Lives of all saints commemorated on April 20


HOLY PASCHA: The Resurrection of Our Lord

Pascha (Easter)

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith; receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
(Sermon of St John Chrysostom, read at Paschal Matins)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Christian faith. St Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and faith are in vain (I Cor. 15:14). Indeed, without the resurrection there would be no Christian preaching or faith. The disciples of Christ would have remained the broken and hopeless band which the Gospel of John describes as being in hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They went nowhere and preached nothing until they met the risen Christ, the doors being shut (John 20: 19). Then they touched the wounds of the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. The resurrection became the basis of everything they said and did (Acts 2-4): “. . . for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

The resurrection reveals Jesus of Nazareth as not only the expected Messiah of Israel, but as the King and Lord of a new Jerusalem: a new heaven and a new earth.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . the holy city, new Jerusalem. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. . . He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:1-4).

In His death and resurrection, Christ defeats the last enemy, death, and thereby fulfills the mandate of His Father to subject all things under His feet (I Cor. 15:24-26).

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing (Rev. 5: 12)

THE FEAST OF FEASTS

The Christian faith is celebrated in the liturgy of the Church. True celebration is always a living participation. It is not a mere attendance at services. It is communion in the power of the event being celebrated. It is God’s free gift of joy given to spiritual men as a reward for their self-denial. It is the fulfillment of spiritual and physical effort and preparation. The resurrection of Christ, being the center of the Christian faith, is the basis of the Church’s liturgical life and the true model for all celebration. This is the chosen and holy day, first of sabbaths, king and lord of days, the feast of feasts, holy day of holy days. On this day we bless Christ forevermore (Irmos 8, Paschal Canon).

PREPARATION

Twelve weeks of preparation precede the “feast of feasts.” A long journey which includes five prelenten Sundays, six weeks of Great Lent and finally Holy Week is made. The journey moves from the self-willed exile of the prodigal son to the grace-filled entrance into the new Jerusalem, coming down as a bride beautifully adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2) Repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and study are the means by which this long journey is made.

Focusing on the veneration of the Cross at its midpoint, the lenten voyage itself reveals that the joy of the resurrection is achieved only through the Cross. “Through the cross joy has come into all the world,” we sing in one paschal hymn. And in the paschal troparion, we repeat again and again that Christ has trampled down death—by death! St Paul writes that the name of Jesus is exalted above every name because He first emptied Himself, taking on the lowly form of a servant and being obedient even to death on the Cross (Phil. 2:5-11). The road to the celebration of the resurrection is the self-emptying crucifixion of Lent. Pascha is the passover from death to life.

Yesterday I was buried with Thee, 0 Christ.
Today I arise with Thee in Thy resurrection.
Yesterday I was crucified with Thee:
Glorify me with Thee, 0 Savior, in Thy kingdom (Ode 3, Paschal Canon).

THE PROCESSION

The divine services of the night of Pascha commence near midnight of Holy Saturday. At the Ninth Ode of the Canon of Nocturn, the priest, already vested in his brightest robes, removes the Holy Shroud from the tomb and carries it to the altar table, where it remains until the leave-taking of Pascha. The faithful stand in darkness. Then, one by one, they light their candles from the candle held by the priest and form a great procession out of the church. Choir, servers, priest and people, led by the bearers of the cross, banners, icons and Gospel book, circle the church. The bells are rung incessantly and the angelic hymn of the resurrection is chanted.

The procession comes to a stop before the principal doors of the church. Before the closed doors the priest and the people sing the troparion of Pascha, “Christ is risen from the dead...”, many tImes. Even before entenng the church the priest and people exchange the paschal greeting: “Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!” This segment of the paschal services is extremely important. It preserves in the expenence of the Church the primitive accounts of the resurrection of Christ as recorded in the Gospels. The angel rolled away the stone from the tomb not to let a biologically revived but physically entrapped Christ walk out, but to reveal that “He is not here; for He has risen, as He said” (Matt. 28:6).

In the paschal canon we sing:

Thou didst arise, 0 Christ, and yet the tomb remained sealed, as at Thy birth the Virgin’s womb remained unharmed; and Thou has opened for us the gates of paradise (Ode 6).

