Take the Holy Thursday Challenge

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Every Holy Thursday we are faced with a task that isn’t as easy as the other Holy Week services. The task that I am talking about is the reading of the twelve Gospels. That’s right, there are twelve. But on top of that you also have twelve epistles and twelve prayers before the Gospel. Many people talk about the stages of grief like denial, anger, etc. Well I have the eight stages of the Holy Thursday service.

Stage one: “This isn’t that bad. This first Gospel is one of the longest and that means we are basically done!” Stage two: “How many different ways can someone talk about the same event! The answer is four.” Stage three: “My feet are going to fall off.” Stage four: “Is it just me or is the church getting hotter?” Stage five: “Who is going to pass out first?” Stage six: “We are almost done we can do this!” Stage seven: “How fast can someone read the epistle? Let’s find out!” and finally stage eight: “That wasn’t so bad. Next year is going to be a breeze.” So, Holy Thursday can be crazy and make your feet hurt but here are some suggestions and things you may not have noticed to spice it up this year.

  • Tip #1: Wear sensible shoes. Heels are NOT recommended. Flats can be good (ladies) and comfortable dress shoes (boys). I also recommend some inserts to make the shoe a bit more comfortable.
  • Tip #2: Holy Thursday is literally a God given “I Spy” game. When I was about 14, I made a game for myself so that I would pay attention to the Gospel readings and not drift off into space. Before the service, look up Old Testament passages (like the psalms) with foreshadowing or predictions about the Crucifixion. For example, Psalm 22 (or Psalm 21 depending on the Bible you are looking at). So, I am not going to give too much away because you guys need a bit of a challenge but in verse 18 it reads, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garments.” In Matthew 27:35, we see in an account of Jesus’s crucifixion almost identical wording. “And when He was crucified, they divided His garments among them by casting lots.” So, use psalm 22, other psalms, and Old Testament passages to find parallels. Play the version of “Liturgical I Spy” to keep your attention on the Gospels during the service.
  • Tip #3: Follow along in your service book, or look up the verses before hand and mark them in your Bible so that you can read along with your priest. This helps you focus more during the Gospel readings and helps you follow along in the service. It won’t seem as bad if you are reading them, too.
  • Tip #4: Pay attention. Holy Thursday is one of the most powerful services. When watching Jesus being nailed to the cross and seeing Him up there, I always tear up a little bit. Remember that He endured suffering for us.
  • Tip #5: Find passages that stick out to you, get your OCF (or youth group) in on it too. After the service, you guys can share something that was really hitting home for you in the readings.
  • Tip #6: Watch a Bible-themed movie. Sometimes seeing the events in a film version can help you better visualize what was happening back then. Netflix recently released a film narrated version of the Gospels. There are also the classics like Jesus of Nazareth, The Bible, and The Passion of the Christ.
  • Tip #7: Coffee. Black or with soy milk. Almond milk is great too.

Holy Thursday is a tough service emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and it is okay to space out or feel miserable. But when you catch yourself feeling like this, look at the cross, and remember there is a reason for this.

In one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes he says,

Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; but to make them worth it.

I wish you all a great and blessed rest of your Holy Week and a Blessed Resurrection. If you guys have any other tricks make sure to share them with your Orthodox friends!

I am Evyenia Pyle. I am freshman at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I am majoring in Speech and Hearing Sciences with double concentrations in neuroscience of communication and speech-language pathology. This year I am the Central Illinois District Student Leader! I love to sing, especially byzantine chant. I play a lot of instruments including guitar, bass, piano, and more. I have two amazing dogs, they are my pride and joy. I am so excited to be contributing to the OCF blog this year!

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