Archive for the ‘Pascha’ Category

2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday. Realism About The Resurrection. Text and Audio.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Thomas Sunday. Realism About The Resurrection. John 20:19-31. 2nd Sunday of Pascha;

2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday

Realism About The Resurrection

John 20:19-31




In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen!  Christos voskrese!  Voistinu Voskrese!


Today, brothers and sisters, we have the second half of the story of the Apostle Thomas.  When I think of the Apostle Thomas, I like his story, I think, among all the Resurrection stories, the best of all because I really think his story fits us to a T.  Or, it should fit us!  It fits those who endure to the end.  It fits those who find their way, who bear fruit.  It doesn't fit anybody else.  Let’s put is this way: if we are to bear fruit, we must be like Thomas.  If we are to be fruitful in the Christian life, our life is going to resemble his. 


And why do I say this?  I think Saint Thomas is sort of like every man.  A complex person, with belief, but also with unbelief, with certainty but also with anxiety.  This is what Thomas experienced.  He couldn't believe that the Lord was risen, he didn't see Him the first day that He was risen.  He didn't see Him until the eighth day.  And in that intervening time he just couldn't believe. 


Now, someone might judge him for that, saying, why wouldn't he believe his friends?  Many witnesses had told him that the Lord was risen.  Well, there's a lot of things that we don't do right.  There are a lot of things that we get wrong, a lot of misunderstandings that we have,  a lot of stuff that mixes up good and bad in us, so that it's hard to know why we do what we do or why we don't do what we should.  Thomas is just like us.  And he couldn't believe. 


But what did he do?  He didn't leave.  He stayed with the apostles.  Imagine how his heart was aching when he wanted to believe.  He just couldn't.  You see, partially, belief is a gift of God.  It's not just to sit in a corner and believe.  God grants us to be able to believe.  He doesn't force us to believe, but He helps us. 


You know all those confusing thoughts that go on in your head?  If they just keep going around and around and around, you get so turned around you don't know which end is up.  That's how Thomas was.  And we need divine intervention for things like that. 


There's a lot of things in the world that are very curious, very strange, very terrible.  We don't understand why they happen.  So we're like Thomas.  But we do understand that God loves and God is perfect and that somehow His plan will always be realized.  We just have no idea how.  No idea.  But like Thomas, if we continue to struggle, continue to be with God, eventually it will become clear to us. 


So, like so many stories, the story of belief of St. Thomas after his unbelief, is life in microcosmLearn to read the Scriptures in this way.  Because constantly it is life in microcosm.  So many of the miracles, the parables, this event, are showing what life is like. 


Now, for Thomas it took eight days.  For us, it takes a good part of a lifetime or perhaps a lifetime for some of our problems to be solved, for some of our confusion to become more clear to us.  But we must be like him.  We must be with the apostles.  We have to pray.  We have to fast.  We have to do things when they don't really give us much pleasure or they don't touch us much.  But we know they are right things to do. 


I'm not talking about doing things because of some legalistic idea that we've got to do this and we've got to do that.  Christianity is not legalism.  People make it legalism because it is actually easier that way.  Christianity is to give your entire heart to God.  There's nothing legalistic about that at all.  It's just giving all of yourself.  But it's really hard.  Because there's things that pull you back.  Just like Thomas.  So you keep going, keep making mistakes.  Sometimes you believe firmly.  Other times maybe you have doubts.  Sometimes you're happy.  Sometimes you're sad.  Sometimes you're confused.  Sometimes you seem to understand.  That's what life is like. 


You know, the Resurrection has to be looked at realistically, from two perspectives.  Number one, the Resurrection is happening now within us.  I talk about that all the time because I don't think we live like that, but the Resurrection is truly transcendent and should affect everything you do, everything you say, everything you are, should be affected by the Resurrection. 


But also we're like Thomas.  And there are parts of us that are not quite affected by the Resurrection yet.  There's still darkness in us.  There's still confusion.  There's still anger and passion and all kinds of stuff.  The Resurrection is supposed to fix all that, and it will.  It doesn't happen to the apostle.  It doesn't even happen on the day of Pentecost.  It happens through our lifetime of struggle. 


So that's what I mean by being realistic about the Resurrection.  We can't just say it's Pascha, Christ is risen, happy, happy, happy.  Because there's still things in us that should make us not very happy.  What should make us happy is that they can be solved.  They can be changed. 


