In Defense Of The Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Not Pagan, Christian Origin by Fr. Daniel Daly –
The use of evergreens at Christmas may date from St. Boniface of the eighth century, who dedicated the fir tree to the Holy Child in order to replace the sacred oak tree of Odin; but the Christmas tree as we know it today does not appear to be so ancient a custom. It appears first in the Christian Mystery play commemorating the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

Several years ago during the Christmas season, a religious program on television caught my attention. The program featured a discussion on the dangers of cults, especially to young people. I found myself agreeing with the panelists as they warned young people about the hazards of involvement in occult or “new age” spirituality.

During the interview, however, one participant made a statement that shocked me: “…and the Christmas tree is pagan too…,” he asserted. The Christmas Tree? Pagan? [Read more…]

Why We Should Preach After The Gospel

Fr. Johannes Jacobse

Fr. Johannes Jacobse

8/11/2010 – Fr. Johannes Jacobse –
I used to preach at the end of the Liturgy.

It was a pragmatic decision. A good portion of my congregation didn’t arrive until after the Gospel reading. The sloppy behavior was ingrained in parish life for decades and wasn’t likely to change soon no matter how strongly I exhorted them to arrive on time. Better to hear the teaching later then never at all I reasoned.

Did some people benefit from the arrangement? Probably. Did it implicitly encourage the sloppy behavior? Most likely. But short of a full-blown renewal in the parish, the late-comers were like to keep on coming in late and what would they remember if I preached earlier? The announcements?

Since moving from a large parish to a mission parish I’ve changed my ways. The sermon is always after the Gospel reading. I used to think that the rubrics required it because the reading was fresh in the minds of my hearers. While this is true, I’m no longer convinced this is the primary reason. I see something new: The timing of the sermon vivifies – breaths life into – the Eucharistic half of the Liturgy. [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…]