April 12, 2020

Holy and Great Week (Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos)

By Archimandrite Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

We have entered Holy and Great Week, the week we perform the remembrance of the Passion of the Lord. Why do we call this week Great Week? This question is answered most aptly by Saint John Chrysostom. He says:

"We call it Great, not because it has more hours, since some weeks (the summer weeks) do have more hours due to their longer days; nor does it have more days, because every week of the year has the same number of days. Why then do we call this one Great? Because great and beyond description are the benefits that we derive from this week. During this week our many years of war waged against God came to an end, death was abolished, the curse was vanquished, the tyrannical authority of the devil was destroyed, all that belonged to him was spoiled, heaven opened to us, the angels rejoiced, the partition wall was broken down, and God and man reconciled. For these reasons we call this week Great, because of the many and great gifts the Lord bestowed upon us during it."

It was therefore natural for our Church to properly remember these great and wondrous events. Indeed, all the hymns of our Church are extraordinary, but the hymns of Great Week (including within it the bright Sunday of Pascha) exceed all the rest. As Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says, when he moved on from other hymns to the hymns of Great Week: "We are moving on from simple songs to the song of songs, from a sacred temple to the most sacred restricted area and the holy of holies, from the first or second heaven to the third and higher heaven, or, to give another similitude, we are moving from the voices of the angels and the cherubim to the very words of God."

Matins the Previous Day

Before we speak about each day of Great Week, we have need to remind that the evening Services of Great Week, which great crowds of people attend, are not evening ones, but morning ones. In other words, it is Matins, namely the morning Service of the following day, and according to ecclesiastical economia it is chanted in the evening of the previous day to facilitate the faithful. Therefore on the evening of Palm Sunday the Matins of Great Monday is chanted, on the evening of Great Monday the Matins of Great Tuesday is chanted, on the evening of Great Tuesday the Matins of Great Wednesday is chanted, and so on. Therefore, when we say we are celebrating something on Great Monday, we mean the Service that is chanted on the evening of Palm Sunday; when we say we are celebrating something on Great Tuesday, we mean the Service that is chanted on the evening of Great Monday, and so on and so forth.

Source: Περίοδος Τριωδίου, Πόρος Τροιζηνίας: Ιερόν Ησυχαστήριον Κεχαριτωμένης Θεοτόκου Τροιζήνος, 2011. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.