I think that if you ask most people, they’d tell you that Christmas is the most important Christian holiday of them all. But I would beg to differ. I think that the general view in the Orthodox church is that Easter, or Pascha, as it’s commonly called, is the most important holiday. While Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Easter celebrates His resurrection from the dead. Of course, nothing that happened in the life of Christ could have happened had He not been born to begin with, however, it is His death and resurrection that define His purpose on Earth, and in fact, the very reason we worship Christ and call ourselves “Christian”.
And yet, while Easter and Christmas are both obviously important days in the Church, there is one other day that might be termed the “biggest” holiday of the year: Palm Sunday. Why? Because it is the one service of the year when the church is literally overflowing! Palm Sunday is a great holiday, and many people who don’t regularly attend services come for Palm Sunday. The little kids (and the ladies too), all come dressed in their prettiest Easter dresses. We decorate candles with flowers and after the liturgy (our church service) we process with our lit candles around the outside of the church singing,
“Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, Have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father, Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.”
We sing this in English and Arabic, over and over, and when we’re done, we stop in the courtyard and Father Alban reads from the Gospel. He reads the part about Jesus coming into Jerusalem on an ass (and every year I would tell the kids in Sunday School that Father would say “ass”, and that “ass” meant “donkey” and they should try not to laugh). And when he’s done reading the Gospel, we go into the dining hall and we have a Palm Sunday luncheon. We get to eat fish on Palm Sunday, so there’s salmon and rice and vegetables and hummous and salad and bread and it’s a wonderful meal and we sit and visit with our friends and family!
There is only one week left until Holy Pascha. I will post this week’s menu, but also, I will post the most important thing of all about Holy Week; all of the services offered (there’s a lot of them!). I have never attended every service during Holy Week and I can’t this year either, but I try to make at least a few of them. I’ll do my best to explain the meaning and significance of the services (it’s really interesting!). So, I will get back to you after church tomorrow. Have a great evening!