124. How Saint Nicholas Founded Saint Nicholas Church, Cedarburg

Christ is risen! Truly he is risen! What? Saint Nicholas in May? I explained this last year, but in case you’re new here: May 9 is a lesser feast of Saint Nicholas. Actually Nicholas is an ever-present, ever-relevant saint to us Orthodox, not confined to December 6 – or to December 25. By the way, who exactly is this fat jolly old elf who sells cars on TV and has stolen the…

123. GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA

Christ is risen! Truly he is risen! Father Alexander Schmemann called our Orthodox Paschal celebration “an explosion of joy”. The following is the lighting of the Paschal candle, the sharing of the Fire and the beginning of the Paschal Procession at Saint Ignatius Church, Franklin, Tennessee. This next video is the conclusion of the Midnight Office and the Paschal Procession presided over by the Bishop, according to the Russian tradition, at Saint Symeon…

122. Holy Saturday morning Vesperal Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil

Gospel Reading: Matthew 28 Many themes today. This Liturgy begins as a celebration of Christ’s victory over Satan and death “down below”, and before we’re done we’re proclaiming the Resurrection here “up above”. Yet after that, later in the Liturgy Christ is singing “Do not lament me, O Mother”, as if she hasn’t yet heard the Good News. If you pay close attention, it’s a little bit dizzying. Anciently this was the…

121. Holy Friday afternoon Great Vespers, Holy Friday evening Lamentations Service

Holy Friday afternoon Great Vespers: the Taking Down from the Cross For less than a day, from Holy Thursday night to Holy Friday afternoon, the Orthodox crucifix is placed out in front of the icon screen. Otherwise it is normally kept behind the altar, half hidden from view, as if it is too “strong”, too “heavy” for us to yet see it full-strength. The story of Christ’s Passion and Death is read…

120. Holy Thursday evening Twelve Gospels service

Thursday evening: Matins for Holy Friday – “The Twelve Gospels Service” Gospel Readings: 1 John 13:31-18:1, 2 John 18:1-29, 3 Matthew 26:57-75, 4 John 18:28 -19:16, 5 Matthew 27:3-32, 6 Mark 15:16-32, 7 Matthew 27:33-54, 8 Luke 23:32-49, 9 John 19:25-37, 10 Mark 15:43-47, 11 John 19:38-42, 12 Matthew 27:62-66 I will not (believe me!) comment on each of these readings, which carry the story from Holy Thursday through Holy Saturday evening. I will say a little to try to explain what was happening, which is sometimes not so obvious. In this conflation of the…

119. Holy Wednesday evening Matins and Anointing, and Holy Thursday Divine Liturgy

Holy Wednesday evening Matins and Holy Unction For most of our history the Holy Wednesday night service was Matins/Orthros alone, which continues the Holy Week narrative. However, beginning a few hundred years ago in Greek and Antiochian churches, Matins began to be replaced by Holy Unction. The Anointing was used as part of the preparation for Pascha Communion. In those days the Holy Eucharist was received rarely, for many only at Pascha,…

118. Holy Tuesday evening Bridegroom Matins, Holy Wednesday morning Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Holy Tuesday evening Bridegroom Matins   Before we get into the Gospel story … Tonight we hear the Hymn of Kassiane, a ninth century nun and hymnographer. She was Irish, but her family moved to Constantinople, where she was one of several young women interviewed by Emperor Theophilus as his prospective bride. The story says he was so flummoxed by Kassiane’s beauty that he said something stupid (as men have been known…

117. Holy Monday evening Bridegroom Matins, Holy Tuesday morning Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

It will help if you read the Gospel passages before you read this Post. Holy Monday evening Bridegroom Matins Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:15-46; 23:1-39 In tonight’s Gospel, the confrontation between Jesus and the authorities continues. They must stop this man. Killing him was the last option. The better way, the cleanest way was still to outwit him, discredit him. They’d had no success at this so far but now  they try one more…

116. Palm Sunday evening Bridegroom Matins, Holy Monday morning Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

This week I’ll post articles daily to explain the services of this blessed Week. This is especially for the benefit of those who can’t make it to church.  It will help if you first take out your Bible and read the Gospel lessons as noted, since I’ll do a lot of paraphrasing of the actual text. These Posts are based on Holy Week homilies I’ve given at Saint Nicholas, Cedarburg, over the last thirty…

115. An Introduction to Holy Week

Lazarus Saturday There had been fake Messiahs here and there before. The authorities had always been able to discredit them, and their followers had disappeared into the woodwork. But now here was this Jesus at Bethany only two miles from Jerusalem, still going strong – pulling off this ‘fake miracle”, this supposed raising of a dead man. Many people were beginning to wonder: “Is this one really the Messiah?” He must be…