Before we tell the story of what is happening in our Church today, I want to take us all back 14 years ago. At 5:52 PM on August 24th, 2007, destruction struck our little town of Fenton, Michigan. A F2 tornado touched down in the heart of the downtown area taking down trees, destroying properties, business, and leaving several families homeless as their houses were turned into a pile of scrap. On our own little property, still 8 months from construction being completed on our little Church, there were fallen trees that littered the property.
Through a lot of hard work and prayer, our Lord worked through my predecessor Fr. Paul Jannakos, along with several members of the parish, to take those fallen trees, mill them, and use the wood to create a beautiful Iconostasis that rises up before us when we come into the Church to pray. When I first visited this parish, I remember thinking how awesome it will be to pray in front of all of these wonderful Saints that would be looking down on me through the “windows” of this iconostasis, and that was before I knew the story of how our Lord worked through so many people to turn a natural disaster, into such a wonderful instrument of Grace!
This movement of evil to blessings is really the theme of this entire Holy Week isn’t it? It began with the Church reminding us of how God has used the evil of death to show us His power, to give us Hope, and to strengthen us for our own impending falling asleep, through the story of our Lord raising Lazarus from the dead.
We heard in the Gospel readings about the great friend of Jesus, Lazarus, who had fallen ill in the town of Bethany. When things began to get desperate, Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to our Lord, asking for Him to come and to heal their dear brother, but He delayed in coming. A few days later, we hear how the sisters were overcome with tremendous despair, because their brother was unable to overcome his illness and died. Their world, and maybe even a small part of their faith, crumbled around them.
Our Lord did eventually come to Bethany, and we know the rest of the story! After testing Mary and Martha’s faith in the midst of their despair, our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead!
“You have made the tears of Martha and Mary to cease O Lord and Savior, by raising Lazarus from the dead. In Your Power, You have endued a corpse with the breath of life!”
-Taken from the 1st Ode of Compline for Lazarus Saturday
Imagine the joy that the sisters of Lazarus felt after their dear brother who had been into the tomb for 4 days, had been brought back to them! Jesus had shown them, and all of the onlookers of Bethany that in the face of disaster, Glory always triumphs!
News of this miracle didn’t just stay in the little village of Bethany. Word began to spread throughout the region that the Messiah had come! Jesus made His way to Jerusalem, and was greeted by large crowds, who threw their cloaks on the ground and shouted with loud shouts of joy, that same greeting that we shout today: “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!”
The Church urges us on Palm Sunday to shout for joy and to remember, that evil has no power when it encounters the Glory of God: “Let us shout aloud O daughter of Jerusalem, for behold Your King comes to you! Let us keep feast with the children, and holding branches in your hands, let us sing His praises: Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He that comes, the King of Israel!”
Starting Palm Sunday evening, we see darkness overshadow the world once again. We witness the greatest evil that has entered the earth. The joy of the feast we celebrated is overshadowed by jealousy, hate, and unbelief, as the Son of Man is betrayed by His own creation and sent to His death. On Good Friday, creation itself moans and groans. Rocks split. The curtain of the temple is torn in two. The earth itself trembles in fear. But after three days of unimaginable sorrow felt by creation…we once again see the Glory of God Triumph over evil.
This is the theme of our lives dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is why Holy Week is such an important week for us as Orthodox Christians. This one week truly does propel us to new heights and a new understanding of how God works in the world. This one week shows us what God like humility looks like. This one week shows us how we are to react to the evils, trials and difficulties that we face on a daily basis. But most importantly, this one week shows us what True Love looks like.
Let us experience it together dear ones!