“I have no tears, no repentance, no compunction
But as God do Thou Thyself, O Saviour, bestow them on me.”
(Canon of St Andrew, Canticle two v25)
Dear brothers and sisters
As we enter the second half of the journey towards Holy and Great Pascha, I have set out in this email what is happening, the services that you should try to attend and the jobs you can do to help prepare for the Feast of Feasts, the Festival of Festivals: the Holy and Great Pascha of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Sunday of the Cross
We have reached the mid-point of Lent! Tomorrow is the Sunday of the Cross. During the Great Doxology at Matins, the priest, carrying the Cross decorated with flowers, processes from the altar to the centre of the church accompanied by servers with candles and incense. The familiar hymn, “We venerate Your Cross, O Master, and we glorify Your Holy Resurrection”, is sung by the priest and then repeated twice by the chanters and the people.
Through the words of the hymnographers in the inspiring services, we are able to meditate on the sacrifice Christ made for us. We hear that we can taste from the Tree of Salvation, the Tree of Life.
The Ikos for the day was written by Saint Romanos the Melodist:
Three crosses Pilate fixed on Golgotha,
Two for the thieves and one for the Giver of life,
Whom Hades saw and said to those below,
‘My ministers and powers,
Who has fixed a nail in my heart?
A wooden lance has suddenly pierced me and I am being torn apart.
My insides are in pain, my belly in agony.
My senses make my spirit tremble,
And I am compelled to disgorge
Adam and Adam’s race, given me by a tree,
A tree is bringing them back
Again to Paradise’.
You can hear the whole of Saint Romanos’s Kontakion of the Cross being read by the youth club members here. https://www.shrewsburyorthodox.com/youth/church-youth-club-performs-radio-drama-for-victory-of-the-cross. It is a beautiful meditation on our salvation brought about through the life-giving Cross.
Also, listen to the hymns chanted while the congregation venerate the Cross. The same sentiments in these hymns are heard again in GreaCrossk. But for now, the Cross and flowers remain in church throughout this fourth week of Lent.
The Fifth Week of the Fast
The whole rhythm of worship changes in the fifth week. The Canon of St Andrew of Crete (split into four during the first week) is done in full on the fifth Wednesday, punctuated by the reading of the Life of St Mary of Egypt in two parts. The canon is a penitential meditation on the bible. After each canticle of the canon, the congregation chants the refrain, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me”. It is a marathon service, and those that have not experienced such asceticism in worship should ask how much of the canon it is advisable to attend, especially if bringing children.
The Sixth Week of the Fast
During the sixth week, as we approach Lazarus Saturday and The Sunday of Palms, there will be two opportunities to be strengthened by the Holy Gifts. At the Sunday Liturgies in this period, an extra Lamb is consecrated for use at the service of the Pre-sanctified Gifts. This is a beautiful service, especially at night, celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays in the Lenten season.
Great and Holy Week
From Lazarus Saturday, you will notice an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement. We truly go through the week of Christ’s passion, experiencing the events but knowing the outcome. Expressing the profound depth of the worship of Orthodox Great Week is impossible. Come and see for yourselves, and don’t deny the children.
Participating in the Lenten and Great Week cycle of worship culminating in the Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection Midnight Service, can only be achieved with careful planning and thought. Go through the next few weeks working out how it would be possible for the family to come to church during this period of our Christian life. This is the most important period of the Christian year and helps us makes sense of all we do during the rest of the year. But be sensible, don’t run out of steam before shouting “Christ Is Risen” at Pacha Midnight!
Please get involved with the preparations
Below is a list of tasks for you to get involved in to help to prepare for the services over the next few weeks. Please let me or Presvytera Panayiota know what you would like to help with.
|Provide flowers and help for decorating the Cross||9.00am Sunday 19 March|
|Provide soup and bread after the Presanctified Liturgies||7.00pm, Wednesday, 22 March|
7.00pm, Wednesday, 5 April
7.00pm, Friday, 7 April
|Bring palms for Sunday of the Palms: palms, box (buxus sempervirens), olive branches or pussy willow (salix caprea)||Bring on Lazarus Saturday, 8 April (morning at the Liturgy or in the evening at Vespers) or Palm Sunday, 9 April, morning.|
|Cleaning of the church||10.30am, Wednesday, 5 April|
After Liturgy on Lazarus Saturday
|Cleaning of brass (candle sticks etc.)||10.30am, Wednesday, 5 April|
After Liturgy on Lazarus Saturday
|Prepare picnic lunch for workers||After Divine Liturgy, Lazarus Saturday|
|Take linen, cloths and rosettes away for cleaning||By Lazarus Saturday|
|Order packs of dye for dyeing red eggs||ASAP|
I will send another further task list out before Great Week.
Also, our annual fund for flowers for the Epitaphios for the evening of Great and Holy Friday is open, and you can give online here: https://shrewsburyorthodox.churchsuite.com/donate/fund/txje50r2