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10 things to consider doing this holy week
1. Go to as many services as you can - even if it's online
Most parishes offer a large number, usually at least two each day. And if you can’t go to every service, set aside time to read prayerfully through those you cannot attend. It is through worship that we return and unite ourselves to Christ. The services of Holy Week are not just memory exercises. Holy Week is a single, unbroken Liturgy that over 10 days invites us to participate in the saving love of Jesus Christ, not just to remember some events from long ago. The love which Jesus shows is real, it is now, and we are invited through worship to receive it.
Does it seem unreasonable to attend Church so much in a single week? Of course it does! But Christ’s love for us is extreme and intense. And so we return that love during Holy Week in a way that is beyond reason!
2. Intensify your fasting.
Each person is called to fast as he or she is able. Some are able to fast more, some less. During Holy Week, each of us should increase the intensity of the fast. Think about how you have followed the fast up to this point. During Holy Week, continue what you do, and then do a little bit more. Do you fast just a few days a week? Increase the number of your fasting days. Are you fasting from meat only? Consider fasting from dairy as well. Consider eating smaller meals each time. For some, it may be possible to eat only two small meals a day rather than three. Holy Week is a time in which we should increase our hunger for Christ, and physical hunger is one way to do so. Physical hunger reminds us that we need what God offers, and fasting helps us to focus on the love of Christ. Fasting is hard, but remember the good gift which waits for us at the Paschal Liturgy of the Resurrection — the good gift of Christ Himself!
3. Create silence.
Disconnect entirely from your mobile phone, email, internet usage and especially social media. (If any of this is needed for work or school, designate a window of usage of no more than a few hours.) Do not watch TV, or listen to the radio. Reduce all lessons, sports, and social activities. It’s only for one week. The world will still be there after Pascha. When we create silence in this way, we give ourselves the space and opportunity to be drawn by Christ more deeply into His words and actions during Holy Week. We remove some of the man-made barriers that separate us from “drinking from his cup” (Mark 10:38). And if we do not create silence, then the noise of this world will easily overwhelm the “still small voice” through which the Holy Spirit speaks (1 Kings 19:12). To hear the voice of Christ, we have to silence the relentless cascade of distraction we otherwise allow the world to pump full force into our hearts and minds.
4. Create prayer.
Turn on some church music. In particular, listen to the hymns of Holy Week. And learn something about each hymn you hear. On what day do we sing this hymn? During which service? What is the place and purpose of this hymn? The hymns of Holy Week create holy echoes that help to connect our worship with the rest of daily life. Singing “Behold the Bridegroom” at the services which begin Holy Week is good, but hearing and singing the same hymn while driving, walking, or cleaning the house is even better. Doing so, we allow the prayer of the Church to become the prayer of everyday life.
5. Be still.
Set aside time each day to sit quietly in front of an icon of Christ, about 20-30 minutes. Light a candle, say a short prayer, and then simply wait in silence for the Lord to speak a word, or to bestow a deeper sense of His presence. Being silent is a way of saying to God, “I am here. And I wait on no other than You. Visit me in my smallness.” Stillness during Holy Week is a good practice for the experience of Great and Holy Friday and Saturday. The most eloquent word ever spoken is the silence of our Saviour while hanging on the Cross and while lying in the tomb. His silence says everything. The stillness of His death is the great action that redeems and sanctifies all the world. His silence on the Cross shouts down hell. His stillness in the tomb explodes the realm of the dead and bestows life on all. When we practice stillness and silence during Holy Week, we are preparing to unite our silence to Christ’s. We are preparing to die with our Saviour… so that we too might be raised to new life!
6. Always be with Christ.
Occupy your mind as often as you can with a short prayer. If you do not already have the habit of praying the Jesus Prayer, Holy Week is a great time to begin: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” This prayer increases our awareness of the nearness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It reminds us that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. Christ is always with us, and through continual prayer, we work to do the same — to always be with our Lord Who loves and strengthens us.
7. Read a Gospel.
Set aside time each day to read several chapters from either Matthew, Mark, or Luke. (We save John for after Pascha!) And remember that in the Gospels, we do not find words about Christ, we find words from Christ. Each verse of Holy Scripture is a word spoken directly to you by the raised and glorified Lord. Each word is a word for now, each word is a new word that you have never received before. Enjoy the gift! Jesus wants to give it to you!
8. Seek forgiveness and healing.
Chances are, each of us has at least a small handful of relationships in need of healing. During Holy Week, work for that healing. Admit your mistakes, and forgive the mistakes made by others. Offer yourself in love to at least one other person from whom you are estranged. Make a phone call, send a letter or schedule a (virtual in this time of lockdown) coffee date. Remember how much you love this person, and remember that we were created to live in peace and joy with one another. Christ’s love for us is ENORMOUS compare to the pettiness we so often hold on to. And if you have been deeply harmed by another person, seek help! Reach out to someone — your spouse, another family member or friend, your priest — and ask for guidance. Search through prayer, fasting, and honest communication for a way forward. As they say, holding onto anger (or hatred, or resentment, or vengefulness) is like swallowing poison and expecting someone else to die. Seek release from what possesses. Enjoy the lightness of a relationship that has been healed and restored.
