Holy Saturday

“It is finished!”

When Jesus died on the Cross, at that moment he trampled upon death by his death.

“He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Why the wait?
First, our Lord was a pious Jew, part of the people with whom God had made a covenant. It was to perfectly fulfill this covenant that Jesus rested on the seventh day from his labors to begin a new creation on the eighth day.

“The great Moses mystically prefigured the present day when he said: God blessed the seventh day. For this is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest on which the only-begotten Son of God kept the Sabbath in the flesh by resting in death from all his works according to the plan of salvation. Returning again to what he was through the Resurrection, he granted us eternal life. He alone is good and Loves us all.” (Doxasticheron of Holy Saturday)

By keeping the Sabbath, he fulfilled the Scriptures, as we profess always, “he rose according to the Scriptures.” This was to fulfill the sign of Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of the great fish: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39). This day is the sign given to all believers.

Father Alexander Schmemann wrote that Holy Saturday manifests our life in the world. The Son of God was not subject to corruption, but we are mortal and must return to dust. Peter preached on Pentecost: “This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24). But we are still held by the throes of death. This day is a reflection of our lives in the world. He live in the hope of resurrection and eternal life, but for now we must work to establish the kingdom of God in the world in which we live, a world that does not know Christ, a world in which we all must confront the mystery of death. Today we pray that God may give us the grace, the strength to “do his will, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Holy Friday

Holy Friday, March 30

Today is a day of strict fast and abstinence. Therefore, NO meat or dairy products are consumed.

4:00 p.m. Vespers and Veneration of the Holy Shroud

Holy Friday

Our faith is a faith of paradox.

Today the crowd choose Barabbas instead of Jesus. Yet the name Barabbas means “Son of the Father.” The crowd does not choose Jesus, the true Son of the Father. Barabbas, the gospel tells us, was an insurrectionist, a political creature. The kingdom of Jesus is spiritual, and people cannot discern it, they cannot see the true Son of the Father.

The mob cries out, “His blood be upon us and upon our children!” Asking for a curse? God has made it a blessing, for he poured out his blood upon us, we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and are redeemed every day anew by the Blood of Christ, in whom we achieve Communion, for forgiveness and life. What was meant as a curse God has made an infinite blessing.

Pilate, on the other hand, declares, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man.” But he is guilty of his sentence of death. Pilate refuses to share in the blessing of the Blood of the Lord, and like Peter, would hear the words of the one who wished to reject the passion for salvation, “Get behind me, Satan!” Of course, we must not cry out, “Crucify him!” but we must be willing to accept the chalice of the Lord, as Jesus asked James and John, “Can you drink the cup which I will drink? Will you be baptized with the baptism with which I will be baptized?”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Holy Days Schedule

The Holy Week Schedule

Join us in prayer, bring a friend for the week that changed the world!

Holy Thursday, March 29
7:00 p.m.  Matins with the Passion Gospels

Holy Friday, March 30
—A day of strict fast and abstinence NO meat or dairy products
4:00 p.m. Vespers and Veneration of the Holy Shroud

Holy Saturday, March 31
8:30 a.m. Divine Liturgy of St. Basil
4:00 p.m. Blessing of Easter Foods
5:00 p.m. Blessing of Easter Foods
6:00 p.m. Prayer at the Tomb —Procession and Paschal Matins

Pascha, April 1 The Glorious and Holy Sunday of the Resurrection of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ

10:30 a.m For people of the parish
Blessing of Artos
Blessing of Easter Foods

Epistle: Acts of the Apostles 1:1-8
Gospel: John 1:1-17, Tone 2

Holy Thursday

Today we celebrate three mysteries of the church

The mystery of Holy Oil for Anointing the Sick. The Eastern Church has a much broader interpretation of the sick. Ordinarily, those who are suffering the crisis of physical illness receive to anointing to strengthen their whole being – body and soul – by renewing our faith in Christ the Messiah – the Anointed One. When we were baptized we received a holy anointing as a part of our Christian decision to reject evil and commit ourselves wholly to Christ. When the sick were anointed, not only the sick person him/herself but those who were to give care and those present were also anointed, a sign of our solidarity in fighting illness through faith. Perhaps the Holy Anointing of the whole congregation on Holy Thursday is because of the epistle for this day: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)” The anointing is a response to our unworthiness to receive Communion.

