Bishop Gregory’s Paschal Letter

Protocol 14/2016

To the Very Reverend Protopresbyters, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, and the Faithful of our God-Protected Diocese:

 CHRIST IS RISEN!    INDEED, HE IS RISEN!

On this great and glorious Feast of Pascha – the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, our hearts are filled with tremendous joy, our souls are transformed and we bask in the Light of the Truth.  This year I want to share with you some Paschal thoughts from St. Gregory the Theologian.

THE PASCHAL HOMILY OF ST. GREGORY THE THEOLOGIAN

It is the Day of the Resurrection! Let us then keep the Festival with splendor, and let us embrace one another.  Let us say Brethen, even to those who hate us, Let us forgive all offenses for the Resurrection’s sake; let us give one another pardon.  Yesterday, I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him.  Yesterday, I died with Him; today I am made alive in Him.  Yesterday, I was buried with Him, today I am raised with Him.

Let us offer ourselves to Him who suffered and rose again for us. Let us become divine for His sake, since for us He became human.

He assumed the worst that He might give us the better. He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich.  He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom. He came down that we might be lifted up.  He was tempted that through Him we might conquer.  He was dishonored that He might glorify us.  He died that He might save us.  He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin.

Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself as a ransom and reconciliation for us.  We needed an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live.  We were put to death together with Him that we might be cleansed.

We rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him.  We were glorified with Him because we rose  again with Him.

May we all be one in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.

Personal Greetings:

May all the Priests and Panis, Deacons, Parishioners, Friends and Supporters of our American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese experience the joy, excitement and wonder of the early followers of Christ when they first saw Him following His Resurrection. Christ is Risen!

Working in the Risen Lord’s Vineyard with much love,

+His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa

To be read as the sermon in all churches of the Diocese at the Paschal Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

Protocol N.14-2016 -Paschal Archpastoral Letter

 

Commemoration of The Great and Holy Feast of Pascha

Pascha IconHoly Week comes to an end at sunset of Great and Holy Saturday, as the Church prepares to celebrate her most ancient and preeminent festival, Pascha, the feast of feasts. The time of preparation will give way to a time of fulfillment. The glorious and resplendent light emanating from the empty Tomb will dispel the darkness. Christ, risen from the dead, cracks the fortress of death and takes “captivity captive” (Psalm 67:19). All the limitations of our createdness are torn asunder. Death is swallowed up in victory and life is liberated. “For as by a man came death, by a man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:21-22). Pascha is the dawn of the new and unending day. The Resurrection constitutes the most radical and decisive deliverance of humankind.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fundamental truth and absolute fact of the Christian faith. It is the central experience and essential kerygma of the Church. It confirms the authenticity of Christ’s remarkable earthly life and vindicates the truth of His teaching. It seals all His redemptive work: His life, the model of a holy life; His compelling and unique teaching; His extraordinary works; and His awesome, life-creating death. Christ’s Resurrection is the guarantee of our salvation. Together with His Ascension it brings to perfection God’s union with us for all eternity.

The Resurrection made possible the miracle of the Church, which in every age and generation proclaims and affirms “God’s plan for the universe, the ultimate divinization of man and the created order.” The profound experience of and the unshakable belief in the risen Lord enabled the Apostles to evangelize the world and empowered the Church to overcome paganism. The Resurrection discloses the indestructible power and inscrutable wisdom of God. It disposes of the illusory myths and belief systems by which people, bereft of divine knowledge, strain to affirm the meaning and purpose of their existence. Christ, risen and glorified, releases humanity from the delusions of idolatry. In Him grave-bound humanity discovers and is filled with incomparable hope. The Resurrection bestows illumination, energizes souls, brings forgiveness, transfigures lifes, creates saints, and gives joy.

The Resurrection has not yet abolished the reality of death. But it has revealed its powerlessness (Hebrews 2:14-15). We continue to die as a result of the Fall. Our bodies decay and fall away. “God allows death to exist but turns it against corruption and its cause, sin, and sets a boundary both to corruption and sin.” Thus, physical death does not destroy our life of communion with God. Rather, we move from death to life – from this fallen world to God’s reign.

