HOLY WEEK – (Sl. Passion Week) The week preceding Easter in which the sufferings of Christ are commemorated. Each day of Holy Week has its own particular theme.
The theme of Holy Monday is that of the sterile fig tree which yields no fruit and is condemned. Holy Tuesday the accent is on the vigilance of the wise virgins who, unlike their foolish sisters, were ready when the Lord came to them. Holy Wednesday the focus is on the fallen woman who repents. On each of these three days the Gospel is read at the Hours, as well as at the Vespers when the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served. The Old Testamental readings are from Exodus, Job, and the Prophets. The Gospel is also read at the Matins services which are traditionally called the “Bridegroom” services because the general theme of each of these days is the end of the world and the judgment of Christ. It is the common practice to serve the Bridegroom services at night.
The vigil on the eve of Holy Thursday is dedicated exclusively to the Passover Supper which Christ celebrated with his twelve apostles.
Matins of Holy Friday are generally celebrated on Thursday night. The main feature of this service is the reading of twelve selections from the Gospels, all of which are accounts of the passion of Christ.
The Matins of Holy Saturday are usually celebrated on Friday night. Before theservice begins, a “tomb” is erected in the middle of the church building and is decorated with flowers. Also a special icon which is painted on cloth (in Greek, epitaphios; in Slavonic, plaschanitsa) depicting the dead Saviour is placed on the altar table. In English this icon is often called the winding-sheet.