Thomas wasn't real happy, for eight days he wasn't happy.  Imagine how broken his heart was!  He had said he would go die with Him, but he had run away just like everybody else.  And now he didn't even know if He was alive or dead.  I'm sure there was a piece in him that believed.  But there was also all that other stuff in him, probably guilt to a large degree, confusion, that wouldn't let him completely believe.  It wouldn't let him have the joy of the belief.  And it took the Lord, seeing Him, and converting him for Thomas to be able to have this joy. 


We're just like him.  If not in eight days, in our lifetime.  This is the blueprint for how to save your soul.  It doesn't matter if you have sins, doubts, unbelief.  None of that matters if you're like Thomas, if you struggle.  Because, no matter how much you have doubts inside, you know what's true.  Sometimes that truth can't quite get out because of your weaknesses.  But it's there and you know it.  And God is going to help you get that truth out. 


When I talk of truth, the truth is not a concept or a fact.  Truth is Jesus Christ.  Truth is righteousness.  So you want to be righteous, and yet there are things about you that aren't. 


We're celebrating the Resurrection, but not all of us is resurrected.  I don't think we should pretend otherwise.  It's just true that we're not completely resurrected yet.  We should be, and God will help us to be.  And the path is the path of Thomas, of fidelity, of struggle.  Like the man who said, "I believe; help my unbelief."  I think this Thomas is just another application of that idea.  He believed, but he couldn't believe completely.  He just couldn't quite believe completely.  And that's because he had to struggle and God would grant him the ability to believe.  But He only grants this ability to those who struggle and those who try.  Those who are lackadaisical, they are not going to be able to find their way. 


Brothers and sisters, I've told you many times, I want you very much to feel that there's darkness in you.  Not because I want you to be miserable.  It's not about being miserable.  It's about being realistic.  It's about knowing what you are and what you will be and having a great desire to be that person that you will be.  Wanting that above everything else.


As a pastor, I shudder when I encounter people that don't seem to have a concept of who they are.  They don't seem to know that they've got black in them and that they've got passions.  And when they do talk about some passion, it's, well, you know, “I'm only human”.  Well, I'll tell you what.  “Only human”, from a Christian perspective, means to be like Jesus Christ because He is the model for what a human being should be.  So actually when we say that, we really shouldn't say, we're “only human”.  We should say, we're not really human yet.  But we will be, if we are like Thomas and if we just endure.  Maybe it will take a week.  Maybe it will take a month.  Maybe it will take fifteen years.


I've been now a priest for fifteen years, and stuff is still happening, and I'm still waiting.  I believe it's going to happen.  I don't know when.  I don't know how.  But I know that if I stay close to the church, struggle, pray, fast, fall down and get up, then God will enlighten me; and those that I love, my flock, my family, God will enlighten them too.  Not according to my timing.  My timing is "right now."  It's not God's timing. 


Thomas wanted to know right now that the Lord was risen.  That wasn't God's timing for him.  He had to endure what must have seemed like an eternity, of eight days of waiting.  But eventually God revealed Himself to him, and He will reveal Himself to you, but only if you're like Thomas. 


Since we are like Thomas in our failings, we must be like Thomas in his endurance, or else we will not be saved. 


So God help you to endure:  To pray when you don't feel like praying, to repent when you don't feel like repenting, to forgive somebody when you don't really want to forgive him and when he doesn't want to give you any advantage whatsoever.  God will help you.  And God will enlighten you.  And you will know how to do it.  As Thomas was able to say, "My Lord and my God," so will you be able to say that.  I don't mean say it with your lips.  I mean have it, the feeling of it, everywhere in your whole soul and the certainty that knowing that He is your Lord and your God and you are His child. 


This is what our aim is in life.  May God help us to get there, like Thomas.  May all of us have an eighth day and we see the Lord as He is and we're not ashamed.  Amen.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2010    

Transcribed by the hand of Helen. May God save her and her loved ones.

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Rocking Christ is risen troparion from Africa, and beautiful Serbian Orthodox Paschal Song by St. Vladika Nikolaj Velomirovich

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

This Paschal Troparion  is one of the most popular posts on the blog, with good reason! I hate organs, but I could definitely enjoy the percussion, at least on Pascha!

Here are some comments from the site where this video is found (

"The wonderfully animated priest is my friend and mentor, Fr. Joseph Kwami Labi; with him is Presbytera Gertrude, and they are at a beautiful church in Tema, Ghana….on the sea coast".

"Father choir director does have the Paschal spirit, but the chief celebrant looks like he had a long night." (been there done that! FSH)


And now for something completely different, and also compelling ( This is a poem (see below) by St. Vladika Nikolaj Velomirovich.

