My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


"Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the midst of the night, and blessed
is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he
whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou
be borne down with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and lest thou
be shut out from the Kingdom. Wherefore rouse thyself and cry:
Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, Our God, through the Theotokos have mercy
on us."

The Orthodox Christian accompanies Jesus Christ faithfully as He enters the Holy City of Jerusalem and as He approaches His Passion. The daily offices are marked by a sense of forward movement and dramatic realism. For the Orthodox faithful, each day of Holy and Great Week is a personal encounter and experience in Christ’s occurrences and events. Through the liturgical celebration, the Orthodox believer does not only commemorate occurrences in the distant past but RELIEVES THESE EVENTS, PARTICIPATING IN THEM AS CONTEMPORARIES. This transposition of past into the present, of remembrances into reality, is expressed in the liturgical texts above all through the word "TODAY." So we sing on Saturday of Lazarus, "TODAY, Bethany proclaims beforehand the Resurrection of Christ." "TODAY Christ enters the Holy City", we affirm on Palm Sunday. "TODAY Christ comes to the house of the Pharisee", we state on Holy Wednesday "and the sinful woman draws near and falls down at His feet… TODAY Judas makes a covenant with the chief priests." "TODAY the Master of Creation stands before Pilate", we say on Great Friday: "…TODAY He Who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross." So also at Pascha Midnight, we affirm: "Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ, and TODAY I rise with Thine arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee…" We shall not understand the meaning of these last two weeks in the Triodion unless we listen to this word TODAY that resounds at each divine service. All that was witnessed by the crowds in Holy and Great Week, all the words addressed to the Disciples, all the sufferings undergone by Christ — THESE ARE ALL TO BE EXPERIENCED HERE AND NOW BY ME.

Following the Forty Days of PENITENCE between Holy Lent and Holy and Great Week which HAVE JUST ENDED, and immediately before the days of DARKNESS and MOURNING which are to follow in the Week of PASSION, there come two days of JOY and TRIUMPH on which the Church keeps festival. The Saturday before Palm Sunday celebrates the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-46). This miracle is performed by Christ AS A REASSURANCE TO HIS DISCIPLES BEFORE THE COMING PASSION: they are to understand that, though He suffers and dies, yet He is Lord and Victor over death. The resurrection of Lazarus is a prophecy in the form of an action. It FORESHADOWS CHRIST’S OWN RESURRECTION EIGHT DAYS LATER, AND AT THE SAME TIME IT ANTICIPATES THE RESURRECTION OF ALL THE RIGHTEOUS ON THE Last Day: Lazarus is "THE SAVING FIRST-FRUITS OF THE REGENERATION OF THE WORLD."

The ESCHATOLOGICAL challenge of the first three days of Holy and Great Week is summed up in the TROPARION (hymn) and exapostilarion at Mattins, both of which ARE REPEATED THREE TIMES to a slow and solemn melody. The Troparion (hymn), "BEHOLD, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night…, is based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13); the exapostilarion hymn, "I see Thy Bridal Chamber…", on the Parable of the man out from the feast because he had no wedding garment (Matthew 22:11-13). Here, presented in especially URGENT TERMS, IS THAT CALL THAT WE HAVE HEARD ON MANY OCCASIONS DURING HOLY LENT: THE END IS NEAR AT HAND; BE WATCHFUL; REPENT WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME.

On Holy and Great Thursday four events are celebrated: THE WASHING OF THE DISCIPLES’ FEET, THE INSTITUTION OF THE MYSTERY (SACRAMENT) OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST AT THE MYSTICAL SUPPER, THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE. The meaning of Holy and Great Thursday is summed up in a text of singular beauty, repeated many times at the Divine Liturgy, which combines the themes of eucharistic Communion, Judas’ treachery, and the confession of the Good Thief:

At Thy mystical Supper, Son of God,
Today receive me as a communicant:
For I will not speak of the mystery to Thine enemies;
I will not give Thee a kiss like Judas;
But as the thief I confess Thee:

Great Friday. On this day we celebrate THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST: THE MOCKERY, THE CROWN OF THORNS, THE SCOURGING, THE NAILS, THE THIRST, THE VINEGAR AND GALL, THE CRY OF DESOLATION, AND ALL THAT THE SAVIOR ENDURED ON THE Cross; also the confession of the Good Thief. At the same time, the Passion is not separated from the Resurrection; even on this day of our Lord’s SELF-ABASEMENT, WE LOOK FORWARD ALSO TO THE REVELATION OF HIS ETERNAL GLORY:


The Cross and the Resurrection, as we have seen, are aspects OF A SINGLE, UNDIVIDED ACT OF SALVATION:


At the end of Vespers on Great Friday, the events of Great Friday are represented not only through words but THROUGH DRAMATIC ACTION. In the modern Greek use there is another place of dramatic representation earlier in Vespers. At the conclusion of the Gospel reading, as Christ’s deposition is being described, the priest comes out from the northern door of the sanctuary and approaches the Cross that stands in the middle of the church, then taking down from the Crucifix the figure (body) of Christ, he wraps it in a white cloth, carries it into the sanctuary, and lays it reverently on the Holy Table. Because of this ceremony the service is called in Greek the ‘Un-nailing’ (Apokathelosis). At the solemn service of the Apokathelosis the tapestry with the icon of the dead Christ is placed in the tomb (Kouvouklion) adorned with live spring flowers.

The predominant note at this service is not so much one of mourning as of WATCHFUL EXPECTATION. For the time being God observes a Sabbath REST IN THE TOMB, BUT WE LOOK FORWARD TO THE MOMENT WHEN HE WILL RISE AGAIN, BRINGING NEW LIFE AND RECREATING THE WORLD.

TODAY Thou dost keep holy the Seventh Day,
Whch Thou has blessed of old by resting from Thy works,
Thou bringest all things into being and Thou makest all
things new,
Observing the Sabbath rest, my Savior, and restoring Thy

At the end of the service, all go with the Epitaphion around the outside of the church, singing ‘Holy God….’ exactly as they would at a funeral. And yet this is NOT in fact a funeral procession at all, God had died on the Cross, and yet He IS NOT DEAD. He who died, the Logos/Word of God, is the Life Himself, Holy and IMMORTAL; AND OUR PROCESSION THROUGH THE NIGHT SIGNIFIES TAHT HE IS NOW PROCEEDING THOUGH THE DARKNESS OF HELL, ANNOUNCING TO Adam and to all the dead His coming RESURRECTION, IN WHICH THEY ARE ALSO CALLED TO SHARE.

The procession of the Epitaphion takes place during the singing of the Aposticha. (Source: The Lenten Triodion)

"Glory Be To GOD
All Things!"
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +

With sincere agape in Our Lord, Jesus Christ and Savior of the world,

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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