We have come to the end of Holy Week in the Orthodox Church, a week full of beauty and depth. It's also full of a lot of church services, some of them long. I admit when I first was learning about Orthodoxy, I thought is was overkill; I mean, really, going to church every day, sometimes more than once, for a week? Over the years though, I have come to see each service as a beautiful gift to us, an invitation to enter into those last days of our Lord's earthly life before His crucifixion. We don't even attempt to make it to every service that is offered, but my heart is changed and I find myself wanting to be there. From the raising of Lazarus the day before Palm Sunday, we are taken on a journey through the actions and teachings of Jesus. It is intense and sobering and lovely, every bit of it.
|On Saturday we celebrated the raising of Lazarus as a promise of our own resurrection. |
Sunday we remembered our Lord's Entry Into Jerusalem and prepared ourselves to walk
through the last days as He went willingly to His crucifixion .
|Father Jerry gave us each a cross made of palm leaves.|
In colder climates, pussy willow branches are used instead.
|On Monday night we attended the Bridegroom Service. Though this service is held on three consecutive nights, we only try to make it to one. We hear the parables and stories told by Jesus in those last days, many with a theme of watchfulness. We are exhorted to be like the wise virgins, ready to meet our Bridegroom.|
|On Wednesday evening there is the service of Holy Unction, where we pray for God's healing in every area of our lives. We read many scriptures about healing, and are anointed with oil and prayers for the healing of both soul and body.|
|This icon of Jesus' Mother, his friends and followers removing His body from the cross always moves me. When I see the man using a tool to pull out the nail holding his foot, it strikes me how real, how raw, it was.|
Image from oca.org.