9. Call someone who is sick or lonely. Visit them if you can.
Share yourself with someone who needs you. Our parishes, and our neighbourhood are filled with people who are dying of loneliness and isolation. Extend yourself (virtually, in this time of lockdown) and give them the gift of presence. One of the great themes of Holy Week is abandonment — how our Lord was abandoned by just about everyone, including it seems by His own Father. As we seek to unite ourselves to Christ through prayer and worship during Holy Week, may we not at the same time abandon those who need us. To be united to Christ, we must at the same time strengthen our solidarity with all those around us. We are part of the mystical body of Christ, and we are called to a life of unity and communion with one another.
10. Think about Bright Week and beyond!
With Pascha comes the true light that enlightens the whole world and each person in it. As we unite ourselves to Christ, the radiance of the Resurrection changes everything. The week after Pascha is truly a Bright Week — the Resurrection colours all with brilliance and beauty. Nothing should ever be the same. Let this Holy Week be a launching pad into the rest of life. Having united ourselves to Christ in both death and resurrection — having lived out our baptism through the celebration of Holy Week — we should get ready to proclaim the good news in all that we do. May we remember that every Sunday is a “little Pascha” and that each time we gather to celebrate the Liturgy we proclaim Christ’s death and we confess His Resurrection. And if every Sunday is a little Pascha, then every week is a little Holy Week. Each day of the year is a day on which we give thanks for the Holy Mysteries we last received and look forward to being received by Christ once again at the life-giving chalice. Holy Week and Pascha occur once a year, but they are the rule, not the exception. Holy Week and Pascha are the models for every week of the year. Jesus Christ touches all of time through the Cross, and all of time collapses into the eternal now of His divine love. May we live all of life in the light of the Resurrection!
REFLECTION BY FR ANDREW DEMOTSES
For many of us, our earliest religious memories are those of Holy Week's solemn services and rituals. Despite their solemnity, these recollections are always fascinating, and remind us of what a Christian is - a person who follows the One who has known acclaim, abandonment, defeat, crucifixion, and finally, the silence of the tomb. But even the finality of that tomb could not silence Him.
It is a week that begins with the resurrection of Lazarus, and Palm Sunday, with its passing moments of popular success, waving palms, and shouted hosannas. It continues with the Last Supper, in which Christ revealed the Bread of Life and the Cup of Blessing that is the Eucharist or Holy Communion. It continues with the drama of a night of prayer ending in the betraying kiss of a friend, and in arrest and humiliation, and seems to end with Good Friday with its torture, its mother's tears, a shameful death, and the frightening silence that followed.
Holy Week, in its yearly and faithful enactment, teaches us that Christ's love for us could not be crushed. The message which He shared could not be stilled. The large stone could not contain Him in the terrible darkness of that tomb. Jesus Christ also rose from the dead. And together with Him, there arose every hope that we have for mercy, strength, perseverance, and everlasting life.
Holy Week is the sacred time during which these memories become present in the liturgies and the sacraments of our churches, and in the practices and the rituals of our homes, passed down to us by our parents and teachers in the faith from the beginning until our own day. This is the week in which the life-giving events in the saving ministry of Jesus Christ become real for each of us. It is the week during which Christ turns to us in a real way and says to us, "Come and follow me." He invites us to consecrate our own individual pain and suffering in obedience to God, and to share with Him in the great victory over death which He won for us all.
To Him may there be glory forever. Amen!
Saturday of St. Lazarus
A LITURGICAL EXPLANATION BY THE VERY REV. ALEXANDER SCHMEMANN
Saturday before Palm Sunday; the service consists of Matins [Morning Prayers] and the Divine Liturgy
THE BEGINNING OF THE CROSS
With these words sung at Vespers of Friday, Lent comes to its end and we enter into the annual commemoration of Christ's suffering, death and Resurrection. It begins on the Saturday of Lazarus. The double feast of Lazarus' resurrection and the Entrance of the Lord to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) is described in liturgical texts as the "beginning of the Cross" and is to be understood therefore, within the context of the Holy Week.
The common troparion of these days explicitly affirms that by raising Lazarus from the dead Christ confirmed the truth of general resurrection. It is highly significant that we are led into the darkness of the Cross by one of the twelve major feasts of the Church. Light and joy shine not only at the end of Holy Week but also at its beginning; they illumine darkness itself, reveal its ultimate meaning. All those familiar with Orthodox worship know the peculiar, almost paradoxical character of Lazarus Saturday services. It is a Sunday service - that is, a Resurrection service - on a Saturday, a day usually devoted to the liturgical commemoration of the dead. And the joy which permeates these services stresses one central theme: the forthcoming victory of Christ over Hades. Hades is the Biblical term for Death in its universal power, for that unescapable darkness and destruction that swallows all life and poisons with its shadow the whole world. But now - with Lazarus' resurrection - “death begins to tremble." For there the decisive duel between Life and Death begins and it gives us the key to the entire liturgical mystery of Pascha.
In the early church Lazarus Saturday was called "announcement of Pascha.” It announces and anticipates the wonderful light and peace of the next Saturday - the Great and Holy Saturday, the day of the Life-giving Tomb.
