Lazarus Saturday & Palm Sunday (April 7 & 8): 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.
Great & Holy Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday (April 9-11):
“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.
Great & Holy Thursday (April 12): 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 13): 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 . 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.)
Great & Holy Saturday (April 14): 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.
Pascha (April 15): 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 service ends around 2:30 am on Sunday morning and is followed by the Agape Meal, at which we enjoy fellowship and partake of many non-lenten foods.
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 Easter baskets full of non-fasting foods.
On Sunday afternoon, April 15, 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.