by St. John Chrysostom
... And, tell me, what was the case of the blessed Paul? For there is nothing to prevent my making mention of him again. Did he not experience innumerable storms of trial? And in what respect was he injured by them? Was he not crowned with victory all the more in consequence—because he suffered hunger, because he was consumed with cold and nakedness, because he was often tortured with the scourge, because he was stoned, because he was cast into the sea? But then some one says he was Paul, and called by Christ. Yet Judas also was one of the twelve, and he too was called of Christ; but neither his being of the twelve nor his call profited him, because he had not a mind disposed to virtue. But Paul although struggling with hunger, and at a loss to procure necessary food, and daily undergoing such great sufferings, pursued with great zeal the road which leads to heaven: whereas Judas although he had been called before him, and enjoyed the same advantages as he did, and was initiated in the highest form of Christian life, and partook of the holy table and that most awful of sacred feasts, and received such grace as to be able to raise the dead, and cleanse the lepers, and cast out devils, and often heard discourses concerning poverty, and spent so long a time in the company of Christ Himself, and was entrusted with the money of the poor, so that his passion might be soothed thereby (for he was a thief) even then did not become any better, although he had been favoured with such great condescension.
by Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov
Elder Sophrony Sakharov, a true Father in Christ for our times, having immersed himself in the practice of pure prayer from the heart, explains that:
"the Name Jesus as His proper Name is ontologically connected with Him. For us it is the bridge between ourselves and Him [cf. Jn. 20:29]. It is the channel through which divine strength comes to us. Proceeding from the All-Holy, it [His Name] is holy and we are sanctified by invoking it. With this Name and through this Name our prayer acquires a certain objective form or significance: It unites us with God."
by St. John Chrysostom
But why did the Holy Ghost come to them, not while Christ was present, nor even immediately after his departure, but, whereas Christ ascended on the fortieth day, the Spirit descended "when the day of Pentecost," that is, the fiftieth, "was fully come?" (Acts ii. 1.) And how was it, if the Spirit had not yet come, that He said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost?" (John xx. 22.) In order to render them capable and meet for the reception of Him. For if Daniel fainted at the sight of an Angel (Dan. viii. 17), much more would these when about to receive so great a grace. Either this then is to be said, or else that Christ spoke of what was to come, as if come already; as when He said, "Tread ye upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the devil." (Luke x. 19.) But why had the Holy Ghost not yet come? It was fit that they should first be brought to have a longing desire for that event, and so receive the grace. For this reason Christ Himself departed, and then the Spirit descended. For had He Himself been there, they would not have expected the Spirit so earnestly as they did. On this account neither did He come immediately after Christ's Ascension, but after eight or nine days. It is the same with us also; for our desires towards God are then most raised, when we stand in need.
This article is an adaptation and revision of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR)i President’s Message 2014 04. I would pray that all readers who are not Society members would be “friends” of the Society because we are commanded by Christ as is mentioned below that we “all may be one.”
All the members, associate members and friends of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR) know the great importance of assiduously praying and working to conform ourselves - and all of our Apostolic Churches and Christian ecclesial communities as well - to Christ’s priestly prayer to His Father at the Last Supper: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (Jn 17: 21).ii Though St. John records Our Lord using the phrase “may be one” three times in His discourse (in verses 11,1, and 22), I have chosen verse 21 because in this prayer Christ tells the ill consequences of separation and the blessings of unity: “. . .that the world may believe.” Separation is a scandal that disparages Christ and His Church. It sows the evil seed of mockery of His message. It is as if onlookers could say: “If those who call themselves Christians cannot get along, how credible are any of Christ’s teachings?”
by Fr. Michael Pomazansky
We find this sacred ancient Tradition
- in the most ancient record of the Church, the Canons of the Holy Apostles;
- in the Symbols of Faith of the ancient local churches;
- in the ancient Liturgies, in the rite of Baptism, and in other ancient prayers;
- in the ancient Acts of the Christian martyrs. The Acts of the martyrs did not enter into use by the faithful until they had been examined and approved by the local bishops; and they were read at the public gatherings of Christians under the supervision of the leaders of the churches. In them we see the confession of the Most Holy Trinity, the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, examples of the invocation of the saints, of belief in the conscious life of those who had reposed in Christ, and much else;
- in the ancient records of the history of the Church, especially in the book of Eusebius Pamphilus, Bishop of Caesarea, where there are gathered many ancient traditions of rite and dogma-in particular, there is given the canon of the sacred books of the Old and New Testaments;
- in the works of the ancient Fathers and teachers of the Church;
- and, finally, in the very spirit of the Church's life, in the preservation of faithfulness to all her foundations which come from the Holy Apostles.
