Holy Week and Easter, a Reflection

Well it is now Thursday of Bright Week and I am able to reflect back on the past week in the Church.

Holy Week here is full of all sorts of activities that start off easy and get more difficult as time goes on. We begin on Palm Sunday with the regular Divine Liturgy with the addition of the blessing of the Palms. Then the Bridegroom Matins Services begin. Sunday night, Monday night, and Tuesday night see the same service. It is dark in the church and peaceful as we prepare ourselves for Christ to come. I really like this service as it sets the tone in a great way for the coming week.

After each service is a time for confession and this year I think I heard almost every confession in the church. It seems that every other year or so more people come to confession. Those of you who are in Churches that do not have Sacramental Confession have no idea what you are missing. None of us like to go to confession because we do not like to admit we make mistakes but to a person, everyone felt better afterwards. It is also a grace filled moment for me to stand there with them as they confess and offer some words of encouragement. I never know what I am going to say but the Holy Spirit has not let me down yet.

Wednesday is the Unction Service. This is a great gift to the Church. I love this service and I am committed to serving this more than one time each year. We bless the oil with seven prayers and then each person comes forward for the anointing for healing of body, mind, and soul. I think we feel that this is what you get when you are dying, how sad that is, it can be used for any illness or before surgery. People will take some of the oil home to use on loved ones. I think it is the most beautiful of services during the whole of Holy Week.

The Liturgies of Thursday and Friday are filled with images of trial and Crucifixion. We are reminded again and again what Jesus did for each one of us and how much he loves us. On Thursday night we sing what are called the Lamentations. This is a series of lines of lamentation that are sung at the funeral of Jesus. The priest stands in front of the Tomb and the entire congregation sings this. Well that is what is supposed to happen. We decided this year to re print the books we use, and the musical genius that I am, when I typed the phrases out they were a tad off. So far off that it was impossible to sing! Man it was bad! So we recited the lamentations and we quickly moved on to the next thing. Man it was painful. It will be corrected for next year, trust me!

Saturday is a slow day as we prepare for the evening service. Last year we moved this service from 11:30pm to 9:00pm and it has worked out great. I am glad we made this move. The service is one of darkness and light and is rich with the images of the risen Christ as we gather outside the church and read the Resurrection Gospel and sing CHRIST IS RISEN! for the first time. All the lights in the church are lit and the service moves one. After we have a meal together in the parish hall and continue the celebration of the Risen Christ.

Sunday morning comes and we serve Agape Vespers. It is odd to have a Vespers service at 11:00am but that is Holy Week and Easter. Times does not matter. The highlight of this service is reading the Gospel in as many languages as possible. This year we had, English, Spanish, Romanian, Latin, and French. I have to say we were blessed. I was sad that we did not have anyone to read the Romanian, and it would have been the first time in the history of this church that the Gospel was not read in Romanian, but God is good and sent a wonderful young man named Nick to read the Gospel in Romanian.

So that was it. The week was a blessing as we saw people reconciled to the church and to each other and we had some Spirit filled Liturgies. Attendance was okay and I was happy for that. The Church looked beautiful and we praised God and sang Christ is Risen from the Dead! What more could you want.

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