INTRODUCTION TO THE THEOLOGY
OF THE DIVINE OFFICE
by Archbishop Joseph Tawil
Eparch Emeritus of Newton
Table of Contents
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
THE THREE MAIN AXES OF THE LITURGICAL OFFICE
I. APPLICATION TO THE HOLY AND DIVINE LITURGY
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT
III. THE DIVINE LITURGY: UNION WITH GOD
PARALLELS BETWEEN THE SABBATH AND SUNDAY
The Liturgy is the "doxological" glorification of the Mystery of Faith.
One can more easily live it than define it, since it requires at one and the same time both contemplation and action. It is, then, an experience which is simultaneously both personal and communal, of the mystery of salvation, the ultimate purpose of which is to give us divine life.
"There is a Son," says St. Irenaeus, "who has fulfilled the will of the Father, and He has a human will in which the mysteries of God are accomplished... That His very Son, the Word, the First-born, comes down into creation which He had formed... and which the creature, taking hold of the Word... and becomes conformable to the image and likeness of God" (Adversus Haer., V, 36, 3). Now, this is the aim (end) of the Liturgy.
The Liturgy, in fact, unites us to Christ, whether by means of the celebration of the holy Mysteries, or by the prayers of each day and the feasts which are spread out over the year and which have as their single purpose to make real for us the Mysteries of the Son of God made Man and to obtain for us the grace of the Holy Spirit who effects in us the divine likeness.
We are going to study the Liturgy as a "theological place," expressing the mystery of faith as it is lived by the Church. This study will be divided into three parts:
1 - The liturgical office
2 - The Holy and Divine Liturgy
3 - The fixed and movable liturgical feasts
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
Liturgical prayer is the rule of all prayer. For if "all assemblies of the faithful are feasts," as St. John Chrysostom says, it is because of Christ who promised that He would be present every time two or three disciples were gathered together in His name. It has been defined by the Fathers as "the trembling of a soul before the gates of heaven" (St. Isaac the Syrian).
When we speak about the wealth of the liturgy, it is a question of the liturgical prayers in toto and not just the Holy Sacrifice. It is in their luxuriant depths that the Tree of the Church has taken deep root to draw forth the nourishing sap which gives life to the very tips of its branches. And nobody can obtain this wealth in depth, unless he becomes very familiar with the Divine Office, whose value is without ordinary measure, compared to what is contained in the best books of piety.
In the Office, faith is proclaimed and the message of salvation is announced in terms which move the soul, even to its very depths. What would the feast of Easter be without its magnificent office? Look at the tremendous influence of the liturgy on the faithful living under atheistic governments and deprived of all religious education and catechesis, save for that of the liturgy. The Divine Office constitutes the natural preparation for the holy and Divine Liturgy, which is the summit of union with God and communion with the divine Life. Now a summit cannot be attained except by stages. A long climb is necessary in order to reach a peak. Without this preparation the climb becomes dangerous. It is the same with the holy and Divine Liturgy which risks burning as did the fire of Elias long ago burn the priests of Baal. And this comes only after we have extracted the nectar from the flowers of the Eastern Fathers and, like the bee, have confected the divine honey of the holy and Divine Liturgy.
THE THREE MAIN AXES OF THE LITURGICAL OFFICE
1 - The Liturgy, the doxological expression of the mystery of faith which is the divine economy
The latter is unfolded in time in the form of various accounts in the Bible, but in the liturgy it has become a theme of glorification. It is seen as liturgy, economia, Scripture, all converging towards the same point, namely, the transfiguration of that which is created and the deification of man. "Since the resurrection," says St. Maximos the Confessor, "God has revealed Himself in a liturgical way." The way of knowledge and and that of love go hand and hand. "in order for the faithful to become imbued with the truths of faith," said Pope Pius XI, "the annual solemnities of the liturgical feasts are far more efficacious than all the documents of the Church's magisterium, even the most important. If the latter are particularly addressed to the intellect, the former have their salutary influence on the heart, then the intellect and then the whole man..." (Enc. Quas Primas). "Human life has no meaning, except liturgically," said the protestant J.J. Von Allmer, "and not just human life, but the life of everything created." "In the image of the natural dialog of Adam with God in Eden, it is the conversation of the Church with her Head, of the Beloved with the Spouse, not in the thunder-resounding darkness at the foot of Mount Sinai, but in the serene and joyful light of the invisible yet condescending Trinity. The liturgy is the most normal state of man on earth, in which he accomplishes and fulfills the mystery of the Church. He praises, he beseeches, he is sanctified" (C. Andronikoff, Le Sens des fetes, p. 20).
Applications: The Octoechos, troparia of the Resurrection, the principal feasts of the year, especially Easter and Pentecost.
2 - The Holy Spirit, the Principle of Liturgical Prayer
The entire liturgy is transected from one end to the other by the pneumatological axis. It is through the Spirit that the Trinity opens up over all creation with Christ present to the world. It is He who transfigures that which has been created and makes man the living icon of Christ by covering him with glory. The whole liturgy is oriented to the diffusion of the Spirit and aims at the deification of man. Easter and Pentecost are but the two sides of the same coin and constitute one single thing. The Incarnation and Resurrection are oriented toward Pentecost, for which they are but preparations. For this reason, the Sunday following Pentecost is that of All Saints, who are the works of the Holy Spirit and make up His visage. "Where the Church is," says St. Irenaeus, "there is also the Spirit of God and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all His grace. And the Spirit is the Truth. That is why those who have no share in the Spirit do not draw into their bosom the food of life; they receive nothing from the most pure Fountain which flows from the Body of Christ" (Adversus Haer., II, 24, Sources Chretiennes).
Application: Sunday orthros: the anavathmi, which are the ejaculatory prayers of the Spirit. The Pentecost office: and the prayers of invocation of the Holy Spirit on this day.
I -- APPLICATION TO THE HOLY AND DIVINE LITURGY
THE DIVINE ECONOMY
The divine economy is the salvific plan of God. The holy and divine liturgy accomplishes and fulfills it through the Church. In fact, the latter represents the unique One in Whom all things find their beginning and their end. Christ risen no longer forms a visible part of this world, since He is in the state of glory. But His presence in the world is manifested by the power of the Spirit Who leads history towards its fulfillment. Through the power of the same Spirit, we communicate with the Body and Blood of the Son of God and we participate in the divine life of the Trinity.
This is why, if the whole liturgical assembly is a joyful event, the liturgical synaxis gives us the source of joy par excellence. Christ is not only in the midst of us, but He is in us and lives with us. For this reason joy and Eucharist go together. (The Prayer of the Doors: "You consented to ascend upon the Cross..." -- divine economy... "and You have filled the whole world with joy").
Economy and philanthropy go together. Both are caused by the Liturgy:
- prothesis: "In remembrance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (joy - sacrifice).