LAZARUS, THE FRIEND OF JESUS
Let us first of all understand that Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, personifies the whole mankind and also each man, and Bethany, the home of Lazarus the man, is the symbol of the whole world as a home of man. For each man was created as a friend of God and called to this Divine friendship: the knowledge of God, the communion with Him, the sharing of life with Him. “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) And yet this Friend whom God loves, whom in love He has created, whom He has called to life, is destroyed and annihilated by a power that God has not created: death. God encounters in His own world a power that destroys His work and annihilates His design. The world is but lamentation and sorrow, tears, and death. How is this possible? How did this happen? These are the questions implied in John’s slow and detailed narrative of Jesus’ coming to the grave of His friend. And once there, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Why does He weep if He knows that in a moment He will call Lazarus back to life? Byzantine hymnographers fail to grasp the true meaning of these tears. They ascribe them to His human nature, whereas the power of resurrection belongs to God in Him. But the Orthodox Church teaches that all actions of Christ are “theandric,” that is, they are both Divine and human, they are actions of the one and same God-Man. But then His very tears are Divine. Jesus weeps because He contemplates the triumph of death and destruction in the world created by God.
LOVE, THE POWER OF LIFE
“It stinketh” say the Jews trying to prevent Jesus from approaching the corpse, and this awful warning applies to the whole world, to all life. God is Life and the Giver of Life. He called man into the Divine reality of Life and behold “it stinketh.” The world was created to reflect and proclaim the glory of God and “it stinketh.” At the grave of Lazarus God encounters Death, the reality of anti-life, of destruction and despair. He meets His Enemy, who has taken away from Him His World and become its prince. As Jesus approaches the grave, we who follow Him enter with Him into that hour of His, which He announced so often as the climax and the fulfilment of his whole work. The Cross, its necessity and universal meaning are announced in the shortest verse of the Gospel: “and Jesus wept.” We understand now that it is because He wept - that is, because he loved His friend Lazarus - that Jesus had the power of calling him back to life. The power of Resurrection is not a divine “power in itself,” but power of love, or rather love as power. God is Love and Love is life, Love creates Life. It is Love that weeps at the grave and it is Love that restores life. This is the meaning of the Divine tears of Jesus. In them love is at work again - recreating, redeeming, restoring the darkened life of man: “Lazarus, come forth!” And this is why Lazarus Saturday is the beginning of both: the Cross, as the Supreme sacrifice of love, and the Resurrection, as the ultimate triumph of love.
The readings are Hebrews 12:28-13:8 and John 11:1-45.
A LITURGICAL EXPLANATION BY THE VERY REV. ALEXANDER SCHMEMANN
From the liturgical point of view, the Saturday of Lazarus is the pre-feast of Palm Sunday - the Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem. Both feasts have a common theme: triumph and victory. Saturday reveals the Enemy, which is Death. Palm Sunday announces the meaning of victory as the triumph of the Kingdom of God, as the acceptance by the world of its only King, Jesus Christ. In the life of Jesus, His only visible triumph was the solemn entrance into the Holy City. Up to that day, He consistently rejected all attempts to glorify Him. But six days before the Passover, He not only accepted to be glorified, He Himself provoked and arranged this glorification by doing what the prophet Zacharias announced: "behold, Thy King cometh unto thee... lowly and riding upon an ass…. "(Zac. 9:9). He made it clear that He wanted to be acclaimed and acknowledged as the Messiah, the King and the Redeemer of Israel. The Gospel narratives stress all these Messianic features: the palms, the cry from the crowd of “Hosannah,” the acclamation of Jesus as the Son of David and the King of Israel. The meaning is clear: The history of Israel is now coming to its end, for the purpose of that history was to announce and to prepare the Kingdom of God, the advent of the Messiah. And now it is fulfilled. For the King enters His Holy City and in Him all the prophecies, all the expectations find their fulfilment. He inaugurates His Kingdom. The Liturgy of Palm Sunday commemorates this event. With palm branches in our hands, we identify ourselves with the people of Jerusalem. Together with them we greet the lowly King, singing Hosannah to Him. But what is the meaning of this today for us?
CITIZENSHIP IN THE KINGDOM
First, it is our confession of Christ as our King and Lord. We forget so often that the Kingdom of God has already been inaugurated and that on the day of our baptism we were made citizens of it and promised to put our loyalty to it above all other loyalties. We must remember that for a few hours Christ was indeed King on earth in this world of ours, for a few hours only and in one city. But as in Lazarus we have recognised the image of each man, in this one city we acknowledge the mystical centre of the world and indeed of the whole of creation. For such is the biblical meaning of Jerusalem, the focal point of the whole history of salvation and redemption, the holy city of God's advent. Therefore, the Kingdom inaugurated in Jerusalem is a universal Kingdom, embracing in its perspective all men and the totality of creation. For just a few hours. Yet these hours were decisive: The ultimate hour of Jesus, the hour of fulfilment by God, the fulfilment of all His promises, of all His decisions. It came at the end of the entire process of preparation revealed in the Bible. It was the end of all that God did for men. And thus at the most solemn moment of our liturgical celebration, when we receive from the priest a palm branch, we renew our oath to our King and confess His Kingdom as the ultimate meaning and content of our life. We confess that everything in our life and in the world belongs to Christ and that nothing can be taken away from its sole real Owner, for there is no area of life in which He is not to rule, to save, and to redeem. We proclaim the universal and total responsibility of the Church for human history and uphold her universal mission.
THE WAY OF THE CROSS
We, know however, that the King whom the Jews acclaimed then, and whom we acclaim today, is on His way to Golgotha, to the Cross and to the grave. We know that this short triumph is but the prologue of His sacrifice. The branches in our hands signify, therefore, our readiness and willingness to follow Him on this sacrificial way and our acceptance of sacrifice and self-denial as the only royal way to the Kingdom. And finally these branches, this celebration, proclaim our faith in the final victory of Christ.
