Great and Holy Saturday

Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb.

The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath. The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said:

God blessed the seventh day.
This is the blessed Sabbath.
This is the day of rest,
on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works . . . .

(Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.


Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day — Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another — Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.


We sing that Christ is “. . . trampling down death by death” in the troparion of Easter. This phrase gives great meaning to Holy Saturday. Christ’s repose in the tomb is an “active” repose. He comes in search of His fallen friend, Adam, who represents all men. Not finding him on earth, He descends to the realm of death, known as Hades in the Old Testament. There He finds him and brings him life once again. This is the victory: the dead are given life. The tomb is no longer a forsaken, lifeless place. By His death Christ tramples down death.


The traditional icon used by the Church on the feast of Easter is an icon of Holy Saturday: the descent of Christ into Hades. It is a painting of theology, for no one has ever seen this event. It depicts Christ, radiant in hues of white and blue, standing on the shattered gates of Hades. With arms outstretched He is joining hands with Adam and all the other Old Testament righteous whom He has found there. He leads them from the kingdom of death. By His death He tramples death.

Great and Holy Saturday

Great and Holy Saturday, 4/20
8:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy
4:00 p.m. Blessing of Easter Foods
6:00 p.m. Blessing of Easter Foods
7:00 p.m.  Prayers at the Tomb

Blessing of Easter Baskets

The priestly blessing of Easter foods is a venerable and beautiful tradition of the Kievan Church (not seen often among the Greeks and Melkites). The Polish and other Eastern Europeans bring their Easter foods to church to be blessed.

Sadly, too often the Slavs will bring their foods to church for the blessing but completely ignore the liturgical services of Great Week. This is a disconnect. The worship of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is paramount. The importance of having our foods blessed signals the end of the Great Fast and the arrival of joy with the celebration of our Lord and Saviors Holy Resurrection.

Blessing of Easter Foods on Great and Holy Saturday
~4:00 p.m. Blessing of Easter Foods
~6:00 p.m. Blessing of Easter Foods

(The Liturgy at 7pm)

and AFTER the 10:30 a.m. Easter Liturgy.

****Pyrohy will be available for sale on Holy Saturday made on April 13 for $7. per dozen.

Great and 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.

Great and Holy Week Schedule 2019

Great Wednesday, 4/17
7:00 p.m. Divine Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts

Great Thursday, 4/18
7:00 p.m. Great Matins and the Proclamation of the Passion Gospels

Great Friday, 4/19 —a day of strict fast and abstinence –NO meat or dairy products
4:00 p.m. Great Vespers with the Laying Out and Veneration of the Holy Shroud

Great Saturday, 4/20
8:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy

4:00 p.m. Blessing of Easter Foods
6:00 p.m. Blessing of Easter Foods

7:00 p.m. Great Vespers and Prayers at the Tomb

Sunday, 4/21, Resurrection of Our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ
9:00 a.m. Procession and Pascal Matins
10:30 a.m. For the people of the parish

Blessing of Artos
Blessing of Easter Foods

Great and 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.”

Great and Holy Monday

The Synaxarion discerns two themes in Great and 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 is 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.