The Apostolic Tradition which has been preserved and guarded by the Church, by the very fact that it has been kept by the Church, becomes the Tradition of the Church herself, it "belongs" to her, it testifies to her; and, in parallel to Sacred Scripture it is called by her, "Sacred Tradition."
by Fr. Michael Pomazansky
IN THE ORIGINAL PRECISE meaning of the word, Sacred Tradition is the tradition which comes from the ancient Church of Apostolic times. In the second to the fourth centuries this was called "the Apostolic Tradition."
... In the following words St. Basil the Great gives us a clear understanding of the Sacred Apostolic Tradition: "Of the dogmas and sermons preserved in the Church, certain ones we have from written instruction, and certain ones we have received from the Apostolic Tradition, handed down in secret. Both the one and the other have one and the same authority for piety, and no one who is even the least informed in the decrees of the Church will contradict this. For if we dare to overthrow the unwritten customs as if they did not have great importance, we shall thereby imperceptively do harm to the Gospel in its most important points. And even more, we shall be left with the empty name of the Apostolic preaching without content. For example, let us especially make note of the first and commonest thing, that those who hope in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ should sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross. Who taught this in Scripture? Which Scripture instructed us that we should turn to the east in prayer? Which of the saints left us in written form the words of invocation during the transformation of the bread of the Eucharist and the Chalice of blessing? For we are not satisfied with the words which are mentioned in the Epistles or the Gospels, but both before them and after them we pronounce others also as having great authority for the Mystery, having received them from the unwritten teaching.
Some years ago there was a fast food chain advertisement tagline: “Where’s the beef?” As we look around modern society we can easily modify the tagline as a description of the current ‘state of the world’: ‘Where is the spiritual’? The dictionary word that best fits this description is sloth. Sloth is typically defined as “apathy” and inactivity in the practice of virtue.” It can also be enumerated as one of the “deadly sins,” and be considered as a neglect of God and His word.
In the book of Proverbs (19: 23-24) we read: “The fear of the Lord is unto life: and he shall abide in fullness without being visited with evil. The slothful hideth his hand under his armpit, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth.” Many of the world’s religious traditions warn of the neglect of the spiritual. Hindu writings inform us: “"When a man, having freed his mind from sloth, distraction, and vacillation, becomes as it were delivered from his mind, that is the highest point."i In Islamic tradition we read: “"O Allah! I seek refuge in You from worry and sorrow. I seek refuge in You from incapacity and sloth.”ii Buddhism lists a number of hindrances or obstructions to attaining a spiritual life. Among the five important ones listed are ‘sloth - torpor (thina-middha). It has its deleterious effect by interfering with tranquility and blocking insight.iii
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; through them by way of reminder I am trying to stir up your sincere disposition" (2 St. Peter 3:1).
Do you see brethren, the goal with which the Apostle Peter writes in his epistle? To stir up in people their pure minds! The apostle considers this as the main thing. And truly, it is the main thing. For if in every man the dormant pure mind would be awakened, there would not be a single human soul left on earth who would not have believed in Christ the Lord; who would not have confessed Him as the crucified and resurrected Savior of the world; and who would not have contritely turned to repentance for sins committed by the inducement of an impure mind.
