A Guide to Holy Week Services at St. Aidan’s Orthodox Church, April 2014
The highlight of the Church year and the earliest festal celebration of the Church is Pascha (Easter). The celebration was originally tied to the Jewish feast of Passover (Pesach) where Christ’s Passion and Resurrection occurred. As the Church grew to encompass the Gentile (non-Jewish) nations, Pascha began to be celebrated on the first Sunday (the day of Resurrection) following the first full moon in the spring. The Pascal celebration was well established by 165 AD, as is described in Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History, and the dating of when to celebrate it was affirmed at the 1st Ecumenical council in
in 325 AD. While there was always some debate regarding the date at which
Pascha should be fixed from the beginning, the present difference in dates that
often falls between Eastern “Pascha” and Western “Easter”, goes back to 1582AD
when Pope Gregory XIII adopted the “Gregorian” Calendar which changed the
calculation for Easter, and the Orthodox Church kept to the original
Holy Week Services for St. Aidan’s
Wed. Ap. 16: 7:00 pm– Bridegroom Matins (approx. 1.5 hrs)
“Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching…Your Bridal Chamber I see adorned, O my Saviour, but I have no wedding garment that I may enter.
O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul and save me.”
- The theme of this beautiful service is the betrayal of Judas contrasted with the repentance of the Harlot. It follows the theme of the first three days of Holy Week where our Lord enters
Jerusalem and voluntarily goes to His
betrayal and to His death on the cross to redeem all of mankind from death.
Thur. Ap.17: 7:00pm: Matins with the 12 Passion Gospel
(approx 2.5 hrs.) Readings
“Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree. The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery…We worship Your passion O Christ. We worship Your passion O Christ. Show us also Your glorious Resurrection.”
- Today we accompany Christ our Lord as He voluntarily goes from the
to be crucified and laid in
his tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and the righteous Nicodemus. We contemplate our
Lord’s journey in the 12 Gospel readings and in the deep and moving verses in
the Canon and interspersed between the Gospel readings, the Beatitudes and the
Praises throughout this touching service. We are called to experience the eternal
and ever present reality of Christ’s work for our sake, not a distant
historical event, but personally in the eternal here and now of our lives. Garden of Gethsemane
Fri. Ap. 18: 10:00 am Royal Hours (approx. 2 hrs.)
“Today the curtain of the temple is torn in two, To convict the transgressors, And even the sun hides his rays, Seeing the Master crucified.”
- The special 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 9th hours interspersed with Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel reading and verses all on the theme of the Passion of our Lord. This is considered a very strict fast day and there is no celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
Fri. Ap. 18, 5pm Vespers with the Shroud Veneration (approx. 1.5 hrs.)
“When You the Redeemer of all were placed in a tomb, All Hades’ powers quaked with fear. Its bars were broken its gates were smashed. Its mighty reign was brought to an end, for the dead came forth alive from their tombs, casting off the bonds of their captivity. Adam was filled with Joy!”
- Today we set up and venerate the shroud of Christ. It is appropriate to bring flowers, particularly red and white to decorate the tomb with. We sing “Nobel Joseph” then we wait together taking a little refreshment from our fasting before staring Matins.
Fri. Ap.18, 7:30 Matins with Praises & Procession with the Shroud (approx 2.5 hrs.)
“Do not lament me, O mother, seeing in the tomb, the Son conceived in the womb without seed, for I shall arise, and be glorified with eternal glory as God. I shall exalt all who magnify you in faith and in love.”
- We gather again before the shroud and sing Psalm 119 with verses in between describing the events of Holy week. Then we take the Shroud of Christ and in procession circle once around the Church, finishing up with veneration of the shroud and the hymn “We worship Your Passion O Christ! We worship Your Passion O Christ!And Your Holy Resurrection. As many as can manage, take a shift before the Tomb of Christ and read the Psalms throughout the night until the next morning’s Liturgy of St. Basil.
Sat.Ap.19, 10:00 am Vesp. Divine Liturgy of St. Basil & 15 O.T.Rd.(approx. 2.5 hrs.)
“Today, Hades cries out groaning; ‘I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary. He came and destroyed my power. He shattered the gates of brass. As God, He raised the souls that I had held captive.’ Glory to Your Cross and Resurrection, O Lord.”
- Today is the bridge day, the day between the death of Christ on the cross and His glorious resurrection. Christ is not resting, death has no claim over Him. He enters into hell with His soul and blows it wide open freeing those captured there! The new life and restoration of man to God is accomplished! The vigil before the Tomb then continues with as many as can take a shift reading the book of Acts.
Sat. Ap. 19, 11:30 pm, Nocturn 12:00, Paschal Matins 1:00, Liturgy (approx. 3 hrs.)
“Christ is Risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”
- The feast of feast, the glorious highlight of the entire year! Our preparation in prayer and fasting is now is fulfilled. After the brief Nocturn service we await with unlit candles until the light candle coming from the Altar comes and all light their candles in preparation for the great triple procession around the Church singing “Your resurrection O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing. Enable us in earth, to glorify You in purity of heart” Entering the Church again we joyously sing the Paschal Matins interspersed with many “Christ is Risen” choruses! The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom follows with the Paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom which has been read for many centuries encouraging us all. After the Liturgy, we assemble downstairs for the blessing of baskets and break the fast by enjoying the fruits of the blessed baskets before going home, tired but full of the joy of the resurrection!
Sun. Ap. 20, 12:00 Agape (Paschal) Vespers (service 45 minutes; fellowship - hours)
We gather to sing the short Vespers of Pascha service which is full of the resurrection joy from the Pascha service earlier in the morning. Once again “Christ is Risen” rings out. We then gather and share our joy with each other and the friends and visitors, feasting on the roast lamb and goat and celebrating the glorious resurrection of Christ!
Christ is Risen!!!