Las lamentaciones del Viernes Santo

March 31, 2010

Just yesterday I posted a video in English of the 3rd Stasis Lamentations from Holy Friday, chanted in English. The Orthodox Church in Mexico has just posted this video from the Lamentations in Spanish onto You Tube — and if I’m reading it correctly, this is also the 3rd Stasis Lamentations, but  en Español:


The “Little Services” of the Church

March 31, 2010

Josephus Flavius of Byzantine, TX writes about this service he attended Tuesday night of Holy Week:

One thing any pious person will tell you, is that the most beautiful and didactic liturgical material is to be found in the weekday services of the Church. In the less bustling services where fewer people gather together in prayer the hymnography and readings have much to teach and do it with ineffable beauty. People are visibly moved by the experience. Last night, I was greatly moved by the Praises and Aposticha (Greek: Άπόστιχα’/ Slavonic: ‘stikhíry na stikhóvne’ are a set of hymns [stichera] accompanied by psalm verses [stichos] that are chanted towards the end of Vespers and Matins).

If you will permit a long posting, the below tells a story and does so with a deft interplay of the actions of Judas and Mary of Bethany. I hope you can take a few minutes to read it.


The Praises

v. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His exceeding greatness! (Ps 150:2)

A harlot recognized You as God, O Son of the Virgin.
With tears equal to her past deeds, she besought You, weeping:
“Loose my debt, as I have loosed my hair!
Love the woman who, though justly hated, loves You!
Then with the publicans will I proclaim You,//
O Benefactor, Who love mankind.”

Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! (Ps 150:3)

The harlot mingled precious myrrh with her tears.
She poured it on Your most pure feet and kissed them.
At once You justified her.
O Lord, Who suffered for our sakes,//
forgive us also, and save us!

Praise Him with timbrel and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! (Ps 150:4)

As the sinful woman was bringing her offering of myrrh,
the disciple was scheming with lawless men.
She rejoiced in pouring out her precious gift.
He hastened to sell the priceless One.
She recognized the Master, but Judas parted from Him.
She was set free, but Judas was enslaved to the Enemy.
How terrible his slothfulness!
How great her repentance!
O Savior, Who suffered for our sakes,//
grant repentance to us also, and save us!

Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Ps 150:5)

Oh, the wretchedness of Judas!
He saw the harlot kiss the footsteps of Christ,
but deceitfully he contemplated the kiss of betrayal.
She loosed her hair while he bound himself with wrath.
He offered the stench of wickedness instead of myrrh,
for envy cannot distinguish value.
Oh, the wretchedness of Judas!//
Deliver our souls from it, O God!

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

The sinful woman ran to buy the precious myrrh
with which to anoint her Savior.
She cried to the merchant: “Give me myrrh,//
that I may anoint Him Who has cleansed all my sins!”

now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The woman who was engulfed in sin
found in You a haven of salvation.
She poured out myrrh with her tears and cried to You:
“Behold the One Who brings repentance to sinners!
Rescue me from the tempest of sin, O Master,//
through Your great mercy!”

The Aposticha

Today Christ comes to the house of the Pharisee.
A sinful woman crawls to His feet and cries:
“Look at me who am engulfed in sin,
in despair because of my evil deeds!
But, in Your goodness, do not despise me!
Grant me forgiveness of my evil deeds, O Lord,//
and save me!”

v: Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad as many days as You have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil! Let Your work be manifest to Your servants, and Your glorious power to their children! (Ps 89/90:14)

The harlot spread out her hair to You, O Master;
Judas spread out his hands to lawless men:
she in order to receive forgiveness;
he in order to receive some silver.
We cry to You, Who were sold for us and yet set us free://
“O Lord, glory to You!”

v: Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands; yea, establish the work of our hands! (Ps 89/90:17)

The corrupt and filthy woman
drew near to You, O Savior.
She poured out her tears on Your feet
and thus announced Your Passion.
How can I gaze on You, O Master?
Yet You came to save the harlot.
Raise me from the depths, for I am dead in sin,
as You raised Lazarus from the tomb after four days.
Accept me in my misery, O Lord,//
and save me!

v: I will thank You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wondrous works. (Ps 9:1)

Despairing for her life, and in despair because of her deeds,
the woman came bearing myrrh to You and cried:
“O Son of the Virgin,
though I am a harlot, do not cast me aside!
O Joy of the Angels,
do not despise my tears!
As You did not reject me as a sinner,//
accept me now as a penitent, in Your great mercy!”

