Lives of all saints commemorated on April 28


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 Saint John Chrysostom, read at Paschal Matins)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Christian faith. Saint 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! Saint 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, O Christ.
Today I arise with Thee in Thy resurrection.
Yesterday I was crucified with Thee:
Glorify me with Thee, O 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, O 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, O 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 Saint 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 Saint 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.

O Christ, great and most holy Pascha.
O 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


Apostles Jason and Sosipater of the Seventy, the Virgin Kerkyra, and those with them

The Apostle Jason was from Tarsus (Asia Minor). He was the first Christian in the city. The Apostle Sosipater was a native of Patra, Achaia. He is thought to be the same Sosipater mentioned in Acts 20:4. They both became disciples of Saint Paul, who even called them his kinsmen (Rom 16:21). Saint John Chrysostom (Homily 32 on Romans) says that this is the same Jason who is mentioned in Acts 17:5-9. Saint Jason was made bishop in his native city of Tarsus, and Saint Sosipater in Iconium. They traveled west preaching the Gospel, and in 63 they reached the island of Kerkyra [Korfu] in the Ionian Sea near Greece.

There they built a church in the name of the Protomartyr Stephen and they baptized many. The governor of the island learned of this and locked them up in prison, where they met seven thieves: Saturninus, Iakischolus, Faustianus, Januarius, Marsalius, Euphrasius and Mammius. The Apostles converted them to Christ. For their confession of Christ, the seven prisoners died as martyrs in a cauldron of molten tar, wax and sulfur.

The prison guard, after witnessing their martyrdom, declared himself a Christian. For this they cut off his left hand, then both feet and finally his head. The governor ordered the Apostles Jason and Sosipater to be whipped and again locked up in prison.

When the daughter of the governor of Kerkyra (Korfu), the maiden Kerkyra, learned how Christians were suffering for Christ, she declared herself a Christian and gave away all her finery to the poor. The infuriated governor attempted to persuade his daughter to deny Christ, but Saint Kerkyra stood firm against both persuasion and threats. Then the enraged father devised a terrible punishment for his daughter: he gave orders that she be placed in a prison cell with the robber and murderer Murinus, so that he might defile the betrothed of Christ

But when the robber approached the door of the prison cell, a bear attacked him. Saint Kerkyra heard the noise and she drove off the beast in the name of Christ. Then, by her prayers, she healed the wounds of Murinus. Then Saint Kerkyra enlightened him with the faith of Christ, and Saint Murinus declared himself a Christian and was executed.

The governor gave orders to burn down the prison, but the holy virgin remained alive. Then on her enraged father’s order, she was suspended upon a tree, choked with bitter smoke and shot with arrows. After her death, the governor decided to execute all the Christians on the island of Kerkyra. The Martyrs Zeno, Eusebius, Neon and Vitalis, after being enlightened by Saints Jason and Sosipater, were burned alive.

The inhabitants of Kerkyra, escaping from the persecution, crossed to an adjoining island. The governor set sail with a detachment of soldiers, but was swallowed up by the waves. The governor succeeding him gave orders to throw the Apostles Jason and Sosipater into a cauldron of boiling tar. When he beheld them unharmed, he cried out with tears, “O God of Jason and Sosipater, have mercy on me!”

Having been set free, the Apostles baptized the governor and gave him the name Sebastian. With his help, the Apostles Jason and Sosipater built several churches on the island, and increased the flock of Christ by their fervent preaching. They lived there until they reached old age.


Martyrs Dada, Maximus, and Quinctilian, at Dorostolum

The Martyrs Dada, Maximus and Quinctilian suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), who issued a decree requiring everyone to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods during the public festivals, and to put Christians to death.

Tarquinius and Gabinius, the emperor’s representatives in Dorostolum, made a sumptuous feast, attended not only by the inhabitants of the city, but also people from the surrounding villages.

After the festivities, someone reported to the emperor that three brothers, Dada, Maximus and Quinctilian, did not obey the imperial decree and withdrew themselves into the Ozovia forest. Soldiers were sent after them, who caught the holy brothers at prayer and led them forth for trial.

The governors interrogated the brothers, who confessed themselves Christians. Tarquinius offered to make Saint Maximus a pagan priest of Zeus, but the saint called Zeus a foul adulterer and again confessed the True God.

Tarquinius attempted to reason with Saints Dada and Quinctilian. They said that their brother was well versed in the Holy Scripture and they would follow him in everything. They threw the martyrs into prison, but they thought only of the salvation of their souls. At midnight when the saints were asleep, the devil appeared to them. When the martyrs woke, they beheld an angel who said, “Fear not, for God your hope brings you to Himself. He is not far from you and will sustain you.”

In the morning, Tarquinius told the brothers that the gods had revealed their will to him in a dream: they were to be put to death if they did not offer sacrifice. The martyrs answered that the Lord had commanded them to endure torments for His sake.

