Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Importance of The Passion Week






The Passion Week or the Holy Pascha (Passover) is the most important period in the year and the richest spiritually. It is a week full of Holy memories of the most crucial stage of salvation and the outstanding chapter in the story of redemption. The Church chose for this week certain readings from both the Old and the New Testaments, which reflect, the most passionate feelings that explain God's relation with Man. The Church also chose some deep hymns and spiritual contemplation to suit the occasion.

In the early Church, our Saintly Fathers used to receive this week with respect and reverence, and act in great humility.

While fasting, they abstained from eating any sweet food like honey or jam, as they considered it not appropriate to taste any sweet thing while commemorating the Lord's suffering for them. Some used not to cook anything during that week, as a matter of devotion, and lest cooking should distract them from worshiping. The majority of Christians used to eat nothing but bread and salt. Those who were physically capable abstained
from Friday night till Easter Sunday. As a sign of devotion during this week, women used not to put make up or wear jewellery. People devoted all their time for worshiping; they gathered in Churches for prayer and contemplation.

The Great Emperor Theodosius was one of the Christian Kings and Rulers who ordered all Government Houses and Business to cease work, to enable people to concentrate on worshiping. Prisoners were also allowed to go to Church and join in the ceremonies of this Great Week, hoping that it would help them to reform. Christian masters also used to relieve their slaves from work all the Pascha Week to enable them to worship the Lord like their masters, without any discrimination. So both masters and slaves were able to worship God and enjoy the effectiveness and depth of this week.

The Passion Week's Rite:
During this week, the Holy Church concentrates on one subject: The Lord Christ's suffering.
For this reason, the Psalm readings and the Canonical Hours which cover various subjects relating to the Lord Jesus Christ including His birth, His ministry, His Resurrection, Ascension and sitting on the Father's right hand and His Second Coming in His Glory, are replaced by a special hymn chosen by the Church especially for the Pascha Week in which we address the Lord suffering for us saying:
E "Thine is the Power, the Glory, the Blessing and the Honor,
 forever Amen, Emmanuel our God and King "
E"Thine is the Power, the Glory, the Blessing and the Honor,
forever Amen, Our Lord  Jesus Christ",
E"Thine is the Power, the Glory, the Blessing and the Honor,
forever Amen ..." adding to it .. "Our Good Savior" from Wednesday night, as the plot to betray the Lord Christ was the practical step towards salvation.

This prayer, is repeated ten times every day.; five during daytime and five at night, ie. during the following hours: First, Third, Sixth, Ninth and Eleventh.
In each of these prayers, we turn to our God and Savior in His passions and say, "we know who You are, for "Thine is the Power, Glory, Blessing and Honor, forever Amen."
With this prayer, we follow the Lord Christ step by step along the incidents of this week that preceded the crucifixion. What then are these incidents? And how does the Church act during this week?

How did The Suffering Start?

On Palm Sunday, the Lord Jesus Christ went to Jerusalem where He was gloriously received as a King: The people praised and cheered Him with palms, spreading their robes under His feet, and the whole city was in turmoil (Matt. 21:10). This annoyed the chief priests and the elders of the people: scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees.

They envied Him for the great love people felt for Him, so they started thinking of a way to get rid of Him! They were more upset when He entered the temple and expelled all who were buying and selling. They then asked Him, "By what authority are You doing these things?" (Matt.21:23). Since then they decided to kill Him, telling one another "Look, the world has gone after Him," (John. 12:19)

The chiefs' desire to kill the Lord Christ was due to their envy, but the puzzling thing is the change in the multitude's attitude; they received Him like a King, then shouted to Pilate, "Crucify Him, crucify Him! " (Luke. 23:21)

When the crowds cheered Jesus, they looked at Him as an earthly King, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David" (Mark 11:9-10). But the Lord Jesus refused a Kingdom on earth, as His is a Heavenly Spiritual one. The plot to get rid of the
Nazarene was then a natural reaction from the Chiefs who lost hope in the long awaited kingdom!!

The church considers the end of Palm Sunday Mass the beginning of the Passion Week, as the plot to kill the Lord Jesus Christ started to develop since then.

During this week the Church's Icons, Pillars and Lectern and sometimes even the walls are all covered with black cloth, creating an atmosphere of mourning. It makes everyone feel that he is sharing in the Lord's sufferings, as said by St. Paul, "that I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings". (Phil. 3:10)

General Prayer For the Departed:

Through the Passion Week, the Church is preoccupied with the Lord's sufferings only, there is no raising of incense even for funerals, but replaced by the Pascha prayers and readings.

