Holy Week for Busy Greeks
April 17, 2006
Holy Week provides a unique challenge for the busy Greek-American young adult. Between Palm Sunday and the Anastasi there are more services than there are days in that span. Unless you’re a student or decide to take the week off there are only a number of evening services that most of us can make during the week. For those of you out there with a little bit of time looking for the best way to schedule your Holy Week, we present, Holy Week for Busy Greeks.
Good Friday or Holy Saturday
If you can’t imagine spending both Friday and Saturday night at church and have to choose between the two, hit Friday night’s service. The lighting of the lambades, the hymns, and the procession of the Epitaphios out and around the church are unique even for a church that celebrates so many elaborate traditions. It is the most interactive service of the year. Contrast this with Saturday night – a service that typically starts at 11:30 and climaxes at midnight with the Resurrection. This means that if you show up on Greek time, you’ve missed the point of the service. By 12:15 or so, some of the Greeks that came early enough to find a seat inside the church start to leave and most of those who never made it inside have already started an early coffee hour. For those who do stick around until the end, most churches don’t let out until 2:00 A.M. For all these reasons, Friday night’s Epitaphios service just works better for most Greek-American young adults.
Holy Wednesday for Holy Unction
Celebrating one of the most rare of Sacraments should be a blessing of attending services during Holy Week. Holy Unction is offered at Wednesday night’s service of the Last Supper. (Holy Unction is where the priest anoints the believer with oil on the head and hands for physical and spiritual healing.) As many Greek-American young adults receive Holy Communion at Easter, Holy Unction complements this Sacrament well at this time of the year.
Taking Friday Off
If you’ve got enough vacation time or sick days to use during the year, consider taking Good Friday off. Not only will it allow you to attend another service on Friday morning and really treat Holy Friday with the reverence we’re seldom allowed to in our secular society, but it may make attending Thursday night’s Passion service (a.k.a., the 12 Gospels) much easier. Thursday night is by far the longest service of the week usually ending around 10:00 at most churches. After working a full day and going straight to service, it may be a lot to ask for many of Greek-American young adults to get up and put in a full day of work on Friday and make it to service on Friday night. By taking Friday off, the Greek young adult can relax on Friday afternoon between services and also take some time to fully appreciate the meaning of the day.
The longest Communion lines during the Paschal Season are typically on Palm Sunday and Saturday night at the Anastasi. If you don’t want to wait until 1:30 on Saturday night and missed Palm Sunday, consider Saturday morning’s Liturgy. If you don’t mind more young children per capita than you’ll see at most services (they’ll be asleep and not at the Resurrection service that evening), then this is one of the best times to receive Communion during Holy Week.
Go When You Can
One of the best things about the Greek Orthodox church is its tolerance for its followers Holy Week attendance. The regular church-goers know that they may lose their seat to someone who may not come but once a year. Church services are not like the opera – the ushers will let you in even if you come 20 minutes before the end, and you can always figure out where you are in the service and what’s going on. Everyone involved would rather see you there for an hour on Tuesday night than not at all.