Focus on the Faith
An Explanation of the Holy Week Services.
As we approach the great solemn days of Holy Week, we bring to mind how our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed and seized, tortured and crucified, died and was buried, and arose from the dead. The services of Holy Week, beginning with Lazarus Saturday, show us in symbols, readings and chants the account of our Saviour’s love and sacrifice ‘unto death, even the death of the cross’ for our sake (Phil. 2:8).
On Palm Sunday we shall stand with branches in our hands and listen to the ‘Hosannas,’ like the multitudes in Jerusalem, welcoming ‘Him Who cometh in the Name of the Lord,’ and, like the children, waving palms and shouting for joy. In the Gospels of the first three days of Passion Week we shall hear Christ’s final teachings to his disciples and the people; His stern rebukes to the proud, self-righteous Pharisees and scribes; His prophecy of His resurrection and second coming. In the house of Simon the Leper, where Jesus was having a meal, we shall see the sinful woman enter to anoint His head and feet in love and repentance, and we shall contrast her to Judas, the disciple whose greed incited him to betray his Master for a paltry sum of money. Then we shall follow Jesus to the ‘upper chamber’ where He and his disciples partook of his Mystical Supper, that is, the first celebration of the Eucharist of his Most Holy Body and Blood, and then to the Garden of Gethsemane. There our Lord and God Jesus Christ prayed in agony.
Concerning our Saviour’s prayer before his Passion, Saint John Chrysostom says:
“By saying, ‘If it be possible, let it pass from me,’ He showed His humanity; but by saying, ‘Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt,’ He showed His virtue and self-command, teaching us even when nature pulls us back to follow God” (Homily 83 on the Gospel of Matthew).
Together with Christ’s grieving Mother and John, the disciple “whom He loved” and with the other women, we shall stand watch by His Cross. We shall follow as His body is carried to the grave in the garden, and there leave his Body to rest until the glorious morning of the Resurrection. This is why through all Passion Week’s mournful services there runs the strain of bright hope, of forgiveness, of triumph over sin and death, and of our Saviour’s victory over Satan, Hades, and death’s corruption.
On this Saturday we remember how our Lord Jesus Christ raised His friend Lazarus from the dead. He knew Lazarus was grievously ill, but He waited till he died before He answered Martha and Mary’s call for Him. Jesus knew that His own death on the Cross was near. He knew how terrified and bewildered His disciples would be, how they might doubt that He was indeed the Christ. Only after four days did He bring Lazarus back to life, so that His disciples would see that He had power over life and death and was indeed ‘the Resurrection and
the Life.’ It was this miracle that prepared Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and gave us the certain assurance of the physical resurrection of all the dead.
ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM – PALM SUNDAY
This day celebrates Christ’s triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem. When the people heard of His coming, great crowds rushed to the city gates to meet Him. They spread their cloaks on the road and strewed palm leaves in His path. Children waved green boughs and all sang, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ At Palm Sunday Matins, after the Gospel reading, the priest blesses palm leaves or other appropriate branches, which the people hold during the canon. Palm Sunday is one of the twelve great feasts of the Church.
GREAT AND HOLY MONDAY
The week of our Saviour’s Passion begins with Holy and Great Monday. The first three days of Holy Week recall Christ’s last teachings with His disciples. These teachings inspire the readings and hymns. The services consist of Great Compline, Matins, Hours, and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts with Vespers. Gospels are read at Matins and Liturgy. In addition, the whole Psalter is read in the services of the first three days of Holy Week; also, the four Gospels are read. The Psalms remind us how the coming and sufferings of Christ were awaited and foretold in the Old Testament. The Gospels tell of His life in the world; His teaching and miracles prove that He was indeed the Son of God, who of His own free will suffered for our sake though He was without guilt.
At Matins after the great litany we do not hear the usual joyous verses, ‘God is the Lord, and hath appeared unto us.’ Instead, a compunctionate ‘Alleluia’ is chanted. And to inspire us to watch and pray in these solemn days, this troparion is chanted:
“Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.”
After the canon, which speaks of Christ’s coming Passion, another special hymn an Exapostilarion — is chanted. It is like a cry of our soul as if it saw from afar Christ’s radiant mansions and felt how unworthy it was to enter them:
Thy bridal chamber, O my Saviour, do I behold all adorned, and a garment I have not that I may enter therein. Illumine the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me.