People rejoice, all nations listen:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Dance all ye stars and sing all ye mountains:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Whisper ye woods and blow all ye winds:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
O seas proclaim and roar all ye beasts:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Buzz all ye bees and sing all ye birds:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
O little lambs rejoice and be merry:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Nightengales joyous, lending your song:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Ring, O ye bells, let everyone hear:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

All angels join us, singing this song:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Come down ye heavens, draw near the earth:
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Glory to Thee, God Almighty!
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Glory to Thee, God Almighty!
     Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Meditations on the Paschal Canon, Ode 9

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Continuing the mediation on the Paschal Canon which I began in this post. The attentive reader might wonder when Odes 4-8 were posted. I'm wondering when I'll get around to writing them – perhaps next year, perhaps never… But it seemed appropriate to reflect on Ode 9 as we prepare to give up the feast for the year.

Ode 9

While the first eight biblical odes are taken from the Old Testament, the ninth is from the new. It consists of two different hymns in honor of the Saving Ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ: that of Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79) and that of the Theotokos (Luke 1:46-55).

The song of Zacharias speaks of the coming of the Messiah as the fulfillment of the promise given to the prophets and fathers,"that being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, we might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life." It speaks also of John the Baptist's role as the Lord's prophet and forerunner:

…to give knowledge of salvation to His people, by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; by which the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.

The song of the Theotokos speaks of God's strength and the great grace which He gives to those who humbly trust in Him — and in particular to she who surpasses all others in her humility and devotion:

My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy [is] his name…

This is the only one of the biblical odes that we continue to sing in (almost) every matins service, with the addition of the hymn "More honorable then the Cherubim…" thus fulfilling her prophecy: "for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."

For this reason, the ninth ode of nearly every canon has some reference to the Theotokos, particularly in the Irmos. The Paschal canon is no exception:

Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee! Dance, now, and be glad, O Zion; and do thou exult, O pure Theotokos, in the arising of Him whom thou didst bear!

The Lord has risen and has thus enlightened all of us, shining forth His glory upon all of us, especially on those who have been united to His Body, the Holy Church which He established, the new Jerusalem. And that glory shines forth most clearly in those who through humility and trust in Him have prepared themselves to receive it: the righteous of all ages, and at their head the Most Holy Theotokos who gave Him birth.

O how divine, how loving, how sweet is Thy voice. For Thou hast truly promised to be with us unto the end of the age, O Christ! Having this foundation of hope, we faithful rejoice!

"Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world!" (Matt 28:20) If the risen Lord is with us, "who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31) What fear need we have if we place all of our hope in Him who has conquered sin, evil and death?

O Great and Most Sacred Pascha, Christ!

As we reflected in the beginning of Ode I, Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover (or Pascha in Greek). If in the Old Testament Passover the Hebrew people were delivered from bondage to the Egyptian tyrant, through Christ we are delivered from the tyranny of the devil! Truly this is a great and sacred Passover!

O Wisdom, Word and Power of God!

St. John the Evangelist calls our Lord Jesus Christ "the Word" of God. He is also God's Wisdom and God's Power, according to the testimony of the fathers of the Church. He is as it were the "right hand" of the Father and nobody can know the Father except through Him. What greater deliverer could there be?

Grant us to more perfectly partake of Thee in the unwaning day of Thy kingdom!

And not only has He delivered us, but He has also granted us to "partake of" Himself. This is a reference to Communion, both physical and spiritual. His victory over sin and death has been accomplished but its effects will not be fully revealed until the last day. Likewise, our Communion with Him is limited now but will be complete in His Kingdom. May He grant us to partake in this great grace!

And lest we forget:

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

In the immortal words of St. Seraphim of Sarov,

My joy, Christ is Risen!

Dn. Nicholas Park

Meditations of the Paschal Canon, Ode 3

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Continuing the mediation on the Paschal Canon which I began in this post.

Ode 3

The third biblical ode is the Song of Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel, after God granted her a child (1 Samuel. The primary theme is the idea that all good comes from God and that man should not be arrogant because "The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up." The relevance of this to the good news of Pascha is clear: Christ's victory over death is the ultimate gift to man, given freely to all.

Come, let us drink a new drink: not one miraculously brought forth from a barren rock, but the fountain of incorruption springing forth from the tomb of Christ, in Whom we are strengthened.

