|Holy Week is a very special week, a most special week! It is a week which is "a different week" in the year. As Orthodox, commemorating Holy Week means to experience it. To experience it, involves direct action, direct involvement as well as specific atmosphere in both home life and Church life. Here listed are a few notes on how, Orthodox Christians commemorate Holy Week.
IN THE HOME
Palm Sunday - The new palms are taken to the home and placed with the family icons. The old palms are burned, the ashes are placed into the soil. Fish is eaten.
A strict food fast is observed Monday - Saturday. The fast is sacrificial in response to Christ's great sacrifice for us which are being observed. (For those unable to fast strictly the entire week, special attention should be given at least to Wednesday - Saturday - up through the night Liturgy).
Red eggs and traditional Easter breads should be prepared on Holy Thursday.
No cooking or baking should occur on Holy Friday and Holy Saturday. (Only the simplest of fast foods). NO unnecessary work should be done on Holy Friday and Holy Saturday.
In today's era of radio/TV/video/stereo, it should be noted that no unnecessary watching and listening of TV/radio/video/stereo should be done. (Religious reading and Church attendance is the proper Holy Week exercise.)
On Holy Saturday night, as the family departs for the Resurrection Service, the family votive light should be extinguished. The Resurrectional Candle should be brought home from the Church lit and passed through each room. The family votive light should be lighted a -new from the Easter Candle. (If you have an electric votive light, you should symbolically light it with the candle from Church).
On Pascha itself (Easter Sunday) a traditional family dinner is held which features lamb, red Easter Eggs and Easter Breads.
AT THE CHURCH
Attendance at all the Services is the proper goal. Knowing that this can be difficult for some faithful-we must point out every effort should be made to attend one of the various services in each "series" of services that makes commemoration of the last events in Christ's life and the various Holy Week special blessings and Sacraments. For example:
a. There are 3 Nymphios Services (Sunday, Monday & Tuesday)
b. There are two services which commemorate the Passion and
Crucifixion. Thursday night is the main service.Friday morning is an abbreviation of the readings and hymns.
c. There are 3 services which commemorate the Resurrection:
Saturday morning (the first announcement)Saturday evening (the actual manifestation & celebration - perhaps the most beautiful of all services)
Sunday - 11:00 am (the spreading of the announcement/the reading of the Gospel in many foreign languages.)
Along with the services is the reception of the Sacrament of Holy Unction (Oil) on Wednesday afternoon or evening and the reception of Holy Communion (Thursday morning, Saturday morning, or Saturday night) These are must for faithful Orthodox.
The burial of Christ and the blessing of the Epitaphios is of unique importance. The burial occurs at 3:00 pm on Friday. The 1st blessing of the Epitaphios takes place at this time and is repeated on Friday night at the Lamentation Service.
HOLY WEEK SACRAMENTAL GUIDELINES
Holy Communion can be administered ONLY to baptized and confirmed Eastern Orthodox Christians, who are in complete harmony with the Sacramental life of the Church, and if married, are married in the Orthodox Church. (The same applies for the Sacrament of Holy Unction - Holy Oil.)