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.


Lamentations — Stasis 3 — from Holy Friday

March 30, 2010

Lamentations — Stasis 3 — from Holy Friday

Every generation offers Thee its hymn of praise at Thy burial, O Christ.
Look upon me and have mercy on me,
according to the judgment of those who love
Your name.

The Arimathean took Thee down from the tree and laid Thee in a tomb.
Direct my steps according to Your teaching
and let no lawlessness rule over me.

The myrrh-bearing women, with foresight brought sweet spices and drew near to Thee, O Christ.
Ransom me from the slander of men, and I
will keep Your commandments.

Come, all creation, sing a hymn to honor the Creator’s Burial.
Make Your face shine upon Your servant
and teach me Your ordinances.

Let us, with the myrrh-bearers, anoint as dead the Living One with the Myrrh of True Knowledge.
My eyes poured down streams of tears
because they did not keep Your law.

O thrice blessed Joseph, bury now the body of Christ the Giver of Life.
Your testimonies are righteousness forever;
give me understanding, and I shall live.

Joseph and Nicodemus bury the Creator with honors fitting for the dead.
I cry out to You; save me, and I shall keep
Your testimonies.

The All-Pure Virgin wept with a mother’s grief, O Word, when she saw You lying dead.
I long for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your
law is my meditation.

The hosts of angels tremble at the strange and fearful sight of Your burial, O Maker of All.
My soul shall live and praise You, and Your
judgments shall keep me.

Early in the morning the myrrh-bearing women came to You and sprinkled myrrh on Your tomb.
I went astray like a lost sheep; seek Your
servant, for I have not forgotten Your
commandments.

By Your resurrection grant peace to Your Church and salvation to Your people.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to
the Holy Spirit.
O God in Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit,
grant Your mercy to the world.
Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
Amen.
Grant us your servants to behold, O Virgin,
the Resurrection of your Son.


The Mystery of Holy Unction

March 30, 2010

The Mystery of Holy Unction

Holy Unction is given to all who are in good standing in the Church during Holy Week

The mystery of holy unction provides both physical and spiritual healing with holy oil blessed by the Holy Spirit. It is most commonly celebrated during Holy Week on Holy Wednesday evening, but private services are also common. Everyone in the parish in good ecclesiastical standing may be anointed with the holy oil for the healing of spiritual and bodily ills. As this is one of the sacraments of the Orthodox Church, it may be administered only to Orthodox Christians.

The oil carries God’s grace both to renew the body and to cleanse the spirit. The service follows the apostolic tradition mentioned in the New Testament: “…let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).

Holy unction is a mystery of great comfort to the faithful. It provides uplifting and asks for patience to accept the will of God whatever the physical outcome.

Liturgical service

The full service is composed of psalms from the Old Testament, hymns of direct supplication to God, and prayers to the saints to intercede for the petitioner. In addition, there are seven readings from the Gospels preceded by seven other New Testament writings, notably the epistles of St. Paul and St. James. After each set of scriptural readings, a prayer is offered on behalf of the penitent by the priest asking for forgiveness and the sanctification of the oil. Traditionally, the service is celebrated by seven priests, but where fewer than seven priests are available (which is often the case), it will be served by at least one.

At the end of the service, the priest puts holy oil on the forehead, eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, chest, and hands of the parishioners in the form of the cross, saying: “O Holy Father, physician of our souls and bodies, heal Thy servant [name] from every physical and emotional affliction” (Russian tradition) or “The blessing of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ: for the healing of the soul and body of the servant of God, [name], always: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen” (Greek tradition). The exact wording varies according to tradition and translation.

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Here is a short video of the administration of Holy Unction in an Orthodox parish:

While the Orthodox practice of giving this Sacrament to all the faithful during Holy Week was at one time viewed as an “widespread abuse” by the Catholic Church, many Eastern Catholic parishes have in recent years begun to similarly schedule Holy Unction in their Holy Week services, though current Roman Catholic canon law generally restricts Anointing for the Sick to those who have reached the age of reason in the Latin Church.


Holy Week Chants

March 29, 2010

Some Holy Week chants in Byzantine style chant (some include text):

Stichera for Holy Monday:

Praise Him with the sound of trumpet, praise Him with the psaltery and harp.

