Emmy-award winning star Jonathon Jackson talks about how he became Orthodox. See the interview by clicking here
On June 16, the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America will travel to Istanbul in order to meet with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who will receive them at the Phanar.
The meeting is scheduled prior to the annual meeting of the Assembly in September in order to share with the Ecumenical Patriarch the overall work of the Assembly of Bishops, particularly as it relates to the achievements of its committees, and to discuss preparations for the upcoming Great and Holy Council, which is scheduled for 2016.
The prayers of our faithful for safe travel and fruitful deliberations inspired by the Holy Spirit are requested.
April 12, 2015
The Feast of Feasts
It is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant,
O people! Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha; for Christ God has brought us from death to life, from earth unto Heaven as we sing the triumphal hymn.
Canon of Holy Pascha
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Χριστός Ἀνέστη! Christ is Risen!
In the light and joy of this blessed and holy Day of Resurrection, we gather to celebrate our Holy and Sacred Pascha. This Pascha, this Feast of Feasts, is a celebration of life, abundant and eternal. It is a celebration of the power of grace. It is a day above all others when we proclaim throughout the world that the chains of sin and death have been broken, we have victory through Christ, and through the power of the Cross and the Resurrection we are being transformed from death to life.
On this blessed day, Lent ends by being transformed into a feast of joy. The time for contrition of heart and contemplation has past as we engage all our soul, body, and mind with the jubilance before us. Repentance has received forgiveness and grace. We have returned home and are welcomed with the loving embrace of the Father. We have completed the journey of faith, and in the glory of this Holy Pascha we glimpse eternal life and rest. Our hope in the blessed promises of God has been fulfilled in the Holy Resurrection.
This transformation has come to us through our Risen Lord. On this holy day we celebrate because of Him Who said I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), and we celebrate with Him. He is in our midst. We have seen His Passion. In the journey through the wilderness we have seen our Lord lifted up on the Cross to bear our shame and sin through His suffering. Today, Jesus Christ is risen in holiness and glory, revealing the power of eternal and abundant life. We greet Him in joy. We receive His body and blood in thanksgiving. We proclaim to the world His Resurrection. We are transformed in the light and life that comes from Him.
Our transformation changes everything! In the radiance and glory of this Holy Pascha we find the meaning of life as it was created to be. We see our goal, our purpose, our completion and our eternity. Our hope for the journey of life is strengthened. Our understanding of life, of others, of the world, and of all creation is changed in the truth and certainty of the Resurrection. Fear is vanquished, the threat of death is annihilated, and the weakness of sin is exposed in the enduring light of our Lord’s holiness and glory. We are now free from the guilt, our communion with God has been restored, and He offers to us an abundant life of peace and joy.
As we gather on this day, let us be completely filled with the joy of Holy Pascha! Let us purify our senses, and we shall see Christ! Let us celebrate the saving Pascha of God! Let us worship our Holy Lord Jesus! Let us forgive everything in the light of the Resurrection and proclaim: Christ is risen from the dead, by death He has trampled down death, and on those in the tombs He has bestowed life!
With paternal love in the Risen Lord,
Archbishop of America
“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Today we rejoice because the Lord has set us free. In His Resurrection, death and its hold over mankind has been defeated. As we see in the icon of the Resurrection, Christ lifts Adam and Eve out of their tombs and through them lifts all of us from the bonds of corruption. The doors of Hades have been broken forever and death himself has been bound, rendered powerless before the omnipotent God. As Moses led the Hebrew people from slavery and death in Egypt to life in the Promised Land, Christ has led us from the tyranny of death and corruption into a new reality of life with God. As we hear in the praises of Pascha, “Paradise has been opened for us.”
We have labored throughout our Lenten journey to bring us to this point. We have observed the practices and ascetic disciplines of our Tradition so that we would be prepared physically, intellectually, and spirituality for this moment. We have spent Holy Week sharing in the Passion of the Lord so that we might enter that blessed and empty Tomb and bear witness to the reality that, “He is not here. He is risen” (Matthew 28.5). To paraphrase St. Epiphanius of Cyprus, the sixth century father of our Church, we have descended with Him so that we may rejoice together.
