The Holy, Glorious All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, Virgin, and Beloved Friend of Christ, John the Theologian was the son of Zebedee and Salome, a daughter of Saint Joseph the Betrothed. He was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be one of His Apostles at the same time as his elder brother…
This Holy Day is celebrated on August 15. There is a two-week fast before the day beginning on August 1. It is given the name ‘Dormition’ or ‘Falling Asleep’ because the Mother of God died quietly, as if falling asleep, and because of her short stay in the grave. After three days, she was resurrected by the Lord and ascended into heaven.
This event is not mentioned in the Holy Bible but it is found in Holy Tradition. It teaches that at the at the time of her passing, she was living in the house of the Apostle John in Jerusalem, which was located on Mount Zion. One day when she was praying, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her with a branch from a date palm in Paradise. He told her that in three days she would finish her earthly life, and the Lord would take her to Himself. At this time the Apostles were traveling throughout the known world preaching the Word of Christ. But they were miraculously brought to her bedside. Only Thomas was missing.
After her passing, her body was carried to a tomb in Cedron near Gethsemane. When Thomas arrived three days after she was buried, he wanted to see her for the last time. When her tomb was opened, it was empty. Mary passed beyond death and into glorification of her body and soul, just as the Pascha of Our Lord promises us, and which we all hope to share.
It is important to remember that there are no relics of the Mother of God and no mention has ever been made of their existence. However, there are centers of pilgrimage where her belt and veil are venerated, but no relics.
Herbs and flowers are blessed on this day. It is said that when the tomb was opened for St. Thomas, the fragrance of flowers was very strong. The herbs were used for healing. Put them in your icon corner where they will become a living sign of God’s abiding presence around you.
THE ORTHODOX HERALD, Matushka Nina Stroyen, R.N., D.D., D. Litt
The story of Pentecost is found in the book of The Acts of the Apostles. In Chapter Two we are told that the Apostles of our Lord were gathered together in one place. Suddenly, a sound came from heaven like a rushing wind, filling the entire house where they were sitting. Then, tongues of fire appeared, and one sat upon each one of the Apostles. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as directed by the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).
The Feast of Holy Pentecost is celebrated each year on the fiftieth day after the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha (Easter) and ten days after the Feast of the Ascension of Christ. The Feast is always celebrated on a Sunday.
The Feast commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, a feast of the Jewish tradition. It also celebrates the establishment of the Church through the preaching of the Apostles and the baptism of the thousands who on that day believed in the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Feast is also seen as the culmination of the revelation of the Holy Trinity.
Summary of article Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Pascha is the greatest and most joyful feast in the Church!
On the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha, Orthodox Christians celebrate the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This feast of feasts is the most significant day in the life of the Church. It is a celebration of the defeat of death, as neither death itself nor the power of the grave could hold our Savior captive. In this victory that came through the Cross, Christ broke the bondage of sin, and through faith offers us restoration, transformation, and eternal life. Pascha celebrates Our Lord and Saviour's Resurrection from the dead, conquering death for all those who follow Him.
Pascha (Easter) is a movable Feast and the date of its celebration each year is determined according to a formula agreed to by the Church at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. This year Pascha is celebrated on April 16, 2023.
It is immediately preceded by Great Lent and Passion Week, times during which Orthodox Christians prepare themselves with prayer, fasting and repentance for their spiritual growth and the coming feast.
Passion Week ends and Pascha begins at sunset on Great Saturday, April 15, 2023, recalling the Jewish Sabbath which begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. We know from the Gospels that Christ was crucified on Friday and remained in the tomb during the Sabbath.
Saint Ephraim of Perekop, Novgorod, was born on September 20, 1412 in the city of Kashin. In Holy Baptism he was named Eustathius. His parents, Stephen and Anna, lived not far from the Kashin women’s monastery named in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. Drawn to the solitary…
The Ivḗron Icon of the Mother of God (which is preserved on Mt. Athos) was kept in the home of a certain pious widow, who lived near Nicea. During the reign of the emperor Theophilus, the Iconoclasts came to the house of this Christian, and one of the soldiers struck the image of the Mother of…
The Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) February 26, 2023, is the last Sunday prior to the commencement of Great Lent. The Gospel reading, Matthew 6:14-21, focuses on the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, an event that shows us how far we have fallen in sin and separated ourselves from God. At the onset of Great Lent and a period of intense fasting, this Sunday reminds us of our need for God’s forgiveness and guides our hearts, minds, and spiritual efforts on returning to Him in repentance.