As the Lord went to His voluntary Passion, He said to His apostles on the way: “Behold we go up to Jerusalem and the Son of man shall give Himself up as it is written of Him.” Come then and let us journey with Him with pure minds, let us crucified with Him and die for His sake to the pleasures of this life, that we may also live with Him and hear Him no longer as now in the earthly Jerusalem due to suffer , but rather saying to us: “I ascend to My Father and your Father and to My God and your God and I shall raise you up to the Jerusalem on high in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Behold Thy Bridegroom:

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rather rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, our God, through the Theotokos have mercy on us.

Holy Week Hymn:

On seeing Thine unjust slaughter O Christ, the pure Virgin cried in grief, “O most sweet Child, how is it that Thou diest lawlessly. How is it that Thou Who, has suspended all the earth upon the floods of waters, art now Thyself, suspended from the Tree. O most merciful Benefactor, do not leave me, Thy Mother and handmaid, alone.”

Lamentation First Stasis — from Holy Friday

In a grave they laid Thee,
O my life and my Christ,
And the armies of the Angels were sore amazed
As they sand the praise of Thy submissive love.

Verse: Thou hast enjoined Thy commmandments, that we should keep them most diligently.

O my dear Christ Jesus,
King and Ruler of all,
Why to them that dwelt in Hades didst Thou descend?
Was it not to set the race of mortals free?

Verse:I will confess Thee with uprightness of heart, when I have learned judgements of Thy righteousness.

In a grave they laid Thee,
O my Life and my Christ,
Yet the Lord of death has Thou by Thy
death destroyed;
And the world of Thee doth drink rich streams of life.

Verse: In my heart have I hid Thy sayings that I might not sin against Thee.

O my sweet Lord Jesus,
My salvation, my light,
How art thou now by a grave and its darkness hid
How unspeakable the mystery of Thy love.

Verse: Make me to understand the way of Thy statutes, and I will ponder on Thy wondrous works.

Thou, O Christ was buried
In a tomb newly made,
Thus renewing the whole nature of mortal men
By arising from the dead as God in truth.

Verse: Before I was humbled, I trangressed therefore Thy saying have I kept.

“Who eill give me water
For the tears I must weep?”
So the Maiden wed to God cried with loud lament,
“That for my sweel Jesus I may rightly mourn.”

Verse: Thou art good, O Lord and in Thy goodness teach me Thy statutes.

Savior, Thou wast hidden
‘Neath the earth like the sun,
And was covered as with shrouds by the right od death.
But more radiantly do Thou arise, O Lord.

Lamentation Second Stasis — from Holy Friday:

Great and Holy Monday

March 29, 2010

H/T Byzantine, TX

Christ the Bridegroom

Bridegroom Matins

Bridegroom Matins is a service specific to the first four evenings of Holy Week (though it is often omitted on Holy Wednesday in favor of the service of Holy Unction) and commemorates the last days in the earthly life of the Lord. Incorporated into these services is the theme of the first three days of Holy Week; which is the last teachings of Christ to his disciples. As such, these services incorporate readings and hymns inspiring this theme. The mood of the services is to experience sorrow and to feel Christ’s voluntary submission to His passions and highlight the purpose behind the evil that is about to take place against the Lord. The atmosphere is one of mourning (for sins) and is symbolic of the shame the Christian should feel for the Fall of Adam and Eve, the depths of hell, the lost Paradise and the absence of God. The vestments of the Priest and the altar clothes are black or deep purple to symbolise and enhance the atmosphere of mourning and remembrance of sins. The main emphasis of the Bridegroom Service is metanoia and each service has its own particular theme on repentance and watchfulness. One of its primary features is its troparion:
Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed is the servant He shall find vigilant; but unworthy is he whom he shall find neglectful. Beware therefore, O my soul, lest you be weighed down by sleep, lest you be given over to death and be closed out from the kingdom; but rise up crying out: “Holy! Holy! Holy are You our God; through the intercessions of the Theotokos, have mercy on us.”

Holy Monday evening

On Holy Monday, the Blessed Joseph, the son of Jacob the Patriarch, is commemorated because he is seen as a prototype of Christ.

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by them. In the same way, the Lord was rejected, betrayed by his own, and sold into the slavery of death and like Joseph forgave and spared his brothers during the famine when they came to him, so too, Jesus Christ offers himself as a sacrifice and forgives all those who come to him in faith.

