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Holy Week Reflections


Isaiah 50 4-9a

John 13 21-32

The heart space which Christ calls us to inhabit is the space of the undefended heart. It is of vital importance that the difficulty and struggle it takes to enter this undefended heart-space is not minimised or sentimentalised. But if we understand Holy Week as a journey, a journey of the Spirit, we could understand it as a coming out from behind the complex defences we erect around the fearful self, around the fearful heart.

It's been a joy to listen both to the words from Isaiah and from John this week. How they talk to each other and enrich each other. Here is Isaiah, ‘I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.’ This holy vulnerability seems shocking, almost obscene, in our present time, where colossal crimes of violence are being undertaken, to say nothing of the abuse and exploitation which may confront any of us and which we know confronts so many.

There can be no easy to answers to how we inhabit this undefended heart-space, but it also seems impossible to pretend that Christ does not call us to follow him into just such an unprotected place.

At the heart of Holy Week is the rupture of betrayal, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The intimate bond between friends becomes the intimate bond between betrayer and betrayed. ‘So when Jesus had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot… Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’

It's worth sitting here and bringing to our hearts and minds those who have hurt and betrayed us. It is painful, troubling. Can we look them in the eye and see their mixed motives, their damaged humanity, sense something of the depth of their frailty? It’s worth sitting here and bringing to our hearts and minds those we have hurt and betrayed. Can we sense them too?

In this space of rupture may we allow this undefended love to grow?

This is from the book The Undistorted Image, a book about the holy man Staretz Silouan by Archimandrite Sofrony.

‘I asked the Staretz how anyone could love all people, and where it was possible to find the love that made a person one with all people?

He answered:

‘To be one with all, as the Lord said, “that they all may be one,” there is no need for us to cudgel our brains: we all have one and the same nature, and so it should be natural for us to love all people; but it is the Holy Spirit who gives the power to love.’

In the space of the undefended heart, we are most undefended before the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray that in the places of hatred and betrayal the Spirit may awaken our hearts to the Christ-like love.


The Reverend Ben Brown


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