– See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/holy_pascha/learn/#sthash.WBcVw5Xg.dpuf

Schedule of services and events for the week of May 1 – May 8

Sunday, May 1
12 noon – Paschal Vespers

Monday, May 2
9 AM – Divine Liturgy
7 PM – Vespers/Spirituality Class

Tuesday, May 3
9:30 AM – Paschal Matins
7 PM – Vespers

Wednesday, May 4
7 PM – Catechism Class

Thursday, May 5
9 AM – Divine Liturgy
4 PM to 7 PM – Monthly Food Sale
7 PM – Vespers

Friday, May 6
9:30 AM – Old Testament Class
1 PM to 5 PM – Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen

Saturday, May 7
9 AM – Church Grounds planting day
7 PM – Vespers

Sunday, May 8
10 AM – Divine Liturgy
11:30 AM – Mother’s Day Breakfast

Readers Schedule
5/1- Paul Sulich
5/8 – Suzanne Molineaux

Coffee Hour
5/1 – PASCHA
5/8 – Mother’s Day Breakfast
please see Harry Fong and Paul Sulich

Orthodox Celebration of Holy Saturday

40619.p[1]The Liturgy held on the morning of Holy and Great Saturday is that of Saint Basil the Great. It begins with Vespers. After the entrance, the evening hymn ‘O Gentle Light’ is chanted as usual. Then the Old Testament readings are recited. They tell of the most striking events and prophecies of the salvation of mankind by the death of the Son of God. The account of creation in Genesis is the first reading. The sixth reading is the story of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and Moses’ song of victory – over Pharaoh, with its refrain: ‘For gloriously is He glorified’. The last reading is about the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, and their song of praise with its repeated refrain: ‘O praise ye the Lord and supremely exalt Him unto the ages.’ In the ancient church the catechumens were baptized during the time of these readings. The Epistle which follows speaks of how, through the death of Christ, we too shall rise to a new life. After the Epistle, the choir chants, like a call to the sleeping Christ: ‘Arise, O Lord, Judge the earth, for Thou shalt have an inheritance among all the nations… The deacon carries out the Book of the Gospels, and reads the first message of the resurrection from Saint Matthew. Because the Vespers portion of the service belongs to the next day (Pascha) the burial hymns of Saturday are mingled with those of the resurrection, so that this service is already full of the coming Paschal joy.

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”.

Hymns of Holy Saturday

Resurrectional Apolytikia

When he took down Your immaculate Body from the Cross, the honorable Joseph wrapped it in a clean linen shroud with spices and laid it for burial in a new tomb.

When You descended unto death, O Lord who yourself are immortal Life, then did You mortify Hades by the lightning flash of Your Divinity. Also when You raised the dead from the netherworld, all the Powers of the heavens were crying out: O Giver of life, Christ our God, glory be to You.

The Angel standing at the sepulcher cried out and said to the ointment-bearing women: The ointments are appropriate for mortal men, but Christ has been shown to be a stranger to decay.

Prokeimenon

Arise, O God; judge the earth, for You shall inherit all the Gentiles.

– See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/holy_saturday/learn/#sthash.PAKiF0uE.dpuf

Holy Saturday

Holy SaturdayIntroduction

On Great and Holy Saturday the Orthodox Church commemorates the burial of Christ and His descent into Hades. It is the day between the Crucifixion of our Lord and His glorious Resurrection. The Matins of Holy Saturday is conducted on Friday evening, and while many elements of the service represent mourning at the death and burial of Christ, the service itself is one of watchful expectation.

Commemoration of Holy Saturday

On Great and Holy Saturday the Church contemplates the mystery of the Lord’s descent into Hades, the place of the dead. Death, our ultimate enemy, is defeated from within. “He (Christ) gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending into Hades through the Cross … He loosed the bonds of death” (Liturgy of St. Basil).

On Great Saturday our focus is on the Tomb of Christ. This is no ordinary grave. It is not a place of corruption, decay and defeat. It is life-giving, a source of power, victory and liberation.

