Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Content: Introduction. The Resurrection of Christ. Relationship between Passover and Easter. Prophecies about the Resurrection of Crist. Fruits of the Resurrection of Christ. Easter’s Worship Service. The Easter canon.
The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our faith. It is the first, the most important, the greatest and most inspiring Truth. With the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostles began their sermons. As with the death of Christ on the Cross we have been freed from our sins, so through His resurrection we have been given eternal life. Therefore the resurrection of Christ is a source of permanent gladness, continuous joy, which culminates with the feast of feasts — Holy Easter.
In this pamphlet we shall tell about the main events of the resurrection of Christ and show the interrelationship between Easter and the Passover of the Old Testament. We shall quote the Old Testament's prophecies about the resurrection of the Savior and comment on the importance of Christ's resurrection in our lives and the life of all mankind. At the end we shall explain the main elements of the Easter service and present the Easter canon.
Probably, there is not a single person in the whole world who has not heard of the death and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But simultaneously with the historical events of His death and resurrection being so widely known, their spiritual essence and their inner meaning are a deep mystery of God's wisdom, righteousness, and infinite love. The greatest human minds have hopelessly yielded to this inconceivable mystery of salvation. Despite this, the spiritual fruits of the Savior's death and resurrection are accessible to our faith and are heartfelt. And through this ability of our soul to accept spiritual light, we are convinced that the incarnate Son of God has voluntarily died on the Cross to free us from our sins and has resurrected to give us eternal life. Our entire religious belief and perception of life are based on this conviction.
Now let us briefly convey the main events related to the resurrection of our Savior. As the evangelists narrate, the Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross on a Friday, about three hours past noon, on the eve of Passover. On that particular night Joseph of Arimathea, a very rich and honorable person, with Nicodemus, took Christ's body from the Cross, anointed Him with sweet-smelling ointments, wrapped Him in a shroud, according to Jewish traditions, and buried Christ in a cave carved in rock. That cave was cut by Joseph for his own interment, but he transferred it for Jesus' burial out of his love for Him. The cave was located in Joseph's garden, near Golgotha, where Christ had been crucified. Joseph and Nicodemus were members of the Sanhedrin (the supreme Judaic court) and simultaneously were secret disciples of Christ. They placed a great stone at the entrance of the cave in which Christ was buried. The burial was accomplished hurriedly and not according to all the rules because the Passover celebration was going to begin that evening.
Despite the celebration, on Saturday morning the high priests and scribes came to Pilate and asked his permission to place Roman warriors as a guard at the tomb. They also put a seal on the stone covering the tomb's entrance. All this was done as a precaution, since they remembered a prediction of Christ that He would arise on the third day after His death. In this way the Judaic authorities, without knowing it, prepared strong proofs of Christ's resurrection, which followed the next day.
Where did the soul of our Lord go after He died? According to Church belief, He descended into Hell with His sermon on deliverance and led from there the souls of those who believed in Him (I Peter 3:19).
On the third day after His death, early Sunday morning, while it was still dark and the guards were at their post by the sealed tomb, the Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead. The mystery of His resurrection, as the mystery of His incarnation, is inconceivable to us. Through our weak human minds we understand the event in this way: during resurrection the soul of the Son of God re-entered His Body, which transfigured and became imperishable, enlivened and spiritualized. Our resurrected Christ left the tomb without removing the stone or touching the seal. The guards, having seen nothing, kept watch over the empty tomb. Later an earthquake occurred when an angel of the Lord, coming from Heaven, removed the stone from the tomb's entrance and sat upon it. His appearance resembled lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards, frightened by the angel, ran away.
Neither the myrrh-bearing women nor the disciples of Christ knew what had happened. Since the burial of Jesus Christ was accomplished in a hurry, the myrrh-bearers agreed that on the next day after the Passover, that is on Sunday, they would go to the tomb and finish anointing the Savior's body with sweet-smelling ointments. They did not know, however, about the Roman guards watching the tomb or about the seal. At daybreak, Mary Magdalene, “the other” Mary, Salome, and other honorable women, came to the tomb with sweet-smelling myrrh. On their way they deliberated: “Who will roll away the stone from the tomb for us?” — because this stone was very heavy. Mary Magdalene was the first one to come to the tomb. When she saw that it was empty, she ran back to the disciples Peter and John and told them about the disappearance of the Teacher's body. Later other myrrh-bearers came to the tomb. They saw a youth dressed in white clothing sitting on the right side of the tomb who told them: “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for the crucified Christ. He is resurrected. Go and tell the disciples that they will see Him in Galilee.” Being elated by the unexpected news, they hurried to the disciples.
Peter and John, having heard from Mary what had happened, ran up to the cave and, having found only a shroud and a cloth that had been placed on the head of Jesus, became distraught and returned home. Later Mary Magdalene went back to the place at which Christ was buried and began to cry. Then she saw in the tomb two angels in white clothing sitting where the body of Christ had lain, one at the head and the other at the feet. The angels asked her: “Why are you crying?” Having answered them, Mary turned around and saw Jesus Christ but did not recognize Him. Taking Him as a gardener, she asked: “Mister, if you have taken Him (Jesus Christ) away, then tell me where you have put Him, and I shall take Him.” Then the Lord said to her: “Mary!” Having heard a familiar voice, she turned toward Him and recognized Jesus. Crying out, “Teacher!” she fell at His feet. But the Lord did not allow her to touch Him and ordered her to go to the disciples and tell them about the miracle of His resurrection.
That same morning the guards came to the high priests and told them about the appearance of the angel and about the empty tomb. This news greatly troubled the Judaic authorities, for their fearful expectations had come true. Now they had to make sure that the people would not believe in the resurrection of Christ. Having gathered a council, they gave the guards a great deal of money and ordered them to spread rumors that the disciples of Christ, at night while the guards were sleeping, had stolen His body. The guards did so, and for a long time the people believed that the body of our Savior was stolen.
On the first day of His resurrection, the Lord appeared several times to His disciples, who were hiding alone and in small groups in different parts of Jerusalem. According to church tradition, Jesus first appeared to His Mother and comforted Her grief. Then the Lord appeared also to the other women, the myrrh-bearers, saying to them: “Rejoice!” They rushed to share their joyful news with the other disciples and the Apostles. This day the Lord appeared to the Apostle Peter and two other disciples, Luke and Cleophas, who were going to Emmaus.
That evening He appeared also to all of the Apostles who gathered in a house in Jerusalem, probably in the Zion's Chamber where the Lord's Supper was accomplished and where, seven weeks after Easter, the Holy Spirit came down onto the Apostles. Fearing the Jews, they confined themselves behind locked doors to discuss the rumors of His resurrection.
A week later the Lord reappeared to the Apostles, including Thomas, who was not present at the first appearance of the Savior. To dispel Thomas' doubts concerning His resurrection, the Lord allowed him to touch His wounds. Now Thomas believed and threw himself down at the Lord's feet crying: “My Lord and My God!” As the evangelists narrate, during the forty-day period after His resurrection, the Lord appeared to the Apostles several more times, talked with them and gave them His last instructions. Not long before His ascension the Lord appeared to more than five hundred believers.
On the fortieth day after His resurrection, in the presence of the Apostles, the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven and since then He “sitteth at the right hand of His Father.” The Apostles, encouraged by the Savior's resurrection and His glorious ascension, returned to Jerusalem to await the descent of the Holy Spirit.
