Holy Week

Today is Holy Friday. We celebrated Holy Thursday last night which “begins with the celebration of vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, in representation of the earthly presence of Christ realized at the Last Supper. In the evening, anticipating the Matins of Friday morning, the Holy Passion service of the reading of the Twelve Gospels is conducted. In these readings Christ’s last instructions to his disciples are presented, as well as the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, Christ’s prayer, and his new commandment. The twelve readings are:
John 13:31-18:1Crucifixion
John 18:1-29
Matthew 26:57-75
John 18:28–19:16
Matthew 27:3-32
Mark 15:16-32
Matthew 27:33-54
Luke 23:32-49
John 19:19-37
Mark 15:43-47
John 19:38-42
Matthew 27:62-66 ” http://orthodoxwiki.org/Holy_Week

I could not help but cry at so many things, but when the people cry out, “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children,” I wept. I can feel that weeping continuing in my heart. To wish the guilt of the blood of any man or woman to be upon you and upon your children is horrible, to wish the guilt of the blood of the Son of God upon you and your children? Oh, it is too terrible. And yet the guilt of that blood is upon me as well. For these very people, and I pray for me as well, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Oh How much I do not know what I do. How much sin is in this willful, rebellious, disobedient heart. Oh God, forgive me, for my sins are many.

How can we look upon the cross and not weep, in sorrow and in joy, for what kind of love is this? That the Creator of the world was nailed with the metals He created, upon a cross of a tree that He created and sustained, by people He created…oh, it is too much to bear.

Today we will remember and venerate the burial of Christ. It is solemn and beautiful. Oh such beauty is in the Orthodox Church! Oh such sorrow, oh such joy.

In celebrating these Holy Week services there is so much scripture! So much song! So much lamenting, so much anticipation of what is to come…for we will soon be celebrating Pascha. But first, we must celebrate, commemorate and take part in the burial of our Lord and Savior and our God.

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Clinging to the Past When I Should be Looking for New Life

It’s Lent. I’m still trying to understand the Lenten season and what it is about. Maybe I’m not supposed to know. Maybe it is one of those things that will make sense later. But this season has been difficulties on top of trials, and physically, emotionally, mentally and financially straining. Oh how I fail!

I have this idea of myself, quietly and reverently singing my morning and evening prayers, walking through my days with a serene peace that cannot be touched by mere earthly concerns, confident that God’s grace is in all, through all and above, beside, behind, before, and beneath me. In reality, I am distressed by the physical torments of fibromyalgia, stressed and saddened by the attack on my husband and the resulting lengthy recovery period, and of the lengthy period of surgeries and recoveries that culminated in the amputation of my brother-in-law’s legs, just months after we agreed to let him live with us and to care for him. This brought about a move to a handicapped apartment, where we find ourselves now, surrounded by boxes, broken things, and trying to make our old life fit into this new one.

I was out walking by a tree that never shed it’s dead fall leaves. It looks very out of place amongst the newly budding trees with their hints of red and of green, of furry white buds and promises of new life. It puzzled me to see it. How had those dead leaves held fast through all the winter storms and wild winds when all the other trees had parted long ago with last year’s clothes? It looks pathetic now that the days are growing longer.

I’ve been thinking long about this kind of tree. Before new life can break forth, it has to still expend the effort to shed the old life. It is clinging to a past that is dead and gone and making it more difficult to move forward into the spring and coming summer. I am much like this tree. I’m clinging to the leaves of the past, trying to keep my clothing about me long past it’s useful time, and making it more difficult to move on, to begin anew, to allow new life to burst forth and clothe me again in goodness and life.

So, farewell, coffeepot with the chipped spout. (Pop!) Farewell dresser that does not fit this new apartment. (Pop! Pop!) Farewell to the fallen lamp, sure to never light another room. (Pop!) Look at those old leaves flying in the breeze before landing on the ground far away! Let’s clear aside some room for the new life, the new place, new space, the new clothing to wear for 2015.

I have spent my entire life longing to be an evergreen, roots deeply planted in one beautiful spot, growth added to growth, clinging to every bit of growth, solid, steady, fighting what God made me, fighting the plan, and thinking I knew best how God should have created me to be.

Oh my soul, when will you cease this restless longing to be other than what you are? When will you cease fighting the plans that God has for you, the things He allows in your path? When will you let go of all the death of the past, past hurts, past disappointments, past miseries, past loves, past desires, past wishes? You cannot move forward with grace and freedom until you stop dragging all of that around.

Is this Lent? This recognition of myself as other than I wish to be? Is this recognition of myself clinging to the past? Is this it, the seeing myself in a dead-leafed tree on the side of the lawn?

Is that my Savior calling me forth, breathing on me new life, whispering to me to shed the dead past so that he may clothe me in beauty again? Oh, soul. Perhaps this is a small understanding of the Resurrection, the old is gone, but death has not won, life has won! God deafeated death by death.

In a strange way, that is a glimpse I am seeing in the amputation of my brother-in-law’s legs which I have mourned so deeply. In this death, and by this death, his death was defeated. He is alive because of this death. Shall I continue to mourn or shall I rejoice in life!