Great Saturday is the day between Jesus’ death and His resurrection. It is the day of watchful expectation, in which mourning is being transformed into joy. The day embodies in the fullest possible sense the meaning of xarmolipi – joyful-sadness, which has dominated the celebrations of Great Week. The hymnographer of the Church has penetrated the profound mystery, and helps us to understand it through the following poetic dialogue that he has devised between Jesus and His Mother:

“Weep not for me, O Mother, beholding in the sepulcher the Son whom thou hast conceived without seed in thy womb. For I shall rise and shall be glorified, and as God I shall exalt in everlasting glory those who magnify thee with faith and love.”

“O Son without beginning, in ways surpassing nature was I blessed at Thy strange birth, for I was spared all travail. But now beholding Thee, my God, a lifeless corpse, I am pierced by the sword of bitter sorrow. But arise, that I may be magnified.”

“By mine own will the earth covers me, O Mother, but the gatekeepers of hell tremble as they see me, clothed in the bloodstained garment of vengeance: for on the Cross as God have I struck down mine enemies, and I shall rise again and magnify thee.”

“Let the creation rejoice exceedingly, let all those born on earth be glad: for hell, the enemy, has been despoiled. Ye women, come to meet me with sweet spices: for I am delivering Adam and Eve with all their offspring, and on the third day I shall rise again.” (9th Ode of the Canon)

Great Saturday is the day of the pre-eminent rest. Christ observes a Sabbath rest in the tomb. His rest, however, is not inactivity but the fulfillment of the divine will and plan for the salvation of humankind and the cosmos. He who brought all things into being, makes all things new. The re-creation of the world has been accomplished once and for all. Through His incarnation, life and death Christ has filled all things with Himself He has opened a path for all flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible that the author of life would be dominated by corruption.

Saint Paul tells us that:

“God was in Jesus Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Hence, eternal life – real and self-generating – penetrated the depths of Hades. Christ who is the life of all destroyed death by His death. That is why the Church sings joyously “Things now are filled with light, the heaven and the earth and all that is beneath the earth” (Canon of Pascha).

The Church knows herself to be “the place, the eternal reality, where the presence of Christ vanquishes Satan, hell and death itself.

The solemn observance of Great Saturday help us to recall and celebrate the great truth that “despite the daily vicissitudes and contradictions of history and the abiding presence of hell within the human heart and human society,” life has been liberated! Christ has broken the power of death.

It is not without significance that the icon of the Resurrection in our Church is the Descent of Christ into Hades, the place of the dead. This icon depicts a victorious Christ, reigned in glory, trampling upon death, and seizing Adam and Eve in His hands, plucking them from the abyss of hell. This icon expresses vividly the truths resulting from Christ’s defeat of death by His death and Resurrection.

– See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/holy_saturday/learn/#sthash.PAKiF0uE.dpuf

Great and Holy Friday

Commemoration of Great and Holy Friday

Icon of the Extreme Humility provided by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA.

On this day we commemorate the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross.

The day of Christ’s death is the day of sin. The sin which polluted God’s creation from the breaking dawn of time reached its frightful climax on the hill of Golgotha. There, sin and evil, destruction and death came into their own. Ungodly men had Him nailed to the Cross, in order to destroy Him. However, His death condemned irrevocably the fallen world by revealing its true and abnormal nature.

In Christ, who is the New Adam, there is no sin. And, therefore, there is no death. He accepted death because He assumed the whole tragedy of our life. He chose to pour His life into death, in order to destroy it; and in order to break the hold of evil. His death is the final and ultimate revelation of His perfect obedience and love. He suffered for us the excruciating pain of absolute solitude and alienation – “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!” (Mark 15:34). Then, He accepted the ultimate horror of death with the agonizing cry, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His cry was at one and the same time an indication that He was in control of His death and that His work of redemption was accomplished, finished, fulfilled. How strange! While our death is radical unfulfillment, His is total fulfillment.

