There’s so much to see and hear and experience during Holy Week. That last week before the feast of Pascha takes us from the events at the ends of Christ’s earthly ministry and through his Passion, his death of the cross and ending with the days before His resurrection. If you’ve never been through the Orthodox services of Holy Week, it’s very hard to describe. It isn’t just pageantry, because no play or performance could ever involve this much of a person. And there’s no play that was ever written like this one — to hear these words, sing these lamentations, await the news that changed the world, is to stand in again for all of the human race when we found out for the first time that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life.”
How can anyone hope to put all that into words? Where would you even begin? It’s really something that everyone has to see for themselves — more than anything else I’ve ever used this expression for, “You just had to be there.” So maybe I can be forgiven for a writer’s construct that got me out of having to write it down: Abigail ends up home sick and misses everything until Friday afternoon. I confess that I just couldn’t think of a way to write her experience in those services, and so I gave her family a cold that passed to her and kept her home from Lazarus Saturday all the way to Holy Friday.
And there’s another reason that Abigail had to have a break. Abigail has been on a kind of path all the way through Lent, and as it happens, she saw something that mattered a lot without really realizing it. Right after the sobering and cathartic experience of her confession to Fr. Boris, her mind is more free of distraction and her heart is unburdened by all the confusing emotions she had been having. When she wanders out to the narthex, she sees Vanessa and she knows she has to apologize. She does manage to apologize, but there is a complication she hadn’t foreseen — Vanessa is also on a certain kind of journey of her own, and the family problem that she didn’t want anyone to know about has suddenly come to a crisis point. So the exchange between the two girls seems like a strange one, and Abigail can’t understand why. She’ll need a certain amount of time before she’s ready to help Vanessa, and that won’t happen until Pascha has almost arrived.
If it sounds like I’m being vague on details, I apologize. I am trying to prevent any spoilers for those who haven’t read the book yet. You really want to come to this part without having too much given away, so I want to do my part to let you read it for yourself.
In a nutshell, though, Abigail didn’t go to the services for most of this week, and that is mostly because I didn’t know how to write about them. In this instance, though, the internet is a big help. It’s much easier to show highlights of the services than it is to verbalize them, and there are many instances available online to choose from. I’ll be picking a few out to present here. If you did read the book, you can think of this as what Abigail got to listen to on her father’s cell phone. Her dad kindly let her borrow his cell phone so she could watch some of the things he had recorded from Holy Week the year before. Maybe this is a bit of how that looked and/or sounded.
So stay tuned for that later today. In the meantime, here’s something I thought readers might find interesting. Here’s a 40-second video I did that just shows the inside of my home church, St. Paul the Apostle in Las Vegas, NV. Since I used it as the model of Abigail’s church (both the inside and the outside), it might be interesting to see how the chairs, confession area and choir area all work together. Plus, I just think churches are interesting — all kinds at all times. Anyway, here it is and see you again soon.