Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Great and Holy Week: What does it all mean?

This is the week before Pascha (Easter) when we walk in the footsteps of our Saviour Christ to
His voluntary death and glorious Resurrection.
Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday introduce us to Holy Week and Christ’s journey to the Cross.
Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, had been dead for four days when Jesus went to his tomb and called
him out alive. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, shows His authority over life and death. This
wonderful miracle brought many to faith, but caused the chief priests to decide to kill Jesus.
Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ triumphal, yet humble, entry into Jerusalem.
After the Liturgy we carry blessed palm-fronds and candles in procession showing our
willingness and joy to welcome Christ and to follow Him to the Cross.
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings we serve the Bridegroom Matins.
The icon of Christ the Bridegroom is in the
centre of the church. Christ, the Bridegroom of
the Church, bears the marks of humility and
suffering while preparing a marriage feast for
us in God’s Kingdom. We are exhorted to be
always ready, for “the Bridegroom comes at
midnight”. We must not only hear God’s word,
but also obey it and produce in ourselves fruits
worthy of repentance. “Thy Bridal Chamber I
see adorned, O my Saviour, but I have no
wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of
Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and
save me”.
In the Sacrament of the Holy Oil, on
Wednesday evening, prepared for by
confession and reconciliation to God, we are
anointed to be healed both physically and
spiritually.(As a Sacrament of the Church it is only available to those who belong to the Orthodox Church.)
Holy Thursday is when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples and it is at this Liturgy that the Lamb is consecrated which will be used throughout the year to Communicate those too ill to come to church.
“Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant, for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss, but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.”
Holy Friday begins, as do all liturgical days, the evening before. So, on Thursday evening we begin the day of mourning, fasting and prayer, for on this day our Lord and Saviour went to the Cross and died for us. The Twelve Gospel readings relate the events of Jesus’ Holy Passion and Death and His last instructions to His disciples. After the Fifth Gospel, the Crucifix is adorned with a wreath of flowers and carried in procession to the centre of the church. This symbolises Christ’s journey to Golgotha to offer Himself willingly as the sacrifice for the sins of the world ...
mine and yours.
How can we go home to the television or trivial things when our Lord is crucified in our midst?
Let us keep quiet and be prayerful, inside the church, outside the church and at home. The
following morning we come to church, some to pray the Royal Hours and some to quietly and
prayerfully prepare Christ’s tomb. Those who prepare the Tomb/Bier are not chatting and
arranging flowers but rather offering a fitting worship to the dead body of the Lord Himself,
which is, so soon, to be laid therein. Everyone is welcome to perform this loving task to honour
Christ’s Body.
If we are able, we keep a total
fast, so that we may hunger and
cry out with Christ: “I thirst”.
In the afternoon service the Body
of Christ is taken down from the
Cross, wrapped in fine white linen
and placed on the altar table. A
cloth icon or shroud depicting
Christ’s Sacred Body, called the
Epitaphios, is carried in funeral
procession, placed in the
decorated bier and the
Lamentations are sung, with both
sorrow and joy. “In a tomb they
laid Thee, O Christ, the Life. The
angelic hosts were overcome with
awe, and glorified Thy
Straightaway, on Saturday morning, we begin to anticipate the descent into hell and the
Resurrection. We sing “Arise, O God, and judge the earth, for to Thee belong all nations”. Rose
petals and bay leaves are scattered throughout the church in joyful exaltation. At midnight we
receive the “Light of Christ”.
“Come, receive ye light from the Unwaning Light, and glorify Christ, Who is arisen from the
In procession we sing:
“Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing.
Enable us on earth to glorify Thee in purity of heart.”
In the afternoon we celebrate the Agape Vespers, when we embrace and forgive each other,
sharing with others Christ’s gift of new life.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!