- opening blessing: of the kingdom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in Whose name we are gathered together and towards Whom we are advancing. The splendor of the liturgy is the symbol of this joy: incense, vestments, singing, processions -- all must be beautiful in order to lead to God, Who is beauty Itself.
- o monogenes: song to the divine economy and His philantropy.
- trisagion: proclamation of the thrice holy God.
- readings, alleluia and Gospel, as well as the homily and that which follows the cherubic hymn. In the common recitation of the Creed, or proclamation of our faith in the divine economy. Throughout the entire anaphora, the first part of which is directed to the Father, the second to the Son and the third to the Holy Spirit (cf. also St. Basil). And particularly in the epiclesis. In the recitation of the Lord's Prayer which takes on its full meaning before the Eucharist, the Bread of Heaven.
- communion and preceding prayers: communion with divine life.
Christ our God, fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, Who accomplished all of the Father's plan for our salvation, full our hearts with joy and gladness at all times. Behold in due time fulfilled and far beyond our mere human power, Christ looked upon as God, the mystery of His economy.
II THE HOLY SPIRIT
The liturgy means to render homage to Christ and His kingdom. Whatever may be the liturgical moment of the consecration, it is certain that the Spirit Who formed the human nature of Christ in the Virgin's womb is also He Who works the eucharistic transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and Who manifests it to the world. The Trinity is working in the world by the Holy Spirit and the world returns to the Father through the Holy Spirit. The incarnation and resurrection of Christ, as well as His ascension into heaven have but one aim: the diffusion of the Spirit.
Christ came to prepare the way for the Holy Spirit in order that He might take possession of the world. Also, it is more than ever in the work of the divine economy, as at the moment of the creation of the world. The Divine Liturgy is suffused by His divine breath throughout all its prayers and invocations:
- opening prayers: "Heavenly King, Consoler, Spirit of Truth..."
- trinitarian praise
- o monogenes
- saints (in the troparia, they are called "lyres of the Holy Spirit"). It is through the proclamation of the kerygma that the Holy Spirit acts.
- cherubic hymn: "Make us worthy by the power of Your Holy Spirit."
- Nicene Creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Giver of life."
- anaphora: the epiclesis or invocation of the Holy Spirit.
- axion estin: "You gave birth to God the Word in virginity (by the power of the Holy Spirit).
In the prayers immediately before the Lord's Prayer we say: "In order that our philanthropic God (God, the Lover of mankind) having received them on His holy and mystical altar in heaven, may send down upon us in return His divine grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit..."
- before the Our Father: "To You, Master, Who love mankind...we ask You.. Make us worthy to partake of Your heavenly and awesome mysteries... for the communion of the Holy Spirit."
- beginning of the anaphora: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit."
- after communion: "We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit..."
- communion is the entrance into the nuptial communion, according to St. Theodoret.
III THE DIVINE LITURGY: UNION WITH GOD
The whole liturgy leads to communion with the Divine life through the Holy Spirit, which is given to us in a special way in the Eucharist.
The liturgy is the cup of the synthesis (St. Irenaeus) beyond which it is impossible to go (St. Chrysostom).
Since the first Pentecost, says Origen, the Church has been filled with the Trinity.
The Eucharist is the Church entering into the joy of her Master.
The Eucharist is the entrance into the joy of the Master. It is a kind of "fourth dimension," thanks to which we reach a privileged point from which our sight can look down and can foreshadow ultimate reality.
We proclaim the kingdom which we are going to enter.The temple has been destroyed. The only altar which remains is Christ Himself Who has become the place of the eucharistic celebration (antimension). In the Divine Liturgy it is not grace which comes down, but the Church which enters into grace (trisagion).
No opposition between the Liturgy of the Word and that of the Sacrament; the proclamation of the Word is also sacramental; it has the power of transforming (St. Paul).
The Gospel is the Lord's coming (alleluia).
The Kiss of Peace is the revelation of Divine Love, the principle of our love for our brethren.
The Eucharist signifies giving thanks for the signs and proofs of divine love.
"We offer You Your own from what is Your own for the sake of all." Divine love, to which Eucharist testifies and witnesses, is like nuptial love.
Theodoret of Cyrus says: "By consummating the Flesh of the (divine) betrothed and His Blood, we enter into nuptial kinonia (communion). May He unite us in the Communion of one Spirit" (Liturgy).
By the Creed we enter into divine communion (kinona).
3 - The Liturgy, Knowledge - Contemplation is a living structure of the sanctification of time
The liturgical Office is also a way of spirituality whose aim is the sanctification of time. Praying the Office is no mere act of piety, but it is entering into the experiences of contemplatives, by remembering that, according to the Fathers, there is no difference between knowledge and contemplation. By using mostly pericopes from the Bible, and particularly the Psalms, the Office develops an entire euchologia (prayer) and a very rich hymnology, which is the fruit of contemplation. The Office interiorizes the mystery of God by using figures, symbols and allegories, while at the same time placing a limit on human understanding which it must not cross and which must change into the silence of worship. For it is to communion with Christ by means of the Spirit, that the Office leads, even when it imposes on us a kind of spiritual ascesis, as in Great Lent. We refrain from receiving holy communion for a time in order to dispose ourselves better for it. The Church is, in fact, nothing but the announcement of the mystery of salvation and the communion with Christ, the source of divine life by means of the Spirit.
Application: Everything which concerns the Liturgy. The various troparia of the Menaion in general. The sanctification of time: consult the feasts of September 1 and September 13, and especially Sundays, together with the feasts of Easter and Pentecost.
1 - ORIGIN
The origin of the OLB is to be sought in the prayer of the synagogue, the New Testament heritage, stretched out upon a Syrian base emanating from Jerusalem and enriched by Syrian, Egyptian and Armenian traditions. The Syrian genius contributed the hymnographic element: St. Ephrem, St. Chrysostom, St. Romanos, St. John of Damascus. The characteristics of the Syrian genius are:
a - a sapient rather than a speculative tendency, special to the Greek genius.
b - poetic lyricism with a cosmic vision.
c - ascesis is not simple mortification, but a sign of the conquest of the Spirit turned to knowledge. By ascesis we can attain to knowledge and contemplation. This aspect of the Syrian genius and its Byzantine elaboration is of capital importance for the cultural future of the world.
EASTERN CATHEDRAL OFFICE
With the so-called Peace of Constantine in 312, the Church acquired the freedom to develop the public and external aspects of its life. The resultant flowering of liturgical uses was striking. But in spite of the fact that Christian public worship bursts onto the scene with a veritable explosion of documentary evidence in the second half of the fourth century, what occurs is evolution, not revolution.
The development of the office in this period can be divided into three types: 1) cathedral, 2) Egyptian-monastic, 3) urban-monastic.
