Holy Week--The Axe for the Frozen Sea Within Us

Franz Kafka once said, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” And not just books. Great art—from music to painting—has the ability to break through our internal barriers. 

The drama of Holy Week, which begins this Palm Sunday, is the axe that breaks through the hardness of heart that separates us from God and our neighbor. What should we do this week? Well, there is nothing left to do. The invitation of Holy Week is like the invitation of a great painting or piece of music—just experience it. Just be present to the unfathomable mystery that is playing out before your eyes. Just slow down enough to let the Spirit work on you.

Those of us who lead worship often struggle the most with just being present to God at a worship service. We are so busy preparing the meal in the kitchen that we never enjoy the food. And yet every Holy Week I am surprised once again by what happens to me because I just show up. I’ll never forget being at the Good Friday Liturgy back in the late ‘90s when Dick Riedel began to read the appointed passage from Isaiah: I felt like God was speaking to me through those words.  It wasn’t some great insight that I had; it was simply a moment when the Word of God cracked the ice of the frozen sea within me. When I watch people having their feet washed on Maundy Thursday, I often sense that the hands doing the washing are the hands of Jesus breaking into our lives here and now—and my heart is broken. At the Easter Vigil, the cantor’s singing of the Exultet as we enter the dark sanctuary always gives me chills.  Why? I don’t know why. I just sense God is reorienting my inner landscape.

As someone once said, our worship during Holy Week is like trying to use a thimble to get some water from Niagara Falls. The enormity of what is happening threatens to sweep us away, and is truly impossible to capture. The best we can do is simply get close enough to feel the mist from the thundering waters.

Let us pray for an axe this Holy Week, an axe that will crack open our hearts to the transformative power of the death and resurrection of Jesus.