Tag Archives: Holy Week

Doing Holy Week at Home During COVID-19

by Gregory Tucker

Many Christians around the world have come to realise over the last few weeks that this year’s Holy Week and Pascha will be somewhat unlike any that they have previously experienced, on account of the current viral pandemic. Very many churches are now closed, with services cancelled or in-person participation restricted to a select “skeleton crew.” Orthodox Christians are obviously not exempt from the consequences of the pandemic and many are already mourning the loss of public worship at the high point of the liturgical year, even as they understand and respect the regulations imposed by civil authorities.

Although it may be possible during the coming weeks to view or listen to liturgical services online, many churchgoers will rightly acknowledge that this is no substitute for prayer and worship in person. Screens and speakers necessarily render us the passive audience of a performance. Clergy can quickly become like stars of stage and screen, existing in a glittering world somewhere “out there,” apart from our own mundane experience of isolation and enclosure. The edges of our electronic devices frame liturgical action like the proscenium arch in a theatre, with the same effect of separating drama from life. Even if we successfully minimise distractions, disable pop-up notifications, and discipline ourselves to remain quiet and present to the broadcast, many of us will still desire something more immediate and active than online liturgy—something truly in the here-and-now of our reality of social distancing and quarantine.

Various possibilities present themselves as alternatives (or, complements) to watching liturgy online, including the observation (or revival!) of our prayer rule with renewed energy and attentiveness, and the disciplined reading of scripture, especially the Psalms and Gospels. But it is also possible to bring the services themselves into our homes, and some may be inclined to do this during a period that would ordinarily be saturated by liturgy.

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It’s That Time of the Year Again: In Tone Four, “The murderers of God, the lawless nation of the Jews…”

by Bogdan G. Bucur  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский  |  српски

byz-hymn-e1491498366215.png

Disturbing Words, Disturbed Emotions

The words in the title are from one of the stichera at the Beatitudes chanted on Holy Thursday evening (Triodion, 589). Similar references to “arrogant Israel, people guilty of blood,”  “bloodthirsty people, jealous and vengeful,” and “the perverse and crooked people of the Hebrews” occur in the unabbreviated English translation of the Lamentations service printed in the Lenten Triodion.

It is true that this kind of language appears less strident when considered within the context of Byzantine rhetoric; it is also true that the pattern is set by the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Micah 6:1-5; Amos 2:9-12); and it is, yet again, true that we must also take into consideration the larger context of the Church’s growth from a charismatic, egalitarian, theologically innovative, and administratively schismatic group within first-century Judaism into the increasingly Gentile reality of the second century. Indeed, during the early decades of the Christian movement, the context for the vitriolic anti-Judaism found in the Hebrew Bible, in some apocalyptic writings of the Second Temple era, and in the New Testament (e.g., “brood of vipers,” “synagogue of Satan,” “enemies of God,” “sons of the devil”) shifted gradually from harsh intra-Jewish polemics to polemics between the overwhelmingly Gentile Church and “the Jews.” All good and true—but today these invectives are deeply disturbing, and we know that rhetoric of this kind has at times been part of the explosive mix that led to violence against Jews. Continue reading

It’s That Time of the Year Again: In Tone Four, “The murderers of God, the lawless nation of the Jews…”

by Bogdan G. Bucur  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

byz-hymn-e1491498366215.png

Disturbing Words, Disturbed Emotions

The words in the title are from one of the stichera at the Beatitudes chanted on Holy Thursday evening (Triodion, 589). Similar references to “arrogant Israel, people guilty of blood,”  “bloodthirsty people, jealous and vengeful,” and “the perverse and crooked people of the Hebrews” occur in the unabbreviated English translation of the Lamentations service printed in the Lenten Triodion.

It is true that this kind of language appears less strident when considered within the context of Byzantine rhetoric; it is also true that the pattern is set by the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Micah 6:1-5; Amos 2:9-12); and it is, yet again, true that we must also take into consideration the larger context of the Church’s growth from a charismatic, egalitarian, theologically innovative, and administratively schismatic group within first-century Judaism into the increasingly Gentile reality of the second century. Indeed, during the early decades of the Christian movement, the context for the vitriolic anti-Judaism found in the Hebrew Bible, in some apocalyptic writings of the Second Temple era, and in the New Testament (e.g., “brood of vipers,” “synagogue of Satan,” “enemies of God,” “sons of the devil”) shifted gradually from harsh intra-Jewish polemics to polemics between the overwhelmingly Gentile Church and “the Jews.” All good and true—but today these invectives are deeply disturbing, and we know that rhetoric of this kind has at times been part of the explosive mix that led to violence against Jews. Continue Reading…