These are not successive chronological stages of the development of one office, but three distinctive types of of f ice that evolved in three separate areas of church life. The first two evolved simultaneously from the mid-fourth century. The third, a synthesis of the first two, was already visible in the last quarter of the same century.
The office of the secular churches is called "cathedral" rather than "parochial," because for centuries it was the bishop's church that was the center of all liturgical life. This office of the secular churches was a popular service characterized by symbol and ceremony (light, incense, processions, etc.), by chant (responsories, antiphons, hymns), by diversity of ministries (bishop, presbyter, deacon, reader, psalmist, etc.), and by psalmody that was limited and select rather than current and complete. That is, the psalms were not read continuously according to their numerical order in the Bible, but only certain psalms or sections of psalms were chosen for their suitability to the hour and the service. Furthermore, the cathedral services were offices of praise and intercession, not a Liturgy of the Word. There were no scripture lessons in the normal cathedral office, except in Egypt and Cappadocia.
The first witness to such an office was Eusebius (ca 263339), the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and famed Church historian. In describing the evening service, he refers to Psalm 140; we shall see from other sources that it was the psalm of cathedral evensong. The corresponding nucleus of morning praise was Psalm 62.
Our first Egyptian testimony to the fourth-century cathedral office comes from Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373). His "History of the Arians" 81 and his "Defense of his Flight" 24 confirm the existence of cathedral vigils, attended by monks as well as the laity, that comprised readings, reponsorial psalmody, and prayers.
The "Canons of Hippolytus" (ca 336-340) not only confirms the existence of a cathedral office in Egypt but gives us precious information as to its contents. Canon 21 says: "Let the priests gather in church every day, and the deacons, subdeacons, readers, and all the people, at cockcrow. They shall do the prayer, the psalms, and the reading of the books and the prayers.... " Canon 27 says that one should read the Scriptures at home at dawn when there is no prayer in church, and pray in the middle of the night and at cockcrow.
Much of our evidence for the cathedral office in Cappadocia comes from the family whose members included st. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Macrina. The evening service began with the lighting of the lamps, which was a practical necessity. So even before the development of evensong into a formal liturgical office, Christian piety had the practice of greeting the evening lamp with prayer and praise. By the last quarter of the fourth century, this ritual and its name had been incorporated into cathedral vespers. The hymn Phos hilaron (O Joyful Light) is one of the earliest extant Christian hymns. St. Basil says that it was ancient even in his time, so old that he did not even know who wrote it.
The festive cathedral vespers in Cappadocia had something like the following basic structure:
- Lucernarium with Phos hilaron
- Psalm 140
- Lessons and homily Intercessions with "angel of peace" petitions.
St. Basil also mentions a vigil that concluded with cathedral matins. It can be hypothetically reconstructed as follows:
- Vigil: Is 26: 9 ff
- Ps 118
- Antiphonal psalmody, prayers
- Responsorial psalmody, prayers (Lessons)
- (the last three done repeatedly)
- Matins: Ps 50
- Hymns and canticles
- ( Intercessions)
It is from Antioch and its environs that we first find massive evidence for the cathedral office hitherto seen only in a few passing allusions.
St. John Chrysostom says that Psalm 140 is chanted daily at vespers, and Psalm 62 in the morning. He considers Psalm 140 as a salutary medicine for whatever has dirtied us through the day. He speaks of the intercessions at the end of the daily offices: 1 Timothy 2:1-4 is the classic Christian text concerning this intercessory prayer.
The Apostolic Constitutions, a lengthy church order written in Greek by a Syrian from the environs of Antioch, provides the first full description of the structure and contents of the cathedral offices of morning praise, evensong, and the Sunday resurrection vigil. We see two daily services, morning and evening, with Psalms 62 and 140 as their nucleus, as well as a Sunday vigil with the resurrection Gospel and three "prayers" in honor of the resurrection. There is redaction of the Gloria in excelsis, later to become a standard element in Eastern matins, and an "evening hymn" comprising Psalm 121:1 and the Nunc dimittis of Luke 2:29-32. The evening service included a litany with a number of elements similar to the present Eastern aitesis.
Half a century later the cathedral services in the Antioch area are still in full vigor and have even developed ritually. Theodoret, Bishop of Cyr, near Antioch, recounts how two laymen in 347-348 invented antiphonal psalmody for use at night vigils. He mentions the use of incense, which Chrysostom seems not to have known in the Antiochene office.
We are richly informed about the pristine liturgy in Jerusalem through the detailed account of the Spanish pilgrim nun Egeria, who traveled in the Holy Land in 381-384. At that time Jerusalem had already become a great center of pilgrimage. Thus the liturgy not only had a sumptuous fullness and splendor found only in the great cities and pilgrimage centers, but also had absorbed certain monastic traits.
As opposed to the Antiochene tradition, the offices derived from that of Jerusalem have three or more vesperal psalms, always including Psalm 140.
Egeria remarks that "the psalms and antiphons that they use are always appropriate˙.˙.˙.˙suitable to what is being done." This is precisely what distinguishes cathedral offices from the monastic psalmody, which followed the numerical order of the psalms.
At the Sunday resurrection vigil, apparently the Gospel included not only the resurrection but also the passion and death on the Cross, and was the high point of the service.
In general, the skeleton of the principal hours of the cathedral cursus probably looked somewhat as follows:
- Daily Sunday
- Resurrection Vigil
- Three antiphons with prayers
- Blessing and dismissal
- Morning psalms and canticles,
- including Psalm 62
- Gloria in Excelsis
- Blessing and dismissal
- Vespers Eucharist
- Light service & hymn
- Vesperal psalmody, including Psalm 140
- "Hymns & antiphons"
- Blessing and dismissal
The morning service was one of thanks and praise for the new day and for salvation in Christ Jesus. The evening one was thanking God for the day's graces, asking His pardon for the day's faults, and beseeching Him for a safe and sinless night.
2 - CENTERS OF LITURGICAL EXCHANGE: MONASTERIES
The Monastery of Sinai (Burning Bush). Creative center until the fourteenth century.
Monastery of Sabas: which joined the heremetical with the cenobitical life. Common church and refectory with cells surrounding that of a spiritual father. A center of cultural osmosis between the Syrian and Greek worlds. John of Damascus, the best known hymnographer of that era. Here was formulated the Great Typikon, still in use.
Constantinople: made famous by the Acemetes who pray day and night; also by the Studites, noted for their hymnography.
Athos: Athanasius the Athonite and Mount Athos which exercised a great influence on the liturgical life.
