I look forward to Pascha. I don’t look forward to Holy Week. It isn’t
that there aren’t plenty of things in Holy Week that I find stirring and
compelling every year, from Bridegroom Matins early in the week and
especially the haunting and humbling exaposteilarion (“Verily I behold
Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, and I possess no robe to enter thereinto”)
to the singing of “The Noble Joseph” during the veneration of the shroud
at Great Vespers on Friday afternoon and the rousing “dry bones”
reading from Ezekiel that follows the lamentations of Holy Saturday
Matins on Friday evening. The issue isn’t lack of interest in the
liturgical richness of the week; it’s the daunting thought every year of
the energy it will take to participate in it, or at least to
participate as much as I’d like.
Real, though, as the sheer physical demands are of juggling work,
ordinary parenting responsibilities, and Holy Week, I’ve become
increasingly aware in the last few years that my angst as the week
approaches is tied up at least as much if not more with something other
than the physical strain of it all. The heavier load comes from an
unspoken expectation that I should be at all the services, bar none.
This is an expectation that truly is unspoken: nobody has ever said it
to me. I miss some services every year — not since I was single and at
seminary have I had a perfect Holy Week attendance record — and always
feel vaguely uneasy about missing, but what’s become clearer to me is
how the anxiety about falling short of my religious commitment is itself
rooted in some pretty sinful stuff. My concern is less about really
falling short than about being perceived as falling short.
I can’t remember the last time I was able to be at EVERY service during Holy Week. Generally, I miss at least one, even these last few years when the children have been older and we live less than three blocks from the church. I certainly understand the feelings the author is talking about regarding the anxiety of falling short being more about the perception of others.
The anxiety is already upon me. Today we are very blessed to be able to travel to St. Francisville, LA to venerate the Kursk Root icon of the Theotokos, a wonderworking icon discovered in the 13th century in Kursk, a town in Russia near the border of Ukraine. Father is currently visiting a young woman in the hospital who (glory to God!) had her firstborn yesterday. But I am confronted with worries over not having started working on psanky, skirts to alter for the girls for Pascha, services to attend (and with a baby this year, thank God), a Pascha basket and food for sharing to plan, etc. Memories of past years in which I was riddled with anxiety over a million and one things during Holy Week are coming back to haunt me. I need to do my best to let it all go and try to hang on to what is most important: the impending resurrection of Christ.