As we gathered this evening in worship at the Bridegroom Matins service of Great and Holy Monday, I was struck by the first sticheron on the praises:
AS THE LORD WAS GOING TO HIS VOLUNTARY PASSION,
HE SAID TO THE APOSTLES ON THE WAY,
BEHOLD, WE GO UP TO JERUSALEM,
AND THE SON OF MAN SHALL BE DELIVERED UP, AS IT IS WRITTEN OF HIM.
COME, THEREFORE, LET US ALSO GO WITH HIM,
PURIFIED IN MIND.
LET US BE CRUCIFIED WITH HIM AND DIE THROUGH HIM
TO THE PLEASURES OF THIS LIFE.
THEN WE SHALL LIVE WITH HIM AND HEAR HIM SAY:
I GO NO MORE TO THE EARTHLY JERUSALEM TO SUFFER,
BUT TO MY FATHER AND YOUR FATHER,
TO MY GOD AND YOUR GOD.
I SHALL RAISE YOU UP TO THE JERUSALEM ON HIGH//
IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
To me, this captures the essence of Holy Week.
We are no longer in Great Lent — the “forty days that bring profit to our souls,” which came to an end last Friday. We are no longer in this period of intensified labor, of increase effort to live according to the commandments of Christ. The focus then was, to a certain extent, on ourselves, on our own transformation through the grace of God acting in cooperation with our efforts. The focus now is different.
Now, our gaze is focused solidly on Christ our Lord. Yesterday He went up to Jerusalem, and the rest of this week is the continuation of this journey, the journey to Golgotha, to His Passion and Crucifixion, undertaken for our sake, so that through His death and resurrection He might grant us newness of life.
And so we, worshiping Him with adoration, thanksgiving and love, accompany Him on His journey. We continue to fast and pray because He is fasting and praying. We purify ourselves that we might be with Him. We accompany Him because He is, really, taking this journey in order to accompany us through death into life without end.
Let us, then, say with Thomas: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16 KJV).