His Kingdom is yet hidden and the world ignores it. It lives as if the decisive event had not taken place, as if God had not died on the Cross and Man in Him was not risen from the dead. But we, Orthodox Christians, believe in the coming of the Kingdom in which God will be all in all and Christ the only King. In our liturgical celebrations we remember events of the past. But the whole meaning and power of Liturgy is that it transforms remembrance into reality.
Great + Holy Monday
The service is Matins of Tuesday morning sung by anticipation on Monday evening.
"BOTH WATCH AND PRAY..."
Tuesday of Holy Week (sung by anticipation, now on Monday evening) commemorates the parable of the Ten Virgins, Matt. 25:1-13. Ethical preparation and wakefulness are the foundations of vivid faith. The parable of the Ten Virgins is developed around the theme of the Bridegroom: "Why are Thou heedless, O my soul?...Work most diligently with the talent which has been confided to thee; both watch and pray." The hymnologist reminds us, "I do not possess a torch aflame with virtue, and the foolish virgin I imitate when it is the time for action"; and "Into the splendour of thy saints, how can I, who am unholy, enter?" The exhortation is given: "Come, Ye faithful, let us work earnestly for the Master...increase our talent of grace...Wisdom through good works."
The Gospel is Matthew 22:15-23 through 23:39; 24:26 through 26:2.
Great + Holy Tuesday
The service is Matins of Wednesday morning sung by anticipation on Tuesday evening.
"WHEN HE CAME TO HIMSELF...HE CAME TO HIS FATHER..."
On Wednesday of Holy Week (sung by anticipation, now on Tuesday evening), it has been ordained by the Holy Fathers of the Church that commemoration should be made of the anointing of Christ with myrrh by the woman in the house of Simon, the leper, in Bethany. Repentance was the mission of the prophets. It would be an apt one-word title for the Bible, because "repentance" was the mission of our Lord. This woman who demonstrated her repentance and her warm faith toward our Lord still presents to us the aroma of her virtue for imitation today.
On this evening is sung the beautiful "Hymn of Cassiane," probably a work of Patriarch Photius.
It begins: "The woman who had fallen into many sins recognised thy Godhead, O Lord; Woe to me, said she; receive the sources of my tears, O Thou who doth gather into clouds the water of the sea. Who can trace out the multitude of my sins and the abysses of my misdeeds? "O Thou whose mercy is unbounded."
The Gospel reading is John 12:17-50.
Great + Holy Wednesday Morning
The Divine Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts
"THE LIGHT OF CHRIST SHINETH FOR ALL..."
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated on this day for the last time during Lent. This very ancient Liturgy is a Vesper Service, with the Holy Gifts presanctified in the Liturgy on the previous Sunday. This Liturgy is offered every Wednesday and Friday during Lent so that the people may receive Holy Communion. This Liturgy is solemn and reflects the grandeur and simplicity of the early Church. During Lent, no other Liturgy is held except on Saturday, Sunday, and March 25, when the Liturgies of St. Basil (on Sundays) and St. Chrysostom are officiated.
Great + Holy Wednesday AFTERNOON
The Mysterion of Unction
"ANOINTING HIM SICK WITH OIL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD..."
The sacred ceremony of the Mysterion of the Holy Unction takes place on this Wednesday evening, following an old custom. It is the evening of repentance, confession, and the remission of sins by the Lord, preparing the faithful to receive Holy Communion, usually the next day, Holy Thursday morning. Holy Unction is the Mysterion for cleansing sins and renewing the body and the spirit of the faithful. Holy Unction is one of the seven Sacraments of the Church, and it has its origin in the practice of the early Church as recorded in the Epistle of James (5:14-15). At the end of the service, the priest anoints the people with Holy Oil, the visible carrier of the Grace of God.
Great + Holy Wednesday Evening
The service is Matins of Thursday morning sung by anticipation, on Wednesday evening.
"LET NO FEAR SEPARATE YOU FROM ME..."
The Orthros of Thursday morning is sung by anticipation, on Wednesday evening. In many Orthodox churches, however, this service is sung at its designated Thursday morning time, before the Vespers and Divine Liturgy. "On Thursday in Holy Week (now Wednesday evening or Thursday morning) the Holy Fathers, who had well-ordained things, handed down to us successively from the Holy Apostles and the Sacred Gospels to celebrate four Events: the washing of the disciples' feet, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the Marvellous Prayer, the betrayal."
The Gospel reading is St. Luke 22:1-39.
Great + Holy Thursday Morning
The service is the Vespers and Divine Liturgy of Thursday evening which is sung in the morning by anticipation.
"DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME..."
Jesus drew His last breath of freedom on this Thursday night. Christ knew all the incidents which were about to take place and called to Him His Apostles in order to institute the Holy Eucharist for them and for the Church forever. At the end of March, with the full moon as a brilliant lantern in the sky and the weather mild, the people in Jerusalem enjoyed the beginning of spring. In this atmosphere, Christ presented Bread and Wine as the Elements of His Very Body and His Very Blood; they are the Precious Gifts which have been left as His perpetual Presence in the Church.
The institution of the Holy Eucharist and its re-enactment through the centuries, both as a sacrifice and sacred ceremony (Mysterion), is the life-giving remembrance which, along with the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, constitutes the basis of salvation for the Christian.
