St. John of Kronstadt:

Firmly purpose in your soul to hate every sin of thought, word, and deed, and when you are tempted to sin . . .

Icon of St. John of Kronstadt“Firmly purpose in your soul to hate every sin of thought, word, and deed, and when you are tempted to sin resist it valiantly and with a feeling of hatred for it; only beware lest your hatred should turn against the person of your brother who gave occasion for the sin.  Hate the sin with all your heart, but pity your brother; instruct him, and pray for him to the Almighty, Who sees all of us and tries our hearts and innermost parts. ‘Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.’ (Hebrews 12:4)  It is impossible not to often fall into sin unless you have a hatred of it implanted in your heart.  Self-love must be eradicated.  Every sin comes from the love of self.  Sin always appears, or feigns to be, to wish us well, promising us plenteousness and ease.  ‘The tree was good for food, and it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.’ (Genesis 3:6)  This is how sin always appears to us.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

St. Theophan the Recluse:

. . . if we undertake to cure ourselves, then we will be able to do something about it.

“If [the disease of sin] is natural, then it cannot be cured. Thus it would remain always, no matter how hard you worked to rid yourself of it. If you accept this thought, you will lose heart, and say to yourself: this is how it is. For this is that woeful despair, which, once it has been introduced into people, they have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness (Ephesians 4: 19). “I shall repeat again: Maintain the conviction that our disorderliness is not natural to us, and do not listen to those who say, ‘It is no use talking about it, because that is just how we are made, and you cannot do anything about it.’ That is not how we are made, and if we undertake to cure ourselves, then we will be able to do something about it.”

St. Barsanuphius of Optina:

Prayer in church is important. The best thoughts and feelings come in church, yes, and the enemy attacks more violently . . .

St. Barsanuphius of Optina“Prayer in church is important. The best thoughts and feelings come in church, yes, and the enemy attacks more violently in church, but with the sign of the Cross and the Jesus Prayer, you drive him away. It is good to stand in some dark corner in church and to pray to God. “Let us lift up our hearts!” the priest exclaims, but our mind often creeps along the ground, thinking about indecent things. Fight against this.”

+ St. Barsanuphius of Optina,

Holy Week & Pascha 2017

We welcome all to come and celebrate the work of Salvation that culminates in the Resurrection of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.  In the Orthodox Church the last week of Christ’s life is officially called Passion Week. In popular terminology, it is called Holy Week. Each day is designated in the service books as “Great and Holy”, with special services every day of the week for the faithful as they “go up with the Lord to Jerusalem” (Matins of Great and Holy Monday).  His institution of the Last Supper, His Passion in the Garden, the Betrayal, Scourging, the end of His Earthly Life on the Cross, His Burial and the Lamentations become the focus of our worship, prayer and contemplation during the Divine Services offered in anticipation of the Rising of Christ.  All turns to joy, as we begin the Midnight Office in the dark, then candle light procession follows as we visit His Empty Tomb and a world illuminated by the Uncreated Light of His Life-giving Resurrection – the Holy and Glorious PASCHA of our Lord!!

Following is a short summary of the meaning of the services, with a schedule so you can plan your week and hopefully attend as many as possible.

Schedule of Services & Their Meaning

March 31, 8:00 am – Matins, followed by
9:30 am – Divine Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday

On this day, the rising from the dead of St. Lazarus, the righteous friend of Christ, is celebrated. Lazarus Saturday is a Paschal celebration. It is the only time in the entire Church Year that the Resurrectional Service of Sunday is celebrated on another day. At the liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the Church glorifies Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life” who, by raising Lazarus, has confirmed the universal resurrection of mankind even before his own suffering and death.

March 31, 6:00 pm  – Saturday Evening Great Vespers of Palm Sunday
April 1, 8:30 am – Matins, with Blessing of the Palms (9:45 am)

At the vigil of the feast of Palm Sunday the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah-King are read together with the Gospel accounts of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. At Matins branches are blessed which the people carry throughout the celebration as the sign of their own glorification of Jesus as Savior and King.

