Holy Week Journal: Holy Thursday

No morning service today.  Poor Lonna stayed home from school sick.  We took advantage of a slow morning.  We’ve been limping through the week school-wise, trying to still get the basics in.  After today, though, we’ll take off until next Tuesday.

We prayed the Canon to the Lord for a Sick Child for Lonna, and anointed her with oil.  She has been suffering from a bad cold-like virus for the last few days.

In the afternoon, we went on a nature walk.  I had vowed that we would walk the same trail once a month for an entire year, tracking the progression of seasons, etc.  We never made it there in January or March, so we’re off to a horrible start!  On our February trip, it was an icy tundra, but yesterday, the signs of spring were evident.  Although it was about 42 degrees, it seemed much warmer.  There was this bright, glowing orb in the sky…I think I vaguely remember it, but it’s been so, so long since I’ve seen it…yes, I believe it’s called the sun!

The sun shone and showed off the pond swelling from spring rains.

Spring waters and buds are nice, but the real attraction was the wildlife.  This preserve is Canadian Goose Central in the spring.  Here, dozens of geese lays their eggs and hatch their young.  The air thundered with the honk…honk of the geese on water, land, and sky.  No goslings yet, but one mama for some reason built her nest out in the open by the trail, so we watched her for a bit (or was it the dad???).  Then, we were treated to bath and show off time from the rest of the crowd.

I always try to get out in nature during Holy Week.  The natural world is not separate from us.  In our modern society, where we spend most of our days indoors, we have forgotten our close ties to nature.  God is present in His Creation…all of His Creation…and by learning about the world around us, we learn more and more about God and more and more about ourselves.  Pascha is in the spring for a reason.  The parallels between the awakenings of the trees and the awakenings of our souls; the birth of baby animals and our deliverance from death; these should not be missed.

At Vesperal Liturgy in the afternoon, we remembered the Last Supper.  Also, Father put Communion in the tabernacle on the altar.  On every Orthodox altar is a container called the tabernacle.  Every year on Holy Thursday, the priest takes some of the bread and wine consecrated at the Liturgy and places it in the tabernacle.  That way, throughout the year, if someone is sick or dying and needs to take Communion right away, the gifts are there and available.  They are the body and blood of Christ, so they do not spoil or rot.  They are mystically preserved in case the need arises.

Of Your Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today, as a Communicant.  For I will not speak of Your mysteries to Your enemies, neither like Judas will I give You a kiss, but like the thief will I confess You, Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom.

Lonna felt better by evening, and we all returned in the evening for the service of The Twelve Passion Gospels.  Remember, Orthodox liturgical time runs from evening to evening, not morning to morning, so this is a service for Holy Friday.  My first year as Orthodox, the whole week was jolting and seemed off kilter.  It just seemed wrong to remember things on the “wrong” day.  Now, though, I enjoy this wise arrangement. On Thursday night, we remember the Crucifixion.  Your heart contemplates the mysteries of the events all throughout your sleep, and when you wake up Friday morning, it is fresh in your mind.  You go through the day already in remembrance, rather than living a day and then only talking about it at its conclusion.

Today He Who hung the earth on the waters is hung upon the tree.  The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.  He Who wraps the heavens with clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.  He Who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.  The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.  The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a spear.  We worship Your passion, O Christ.  We worship Your passion, O Christ.  We worship Your passion, O Christ.  Show us also Your glorious Resurrection.

15th Antiphon— The Twelve Passion Gospels

This service is one of layers.  The accounts of the Passion in all four Gospels are read in one service.  In between each of the twelve readings, we sing about what we’ve read.  There’s one layer.  And then another.  And then another.

Midway through, the clergy come out from behind the altar carrying a life-size icon of Christ, as well as a cross.  They lay Christ on the cross and nail Him to it.

The sound of the rock hitting the nail pierces the air in the room.  My breath catches in my throat.  They raise up the cross, and we all come forward to prostrate before it and kiss the feet of the Lord.

By the end of the service, I cannot explain the feelings.  All I can say is that I truly feel.  They crucified Christ.  They spit on and slapped Him.  They killed the King.  And I am the one to blame…

As I lay down in bed on Holy Thursday, I mourn.  The Lord is dead.  Indeed, the anticipation of Resurrection is in the air.  It’s not a mysterious ending to this story.  We all know what happens in the final act of the play.  But today, today is not a day to celebrate.  It is not a day to jump ahead.  I try to live like the Apostles of Jesus who did not understand what was happening at the time.  I try to stand beside that Cross in misery.  Christ is dead.  Let the whole world weep.

The most memorable song of The Twelve Gospels service refers to the thieves crucified alongside Christ.  One jeers at the Lord, but the other sees that this man beside him is not just any man.  He utters the words on my lips as I drift off to sleep, “Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom”.

The wise thief, You made worthy of Paradise, in a single moment, O Lord.  By the wood of Your Cross illumine me as well, and save me.

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