1 - SCRIPTURAL ELEMENT
The Joannine style impregnates the entire Office. Prayer in the Old Testament pre-supposed the Temple. In the New Testament, the Temple disappears, Jesus remains. He is the place of prayer.
a - dialogue with the Samaritan woman (John 4:21-59).
b - martyrdom of St. Stephen. Stephen catches sight of worship without the temple: "I see the heavens opened..." (Acts 7:55).
c - the Apocalypse: There is no more Temple, but Jesus is seen as a Lamb. Prayer is the adoration of the blessed Trinity (21:22).
2 - MONASTIC ELEMENT
Monasticism is a sort of eschatalogical rupture. A sort of contestation of the Church at that time. It took time and brought it into eschatology, by making it an interval for living between the resurrection and the Second Coming (parousia). The Rule of St. Basil fixed the monks' prayer life, which Cassian transplanted in the West and which was later on brought to Ireland by St. Patrick, a disciple of Cassian.
THE SENSE OF THE LITURGY
All action is accomplished according to some rule or other. The term "rite" is untranslatable and was unknown in history. The liturgy of the Church is act. In the liturgy are found three main harmonious themes:
a - akolouthia:
A sequence, a development sanctified by time. It is not the chronological course of time, but the coming. "It is a question of understanding how He Who is always present can come (St. Gregory of Nyssa).
b - kanon (rod):
The rod becomes a unit of measurement, a norm. The angel of the Apocalypse measures with a rod (21:15). The true measure of prayer is to pray without ceasing, as says our Lord (Luke 21:36). Its true posture is (praying) standing, the posture of the Resurrection, that of vigilance and fidelity.
c - synaxis:
An assembly of prayer, of a virtue of communion. "Every liturgical assembly is a feast;" says St. Chrysostom, "who attests to this? The very words of Christ. For He says that 'where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.' When Christ is in the midst of the assembled faithful, what stronger proof can we have that this is a feast?" (PG 54,669).
SIGNIFICANCE OF TIME
The three words akolouthia, kanon and synaxis express a certain notion of the time in which the Office is said. The liturgical act looms in the midst of the anguish of man lost in time and a prisoner of time. Under its aspect of the eternal return, time signifies death. In order to conjure up the nothingness of time, man discovers the liturgical act and offers sacrifice.
Through divine revelation, time appears as a time of waiting and expectation and no longer in its aspect of destructive repetition. The circle of time is broken. Finally, by the Incarnation, time becomes a bearer of salvation. Far from being the anguish of death, it becomes hope and the seed of resurrection, in that unique day of the Lord.
3 - STRUCTURE AND ARRANGEMENT OF THE BYZANTINE LITURGICAL OFFICE
The whole Byzantine Office is centered upon the Resurrection of Christ which is endlessly paraphrased. Thanks to Christ's Resurrection, time is surfeited with its anguish. The Resurrection of Christ animates all its rhythms: yearly, monthly, weekly and daily.
THE ANNUAL RHYTHM
1 - the books:
a - the Octoechos speaks of the Resurrection, even in its very name: its eight musical tones (Ionian, Phrygian and Lybian), to which the Byzantine Liturgy added four other derived or plagal tones, giving a total of eight, symbolic of resurrection and of the eighth or endless day of eternity.
b - the Triodion starts three weeks before the Great Lenten Sunday of the Pharisee and Publican and ends on the eve of the Resurrection. It is recited during the Lenten fast and is a preparation for the paschal festival. It is composed of three strophes in each unity of nine.
c - Pentecostarion begins on on Easter night and ends on the feast of All Saints.
d - the Menaion (sanctoral) is an anamnesis, actualizing the presence of the saints.
2 - the parts of the Office:
a - psalmody and the psalms
b - the prayers or litanies for all man's needs
c - hymnography. This is the characteristic of Byzantine liturgical prayer, which derived from the Syrian genius and adopted by Byzantium, adding to it the contribution of the Ecumenical Councils and the experiences of contemplatives. These hymns are proper to Pneumatic time, which corresponds to the era of the Spirit. It is not enough merely to recite these prayers, it is necessary to enter into this experience and recreate these prayers. The great names of Romanos the Melodist, Cosmas of Mayuma, John of Damascus, Andrew of Crete, Joseph the Hymnographer, etc. are well known.
3 - the rhythms:
Three great unities can be distinguished, each of which is characterized by an obsession for the meaning of the Resurrection, which is the "unending day." We are living in the interval between "already" and "not yet." Life goes on in this tension or reaching out to the Resurrection.
a - weekly rhythm:
Monday: the angels, the first creation, our heavenly companions.
Tuesday: St. John the Forerunner, the bridge between the two covenants.
Wednesday: commemoration of the Holy Cross, viewed more as a unique plan or a plot between Judas and the Elders for the death of Christ.
Thursday: dedicated to the great wonderworkers of the Church, signs of the kingdom and lordship of Christ, then St. Nicholas and St. Spiridon and all bishops.
Friday: the Passion.
Saturday: the triumphal silence of God of the pleroma of the saints and especially the Mother of God.
b - daily rhythm:
Vespers: the prayer follows the account of creation: chaos and darkness are the origin of creation: night and day, morning and evening, the first day. Light-darkness. The great themes of vesper prayers are:
- thanksgiving for creation (Psalm 103 and litany)
- the Fall and banishment with the De profundis (Psalms 140 and 141).
- redemption by the "O Joyful Light" and the Song of Simeon.
- death, the natural expression of Simeon's expectation. The vesper prayer declares that the evening of this world is at hand, proclaiming the endless day of eternity.
Compline: places at night, under the sign of the "invisible war," of the encounter with death, but which is transfigured by prayer.
Midnight Office: placed under the eschatalogical sign. Reaching completely towards the Lord's approach, the soul makes ready to receive Him. "Watch and pray."
Matins and Lauds (Orthros): celebrate the appearance of created beings and the flashing forth of light. For the first time, the holy and undivided Trinity is blessed, a sort of addition to the vesper hymn of Athenogenes. The six psalms come from an ancient Egyptian monastic usage - a time for recollection. There follows the recitation of the Canon, composed of nine odes and more often recited than chanted, recitation more befitting the state of monastic recollection. Then come the psalms of Lauds and the Great Doxology.
Prime: the universality of the redemption. Christ is the light of all men, Who has come into the world.
Terce: the recreation of the world by the Holy Spirit. The concluding prayer honors the Trinity and the Holy Spirit.
Sext: commemorates the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise, and the crucifixion.
None: the death of Christ and the entrance of the Good Thief into heaven.
Every hour of the Divine Office, as well as other services, begins with the blessing, "Blessed is our God at all times, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen," "Glory to You, our God...," the prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Trisagion, "All holy Trinity..." and the Lord's Prayer. Prayer is an experience and one learns how to pray by praying. Let us examine each one of these elements:
1 - The blessing: Every blessing presupposes some kind of action: the hand and the gift given. The last image of the risen Christ before He ascended into heaven is an act of blessing the world which He redeemed. Compare this blessing with that uttered by God at the time of creation: "And God found everything He had done to be good" (Genesis 1). Every blessing is given in Christ and through Christ in the economy of salvation.
