Journey To Pascha
Come along with us on our liturgical journey to Pascha. (Easter) It consists of 40 days of Abstinence, (Parish Info: Fasting) the sacrament of Confession, weekly Divine Liturgies, evening Vespers, Presanctified Liturgies, and Akathist services. ( Holy Week and Sundays are not counted in the 40 days). Each week photos will be posted and a brief description of the event will be presented.
The word Pascha is the Hebrew word which means Passover. As Orthodox Christians we uses Pascha instead Easter. Pascha is used because it describes what Christ did for us. Just as the blood of the sacrificed lamb kept the angel of death away from the Hebrews (Ex. 12: 3-49) so it is Christ's sacrifice as the New Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) and His blood allows us to "pass from death to life." (John 5: 24)
The word Easter comes from the pagan goddess of Fertility. Easter is actually the Assyro-Babylonian demon Ishtar. She is also the goddess of adultery and a special patroness of accomplished liars. The rabbit associated with Ishtar under her German name Easter is a pagan fertility symbol connected with the worship of Ishtar. What makes the use of the word worse is that Ishtar-Easter is queen of heaven who is so strongly condemned by God as written by the Holy Prophet Jeremiah. (Jer. 44: 17, 29)
Pascha (Easter) is celebrated differently from the Catholic and Protestant churches because of the Jewish Passover. The Orthodox Church interpreted the proclamations of the First Ecumenical Council held in 325 AD that Pascha should never be before or coincide with the Jewish Passover because it is the new Passover. This year it coincided and for this reason is celebrated on May 5th.
Forgiveness Sunday Vespers
The first service of Great Lent is called Forgiveness Sunday Vespers. It is a standard Lenten weekday evening service. The verses sung refer to beginning Lenten fasting (Parish Info: Fasting) overcoming sin and of spiritual growth. The service ends with the prayer of St. Ephriam the Syrian that asks God to take away various passions and give various virues with a special emphasis on forgiveness. At the dismissal Father Andrew spoke about his own personal failings and asked for forgiveness and the parishioners asked each other for forgiveness while the choir sang the Paschal hymns.
The Reading of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete
A canon is a liturgical poem divided into verses with a refrain. The Canon of St. Andrew, written in the 7th century, is divided into four sections, which are read on Monday through Thursday during Compline of the first week of Lent. St. Andrew, in composing the canon, traces the lives of people in the Bible who lived according to God's commandments with those who failed. By doing this, St. Andrew reminds us of our failings and need of repentance. An example of a verse with refrain is the following:
Solomon was carried away by gratification of his lust. Alas, he who loved wisdom now makes love to prostitutes and finds himself estranged from God. But in your every thought you have imitated him, O my soul, through your disgraceful love of luxury.
Refrain: Have mercy on me O God, have mercy on me.
During the reading the faithful make prostrations (a bow with the head to the floor)
Sunday of Orthodoxy
On the first Sunday of Lent, Orthodox Christians celebrate the official declaration of the 7th Ecumenical Council 787AD that the veneration of Icons is not the worship of images as the 2nd commandment describes. (Link to icons). To celebrate the event, the parishioners of St. Luke held a procession of Icons, ( See Iconography) which circled the interior of the sanctuary while the choir sang the hymn of the event. At its conclusion the proclamation of Orthodoxy and Creed were recited.
Proclamation of Orthodoxy:
As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the Universe has agreed, as grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as Falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ awarded; Thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ Our True God, and honor His Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in Churches, in Holy Icons; On the one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord, and on the other, honoring the Saints as true servants of the same Lord of All, and offering them proper veneration.
This is the Faith of the Apostles,
The Feast of the Annunciation breaks into the Lenten cycle because it is one of the 12 major feast days of the church and is part of the Nativity cycle. March 25th is nine months before Christmas. It commemorates the angel Gabriel visiting the virgin Mary and announcing to her that she was about to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Since it is a feast day the fasting rules are lifted slightly. For Greek Americans this is a special day because this is the day that Greece became independent from the Ottoman Turkish empire in 1821 - 1827. At St. Luke a number of early bird parishioners celebrated the holiday at the Liturgy which began at 7 AM.
On Wednesdays during Lent the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated. The word Presanctified refers to Holy Communion which has been consecrated on the Sunday before and distributed at the Presanctified Liturgy. One of the special features of this liturgy is the solemn blessing with a single lighted candle by the Priest who announces "The Light of Christ illumines all!" The faithful make a prostration. The scriptural readings are from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah and Proverbs signifying the preparatory nature of this service.
Fr. Andrew will be teaching from the Lenten Synaxarion , which is a volume of sermons written by the Church Fathers that describe the significance of each Presantified Liturgy and its role in our Lenten preparations for Pascha
In some Orthodox Churches of the Russian Tradition the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated both on Wednesday and Friday. Churches of the Greek Tradition celebrate the Akathist (salutations) to the Virgin Mary of Friday. An Akathist Hymn is a liturgical prayer of praise written about Christ, a certain saint or a need such as thanksgiving. The Akathist Hymn to the Virgin Mary portrays her as a compassionate mother who cares for us through her prayers. During Lent this is necessary because of the spiritual battle which we have undertaken.
Sunday Of The Cross
The third Sunday of Lent is the half way point of Great Lent. On this Sunday a flower decorated cross is displayed in the center of the sanctuary during the Liturgy. At the point in the Liturgy when normally "Holy God" is sung it is replaced with "Before Your Cross we bow down and worship You." During this hymn three prostrations are made. They signify our devotion to God and that we have accepted His cross. It is also given as a help to fight off the attacks of the Devil who during Lent wants us to fail in our fast and it helps us to keep our heart pointed toward the Cross and Christ's victory over death at Pascha.
Saturday, the Sabbath day is considered the day devoted to the departed in the Orthodox Church. It is the day God rested and the day Christ rested in the tomb while his soul descended into Hades. On the Saturdays of Great Lent a liturgy is celebrated to commemorate departed parish and family members. Each person is commemorated by name. A special cake of boiled wheat, honey and raisins is prepared and is blessed during the memorial service. This cake is symbolic of the dead planted as a grain of wheat waiting for the resurrection to life eternal in heaven, the land of milk and honey. The raisins symbolize the fruits of the Holy spirit.
Great lent officially ends on Lazarus Saturday. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated to commemorate the raising of Lazarus. Notice that Fr. Andrew is wearing gold vestments. This change in color denotes the resurrectional nature of this service as a prelude to Holy Week. Because of it resurrectional character the hymn as many as have been baptized into Christ is sung. Historically this was a baptismal liturgy.
The hymn of Palm Sunday proclaims the children holding the emblems of victory singing, "Hosanna blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." We experience Christ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem by processing around the church holding palm and pussy willow branches as symbols of Christ's ability to overcome death by raising Lazarus.