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.

Receiving the Holy Fire Once Again By Maria C. Khoury, Ed.D.

We have just celebrated the Miracle of the Holy Fire in Taybeh in a most magnificent way at the outskirts of our village approximately  5:30 pm local time on this Great and Holy Saturday while waiting all afternoon when this great miracle occurred once again in Jerusalem.  
 “O Gladsome Light, of the Holy glory of the Immortal Father, heavenly Holy, blessed Jesus Christ!” (Holy Saturday Morning Prayers)
The local priests, Fr. Daoud, Fr. Jack and Fr. Aziz, of all three churches and Fr. Peter who came  from Jerusalem with the choir chanting, and the Taybeh Scouts beating the drums marched again this year to meet our cousin Ibrahim with his son Philip, who went to the city of Ramallah, where the faithful brought the flame from Jerusalem for the Palestinian Christian s who cannot reach the Holy City due to lack of permits. Many residents of Taybeh, were in the streets for the ecumenical procession which was simply glorious although a bit cloudy with a sprinkle of rain.
The solemn and beautiful procession in our village ended at St. George Church, where Fr. Daoud placed the flame  on the altar to await the faithful for the Resurrection service of Holy Pascha:  “Come ye and receive light from the unwaning Light, and glorify Christ, Who arose from the dead.”
In the last few years during Great and Holy Saturday, I have delivered the same message from the Holy Land.  But it has been a great spiritual joy to keep reminding friends about the miracle that appeared for the first time during the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Luke 24:4; Matthew 28:1-4)  This magnificent miracle is at the core of our Christian presence in the Holy Land  The Miracle of the Holy Fire received today by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem was broadcasted live on Palestine TV.  
The brilliant ceremony is considered a miracle because there is no explanation for the way the Holy Fire appears from the Holy Life Giving Tomb of Christ actually coming down from Heaven. Many personal accounts have called the miracle “incredible” and similar to lighting. The Holy Fire at the moment is in flight to many surrounding countries that have less than three hour flights by private transportation including Cyprus, Greece, Russia, Romania.
The Christian community in the Holy Land witnessed the True Light of Christ by receiving the Holy Fire today so that all who are not living in the land of Christ’s Holy Resurrection can believe that Christ is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). 
It is so difficult this year to wish everyone a blessed and glorious holy Pascha knowing in Syria the new rules from fanatics is that it is forbidden to wear or display the cross in public.  It is forbidden to ring the church bells in public.  Also, Christians are asked to pay a tax or convert to Islam; how sad that the new Middle East that America wishes to develop has really gone back one thousand years in history.  May our Risen Lord who has had victory over death have mercy on those suffering in different places of the world! May the peace of Christ and the knowledge that our Lord offers everlasting life continue to bring us joy and give us hope.  Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen! Please accept my humble wishes for a glorious Holy Pascha from the Land of Christ’s Holy Resurrection!
For my first time witness on the Miracle of the Holy Fire view:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pascha 2014 Pastoral Letter from His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan

How to resurrect with Christ
"If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1)
Beloved in Christ
Hierarchs, clergy and faithful,
Of this God-protected Archdiocese
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Christ defeated death! We are no longer subject to it; rather we are Christ's, who gave us "the right to be God's children" (John 1:12) and to be His "friends" (John 15:15)! What great news! What a great gift! What a great reality! An eternal bond is granted to whoever believes in Christ as Savior from death - divine adoption in Christ's name!
From now on, the Lord commissioned us to be victorious not only over death "from outside," but also over death "from within," that is, over our own selfishness. He also commanded us to be messengers of the Good News and heralds of His victory - and ours, too - over any kind of death. He asked us, as Christians, to abide by love rather than by hate, by hope rather than by despair, by faith rather than by logic, by justice rather than by injustice, by forgiveness rather than by resentment, by humility rather than by vanity and arrogance, and by sacrifice rather than by self-interest.
Christ defeated death in our lives! He set us free from fear: from fearing death, from fearing evil, from fearing illness and calamities, from fearing each other, from fearing the uncertainty of the future, from fearing insecurity and unemployment, from fearing violence and terrorism, and from fearing persecution and sufferings for His sake. Instead, He gave us the power and the means to seek the true freedom. The freedom to love each other even though we differ in character, education and profession. The freedom to forgive each other even though we have suffered. The freedom to ask forgiveness from each other even though we have badly hurt each other. The freedom to serve each other even though we differ in origin, background and culture. The freedom to work together even though we differ in thinking, worldview, ability and capacity. The freedom to abide by the truth and raise our children to seek Him. The freedom to defend the unjust and the needy and restore them their rights. The freedom to be at the Lord's hand, obedient, prayerful and faithful.
Christ defeated death in our reality! He gave us the gift to start anew, to renew our heart, to purify our mind, and to reaffirm our commitment of faith at His service. He restored in us the dignity of our person, the beauty of our nature, and the bounty in our personality.
Christ defeated death in our relationships! Christ is the only mediator between God and man. However, He made us "bridges" of salvation to reach others. As Antiochian Orthodox Christians in North America, we are bequeathed an apostolic "lineage:" tradition, inheritance and mission. In this regard, the image of the "bridge" summarizes the Antiochian witness that emerges out of the past, prompts the present and prepares the future of the Antiochian Orthodox Church on the eve of the election of a new Metropolitan to succeed to His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip of eternal memory.
Christ´s victory over death is a responsibility when it is handed over to us. "I am the Way," (John 14:6) the Lord said. "We are the bridge," we would respond to Him. Indeed, the Lord means for us to be His co-workers in this most unprecedented cooperation between heaven and earth. Antiochian Orthodox, among others, are leading the work of building a bridge between East and West, between our Patriarchate and the Archdiocese, among their brothers and sisters of other Orthodox Churches in North America, among their brethren whom they invited to share this apostolic faith, toward those are in need. If Christ is the "bridge" from heaven to earth and from earth to the netherworld, saving in this way the entire creation, then you understand that being a "bridge" means to follow Christ in His openness to humanity, in bringing humanity to unity, in serving your brethren to the extent of your ability and capacity.
I am glad for your witness – a bridge that unites both ends and that is open for people to come across in both directions, and for Christ to work the salvation of each one. I am sure that, as we are celebrating our Lord's resurrection from the dead, you will treasure this divine gift of being a bridge. Indeed, I am certain that you will not spare any means to serve the Divine Providence toward humanity.
May our Lord guide all of us by His eternal light shown forth from the empty tomb!
+ Silouan
Metropolitan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina & Patriarchal Vicar of New York and all North America

