May 2018 Announcements

Special Services in May

On Sunday, May 13, Fr. Chrysostom Arthur from St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Archangel Gabriel Mission in Azle.  Service will start at 10:00 am, with the Hours being read at 9:40 am.  We encourage those who are able to join our brethren in Azle, for this “Sunday of the Blindman,” (the last Paschal Sunday), and for Mother’s Day.

In addition, on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, May 16 and 17, we will celebrate services for the Feast of Ascension at 7:00 pm and 10:00 am, respectively.  Along with special hymns, Great Vespers will include three Old Testament Readings, a Gospel Lesson, and Litiya (blessing of the wheat, wine and oil). 

And then finally, on Saturday night and Sunday morning, May 26 and 27, we will celebrate services for the Feast of Pentecost at 6:30 pm and 10:00 am, respectively.  Pentecost is also known as Trinity Sunday in Orthodoxy.  It is the celebration of the giving of the Spirit, the birthday of the Church, and the final act that places a “seal” upon Christ’s ministry and God’s saving dispensation.  Again, Great Vespers will include three Old Testament Readings, a Gospel Lesson, and the Litiya.  The Liturgy on Sunday will be followed by the three traditional kneeling prayers of Pentecost.  The week after Pentecost is fast free.   

Special Parish Meeting Convened, April 22

On Sunday, April 22 (Sunday of the Myrrbearers), a Special One Topic Parish Meeting was convened during Coffee Hour, to offer a proposal on a New Temple and Site Plan for everyone’s consideration and approval.  Michael Hoffer (our Architect) was in attendance as well, to make the presentation and to address any technical questions that might arise.

The meeting was relatively brief, but everyone present voted to support the project.  Plans were sent to His Eminence Archbishop Alexander who approved the design in less than 48 hours.  Again, we thank everyone for their input and support. There is still a great deal of work before us, but we do look forward to the day that groundbreaking will commence.    

Special Features of the Paschal Season

The week following Pascha is called Bright Week, by the Church.  It is a period of unique Resurrection joy, manifested outwardly by the faithful in diverse ways.  The Resurrection season, however, is definitely not limited only to one week.  For forty days after Pascha, until Ascension (this year May 17), the faithful recall in songs and greetings the joyous news that ‘Christ has trampled down death by death, bestowing life upon those in the tombs.’  Clergy and altar servers continue to wear their brightest vestments, and everyone stands (rather than kneels) in prayer, both at home and in Church.  The practice of standing in prayer during the Paschal Season serves to stress our belief that in Christ we are already resurrected beings, residents on earth yet citizens of Heaven. The faithful actually continue this practice until Pentecost (this year May 27), when after Liturgy for the first time since Holy Week we kneel during three special prayers that are read from the ambo by the clergy.

The five Sundays following Pascha emphasize, through the appointed Scripture readings and hymns, (1.) post-resurrection appearances of Christ; (2.) the Church’s early life and missionary endeavors (Epistle readings are taken from the Book of Acts); and (3.) aspects of baptism, through which we ourselves have died and risen with the Lord to a new life in God (Gospel readings are taken from the most “sacramental” of the Gospel accounts, that of John theTheologian or Evangelist).

Orthodox Holy Week 2018

St. Barbara Orthodox Christian Church
(March 31 – April 8)

On Saturday, March 31, Orthodox Christians will begin observing the most solemn of Days leading up to the celebration of Pascha on April 8:  Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and Holy Week.  These nine days are specifically set aside –  consecrated – by the Church to commemorate the final and decisive events in the Lord’s earthly life.  Traditionally, during this time, Christians make an effort to “lay aside all earthly cares,” in order to devote themselves to contemplating the central Mysteries of the Faith:  the Cross, the Tomb and the Resurrection of Christ.  So significant is this period that some have stressed that during Holy Week “time seems to stand still or earthly life ceases for the faithful, as they go up with the Lord to Jerusalem” (Fr. Thomas Hopko).  May we all look upon the days ahead as sacred, dedicated to our Lord.

