Noble Joseph, taking down Thy most pure body from the Tree, wrapped it in clean linen with sweet spices, and he laid it in a new tomb.
Going down to death, O Life immortal, Thou hast slain hell with the dazzling light of Thy divinity. And when Thou hast raised up the dead from their dwelling place beneath the earth, all the powers of heaven cried aloud: ‘Giver of Life, O Christ our God, glory to Thee.’ The Angel stood by the tomb, and to the women bearing spices he cried aloud: ‘Myrrh is fitting for the dead, but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption.’ Learn More
Great and Holy Friday
A dread and marvellous mystery we see come to pass this day. He whom none may touch is seized; He who looses Adam from the curse is bound. He who tries the hearts and inner thoughts of man is unjustly brought to trial. He who closed the abyss is shut in prison. He before whom the powers of heaven stand with trembling, stands before Pilate; the Creator is struck by the hand of His creature. He who comes to judge the living and the dead is condemned to the Cross; the Destroyer of hell is enclosed in a tomb. O Thou who dost endure all these things in Thy tender love, who hast saved all from the curse, O longsuffering Lord, glory to Thee. Learn More
Instructing Thy disciples in the Mystery, O Lord, Thou hast taught them, saying: ‘My friends, take care that fear does not separate you from Me. For though I suffer, yet it is for the sake of the world. Do not be scandalized because of Me; for I have come not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give My life as a ransom for the world. If then ye are My friends, ye will do as I do. He who will be first, let him be the last; let the master be as the servant. Abide in Me, that ye may bear fruit: for I am the vine of Life. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and to the Ages of Ages. Amen. Learn More
Holy Week: Bridegroom Services
On the days following His entry to Jerusalem, Christ spoke to His disciples in particular about the signs that will precede the Last Day (Matt. 24 and 25); and so this forms the theme of the first part of Holy Week. In Western worship, on the other hand, the ‘last things’ are commemorated mainly during the pre-Christmas season of Advent.
The eschatological challenge of the first three days of Holy Week is summed up in the troparion and exapostilarion at Matins, both of which are repeated three times to a slow and solemn melody.
- Bridegroom Services
- Bridegroom Services Prayers
- The Hymn of Kassiani, chanted Holy Tuesday Evening
- Τροπάριο της Κασσιανής
- Holy Wednesday Evening: Sacrament of the Holy Unction | Anointing of the Sick
April 9: Palm Sunday
Six days before the Passover, O Lord, Thy voice was heard in the depths of hell, and from it Thou hast raised up Lazarus who was four days dead. Then the children of Hebrews cried aloud: ‘Hosanna to our God: glory to Thee!’
Entering, O Lord, into the Holy City, seated upon a foal, Thou hast drawn near with haste unto Thy Passion, to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Then the children of the Hebrews, foretelling the victory of the Resurrection, came to meet Thee with palms and branches, saying: ‘Blessed art Thou, O Saviour; have mercy upon us.’
- Gospel Reading John 12:1-18
- Palm Sunday, celebrating Christ’s entry into Jerusalem
The Saturday of Lazarus
This day, along with Palm Sunday, occupies a special position between Lent and Holy Week. Following the forty days of penitence which have just ended, and immediately before the days of darkness and mourning which are to follow in the week of the Passion, there come two days of joy and triumph on which the Church keeps festival. The Saturday before Palm Sunday celebrates the raising of Lazarus at Bethany (John 11:1-46). This miracle is performed by Christ as a reassurance to His disciples before the coming Passion: they are to understand that, though He suffers and dies, yet He is Lord and Victor over death. Learn More
The Sixth Week in Lent
During the services of this week, and to a still greater extent during Holy Week, the Triodion assumes the character of a historical narrative. Day by day we accompany Christ: we are with Him as He draws near to Jerusalem, as He reaches Bethany to raise Lazarus, as He enters the Holy City on Palm Sunday, as He approaches His Passion. The daily offices are marked by a sense of advancing movement and dramatic realism. Each day we call to mind, as exactly as possible, the things that must have occurred on the corresponding day during the last year of Christ’s earthly ministry.