The Gospel reading for the day is of the Barren Fig Tree, which Christ cursed and withered because it bore no fruit. The fig tree is representative of those who have heard God’s word, but who fail to bear the fruits of faith. Originally the withering of the fig tree was a testimony against those Jews who rejected God’s word and his Messiah. It is also a warning to all people, in all times, of the importance of not only hearing the God’s word, but putting it into action.

Monday evening also includes this kontakion:

Being mindful of the hour of the end, O my soul, and fearing because of the cutting down of the fig tree, labor diligently with the talent that was given thee, O hapless one, and be watchful and cry: Let us not remain outside the bridal chamber of Christ.

Epithets for the Passion of Christ

March 28, 2010

By John Sanidopoulos, from his blog Mystagogy (republished with permission)

Holy Week allows us to contemplate the Passion of Christ. In the Orthros for Holy Monday, we hear the following First Kathisma:

On the day at hand, like a lifesaving beacon, the honorable Passion breaks on the world. For Christ in His goodness presses on to His sufferings. Though He holds all creation in the hallow of His hand, yet He deigns to be suspended on the Cross to save mankind.”

And the Third Kathisma says:

Today shines as the first-fruits of the Passion of the Lord. Come, then, all who love the feast and join together in hymns. For the Creator comes to accept the Cross, the afflictions, the beatings, and the judgment by Pilate. A servant strikes Him on the head, but He endures all things that He may save mankind. Therefore, let us cry out to Him: ‘Grant remission of sins to those who venerate Your pure Passion.

The Sacred Hymnographers of the Church give various epithets to describe the Passion of Christ throughout the many hymns of Holy Week.

They call it “Honorable Passion” (σεπτά πάθη – septa pathi) because the Passion of the Lord invites honor and veneration. Only hardened impious hearts are unmoved by the Passion of Christ.

They call it “Pure Passion” (άχραντα πάθη – ahranta pathi) because the body of Christ, which endured such suffering and torment, is pure and without the corruption and disease of sin. The pure body of Jesus undergoes the Passion.

They call it “Fearful Passion” (φρικτά πάθη – frikta pathi) because the Passion of Christ consisted of the most painful torture imaginable, both bodily and mentally. Knowing what He was about to endure beforehand at the hands of His own creation, no man can even imagine what suffering the Lord went through during the first Holy Week.

They call it “Holy Passion” (άγια πάθη – hagia pathi) because Jesus was truly the only holy person to ever suffer, as His holiness comes from Himself. “One is holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ…” we sing at every Divine Liturgy.

They call it “Saving Passion” (σωτήρια πάθη – sotiria pathi). This particular epithet mainly applies to us and what the Passion of Christ brought us. In this sense, it also shows the ultimate purpose for why Jesus endured His Passion, which is to save mankind. Both the Passion and the Cross of Christ are the source by which the waters of salvation flow to all people through the blood of Christ, which is the medicine of immortality.

They call it “Life-Creating Passion” (ζωοποιά πάθη – zoopia pathi). This epithet foresees the goal of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ and looks forward to the Resurrection. The Resurrection cannot take place unless the Lord endures the Crucifixion first. He died that we may live. By His death was death trampled. And for us, paradise which was once lost to us has now become paradise restored through His Passion.

The Passion of Christ is our freedom.

It was because of our sinful passions that Christ had to endure His Passion for our healing and salvation. Our passions and sins crucified the Lord of Glory. We were slaves to our passions because of the fear of death and because of him who held the power of death, the devil, but Christ has trampled down death by His Passion and given us a new life where we are no longer slaves to our passions and desires, but free men and women by the grace of the Holy Spirit. He has become our Redeemer.

Why then are we still so often enslaved by our passions? Because we are sick. However the sick always suffer. This is why Christ has given the means through the Church to cure us of our passions and sins, though it is ultimately up to us if we want to take the medicine prescribed for the cure. Often we are too stubborn to take our medicine given to us by the doctor (spiritual father). This is a hard saying, but it is true. And though the medicine is always within our reach, we fail to take the medicine which provides the inevitable cure.

The medicine of immortality is to live within the organic life of the Church so as to receive that which heals us in a worthy manner (though we are always unworthy) – the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Passion of the Lord is upon us and the Lord calls us all to give Him our passions in exchange for His forgiveness and remission. In doing so, our purification will lead to our glorification.

* For those who do not know Greek, it should be noted that these epithets often are not translated correctly in English service books for Holy Week. Usually the translation is made to say merely “Holy Passion”, ignoring the rich terminology above. This is unfortunate.