Most of the services and words of Holy Week are the ones I expect – I’ve heard them before and though something will leap out at me as though I had never heard it (this always happens), I still feel somewhat secure that I know what is coming.
In the Orthodox calendar, Holy Week begins on Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday. The services bear some similarity, as is appropriate, to those of Christ’s resurrection. The raising of Lazarus is a foretaste, a promise of what is to come in Pascha, and a reminded that Pascha includes us all.
I have always been struck by the story of the raising of Lazarus, if only because in that story we are told, “Jesus wept.” There is a profound sense that he has sanctified grief by taking it on Himself. He wept as anyone would at the death of a friend, even though He knows that He is shortly to raise Him from the dead.
We ourselves lay our family and friends to rest believing that they, too, will be raised from the dead, and yet, like Christ, we weep.
I was caught off-guard last night at our service of the Presanctified Gifts. My thoughts of Lazarus Saturday were several days away, also intertwined with the fact that we are receiving 15 new members into the Church. But my mind was not on Lazarus. But the services of the Church are vigilant and remember what we would not yet contemplate. One of the verses sung by the choir said this:
Now Lazarus has been in the tomb two days, seeing the dead of all the ages, beholding strange sights of terror: countless multitudes bound by the chains of hell. His sisters weep bitterly as they gaze at his tomb, but Christ is coming to bring His friend to life, to implement in this one man His plan for all. Blessed art Thou, O Savior, have mercy on us!
It struck me that this is where we live most of our days. Not at Lazarus Saturday, at the General Resurrection of the dead, but two days out, while those we love seem lost to us and Christ seems no where to be found. But He is somewhere to be found, and He has a precise intention regarding his friend Lazarus. Christ does not close Himself off from the natural grief of human beings, but He does not grieve as one who has no hope. He is our hope and the assurance of our own resurrection and of those we love.
Two days in the tomb is a hard place to live. But as St. Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, we should not “grieve as those who have no hope.” For we do have hope.
As St. Paul will say to the Hebrews: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20). We may be waiting with Lazarus – two days out – but we have a great hope – the greatest of hopes. We have Jesus who will not leave us to grieve as those who have no hope.
Hmmm… according to your March newsletter there was no presanctified last night…
Anyway, I agree with your point, although for me it is Holy Saturday that really illustrates this principle. Here we are celebrating what was originally the Paschal Vigil with the Epitaphios still in the middle of the Church, proclaiming life *in the midst* of death. (Our Greek friends miss a good bit of this because they take the Epitaphios in too soon 😉 ).
Fr. Bless! Indeed, I was startled last night when Fr. Anthony came out and said much the same thing, “Lazarus is now dead” and I had just sang the same verses but hadn’t really thought about it or what this meant, until it was explained.
Mostly, personally, at this point in the Great Fast, I know what is coming and I keep thinking that we have two last moments of joy; the raising of Lazarus of the Four Days and Palm Sunday. Then the real sorrowing begins for me and yet is it all tinged and edged with promise the more out of time I feel.
Clark, sorry for the calendar problem. Next week should be as published.
I have to say or confess, that the Bridegroom Matins are among my favorite services of the week, but I love all of it. I will weep, rejoice, and finally fall down and sleep when Pascha comes.
15!? We will have 5 newly illumined on Holy Saturday. But 15? Wow. What are you feeding your parish?
Hopefully we’re feeding the same thing that’s being fed in every other Orthodox parish. Some years we’ve had more growth than others. It seems to come in certain “bursts.” It’s mysterious to me.
I came upon your blog from Living Deliberately. I am an Anglican living in Oklahoma. Our priest and most of our Episcopal parish left TEC back in October. Just prior to our departure I began investigating the Catholic church. I did a lot of reading, discovered that I no longer believed in “sola scriptura” and learned a lot. I would like to investigate Orthodoxy but am at a loss how to do that here in the middle of the Baptist Belt. I also must confess to some confusion with the various “flavors” or Orthodoxy. I know there is a Greek Orthodox church in Tulsa (about 30 miles from my home) but have been hesitant to visit. I’m not really Protestant anymore, but I’m not Catholic either. Any guidance or insight you could give me would be very appreciated!
Nancy, if I may but in here. There is an Antiochian Parish in Tulsa too. I have worshipped there and met the priest on a number of occasions. I can recommend it.
St. Antony Church
Fr. George Eber
2645 E. 6th St.
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74104
Service Schedule:We regularly have Vespers and Confession at 5:00pm on Saturdays
Orthros at 9:30am on Sunday
and Divine Liturgy at 10:30am on Sunday.