April 1, 10:00 am – Palm Sunday Divine Liturgy

Because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, Christ was hailed by the masses as the long-expected Messiah-King of Israel. Thus, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, He entered Jerusalem, the City of the King, riding on the colt of an ass (Zech 9.9; Jn 12.12). The crowds greeted Him with branches in their hands and called out to Him with shouts of praise: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The Son of David! The King of Israel! Because of this glorification by the people, the priests and scribes were finally driven “to destroy Him, to put Him to death” (Lk 19.47; Jn 11.53, 12.10).

April 1, 6:00 pm – Holy Sunday Evening
Bridegroom Matins

“ . . men loved darkness rather than light” The services of Holy Week begin with three days devoted to the final discourses of Christ, speaking with clarity of the end of the age.  Two themes, Darkness brings Judgment, are combined in the Troparia of these three days that begin with: “Behold, the Bride Groom cometh, in the middle of the night . . . “, proclaiming that the nighttime, or darkness of “the world”, is the time for Christians to keep vigil, to watch and pray.

April 2, 6:30 pm – Holy Monday
Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts / Bridegroom Matins

The theme for Monday is that of the sterile fig tree which yields no fruit and is condemned.

April 3, 6:30 pm – Holy Tuesday
Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts / Bridegroom Matins

On Tuesday the accent is on the vigilance of the wise virgins who, unlike their foolish sisters, were ready when the Lord came to them.

April 4, 6:30 pm – Holy Wednesday
Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts / Bridegroom Matins

Wednesday the focus is on the fallen woman who repents. Great emphasis is made in the liturgical services to compare the woman, a sinful harlot who is saved, to Judas, a chosen apostle who is lost. The one gives her wealth to Christ and kisses his feet; the other betrays Christ for money with a kiss.

April 5, 2:00 pm – Holy Thursday Institution of the Eucharist,
Vesperal Liturgy of St Basil

“Do this in remembrance of Me…….”  The Last Supper was the Passover Supper which Christ celebrated with his twelve apostles. The main theme of the day is the meal itself at which Christ commanded that the Passover of the New Covenant be eaten in remembrance of himself, of his body broken and his blood shed for the remission of sins. In addition, Judas’ betrayal and Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet is also central to the liturgical commemoration of the day.

April 5, 6:30 pm – Holy Thursday Evening Matins,
The Holy and Redeeming Passion of our Lord with the Reading of the 12 Passion Gospels

“We worship Thy passion, O Christ……”  Good Friday celebrates the holy, saving and awesome Passion of Christ at which the twelve Passion Gospels are read. To take away our sins, Christ willingly endured the spittings, scourgings, buffetings, scorn, mocking and the purple robe; the reed, sponge, vinegar, nails, spear and, above all, the Cross and Death. The confession from the cross of the penitent thief, crucified with Christ, is celebrated. This content of the service is dramatic and deeply moving for the devout Christian. Participation in the prayers and the historical sequence of the events, as related in the Gospels and hymns, provides a vivid foundation for the great events yet to come.

April 6, 9:00 am – Holy Friday Morning Royal Hours

“They cast lots upon my vesture…….” According to the Hebrew custom, the “Royal Hours”, four in number, are read at this time. These services consist of hymns, psalms, and readings from the Old and New Testaments, all related prophetically and ethically to the Person of Christ. The entire day is a strict day of fasting from all foods and drink, as we remember the events of his Crucifixion, Death and Burial.

April 6, 4:00 pm – Holy Friday Afternoon
Taking down from the Cross

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do…….” During this service, the removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated with a sense of mourning for the terrible events which took place. Once more, excerpts from the Old Testament are read together with hymns, and again the entire story is related, followed by the removal from the Cross and the wrapping of the Body of Christ with a white sheet as did Joseph of Arimathea.  As the priest reads the Gospel, “and taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in a white cloth”, he removes the Body of Christ from the Cross, wraps It in a white cloth and takes It to the altar. Good Friday is the only day in the year on which the Divine Liturgy is not officiated.

