By: Saint Elias  09-12-2011

Great and Holy Week is the week leading up to Pascha, the celebration of the Resurrection of the Messiah. On Great Monday and Tuesday, as well as the Presanctified Liturgy, Bridegroom Matins are taken. These Services focus on the

Second and Glorious Coming of the Messiah, when He shall come to restore the Kingdom of God, wherefore he is portrayed as Bridegroom (Mark 2:19)

During Great Week, the Holy Mystery of the Anointing of the Sick is generally served. During this Service, all who are preparing for to celebrate Pascha are welcomed to receive the Holy Mystery - which is otherwise reserved for those seriously ill.

The first Service on Great Thursday is the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. This Service commemorates the Mystical Supper that Christ Jesus had with His Disciples - whereby the Holy Eucharist was instituted.

The second Service on Great Thursday is the Service of the 12 Gospels - wherein the Passion of the Lord is commemorated by reading the 2 pericopes in the Gospel that describe the Passion suffered by the Messiah.

On Great and Holy Friday, 3 Services are take: The Royal Hours of Great Friday, the Vespers of Entombment, and Jerusalem Matins.

The Passion of the Lord is mystically commemorated at the Service of the 12 Gospels (Thursday night) and the Royal Hours of Great Friday (Friday morning). The Burial and Lamentation of the Lord are mystically commemorated at the Great Vespers service on Great Friday and Jerusalem Matins (usually taken on Friday night).

On Great Friday, we commemorate the Passion and Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.

Royal Hours of Great Friday

The "Hours" are Services that consists of a set of Psalms and some short prayers and hymns. They are the lesser monastic Offices: The First, Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours - taking place at the "first, third, sixth, and ninth hour" after sunrise, i.e. 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The "Royal" Hours are those Hours served on special Holy Days. In addition to Psalms, there are also Readings from the Gospel and from the Old and New Testaments. The Scripture readings and Psalms correspond to the Holy Day - in this case, the Passion and Burial of the Christ.

We venerate Your Passion, O Christ. (prostration)
We venerate Your Passion, O Christ. (prostration)
We venerate Your Passion, O Christ. (prostration)
Show us also Your glorious Resurrection." (Katavasia, 9th Hour)

Great Vespers of Entombment

In the Great Vespers of Entombment, we accompany the faithful Women, St. Joseph of Arimathea, and St. Nicodemus who took Jesus down from the Cross and buried Him. There is a Procession (3 times around the Church), mystically following Myrrhbearing Women and their companions, who take the Body of Christ to the Holy Sepulchre.

Returning from Procession, the Clergy hold low the Plaschenytsia. The Faithful can enter the Church by bending down and going beneath the Icon of Burial. This is a graphic symbol of our Entering the Tomb and being Buried with Christ, in order that we may rise with Him on the Great Day.

Today the Master stands before Pilate, today, the Maker of all things is given up to the Cross, and of His own will is led as a lamb to the slaughter.

He, before whom the powers of heaven stand with trembling, stands before Pilate.

The Creator is struck by the hand of his creature.

He, who comes to judge the living and the dead, is condemned to the Cross.

The Destroyer of Hell is enclosed in a tomb.

O You, who endure all all these things in Your tender love, who have saved all from the curse, O long-suffering Lord, glory to You! (Katavasia)

"They laid me in the lowest pit, in dark places, and in the shadow of death.

"O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before you."
(Psalm 87, Tone 7, 3rd Prokimen)

During the Burial Procession:

When You, the Redeemer of all, were laid for the sake of all in a new tomb,

Hell was brought to scorn, and seeing You drew back in fear.

The bars were broken and the gates were shattered, the tombs were opened and the dead arose.

Then Adam in thanksgiving and rejoicing cried to You: Glory to Your self-abasement, O Lover of Mankind!" (Apostikha 2nd verse)

During Jerusalem Matins, we accompany the Faithful Women and their Companions, who, keeping Vigil at the Graveside, mourn the Crucified Christ. Arguably this the most aesthetically beautiful Service of the entire Christian year. Its hymns are hauntingly lyrical and profoundly spiritually. They express the anguish of loss and the yearning for restoration and justice.

Again there is a Procession around the Church with the Plaschenytsia (the Icon of Burial).

"By descending into death, O Life Immortal, You destroyed hell's power by the brilliance of your Divinity and raised the dead from their deep sleep.

For this the Powers of heaven shout triumphantly:

'O Giver of life, Christ our God, glory to You!' " (Tropar)

"An angel greeted the myrrh-bearing women as they neared the tomb:
'Mortal death deserves the soothing balm of precious spices,

but the corruption of death can never defile Christ.'" (Tropar)

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Liturgical prayer in the East shows a great aptitude for involving the human person in his or her totality: the mystery is sung in the loftiness of its content, but also in the warmth of the sentiments it awakens in the heart of redeemed humanity. Congregation for Eastern Churches: Instructions for the Application of the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.


Great Vespers

The Norm of the Church is that all the Faithful should be present, not just at Sunday morning Liturgy, but at all the Divine Services of the Resurrection. Just as it's precursor was the first Prayer Service of the Sabbath, so also is Great Vespers the 1st service of the Lord's Day. At the very least, in addition to Divine Liturgy, one should attend either Vespers or Matins.