The Services of Holy Week

Completing the Journey
to the Empty Tomb

(from the St. George Cathedral Messenger,
adapted and edited by Fr Paul O-Callaghan


Sunday, Monday, Tuesday Evenings

The Bridgegroom Services

The first thing to recognize about Holy Week is that the services are all moved up; for example, the Sunday night Bridegroom Service is the Orthros of Great and Holy Monday, and the Vesperal Liturgies are celebrated in the morning.

After His entry into Jerusalem, Christ spoke to the disciples about signs that would precede the last Day (Mt. 24-25).  Themes focused on the Day of Judgment show up in the troparion of the Bridegroom "Behold the Bridegroom cometh," and the exaposteilarion "I see thy bridal chamber..."  The parables of the Ten Virgins and of the Talents pervade these three days.  On Monday we also remember the innocent suffering of the Patriarch Joseph as a type of Christ's.  The barren fig tree which Jesus cursed serves as a reminder of coming judgment.  Wednesday contrasts the agreement made by Judas with the Jewish authorities to repentance with tears of the sinful woman.  The Triodion texts make it clear that Judas' fall was not so much because of his betrayal as his despair of forgiveness.


Wednesday Evening

Holy Unction

Since we understand healing and forgiveness in a holistic manner, without a soul versus body dualism, the sacrament of Holy Unction is served in many parishes on Holy Wednesday evening.  This practice provides an example of a continuing liturgical evolution, since this service is not prescribed in the Triodion or typicon.  In most parishes, this sacrament replaces the Orthros of Holy Thursday.

Holy Week Services - Icons and Descriptions

Journey to Pascha

A Daily Guide Through Holy Week

From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

This printable pdf file contains icons and descriptions for the services of Holy Week, beginning with Sunday evening culminating in the Pascha service.

You can download it here:  Journey to Pascha.  (It is a fairly large file so be patient while it downloads)

There may be printed copies of this publication available for purchase in the Church Bookstore.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent - St. John Climacus

From the "Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion", HDM Press.

Saints Peter and Paul Bulletin, April 6, 2003

On this day, the fourth Sunday of Great Lent, we commemorate our venerable Father among the saints, St. John of Sinai, the author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

No one knows the birthplace or parentage of our venerable Father John of Sinai. In his youth, at the age of sixteen, he came to the wilderness of Sinai and dwelt under the guidance of Abba Martyrius. When Abba Martyrius tonsured our venerable Father John at the age of twenty, he took him and went to that pillar of the wilderness, Abba John the Sabbaite in the wilderness of Gouda where he had with him his disciple Stephen the Cappadocian. When the Sabbaite elder saw them, he arose and took water, poured it into a small basin, washed the feet of the disciple (the young John) and kissed his hand; but did not wash the feet of Abba Martyrius his superior. Abba Stephen was scandalized by the situation. After the departure of Abba Martyrius and his disciple, Abba John noticed that his own disciple was greatly perplexed and said to him, “Why are you so troubled? Believe me, I do not know who the boy is, but today I received the abbot of Sinai and washed his feet.” After forty years, he did indeed become the abbot according to the prophecy of the elder.

The Third Sunday of Lent - The Veneration Of The Holy Cross

From the "Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion", HDM Press.

Saints Peter and Paul Bulletin, March 30, 2003


As we have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24), and will have mortified ourselves during these forty days of the Fast, the precious and life-giving Cross is now placed before us to refresh our souls and encourage us who may be filled with a sense of bitterness, resentment, and depression. The Cross reminds us of the Passion of our Lord, and by presenting to us His example, it encourages us to follow Him in struggle and sacrifice, being refreshed, assured, and comforted. In other words, we must experience what the Lord experienced during His Passion - being humiliated in a shameful manner. The Cross teaches us that through pain and suffering we shall see the fulfillment of our hopes: the heavenly inheritance and eternal glory.

As they who walk on a long and hard way and are bowed down by fatigue find great relief and strengthening under the cool shade of a leafy tree, so do we find comfort, refreshment, and rejuvenation under the Life-giving Cross, which our Fathers “planted” on this Sunday. Thus, we are fortified and enabled to continue our Lenten journey with a light step, rested and encouraged.

The Second Sunday of Lent - St. Gregory Palamas

From the "Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion", HDM Press.

Saints Peter and Paul Bulletin, March 23, 2003

On this Sunday...we celebrate the memory of our Father among the saints, Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica and Wonder-worker. Our holy father Gregory was born in the imperial city of Constantinople. Gregory’s father reposed while the saint was of a tender age; but his mother continued to rear him and his brothers and sisters in the law of the Lord, instructing them in the divine Scriptures and in the rules of good conduct. She arranged for them to be taught by learned teachers….

