Sunday, May 5, 2013

Christ is Risen!

Resurrection Icon from Christ the Savior, Chora, Istanbul

Indeed He is Risen!

Mat. Sarah will post all the pictures on Monday. . .stay tuned!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Good Friday

Here's everything that happened in the Church today. There's a lot folks!

Good Friday Vespers

"The noble Joseph, taking down thy most pure Body from the Tree,
wrapped it in clean linen and sweet spices and laid it in a new tomb.
But on the third day thou didst rise, O Lord, granting the world great mercy."

This afternoon, at Vespers, we remembered when Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate if he could take Jesus' body down from the cross, so that He could be buried. Pilate agreed, and so Joseph took Jesus and buried him in his own, brand new tomb. (How generous!)

During the Gospel Reading, Fr. Philip took down the icon of Christ which had been placed on the cross in the center of the Church the night before.

Towards the end of the service, Fr. Philip takes a special cloth icon, called the Epitaphios, from the altar table then carries this cloth in a procession before placing it in the tomb in the center of the Church. The Epitaphios depicts Christ being prepared for burial.

the Epitaphios at St. George in Lawrence, MA

The tomb and Epitaphios will stay in the center of the Church for the remainder of Good Friday.

The Lamentations Service

On the evening of Good Friday (which is actually Holy Saturday), we celebrate the Lamentations Service. At this service, we mourn Christ's death, but at the same time we remember why He died. The songs and hymns may be full of sad lament for all He suffered for us, but they also contain the hope and joy of the coming resurrection. Christ may be in the tomb, but He is certainly not at rest! He is doing the work of salvation, going down to Hades to raise Adam and Eve and all the other men and women who have died and to raise them up to heaven with him. This is why the Church seems to happy, even though we are remembering a sad event.

At the beginning of the service we see that members of the Church have lovingly decorated the tomb of Christ with beautiful flowers!

The choir then sings the Troparia for Holy Saturday:

 The noble Joseph, when he had taken down Thy most pure body from the Tree, wrapped it in fine linen and anointed it with spices, and placed it in a new tomb 

When Thou didst descend to death O Life Immortal, Thou didst slay hell with the splendor of Thy Godhead! And when from the depths Thou didst raise the dead, all the powers of heaven cried out: O Giver of Life! Christ our God! Glory to Thee!

The angel standing by the grave cried out to the women: Myrrh is proper for the dead, but Christ has shown himself a stranger to corruption.

Soon the whole Church begins to sing the Lamentations, in four different languages! (English, Arabic, Slavonic [Russian] and Greek) These are a special set of hymns, in which about how sad we are that Christ had died. Many of them are written from the point of view of Jesus' mother Mary, the Theotokos. We hear her crying and mourning at the grave of her son, and we too mourn with her.

"In a grave they laid thee, O my Life and my Christ: and the armies of the angels were sore amazed, as they sang the praise of thy submissive love."

During one of the last verses, Fr. Philip went around the entire Church and sprinkled everything with holy water!

Close to the end of the service, the whole congregation made a procession, with candles, outside into the streets. Four men carried the Epitaphios, or the cloth icon of the buried Christ, while the choir slowly chanted, "Holy God."

Right down Main Street, South Glens Falls!

Everyone entered the Church underneath the bier and epitaphios!

We then had a special Old Testament Reading from Ezekiel: the story of the raising up of the dry bones. God tells Ezekiel to prophecy to a bunch of bones, and suddenly they rise up and become living people again! ("Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, Oh hear the word of the Lord!") This was a foreshadowing of Jesus' resurrection.

At the end of the service, everyone received a flower from the tomb.

