Choosing the Services

Choosing the Services

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O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
Psalm 95:6
 
Good morning Prayer Team! 
As we prepare for Holy Week, we will each make decisions on which services to “virtually” attend this year.  Here are some suggestions:
There are six discernably different “scenes” in Holy Week.  For a complete experience of the Holy Week narrative, choose at least one from each.
Scene one—Saturday of Lazarus and/or Palm Sunday morning.  These two services are “festal” in nature.  They are not Lenten and serve as a bridge between the austerity of Lent and the deep reflection of Holy Week.  Saturday of Lazarus commemorates the raising of Lazarus, while Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.
Scene two—Palm Sunday evening through Holy Wednesday morning.  The icon of Christ the Bridegroom will dominate the scene of these services.  The Bridegroom service will be held on Palm Sunday, Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday evenings.  The Pre-Sanctified Liturgy is offered Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday mornings.  Each service has “watchfulness” as a theme and the Gospel lessons recount the final public and private teachings of Christ.  The first act of the Passion, the betrayal by Judas for thirty pieces of silver is commemorated Holy Wednesday morning.  
Scene three-Holy Wednesday evening and Holy Thursday morning.  The Last Supper is the theme of these services.  Each provides a small “lift” from the sorrow of Holy Week as each is celebrated in a more “festal” atmosphere.  Though very few will be receiving either Holy Unction or Holy Communion, there is certainly benefit to be taken away from the prayers of Holy Unction as well as from the Divine Liturgy on Thursday morning, which commemorates the institution of the Eucharist.  
Scene four—Holy Thursday evening, Good Friday morning and afternoon.  These three services are about the Passion of Christ.  No Holy Week experience can be complete without at least one of them.  We know that the Resurrection was only possible because of the Cross.  If there was no cross, there would be no Resurrection.  Thus, if we are to take away joy on Pascha, we must experience the sorrow of the Cross, which is presented to us on Holy Thursday evening, in the service of the twelve Gospels and the procession of the Crucified Christ; in the Royal Hours of Good Friday morning, as we stand vigil at the Cross of Christ; and on Good Friday afternoon, as we remove His Sacred Body from the Cross.  It is crucial that we witness at least one of these three.  
Scene five—The funeral of Christ.  This is done on Good Friday night each year.  It is usually a night of pageantry and very good attendance, though it doesn’t contain much Scripture, and I dare say is an optional scene in my humble opinion.  It is certainly not more important that any of the services in scene four.  However, this year, there is the opportunity to observe this service in a way that more closely resembles how it happened.  There was no majestic funeral for Christ.  There were not a lot of people present.  Rather it was a few people.  Most of His followers were locked behind their doors, trying to internalize all that had happened.  This year, we will actually get this historically accurate.  Only a few people will attend the service in person.  The rest of us will experience it behind closed doors.
Scene six—The Resurrection.  The services of Holy Saturday morning, the Anastasis at midnight and the Agape Vespers celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.  Holy Saturday morning is the first announcement of the Resurrection.  It also provides a summary of history, from the creation of the world (read in Genesis 1 early in the service) through the Second Coming of Christ (referred to in the Liturgy of St. Basil, celebrated for the final time of the liturgical year).  The Resurrection Service will also be more historically accurate, as there will not be hundreds of people in attendance, but rather a few will go to the tomb in the dead of night and proclaim the Resurrection.  The Agape Vespers continues the celebration of the Resurrection, with reminders that we should not doubt, and also that we spread the Good News of the Resurrection.  
This year provides me with an opportunity to challenge you to do something different.  Each service you attend requires that you get ready, commute to church, experience the service, commute home and get settled once you are home.  The commute time for all of us will be nothing this year (unfortunately).  Here is the challenge:  Add up the services that you usually attend during Holy Week.  And figure that for each service you saved at least an hour of time.  If you normally attend five Holy Week services, you’ve saved five hours this year.  What should you do with those five hours (or however many you save)?  Virtually attend more Holy Week services than usual.  Try a service you’ve never been to.  Or try doing all the nights this year.  
There are no sports on TV.  So, finish your work day, have dinner, maybe even put on your pajamas, and then settle in front of the computer or television and “experience” Holy Week, perhaps even more completely than usual.  
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before Him.  For dominion belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations.  Yea, to Him shall all the proud of the earth bow down; before Him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and he who cannot keep himself alive.  Posterity shall serve Him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim His deliverance to a people yet unborn, that He has wrought it.  Psalm 22: 27-31 
 
Prayer of Protection from the Coronavirus 
(Prayer by Grace Bishop Alexis (Trader) of Bethesda) 
O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in Your ineffable goodness, look down upon Your people gathered in Your name. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. You know our weakness. You hear our cry in repentance and contrition of heart. O Lord who loves mankind deliver us from the impending threat of the corona virus. Send Your Angel to watch over us and protect us. Grant health and recovery to those suffering from this virus. Guide the hands of physicians, and preserve those who are healthy that we may continue to serve You in peace and glorify Your most honorable and majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Make your plans this week.  Look over the menu of services and decide which ones you will (virtually) attend!

The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.

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.

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0