The day of Christ’s death has become our true birthday. “Within the mystery of Christ dead and resurrected, death acquires positive value. Even if physical, biological death still appears to reign, it is no longer the final stage in a long destructive process. It has become the indispensable doorway, as well as the sure sign of our ultimate Pascha, our passage from death to life, rather than from life to death.

From the beginning the Church observed an annual commemoration of the decisive and crucial three days of sacred history, i.e., Great Friday, Great Saturday and Pascha. Great Friday and Saturday have been observed as days of deep sorrow and strict fast from Christian antiquity.

Great Friday and Saturday direct our attention to the trial, crucifixion, death and burial of Christ. We are placed within the awesome mystery of the extreme humility of our suffering God. Therefore, these days are at once days of deep gloom as well as watchful expectation. The Author of life is at work transforming death into life: “Come, let us see our Life lying in the tomb, that he may give life to those that in their tombs lie dead” (Sticheron of Great Saturday Orthros).

Liturgically, the profound and awesome event of the death and burial of God in the flesh is marked by a particular kind of silence, i.e. by the absence of a eucharistic celebration. Great Friday and Great Saturday are the only two days of the year when no eucharistic assembly is held. However, before the twelfth century it was the custom to celebrate the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts on Great Friday.

The divine services of Great Friday with the richness of their ample Scripture lessons, superb hymnography and vivid liturgical actions bring the passion of Christ and its cosmic significance into sharp focus. The hymns of the services on this day help us to see how the Church understands and celebrates the awesome mystery of Christ’s passion and death.

Orthodox Celebration of Great And Holy Friday

The commemorations of Holy Friday begin with the Matins service of the day which is conducted on Thursday evening. The service is a very unique Matins service with twelve Gospel readings that begin with Christ’s discourse at the Last Supper and end with the account of His burial: John 13:31-18:1, John 18:1-29, Matthew 26:57-75, John 18:28 – 19:16, Matthew 27:3-32, Mark 15:16-32, Matthew 27:33-54, Luke 23:32-49, John 19:38-42, Mark 15:43-47, John 19:38-42, 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. After the reading of the fifth Gospel comes the procession with the Crucifix around the church, while the priest chants the Fifteenth 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.”

Photo courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas’ book “Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey”

During the Procession, Orthodox Christians kneel and venerate the Cross and pray for their spiritual well-being, imitating the thief on the Cross who confessed his faith and devotion to Christ. The faithful then approach and reverently kiss the Crucifix which has been placed at the front of the church.

Photos courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas’ book “Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey”

On Friday morning, the services of the Royal Hours are observed. These services are primarily readings of prayers, hymns, and passages from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels. The Scripture readings for these services are: First Hour: Zechariah 11:10-13, Galatians 6:14-18, Matthew 27:1-56; Third Hour: Isaiah 50:4-11, Romans 5:6-10, Mark 15:6-41; Sixth Hour: Isaiah 52:13-54:1, Hebrews 2:11-18; Luke 23:32-49; Ninth Hour: Jeremiah 11:18-23,12:1-5,9-11,14-15, Hebrews 10:19-31, John 18:28-19:37.

Photo courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas’ book “Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey”

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. Once more, excerpts from the Old Testament are read together with hymns, and again the entire story is related, followed by the removal of Christ from the Cross and the wrapping of His body with a white sheet as did Joseph of Arimathea.

Photo courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas’ book “Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey”

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 Sepulcher, a carved bier 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 Resurrection.

The Scripture readings for the Vespers are: Exodus 33:11-23; Job 42:12-17; Isaiah 52:13-54:1; I Corinthians 1:18-2:2; and from the Gospels Matthew 27:1-38; Luke 23:39-43; Matthew 27:39-54; John 19:31-37; and Matthew 27:55-61.

