Holy Week marks the beginning of what I like to call Liturgical Overdrive. To newcomers, inquirers, and catechumens it can be overwhelming to see the schedule of many many services that are available during that week. It really is amazing if you think about - those of you who can recall not being Orthodox - the sheer quantity of time we can (and often do) spend in the Temple during this time frame. I do not believe any other Christian group can come close to expecting to uphold such a schedule. I know that when I was in youth work with the AG, it would have been laughable to propose such a schedule of services.
For us, now, it is a literal lifeline, a staple, and a rich blessing. As I sit now and ponder its impending arrival, I see it as marking the most important time of the year and I look anxiously forward to it all. I walk away from work and worries of the world...in a way, time stands still and we are mystically present in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. And yet, it is more than simple re-enactment or time travel because we are witness to the mysterious fullness of events. We will hear through the Liturgics of the Church the widely unheard side of the story that brings to our minds and hearts a richness that I, personally, have never known. We will marvel at a rotting man's revival that will shine light upon the sadness of the Passion, we will see the triumphant entry made with humility and knowledge of what is to come, we will eat the mystical supper, we will search our own hearts as we wonder at Judas' kiss, we will kneel in awe as He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross, we will try and wrap our minds around the mystery and profundity of God's funeral, and then....we will hear hades groan. LET GOD ARISE!
The old pentecostal in me gets goosebumps. It challenges, blesses, and exhorts me on so many different levels. And it is a further time of furious activity around the house and the community in general. Cooking, cleaning, getting kids ready for services, coloring eggs, preparing baskets, planning meals, praying, go to and from services, gathering with others to prepare special Paschal dishes and cheeses, decorating the Temple, making flower frames for Icons, practicing music, practicing readings, more praying...it is a flurry of comings and goings and I adore it all!
It is a sad time and yet it is a joyous time. Tears and laughter...the dance of life all wrapped up and exemplified in a week of community and familial interactions.
We venerate thy Passion, O Christ. Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection!
The OCA website has some great insights into some of the services and practices of Holy Week HERE.