An Outline of Holy Week
“Having completed the forty days that bring profit to our soul, we beseech Thee in Thy love for man: Grant us also to behold the Holy Week of Thy Passion, that in it we may glorify Thy mighty acts and Thine ineffable dispensation for our sakes, singing with one mind: O Lord, glory to Thee”
These words are part of Friday evening vespers, marking the end of Lent and the begining of Holy Week. Holy week is a time of even more intensified prayer, fasting and focus as we prepare for the glorious Resurrection.
Saturday of Lazarus & Palm Sunday
In the Apolytikion we hear, (listen)
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion, You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with palms of victory, We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death; Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!
Lazarus was dead 4 days, “This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate” as Dicken’s tells us about Marley in A Christmas Carol.
By raising Lazarus from the dead, we see Jesus humanity when He weeps for His friend, as well as his divinity when he raises Lazarus, proving to us that death holds no dominion.
Palm Sunday marks Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. He enters as a King in terms of the honor received, but enters as a humble servant on the foal of a donkey.
Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
The bridegroom services are served in the evenings preceeding the days listed above. This is inaccordance with both the liturgical calendar as well as a heightened anticipation of the resurection to come.
On Holy Monday we commemorate Joseph the Patriarch, the beloved son of Jacob. His life in Genesis makes him a prototype of Christ. The story of Joseph illustrates the mystery of God’s providence, promise and redemption. We also hear of the fig tree which reminds us of God’s judgement and that our Christian lives should be fruitful.
Holy Tuesday we commemorate two parables which discuss the second coming. These are the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-3) and the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
Holy Wednesday we contrast the lives and actions of the sinful woman who annoint’s Christ’s feet and Judas who betrayed Him. During the bridegroom service sung on Tuesday evening we hear the hymn of St Kassiani, which will be discussed later this week. In the afternoon of Wednesday we have the service of Holy Unction for our own healing and preparation for the Ressurection.
Holy Thursday begins with an early vesperal liturgy in the morning. It commemorates the mystical supper of Christ with His disciples.
In the evening we have the matins for Great Friday where we read the 12 gospels which tell the story of Christ’s passion, His death and burial.
Great Friday afternoon we have the service of the Unnailing of the Cross. This is a vespers service in which the body of Christ is taken down from the Cross, wrapped in linen, and replaced with the epitaphios (cloth with icon of Christ’s body) inside of the kouvouklion (tomb).
In the evening of Great Friday we sing the Lamentations of the Theotokos to Christ, recalling her imense pain as a mother at the death of her son. However, we also hear the hope of the ressurection in her words and in the epistle from Isiah.
Holy Saturday Morning we celebrate the first resurrection. This commemoration is in rememberance of all those generations before Christ who are hearing the good news now that Christ is in Hades. We throw bay leaves, a sign of victory, all over the church.
Holy Saturday evening towards midnight we finally arrive at the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The service consists of Matins, the Resurrection Service and then the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom from start to finish.