Jesus said, 'and when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites,
for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you,
they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret;
and your father who sees in secret will reward you:' Matthew 6: 16-18
This Sunday gives directions to our turnaround from one spirit to another: Forgiveness Sunday – the essential condition of repentance: our willingness to forgive. Today we will hear ‘Lord have mercy’ fervently repeated forty times followed by the recitation of St. Ephraim’s prayer with prostrations. People ask forgiveness of each other so that they can start Lent at peace with everyone. After such a solemn service and such a moving exchange with our fellow Christians, most people quietly exit the church trying to hold on to the emotions engendered by the prayers and events of today’s service.
Let Us Start with Forgiveness
We are entering the time of Great Lent. We are beginning a mystical voyage which will bring us, together with Jesus, through His sufferings up to His Resurrection. It is a difficult voyage. We shall find opposition!
When people think of the word "Lent," the word "fasting" is one of the first things that comes to mind. The cornerstone of Lent is not fasting, but repentance and growing in our faith. Fasting is a tool that is used to assist in spiritual growth. Fasting is also mischaracterized as a form of deprivation, rather than a spiritual discipline. Because fasting is so misunderstood, it is many times done incorrectly.
In the Orthodox world, we use the word "passions" to describe tendencies that each person has that lead us to sin. Each of us has a "passion" for anger, lust, power, greed, ego, etc. We do not get through life without wrestling with each of these, sometimes on a daily basis. The most basic "passion" is hunger. While we can go a day without a lustful thought or an angry thought, we can't go more than a few hours without a hungry thought. So, if we can tame our passion for eating, we can hopefully tame our other passions. If we can discipline ourselves to go without certain kinds of food, we can hopefully discipline ourselves so that we can go without certain kinds of behavior that are spiritually destructive. Thus, fasting is not about giving up something only to get it back. Fasting is about getting control of our passions, maintaining control over them, and ultimately giving control of ourselves to God.
We will be tempted to put off starting or not go at all – or simply go through the motions, to do the very minimum to accompany the Savior. We shall be tempted to desire the fruits of abstinence, peace and joy in the Lord, without truly abstaining.
Thus, so that we can make a sure and certain start on our Lenten trip, we must first rid ourselves of the things that hold us back – our pride and arrogance, our insistence on always being the one who is right. We must become humble and small before the Lord and before others – like children. This is why the Church asks us today, February 26, to ask each others' forgiveness. With the humility and with the freedom that forgiveness brings, we shall be able to start on the journey of Great Lent with confidence and serenity.
Let us freely take upon ourselves the discipline of abstinence. It is true that sin does not enter our soul through the things that we eat, but the source of our energy, our food, does have importance to us. If we can succeed in controlling what we eat, we shall have a greater success of controlling that which comes into our mind and off our lips. May our Lenten journey lead us closer to the kingdom of God.
excerpt George Kutash, Priest
GREAT and HOLY LENT SERVICES SCHEDULE 2023
Divine Liturgy - Sundays - 10:00 a.m. Confessions - Before and After Each Service prior to Holy Week
Please make your Lenten confession before Holy Week so that services may begin on time.
Father Paul will not be available for confession during Holy Week except for extreme circumstances.
GREAT LENT BEGINS, Monday, February 27, 2023
PRESANCTIFIED LITURGY, Wednesdays, March 8, 22, and 29; and April 5, at 5:30 pm, followed by a Lenten meal and discussion.
As a Lenten practice, some of us give up something and/or add something in our daily living, both in an effort to help us to recognize our sins and gain control over our spiritual lives. Please try to attend the Presanctified Liturgy at least once during Lent and participate in fellowship. God will bless you for it!
Sunday of Orthodoxy, Comemeration of the Restoration of the Holy Icons, March 26 - All of the Saints who are depicted on the Icons are honored and glorified.
