For those of you in my faithful readership who have yet to experience an Orthodox Christian Holy Week, now is your chance. At an Orthodox parish near you, begins a week of services unlike any you have experienced anywhere else on the planet. If you are local to Boston, you are cordially invited to attend all of the services our parish offers. If you can only do one, come to either Saturday morning Liturgy or late Saturday night, early Sunday morning for the Feast of Feasts, GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA on Sunday, April 12. Continue reading →
In the tomb with the body, in hell with the soul as God, in paradise with the thief and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, wast Thou O Christ, filling all things with Thyself. Bearing life and more fruitful than paradise, brighter than any royal chamber: Your tomb, O Christ, is the fountain of our resurrection.
Since Pascha is the Feast of all Feasts, it is easy to miss all of the rich liturgical portions offered by Mother Church directly before the Easter extravaganza and directly afterwards. For me, especially dear is the service which acts as a kind of proto-Pascha, the Vesperal Liturgy usually chanted on the morning of Great & Holy Saturday, a service similar in content and purpose to what in the West is called the Easter Vigil.
The miracle of Pentecost is one which I think we take for granted in this age of google translate. That each of those diverse peoples present at the coming of the Divine Spirit could hear the good news proclaimed in his own native language is not only astonishing, but a source of great comfort.
In our own time and historical circumstance, we can be grateful for many reliable and storied translations of the Scriptures in our mother tongue of English. Indeed the King James Bible, for example, which recently celebrated its 400th anniversary, is not only a reliable translation of the original text but an inspiration for countless works of English literature.
So much is well and good for the Scriptures in English. But what of other important modes for divine communion? What of the Divine Services, especially the ancient Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great which form the setting for the jewel of the Scriptures in the Eastern Orthodox Church? For us Orthodox Christians in English-speaking countries, we have the Anglicans of the nineteenth century to thank, especially the Rev. John Mason Neale. Continue reading →
I once taught a history course in my former school entitled Traveling the World with the Apostles, in which we learned about the various and diverse cultures of the world through the perspective of the first Christian apostle to those cultures. While a lot has changed at the school since I taught there almost a decade ago, there is still a strong sense in the curriculum of the universality of the Christian faith and how Christ calls the whole world to new life in Him. In this season of the resurrection, the Church celebrates this universality by chanting the paschal (Easter) hymn in as many different languages as our local choirs can muster. Here is just a sample of that diversity: Continue reading →
Orthodox Easter, otherwise known as Pascha, was this weekend. This means that much of Christendom celebrated Easter after a Holy Week that led us to a final, triumphant service, beginning just before midnight on Saturday and ending around three in the morning. While this may seem daunting, I assure you – staying awake is not an issue. How can you doze off when a priest periodically comes into the congregation and with joy shouts “Christ is Risen!” to which you respond “Indeed, He is Risen!”.
As is the duty of those who call themselves Christians, the challenge is moving from Pascha into the week after. From celebration into the ordinary. From Sunday into Monday. It is easier to do this in some places than in others, and Egypt is one of those places where the Monday after Easter is Sham el Nessim – a national holiday.
Time in this fallen world is often experienced as something we need to use up or even kill in our never-ending pursuit of pleasure and cessation from work. But the irony is that for however long or hard we work, leisure time, that supposed reward at the end of a day’s labor, ever seeks to elude us. Especially in America, we can never seem to work long enough or hard enough to reach it, if pleasure really is the goal we should be seeking at all.
The Epicurean philosophers and their modern Madison Avenue ad agencies bid us to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. The Lord Jesus Christ bids us, rather paradoxically, to take up our cross and die with him. And no one in the history of the world who has taken the Lord’s advice over the Epicureans has ever been sorry for it, for our crucifixion always ends, as His, in resurrection. Continue reading →
I had been planning it all week, but like all difficult things, when the time came to actually carry it out, I was lingering in the throes of early morning drowsiness. I have been trying for years to attend the Western Easter Vigil Service that I format every year for the parish where I am employed as an administrator. But for the last several years, the Eastern and the Western calendars have been in sync, and I would never miss a drop of Orthodox Holy Week, especially as I usually lead the service on the morning of Great and Holy Saturday.