Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Here comes Holy Week...

I read an excellent article today entitled, "Work, Rest and Holy Week". Very timely, since this Saturday is Lazarus Saturday (where has Lent gone??). It really resonated with me as the mother of young children (well, some of them are young...) and I encourage you to read it.
I look forward to Pascha.  I don’t look forward to Holy Week.  It isn’t that there aren’t plenty of things in Holy Week that I find stirring and compelling every year, from Bridegroom Matins early in the week and especially the haunting and humbling exaposteilarion (“Verily I behold Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, and I possess no robe to enter thereinto”) to the singing of “The Noble Joseph” during the veneration of the shroud at Great Vespers on Friday afternoon and the rousing “dry bones” reading from Ezekiel that follows the lamentations of Holy Saturday Matins on Friday evening.  The issue isn’t lack of interest in the liturgical richness of the week; it’s the daunting thought every year of the energy it will take to participate in it, or at least to participate as much as I’d like.
Real, though, as the sheer physical demands are of juggling work, ordinary parenting responsibilities, and Holy Week, I’ve become increasingly aware in the last few years that my angst as the week approaches is tied up at least as much if not more with something other than the physical strain of it all.  The heavier load comes from an unspoken expectation that I should be at all the services, bar none. This is an expectation that truly is unspoken: nobody has ever said it to me.  I miss some services every year — not since I was single and at seminary have I had a perfect Holy Week attendance record — and always feel vaguely uneasy about missing, but what’s become clearer to me is how the anxiety about falling short of my religious commitment is itself rooted in some pretty sinful stuff.  My concern is less about really falling short than about being perceived as falling short. 
I can't remember the last time I was able to be at EVERY service during Holy Week. Generally, I miss at least one, even these last few years when the children have been older and we live less than three blocks from the church. I certainly understand the feelings the author is talking about regarding the anxiety of falling short being more about the perception of others.

The anxiety is already upon me. Today we are very blessed to be able to travel to St. Francisville, LA to venerate the Kursk Root icon of the Theotokos, a wonderworking icon discovered in the 13th century in Kursk, a town in Russia near the border of Ukraine. Father is currently visiting a young woman in the hospital who (glory to God!) had her firstborn yesterday. But I am confronted with worries over not having started working on psanky, skirts to alter for the girls for Pascha, services to attend (and with a baby this year, thank God), a Pascha basket and food for sharing to plan, etc. Memories of past years in which I was riddled with anxiety over a million and one things during Holy Week are coming back to haunt me. I need to do my best to let it all go and try to hang on to what is most important: the impending resurrection of Christ.


  1. ((((HUGS)))))... I so hear you!!! Last year I missed services due to mono and don't know how this year will be... I am tired already!! This year we had our mover give an estimate (moving DV May 22) and he was telling us to get packing already (all the books we have) and I finally had to be assertive and say, "We are Orthodox Christians, next week is Holy Week and we have services Every Day and we are Not Packing until after Easter" !! My goodness. I'm insisting actually that we will not pack until After Bright Monday!! We all can only do what we can do and ask for God's mercy and that He will carry us to Pascha!!

  2. i hear that old spiritual song in my head " Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord" We will get to the finish line, but it will be by God's grace, not our ability.

  3. I have no idea how many services we will attend this year, but Lord willing we'll be at almost all of them from Holy Unction-Agape. Our 4yr old WON'T be at Holy Thursday night, though, because he has already melted to tears about Christ dying on the cross (and wondering if he will, too), and I worry hearing the hammer will actually traumatize him. I am trying really hard this week to do deep house cleaning and work on what I can. Last night I made the kids' Palm Sunday candles (the twins needed ones and the big boys really needed new ones) and filled/taped shut 72 plastic eggs (48 for the church hunt and 24 for the big boys' school events). Lord willing I will continue to mark things off my list, so the days immediately preceding Pascha will be less crazy. Oh! My twins turn 2 on Holy Saturday and their party is the weekend after. So no crashing after Pascha- I have to get ready for that! (yes, yes, I will be in desperate need of sleep) BUT I am so filled with joy. Praise God!!! :)

  4. Cassie, my oldest turns 15 on Holy Saturday!

    1. Awesome!! It's also my grandfather's (Fr. Gordon Walker's) birthday- the twins were born on his 80th! I'm going to make special bread for after liturgy and get a picture of them blowing out candles together. Well, at least of them sitting together. :)

  5. Pray for 15 minutes of patience and ask God to "direct thy path". I've had to do that over and over when feeling overwhelmed. You can only do so much. Choose the services that are more meaningful to you, alter the skirts, (You have super girls that would greatly appreciate this) and cook. Mom


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