2nd Sunday of Lent, ST. GREGORY PALAMAS, March 12 - Bring a prayer rope to be blessed today! Use it and pray the Jesus Prayer each day this week.
3rd Sunday of Lent, VENERATION OF THE HOLY CROSS and Reading of the Names, March 19 - Wear your cross to church and kiss the cross each morning with a bow.
4th Sunday of Lent, ST. JOHN of the LADDER, March 26 - Every time you climb stairs this week ask St. John to help you reach Paradise with the sign of the cross.
5th Sunday of Lent, ST. MARY of EGYPT, April 2 - Ask the Theotokos to offer you and the world pure thoughts and ideas this week.
GREAT and HOLY WEEK
PALM SUNDAY, ENTRY OF OUR LORD INTO JERUSALEM, April 9, 10:00 a.m., Archbishop Alexander serving - Place your palm branches and pussy willows behind an icon at home and in your car.
HOLY WEDNESDAY, SACRAMENT OF HOLY UNCTION, April 12, 7:00 p.m. - Service at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church - Sacrament of Holy Unction is offered for the healing of soul and body and for the forgiveness of sins.
HOLY THURSDAY, WASHING of FEET, April 13, 7:00 p.m. - Trust in God, not yourself. Ask for His help before every task today. (Please prepare to receive Holy Communion on Holy Thursday evening by fasting a minimum of three hours prior to the beginning of Divine Liturgy.)
GREAT AND HOLY FRIDAY, JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS, April 14, 7:00 p.m. - Refrain from TV, Internet, & Phones to honor Christ's death. (The Bringing Out of the Holy Cross, Vespers of the Burial of Christ, Procession of the Holy Shroud, and the Service of Lamintations are celebrated on Holy Friday evening.)
GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA! CHRIST IS RISEN! April 16, 10:00 a.m., Matins and Divine Liturgy followed by blessing of Pascal baskets and Eggs - Greet everyone with 'CHRIST IS RISEN' rather than good morning and goodnight. Respond with "INDEED HE IS RISEN"
excerpts Fr. Jonathan Bannon (ACROD)
Lord, save Your people, and bless Your inheritance.
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians, over their adversaries.
And by virtue of Your Cross preserve Your habitation!
Because the Divine Liturgy is the "Banquet of Christ", a festive, triumphant celebration, the ancient Church came to regard it as out of harmony with the penitential climate of Great Lent. The Liturgy of the Presanctified is a liturgy in which the Consecration is not performed. Instead, the Eucharistic Gifts consecrated at an earlier Divine Liturgy and reserved, are distributed at Presanctified Liturgy.
Why not celebrate the Divine Liturgy instead?
During Great Lent, Orthodox Christians are focused on preparing their bodies and minds for Christ’s death and resurrection. It is a somber and reflective period of fasting and repentance with the ultimate goal of spiritual renewal. Since the Divine Liturgy is viewed as a celebration, the church restricts it to Sundays through the duration of Great Lent. Other times throughout the year, however, it is acceptable to have a Divine Liturgy service during the week. The Presanctified Liturgy offers us a way to receive Holy Communion during the week without engaging in the celebratory Divine Liturgy service.
The Presanctified Liturgy is a unique and beautiful service.The basic structure is that it contains the daily vespers, special prayers, and Holy Communion. There are also several Bible readings, most of which come from the Old Testament. The daily vespers usually include a reading from Psalms, as well as special hymns and prayers.
How do you prepare for Holy Communion?
The process for preparing for Holy Communion during a Presanctified Liturgy is a period of prayer, and fasting a minimum of three hours prior to Presanctified Liturgy.
The Sunday of the Last Judgment or Meatfare Sunday, February 19, 2023, is the third Sunday using the Lention Triodion, the service book of the Orthodox Church that provides the texts for the divine services for the pre-Lenten weeks of preparation, Great Lent, and Holy Week. It is the Sunday after the Sunday of the Prodigal Son and Sunday before Forgiveness Sunday. This is the third week of the pre-Lenten start of the Pascal cycle of worship in the Orthodox Church.