The Resurrection is nearly upon us!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Holy Thursday Evening

The Service of the Twelve Passion Gospels

Tonight, we heard the entire story of Jesus betrayal, capture, trial, torture, and crucifixion. These events are usually referred to as the "Passion Narrative." Each of the 12 Gospels which is read by the priest(s) tells a different part of the story, sometimes even overlapping. We get the full account, told from the perspective of each of the four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Now you might be wondering, why we remember Jesus' Crucifixion on Thursday when He died on Friday? Well, we don't. You might have noticed already that the days of Holy Week have been a little "off-schedule." For instance, Sunday night's service is for Monday, etc. It is the same with this service: the service of Thursday night is actually the Matins (or morning service) of Friday Morning.

The Passion Story

After the the "Last Supper," Jesus gives His disciples one more lesson, in which he tells them about who He is (God's Son), where He is going, (to death, and ultimately to God), and what is going to happen to them once He has die. In fact, Jesus asks God specifically to take care of His disciples--He cared about those with him. After this Jesus and the disciples go to a garden outside of the city and they pray there, but the disciples fall asleep. Suddenly a group of soldiers come to arrest Jesus. He is then taken to see the High Priest and the disciples scatter because they are afraid.

While Jesus is being questioned, Peter, one of the disciples, is asked by a bystander if He knew Jesus and he denies it. Peter does not want to be arrested too! Another person asks Peter the same question and he strongly denies it. Still another person asks Peter if He knew Jesus and then Peter swears and says, "I do not know the man!" Suddenly a rooster crows. Why is this important? Well, Peter has earlier insisted that he would follow Jesus to the end, but Jesus told Peter, "Before the cock crows you will deny me three times." And that's exactly how it happened. Jesus knew that even His closest friends were going to be scared about what was going to happen to them.

After the High Priests have condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy (because He said He was the Son of God!) they give to the Roman authorities, to a man named Pontius Pilate for trial. There Jesus is beaten by soldiers and made to put on a red "royal" robe and a crown of thorns so the soldiers can make fun of Him. Even so, Pilate says that he finds that Jesus is innocent and hasn't done anything wrong! But, the High Priests insist that Jesus has proclaimed Himself King of the Jews, which would mean declaring Himself king instead of the Roman Caesar. Pilate gives into the mob's shouts for crucifixion and hands Jesus over to be put to death.

After each Gospel a candle is lit. (Can you tell what Gospel we  are about to read?)

Jesus is made to carry His cross (with some help from Simon of Cyrene) to a hill outside the city called Golgotha. There is hung on the cross and crucified along with two thieves, who had also been condemned to death. One of the thieves makes fun of Jesus, saying that if he was really the Son of God he should rescue himself from death. The other thief disagrees. He knows that Jesus is innocent, but they are receiving justice for their bad deeds. He asks Jesus if he might be remembered when Jesus goes to His Kingdom. Jesus tells the good thief that "Today, you will be with me in paradise."

After a short while, Jesus looks up to heaven and gives his soul to God. Jesus is dead. A man name Joseph of Arimathea, goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus body in order to bury it and Pilate allows this. Joseph buries Jesus in a new tomb. Then the Jewish leaders ask Pilate to place a guard at the tomb, so the disciples cannot steal away the body, and he does so.

This is where we find Jesus today. In the Church, his icon is still hanging from the cross which has been placed in the middle of the Church. It was carried in a solemn procession by Fr. Philip or Fr. Edward. 

(Sorry, I could not show you much of this. It was very dark in the church)

In some Churches, you will see ribbons around the foot of the cross. It is traditional for some people to mark each of the Gospels with a small knot in a piece of ribbon. They then take these ribbons home to place in their icon corners or to use as bookmarks in their Bibles. It helps to remember this day all year long.

Tonight we will wait with Jesus as he lies in the tomb. We will be with Him, even in death, as He is always with us. Please be with us to pray.

Today's Services
Vespers ("Taking Down") 3PM
Lamentations 6:30PM

Holy Thursday Morning

Holy Thursday Morning Liturgy
at which we remember the "Mystical (Last) Supper"

This morning we celebrated a liturgy at which we remembered the very first time that anyone ever had communion. It is called the Mystical (or Last) Supper.

