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!