SAN FRANCISCO – His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco sent the following Holy Week reflection to the faithful of the San Francisco Metropolis:
“Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
After weeks of fasting, prayer and preparation, Holy Week is upon us. Our worship services will transport us back in time over 2,000 years ago, where we can experience every step of the Lord’s journey.
We find ourselves first in Jerusalem, with the faithful waving palm branches and proclaiming, ‘Hosanna, Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.’ In a matter of days, those cries of joy will turn to condemnation with the crowds shouting ‘Crucify Him.’ The full range of emotion is experienced during Holy Week as we prayerfully witness His joyful entry into Jerusalem, and His painful Crucifixion, and ultimately His joyful entry into the Kingdom of Heaven through His Holy Resurrection.
During Holy Week in the Orthodox Church, we will recall the events and teachings of our Lord and Savior’s final days with His followers. These are somber days. At the beginning of the week our liturgical life takes on some of its most serious tones, and at the end erupts in some of its most joyous.
Christ will tell His disciples, ‘Behold we are going up to Jerusalem; and the son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death.’ (Matthew 20:18). Christ knows why He is going there; He knows what will happen. As the hymns of Holy Week will emphasize, He goes to his voluntary Passion. And a hymn continues, ‘Come, therefore, and let us accompany Him.’
Each day of Holy Week provides us an opportunity to accompany our Lord through these days. In the Gospel lessons of each service, we are given the chance to hear His words. In the hearing of the story of His Passion we are given the opportunity to meditate and reflect upon the events, not just to refresh our history of the events, but to allow our hearts and minds to contemplate the extent of God’s love for each one of us. As we do this, we will find that God’s love for us is inexhaustible and unending, to which we can only respond with words of adoration and praise.
But to admire the week, to hear the story, to be moved by the beauty of the hymns and our traditions is only the first step. We must allow ourselves to be transformed by them, to deepen our commitment to Christ. Holy Week provides us with a message of hope and of new life. Given the suffering of this past year in the pandemic, our world needs this message to be spread wide and far, in words and in deeds.
After the inability to gather in our parishes last year for Holy Week, we must give thanks to God that we can return to our churches. Yes, we must remain vigilant and adhere to the safety guidelines set forth – but we can be together and participate in our liturgical life, and for that we are most grateful. Though technology has been a blessing to allow people to worship through live-stream, nothing can replace our physical presence in the House of God. I hope that you will return to your church, not just during Holy Week, but regularly participating in the Liturgical and Sacramental life of your parish, re-connecting and re-engaging with your Church family, ministries and charitable outreach.
My beloved brothers and sisters, accompany Christ this Holy Week. Attend the services as you are able, study the hymns and readings, and allow this Holy Week to reach deep into your heart and soul, and fill you with hope and the new life that the Resurrection brings to the world. Hronia Polla! Kali Anastasi!”