This Sunday is called Meatfare Sunday since it is traditionally the last day before Pascha for eating meat. Orthodox Christians observe a fast from meat all week, but still eat dairy products and eggs till the start of Great Lent.
The Gospel reading this Sunday remembers Christ's parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).
With the end of Jesus' earthly ministry quickly approaching, He shares this story about the final judgment. We know that Jesus will return and at His second coming all will be judged. Since we do not know when this will occur, it is important that we as Christians remain prepared so that we can be numbered among the sheep. In this passage, we are told very specifically what we will be judged for: our acts of Christian love toward others. This love challenges us to go beyond society's notion of charity and calls us to see Christ in everyone, serving each person as we would Christ. This Sunday is also known as Meatfare Sunday, for after this day, we begin to fast from meat products. From the reading, the faithful hear:
… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison and you visited me...For truly I say to you, if you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25). Sources: Orthodoxwiki.org; goarch.org
Knowing the commandments of the Lord, let this be our way of life. The Judge of all the earth will say even to us: 'Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.' - from the Vespers of Judgment Sunday
Christian Love ...
One Sunday, as parishioners arrived at church, they were horrified to see a dirty homeless man begging for change on the steps as they entered church. Everyone quickly walked by without saying so much as a word to the man. As they took their seats in church, they waited for the pastor, who appeared to be running late. After most of the parishioners arrived, to their horror the homeless man came into the church and walked to the front. When he reached the pulpit, he removed the glasses and hat he was wearing; the parishioners could see that this was not a homeless man but in fact their pastor. Still in the tattered and dirty clothes, he began his sermon by saying, "Today I want to talk about Christian love." - Author unknown
The Sunday after the Publican and the Pharisee is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, February 12, and is the second Sunday of a three-week period prior to the commencement of Great Lent. It marks the beginning of a time of preparatio for the spiritual journey of Lent, a time for Orthodox Christians to draw closer to God through worship, prayer, fasting, and acts of charity. Jesus told this parable of ‘The Prodigal Son’ which could also be titled ‘The Forgiving Father’. The Gospel reading is from Luke15:11-32. This Gospel tells the story of a wayward son and a loving, forgiving father.
Once there was a man who had two sons. Together they took care of the land. But the younger son did not want to work on the land and asked his father to give him his inheritance in money instead of his share of the property. The father does this, and soon after the younger son leaves and journeys to a distant country to live.
Soon he had wasted all of his money on his wayward new life. He was able to find work feeding swine where his employer paid him very little, made him work very hard, and did not give him enough to eat. A severe famine came and he had nothing. The young son was always hungry and the animals he fed ate better than he. He remembered his father’s home, and how well the workers there were treated and had enough to eat. He thought to himself, “I have no right to ask my father to take me back as a son. I will go home and say to my father, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’."
And so he went home and told his father how badly things had gone. He told about the bad choices he had made and that he wanted a chance to start over; he wanted to be a son again.
The father was very happy and wanted to help his son start over. He welcomed his wayward son and began to prepare a big celebration. The older son, who stayed home and worked, came in from the fields and saw the preparations for the party. He complained to his father about the welcome his foolish brother was being given. The older brother felt that he, not his younger brother, should be given a party. He was not like his brother who had gone away and wasted his money in self-indulgent ways, and he reminded his father how he had stayed home and worked. The father said to his oldest son, “My son, I care for you. You are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found. That is why we are celebrating.’
For those who have fallen into great despair over their sins thinking that there is no forgiveness, this parable offers hope. Our Heavenly Father is waiting and ready to receive us with His loving forgiveness and His saving embrace. He is patiently and lovingly waiting for our return. There is no sin that can oversome His love.
This parable of God’s forgiveness calls us to “come to ourselves” as did the prodigal son, to see ourselves as being “in a far country” far from the Father’s house, and to make the journey of return to God. We are given every assurance by the Master that our heavenly Father will receive us with joy and gladness. We must only “arise and go,” confessing our self-inflicted and sinful separation from that “home” where we truly belong.
The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, February 5, 2023, is the first Sunday of a three-week period prior to the commencement of Great Lent. It marks the beginning of a time of preparation for the spiritual journey of Lent, a time for Orthodox Christians to draw closer to God through worship, prayer, fasting, and acts of charity. It is also on this day that the Triodion is introduced, a liturgical book that contains the services from this Sunday, the tenth before Pascha (Easter), to Great and Holy Saturday.