In the Gospel we read that Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples  just like Jews do today. Except at this Passover meal, something very special happened. While they were eating, Jesus picked up a piece of bread, broke it into pieces, blessed it and then said, "Take, eat; this is my body." Then He gave it to his twelve disciples. And then He picked up a cup, which was full of wine, gave thanks to God, and then He said, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-27)

Do those words sound familiar? That's right, those are the same words which Fr. Philip says every Sunday morning, when they are consecrated (making holy) the bread and the wine for communion. Every Sunday we celebrate this same meal which Jesus ate with his disciples  but today is the day on which it actually happened!

(Well, there's alot of story to be told)

Now more things happened today too. Today we also heard in the Gospel that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Now why would He do that? He was their teacher, and even more than that--He is God! Why he do something like this for them? Well, the disciples has the same question. (They had a lot of questions you know.) Jesus said to them that he did this as an example about how they should treat each other. If Jesus is willing to do something respectful and kind to them, then they ought to do the same to each other and to everyone else. Jesus is own example too, so shouldn't be so kinds? After all, He may have not have washed our feet, but He did die for us.

Lastly, we heard in the Gospel today that after supper, Jesus and His disciples went up to the Mount of Olives (a nice green garden area outside the city of Jerusalem) and that while there were there, a group of men sent by the chief priests came to arrest Jesus. Then they took Him to the High Priests in order to condemn Him. We are going to hear lots more about this story tonight.

Here, Fr. Philip is cutting up the extra Lamb (that's the bread) that he consecrated Liturgy.

This small pieces will be placed into a box (pyx or artophorion), which we then be kept in the tabernacle on the altar.

Today Fr. Philip, consecrated all the extra, or reserve, communion that we use for the whole year. He will use this communion to take to people who are sick at home or in the hospital.

Tonight's Service:
12 Passion Gospels 6 PM

Tonight is when we read the whole story of Christ's last teachings, as well as His capture, torture, and crucifixion.
Please come and pray with us.

In 2012, St. George Lawrence hosted Bishop John for Holy Thursday Liturgy. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Holy Wednesday Evening (Unction)

Holy Unction (Oil) Service

Remember Wednesday morning, when we heard the story of the woman anointing Jesus? 
Well now it is our turn to be anointed!

Wheat, wine, and oil. (These three always seem to go together!)

Wednesday evening of Holy Week many Orthodox Churches celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Unction (also called Holy Oil). We read seven gospels and seven epistles! 

All of them tell us about how God gives healing to those in the church through the Holy Spirit and also through holy oil. After each Gospel, a candle is lit.

Traditionally, there are seven priests present at this service! 

That's a lot of priests!

But it's alright if you only have one. =)

During this service, the Fr. Edward and Fr Philip blessed special holy oil which is then used to anoint those present for the healing of body and soul.

(In some churches the Gospel book is held over the head of the person who is going to be anointed. This is to show that through the stories and teachings in the Gospel God have given us the strength to overcome any obstacle.)

We even get to take some of the oil home with us! You can keep it with you throughout the year and use it if you ever are sick or are not feeling strong.

This service helps to remind us that the Church isn't just a place that we go for Sunday School or to get communion on Sunday mornings, it is a place that we come to whenever we have trouble in our lives, either sickness or sadness too. The Apostle James tells us, " Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up." (James 5:13-15)

Now does this mean that we don't go to the doctor when we are sick? Of course not! Doctors are wonderful! After all, there were many saints that were doctors (and we heard about a few of them tonight.)

What James is telling is that we also come to God (and the Church) and bring him our sicknesses and our sadness and through the prayers of those in our community we will be made well again.

Lastly, this service of Holy Oil is a way of preparing ourselves for the hard days to come. We are getting towards the end of Holy Week, which means we are getting closer to those dark days when Jesus is going to be beaten and killed. And all for our sakes! It will soon get very dark, but don't forgot, the light of the Resurrection is right around the corner!

