What does holy week look like to an outsider? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
With my wife looking into Eastern Orthodoxy, she was very excited about holy week. For those who don’t know, there is apparently debate on when Easter takes place so on the 21st, we celebrated Easter at the Protestant Church. The next week we were celebrating another Easter known as Pascha at the Orthodox Church.
One of the things that is done on Pascha, or rather before, is a time of Lent where something is given up which includes meat and dairy. My wife was excluded from this for medical reasons and because the priest mainly wanted her to abstain from self-harm for Lent. (To that end, she got her 11-month chip at Celebrate Recovery last night.) Keep this in mind as we go on.
Something I have said about Orthodoxy for awhile is that I question whether the traditions do go back to the original apostles or not. This is not to say that some of the rules might not be helpful. If someone wants to observe a time of Lent and it helps them in their worship and helps them honor Christ, well and good. I have no problem with that. If that becomes the sign of a true Christian, then I think there is an area of concern.
Every night of the week there was an event going on at the Orthodox Church. We were there for most of them, although not for all. We have been packing for a move to another cheaper apartment complex here in the area. My wife thoroughly enjoys them. Myself, not so much. As I have let be known on here previously, I really don’t think statements made to Mary or the saints go back to the apostles.
On Saturday night, everyone meets at the church at 11 P.M. Yes. You heard that right. P.M. We then go in and each of us is given a candle that is unlit. A few minutes before midnight, the whole place goes dark. Then around midnight, the priest starts speaking about Christ being risen and has a lit candle. He lights a candle of some others upfront and they in turn spread that light so before too long, everyone is holding a lit candle.
There is also a portable tomb carried much like the pallbearers carry the coffin at a funeral through the doors. We all go outside together in the middle of the night with our candles to continue the surface. To go back in, the tomb is placed at the doors and everyone has to kneel some to go under it and go inside the building.
In all honesty, though, I was watching most of the time and thinking “I hope someone doesn’t accidentally light someone else’s hair on fire.” This is not to say that way of worship is wrong, but it is to say that this is just the way that I think about things.
Everyone is invited after the service to the feast. My wife and I had no interest in the food being served and we wanted to get to sleep. We didn’t get home until around 2:35 A.M. Then, we had to get up in the morning again for a noon service. The feast has a lot of the foods people abstain from during the Lent period so it wasn’t a major deal for me anyway.
I do think the Orthodox take the resurrection seriously, but what matters to me is do the laity in the pews do so? I will freely say that sadly many Protestant Churches have abandoned their intellectual responsibilities without thinking about the resurrection, but I suspect this is more of our Americanism coming through than something problematic in Protestantism itself.
When my wife was on her journey and visiting a Catholic Church, we met with a priest to ask questions. When she told him she was looking for something deeper, he gave an answer I 100% agree with and still hold to this day. “What you are looking for, you will find by going deeper in Jesus.” For my own wife, I think the ritual and order of Orthodoxy is more helpful to her. Could she have found similar in an Anglican Church? Perhaps, but the nearest was about 30 miles away from us.
For me, it’s not the same way, and ultimately that’s okay. As long as one holds to what is essential to being a Christian, I think we should all strive to unite together. Do I wonder how many of the laity in the Orthodox Church are taking the resurrection seriously? Yes. I wonder the same about the Protestant and Catholic Churches as well.
So Holy Week is certainly an interesting experience, but I am thankful to be back to the way things normally are and while I can handle it, having a church service at midnight is something I am thankful only takes place once a year. I also do not have any sides on the debate of the true date of Easter. What matters is Christ is risen, something we should all celebrate.