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Lazarus Saturday & Palm Sunday (March 31 & April 1)

These two days form a double feast, anticipating the joy of Pascha.  At the grave of His friend Lazarus, Christ encounters “the last enemy,” death (1 Cor. 15:26).  By raising Lazarus, Christ foreshadows His own decisive victory over death, and the universal resurrection granted to all mankind. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “riding on the colt of an ass,” in fulfillment of a prophecy from Zechariah (9:9).   On this occasion our Lord allows the people to greet Him as a Ruler, the only time during His earthly ministry when this occurs.  Christ is indeed the King of Israel, but He comes to reveal and open to mankind His Heavenly Kingdom.  We hold branches of palms and pussy willows of our own on Palm Sunday, greeting Christ as the Lord and Master of our lives. 

Liturgical services for these two days will be celebrated on Saturday morning at 10:00 am, Saturday evening at 6:30 pm, and Sunday morning at 10:00 am.  Palms will be blessed on Saturday night, the eve of Palm Sunday.

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Great  &  Holy  Monday,  Tuesday  &  Wednesday  (April  2 – April 4)

Having just experienced a foretaste of Pascha we now enter the darkness of Holy Week.  The first three days stress the End Times, the Judgment, and the continual need for vigilance.  They point to the fact that when the world condemned its Maker, it condemned itself, “Now is the judgment of this world” (John 12:31).  They remind us that the world’s rejection of Christ reflects our own rejection of Him, inasmuch as we sin and accept the worldview of those who shouted, “Away with Him, crucify Him!”  Central to the services for these days are the Gospel readings, and the hymns which comment on these lessons.  Among the chief hymns are the Exapostilarion, “Thy Bridal Chamber, I see adorned….,” and the following troparion sung during Matins as the Church is being censed:  “Behold!  The Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching:  and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.  But rouse yourself, crying: “Holy! Holy! Holy! art Thou, O our God.  Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us!”  (Troparion)

Liturgical services for these three days will be celebrated at 7:00 pm.

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Great & Holy Thursday (April 5)

During the Matins Service or the Service of the 12 Passion Gospels on Holy Thursday night we “accompany Christ, step by step, from the time of His last discourse with His disciples to His being laid in a new tomb by Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus.  Each of the 12 Gospel sections read during the evening service involves us in a new scene:  the arrest of Jesus; His trial; the threefold denial of St. Peter; the scourging and the mockings by the soldiers; the carrying of the Cross; the Crucifixion; the opposing fates of the two thieves; the loving tenderness of the moment when Jesus commits His Mother to the care of His faithful disciple, John;  and the Lord’s final yielding up of the spirit and burial” (Fr. Paul Lazor). The liturgical hymnography for that night comments on the Gospel readings and gives the response of the Church to these events in the life of Christ.  During this service the faithful hold lit candles during the Gospel lessons while kneeling, and in large parishes Church bells are rung before each reading: once for the first reading, twice for the second, and so on.

The Matins Service at St. Barbara’s on Holy Thursday will be at 7:00 pm.

Great  &  Holy  Friday  (April 6)

On the one hand, this is the most solemn of days, the day of Christ’s Passion, His Death and Burial.  On this day the Church invites us, as we kneel before the tomb of Christ, to realize the awful reality and power of sin and evil in “this world,” and in our own lives as well.   It is this power that led ultimately to “the sin of all sins, the crime of all crimes” the total rejection and murder of God Himself (Fr. Alexander Schmemann).

On the other hand, the Church affirms that this day of evil is also the day of redemption.  “The death of Christ is revealed to us as a saving death, an offering of love” (Fr. Alexander Schmemann).  Holy Friday is the beginning of the Lord’s Pascha, for the One Who is raised, is the One Who is crucified for us and for our salvation.  “By death Christ tramples down death…”  Thus the tomb of Christ, placed in the center of the Church, is lavishly adorned with flowers, for from the tomb comes life.

Liturgical services for Holy Friday will take place at 2:00 pm and at 7:00 pm.

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The afternoon service is often referred to as “Burial Vespers.”  During its celebration the final events in the life of Christ are brought to mind through the scripture readings and the hymnography.  At the conclusion of Vespers the faithful kneel and the choir sings, in a very slow manner, the troparia for the day which speak of Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus burying the Body of Jesus; and the angel’s announcement to the Myrrhbearing Women that, “Myrrh is fitting for the dead, but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption.”   As these words are heard the clergy and servers make a procession around the tomb with the “winding sheet” on which is an icon of the crucified Lord. This winding sheet is placed on top of the tomb and venerated by the faithful.