The Gospel reading is from Luke18:10-24. This Gospel tells the story of the Publican and the Pharisee and shows us how conceit and pride in one's virtues do not count in God's eyes. A sinner, if he is humble and owns up to his faults and repents, is nearer God's love than the person who prides himself on his outward good works and despises his fellowmen. The hyms and canon of the Week of the Publican and Pharisee speak to us of humility. Today we begin our journey to Pascha.
The day is named after one of Jesus’ Parables as told in the Gospel of Luke. This week is followed by that of the Prodigal Son, then by Meatfast and then Cheesefast (Forgiveness Sunday)and then Great Lent begins on February 19.
Jesus spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector [or Publican]. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying: ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
(From: Luke 18:9-14)
The theme of Our Lord's parable is repentance. Repentance is the door through which we enter Lent, the starting-point of the journey to Pascha. To repent signifies far more than self-pity or futile regret over things done in the past. To repent is to be renewed, to be transformed in our inward viewpoint, to attain a fresh way of looking at our relationship with God and with others. The fault of the Pharisee is that he has no desire to change his outlook; he is complacent, self-satisfied, and so he allows no place for God to act within him.
To move our hears to penitence, special penitent prayers to Jesus Christ and His Mother are sung:
'Open Thou the gates of repententance to me, O Lifegiver, for my soul longs for thy holy Temple, though its own bodily temple is wholly defiled. But Thou, in Thy bounty, cleanse it according to Thy loving kindness.'
'O Mother of God, lead me into the path of salvation, for I have hardened by soul by shameful sins, and have spent all my life in laziness. Save me, by Thy prayers, from all imputiry.'
The week that follows the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee is designated by the Church as a non-fasting week. All foods are allowed on everyday of the week, including Wednesday and Friday. This dispensation from fasting is offered as a way of indicating that Great Lent and a more intense fasting period is approaching.
The Orthodox Church and the Western Church both have a 40 day Great Lent, but they are calculated differently. The Orthodox Church starts Great Lent on Monday and ends on Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday. The Western Church starts on a Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday.
During the period of Great Lent or the Great Fast as it is also known in the Orthodox Church, the Church helps us to assess our spiritual condition and renew ourselves by creating conditions which predispose us towards fasting and repentance. The Church reminds us, its faithful, that it is that time in its yearly liturgical and sacramental cycle to prepare to look deeply into ourselves to assess our spiritual condition and how it governs our life and influences the lives of others.
Great Lent is a spiritual journey in preparation for the Resurrection of Christ (Easter/Pascha). It is a time to humbly, honestly and sincerely search our souls (especially into its deepest and darkest corners) in order to see ourselves as we truly are. Recognizing our sins, and through prayer, fasting and forgiveness, we can begin to change the direction of our lives and begin to gain control over the things that have controlled us or badly influenced us that need to be ‘turned around’ (repentance).
As a Lenten practice, some of us give up something and add something in our daily living, both in an effort to help us to recognize our sins and gain control over our spiritual lives...
Give up that second cup of coffee and smile one more time each day...
Open a door for someone at the store and give up gossiping about the neighbor...
Avoid judging others who may not be fasting and tell no one of your fasting...
Give up a favorite TV show and spend more time with family…
We complete our Lenten effort by going to Confession and receiving Holy Communion.
It behooves us to attend the Lenten Services (Presanctified Liturgies) during Great Lent, listen to the gospel readings, and read the daily readings, as guides to aid us in becoming well focused on the meaning, goals and benefits of Great Lent. If we do these things, not in a spirit of gloomy self-denial or irratated self-pity, we will gain an awareess of genuine peace and joy in communion with God and those around us. And our participation in the celebration of the feast of Our Lord's Resurrection will be cherished forever!
By Fr. Thomas Hopko
Jesus Himself fasted and taught His disciples to fast.