According to the usage of the Optina Monastery, this hymn is sung three times. At the first singing, as we prostrate, the Royal Doors of the iconostas slowly open. At the second singing, the Doors remain open. At the third singing, the Royal Doors slowly close again, as we contemplate our lives and wonder if we shall be shut out of the Bridal Chamber of Christ’s Kingdom. On Holy and Great Monday the Church tells us the parable of the barren fig tree. It is the symbol of those who think only of outward goodness which does not come from the heart. The Gospel also tells about Christ’s prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem, wars and tribulations, and the end of the world.
GREAT AND HOLY TUESDAY
On Holy and Great Tuesday we listen to our Saviour’s replies to the wily questions of the Pharisees and scribes, who tried to trap Him; we hear His stern rebukes of their envy and deceit. The parables of the Ten Virgins and of the Talents remind us how we should always keep watch over our conscience and use in God’s service any gift or talent we have received from Him. The Gospel then tells Christ’s prophecy of His second coming and the Last Judgment. It ends with the awful warning: ‘Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified.’
GREAT AND HOLY WEDNESDAY
On Great Wednesday the Church commemorates the act of contrition and love of the sinful woman who poured precious myrrh-oil on our Saviour’s head, and, though she did not know it, ‘prepared Him for burial.’ And in contrast we hear of the dark act of Judas, whose greed led him to betray his Master. All the readings and hymns of the day warn us to beware of greed and love of money, which even tempted a disciple of Christ. We too can betray Him, if we let greed and selfishness get hold of us. On this night, in some places, the Church administers the sacrament of Holy Unction for the bodily and spiritual health of the Orthodox faithful. At this sacrament, the oil is consecrated by prayer and the clergy anoint the people.
GREAT AND HOLY THURSDAY
The Gospels of Holy and Great Thursday tell how our Saviour and His disciples came to Jerusalem to celebrate His last feast of the Passover, how He washed their feet. They tell the account of that Mystical Supper when our Lord ordained the Mystery of His Most Holy Body and Blood ‘for the remission of sins and life everlasting.’ They speak of Christ’s instruction to the Apostles, and how He told them that they would all forsake Him that night; they speak of Peter’s rash promise that he would always remain faithful; of Christ’s vigil in the garden; of how He was seized and led away to the high priest’s court; of the scene in the courtyard; of Peter’s three-fold denial and his grief; of the high priest’s mocking questions; and of how our Saviour Christ God, wearing the crown of thorns, beaten and insulted by the soldiers, was led before Pilate.
The readings and hymns of Matins dwell on Judas’ betrayal, on ‘the dark night’ which settled in his soul. We pray that we may keep ourselves from greed and deceit, and be made pure by partaking of the holy Mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood. The Troparion after the ‘Alleluia’ at Matins speaks of this:
“When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet, then Judas the ungodly one was stricken and darkened with the love of silver. And unto the lawless judges did he deliver Thee, the righteous Judge. O thou lover of money, behold thou him that for the sake thereof did hang himself, flee from that insatiable soul that dared such things against the Master. O Thou Who art good unto all, Lord, glory be to Thee.”
On this day the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is celebrated together with Vespers.
The whole narration of our Lord’s Passion is given at the Matins of Holy and Great Thursday. It is commonly called ‘the Service of the Twelve Gospels.’ A tall Crucifix usually stands in the middle of the church with many candles lighted round it. After the Six Psalms and the Great Litany, the choir chants, ‘Alleluia’ and the Troparion of Holy and Great Thursday. The priest and deacon come out of the sanctuary carrying the Book of Gospels. It is placed on a podium and the priest begins the reading. The whole story of the Passion is read from the four evangelists and is divided into twelve parts. It begins with the ‘Gospel of the Testament’ and the prayer at the Mystical Supper, in Saint John’s Gospel, and continues through the four Gospels to the burial of Christ by Joseph of Arimathea. After each reading the choir chants, ‘Glory to Thy longsuffering, 0 Lord, glory to Thee.’ Between the readings special antiphons and hymns are chanted. They speak of Judas’ betrayal; of the cruelty of the Jews; of our Saviour’s infinite patience and meekness; of the awe of all creation when the Lord of all was nailed to the Cross between two thieves. The canon has only three odes. All recount the Passion and foretell the glory of the Resurrection. Matins ends shortly after the twelfth Gospel.
