I see Passion Week as a whole undivided period of time, as a path that one should follow together with Christ and His disciples from God’s Entrance to Jerusalem to the Holy Resurrection of Christ and which goes through treachery, trial and Golgotha.
At the same time one cannot overlook nor ignore that all of these truly Great Days were filled with tragic misunderstanding of Christ, which was shown by both the authorities and ordinary residents of Jerusalem.
They welcomed the Savior at the entrance to the city expecting from Him not the great deed of love, but new miracles and healings, the end to the Roman occupation, the restoration of the Jewish government’s power, and various earthly benefits: anything that people usually expect from an earthly king.
The Son of God entered Jerusalem in order to fulfill His Father’s will, but people did not care about what was God’s and wanted their own wishes to come true and preferably faster. After only a few days therefore, the mood of many residents of Jerusalem, who did not get what they had longed for, changed drastically so that they would ask for the crucifixion of the One Who did not satisfy not even their hopes, but their lusts.
Whenever I think of Great Lent, I make it a point to remember a meaningful conversation I had just a few years ago. I was on a pilgrimage in Greece, visiting a centuries-old church, when an old priest sat down next to me and struck up a conversation. At one point he observed that the Christians in America make Christianity look easy.
I sat in silence for a moment because I was surprised by his bold statement. “Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Because you have forgotten about John,” he replied as he let out a grin.
“John who?” I responded, knowing full well that Orthodoxy has a lot of special people named John. “Are you talking about St. John the Baptist or St. John Chrysostom?” I asked.
“Neither,” the old priest replied. “I’m speaking of Saint John, the one with the ladder.”
St. John Climacus is one of the great saints of our Church. He so special that the Church remembers St. John, not once, as we do with most saints, but twice a year. His feast day is always celebrated on March 30th, but the Church also devotes the fourth Sunday of Great Lent to this majestic church father.
By Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
1. Because our faith is light. Christ said: I am the light of the world (John 8:12). The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.
2. In order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the vigil lamp, for saints are called sons of light (John 12:36, Luke 16:8).
3. In order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Saviour: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Matt. 5:16).
4. So that the vigil lamp would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation and everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.
5. So that terror would strike the evil powers who sometimes assail us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and to those who please Him.
6. So that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God's will.