Posted: April 26th, 2012

A Heaven of a Holy Week!

By, Fr. Mark Sietsema

A recap of a beautiful Week offered to Christ the Crucified and Risen Lord.


Christos Anesti!

What a beautiful Holy Week 2012 we had. Don’t take it from me: ask anyone who was here for the services.  The chanters were marvelous, the choir was splendid, the flowers were gorgeous, the processions and sacraments were orderly and reverent.  I have said it many times: Holy Week is an offering to Christ that we make as a community.  This year we truly gave the best of what we have to offer.

We do this for the love of God, not for the praise of our fellow humans.  But it still is right to say some Thank You’s to the people who give so much of themselves to bring Holy Week together for all of us.

Holy Week has a slew of unsung heroes. At the head of the pack are our sanctuary custodians, Vicki and Chris Kateyiannis.  It is a tremendous labor of love to prepare the church day after day, and sometimes several times a day, for a new service.  The church was absolutely spic-and-span each time we opened the doors.

Keeping us neat as a pin is also the gift of Art Baryames, whose cleaners handles our choir robes, altar boy robes, clergy vestments, and altar table coverings.  It’s a big job, and Art’s staff takes care of the church’s needs all year round.  Thank you, Art!

The compliments keep rolling in for the chanters this year.  Curt Kosal, assisted by Nick Gavrilides, were the men of steel, on their feet and in good voice for all twelve services of the Week.  Curt and Nick were joined on different days by area students John Daly and Zacharias Fthenakis, and also on Holy Friday evening by Christina Stavros.  The power of so many voices combined was truly stunning and lovely.  It was a combination of Old World tradition and New World translation that touched the heart of all parishioners.

Our choir was simply outstanding all week long, from the first Alleluias of the Bridegroom Service on Palm Sunday evening until the final Amen of the Agape Vespers.  Ruth Munk led her 10th(!) Holy Week as Choir Director, bringing out the best in every voice.  The highlights were on Holy Tuesday evening, with the rendition of the Troparion of Kassiane by a women’s chorus; on Holy Thursday evening, with the men’s offering of Simeron Krematai; on Holy Friday, with the full choir singing the glorious Lamentations; and at the Paschal Vigil, with a women’s quartet singing the Canon and Praises of the Resurrection in silver tones of joy.

Yet another unsung hero of the Week is our Sunday School director, Nonie Vsetula.  Nonie oversaw the weaving of Crosses for Palm Sunday, the wrapping of eggs for the Anastasi, and the children’s Easter Egg Hunt at the Agape Vespers.  This, in addition to the rest of the year’s work of staffing and organizing our Sunday School and Oratorical Festival.  Thank you, Nonie!  And thanks to Sam Vsetula for his expertise and help in the Holy Altar, and to our other veteran altar servers Sam King and Mark Brown who came out of retirement to help out when we needed them most!

We are grateful this year again for the beautiful Palm Sunday Fish Plaki Luncheon and Graduate Reception that the brothers of the AHEPA host for the parish.  It was a day of great food, great fellowship, and great promise.  George Lahanas spoke to the graduates in very practical and heartfelt words about how to prepare for the future.  We congratulate Ben Hostetler and Emmalee Skorich for being awarded the AHEPA scholarships.  We also thank the AHEPAns for their support of the Odyssey Program again this year in a presentation made at the lunch to Dr. Zana Litos, the program director.

On Palm Sunday evening the faithful gathered again to greet the Bridegroom of the Church, Jesus Christ, and to hear the Gospel story of His final days in the city of Jerusalem.  The icon of the Bridegroom was brought out in solemn procession, and the sanctuary was filled with a sense of God’s love for us and our love for God.  At the Bridegroom services of Monday and Tuesday evening also the chanters and choir led us in the singing of the sweet threefold Alleluia that prefaces the Bridegroom hymn.

On Holy Wednesday the congregation swelled as we gathered for the blessing of the Holy Oil and the Sacrament of Unction.  We heard the healing power of God extolled in story and song, leading up to the great prayer of contrition and absolution.  The service was marked by great solemnity and dignity, thanks in no small part to the tireless efforts of our Parish Council, headed up by President Elaine Christofilis.  We are grateful to the Council for their leadership through the year and especially in Holy Week.  Their organizational work this year was flawless.  Thank you, kai eis Anotera!

