Holy Week: This Too Shall Pass

Holy Week begins with Pam Sunday

Holy Week has begun for the Orthodox Church, and our Palm Sunday started with a big fight.

Our daughter decided it was the perfect time for a complete meltdown just as we were ready to leave for church, and the yelling and crying had everyone in a foul mood as we drove to the service. To make matters worse, one of our fellow parishoners was being received into the Orthodox Church, and we would interrupt the service with our late arrival.

My anger subsided somewhat as the beautiful sacrament of chrismation began. Our small church was crowded with family and friends witnessing the ancient ritual, and I teared up as I remembered my own only a few months before.

My good feelings were short-lived.

We all received palm branches to hold during the liturgy, commemorating Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. Our daughter dropped her branch, pulled it apart, toyed with it and did everything but hold it correctly. She resisted every attempt to keep her still and attentive, and my anger rose with each willful act. I was determined to make her bend to my will, embarrassed by the public nature of this dispute, and angry at myself for failing to control my emotions.

We all made it through the service, but by the end I was drained. I was angry with myself for my poor handling of the situation. How could I be in such a foul state of mind on such a beautiful day?

As I thought ahead to the long list of Holy Week services, I saw more opportunities for conflict instead of chances for us to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Do all Orthodox families go through this, or is it just us?

The latter stages of the Gospel accounts are filled with anger, shame and fear. Many of the same people who followed Jesus into Jerusalem now scream for his execution. His closest followers begin to doubt and fear for their safety. Jesus’ right-hand man denies even knowing Him.

Holy Week begins with shouts of ‘Hosannah!’ It ends with cries of ‘Crucify Him!’

Despite the anger, however, there is still hope. Jesus explains to his disciples that these things must surely come, but they will all pass:

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

As always, I ask for your prayers, and I pray that your will come into this time of celebration with peace and joy. Holy Week is upon us. Let us all put aside anger, sadness and fear and remember that our King has arrived.

A note: I will in all likelihood refrain from posting this week, in an attempt to create a more silent mind in preparation for Pascha. I encourage you to explore my past posts in the meantime.

Comments 4

  1. Enjoy reading and trying to understand the Orthodox views. What is Pascha? I am an old Methodist and have a lot to learn…May you and your family be blessed. Thank you.

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    Pascha is the Orthodox Easter celebration. It’s the way that Christians have celebrated the resurrection of Christ since the earliest days of the faith. It’s the culmination of a season of fasting, repentance and increased prayer, study and giving.

    Here’s a pretty lengthy article on what Pascha is: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Pascha

    And here’s an article about what happens during the Pascha service: http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/easter-sunday-the-holy-pascha

    This will be my first Pascha as an Orthodox Christian. Pray that I am prepared and in the right state of mind to celebrate the risen Christ.

  3. I was angry through much of the service myself. I tried to let it go as we sang “Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn now lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of All” but it didn’t quite work. It wasn’t until the boy who has started hanging out in our choir decided to start singing at precisely the right moment that my heart melted. He finally decided to open his mouth at “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!” which was so appropriate for the feast. I thought of the children holding palm branches and singing those words as Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and Psalm 8:2, the communion hymn for Lazarus Saturday which we had just celebrated the day before: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants, Thou hast fashioned perfect praise.” The purity of the scene finally allowed my anger to slip away and be replaced with awe and gratitude (at least temporarily) while I again realized how petty and stupid my so-called problems really are. How full of pride I am and how I take myself too seriously. With this in mind, I was about moved to tears after the dismissal when we sang the troparion again, at “Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death: ‘Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.'”

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      The longer I follow this road, the more I realize how children were an integral part of Jesus’ ministry for a reason. They come to things with a guileless innocence and a purity of heart that we lose along the way.

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one coming to the Liturgy with a sackful of my own problems and sins. I’m glad to know we are all struggling together.

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