HOLY AND GREAT FRIDAY
Great Friday is the most solemn day of Holy Week. In awe and trembling, we stand before the Cross on which our Saviour died and we see the image of Him dead, lying in our midst, on the Plaschanitsa or Epitaphios (the Winding Sheet).
During the Service of Matins, which by anticipation is chanted on Thursday evening, we will hear some of the most awe-inspiring hymns of the ecclesiastical year. The following is but a one example:
“Today is hung upon the Tree, He that suspended the earth upon the waters. A crown of thorns is placed upon Him Who is the King of the Angels. He that wrappeth the Heavens with clouds, is wrapped in the purple of mockery. Buffetings did He receive, Who freed Adam in the Jordan. With nails was He affixed, He that is the Bridegroom of the Church. With a lance was He pierced, He that is the Son of the Virgin. We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us Thy glorious Resurrection!”
The solemn Vespers of Great Friday is celebrated in the afternoon at the time of our Lord Jesus’ death. Again all the readings remind us of the suffering Christ and His glory. After the entrance, lessons are read in which the Prophet Isaiah speaks of ‘the Lamb led to the slaughter,’ and an Epistle of Saint Paul on the power and wisdom of the Cross; again a Gospel is read describing our Lord’s trial before Pilate, His Crucifixion and burial. At its conclusion, the icon of the crucified Christ is taken down from the Cross.
After the usual petitions, ‘Let us all say …,’ ‘Vouchsafe …,’ ‘Let us complete …,’ etc., the choir slowly chants the Aposticha, during which the procession exits from the Sanctuary, with the priest and deacon bearing the Shroud of Christ, their heads uncovered, proceeded by candles and censer. All kneel with head bowed low before the image of our dead Saviour. A bier stands in the middle of the church, with candles lit round it. On it the Shroud is laid reverently and censed all around by the priest. Then, after the Lord’s Prayer, the dismissal hymns are chanted: ‘The noble Joseph …’ and ‘Unto the myrrh-bearing women …’ followed by the prayers of dismissal.
HOLY AND GREAT SATURDAY
Holy and Great Saturday is a reverent vigil at the tomb of the Son of God, slain for our sins. By anticipation, the Saturday Matins is held on Friday evening.
After the Six Psalms and the Great Litany, the Royal Doors are opened clergy come out with candles and censer. The choir sings ‘The Lord is God and hath appeared unto us,’ and then the appointed troparia. In the meantime, the priest and deacon cense the Shroud, then stand in front of it. The priest and the choir then chant the ‘Lamentations’ with the verses of the 118th Psalm: ‘Blessed are the blameless in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.’ Each verse of the Psalm is followed by a verse of the Lamentations. It is like a long poem depicting the Angels in Heaven and all creatures on earth overwhelmed by the death of
their Creator, and their gratitude at being freed from death’s power by Christ.
After the Lamentations, the Resurrection hymns are sung. Then, following the customary litanies, the choir chants the canon, where the note of joy and triumph is heard more and more clearly. At the end of the Great Doxology of Matins, the priest raises the Shroud, which is then taken by four pall-bearers, the deacon walks in front, the people follow, all carrying candles, accompanied by the choir chanting, ‘Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us.’ This represents the burial of Christ. Then, the prokeimenon is chanted, and the glorious prophecy of Ezekiel is read about the dry bones of Israel, out of which arose ‘an exceeding great host’ quickened to life by the breath of God. Then follows Saint Paul’s Epistle about Christ our Passover, and the Gospel about the sealing of Jesus’ tomb. Matins then ends as usual.
The Liturgy of Holy and Great Saturday is that of Saint Basil the Great. It begins with Vespers. After the entrance, the evening hymn ‘O Gladsome Light’ is chanted as usual. Then the 15 Old Testament readings are recited. They tell of the most striking events and prophecies of the salvation of mankind by the death of the Son of God. The account of creation in Genesis is the first reading. The sixth reading is the story of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and Moses’ song of victory – over Pharaoh, with its refrain: ‘For gloriously is He glorified’. The last reading is about the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, and their song of praise with its repeated refrain: ‘O praise ye the Lord and supremely exalt Him unto the ages.’ In the ancient church the catechumens were baptized during the time of these readings. The Epistle which follows speaks of how, through the death of Christ, we too shall rise to a new life. After the Epistle, the choir chants, like a call to the sleeping Christ: ‘Arise, O Lord, Judge the earth, for Thou shalt have an inheritance among all the nations… The deacon carries out the Book of the Gospels, and reads the first message of the resurrection from Saint Matthew. Because the Vespers portion of the service belongs to the next day (Pascha) the burial hymns of Saturday are mingled with those of the resurrection, so that this service is already full of the coming Paschal joy.
