Passover. Every year this family would produce its own contemporary Haggadah, the narrative that recalls the passover of their ancestors.  Along with the traditional text it included interpretations of current events and actions that continue to oppress people denying them human rights.
The biblical narratives for Holy Week (albeit written some 60 years after the events reported) serve to memorialize the final days of Jesus’s life. What if the ritual books (prayers and hymns) were changed to reflect the issues we are dealing with today? What if they challenged us more directly about our behavior in the public sphere?
Holy Thursday, is the memorial of Jesus’s final supper before his execution. The gospel of John focuses on service without mentioning the meal itself. The most familiar phrase in the three synoptic gospels lingers in our minds: “Do this in memory of me.” These words are formally interpreted in some Christian churches as the institution of the eucharistic liturgy and a ministerial priesthood.
In context, however, the word “this” refers to what Jesus did in his lifetime. Jesus identified with the broken bread and poured out wine. The elements reminded Jews of the manna in the desert and the blood of the lamb sprinkled over them to forgive sins. For Jesus they were powerful symbols of a fractured and bloodied humanity. Jesus was pleading with his followers to love one another and to resist all injustices in society just as he did. The evangelist John focuses on this call to service by describing how Jesus washed the feet of his followers.
Good Friday prompts us to remember and reconcile the evils of capital punishment and other related injustices. Jesus was executed on a cross for his opposition to the Roman government, an act of sedition. His ambition was to bring about the realm of God on earth. He was accused of heresy by religious leaders.
The popular explanation for his death is that “God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One, that whoever believes may not die, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).  This promise remains and requires ongoing social action to make it a reality. Some local evidence is encouraging.
Twenty-two states have abolished the death penalty and the numbers of executions are at an all-time low. However, racial, ethnic, religious and gender discrimination continue in our streets, court rooms, and prisons. Recent actions in New York State will counter two injustices against inmates: vaccination of all inmates and the passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT).
The cross in our midst, the cross we venerate, is a powerful symbol of hate crimes, racism, and social disparities. We grasp the cross to take on those problems as our own. Will our prayers, songs, and sermons focus on these issues and other injustices?
The Easter Vigil and Easter Day celebrate Jesus as the victor over death. However sobering and disappointing the reality is, the resurrection of Jesus did not end war, crime, disease and death. In the words, of scholar Raymond Brown, “we may have to carry the cross and experience suffering and rejection before we reach a real understanding of the Jesus in whom we say we believe.” 
The rituals for the Easter Vigil prompt a courageous and radical response that resounds way beyond the alleluia choruses. The lighting of the fire, the reading of familiar first and second testaments, the initiation of new members, the renewal of our baptismal promises, and the sharing of the eucharist are ceremonial stimulants for the regeneration of the Church and, in turn, society. These liturgical actions ignite a new desire to act against injustice. They beg a recommitment to eradicate oppression. They unite us in our Christian values.
We are emboldened in invoking God’s blessings during this Great Week to ask more questions and take more actions to end civic and religious policies that continue to hold back an equitable future for everyone, the experience of God’s realm on earth.
 Created by Rabbi Larry Hoffman and Joel Hoffman
 The Inclusive New Testament by Priests for Equality,157.
 Brown, Raymond. “How to Read the Resurrection Narratives” in Catholic Update, (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Press) March 1994
4/2/2021 09:18:46 am
I agree that we need new wordings for our ceremonies of Holy Week. At age 77, I have heard the same readings and services for many decades. I would love to hear about what Jesus would say and do today. We have need for new messages about justice and mercy for all. Thank you fo your thoughts on this. Margaret
4/8/2021 09:38:59 am
While attending services on Holy Thursday this week, I , too, wondered why we “ do” the same rituals year-after-year. Can we not move on to connect Jesus’ messages to the 21st Century world?
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