The first week of the Holy Forty Days of Lent , in the words of our pious ancestors and all Orthodox Christians, is called the dawn of abstinence, the week of purity. This week the Church convinces its children to come out of that sinful state into which the whole human race fell and lost paradise through our first parents’ lack of restraint, and which each of us only increases through our own sins; to come out by the path of faith, prayer, humility, and God-pleasing fasting.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Great Lent and Holy Week are two separate fasts, and two separate celebrations. Great Lent ends on Friday of the fifth week (the day before Lazarus Saturday). Holy Week begins immediately thereafter. Let's explore the meaning of each of the solemn days of Passion Week.
A number of years ago during the years of communism, a certain old Romanian priest would never greet anyone with the typical “Hello” or “Good Morning”. Instead, he greeted anyone he met with a radiant smile and the words “Rejoice always!” Now this may seem like an unusual way to greet someone, but it is even more incomprehensible when one learned that this priest was in terrible prison, while his son and daughter, along with two sons-in-law also suffered in prison.
Brothers and sisters, we have lived this week in the light of last Sunday—the Triumph of Orthodoxy. A wonderful feature was pointed out to us in the Gospel, which was then read: Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him, of Whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn. 1:45-46). Both of them, Philip and Nathanael, wanted to believe in the right way, praise God rightly, that is, to be Orthodox.