This icon is on my computer desktop. Oddly it's one of my absolute favorites and yet we don't have one for our walls. So every year I add it to the desk top and it stays there for quite a long time. A visual reminder of what this week and what our faith is about.
So it's Holy Week already. Wow- and I thought Lent was hard. Today has been full of difficult challenges- emotionally and physically, but I keep looking forward- knowing the resurrection is coming- knowing there is light at the end of these dark tunnels and God can pull us through anything. But there are moments, difficult moments, in which it is very hard to keep the eye on the One Thing Needful.
This week will be a light week as far as homeschooling goes. Really there are no lessons planned. Just a pile of materials.
Though these will be our focus.
And all the days go like today even these may not be consumed in the entirety as I hoped.
But there is church services. And there is Pascha. What else is truly necessary?
On the evening of Holy Wednesday, the Sacrament or Mystery of Holy Unction is celebrated and given out to Orthodox Christians. It is one of the seven sacraments of the church and has been used since the first century when St. James first used it(James 5:14-15). The Sacrament of Holy Unction is for the healing of soul and body. At the end of the service, the Orthodox worshipers are anointed with the Holy Unction oil. The Holy oil is a sign of God's presence, strength, and forgiveness. It is important to note here that Orthodoxy does not view this Sacrament as to be given only to those near death. It is offered to all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit and can be offered in special cases other than Holy Wednesday as well.
While the sinful woman brought oil of myrrh,
the disciple came to an agreement with the transgressors.
She rejoiced to pour out what was very precious,
he made haste to sell the One who is above all price.
She acknowledged Christ as Lord,
he severed himself from the Master.
She was set free, but Judas became the slave of the enemy.
Grievous was his lack of love!
Great was her repentance!
Grant such repentance also unto me,
O Savior who hast suffered for our sake, and save us.
~ Holy Wednesday Matins
On Holy Thursday morning we focus on the events that took place in the Upper Room - the establishment of the Eucharist and the washing of the disciples feet. The act of washing of the feet of his disciples signifies Christ's intense love as well as His humility. In commemorating this act we bring to mind that Christ gives of Himself to any person according to that individual's ability to receive Him (Jn 13.6-9). It's a very humbling service and I urge any of you that have not attended such a service to do so.
The service on this evening of Holy Thursday is one of the longest services of the year as a Christ's betrayal and arrest, the trial and conviction, and His scourging, crucifixion and death is read from twelve portions of the Gospels. The Gospel readings are as follows: John 13:31-18:1; John 18:1-29; Matthew 26:57-75; John 18:28-19:16; Matthew 27:3-32; Mark 15:16-32; Matthew 27:33-54, Luke 23:32-49; John 19:25-37; Mark 15:43-47; John 19:38-42; Matthew 27:62-66
There are three services on this day of mourning. The first service, called Royal Hours, is when the first, third, sixth, and ninth hours (prayers commemorating specific events) are read recalling the hours Jesus suffered on the cross. It is after this service that the Epitaphion (embroidered cloth on which is a representation of Christ laying in the grave) is decorated with flowers.
The second service, held at three in the afternoon, is when we commemorate the body of Jesus being taken down from the cross. We bow and kiss the hands and feet of Christ.
The third service, my personal favorite, is when we return to church for a vespers service along with a procession along with the singing of the Lamentations - hymns of sorrow.
Holy Week actually started yesterday with Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorated the Entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. (See more here if you missed Saturday's post.) In the Orthodox Church, services are held each day through Holy Week. On the evenings of Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, and Holy Tuesday evenings. These are the Bridegroom Services. This service, a matins or orthros service, commemorates the fact that Jesus, the Bridegroom, will be taken from us very soon. A Matins service is the morning service of prayer. It is served before the Divine Liturgy but is sometimes served on the evening before a Holy Day. During this service six psalms are read, Gospel readings and the Great Doxology.
On Sunday evening, the story of Joseph and the fig tree are read (Matthew 21:18-43). A hymn is chanted : "Behold the bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night".
On Monday evening, we hear the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). This parable focuses on the theme of the Bridegroom and the hymn sung is "Come Ye faithful, let us work earnestly for the Master that He may increase our talent of grace and wisdom through good works".
On Holy Tuesday Evening, we hear the story of how the woman in the house of Simon anointed our Lord (Matthew 22:15-23 through 23:39; 24:26 ) and once again, as the never ending theme of Lent, teaches repentance. We sing the hymn of Kassiani.
"Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching, but unworthy is he whom He shall find in slothfulness. Beware, then, O my soul, and be not overcome by sleep, lest thou be given over to death and shut out from the Kingdom. But return to soberness and cry aloud: Holy, holy, holy art Thou, O God: through the Theotokos have mercy upon us."
- Hymn from Matins of Holy Week
How Will You Remember These Last Few Days Of Christ's Life In Your Home?
"By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God. Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of death: "Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!"