Monday, April 28, 2014

New Orthodox Books for Spring

The Forgotten Faith: Ancient Insights for Contemporary Christians from Eastern Christianity
by Fr. Philip LeMasters
Here's what Amazon says: "There's more to Eastern Christianity than ethnic food bazaars, enclaves of immigrants, and clergy with beards. The mystical theology, spiritual disciplines, and rich liturgical worship of the Orthodox Church provide sustenance for anyone seeking resources for growth in the Christian life. Ancient teachings and practices persist in Eastern Christianity that hold together much of what Catholics and Protestants have separated. Believers of all stripes increasingly resonate with Orthodoxy's healthy synthesis of prayer, doctrine, liturgy, asceticism, and call to holiness in all areas of life. This ancient faith speaks with refreshing clarity to contemporary Christians who want to learn from a living tradition that is too little known in Western culture. This volume presents profound insights that will enrich, challenge, and inspire readers of all backgrounds. It invites everyone to encounter a spiritual tradition that is ancient, contemporary, and fascinatingly different."

Sounds like a great book for newcomers to the faith, those curious about Orthodoxy, or even established Orthodox who want to connect more with tradition.

And you can also listen to an interview with Fr. Philip LeMasters about his book here!

Help! I'm Bored in Church: Entering Fully into the Divine Liturgy
By David Smith
Here's what Amazon says: "Do you ever find yourself feeling bored in church? Don't despair you're not alone, and there is hope! Fr. David Smith offers four compelling reasons for going to church regardless of how we feel. He then explores six reasons people sometimes feel bored in church, five ways to think about your priest, four ways you can participate more fully in services, three kinds of waiting, two kinds of prayer, and the one thing truly needful in our relationship with God. This book will help you see church as the best place you could possibly be and the place you most want to be."

Is this you? Don't despair. This book talks about church boredom and gives suggestions for re-energizing your participation in Liturgy. 

Earn Credits!
You can earn two credits each for reading the books, and one credit for listening to the Fr. Philip LeMasters interview. For the books, read, then fill out the General Worksheet for Books. For the interview, fill out the Podcast Worksheet. Then email your work to else10(at)gmail(d0t)com for credit. It's easy!

May your Spring reading and listening be especially blessed.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Entering into the Joy of the Resurrection: A Homily for St. Thomas Sunday in the Orthodox Church

