Holy Saturday – The Orthodox Celebration of Great and Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday - Christ Descent to Hades by Fr. Alexander Schmemann –
Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath. The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said: God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works. . . . (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works. [Read more...]

Holy Week – Pastoral Advice from an Orthodox Priest

Holy Week - Pastoral Advice by Fr. John Moses –
The days of Holy Week are designed to represent to us the last week of Christ’s earthly life before His Crucifixion. It is a terrible and wonderful journey: terrible because the Lord will have to endure so much; and wonderful because if we take this journey with Him, it can be a life-changing experience. If we do a bit of study and reading before we go to church, each service will be even more powerful and meaningful.

Sophia Moshura: If we feel that we have not spent Great Lent properly, how can we still use the remaining days of Holy Week to prepare worthily for Pascha?
Fr. John Moses: The days of Holy Week are designed to represent to us the last week of Christ’s earthly life before His Crucifixion. It is a terrible and wonderful journey: terrible because the Lord will have to endure so much; and wonderful because if we take this journey with Him, it can be a life-changing experience. If we do a bit of study and reading before we go to church, each service will be even more powerful and meaningful.

Given that work and family obligations prevent many people from attending all the services of Holy Week, which services should one make a particular effort to attend?
We celebrate Unction on Wednesday night of Holy Week. This wonderful service brings healing to body, soul, and spirit. I wouldn’t miss it. [Read more...]

Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Orthodox Church

Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Orthodox ChurchThe joyousness which accompanies the performance of the Divine Liturgies of St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom was regarded by the early Church as not suitable for the penitential season of the Great Fast. For this reason, the Synod in Laodicea (363 AD) forbade the performance of the Divine Liturgies during the Great Lent. except on Saturday, Sunday, the Feast of the Annunciation, and Holy Thursday.

The Christians of that time were in the habit of receiving Holy Communion almost daily and now were deprived of the strengths derived from Holy Communion for about a week. The greatly saddened them.

The Church, desiring Her children to continue their pious habit of daily receiving the Holy Communion, permitted its reception but from Holy Gifts that had been consecrated in a preceding Liturgy. Thus the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts was formed, and was celebrated on evenings from Monday through Friday during Great Lent; there is no consecration of the Sacred Elements at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, but those who desire to communicate receive the Holy Gifts which have been consecrated at the previous Divine Liturgy. [Read more...]

Betrayal Then and Now: On Great Wednesday

Judas Iscariot Betrays Jesus by Fr. Alexander Iliashenko –
On Great Wednesday the Church remembers how Judas betrayed Christ the Savior. In the following talk, Archpriest Alexander Iliashenko addresses the betrayal of Judas, how Christ was questioned, and the story of Marshal Rokossovsky’s refusal to name names.

Why was it necessary to have a traitor? After all, it would seem that tracking down the Savior would have been easy, since He neither hid nor concealed Himself. He could have been located without any trouble. They could have just sent a detachment to seize Him. But, for some reason, it was necessary to have a traitor – so that this frightful act would take place from within.

This serves as a warning to us all that we must guard our inner unity, not allowing ourselves even to entertain thoughts against those of like mind with us or against those people who are close to us, which can ruin a great thing. [Read more...]

Bearing the Fruits of the Spirit: On Great Monday

Jesus Christ and the Fig Tree by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia –
Each day of Passion Week is marked by special commemorations. After His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Lord went every evening with His disciples to the Mount of Olives after spending the day in the Holy City. During these days He turned to them with words that are especially powerful and filled with profound meaning, words that reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and open the curtain to the future of the entire human race.

Monday is associated with particular events. Along the way to Jerusalem, the Lord and His disciples saw a fig tree covered with rich foliage. When the famished travelers approached the tree, the Lord began to look for fruit but did not find a single one. He then cursed the fig tree.

It is well known how critics of the Gospel – people who for various reasons could not and cannot accept the word given to the human race by the Lord Jesus Christ – have criticized this passage. St. Innocent of Kherson responds to this criticism in remarkable manner. According to his words, it was not, of course, as if the Lord was offended by the fig tree and said: “I wanted to taste of the fruit, but there was none – so may you be cursed.” This is not at all what the Savior wanted to say; rather, He cursed the fig tree to give us an example of how barrenness is punishable. [Read more...]

Christ is Risen – Orthodox Church in Ghana

Christ is Risen being sung in an Orthodox Church in Ghana.
[Read more...]

The Bridegroom Matins – Orthodox Holy Week

Icon of Christ The Bridegroom

Icon of Christ The Bridegroom

Christ the Bridegroom is the central figure in the parable of the ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13); Christ is the divine Bridegroom of the Church as described in the Book of Isaiah (chapter 54), as well as the primary image of Bridegroom Matins. The title is suggestive of His divine presence and watchfulness (“Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night…”) during Holy Week and His selfless love for His Bride, the Church.

The Bridegroom Matins

The Troparion
Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching, and unworthy is the servant whom he shall find heedless.

Beware, therefore, oh my soul. Do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the kingdom.

But rouse yourself, crying, Holy, Holy, Holy are Thou O God.

Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us. [Read more...]

Pascha – Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee from before his face!

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

It is the day of resurrection ! Let us be illumined for the feast! Pascha! The Pascha of the Lord! From death unto life, and from earth unto heaven has Christ our God led us! Singing the song of victory: Christ is risen from the dead! (First Ode of the Easter Canon)

Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), also called Easter, is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word, which is itself a transliteration of the Hebrew pesach, both words meaning Passover. [Read more...]

Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Christ Resurrection - Christ is Risen

Christ Resurrection - Christ is Risen!


The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom is read at the end of Orthros (Matins) at Pascha, the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, universally throughout the Orthodox Church. It was composed sometime during his ministry in the late 4th or early 5th century. St. John’s Sermon is traditionally read to the faithful near the end of the Paschal Matins, before the Paschal Liturgy begins.

“If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival. If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord. If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.”

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. [Read more...]

The Lamentations at the Tomb – Matins of Holy and Great Saturday

The Lamentation at the Tomb of Christ On Friday night, the Matins of Holy and Great Saturday, a unique service known as the The Lamentation at the Tomb (Epitáphios Thrēnos) is celebrated. This service is also sometimes called Jerusalem Matins. Much of the service takes place around the tomb of Christ in the center of the nave. A unique feature of the service is the chanting of the Lamentations or Praises (Enkōmia), which consist of verses chanted by the clergy interspersed between the verses of Psalm 119 (which is, by far, the longest psalm in the Bible).

At the end of the Great Doxology, while the Trisagion is sung, the epitaphios is taken in procession around the outside the church, and is then returned to the tomb. Some churches observe the practice of holding the epitaphios at the door, above waist level, so the faithful most bow down under it as they come back into the church, symbolizing their entering into the death and resurrection of Christ. [Read more...]

Holy Friday – Orthodox Holy Week

Holy Friday, Jesus Christ Burial Holy Friday, also known as Good Friday, Black Friday, Great Friday, is a holy day observed by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. This day is commemorated during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and often coincides with the Jewish observance of Passover.

On Great and Holy Friday, the Orthodox Church commemorates the sufferings of Christ: The mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross. “Today He Who hung the earth on the waters is hung on the tree.”

This truly holy Day is one …of solemn observation and strict fasting. “We worship Your passion and Your burial, for by them, You have saved us from death!”

In the afternoon, around 3 pm, all gather for the Vespers of the Taking-Down from the Cross, commemorating the Deposition from the Cross. The Gospel reading is a concatenation taken from all four of the Gospels. During the service, the body of Christ (the soma) is removed from the cross, as the words in the Gospel reading mention Joseph of Arimathea, wrapped in a linen shroud, and taken to the altar in the sanctuary. [Read more...]

The Cross – From Holy Thursday to Holy Friday

From the light of Holy Thursday we enter into the darkness of Friday, the day of Christ’s Passion, Death and Burial. In the early Church this day was called ‘Pascha of the Cross,’ for it is indeed the beginning of that Passover or Passage whose whole meaning will be gradually revealed to us, first, in the wonderful quiet of the Great and Blessed Sabbath, and, then, in the joy of the Resurrection day.

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on a tree.
The King of the Angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped in the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.
[Read more...]

Holy Thursday – Orthodox Holy Week

The Last Supper of Christ with His disciples

The Last Supper of Christ with His disciples

Holy Thursday begins with the celebration of vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil with a Reserved Eucharist in representation of the earthly presence of Christ realized at the Last Supper.

Two events shape the liturgy of the Great and Holy Thursday: The Last Supper of Christ with His disciples and the betrayal by Judas.

The meaning of both is in love. The Last Supper is the ultimate revelation of God’s redeeming love for man, of love as the very essence of salvation. And the betrayal by Judas reveals that sin, death and self-destruction are also due to love, but to deviated and distorted love, love directed at that which does not deserve love.

In the evening, anticipating the Matins of Friday morning, the Holy Passion service of the reading of the Twelve Gospels is conducted. In these readings Christ’s last instructions to his disciples are presented, as well as the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, Christ’s prayer, and his new commandment. [Read more...]

The Bridegroom Matins – Orthodox Holy Week

Icon of Christ The Bridegroom

Icon of Christ The Bridegroom

Christ the Bridegroom is the central figure in the parable of the ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13); Christ is the divine Bridegroom of the Church as described in the Book of Isaiah (chapter 54), as well as the primary image of Bridegroom Matins. The title is suggestive of His divine presence and watchfulness (“Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night…”) during Holy Week and His selfless love for His Bride, the Church.

The Troparion
Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching, and unworthy is the servant whom he shall find heedless.

Beware, therefore, oh my soul. Do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the kingdom.

But rouse yourself, crying, Holy, Holy, Holy are Thou O God.

Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us. [Read more...]

Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Christ Resurrection - Christ is Risen

Christ Resurrection - Christ is Risen!

The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom is read at the end of Orthros (Matins) at Pascha, the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, universally throughout the Orthodox Church. It was composed sometime during his ministry in the late 4th or early 5th century.

“If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival. If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord. If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.”

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention. [Read more...]