As we know, the time of the Old Testament was a period of preparation for the Jewish nation for the advent of the Messiah. Therefore, some events in the life of the Jewish people, and especially the predictions of the prophets, have a direct relation to the advent of Jesus Christ and the coming of the epoch of the New Testament. The law of the Old Testament, according to the words of the Apostle Paul, was “a child-bearer to Jesus Christ” and “a shadow of future blessings” (Gal. 3:24, Heb. 10:1).
The most significant occurrence in the history of the Jewish nation was its liberation from Egyptian slavery in the time of the prophet Moses, some fifteen hundred years before Christ. This liberation became commemorated in the feast of the Jewish Passover with other related events: the angel's slaying of the Egyptian first-born and the “passing over” of the Jewish infants, whose houses had signs made with the blood of a Paschal lamb; (The word “Pascha” means “to pass by.” the miracle of the march through the Red Sea and the loss of the Egyptian army pursuing the Hebrews; and then the receiving of the Law (the Ten Commandments) on Mount Sinai by the Jewish people and the establishment of the Covenant with God, after which the Jewish nation was considered God's chosen people. Since then, in celebrating Passover and following their ancestors' traditions, the Hebrews symbolically make an offering of a Paschal lamb.
In the coincidence of the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ with the celebration of Passover, one ought to see God's sign of a profound inner relationship between these two events. We now shall examine these two events side by side.
The immolation of the chaste Paschal lamb and the salvation of the Jewish first-born by its blood.
The immolation on the Cross of the Lamb of God, by whose blood are saved the new first-born (Christians).
The miraculous march of the Hebrews across the Red Sea and their liberation from Egyptian slavery (Ex. 14:22).
The administration of the sacrament of Baptism by water and the freeing from the power of the devil (1 Cor. 10:1-2; see also Romans, chapters 6 and 7).
The legislation on Mount Sinai on the 50th day after the departure from Egypt and the establishment of the union (covenant) with God.
The descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles on the 50th day after the Easter feast and the institution of the New Testament (Acts 2).
The relishing of manna miraculously sent by God (Ex. 16:14).
The relishing of heavenly bread: the Body and Blood of Jesus at the Liturgy (John, ch. 6).
The 40-year-long wandering through the desert and different trials of the Jews.
The difficulties and trials of life which every Christian has to undergo.
The erection of the copper serpent, which saved bitten Hebrews from venom when they looked at it (Num. 21:9).
Freedom from the bite of the spiritual serpent-devil through the power of the Cross (John 3:14).
The entrance of the Hebrews into the land promised to their fathers.
The promise of a new heaven and a new earth where truth shall dwell (2 Peter 3:13).
We see from this comparison of the two Paschal events how the ancient Passover anticipated the great spiritual changes which have taken place in the lives of men after the resurrection of our Savior. That is why the Apostles, in celebrating the New Passover, affirmed: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us!” (1 Cor. 5:7).
Many prophecies of the Old Testament foretell the resurrection of the Messiah. Among them are those places in the Holy Scriptures which say that the Messiah shall be not only a person but also God and, therefore, immortal by His divine nature. See, for example, the following texts: Psalms: 2, 45 and 110; Gen. 9:6; Jer. 23:5; Mich. 5:2; Mal. 3:1. Prophecies which predict the eternity of Christ's Kingdom indirectly refer to His resurrection — because an eternal kingdom implies an immortal king. See Gen. 49:10; 2 Samuel 7:13; Psalm 132:11; Ezek. 37:24; Dan. 7:13.
The clearest prophecy about the resurrection of Christ is the one pronounced by Isaiah 700 years before Christ. This prophecy occupies the whole 53rd chapter of his book. Isaiah, after describing the sufferings of Christ in detail as if he were standing right beside the foot of the Cross, finishes his narration with the following words: “They assigned to Him a grave with the wicked, but He was buried in a rich man's, because He did not sin nor His mouth did say any lies. But God saw fit for Him to suffer, and to put Him to torment. But when His soul shall make a sacrifice of appeasement, He shall see life eternal. And God's will shall be successfully fulfilled by His hand. He shall look benevolently upon the exploits of His soul. Through His knowledge, the Just, My Servant, shall justify many and shall carry their sins upon Himself. Therefore, I shall give Him a place among the great and He shall share a prize with the strong.” The concluding words of this prophecy clearly say that the Messiah, after His redeeming suffering and death, shall come to life and shall be glorified by God the Father.
The resurrection of Christ was also predicted by King David in the 16th Psalm, in which David says on behalf of Jesus: “Always have I seen God before me, because He has me in His right hand, I shall not quake … Therefore My heart has been filled with joy, and My tongue has become merry. Even My flesh shall rest in hope. For You shall not leave My soul in hell nor allow Your Holy one to see putrefaction. You shall indicate to Me the path of life. A plenitude of joy before Thy face, bliss in Your right hand — forever” (Ps. 16:9-11, see also Acts 2:25 and 13:35).
Thus, these prophets laid down for their people a foundation of faith toward the advent and the resurrection of the Messiah. That is why the Apostles so successfully spread among the Hebrews the belief that Christ was resurrected from the dead, despite all the obstacles that were perpetrated by the religious leaders of the Jewish nation.
“As all die in Adam, so in Christ shall all revive” (1 Cor. 15:22). These Apostolic words expound upon not only the physical resurrection of people, but, in the first place, upon spiritual rebirth. As death can be either physical or spiritual (when the soul loses divine grace), so resurrection can be either physical (when the soul returns to its body) or spiritual (when the soul acquires the grace of God). The spiritual death of Adam, coming from the loss of communication with God, preceded his physical death. Death, because of moral damage, has come from Adam to all mankind. The resurrection of Christ constitutes the beginning of our spiritual resurrection, the awakening of spiritual longing in us toward our moral rebirth.
Referring to this spiritual resurrection of believers our Lord said: “Time is coming, and has already come, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and having heard it — shall come to life” (John 5:25). This is that “first” resurrection which the Book of Revelations discloses (Rev. 20:5). It means that people, after believing in the Son of God, are reborn in the sacrament of Baptism and become able to lead a spiritual life. God's grace becomes active in them and helps them to attain perfection. That is why the Apostles consoled Christians, reminding them that they, as opposed to non-believing gentiles, have already resurrected with Christ (Col. 3:1).
Spiritual resurrection in this life shall serve as a foundation for the physical resurrection, which shall come through the power of God Almighty on the last day of this world. Thenceforth, the souls of all the dead shall return to their bodies, and all mankind will come to life, no matter where and how each person died. The Lord predicted the universal resurrection, saying: “The time is coming, when all lying in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who did good shall go into the resurrection of life, and those who administered evil shall go into the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). On that day the appearance of each person will reflect his or her inner state: some of the resurrected will be bright and joyous, but others will appear hideous and awful as walking dead.
One should discern between the universal resurrection, which will happen at the end of the world, and the particular resurrections, which the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples performed during their lifetime. Several examples would be the resurrections of Jairus' daughter, the son of Nain's widow, the four-day-dead Lazarus, and so forth — all were cases of temporary awakening from death. As we know, some years later all those resurrected died again as all people do. However, at the time of universal resurrection, all people will rise up from the dead to live with their resurrected bodies forever. The resurrection of the dead on the last day of the world will be universal and simultaneous, both for the righteous and for the sinners. Then all the dead “shall come forth: they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).