Holy Wednesday (May 1)

The Sinful Woman and the Disciple

Today the Church remembers two events: The anointing of Jesus by the sinful woman and Judas' Betrayal.


We mentioned both stories last night, during the Bridegroom Service, but this morning we actually heard the Gospel story. Fr. Edward and Fr. Philip read during Liturgy:

"And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor. But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her. Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him." (Matthew 26:6-16)

Today a sinful woman does something wonderful and kind for Jesus while one of his own disciples sells him over to his enemies for money!

Did you ever wonder why the Church fasts (abstains from meat and dairy) on Wednesdays throughout the year? 
It is because of today's events! We fast on Wednesday's in remembrance of Judas' betrayal of Jesus.

What's happening tonight?

Lastly, there is a special service that will be happening this evening. It is called Holy Unction or the Holy Oil Service. This is one of the sacraments of the Church, just like communion or baptism. The priest anoints the people with a special oil, which is meant for the healing of the body (sickness, etc.) and the soul. We'll hear more about this service this evening.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wednesday's Bridegrrom Matins

Tuesday Night (Wednesday) Bridegroom Matins

Tonight was the last of the Bridegroom services for Holy Week. At tonight's service we heard about two people who treated Jesus very different ways. We didn't hear the whole of the Gospel stories, we'll hear those tomorrow morning, but the hymns that we sang told us something about what it going on.

Tonight was all about comparison! And who were we comparing? The Bad Gone Good and the Good Gone Bad.

Who is the Bad the Gone GoodWell that was a sinful women (adulteress, harlot, there's really no nice way to put it) who took a very expensive oil, put some on Jesus' feet and then wiped it with her own hair. She really wanted to show how much she cared about Jesus. She might have done many terrible things with her life, but she repented of all those sins by showing so much care for her Lord Jesus. There is a special hymn that was sung tonight called the Hymn of Kassiani, in which we hear the woman ask Christ, not to judge her because of her sins, but to accept her repentance. And he does! He even stands up for her when Judas, one of his own disciples, tries to scold her.

Who is the Good Gone BadThat is Judas. Yesterday we heard murmurings that Judas was thinking of betraying Jesus, but tomorrow is the day when he actually does it. Judas, a disciple who has been with Christ since the beginning, who has heard his teachings and seen all his miracles, is so upset at the kind way Jesus is treated by the sinful women that he immediately goes to the Jewish chief priests and asks for money to betray Jesus to them. Why was he so angry at the women that he would give up his friend to those who want to kill him? Well that is because when he sees the woman using all of that expensive oil on Jesus, he says that the money would better have been spent on the poor. Now, Judas really wasn't all that concerned with the poor, he was more concerned with the money. (He was in charge of the poor box and would often take money out of it for himself.) When Jesus scolds him saying, "Why do you trouble the woman?. . .For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me." That's what made Judas upset and that's why he went and sold Jesus to his enemies.

The hymns do a lot to compare these two: A terribly sinful woman who repents and honors Jesus in the best way she knows how and a disciple of Christ who sells out his friend, his Lord, for 30 pieces of silver. 

We will hear more about their stories tomorrow.

Tomorrow's Services
Holy Unction (Oil) Service 
Lawrence 6:30 PM
South Glens Falls 6PM

Hope to see you there!

Bridegroom Matins?

Tonight is the last of the Bridegroom services for Holy Week.

Last year someone in Sunday School asked why we call these services "Bridegroom Matins" so we asked Fr. Philip to explain.

Follow the link to check out last year's post.

See you tonight!

Got Questions?


Ever wonder where Bridegroom Matins got its name?

Or, for that matter, why we do matins at night?

Who is Cassiane?

Why is Good Friday called "Good" if that is the day when Jesus died?

What is Jesus doing between Friday and Sunday?

Why do we use red eggs rather than pastel colored ones?

We are here to answer all of your Holy Week and Pascha questions, so ask away!

(You can use the comment section at the bottom of each post to ask questions. All comments have to be approved, so don't be concerned if yours does not show up right away.)