by St. Theodore the Studite, Given on Good Friday
Catechesis 73: On the saving passion of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ
Brethren and Fathers, while the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ when they are recalled are always able to pierce the soul, they do so especially in these present days, on which each of them reached its end. What then are they? The murderous council against him, the Jewish arrest, his being led away to death, his arraignment before Pilate's tribunal, the interrogation, the scourging, the blows, the spittings, the insults, the mockeries, the ascent of the Cross, the nailing of his hands and feet, the tasting of gall, the piercing of his side and all the other things which blazed forth [This word is not in the lexica, but the meaning is clear.] with them, which the world cannot contain, nor can anyone worthily proclaim, not human tongue, nor even all the tongues of angels together. For let us consider, brethren, this great and ineffable mystery. The Lord who reveals the counsels of hearts [1 Cor. 4:5] and knows every human desire is the one who is taken before a council of death; the Lord who bears all things by the word of his power [Hebrews 1:3.] is the one who is handed over to sinners; the Lord who binds the water in the clouds [Job 26:8.] and sows in the earth in due season and uniformly is the one who is led away prisoner; the Lord who measures the heavens with the span of his hand and the earth in a handful and weighed all the mountains in the balance [Isaias 40:12.] is the one who is struck by the hand of a servant; the Lord who adorned the boundaries of the earth with flowers is the one who is dishonourably crowned with thorns; the Lord who planted the tree of life in Paradise is the one who is hanged upon an accursed tree.
One of the best ways to reflect on the meaning of harmony is in relationship to music. Historically, the word harmony was derived from the Greek word ἁρμονία (harmonía), which the Oxford English Dictionaryi defines as: "Joint, agreement, concord; the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.", the verb form, can also be considered: "To fit together, to join.” Interestingly, the great composer and musician, Johann Sebastian Bach, connects harmony and Godliness: “Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.”ii
Ancient Chinese philosophical tradition points out that harmony must start with what I describe as ‘self-concord’ – in the sense of an inner integration of our ethical and moral principles and actions into a “consistent whole.” From ourselves, this inner harmony can radiate out to all. As the Chinese aphorism states: “If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”iii
From the Hindu tradition, but speaking for all mankind, Mahatma Gandhi advises that we should “. . .always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”iv
King David the psalmist tells us: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity.” (Ps 132:1). The Roman Catholic Trappist monk Thomas Merton pinpoints the fruit of harmony: “ . . .happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”
by St. Theodore the Studite, Given on Friday of the 5th Sunday of the Great Fast
Catechesis 68: That we must be renewed for what is ahead through endurance of the trials that fall upon us, both visible and invisible.
Brethren and fathers, because winter has passed and spring has arrived, we see creation flourishing again; the plants are flowering, the earth is growing green, the birds are singing and everything else is being renewed; and we take pleasure in all this and we glorify God the master craftsman who transforms and changes creation year by year, and it is reasonable to do so. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made [Rom. 1:20]. It is our duty not just to stay where we are, but to advance further and to examine carefully for ourselves the logic of creation. How? Because this renewal has winter as its cause. It would not have reached its prime had it not first undergone snows and rains and winds. And so it is with the soul; unless it is first snowed on by afflictions, troubles and difficulties, it will not flower, it will not fruit; but by enduring, it bears fruit and partakes in a blessing from God, as it is written: Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, partakes in a blessing from God [Heb. 6:7].
by St. Theodore the Studite, Given on Friday of the 3rd Week of the Great Fast
Catechesis 61: That we must not submit ourselves in temptations,
and about fasting.
Brethren and fathers, yesterday a tempest and to-day calm; yesterday a <disturbance>  and today quiet; but blessed is God, who has also dispelled the trial and given you power to remain unmoved in the expectation of threats. This is the way of true Christians, this is the way of authentic monks, to hold themselves always in readiness in the face of dangers on behalf of virtue and to consider nothing more precious that the commandment of God. Those who came said what they said, and they left not so much amazed as ashamed; while to you may the Lord grant the perfect reward in return for your having chosen to be persecuted for his sake; and being rich in mercy he knows how to crown from the intention alone the one who chooses the good. But in fact the trial has not been dispelled, but again and again it continues, and particularly because everywhere there are edicts of the rulers that no one is to lag behind from having a share in heretical fellowship. And so let us hear the Apostle when he says, Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
The PowerPoint presentation linked above was given at the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR) 2014 03 15 General Meeting, held at Prince of Peace Benedictine Monastery, Oceanside, CA. The society's apostolate is to "work to make known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of Eastern Christianity, and for the fullness of unity desired by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." I have consistently written on the need of the healing the sin (illness) of disunity among the Apostolic Churches [Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic; as well as other Christian ecclesial communites) as taught to us by Christ Himself (as we hear in His priestly discourse to His Apostles at the Mystical Supper, read in Orthodox Churches throughout the world on Holy Thursday Evening of Holy Week) to Christ's prayer to His Father:
by St. Theodore the Studite, Given on the Fourth Wednesday of the Great Fast
Catechesis 66: That This Pascha Is a Type of the Future and Eternal Pascha; and About Endurance and Courage.