The first part of this hymn refers to the water that God brought forth from a rock to quench the thirst of the people of Israel in the wilderness (Ex 17:5-6). They had passed over the Red Sea and escaped the bondage to Pharaoh (if you will recall, this event is a type, prefiguring our baptism). Now they require nourishment in the desert, and God provides this through Moses' hand. This also is a type, prefiguring to the "new drink" that God gives us through the hands of His Priests: the Holy Mystery of Communion, the "blood and water" (John 19:34) which flowed forth from the side of our Lord on the Cross

Now all things are filled with light: heaven and earth and the nethermost parts of the earth. Let all creation therefore celebrate the arising of Christ, in Whom it is strengthened.

"To write the same things to you, to me indeed [is] not grievous, but for you [it is] safe" (Phil 3:1). So much of our services consist of repetition, because this is needful for us. Bursting with joy (or teaching ourselves to understand this joy), we say "Christ is Risen!" more times than we can count — but not as often as we say "Lord, have mercy!" throughout the year.

It should therefore be no surprise that this second hymn of Ode 3 reminds us of the the third hymn of Ode 1: "…let the whole world, both visible and invisible, keep festival…." Moreover, this text makes the reason for this rejoicing even more explicit: "all things are filled with light." Christ's resurrection renews the whole of Creation!

Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ; today I rise with Thine arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee; do Thou Thyself glorify me with Thee, O Savior, in Thy Kingdom!

This also hearkens back to a theme from Ode 1: our personal assimilation of the fruits of the Resurrection through baptism. Not only did Christ die and rise again, but each one of us is buried with Him and rises with Him in the waters of Baptism — and we pray that we will continue to abide with Him in His eternal kingdom!

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Radonitsa (day of rejoicing) explained.

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Radonitsa is this Tuesday. I ask my flock and anyone else who reads this to send me the names of their Orthodox loved ones who have departed this life for commemoration in a panakhida tonight, at 7:30 PM. Because of work obligations, I cannot serve liturgy or visit cemeteries on Radonitsa.

Priest Seraphim .

On this day, the Tuesday of St. Thomas week, according to the order instituted by our Holy Fathers, we call to remembrance, in Paschal joy, all those who have died from the beginning of the ages in faith and in the hope of resurrection and life eternal.

Having previously celebrated the radiant feast of Christ's glorious Resurrection, the faithful commemorate the dead today with the pious intent to share the great joy of this Pascha feast with those who have departed this life in the hope of their own resurrection. This is the same blessed joy with which the dead heard our Lord announce His victory over death when He descended into Hades, thus leading forth by the hand the righteous souls of the Old Covenant into Paradise. This is the same unhoped-for joy the Holy Myrrhbearing Women experienced when discovering the empty tomb and the undisturbed grave clothes. In addition, this is the same bright joy the Holy Apostles encountered in the Upper Room where Christ appeared though the doors were closed. In short, this feast is a kindred joy, to celebrate the luminous Resurrection with our Orthodox forefathers who have fallen asleep.

There is evidence of the commemoration of the dead today in the writings of the Church Fathers. St. John Chrysostom mentions the commemoration of the dead performed on Tuesday of St. Thomas week in his "Homily on the Cemetery and the Cross."

Today, the faithful departed are remembered in Divine Liturgies, 'koliva' is prepared and blessed in the churches in memory of those who have fallen asleep, and the Orthodox graves in cemeteries are blessed by the priests and visited by the faithful. On this day alms are given to the poor. Furthermore, it should be noted that due to the great spiritual joy this jubilant commemoration bears, it is called in the Slavonic tongue, 'Radonitsa,' or Day of Rejoicing."

From the "Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion" (published in 1999 by HDM Press, Rives Junction, Michigan) on "Radonitsa':

A note in the English-language edition of the Synaxarion says that the above account was written "by a monk who wished to remain anonymous." This account does not appear in the Slavonic or Greek Pentecostaria.

The development of a special commemoration of the dead during Thomas Week is undoubtedly related closely to the fact that memorial services are prohibited by the Typicon from being served from Great Thursday through Thomas Sunday. Thus, in the entry for Holy and Great Thursday, the Typicon states: "It is fitting to know: That the Litia for the reposed does not take place in the narthex until Thomas Sunday." Then, in the entry for Monday of Thomas Week, the Typicon states at the end of the instructions for Matins and the First Hour: "And the usual Litia in the narthex."


Thus, the beginning of Thomas Week presents the first opportunity to commemorate the departed (other than at the Proskomidia) since the middle of Passion Week.

