Castleruddery in West Wicklow has an ancient stone circle erected in late Neolithic or early Bronze Age times. The picture above gives a glimpse of what the site looked like this morning. Imagine what it must have been like when it was first constructed over four thousand years ago. It was built by our ancestors for ritual purposes long before the advent of Christianity. The rituals were probably celebrated at particular times of the year marking the changing of the seasons or outstanding moments in the life and death experience. Our ancestors had the same questions that we ourselves ask: Why am I here? How did all of this come to be? Where is it going? What is my purpose and response to the fact that I am alive? We need rituals to explore and express the meaning of the great events of life in ways that words cannot express.
This week we ponder these same questions as we recall in ritual and story the meaning of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth who lived in Galilee in the Middle East two thousand years ago. He came to be known as the revelation of God among us in human form. He revealed by his presence how the spirit of God wants to express itself in an earthly experience. Through his word and example he showed human beings how to live in God in their own unique way but also how to live life together with others and in an expectation beyond anything that we can think about or imagine.
He came from God but lived a fully human life. He stood up for what he believed in which was justice for the poor of the earth, liberty for those bound in all sorts of captivity and new sight for all who cannot see where they are going. His way of life was a threat to people in authority and all who lived in the security of their own comfort caring little for those who have nothing and who lack certainty in almost every area of their lives. Those with power and control saw him as a trouble maker seeking to undermine the fixed ways they had of protecting their own advantage. His alternative approach led inevitably to his death.
The drama of Jesus’ life and death enacted during Holy Week is essentially a human drama. He took all humanity with him throughout this journey. The ordinary people hailed him as a hero and laid palm branches on the road before him as he entered the city of Jerusalem for the last week of his life riding on an ass. This was his way of making a clear statement that his dream for humanity was not of this world with its material values but a way of the spirit which was available for everybody. Mark’s gospel: Chaps.14:1 – 15:47 tells a stark story of the events of the week. It begins in triumph but quickly takes on an air of foreboding, uncertainty, betrayal and abandonment. Like every great story it has an unexpected ending in a triumph beyond human expectation and imagination.
The two large quartz stones in the picture above mark the entrance facing east to the great ritual circle in Castleruddery. What were the people’s hopes and dreams and what were they trying to express as they entered that dramatic place? Their dreams were no different from ours and their spirit will be united with ours forever in the eternal life promised to us through Jesus of Nazareth. Our ancient ancestors had an innate sense that life continues in some form even after death. Christians who believe that the Risen Jesus lives in them as the eternal Christ have an innate faith conviction that life becomes an eternal experience as it continues beyond the triumphs and travails of our mortal journey.
The response to the Psalm for Holy Week is: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Questions: Am I harbouring any resentment? How do I show others that I love them? How do I accept the cup that life hands to me?