The Spiritual Ladder of Holy Week
by Fr. George Economou
Eighteen weeks, or more than one third of the annual cycle, is the ecclesiastical liturgical cycle that revolves around the celebration of the Resurrection. This is from the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee until the Sunday of All Saints. It is a liturgical journey rich in religious and spiritual experiences. It is a sweet joyful-sorrow. Grief according to God which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection.
And, as in all the liturgical traditions of our Holy Church, so also with this festal cycle, the wisdom of our Holy Fathers who set it in order is revealed. Not to follow the formalism provisions but to get to the depth of the essence, which is none other than the eternal plan of the divine economy. In this direction, this text summarizes the events of Holy and Great Week as a noetic and spiritual ladder, which leads the faithful to venerate the revered Passion and glorious Resurrection of the Savior.
The Saturday of Lazarus can be considered the prologue, the first step, and the resurrection of Lazarus the friend of Christ shortly before the Passion of the Lord prefigures His own glorious Resurrection. Jesus, who wept as He went to the tomb, where His friend was buried, says to the one who was four days dead and commands with the familiar words: "Lazarus, come forth!" At that moment and with those words of His, who Himself is the Resurrection and the Life, Lazarus immediately resurrected. He who breathed the breath of life into Adam has life in Himself. This is how His own Resurrection from the dead is theologically interpreted after His descent into Hades, and it ensures our own expectation of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. With the expectation of the Resurrection, therefore, we enter Holy and Great Week, that we may journey together and be crucified together, as well as be resurrected together, and finally be united with our Lord.
On Palm Sunday we celebrate the bright and glorious festival of the entrance of the Lord into the Holy City of Jerusalem. He comes exactly as it was prophesied by Zechariah in the Old Testament: "Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Meekly He sits on the donkey, just and endowed with salvation, to suffer the perfect injustice and extreme humiliation, by His Passion, and especially the Cross, to grant salvation to fallen humanity. He fulfills the plan of Divine Providence and reopens the door of Paradise as a compassionate Father, who never ceases to love His children.
On Holy and Great Monday the Church remembers blessed Joseph the All-Comely. He was the son of Jacob, whom his brothers wanted to kill and repeat the horrible fratricide of Cain because of their envy. He suffered horrible bullying by his own brothers. God, however, protected him from death, and so was sold to traders and led as a captive to Egypt, where Potiphar purchased him, and after he refused to sin with his master's wife, he was unjustly slandered and imprisoned. Still even there, the grace of God acted on his behalf, and not only was he liberated, but he became the closest confidant and collaborator of Pharaoh. In the sufferings of the all--comely Joseph and in his love, by which he forgave his brothers, the Church saw the Passion of the Lord and His perfect love prefigured, which is why it has been set to honor his memory on Holy and Great Monday.
Source. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.