Celebrating Holy Week and Pascha

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By The Staff

Local Orthodox Christians are joining all Orthodox Christians across the world in the celebration of Holy Week and Pascha (Easter). This preparation began last weekend with the end of Great Lent Saturday, and the Saturday of the Raising of Lazarus from the grave. For Orthodox Christians, this year Pascha (as Easter is called) falls several weeks later then the Western Protestant and Roman Catholic observance.

The Catholic-Protestant West has a newer, different Easter calculation than the Orthodox Catholic Church. The calculation of the date of Pascha has less to do with the Julian calendar and more with the rules laid down at the First Ecumenical Council in AD 325. Pascha must be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Pascha must always be held on a Sunday and the First Ecumenical Council added the proviso that it cannot fall on Passover, that Passover must occur first, and then Pascha, as the New Testament records the salvific events of our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection.

Beginning with Palm Sunday morning Divine Liturgy, the themes of Orthodox worship move to the expectation of Christ the Bridegroom. There are daily services each evening from Sunday through Wednesday called the Bridegroom Services or Matins of the Bridegroom, consisting of psalms, prayers and the reading of Scripture all focused on the events of the Passion of Christ. On Holy Thursday evening, 12 readings from the Gospels continue to guide worship on the path of the Passion of Our Lord. On Great and Holy Friday, the day called Good Friday in the West, the body of Christ is symbolically taken from the cross and carried in procession just as though the event, beyond time, was taking place now in our time. The Vespers service is sung at 3 p.m. Friday. The procession with the “Winding Sheet” (called “Epitaphion” in Greek or “Plashchanitsa” in Slavonic) is a traditional part of the evening Matins service, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday morning the Liturgy of Saint Basil filled with Old Testament readings is celebrated in anticipation of the resurrection.

At last, on Pascha the midnight celebration of Christ’s resurrection becomes a time of great joy. “Christ is Risen” is declared in many languages and affirmed by the congregation at the Service of Resurrection, which begins at 11:30 p.m. followed by Matins and Divine Liturgy. Baskets of food and eggs are blessed and special ethic breads and foods are shared. Following the Divine Liturgy the Lenten fast, which began this year in mid-February, is ended and a great feast with traditional festal foods including paskha and kulich will be held at the church.

The community of Saint Dimitri welcomes all who are interested in attending the services of Holy Week and Pascha Liturgy celebrated in the 2,000 year old tradition of the Orthodox Church. For additional information, call Father John Hennies at 412-5707.