Profound Disruption: Holy Week & Pascha

Holy Week is a Big Deal.

There are services morning and night (if you’re lucky enough to have a full-time priest in your parish) and they can wear you out. They’ll take over your life. Trying to accomplish the basic requirements of a family life (providing meals and clean laundry and maybe showering) can become pretty challenging when you’re endeavoring to really live Holy Week.

It is profoundly disruptive to your family rhythm.

Some parents will look at that schedule and shrug, confident that Holy Week was not designed for families.

In fact, Holy Week is designed for families. It is a targeted medicine for the very spiritual illness that ails modern American families most especially:  the sickness of worldly busyness.

Our families cater to complex children’s schedules, and we run from work to take the kids to practice; we travel to see them play games and tournaments; we push back mealtimes and ignore church services. We allow the rhythm of our homes to be set by coaches, rather than settle into the healthier patterns of the church calendar and prayer cycles.

Holy Week and Pascha disrupt all of this.  The Church calls out to you: Put it away. Lay aside your earthly cares, and come here. Stop playing with toys, spinning with the pursuits that will fade away and disappear when we die. Come face your Lord, come walk with us to Golgotha and dive down into Hades to rise up on the third day. Enter into the eternal truth.

Holy Week and Pascha disrupt our lives because we need disruption. We get all too comfortable just showing up on Sundays. We get caught up in the nonsense of our daily lives, and we begin to think that these details and entertainments are ‘real’. Christ is real. His resurrection is real.

The details and scuffles and frustrations of our daily lives are where we work out our salvation, but they will all fade away in an instant. They are not real like God is real; in eternity, they will be revealed as vain imaginings and illusions. At the Second Coming, all of this noise will be silenced and we will stand before the Lord our God, and the idea of soccer practice will not once enter our heads.

There are pep talks and practical blog posts on how to pull it off all over the Ortho-sphere right now. (Check out the links at the bottom of this post.) Make some food now that can be quickly eaten later. Cancel all of your appointments, email the coaches and let them know that your kids will be at church next week. Put the parish Holy Week schedule on your cell phone. Get ready, because it’s coming.

Yes, Holy Week will disrupt our plans, thank God. What could be more disruptive than this:

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross. He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery. He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.  (Great & Holy Friday: Fifteenth Antiphon of the Matins (Plagal of the Second Tone))

Everything must be disrupted to take us off the path of death. Our Lord took on flesh, somehow containing the uncontainable in a human body, to disrupt everything, to change our course, to save us.

He will willingly enter Hades to destroy it; more than a disruption, it’s an annihilation. The gates are torn asunder, and Hades is no more.

On Great & Holy Friday, we’ll sing “Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.” Today. Not 2000 years ago, but today. Because time changes in Holy Week.

On Palm Sunday, we’ll celebrate the divine liturgy. But that night, we’ll celebrate Matins. And from that evening forth, the Matins (morning services) are in the evening and the Vespers (evening services) are in the morning. Time is on its head. Holy Week is intentionally disruptive.

This is what we need, so let’s give in to it. Throw caution to the wind, and let our lives be disrupted and transformed.



Need practical advice? There are a couple of wonderful posts floating around the blogosphere lately, offering pep talks for Orthodox parents as Holy Week and Pascha approach.

Spirited pep talk:  ‘Mostly Martha. Barely Mary’

Preparing your Family for Holy Week webinar from the Greek Archdiocese

A list of resources from the Orthodox Mama blog

About Elissa Bjeletich Davis

Elissa Bjeletich is the mother of five daughters, and serves as the Sunday school director at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Austin, Texas. Find more information on her website:


  1. My 13-month-old won’t nap at church. I’m in tears today because I have been preparing for days to get her to Liturgy today, and after a difficult no-nap morning we were at the door grabbing the keys to just go anyway when we got a message that the parish with the 10:30 start time had canceled services due to snow. By that point we’d missed the service at any other parish. Thinking about Holy Week just makes me sad. She goes to bed before the evening services, she naps during the morning services (and won’t nap at church), and to disrupt her schedule would do her a disservice. This isn’t about soccer practice or school tests that could be rescheduled , it’s just about her needs, and it’s a really hard season.

    1. 13 months is a very hard season, with or without Holy Week! Staying home with a little one is very different from choosing a regular sports schedule over church — there is absolutely no comparison at all! Your baby has needs.

      Know that God sees your struggles, and He rewards them. My bishop has said that it’s not the success that God rewards; He rewards the effort. After all, as you have seen, we can make the best effort and find that it won’t work!

      I remember one day, standing outside my church literally in tears because I could not get my toddler to calm down and let me enter for Vespers. My priest’s wife looked at me and said, “this is not your season for evening services. You’ll stop in, and sometimes you just won’t be able to stay. Don’t worry; there will be other seasons.”

      As you approach this year’s Holy Week, you will have to know your family’s limits and attend fewer services perhaps. And you may have to leave some services that you thought could make work. This is a tough season — but there will be other seasons.

      Your spouse or a neighbor or friend may be able to take the little one while you attend an especially beloved service. If that works out, it’s a blessing — and if not, that’s ok too. God sees your efforts, even if they’re watching an online streamed service at home, or napping with an exhausted toddler.

      May God bless your Holy Week. Know that God sees and He’ll reward you later.

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