From the St. Nicholas monthly bulletin…
On the Christian Life
Why it is So Important to Attend Holy Week Services
Some of us have had the good fortune to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to be where our Lord Himself lived, walked and preached. For those of us who have been there, the Gospel becomes more real and more meaningful. However, each year, we all have the opportunity to go on an spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We often say that Lent is a journey, and so it is. It is like the travel through various lands before we reach the Holy Land. On Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, we have finally arrived and we enter into Jerusalem with our Lord. And for the next few days, in the services of Holy Week, we experience the Gospel account of our Lord’s passion, death and Resurrection.
As these are the holiest days of the year, we set aside our personal cares and go to be with our Lord Jesus Christ. Without the Holy Week services, we miss out on the meaning of Pascha. Let us summarize these events and services:
Palm Sunday: Our Lord enters Jerusalem
First four days of Holy Week: Our Lord teaches the people in the Temple
Holy Thursday Morning: The Institution of the Sacrament (Communion)
Holy Thursday Evening: Our Lord's Passion
Good Friday Afternoon: The Burial of our Lord
Good Friday Evening: The Lamentations of the Tomb
Holy Saturday Morning: The first Paschal service
Holy Saturday Night: The Resurrection of Christ
It is unfortunate that while the service on Pascha night is fairly well attended (at least at the beginning), the other, very beautiful services are negelected. Every Orthodox Christian should, without fail, attend at least these services: The Twelve Passion Gospels on Holy Thursday evening, the Vespers of the Plaschanitsa on Good Friday afternoon, and the Midnight Service on Pascha Night (Saturday night going into Sunday).
These are for us the High Holy Days, our Passover (How is this night different from other nights? – Let us not forget that Pascha is the Hebrew word, Passover). This is the very thing that makes us Christian. As one who has been to the Holy Land, I can attest to the fact that the Holy Week services bring me back to that experience. It is as though I am in Jerusalem – there with our Lord. And this experience is available to all of us who while present attend to the words and content of those services. When we miss these very meaningful services of Holy Week, we lose much spiritual benefit.
We should not deprive our children either. I remember when I was a child the solemnity of the Twelve Gospels Service, the earnest expectation before the moment of Resurrection, and the joy of the Midnight Service on Pascha night, followed by breaking the fast together as a family in the wee hours of the night.∎
Fr George Lardas, Rector