The Mystery of Reconciliation. In the ancient church, Holy Thursday —before the baptisms of Holy Saturday— was the time for the reconciliation of those who were in public penance. This is why Judas is presented in the liturgical texts as one who did not repent. He is contrasted with Peter, who denied our Lord but repented. Judas did not repent. “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born. (Matthew 26:24)” The constantly repeated hymn in the Divine Liturgy of this day proclaims that we should not follow Judas, but remain ever faithful to our commitment to Christ. “Accept me today as a partaker of your mystical supper, O Son of God, for I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies, nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas.” We now repeat this every time we receive the mysteries of our Lord’s Body and Blood.

Holy Wednesday

The Matins gospel proclaims that Christ has reached the hour of his glory. His glory is his infinite divine love for the human race, by which he tramples death by death:

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.(John 12:27-29)” It is truly “time for the Lord to act.”

The evening gospel is a study in contrasts. This meal at the home of Simon the Leper is juxtaposed with the meal in the upper room, the last or mystical supper. It is a tradition that Judas Iscariot was the son of Simon the Leper. The sinful woman is contrasted with the elite apostle, one of the twelve. The woman finds salvation through an effusive outpouring of expensive myrrh, the apostle disapproves (though not alone in his disapproval), feigning a virtuous love for the poor.

“A woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table. She has done a good thing for me …. In pouring this perfumed oil upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.(Matthew 26:7-12) But “one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:14-15)” What does betrayal of the Lord mean? It was for this action of Judas that this Wednesday was called “Spy Wednesday,” and that abstinence was prescribed for Wednesdays.

The holy nun Cassia wrote a beautiful sticheron on this theme. The corpus of her works is not large, but very important, it includes also the doxasticheron for Christmas.

“O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing your divinity, O Lord, assumed the myrrh-bearers’ role; preparing you with myrrh before your burial. She said: Woe is me, for gloomy, moonless night incites mu unbridled desires and lust for sin. You who draw down sea water from the clouds accept the fountain of my tears. Incline to the groaning of my heart as you bowed the heavens when you emptied yourself. I will kiss your immaculate feet, and wipe them with the hair of my head; those feet whose steps Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself in fear. Who will search out the multitude of my sins or plumb the depths of your judgments, do not despise me your servant, O Savior of my soul, for your mercy knows no measure.”

Holy Tuesday

Troparion at Matins:
“Behold, the Bridegroom is coming in the middle of the night. Blessed is the servant he shall find awake. But the one he shall find neglectful will not be worthy of him. Beware, therefore, O my soul! Do not fall into a deep slumber, lest you be delivered to death and the door of the kingdom be closed to you. Watch instead, and cry out: Holy, holy, holy are you, O God. Through the intercession of the Theotokos, have mercy on us.”

This troparion is sung at the beginning of Matins on Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, giving these services the name of “Bridegroom Matins.” They have become the main service in the Greek and Melkite traditions. Here Holy Week preserves the most ancient traditions of the Divine Praises. In antiquity, the Matins was a middle of the night service, and therefore this troparion expressed the Christian need for constant watchfulness for the presence of God. In Holy Week the parable of the wise and neglectful virgins in read in the Gospel for the Presanctified Divine Liturgy. We must be aware that the Lord is coming. In every Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, when the presider begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit, he prays that the Spirit may be for a spirit of vigilance. St. Paul warns us: For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6). This is especially important in Holy Week, where the disciples fail in watchfulness in Gethsemane: “When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test” (Matthew 26:40-41). Holy Week tests our spiritual awareness.

