“Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.”
These words greeted our Lord upon His entrance to Jerusalem, some two thousand years ago, and they signaled the beginning of a journey towards His Passion, death and Resurrection. These same words greet us, inviting us to journey along with Him, the One Who “suspended the land in the midst of the waters” (15th Antiphon of Holy Thursday), from His triumphant entrance to Jerusalem, on the back of a simple and humble donkey, all the of the Holy Cross, where as He was hanging from it, forgave all mankind, on to the Tomb, from which He descended into Hades and conquered death for one and for all.
This week, this Holy Week, comes to us so that we may renew ourselves, spiritually. It comes so that we may be reminded that even though we may have problems in our lives, everything can be solved with faith in our Creator. Of course, it requires a little effort on our behalf.
Holy Monday comes and reminds of cursed fig tree, which may have been large and green, but it did not produce any fruit, and was thus cursed. In a like manner, we must make sure that our time on this earth is fruitful.
Holy Tuesday, reminds of the ten virgins, five of whom were wise, and five foolish. “Behold, the Brigegroom comes in the middle of the night,” a reminder that the Second Coming, the Parousia, can take place at any time, and there is an immediate need for us to be prepared.
Holy Wednesday is crowned by the troparion of Kassiane the nun, in which each of us may relate in terms of our sinfulness. Holy Week, in general, brings that fact close to home, and, at the same time, reminds us that it is never too late, as long as we are alive, to heal through repentance, and to become whole again. The first step requires our recognizing our damaged and broken nature. “I have transgressed more than the harlot, O loving Lord, yet never have I offered You my flowing tears. But in silence I fall down before You and with love I kiss Your most pure feet, beseeching You as Master to grant me remission of sins; and I cry to You, O Savior: Deliver me from the filth of my works” (Troparion of Kassiane).
Holy Wednesday gives us a chance towards healing, through the Sacrament of Holy Unction. This example of God’s wish that we might be whole again comes as a means of preparation for the reception of our soon to be Risen Lord.
Holy Thursday brings us to the Upper Room, where we receive the Holy Eucharist, thereby becoming one with our Lord and one with all of the other Orthodox Christians, throughout the world. Saint Gregory Palamas reminds us of the following: “Christ has become our brother by sharing our flesh and blood and so becoming assimilated to us. . . He has joined and bound us to Himself, as a husband his wife, by becoming one single flesh with us through the communion of His blood; He has also become our Father by divine baptism which renders us like unto Him, and He nourishes us at His own breast as a tender mother nourishes her babies … Come, He says, eat my Body, drink my Blood . . . so that you be not only made after God’s image, but become gods and kings, eternal and heavenly, clothing yourselves with me, King and God.”
Holy Thursday evening brings us to the Betrayal and Crucifixion, through which Christ came face to face with death, and conquered it for eternity. As He promised to His Disciples, “Whosever believes in me…, shall have eternal life” From Holy Thursday night, which is liturgically already Holy and Great Friday, all the way to Holy Saturday morning, we relive the incredible and awesome humility of our Lord.
Holy Saturday morning, the complete mode is changed. One of joy is sensed from the morning’s Divine Liturgy. “Arise, O God, and judge the earth…” We relive Christ’s victorious descent into Hades, whose gates He destroyed, freeing all who had been held captive from the beginning of time. That evening, we witness the glorious Resurrection, where “Christ is Risen.”
I invite each of you to join your local parish in this journey of spiritual renewal this week, and may our Lord bless you always.