Gregory disdained everything worldly as a deceptive dream - and wishing to cleave to God, the well-spring of all wisdom - at the age of twelve resolved to take up the monastic life….In time, she came to rejoice in the Lord over Gregory’s desire and decided to follow him in embracing the monastic life; moreover, with God’s help, she persuaded all her other children to do likewise….After leaving his mother and sisters in a convent, he went with his brothers to the holy mountain of Athos where they took up their dwelling in one of the monasteries. He gave himself over in complete obedience to a wondrous and perfect holy man named Nicodemus...Under his guidance, Gregory advanced in the virtues, and because of this, the Virgin Theotokos deigned to appear to him, receiving him under her protection and promising to be his mediatress.

The First Sunday of Lent - Sunday Of Orthodoxy

From the "Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion", HDM Press.

Saints Peter and Paul Bulletin, March 16, 2003

On this day, the first Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the restoration of the holy and venerable icons by the ever-memorable rulers of Constantinople, the Emperor Michael and his mother, the Empress Theodora, during the patriarchate of St. Methodius the Confessor.

It was with God’s permission that when St. Germanos (comm. May 12) had taken up the rudder of the Church, Leo the Isaurian (717-41) seized the scepter of the empire after having been a mule driver and manual laborer.  The Patriarch was summoned immediately to hear the Emperor say, “In my opinion, Bishop, the holy images [icons] are no different from idols; therefore, I command that they be removed from among us as soon as possible.  If it should be the case that they are the true forms of the saints, however, then at least see that they be hung up high so that we, who are stained by sin, may not soil them with our kisses.”

On Fasting and Prayer

This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting (Mark 9: 29).

This is the saving prescription of the greatest Physician of human souls. This is the remedy tried and proven. There is not another remedy for madness. What kind of sickness is this? This is the presence and dominance of an evil spirit in a man, a dangerous evil spirit, who labors to eventually destroy the body and soul of man. The boy, whom our Lord freed from an evil spirit, had been hurled by it at times into the fire and at times into the water, just in order to destroy him. As long as a man only philosophizes about God, he is weak and completely helpless against an evil spirit. The evil spirit ridicules the feeble sophistry of the world. But as soon as a man begins to fast and to pray to God, the evil spirit becomes filled with indescribable fear. In no way can the evil spirit tolerate the fragrance of prayer and fasting. The sweet-smelling fragrance chokes him and weakens him to utter exhaustion. In a man who only philosophizes about faith, there is spacious room in him for the demons. But in a man who sincerely begins to pray to God and to fast with patience and hope, it becomes narrow and constricted for the demon, so the demon must flee from such a man. Against certain bodily ills there exists only one remedy. Against the greatest illness of the soul, demonic possession, there exist two remedies, which must be utilized at one and the same time: fasting and prayer. The apostles and saints fasted and prayed to God. That is why they were so powerful against evil spirits. O gracious Jesus, our Physician and Helper in all misfortunes, strengthen us by the power of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may be able to adhere to Thy saving precepts concerning fasting and prayer, for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of our fellow men. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Velimirovic, Saint Nikolai. The Prologue of Ohrid (Kindle Locations 3723-3735). Sebastian Press Publishing House. Kindle Edition.


On the Indispensability of Sobriety in the Battle Against the Devil

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5: 8)

Orthodox monks have emphasized sobriety and vigilance as essential to asceticism. The spirit must be sober, in order to sense danger, and vigilant, in order to recognize from where the danger is coming, and from whom. “Be vigilant, my child, that you do not tread on a serpent, that you do not fall into a pit, that you do not encounter a wolf, that you do not venture out into deep water, and that you do not stray from the path and get lost in the forest!” Thus a mother counsels her child, fearing for his body. With no less love does the Church counsel a man, fearing for his soul. Therefore, children, be sober, be vigilant. Your old adversary, the devil, does not rest or sleep but, like a hungry lion, stalks and seeks someone to devour. Be sober, be vigilant, for you are like sheep and he is like a lion. When sheep sense the foul odor of the wolf, they flee to their shepherd. Be vigilant, and you will sense the foulness of the devil when he approaches you, and flee immediately under the protection of your Shepherd, Christ the Lord. You will sense the stench of the devil through your thoughts, through your feelings, through your intentions, and through your fleshly desires. All that you think, imagine, feel, intend or desire contrary to Christ and the Law of Christ— know that this is the snare of the devil, the stench of the devil. Know this, and flee to your Shepherd, directing your entire mind, heart, soul and body to Him. O Lord Jesus, our sober and vigilant Shepherd, make us sober and vigilant at every moment, so that our enemy may not surprise us and devour us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Velimirovic, Saint Nikolai. The Prologue of Ohrid (Kindle Locations 14535-14543). Sebastian Press Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

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