Featured Reflections


Holy Week: An Explanation

Great Lent and Holy Week are two separate fasts, and two separate celebrations.  Great Lent ends on Friday of the fifth week (the day before Lazarus Saturday).  Holy Week begins immediately thereafter. Let's explore the meaning of each of the solemn days of Passion Week.

Lazarus Saturday:  Lazarus Saturday is the day which begins Holy Week.  It commemorates the raising of our Lord's friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days.  This act confirmed the universal resurrection from the dead that all of us will experience at our Lord's Second Coming.  This miracle led many to faith, but it also led to the chief priest's and Pharisees' decision to kill Jesus (John 11:47-57).

Palm Sunday (The Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem):  Our Lord enters Jerusalem and is proclaimed king - but in an earthly sense, as many people of His time were seeking a political Messiah.  Our Lord is King, of course, but of a different type - the eternal King prophesied by Zechariah the Prophet.  We use palms on this day to show that we too accept Jesus as the true King and Messiah of the Jews, Who we are willing to follow - even to the cross.

Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday:  The first thing that must be said about these services, and most of the other services of Holy Week, is that they are "sung" in anticipation.  Each service is rotated ahead twelve hours.  The evening service, therefore, is actually the service of the next morning, while the morning services of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday are actually the services of the coming evening.

Understanding that, let's turn to the Services of Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (celebrated Palm Sunday , Monday and Tuesday evening).  The services of these days are known as the Bridegroom or Nymphios Orthros Services.  At the first service of Palm Sunday evening, the priest carries the icon of Christ the Bridegroom in procession, and we sing the "Hymn of the Bridegroom."  We behold Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, bearing the marks of His suffering, yet preparing a marriage Feast for us in God's Kingdom.

A Man Fully Alive

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, originally posted on Roads From Emmaus

Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

Every single person, whether a man, a woman, or a child, has been given by God a deep, primal longing for Him.

We generally go through our days thinking of our desires for other things: I want breakfast. I want to sleep. I want to feel loved. I want some coffee. I want to get through this day. I want to finish this project. I want to buy a house. I want a car that won’t break down. I want to find someone who loves me. I want to be somebody. I want to make a difference. I want to get out of this traffic. I don’t want to die.

But if we really start to think about any one of our desires—pick one, any one—then we will find that they are fundamentally a desire for life. The desire for food is an obvious one, just like the desire not to die. But even our desires for possessions are about desiring life—we think they will help us feel alive, or at least that they won’t get in the way. A car that breaks down restricts my life, but a good car will get me there. Even the desire for accomplishment or love are about our desire for life.

But what is life, anyway? Is it simply to be animated, to be breathing and having our hearts beat rather than to be stilled and lying in a grave? Is it getting everything we want? Is it to “be all you can be”? Is it having a big list of accomplishments? Is it feeling safe, comfortable and secure? Is it even feeling content?

Those things are not life, but they do all point to what life really is.

Lent Is a Time For Parish Renewal and Growth

Photo by Christopher Humphrey PhotographyPhoto by Christopher Humphrey PhotographyLent is not only a time for personal renewal; it is a time for parish renewal as well. The Church is reborn every time someone enters the community. This is true even when the new member comes from another Orthodox parish, or a Christian communion outside the Orthodox Church, or is baptized as an infant or adult. The community is changed to make room for the new member who will build relationships, assume responsibilities, and even need to find a place to stand and sit in the worship.

To be deliberate about our parish renewal through this transition, the Church has appointed this Lenten time of fasting and intense prayers. We rediscover our roots with our new members as we read during the weeks of Lent from the Old Testament. We rediscover our innocence as the catechumens ask questions and express delight at the Orthodox perspectives. We regain our fervor as see the community grow and see how God is active in the lives of the catechumens and in our own.

We can not take this process for granted. Not every Lent sees catechumens in every parish. Not every parishioner is even aware that the Church is growing and that God is calling people to Himself. Perhaps at some places and at some times, communities don’t grow simply because the community is on “vacation” or asleep when people come knocking on our doors, or even when they sit in our pews. This is a great tragedy and we will be held accountable for this on Judgment Day. We really need to be deliberate about being ready to witness and care for those whom God is calling. Some prospective members are walking into our Churches unnoticed; others are working and playing with us all day long, waiting for our invitation to share in the life God has prepared for all. If this is too abstract, let me be more concrete:

April 4, 2012 + Clothes Make the Man

by V. Rev. Fr. Stephen Rogers
from The Word, April 2000

“Clothes make the man.” 

That old adage aptly states that what we wear goes a long way towards determining how we perceive ourselves and are perceived by others. Billions and billions of dollars are spent each year in this country on the garments we wear. From formal wear to beach wear, shopping for clothes has become the national religion, with the shopping mall serving as the cathedral.  We use our clothing to cover up our imperfections and to draw attention to our finer points. We wear clothing to identify with a sports team, a culture, a lifestyle or an economic class. What we wear says who we are, or more honestly, who we would like to be. 

On the Sunday preceding Holy Week, the Glorious and Brilliant Entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), we read in the Gospel of Matthew of a different use of clothing. “At that time, when Jesus drew nigh unto Jerusalem and was come to Bethpage unto the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples saying unto them, ‘Go into the village and you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to me’.” And further in the Gospel, as Jesus entered Jerusalem we read, “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way and others cut down branches from the trees and strewed them along the way.”

God's Free Gift

By Fr. Steven Rogers

In midst of our Lenten journey, in this time of contrition and repentance, a proclamation of great hope and expectation is heard throughout the Church.

On Living Lent

By Janice Bidwell

This is the time of year when I take a journey within a journey. It's an annual trip I've taken since I was a small child, and the trip varies year to year.

We Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood

By Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

The moment when human history irrevocably turned, when nothing truly will ever be the same again, was that moment that we...celebrate this week in the Church. It is the moment of the death of God.

Humility

By Fr. Alexander Schmemann

If there is a moral quality almost completely disregarded and even denied today, it is indeed humility.

Preparing for Our Lenten Journey

by Fr. John Matusiak

On Sunday, February 13, 2011, Orthodox Christians observe the beginning of the pre-lenten season  of the Church year and start to make use of a liturgical book known as the Triodion.

Exhortation to a New Priest

By St. Tikhon, Enlightener of North America

I greet you, beloved brother, on receiving the grace of the priesthood. When our souls come in contact with Divine Grace, our usual hardness is softened, as wax before a flame.