Christ is Risen!
            On this Sunday of St. Thomas, we have only begun our celebration of Pascha, of our Lord’s victory over death in His glorious resurrection on the third day.   Perhaps one of the reasons that Pascha is a season of forty days is that it takes us a good while to let the good news sink in.  For not only is Christ raised from the dead, we are too.  The tomb is no longer a shadowy place of separation from God or a disappearance into oblivion, but an entry way to the Kingdom of Heaven where the departed are in the presence of the One Who has conquered death.  Yes, the Risen Lord calls every human being to life eternal, including you and me and all our departed loved ones.
            For Jesus Christ is raised with His Body as a whole, complete human being who is also God.  We share in His resurrection already through our participation in His Body, the Church.  We are nourished with His glorified, risen Body and Blood each Divine Liturgy in the Holy Eucharist.  Our mortal selves receive the medicine of immortality when we are nourished by the One Who has conquered the grave.  We put on His Body through baptism, are filled with the Holy Spirit in Chrismation, and in all the other sacraments and ministries of the Church we share ever more fully in the new life that Pascha has brought to the world.  “Pascha” means Passover; Jesus Christ is our Passover from death to life; and our entire life in His Risen Body, the Church, is an ongoing participation in the new day of the Kingdom that He has begun, which should transform every dimension of our lives, seven days a week, the whole year round.  
            We can see something new in Christ’s followers in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles.  In the gospels, the disciples misunderstood the Lord and often lacked the power to minister effectively in His name.  They even doubted the testimony of the women who heard of the resurrection from the angel at the tomb.  But in Acts, they perform so many signs and wonders that the sick trust that they will be healed by the mere shadow of St. Peter falling on them.  Multitudes of sick and demon-possessed people sought out the apostles, and they were all healed.
            A confused, weak, and often divided group that included fishermen, a tax-collector, and a zealot; which collectively ran away in fear at the crucifixion; and the leader of which denied the Lord three times, is now a powerhouse of miraculous healings and bold preaching.  What has happened to them? 
            The answer is clear:  Christ has conquered sin and death in their lives.  He has filled them with the Holy Spirit.  He has empowered them to manifest His new life and ministry.  “Peace be to you.  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  The salvation which Lord came to bring now lives in them.  He lives in them.  Christ is the vine, and they are the branches.  They are members of the Body of which He is the Head.  His victory over sin, the grave, and all human corruption is now theirs; the change in their lives is clear.
            What may be less clear, however, is that the same is true of us.  Even as we live and breathe and go through our routines at work, school, home, and in this parish, Christ’s victory over sin and corruption are ours, too.  We probably find that hard to believe.  We have not seen the Risen Jesus as the apostles did, but remember what the Lord said to St. Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 
            Just as doubting and fearful disciples became faithful, bold preachers and wonderworkers, we are also called to know the power the Lord’s resurrection in our lives.  We may want to excuse ourselves from this high calling, however.  In contrast with the brilliant light of Pascha, we may see the darkness and brokenness in our lives all too well.  Christ has conquered sin and death, but we all still bear their wounds; and sometimes we wonder if this glorious news of life eternal really applies to us with all our struggles, pains, weaknesses, and failings.     
            But notice that when the risen Lord appears to His disciples, His glorified body still bears His wounds.  He was not raised as a ghost or a spirit, but as a whole human being with a body.  His horrible wounds were part of Who He freely chose to become as a human being for our sakes, and He arises victorious with them.  He took these wounds upon Himself purely out of love for us and has used them to defeat death itself, which is the wages of sin.
            Of course, we must not deny the truth about lives; we should not pretend that all is well when it is not.  Our growth in holiness is an eternal journey, and we certainly have not yet arrived.  But we must recognize that Christ rose again to bring the dead to life, to heal our wounds and transform all who are created in His image and likeness; and, yes, that includes all of us.  The good news of Pascha is that we are no longer the slaves of sin and death.  Evil only has the power in our lives that we allow it to have; the same is true of the fear of death, violence, suffering, and all the other works of darkness that can so easily dominate, distort, and destroy us.      
            When the Risen Lord breathes on His apostles and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” we are reminded of the creation of Adam in Genesis.  The divine breath gave us life to begin with, but with our sin and corruption we have rejected that life and preferred death instead.  Now the same Lord Who created us has conquered death on our behalf.  The Second Adam breathes on humanity again, bringing life once more to the first Adam and restoring us to our original dignity.   And this time He gives us an ongoing remedy for our sins:  the ministry of forgiveness through His Body, the Church.  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
            This apostolic ministry continues in the Church through the Sacrament of Confession.  Even though we fall away time and time again from the new life in Christ, He extends the joy of His resurrection to us by forgiving us, restoring us to the life of the Kingdom, healing our spiritual diseases, and helping us grow ever more like Him.  No, Confession is not negative, for it is the good news of the Savior’s victory over death applied to us personally, to the wounds and scars of our lives that we rarely expose to anyone else.  Through our humble confession, Christ conquers the evil in us and empowers us to life with the joy and confident hope of those who have passed over the slavery of sin to the glorious freedom of the children of God.   No, Confession is not only for Lent, and we should all make regular and conscientious use of this Sacrament—not out of legalism or excessive guilt, but as a therapy to help us enter more fully into the joy of the Lord.
            No matter how difficult our struggles are or how weak we feel before them, let us rejoice today in the resurrection of Christ.  No matter how far short we have fallen from faithfulness in any way, let us embrace the new life brought to the world by the empty tomb.  Let us also embrace one another, forgive all offenses, and pray for and bless our enemies, for Christ’s resurrection conquers death and sin, which are the very roots of all estrangement, hatred, and brokenness in relationships with other people.
            Through His Body, the Church, His Body and Blood in Holy Communion, and the ministry of forgiveness, we are all enabled to pass over from death to life.  The light really has overcome the darkness.  Now the challenge is for each of us to live in the joy of Christ’s resurrection, to make His victory ours, to participate in His resurrection to the depths of our being, and to recognize that nothing separates us from Him other than our own stubborn refusal to share in His great triumph.   So I challenge you—and myself-- to celebrate Pascha by not only saying “Christ is Risen,” but by living the new life that His empty tomb has brought to the world and to each of us.  At the end of the day, that is really the only way to enter into the joy of this blessed season.  

Christ is Risen!     