Brethren and fathers, Lent is already galloping past and the soul rejoices at the imminence of Pascha, because by it it finds rest and is relieved of many toils. Why did this thought sound for me in advance? Because it is as if our whole life directs its reason contemplating the eternal Pascha. For this present Pascha, even though it is great and revered, is nevertheless, as our fathers explain, only a type of that Pascha to come. For this Pascha is for one day and it passes, while that Pascha has no successor. From it "pain, grief and sighing have fled away" ; there everlasting joy, gladness and rejoicing; there the sound of those who feast , a choir of those who keep festival and contemplation of eternal light; where there is the blessed breakfast of Christ and the new  drink of which Christ spoke, "I shall not drink of the fruit of this vine, until I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father".  Of this He spoke to his disciples when He was about to ascend to heaven, "I am going to prepare a place for you and, if I go, I will prepare a place for you. I am coming again and I will take you to myself, so that where I am you maybe also. And where I am going you know, and the way you know."  And a little further on, "On that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you."  And elsewhere, "Father, I wish that where I am they may be with Me also, so that they may see My glory, which You gave Me, because You loved from before the foundation of the world."  But because this concerns not only the Apostles, but also ourselves, He also said, "I do not ask this only for them, but also for those who through their word believe in Me, so that all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, that they may also be one in Us."  What could be more comforting than these words? What could be more appealing? What soul can they not soften? What heart not prick with compunction, even should someone say that the human heart is a nature of stone? With thoughts like these the saints bore all that they bore, considering afflictions as joys, constraints as freedoms , struggles as delights, harsh training as relaxation, deaths as lives.
by Fr. John Oliver
from Touching Heaven
The curtains fill with faint breeze and tease away from the open window, then hang still again. I cannot sleep. In several minutes the clock beside my bed will ring as I have programmed it to do. I hear no sound but the soft rustle of swaying leaves. Time has passed unnoticed. It is night-one hour before the Easter Pascha Liturgy.
I dress, then move quietly through the house. There is nothing to take to the temple but the usual-joy from the astonishing events that will unfold this night, guilt from another Lent of scattered effort, and hope of meeting Christ, who welcomes the eleventh-hour people. Somehow, though, feelings are irrelevant. Indeed, something infinitely more interesting is moving toward center stage. The dark corners in every fold of the universe rumble in anticipation as the priest readies his vestments and the choir arranges the hymns.
I pat my pockets, listening for the familiar jingle of coins and car keys. The money is needed for a meal at an all-night restaurant; the keys for transporting my hungry body there after the Liturgy. I walk through the living room, brushing with my fingertips the wall holding the icon of the Mother of God. Traveling light, I open the front door and step into a humid Florida night. Faint blue-and-white shades of television screens flicker from nearby homes. It is the only evidence of life I can see, and I imagine that they shine upon the bodies of sleeping men and women.
by Fr. Paul Lazor
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)
by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
In the center of our liturgical life, in the very center of that time which we measure as year, we find the feast of Christ’s Resurrection. What is Resurrection? Resurrection is the appearance in this world, completely dominated by time and therefore by death, of a life that will have no end. The one who rose again from the dead does not die anymore. In this world of ours, not somewhere else, not in a world that we do not know at all, but in our world, there appeared one morning Someone who is beyond death and yet in our time. This meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, this great joy, is the central theme of Christianity and it has been preserved in its purity by the Orthodox Church. There is much truth expressed by those who say that the real central theme of Orthodoxy, the center of all its experience, the frame of reference of everything else, is the Resurrection of Christ.
The center, the day, that gives meaning to all days and therefore to all time, is that yearly commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter. This is always the end and the beginning. We are always living after Easter, and we are always going toward Easter.
by Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.
from the Holy Land
Every year during Holy Saturday, for many centuries, there is a most magnificent miracle that continues to take place in Jerusalem since the time we were allowed as Christians to celebrate ceremonies in public.