Then followed the incidents of the dramatic closing moments of Christ's life. After the washing of His Apostles' feet, He pointed out the betrayer, inaugurated the Eucharist, and pronounced the new commandment of love for one another. He spoke to them words of comfort, promising the descent of the Holy Spirit to complete man's union with Christ. His departure, Christ said, would bring to them and the world joy. Christ took His Apostles out in the mild night where He could see face-to-face His co-workers in the bright light of the full moon. In this spiritual mood and physical setting, Jesus withdrew to pray. After this agony of the "bloody sweat" came the kiss of Judas and His arrest. He thus became the source of spiritual and physical freedom for mankind.
During this Liturgy, the priest prepares the "Amnos," the Holy Communion, which is kept throughout the whole year to be given the faithful in times of sickness. The Body and Blood of Christ is present in the Church during the entire year and throughout the ages. On this day, with greater feeling than ever, Christians come for Holy Communion singing: "Receive me Today, O Son of God, as a partaker of Thy Mystic Feast; for I will not speak of the Mystery to Thine enemies, I will not kiss Thee as did Judas, but as the thief I will confess Thee. Lord, remember me when I comest to Thy Kingdom."
The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil is officiated on this day. The readings are: 2 Cor. 11:23-32; Matt. 26:2-28; John 13:3-17; Matt. 26:21-39; Luke 22:43-44; Matt. 26:40-75; Matt. 27:1-2.
Great + Holy Thursday Evening
The service of the HOLY PASSION of our Lord Jesus Christ. The service is Matins of Friday morning sung by anticipation, on Thursday evening.
"WE WORSHIP THY PASSION, O CHRIST..."
Good Friday celebrates the holy, saving, and awesome Passion of Christ. To take away our sins, Christ willingly endured spitting, scourging, buffeting, scorn, mocking, and purple robe; the reed, sponge, vinegar, nails, spear, and above all, the Cross and Death. The confession from the cross of the penitent thief, crucified with Christ, is celebrated. Participation in the prayers and the historical sequence of the events, as related in the Gospels and hymns, provides a vivid foundation for the great events yet to come.
The "Twelve Gospel" readings of this service are:
St. John 13:31 thru Ch. 18:1
St. John 18:1-29
St. Matthew 26:57-75
St. John 18:28 thru Ch. 19:16
St. Matthew 27:3-32
St. Mark 15:16-32
St. Matthew 27:33-54
St. Luke 23:32-49
St. John 19:38-42
St. Mark 15:43-47
St. John 19:38-42
St. Matthew 27:62-66
These readings relate the last instructions of Christ to His disciples, the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, the dramatic prayer of Christ and His new commandment. The day should be devoted to reading the "Gospel of the Testament" of Christ which He left for all men. The Church services during Holy Week re-enact the events of this Gospel.
After the reading of the fifth Gospel comes the procession with the Crucifix around the church, while the priest chants the 15th antiphon: "Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection."
During the Procession, the faithful Christian kneels and prays for his spiritual welfare, imitating the thief on the Cross who confessed his faith and devotion to Christ. He then approaches and reverently kisses the Crucifix.
Good Friday MORNING
The service is the Royal Hours.
"THEY CAST LOTS UPON MY VESTURE..."
According to the Hebrew custom, the "Royal Hours," four in number, are read at this time. These services consist of hymns, psalms, and readings from the Old and New Testaments, all related prophetically and ethically to the Person of Christ.
Good Friday AFTERNOON
The service is Vespers sung on Friday afternoon.
"FATHER, FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO..."
The Vespers of Friday afternoon are a continuation of the Royal Hours. During this service, the removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated with a sense of mourning for the terrible events which took place. Once more, excerpts from the Old Testament are read together with hymns, and again the entire story is related, followed by the removal from the Cross and the wrapping of the Body of Christ with a white sheet as did Joseph of Arimathea. Apostle Paul, interpreting the dreadful event, exhorts the Church: "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... we preach Christ crucified... the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor. 1: 18f.)
As the priest reads the Gospel, "and taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in a white cloth," he removes the Body of Christ from the Cross, wraps It in a white cloth, and takes It to the altar. The priest then chants a mourning hymn: "When Joseph of Arimathea took Thee, the life of all, down from the Tree dead, he buried Thee with myrrh and fine linen... rejoicing. Glory to Thy humiliation, O Master, who clothest Thyself with light as it were with a garment." The priest then carries the cloth on which the Body of Christ is painted or embroidered around the church before placing It inside the Sepulchre, a carved bier which symbolises the Tomb of Christ. We are reminded that during Christ's entombment, He descends into Hades to free the dead of the ages before His Incarnation.
The Gospel readings which relate these events are: Matt. 27:1-38; Luke 23:29-43; Matt. 27:29-54; John 19:31-37; Matt. 27:55-61.
Good Friday is the only day in the year on which the Divine Liturgy is not officiated.
Today, the devoted Christian ponders in his heart the deep meaning of the Seven Last Words of Christ uttered on the Cross, the first Divine Pulpit of Christianity.
Good Friday Evening - The Lamentation
The service is Matins of Saturday morning sung by anticipation, on Friday evening
"DO NOT WEEP FOR ME, BUT WEEP FOR YOURSELVES..."