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Culture War or the Spiritual Life

By Bill Hinkle in Our Life in Christ and in America

Apr 23, 2014  0 Comment(s)  Tags: 
Father Philip LeMasters, Pastor of St. Luke’s Orthodox Church in Abilene Texas, and Dean of Social Sciences and Religion at McMurry University, discusses his latest book, The Forgotten Faith, Ancient Insights for Contemporary Believers from Eastern Christianity, with host Bill Hinkle. Are we battling for a better world or pressing into the Kingdom of God, embracing the spiritual life of the Church, thus drawing others to salvation?
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christ is Risen!: The Paschal Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom


If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

About St. John Chrysostom:

St. John Chrysostom ("The Golden Tongue") was born at Antioch in about the year 347 into the family of a military-commander, spent his early years studying under the finest philosophers and rhetoricians and was ordained a deacon in the year 381 by the bishop of Antioch Saint Meletios. In 386 St. John was ordained a priest by the bishop of Antioch, Flavian.
Over time, his fame as a holy preacher grew, and in the year 397 with the demise of Archbishop Nektarios of Constantinople—successor to Sainted Gregory the Theologian—Saint John Chrysostom was summoned from Antioch for to be the new Archbishop of Constantinople.
Exiled in 404 and after a long illness because of the exile, he was transferred to Pitius in Abkhazia where he received the Holy Eucharist, and said, "Glory to God for everything!", falling asleep in the Lord on 14 September 407.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy fire ceremony draws tens of thousands of Orthodox Christians for Jerusalem ritual

  • Christian pilgrims hold candles at the church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The "holy fire" was passed among worshippers outside the Church and then taken to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, where tradition holds Jesus was born, and from there to other Christian communities in Israel and the West Bank. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The dark hall inside Christianity's holiest shrine was illuminated with the flames from thousands of candles on Saturday as worshippers participated in the holy fire ceremony, a momentous spiritual event in Orthodox Easter rites.
Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected at the site where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands in the Old City of Jerusalem. While the source of the holy fire is a closely guarded secret, believers say the flame appears spontaneously from his tomb on the day before Easter to show Jesus has not forgotten his followers.
The ritual dates back at least 1,200 years.
Thousands of Christians waited outside the church for it to open Saturday morning. Custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is shared by a number of denominations that jealously guard their responsibilities under a fragile network of agreements hammered out over the last millennia. In accordance with tradition, the church's doors were unlocked by a member of a Muslim family, who for centuries has been the keeper of the ancient key that is passed on within the family from generation to generation.
Once inside, clergymen from the various Orthodox denominations in robes and hoods jostled for space with local worshippers and pilgrims from around the world.
Top Orthodox clergymen descended into the small chamber marking the site of Jesus' tomb as worshippers eagerly waited in the dim church clutching bundles of unlit candles and torches.
After a while, candles emerged lit with "holy fire" — said to have been lit by a miracle as a message to the faithful from heaven.
Bells rang as worshippers rushed to use the flames to ignite their own candles.
In mere seconds, the bursts of light spread throughout the cavernous church as flames jumped from one candle to another. Clouds of smoke wafted through the crammed hall as flashes from cameras and mobile phones documented what is for many, the spiritual event of a lifetime.
Some held light from the "holy fire" to their faces to bask in the glow while others dripped wax on their bodies.Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said tens of thousands of worshippers participated in the ceremony.
Many couldn't fit inside the church and the narrow winding streets of the Old City were lined with pilgrims.
The "holy fire" was passed among worshippers outside the Church and then taken to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, where tradition holds Jesus was born, and from there to other Christian communities in Israel and the West Bank.
Later it is taken aboard special flights to Athens and other cities, linking many of the 200 million Orthodox worldwide.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Historical Development of Holy Week Services In the Orthodox/Byzantine Rite