It is interesting to note that in the Typicon and Pentecostarion that are currently in use in the Russian Church, there is no specific mention of a commemoration of the dead on Tuesday of Thomas Week, and the services appointed for that day do not contain any requiem elements. Nonetheless, it is quite common to serve a General Panikhida in church on that day and also to serve Requiem Litias at the graves of the departed.

Daniel Olson, with permission

All of the above is also at

There are many folk customs associated with Radonitsa. Perhaps some readers would like to share their knowledge and experience of these customs with us.

Here is some more about:

Commemoration of the Dead in the Orthodox Church

Traditional days and ways of remembrance

The fortieth day after death is considered to be the the most important day of commemoration. Orthodox Christians zealous to keep the memory of the departed faithfully keep these twelve times of commemoration:

  1. The 3rd day.
  2. The 9th day.
  3. The 40th day.
  4. The half-year anniversary.
  5. The annual anniversary.
  6. Meat-fare Week.
    (Panikhidas for our ancestors during the week, with a Universal Panikhida on the Saturday of the Departed)
  7. 2nd Saturday of the Great Fast.
  8. 3rd Saturday of the Great Fast.
  9. 4th Saturday of the Great Fast.
  10. Radonitsa (Tuesday of the 2nd week of Pascha)
    Kept mainly by Russian Orthodox
  11. The week before Pentecost/Trinity Sunday, and especially on the Saturday before Pentecost.
  12. The week before the commemoration of St. Demetrios

Note: The day a Christian dies is counted the first day of/after death. If a Christian dies on Sunday, the 3rd day is Tuesday (Sunday, the 1st day, then Monday, Tuesday), the 9th day is a week after the day of death, in this case, Sunday.

Traditional ways a Christian commemorates the dead are:

The submission of the names of Orthodox departed with the giving of alms (usually a monetary donation to the church) to the priest for commemoration in the Proskomedia before every Divine Liturgy.

Asking the priest to serve a Panikhida for certain of the departed. This may be served at the cemetery, or the church, on any day save Sunday. Again, one should give alms. Most priests do not accept "payment" for their service, but a priest will accept alms, and give them to the church or another worthy cause.

Prayer for the dead in one's private prayers, in the morning and/or evening.

On the days when the dead are commemorated in the church, it is traditional to bring "Kolyva", or boiled wheat, with sugar, fruit and/or nuts, as an offering. This food is blessed, and eaten by the faithful after the service.

Another pious tradition is the making of "St Phanourios bread", for the giving of alms to the poor, and prayers to the Saint. There is a tradition concerning him and his mother, who was a harlot and great sinner. His love for his mother caused him to pray for her incessantly. At the time of his martyric death by stoning, he could not even then forget his mother, and with the boldness that is peculiar to athletes of Christ, prayed: "For the sake of these my sufferings, Lord, help all those who will pray to Thee for the salvation of Phanourios' sinful mother".

Taken from


Meditations on the Paschal Canon, Ode I

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

The Paschal Canon by St. John Damascene is an amazing mediation on the Resurrection of our Lord, and is (together with the Paschal Stichera) the heart of the services for Pascha and Bright Week. It also plays an important role in the Vigil Services for each of the Sundays after Pascha.

Ode I

The canon as a textual form is closely linked to the Eight biblical odes — songs of prominent Old Testament figures which are recorded in the Bible and which played a role in the daily worship of the early Church. Over time, hymns in honor of New Testament events and people were composed to be sung with these Odes, and today these hymns (called canons) have nearly completely replaced the odes themselves. But the links to the Old Testament themes is still very evident, especially in the first hymn of each Ode, which is called the Irmos ("link").

Ode I is the song of Moses, sung after the people of Israel escaped from Egypt by crossing the Red Sea. As such, it is essentially a hymn of thanksgiving for the Old Testament Passover. Christ, the new Passover lamb who was slain to deliver us from the slavery to sin, is the fulfillment of this Old Testament celebration, as we see in the Irmos of this ode.

It is the Day of Resurrection! Let us be radiant, O people! Pascha! The Lord's Pascha! For from death to life, and from earth to heaven hath Christ God has brought us, as we sing the song of victory!

Here we are called to radiantly rejoice in song because we have been brought over from death to life, just as the Hebrew people were brought over the Red Sea from slavery to freedom. Just as Moses sang a song of victory after the defeat of Pharaoh's forces, so we now sing a song in praise of our Lord's victory over sin and death.

Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with unapproachable light of the Resurrection, and shall clearly hear Him say, "Rejoice!" As we sing the song of victory!

"Blessed are the pure in heart," says our Lord, "for they shall see God." It is only through the Resurrection that we can attain this purity, and it is only through this purity that we can approach in some measure the unapproachable light of the Resurrection. Our salvation, justification, and glorification is a beautiful synergy between our Lord's action and our cooperation. And so as we rejoice in our Lord's victory, let us also not cease to purify our souls from sinful thoughts, deeds and words.

We can also see in this troparion a reminder of our Baptism. As St. Paul teaches us, as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death. We died to sin and death and were reborn to freedom and life. The waters of baptism were prefigured by the passage over the Red Sea1, and these waters are at the same time our grave (to sin) and the womb of our mother (to everlasting life). And so through baptism we assimilate for ourselves that victory which Christ accomplished for the world in His death and resurrection.

Let the heavens be glad as is meet, and let the earth rejoice, and let the whole world, both visible and invisible, keep festival. For Christ is risen! O gladness eternal!

The Resurrection brings joy to the entire world, for Christ's Resurrection conquers the power of death. When mankind fell through Adam's voluntary sin, God subjected the whole creation to death and corruption for mankind's sake, that we might be able to repent and be restored to God. Christ's Death and Resurrection destroyed the power of death when His Body rose incorrupt from the grave. This victory is not yet consummated — the whole creation still "groaneth and travaileth" — because God in His mercy is still giving us time to repent and avail ourselves of the proffered salvation, but in the last day death will be no more, and Christ will be all in all!2

The first Ode — and all of the Odes — ends with the threefold singing of the Paschal Troparion:

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

This really says it all, doesn't it?

Dn. Nicholas Park

[] 1 Cor 10:2.

[] Romans 8:19-23: "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."

Sunday of Pascha Agape Vespers. Paschal instructions

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Sunday of Pascha Agape vespers
Paschal instructions

Christ is risen!             Truly He is risen!

Christos aneste!           Alithos aneste!

Christos Voskrese!      Voistinu voskrese!

I want to tell you a few things about this week. This week is as one day, according to the Typicon. So it is as if Pascha is an entire week. So for that reason we don’t fast today, nor do we fast tomorrow or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday. No fasting for the entire week. All foods are allowed. Tofu is forbidden. Even bean, you know the bean hamburger things, they’re forbidden. Okay? They are like anathema. All foods are allowed for this week.

Also, now, during this week we say Paschal hours for our prayers instead of morning and evening prayers. We don’t read the Psalter at all. If you saw in the service, the only verses of the Psalter that were used were when we were singing the Stichera. The penitential verses of the Psalter are not read. We don’t read Psalm 50 the entire week. We don’t read Psalm 118 which is normally read every day. We don’t read any of the Psalter except the portions that are for the Prokeimena or for the “Lord I have cried.”


So the Paschal hours[1] are in your prayer book whether it is an English one or in Slavonic. Use these Paschal hours; it takes about six minutes to sing them, maybe five and a half minutes to read them; I don’t know, not as long and if you cannot sing, read; that’s fine. There is beautiful theology in these prayers, and they are short and very sweet. So read the Paschal hours in the morning and in the evening for the entire week.

All the serving that’s done for Vespers, for matins, for liturgy in every Orthodox Church in the world for this week is always in full vestments as if I’m serving at liturgy because of the festivity of the season.

The doors are open. The Royal doors and the deaconal doors are open in every Orthodox Church in the world for the entire week. They are only closed after the ninth hour on Saturday according to some, but Bishop Peter has told me about another rubric which we follow – to close them after the Small Entrance in Vespers.


I make a note about this, because this is always a very sad day for me because the doors have to be closed, not because God’s mercy ends for us, but because we being fallen, being people that are easily distracted, we cannot take so much grace. We are not ready for the grace that God wishes to give to us, so when the doors are closed it is a profound theological statement. It is not that God’s mercy is shut off from us – No, not at all, but we, because we are immature, are not able to hold onto all of God’s mercy. So for a time God’s mercy shines especially bright in all of the services and in this week. But if it were like that every week then we would fall away from Him because we do need rigor. We do need fasting. We do need repentance and penitence because of our nature, not because God requires it of us but because without that kind of rigor that we just went through in the fasting of Great Lent we would not be able to become good and know God Who is good.

