Thursday, April 9, 2020

Holy and Great Week

Dear Parish Faithful,

Zoom Session on Holy Week - Yesterday evening, we had a zoom class session on Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. Overall, parish participation pretty good, and perhaps it will serve to "get us going" for some further sessions. I very much appreciated everyone who "tuned in" and we ended up with a good discussion based on some thoughtful questions from our zoom group. Also, those who were present had the opportunity to "see(?)" and hear each other. This is important, as keeping some parish cohesion and community "from a distance" is very important at a time of self-imposed isolation.

I drew many of my notes for my presentation for the talk from the book by Fr. Alkiviadis Calivas Great Week and Pascha in the Greek Orthodox Church(Holy Week is also described as "Great Week" in some Orthodox traditions. Though, actually, the full title is "Holy and Great Week"). I find this to be the best and most complete book overall as an insightful commentary - historical, theological, spiritual, pastoral - on Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. 

Be that as it may, at the conclusion of the book's Introduction, Fr. Calivas has a concluding section, entitled "The Ethos of Great Week." This section is especially rich in capturing the full scope, power, and beauty in that one unique week that is at the center of any Orthodox Christian's ecclesial life. Here is a brief excerpt from those eloquent pages:

"Everything converges on the person of Jesus Christ, who was betrayed, crucified and buried, and who rose on the third day. These events are the keystones of the structure of Great Week. Through them we embrace the mystery of our salvation. Their radiance helps us to see again more clearly the depths of our sin, both personal and collective. Their power bursts upon us to remind us again of God's immeasurable love, mercy and power. Their truth confronts us again with the most crucial challenge: "to dare to be saints by the power of God ... To dare to have holy respect and reverence for ourselves, as we are redeemed and sanctified by the blood of Christ ... To dare to have the courage to grasp the great power that has been given to us, at the same time realizing that this power is always made perfect in infirmity, and that it is not a possession". (quoting also from Thomas Merton)

"In the course of Great Week we encounter  many contrasting figures and faces that call to judgement our own disposition towards Christ. Great Week is not simply a time to remember; it is a time for repentance, for a greater and deeper conversion of the heart...

"In the solemnities of Great Week we experience afresh the embrace of God's love and forgiveness; the gift and promise of eternity and plenitude. Quickened and energized by the experience we continue by faith to climb the ladder of divine ascent. Certain of His love, we live in the saving tension of joyous-sorrow (Gk. charmolipi) until He comes. With a repentant heart we live the joy of hope and the rapture of expectation for things to come (I Cor. 2:9)."

Upcoming Services - I am trying to think through this festal weekend - Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday for our trio of servers - Presvytera Deborah, Ralph, and  myself - and I believe that this is what we will do:

Friday -
  • Vespers at 7:00 p.m.
  • Reader Service for Lazarus Saturday at 9:30 a.m. 
  • Great Vespers for Palm Sunday at 6:00 p.m. (though we will not be blessing palm branches)
  • Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom at 9:30 a.m.
  • Bridegroom Matins for Holy Monday at 7:00 p.m.

All services will be live streamed or available on Zoom. I am still working on "figuring out" the remained of Holy Week and Pascha. But more on that upcoming.