April 6, 7:00 pm – Holy Friday Evening Matins,
The Lamentations

“Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves”.  It consists of psalms, hymns and readings, dealing with the death of Christ, in contrast to His divinity, and in expectation of His Resurrection. The thoughtful, and well-written Odes compare the Compassion of God and the cruelty of man; the Might of God and the moral weakness of man. The Odes picture all Creation trembling when witnessing its Creator hung by His own creatures: “Creation was moved . . . with intense astonishment when it beheld Thee hung in Golgotha”. During this service the Body of Christ is carried in procession around the church. There is a simultaneous praise of both the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ with their purpose of the redemption of man. We no longer lament the sufferings of the Crucified One; we now lament chiefly for our own sins because we are far from God. So these services should have a rather personal meaning of repentance and of strong faith in God. Christians observe Good Friday with strict fasting, prayer, cleanliness, self-examination, confession and good works, in humility and, repentance so that the Grace of the Cross might descend upon them.

April 7, 11:15 pm – Holy Saturday Midnight Office

The faithful gather in the darkened church building, in anticipation of the midnight hour in when the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ begins.  Hearing the divine service of the Midnight Office of Holy Pascha, we stand in silence to prepare ourselves for the journey to the Tomb of Life, and the coming Light of His Resurrection.

April 8, 12:00 am – Great & Holy PASCHA: Matins, Divine Liturgy & Blessing of Pascha Baskets, followed by Pascha Feast
The Resurrected Christ, raising up Adam and Eve

On Pascha Sunday (soon after Saturday, midnight) the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is celebrated. The priest takes light from the vigil light and gives it to the faithful, who are holding candles. The priest sings: “Come ye and receive light from the unwaning life, and. glorify Christ, who arose from the dead”, and all the people join him in singing this hymn again and again. From this moment, every Christian holds the Paschal candle as a symbol of his vivid, deep faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as Savior. Then comes the breathless moment as the people wait for the priest to start the hymn of Resurrection, which they join him in singing, repeatedly: “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by Death, and upon the tombs bestowing Life”!   From this moment the entire service takes on a joyous Pascha atmosphere. The hymns of the Odes and Praises of Resurrection which follow are of superb meaning and expression. The people confess, “It is the Day of Resurrection, let us be glorious, let us embrace one another and speak to those that hate us; let us forgive all things and so let us cry, Christ has arisen from the dead”.  The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is then celebrated.

April 8, 2:00 pm – Agape Vespers of Great & Holy PASCHA,
followed by Paschal Feast

“Peace be unto you……..”.  Pascha Sunday afternoon the faithful gather once more for prayer with lighted candles. All sing the hymn, “Christ is Risen from the Dead”. The people greet one another joyously, saying: “Christ is Risen”, the Pascha salutation which is answered, “Truly He is Risen”. They sing, “the dark shadows of the Law has passed away by the coming of grace”, and standing in exaltation they exclaim, “Who is so great a God as our God?”.

Thus begins Bright Week, free of fasting, with the Royal Doors open wide in celebration of the empty Tomb from now until Thomas Sunday.

