Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book Review: Meditations for Holy Week: Dying and Rising with Christ

Meditations for Holy Week Dying and Rising with Christ is Fr. Vassilios Papavasiliou’s new book. It is the third book in the Meditations series (the previous two being Meditations for Great Lent: Reflections on the Triodion and Meditations for Advent: Preparing for Christ’s Birth). This book has been released within the Triodion period, making it a perfect read for this time of year, preparing all of us for the holiest week of the year, Holy Week. ‘Holy Week, or Great Week, is the heart of the Christian Orthodox Faith and the centre of the yearly cycle of Orthodox feasts’ (p. 7).
This book is a great guide for the events and services that take place during Holy Week. The symbolisms, texts, gospel readings and hymns are all examined and explained in this small pocket book. The faithful could read this every day of the holiest week of the year in order to truly and fully comprehend the riches and beauties of the Orthodox faith and further understand the services, which are unique for this period. 

The author separates Holy Week in two parts. In the first part Fr. Vassilios examines the Bridegroom Services, which include the services from Palm Sunday until Wednesday. Part two looks into the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, from Great Thursday until Easter Day. An interesting notion was the explanation of the eleventh commandment, which relates directly with the Divine Eucharist and ‘the full meaning of Christian love’ (p.75).
It is evident that this book has been written based not only on the theology, symbolisms, hymns of the period or even just the Bible or the Tradition. Fr. Vassilios deepens his understanding and explanation of Holy Week through his own experience. Therefore, the author gives the practicalities of the services of this week; that is why he explains the exhaustive character of the services, which is intended to make us all struggle and be, truly, part of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
This book has a personal character too; when the author explains the proclamation of the Good News, he explains the unfortunate reality whereby the Christians leave the Church building after hearing the hymn ‘Christ has risen from the dead…’The priest during that point chants: ‘Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered; Let those also who hate Him flee before Him’ (p. 126). A couple of years back, when Fr. Vassilios chanted this bit, he later came to me and explained the irony that the Christians leave at this point, not fully understanding what has just been chanted.
Meditations for Holy Week is a great guide for Christians and catechumens who wish to further understand the faith, to understand why the Church celebrates the Passion, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Christ in such a way. This is the Holiest Week of the year, a time when we should all reflect and try and find the right path to salvation.

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