Holy Week and Pascha with Our Family

Holy Week and Pascha

The monastery is not on the Gregorian calendar but on the revised Julian calendar for Pascha (Easter) so it isn’t Holy Week for us until next week. This left me wondering what I should post about Holy Week, Pascha, and Bright Week exactly because of the different calendars (oh how I pray the day comes soon when we Christians celebrate the most important day of the year on the same calendar). I decided to write two posts with past years pics explaining some of the things we do on these most important days of the year.

I know it is getting closer to Holy Week because everyone is sick of the fasting food we have been eating, and the kids all start to show their excitement in different ways. Magdalena will get all of her outfits picked out for Lazarus Saturday through Pascha, one of the kids will start aggravating another one by acting like they are going to sing Christ is Risen early, Diego starts giving me his requests for which food he hopes I will make for Pascha breakfast (this year it is Chile Colorado), the girls start planning the desserts they will make, Manny starts practicing the music and we all threaten him if he doesn’t do it up in the attic where we can’t hear we are telling Fr. Nicholas on him, and I start to think about all the details I need to attend to.

Lazarus Saturday/Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday monksThese two feast days on the Church calendar are the only two that have the same Troparian sung which is:

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the branches of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!

These feast days are getting us ready to celebrate Christ’s resurrection the following weekend. A small foretaste of what is to come before the sad days of Holy Week.

Lazarus Saturday is traditionally a day when the Church would have baptisms. At Divine Liturgy the Thrice-holy hymn is replaced with, “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, Alleluia(Gal 3:27)  We have had a couple of the kids baptized on this day in years past; it’s a beautiful day for a baptism. Every year we go to Divine Liturgy (Mass) for Lazarus Saturday, following we have lunch with the monks and other extended community members and then get to decorating the church for Palm Sunday. When we lived in the desert our friend Tommy would cut down huge palm branches to decorate with. There were some years we all ended up with scrapes and cuts from the sharp parts of the branches. We put large branches around the church and then made smaller ones for the people to hold. This would consist of some palm, pussy willows, and olive branches all tied up together. Now that we are no longer in the desert we don’t have the nice big palm branches but have to order palms, we do have pussy willows, but there are no olive trees in Wisconsin, so we use some other greenery.

Palm Sunday is always exciting for the kids, some of the girls make it a point to dress in green and they all love the procession and palm branches.

Lucas Palm Sunday

palm sunday

Holy Monday and Tuesday

I know this was Holy Week, hopefully Lucas didn't fall asleep during Bridegroom Matins! ;-)

I know this was Holy Week, hopefully Lucas didn’t fall asleep during Bridegroom Matins!  😉


“Behold, the bridegroom comes in the middle of the night and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching, and unworthy the servant whom he shall find heedless. Take care then, O my soul, and be not weighed down by sleep that you will not be given over unto death and be excluded from the Kingdom. But rise up and call out: Holy, Holy, Holy art T hou O God, by the Theotokos have mercy on us” (Troparion of the First Three Days).

Bridegroom services begin and are among my favorite services. We will try to attend Presanctified Liturgy which is served at 4:30 then go home, eat dinner, and return for Bridegroom Matins and the First Hour at 8 pm







Holy Wednesday

Again there is Presanctified Liturgy at 4:30 and then the Office of the Holy Anointing at 7 pm, which you can read about here. At this point at home I am starting to prep food for Pascha and getting Pascha baskets ready and making sure all the clothes is together!

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Holy Thursday

Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is served at noon, following we have lunch and then all the kids (and kids at heart) paint eggs and rub olive oil on the red ones (cause Fr. Nicholas likes them to shine!). If we are helping with flowers, the girls and I will decorate the cross so it is ready for the evening. We go home for a rest and are back at 7 pm for Matins for Great and Holy Friday & The Twelve Passion Gospels.

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Holy Friday 


Vespers of Great and Holy Friday are at 3 pm and then the tomb is decorated for the evening (which we usually help with). At 7 pm is Matins of Great and Holy Saturday with the Lamentations. The most hauntingly heart wrenching service of the year (in my opinion). My girls and any other young girls in the community will get rose petals and toss them at the tomb, representing the Myrrhbearing women. Somewhere in here some more cooking might happen, we have a big feast at the monastery after Pascha Liturgy and then serve breakfast Sunday morning too. So lots of food is made for all of the visitors who come to celebrate Pascha with us.

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Holy Saturday/Holy Pascha

More cooking, usually Manny and Fr. Moses will make the Pascha breads sometime in the morning. We have made the traditional braided Greek bread with the red eggs in it and also this wonderful Romanian bread, which has become everyone’s favorite. We place one of the breads in our basket to be blessed after the Pascha service. I also add in some foods we have been fasting from, good chocolate, and Jelly Belly jelly beans. I get the best butter from the dairy up the road (oh how I’ve missed you Pine River) some delicious cheese from there too, and a bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling cider for the kids, and a bottle of wine for me and Manny. One of my best friends back in California made me a beautiful embroidered basket cover that I love.

We also get a little lamp and candle ready so we can bring home the Pascha fire and bless the doorway of the house by burning the Pascha flame over it in the form of a cross.

First service for us is late Saturday morning (11 am) and is our favorite service of the year. We are witnessing the Myrrhbearers coming to the tomb to find it empty and the chanting is wonderful. Here is a clip from youtube of the service: https://youtu.be/cXtNYDt4RKk

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The reading of the Acts of the Apostles begins at 8 pm. Manny will help with the readings while we are resting and getting ready at home. Prior to this the entire church will be decorated. The dark flowers on the tomb will be removed and replaced with white and yellow flowers and Easter Lilies placed around the church. It is always so beautiful.

And then finally, around 11 pm Matins of Holy Pascha and Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom! This last for a few hours and we sing Christ is Risen a crazy amount of times! When we are finished (sometime around 2 am) we bless the food, baskets, and everyone breaks the fast with a wonderful feast of lamb, cheese, butter, desserts, and other delicious foods. Many years we have seen the sunrise before finally heading off to bed. This year, being so very pregnant I do not plan on doing that!  Pascha is always a wonderful time at the monastery, we have visitors come from all of the country and get to meet up with old friends while witnessing the Resurrection of Christ together!

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Pascha liturgy Manny and Diego2


Marina Pascha


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We used to live over an hour away from the Monastery, the last couple of years have been so nice since moving by the monks. It was years of driving back and forth, now we are down the road. Manny always puts in for vacation time for at least Holy Wednesday through Bright Monday. Some years he managed to take all of Holy Week off and even some of Bright Week so we could take a couple of days for a family vacation. These days are the most memorable for our family and mean so much to the kids, Pascha is our favorite time of year. My next post will give details on some of the things we have done to celebrate Bright Week (the week following Pascha).

  Pascha Icon



  1. Oh, what a lovely reminder if that which is awaiting us next week. Having a candle lamp ready is a great idea! We have an old oil lamp which might work. We also live an hour away from the nearest church.
    Blessed fast!

  2. Pingback: Bright Week with Our Family!

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