Photos courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas’ book “Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey”

http://lent.goarch.org/holy_friday/learn/

Great and Holy Thursday

washing_feet_01[1]The Washing of the Feet

The events initiated by Jesus at the Mystical.Supper were profoundly significant. By teaching and giving the disciples His final instructions and praying for them as well, He revealed again His divine Sonship and authority. By establishing the Eucharist, He enshrines to perfection God’s most intimate purposes for our salvation, offering Himself as Communion and life. By washing the feet of His disciples, He summarized the meaning of His ministry, manifested His perfect love and revealed His profound humility. The act of the washing of the feet (John 13:2-17) is closely related to the sacrifice of the Cross. Both reveal aspects of Christ’s kenosis. While the Cross constitues the ultimate manifestation of Christ’s perfect obedience to His Father (Philippians 2:5-8), the washing of the feet signifies His intense love and the giving of Himself to each person according to that person’s ability to receive Him (John 13:6-9).

Prayer in the Garden

The Synoptic Gospels have preserved for us another significant episode in the series of events leading to the Passion, namely, the agony and prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46).

Although Jesus was Son of God, He was destined as man to accept fully the human condition, to experience suffering and to learn obedience. Divesting Himself of divine prerogatives, the Son of God assumed the role of a servant. He lived a truly human existence. Though He was Himself sinless, He allied Himself with the whole human race, identified with the human predicament, and experienced the same tests (Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 2:9-18).

The moving events in the Garden of Gethsemane dramatically and poignantly disclosed the human nature of Christ. The sacrifice He was to endure for the salvation of the world was imminent. Death, with all its brutal force and fury, stared directly at Him. Its terrible burden and fear – the calamitous results of the ancestral sin – caused Him intense sorrow and pain (Hebrews 5:7). Instinctively, as man He sought to escape it. He found Himself in a moment of decision. In His agony He prayed to His Father, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).

His prayer revealed the depths of His agony and sorrow. It revealed as well His “incomparable spiritual strength (and) immovable desire and decision . . . to bring about the will of the Father.” Jesus offered His unconditional love and trust to the Father. He reached the extreme limits of self-denial “not what I will” – in order to accomplish His Father’s will. His acceptance of death was not some kind of stoic passivity and resignation but an act of absolute love and obedience. In that moment of decision, when He declared His acceptance of death to be in agreement with the Father’s will, He broke the power of the fear of death with all its attending uncertainties, anxieties and limitations. He learned obedience and fulfilled the divine plan (Hebrews 5:8-9).

The Betrayal

Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, the sign of friendship and love. The betrayal and crucifixion of Christ carried the ancestral sin to its extreme limits. In these two acts the rebellion against God reached its maximum capacity. The seduction of man in paradise culminated in the death of God in the flesh. To be victorious evil must quench the light and discredit the good. In the end, however, it shows itself to be a lie, an absurdity and sheer madness. The death and resurrection of Christ rendered evil powerless.

On Great Thursday light and darkness, joy and sorrow are so strangely mixed. At the Upper Room and in Gethsemane the light of the kingdom and the darkness of hell come through simultaneously. The way of life and the way of death converge. We meet them both in our journey through life.

In the midst of the snares and temptations that abound in the world around and in us we must be eager to live in communion with everything that is good, noble, natural, and sinless, forming ourselves by God’s grace in the likeness of Christ.

– See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/holy_thursday/learn/#sthash.dIH307bv.dpuf

Great and Holy Thursday

Introduction

On Thursdalastsupper[1]y of Holy Week four events are commemorated: the washing of the disciples’ feet, the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas.

The Institution of the Eucharist

At the Mystical Supper in the Upper Room Jesus gave a radically new meaning to the food and drink of the sacred meal. He identified Himself with the bread and wine: “Take, eat; this is my Body. Drink of it all of you; for this is my Blood of the New Covenant” (Matthew 26:26-28).