2 - The doxology: God is a free gift. All creation glorifies Him, particularly the angels, who glorified God at the moment of Christ's birth in Bethlehem. "We have seen His glory" (John).
3 - The invocation of the Holy Spirit: "Those who bear the Spirit of God are led to the Word, that is, to the Son; but the Son presents them to the Father and the Father gives them incorruptibility. Then, without the Spirit, it is impossible to see the Son of God, and without the Son, no one can approach the Father, since the knowledge of the Father is the Son and the knowledge of the Son takes place by means of the Holy Spirit; as for the Spirit, it is according to the Father's good pleasure that the Son dispenses Him through the ministry to whom and by whom the Father so wills" (Irenaeus).
The "Heavenly King" is the Spirit Who has returned the risen Christ to us.
The "Consoler" is the eschatalogical function of the Holy Spirit. This is the name which Christ Himself has given to Him.
"Present in all places and filling all things" refers to the mysterious presence in creation and in the souls of the just which have become "temples of the Holy Spirit."
The "Treasury of Blessings": Everything flows from Him as from a wellspring. God's gifts flow from the Father to the Son, to the Holy Spirit and by Him to creatures, "for every good gift and every perfect grace comes from You, the Father of Lights."
"The Giver of Life": The Spirit caused life to come forth at the moment of creation: "The Spirit of God hovered over the waters." The Spirit is God's breath in us. "As for man," says St. Irenaeus, "God fashioned him with His own hands by taking from the earth what was the purest and finest and mixing into it in just measure His power and, in fact, He traced on the created flesh His own form, since it is how he is made in God's image that man was placed on the earth. In order for him to live, God breathed on his face a breath of life in such a manner that, according to the breath and flesh so made, man became like unto God."
"Treasury of Blessings": Everything flows from Him as from its source.
"Come": This is the last invocation of the Apocalypse: "Maran Atha, Come, Lord!"
"Dwell in us": "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (Deuteronomy 23:14). "You are the temple of the Holy Spirit" (St. Paul, Emmaus).
"Cleanse us of all stain": By the power of the spirit, Christ wrought all His spiritual and bodily cures.
"Save our souls, O Good One": Salvation is the work of God and the collaboration of man. There is no good, save God alone.
4 - the Trisagion: Addressed to Christ: Holy God, holy mighty One Who conquered hell and despoiled it. Holy immortal One: "Christ risen shall never die again," says St. Paul.
5- Invocation of the Holy Trinity: "All holy Trinity, have mercy on us." Trinity of persons which are immediately named. The East preferably addresses itself to the Persons:
"Lord, forgive us our sins": "Lord is the name of God the Father and all prayers must be directed to the Father, to Whom all things must return. "Lord" is also Christ's name after His Resurrection.
"Master, pardon our transgressions": The Holy Spirit is the healer of both our spiritual and bodily infirmities.
6 - The Lord's Prayer: Every father began by being a son. Only the heavenly Father is without origin. The Son has a human visage and the Father is reflected in the Son. The Holy Spirit is mysterious. He is the visage of interiority. "The Spirit scrutinizes the very depths of God" (St. Paul). As Origen says, "It is worthwhile examining with unusual care the Old Testament, to see if it is possible to find anywhere in it a prayer in which someone calls God 'Father.' Though we searched to the best of our ability, up to the present, we have found none. We do not mean that God is never called Father or that those who were wont to believe in God are never styled "sons of God," but that we have not yet succeeded in finding in a prayer that confident affirmation in styling God as 'Father' which was made by the Savior...If we consider the meaning of the words...we shall hesitate to call God 'Father' if we are not true sons, lest perchance, in addition to our sins, we should incur the charge of impiety also..."
"Our Father who art in heaven": Origen says, "We are not supposed to believe that God is circumscribed in bodily fashion and dwells 'in heaven,' but we must believe that by the ineffable power of his Godhead, all things are contained and held together by Him."
"Hallowed by Thy name": Origen tells us, "In the case of God, Who is Himself unchangeable and remaining unalterable, there is always one name by which, as it were, He is called, the "I Am' spoken of in Exodus. So 'let us exalt His name together,' says the Psalmist (Psalm 34:3).
"Thy Kingdom come": "Since the kingdom of God is within us, it is evident that he who prays that 'the kingdom' of God should come, prays with good reason that the kingdom of God should spring up and bear fruit and be perfected in Him. For every saint that takes God as his King and obeys the spiritual laws of God, dwells in Himself as in a well-ordered city, so to speak. "Present with Him are the Father and Christ Who reigns with the Father in the soul that has been perfected, in accordance with the saying, 'We shall come unto Him and make our abode with him'" (John 14:23).
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven": According to Origen, "We who being still 'on earth' and understanding that 'the will' of God is 'done in heaven' by all those who dwell in heaven, should pray that 'the will' of God may be done 'in all things' also 'on earth' even as it is by them: which things will come to pass if we do nothing contrary to His 'will.' But, whenever 'the will' of God is accomplished by us who are 'on earth' as in fact is 'in heaven,' we are make like unto those in heaven inasmuch as we 'bear' as they do 'the image of the heavenly' and 'shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.'"
"Give us this day our daily bread": Origen again says, "It is not a question here of material bread, but of the Heavenly Bread, which is the Eucharist...In order that we may not be sick of soul through lack of nourishment, nor 'die' to God because of 'famine' of 'the word of the Lord,' let us ask from the Father 'the living bread,'...obeying our Savior and Teacher, putting our faith in Him and living more wisely."
The word epiousion (daily): according to Origen, "The bodily bread is distributed for the body of him who is nourished thereby passes into his 'substance.' Similarly, the 'Living Bread' which ha 'come down out of heaven' being distributed for the mind and the soul, imparts a share of its peculiar power to him who has willingly accepted the nourishment that comes from it and thus, the bread which we ask for will be epiousion. Therefore, epiousion bread is that which is best adapted to the reasonable nature and akin to it in its very substance: it provides at once health and vigor and straight to the soul and imparts a share in its own immortality (for the Word of God is immortal) to him who eats it."
"This day": Give us this day our daily bread: give us day by day our daily bread.
"Forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (debtors)": As St. Luke says, "Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also have forgiven everyone that is indebted to us." And as we read in Origen: "Since Christ brought us 'with His own Blood,' 'we are debtors,' even as every servant is the 'debtor' of him who bought him, for so much a sum of money as was given for him. We also incur a debt to the 'Holy Spirit' which is paid when we do not 'grieve' Him, we bear the fruits which are demanded of us, since He is present in us and 'quickened' our souls. And even though we do not know precisely who is the 'angel' of each one of us who 'beholds the face of the Father in heaven' at any rate, it is manifest to each each one of us when he reflects upon it that we are 'debtors' to him also for certain things." "When Luke says 'forgive us our sins,' who is inspired by Jesus as were the apostles, and can be known 'by the fruits' as one who has received the Holy Spirit and has become 'spiritual' by being 'led by the Spirit' as a 'son of God' to do everything in accordance with reason, such as one forgives 'whatever God forgives.'"
"Lead us not into temptation": "We pray," writes Origen, "not that we may not be tempted, but that we may not be encompassed by temptation, a thing that happens to those who are held fast by it and overcome. Since, then, outside the prayer it is written 'not to enter into temptation,' it is worthwhile to see how we may conceive of God leading 'into temptation' him who did not pray or him whose prayer was not heard. For inasmuch as he who is conquered 'enters into temptation,' in the sense of giving him up to be conquered. And the same incongruity remains however we interpret the words: 'pray not to enter into temptation.' For if it is an evil to fall 'into temptation' -- a thing we pray that we may not suffer -- it must needs be absurd to think to think that the good God, who 'cannot bring forth evil fruit,' encompasses anyone with evil." "...and if we wish to have reminders from history, we should know that the mind of Eve did not become easily persuaded and feeble when she disobeyed God and listened to the serpent, but rather it was proven to be beforehand, the serpent approaching her for this very reason, that his own insight perceived her weakness. Neither did wickedness first arise in Cain when 'he slew' his brother (for even before that 'God which knoweth the heart...had not respect unto Cain and to his sacrifices'); but his baldness came to light when he killed Abel. Again, had not 'Noe drunk of the wine' which he had tilled and 'become drunk' and had he not 'been uncovered,' neither, on the one hand, would the hastiness of action of Cham and his impiety towards his father, nor, on the other, the grave and respectful behavior of his brothers to their parent, have been manifested. And the plot of Esau against Jacob seemed to have as its pretext the taking away of 'the blessing;' but before this his soul had the 'roots' of being a 'fornicator' and 'profane person.' And we should not have known the splendor of Joseph's self-control, who was prepared against the assaults of any desire, had not his mistress become enamored of him" (On Prayer).
PARALLELS BETWEEN THE SABBATH AND SUNDAY
Characteristics of the Sabbath:
1 - The adoption of the Sabbath in the Sinai Desert signifies total abnegation. The world fades away. God no longer sends down the manna; provisions cannot be made; everything is expected from Him. Total dependance upon God.
2 - The Sabbath: a memorial of the Exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea and the tribulations in the wilderness. It means the passage from the state of servitude and slavery to that of liberty.
3 - The Sabbath signifies in the jubilee prescriptions: the liberation of slaves, the reintegration of the poor and strangers.
4 - The Sabbath: is the dedication of the time in which God rested from all His works. "The creation must cause a return to Him. It belongs to Him and we only have the use of it. God's ad extra activities have come to an end; God is pleased with the effigy of His power. "Man is invited to contemplate God's glory in the Sabbath."
Characteristics of Sunday, the Lord's Day:
1 - Historical affirmation
a - "The Lord's Day [kyriake or dominica] The first day of the week and the day of the sun, the creation of light and the shining forth of light upon the world in Christ's Resurrection. "Let us live according to the Spirit of Sunday" (St. Irenaeus). "Those who lived under the ancient economy came to the new hope: They no longer keep the Sabbath, but live according to the Lord's Day, according to that day on which our life was raised, thanks to the Kyrios and His death" (St. Irenaeus, Ep. Magn. 9).
b - The meaning of the time: the presence of Christ risen which "does not cease to act" in the world.
c - The Ogdoade or "Eighth Day," appeared very early. It means the total fullness of the Christian's paschal life. According to St. Basil, "it is the same day which unceasingly returns... the day which comes after time... the time which no longer grows old."
Through Isaias, God said to Jerusalem: "In the flood in Noe's day, I saved you" (54:8). Now what God was saying was that at the time of the flood, the mystery of the salvation of men was brought about. The just Noe, along with the others who were saved from the waters, namely, his wife, his three sons and their wives, numbered eight and offered the symbol of the eighth day (on which our Lord appeared risen from the dead) which implicitly is the first day... since the first day, while remaining the first of all the days, on counting again after all the days of the week, is called the eighth, without thereby ceasing to be the first" (St. Justin of Naplousa).
2 - Meaning of Sunday, the Lord's Day:
a - Sunday is a new beginning. En Arkhy. After the Resurrection Gospel, St. John's Prologue is read: "In the beginning was the Word..." This is the springing out of a new creation. Christianity is the Resurrection. It is the Lord's Day par excellence. "Abraham rejoiced that he might see My day" (John 8:56). Abraham saw it in the hope of it, along with all the other just people of the Old Testament.
b - The first and the last are joined together. "In so far as it is last it has no number" (St. Maximos).
c - God's rest on the seventh day applies to Sunday, and must not be fulfilled in relaxation and idleness but in union with God. In the beginning, Christians did not want Sunday to be a copy of the Jewish Sabbath. Sacred rest is a participation in God's rest which is fullness of happiness.
d - the splitting from the Sabbath which marked a limit: God's rest. In the Resurrection, God again enters into action, remakes His creation and places in on the road to its eschatalogical end. It is never fulfilled in time as all the convulsions of history attest, with revolutions of all kinds. "My Father works unceasingly and I work also." "The Sabbath is no longer a limit; it keeps all its meaning but it has been surpassed. Time has been swallowed up in eternity. The whole life of the Church henceforth converges towards the parousia, towards the glorious coming of the Savior.
3 - Liturgical meaning: through the transcendence of the Paschal Mystery Sunday surpasses the ancient Sabbath. The latter prefigures that which is new. When the reality appears, the figures are blurred. The East gives less of a place to the Old Testament in the Liturgy than the West, because it first needed to stress the person of Christ who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. In addition, it endowed the Liturgy with an extremely rich hymnography. Nevertheless, the Old Testament has a place in the Liturgy in the readings at the vigils of the major feasts and in the daily office of the Nine Odes.
Holy Saturday and the Day of Resurrection:
1 - Dialectical tension between the Jewish Sabbath and Sunday, the Lord's Day. Sunday is not just another Sabbath. Christ broke with the Sabbath by surpassing it. He worked His miracles on the Sabbath. He inaugurated God's work on the Sabbath. He raised Lazarus on the Sabbath. He came to restore man to his total life.