And when you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men, but your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)
The purpose of fasting is to gain mastery over oneself and to conquer the passions of the flesh. It is to liberate oneself from dependence on the things of this world in order to concentrate on the things of the Kingdom of God. It is to give power to the soul so that it would not yield to temptation and sin. According to St. Seraphim, fasting is an "indispensable means" of gaining the fruit of the Holy Spirit in one's life (cf. Conversation with Motovilov), and Jesus Himself taught that some forms of evil cannot be conquered without it (Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29)
Man does not fast because it pleases God if His servants do not eat, for, as the lenten hymns of the Church remind us, "the devil also never eats." (Lenten Triodion) Neither do men fast in order to afflict themselves with suffering and pain, for God has no pleasure in the discomfort of His people. Neither do men fast with the idea that their hunger and thirst can somehow serve as a "reparation" for their sins. Such an understanding is never given in the scriptures or the writings of the saints which claim that there is no "reparation" for man's sin but the crucifixion of Christ. Salvation is a "free gift of God" which no "works" of man can accomplish of merit. (cf. Romans 5:15-17, Ephesians 2:8-9)
The ancient Orthodox Church reminds us, its faithful, that it's that time in its yearly liturgical and sacramental cycle to prepare to look deeply into oneself to assess one's spiritual condition and how it governs his/her life and influences the lives of others.
Great Lent was and is a spiritual journey in preparation for the Resurrection of Christ (Pascha). Its main intent being to humbly and sincerely search one's soul in order to see oneself as he/she truly is. By honestly recognizing one's sins. Through prayer, worship, reading of Scripture, almsgiving and especially forgiveness and love, change the direction of our lives. In this way we begin to gain control over the things that have controlled us or badly influenced us that need to be 'turned around' (repentance). – Matushka Nina Stroyen
There is a powerful prayer of the ancient church attributed to a 4th century monk, St. Ephraim the Syrian, found in Lenten worship services:
Prayer of St Ephraim
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust for power and idle talk. But rather give to me Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother for blessed art Thou O Lord unto ages of ages. Amen
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Pascha is the greatest and most joyful feast in the Church!
On this Great and Holy Feast of Pascha, we celebrate the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate the defeat of death, as neither death itself nor the power of the grave could hold our Savior captive. In this victory that came through the Cross, Christ broke the bondage of sin, and through faith offers us restoration, transformation, and eternal life. Pascha celebrates Our Lord and Saviour's Resurrection from the dead, conquering death for all those who follow him.
ANGELS ARE HERE
The Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and the rest of the archangels on Nov 21. The Synaxis means the gathering of believers to celebrate a feast or to remember a saint.
The Scriptures do not mention exactly when the angels were created; but Holy Tradition tells us that they were created out of nothing before the material world and humans were created.
We find angels are mentioned in the Bible more than 300 times and in each case, they are said to be sent by God to perform a service. The word angelos, which is Greek, means ‘who is sent’ or ‘messenger.’ This name was given to them by God, as written in Hebrews 1:14: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.’
Angels are present around us at all times whether we are aware of them or not. They are nearer than you think for God has given ‘His angels charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.’ (Ps 91:11) They are given to us to help us in our earthly struggles and, at the time of our death, an angel will be there to comfort us, and give us peace in that critical hour.
Just as angels protected Daniel in the lions den, so to is your guardian angel protecting you today. (Daniel 6:22)
Once while she was praying at the Mount of Olives, the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Holy Virgin and announced that in three days Her earthly life would come to an end and that the Lord would take Her to Him. The Lord arranged it so that toward that time the Apostles congregated in Jerusalem from where they were preaching. At the hour of Her end, a bright light illuminated the room in which the Virgin Mary was lying. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared and received Her most pure soul. The Apostles buried Her holy body, according to Her wish, in the Garden of Gethsemane, with her parents and the righteous Joseph. During the burial, many miracles came to pass. By touching the bier of the Mother of God, the blind regained their sight, demons were exorcised, and many diseases were cured.
