Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3
Good morning Prayer Team!
One week of Lent to go. How are you doing? How has your Lenten journey been? For some of us, the journey has been great. We are excited and geared up for a fantastic finish and on to the journey of Holy Week. And for some of us, it’s hasn’t quite been the journey that we intended. Perhaps we haven’t kept some of our goals, or really gotten much out of the experience.
Whatever your experience thus far, the most important part of the journey lies right around the corner, the journey of Holy Week. It’s just five days away.
This week’s reflections will give you some helpful hints at how to have a more meaningful Holy Week. The first thing to do, is to make a plan. Make a plan for how you will spend Holy Week. My plan for this week is to get as much work done as possible so that next week, I can focus on the services of the church. Not the doing of the services, but going to the services with a relaxed mind, so that Christ can speak to me in the services.
I’ve written that Holy Week is like a play in six acts. There are six distinct scenes to Holy Week.
Scene One includes Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday morning. These are festal days in the church. Gone are the dark colors of Lent, replaced with the joyful celebrations of the raising of Lazarus and the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Liturgy is celebrated each morning. Plan to attend at least one of these two Liturgies.
Scene Two lasts from Palm Sunday night through Holy Wednesday morning. Bridegroom services are held on three evenings and Pre-Sanctified Liturgy is held on the three mornings (check your local church schedule, as some churches have Pre-Sanctified Liturgy only on Wednesday morning). The theme of these services is Christ the Bridegroom, who gave His life for His bride, the church. Another theme is watchfulness, related to the Parable of the Ten Maidens in Matthew 25:1-13. Plan to attend at least one of these services.
Scene Three focuses on healing, and includes the Holy Unction service of Holy Wednesday night and the Divine Liturgy of Holy Thursday morning. If you can attend both of these services, you have the opportunity to experience two sacraments of the church only hours apart.
Scene Four focuses on the Passion of Christ, and includes the services Holy Thursday night, Good Friday morning, and Good Friday afternoon. It is essential to attend at least one of these three services, to see Christ hanging on the Cross, to hear again the Gospel accounts of His Crucifixion. Without the cross there would have been no Resurrection. And without us experiencing the pain of the Cross with Christ, then there won’t be the appropriate joy at the Resurrection.
Scene Five is Christ in the tomb. This is the service of Good Friday night, the Lamentations. Many people come to this service because of the pageantry. However, this service is not more important than the services of scene four. If you had to choose between attending services on Holy Thursday night or Good Friday night, choose Holy Thursday. That being said, for the person who has come Thursday night, Good Friday night begins the transition away from the sorrow of the cross to the joy of the Resurrection.
Scene Six is the Resurrection, and is experienced in the Divine Liturgy of Holy Saturday morning, the Anastasis at midnight and the Agape Vespers of Sunday morning. The triumph of Christ over death and the opening of Paradise to the human race is the most joyous message of Christianity.
Taken together, the journey of Holy Week, experienced in these six scenes, gives us an opportunity to remember what Christ did for us and to take away a measure of healing and joy for ourselves. As with anything, we only get out of something what we put into it. While the ideal is to attend all the services, if you can attend at least one from each scene, you will still have a powerful and meaningful Holy Week experience.
Lord, thank You for bringing me again to the Holy Week journey. Thank You that I have lived another year to experience this journey again. Open my heart to allow You to walk with me in this journey. Help me to be efficient and focused in my tasks this week, so that I have may be able to partake in as much of the Holy Week journey as possible. Be with me in these final days of Lent. Help me to stay disciplined in mind and body, to complete the Fast and to come with purpose and focus to Holy Week, and with joy to the Resurrection. Amen.
Start making your Holy Week plans today!
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: goarch
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