Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today we reach both an end, and a beginning. The holy and sacred period of Great Lent ends tonight, as we enter the days when we commemorate the raising of Lazarus, and our Lord's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Then it's time to get serious.
Holy Week is many things to different people. For some it is business as usual, while for others it is a chance to focus ourselves after a lackadaisical Lent. Properly approached, however, Holy Week is an apex of beauty and of sorrow; an indistinguishable blending of grief and joy. If we miss it and make an appearance only on Holy Pascha, we miss the power and meaning and essence of the Resurrection. If instead, we dedicate ourselves to following Jesus throughout this fateful week, we will garner blessings beyond measure.
So, even if you have never done it before, commit yourself to this week, starting tonight with our last Pre-sanctified Liturgy of the season, tomorrow morning when we celebrate Divine Liturgy commemorating the resurrection of Lazarus, an act foreshadowing our own future resurrection. Be there on Sunday morning, as Jesus enters His city to cries and acclamation, and to misunderstanding and hostility.
Next week, come on Monday and Tuesday nights and follow Jesus as he teaches and preaches in Jerusalem. On Wednesday night, come for Holy Unction, for a final cleansing of ourselves in anticipation of Pascha.
Come Thursday morning for Divine Liturgy marking the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Come Thursday night to be with Christ as He undergoes His betrayal, arrest, judgment, and death. Come Friday morning for the most beautiful hymnography of a Church in which all hymnography is sublime, and then return Friday night for Great Vespers of Great and Holy Friday, the very burial service of our Lord. Come Saturday morning as Christ lays in His tomb, but there are hints that something marvelous is afoot. Come that night for the Glorious Resurrection, and finally on Sunday afternoon as we bask in our joy.
There may be things during the week that seem to compete for your attention. But few of them, I suspect, outrank this week in importance and meaning. At the moment of our death, television and work and momentary distractions will be meaningless, but the exhaustion and agony of Holy Week will be our very hope, the joy to come for which we long.