Come, let us drink a new drink, not one marvelously brought forth from a barren rock, but the source of incorruption, which springs forth from the grave of Christ, in Whom we are established (Canon of Pascha).
After closing the Triodion, the book of repentance that has guided us to Pascha, the Church opens a new book -- the Pentecostarion. The Pentecostarion is a well-spring of insight and renewal that aids in harvesting the fruit of Great Lent. For fifty days following the resurrection of Christ, the Church is nurtured and guided by the Pentecostarion. This period is marked by examples of people of faith answering the call to follow and serve Christ.
The week following Pascha the altar doors remain open, fasting is not permitted and the Greek Orthodox remain standing at services until Pentecost. The week is termed Renewal (Greek) or Bright Week (Russian) by the Church. The week concludes with a special canon of the Theotokos, the Life-giving Fountain and Liturgy. It is a tradition to conduct the Paschal Liturgy every day during the Week of Renewal. In addition, "Christ is Risen" is sung at the beginning and end of every service until forty days after Pascha on the Feast of Ascension. Fish is allowed on Wednesdays and Fridays until Pentecost. All of these traditions point to the fact that Christ is Risen. He is present in our midst in a special way and awaits our response to His Call.
Following Pascha, it is important the watchfulness that has been developed is not put aside. Less time is spent in worship (although May has 11 services) and the ability to eat freely is a temptation to loose self-control. The good habits and virtues that have begun to grow during Lent must be harvested as serving Christ in new ways. In this state of openness to Christ and His message, now is the time to develop ministries, create new opportunities for service, and to go wherever Christ calls.
Each Sunday that leads to Pentecost contains the theme of missions and evangelism in a special way.
On the Sunday following Pascha, the Church encounters the incredulity of Thomas. Thomas' doubt, however, leads to tremendous faith; "My Lord and My God," and he is sent with the other eleven to baptize all nations in the name of the Holy Trinity. Doubt followed by a commission to serve Christ illustrates how faith empowers us to serve Christ in unbelievable ways.
The next Sunday, the myrrh-bearing women are commissioned to become the first missionaries of the resurrection. "Hasten, go quickly and proclaim the gladsome tidings to My friends; for I have willed that joy shine forth upon all My creation from where there first came forth sorrow." (Matins) Christ transforms suffering and sorrow into joy. This is the good news that ought to come from the hearts of Christians as they spread the joy of the resurrection.
A paralytic lies at the pool of healing waters for thirty-eight years, and Christ commands him healed by his word alone. Christ is the source, the well-spring of life, Who heals illness and sins. The epistle reading of the day highlights Peter's fulfilling the healing ministry of Christ. Christians are called upon to heal the wounded of heart by bringing Christ to the world -- the helper of the helpless.
This Sunday, Christ is at a well speaking of living waters that never leaves one thirsting. The Samaritan woman, St. Photini, was baptized at Pentecost and became an evangelist and missionary. Christ offers to renew us by His Grace which not only heals sins but calls us into His service.
The Grace of Christ is present again as He commands the man born blind to wash in the pool of Siloam. The epistle reading tells us how Paul and Silas heal the young girl, are imprisoned, miraculously escape and the jailer is converted. Christians are called upon to be illumined by God's grace and in turn to illumine others.
Forty days after the resurrection, Christ leaves the disciples and ascends to His Father. The feast of the Ascension is a day of joy and completion. Christ has completed his mission. For forty days he met with the apostles and harvested the fruit of his earthly life and then leaves. Christ ascends so that the Holy Spirit may descend upon the apostles and establish His Kingdom on earth through His Church.
On the Sunday before Pentecost, the Church calls upon the Holy Fathers of the first Council of Nicaea in 325. They represent the seal of the Church's faithfulness and the fulfillment that the Holy Spirit is ever present guiding the Church in all Truth.
On the fiftieth day of the resurrection, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and establishes His abiding presence and sanctifying grace in the Church. Thousands are baptized and converted that day through the preaching of the Apostles!
The final witness to the harvest of the Holy Spirit is the presence of saints and martyrs. The Holy Spirit sanctifies and perfects Christ's work. The saints and martyrs bear witness to the Spirit's work abiding in the Church, God's Kingdom has been established and reign in heaven and on earth!
Fr. Andrew J. Barakos is serving as the priest of Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Scottsdale, Arizona. He is vicar of the southwestern region of the Metropolis of San Francisco, and is a member of the Board of Trustees for Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
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