God is Always with us

With the closing of Bright Week, also known as Renewal Week, in the Orthodox Church today, the sense of celebration begins to wind down. If you have attended services this week, albeit virtually, you would have recognized that each Orthros began the same as it did early Sunday morning after the Service of the Resurrection. Tomorrow that will all change.

At the end of Great Vespers this evening, the Royal Doors will be closed for the first time since they opened to proclaim the Resurrection of Christ. Tomorrow morning during Orthros, the lights will return to their normal setting. The most notable change will be the beginning of Orthros. Since the Resurrection service we sang Christ is Risen ten times (with verses between) before beginning the Great Litany. In Orthros tomorrow, we will sing Christ is Risen only three times, and then continue with the entire Orthros beginning with “All Holy Trinity” and the Six Psalms. One thing to make a special note of, will be the absence of the “O Heavenly King” prayer. This prayer will not be recited in the Church again until Pentecost as it is a prayer directly to the Holy Spirit.

I bring this up today, because I always want you to pay attention to the rhythm of worship in the Church. It will always help you understand the emphasis. Last week was a unique week in the Church. It was ‘one long continual celebration’ of Pascha. Last week there was no fasting allowed; this week we return to a normal Wednesday/Friday fast. We still sing Christ is Risen every day and at every service, but not with the same vigor we did last week. Tomorrow, life moves on just as it did with the Disciples.

Tomorrow we will hear the completion of the Gospel story the Church began last Sunday at Agape Vespers. The Sunday of Thomas is not just about his doubt, but about God’s promise to bless everyone who believes whether they have seen Him or not. Eventually He was going to return to His Throne, and the Church needed to know that life would go on, albeit differently.

How has your life changed this year with our unique virtual church experience of Holy Week? Has it left you craving the Church? Has it left you frustrated that you were left outside while a select few were inside celebrating the Eucharist? Did you find ways to celebrate the resurrection at home with your family that brought greater meaning to the Feast? When you hear tomorrow’s Gospel reading, remember they were also locked inside for fear, but they still encountered God.

I doubt that God miraculously entered your home last week as He did in the Gospel story, but that doesn’t mean He wasn’t there with you. That’s the theme of tomorrow. Just because you don’t see Him, doesn’t mean He isn’t (or wasn’t) there with you. If this unique virtual church Holy Week changed you, hopefully for the better, glory to God. The lights may change, the doors might close, but God is always with us.

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