And so, my beloved sisters and brothers, today, we can put our asceticism aside and celebrate. As we hear in the Paschal homily attributed to St. John Chrysostom, “O rich and poor … dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!”
Yet, not all are able to feast at the table as we do today. Not all are able to celebrate in freedom. The Christian community in the Middle East and Africa still yearn to be free from persecution, merely for calling themselves Christian. They long to be able to walk through the streets of their cities and share the Good News that Christ is risen and “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15.22). But out of fear of persecution and martyrdom, the message of the Resurrection must only beat in their hearts. So, for them, let us chant the hymns of Pascha with greater strength and joy, proclaiming “God has put all things under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15.27). For them, let us raise our lit candles high because “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15.554). For them, let us share the Good News with our neighbors.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
With Love in the Risen Lord,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco
We have arrived at Holy Week and the Passion of our Lord. His life-giving Passion began at Bethany, from the village of Martha and Mary. This is where He set out with the little donkey and His disciples in order to make His entrance into Jerusalem. We witness Him Who sits upon a throne of glory simultaneously sitting upon a throne of humility. This is what our Lord wanted to teach us by mounting this humble animal: humility.
With His humility our Christ prompted everyone down here on the earth—even the small children—to sing praises: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mt. 21:9). With His humble entrance before the multitudes of people, He moved and shook up all of Jerusalem. “Who is this person?” exclaimed everyone who was unaware [of what was taking place]. All the people raced to cut branches from palm and bay trees in order to lay them down before His path.
Yet, take a look at how the things of this world change so quickly. On Sunday the crowds were crying out, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes,” as well as many other things; four-five days later, however, they shouted, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” (Jn. 19:15). This is how things are on the earth. Nothing is stable. One moment the world exalts a person and the next moment it degrades him. Man is unstable; his works are unstable; his thoughts are unstable; everything in his life is unstable. The humility of our Christ is truly remarkable! It is awesome! We witness the God-man humbly and unpretentiously seated upon a young donkey. His holy example is such a beautiful lesson for us. As we proceed through the most sacred week of His Passion, His supreme humility becomes even more pronounced. We see Him enduring tortures, ridicule, and slaps. We watch Him suffering the hardship of imprisonment, lifting the Cross, and eventually falling to His knees from the weight of the Cross. Who can fathom that God on earth was slapped by a human hand made of clay, by the hand of the creature whom He fashioned with such beauty, perfection, and wisdom! This person whom He [initially] created as “a god by grace” upon the earth afterward raised his hand and hit God! If our child were to hit us, we would rise up and protest, “How you dare hit me? Your mother, your father…?” But what is a mother or a father when compared to God on the earth? They are just fellow human beings made of clay.
This is where the beauty of Christ lies: His humility! If He were not humble, He would not be God. He is not a dictator; He is not a ruler; He is not haughty. His glory is His humility.
An excerpt from “The Art of Salvation” By Elder Ephraim of Arizona
HOLY PASCHA-The Resurrection of Our Lord
“Enjoy ye all the feast of faith; receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.” (Sermon of St John Chrysostom, read at Paschal Matins)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Christian faith. St Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and faith are in vain (I Cor. 15:14). Indeed, without the resurrection there would be no Christian preaching or faith. The Disciples of Christ would have remained the broken and hopeless band which the Gospel of John describes as being in hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They went nowhere and preached nothing until they met the risen Christ, the doors being shut (John 20: 19). Then they touched the wounds of the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. The resurrection became the basis of everything they said and did (Acts 2-4): “. . . for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). The resurrection reveals Jesus of Nazareth as not only the expected Messiah of Israel, but as the King and Lord of a new Jerusalem: a new heaven and a new earth. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . the holy city, new Jerusalem. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. . . He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:1-4). In His death and resurrection, Christ defeats the last enemy, death, and thereby fulfills the mandate of His Father to subject all things under His feet (I Cor. 15:24-26). Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. (Rev. 5: 12)
THE FEAST OF FEASTS
The Christian faith is celebrated in the liturgy of the Church. True celebration is always a living participation. It is not a mere attendance at services. It is communion in the power of the event being celebrated. It is God’s free gift of joy given to spiritual men as a reward for their self-denial. It is the fulfillment of spiritual and physical effort and preparation. The resurrection of Christ, being the center of the Christian faith, is the basis of the Church’s liturgical life and the true model for all celebration. This is the chosen and holy day, first of Sabbaths, king and lord of days, the feast of feasts, holy day of holy days. On this day we bless Christ forevermore (Irmos 8, Paschal Canon).
