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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Great Thursday

I attended the Vesperal Liturgy this morning at Holy Transfiguration. I've never been before. It was essentially Vespers with the Divine Liturgy immediately after. At the end, there was a little bit of bread, wine, and a dessert. The bread and wine were not consecrated, but they were blessed, with the dessert symbolizing the sweetness of the final victory.

In the evening was the Matins Service of the Twelve Gospels (or Passion Gospels or Crucifixion Service). I've attended this service before, and I'm caught up in the significance of the service every time, although sometimes more than others. The first time, I was really caught up in it, but I did admittedly spend a lot of time wondering how much longer the first Gospel was going to take. The second and third times, I knew how long the Gospels were, so I could concentrate more on what was being said, and actually listen to the Passion.

After the fifth Gospel, everyone prostrates and stays prostrated. During this time, the priest (and the rest of the altar party) walks around the church three times, and on the third time, they process up the center aisle towards a large wooden cross there, and an image of Our Lord is nailed there. All you hear is the sound of a procession, followed by the sound of a (small) hammer hitting (small) nails. You don't need to be familiar with the service at all to know what is going on. You just have to be Catholic.

This is easily one of the most beautiful services ever. It's long, but the twelve Gospels are read in such a way that they tell the entire story of the Passion of Christ as told by all the Evangelists. Simply beautiful, and if you've never been to this service before, it will bring a tear to your eye, unless your heart is made of ice. However, if it is, you've got other problems to worry about -- ice doesn't pump blood that well...
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