Monday, 6 May 2013

The Great And Holy Feast Of Pascha

(from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website)

On the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha, Orthodox Christians celebrate the lifegiving
Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This feast of feasts is
the most significant day in the life of the Church. It is a celebration of the defeat
of death, as neither death itself nor the power of the grave could hold our
Saviour captive. In this victory that came through the Cross, Christ broke the
bondage of sin, and through faith offers us restoration, transformation, and
eternal life.

Commemoration Of The Great And Holy Feast Of Pascha
Holy Week comes to an end at sunset of Great and Holy Saturday, as the Church
prepares to celebrate her most ancient and preeminent festival, Pascha, the
feast of feasts. The time of preparation will give way to a time of fulfilment. The
glorious and resplendent light emanating from the empty Tomb will dispel the
darkness. Christ, risen from the dead, cracks the fortress of death and takes
"captivity captive" (Psalm 67:19). All the limitations of our createdness are torn
asunder. Death is swallowed up in victory and life is liberated. "For as by a man
came death, by a man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all
die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:21-22). Pascha is
the dawn of the new and unending day. The Resurrection constitutes the most
radical and decisive deliverance of humankind.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fundamental truth and absolute fact of
the Christian faith. It is the central experience and essential kerygma of the
Church. It confirms the authenticity of Christ's remarkable earthly life and
vindicates the truth of His teaching. It seals all His redemptive work: His life, the
model of a holy life; His compelling and unique teaching; His extraordinary

works; and His awesome, life-creating death. Christ's Resurrection is the
guarantee of our salvation. Together with His Ascension it brings to perfection
God's union with us for all eternity.
The Resurrection made possible the miracle of the Church, which in every age
and generation proclaims and affirms "God's plan for the universe, the ultimate
divinization of man and the created order." The profound experience of and the
unshakable belief in the risen Lord enabled the Apostles to evangelize the world
and empowered the Church to overcome paganism. The Resurrection discloses
the indestructible power and inscrutable wisdom of God. It disposes of the
illusory myths and belief systems by which people, bereft of divine knowledge,
strain to affirm the meaning and purpose of their existence. Christ, risen and
glorified, releases humanity from the delusions of idolatry. In Him grave-bound
humanity discovers and is filled with incomparable hope. The Resurrection
bestows illumination, energizes souls, brings forgiveness, transfigures lives,
creates saints, and gives joy.
The Resurrection has not yet abolished the reality of death. But it has revealed
its powerlessness (Hebrews 2:14-15). We continue to die as a result of the Fall.
Our bodies decay and fall away. "God allows death to exist but turns it against
corruption and its cause, sin, and sets a boundary both to corruption and sin."
Thus, physical death does not destroy our life of communion with God. Rather,
we move from death to life - from this fallen world to God's reign.

Orthodox Celebration Of Pascha
Before midnight on Saturday evening, the Odes of Lamentation of the previous
day are repeated. The Orthros of the Resurrection begins in complete darkness.
The priest takes light from the vigil light and gives it to the faithful, who are
holding candles. The priest sings: "Come ye and receive light from the unwaning
light, and. glorify Christ, who arose from the dead", and all the people join him
in singing this hymn again and again. From this moment, every Christian holds
the Easter candle as a symbol of his vivid, deep faith in the Resurrection of Jesus
Christ as Saviour. In many churches the priest leads the people outside the
church, where he reads the Gospel which refers to the Angels statement: "He is
Risen; He is not here," (Mark 16:1-8).
Then comes the breathless moment as the people wait for the priest to start the
hymn of Resurrection, which they join him in singing, repeatedly: "Christ has
Risen from the dead, by death trampling upon Death, and has bestowed life
upon those in the tombs". From this moment the entire service takes on a
joyous Easter atmosphere. The hymns of the Odes and Praises of Resurrection

which follow are of superb meaning and expression. The people confess, "This is
the Day of Resurrection, let us be glorious, let us embrace one another and
speak to those that hate us; let us forgive all things and so let us cry, Christ is
risen from the dead". By this hymn they admit that love of one's fellow man is
the solid foundation of the faith in the Resurrection of Christ.
The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is then officiated. At the end of the
Liturgy, a part of the marvellous festival sermon of Saint Chrysostom is read,
which calls upon the people to "Take part in this fair and radiant festival. Let no
one be fearful of death, for the death of the Saviour has set us free . . . O Death,
where is thy sting? O Hades, where is Thy victory? Christ is Risen and Thou art
overthrown. To Him be glory and power from all ages to all ages."
The Scripture readings for the Divine Liturgy are: Acts 1:1-8 and John 1:1-17.
On Easter Sunday afternoon the faithful gather once more for prayer with
lighted candles. All sing the hymn, "Christ is Risen from the Dead". The people
greet one another joyously, saying: "Christ is Risen", the Easter salutation which
is answered, "Truly He is Risen". They sing, "the dark shadows of the Law has
passed away by the coming of
grace", and standing in exaltation
they exclaim, "Who is so great a God
as our God?"
The Gospel according to John
(20:19-25) is read in various
languages, proclaiming the Good
News of Resurrection all over the
universe without discrimination. The
fruit of faith in the Resurrection of
the Lord is love in His Name;
therefore, this day is called "Sunday
of Agape" (love feast), a day
dedicated to Christian principles,
especially to forgiveness and charity.
At this time, Christians seek to end
misunderstanding and arguments
among those whom they may be at
odds. Apostle Paul firmly interprets
the Resurrection of Christ, saying: "If
Christ has not been raised, then our
preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14). The Church
also states in its Creed, "The Third day He rose again."