Hello again everyone! Fr. Rick here!

It’s Holy Thursday April 16th and Holy Week 2020 is moving right along. I hope everyone is praying with us and for us through the livestreaming of the worship services. 
Today I’m going to speak to you about tonight’s Holy Passion service, tomorrow Holy Friday and Saturday morning’s services.

We just celebrated early today the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil that commemorates the Mystical Supper with Jesus and the 12 disciples. As I said last time, the Gospel reading is a compilation from Matthew, Luke and John with nearly 100 verses, making it second longest of the whole year. Not only do the faithful receive the Eucharist but a second Presanctified Lamb is prepared that will become the reserve Eucharist kept in the Holy Tabernacle throughout the year in order to commune those who are not able to come to the church for liturgy. 

For Holy Unction yesterday, I instructed everyone to use the oil in their candeli lamp, or the oil taken from the shrine of any saint, and use that to anoint yourself and your family saying, “Through the prayers of [Saint of shrine or your patron saint’s name], God have mercy on me and heal my soul and body!”

Now, let’s talk about tonight’s Holy Passion service. The main feature of this liturgical act is the Twelve Gospels that are read focusing on Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, mocking, crucifixion and death. Perhaps some of you have seen the movie “The Passion” and this is a realistic portrayal of these events. To make Jesus’ suffering worse, we know that He is an innocent victim and was abandoned by even is closest disciples, epitomized by Peter’s denial, “I do not know the man!” 

The first Gospel that is read is 125 verses, making it the longest passage read during throughout the whole year. All the gospel readings are interspersed with hymns that encourage us to reflect on the meaning of the Christ’s Passion and how we betray and mock Him at times.

The centerpiece of the whole service is the procession where the priest carries the large cross with the Stavromenon or Crucified Christ on it through the whole sanctuary and places it in the middle of the sanctuary. Perhaps at home you can make a large cross out of wood and then print and place an icon of Christ crucified on it and stand it in a prominent place.

Let’s move on to Holy Friday morning. We’ll celebrate the Royal Hours service at 9am. This combines the 1st, 3rd, 6th and 9th hours into one service with mostly readings of the Psalms, Old Testament Prophecies to show that everything that happened to Jesus was foretold by God and confirms that He is indeed the Messiah and King of the Jews. Epistles and Gospels are also read and with the hymns is another opportunity to participate in the Passion of our Lord.

On Friday afternoon at 3pm we celebrate the Apokatheilsis or Descent from the Cross Vespers that includes the Epistle of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1:18-31; 2:1-2) in which he tells them and us that the Cross is the Power of God, to glory only in the Lord and to know Christ Crucified. The Gospel is a compilation of Matthew, Luke and John. We pause during it so that the priest can lower the Crucified Christ from the Cross, wrap Him in a clean white sheet, and bring Him into the Holy Altar for burial. Towards the end, everyone processes with the Epitaphios, our the tapestry icon of Christ’s burial, throughout the sanctuary and then place it in the Kouvouklion which represents the Holy Sepulchre, the cave tomb of our Lord.  Perhaps at home you can drape your large cross with a white sheet.

On Friday evening, we gather around the Kouvouklion for the Lamentations service. Numerous hymns are sung highlighted by the most moving and well-known Lamentations themselves. Later, the Epitaphios and Kouvouklion are taken in procession outside the church just like when we process together to the cemetery for a funeral of a departed loved one. The Kouvouklion is decorated with flowers to show that Christ’s tomb is life-giving and divine. It’s the same reason we have flowers at our own funerals—to remind us at the time of death of Jesus’ gift of eternal life. Because of our current Coronavirus restrictions, we only process with the Epitaphios inside the sanctuary. At home you can print an icon of the Epitaphios and place it on your altar and decorate it with flowers.

Finally, on Holy Saturday morning, we celebrate the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil commemorating Jesus’ Descent into Hades. No doubt, it is my favorite service of the whole year. We start with Old Testament prophecies reading about Jonah and the whale and Daniel and the Three Children in the land of Babylon. Then we have the well-known hymn of the Three Children interspersed with several refrains. After the Epistle reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans talking about the meaning of baptism and death, we sing the hymn “Anasta O Theos…Arise O God…” while the priests throws the flower petals and bay leaves throughout the whole sanctuary. It is dramatic expression of joy celebrating Christ our King as victor in the battle over sin and death. At home you can throw flower petals throughout the altar area.

Please see the resources that accompany or are linked to in this message for more information.
My brothers and sisters, I will miss having you all with me in the sanctuary for these Holy Week services. Yet, I know we are united in Christ through prayer and faith in Him. I look forward to speaking with you again on Holy Saturday. Kalo Pascha kai Kali Anastasi! Blessed Holy Week and Pascha! Amen!

Vespers or Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil (celebrated Thursday morning)
1) Exodus 19:10-19 God’s Third Day Appearance to Israelites on Mt. Sinai
2) Job 38:1-23; 42:1-5 Lord Reveals His Omnipotence to Job; Job’s Repentance & Restoration
3) Isaiah 50:4-11 What the Lord Does For Me

Liturgy of St. Basil (celebrated Thursday morning)
Epistle: 1Corinthians 11:23-32 Institution of Lord’s Supper & Examine Yourself
Gospel:  Matthew 26:2-20 Plot to Kill Jesus; Anointing at Bethany; Judas to Betray Jesus; Passover
John 13:3-17 Jesus Washes Disciples Feet
Mt. 26:21-39  Passover cont.; Lord’s Supper; Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial; Prayer in Gethsem
Luke 22:43-44 Angel Strengthens Jesus in Prayer
Mt. 26:40-75; 27:1-5 Prayer cont.; Betrayal, Arrest, Trial; Peter’s Denial

