Q&A: Passion Week in the Shoes of our Priests

Passion Week.  Our favourite and most Holy week of the entire year is about to begin!   While we all have our own treasured experiences of, and relationship with, Passion Week, most of us will never walk this road in the shoes of a Priest.   So, we have decided to ask our very own Church Fathers about their personal experiences, practices and recommendations through Passion Week, so that we may learn from them as we complete the journey to the cross… and continue it beyond the tomb!

JesusDrawing

What is your favourite part of Passion Week? Why?

“It’s really hard to say what my favourite part is… I love the whole week! But Covenant Thursday has it’s own taste and so does Good Friday, as well as Apocalypse night. So it really is hard to say what my favourite part is, but each one of these three events is special and has a deep meaning.

I really like the 1st hour of Covenant Thursday because we open the curtain of the altar for the first time since Palm Sunday. The rite of the morning incense is very rich and very deep as it focuses on the Lord who is coming to save us by His own will. We also re-live the betrayal of Judas when we do the backward procession around the Church and rebuke him for his deed against Christ. When we look at what Judas did however, we also examine ourselves so that we make sure that we are not in a position where we reject the Lord Jesus by any means. We must always remember that there are many ways to reject Christ as our Saviour and ignore His love.

If we look at Good Friday, the 6th hour is amazing and also the 12th hour, when we read the book of Lamentations and we sing ‘Pekethronos’. We say to the Lord, “We believe Lord that you are the Almighty Lord, the King of Kings who came from Heaven to save us and to redeem us.” Also, the hymn ‘Golgotha’ and the burial of the Lord is very special to me.”

~ Father Athanasious Ibrahim

What is your favourite part of the Pascha? Why?

“The best part I enjoy in the Pascha service is the Psalms that the deacons chant in Coptic, Arabic or English, in the sad tune. To me, it’s very a suitable tune in order for me to meditate, go into myself and compare between what Christ did for me and what I did in return to Him and what I’ve done, etc.”

~ Father Pavlos Hanna

How does Passion Week differ as a priest as opposed to a layman? Do you feel that you understand God in a different way now that you are a priest?

“As a layman, my reflections were very different. I would focus more on the book I’m reading, on my practices and my relationship with Christ. As a priest, I still do that, but I must now follow the daily Pascha readings and the story behind it. I must understand every Gospel and prophecy to prepare a suitable sermon that benefits everyone. The focus of Passion Week became very different – I must live and follow the rituals set by the Church Fathers in order to create the right atmosphere for the congregation.

I think that after I became a Priest, God also gave me many new opportunities to learn about being a leader. For example, the washing of the disciples’ feet. One of the most important things about doing this is learning that no leader is greater than those that he serves. It’s a new opportunity to be able to humble myself and to understand the congregation.  God teaches any leader that they must lower themselves in order to lift up those that they serve. They must feel for them and for their pain rather than just tell them, ‘It’s my way or the highway’.

Every Passion Week, God sends us a different message; a different theme to focus on. There’s so many! The theme of love, getting rid of a sin, or gaining a virtue like hope, joy, peace etc. At the end of the day, it’s important that whatever stage you are at with God to keep striving to learn during Passion Week and to keep practicing the themes you have learnt in all the years before.”

~ Father Feltaous Metri

Jesus-washing-feet-09

Do you still remember your first re-enactment of the Resurrection? Does it differ to you from year to year?

“I definitely don’t remember my first re-enactment but I know it differs from year to year based on the spiritual status of every individual. The more you crucify yourself with Christ, as St Paul advised us to do, the more you feel the joy of the Resurrection. If you crucify your desires, crucify your senses, crucify your deeds, crucify your priorities and life, then you will enjoy the Resurrection. When you don’t crucify these passions, then it is just another re-enactment.”

~ Father Pavlos Hanna

What is one practice you try to do during Passion Week to deepen the experience?

“Passion Week is about Christ, it’s about the Crucifixion and about repentance. I think reading is very important – not only keeping up with the daily happenings and Gospels, but finding the right book will really help you be in the mood for Passion Week. A week before Passion Week, go out and search for the right book for you – it should be about what you want the focus of the week to be. Also, during the Lenten period, there are so many beautiful and sorrowful hymns which should be used for meditation and as a background while you are reading.”

~ Father Feltaous Metri

What do you see as the biggest distraction during Passion Week? How can we best overcome it?

“The biggest distraction would be anything that stops me from reaching my spiritual target. Anything that hinders my readings, Pascha attendance, meditation and hymns. Try to attend every single Pascha. Sing ‘thok ta te gom’ with all your heart and understand the meaning behind it and why we sing it so much – use it to replace the Psalms. Follow the journey of Passion Week and keep your focus on Christ.

It’s also important to minimise social interactions and any social media. Only use your phone for emergencies. This is your week and it starts on Palm Sunday when you attend your own funeral. You must be alone after that. Treat this week as something special – it’s not like any other week in the year. Put one thing in mind. Have one target to reach. Put anything that separates you from Christ onto the cross and bury it. Bury it on Good Friday at 5 o’clock.”

~ Father Feltaous Metri

jesus_crucified5b55d


What is something you wish we could do during Passion Week that the early Church used to do?

“The early Church used to gather together to celebrate the Joyous Saturday with long praises then they would gather again, in the evening, to start with ‘Tasbeha’ (more commonly known as ‘Midnight Praises’) before the Feast of the Resurrection. We are missing this ‘Tasbeha’ part… Maybe one or two persons will gather and do it but I wish we could do it all together.”

~ Father Athanasious Ibrahim

What is your favourite Passion Week hymn? Why?

“It’s really hard to pick one but if I have to say only one, I will say ‘Omonogenis’. We sing it during the 6th hour of Good Friday and it talks about the Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who accepted suffering willingly and accepted death although He is the Almighty Giver of Life. The words of this hymn are really amazing and deep! These words were actually written by St. Athanasious himself in the 4th century to defend the Divinity of Christ.”

~ Father Athanasious Ibrahim

What recommendations can you make for the youth to enjoy Passion Week this year?

“I always say Passion Week is Christ revealing His love, like a lover, to His beloved bride. So, if that bride is busy with someone else, she will never realise or comprehend that love. We need to free ourselves from the desires of the world in order to comprehend the love that Christ pours into our hearts during Passion Week.”

~ Father Pavlos Hanna

pieta___the_passion_of_christ_by_tengari-d60dr7y

SAYG ~ with special thanks to our amazing Fathers Pavlos, Athanasious and Feltaous, together with their interviewers, Monica Francis and Amanda Beshai.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s