The services of Holy Week constitute the high point of the liturgical year for an Orthodox Christian. There is simply nothing more beautiful.
It is unfair to say one service of Holy Week is more important than another. They must be seen and celebrated together, as part of the whole. Only by being experienced together do they take on their fullest meaning. Day by day, Holy Week, or Passion Week, moves towards Pascha, the night which the church refers to as brighter than day, the night when we pass from darkness to light, from death to life; the day which brings meaning to our entire human existence.
If we allow ourselves to spiritually and physically enter into this week, to permit the rich liturgical verses and Gospel readings to enter into our hearts and collective senses, the depth of Holy Week can serve as a pivotal moment in our own transfiguration.
The central characteristic of the first three days of Holy Week are Bridegroom Matins. The Exapostalarian, or Hymn of Light, sets the tone:
“The Bridal Chamber I see adorned, O My Savior,
But I have no wedding garment that I may enter.
O Giver of Light,
englighten the vesture of my soul and save me.”
We see in this beautiful hymn our human weakness, our betrayal of Christ. Although we have experienced his love and have heard about the joy of new life in him, still we reject his message of salvation. Our soul is grievously darkened, and that in our sinful condition we are not prepared to meet our Lord. Repentance is the key. It is that which unlocks the entrance into Christ’s eternal Kingdom.
Come to the services of Passion Week, repent, be changed; and prepare to embrace our Lord in a way that we thought was not yet possible.
Fr Marc Vranes