For Christians throughout the world, these days prior to Easter are known as the Triduum, the three most holy days of the church year -- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches warmly welcome members and guests seeking hospitality, spiritual nurture and direction. The Church welcomes "home" many of its members and others looking to make sense of what is known as the "Passion" of Jesus. The Passion refers to Jesus' last hours when his disciples fall asleep around him; when Jesus is betrayed by an intimate friend and denied by another; when he is brought to trial by the power brokers of his day; when he is humiliated and beaten by the military; when he is crucified, dying on the cross and then placed in a stone tomb. The passion is fulfilled when Jesus is resurrected on the glorious morning of Easter.

Some years ago the Westport Playhouse staged a wonderful production of A.R.Gurney's The Fourth Wall. The fourth wall refers to the "wall" separating the actors on stage from the audience seated in the theater. Though invisible, the wall is real, signifying the separation that stands between the actors attempting to communicate a story and the audience yearning to learn the story. The "wall" interferes with and inhibits the audience's ability to "believe" the words, actions and emotions of the actors on stage. On a good night when everything "clicks," the wall separating the actors from the audience disappears. In these moments when the audience awakens to the power and energy of the story, the audience becomes one "with" and "for" the actors, becoming an intimate part of the drama.

So is the hope of those participating in the passion story. We come to church to see and hear the great drama surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus "acted out." If the spirit is willing and the time is right, the "wall" separating us from the story disappears. Everything "clicks." Jesus' passion becomes more than a story. As congregants, we enter into the story as our own. We know it as real and true. This is a story only too real for Christians who, seeing, knowing, hearing ourselves become participants in this great drama. When the disciples fall asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, we remember occasions in which we too have fallen away when we have been invited to watch and pray. When Peter denies Jesus three times and the cock crows, we remember the many occasions we have denied God, attempting to hide in the midst of the crowd. When Jesus is brought before the authorities and the crowd cries for his death, we painfully remember occasions when we have mocked and condemned others for the very deeds which we have done. When Mary, the mother of Jesus, stands at the foot of the cross, we, too, grieve recalling the death of a loved one, the loss of a career or a dream wondering if life is worth living. When the disciples were stunned and confused finding the tomb empty on the day of the resurrection, vivid moments of speechless wonder are recalled whenever we, too, are surprised and amazed by the "unbelievable."

Throughout Westport, across the nation as well as around the world, churches will be open this weekend to welcome any and all yearning for a great story. You will be surprised to learn that this unfolding drama about Jesus is better than any movie, play or concert you might attend. It is better and real because every one of us plays a key role in the story. Though an ancient story, it is a Story that comes alive and real as we allow ourselves to engage and be engaged with it. When we do, we will discover that the "wall" we thought separated us from God vanishes. And when that separateness disappears, we know we are one in God and for one another.

John H. Branson is the rector at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, Westport.