From the Scriptures one has to conclude that the appearance of the resurrected righteous will be different from that of resurrected sinners. The resurrected bodies will be essentially the same ones that belonged to their souls in this early life. As the Apostle says: “THIS corruptible must put on incorruption, and THIS mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). But at the same time, they will be transfigured. The bodies of the righteous will be incorrupt and immortal. They will be completely free from weakness and from the infirmities of the present life; they will be spiritual, heavenly, similar to the body of the resurrected Christ. Life after resurrection will be like the life of the angels. As for the sinners, their bodies also will rise in a new form, but while receiving an incorrupt and spiritual nature, at the same time they will express in themselves the condition of their souls.
The celebration of Easter is marked by Orthodox Christians so joyfully because during the Paschal days they feel, more than at any other time, the reviving power of Christ's resurrection, the power that has dethroned the prince of darkness, liberated souls from the abyss of hell, opened the doors to paradise, defeated the bonds of death, and poured new life into the souls of believers.
It is significant that during Easter the Paschal joy, to a greater or lesser extent, is felt by so many people — not only those of profound belief, but also those who are cool-spirited and aloof from God. On this day all creation rejoices at the victory of life over death.
There is not a brighter and more joyful service of worship than Orthodox Easter. The service begins with a procession around the church with lighted candles in hand and singing: “The angels in Heaven, O Christ our Savior, sing of Thy Resurrection: enable us on earth with pure hearts to also glorify Thee.” This procession resembles that of the women who brought the myrrh to the Savior's tomb early in the morning to embalm His most pure Body. Having circled the church, the procession comes to a stop before the closed main doors, and here the senior priest begins Matins (an early morning church service) with the exclamation: “Hail, Holy and consubstantial and life-creating and indivisible Trinity.” Then all the priests and deacons, like the angel who announced Christ's resurrection, sing thrice: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the graves bestowing life.” Their singing is responded to by a chorus. The senior priest proclaims the prophetic verses of the psalm “Let God arise and His enemies disperse.” The choir completes every verse with the troparion:“Christ is risen.” The deacon repeats the beginning of the troparion “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,” and the choir ends it: “And on those in the graves bestowing life.”
At this time the main door of the temple is opened, everyone enters the church, and the deacon proclaims the great Litany. (short petitions with the singing of “Lord, have mercy” This is followed by a triumphal chanting of the Easter canon “The Resurrection Day” composed by Saint John of Damascus. During the singing of the canon, the priests and deacons cense the entire church and greet the congregation with the words: “Christ is risen!” To which all respond:“Truly, He is risen!”
At the end of Matins, the inspiring sermon of Saint John Chrysostom is read which begins with the words “Whoever is devout …” Hours are not read but are replaced by the chanting of Paschal hymns. The Liturgy begins right after Matins. Instead of the usual psalms, special antiphons (short prayers with verses) are sung; instead of the Trisagion is sung “As many as have been baptized in Christ.” The gospel is read about the everlasting birth of the Son of God from God the Father and the Divinity of Jesus Christ, God the Word (John. 1:1-17), which He has proved through His glorious resurrection. When several priests are present at the service, the Gospel is read in several languages. This reminds us that after Christ's resurrection the Apostles preached to different nations in their native languages.
Instead of the usual song glorifying the Virgin Mary, the following two prayers are sung:
“The Angel proclaimed to the Blessed One: Pure maid, rejoice! And again I say: Rejoice! Your Son has risen from the tomb on the third day after death and resurrected the dead. People be merry!”
“Be glorified, be glorified, New Jerusalem (Church of Christ), for over you shineth the glory of God. Triumph and rejoice, Zion (Church of Christ)! And you, Pure one, rejoice in the resurrection of the One you bore.”
Behind the ambon the arthos (holy bread) is consecrated. This is a special bread with an icon depicting Christ's resurrection. At a following service the arthos is broken into pieces and given to the believers to remind them of the resurrected Christ who appeared to the disciples Luke and Cleophas, on their way to Emmaus, and was recognized by them after His breaking of the bread. On the first day of Holy Easter there are consecrated eggs, cheese and butter, and sweet loaves with which believers break their fasting.
During the Easter days all believers greet each other with a brotherly kiss and the words “Christ is risen!” and exchange their colored eggs, which symbolize the resurrection. Throughout the whole Easter week the holy gates stay open as a sign that the resurrection of Christ has opened for everybody the entrance into heaven. Beginning with the first day of Holy Easter up until the Vespers of the Holy Trinity celebration (for 50 days) one should not make a full prostration.
Eirmos: It is the Day of Resurrection! Let us be radiant, O people! Pascha! The Lord's Pascha! For Christ our God has brought us from death to life, and from earth unto heaven, as we sing triumphant hymns!
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead. (before each troparion).
Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with inaccessible light of the Resurrection, and shall hear Him saying clearly, “Rejoice!” As we sing the triumphant hymns!
Let heavens rejoice in a worthy manner, the earth be glad, and the whole world, visible and the invisible, keep the Feast. For Christ our eternal joy has risen!
Katabasia: It is the Day of Resurrection!…
Eirmos: Come, let us drink a new beverage, not miraculously drawn from a barren rock, but the fountain of Incorruption springing from the tomb of Christ in Whom we are established.
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead.
Now all things are filled with light: heaven and earth, and the nethermost regions. So let all creation celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, whereby it is established.
Yesterday, O Christ, I was buried with Thee, and today I arise with thy arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee. Glorify me, O Savior, with Thee in Thy Kingdom.
Katabasia: Come, let us drink…
Hypakoe: When at dawn, the women with Mary came and found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher, they heard from the angel: Why seek among the dead (as if He were a mortal man) Him Who lives in everlasting light? Behold the grave-clothes. Run and tell the world that the Lord is risen, and has slain death. For He is the Son of God Who saves mankind.
Eirmos: May the divinely speaking Abbacum now stand watch with us, and show forth a shining Angel saying resoundingly: Today salvation has come to the world; for Christ is risen as Almighty.
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead.
Christ revealed Himself as of the male sex when He opened the Virgin's womb, and as a mortal He is called the Lamb. Thus without blemish also, is our Pascha, for He tasted no corruption, and, since He is truly God, He was proclaimed perfect.
Christ, our blessed Crown, like a yearling Lamb, of His own good will sacrificed Himself for all, a Pascha of purification, and as the glorious Sun of Righteousness, He has shone upon us again from the grave.
David, the forefather of our divine Lord, leapt and danced before the symbolical Ark of the Covenant. Let us also, the holy people of God, beholding the fulfillment of the symbols, be divinely glad; for Christ has risen as Almighty.
Katabasia: May divinely speaking Abbacum …
Eirmos: Let us arise in the deep dawn and, instead of myrrh, offer a hymn to the Lord, and we shall behold Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, Who causes life to dawn for all.
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead.
When they who were held by the chains of hell beheld Thy boundless compassion, O Christ, they hastened to the light with joyful feet, exalting the eternal Pascha.
Bearing lights, let us meet Christ, Who comes forth from the tomb like a bridegroom. And with the ranks of joyfully celebrating Angels, let us celebrate the redeeming Pascha of God.
Katabasia: Let us arise…
Eirmos: Thou did descend into the nether regions of earth, O Christ, and did shatter the eternal bars which held the prisoners captive; and like Jonah from the sea-monster, after three days Thou did rise from the grave.
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead.
