“These Truths We Hold” (Part XΧI)

Fresco from the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi

Fresco from the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi

Continued from (Part XX)

The Feast of Feasts-The Holy Pascha of the Lord.

On Saturday, the day after the crucifixion of the Lord, His disciples and followers were filled with gloom, for they had seen their Lord and Master die, crucified on a cross. As Holy Scripture tells us, there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50-52). Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away His body. [He and] Nicodemus also, who had at first come to Him by night…took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen clothes…as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:38-42). The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how His body was laid; then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment (Luke 23:55-56).

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XΧ)

Palm Sunday

Fresco from the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopedi

Continued from (Part XIX)

Great Feasts of the Paschal Cycle.

The Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem (Sunday Before Pascha).

On the Sunday before Pascha, the Holy Church celebrates the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead (John 12:1). While tarrying there, in the house of Lazarus, many of those who had accompanied Him on the way from Jericho managed to reach Jerusalem and spread the tidings that Christ the Savior was coming there for the Feast of the Passover, and had stopped for a while in Bethany. Hearing this news, Christ’s enemies, the scribes and Pharisees came to Bethany, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, Whom He had raised from the dead (John 12:9).

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XΙΧ)

TRANSFIGURATION

Continued from (Part XVIII)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Aug. 6).

At one point in His earthly ministry, Our Lord asked His disciples, Who do men say that the Son of man is (Matt. 16:13)? The disciples gave various answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. Then He said to them, But who do you say that I am (Matt. 16:15)? Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Shortly after this confession of faith, Jesus went up a high mountain (according to Church Tradition, Mt. Tabor) to pray, taking with Him Peter, James and John. And as He was praying, the appearance of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with Him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with Him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XVIII)

Annunciation

Continued from (Part XVII)

The Holy Supper.

Christmas customs among the Orthodox people are simple, yet beautiful and rich with meaning. Among these customs is the Holy Supper which is served on Christmas Eve. We must emphasize, however, that the traditions which follow are not necessarily followed in every detail by every family that serves the Holy Supper, for Orthodoxy is rich in its diversity.

Traditionally, the meal is served on Christmas Eve at the time of the appearance of the first evening star. This, of course, serves to remind us of the Star of Bethlehem which shone in the East to the Magi coming to worship the Savior. The table itself is covered with straw and linen, which reminds us of the manger in which Christ lay and the linen cloths with which He was wrapped. A lit candle is placed on the table, symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem and the Light of Christ shining out in the darkness and despair of the world.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XVII)

saints constantine and helena

Continued from (Part XVI)

4. Feasts of the Orthodox Church.

The Twelve Great Feasts.

The Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos (Sept. 8)

The first Great Feast to fall in the Church Year is the Nativity of the Most-Holy Theoto-kos. It is entirely fitting that at the beginning of the new religious year all Orthodox Christians should come before the highest example of human holiness that the Orthodox Church holds pre-cious and venerates — that of Mary, the Theotokos and Mother of God. This day is seen as one of universal joy; for on this day — the boundary of the Old and New Covenants — was born the Most-Blessed Virgin, pre-arranged from the ages by Divine Providence to serve the mystical In-carnation of God the Word.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XVI)

Resurection of Christ

Continued from (Part XV)

Great Lent and Pascha

The Feast of Feasts the Holy Pascha the Resurrection of the Lord-is the climax of the Church’s liturgical year and is also the most glorious, most joyful and bright festival of the Christian Church. On it Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ arose as victor over death, destroying the power of death over man once and for all and annulling the curse pronounced upon man in Paradise. But, before the bright joy of Pascha, the Church has ordained a lengthy period of repentance and spiritual searching a period of preparation, so to speak the 40-day Great Lent.

The Forty Days of Great Lent commemorates Israel’s forty years of wandering in the Wilderness the forty years of painful struggle as Israel longed for and then received entrance into the Promised Land (Ex. 16:35) Moses remained fasting on Mt. Sinai for forty days (Ex. 34:28) and the Prophet Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8). Great Lent also recalls the forty days the Lord spent in the Wilderness after His Baptism, when He contended with Satan, the Temptor.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XV)

 Interior of the Church of St. John the Evangelist on the Ishna, near Rostov Yaroslavsky. Painting of Vasili Vasilyevich Vereshchagin 1888

Interior of the Church of St. John the Evangelist on the Ishna, near Rostov Yaroslavsky. Painting of Vasili Vasilyevich Vereshchagin 1888

Continued from (Part XIV)

Concerning Bows and the Sign of the Cross.

Orthodox worship is characterized by a complete utilization of the senses — sight, smell, hearing, speech and touch. We see the candles, Icons, frescoes, etc., we hear the sounds of singing and reading, at times lifting up our own voices, and we smell the characteristic odor of the incense. The whole of the human person is involved in worship, and important among the senses is the actual deportment of the human body. The attitude of the Orthodox Believer to worship is reverential, and certain types of bodily movements are utilized to reinforce this sense of reverential piety — we stand during the services, we make bows and prostrations, and with great frequency, we make the Sign of the Cross. Accordingly, there are several types of Bows, depending on the solemnity of the moment.

Prostration (Great Metanoia — Great Poklon).

Here the worshipper prostrates the whole body, throwing the weight forwards onto the hands and touching the ground with the forehead.

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