Historicizing and dramatic elements have shaped our Holy Week observance into the majestic Byzantine rites which we know today. The process began in the first century and continues down to our own age. Regretfully, however, many of our people turn out for these beautiful services and are not seen the rest of the year. The services have become such that people want to observe them as they would a beautiful opera, in small doses, but they fail to connect the paschal events with their own lives.
admin | 13 April 2009
The Paschal fast of Holy Week[1] is the most ancient part of the Great Fast.[2] It is already well attested by the second century, in conjunction with the rites of Christian initiation through baptism. At first spanning one or two days, the fast lengthened to four and then to a full six already by the third century. With the conversion of Constantine, the ensuing flood of people desiring to enter the Faith and imperial interest in holy places, the fourth century witnessed tremendous development in ritual for Holy Week. This evolutionary process continued in the middle ages and shows itself even in our own time.
Within the New Testament, we see little indication of a preferred time for celebrating baptism. Baptism was understood primarily as a putting off of the old in order to become part of “a society of persons that was in marked contrast to all others.”[3] The original emphasis was on baptism for the remission of sins and a filling with the Spirit. The stress soon evolved into baptism as a death and resurrection of the individual, as a personal participation in Christ’s suffering and exaltation.[4] As such, Pascha became the normative occasion for baptism. As the numbers of catechumens waned, however, Lent and Holy Week were transformed to a commemoration of past events and to a time of repentance. The attendant rites have, over this course, taken on dramatic elements and a growing sense of sentimentality.
The Beginnings: Second and Third Centuries
By the second century, the very ‘structure’ of initiation in the early Church included instruction in preparation for baptism. The length of this preparation varied and often spanned several years. Then, “As many as are persuaded and believe that these things which we teach are true, and undertake to live accordingly, are taught to pray and ask God, while fasting, for the forgiveness of their sins; and we pray and fast with them”[5] for one or two days—Saturday only, or Friday and Saturday—a fast without any food or drink.
By the mid-third century, in many but not all places, the fast had lengthened to six days. Few could have kept a week of total fast. In some places, bread and salt were eaten Monday through Thursday after the ninth hour, then, those who could, kept a total fast Friday and Saturday.[6] On Holy Saturday, those who had been elected as being ready for illumination would
meet together as catechumens for the last time. Here they are “catechized” by undergoing a final exorcism; they renounce Satan, are anointed with the “oil of exorcism” which has been blessed along with the chrism the preceding Holy Thursday, and recite the Creed which they have memorized since hearing it in the fourth scrutiny [on the preceding Sunday]. They kneel for prayer, and are then dismissed, being told to go home “and await the hour when the grace of God in baptism shall be able to enfold you.”[7]
Dionysius of Alexandria, in writing his Letter to Basiliades around 260, provides us the earliest source for an incipient ritual of Holy Week. Dionysius takes great pains to link each day and hour of Holy Week to events in Christ’s passion, sojourn in the tomb and resurrection. The Syriac Didascalia do the same.[8]Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition (ca. 215) and Cyprian (d. 258) both link the hours of prayer—for Holy Week and throughout the year—with specific events during Christ’s final week.
The Formative Age: Fourth Century
Cyril of Jerusalem, in the Catechetical Homilies he delivered ca. 350, makes no mention of daily commemorations and ritual. The Cross and the Resurrection, for example, were part of a single, united celebration on Saturday night, for which the six days of fasting were simply preparation. Friday did not yet specifically commemorate the crucifixion.[9] But the “current of the times”[10] in the fourth century was a historicizing one: eschatological notions were giving way to historical commemoration.
From Jerusalem comes innovation. By the time a pilgrim from Spain named Egeria visited, between 381-385, when this same Cyril was in his final years as bishop of the Holy City, there had evolved unmistakable correlation between passion events and the services for each day. Egeria was able to describe the rites in great detail in her diary. The close proximity of the actual sites where the events of our Lord’s passion took place, and the influx of pilgrims, no doubt suggested visiting and venerating at those locations. Dix condenses well Egeria’s diary, showing “a fully developed and designedly historical series of such celebrations in which the whole Jerusalem church takes part:”[11]