Finally, the procession of light and song in the darkness of night, and the thunderous proclamation that, indeed, Christ is risen, fulfill the words of the Evangelist John: “The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

The doors are opened and the faithful re-enter. The church is bathed in light and adorned with flowers. It is the heavenly bride and the symbol of the empty tomb:

Bearing life and more fruitful than paradise
Brighter than any royal chamber,
Thy tomb, 0 Christ, is the fountain or our resurrection (Paschal Hours).

MATINS

Matins commences immediately. The risen Christ is glorified in the singing of the beautiful canon of St John of Damascus. The paschal greeting is repeatedly exchanged. Near the end of Matins the paschal verses are sung. They relate the entire narrative of the Lord’s resurrection. They conclude with the words calling us to actualize among each other the forgiveness freely given to all by God:

This is the day of resurrection.
Let us be illumined by the feast.
Let us embrace each other.
Let us call “brothers” even those who hate us,
And forgive all by the resurrection. . .

The sermon of St John Chrysostom is then read by the celebrant. The sermon was originally composed as a baptismal instruction. It is retained by the Church in the paschal services because everything about the night of Pascha recalls the Sacrament of Baptism: the language and general terminology of the liturgical texts, the specific hymns, the vestment color, the use of candles and the great procession itself. Now the sermon invites us to a great reaffirmation of our baptism: to union with Christ in the receiving of Holy Communion.

If any man is devout and loves God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. . . the table is fully laden; feast you all sumptuously. . . the calf is fatted, let no one go hungry away. . .

THE DIVINE LITURGY

The sermon announces the imminent beginning of the Divine Liturgy. The altar table is fully laden with the divine food: the Body and Blood of the risen and glorified Christ. No one is to go away hungry. The service books are very specific in saying that only he who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ eats the true Pascha. The Divine Liturgy, therefore, normally follows immediately after paschal Matins. Foods from which the faithful have been asked to abstain during the lenten journey are blessed and eaten only after the Divine Liturgy.

THE DAY WITHOUT EVENING

Pascha is the inauguration of a new age. It reveals the mystery of the eighth day. It is our taste, in this age, of the new and unending day of the Kingdom of God. Something of this new and unending day is conveyed to us in the length of the paschal services, in the repetition of the paschal order for all the services of Bright Week, and in the special paschal features retained in the services for the forty days until Ascension. Forty days are, as it were, treated as one day. Together they comprise the symbol of the new time in which the Church lives and toward which she ever draws the faithful, from one degree of glory to another.

0 Christ, great and most holy Pascha.
0 Wisdom, Word and Power of God,
grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the never-ending day of Thy kingdom
(Ninth Ode, Paschal Canon).

The V. Rev. Paul Lazor
New York, 1977


Venerable Theodore Trichinas “the Hair-Shirt Wearer” and Hermit Near Constantinople

Saint Theodore Trichinas was born in Constantinople, the son of wealthy and pious parents. From childhood St Theodore was inclined toward monasticism, so he left his home, family, and former life in order to enter a monastery in Thrace. There he began his arduous ascetic struggles. He dressed in a hair-shirt, from which he derived the name “Trichinas,” (or Hair-Shirt Wearer”). He even slept on a stone in order avoid bodily comfort, and to prevent himself from sleeping too much.

His life was adorned with miracles, and he had the power to heal the sick. He reposed at the end of the fourth century, or the beginning of the fifth century. A healing myrrh flows from his relics.

The name of St Theodore Trichinas is one of the most revered in the history of Orthodox monasticism. St Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4) has composed a Canon to the saint.


Venerable Alexander the Abbot of Oshevensk

Saint Alexander of Oshevensk (+ 1479) was the founder of the Oshevensk Dormition Monastery, and enlightener of the Kargopol area, and was tonsured in the White Lake Monastery. He appeared to St Diodorus of George Hill (November 27) in the seventeenth century when his Holy Trinity Monastery ran out of supplies, and the brethren complained because there was nowhere to buy food in the wilderness. St Alexander reminded Diodorus of how the Lord had fed the five thousand in the wilderness, and ordered him to go fishing. St Diodorus, fearing that the vision was a demonic delusion, ignored it. When St Alexander appeared a third time, Diodorus, wishing to test him, asked him to say a prayer. St Alexander recited “It is Truly Meet,” and his face shone with a radiant light. The saint revealed himself as Alexander, the igumen of Oshevensk Dormition Monastery, and repeated his order to go fishing. Obeying this command, the monks went out and caught many fish.