Having kept the seals intact, Thou did rise from the grave, O Christ, Who did not violate the Virgin's womb by Thy birth, and Thou hast opened to us the gates of Paradise.
O my Savior, while as God Thou did voluntarily offer Thyself to the Father as an unslain and living sacrifice, Thou did raise up with Thyself the whole race of Adam, when Thou did rise from the grave.
Katabasia: Thou did descend…
Kontakion: Though Thou did descend into the grave, O Immortal One, yet did Thou destroy the power of hell, and did rise again as a conqueror, O Christ our Lord, saying to the myrrh-bearing women, rejoice! And giving peace to Thine Apostles, and offering Resurrection to the fallen.
Eikos: The myrrh-bearing maidens anticipated the dawn and sought, as those who seek the day, their Sun, Who was before the sun and Who had once sat in the grave. And they cried to each other: Friends, come, let us anoint with spices His life-giving and buried body — the Flesh Who raised up fallen Adam, and Who now lies in the tomb. Let us go, let us hasten, and like the Magi, let us worship; and let us bring myrrh as a gift to Him, Who is wrapped, not now in swaddling clothes, but in a shroud. And let us weep and cry: Arise, O Lord, Who offers Resurrection to the fallen.
Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us adore the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless One. We worship Thy Cross, O Christ, and Thy Holy Resurrection we praise and glorify; for Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee; we call upon Thy name. O come all you faithful, let us worship Christ's holy Resurrection. For behold, through the Cross joy has come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, let us praise His Resurrection. By enduring the Cross for us He destroyed death by death. (Thrice)
Jesus, having risen from the grave as He foretold, has given us eternal life and great mercy. (Thrice)
Eirmos: He Who delivered the children from the furnace, and became man and suffered as a mortal, through His suffering, He clothes mortality with the grace of incorruption, He is the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead.
The godly wise women came to Thee with myrrh. But Him Whom they sought with tears as dead, they joyfully adored as the living God. And they told to Thy disciples, O Christ, the glad tidings of the mystical Pascha.
We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of eternal life. And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.
For a truly holy and a supreme feast is this saving night radiant with Light, the harbinger of the bright day of Resurrection, on which the Eternal Light shone bodily from the grave upon all.
Katabasia: He Who delivered…
Eirmos: This is the chosen and Holy Day, the first of Sabbaths, the Sovereign and Queen, the Feast of Feasts, and Triumph of Triumphs, on which let us bless Christ forever.
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead.
O come, let us partake of the fruit of the new vine of divine joy on the auspicious Day of the Resurrection and Kingdom of Christ, praising Him as God forever.
Cast thine eyes about thee, O Zion, and behold! For lo! Thy children have assembled unto thee from the West and from the North and from the South and from the East, as divinely radiant luminaries, Blessing Christ unto the ages.
Refrain: O Most Holy Trinity, our God, glory to Thee.
Father, Almighty, the Word, and the Spirit, one Nature in three Persons united, transcending essence supremely Divine! In Thee we have been baptized, and Thee will bless us throughout all ages.
Katabasia: This is the chosen…
Refrain 1: Magnify, O my soul, Him Whom suffered willingly and was buried and rose from the grave on the third day.
Eirmos: Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. Now dance for joy and be glad, O Zion! And thou, pure Mother of God, rejoice in the rising of Him Whom thou didst bear.
Refrain 2: Magnify, O my soul, Christ the life-giver, Who rose from the grave on the third day.
Again: Shine, shine…
Refrain 3: Christ is the New Pascha, the living sacrificial Victim, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.
Troparion: O divine, O dear, O sweetest Voice! For Thou, O Christ, hast faithfully promised to be with us to the end of the world. And holding fast this promise as an anchor of hope, we the faithful rejoice.
Refrain 4: The Angel cried to her who is full of grace: Rejoice, pure Virgin! And again I say, Rejoice! Thy Son has risen on the third day from the grave, and has raised the dead. Rejoice, you people!
Again: O divine, O dear…
Refrain 5: Roaring royally, as the Lion of Judas, Thou hast slept, and Thou hast awakened the dead of all past ages.
Again: O divine, O dear…
Refrain 6: Mary Magdalene ran to the sepulchre, and she saw Christ, and spoke to Him as to the gardener.
Troparion: O great and holiest Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom, Word and Power of God! Grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the unending Day of Thy Kingdom.
Refrain 7: The radiant Angel cried to the women: Stop your tears, for Christ has risen.
Refrain 8: You people, rejoice, for Christ has risen, trampling down death and raising the dead.
Refrain 9: Today all creation is glad and rejoices, for Christ has risen and hell has been conquered.
Refrain 10: Today the Master conquered hell and raised the prisoners from all the ages which it had held in bitter bondage.
Refrain 11: Magnify, O my soul, the might of the Tri-Personed and Undivided Godhead.
Refrain 12: Rejoice, O Virgin, rejoice! Rejoice, O blessed one! Rejoice, O glorious one! For thy Son has risen from the grave on the third day.
Katabasia: Shine, shine…
The miracle of the resurrection of Christ is witnessed by the blessed fire that lights up yearly on Easter night in the Jerusalem temple dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ. This temple was built by the empress Helen in the fourth century at the place of the burial and resurrection of our Savior. The origin of that fire is unexplainable. At the onset the blessed fire is cold and can be passed across one's face without burning. It gets to its normal temperature of fire only after some ten or fifteen minutes. The Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem (or his proxy) after having received the fire, lights other candles with it, and immediately gives them out to the believers gathered in the temple. It is remarkable that the blessed fire comes down only at Orthodox Easter. Representatives of other religions that serve the mass in that temple do not receive the fire.
Jewish Passover is celebrated on the 14th day of the lunar month of Nissan. That day always falls in spring at the full moon. Christian Easter is closely connected to the Jewish festival. The first Ecumenical Council, gathered in Nicea in the year 325, ordained that Christian Easter be celebrated on the Sunday at the time of the spring equinox, right after Jewish Passover. According to this ordinance of the Council and astronomic calculations, Alexandrian astronomers have developed a system to calculate the Christian Easter feast for every year. Thus, there appeared “Paschalia,” the table of Easter's days for many years ahead. Alternation of the Paschal days repeats every 532 years (Indiction). According to the Paschalia, the earliest Christian Easter falls on the 22nd of March of the old-style calendar (on the 4th of April of the new-style). With Easter moving, the Great Fast, which depends on it, also moves. Thus, the celebrations of God's Passage to Jerusalem or Palm Sunday (a week before Easter), Ascension and Trinity (on the 50th day after Easter) also move with Easter. According to Paschalia, in 1999 Easter will occur on on the 11th of April; in 2000 on the 30st of April; in 2001 on the 15th of April; in 2002 on the 5th of May.
For the Christians the greatest feast days and festival were approaching. The time of joy and sorrow was approaching. We rejoiced because of this, that we would receive the new grace of the heavenly Fire, and celebrate the most radiant festival of Holy Pascha in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Yet we grieved in heart that the time was coming for everyone to part. We had lived six months together and had come to know one another. But most of all we feared those bitter moments when we should have to leave the holy city of Jerusalem, the holy and life-bearing Sepulchre of Christ and the other holy places. We came to our rooms, we ate dinner, rested and then went to spend the night in the Church of the Resurrection. Matins on Thursday was solemn; the early Liturgy was performed on the Grave of Christ; a bishop acted as proto-celebrant and there were many communicants at the Liturgy.