Twelve weeks of preparation precede the “feast of feasts.” A long journey which includes five pre-Lenten Sundays, six weeks of Great Lent and finally Holy Week is made. The journey moves from the self-willed exile of the prodigal son to the grace-filled entrance into the New Jerusalem, coming down as a bride beautifully adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2) Repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and study are the means by which this long journey is made.
Focusing on the veneration of the Cross at its midpoint, the Lenten voyage itself reveals that the joy of the resurrection is achieved only through the Cross. “Through the cross joy has come into all the world,” we sing in one paschal hymn. And in the paschal troparion, we repeat again and again that Christ has trampled down death – by death! St Paul writes that the name of Jesus is exalted above every name because He first emptied Himself, taking on the lowly form of a servant and being obedient even to death on the Cross (Phil. 2:5-11). The road to the celebration of the resurrection is the self-emptying crucifixion of Lent. Pascha is the passover from death to life. Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ. Today I arise with Thee in Thy resurrection. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee: Glorify me with Thee, O Savior, in Thy kingdom (Ode 3, Paschal Canon).
The divine services of the night of Pascha commence near midnight of Holy Saturday. At the Ninth Ode of the Canon of Nocturne, the priest, already vested in his brightest robes, removes the Holy Shroud from the tomb and carries it to the altar table, where it remains until the leave-taking of Pascha. The faithful stand in darkness. Then, one by one, they light their candles from the candle held by the priest and form a great procession out of the church. Choir, servers, priest and people, led by the bearers of the cross, banners, icons and Gospel book, circle the church. The bells are rung incessantly and the angelic hymn of the resurrection is chanted. The procession comes to a stop before the principal doors of the church. Before the closed doors the priest and the people sing the troparion of Pascha, “Christ is risen from the dead. . .”, many times. Even before entering the church the priest and people exchange the paschal greeting: “Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!” This segment of the paschal services is extremely important. It preserves in the experience of the Church the primitive accounts of the resurrection of Christ as recorded in the Gospels. The angel rolled away the stone from the tomb not to let a biologically revived but physically entrapped Christ walk out, but to reveal that “He is not here; for He has risen, as He said” (Matt. 28:6).
In the paschal canon we sing: Thou didst arise, O Christ, and yet the tomb remained sealed, as at Thy birth the Virgin’s womb remained unharmed; and Thou has opened for us the gates of paradise (Ode 6).
Finally, the procession of light and song in the darkness of night, and the thunderous proclamation that, indeed, Christ is risen, fulfill the words of the Evangelist John: “The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). The doors are opened and the faithful re-enter. The church is bathed in light and adorned with flowers. It is the heavenly bride and the symbol of the empty tomb: Bearing life and more fruitful than paradise Brighter than any royal chamber, Thy tomb, 0 Christ, is the fountain or our resurrection (Paschal Hours).
Matins commences immediately. The risen Christ is glorified in the singing of the beautiful canon of St John of Damascus. The paschal greeting is repeatedly exchanged. Near the end of Matins the paschal verses are sung. They relate the entire narrative of the Lord’s resurrection. They conclude with the words calling us to actualize among each other the forgiveness freely given to all by God: This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined by the feast. Let us embrace each other. Let us call “brothers” even those who hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection . . .
THE DIVINE LITURGY
The sermon announces the imminent beginning of the Divine Liturgy. The altar table is fully laden with the divine food: the Body and Blood of the risen and glorified Christ. No one is to go away hungry. The service books are very specific in saying that only he who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ eats the true Pascha. The Divine Liturgy, therefore, normally follows immediately after paschal Matins. The sermon of St John Chrysostom is then read by the celebrant. The sermon was originally composed as a baptismal instruction. It is retained by the Church in the paschal services because everything about the night of Pascha recalls the Sacrament of Baptism: the language and general terminology of the liturgical texts, the specific hymns, the vestment color, the use of candles and the great procession itself. Now the sermon invites us to a great reaffirmation of our baptism: to union with Christ in the receiving of Holy Communion. If any man is devout and loves God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. . . the table is fully laden; feast you all sumptuously. . . the calf is fatted, let no one go hungry away. . . Foods from which the faithful have been asked to abstain during the Lenten journey are blessed and eaten only after the Divine Liturgy.
