As we participate in and attend the beautiful and transformative services of Great and Holy Week, we inevitably find ourselves on somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. We are celebratory and excited as we joyfully sing ‘Hosanna!’ in our Lord’s Entrance into His City Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Just hours after receiving Palm Crosses and having a nice fish luncheon, the church lights are dimmed, the colors are darkened again, and our mood naturally changes as we begin the services of Holy Week and anticipate what is to come. We are struck with hymns many of us know by heart: ‘Behold! The Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night’‘I see your bridal chamber’ and this brings about an almost impulsive reaction of being more prayerful and reflective.

It is in this participation and investment of the services of Holy Week that we are strengthened in our engagement and calling as Christians: to fall in love with the Godman, Jesus Christ. And with this, when we reach the midway point, in hearing the passages we read from the Gospels at the evening services, we find ourselves in despair, confusion, and maybe even anger (even though we know what is to come) when we hear about the betrayal of our Lord from one of his closest companions, the conspiring of the so-called “religious elite” to condemn a perfectly innocent man, and, ultimately, the mockery, the beating, and the death of our Lord on the Cross in Golgotha. Amidst this turmoil of emotions, our hearts instinctively reach out and ask our Lord the same question that Peter asks in the Gospel of John (in the first of the twelve Gospel readings on Holy Thursday night): “Where are you going?” and “Why cannot I follow you?” (John 13:36-37) 

Similarly, the other disciples inquire likewise, with Thomas asking, “how can we know the way?” and Philip saying to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Our Lord reacts to each of his disciples in these questionings in the same way; that they still have not really ‘gotten it’, that there isn’t some place, or some way, or some other person, or some set of rules, but that HE is the way, HE is the One, HE is everything! Which is why our Lord prays to the Father in that same Gospel reading: “This is eternal life, that they know You the only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Of course, this confusion would be cleared up in just three days’ time and, for us who know the fullness of the Cross and the Resurrection, our questions of “Where are you going?” and “Why cannot I follow you?” are answered with the truth that Our Lord was taking on death and descending into Hades, the very place of death; a place we were not meant for, a place that was vexed, mocked, slain, shackled, and destroyed because it “received a body and encountered God.” (St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily)

This is why, throughout Great Lent, during the Compline services, we repeat the fact that “God is with us.” We know the truth that He is not going anywhere, because He is here, and we CAN follow Him now, in this life, on this earth, in His Church. Ultimately, we are strengthened to follow Him as we boldly and loudly proclaim and rejoice in the truth that has literally changed everything: Christ is Risen!