Indeed, the Matins Gospel has Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and pharisees. “They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them …. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. (Matthew 23:4.13)” This is so often the clerical sin, to neglect the welfare of people for the sake of a prideful ideology. The Holy Week is a direct challenge to our spirituality – how have we failed to proclaim the gospel. Have we learned the lesson of love? The story of the Last Judgment, read at the evening gospel, tells us what we must do for one another, and especially to see the image of Christ in the other. In the long run, this is where “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” leads us.

Holy Monday

The Synaxarion [the abridged collection of the “Lives of the Saints,”] discerns two themes in Holy Monday:

1) A comparison between Jesus and Joseph, the son of Jacob:

“[Jesus] was sold by a disciple for thirty pieces of silver and was imprisoned in the dark and gloomy pit of the grave, whence He broke out by His own power, triumphing over Egypt, that is, over every sin. In His might He conquered it, and He reigns over all the world. In His love for mankind He redeemed us by a distribution of grain, inasmuch as He gave Himself up for us and He feeds us with Heavenly Bread, His own Life-bearing Flesh. For this reason, Joseph the All-comely is brought to mind at this time.”

2) the cursing of the fig tree.

The Synaxarion said this was a cursing of the Jewish people, who did not bring forth the expected fruit. The gospel itself sees it as the power of prayer: ““Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Matthew 21:21-22).

Many of the texts of Holy Week can be interpreted in an anti-Jewish sense. The Synaxarion is more explicitly so. I think it is a problem. But did the Church formally condone persecution of the Jews? I don’t think so, but some pretty strong texts have led weak-minded and hateful people to interpret them so, causing a series of pogroms and culminating in the Nazi holocaust. In 1998 Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “We deeply regret the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the Church. We make our own what is said in the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Nostra Aetate, which unequivocally affirms: ‘The Church . . . mindful of her common patrimony with the Jewish and motivated by the Gospel’s spiritual love and by no political considerations, deplores the hatred, persecutions, and displays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and from any source’”

Conservative priests have upbraided me: the reality is that those who condemned Jesus were Jews, and we should not deny the historical truth. Yes, it is real that the mob that cried out “Crucify him,” were Jews, but then the apostles were Jews, the women at the foot of the cross were Jews and Jesus was a Jew.” He was not condemned by the Jewish nation, but by the pharisaical high priest (and pharisaism is an endemic disease of clerics of all religions) and by the mob misled by their leaders, and mobs are still with us. Hatred and suspicion of the other (racism) is a human disease. I remember when I was a boy, family gatherings almost always degenerated into hate sessions of “nig***s” and Jews. Racism continues to be an infection among Slavic peoples (and indeed any white race, and probably any human race, hatred of the “Other”) but it an evil to be rooted out. We’re not doing a great job of that. At Jesus’ trial, it is recorded that the mob cried out, “His blood be upon us and our children.” This has been conceived as curse, but was it really a blessing? For we have all received redemption through drinking of the blood of the new covenant.

Palm Sunday

The epistle of the Sunday of Orthodoxy asks us to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus …” As the forty-day fast ends, we follow Jesus into Jerusalem, where he is received like a king and as the Messiah. Ideally, if we have kept the Fast, we have overcome our evil passions, and are ready to enter the kingdom of God; we have confronted our weakness. This means, as St. Paul points out in today’s epistle: “ … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
 
Isn’t this what faith and God’s rule is really about: the true, the honorable, the just, the pure, the lovely, the gracious? But the Messiah does not establish a kingdom on earth. He is arrested and dragged before Pontius Pilate, where he declares, “My kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36)” This brings us into the true spiritual kingdom, which exists in those who love God with their whole heart and their neighbor as themselves. In Holy Week, we are to learn that by following Jesus to the Cross and resurrection, we learn the true meaning of “life.”
 
Meditation by David Petras