On Friday night a Matins service is celebrated during which the people sing hymns and lamentations in front of Christ’s tomb.  We hear about how, “hell trembles while Life lies in the tomb, giving life to those who lie dead in the tombs.”  We also begin to hear announcements and foreshadowings of the Resurrection in both the scripture readings and hymns.  In fact, the Alleluia verses chanted after the Epistle reading are the same Resurrectional verses from Psalm 68 chanted by the clergy on Pascha night:  “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, let those who hate Him flee from before His face..” (etc.)

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Great & Holy Saturday (April 7)

On the morning of this day, at 9:00 am, we will celebrate the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil.  This service “inaugurates the Paschal celebration…”  On ‘Lord I Call Upon Thee’ certain Sunday Resurrection hymns are sung, followed by special verses for Holy Saturday which stress the Death of Christ as the descent into Hades, the region of death, for its destruction.

"A pivotal point of the service occurs after the Entrance, when fifteen Old Testament lessons are read, all centered on the promise of the Resurrection, all glorifying the ultimate Victory of God…The epistle lesson is that which is read at Baptisms (Romans 6:3-11), referring to Christ’s Death and Resurrection as the source of the death in us of the “old man,” and the resurrection of the new man, whose life is in the Risen Lord  (Here we must remember that Pascha has always been the most traditional time for Baptisms of catechumens).  During the verses immediately after the epistle reading the dark Lenten vestments and altar coverings are put aside and the clergy vest in their brightest robes.  An announcement of the Resurrection is then read from the last chapter of St. Matthew”s Gospel.   The Liturgy of St. Basil continues in this white and joyful light, revealing the Tomb of Christ as the Life-giving Tomb, introducing us into the ultimate reality of Christ’s Resurrection, communicating His life to us…”  (Fr. Schmemann). 

It should be noted that on Great and Holy Saturday every major act of the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil takes place in front of the Tomb, or processes around it:  the Small Entrance; the 15 Old Testament readings;  the Epistle and Gospel readings;  the Great Entrance;  the distribution of Holy Communion;  and the final dismissal prayer. 

Pascha (April 8)

The Main Resurrection service will begin at 11:30 pm on Saturday night (We ask that everyone try to arrive at least 15 minutes early, those with food even earlier, so that we can begin the service promptly with all lights out in the Church).  This particular service is actually comprised of three services, celebrated together, one after another:  Nocturnes, Matins and the Divine Liturgy.  The entire round of services ends around 2:30 am on Sunday morning and is followed by the blessing of Pascha baskets and the Agape Meal, at which we enjoy fellowship and partake of many non-lenten foods.

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Special features of the Midnight Service include:  Nocturnes (11:30 pm to 12:00 midnight) celebrated in total darkness with only one light for the choir, followed by a triple procession around the outside of the Church, a Resurrection Gospel reading and the first announcement of, “Christ is Risen!”  The Paschal Matins then begins during which the Church is brightly lit and the faithful sing of Christ’s Resurrection in a very joyous manner. Near the end of Matins the Paschal Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom is read.  During the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the Gospel from the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel is chanted in several languages, symbolic of the universal character of the Christian Faith.  Immediately after the service food for the Agape Meal is blessed, as well as Pascha (Easter) baskets full of non-fasting foods.

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On Sunday afternoon, April 8, at 12:00 noon, we return to the Church to celebrate Resurrection Vespers during which we hear a Gospel reading and more hymns of Christ’s Resurrection.  A continuation of the Agape Meal will be enjoyed after Vespers.

Bright Week (April 9 – April 14)

The week immediately after Pascha is an extended celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection.  Although we enjoy a 40 day Paschal season, the services of Bright Week are uniquely joyous, reflecting the specific tone and spirit of Pascha night.  Divine Liturgies and Vespers celebrated during this time are very similar to those of April 8.  There is, as well, no fasting during Bright Week.  We look forward to celebrating Pascha with all of our Church members and friends.  Once again, we encourage everyone to set aside the days ahead as sacred, dedicated to our Lord.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!