After the Gospel the Liturgy proceeds as usual. Instead of the Cherubic Hymn, a special and very ancient hymn is chanted:
“Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand with fear and trembling, and take no thought for any earthly thing, for the King of kings and Lord of lords cometh to be slain and given as food for the faithful. Before Him go the choirs of the angels with all sovereignty and power: the manv-eyed Cherubim and six-winged Seraphim, covering their faces and crying out the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, .Alleluia.”
After the Liturgy the faithful partake of the
bread, wine and fruit which was blessed during the service, to strengthen them to keep watch the rest of the day and evening. This is the only Saturday of the year on which oil may not be taken. In the monasteries and convents, the refectory meal is taken in complete silence, out of reverence for the burial of Christ. The world awaits the proclamation of His Resurrection.
SYNAXARION OF THE GREAT FEAST OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
On the Great and Holy Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the Life-giving Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ: Pascha, which, translated from the Hebrew, means Passover. For this is the day on which God created the world from nothingness. On this day, He delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh’s hands and led them through the Red Sea. On this day, he descended from heaven and took His dwelling in the Virgin’s womb; now drawing forth mankind held in Hades, He raised them to heaven and brought them to the first-created honour of incorruption. …While the soldiers guarded the tomb, at midnight the earth quaked, for the angel of the Lord had descended and rolled the stone from the entrance of the tomb, and the soldiers [set to guard the tomb] were so frightened that they fled. The women came to the tomb very early in the morning on the day following the Sabbath — that is to say at midnight on Saturday. Later on the first day of the Resurrection, the Mother of God was there together with St Mary Magdalene, who was sitting near the tomb according to St Matthew. The Evangelists say that He first appeared to St Mary Magdalene [rather than His Mother]…so that there would be no doubts or suspicions concerning the truth of the Resurrection.
It was St Mary Magdalene who saw the angel upon the stone; then bowing down, she saw the other angels inside. The angels announced the Lord’s Resurrection to her and said, ‘He is risen! He is not here! Behold the place where they laid Him’ (Mark 16:6). Hearing this, the women turned to run and announce the Resurrection to the most fervent of the Apostles, that is, to St Peter and St John. But when they returned, they met Christ Himself, Who said to them, ‘Rejoice’ (Matthew 28:9).
St. Ambrose of Optina’s 1871 Paschal Epistle
O ones wise in the Lord! For the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, in place of the usual greetings I wrote to you about the great Mystery of this glorious Feast. And now I would like to say something to you about the mystical meaning of the Triumph of Christian triumphs, that is, the Resurrection of Christ. But because of my weakness and sickness I have neither the strength nor the opportunity. I can only tell you briefly that the yearly triumphant and bright Feast of the Resurrection of Christ, besides having its own meaning, serves also for us as a reminder of the general resurrection of the whole world, which is particularly apparent in the remarkable Paschal Matins.
First: During the radiant night, after the reading of the Midnight Office, there is the triumphal procession around the church by the clergy and all the faithful with lighted candles, together with the cross, the icons, and the ringing of the bells. This is clearly reminiscent of the Gospel parable of the ten virgins woken at midnight with the cry: Behold, the bridegroom cometh! Go ye out to meet Him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps (cf. Matt. 25: 6-7). These virgins are the souls of the faithful, and the Bridegroom is Christ. The night is our temporary life. The lamps are our faith and good works. Do not the Gospel parable as well as the triumphant procession around the church by the faithful accompanied by the ringing of bells represent the general resurrection at the end of the world, when the voice of the archangels’ trumpets will awaken all the dead, and the faithful in the Lord, like the Gospel virgins, will go forth to meet Him with their lamps, each according to her own worthiness?
