Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

The Great Fast and the Great Struggle - Part IV: Preparation and Sacrifice

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Holy Week is a momentous and significant part of our lives. All of life's troubles, all of life's questions, all the fears and confusion we grapple with year-round can be overcome by the spirit of Pascha – but we must drink of it plenteously. If we go in with an open heart and open ears, we will hear the voice of Christ – how softly He speaks – offering to take up our troubles and make them His own. For when we experience Holy Week sincerely, when we listen intently to the prayers, when we follow diligently the readings, when we sit and ponder the slow and somber Psalm of each hour, we feel our pain being lifted up and alleviated by Christ's own pains.

What true believer has attended Pascha faithfully and has not felt a unique comfort at one point or another. What deacon has chanted hymns of such paschal beauty and has not felt the tears beginning in his eyes once or twice. For considering the mountain which is the spiritual life of the Church, Holy Week is certainly the summit.

The celebration which happens on Hosanna Sunday must be understood to rightly enter into and live Holy Week. For centuries God had been striving with Israel to be their sole King. They had turned aside time and again to other gods. But He promised that one day, He would finally gain their complete obedience through their Messiah. Christ came; and He struggled three more years with the nation of Israel, keeping them in question about whether or not He was the long-awaited Messiah. Then, at the appointed time, when His hour had come – "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified" (Jn 12:23), He rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, openly accepting the psalms and acclamations of the people, which every ear recognized as a prophecy of the Messiah: "Hosanna!" (Ps 118:25).

From the dawn of Christianity, Jerusalem has been a symbol of the heart. Hosanna Sunday is the feast of Christ's kingship over our heart and soul. For seven long weeks, we have been struggling with the things that have laid claim to our hearts. The Great Fast has been the training field for throwing off the chains that bind our souls, and fasting has been our coach; and we are still struggling. But now Christ asks us to prepare our heart as a throne for Himself. On the threshold of Pascha, I am to surrender all to Him and acknowledge Him as King over my weak and wayward life.

There is just one more point. The Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem was a "triumph" in another sense. For when He entered the city, He knowingly walked straight to crucifixion. The joyous commotion of that entrance, and all the events which transpired in Jerusalem thereafter, aroused the fury of his adversaries enough to finally precipitate His arrest and execution. When Christ entered the city on Hosanna Sunday, He knew it was the beginning of the willful sacrifice of Himself.

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). We also must enter into Holy Week willing to die unto ourselves. Let every deacon sacrifice his pride in chanting, let each youth sacrifice his or her preoccupation with appearance, let every businessman sacrifice his obsession with work. We must come to Him empty of ourselves if He is to fill us with Himself. Do your best to live and breathe Holy Week: and you will find the Resurrection Feast a very joyous delight.

~~~The Fathers Speak~~~

God humbled Himself: human beings should blush to be proud.

St. Augustine

Let us offer our very selves, the possession most precious to God.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus

Humility in listening to the word of God makes the path ready for the Lord to enter our heart.

St. Gregory the Great

As he was dying, Abba Benjamin said to his sons, "If you observer the following, you can be saved, 'Be joyful at all times, pray without ceasing, and give thanks for all things.'"

Abba Benjamin
Egyptian monk

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