Pilgrims from all over the world gather in Jerusalem to witness the greatest of all miracles--the Miracle of the Holy Fire. The miracle has turned into a glorious cultural event, but many simply cannot get anywhere near the Holy Sepulchre Church. The soldiers, the police, the large crowds, the noise, the drums of the Boys Scouts and the Girl Scouts anxiously waiting to receive the Holy Fire from the Life Giving Tomb of Christ, is a day long adventure. But it always happens at approximately 2 pm on Holy Saturday.
One year, it was a miracle in itself that finally after twenty years waiting, because of the Second Uprising and the height of the violence there was a lack of pilgrims in the Holy Land, I got inside the church myself.
It is an exciting celebration with the sound of many languages at the same time. Representatives of many churches from all over the Holy Land and beyond, come to receive the Holy Fire and carry the flame back in small lanterns to their particular churches for the Midnight Resurrection Service. Special permits must be issued for Christians from Gaza and the West Bank to enter Jerusalem. Furthermore, as an added bureaucracy, you need another ticket/pass to enter the Holy Sepulchre.
by Fr. Stephen Freeman
The phrase, “behind closed doors,” has become synonymous in English with things being done in secret – generally of an unsavory or nefarious sort. Institutions speak of an “open door policy,” and promise “transparency” to those from the outside. Closed doors have always had a sense of secrecy about them. Sometimes the secrecy hides the darkness of evil, other times it protects us from the wonder of the holy.
The stories of Christ’s resurrection are filled with closed doors. It is a common phrase in the resurrection narratives: “the doors being shut for fear of the Jews.” The disciples had lost their leader and teacher and they feared that they themselves would become victims. That fear led them to flee. It led St. Peter to deny that he even knew Christ. It led them all to hide behind closed doors.
Closed doors occur even earlier. The first doors known in the stories of Scripture are the gates of Paradise. Adam and Eve, having broken God’s only commandment to them, are forced to leave Paradise. The gates of the garden are shut and an angel is set at the gate to guard against their re-entry. More than the story of our first parents – it is the story of man.
The gates represent the brokenness of our communion with God. We exist – we have life – but our life is somehow cut off, “shut out” of its right and proper communion: we stand outside the Garden.
Later mystagogical teaching about the use of doors during an Orthodox service echo this estrangement. The priest praying before the closed doors at Vespers is sometimes said to represent Adam weeping before the closed gates of Paradise.
Our own lives are filled with closed doors – places from which we have been evicted – places into which we may not enter – places that represent secrets and broken relationships. Closed doors have gained an infamous character for good reason.
-- St. Gregory the Theologian, Easter Orations
Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him.
Yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him.
Yesterday I was buried with Him; today I am raised up with Him.
Let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us ... ourselves, the possession most precious to God and most proper.
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.
Let us become Divine for His sake, since for us He became Man.
He assumed the worse that He might give us the better. He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich. He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom.
He came down that we might be lifted up. He was tempted that through Him we might conquer. He was dishonored that He might glorify us. He died that He might save us. He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin.
Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself a Ransom and Reconciliation for us.
We needed an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him that we might be cleansed. We rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him. We were glorified with Him because we rose again with Him.
A few drops of Blood recreate the whole of creation!
by Fr. Thomas Hopko
from "The Orthodox Faith, Volume I, Doctrine"
And He rose again from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
Christ is risen from the dead! This is the main proclamation of the Christian faith. It forms the heart of the Church's preaching, worship and spiritual life. "... if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor 15:14).
In the first sermon ever preached in the history of the Christian Church, the Apostle Peter began his proclamation:
Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man attended to you by God with mighty works and signs and wonders which God did to him in your midst, as you yourself know -- this Jesus delivered up according to a definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it (Acts 2:22-24).
Jesus had the power to lay down his life and the power to take it up again:
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again; this charge I have received from my father (Jn 10:17-18).
by Matushka Ioanna Callinicos Rhodes
There are many customs and traditions that pertain to Pascha world-wide, but the most common one is that of dyeing and decorating eggs. Whether you are from London, Jerusalem, or Moscow, this custom is universal.
