**Disclaimer: the views here may not reflect those of the owner of this blog; Mr Paul Burkhart**
Orthodox Holy Week falls on a different schedule. To the best of my understanding, it is mostly because we never updated our lunar calendar circa the 16th century. Orthodox Pascha can fall as late as early May, I believe. Last year, I was a Catechumen. This year, I’m a full participant. It is vastly different. Lent is a long and arduous spiritual journey of fasting, forgiveness and repentance. Including the Triodion, the march to Pascha lasts 70 days. Lent begins with Forgiveness Vespers. It is one my favorite services of the whole year. At the end of the service, the priests come out and ask each parishoners forgiveness with a prostration and a hug and kiss. Each parishioner does the same to each other. It takes time, but it is worth every second. It is magnificently beautiful and helps show us the absolute need for forgiveness and reconciliation. The Church cannot exist without it. One cannot be saved without it.
Since the Divine Liturgy is celebratory in nature, it is not celebrated during the weeks of Great Lent. But, the Church in its wisdom, knowing the faithful need the strength to carry on, instituted the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts. This service is profound. Consecrated bread and wine are saved from the Sunday Liturgy and the Eucharist is received.
The Great Entrance is different during this service. It is profound. The Cherubic Hymn is chanted, the faithful kneel and the Priest covers his head with the Aer. Since the gifts have already been consecrated, Christ himself is entering in the hands of the priest. There are no words for this moment, though I can try with a few simple questions: When the King himself is entering, what other gestures are appropriate? How can the priest not be covered? How can the faithful not kneel? This mystery is profound.
To-day, the Bishop came to celebrate Holy Thursday. This eucharistic service, in a way, supersedes them all since it was on this day that the first Last Supper happened. This is the day during Holy Week that things turn. The services get longer and more somber. Tomorrow, Christ will be crucified and placed in his tomb. It happened and it is happening. It is the first Holy Friday and it is the last. But death was trampled down by death, Hades cannot hold life itself and the captives have been set free. It is our eager anticipation and hope for Great and Holy Pascha on Saturday night/early Sunday morning. The resurrection is almost here. The first resurrection and the last.
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