378. Introduction to Holy Week

Introduction to Holy Week

These are based on talks I gave for many years at Holy Week services at Saint Nicholas, Cedarburg, and now have published in this Blog for the last six years. If you’ve read them before, you won’t find anything new here. Most years I have tried to improve them a bit, as I ponder these accounts and try to plumb their depth and understand them better. However, this year, as I’ve told you I am suddenly “un-retired” and have no time for that.

I’ll try to get Posts published on the day before the services described – and I’ll try hard to be brief. Promise.

Why does the Orthodox Church provide us with these multiple Holy Week services? Because this is a Divine Drama, the foundational story in the history of our salvation, and we need to know the whole plot. As with any drama, if we don’t arrive till near the end, it will be hard to understand what it’s all about.

Why am I providing all these commentaries?

1  Because, unlike most churches, Orthodoxy covers the whole Week, morning and evening, with liturgical services.

2  Because we don’t live in the old Orthodox world. There everything pretty much shuts down for Holy Week, so people can get to church. Not here – not even for Western Holy Week, let alone ours. However, I am not writing these articles as a substitute for attending the Holy Week services. Please be in church as much as you can. If and when you can’t, I hope you can watch them Live-stream. Even so, few can attend them all. These Posts can fill in for the services you miss and even provide some commentary on the services you attend.

3   Because so much happened so quickly during Holy Week, as reflected in our worship services, that it’s almost impossible to take it all in. I’m trying to explain, as best I can, what might pass us by. In the 33 years since I became Orthodox, each year I’ve been able to absorb a little more of our Holy Week worship. Preparing these talks has helped me to dig ever deeper and begin to understand, for the first time in my long life, all the events of this blessed Week. Let me say clearly that I feel I’m still barely at the edge of the Mystery of it all. I’m trying to share what little I know.

As we proceed through the Week, please read the appointed passages from the Scriptures. You can easily find the texts online from:

1  The Greek Archdiocese – https://www.goarch.org/chapel/

2  The  Antiochian Archdiocese – https://www.antiochian.org/liturgicday  Also, at the bottom of these pages you’ll find the full texts of all the Holy Week services. (God bless those who put them online. That took a lot of effort.)

Or, since I list the passages here, you can actually still do this the old fashioned way: Pick up your printed Bible and read it!

Anciently now was the time (and on Athos still is) when hermits came out of their cells, down from the hills, and joined with the community for this Holy Week: “Come down, all you who dwell in the desert places and caves, and greet with hymns Him who comes to you seated upon the colt of an ass, the Lord of glory.” (from Ode 4 of the Matins Canon for Thursday before Lazarus Saturday) 

Therefore please, as best you can, join with them. Put other things aside and give some time to this Holy Week. You will be greatly blessed by it. I know I have been, year after year after year.

The Next Post will arrive later today (Friday) covering Lazarus Saturday Divine Liturgy

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