The late Liturgy was in the Patriarchate; the Patriarch himself served. The washing of the feet was in the court opposite the holy gates of the Church of the Resurrection. There was a platform made three steps high; around it were railings and on the railings columns rested. There were large candles on the columns. The platform was spread with carpets. In the center there stood a gold-plated table, and along the sides twelve chairs. On the wall towards the east they hung icons and before them candles were burning; by this wall a throne was erected for the reading of the Gospels. A hundred soldiers came and stood around the throne. In the court, at St. Abraham's Monastery, at the Gethsemane metochion, in the patriarchal monastery, and in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre there were great multitudes of people. We stood in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We saw the Patriarch coming out of the Patriarchal monastery in all his vestments, accompanied by the bishops and twelve priests. In front of them went twelve boys in servers' vestments with candlesticks and candles; then the chanters; then deacons with censers. Then came the priests and seven deacons with the dikiri and trikiri. Behind them came the Patriarch who was blessing the people with both hands; behind him, the bishops in rassas. Having mounted the platform, the Patriarch sat in his place and ordered the other priests to sit according to rank. The bishops stood by and watched. The order of the washing of the feet began according to the typicon, and the archimandrite read the Gospel from the throne.
Before evening the blessing of oil was performed in all the monasteries, and everywhere the bishops themselves anointed all the pilgrims with the oil. That evening the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was not opened and they allowed no one to spend the night there. But a Russian noblewoman petitioned the Patriarch and the consul to conduct the vigil on Golgotha half in Russian. The Patriarch respected their request and when it was already late in the evening, they opened the holy gates and allowed only the Russians into the church. Compline was read on Golgotha and they chanted the whole canon to the Cross in Greek. Then the Greeks went to sleep, and we Russians went to the cave where the Empress Helen found the Cross. There we read the twelve Gospels of the Passion and the synaxarion and other things appropriate for that day, and we chanted the Akathist to the venerable Cross.
When they began beating the semantron for Matins, we all went to Golgotha, and Matins was served according to the typicon. They read the Gospels — six in Greek and six in Russian. The antiphons and canons were chanted by the right choir in Greek and the left in Russian; and the service lasted six hours. The Royal Hours were all read and chanted on Golgotha in Russian. In the morning the doors to the church were not opened and there was silence in the church. At the twelfth hour of the day two deacons were sent to each holy place to cense it. First two Orthodox deacons censed. Then two Armenian deacons wearing mitres censed. Then two Coptic deacons went also, wearing mitres. The Latins did not cense. Their deacons wear clothing different from all other religions. Then everyone had processions. At one o'clock in the afternoon, they opened the holy great gates of the church. The people rushed into the church, and there was a great din in the church. Everyone rushed to get a place. We were already occupying our places. In a minute the whole church was filled with people.
Half an hour later, suddenly, near the Grave of Christ there was a noise and the Arabs started shouting in their strange tongue; about fifty men joined hands and stood on one another's shoulders three-high and raised their hands to heaven and all began shouting. They began to run around the Sepulchre of Christ and then around the whole church: they ran and shouted until the evening. Then a thousand men of the Turkish military came and made a guard near the holy gates, and placed watchmen about the whole church. The Patriarch then came with much glory, and he was met majestically. Vespers was solemn; but they did not take the epitaphios from Golgotha because of the possibility of disorder. After Vespers the Arabs again took to their “work” and again began to run around and shout. I asked those who understood Russian, “What are they saying?” They told me that they were praising the one Orthodox faith, but were reviling the other confessions as being false and soul-destroying. They came to the Armenians and reviled them, saying that they themselves had wanted to receive the grace, but instead of that had eaten defilement.
Let me tell you about this: At the Great Gates themselves, on the left side, stands a column made out of marble with a fissure from which the grace, that is, the Holy Fire, came forth. This column is honored by Orthodox as well as non-Orthodox, and even the Armenians. I would like to write a little about this incident, how the Orthodox Eastern Christians unanimously speak of it and the Turks themselves confirm it. In the wall there is an inscribed marble slab, and they say that this very incident is written on it; but we could not read it because it is written in Syrian letters, in the Arab tongue; and I only heard about it, but did not read it. But the incident happened something like this: At one time when the Greeks were completely oppressed by the Turkish yoke, some rich Armenians took it into their heads to force the Greeks out of the Holy Sepulchre and out of the Church of the Resurrection. They gathered a large sum of money and bribed the Ottoman Porte and all the Jerusalem authorities, assuring the unbelievers that the Holy Fire comes forth not simply for the sake of the Greeks, but for all Christians, and “if we Armenians are there, we also will receive it!” And the Turks, who are greedy for money, accepted the bribe and therefore did as the Armenians wished, and they affirmed that only the Armenians would be allowed to receive the Holy Fire. The Armenians rejoiced greatly and wrote to all their lands and to their faithful, that more of them should go on a pilgrimage. And a great multitude of them did come. Holy Saturday approached: the Armenians all gathered in the church, and the Turkish army drove the poor Greeks out. Oh, what unspeakable grief and sorrow filled the Greeks! There was only one comfort for them — the Grave of the Saviour, and they were being kept away from it, and the Holy Gates were locked to them! The Armenians were inside the church and the Orthodox were on the streets. The Armenians were rejoicing and the Greeks were weeping. The Armenians were celebrating and the Greeks were bitterly lamenting! The Orthodox stood opposite the Holy Gates on the court and around them stood the Turkish army, watching so that there would not be a fight. The Patriarch himself with all the rest stood there with candles, hoping that they would at least receive the Fire from the Armenians through the window. But the Lord wished to dispose things in a different way, and to manifest His true Faith with a fiery finger and comfort His true servants, the humble Greeks. The time had already come when the Holy Fire issues forth, but nothing happened. The Armenians were frightened and began to weep, and ask God that He send them the Fire; but the Lord did not hear them. Already a half hour had passed and more, and still no Holy Fire. The day was clear and beautiful; the Patriarch sat to the right side. All of a sudden there was a clap of thunder, and on the left side the middle marble column cracked and out of the fissure a flame of fire came forth. The Patriarch arose and lit his candles and all the Orthodox Christians lit theirs from his. Then all rejoiced, and the Orthodox Arabs from Jordan began to skip and cry out, “Thou art our one God, Jesus Christ; one is our True Faith, that of the Orthodox Christians!” And they began to run about all of Jerusalem and raise a din, and to shout all over the city. And to this day they still do this in memory of the incident and they jump and shout, running around the Holy Sepulchre, and they praise the one true God, Jesus Christ, and bless the Orthodox Faith.
Beholding this wonder, the Turkish army, which was standing around on guard, was greatly amazed and terrified. From amongst them one named Omir, who was standing at the St. Abraham's Monastery on guard, immediately believed in Christ and shouted, “One is the true God, Jesus Christ; one is the true faith, that of the Orthodox Christians!” And he jumped down to the Christians from a height of more than 35 feet. His feet landed on the solid marble as if though on soft wax. And to this day one can see his footprints imprinted as though in wax, although the non-Orthodox tried to erase them. I saw them with my own eyes and felt them with my own hands. And the column with the fissure still bears the scorch marks. As for Omir the soldier, having jumped down, he took his weapon and thrust it into the stone as though into soft wax, and began to glorify Christ unceasingly. For this, the Turks beheaded him and burned his body; the Greeks gathered up his bones, put them into a case and took them to the Convent of the Great Panagia, where they gush forth fragrance until this day. The Armenians in the Holy Sepulchre received nothing and were left only with their shame. The Pasha of Jerusalem and other Turkish authorities were greatly displeased with them and wanted to slaughter them all, but they feared the Sultan. They only punished them heavily: they say that they made each one to eat dung as he left the church.
