Once each month I attend a Orthodox Men’s Breakfast. Today was our May breakfast, during which I asked what everyone’s ‘favorite thing’ about Holy Week was. Everyone answered differently, as would be expected, but all were moved by some aspect of Holy Week. For centuries the Church has gathered us, and each village/city/island/country has their own unique Holy Week Traditions that make the week special for everyone. I even have my favorite.
With Pascha this week comes the beginning of the yearly lectionary of the Church. Beginning with the Gospel of John and the Book of Acts, the entire New Testament will be read, bit by bit, between now and next Pascha. Having just completed the cycle last week, and having just celebrated Pascha, there is a strange familiarity in the readings.
For many, Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha are an intense seven week of prayer, fasting, and attending as many Church services as possible. On the surface this annual pilgrimage appears to be temporary, as many return to their ‘normal life’ after Pascha. This was not the case in the ancient Church.
There is an old saying, “Strike while the fire is hot.” Nothing can be more true this week we Orthodox call Bright Week or Renewal Week. It is the week we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ as if every day is Pascha. Our prayers are different. Our greetings are different. Our food is different. Everything about this week is different.
It has been almost three days since we celebrated the glorious resurrection of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. As a priest, the past ten days have been the most inspirational and the most exhausting days of the year. In fact, every year I find myself not wanting the week to end despite the physical and emotional toll. Suffice it to say, I’m still recovering.
Today is the final day of Great Lent, and our final post for our 2022 Daily Lenten Journey. For forty days, the Church has asked us to read from the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah, Genesis and Proverbs and today we come to the final verses in each. They might be the final verses we read, but they are not the end of the story. Great Lent is ending today, but our journey to Christ is just getting started.
Tomorrow is the last day of Great Lent and I’m wondering what I learned about myself this year. If we don’t stop and ask this question, then our journey was nothing more than a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ without any benefit. It might make us good Pharisees, but it makes us worthless Christians. So here goes…
The other day I spoke of greed. Today we hear the medicine from God. When our heart is consumed with greed, which is actually self-love, we cannot see beyond ourselves. When we love others more than we love ourselves, then our charity takes over, and we are blessed by God.
When it comes to the Holy Scriptures, we cannot take for granted that we always know what we are reading without the Church guiding us. I am constantly reminding people of the words of the Ethiopian Eunuch when he answered Saint Philip, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8.31) It was a simple question. “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8.30) Today’s reading from Proverbs is another example of that.