It consists of psalms, hymns, and readings dealing with the death of Christ, in contrast to His divinity, and in expectation of His Resurrection. One of the hymns relates: "He who holds all things is raised up on the Cross and all creation laments to see Him hang naked on the Tree." The thoughtful and well-written Odes, sung by the choir, compare the Compassion of God and the cruelty of man, the Might of God and the moral weakness of man. The Odes picture all Creation trembling when witnessing its Creator hung by His own creatures: "Creation was moved... with intense astonishment when it beheld Thee hung in Golgotha." The Odes remind us of the vision of Isaiah, who saw Christ, "the unwaning light of the manifestation," and cried aloud, "The dead indeed shall arise and all those on earth shall rejoice." During this service, the Body of Christ is carried in procession around the church. The entire Sepulchre, symbolising the Tomb, is carried in the procession.
The congregation joins in singing the three parts of the "Hymns of Praise" (there are approximately 300 hymns, but only a few are sung). After these hymns are sung, the priest sprinkles the Sepulchre and the congregation with fragrant water. There is a simultaneous praise of both the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ with their purpose of the redemption of man. We no longer lament the sufferings of the Crucified One; we now lament chiefly for our own sins because we are far from God. So these services should have a rather personal meaning of repentance and of strong faith in God.
Christians observe Good Friday with fasting, prayer, cleanliness, self-examination, confession, and good works, in humility and repentance so that the Grace of the Cross might descend upon them.
The Gospel reading is Matthew 27:62-66.
Great + Holy Saturday Morning
The service is Vespers and Divine Liturgy of Saturday evening sung by anticipation, on Saturday morning.
"ARISE, O GOD, AND JUDGE THOU THE EARTH..."
Psalms are read and Resurrection hymns are sung which tell of Christ's descent into Hades. "Today Hades cried out groaning" is the hymn's description of the resurrection of Adam and the conquering of death. Thus this day's celebration is called "First Resurrection." Most of the readings of this day are from the Old Testament on the prophecies and promise of the conquering of death. On this day, the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil is officiated. Apostle Paul exhorts the faithful: "We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism unto death, so we, too, might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)
After the reading of the Epistle, the priest follows the custom of tossing of bay leaves, saying: "Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth: for Thou shall take all heathen to Thine inheritance." The Cherubic hymn of this day is: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand with fear and trembling...", a thoughtful hymn of adoration and exaltation. The Divine Liturgy ends with the Communion Hymn: "So the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and He is risen to save us."
The readings are from Romans 6:3-11 and Matthew 28:1-20.
The Holy Sunday of Easter
The service is Matins and Divine Liturgy of Sunday morning sung Saturday midnight.
With this service, the Pentecostarion starts (50 days' services)
On Easter Sunday (Saturday midnight), the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is celebrated. Before midnight, the Odes of Lamentation of the previous day are repeated. The Orthros of the Resurrection begins in complete darkness. The priest takes light from the vigil light and gives it to the faithful, who are holding candles. The priest sings: "Come ye and receive light from the unwaning life, and glorify Christ, who arose from the dead," and the people join him in singing this hymn again and again. From this moment, every Christian holds the Easter candle as a symbol of his vivid, deep faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as Saviour. In many churches, the priest leads the people outside the church, where he reads the Gospel which refers to the Angel's statement: "He is Risen; He is not here." (Mark 16:1-8)
Then comes the breathless moment as the people wait for the priest to start the hymn of Resurrection, which they join him in singing, repeatedly: "Christ has Risen from the dead, by death trampling upon Death, and has bestowed life upon those in the tombs." From this moment, the entire service takes on a joyous Easter atmosphere. The hymns of the Odes and Praises of Resurrection which follow are of superb meaning and expression. The people confess, "It is the Day of Resurrection, let us be glorious, let us embrace one another and speak to those that hate us; let us forgive all things and so let us cry, Christ has arisen from the dead." By this hymn, they admit that love of one's fellowman is the solid foundation of the faith in the Resurrection of Christ.
The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is then officiated. At the end of the Liturgy, a part of the marvellous festival sermon of St. Chrysostom is read, which calls upon the people to "Take part in this fair and radiant festival. Let no one be fearful of death, for the death of the Saviour has set us free...O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is Thy victory? Christ is Risen and Thou art overthrown. To Him be glory and power from all ages to all ages."
The readings are Acts 1:1-8 and John 1: 1-17.
Easter Sunday VESPERS OF LOVE
"PEACE BE UNTO YOU..."
On Easter Sunday afternoon, the faithful gather once more for prayer with lighted candles. All sing the hymn, "Christ is Risen from the Dead." The people greet one another joyously, saying: "Christ is Risen," the Easter salutation which is answered, "Truly He is Risen." They sing, "The dark shadows of the Law have passed away by the coming of grace," and standing in exaltation, they exclaim, "Who is so great a God as our God?"
The Gospel according to John (20:19-25) is read in various languages, proclaiming the Good News of Resurrection all over the universe without discrimination. The fruit of faith in the Resurrection of the Lord is love in His Name; therefore, this day is called "Sunday of Agapi" (love feast), a day dedicated to Christian principles, especially to forgiveness and charity. At this time, Christians seek to end misunderstanding and arguments among those with whom they may be at odds. Apostle Paul firmly interprets the Resurrection of Christ, saying: "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Cor. 15:14) The Church also states in its Creed, "The Third day He rose again."