We have learned to equate food with life because it sustains our earthly existence. In the Eucharist the distinctively unique human food – bread and wine – becomes our gift of life. Consecrated and sanctified, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. This change is not physical but mystical and sacramental. While the qualities of the bread and wine remain, we partake of the true Body and Blood of Christ. In the eucharistic meal God enters into such a communion of life that He feeds humanity with His own being, while still remaining distinct. In the words of St. Maximos the Confessor, Christ, “transmits to us divine life, making Himself eatable.” The Author of life shatters the limitations of our createdness. Christ acts so that “we might become sharers of divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

The Eucharist is at the center of the Church’s life. It is her most profound prayer and principal activity. It is at one and the same time both the source and the summit of her life. In the Eucharist the Church manifests her true nature and is continuously changed from a human community into the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and the People of God. The Eucharist is the pre-eminent sacrament. It completes all the others and recapitulates the entire economy of salvation. Our new life in Christ is constantly renewed and increased by the Eucharist. The Eucharist imparts life and the life it gives is the life of God.

In the Eucharist the Church remembers and enacts sacramentally the redemptive event of the Cross and participates in its saving grace. This does not suggest that the Eucharist attempts to reclaim a past event. The Eucharist does not repeat what cannot be repeated. Christ is not slain anew and repeatedly. Rather the eucharistic food is changed concretely and really into the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, “Who gave Himself up for the life of the world.” Christ, the Theanthropos, continually offers Himself to the faithful through the consecrated Gifts, i.e., His very own risen and deified Body, which for our sake died once and now lives (Hebrewa 10:2; Revelation 1:18). Hence, the faithful come to Church week by week not only to worship God and to hear His word. They come, first of all, to experience over and over the mystery of salvation and to be united intimately to the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Eucharist we receive and partake of the resurrected Christ. We share in His sacrificed, risen and deified Body, “for the forgiveness of sins and life eternal” (Divine Liturgy). In the Eucharist Christ pours into us – as a permanent and constant gift – the Holy Spirit, “Who bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God – and if children – then heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).

– See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/holy_thursday/learn/#sthash.fN6EI08b.dpuf

The Services of the Bridegroom

Holy Wednesday
Anointng.Jesus.b4.passion
On Holy Wednesday the Church invites the faithful to focus their attention on two figures: the sinful woman who anointed the head of Jesus shortly before the passion (Matthew 26:6-13), and Judas, the disciple who betrayed the Lord. The former acknowledged Jesus as Lord, while the latter severed himself from the Master. The one was set free, while the other became a slave. The one inherited the kingdom, while the other fell into perdition. These two people bring before us concerns and issues related to freedom, sin, hell and repentance.

The repentance of the sinful harlot is contrasted with the tragic fall of the chosen disciple. The Triodion make is clear that Judas perished, not simply because he betrayed his Master, but because, having fallen into the sin of betrayal, he then refused to believe in the possibility of forgiveness. If we deplore the actions of Judas, we do so not with vindictive self-righteousness but conscious always of our own guilt. In general, all the passages in the Triodion that seem to be directed against the Jews should be understood in this same way. When the Triodion denounces those who rejected Christ and delivered Him to death, we recognize that these words apply not only to others, but to ourselves: for have we not betrayed the Savior many times in our hearts and crucified Him anew?

I have transgressed more than the harlot, O loving Lord, yet never have I offered You my flowing tears. But in silence I fall down before You and with love I kiss Your most pure feet, beseeching You as Master to grant me remission of sins; and I cry to You, O Savior: Deliver me from the filth of my works.

While the sinful woman brought oil of myrrh, the disciple came to an agreement with the transgressors. She rejoiced to pour out what was very precious, he made haste to sell the One who is above all price. She acknowledged Christ as Lord, he severed himself from the Master. She was set free, but Judas became the slave of the enemy. Grievous was his lack of love. Great was her repentance. Grant such repentance also unto me, O Savior who has suffered for our sake, and save us.

– See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/bridegroom_services/learn/#sthash.yzeA0Oio.dpuf

Holy Wednesday afternoon and Evening

The Sacrament of Holy Unction

Introduction
Unction.GOA
On the afternoon or evening of Great and Holy Wednesday, the Sacrament or Mystery of Holy Unction is conducted in Orthodox parishes. The Sacrament of Holy Unction is offered for the healing of soul and body and for forgiveness of sins. At the conclusion of the service of the Sacrament, the body is anointed with oil, and the grace of God, which heals infirmities of soul and body, is called down upon each person. The Sacrament is performed by a gathering of priests, ideally seven in number, however, it can be performed by a lesser number and even by a single priest.

