Practice. Read all four of the Gospel accounts during Holy Week. My husband and I have followed this practice for many years for contemplation and family reflection. Since this involves reading quite a few chapters, allow yourself time and place for quiet reading and contemplation. As the Holy Spirit draws you into the Gospel accounts, you can also practice Lectio Divina for any chapter or section. Center on the Divine Presence and use your senses and spirit to receive healing and redemption. “By his wounds we are healed.” Isa 53:5
Old Testament Readings. The Lectionary readings from the Old Testament for Holy Week are the Servant Songs in Isaiah (Is. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). See the suggested schedule below for reading through these and the Gospels this week. The readings weave together as prophecy is fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A few brief thoughts about the Servant Songs: Redemption is realized in the calling of a redeemer for the nations, the Messiah, a suffering servant. The most common interpretation for the identity of of the servant is the Messiah, the Christ, the One who is to come and who will supremely incarnate the mission.
Through Isaiah, God extends his call for salvation to the ends of the earth: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other…Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.” (Is. 45:22-23) Jesus Christ is the exalted one:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil. 2:9-11
Suggested Holy Week Readings:
Monday. Read Matthew 21-28. Isaiah 42:1-9. In the first Servant Song, the servant is one chosen by the Lord to bring justice to the nations. Matthew identifies Jesus as the servant in Matt 12:18-21. Matthew writes to the Jewish people with powerful evidence from the Old Testament.
Tuesday. Read Mark 11-16. Read Isaiah 49:1-6. The second Servant Song emphasizes the calling of the servant to make known the Word of God beyond the borders of Israel to include all nations. Paul quotes Isaiah in Acts 13:47. Jesus is the Word of God. See John 1:1-3. Mark characterizes Jesus as the servant of God by focusing on his acts.
Wednesday. Read Luke 19-24. Read Isaiah 50:4-9. In the third Servant Song, the mission will be brought about through the obedience and suffering of the servant. The servant fulfills his mission to the world through this redemptive suffering. See Matt 26:67;27:30. Luke writes to the Gentiles and focuses on Jesus’ redemptive ministry beyond Israel.
Thursday-Friday. Read John 12-21. Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12. In the fourth Servant Song, the absolute uniqueness of the servant is shown through his suffering and exaltation. The servant, free from sin, fulfills his mission as a willing sacrifice for the Gentile nations. Philip identifies the servant as Jesus in Acts 8:32-35. The Gospel writers quote Isaiah’s prophecies as fulfilled in Jesus: See Matt 26:67; Luke 22:37, John 12:38. John emphasizes the deity of Jesus, the Word of God.
Practice. Lectio Divina. “Divine Reading” is a way of reading and praying the Scriptures in order to hear a word from God. The key is to stay alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and what is going on in our lives. The following steps are given by Fr. Thomas Keating for a simple method.
- Read the passage slowly (with appropriate pauses). After a minute or two of silence, read it again.
- As you listen you may be aware of a phrase, sentence, insight or even a word in the sense of “message” that catches your attention (reading).
- Sit with that phrase, sentence, insight or word, repeating it gently over and over in your heart, not thinking about it but just being with it (pondering it in your heart).
- Be aware of any prayer that rises up within you that expresses what you are experiencing (responding).
- Or just rest in the phrase, sentence, insight or even one word, resting in God beyond your thoughts, reflections, and particular prayer. Resting in God in the simple attraction of interior silence (resting).