STAY SPIRITUAL 21.04.20
Orthodox Prayers FOR Bright Week
Over the next forty days, you will hear the words Christ is risen - echoed by the response indeed he has risen! This begins during Bright Week (also known as Pascha Week or Renewal Week) which is the seven days beginning on Easter and continuing up to the Sunday of Thomas. While this is a time of celebration, our Church has a number of traditions and prayers that help us honour the true reason we're rejoicing.
During Bright Week, the Holy Doors and the Deacons’ doors of the iconostasis remain open symbolizing the empty tomb of our Master and Savior: Christ is risen!
During Bright Week, our prayers in church and at home are sung and not read as we sing all week the feast of the risen Christ: Christ is risen!
During Bright Week, there is no fasting as we are at feast with the Bridegroom who processes forth from the tomb: Christ is risen!
During the entire Paschal season there is no prostrating or kneeling permitted in church or at home for we stand with the resurrected Christ: Christ is risen!
During the Paschal season we begin all of our prayers at home and in church by singing the troparion of Pascha: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”
During the Paschal season and extending to Pentecost, we do not pray “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth…” for the Comforter comes on Pentecost. Christ is risen!
From the Holy and Great Sunday of Pascha until the Saturday of Renewal Week, in place of the usual Morning and Evening Prayers, Nocturns, the Hours, Compline, and the Prayers of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion, the following is read:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! (3)
Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one. We venerate Your Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Your Holy Resurrection, for You are our God, and we know no other than You: we call on Your name. Come, all you faithful, let us venerate Christ's holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Let us ever bless the Lord, praising His Resurrection, for by enduring the Cross for us, He has destroyed death by death. (3)
Before the dawn, Mary and the women came and found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They heard the angelic voice: Why do you seek among the dead, as a man, the One who is everlasting Light? Behold the clothes in the grave! Go and proclaim to the world: the Lord is risen! He has slain death, as He is the Son of God, saving the race of man.
O Christ our God, though You descended into the grave, You overthrew the power of Hades, and rose as an immortal conqueror: You greeted with joy the myrrh-bearing women, and sent Your peace to Your Apostles, and to the fallen, O Lord, You brought Your resurrection.
In the grave bodily; in Hades with Your soul, though You were God; in Paradise with the thief; and on the Throne with the Father and the Spirit it is You who fills all things, O Christ the Uncircumscribable.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
How life-giving, how much more beautiful than paradise, and truly more resplendent than any royal palace is Your grave, the source of our resurrection, O Christ.
Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Rejoice, O sanctified and divine tabernacle of the Most High; for through you, O Theotokos, joy is given to them that cry: Blessed are you among women, O all immaculate Lady.
Lord, have mercy. (40)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
More honorable than the Cherubim, more glorious beyond compare than the the Seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word, true Theotokos we magnify you.
At Compline we also say this prayer; otherwise, we proceed with Christ is risen... as set forth below.
A Compline Prayer of St. Basil the Great
Blessed are You, 0 Almighty Master, Who enlightened the day with the light of the sun and illumined the night by the rays of fire, Who deemed us worthy to pass through the length of the day and draw nigh to the beginning of the night. Hearken unto Our supplication, and that of all Your people. Forgive all of us our sins, voluntary and involuntary, accept our evening entreaties, and send down the multitude of Your mercy and compassions upon Your inheritance. Encompass us with Your holy Angels; arm us with the armor of Your righteousness; surround us with Your truth; protect us by Your might; deliver us from every grievous circumstance and from every conspiracy of the adversary. And grant unto us that this evening together with the coming night and all the days of our life may be perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless, without stumbling and vain imaginings; by the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and of all the Saints who, from ages past, have been well-pleasing unto You. Amen.
Archbishop Makarios of Australia SPEAKS WITH journalist Maria Giahnaki
MG: Firstly can you comment on the Coronavirus pandemic?
Is it true that humankind is experiencing a global biological war?
Archbishop Makarios: The studies that have been presented to date show that this virus has arisen through mutation. Without wanting to fall into the trap of catastrophic discourse and accepting the ‘prophesies’ that are on the rise these days, I acknowledge medically that this virus has existed since 2002. The coronaviruses are a group of viruses which attack the respiratory system of humans and animals. This specific virus (COVID-19) is the seventh in this family. In 2002, as was previously mentioned, we saw the emergence of the coronavirus SARS in China, while in 2012 we saw the emergence of coronavirus MERS in the Middle East.
Beyond the scientific facts, it is well known that the second most powerful nation in the world is China, while America, which is the first, has a huge debt to China. The balances between power are always very delicate. I foresee that the vaccine to treat and cure this virus will be discovered in the USA since in this way the existing economic balances which have been threatened will be maintained. Moreover, we experienced similar situations in the past where there were outbreaks of even more deadly viruses, but we did not see such global mobilisation. This specific outbreak has resulted in an only 1% death rate for those of the population who have been infected. All these are fact which one is not able to ignore too easily; indeed, they indicate that certain agendas may underlie the kind of response that has eventuated with the appearance of this virus (which, according to research into its cause, has not been manufactured by humans). This is, therefore, not a biological weapon since the illness does not clinically present as such. It is not a weapon of mass destruction which has a toxic character and which has been let loose into the atmosphere to generate mass murder. It is a pandemic which we must all face with unity, faith, obedience to the governing bodies and the scientific community, and with prudence and sobriety.
