This past week was Holy Week. It is my favorite week of the year. We joke in my family that Holy Week is the week that we live at church. It is during Holy Week and Pascha that we experience the longest services. It can feel like unending church services.
Palm Sunday begins the week long remembrance of Christ’s last week or His Passion Week. Holy Week technically begins during the Vespers service on Palm Sunday. Except that my parish doesn’t do that service. I just happened to read in my Palm Sunday Service book that during Vespers the bright colored cloths are changed to black. It reminds me of Forgiveness Vespers. During that Sunday vesper service we enter into Great Lent. The bright gold is exchanged for the purple of Lent.
Starting with Lazarus Saturday, which is a foreshadowing of the Lord’s resurrection and a foreshadowing of our own future resurrection, and ending with the Agape Vespers service one could spend up to 38 hours (give or take) in church! That does not count the potlucks or soup supper or church decorating or fellowship. It does count being there for the reading of the book of Acts which starts at 9pm on Holy Saturday and usually finishes around 11:30 in time for Nocturnes. Most people are not there for the whole time for the reading of the Acts. And no, I have never been to every service.
Our first Holy Week the girls and I did make it to many (but certainly not all!) of the services even attending multiple services on a couple of days. I think we made it to all the evening ones Sunday through Friday.
Though it is physically exhausting it is spiritually rewarding. Each service is so beautiful and so rich in meaning. There is mourning over the death and burial of Christ but as we come closer and closer to Pascha there is an undercurrent of deep and abiding Joy. We have Hope. We have the knowledge that Christ did indeed rise from dead! He has trampled down death by death and secured victory over death for all of us.
This week there are fewer services but it is known as Bright Week. The church is still decorated from Pascha, the priests wear white vestments and the church still has the white cloths and white candles. Everything is bright! And it’s beautiful. The services are also a little shorter. Or least they feel that way after last week. I hope to make it to the Bright Saturday liturgy.