April 2: The Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt
O Creator of our mortal nature, Fountain of mercy and Wealth of compassion, in Thy love for mankind Thou hast taken pity upon her that fled to Thee for refuge, and Thou hast snatched her from the destroying beast.
Hastening to see the Cross, O Mary, thou wast illumined by its light, through the divine providence of thy Crucified Lord; and thou wast thyself crucified to the world, O saint most worthy of our wonder. She who once led many into wickedness through evil lust, shines now in her sanctity like the sun, and has become a heavenly guide to all who sin.
- Gospel Reading Mark 10:32-45
- The Fifth Sunday of Lent: The Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt
The Akathistos Hymn to the Mother of God
At Matins on Saturday [typically sung Friday evening in anticipation], there is sung the Akathistos Hymn to the Mother of God. One of the greatest marvels of Greek religious poetry, with a richness of imagery that is the despair of any translator, the Akathistos Hymn has twenty-four main stanzas, alternatively long and short: each long stanza bears the title ‘ikos’ and ends with the refrain ‘Hail, Bride without bridegroom,’ while each short stanza is termed ‘kontakion’ and ends with the refrain ‘Alleluia.’ The title ‘Akathistos’ means literally ‘not sitting,’ the Hymn being so called because all remain standing while it is sung. Learn More
March 26: The Sunday of Saint John Climacus
O holy father John, truly hast thou ever carried on thy lips the praises of the Lord, and with great wisdom hast thou studied the words of Holy Scripture that teach us how to practice the ascetic life. So hast thou gained the riches of grace, and thou hast become blessed, overthrowing all the purposes of the ungodly. Most glorious father John, with the fountain of thy tears thou hast cleansed thy soul, and by keeping vigils through the night thou hast gained God’s mercy. Thou wast raised on wings, O blessed one, to the love of Him and of His beauty; and as is right thou dwellest now in His unending joy, with thy fellow soldiers in the spiritual fight, O holy saint of God.
- Gospel Reading Mark 9:17-31
- The Fourth Sunday of Lent: The Sunday of Saint John Climacus
- Our Venerable God-bearing Father John of Sinai, called Climacus
March 19: The Sunday of the Holy Cross
Hail! Life-giving Cross, the fair Paradise of the Church, Tree of incorruption that brings us the enjoyment of eternal glory: through thee the hosts of demons have been driven back; and the hierarchies of angels rejoice with one accord, as the congregations of the faithful keep the feast. Thou are an invincible weapon, an unbroken stronghold; thou are the victory of kings and the glory of priests. Grant us now to draw near to the Passion of Christ and to His Resurrection. O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance, granting the faithful victory over their enemies, and guarding Thy commonwealth with Thy Cross.
March 12: The Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas
What hymns of praise shall we sing in honour of the holy bishop? He is the trumpet of theology, the herald of the fire of grace, the honoured vessel of the Spirit, the unshaken pillar of the Church, the great joy of the inhabited earth, the river of wisdom, the candlestick of the light, the shining star that makes glorious the whole creation. What words of song shall we weave as a garland, to crown the holy bishop? He is the champion of true devotion and the adversary of ungodliness, the fervent protector of the Faith, the great guide and teacher, the well-tuned harp of the Spirit, the golden tongue, the fountain that flows with waters of healing for the faithful, Gregory the great and marvellous.
- Gospel Reading Mark 2:1-12
- The Second Sunday of Lent: The Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas
- Reflection – Saint Gregory Palamas
March 5: The Sunday of Orthodoxy
The grace of truth has shone forth upon us; the mysteries darkly prefigured in the times of old have now been openly fulfilled. For behold, the Church is clothed in a beauty that surpasses all thing earthly, through the icon of the incarnate Christ that was foreshadowed by the ark of testimony. This is the safeguard of the Orthodox faith; for if we hold fast to the icon of the Saviour whom we worship, we shall not go astray. Let all who do not share this faith be covered with shame; but we shall glory in the icon of the Word made flesh, which we venerate but worship not as an idol. So let us kiss it, and with all the faithful cry aloud: O God, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance.