It begins on Passion Sunday with a procession to Bethany where the gospel of the raising of Lazarus is read. On the afternoon of Palm Sunday the whole church goes out to the Mount of Olives and returns in solemn procession to the city bearing branches of palm. There are evening visits to the Mount of Olives on each of the first three days of Holy Week, in commemoration of our Lord’s nightly withdrawal for the city during that week. On Maundy Thursday morning the eucharist is celebrated (for the only time in the year) in the chapel of the Cross, and not in the Martyrium; and all make their communion. In the evening after another eucharist the whole church keeps vigil at Constantine’s church of Eleona on the Mount of Olives, visiting Gethsemane after midnight and returning to the city in the morning for the reading of the gospel of the trial of Jesus. In the course of the morning of Good Friday all venerate the relics of the Cross, and then from noon to three p.m. all keep watch on the actual site of Golgotha (still left by Constantine’s architects open to the sky in the midst of a great colonnaded courtyard behind the Martyrium) with lections and prayers amid deep emotion. In the evening there is a final visit by the whole church to the Holy Sepulchre, where the gospel of the entombment is read. On Holy Saturday evening the paschal vigil still takes place much as in other churches, with its lections and prayers and baptisms….
Visitors like Egeria carried back to their native lands the memory of what they had experienced in Jerusalem and tried to emulate it in their own liturgical practices. Thus historical commemorations and stational liturgies spread quickly throughout the Christian world, for both Holy Week and the rest of the year. For example, because of the unique situation in Jerusalem, where multitudes of pilgrims descended, they would occupy the church all night in order to have a place for matins, and similarly for the other hours of prayer. Thus, in order to keep the people occupied, services and hymns were celebrated continuously. Clearly it was impossible for the bishop to preside around the clock, so services would begin without the bishop, who would then make an entrance some time later. This practice was imitated in many places, such that ever since the latter part of the fourth century the entrance of the bishop/clergy for vespers, Liturgy, etc., has moved from the opening of the service to some point later, for Hly Week and throughout the year!
Also noteworthy is that in the fourth century there developed a consensus that the full celebration of the Eucharist, always a joyful event, was inconsistent with the austerity of the fast. Instead, vespers with Communion was instituted on Wednesdays, Fridays and saints’ days,[12] though Egeria declines to attest to the practice of presanctified Communion during Holy Week during the time of her visit.
The Studite Revisions: Ninth through Fifteenth Centuries
In the ninth century, two learned brothers at the Monastery of Studios in Constantinople—Theodore the Studite and Joseph the Studite, Archbishop of Thessalonica—created a work called the Triodion[13] Covering the period from three Sundays before the start of Lent through Pentecost, including, of course Holy Week, they compiled and composed original hymnography, seeking to bring a return to biblical roots, particularly the Psalms and the Old Testament.[14] In doing so, the Studites furthered the earlier historicizing trends and nearly obliterated baptismal themes from Lent and Holy Week texts. Their emphasis was on commemorating salvation history and drawing out ethical and ascetical teachings.
Much of their material originated in Palestine in the sixth through eighth centuries, especially from the great Lavra of St. Sabas Monastery. They intended the Triodion for monastic communities. They had no catechumens. Even in the “world” by that time only infants remained to be baptized. Partly for this reason and partly because of the general influence monastics were gaining in the Church, especially in the area of spiritual direction, the monastic rites of the Triodion began replacing the cathedral rite in the twelfth century. By the fourteenth century, the process was complete.[15]
Within the basic structure of the Triodion, additional hymnography was inserted up until the fifteenth century—obviously an abrupt terminus at the fall of Constantinople. It is only at the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries, for example that the popular enkomia[16] of Matins for Holy Saturday first appear.[17]
It must be noted that all printed editions of the Triodion are incomplete. They represent only a selection of the material in the manuscripts, “and many of the unpublished texts are of a high standard artistically and spiritually.”[18]
Holy Week Services As Celebrated Today
Egeria testified to historicizing and emotional tendencies beginning in the fourth century. Not only has this trend continued within the Church from then up to the present, the Orthodox Church has also been influenced by humanistic movements in the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches, particularly leanings toward the dramatic, intended to elicit sentimental responses of “feeling” in the faithful.
Nevertheless, the Church has always been conservative and doubly so when it comes to her lenten and Holy Week services. Thus, as we examine, ever so briefly, the various Holy Week rites, it should be noted that many of the differences we encounter between structures of the services for Lent/Holy Week and their usual order arise from this tendency toward archaism. It is not so much that a service has a special structure in Holy Week; rather, in Holy Week “we do it the old way.”[19]
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
On the first three days of Holy Week, the full cycle of offices is prescribed, with distribution of Presanctified Gifts after vespers. One indication of the ancient order of these services is the instruction to offer incense with a katzion, a hand censer, instead of the modern censers on chains.
