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My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Holy Week is upon us, these final days of our journey to witness the crucifixion of Christ, and to celebrate His glorious Resurrection. Our Holy Week begins on a note of great joy. We are carried away by the words of praise, “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.”
This year, after enduring the previous two years of distance-worship, we too, can be carried away by coming together – in person – as the Body of Christ. I am certain all of us will be filled with joy, and I can think of no better way for the Church to return as the center of our lives than by experiencing the richness and intensity of Holy Week.
Each day of Holy Week offers a liturgical experience filled with readings from scripture, hymns, processions, and prayers that invite you into the reality and the meaning of Christ’s last days with His followers. Avail yourselves to attend as many services as possible, with the service book in your hands, so that you may take in every word that is being sung. Make this Holy Week a time of renewed commitment to your spiritual development. Just as we are beginning a new life in Christ with the celebration of His glorious Resurrection, let us place our spiritual life as our number one priority. During the pandemic, live-stream services had its conveniences, and it especially served a purpose during a very difficult time in our world. For those that are truly homebound, being able to worship through the gift of technology is a blessing, but for those who are able, nothing can replace being together in church.
During the early part of Holy Week, we find ourselves waiting with anticipation for the arrival of the Bridegroom. On Holy Wednesday, we come to the Church as our hospital, for spiritual and physical healing through the Sacrament of Holy Unction. We pray in a darkened church as the Crucified Christ is carried in our midst on Holy Thursday, with tears of pain and sadness that our Lord must endure such suffering for our sake. During the beautiful service of Apokathelosis on Friday afternoon, we witness Christ being taken down from the Cross, and wrapped in a linen shroud, just as Joseph of Arimathea did, to provide a dignified burial for Christ. We sing the Lamentations on Great and Holy Friday evening, as the adorned Tomb of Christ is carried in a solemn procession. The week will culminate with the Resurrection, proclaimed first on Holy Saturday morning and later that evening. Our churches will be filled with light those days, a powerful symbol of triumph over the darkness of death.
The richness of these services and the depth of their meaning needs to be experienced in person. This is your invitation! Come to church. Walk in the footsteps of Christ. Mourn at the foot of the Cross upon which He has been crucified. Sing the Lamentations at his burial. In so doing, when the church is darkened before the proclamation of the Resurrection, you will have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the true meaning of Holy Week.
My beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, may God grant you strength to endure these final days of the fast and His abiding grace and mercy to uplift you on your journey to the Resurrection.
God bless you!