Childmartyr Gabriel of Bialystok

Child Martyr Gabriel of Bialystok (+ 1690) was killed in Poland when he was only six years old. One day when his parents were not home, he was lured out of his house by a man named Schutko, and then killed. After thirty years, the martyred child’s body was found to be incorrupt.


Blessed Gregory the Patriarch of Antioch

No information available at this time.


Blessed Anastasius the Sinaite and Patriarch of Antioch

No information available at this time.


Venerable Anastasius the Abbot of Sinai

Saint Anastasius of Sinai lived in the seventh century, and was one of the great ascetics who flourished on Mt. Sinai.

From his youth, he was raised in great piety and love for God. When he reached manhood, St Anastasius left the world and entered a monastery to take upon himself the yoke of Christ (Mt.11:29). Wishing to perfect himself in virtue, he went to St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, where St John of the Ladder (March 30) was abbot. There he profited from the example of many holy men who were proficient in monasticism.

Because of his humility, St Anastasius received wisdom and spiritual discernment from God. He wrote the Lives of several holy Fathers, as well as other spiritually instructive books. In time, he was found worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood.

Following St John and his brother George, St Anastasius became abbot of Sinai. He was most zealous in his opposition to heresy, exposing it, refuting it, and covering its adherants with shame. He even traveled to Syria, Egypt, and Arabia to uproot heresy and strengthen the Church of Christ.

St Anastasius taught that God gives each Christian an angel to care for him throughout his life. However, we can drive our Guardian Angel away by our sins, just as bees are driven away by smoke. While the demons work to deprive us of the heavenly Kingdom, the holy angels guide us to do good. Therefore, only the most foolish individuals would drive away their Guardian Angel from themselves.

After a long life of faithfully serving God, St Anastasius fell asleep in the Lord in the year 685. He and the other ascetics of Mt. Sinai are also commemorated on Bright Wednesday, the Synaxis of the Monastic Fathers of Sinai.


St Betran the Bishop of Lesser Scythia

No information available at this time.


St Theotimus the Bishop of Lesser Scythia

Saint Theotimus the Scythian was Bishop of Tomis in Scythia. He was a native of Dacia Pontica, and was part Roman. He is believed to have been the teacher of St John Cassian (February 29) and St Germanus, because he was once living in the same monastery as they were.

Somewhere between 385-390, St Theotimus succeeded St Germanus as Bishop of Tomis. St Jerome mentions him in his book ON ILLUSTRIUS MEN. He describes St Theotimus as a good pastor, a wise theologian, and a talented writer. He also says that St Theotimus used to write short works in the form of dialogues, which reveal his training in rhetoric and philosophy.

In his writings, St Theotimus speaks of the role of the mind and the heart in prayer. Perhaps because of this he is considered to be the Father of the Romanian PHILOKALIA.

St Theotimus sometimes endured hardships from wandering barbarians, but he impressed them with the holiness of his life and the miracles he performed. He also had close ties with St John Chrysostom, and visited Constantinople at least twice.

Sometime around 410, St Theotimus fell asleep in the Lord. Ancient historians also refer to him as “the Philosopher.”


Translation of the relics of St Nicholas of Zhicha

No information available at this time.


St Joseph of Serbia

No information available at this time.


Apostle Zacchaeus

Holy Apostle Zacchaeus

The holy Apostle Zacchaeus was a rich publican at Jericho. Since he was short of stature, he climbed a sycamore tree in order to see the Savior passing by. After the Ascension of the Lord, St Zacchaeus accompanied St Peter on his travels. Tradition says he became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, where he died in peace.

The Gospel (Luke 19:1-10) describing Zacchaeus’ encounter with Christ is read on the Sunday before the TRIODION begins.


St Athanasius of Meteora

No information available at this time.