Holy Tuesday (April 30th)

Lamps and Talents

Lot's of Bible Stories today!

Today we heard more of the stories of Moses and Job. Remember that we started their stories yesterday morning? Today, we heard that Pharoah's daughter found Moses in a basket in the river among the reeds and that she took and adopted him as her own son. 

Then we heard about the destruction of Job's servants as well as the death of his children. All the wonderful things that God has given him have been taken away. What will he do now?

What is Jesus doing now?

In these, his last days, Jesus giving some of his final teachings to his disciples. These next two parables are part of those teachings.

The Wise Virgins entered the marriage feast with the bridegroom, the foolish were left outside!

Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mat. 25:1-13)
In this story, there are 10 young women (a.k.a. virgins) awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom at a marriage feast. Five of them are wise, so they brought lamps and lots of extra oil (to make sure that the lights did not go out). The other five are very foolish indeed because they brought no extra oil. The groom is late, so they all decided to take a nap while they waited for him. In the middle of the night (this groom was very late!) everyone's is woken up: The bridegroom has arrived! The wise virgins get out their extra oil and relight their lamps, but the foolish virgins don't have any extra so they ask for some help. The wise virgins reply that if they share the oil there won't be enough to go around and no one will have any light! So the foolish versions have to go to the shops and buy some more oil. While they are away, the bridegroom comes and everyone one goes into the feast. Then the doors are shut. Finally the foolish virgins come back, but they have been locked out!! They knock and knock and cry "Lord, open for us!" But, all they hear back is "I don't know you." They have been left out of the feast because they were not prepared.

What the moral of the story? You don't know when Jesus is going to come, so be ready. Don't wait until the last minute and be caught unprepared because then you will miss out on the feast (ie. the kingdom of heaven).

Parable of the Talents (Mat. 25:14-30)
In this story Jesus tells us about a man who was about to go on a trip. He called all his servants together and put them in charge of his property while he was away. To one servant he have 5 talents (Talents are money, so lets just call them dollars for now), to another servant he have two dollars, and to another one dollar. Then the man went on his trip. While he was away, the first servant took his five dollars, did some trading, and came back with another five! The second servant took his two dollars, traded with them and made two more! The last servant took his one dollar and hid it in the ground. Now, when the man came back from his trip, he went to settle accounts with his servants, to see what they had done with his money. The first servant brought him ten dollars (the five he was given and the five he made) and the man was very happy! The second servant brought him 4 dollars (the two he got and the two he made) and the man was very happy! The last servant brought only the one dollar because he hadn't made any more money and the man was upset. He called the last servant lazy, saying that he ought to have done something with what he was give/n. Then he took the one dollar away from the last servant, gave it to the first servant who had ten dollars, and then threw the man out of his house.

What's the moral of the story? God gives us all gifts and we should use them instead of burying our heads in the sand and being too afraid to do anything. In the end, if we haven't done anything with the gifts God has given us, we will be sent away from him.

With these parables Jesus is trying to warn his disciples, and us too, that we had better do things with the life we are living now, because we do not know when the end will come. Now is the time to get to know God, to be prepared, and what better time then Holy Week, when there is so much going on. Even though today's stories might seem a bit harsh or scary, Jesus still lets us know that it is not too late. We still have time to be with him, so lets make the most of it!

Jesus and Jewish Leaders

peter_paul_rubens_render_unto_caesar_525.jpg (525×448)

We also heard in the gospel about a time when the Sadducees, the temple leaders, set out to entrap Jesus, to get him to say something which will show the people that he is a bad teacher. But instead, the plan backfires, and Jesus is shown to be an extremely intelligent teacher. Jesus then scolds them, and reminds them that they ought to be less worried about how they act (long prayers, perfect sacrifices, head tables, etc.) and more concerned with their relationship with God and being good leaders of His people.

The journey continues. . .

Tonight's services:

Bridegroom Matins (last one!)