After his entry into Jerusalem, Christ spoke to the disciples about signs that would precede the Last Day (Mt. 24-25). Eschatological themes show up in the troparion of the Bridegroom and the exaposteilarion “I see thy bridal chamber…” at matins. The parables of the Ten Virgins and of the Talents pervade these three days.[20] On Monday we also remember the innocent suffering of the Patriarch Joseph as a type of Christ’s. The barren fig tree which Jesus cursed serves as a reminder of coming judgment. Wednesday contrasts the agreement made by Judas with the Jewish authorities to repentance with tears of the sinful woman. The Triodion texts making it clear that Judas’ fall was not so much because of his betrayal as his despair of forgiveness.
Since we understand healing and forgiveness in a holistic manner, without a soul versus body dualism, the sacrament of Holy Unction is served in many parishes on Holy Wednesday evening. This practice provides an example of a continuing evolution, a practice which is not prescribed in the Triodion or typicon. In many parishes, this sacrament replaces celebration of Holy Thursday matins.
In parish churches today, in order to schedule the services to be more accessible to attendance by the faithful, they are often served “by anticipation.” For example, the typicon prescribes matins to be served at 1 a.m. This is, therefore, anticipated and the service started the evening before. This then pushes the other hours forward, such that vespers and the Presanctified Liturgy are served in the morning.
On this day we commemorate four historical events: 1) Jesus washing his disciples’ feet; 2) institution of the Eucharist; 3) the agony in Gethsemane; 4) betrayal by Judas. A full eucharistic Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is served in combination with vespers. Repeated use of the hymn “Of thy mystical supper…” combines the themes of Holy Communion and Judas’ treachery. It is used even as the cheroubikon, the hymn that accompanies the transfer of the gifts.[21] At this Liturgy the Holy Chrism is also consecrated in patriarchal cathedrals or their equivalents.
A foot-washing rite often follows the Divine Liturgy. Here the bishop or other proestamenos renders a dramatic re-enactment of Christ’s washing the feet of his disciples, usually twelve presbyters or deacons.
Three importants variants from the usual order of matins are found on Holy Friday, Holy Saturday and on the Feast itself. These exhibit a “particularly pronounced dramatic character in which the symbolic aspect of the liturgical action is greatly emphasized.”[22] This matins is a solemn service, with many extra hymns, in a variety of tones and twelve Gospel lessons, with lighted candles held by the faithful; yet it is interesting that the Great doxology is to be read rather than sung.[23] The matins of Holy Friday clearly harks back to the Jerusalem practice of passion services celebrated at the locations where the events took place, as described in the twelve Gospel lessons which we read at this service.
After the fifth Gospel lesson and during the last of the fifteen antiphons of the service, we find a recent development in the rite: a procession with the Cross is made in Greek/Mediterranean churches. Having originated in Antioch, it was adopted in Constantinople in 1824. After the Cross is placed in the middle of the church, a figure of Christ is transfixed thereto with nails, then all venerate it.
The sufferings of Christ form the theme of the Holy Friday services: mockery, crown of thorns, scourging, nails, thirst, vinegar and gall, crying out , plus the confession of the good thief. It is vital to note, however, that passion is never separated from Resurrection, even in the darkest moments: “We venerate thy Passion, O Christ: Show us also thy glorious Resurrection.”[24]
The Hours take on a special, fuller form on this day, called Royal Hours. First, Third, Sixth and Ninth hours of prayer each include a Prophecy, an Epistle and a Gospel Lesson.
We find more late, “dramatic” developments—not mentioned in the Triodion—in the vespers service. In the Greek/Mediterranean usage, at the conclusion of the Gospel lesson, the corpus of Christ on the Cross is taken down. In those churches which practice this custom, the vespers service itself has come to be known as “Un-nailing Vespers.”
Another, slightly older—yet still recent—development of the fifteenth or sixteenth century[25] is a procession with the epitaphios[26] during the aposticha, where it is carried around the church and deposited on a decorated bier in the center of the church.
The vespers on this day may be combined with the Divine Liturgy if the Feast of the Annunciation fall on this day.[27] A Presanctified Liturgy was celebrated on Holy Friday up until at least the middle of the eleventh century. By 1200, however, it disappeared abruptly.[28] It is interesting to note that while in the Byzantine practice the Presanctified on Holy Friday has dropped out, this is the only day of the year in which the Latin rite has retained the Presanctified Liturgy.
It is on the Sabbath, the “Day of Rest,” that truly no Liturgy is properly prescribed (the vesperal Liturgy now commonly celebrated on Saturday morning or afternoon being the original vigil and Liturgy of the Feast). This is the one Saturday of the year where the Eastern Church prescribes and permits fasting.
