The Orthodox Church Is a Great Story-teller

Khristos anesti!

The church is a seasoned storyteller. Christianity as a faith lives through the telling and retelling of the story of salvation through the bible (e.g prophecies and experiences of the OId Testament and the retelling of Christ’s life in the New Testament), liturgy (Recapped in the institution narrative & the prayer of reconciliation) and the lives of saints. Another very interesting way the church tells the story of salvation is through its calendar of events. The church follows a progressive ebb and flow of events to make sure our lives follow the salvation narrative. To this grand yearly narrative, the Holy week is the climax, the grand finale, the epic final battle. What’s more intriguing is that the week is in itself a complete mini-narrative; the week starts off with the entry of Christ into Jerusalem and a feeling of anticipation for what’s to come. The service slowly builds up in a wave of various Gospels, prophecies and seasonal hymns- all of which change with the developing story throughout the week.

The Pascha Week As a Narrative

This lengthy and involved rite presents us with a yearly battle, a battle against our ever diminishing attention spans and our ever distracted minds. Not only that, but it’s a battle of patience, the church pulls no punches, as we sit and chant ten minute long hymns. The week goes by, we attend Pascha day in day out and as we add lines to “Thok Te Ti-Gom” we grow wearied, our back-pain kicks in by Wednesday and feet give in by Thursday. The rite prevents us from shaking hands midweek and we awkwardly hobble out of church half waving half nodding as we fight our impulse to shake and hug everyone on our way out. Then comes Friday, six hours of nonstop readings and prayer. Christ is crucified, buried and we relive the various trials he endured and how his friends and disciples reacted. At the end of Friday one is feeling defeat. The recollection of our own sin invokes sadness and swarms the mind with guilt as we sing O beloved. By the 400 “Lord Have Mercy” segment, everyone is likely physically exhausted and hungry. Then comes the finale; joyous Saturday and the Easter liturgy: the church is clothed in white instead of black and the congregation is feeling noticeable relief and joy- this is storytelling at its best. We not only listen to the story of salvation, but also live and experience it physically and mentally throughout the week. If this isn’t masterful storytelling, I don’t know what is.

Here are the three drawings I drew to illustrate moments of this blessed week:

Crucifixion Illustration

Christ Crucifixion Illustration

Christ in Hades Illustration Joyous Saturday

Joyous Saturday Illustration

Christ Resurrection Icon Illustration

Resurrection Icon