But now to return to the services in the Church of the Resurrection. Having reviled the Armenians, the Arabs reviled the Latins, saying that they do not believe in grace, and do not receive the Holy Fire from the Grave of the Lord, but they start their own fire. And we saw their ungodliness from what had happened the week before. On the sixth Sunday of the Fast we prepared for communion. On the eve of Lazarus Saturday we went to spend the night in the church at the Holy Sepulchre in order to receive the Holy Mysteries. In the evening they read Compline on Golgotha; then we wanted to read the rule of preparation for Holy Communion. But the Latins had begun a procession: for them it was Holy Saturday, and they were going to Golgotha with their cross. We wanted to wait until they passed by; but our Orthodox people, Russians and Greeks, were also standing on Golgotha to watch their procession and rites. There were very few of us; there were no more than fifty Greeks, counting the chanters. But there were more than five hundred Latins, and they also had with them about fifty soldiers. When they came to Golgotha, the Latins first chanted and read at their own place; then they went over to our place, where the Cross of Christ had stood. Our monks took down all the lamps which could possibly interfere with them and carried away the candlestands, and thus cleared the area. There remained only a covering on the Holy Table. The Latins set up their cross behind our Holy Table and said that we should take the covering off the Holy Table. The Greeks refused, saying, “We cannot do this, for the covering is never taken off, and the firman does not allow it; but you spread your own cloth on top”; when the Latins tried to take the covering off by force, the Greeks did not let them. Then the Latin archbishop came and scandalously grabbed the covering off the Holy Table. There were two consuls standing by: a Russian and a Greek. Immediately the Greeks made an uproar and dashed out into the corridor and brought many pieces of wood from the kitchen, and a fight began on Golgotha. The Greeks were beating them with pieces of wood, and the Latins hitting back with candles, but afterwards they also brought pieces of wood. The Turks rushed in to break it up, but their guns had been taken away; and they ran to save the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Resurrection, for at that time, since it was towards Palm Sunday, everything was ornamented with silver and gold. We did not know where to run and we froze from fear. The Russian consul was saving his own people and conducting them to the trapeza. We, about twenty of us, went to the Church of the Resurrection and from fear did not know where to go, whether into the altar or even under the Holy Table!
Noise, shouting, cries rose to heaven, especially on Golgotha. All the Christians were sounding alarms — the Orthodox on all the semantra, but also the Armenians, Latins, and Copts. The soldiers were standing around the Holy Sepulchre, hand to hand, with their weapons too, and so that there would not be any theft, they stood by the gates of the Church of the Resurrection. The fight had spread all over the church. They threw the Latin Patriarch down from Golgotha; it was good that he fell on the people, or else he would have been killed. Metropolitan Meletius began admonishing them to stop the fight, but they said to him, “You stand in your own place, Vladyka, but we will die for our faith here; for there are few of us and many heretics.” Unable to do anything the bishop sat down with the Turks. The fight continued for more than an hour, until the Turkish army and the Pasha himself came. Then they separated them one by one and locked them up in the guest houses. We, the few Russians, went away to the Church of the Mother of God. The soldiers wanted to take us and shut us up also, but we said that we were Muscovites and they left us alone. Then for an hour they had a council: the Archbishop, the Pasha, and the consul were discussing the matter. At that time I was able to read the rule for preparation for Holy Communion. After the meeting the Pasha, Archbishop, and consuls each went home. The Latins began their procession again, and finished on the Grave of Christ; then the soldiers drove them all out and they went away themselves. They locked the gates of the church and sent everyone away. And again they began beating the semantra for Matins.
We had Matins in the Church of the Resurrection and had Liturgy on the Grave of Christ, and I was deemed worthy to be a partaker of the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ. But Mount Golgotha was all covered with blood; and during the whole of Matins two men were washing it with water. Three people were killed. I have not seen such terror since the day I was born.
Again let us return to the Holy Week services. The non-Orthodox gave money to the soldiers so that they would beat the Arabs who were reviling everyone else's faith and drive them away. For that reason the Arabs were all in a blood and sweat. They took their long shirts from their shoulders and would walk about half-naked. If someone would beat them, they would not worry, but would continue their task. When they ran around the Grave of Christ and the Church of the Resurrection they kept saying just one thing, and we found out that this is what they were saying: “One is God, Jesus Christ! One is the faith of the Orthodox Christians!” Then the Christians of all confessions carried the epitaphios: the Armenians, Copts, and Syrians. First they went to Golgotha, then to the taking down from the Cross, and then three times around the Grave of Christ and then went away to their own sections. Thus we spent the night until dawn amidst unceasing noise. In the church it was like a bazaar or a fair. Till now the pilgrims were scattered out all over Jerusalem; and now all Christians from different countries were gathered in the one church, at the Sepulchre of their Saviour, Jesus Christ. The balconies and all the galleries were filled with people. All were asking, all were pleading in their different ways. Crowds everywhere, and fights everywhere because of the crowdedness. No one understood the other's language and Turkish soldiers were ceaselessly dispersing the people. You could say that the church, like Heaven itself, was gathering in itself the whole world. Thus we spent the night until dawn.
Then they began to beat the wood for Matins and the Arabs stopped making noise. The Patriarch began Matins and they passed out candles to all the Orthodox. They chanted the whole Kathisma “Blessed are blameless” in the Church of the Resurrection. They went to Golgotha to read the Gospel. Having read the Gospel they lifted the epitaphios and carried it from Golgotha with banners and lanterns. There was a great gathering of clergy: besides the deacons, priests, abbots, and archimandrites, there were six bishops and the Patriarch, and a host of chanters. When they had carried the epitaphios from Golgotha, they went around three times — for the taking down from the Cross. Then they laid it on the place where Jesus Christ was wrapped in linen and anointed with myrrh for burial. Here a long sermon was given. Then they carried the epitaphios to the Grave of Jesus Christ, and carried it around the Sepulchre three times. They carried it into the Sepulchre and placed the epitaphios on the Tomb itself. The clergy stood around the shrine of Christ's Sepulchre. Only the clergy chanted the whole canon ("Kimati thalasses”) and the verses. The people held candles in their hands. There they also chanted the Praises and the Great Doxology, and read the Gospel. And there, they finished Matins and the Hours. After this they took the epitaphios to its place and the Turks sealed the Sepulchre.
After the service the Arabs took up their task again, but they had multiplied now, because the people of Jerusalem, merchants and old people, took off their turbans, took each other by the hand, and began to shout and skip. When dawn came, they began to put out the fires and lamps and nowhere was a lamp left burning. The Turks opened Christ's Sepulchre and put out all the lamps. Then the Turkish authorities and the Pasha himself came; and host of armed soldiers stood around Christ's Sepulchre. In the church everything had changed; everyone had become melancholy and the Arabs had become hoarse and weak. The church was unusually crowded and stuffy. Above, all the balconies were crammed with people in four rows. All the iconstasia and the domes were full of people. All were holding thirty-three candles in both hands in remembrance of the years of Christ's life. There was nothing lit anywhere.
