Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Looking Ahead to Palm Sunday and Holy Week

Dear Parish Faithful,

O ye faithful, let us prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday, joyfully observing the forefeast from this present day onwards, that we may be counted worthy to see the lifegiving Passion.
(Monday of the Sixth Week, Second Canon, Ode One)

We are entering the sixth and final week of Great Lent. Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday are now before us on the upcoming weekend. These are two magnificent feasts that anticipate so much of what we look forward to in Pascha – the Lordship of Christ and victory over death.

Yet, due to our calendar differences with other churches, this weekend will also be the “Western Easter” on April 8. This is not the Orthodox Pascha, and so our loyalties and commitments are to the paschal cycle as it exists within the Church. However, the obviousness of that statement may not be that straightforward for some of you. For you may also have family loyalties and commitments that must be accounted for, due to close family members who are not Orthodox. If such family members are close by, and if such family members celebrate Easter this Sunday and expect you to join them, then participating in their celebration is understandable. I would certainly not counsel that you make a point of only celebrating the “real Pascha” by ignoring your non-Orthodox family members, and staining your relationships in the process. A charitable spirit toward the sensibilities of others as occasions arise is essential for the Christian, so that we live by the “spirit of the law,”and not simply the “letter of the law.”

However, unless it proves to be virtually “impossible,” I would also expect that anyone in the above situation will begin next Sunday morning by being in church for the Divine Liturgy and the Feast of the Lord’s Entrance Into Jerusalem. (Coming to church for Lazarus Saturday morning - or for the vigil of Palm Sunday in the evening - does not sound like a “bad idea” either!). And then on Sunday evening, we begin Holy Week with the first of the Bridegroom Matins that characterize the first three days of Holy Week.

I don’t quite know how various school districts treat next week (is there any time off?), but again I emphasize that it will be “our” Holy Week, and needs to be treated as such. I realize that that is a balancing act of sorts with some of your children – perhaps especially teens – but we have to make some hard decisions to maintain our identity as Orthodox Christians if we are not to be endlessly swayed by our (relativistic!) culture. What kind of “entertainment” is consistent with Holy Week? What will we be doing when the services going on in church every evening are focused on our Lord moving toward the Cross and crucifixion? Fr. Alexander Schmemann once wrote that in his home the radio was off and that the piano keyboard was closed – during all of Lent. And I recall an Orthodox Christian from an earlier generation told me once that he wasn’t allowed out of the house during Holy Week! Things have certainly changed – rather rapidly, relatively speaking – for these are not medieval examples; they both occurred within the last century … Yet, we can still ask ourselves the question: How do we do in the “battle of the calenders?” To what extent do we honor our ecclesial calendar as it outlines a full cycle of fasting and feasting throughout the year, and especially during the paschal cycle that begins with Great Lent? In closing this meditation I would simply say the following pastorally: Make an honest effort to allow Holy Week to be Holy Week. Talk this over as a family. Establish some goals and also some parameters. Nothing stops the movement of time as Pascha and our celebration will be here soon enough.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how schools seemingly randomly pick their week of spring break, but we are homeschooling, so are able to take Holy Week off...our parish in Blue Ash is having a busy week of services, as we celebrate old calendar and thus Annunciation falls on Lazarus Saturday this year!


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