Greetings in Christ our Lord Nancy! Father Stephen is a knowledgable resource for you.
The flavors you speak of are Jurisdictions but they are Orthodox all the same and all can offer you what you seek, the salvation of your soul. Give yourself time and definietly read about Holy Orthodoxy, its history, Christology, etc. and then visit the different Orthodox Churches and see where you might be more comfortable.
Our Jurisdictional situation is not optimal but it is what we have at the moment and eventually it will resolve itself as God wills and as the people of God become more aware that this is not a great situation.
I will leave it to better heads than mine to explain the Jurisdictional situation, I only know that when I converted into the OCA six years ago, I found the fullness of the faith and a way to express Jesus Christ in my life outside of the walls of the Church. I was able to fully LIVE my faith in Jesus for the first time and to be able to say that He loves me and to know it.
I pray that your search is fruitful!
Christ is in our midst!
He is and ever shall be!
May God help you in your search. The different “flavors” of Orthodoxy can give a wrong impression. They generally are all in communion with one another and preach one and the same faith – though there may be some customs that vary (Greeks do some things that those of us in a “Russian” tradition do differently, but nothing that touches on the faith itself.
One useful way to see if the Orthodox Church you are dealing with is in fact, Orthodox, would be to see if they are part of SCOBA, the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America. It does not represent all of the canonical Orthodox here but the majority of them.
A web page you might find helpful is:
You can find the various parishes listed there. To my recollection there are some excellent “Antiochian” Orthodox parishes in Oklahoma that are very “convert friendly” and quite helpful. The website I referenced is pretty thorough and has the map of your state. Please let me know if you find this helpful. It is worth taking the time.
Thank you all for your encouragement. I had no idea there were so many Orthodox parishes in Oklahoma! I can see that I have much to learn! I will definately get in contact with one of them and do some more reading.
I usually don
As I’m struggling to continue to understand what it means for God to be “dispassionate” [as mentioned in your recent posts on the Wrath of God]…This post reminds me of my tension with it, and of a question:
Does dispassionate mean the same thing as having no emotion? I believe that Jesus had real grief here, even though He had hope. That He was moved by the death of Lazarus. I also have a hard time understanding what love can mean without any emotion…but perhaps that is because I don’t know enough about how my love is “disordered” [and what “ordered” love is].
Or does dispassionate really refer more to the concept of God’s wrath? In referencing that our sin does not make God into some deity whose honor is offended so easily–as we humans are offended and angered easily. That I believe. In my reading of Anselm on a recent study of the Doctrine of the Atonement, it felt as though he made God out to be very insecure–as though He depends on our honoring Him to exist. Which seems utter folly to me.
Thank you for your patience, Father,
PS–I’m currently a Protestant seriously exploring Orthodoxy, for the record. 😉 Your blogs have been such a blessing to me.
Father Stephen will answer better than I, and I don’t presume to speak for him. But I am another protestant who, though does not intend to become Orthodox, would love for protestantism to become Orthodox and then the Church to unite. 😉 If that makes any sense whatsoever. Anyway, perhaps (as C. S. Lewis once said) the fellow student can explain better than the teacher because he knows less.
Anyway, as far as I can gather, when the ancients talked about “the passions”, they were referring to something that has some overlap with our notion of “emotions”, but in a somewhat different framework. We would distinguish between the mind, emotions, and the will. They would distinguish between mans actions and his passions. The key concept is “passive” – the passions are urges that act upon us without our consent. One might connect it as much to the modern concept of “animal instinct” as “emotion”.
The passions would be those qualities that we share with the animals – particularly anger and lust. We feel these impulses pulling upon us one moment (say when someone is drawn to a seductive woman) and then dissipate completely into rational control in another (after a cold shower or copulation). The point is that, while we are affected by these urges that render us “passive” and change from one moment to the next, God cannot be affected in this way, nor does he change. His will for our salvation and hatred of our sins may be described with the fury of a jealous husband, but we must take it to show us the intensity of his love, rather than the fickleness of his temperament.
The key points are that God isn’t ever truly changed by us, or anything. At least, that’s how I understand it. Others may correct me.
I get confused about the passions, but if I stop worrying about the word and start listening to the description of them, I get that sense that they are the “reactive” part of us. Paul talked about the flesh in Romans that does what he wills not.
My priest says that the passions are best thought of as virtues that have been distorted. For example, vainglory is rightly the desire to be praised by God and the Saints of God, but we redirect it to other men. Gluttony is rightly the desire to properly attend to our physical bodies keeping them in health, but we eat too much and desire that which isn’t healthy because it is a lie (candy would be a lie, our tongues believe sweet means good). That sort of thing.