We have started reading the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles, and they will be read all throughout the Paschal period. And I explained why we read the Gospel of John for Pascha because of course, to know the Resurrection, we have to know Jesus Christ and Saint John more than anyone else ever has explained who Jesus Christ is. There are symbols for the evangelists, and his is the eagle because he soars high above on the wings of theology. Truly, his language, from a grammatical standpoint, is the simplest and, yes, from a theological standpoint it is the deepest.


So we read the Gospel of John during the Paschal period because, as I explained, it is the church’s strategy or the church’s tradition that when we have a feast we explain more about it later. And so this entire Paschal period, Paschal is really being explained to you in all of the services, in all the hymnology and in the Gospel of John.


And then of course we read the Acts of the Apostles. And why would that be? With Pascha, the Church was strengthened. Some people would say that the Church began on Pentecost. I personally don’t think that that’s true because I believe that Joseph and Abraham and Isaac, all those holy fathers are part of the Church. But the strengthening of the Church, to be able to spread to the entire universe was accomplished on Pentecost, but there would be no Pentecost without the Resurrection. So the beginnings of the Church as a universal entity are really with Pascha when the disciples were gathering together in the upper room praying.

Now for this first 50 days after Pascha they were afraid because they didn’t know what was going to happen and as I explained yesterday, the Resurrection comes to us a little bit by little bit, not all in a flash like the Lord resurrected, but a little bit by little bit so the Apostles only with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost really understood all things and had the power to proclaim the Gospel to all of mankind.


It would be a very good exercise for all of you to read from the Gospel of John and the Book of Acts. If you pick one, do the Gospel of John and read it every day. If you can read a paragraph, if you can read a chapter, if you can read the daily readings, that’s fine too. Read the Gospel of John so that you complete it throughout the Paschal period. It is truly a remarkable book, and it’s the kind of book that you must read literally a hundred thousand times to fully understand. So every time you read it, something new will come out to you that is important for your salvation. So read the Gospel of John and read the Acts. But if you have to pick one, you only have so much time or so much energy or so much zeal, read the Gospel of John.

The theme during this period of time is about enlightenment, gradual enlightenment. We see it already with the Gospel here about Thomas[2]. Right now we only hear the first half of the story. The second half will be this coming Sunday, and the first half, as Thomas said, “Unless I see the prints of the nails, the holes in his hand and in his side and unless I put my finger in them, I won’t believe.” And so for eight days he anguished because his fellow friends, the Apostles, the women that had been around Jesus, they believed, but Thomas didn’t. But he was faithful, and his faithfulness would be rewarded. So that on Sunday we will proclaim him as the first to declare unequivocally the two natures of Jesus Christ when he said, My Lord and my God.”

During this entire Paschal period up until Pentecost we do not say “0 Heavenly King. . .“  Why would that be? Why would it be that we do not say “0, Heavenly King. . .“? Anybody know? Well, sometimes the Church speaks about something and teaches us and sometimes they do not speak about something and teach us. “0 Heavenly King, Comforter. . .“, is about the Holy Spirit, and we are asking Him to come and abide in us. Well, what is going to happen in fifty days? The Holy Spirit will come and abide in us, liturgically, at Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. So the lack of this prayer is reminding us of the greatness of the coming of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we omit this prayer and we substitute instead of it “Christ is risen” three times, and then when we get to Ascension, then we substitute the Ascension Troparion for those days until Pentecost. So don’t say “0 Heavenly King. . .“


Oh, by the way, no prostrations either. There are no prostrations until Pentecost also and that is to recall the joy of the season.


See, there’s a rhyme and a reason to the things the church does. There is a deep theological significance to some of these deeply held traditions. Why we prostrate at certain times and why we don’t at others. Why we eat all foods on some occasions and do not eat most foods on others. So we are not prostrating, nor are we saying “0 Heavenly King”.

There’s a few other liturgical things if you really understand the services for instance, I will just say one. In matins we’ll always sing, “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ. . .“ three times on the Sunday vigil, whereas normally it’s sung once. And there is a bunch of other little differences, but the important ones for you are you don’t fast this week, you don’t prostrate until Pentecost. You don’t say “0 Heavenly King. . .“ until Pentecost, and you sing “Christ is risen” every day, and you say the Paschal hours and rejoice.

As is usual, I have to tell you as a pastor, to warn you, that this is a period of time when the devil who is that roaring lion, is looking about for whom he can devour[3], and you know he devours a lot of people with summer sausage and with

bacon and with butter and all of the delicacies that we have not had before. Don’t eat too much of that. Eat them and enjoy them but don’t gorge yourself so that you still can pray.