The tortures and interrogations continued for several days from morning to evening. Finally, they sentenced the martyrs to death, led them out under guard to their forest and beheaded them with a sword.


St. Cyril the Bishop of Turov

Saint Cyril, Bishop of Turov, was born of rich parents in the thirties of the twelfth century in the city of Turov at the River Pripyat.

From his early years Saint Cyril eagerly read the sacred books and attained a profound understanding of them. He studied not only in Russian, but also in Greek. When he reached maturity Saint Cyril refused his inheritance and was tonsured in Turov’s Saint Boris and Gleb monastery. He struggled much in fasting and prayer and taught the monks to obey the igumen. A monk who is not obedient to the igumen does not fulfill his vow, and therefore is not able to be saved.

Three writings of Saint Cyril on monastic life have survived, one of which, “A Narrative on the Black Clergy from the Old Law and from the New,” may be ascribed to a period of his being in the monastery.

After a certain while Saint Cyril lived on a pillar, where he increased his asceticism, and meditated on the Holy Scripture. Many turned to him for counsel in the spiritual life.

Saint Cyril’s holiness of life and profound enlightenment became known to many, and so he was chosen as Bishop of Turov. In 1169 Saint Cyril took part in a council censuring Bishop Theodore, who occupied the Vladimir-Suzdal cathedra and who sought to separate from the metropolitanate of Kiev. Saint Cyril denounced the heresy of Theodore and wrote many letters to the holy prince Andrew Bogoliubsky (July 4), in which he provided him instruction and guidance in discovering the cause of church disorders in the Rostov region.

Because of his love for solitude, Saint Cyril left his See (by the year 1182, Bishop Laurence is mentioned as the Bishop of Turov) and he devoted himself fully to spiritual writing. He composed a discourse on the yearly cycle of the Lord’s Feasts, but not all of them have been preserved. The works of Saint Cyril deserve a place beside the works of the holy Fathers in book collections.

The most complete collection of works by Saint Cyril of Turov, published by Bishop Eugenius of Turov in 1880, includes:

Sermon on Palm Sunday, from Gospel accounts

Sermon on Holy Pascha on the Radiant Day of the Resurrection of Christ, from the prophetic accounts

Sermon on the Sunday after Pascha, on the Renewal of the Resurrection, on the Artos [loaf blessed on Pascha], and on Thomas Touching the Side of the Lord

Sermon on Taking down the Body of Christ and on the Myrrh-bearing Women, from the Gospel account, and in praise of Joseph on the Third Sunday After Pascha

Sermon on the Paralytic from Genesis and from the Gospel account, on the Fourth Sunday After Pascha

Sermon on the Blind man and the enmity of the Jews from the Gospel account, on the Fourth Sunday After Pascha

Sermon on the Ascension of the Lord, on Thursday of the Sixth Week After Pascha, from prophetic decrees, and on Raising the Race of Adam from Hades

Sermon on the Holy 318 Fathers, from the Holy Books, on Christ the Son of God, and in praise of the Fathers of the Holy Council of Nicea, on the Sunday Before Pentecost

Parable on the Blind and the Lame

Parable on the Human Soul, and on the Body, and on Breaking God’s Commandments, and on the Resurrection of the Human Body, and on the Future Judgment, and on the Torment

Narrative on the Black Clergy, from the Old Testament and from the New, bearing a common form, and the accomplishing of this matter

To Igumen Basil: a Parable on the White Clergy, and on Monasticism, and on the Soul, and on Repentance

Letter of a certain Elder to the Blessed Archimandrite Basil on the Schema

Four Prayers on Sunday (after Matins, Hours, and two after Vespers)

Four Prayers on Monday

Four Prayers on Tuesday

Five Prayers on Wednesday (after Matins, Hours, and three after Vespers)

Three Prayers on Thursday (after Matins, Hours, Vespers)

Four Prayers on Friday (after Matins, Hours, and two after Vespers)

Six Prayers on Saturday (two after Matins, one after Hours, and three after Vespers)

Molieben Canon

Confession and Remembrance.

Later, the “Sermon on the Enlightenment of our Lord Jesus Christ” was discovered. The saint also composed a “Great Canon of Repentance to the Lord in Alphabetic Chapters.” As a theologian Saint Cyril believed his task was to discern the true and hidden meaning of various texts of Holy Scripture.

Saint Cyril died on April 28, 1183. His contemporaries regarded him as a Russian Chrysostom. The saint humbly wrote of himself: “I am not a harvester, but I gather sheaves of grain; I am not an artist in literary matters.” He was always conscious of the sublime hierarchical service to which the Lord had called him: “If I were to speak of my own opinions, you would do well not to come to church, but I proclaim to you the Word of God. I read to you the accounts of Christ. I present to you the words of God, finer than gold or other stones, sweeter than mead or honeycomb, and you would be deprived of them by not coming to church, ... but I praise and bless those of you who do come.”