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Paschal Letter of His Beatitude John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

p1By God’s Mercy
John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all East
Brethren, Pastors of the Holy Church of Antioch;
Beloved sons and daughters everywhere in this apostolic see

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” this is what the Evangelist John said. This Word is Jesus Christ who visited humanity holding the letter of love and He “dwelt among us” or, literally speaking, as mentioned in Greek “pitched His tent among us” in order to make us citizens of heaven.

HBWhen the book of Acts speaks about our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, it describes it using three words “We are witnesses” . How much we really need to witness for the Resurrection of our Lord? And How great is to witness for our resurrection through That, Who dwelt among us, and through Him Grace and truth have been accomplished. But, How to witness for the Resurrection of our Lord, and how to live it?
We witness for it through love, as love summarizes all virtues. We witness for it when we contemplate through the path of Resurrection, sipping from it the nectar that guides our life. Godly love is the love that inaugurated the path of our resurrection when it showed us our Lord descending to our humbleness, lying in a manger for our salvation. It is the same love that brought Him to our lands, though He is the source of love, and it is capable to bring Him into our hearts. It is the Godly love that sent Him to us to walk the path of the Cross, penetrating through the darkness of the tomb, the darkness of the souls that were suffering under the burden of sin, rendering the thirsty souls the sources of salvation through the power of love.
Christianity offered the world many values and numerous concepts. It offered and is still offering a lot of ideas through its theology, and we would rather reflect them in our reality. The Christian writings could not find a better expression to tell about its Master, Jesus Christ, rather than “The Word”.

" Jesus is The Word, He is the logic of love. He was sent to tell us that humanity is called upon, through the logic of love, to knit the texture of its love addressed toward its Creator. "

The message of the sons of Resurrection is the message of The loving Word, in front of whom, the logic of power, violence and extremism disappears. Their message is the logic of the loving convergence, without hiding behind other egos.
But this does not mean that the message of the Resurrection’s sons cannot make a distinction between love and complacency. Their message is a word that distinguishes between submission to the voice of love and forgiveness, and submission to the logic of surrendering.
" We are used to the voice of submission to the logic of dialogue and peace, but we refuse the submission to the logic of terrorism, extremism and declaring the others disbelievers. We are a word against the logic of conflict, but this does not mean that we are a word of submission in front of those who transgress our human and our sanctities. No matter how harsh time is, we are planted in our land, from its earth we implant the seeds of belief in God and Homeland in the souls of our sons. We are in it as spikes of wheat that sway with wings, but resist by the power of this who is powerful through love."
The Authenticity of the term “word” in Arabic is guaranteed by the origin of this word. It comes from a verb that means “to make a positive effect in listener’s mind”. So, everyone is called upon not just to through his words in the winds, but to become a voice of truth that makes an effect in the hearts and minds of his brothers.
As our arm is the honest word, so we have to say it. Salvation of Syria comes through the logic of word and dialogue that preserves its sovereignty and the unity of its land. The anchor of its salvation is a word of conciliation, a word of truth against the logic of violence, extremism and terrorism. Syria’s resurrection will be through the civil state that opens its arms for everyone under its roof. It is our right to live secure in Syria, and it is our right and the international community’s responsibility to dry the sources of arms that displaced our sons from our country.
The logic of the word and dialogue is the only one capable to save Lebanon as well on the base of citizenship and coexistence. The whole political class in Lebanon is called upon to rise the country’s interests at the expense of its own interests. Lebanon has lived an experience that may remind all of us that the tax of wars and conflicts is more expensive than the tax of rapprochement and dialogue. This dialogue that preserves Lebanon as the heart of a stable East, holding the East as a guarantee for a safe world.
O God! Give us the spirit of your peace, bless our sons everywhere, be with those displaced, heal the wounds of our human, bestow peace upon us and upon your world, compass the souls of the reposed with the abundance of your mercy, reinforce and give us the power to console them that mourn, enlighten our eyes to see the light of your glorified Resurrection as a beginning of our countries’ resurrection, so we may chant both in mouth and heart:
“Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs Bestowing life!”

Issued from the Patriarchal Residency- Damascus
April 18, 2014

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.