When one is ill and in pain, this can very often be a time of life when one feels alone and isolated. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Holy Unction as it is also known, reminds us that when we are ion pain, either physical, emotional, or spiritual, Christ is present with us through the ministry of His Church. He is among us to offer strength to meet the challenges of life, and even the approach of death.

As with Chrismation, oil is also used in this Sacrament as a sign of God’s presence, strength, and forgiveness. After the reading of seven Epistle lessons, seven Gospel lessons and the offering of seven prayers, which are all devoted to healing, the priest anoints the body with the Holy Oil. Orthodoxy does not view this Sacrament as available only to those who are near death. It is offered to all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit.

Christ came to the world to “bear our infirmities.” One of the signs of His divine Messiahship was to heal the sick. The power of healing remains in the Church since Christ himself remains in the Church through the Holy Spirit.

The Sacrament of the Unction of the sick is the Church’s specific prayer for healing. If the faith of the believers is strong enough, and if it is the will of God, there is every reason to believe that the Lord can heal those who are diseased.

The biblical basis for the Sacrament is found in James 5:14-16:

Is any among you sick, let him call for the presbyters of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

In ancient Christian literature one may find indirect testimonies of the Mystery of Unction in Saint Irenaeus of Lyons and in Origen. Later there are clear testimonies of it in Saints Basil the Great and John Chrysostom, who have left prayers for the healing of the infirm which entered later into the rite of Unction; and likewise in Saint Cyril of Alexandria. In the fifth century, Pope Innocent I answered a series of questions concerning the Mystery of Unction, indicating in his answers that a) it should be performed “upon believers who are sick”; b) it may be performed also by a bishop, since one should not see in the words of the Apostle, let him call for the presbyters, any prohibition for a bishop to participate in the sacred action; c) this anointment may not be performed “on those undergoing ecclesiastical penance,’ because it is a “Mystery,’ and to those who are forbidden the other Mysteries, how can one allow only one?

The express purpose of the Sacrament of Holy Unction is healing and forgiveness. Since it is not always the will of God that there should be physical healing, the prayer of Christ that God’s will be done always remains as the proper context of the Sacrament. In addition, it is the clear intention of the Sacrament that through the anointing of the sick body the sufferings of the person should be sanctified and united to the sufferings of Christ. In this way, the wounds of the flesh are consecrated, and strength is given that the suffering of the diseased person may not be unto the death of his soul, but for eternal salvation in the resurrection and life of the Kingdom of God.

It is indeed the case that death inevitably comes. All must die, even those who in this life are given a reprieve through healing in order to have more time on the earth. Thus, the healing of the sick is not itself a final goal, but is merely “instrumental” in that it is given by God as a sign of his mercy and as a grace for the further opportunity of man to live for him and for others in the life of this world.

In the case where a person is obviously in the final moments of his earthly life, the Church has special prayers for the “separation of soul and body.” Thus, it is clear that the Sacrament of Holy Unction is for the sick-both the physically and mentally sick-and is not reserved for the moment of death. The Sacrament of Unction is not the “last rites” as is sometimes thought; the ritual of the anointing itself in no way indicates that it should be administered merely in “extreme” cases. Holy Unction is the Sacrament of the spiritual, physical, and mental healing of a sick person whatever the nature or the gravity of the illness may be.

Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Sacrament of Holy unction
Unction.2
The Sacrament itself calls for seven priests, seven readings from the Epistles and Gospels, seven prayers and seven anointings with oil specifically blessed during the service. Although it is not always possible to perform the sacrament in this way, the normal procedure is still to gather together as many priests and people as possible. The faithful come forward to be anointed with the Holy Unction “…for the healing of soul and body…” Photos courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas’ book “Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey” At the end of the service the priest anoints the faithful as he makes the sign of the cross on the forehead and top and palms of the hands saying, “For the healing of soul and body.”

– See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/holy_wednesday/learn/#sthash.Ox7SygKY.dpuf

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