Saturday of the First Week of the Great Fast
At the sacred memorials, as we know, kollyva is offered, a practice which can be traced to the middle of the fourth century. Kollyva, in antiquity, referred to special cakes made of boiled wheat with sugar, dried raisins, pomegranate seeds, nuts, herbs, etc. Bread and wine with olives or cheese or rice were offered in memorials of earlier times. The offering of these gifts served the purpose of charity, and those who partook of them would pray, “Blessed be his/her memory!” This is why they were called makariae (blessings), and had their origin at the meals or the funeral meals of which the Apostolic Constitution mention. Learn More
The Forty Days
The two preceding Sundays, of the Last Judgment and of Forgiveness, together constitute – albeit in reverse order – a recapitulation of the whole range of sacred history, from its beginning point, Adam in Paradise, to its end-point, the Second Coming of Christ, when all time and history are taken up into eternity.During the forty days that now follow, although this wider perspective is never forgotten, there is an increasing concentration upon the central moment in sacred history, upon the saving event of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, which makes possible man’s return to Paradise and inaugurates the End. Learn More
February 26: Forgiveness (Cheese-Fare) Sunday
‘Woe is me!’ Adam cried lamenting: ‘for the serpent and the woman have deprived me of my boldness before God, and through eating from the tree I have become an exile from the joy of Paradise. Woe is me! No more can I endure the shame. I who was once king of all God’s creatures upon earth have now become a prisoner, led astray by evil counsel. I who was once clothed in the glory of immortality must now, as one condemned to die, wrap myself miserably in the skins of mortality. Woe is me! Who will share my sorrow with me? But, O Lord who lovest mankind, who hast fashioned me from the earth and art clothed in compassion, call me back from the bondage of the enemy and save me.
- Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:14-21
- The Sunday before Great and Holy Lent
- Homily on Genuine Forgiveness by Saint John Chrysostom
- A Short Homily, On Forgiveness, by Saint Mark the Ascetic
February 19: The Last Judgment (Meat-Fare Sunday)
Come, merciful Lord, before it is too late: save me and deliver me from punishment.
O Lord supreme in love, as I think upon Thy fearful judgment-seat and the day of Judgment, I tremble and am full of fear, for I am accused by my own conscience. When Thou sittest on Thy throne and bringest all to trial, none will be able then to deny his sins, for the truth will accuse him and terror will constrain him. The flames of Gehenna will roar and the sinners will gnash their teeth. Therefore have mercy upon me before the end, and spare me, Judge most righteous.
- Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
- The Last Judgment: Meat-Fare Sunday
February 12: Sunday of the Prodigal Son
O Jesus my God, as the Prodigal Son now accept me also in repentance. All my life I have lived in carelessness and provoked Thee to anger.
The divine wealth that once Thous gavest me I have sinfully wasted. I have departed far from Thee and lived as the Prodigal, O compassionate Father. Accept me also now as I return.
Open Thy fatherly embrace now and accept me also as the Prodigal Son, O most merciful Lord, that I may glorify Thee with thanksgiving.
- Gospel Reading: Luke 15:11-32
- Return from Exile: The Sunday of the Prodigal Son
- The Prodigal Son Returns Home to the Father, by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan
February 5: Sunday of the Publican & the Pharisee
The Publican and the Pharisee ran the race of life together, but the one was overcome by foolish pride and brought to shameful shipwreck, while the other was saved by humility.
Changing to a righteous course of life, let us emulate the wisdom of the Publican and flee from the hateful conceit of the Pharisee; and so let us attain to life.
Let us eagerly follow the ways of Jesus the Saviour and His humility, if we decide to attain the everlasting tabernacle of joy and to dwell in the land of the living.