THE DAY WITHOUT EVENING
Pascha is the inauguration of a new age. It reveals the mystery of the eighth day. It is our taste, in this age, of the new and unending day of the Kingdom of God. Something of this new and unending day is conveyed to us in the length of the paschal services, in the repetition of the paschal order for all the services of Bright Week, and in the special paschal features retained in the services for the forty days until Ascension. Forty days are, as it were, treated as one day. Together they comprise the symbol of the new time in which the Church lives and toward which she ever draws the faithful, from one degree of glory to another.
O Christ, great and most holy Pascha. O Wisdom, Word and Power of God, grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the never-ending day of Thy kingdom (Ninth Ode, Paschal Canon).
The V. Rev. Paul Lazor New York, 1977
NEW YORK – More than 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide will celebrate Pascha (Easter) next Sunday, April 12, 2015. This year Orthodox Pascha is celebrated one week after the celebration of the Western Easter. The Orthodox date for Easter is based on a decree of the Council of Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D. According to this decree, Easter must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox but always after the Hebrew Passover to maintain the Biblical sequence of events of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Orthodox Christian churches have adhered strictly to this formula.
“In the radiance and glory of this Holy Pascha we find the meaning of life as it was created to be. We see our goal, our purpose, our completion and our eternity. Our hope for the journey of life is strengthened. Our understanding of life, of others, of the world, and of all creation is changed in the truth and certainty of the Resurrection. Fear is vanquished, the threat of death is annihilated, and the weakness of sin is exposed in the enduring light of our Lord’s holiness and glory,” writes Archbishop Demetrios, spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians in America in his Paschal Encyclical.
Archbishop Demetrios will officiate at Holy Week services in Greek Orthodox parishes in the New York metropolitan area including Good Friday Lamentations services at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (319 East 74th St. New York City) which will begin at 7:00 p.m. and Resurrection Services starting Saturday evening at 11:00 p.m. The Resurrection will be proclaimed at 12 midnight.
Centuries-old religious services which recall the passion, crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ are conducted each morning and evening throughout this Holy Week in Orthodox Christian Churches including: Greek, Russian, Romanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Albanian, Serbian and Ukrainian, which serve some 6 million faithful in the Americas.
Palm Sunday – during the Divine Liturgy, palms are blessed and distributed to the faithful commemorating Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem.
Holy Tuesday, the Service of the Bridegroom is conducted and the beautiful Hymn of repentance composed by St. Kassianne is sung.
Holy Wednesday, the faithful are anointed with the Sacrament of Holy Unction, blessed oil, which cleanses, renews and strengthens both spiritually and physically.
Holy Thursday evening, the Service of Holy Passion takes place, during which the Twelve Lessons of the Gospel are read. After the Fifth Gospel a solemn litany begins. A large crucifix is carried in a procession led by the clergy as the mournful hymn of Crucifixion is sung.
Good Friday afternoon, the Vespers of the Descent from the Cross, are offered. The Body of Christ is taken down from the Cross, wrapped in white linen and is prepared for burial.
Good Friday evening, the Lamentations are sung during the Epitaphios Service, which symbolizes the burial of Christ.
Holy Saturday evening, the Easter Resurrection Service begins with Matins at 11 p.m. At midnight, the Church is completely darkened and the faithful wait in joyous expectation for the bishop or priest to come forth carrying a white candle, chanting, Come; Receive the Light, the Light of the Resurrection. The light is passed to the congregation until the Church is ablaze with the glow of candlelight. A procession of altar boys, choir, chanters and clergy joined by all the faithful move outdoors where the Gospel proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ is read. The triumphant hymn, Christos Anesti, Christ is Risen is joyously sung by the faithful. At the conclusion of the Resurrection Liturgy, red Easter eggs, which symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, are distributed to the congregation.
Easter Sunday, the Vespers of AGAPE (Love) are celebrated with the Holy Gospel of the Resurrection read in several languages emphasizing the universality of Christ’s teaching of love and peace.