Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Holy Saturday Morning

"Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth..."

The service is Vespers and Divine Liturgy of Saturday evening sung by anticipation, on Saturday morning.

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 laurel, 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".

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Holy Friday Evening

The Lamentations

The service is Matins of Holy Saturday morning sung by anticipation, on Holy Friday evening.

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 Epitaphion with the sacred Body of Christ in it is carried in procession around the church and around the neighbourhood.

The entire congregation joins in singing the three parts of the "Hymns of Praise".

After these hymns are sung, the priest sprinkles the Epitaphion and the whole 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.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Holy Friday Morning / Afternoon

According to the Hebrew custom, the "Royal Hours", four in number, are read on Holy Friday Morning.

These services consist of hymns, psalms, and readings from the Old and New Testaments, all related prophetically and ethically to the Person of Christ.

During this time the Ladies of our Church are decorating the Epitaphion at the Church Hall.

When it is ready they bring it into the Church and place it in front of the Icon Screen and the Royal Doors.

Around that time and as a continuation of the Royal Hours we chant the Service of Vespers of Holy Friday.

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 Epitaphion, which symbolizes 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.

Holy and Great Friday is the only day in the year on which the Divine Liturgy is not officiated.

On that day, 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.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Holy Thursday Evening

"We worship Thy passion, O Christ..."

On this Evening we hold the Service of the HOLY PASSION of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Service of Matins of Holy Friday morning, sung by anticipation, on Thursday evening.

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 also celebrated.

This service is long, but its content is dramatic and deeply moving for the devout Christian.

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.

Twelve Gospel readings are read during this Service. 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.

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.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Holy Wednesday Evening

Every Holy and Great Wednesday Evening we hold in our Church the Service of the Sacrament of Holy Unction (Ευχέλαιον in Greek).

From the contents of the Prayers of this Sacrament, one can readily understand the reason that this Service is held on Holy Wednesday Evening for all the faithful. It is an added preparation for receiving Holy Communion on Holy Thursday, the day of the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

After the Sacrament of Holy Unction we had chanted the Matins of Holy Thursday. During the first part of it we had the procession of the sacred icon of the Last Supper and we placed it at the centre of the Church.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Palm Sunday Evening

According to the Liturgical Tradition of our Holy Orthodox Church on Palm Sunday Evening we chant the Matins of Holy Monday.

That is actually the first Sacred Service of Holy Week. The icons of the Church’s Icon Screen are being partly covered by purple ribbons.

While the Hymn “Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the midst of the night” is chanted, the Priest holding the Icon of the Bridegroom Lord is processing through the congregation and placing it at the centre of the Church.