Holy Friday (celebrated Thursday evening to Friday afternoon)
Holy Passion – Twelve Gospels
1. 1) John 13:31-38; 14:1-31; 15:1-27; 16:1-33; 17:1-26; 18:1
2. 2) John 18:1-28 Betrayal & Arrest; Before High Priest; Peter’s Denial
3. 3) Matthew 26:57-75 Jesus on Trial; Peter’s Denial
4. 4) John 18:28-40; 19:1-16   Jesus in Pilate’s Court; Barabbas; Mocking Soldiers; Pilate’s Decision
5. 5) Matthew 27:3-32 Pilate’s Court; Judas’ Suicide; Barabbas; Mocking Soldiers
6. 6) Mark 15:16-32 Mocking Soldiers; King on the Cross
7. 7) Matthew 27:33-54 King on the Cross; Jesus’ Death on Cross
8. 8) Luke 23:32-49 Two Thieves; King on the Cross; Jesus’ Death on Cross
9. 9) John 19:25-37 King on Cross; Behold Your Mother; It is Finished; Piercing
10. 10) Mark 15:43-47 Jesus’ Burial in Joseph of Arimathea’s Tomb
11. 11) John 19:38-42 Jesus’ Burial in Joseph of Arimathea’s Tomb
12. 12) Matthew 27:62-66   Pilate Sets Guard at Jesus’ Tomb

Royal Hours (celebrated Friday morning)
First Hour
   Zechariah 11:10-13 30 Pieces of Silver for the Potter
   Galatians 6:14-18 Boast in the Cross of Jesus Christ
   Matthew 27:1-56 Pilate’s Court; Judas’ Suicide; Barabbas; Mocking Soldiers; King Jesus’ Death on Cross
Third Hour
   Isaiah 50:4-11 The Servant Israel’s Hope:“Trust in the Lord”
   Romans 5:6-10 Christ Died for Us (in our place)
   Mark 15:16-41 Mocking Soldiers; King on the Cross; Jesus’ Death on Cross
Sixth Hour
   Isaiah 52:13 – 54:1 The Sin-Bearing Servant; the Suffering Servant
   Hebrews 2:11-18 Jesus the High Priest Suffers & Dies on our Behalf to Destroy Power of Sin & Death
   Luke 23:32-49 Two Thieves; King on the Cross; Jesus Death on the Cross
Ninth Hour
   Jeremiah 11:18 –12:5,9-11,14,15 Jeremiah’s Life Threatened, His Question & Lord’s Answer
   Hebrews 10:19-31 Hold Fast to Your Confession of Hope; Live by Faith
   John 19:23-37 Mocking Soldiers; Behold Your Mother; It is Finished; Jesus’ Side Pierced

Vespers Descent from Cross – Apokatheilosis  (celebrated Friday afternoon)
   1Corinthians 1:18-31; 2:1-2  Cross is the Power of God; Glory Only in the Lord; Know Christ Crucified
   Matthew 27:1-38 Pilate’s Court; Judas’ Suicide; Barabbas; Mocking Soldiers; King on the Cross
   Luke 23:39-43 Two Thieves Crucified with Christ
   Matthew 27:39-54 Two Thieves Crucified with Christ; Jesus’ Death on the Cross
   John 19:31-42 Jesus’ Side Pierced; Jesus’ Burial in Joseph of Arimathea’s Tomb
   Mt. 27:55-61 Jesus’ Burial in Joseph of Arimathea’s Tomb

Holy Saturday (celebrated Friday evening to Saturday afternoon)
Orthros/Lamentations (celebrated Friday evening)
   Ezekiel 37:1-14 The Dry Bones Live (Prophecy of Future Resurrection)
   1Corinthians 5:6-8 Our Passover Christ Sacrificed for Us; Let us Keep the Feast
   Galatians 3:13-14 Christ Cursed for Us to Redeem Us from the Curse
   Matthew 27:62-66 Pilate Sets Guard at Jesus’ Tomb

Vesperal Liturgy (celebrated Saturday morning)
   1) Genesis 1:1-13 God Creates by Holy Spirit: Light (1), Heavens (2); Earth & Plants (3)
   2) Isaiah 60:1-16 Gentiles Bless Zion
   3) Exodus 12:1-11 Institution of Passover in Egypt
   4) Book of Jonah (whole book)
   5) Joshua 5:10-15 Manna Ceases After Passover; Joshua Meets Angelic Commander (Michael?)
   6) Exodus 13:20 – 15:19   Pillars of Cloud & Fire; Red Sea Crossing; Song of Moses
   7) Zephaniah 3:8-15 Faithful Remnant of Israel
   8) 1Kings 17:8-24 Elijah Revives Widow’s Son
   9) Isaiah 61:10 – 62:5 Lord’s Garments (of Baptism); Assurance of Zion’s Salavation
   10) Genesis 22:1-18 Abraham’s Faith/Trust in God Confirmed (willing to sacrifice Isaac)
   11) Isaiah 61:1-9 Good News of Salvation; Proclamation of Messiah (see Sept.1)
   12) 2Kings 4:8-37 Elisha Raises Shunammite Couple’s Son
   13) Isaiah 63:11 – 64:5 Remembrance of God’s Mercy; Prayer of Repentance
   14) Jeremiah 31:31-34 New Covenant- God’s Law Written on Hearts & Minds of All People
   15) Daniel 3:1-23 & Song of 3 Holy Children   Refusal to Worship Image of Gold; Cast into Fire & Saved