Three days after her burial, the Apostle Thomas arrived. He was very distraught and asked to see her tomb so he could pay his last respects. When the tomb was opened, Her body was not found - only Her burial clothes leaving a sweet fragrance. The Apostles returned home and during their evening prayers, they heard Angels singing. The Apostles saw the Most Holy Virgin in radiant heavenly glory. She said: "Rejoice! I am with you for all the days and nights." She has been fulfilling this promise to help and defend Christians to the present day. For Her great love and all-powerful help, Christians always have honored Her and turned to Her for help. From these earliest times, following the example of the prophet Isaiah and the righteous Elizabeth, all Christians began to address Her as the Mother of God or Theotokos.
In the icon for this feast only the Dormition is presented. Mary is sleeping in the Lord on a scarlet and red cloth nearer the custom of her own people, since the Jews did not use a coffin as we do, and it has always been held that Mary died in Gethsemane, Jerusalem. Around her, forming a human halo, are the Apostles, except Thomas, who has been winged "from the ends of the universe" to mourn Mary's death. Peter as the chief apostle is censing the bed. St. James, "brother of the Lord" and first bishop of Jerusalem is in the upper left wearing the distinct garb of a bishop. The only apostle daring to lean over the coffin is "the beloved disciple", to whom our Lord entrusted His mother after His death. He is touching the leg of Mary as a gesture of comfort and tenderness.
High above is another scenario, the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who has come to claim His mother. He is bearing a tiny figure. Here the role is reversed for Mary is always depicted with her Son in Orthodox icons. So Mary is now held in the arms of Him whom she held and will be introduced to His Father and her mystical spouse, the Holy Spirit. As He prepares to take her home, Our Lord is accompanied by six winged cherubim. So the feast of the Dormition actually commends her soul into her Son's hand.
Originally divine services occurred freely in open spaces and people prayed with words suggested to them by their own feelings and attitudes. At the command of God, in the time of the Prophet Moses, the Tabernacle was constructed, consecrated persons were selected, specific sacrifices were instituted and feasts were ordained such as Pentecost.
When the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, He taught us to worship the Heavenly Father in every place. Nevertheless, He often visited the Temple in Jerusalem as a place with the special grace-filled presence of God. He was concerned for the order of the Temple and preached in it (I Cor. 14:40).
In the time of the apostolic period, as the Acts of the Apostles describes, there were special places for the gathering of the faithful and the offering of the Mystery of Communion. They were called churches (temples).
The successors of the Apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, established the order of divine services. The church (temple) is a special house consecrated to God in which Divine Services are conducted. In the church there abides the special grace of God.
The church – the House of God - is a very holy place, where God Himself is present.
Through divine services the Orthodox Christian enters into a mystical union with God through the Mysteries celebrated in divine worship, especially the Mystery of Holy Communion, and thus receives from God the powers of Divine Grace with which to live a righteous life. 'To know more about God, to love God, to serve God'.
Exerpts taken from The Law Of God, compiled by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, 1996
Perhaps you would like to know more about the Orthodox Church and what is involved in becoming a participant in her spiritual life and worship. Or perhaps you are visiting or just wondering. You are welcome and warmly invited to join us in worship on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. Come and visit with us, meet the people, experience the beauty and peace of our worship. We look forward to meeting you!
For any questions or wonderings you may have about the Orthdox faith or our praish, please give Catherine a call at 440-752-0637.
All services are in English.
So much of the month of December is the time of Advent or preparing for the coming of Christ. People prepare in many ways - some meditate more about the life of Christ, fast and pray and gain a sense of peace.
Others rush around in frenzy - from store to store, from party to party. They hope to get a bit of peace and quiet but it eludes them, as they do not allow themselves any downtime to even think about the reason for the celebration. Christ is forgotten in the rush, rush.
Most are somewhere in the middle, straddling both ways for preparing for the great day. As the day becomes more secularized, it will take more effort to prepare for it.
Little by little the theme of the Nativity is introduced into church services. The first mention is made on the eve of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. We hear for the first time the announcement: “Christ is born! Glorify Him!”
Then on the two Sundays before the Nativity, the Church commemorates the Forefathers and Fathers, who are the prophets and the saints of the Old Testament who prepare us for the Coming, for the salvation and reconciliation of mankind with God.
The Eve of the Holy Day is dedicated to an especially strict fast. Many observe a special meal.
On the great day itself, Christmas - the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - we hear the familiar “Christ is born! God is with us!” and we respond “Glorify Him!”