In the middle of the fourth week of the Paschal Season, the middle day between Pascha and Pentecost is solemnly celebrated. It is called the MIDFEAST, at which Christ, “in the middle of the feast” teaches men of His saving mission and offers to all the “waters of immortality”. (John 7:14) Again we are reminded of the Master’s PRESENCE and of His saving PROMISE: “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37) We look back to Pascha and we look forward to Pentecost. We know that we belong to the Kingdom of Christ.
The Fourth Sunday of Pascha is dedicated to the miracle of Christ healing the paralytic. The man was healed by Christ while waiting for someone to put him down into the water. The Jews believed that when the waters of the pool of Bethesda were “moving”, God was present with His healing powers and the first one in after the “movement” would be healed.
It is through our Baptism in the Church that we, too, are healed and saved by Christ for eternal life. Thus in the Church we are told, together with the paralytic: “to sin no more that nothing worse may befall you.” (John 5:14)
On Pascha night, with lit candles, we made our baptismal procession around the Church once again renewing our commitment to Christ. And now, with these Sundays of Pascha, we are reminded of that commitment we made, but also of the commitment Christ has made to us – to be ever with us with His healing and forgiveness.
“The soverign man-befriending Lord, He that is all-compassionate, drew nigh and stood at the Sheep’s Pool that He might heal men’s diseases; And there He found a man laying on his bed, enfeebled many years. And unto him, He cried aloud: “Take up you bed now and go forth; wald into the upright and straight paths.”
“Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the
mother of James, and Salome bought spices that they might come
and anoint Him.” Mark 16:1
On Pascha night as our procession arrived at the front doors of the
Church, we heard the Gospel according to St. Mark 16:1-8
proclaimed and the Angel announce to the women: HE IS NOT
HERE! HE IS RISEN! With this proclamation, the Resurrection of
Christ was announced and gave us reason to sing our song of victory:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death.
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
The Second Sunday of Pascha is called Thomas Sunday. Thomas was not
present when Jesus first showed Himself to His disciples after His
The Church remembers the gathering of the disciples and celebrates
Thomas’ confession on the eighth day after the Feast of the Resurrection.
Thomas’ brief but firm affirmation of belief: MY LORD AND MY GOD,
is the title often given to the Icon of St. Thomas. It portrays the greatest
confession of anyone portrayed in the Gospels. Thomas, who has seen
Christ in His earthly existence, now is transformed to see Christ through the
eyes of faith.
Today, spring breathes forth its perfumes, and the new creation shall rejoice! Today, the locks of the doors
of disbelief are lifted, because Thomas, the friend of Christ, cries out: “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”
On this day we break the Artos, the Pascha Bread blessed
Holy Saturday, that day between Good Friday and Pascha, is a day in which sorrow is transformed into JOY. In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy, but it is TRANSFORMED into JOY. This distinction is important, because it tells us that as Christ lies in death, it is an active death which brings about triumph. We can better understand it from the following explanation; Christ’s repose in the tomb is an “active repose”. He comes in search of His fallen friend, Adam, who represents ALL MEN. Not finding him on earth, He descends to the realm of death, known as Hades in the Old Testament. There He finds him and brings him life once again. This is the victory: the dead are given life. The tomb is no longer a forsaken, lifeless place. By His death, Christ tramples death.
At 10:00 a.m. on Great and Holy Saturday, the Vespers with the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated. These Vespers of Holy Saturday begin our Paschal celebration. Following the Vespers, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated and after the Epistle is read, the priest removes the dark vestments of Holy Week and puts on the bright vestments of Pascha, so that when the priest appears with the Gospel, the light of the Resurrection istruly made known to us and our sorrow is transformed into joy.
The Liturgy is one of anticipation as we wait to hear the proclamation at midnight that CHRIST IS RISEN!
This is a day unlike any other day. There is no Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion is not received on this day.
At 9 a.m. the Royal Hours will be prayed before the Cross of our Crucified Lord on Golgotha as we keep the silence and fast of this day
At 6 p.m. the Vespers of the death and burial of Christ will be served. During the Holy Gospel of the Vespers, the Body of Christ will be taken down from the Cross as Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus down
from the Cross. Reverently, the Icon of our Crucified Lord will be taken into the Altar. [Read more…]
On Great and Holy Thursday, the Church commemorates the Last Supper – or the Mystical Supper – the great Gift of Christ our God to mankind. It was at the Last Supper, in this Evening Mystery, that Christ gave us His Holy Body and Precious Blood, and He promised that He will be with us at all times and that His love for us would never change.
As we listen to the Gospel account, Judas is put before our eyes and our minds are focused on his betrayal of our Lord. We must ask ourselves: how often do we betray our Lord, those of us who have sat at His table and partook of His Sacred Body and Precious Blood? And then, as we witness our Lord washing the feet of His apostles, His love for us becomes strikingly evident.
On Holy Thursday morning, the Divine Liturgy will be served at 10 a.m.
On Holy Thursday evening, the Matins of Great and Holy Friday with the Twelve Passion Gospels will begin at 6 p.m.
The Gospels of our Lord’s Passion will be proclaimed. At the Fifth Gospel, when the Passion narrative concerning Christ’s journey to Calvary is reached, the Church is darkened and the priest carries the Cross through the Church and mounts it on the platform that represents Golgotha. Now in the center of the Church, stands GOLGOTHA. And now there is SILENCE – and this silence pervades Great and Holy Friday capturing and stilling our hearts and minds.
With the celebration of the Vespers and Matins of the Bridegroom on Sunday evening, we enter into Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday. These days are called the Days of the Bridegroom. Christ has arrived in Jerusalem where His Passion and Triumph will take place. Christ comes to His people to save them and to love them as a bridegroom comes for his bride and takes her to his home. Christ is the BRIDEGROOM, and we, the Church, are His BRIDE. He now comes to take us home to His Father in the Kingdom of Heaven.
On Holy Monday, the Church invites us to consider the Passion of Christ that is represented by the “figure” of Joseph in the Old Testament. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, slandered for his chastity and thrown into prison. But, eventually he was released from prison; attained a high rank; and received honors worthy of kings, becoming the governor of Egypt. Thus he symbolizes for us the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and His consequent great Glory.
Our attention is also brought to the barren fig tree that was cursed by our Lord, to remind us and to impress upon us that perdition awaits the soul that does not bear good fruit.
On Holy Tuesday, our attention is directed to the parable of the ten virgins. It teaches us to be ready for our end, not knowing when our hour is coming. As the wise virgins were ready to meet the bridegroom, we also must be prepared to meet the Heavenly Bridegroom – in a sinless, upright and holy life.
THE TROPARION OF THE BRIDEGROOM
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 up 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.
The Matins of the Bridegroom will be served on Sunday evening, April 17, at 5 p.m., and on Monday and Tuesday evenings, April 18 and 19, at 6 p.m.
On Holy Wednesday, April 20, the Church recounts the Anointing of Jesus at Bethany. Judas takes issue over the waste of precious ointment. Jesus rebukes him: Why do you trouble this woman? She has done me a good turn…for in pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it for my burial. (Matt. 26:10-13)
The Sacrament of Holy Unction will be celebrated on: Wednesday evening, April 20, at 6 p.m.