You don’t pray as much but you should pray consistently the Paschal hours in the morning and in the evening. And rejoice in the Resurrection in that way.

We have services this week. Tuesday vigil for the Annunciation so it will be like a Paschal vigil and sort of mixed in with Annunciation there is a complex service and very joyous so that vespers and matins and the first hour on Tuesday night at seven and then Wednesday morning at nine o’clock. At nine o’clock will be the Annunciation Paschal liturgy. So if you can at all come to the service, you should because it is well worth it to take a few hours off of work to be able to do this.

Also, Thursday evening in the new temple which will be close to done by then[4]. I don’t know if we’ll make it for Thomas
Sunday or not, most likely not. So we are aiming for the Myrrh Bearers, the third Sunday of Pascha. We will have on
Thursday evening as is our custom, at seven o’clock, Moleben.

This time it’s a Paschal Moleben. Everything is different this week; all the services include “Christ is risen.”

So the services this week are Tuesday seven o’clock, the vigil for the Annunciation. If you can come to part of it you should come. If you can come to all of it you should come but come to some of it. And Wednesday at nine o’clock, the liturgy and the Paschal and Annunciation kind of mixed up and then Thursday, the Moleben at seven o’clock.

Do I need to tell you anything else? Oh, yes I need to tell you one other thing. We have a letter here that I’d like each one of you to take and was written with my blessing sort of as a collaborative effort. Mostly Father Nicholas wrote it and as I usually do, I added a couple of things. The gist of it is this. We’re happy to report we have raised as part of our fundraising efforts since June of 2009, 42 thousand dollars, and we were aiming for 40. And we actually at the time naively thought that 40 was enough. Turns out that more like 60 is enough, or something like that. So we need about another 20 thousand dollars.

I want to tell you, we have offered to our benefactors that we would pray for them eternally as long as this parish exists, we will pray. After my death and the next rector, we will pray because they are permanent dyptichs. And we have 391 names that we pray for regularly now and 98 benefactors. And that number changes, continually increases.

So there is good news that although we need about 20 thousand dollars that we don’t have, we have an anonymous donor that has come forward and wishes to sort of get some activity and interest and zeal among our parish family, to raise eight thousand dollars. This donor has pledged eight thousand dollars in matching funds. Okay, the way this works is this. The clergy are not part of the matching funds. So Father Nicholas and I cannot give to this fund in order to have it matched but if you give, you give one hundred dollars, it is matched with one hundred dollars. If you give a thousand it is matched with a thousand dollars, up to eight thousand dollars which means if we are zealous, we would have 16 thousand dollars which is very close to what we need. With some other things coming in, we would probably be able to do it.

So what I would ask you to do is take this letter and give yourself and ask others to give and to designate that it is for the matching funds and we can raise this money then. It’s a lot easier to raise eight thousand dollars than it is to raise 16.


So may God bless you, take this letter and now let’s feast, what do you say? I don’t think there was any tofu in there at all. Okay. Let’s go bless it.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.    


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[3] 1Peter 5:8 KJV  “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”


[4] We actually occupied our temple officially in June of that year. It was a very long, arduous and often disappointing building process, with many extra expenses because of city regulations, and I still do not know how we accomplished it, except that, as was said in one of the Bright week Gospel readings: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8, read on Bright Thursday, John 3:1-15. See homilies about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus here: )



Bright Monday: Important truths are rarely said absolutely unambiguously. “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”, and “Make straight the way of the lord.”

Thursday, April 28th, 2011


Synopsis: The effect of the incarnation and the absolute necessity for a moral life is declared inn the Gospel for Bright Monday. As is the usual case, profound truths about the Christian life are stated, but not with absolute clarity. The fullness of the meaning of Scripture is not apparent to the casual observer, but only to those who struggle foe righteousness. We look at the whole passage, but particularly the two phrases: "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him", and "Make straight the way of the Lord."

More homilies on the ##th day after Pentecost are HERE

John 1:18-28 18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. 19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

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Rocking “Christ is risen” troparion from Africa

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

I am not in favor of changing our tradition regarding musical instruments (and if I could, I would  create a virus that destroyed every organ in every Orthodox church), but I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE AN EXCEPTION HERE:


Christ is risen troparion, sung with drums, in Africa.


Note the priest conducting! It starts out conventionally, then really gets your feet tapping!


I find the African voice to be among the most beautiful I have ever heard.


Thank you to Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo for finding this gem! She has a great email list.

Pictures and Video from Holy Week, Pascha

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

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