Second: While this triumphant procession around the church is being performed, the church doors are closed. The faithful that walk see the light in the church, but on the path before them they see only impenetrable darkness, and thus they came to stand before the closed doors of the church. Does this not mean that all who are resurrected at the universal resurrection will see the heavenly bridal chamber of glory, but not all will enter therein — only those who are worthy — whose lamps, like those of the wise virgins, do not go out at the meeting of the Bridegroom Christ? All the rest, who like the foolish virgins have their lamps go out, will pitifully repeat the beginning of the hymn: I see Thy bridal chamber, adorned O my Savior, but I have no wedding garment, that I may enter there(Exapostilarion, Matins of Holy Week).
Third: Before the closed doors of the church, the presiding clergyman gives the usual initial Paschal glorification of the Holy Trinity and the singing of “Christ is Risen.” Then, with the cross in hand, he opens the doors and enters the church first, and after him enter all the other Christians, singing the joyous hymn: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. Repeating this many times, to it is added yet more joyful singing: It is the day of Resurrection! Let us be radiant, O people! It is the Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord! From death to life and from earth to Heaven, Christ our God has passed us, who sing the hymn of victory! (Irmos, Canon of Paschal Matins). No longer is heard the usual singing that arouses us to compunction, only the ceaseless sweet singing awakening joy in all. The clergy continually come forth from the altar in brilliant vestments; ceaselessly we look upon the Cross of Christ and venerate the symbol of our salvation; ceaselessly we are surrounded by clouds of holy incense. All hold lighted candles in their hands; on the lips of all — those who serve and those present who stand and sing — is heard only the joyful: Christ is Risen!
Thus is celebrated the temporal Pascha of Christ on earth, and all Christians are allowed to celebrate — the worthy and the unworthy, because the present life is subject to change. Often the worthy become unworthy and the unworthy become worthy, which is clearly portrayed by Judas and the thief. At first Judas was among the chosen twelve Apostles of Christ, following Christ for three years, listening continually to His teaching, having the power to cast out demons and heal many different diseases. But at the end he went mad from carelessness and love of money, betrayed Christ, then perished eternally. The thief had been part of a band of hard-core robbers for three years, but, being enlightened upon the cross, he confessed willingly the Crucified Son of God, Lord and Kind, and was the first to enter Paradise. May we always hold these examples in our remembrance, so that we might always refrain from the sin of judging, even though we might see someone sinning at the very end of his life, as St. John of the Ladder assures us.
But it will be different at the heavenly Feast of the eternal Pascha, after the general resurrection and judgment. To that Feast will be allowed only the elect, the worthy. And whoever will once be allowed into the heavenly bridal chamber, to the Feast of the eternal Pascha, will remain eternally among the ranks of celebrants, giving voice to their joy. Whoever is shown to be unworthy to participate in the celebration will be deprived and estranged eternally.
However, now is not the time to speak particularly of the bitter fate of these last, for it is the all-joyous Feast. We will only say that all of us Christians, while we are still alive, should be careful and attentive to our salvation. And those who think they stand, in the words of the Apostle, should take care lest they fall, remembering always the terrible example of Judas who perished. In those of us who are infirm and falling, may the hope of correction be awakened, seeing the comforting example of the wise thief who inherited Paradise.
O, great and holiest Pascha, Christ! O, Wisdom, Word and power of God! Grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the unending day of Thy Kingdom (Canon of Paschal Matins).
Taken from Fr. Sergius Chetverikov, Elder Ambrose of Optina
(Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1997), 190-193.
Features of the services of Bridegroom Matins during Holy Week
Each year we are invited once again to traverse the sacred days of the fast and come to that Week of all weeks – Holy Week. We are invited by the Church to take pause and reorient our crazy hectic schedule around “church time.” Every year we are guided through this rich, profound and beautiful cycle of services where we participate in Christ’s final days. If we pause enough we enter into the deep silence of the fear, isolation, sadness of the coming crucifixion of our Lord. Though the one Subject is Christ Himself, we come to find that it is us as well who become a vital component to these services. As we are remembering these events – Judas, the crowds, the Virgins awaiting the bridegroom, the harlot who anointed Christ’s feet – we begin to see that we are just like these persons. We are the Virgins who are not ready for the bridegroom. We are Judas who so often are willing to sell Christ for the sake of our worldly gain, we are the disciples who deny our Lord, and we are the crowds who boldly proclaim “crucify him!” As a new mission we continue to take steps to fill out our liturgical cycle and this year we are adding the services for Monday through Thursday known as Bridegroom Matins.