MG: What measures have you taken in Australia?
Archbishop Makarios: Here in Australia we have tried, as much as possible, to maintain the legal requirements as well as the advice of the medical bodies, not because we want to protect ourselves but to protect those around us. Let us not forget that illnesses are personal trials as well as trials faced by our loved ones and their respective families.
We do not for a moment wish to imagine that entire families will suffer. The only reason as to why we were forced to close all our Churches nation-wide, through an official encyclical to our people, was to protect our neighbour, families and society more broadly. We certainly do not want our Churches to become a source of contamination for anyone. We do not want our participation in the Divine Liturgy and other communal worship services to result in anyone becoming ill or even dying because they become infected. Certainly, all the services are being conducted by the priest and the chanter. The bells continue to ring. The services are being live streamed through the internet. People know that their priest is there, and that he continues to offer the bloodless sacrifice for the health of all people; for all those who are not in the Church, and for the repose of all those who have departed this life.
MG: Many people are asking why God allowed such a trial to take place across the whole planet. It is a similar question as the one relating to pain and suffering which humanity faces from time to time. Why is it that the God of mercy and love allows such situations?
Archbishop Makarios: I will not attempt to give an answer to such questions because then we will become embroiled in a process of rationalising what is mystery and faith. I can, however, assure you that our Church is not a Church of pain and illness. It is a Church of joy, love, victory over death. Pain and suffering become an opportunity for the Christian to become a better person, to come out of himself, his introversion and self-love. Pain gives us the ability to empathise with the pain of our fellow human beings, and to enter their situation for a while. Pain allows us to rethink and reflect on our way of life, which may be entirely worldly, and which may not leave any room for a spiritual and eschatological outlook. Pain and illness usually soften the intensity of the passions and transform the person.
Of course, there is the other possibility that illness and pain harden people, making them more unyielding and more difficult. Satan exploits illness a lot. If we do not mobilise patience and our trust in God, then we become anxious, we protest and do not accept our illness, and then Satan creates havoc and one illness follows the other. Some people turn to faith thinking they will overcome illness in that way. I don’t know, however, if this is what we should be striving for. Faith in God has nothing to do with a transaction. Others think that faith protects us from pain, but this is not true. Faith simply helps us to understand and to accept God’s silence when we are tormented by the question you asked me initially: Why does God allow pain and pandemics? Why does He allow the coronavirus and death? Why does God send cancer to me?
MG: How should a Christian generally face illnesses?
Archbishop Makarios: When we speak about illness we need to clarify that we may be referring to a state that cannot always be explained medically and scientifically. Our body, for example, can slowly die when the soul is not alive; in other words, the presentation of bodily malaise or fatigue is often a result of one’s spiritual state and not merely one’s biological. Some people know that they are ill, while others do not know it. Some accept it and some do not. A person may be living with a particular illness, but follows a completely different path; in other words that person may not be accepting of his or her reality. This is because people are free to live according to the flesh or to live according to the spirit. They may live with God, but quickly they may learn to live without God, without light, without love.
It is natural to have troubling thoughts and to be worried with the appearance of this pandemic. Despite being human, let us not show a human way of thinking and lack of courage. Illness and trials in life more generally become a criterion by which our spirituality and the depth of our humanity can be tested. Hyper-anxiety, panic and fear reveal the absence of a spiritual life. That is why we are called to face every illness as children of God and not as worldly people. In this spirit, I am not sure whether we should be trying to overcome our illnesses or accept them as a necessary element of our salvation.
Of course, in this situation, the reality is different. As was previously highlighted, we are not concerned for our protection but rather the protection of our neighbour, who is foundational for the spiritual life.
MG: Can you give our readers a message on the problems of our times generally and especially in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic?
Archbishop Makarios: During times of pandemics, trials and sorrows, let us think how close God and the Saints are to us. Let us look at the lives of the Saints of our Church. They all suffered pain, affliction, deprivation and sorrow; they all experienced difficulties and innumerable trials. In the writings of the Great Fathers, it is repeatedly emphasised how pain and illness sanctify the human person. There has never been a Saint who wrote negatively about pain and illness. Our Saints may have performed miracles, but they never cured themselves. On the contrary, they boast about their trials because in these they were led closer to God.
Illnesses and difficulties will come into our lives. Sometimes they will come unexpectedly. Let us not think that we are not able to overcome them, because then we will be burdened with anxiety and fear. Rather, let us confront these naturally. Let us walk completely free from compulsions and desires, because for us Christians, “whether we live, or whether we die we belong to God”. Let us give thanks to God, not for our illnesses or for the cures, but because, through these, we came to know Him better and we become more intimately connected with Him. Let us look forward to the abolition of our limitations. This means that we put an end to any obstacle, and we become one with Him. We then reach the state that St Paul was referring to: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
This new pandemic that we are experiencing today comes to show us, once again, human fragility and our fear when faced with the possibility of death. The human person, however, has been created for something else; and not for corruption and anxiety. For this reason, I personally ask that people remain calm. Let us place our trust in God. I know it is not easy to abandon yourself to the mercy of God. But life always has a way of moving through and beyond trials and difficulties. Our faith in God is a huge power, implacable and unrestrained. Let us therefore make use of it.
Let us enhance the power of our faith because then we will see everything in a different light, which will no longer tie us down to earth, but will direct us towards Heaven.
This pandemic will be overcome. The Resurrection will come soon.