Egg dyeing and decorating can be dated back to pagan times. There is evidence of the ancients coloring their eggs in the history of Egypt, Gaul, China, Rome, and Persia. The egg was cherished as a symbol of the universe and represented life as a circle, as eternal life. The golden yolk of yellow represented the Sun God, the white shell the White Goddess, and the whole egg, rebirth. Hence, it was linked to spring, a time of rebirth for the earth after a long cold winter. The earth was reborn in much the same way the egg miraculously brings forth life.
It was customary in ancient times to go and gather different colored eggs from the nests of a variety of birds. Some suggest that may be what gave rise to egg hunts and dyeing of eggs, for people were imitating the tinted eggs of wild birds, and mimicking the colors of spring with its array of pastel flowers and blossoms in bloom. During this time there were many spring festivals where eggs were dyed, using flowers, berries, and other forms of natural vegetation. The dyes came from the rebirth of nature, and it was nature that was represented in the multicolored eggs. These eggs were used as talismans and in ritual eating. During this season these special eggs were also given as gifts.
by Fr. Thomas Hopko,
from "The Orthodox Faith, Volume II, Worship"
A little before midnight on the Blessed Sabbath the Nocturne service is chanted. The celebrant goes to the tomb and removes the winding-sheet. He carries it through the royal doors and places it on the altar table where it remains for forty days until the day of Ascension.
At midnight the Easter procession begins. The people leave the church building singing: The angels in heaven, 0 Christ our Savior, sing of Thy resurrection. Make us on earth also worthy to hymn Thee with a pure heart.
The procession circles the church building and returns to the closed doors of the front of the church. This procession of the Christians on Easter night recalls the original baptismal procession from the darkness and death of this world to the night and the life of the Kingdom of God. It is the procession of the holy passover, from death unto life, from earth unto heaven, from this age to the age to come which will never end. Before the closed doors of the church building, the resurrection of Christ is announced. Sometimes the Gospel is read which tells of the empty tomb. The celebrant intones the blessing to the "holy, consubstantial, life-creating and undivided Trinity." The Easter troparion is sung for the first time, together with the verses of Psalm 68 which will begin all of the Church services during the Easter season.
Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee from before his face!
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. (Troparion)
This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
The people re-enter the church building and continue the service of Easter Matins which is entirely sung.
Taken from Catechesis 54 of St. Theodore the Studite
Brethren and fathers, the season of Lent, when compared to the whole year, may be likened to a storm-free harbor, in which all who are sailing together enjoy a spiritual calm. For the present season is one of salvation not for monks and nuns only, but also for lay people, for great and small, for rulers and ruled, for emperors and priests, for every race and for every age. For cities and villages reduce their hubbub and bustle, while psalmody and hymns, prayers and entreaties take their place, by which our good God is propitiated and so guides our spirits to peace and pardons our offences, if, with a sincere heart, we will only fall down before him with fear and trembling and weep before him, promising improvement for the future. But let the leaders of the churches speak of what is suitable to lay people, for just as those who run in the stadium need the vocal support of their fellow contestants, so fasters need the encouragement of their teachers. But I, since I have been placed at your head, honored brethren, will also talk to you briefly. Fasting then is a renewal of the soul, for the holy Apostle says, Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward is being renewed day by day. And if it is being renewed, clearly it is being made beautiful according to its original beauty; made beautiful in itself it is being drawn lovingly to the one who said, I and the Father will come and make our dwelling with him.
Within the Turkana, there live not only a heartbeat of survival and a foot-stomp of joy, but a soul that takes joy in the risen Lord. Orthodox Christianity is alive and well in the cracked, mystic terrain of northern Kenya. The Turkana, in Turkana, speaking Turkana, proclaim the Trinity with the faith of a child and with the wisdom of an elder. Through the tireless love and effort of local parish priests, the committed involvement of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), and the willingness of many to receive the Gospel, the one, true faith has united over ten communities of believers.
I was accompanied by a team of seven incredible individuals to Kenya. It took no time at all to give ourselves the team name “Turkana Saba” (Saba is “seven” in Swahili). Strangers for but moments, we were a pan-Orthodox melting pot from Washington to California to Virginia to New York to Russia, and a few spots in between. The support and prayers of family and friends brought us together at the OCMC headquarters in St. Augustine, Florida. The passionate, dedicated OCMC staff readied us with lesson plan guidance and enlightened us on the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).