The first three days of Holy Week are referred to as “the end”. We have just laid our palm branches down into the silence of Christ’s final days. Darkness and judgment are the theme for the first three days. This is centered around the the Gospel reading from Great and Holy Tuesday found in Matt. 24:36 – 26:2. This is the parable of the ten virgins. Here we are urged not to be like the five foolish virgins who were not prepared for the coming of the bridegroom. The troparion hymn sung on these three days:
*Behold the bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching; and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.*
*Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given over to death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.*
*But rouse yourself, crying: “Holy! Holy! Holy! art Thou, O our God. Through the Theotokos have mercy on us!”
—From St. Elizabeth Convent
“Young Fr. Gabriel acquired the spirit of Optina right away. His creative, sensitive soul was receptive to Elder Macarius’ emotional tenor. He would always remember the image of Elder Macarius during Passion Week, singing alone in the Skete Church the Matins exapostilarion, “I see Thy bridal chamber adorned, O my Savior …” The Elder’s voice would be trembling as if in truth he saw before him the doors of heaven slowly opening up. There in the altar the multicolored lights would mysteriously glitter and shine….
(Lovers of Optina since Elder Macarius’ time have kept the tradition during that service of having the holy doors slowly open up, to reveal a multitude of lampadas of all colors on top of, in front of, and all around the altar table, flickering before the cross and mysteriously illuminating the otherwise darkened church. After the exapostilarion verse is sung three times, the doors slowly close, leaving the temple in darkness again.)”
—-From the Biography of Elder Macarius of Optina
The woman had fallen into many sins, O Lord,
yet when she perceived Thy divinity,
she joined the ranks of the myrrh-bearing women.
In tears she brought Thee myrrh before Thy burial.
She cried, “Woe is me!
For I live in the night of licentiousness,
shrouded in the dark and moonless love of sin.
But accept the fountain of my tears,
O Thou who didst gather the waters of the sea into clouds.
Bow down Thine ear to the sighing of my heart,
O Thou who didst bow the heavens in Thine ineffable condescension.
Once Eve heard Thy footsteps in paradise in the cool of the day,
and in fear she ran and hid herself.
But now I will tenderly embrace those pure feet
and wipe them with the hair of my head.
Who can measure the multitutde of my sins,
or the depth of Thy judgements, O Savior of my soul,
Do not despise Thy servant in Thine immeasurable mercy.
—-Hymn of Cassiani (Tone 8) of Bridegroom Matins of Holy Wednesday
The Rector’s Paschal Appeal Letter
“Those who have received liberty (from Christ), set apart everything they have for the Lord’s use, cheerfully and freely giving them like that poor widow, who put her whole livelihood into the treasury of God” (St. Irenaeus of Lyon, 2nd Century).
“Make Christ a partner with you in earthly possessions, that He also may make you a fellow-heir with Him in His heavenly kingdom” ( St.Cyprian of Carthage, 3rd Century).
“Let every man give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver!” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church,
CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED, HE IS RISEN!
In this world there are no more important words than these. In them are contained the totality of our Orthodox faith, and the fullness of our Church’s theology. Being so much more than mere words, this greeting is the reflection of that profound and amazing joy which was experienced by those who came to the empty tomb. They came expecting to encounter death, but instead, they were surprised by Life. Death had been swallowed up, the grave lost its power, and the greatest fear of mankind was turned on its head. With the resurrection of Christ, we were all assured of our own resurrection from the dead, because He raised us up as well. With the resurrection of Christ, death is vanquished, and Satan is crushed. Paradise is open again, and all those who wish to enter may do so.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice!” says the holy apostle Paul (Phil. 4:4). As we leave behind the soul-profiting school of the Great Fast, let’s not forget the lessons that we learned there. Let us continue, with the help of God, to amend our lives. Let us grow in love for God and for our neighbors. Let us embrace with forgiveness and discover how we are forgiven. Let us flee from self-centeredness and strive for God-centeredness. Let us not leave off from doing good deeds, but instead, seek daily to discover new opportunities for practicing virtue. Let us not forget sacrificial giving, but instead, continue to give generously to the poor, and to our parish, for in so doing, we reap many, many blessings from God.
May our Risen Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ bless each and every one of you, your homes, and your families. May the light that shines forth from the empty tomb shine on you now and always.
CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED, HE IS RISEN!
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