Thomas Sunday

We are coming to the end of Bright Week during which every day is Pascha.  Every day, in monastic practice, we celebrate a Paschal Divine Liturgy.  Every day the hymns reflect on the Resurrection of Christ rehearsing what exactly happened on that Day and reflecting on what it means cosmically and personally. All things are filled with gladness, having received the proof of the Resurrection.  For Mary Magdalene came to the tomb;…

Why Don’t Temptations Go Away?

In homily 69, St. Isaac reminds us that temptations to sin come upon all people, even the “perfect.”  Quoting freely from St. Macarius of Alexandria, St. Isaac reminds us that our inner state is rather like the weather.  “There is cold, and soon after, burning heat, and then perhaps even hail, and after a little, fair weather.”   I think some of us will find this shocking, that even the perfect experience…

Holy Saturday and Glorious Pascha

On Holy Saturday, we begin the day with the Vespers of Pascha.  Christ has been active even though his Body still rests in the sealed tomb.  We cannot yet sing “Christ is risen” for to our physical eyes, Christ appears to be dead in the tomb, but our hearts know that Christ is already destroying Death and Hades.  Some of the Hymns for this service are set as the voice of Hades…

Holy Friday

On Holy Friday, we offer three services.  The first is the Royal Hours of Holy Friday, which continues the themes of last night, reflecting on the horror and injustice of Christ’s Crucifixion. When you were led to the Cross, O Lord, you cried out thus: “For which of my works do you want to crucify me, O Judeans?  For healing your paralytics? For raising your dead as from sleep? I healed the…

Thursday Evening of Holy Week

On Holy Thursday evening we commemorate the saving Passion of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ: the spiting, the scourging, the slapping in the face, the scorn, the mocking, the purple robe, the reed, the sponge, the vinegar, the nails, the spear, and above all the Cross and Death which he willingly suffered.  Tonight are read all of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, humiliation and Death on the…

Wednesday Evening of Holy Week

The usual service on Wednesday evening of Holy Week is the Holy Unction.  It replaces in parish practice the Matins service for the Last Supper.  However, this year our Bishop has asked us to pray this Matins service.  I speculate that one of the reasons it is normally replaced by Holy Unction is that the hymns for this Matins service are extremely sad.  The themes of the service are Christ’s humility in the…

Tuesday Evening of Holy Week

On Tuesday evening of Holy Week, we commemorate the anointing of Jesus’ feet by the sinful woman.  The hymns for this service contrast the beauty of her humility and repentance with the betrayal of Judas.  Of all of the hymns that we chant throughout the year, I think tonight’s hymns are the most beautiful and profound. The harlot came to You who love humanity.  She poured perfume and tears over your feet,…

Monday Evening of Holy Week

On Monday evening of Holy Week, we remember that on this day the religious leaders, motivated by envy, strike a deal with Judas, motivated by love of money, to betray Jesus.  The hymns, however, reflect mostly on the parables of Matthew 25.  These parables are the heart of the Orthodox Christian understanding of how we ought to relate to God and neighbour in order to cooperate with God’s saving Grace.  Consider, for…

Sunday Evening of Holy Week

Tonight we pray the first of three Bridegroom Matins.  For Holy Week all of the services are done half a day earlier than normal out of heightened anticipation (for example, on Sunday evening we are praying the service for Monday morning).  The main hymn of Bridegroom Matins is a reflection based on Matthew 24:42, “Watch therefore for you know not the hour when the Lord will come,” and Matthew 25:6, “At midnight…

Palm Sunday Reflection

After rising Lazarus in Bethany, about two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus sends two of his disciples into Jerusalem to get the untamed colt of a donkey for him to ride into the city.  That Jesus rode and didn’t walk showed his royal status, but that he rode a donkey and not a horse showed that he came as a peacemaker and not a conquer.  However, the hymns for Palm Sunday also emphasize…