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. Therefore the date for Pascha varies from year to year based on the variablity of the Jewish Passover.
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 Paul spoke about forgiveness. Then the parishioners one by one asked each other for forgiveness.
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)
On Wednesday evening the Canon of St. Andrew was held at the St. John’s Chapel in New Lenox with Fr. Andrew presiding.
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.
Scene from the service.
Group photo of the clergy.
Following the service all are invited to join in a pot luck lenten meal.
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 on 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 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. To celebrate the event, the children of St. Luke held a procession of Icons, ( See Iconography) 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,
This is the Faith of the Fathers,
This is the Faith of the Orthodox,
This is the Faith which has established the Universe.