Holy Week in Christianity leads Ronnie Convery to ask what constitutes identity: in faith, politics, and in the human person.
You can tell a lot about a country by the words used for certain times of the year … It always strikes me for example that in Italy New Year’s Eve is referred to as ‘San Silvestro’ – the saint whose feast day happens to fall on 31 December.
Similarly Easter Monday is known as ‘Lunedì dell’Angelo’ – Monday of the angel – recalling the gospel of the day in Catholic churches which tells the story of the Resurrection in which an angel plays a significant role!
I remember being rather charmed when my French teacher in secondary school told us of his experience when greeting people on Easter Sunday as a student in the 1970s. “I couldn’t understand the phrase they used,” he told us. “It wasn’t ‘Bonne Pâques’ which I had learnt meant ‘happy Easter’. It was something else … it was only after asking someone to repeat the greeting that I worked out they were saying ‘Il est ressuscité’ – he has risen!”
So when I say that Holy Week is now underway, I suspect that half those listening will smile benignly but have not the foggiest idea of what I’m talking about.
The Reformation in Britain did more than sack the abbeys and monasteries, it deprived our culture and even language of references to faith which happily have survived on mainland Europe.
Holy Week, for those not in the know, is the most solemn week of the Christian year.
It commemorates – or better said, re-lives – the week in which Jesus entered Jerusalem to suffer and die and, at the end of the week on Easter Sunday, to rise again from the dead. And if you don’t believe that, well, at least it helps to know what you don’t believe in!
So this Holy Week, it’s good to let the world of faith colour our offerings and that’s what has inspired our choice of articles for you, all of which also touch on questions of identity in one way or another.
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