After a glorious Palm Sunday Feast at St. John yesterday, we began Holy Week with the first of the three Bridegroom Orthros Services last night.
I wrote about these in my post two years ago, which included a poem, “The Tinderbox.”
Back on the Letter “H” for “Humility” in my Sinner’s Lenten Alphabet, I talked about these services a little, and posted a number of icons of Christ, “The Bridegroom.” To clarify, the icon of Christ, “Extreme Humility,” (the one I wrote for St. John, at left) is used on Holy Friday, not during the Bridegroom services.
The icon of Christ, "The Bridegroom," is at right. It's the one the priest carried in procession last night and placed on the stand in the middle of the solea for us to venerate at the end of the service. There are small differences in the icons, but the Orthodox Church pays attention to those details (and our pastor definitely does) and there’s a reason to have the “right” icons out for the various services. I think that even when we don’t know or understand the reasons, the icons work on our souls, in concert with the “right” music, Church architecture, vestments, etc.
The somberness and beauty of the Bridegroom services works on the soul in a way like no other time of the Church year, at least for me. I’m so glad we have three of these in a row, because my heart needs lots of help right now. My old friend, acedia, is back in full force. (More posts about acedia are here, and here.)
Sometimes when depression grabs me, it’s about feeling fat, over-eating, over-drinking, or under-accomplishing (especially with my writing). And I’m feeling all of those things yapping at my heels right now. But I think the thing that hits me hardest is loneliness. In his book, Beauty For Ashes, Stephen Lloyd-Moffett talks about an important part of Orthodoxy that I think many of us grapple with in one way or another—community:
“In Greek, the word for Church, ἐκκλησία, derives from the ancient words for those who are ‘called out’.... The fierce individualism that dominates so many forms of Protestant thought is absent in Orthodoxy. Living in authentic communities is the very condition for human spiritual development. The path of salvation runs through and alongside others.»
Living «in authentic communities» with others is hard. It involves dying to self, setting aside ego, and loving and serving others without wanting/needing anything in return. I’m not good at any of these things. In fact, I’m really a hard person to be friends with. So I often hurt others and feel the wound in my own spirit. As a result, I think people keep me at an emotional distance, and maybe I do the same, just to avoid pain. When you love people and put yourself out there for them, you risk being hurt. Look what happened to Jesus.
So this Holy Week I hope to become a little more authentic—as a person, and as a member of the communities in which I live, especially my church community, but also my family (which is called «a little church») and my writing community.