The Patriarch went up to the main iconostasis with the consul. Meletius, the Metropolitan of Trans-Jordan, sat in the altar with the rest of the bishops, all melancholy and hanging their heads. In the church the Moslems with their weapons of war were giving orders; the Arabs had already stopped running about, but stood lifting their hands to heaven and uttering compunctionate cries; the Christians were all weeping or continually sighing. And who at that time could withhold his tears, beholding such a multitude of people from all countries of the world weeping and wailing and asking mercy from the Lord God? It was joyous to see that now, although unwillingly, the rest of the Christians were showing some respect for the Orthodox Greek Faith and for the Orthodox themselves, and that they were looking upon the Orthodox as though upon the brightest of suns, because everyone was hoping to receive the grace of the Holy Fire from the Orthodox. The Armenian patriarch went to the altar with two bishops and the Coptic metropolitan, and they bowed to Metropolitan Meletius and the rest of the bishops and asked that when we receive the grace of the Holy Fire, that we grant it to them also. Metropolitan Meletius answered with humility and told them to pray to God. They went to their own places. Then the royal gates were taken off and were replaced with others with a special opening.
It is not possible to describe what was then happening in the church. It was as though all were waiting for the Second Coming of the King of Heaven. Fear and terror fell upon all, and the Turks became despondent. And in the church there was nothing to be heard except sighing and groans. And Metropolitan Meletius' face was wet with tears. Then the Turkish Pasha came with the other authorities, and they went into Christ's Sepulchre to make sure that nothing remained alight there. When they came out they sealed the Sepulchre, but previously they had placed a large lamp inside, filled to the very brim with oil. In it floated a large wick. They put the lamp in the middle of the Tomb of Christ. Now there were no Christians near the shrine, but only the Turkish authorities. And from the balconies they let down on ropes hundreds of wires with bunches of candles attached.
At eight o'clock according to Russian time (two in the afternoon), they began preparing for the procession with the Cross. The bishops, priests, and deacons, having dressed in all their sacred vestments, each took thirty-three unlit candles. Then from the altar, through the royal doors, were handed twelve banners, and whoever could took them. The soldiers cleared the way, and the chanters went behind the banners. From the altar through the royal doors came the deacons, priests, abbots and archimandrites, two by two, then the bishops, and behind all of them, Metropolitan Meletius. They went to the Lord's Sepulchre, and went around it three times chanting, “Angels in the heavens, O Christ our Saviour, praise Thy Resurrection with hymns; deem us also who are on earth worthy to glorify Thee with a pure heart.”
Having finished the procession, all the clergy went quickly into the altar with the banners. Metropolitan Meletius stayed alone at the entrance of the Sepulchre in the hands of the Turks. The Turks divested him, and the authorities searched him. Then they put the omophorion on him, opened the Sepulchre of Christ, and let him go inside. Oh, what fear and terror fell upon all them that were there at the time! All were silent and moaning and asking the Lord God that He not deprive them of the grace of His heavenly Fire. Some time passed, I do not know how long, for we were all beside ourselves from a kind of fear. But all of a sudden from near Christ's Sepulchre there shined a light. Soon light also appeared from the altar in the royal doors in the opening. And it flowed like two rivers of fire, one from the west, from Christ's Sepulchre, and another from the east, from the altar. Oh, what joy and exultation there was in the church then! Everyone became as though drunk or besides himself, and we did not know who was saying what, or who was running where! And a great noise rose in all of the church. All were running around, all were crying out in joy and thanksgiving — most of all the Arab women. The Turks themselves, the Moslems, fell on their knees and cried, “Allah, Allah,” that is, “O God, O God!” Oh, what a strange and most wonderful sight! The whole church was transformed into fire. Nothing could be seen in the church besides the heavenly Fire. Above and below, and round all the balconies the Holy Fire was being poured forth. And afterwards there was smoke about the whole church. And a good half of the people went out with the Fire and carried it about Jerusalem to their own homes and to all the monasteries.
In the Great Church Vespers began, and then the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. The Metropolitan served with the priests, and he ordained a deacon. The people stood through the Liturgy with candles. When the Metropolitan of Trans-Jordan goes into the Sepulchre, he finds a large lamp standing on the Grave of Christ which has been lit by itself; sometimes it lights itself unexpectedly while he is there. However, he himself has never seen it light. In Jerusalem, I heard from many people with whom the Metropolitan himself had spoken about it openly: “Sometimes I go in and it is already burning; then I take it out quickly. But sometimes I go in and the lamp is not yet burning; then I fall down to the ground from fear and begin with tears to beg mercy from God. When I get up the lamp is already burning and I light two bunches of candles and I carry them out and distribute them.”
The Metropolitan carries the fire out into the vestibule and puts the bunches of the candles into iron holders and gives them out from the Sepulchre through openings made for that purpose, with the right hand to the Orthodox and the left hand to the Armenians and the rest. The Orthodox Arabs stand in a crowd near the opening. As soon as the Metropolitan shows the Holy Fire, one Arab, laying hold of it, runs straight to the altar and there through the royal doors it is distributed to the people; but one is hardly able to light his candles in the openings. Then the Metropolitan again returns to Christ's Sepulchre and lights another two bunches and goes out of the door of the Sepulchre. The strongest Arabs stand at the doors of the Sepulchre and await him. As soon as he goes out holding in his hands the thirty-three burning candles, the Arabs, taking him in their hands, carry him directly to the altar. All the people rush toward him. They all desire to touch his clothing. And with great difficulty, they are barely able to carry him into the altar. They sat him on a chair, and he sat through the whole Liturgy as though beside himself, with his head bowed; he did not look up and did not say a word; and no one disturbed him. As soon as they carried him out of the Sepulchre, the people rushed in to venerate it. And I was deemed worthy to do the same. The whole of Christ's Sepulchre was wet, as though dampened by rain; but I could not find out what it was from. In the middle of the Grave stood the large lamp which lit itself and a great flame was burning.
After the Liturgy each person went to his place, and all congratulated each other on the reception of the grace of the Holy Fire.
In the evening we all went to spend the night in the church at Christ's Sepulchre. And when we came to the church we beheld a wondrous and most glorious sight: the whole church, especially the Sepulchre, was wondrously decorated with various silver and gold icons and figures, and above a multitude of silver and gold-plated lamps, burning with a great brilliance. A host of candles made of white wax were set in place, but not yet burning. The whole church was hung with lamps; where there was previously one lamp, now there were ten; I wanted to count them, but I could not. Everywhere it was quiet and peaceful. The doors of the church remained unlocked the whole night through. The soldiers in the court started a fire. And that night was happiest of all: no matter where you went, you would find joy everywhere. And not only was this joy in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but all over Jerusalem. The whole night people were walking along the streets in crowds; everywhere they were burning fires, and all the monasteries were open. The Turks themselves became happy and meek, and went in crowds to look at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Only the Jews locked themselves in their homes, and not bearing to behold the light of truth, they stayed moldering in their evil. The Latins, however, although they are the enemies of the Eastern Church, celebrated with us. Although soldiers stood in the church around the Sepulchre of Christ, they did not prevent anyone from approaching the Sepulchre. Thus we spent the evening until ten o'clock. Then at the third hour before midnight they began to call us to Matins on various semantra, and with various rhythms all in a most solemn manner. The Patriarch came with his whole assembly, and there was a most ceremonial meeting for him.
