The hours of the ultimate hour.

In 2018 Orthodox Easter, Pascha, falls on April 8th, a week later than Easter in the West. So today is our remembrance of Christ’s Entrance into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday. Saturday evening I am writing after attending our Vigil service for the feast, where  toward the end of the service we were given palm branches to hold, to take home and bring back tomorrow morning and hold them all through Divine Liturgy.

This morning, on the feast of Lazarus Saturday, another feast of victory, five catechumens were baptized and received into the church. The scent of holy chrism drifted over to me as they were being anointed in chrismation and I began to weep.

All week the Newly Illumined will wear their white robes to services. I caught a picture of one of them receiving a hug. What a gloriously happy day for us all!

You can see how even before palms were given into hands, the cathedral was fully decorated with them. Blooms are opening to decorate the church gardens about now as well.

I wanted to share an excerpt from a pamphlet on Holy Week by Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

But as in Lazarus we have recognized the image of each man, in this one city we acknowledge the mystical center of the world and indeed of the whole creation. For such is the biblical meaning of Jerusalem, the focal point of the whole history of salvation and redemption, the holy city of God’s advent. Therefore, the Kingdom inaugurated in Jerusalem is a universal Kingdom, embracing in its perspective all men and the totality of creation.

For a few hours – yet these were the decisive time, the ultimate hour of Jesus, the hour of fulfillment by God of all His promises, of all His decisions. It came at the end of the entire process of preparation revealed in the Bible: it was the end of all that God did for men. And thus this short hour of Christ’s earthly triumph acquires an eternal meaning. It introduces the reality of the Kingdom into our time, into all hours, makes this Kingdom the meaning of time and its ultimate goal.

The Kingdom was revealed in this world – from that hour – its presence judges and transforms human history. And at the most solemn moment of our liturgical celebration, when we receive from the priest a palm branch, we renew our oath to our King and confess His Kingdom as the ultimate meaning and content of our life. We confess that everything in our life and in the world belongs to Christ, nothing can be taken away from its sole real Owner, for there is no area of life in which He is not to rule, to save and to redeem.

– Fr. Alexander Schmemann

7 thoughts on “The hours of the ultimate hour.

  1. A blessed Holy Week to you, Gretchen. Some day I’m going to have to attend an Orthodox service. The liturgy seems wonderful, and I’m taken, time and again, by the language often used in your tradition. I’ve already mentioned “repose.” Here, I noticed “Newly Illumined.” Different language truly is a key to seeing the same realities differently.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not until 2025 will East and West again have Easter on the same Sunday, so you would have lots of chances to visit on Pascha itself, without missing your own Easter services. Many times our celebration dates are only a week apart, but it can happen that the West is four or five weeks ahead of us on the calendar!

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  2. Wonderful quote, and that last sentence is exactly what we ladies are studying in our lesson tomorrow — the redemption of all creation, the reclaiming, and our hope on the New Earth. I like that we have our Easter week and observe its meaning and beauty, and then you observe it again, and I can watch more closely now, listen and enjoy. Some things need doing twice to soak it in.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel a little lost, going into Holy Week after having missed Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday home in bed. Your posts and these lovely pictures are helping. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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