Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pascha is over, NOW WHAT!?

After the challenges of Great Lent and the special intensity that many express and share during Holy Week, once we have had our Pascha celebration, with all the singing, bell ringing, egg cracking, and lamb devouring, (not to mention the dancing!) many experience a bit of a letdown or even depression. Once the celebrations come to an end and the clean-up of the Church and our homes is complete, many begin to miss the “spiritual high” they experienced during Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha. If you experience what I’m talking about, then pay close attention to what I’m going to say next…

BRAVO! GOOD FOR YOU! WAY TO GO!

That means that you accepted the Church’s invitation during Great Lent and Holy Week and actively engaged in your faith. This may even be the first time you paid attention to the words because you FINALLY bought a Holy Week book and you could follow during the long prayers and hymns of Holy Week. You just completed two months of intense spiritual exercise and now you’re wondering, what comes next?

While the Church services are fewer following Pascha, your involvement in the spiritual life doesn’t have to come to an end. The Church continues a rich and full liturgical and prayer life YEAR-ROUND, not just during Great Lent. Many Churches sponsor Bible studies, weekday services, times for Holy Confession. Contact your local Orthodox Christian Church for a full list of services, lectures, classes, etc. There are many ways you can continue your spiritual journey, even if you have just begun during Holy Week. And to bridge the gap between Pascha and the rest of the year, the Church will sing Christ is Risen, the joyous Pascha hymn for forty days. There is only one thing the Church doesn’t do following Pascha…

The Church doesn’t “do it” for you. The Church opens her doors for you to embark upon a journey to heaven, but it is up to YOU to enter. It is up to YOU to make time, just as you did during Great Lent and Holy Week, to come to Church for special services and classes. It is up to YOU to live the Orthodox Christian way of life established by the Holy Apostles. The best part about Great Lent and Holy Week is that we get a chance to recommit our lives and schedules and priorities to God and live Christ-centered lives.

It’s up to you! Will you continue to accept the invitation of the Church? Or will you return to “normal” and the life you lived before Great Lent and Holy Week? Christ is risen, and you have been given a new start! Don’t waste it!


Christ is Risen!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Most Holy 24 Hours of the Year

This week is unarguably the most sacred week of the year, one reason the Church names this week Great and Holy Week. Beginning with this past Sunday evening and the Matins of the Bridegroom each evening the Church has asked us to dig deeper into our hearts, ponder longer within our minds, and pray fervently for the strength that we can embrace the call to repentance, and follow Christ as He ascends His Glorious Throne.

But the mood changed last night with the service of the Twelve Gospels of the Passion of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. The Church was dark and filled with candles and incense as the Priest and Chanters recited pages and pages of prayers and Scriptures. The high point of last was the procession of the Lord hanging on the cross with the words,
Today, He who suspended the earth in the waters is suspended on a cross (3x). The King of the Angels wears a crown of thorns. He who wraps the sky in clouds is wrapped in a fake purple robe. He who freed Adam in the Jordan accepts to be slapped. The Bridegroom of the Church is fixed with nails to the cross. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. We worship Your Passion, O Christ (3x). Show us also Your glorious Resurrection.

Following the sacred procession we were invited to come and humble ourselves at the foot of His Cross. This physical sign of humility must be met with a life of repentance and dedication to the Way established by Christ before ascending to heaven.

Today is a continuation of our sacred vigil at the Cross of Christ. Churches commemorate the time Christ spent on the Cross with a service called the Royal Hours. This afternoon, at the Ninth Hour, Churches will remove His dead body from the Cross and place it in His Tomb, which has been covered with flowers. And from that moment, the mood changes again as we immediately glance ahead at His Glorious Resurrection.

By the time we complete this 24 hour vigil, we will gather at the Tomb of Christ singing hymns of joyful-sorrow, called Lamentations, through which we will praise God’s saving work and expected Glorious Resurrecti

on.

If you have not yet engaged in the services of Holy Week, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE! It won’t get any more sacred than these 24 hours seeing Christ on the Cross. The next time we see Him, He will be raised from the Dead, and another NEW season will blossom in our lives.


Have a blessed Pascha!

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Scriptures and Great Lent - Palm Sunday and Holy Week

A Bible study focused on the Themes and Scriptures readings assigned for Palm Sunday and Holy Week in the Orthodox Christian Church. Filmed LIVE Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Florence, SC.


What Makes Holy Week So Special?

Every year we are invited by the Church to slow our busy lives down and spend an entire week coming to Church. This week, which is called Great and Holy Week, not only commemorates the final days of Jesus on Earth, but they are specifically set aside by the Church for us to devote our entire life to Christ. As early as 150AD there is evidence that Holy and Great Week was already a week of special devotion for Christians as they prepared to celebrate the Feast of Feasts – Holy and Great Pascha.

That means the week we begin today and the sacred and pious traditions, we are invited to participate in, are more than 1800 years old. That means millions of pious and devout Christians have shared many of the same processions, prayers, blessings, anointing services, and celebrations as we will this week. That means Holy Week is “tested and proven” by countless holy men and women, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, and myriad children.


This year is YOUR opportunity to join the millions of holy men and women in the most holy week of the year. This year is YOUR opportunity to dedicate your life to Christ and growing even closer to Him. This year is YOUR opportunity to add your voice to the countless saints of the Church in prayer for the grace of God. This year is YOUR opportunity to experience a life united to God.