Then they began Matins. They chanted the canon “The waves of the sea” completely, verse by verse, antiphonally, with the heirmos and fourteen troparia. They chanted two hours. At that time they lit the candles and oil lamps around the whole church; in the domes themselves more than a thousand lamps were lit. We monastics all stood in the altar. Then the Patriarch and the metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, archimandrites, abbots, priests and deacons and all the church clergy, having put on all their sacred vestments, took twelve banners. The banners were richly adorned; they had been presented by ancient Greek and Georgian kings. They were sewn with gold and pearls. They bring them out only on Pascha. Behind the Patriarch they carried a banner which took three men to hold; it was sewn only with gold, and was an image of the Resurrection of Christ of Russian workmanship offered by Muscovite merchants. Then they gave everyone large candles of white wax. They also lit candles and oil lamps around the whole church.
The Sepulchre seemed as though it were one fiery lamp. From the large candles in the hands of each person the whole church became as though on fire and the domes of the church shone like the sun. Those that were in the procession of the Cross took the Gospels, icons, crosses, and the candles and went from the altar of the Church of the Resurrection through the royal gates directly to Christ's Sepulchre, chanting, “Angels in the Heavens, O Christ our Saviour, praise Thy Resurrection with hymns; deem us also who are on earth worthy to glorify Thee with a pure heart.” When they had gone in procession around the Sepulchre three times, the whole concourse of clergy stopped opposite the doors of the Sepulchre. Then the Patriarch himself read the Gospel of the Resurrection from Matthew which is read in the evening on Saturday in the Liturgy. Then he took the censer inside, and censed the Grave of Christ. When he came out he censed around the whole shrine and all the brethren. Then with all the bishops he went into the Sepulchre of Christ, and there, having censed, he exclaimed, “Glory to holy and consubstantial and indivisible Trinity, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.” The bishops exclaimed, “Amen.” Then the Patriarch himself with all the bishops, from within the Sepulchre itself, chanted, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the graves hath He bestowed life.” And they chanted this three times. They did not chant in Russian, but only in Greek, that is, “Christos anesti ek nekron, thanato thanaton patisas, kai tis en tis mnemasi zoen charisamenos.” Then the chanters chanted and all those standing around the Sepulchre of Christ chanted it many times.
O what joy there was then, and who would not weep for joy, beholding the Grave of their Saviour Jesus Christ before their own eyes, standing empty, for He has risen from the dead! Who could not thank their Creator Who had deemed them worthy to celebrate Holy Pascha, His glorious Resurrection from the dead, in the Holy City of Jerusalem, around His very Grave and on that very spot where the mystery of our salvation was accomplished? What pen can describe our joy? Or who could explain it in words? Which tongue could tell of it? Only he can understand it who tastes of this joy in the purity of his heart. How is it possible not to rejoice or to be happy? We had gathered from the four corners of the earth, Christians of different tongues, all gathered in one church. We all stood around the Grave of our Saviour and were glorifying His glorious Resurrection from the dead. In truth, all things were now filled with light; then the canon of Pascha became for us real and clear. For that which we were chanting, we were seeing with our own eyes. And with what feelings did we exclaim to Sion on which we were standing: “Lift up thine eyes about thee, O Sion, and see, for behold, from the west, from the north, and from the sea and from the south as to a light by God illumined, have thy children come to thee, blessing Christ forevermore” (8th Ode, 2nd Trop.). Truly for us, holy and worthy of all solemn triumph is this redeeming and radiantly effulgent night, the harbinger of the bright- beaming Day of the Resurrection on which Light eternal shone forth in the flesh from the grave for all.
There was a litany. When they began to chant the canon, they went into the great church; and on the Grave of Christ one priest with a deacon began early Liturgy. In the great church they chanted the whole canon. After Matins, without stopping, they began the Liturgy also. The Patriarch served with all the clergy in a most majestic and solemn manner. They read the epistle in three languages: Greek, Slavonic, and Arabic. The Gospel was read in many various languages: In Slavonic, they read three, and the rest in Helleno-Greek and Greek, Latin, Turkish, Georgian, Syrian, Arabic, Egyptian, and Abbysinian, and they read while beating the semantron. Everyone stood through the Liturgy with candles. We stood through and Matins and Liturgy in the altar.
When Liturgy was finished, it had begun to dawn. The Orthodox went to the Patriarchate, and there at the gates they gave to each person two red eggs; then everyone went to their place.
By the way it was made known to all Orthodox pilgrims that at the first hour in the afternoon they were to go to the Patriarchal Church for Vespers. And so we went into the Patriarchal Church. It was adorned and decorated with a multitude of lamps and candles. They gave into each person's hand a large candle made of white wax and we stood through the whole Vespers with candles. It was most solemn. For the entrance there came more than a hundred priests and a multitude of deacons. In front there were seven deacons with candles. Behind them they carried twelve fans. They went behind all the pillars. They read the Gospel like they did at the Liturgy, in many languages with the ringing of the bells. After Vespers there was food for the pilgrims. And then they opened the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the pilgrims went to venerate the Tomb. There — a mournful sight: everyone was weeping, all were wailing. Everyone was embracing the Grave of their Saviour Jesus Christ, were wetting it with warm tears, because the time had come to part with it and to leave it forever. There was weeping and wailing all over the whole church; and especially the women were emitting loud sounds and wailing. And on all the holy places the people were lying and did not want to get up. Thus it was sad and grievous to part with Jerusalem and to be parted from the life-bearing Tomb of Christ.
The monk Parthenius (Ageev) was born in 1807 in Jassy, Moldavia, and named Peter at Baptism. He was a child inclined to reading, especially the spiritual books which his parents had in their home. His soul was so influenced by these that at age 13 he ran away to a nearby monastery, only to be brought back by his parents after three months. As a young man he left Moldavia in search of an Old-Ritualist monastery where he could give himself over to Christ in the spiritual life. Disillusioned by the divisions between the various Old-Ritualist groups, he visited the Russian Orthodox monastery of Sarov, where he met the future Saint Seraphim. After returning to Moldavia and spending time in two Old-Ritualist monasteries, he was received into the Russian Orthodox Church at the age of 30. He then went to Mount Athos and entered the Monastery of St. Panteleimon. After being mistakenly arrested and spending fourteen months in Siberia (during the persecution of the Old Believers, while the abbot of St. Panteleimon's was away, Fr. Parthenius was mistaken for an Old-Ritualist priest in disguise), he returned to Mount Athos. He was counselled by his starets, the blessed Arsenius, to return to Russia as a missionary among the Old Believers. He spent seven years with the saintly Bishop Athanasius in Tomsk, Siberia, being made igumen of Berlukov, and was then commissioned by the Holy Synod to found Guslitsy Monastery. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1878 in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, where he had retired, and was buried there.
Of Father Parthenius' numerous writings, the most widely-read is his five volume work Report of the Wanderings and Journeys across Russia, Moldavia, Turkey, and the Holy Land, in which are described his diverse experiences, and acquaintances with many notable personalties. Four volumes were published in Moscow in 1855, the fifth being published posthumously by Archimandrite Nicon, after appearing in serialized form in the review “Soul-Profiting Reading” between 1889-1901. Fr. Parthenius journeyed to the Holy Land in 1845, shortly before the death of his beloved elder. The following account of Holy Week and Paschal services in Jerusalem and of the miracle of the Holy Fire in 1846 is taken from the second volume of his Wanderings.
Archbishop of Constantinople (~400 AD)
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
Rendered in stanza format by Dn. Mark Baker
Leaflet # E4
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran
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