For this reason, a general prayer for the departed is held after Palm Sunday Mass, for the souls of those who pass away during the Holy Pascha. The priest prays on some water for this purpose, and not for blessing the palms as some may think.
During these prayers we have to confess our sins to the Lord in true repentance, as we never know when our life will end...
After this funeral mass and the dismissing of the congregation, prayers are carried forth outside the camp.
Outside the Camp:
Under the Law of the Old Testament, sin offering was to be burnt outside the camp (Lev. 4:12,21), so it would not. defile the camp with the congregation's sins.
Thus the Lord Christ who took away the sins of the whole world, suffered outside the Holy City. They considered Him a sinner, sent Him outside the Camp and crucified Him. St. Paul explained, and referred to this matter by saying:
"Let us go forth therefore to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach." (Heb. 13:13)

The Holy Church follows the Lord's steps during the Pascha Week and goes with Him outside the camp, closing the veil.
The Church also leaves the first Chancel, the Chancel of Saints, and moves the Lectern to the second Chancel to pray away from the Altar, outside the Sanctuary and the camp, bearing His reproach and saying:
"Thine is the Power, the Glory, the Blessing and the Honor, forever Amen... "

With this hymn, we follow the Lord Jesus Christ in His passion, step by step, contemplating on every word we say to Him in His Passion. 

H. H. Pope Shenouda III 

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Restoration of The Son






The father initiates the restoration of the son by running to the son, falling on his neck, and giving him the kiss of reconciliation.

Jesus' description of the father's actions is a portrait of complete and total grace, of unconditional love that comes to us in the Father sending his Son in the incarnation. Christ chooses those who stand. Here is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

He who hears you pondering in the secret places of the mind runs to you. When you are still far away, He sees you and runs to you. He sees in your heart. He runs, perhaps someone may hinder, and He embraces you.

His foreknowledge is in the running, His mercy in the embrace and the disposition of fatherly love. He falls on your neck to raise one prostrate and burdened with sins and bring back one turned aside to the earthly toward heaven.

Christ falls on your neck to free your neck from the yoke of slavery and hang his sweet yoke upon your shoulders.

St. Ambrose 




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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Man In Belly of A Wale






Let us consider whether is harder, for a man after having been buried to rise again from the earth, or for a man in the belly of a whale, having come into the great heat of a living creature, to escape corruption. For what man knows not, that the heat of the belly is so great, that even bones which have been swallowed moulder away? How then did Jonah, who was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, escape corruption? 

And, seeing that the nature of all men is such that we cannot live without breathing, as we do, in air, how did he live without a breath of this air for three days? But the Jews make answer and say, The power of God descended with Jonah when he was tossed about in hell. 

Does then the Lord grant life to His own servant, by sending His power with him, and can He not grant it to Himself as well? If that is credible, this is credible also; if this is incredible, that also is incredible. For to me both are alike worthy of credence. 

I believe that Jonah was preserved, for all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26); I believe that Christ also was raised from the dead; for I have many testimonies of this, both from the Divine Scriptures, and from the operative power even at this day of Him who arose—who descended into hell alone, but ascended thence with a great company; for He went down to death, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose (Matthew 27:52) through Him.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem



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Friday, January 22, 2016

MIRACLE PROVES THE SONSHIP OF JESUS





 
It was not what they saw happening that the disciples believed but what could not be seen by bodily eyes. They did not believe that Jesus Christ was the son of the Virgin-that was something they knew. Rather, they believed that he was the only Son of the Most High, as this miracle proved. 

And so let us too believe wholeheartedly that he whom we confess to be the Son of man is also the Son of God. Let us believe not only that he shared our nature but also that he was consubstantial with the Father; for as a man  he was present at the wedding, and as God he changed the water into wine. 

If such is our faith, the Lord will give us also to drink of the sobering wine of his grace.  

 Maximus of Turin

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Friday, January 8, 2016

The Virgin Birth





It was fitting that the Giver of all holiness should enter this world by a pure and holy birth. For He it is that of old formed Adam from the virgin earth, and from Adam without help of woman formed woman. For as without woman Adam produced woman, so did the Virgin without man this day bring forth a man. For it is a man, saith the Lord, and who shall know him (Jer. 17:9). For since the race of women owed to men a debt, as from Adam without woman woman came, therefore without man the Virgin this day brought forth, and on behalf of Eve repaid the debt to man.

That Adam might not take pride, that he without woman had engendered woman, a Woman without man has begotten man; so that by the similarity of the mystery is proved the similarity in nature. For as before the Almighty took a rib from Adam, and by that Adam was not made less; so in the Virgin He formed a living temple, and the holy virginity remained unchanged. Sound and unharmed Adam remained even after the deprivation of a rib; unstained the Virgin though a Child was born of her.
  
St. John Chrysostom



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