SURVIVING HOLY WEEK
‘Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha!’ – Tip 4
As the common saying goes, the rest is history! Leave the book home tonight and just go, see and soak it all in!
I’m going to include a sermon that was preached 1500 hundred years ago to a group of adults who were newly baptised and about to receive their first Holy Communion along with the rest of the faithful in Istanbul (Constantinople) by the then Patriarch St John Chrysostom.
It is read at the end of the Paschal Service early Easter Sunday morning all over the world to this day in every Orthodox Church on the planet.
But sadly most miss it as they have gone home after the Agio Fos (Holy Fire) is received and the popular hymn ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ is Risen) is first chanted.
Here it is in full.
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
Christos Anesti everybody! May you take the light of the Risen Christ everywhere in your hearts!
HOLY THURSDAY EVENING – Tip 3
Welcome to the Mother of all Holy Week Services.
Probably the most powerful and confronting 4 hours you will ever experience in church. People cry at this service.
12 Gospels readings are heard that cover every stark detail, but with beautiful Byzantine solemnity, the Passion of the Christ.
As you hear the readings, who are you in this sad yet inspiring story of betrayal, intrigue, corruption, courage and humility?
It’s the story of our human condition. It’s the culmination of the story of why the Son of God was sent to earth. At the height of the service – just before the sixth reading, the lights are turned off and the Crucified is brought out for us to witness. BEHOLD THE MAN.
The service is not meant to be enjoined, it’s meant to be witnessed. People either choose to leave after the first 10 minutes or stay till the end. There are no fence sitters at this service.
I’ll leave the rest to you.
One more thing . Why are we hearing about the passion on Thursday and not tomorrow ? Remember how I told you that the service are chanted in anticipation? We are serving the Friday morning service in anticipation.
SURVIVING HOLY WEEK – Tip 2
Ok so you’ve got your bilingual Holy Week book and you’ve committed to attending the early services. Awesome !
Ok probably the hardest thing to get our head around is the fact that these evening services are actually morning services for the next day . They are chanted in anticipation. Just accept it and move on 🙂
The first three evening services basically fall under the title of ‘Bridegroom’ . This is a title given to Jesus – The Heavenly Bridegroom who hastens to consummate his marriage with His Bride (the Church) upon the wood of the Cross.
The theme of these early services is alerting the faithful for the coming of the Bridegroom to us. We are called to prepare through reflection upon ;
1. The great theme of Repentance.
2. Enduring unjust suffering and betrayal like the Lord Jesus.
3. The commemoration of the Last Supper and preparing to receive Holy Communion on Great and Holy Thursday.
All the hymns, Gospels, and readings reflect these themes so stay awake and pay attention +
We also prepare to receive Him through the healing service on Holy Wednesday through the Mystery of receiving the Holy Oil.
The word is preparation folks !!
Don’t worry if you loose your place . Just read the hymns to yourself quietly or ask someone next to you were we are.
After Holy Thursday and onto Great and Holy and Great Friday. Our attention turns from our preparation to the great events of Christ’s Passion and we’re we fit into it all +
We will get to experience how this all plays out on the Cross on Friday.
Stay tuned !
SURVIVING HOLY WEEK – Tip 1
There is nothing like celebrating Holy Week and Pascha (Easter) in the Orthodox Church – journeying with the Church, day by day with Christ as he hastens to His Passion and our Salvation. It really is a loss if we miss out on it – especially the early services only to turn up on the big days and get totally blown away by the huge crowds!
It’s important to remember that in order to make sense of Orthodox Holy Week patience and persistence are required. Don’t be discouraged by the length of the services and the language. Stick with it. Make time to attend as many of the services as possible and get there early. Sit at the front. Get a Holy Week service book which has the parallel English translations(there are plenty available). Ask someone for help. I guarantee you, the picture will become more clearer as the week progresses.
Stay tuned for more tips.
A blessed Holy Week to all.