On Holy Thursday morning the Institution of the Mystical Supper was commemorated with the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil.  Working faithful came to the early service and received strength for the day through Holy Communion before departing for their workplaces in good time.  This is also the day that we consecrate the reserved host for use in hospital visits throughout the year.  That evening we gathered again for the Twelve Gospels of the Passion.  We preached Christ Crucified in word and image, as the icon of the Estavromenon was brought around the church in solemn procession.

Holy Friday is the fullest day.  The first service is the Royal Hours, a quiet, Scriptural vigil before the Cross.  Many parishioners commented on the lovely adornment of the Epitaphion this year.  We had a good-sized team helping out on Holy Friday morning (but could always make room for more helpers next year …).  Our thanks go to Presvytera Kathy for organizing the Epitaphion decoration.  We are also grateful for the great work of Julianne Schneider at the C&H store in East Lansing for her professional floral help.  At the Apokathelosis (Unnailing) Vespers we had a good crowd gather for the taking down from the Cross; Curt Kosal came forward as our “Joseph of Arimatheia” this year.

The Lamentations brought together a large crowd, and the Lord smiled upon us with the nicest evening of the week for our sojourn around the perimeter of the church.  The Myrrophores helped escort the tomb of Christ with their special acts of devotion; we are deeply grateful to Jan Munk for her organization of the girls this year and in years past.  We all paused at the Memorial Garden for a special commemoration of our loved ones remembered there before completing our reverent and dignified circuit of the church.  Our procession was all the more ennobled by the new sidewalk that the Memorial Garden Committee of Philoptochos sponsored; as we walked and chanted, Fr. Mark blessed the new walk with the sprinkling of Holy Water.  Back at the entrance of the church, the faithful passed under the Epitaphion as an expression of faith and hope for the year ahead.  It was a night shining wonder and glorious joy at the thought of the Resurrection to come.

An earthquake!  That’s what Holy Saturday morning brings!  The altar boys, led by Ben Hostetler, helped the faithful recreate the tremor that accompanied the passage of Christ into Hades and His destruction of the gates of Hell.  The sanctuary exploded with laurels of victory and songs of triumph at the Lord’s defeat of death by death.

Finally, on Saturday evening we kept vigil together and witnessed the Light that cannot die come forth from the darkness of the tomb.  Together we went out into the night and proclaimed to the world the Good News of the Resurrection, and we returned to the house of God to share in the Divine Thank-Offering of Holy Communion. The invitation to the Holy Table came from Saint John Chrysostom himself, as he was given voice by Dimitri Gavrilis and Curt Kosal in the Homily of Pascha in Greek and English.  After the distribution of the eggs, we broke bread and broke the Fast together in the Baryames Social Hall with a Feast prepared by the Parish Council, under the leadership of James Stajos.  Our thanks go to those whose contributions blessed our feast: The Christofilis family, Jim Setas Produce, Vackis Nicolaou, Curt Kosal, and Nick Gavrilides.

At noon on Pascha we gathered once more to hear the Gospel proclaimed in the languages of the world.  We thank those who told the story: Stefania Alimonos (Greek), Matthew Sietsema (Spanish), Aklilu Zeleke (Ethiopian), Athena Chapekis (French), Milos Dobic (Serbian), and Alexander Sietsema (Latin). Afterwards the little ones delighted in hunting up eggs of all colors filled with treats galore, while the adults enjoyed the afterglow of tremendous community effort in an outstanding Holy Week 2012.

A final word of thanks to all of you who:

  • donated Holy Week flowers through Philoptochos
  • brought dyed eggs to the church
  • helped with the folding of palm crosses
  • committed to the future of the community by signing up as a steward

The Greeks have an expression for it: Kai Tou Chronou!  May the Lord deem us worthy to gather once again together next year to make our combined Holy Week offering of praise, each in his or her own way, and all to the glory of God.



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