Tomorrow my husband and I will witness the Enthronement of and Installation of His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago. As exciting as it will be to worship in the Cathedral on this august occasion, I am most eager to see our Greek friends. You may recall that in 2016, on behalf of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), we returned an ancient New Testament manuscript to its rightful home in a mountain-top Greek convent. We never imagined we would see our hosts again, but as can happen with brief but intense encounters, my husband and I now have a clutch of fast and faithful friends among the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church. It is because of their generous hospitality that we will be seated in places of honor for this event.
I hesitated when we first received the invitation, only because tomorrow is the day before Passion Sunday—the beginning of the longest and most hardworking week in a pastor’s life. I scratched my head at the scheduling of this event, but then remembered that our Greek brothers and sisters will not celebrate the Sunday of the Passion until April 1, a week after our celebration. So my hesitation was short-lived—the Enthronement is a once in a lifetime opportunity and my work always gets done eventually.
The juxtaposition of the Enthronement of the Metropolitan and the readings for Passion Sunday is stunning. As you remember, our liturgy Sunday morning begins with the reading of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11.1-11), and quickly turns to the reading of his suffering and death at the hands of those same no-longer-cheering crowds. (Mark 14.1-15.47) The reading will end with Jesus’ “enthronement” on a cross, surrounded not by adoring fans but by nameless soldiers.
Sunday will be a significant liturgical day for us. Worship will begin outside the sanctuary with raised palm fronds and one of my favorite prayers: “Bless these branches and those who carry them.” After processing into the sanctuary, the day takes a sudden dark turn as a Readers Choir leads the extended reading of Jesus’ Passion in the Gospel of Mark. During communion, you will have opportunity to receive anointing with oil and prayer for healing—an acknowledgement at the beginning of Holy Week of the illness (physical and spiritual) we all suffer. We also continue to receive gifts of financial support of our Holy Family Lent Challenge. (Because of the convergence of school Spring Break and Holy Week there will no Sunday School this Sunday or next.)
I can already smell the incense in the cathedral. Men’s voices will sing haunting, ancient melodies. I recall the sense of being dwarfed by bearded men in elegant liturgical garments, wearing tall black kalimavkion on their heads. I may not understand a word of the liturgy (it will be all Greek to me) but will recognize the pattern of the ancient liturgy we share. The lunch following worship will be celebrative but sparse in the way of Greek Orthodox Lenten fasting. It will be a tremendous joy and honor to witness the Enthronement of the new Metropolitan. But as with all servants of the church, his ceremonial robes will be quickly changed into the working wardrobe of his daily work and ministry.
Please join us Sunday as we celebrate the enthronement of Jesus—honored first by adoring crowds as he rode atop a donkey and then jeered by armed soldiers as he suffered atop a cross.
Pastor JoAnn Post