The Passion Week And Holy Saturday


by Fr. Ilyas Kurban

The Passion Week has a special position in the liturgical life of the Church. The whole week is a complete unity during which we follow the procession of our Lords passions. His crucifixion, His burial, then His resurrection. The week begins on Lazarus Saturday, and take notice that from now on, there is no connection between the services of this week and the services during the Great Lent. Lazarus Saturday, as well as Palm Sunday, are great feasts. On Lazarus Saturday, the Church celebrates the remembrance of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. This feast has a special meaning because our Lord reveals His absolute authority over death and life, though He is going to die. Palm Sunday has a remarkable feature and a unique one in the life of Jesus. Here Christ claims for the first time worldly honor and glory; here our Lord wants to stress the fact that He is the Master of the whole universe and its both aspects, the spirit and the matter. Now, if we examine the contents of the services on Monday, we see that it is preparing us to the great event which is going to take place. Here is the Lord with His disciples. He is preparing them to understand the great mystery of His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. He stresses also, the eschatology, the end of the world, the new era and the new land which is to come. On Holy Tuesday and Wednesday, we meet the story of the false Apostle who is going to betray his master. He is a lover of money. Here, Judas is representing a great part of humanity because the Lord was not betrayed once and for all, but He is betrayed every day. In contrast with Judas, there is a woman, a sinner, but she has shifted from one extremity to the other, from the state of sin and impurity to a state of grace and purity. On the following day, three main happenings took place; first, Christ washed His disciples feet, because He alone was able to perform the act of purification, purification of the soul and of the body. The second one was the celebration of the Passover from death into life, from condemnation into salvation. Here, Jesus is offering His own blood and His own body to the disciples and then, to the whole of humanity. The third happening, which took place, was the prayer in the garden, then the betrayal, the trial, and the crucifixion. On this day, which is great and holy, the church is celebrating the remembrance of the Lord’s passion, suffering, His crucifixion on the cross, and His burial in a grave. The church is not commemorating some great events that merely happened in the past, but it is celebrating a mystical fact that has the power of eternity. Therefore, the rites of the Orthodox Church are reflections in time to these mystical facts, reflections in symbols, in form, and in mysteries. The church is vivifying before us the suffering of the Lord, then His glorious resurrection as happenings that continue in their reality and effectiveness forever, and so, it is obvious that the suffering of the Lord and His resurrection are living facts, even in our epoch, and will be forever. Before this fact, the church is trying not to move our feelings and sentiments, but to push us into the depth of the mystery, and so, it explains to us the meaning of the suffering of the Lord, His death, and His burial. It is introducing to us, Christ in His Glory is crucified. Therefore, we do not find in the readings of the Holy Week, especially in the service of this evening, mourning and wailing as much as we find contemplation, admiration, praising, and glorifications. “Mourn not for me, Mother, as thou beholdest me in the grave, for I, thy Son, whom thou didst conceive in thy womb without seed, shall rise and shall be glorified. And being God, I will ceaselessly exhale and enable those who in faith and longing magnify thee.”. . .