The matins of Holy Saturday begins like any other daily matins, up through “God is the Lord…” and a set of troparia. Then the Triodion prescribes kathisma 17 (Ps. 118 LXX) in three stases, with each verse followed by a special megalynarion in praise of the buried Christ. Little litanies separate the stases. Next there follow the resurrectional troparia known as theevlogetaria. Daily matins then continues except that there is no magnificat on the ninth ode of the canon. At the Trisagion at the end of the Great Doxology, since the 15th/16th century introduction of a procession with the epitaphios at “Un-nailing Vespers,” we process around the outside of the church with the epitaphios, passing under it as we re-enter the church. Then we have the troparion of Holy Saturday, a prokeimenon, and a reading from the Prophecy of Ezekiel. Then we sing another prokeimenon, followed by an Epistle lesson, Alleluia as at the Liturgy, and a Gospel lesson. Finally, we have litanies and a conclusion like that of Sunday matins.[29]
At this unique matins service, we find a
constantly rising intensity of the musical tension curve: the service begins with the somber fifth tone, becoming somewhat more joyful in the second stasis, and still brighter during the third stasis, sung in the festive third tone. The first high point is reached with the resurrectional troparia, while the second high point occurs during the Great Doxology, especially in the solemn trisagion during the procession. The heightened mood continues through the Scripture readings and to the conclusion of the service.[30]
The order of the service given above is that found in the Triodion. Evolution of this service continues, however, such that modern Greek/Mediterranean practice is to delay the kathisma with its megalynaria until later in the service, to after the canon. Instead of being up front in the service, this relocation follows a general trend in the Greek church of moving “high points” to later in the services, so that a greater number of the people who arrive habitually late to services will be able to be in attendance.[31]
While Christ has descended to Hades,[32] the theme of the enkomia[33] “is watchful expectation rather than mourning. God observes a Sabbath rest in the tomb, while we await his Resurrection, “bringing new life and recreating the world.”[34]
Historicizing and dramatic elements have shaped our Holy Week observance into the majestic Byzantine rites which we know today. The process began in the first century and continues down to our own age. Regretfully, however, many of our people turn out for these beautiful services and are not seen the rest of the year. The services have become such that people want to observe them as they would a beautiful opera, in small doses, but they fail to connect the paschal events with their own lives. The celebration has become so much a commemoration of something so long ago, that it is time we begin sending the pendulum back on this trend and find ways to recover the eschatological dimensions of Pascha. People need to recover the sense of something happening to them, for which they need to prepare, something that sets them apart from the rest of mankind, something that affects the way they live and relate to one another.
Theodore and the Studites devised the Triodion precisely because the form of the celebration at the time, with its emphasis on baptism, failed to connect to a society where there were no adult catechumens. They, therefore, transformed Lent and Holy Week to a time of repentance and renewal of one’s baptismal commitment. Now, however, people are ignorant of theTriodion, and the fast is viewed as no more than a set of external dietary rules. Following the example of these ninth century saints, we, in our own time must strive to find ways to bring back a personal connection to the historical events.
A Selected Bibliography
Deiss, Lucien. Springtime of the Liturgy: Liturgical Texts of the First Four Centuries. Tr. Matthew J. O’Connell. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1979.
The Didache. Tr. and annotated by James A. Kleist. In Vol. 6 of Ancient Christian Writers. Johannes Quasten and Joseph C. Plumpe, eds. New York: Newman Press, 1948.
Dix, Dom Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. 2nd ed. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1945.
Egeria. Diary of a Pilgrimage. Tr. and annotated by George E. Gingras. Vol. 38 of Ancient Christian Writers. Johannes Quasten, Walter J. Burghardt and Thomas Comerford Lawler, eds. New York: Newman Press, 1970.
Kavanagh, Aidan. The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation. New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1978.
Mary, Mother and Kallistos Ware, trs. The Lenten Triodion. London: Faber and Faber, 1984.
Nassar, Seraphim. Divine Prayers and Services of the Catholic Orthodox Church of Christ. 3rd ed. Englewood, New Jersey: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, 1979.
Papadeas, George L. Greek Orthodox Holy Week and Easter Services. Greek and English. Published by the author, 1977 ed.
Schmemann, Alexander. Great Lent. Revised ed. Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974.
________. Of Water and the Spirit: A Liturgical Study of Baptism. Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974.
Schulz, Hans-Joachim. The Byzantine Liturgy. Tr. Matthew J. O’Connell. New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1986.
Taft, Robert. Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding. Washington D.C.: The Pastoral Press, 1984.
Triodion. Greek. New, expanded ed. Athens: Phos (no date).
Vaporis, Nomikos Michael. The Services for Holy Week and Easter. Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1993.
Uspensky, Nicholas. Evening Worship in the Orthodox Church. Tr. and ed. Paul Lazor. Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985.
von Gardner, Johann. Orthodox Worship and Hymnography. Vol. 1 of Russian Church Singing. Tr. Vladimir Morosan. Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980.