2 - the Sabbath Day: Christ observes it not in His works but in His Flesh. On that day He rests from His works. "On that day, you sanctified the seventh day... by remaking the conquest of it," says the fourth ode of Great and Holy Saturday, "without stopping Your works." God blessed the seventh day, but death, the fruit of sin, was introduced therein and it established itself. To sanctify means to recreate from within. Sanctify is different from blessing in which there is the one who gives the blessing and the one who receives it. Sanctification, on the other hand, takes place by death. Life is no longer constrained to concentrate on one single day. It breaks upon the body of time. Up until 325, Sunday was never thought of as a day of rest.
3 - Christ's death reduced everything to naught. Time devoted to death was abolished. Man, freed from the limit of time, recovered his original integrity.
4 - The annihilation of God and His contraction in the human condition: death reduces Him to a seed of new life. "If the grain of wheat does not die..." It is necessary to burst the limits of time and put a new day which the world cannot contain. Time is directed towards its end. The limit of the Sabbath has really arrived to us: Christ Himself has fulfilled it in His flesh.
The Ogdoade, the Octave of Easter (the Pasch):
The Resurrection is sealed on the Eighth Day, the Sunday of St. Thomas, or the "anti-Pashca," known in the Latin Church as Quasimodo Sunday or Dominica in albis.
1 - History: The Apostolic Constitutions mention this great feast. Etheria describes the procession of the neophytes dressed in white, walking in procession across the town and chanting.
2 - Appellation: Sunday of St. Thomas. On this day, is read the Gospel pericope about the apostle Thomas, who would not believe unless he saw and touched Christ's wounds. The Gospel which is read in twelve different languages on Easter day stops at the conditions made by the doubting apostle until one week later, when his doubts were quelled. The attitude of St. Thomas has a universal significance. This Sunday is known as the "anti-Pascha." "Anti" means here, "vis a vis," something which takes place, on Easter Sunday. The values mentioned in this Gospel are the proper message of the Resurrection, the peace given and the promise of the Spirit.
It is also called "New Sunday" or the "Sunday of Renewal." The glorious feast of Easter in the East announces the endless day. (For the West, it culminates in the administration of Baptism). The light shining from the tomb corresponds to the fiat lux of the first day of creation. It is placed and it will henceforth shine through time. And the dead who pass away at Easter have the paschal office sung for their obsequies. It is a real defiance of death.
3 - Signification of texts: "We celebrate the renewal and the touch," says the Synaxarion. "Standing in their midst, O Lord, You gave peace and filled them with the Holy Spirit." "O unheard of wonder! John reposed in the bosom of the Word... and Thomas was deemed worthy to touch His side... The former draws therefrom with fear the depths of theology, while the latter was thought worthy to initiate us into His economy." "You got up from the tomb by restoring in us a right spirit" (Vespers). "It is the first and the last of days" (Seventh Ode). "The luminous grace which makes charming Your beauty." "The Kingdom is beauty," beauty is the sign of Jesus.
4 - Sense:
a - Relationship between the Eighth Day and the Sunday after Easter: the renewal of life and the inauguration of the new creation. "Of all things in this world, unquestionably the greatest work, surpassing all human understanding, is the Resurrection of our Lord which we celebrate and renew not just once a year, but every week continuously. The first of this event is the present Sunday which should be called by a special name, both eighth and first. Eighth because it is the eighth day after Easter and the first because it is the beginning of other ones. Furthermore, it can be called eighth as being the icon of that eternal day of the age to come which will be the first and one not interrupted by the night" (St. Gregory the Theologian).
"That Sunday (Easter) was one of salvation; this one is the anniversary of salvation; the former was the frontier between the grave and the Resurrection; the latter is purely the one of the second creation, so that, like the first creation which began on a Sunday, (this is quite clear, since the Sabbath falls in fact seven days after it, being the rest from labors), so the second creation also begins on the same day, which is at the same time the first one in relation to those that come after it, and eighth in relation to those before, more sublime than the sublime day and more admirable than the admirable day. It is, in fact, related to life above" (St. Gregory the Theologian).
b - Easter Sunday is the frontier between the tomb and the Resurrection, the eighth day (Sunday of St. Thomas) is the renewal of creation. The first day of creation was then a Sunday and the eighth, its anniversary.
c - Sunday, the icon of the age to come and the endless day: Let there be light, such is the first day of creation, as we read in Genesis. "There shall be no night" (Apocalypse).
d - The antithesis between John and Thomas: two different touches. The excellence of the sense of touch: If I see, it is that I touch; if I hear, it is that I touch. Now John reposed on Christ's bosom. "Christ nursed him," says St. Augustine. Origen says, "John rests on the Savior's breast like Christ on the Father's bosom." To touch is to attain what is real. To be a body is to touch. To eat is also to be eaten, gnawed by time which devours its children (chronos) as opposed to kairos which is opened up to eternity. Thomas touches the Savior's body and he believes. But that body, eaten by time and death, itself becomes the food which swallows the time which engulfs it. From the Sabbath to Easter, to the Octave, is the whole passage of time, its outpouring unto eternity. Unto the real presence of that body which finally feeds us and which triumphs over time. Precisely, this body rises. By fire, the Holy Spirit."
MATINS OF HOLY AND GREAT SATURDAY
Day of the Resurrection! Let us shine with joy, O people. Passover of the Lord, Passover! Since it is from death to life, it is from earth to heaven that Christ God has translated us, who sing this triumphal hymn!
Everything now is filled with light: heaven, earth and hell. Let every creature celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in Whom is our strength.
Yesterday I was buried with You, O Christ; I arise today with You, the risen One. I Was crucified with You yesterday. O Savior, glorify me with You in Your kingdom.
Foretelling Your divine annihilation on the Cross, Habakuk cried out from within himself: "You have defeated the power of the strong, You who are good, by visiting the inhabitants of Hades, for You are omnipotent."
On that day You hallowed the seventh day which once You had blessed by ceasing Your work; You revivify all things, my Savior, and You renew them by observing the Sabbath and by conquering them again
On this day a tomb encloses Him who in His hand holds all creation; a stone covers Him who covers the heavens with His power. Life sleeps, Hates trembles and Adam is freed from his bonds. Glory to the economy according to which, having fulfilled all things, You grant to us, as God, the eternal Sabbath by Your most holy Resurrection from the dead.
What is this spectacle which appears before our eyes?
What is the repose of this day?
The King of Ages, having fulfilled His plan by His sufferings, spends the Sabbath rest in the sepulchre and grants a new Sabbath to us. Let us cry out to Him: "Arise, O God, judge of the world, because You reign forever, You whose mercy is of immeasurable greatness."
The great Moses mystically signified the present day when he said: "And God blessed the seventh day." This day is, in fact, the blessed Sabbath. This is the day on which the Son of God rests from all His labors, by celebrating the Sabbath in the flesh, according to the economy which made Him suffer death, and by returning to what it was. By His Resurrection, He has granted us eternal life, He who is good and loves mankind.
