I wish everyone I know and love could come to Holy Week. The service of the Twelve Gospel Readings is so rich. It is long and it is rigorous (3 hours) but that is the purpose of liturgy — to re-form us in the spirit of Christ, away from the World, and that takes work. A lot of it. After the reading of the 5th Gospel, the lights go nearly out. The Priest enters carrying the icon of Christ on the Cross (video can be seen here). It is a slow procession and he hymns: Continue reading
In recent years, and prior to my Orthodox catechesis, I heard many a Protestant writer or preacher lament that Easter was not of enormous import to most Christians when it was the eminent Christian holiday. I didn’t share that view. Easter was an after-thought for me – another spring holiday without much real significance. Little did I know that it was the cultural liturgy of the market-place that informed my position towards the holiest of Christian celebrations.
Liturgies form us. Whether they are cultural or religious, we are moved to be formed in the image of something and in the West, the market-place is driven by the most powerful liturgy called Consumerism. Christmas is the most powerful holiday in our culture and not because of what it is or what it means; it is the most powerful because of the 30-something day cultural liturgy from Black Friday til Christmas day that forms our hearts not toward God, but towards pretty much everything else. As James K.A. Smith notes in his book Desiring the Kingdom, the Culture understands liturgical formation better than the modern church does.
The Holy Orthodox Church is not the modern church. Before I decided that Orthodoxy was the church of the Apostles, the Fathers and Christ himself, I longed for liturgy without knowing what I was longing for. I think this is the basis of the modern Evangelical root of church innovation. The Western Christian wishes to attach himself or herself to something, but doesn’t know how or have the framework for doing so; so innovation in church methods based on market research emerge. A few years ago, I’d fast all of Good Friday (and accidentally get drunk when breaking fast that night with beer and bread; Lord have mercy!) or round up friends for a Maundy Thursday dinner or try to watch the Passion movie. These were my own personal longings for connectedness to Holy Week and the larger Church; these were longings for liturgy. Little did I know that there was already a place where these connections existed and they existed nearly unchanged for most of 2000 years.