Holy Thursday Liturgical Services at Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in Palos Park, IL
There are four events commemorated on Thursday of Holy Week: the washing of the disciples' feet, the institution of the Holy Mystery of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas.
The faithful of Chicago Deanery of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA were blessed to experience all four of these sacred commemorations, while attending the liturgical services of the day at Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Palos Park, IL.
Holy Thursday morning started at the church with the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which was concelebrated by the clergy of the Chicago Deanery with His Eminence Archbishop Daniel. This Liturgy commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and it was spiritually uplifting to see the clergy of the Deanery (Very Rev. Vasyl Sendeha, Very Rev. Ivan Lymar, Very Rev. Raymond Sundland, Rev. Silouan Rolando, Rev. Walter Hvostik, Rev. Gregory Jensen, Rev. John Charest) pray together at the Altar of Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox parish. The hierarch in his remarks reminded the faithful in attendance that “The Eucharist is at the center of the Church's life. It is her most profound prayer and principal activity. It is at one and the same time both the source and the summit of her life. In the Eucharist the Church manifests her true nature and is continuously changed from a human community into the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and the People of God… Our new life in Christ is constantly renewed and increased by the Eucharist. The Eucharist imparts life and the life it gives is the life of God.”
Drawing near the conclusion of the Vesperal Liturgy, an ancient and sacred Rite of Washing of Feet took place in the nave of the church. It appears that the Early Church had a ceremony of the Washing of the Feet annually on Great Thursday in imitation of the event at the Last Supper. For the most part, it was limited to Cathedral Churches and certain monasteries. In time, the service fell into disuse except in certain areas. It is now being recovered by many dioceses throughout the Orthodox world. The service is elaborate, dramatic and moving.
The bishop with the clergy processed from the sanctuary to the nave of the church in order to spiritually put into action the very example of humility and service to others that was preached by our Savior. By washing the feet of His disciples, the Lord summarized the meaning of His ministry, manifested His perfect love and revealed His profound humility. The act of the washing of the feet (John 13:2-17) is closely related to the sacrifice of the Cross. While the Cross constitutes the ultimate manifestation of Christ's perfect obedience to His Father (Philippians 2:5-8), the washing of the feet signifies His intense love and the giving of Himself to each person according to that person's ability to receive Him (John 13:6-9).
The eparchial bishop, having taken off his outer vestments approached each priest and in Christ like manner washed the feet of his clergy, dried them up with a towel and prayerfully kissed them, thus as a spiritual father of the Eparchy and a successor to the Apostles he instructed the clergy and the faithful in attendance the importance of humility, love and sacrifice in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
On Thursday evening, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel led the service of the Passions of our Lord - the Reading of the 12 Gospels at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL. Serving with the bishop were the pastor of the cathedral parish family – Very Rev. Ivan Lymar, Rev. John Charest and Protodeacon Andriy Fronchak, assisted by the seminarians of the Church Subdeacons Mykola Zomchak and Ivan Venhryn, and seminarians Myroslav Mykytyuk and Yaroslav Bilohan as well as the altar servers of the cathedral.
The evening entered those in attendance into the celebration of the holy, saving and awesome Passion of Christ. To take away our sins, Christ willingly endured the spitting, scourging, buffetings, scorn, mocking and the purple robe; the reed, sponge, vinegar, nails, spear and, above all, the Cross and Death. The confession from the cross of the penitent thief, crucified with Christ, is celebrated. This service is usually long, but its content is dramatic and deeply moving for the devout Christian.
Following the conclusion of the service, Vladyka Daniel stated that “…The narrative of our Lord's Passion — His suffering, death and resurrection — begins in earnest on Holy Thursday after supper. And we therefore began to read and meditate on it today. We read together the words of all four evangelists, woven into 12 composite texts that tell nearly the entire account of the Passion from Christ's last words to His disciples at the supper table to his burial by Joseph and Nicodemus. After each reading, we sing hymns meditating on what we have just read, so that the significance of these events might pass into our hearts and we might give glory to our Lord and Savior. This service, which lasts about 3 hours, is a wonderful opportunity to learn who our Lord is, to learn something about His love and humility which truly surpass our understanding…
…I am constantly reminding myself: I am ONLY able to love because He (Christ) loved me FIRST! Our Lord tells us, "there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friend" (John 15:13). We remember our Lord's suffering and submission to death in order to save us. It is truly a somber reminder, when we listen to the gospels and hymnology during the services of Holy Week.
May our Lord grant that, through prayerful attention during these services, we may each come to love Him more."
Holy Thursday Liturgical Services in Chicago Deanery of the Church - 04/06/2018
Photos by Seminarian Yaroslav Bilohan and Olena Lymar