Let us keep watch from the dawning of the day and in place of myrrh, let us offer a hymn to the Lord and we shall see Christ, the Sun of Justice, Who makes life to gush forth upon everyone.
It is now the special and holy day, unique in the week, the King and Lord of days, the feast of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities, in which we bless Christ for ever.
Come, on this great day of the Resurrection, and let us partake of the new fruit of the vine, of divine joy, of the royalty of Christ, by celebrating Him as God for ever.
Cast your eyes round about, O Sion, and see; for behold, illuminated by a Light Divine, your children come to you from the West and from the North, from the sea and from the East, blessing in you, the anointed One for ever.
O divine, lovable, most sweet Word! You promised us without deceit to be with us unto the consummation of the world, O Christ! And we faithful, we remember this word as the anchor of our hope and we are filled with joy.
VESPERS OF GREAT AND HOLY SATURDAY
The great Moses described beforehand the present day when he said: "And God blessed the seventh day." This day is, in fact, the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest on which the only begotten Son of God rests from all His labors, by celebrating the Sabbath in the flesh forseen in the economy of His death, and in which He shall return it to what it was. By His Resurrection, He has granted us eternal life, for He alone is good and loves mankind.
* * * * *
SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
Stichera of the Lamp Lighting Psalms
First Tone by John the Monk
The doors having been closed, and Your disciples having gathered together, You entered suddenly, O Jesus all powerful, our God. Standing in the midst of them, You gave peace to them and filled them with the Holy Spirit...
Eight days after Your Resurrection, Lord, You showed Yourself to Your disciples in the place where they were gathered together, and You told them, "Peace to you."
The disciples hesitated, and on the eighth day, O Savior, You entered the place where they were gathered together. After having bestowed peace on them, You said to Thomas, "Come here, Apostle, touch the palms of My hands where the nails were driven."
Apostikon (Fourth Tone)
O unheard of wonder! John reposes upon the breast of the Word, and Thomas was judged worthy to touch His side. One drew from it with fear "the depths of theology, the others were worthy of demonstrating to us His economy, since he openly manifested the proofs of His Resurrection when he cried out: My Lord and my God, glory to You."
The tomb, having been sealed, You arose from the sepulchre, O Christ God, our life. And the doors having been shut, You showed Yourself to Your disciples, the Resurrection of all, by restoring within us a right spirit, according to Your great mercy.
It is the first and lord of days, this bright day on which it is fitting for the new and divine people of God to rejoice; since this day bears within it with trembling the prefigurement of eternity, as being the eighth day of the world to come.
It is Your stunning and moist bright day, O Christ, and the brightest grace which, charming in Your beauty, You have appeared to Your disciples, which we magnify.
Synaxarion of the Day
This very day, the second Sunday counting Easter, we celebrate the egkainia of the Resurrection of Christ, and the touching by St. Thomas, the Apostle. It was the ancient custom to celebrate the exgainia (renewal, dedication, inauguration,anniversary of the inauguration) of something important. In fact, when in the course of the year the day on which the event had taken place returned, a commemoration was made, in order that the most important works would not fall into oblivion. Thus, the Hebrews in Gilga celebrated in the first place the Passover (Josue 6:10) to commemorate the crossing of the Red Sea. They solemnly celebrated the Dedication of the Tabernacle, the enthronement of David and many other events.
Of all things in the world, the incontestably greatest work, surpassing all human understanding, is the Resurrection of our Lord, which we celebrate and renew not just once a year, but every week and continuously.
The first aspect of this event is the present Sunday, which could be called by a special title, at the same time first and eighth. Eighth, because it is the eighth day starting with Easter; and first, because it is the beginning of the others. Moreover, it can be called as an icon of that eternal day of the world to come, which will be first and one, not interrupted by night.
"That Sunday (Easter) was one of salvation; this one is the anniversary of salvation. That one was the frontier between the tomb and the Resurrection; this one is purely that of the second creation so that, just as the first creation started on a Sunday (This is quite clear because the Sabbath falls seven days after it, being the rest from labor) thus the second creation also begins on the same day, which is at the same time, first in relation to those which come after it, and eighth in relation to those which precede, more sublime than the sublime and more admirable day. It is related, in fact, to life which is above" (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Homily 44, On Resurrection Sunday).
It is in the Father that the mystery of the Holy Trinity is founded. It is in Him that the creation of the world is first conceived and in Him that the plan of salvation finds its principle.
We read in St. John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Greek preposition "with" (God) marks a movement of the Son towards his Father, which is but a movement of love from the Son for His Father and from the Father toward his Son. And this movement of love inside the Holy Trinity is the person of the Holy Spirit. And so, from the start, love is inscribed in the bosom of the Holy Trinity. "You are my Son, and today I have begotten you", says the Father to the Son, who responds, "Your kingship, O Lord, is from all eternity and your dominion is forever." Eternal presence of the Word to the one who eternally utters Him. The presence of the Son to the Father who begot Him, as the perfect expression of His being, of His Goodness, and of His Beauty. Prior to everything that was made, the Father and all the being of the Son. The Father is all for His Son, and the Son is all the being for his Father. "My Son." "My Father." "Abba Father." (Joseph Lemarie, La Manifestation du Seigneur, pp. 110-111).
The love of God's Son for us is the human translation of the love of God the Father himself. "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that anyone who believes in Him may not perish but has eternal life."
We are struck by the intensity of the love of the Son for his father, His readiness to do His will. "I did not come to do my will, but the will of Him who sent me." "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to perfect His work."
He rebuked Peter and called him Satan because he did not care about His will. In Gethsemane, He asked that the chalice of passion be taken away from Him, but He added, "Not my will but your will be done." The human face of the Lord and His love is the divine face of God the Father and His love. "Whoever sees me sees the Father." "I am in the Father and the Father is in me."
To the love of the son for his Father there is a response of the love of the Father who glorifies His Son. No sooner than Jesus was born in the cave of Bethlehem than the Father sent the angels to glorify Him and the shepherds to welcome Him, and guided the Magi by the star to offer Him their gifts. When Jesus humbled himself mingling with the sinners at the Jordan River, the Father sent the Holy Spirit and called out, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him." In Gethsemane, the Father sent His angels to strengthen Him. On the cross, the sun darkened and the earth trembled, and the tombs opened. And at His resurrection the angel removed the stone from the sepulchre and announced the resurrection to the holy women.
God created the world in order to give brothers and sisters to His Son, to give Him primacy in everything over the whole creation. "When the fullness of time came, God sent His only Son, born of a woman under the law, to obtain the status of adoption."
But there is only one way to follow Christ and to be His disciple, we must take up our cross and follow him. There is no salvation outside of the cross, for "Behold through the cross joy entered into the world."