Every year the Coptic Church celebrates the remembrance of the Lord’s Passion and Crucifixion, and lives the week of the Holy Pascha. Passion Week, in our Church which lives by the Spirit, is a time in which the soul enters deeply into the Passion of our Good Saviour.
The readings and events of this week, which are the breaths of the Holy Spirit, fall in full agreement and spread from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation. When these readings are read and lived, the Spirit makes the listener live the days of heaven on earth. As for the Hymns which are composed by the Holy Spirit, initiate the grace of repentance and sorrow for our sins which led our Saviour to the Cross.
The day is divided into five daily hours (Morning, 3rd, 9th and 11th hours) and five nightly hours (1st, 3rd, 6th, 9th and 11th hour). On Good Friday, the 12th hour is added. The day is considered to run from sunset to sunset of the following day. The Pascha Prayers are conducted outside the choir section”for the Lord Christ suffered and was crucified on Calvary mountain which is outside Jerusalem: ” therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:12-13) and also because the sacrifice of sin was burned outside the camp (Hebrews 13:11).
THE HOLY WEEK DAY BY DAY: —
The Lord goes to Bethany to raise Lazarus, whom He loved, from death. This is the last big and public miracle the Lord performed before His last journey to Jerusalem. The Lord shows His mercy and love to all who love Him, and shows us His authority over death before His own death.
We are assured that God’s aim for the incarnation, and life on earth, entrance into Jerusalem and crucifixion is to free us from our enemy the devil. Then to live in our hearts, so that we can enter into His Kingdom and enjoy our eternal lives with Him, become His children, and sons of the King. This is God’s reason from the time of His entrance into Jerusalem as a King riding on a colt, till His raising on the cross to overcome all via the cross which is made of wood, (Psalm 95:10).
The Lord Christ attended the last supper prepared for him on Saturday falling on the 9th of Nisan, 5534 (after creation) in the village of Bethany which means house of poverty. It was the house of Simon the leper where Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead and where Mary anointed the feet of Christ with the expensive fragment oil and wiped them with the hair of her head as said in the Gospel of Saint John (2:1):
Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was …” Obviously before the Passover by six days means it was Saturday. Saint John continues saying that He rose the next day planning to publicly enter Jerusalem (John 12:12). The following day would be Sunday the 10th of Nisan and this was the day when the Israelites took for themselves the lamb of the Passover and kept it till the 14th of this month and then sacrificed it in the evening (Exodus 121-36).
As also the lambs of the Passover were sorted and kept for a few days in the holy city, thus the Lamb of God who lifts the sin of the world remained within Jerusalem going back and forth between the Temple and Bethany. When the appointed time approached to fulfil the Redemption, He entered Jerusalem with great celebrations as Zechariah said: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Our Coptic Church celebrates on this day the Lord Christ’s entry to Jerusalem in a kingly parade which the prophets of the Old Testament foretold of. This great happening was followed by a number of events which our alert Church did not change but kept as memory by her readings for the benefit of the faithful during Passion Week. Thus the happenings of each day are a foundation of the trip of the Lord’s Passion
set for our benefit.
After that Sunday service, the curtains of the Altar are closed and a general prayer for the dead starts. At the end of the general funeral rites, the priests sprinkle the blessed water on all the people of the church. This is in the event that if someone passes away during the coming week, we maintain our focus on the Passion of Christ and thus we do not pray funeral rites on the deceased.
Jesus was hungry and he saw a fig tree, so he went to eat from it, but there was only leaves and no fruits. Jesus cursed the tree and said “you will never again bear fruits” and at once, the tree dried up. This was an example of the Jewish nation that had the good exterior appearance without any fruits. When the Lord entered into the temple, He drove out those who were buying and selling in it to keep it undefiled (Mark 11:11-19)
The Lord talked with the disciples about faith when they saw what happened to the fig tree. The synagogue authorities question Jesus’ actions & miracles. [Mat. 21:23-32].
He showed them His authority from above and started to speak to them with parables, such as the parable of the talent, in which he showed the end of bad people. On leaving the temple, He starts to prophecy about desolation of the temple and Jerusalem and the signs of that and of His second coming and the end of the world.
From Wednesday’s Eve to the end of Saturday, no one, including Priest and congregation, kisses or greets another due to Judas kiss.
Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve went to the chief priest, conspired and betrayed Jesus [Mark 14: 10-16]. That day also had the preparation for the Last Supper. [Mark 14:10-16]. Our Lord Jesus stayed at Bethany preparing to offer Himself as a sacrafice on behalf of all human kind.
The Last Supper and Jesus washes his Disciples’ feet [Mat. 26: 20-25] & [John 13:3-8]
On this day, the Lord ate the old Passover with the disciples to stop the Passover of the Old testament-representing the New Testament, the new Passover, the Lamb of God, Who was slain for the life of everyone, not only for the firstborn. Before establishing the new sacrament, the Eucharist, the Lord washed the feet of the disciples to teach us that partaking of the Eucharist should be preceded washing through repentance and humbleness.
The crucifixion day.
1. The trials from 6-9 am:
1ST trial in the temple courtyard
2ND trial in front of the chief priest
3RD trial in front of Pilate
4TH trial in front of Herod
5TH trial in front of Pilate again.
2. Carrying the Cross to the Golgotha 9 am to 12 pm:
Given 39 lashes of the whip.
Had a crown of thorns placed on His head
Experience the cross fall on Him.
Have Simon of Cyrene carry the Cross with Jesus.
Jesus remembers his mother.
The nails & the Crucifixion.
3. The seven words of Jesus on the Cross 12-3 pm:
1-Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
2-Assuredly, I say unto you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.
3-Woman, behold your son!.. Behold, your mother.
4-My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me.
6-It is finished.
7-Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.
4. The events from 3-6 pm:
A spear into Jesus’ side (water & blood).
The Tombs opened & the curtains in the temple were torn into two from top to bottom.
The rocks cracked & the land shook.
The leader of the hundred soldiers gained faith.
The burial of Jesus.
Why the cross? Why was this the way Jesus chose to die?”Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree” (Deut. 21, 23, Gal. 3:13). “Has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). “He has carried our sins” (Isaiah 53:4)
“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1Pet. 2:24). If Jesus came to bear the curse laid upon us, how else could He do that unless he received the death
set for a curse, and that is the cross. Jesus the son of God who gives water and life to the whole world became thirsty, but what the Jews gave Him to drink? sour wine mingled with gall. We ask the Lord to bless us and help us to become like Simon of Cyrene to carry the Cross with Him so we may be glorified also with Him.
Pascha Week is not an opportunity to benefit for a week only, but a time to store up spiritual nourishment enough to last the whole year. As HH Pope Shenouda III said, Let us follow Him hour by hour; when arrested, put under trial in the presence of His enemies, crowned with thorns, flogged, falling under the Cross, nailed, till He commended His Spirit into the handsof the Father and when He took the robber on His right with Him into Paradise, and let us continually chant unto Him the hymn, “Thine is the Power and the Glory, the Blessing and the Majesty, forever Amen ”
Joe Meawad, Sydney