The Meaning of Candles

Based on Their Twelve Properties

  1. Candles give light. They remind us of Christ Our Savior, Who said “I am the Light of the world.” (John 9:5) They also remind us that we must also shine as lights, for Christ said that we, too, are the light of the world. For He said: “You are the light of the world.” And, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:14-16).
  2. Candles give warmth. They remind us that we must also give warmth to those around us, especially those who are cold and needy—to warm them with our love.
  3. Candles burn with fire. They remind us of the eternal fires of hell, which await us if we do not repent and do not follow God’s commandments.
  4. Candles are beautiful but dangerous. They shed a beautiful soft light in the Church makes the icons glow and that makes it so much easier to concentrate in prayer. However, if not monitored, they can also ignite the church furnishings and cause the church to burn down and all of the icons be destroyed. They teach us to be ever vigilant and careful, because lack of vigilance can bring terrible consequences.
  5. Candles are not permanent. They remind us that our time of life here on earth is fleeting, and that every day our life grows shorter until it is extinguished. Candles call us, therefore, to repentance, for our time here on earth is not forever.
  6. Candles are straight. They remind us that we must stand straight before the Eyes of the Lord., that our deeds must be straightforward and righteous. A candle that is not standing straight up will not burn properly. So we too must be straight in our ways, leaning neither to one side or the other.
  7. Candles bend but do not break. A wax candle has the wonderful property of being able to be bent in a full circle without breaking, but can then be straightened out again. They remind us that we must be able to withstand challenges and sorrows that we face in our lives without breaking. Though these sorrows may bend our resolve, we, through contrition and repentance, can become straight once again.
  8. Candles can be both hard and soft. They are hard when they are cold, but become soft when they are warmed. In the same way, our hearts are hard when cold, and we must warm them with love of God and of our fellow man in order for them to be soft again.
  9. Candles shed tears. When burning, the wax of a candle causes little drips to form and run down the candle that look like tears running down our face. They remind us that we must shed tears over our sins, and out of compassion for others.
  10. Candles are gift of the animal world. Candles are made from wax, which is the product of the labor of thousands of honeybees working together. Candles remind us that we must also be industrious and not lazy, and that we must love all of God’s creatures, big and small and be thankful to them when we use the fruit of their labors for our benefit.
  11. Candles are useful but simple. Candles are not complex. They are simple in nature, but perform their task well. Especially in our age where we are surrounded by complex technology, candles remind us that the simple things are often the best. Throughout the ages, candles have made it possible to perform services in the hours when it is dark outside. They make it possible for the priest to read the prayers in his service book, for readers and chanters to be able to assist in the services. Without candles, there would have been no All-Night Vigils, no Midnight Offices, no Paschal Midnight Matins and liturgies. Candles remind us that we too must do our jobs well, to live our lives well in accordance with God’s commandments, without complications.
  12. Candles are useless without a spark. They remind us that we all are dead and useless unless we are lit with the spark of the Holy Spirit, which ignites the flame of life. Candles remind us of the Holy Spirit, Who appeared to the Disciples in the form of a flame. They remind us that we must ask the Holy Spirit to come and abide in us, and cleanse us of every impurity that our souls may be saved.

According to St. Nikolai of Ochrid:

 Vigil lights are lit for many reasons:

  1. Because our faith is light. Christ said: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). The light of the lampada reminds us of that  light by which Christ illumines our souls.
  2. In order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the lampada, for saints are called sons of light (John 12:36, Luke 16:8).
  3. In order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Savior: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works” (Matthew 5:16).
  4. So that the lampada would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation and  everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.
  5. So that terror would strike the evil powers who sometimes assault us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts  from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and to  those who please Him.
  6. So that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the lampada, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God’s will.
  7. In order to teach us that just as the lampada cannot be  lit without our hand, so too, our heart, our inward lampada, cannot be lit without the holy fire of God’s grace, even if it were to  be filled with all the virtues. All these virtues of ours are, after all,  like combustible material, but the fire which ignites them proceeds from God.
  8. In order to remind us that before anything else the Creator of the world created light, and after that everything else in order: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light”  (Genesis 1:3). And it must be so also at the beginning of our  spiritual life, so that before anything else the light of Christ’s truth  would shine within us. From this light of Christ’s truth subsequently every good is created, springs up and grows in us.

From St. John of Kronstadt:

The candles burning on the altar represent the non-created Light of the Trinity, for the Lord dwells in an unapproachable light. They also represent the fire of Divinity which destroys our ungodliness and sins.

The candles lit before the icons of:

  • the Savior signify that He is the True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9); at the same time, He is a Fire which engulfs and revives our souls and bodies.
  • the Theotokos are a symbol of the fact that She is the Mother of the Unapproachable Light, and also of Her most pure and burning love for God and Her love for mankind.
  • the saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake they gave up everything that man prizes in life, including their very lives, as did the holy apostles, martyrs and others. These candles also mean that these saints are lamps burning for us and providing light for us by their own saintly living, their virtues and their ardent intercession for us before God through their constant prayers by day and night.

The burning candles also stand for our ardent zeal and the sincere sacrifice we make out of reverence and gratitude to them for their solicitude on our behalf before God.