While most of the country prepares to celebrate Easter this weekend, we in the Orthodox Church appear a little behind once again. Our calendar has Easter falling on April 12 this year. That means that this coming weekend is the weekend of Palm Sunday and the kickoff of Holy Week, or Pascha week as it is more properly known.
Therefore, I thought it would be fun to start off with some Holy Week trivia for you.
If you attend all the services during Holy Week, how many hours will you spend in church from Saturday (tomorrow) to Saturday of next week (eve of Resurrection Feast)? Any guesses? How many hours could one possibly spend in church in an 8 day stretch?
a) 25 hours? (that’s a lot) b) 40 hours? (that’s really a lot) c) 55 hours? (that’s not a lot, that’s insane)
The answer is C, 55 hours! WOW! (see our Pascha week schedule if you don’t believe me).
And what happens during those 55 hours?
Lots of readings. Lots of hymns. Lots of prayers. And LOTS of standing up! Why in the world would anyone do that to himself? Aren’t there are easier/more efficient ways to celebrate the final week of Christ’s life?
For example, do we really need ALL those readings? I mean, come on… can’t someone just read them all in advance and summarize them for us? And speaking of reading, why don’t we do that instead of singing all those hymns in the SLOOOOOOOW-est tune ever? Highly inefficient!
And the one question I’ve wanted to ask for years is this: why can’t we have less “standing up” parts and more “sitting down” parts? I think that would make a big difference, don’t you?
Truth be told, I spent the first 21 years of my life thinking that way; Holy Week was the most miserable week of the year to go to church. Too crowded… too long… too boring… TOO MUCH STANDING UP!
But if you ask me today – the day before Holy Week begins – I’d say the exact opposite. I’d say that I don’t want to miss one second of it. Yes the services are long and yes the hymns will be sung in an inefficient manner and yes there are a lot of “standing up” parts (you at least get to sit down during the sermon but I have to stand for that as well!)…
…but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
What changed? At one time I hated the Pascha services and now I love them. How did that happen?
Did the service change? Did the readings get shorter? Or the hymns become more efficient? Maybe I had some weird medical procedure done to my legs and my back which actually makes standing up more enjoyable than sitting down?
Did anything about the service change at all?
(remember we’re the ORTHODOX church, which means an ocean liner like the Titantic makes changes faster than we do)
So what changed? ME! I CHANGED!
The service is the same but the person attending it (me) is not. And more specifically, my ATTITUDE towards Holy Week is what changed.
I used to see it as a burden and something to be avoided – something that is just a waste of time and adds no real value to my life (forgive me, but I’m being honest). Not anymore! Now I see it differently. I have come to the realization that Holy Week has tremendous value – the kind of value that you can’t find anywhere else throughout the year.
What is that value? It isn’t really something I can explain in a blog post, but I will say this: what I gain during Holy Week has INFINITE and ETERNAL value. Yep, that’s right. Infinite and eternal. That’s what you stand to gain (or lose) during this coming week.
Think of it this way: if I told you that at the end of Holy Week, I will be handing out $1 million in cash to anyone who attends every service from start to finish, would that change your attitude?
(if you said no, you need to sign up for confession)
Of course it would! If you really believed that you would get $1 million for perfect attendance, you’d drop whatever else was on your plate for this coming week to be at every service. Why? Because $1 million has value in your eyes.
Well I’m telling you that what is made available to you during this coming week is GREATER THAN $1 MILLION! I say that without hesitation and meaning it with all my heart.
Why? Because as valuable as $1 million is, if you get hit by bus on the way home from work the next day, the money will be buried right next to. Its value – while seemingly very high – isn’t very much in light of eternity. Its value is limited.
But what happens during Holy Week… that’s a different story. The value there is eternal and infinite and even if you get hit by a bus, you will not lose what you gained during that week.
How? When? Where? What is it? I can’t answer all those questions here. I’ll say what Jesus said to those He first called to be His disciples: COME & SEE.
The holy Pascha week begins tomorrow and the invitation has been laid out for everyone to come and see. Come and see what Christ offers to you during this week and find out for yourself. The easy thing to do is sit at home and be cynical, “too long, too boring, too much standing” – believe me, I’ve been there.
But I’ve also been on the other side where I’ve said that it is the most powerful and eternally valuable week of the year.
I can’t show you that value here, but I can invite you to open your heart, change your attitude and discover the value for yourself.
For more resources and to help maximize your Holy Week experience, visit STSAchurch.org/HolyWeek.