[1] The term “Holy Week,” attested in Rome and the West by the fourth century, is equivalent to the “Great Week” used in the East from the same time. Egeria makes note of the difference in terms, Diary of a Pilgrimage, 30.
[2]Known as “Lent” in the English-speaking world, from the Old English lencten, meaning spring.
[3]Aidan Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation (New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1978), pp. 23ff.
[4]Cf. Rom. 6.1-14, where St. Paul interweaves both of these dimensions.
[5]Justin, Aplology, quoted in Kavanagh, p. 43. See also: Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, who cites Irenaeus; Tertullian, On the Fasts, Hippolytus; Apostolic Tradition.
[6]Kallistos Ware, “The Meaning of the Great Fast,” The Lenten Triodion, tr. Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p. 29.
[7]Kavanagh, p. 61, quoting from the Gelasian Sacramentary.
[8]Robert Taft, Beyond East and West: Problems in Liturgical Understanding (Washington, D.C.: The Pastoral Press, 1984), pp. 23-24.
[9]Ware, p. 30.
[10]Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, 2nd ed. (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1945), p. 348.
[11]P. 348.
[12]Council of Laodicea, canon 49. Trullo, canon 52, made an exception for the Annunciation, however, when it came to be celebrated on March 25. Ware, p. 49, n. 58.
[13]So called because they reduced the number of biblical odes used in canons for weekday matins to just three from the usual nine. Later manuscript copies and printed editions of the Triodion split the work into two volumes: the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecost Triodion, or even simply Triodion and Pentecostarion.
[14]Ware, pp. 40f. In practice, though the new hymnography was scripturally based, it superseded and displaced actual scriptural texts from the services.
[15]Ware, p. 43.
[16]What are sometimes called “Lamentations” in English, in a flagrant mistranslation.
[17]Ware, p. 42.
[18]Ware, pp. 42f. Note further that the English edition of the Triodion published by Faber and Faber does not include any of the Pentecost volume. It gives full texts only for the first week of Lent and for Lazarus Saturday through Holy Week. Otherwise it gives little more than Sunday texts, and even there it includes neither the syanaxaria for the Sundays and for Holy Week nor the synodikon for the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Some of these additional texts are available in mimeograph form and paper bound from the Monastery of the Veil of the Mother of God, Bussy-en-Othe, France.
[19]As we discuss the services for the six days of Holy Week, we face the question, “To which day does vespers belong? Given that the day begins at sunset, does the service which bridges two days belong to the day that is closing or to the one that is beginning?” Orthodox service books have not always been very consistent here. We will include vespers with the old day, to avoid difficulty with Divine Liturgies, which may be delayed and combined with vespers on fast days, so as not to break the fast early with the joy of the Bridegroom’s presence in the Eucharist. Besides the Presanctified Liturgies, the Liturgy on Holy Thursday and possibly for the Annunciation are cases in point.
[20]Ware, pp. 59f.
[21]The cherubic hymn was introduced into the order of the Liturgy by the Emperor Justinian in 573 or 574. For the Liturgy of St. Basil, the proper, original cheroubikon is “Let all mortal flesh keep silence…”, borrowed from the Liturgy of St. James and now retained only on Holy Saturday. See Hans-Joachim Schulz, The Byzantine Liturgy, tr. Matthew J. O’Connell (New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1986), pp. 35-37.
[22]Johann von Gardner, Orthodox Worship and Hymnography, vol 1 of Russian Church Singing, tr. Vladimir Morosan (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980), p. 84.
[23]von Gardner, p. 87.
[24]Ware, p. 61.
[25]Ware, p. 62.
[26]A specially painted or embroidered shroud. At one point this was the antimension from the holy table.
[27]For those churches which observe fixed feasts according to the Gregorian calendar and Pascha according to the Julian calendar, the Annunciation will always fall before Lazarus Saturday. Despite directions in the typicon and Triodion that the Annunciation is always to be celebrated on the 25th of March, Greek practice in this century has delayed observance of the Annunciation to Bright Monday if it should fall anywhere between Holy Thursday and Pascha.
[28]Ware, p. 62, n. 81.
[29]This is basically a resurrectional-type matins, and the Greek/Mediterranean custom calls for the clergy to be fully vested in bright, gold vestments.
[30]von Gardner, p. 88.
[31]As in moving the matins Gospel for Sundays and feast days to between the 8th and 9th odes of the canon.
[32]Not hell!
[33]Praises, not lamentations!
[34]Ware, pp. 61f.