Friday in Sixth Week23 April 2021
‘Having completed the forty days that bring profit to our soul, we beseech you in your love for humankind: grant us also to behold the Holy Week of your Passion, so that in it we may glorify your mighty works and your ineffable providence for us, singing with one mind: Lord, glory to you’ (Doxastiko, Mattins).
As we all know, Lazarus Saturday marks the end of Great Lent. The blessed period which began with Clean Monday has now come to an end- the above hymn is also sung at Vespers on the feast of Lazarus. What does the holy hymnographer tell us? First that this season of Lent ‘brings profit to our soul’. Secondly that, although it’s the ‘end’ as regards the completion of the forty days, it also functions as a starting-point: the beginning of Great Week. We find ourselves at a wonderful threshold. This is self-evident: the Church ordained Lent so that we Christians might prepare for that specific week, during which we focus on the events which brought salvation to the human race- Christ’s Passion, and his sacrifice on the Cross. On the Cross, did Christ not take away our sins and defeat the devil? ‘Behold, through the Cross, joy has come into the whole world’. This is why we call this week ‘Great’. As Saint John Chrysostom notes, not because each of its days lasts longer but because everything it deals with concerning the Passion of Christ is significant and moving. Faced with the spiritual importance of these days, on the one hand we’re required to make particular, distinct preparations – no-one uninitiated or frivolous may touch the holy sacrament; on the other, those who are initiated and prepared are called upon, with as much faith as is at their disposal, to praise the Lord of glory, distinguishing the surface appearance of a person who’s suffering from the depth of the love of the Creator himself. The forty-day preparation, as a kind of initiation into the spirituality of this holy week explains the expression ‘which brings profit to our soul’- that the Church offers this period of Lent (with a host of services, emphasis on true fasting of spirit and body, continuous reminders of repentance as the only path leading to the Kingdom of God) for the nourishment and revivification of our soul. And yet. Even with all this preparation we still need the grace of the Lord in order to walk the path of Great Week well. ‘Give us grace to see clearly the meaning of the holy week of your Passion’.