Holy Fathers Peter and Paul, Pray to God For Us!

June 28, 2012

On June 29th, the Church remembers Sts Peter and Paul who were martyred together in Rome on this day, circa AD 67.

From Vespers for the feast:

Peter, leader of the glorious Apostles and rock of the faith,
and Paul, divinely inspired orator and light of the holy Churches:
as you stand before the throne of God,
intercede with Christ on our behalf.

Paul, the spokesman of Christ and founder of His teachings,
who earlier had persecuted Jesus the Savior,
now you fill the first throne of the Apostles, O blessed one.
Thus you saw things that cannot be spoken,
and ascending to the third heaven you cried:
“Come with me, and be filled with good things!”

…A joyful feast dawns upon the earth today:
the memorial of Peter and Paul,
the wise leaders of the Apostles.
Let Rome rejoice and be glad with us!
Let us keep feast, O brethren, in songs and hymns!
Rejoice, Apostle Peter, true friend of Christ our God!
Rejoice, beloved Paul, herald of the faith and teacher of the universe!
You have boldness before him, O chosen pair;
pray unceasingly that our souls may be saved!

(The texts for Matins for the feast can be read here.)

Two excellent video presentations on these saints:


St Athanasius the Great — May 2nd

April 27, 2012

Several priests tell the story of the  life of St Athanasius the Great (feasts May 2nd and January 18th):

For further reading:

St Athanasius’ classic work On the Incarnation, translated by C. S. Lewis.


Best of Pascha Videos 2012

April 23, 2012

There are really too many videos to choose from to really have a “Best of Pascha” category. But these videos stood out to me this year.

Holy Week and Easter in Montreal — a trailer from an upcoming documentary:

The midnight procession to the tomb from St John’s Cathedral in Washington, DC:

Midnight Pascha celebration at the Assumption of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Denver, Colorado:

Blessing Easter eggs & baskets at Sts. Peter & Paul Orthodox Cathedral:

Easter Liturgy from Shablykino, Russia. This church has some beautiful iconography!

Palestinian Orthodox Christians in Beit Sahour, just east of Bethlehem, celebrate Easter with a parade:


Christ is Risen! Blessed Pascha and Happy Easter!

April 14, 2012

A Blessed Pascha and Happy Easter to all!

Here are highlights from services last year. First, from Holy Cross Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church in America) in High Point, North Carolina:

Also, you can listen to the entire Midnight service here:

The Midnight Matins (Orthros) Service of Holy Pascha

Next, this is the Office of Lauds and Holy Mass for Easter from Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Church (Western Rite) in Lincoln Park, Michigan:

For further reading:

Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

An Easter Sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great


The Whole Earth Keeps Silence Because the King is Asleep

April 14, 2012

Today, the Church sings at the Vespers of Holy Pascha:

Today, Hades groaning cries out, “It would have been better for me if I had not received the One born of Mary, for He came upon me and destroyed my power. He shattered the gates of brass and the souls which I held captive of old He resurrected as God.” Glory, O Lord, to Your Cross and Your Resurrection!

More on this “Harrowing of Hell” can be seen in the following homily attributed to St Epiphanius of Cyprus (AD 320-403) which describes Holy Saturday — the time between Good Friday and the Resurrection:

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’ He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

‘For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

‘See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

‘I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

‘Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.’

Text from here.

For further reading:

Christ the Conqueror of Hell by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev


Good Friday Chant: Today He Who Hung the Earth Upon the Waters…

April 9, 2012

For Orthodox Christians, this is Holy Week and Good Friday is this Friday. This video contains some Arabic chant, beautifully done, with English subtitles:


Does the Name “Easter” Have a Pagan Origin?

April 8, 2012

Blogger John Sanidopoulos of Mystagogy tackles this question in a recent post entitled:

“Pascha” or Easter” or Both?

Many Orthodox Christians insist “Pascha” or any derivitive of the word Passover is the only correct name for the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, among possibly other liturgical words for the feast, but insist the word “Easter” is innapropriate because it supposedly has pagan origins. Does it truly have pagan origins that would prohibit its use? Or are there in fact justifiable reasons to allow for “Pascha” and “Easter” to both be used with a clean conscience. Since “Pascha” is without controversy, we will examine these things for the word “Easter”.

Etymological relation vs. etymological descendance

The word “Easter” has some etymological baggage. Some Christians are wary of using the word because of its supposed pagan origin. The Venerable Bede (672-735) asserted that the word “Easter” derived from “Eostre”, the goddess of the Saxons (De Ratione Temporum). In modern times Alexander Hislop connected Easter to the Babylonian goddess Astarte (The Two Babylons, 1858). Apparently, there was indeed a goddess by the name “Eostre” (“Ostara” in German). Hence it seems that “Easter” and “Eostre” are etymologically related. However, it is foolish to take etymological relation as evidence of a “pagan connection” between “Easter” and “Eostre”. To see the foolishness of this, consider the following example: There was a Christian theologian in the third century by the name of “Lucian” of Antioch. There is also the name “Lucifer” ascribed to Satan (Isaiah 14:12). Both “Lucian” and “Lucifer” are derived from the Latin word for “light (lucis)”. This means that “Lucian” and “Lucifer” are etymologically related. However, neither is an etymological descendant of the other, which means neither name is derived from the other name. Each name is a separate etymological descendant of the root word for light, “lucis”. Thus it would be foolish to say, “A Christian should never call himself Lucian because the word is related to Lucifer!” Etymological relation between a negative word (i.e. Lucifer) and the impugned word (i.e. Lucian) does not mean anything. The issue is whether the impugned word is an etymological descendant of the negative word. As for “Lucian”, it is not an etymological descendant of “Lucifer”. Likewise, Easter is not an etymological descendant of Eostre but rather a separate etymological descendant of a common root word which in itself carries a neutral connotation.

“Easter” is derived from “East”

The root of “Easter” is “east” just as the root of “Ostern” (“Easter” in German) is “Ost” (“east” in German). Likewise, the root of “Eostre” (English) and “Ostara” (German) is the word for “east.” Thus both “Easter” and “Eostre” are derived from the word “east”. This means neither “Easter” nor “Eostre” has to be an etymological descendant of the other, but each could be a separate etymological descendant of the word “east”. The etymology of “east” gives us clues as to why both pagans and Christians wished to use the word “east” for their respective purposes. The etymology of the Saxon word “east” is:

■ “O.E. east, from P.Gmc. *aus-to-, *austra- “east, toward the sunrise” (cf. Du. oost, Ger. Ost, O.N. austr “from the east”), from PIE *aus- “dawn” (cf. Skt. ushas “dawn,” Gk. aurion “morning,” O.Ir. usah, Lith. auszra “dawn,” L. aurora “dawn,” auster “south”), lit. “to shine.” The east is the direction in which dawn breaks.” (Online Etymological Dictionary)

“East” refers to the dawn, sunrise, morning. Hence if pagans wished to worship a goddess of sunrise, it was fitting for the pagans to name their goddess after the word “east”. But Christians also had reason to use the word “east” to describe the day of their Savior’s resurrection. Consider the following passages concerning Christ’s resurrection:

■ “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” (Matthew 28:1)

■ “And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” (Mark 16:2)

The day of Christ’ resurrection was in the morning at the rising of the sun. In fact, it was not only a physical morning but also a spiritual morning because the light of salvation had come into the world. Christ began to rise as the “Sun of righteousness” at his resurrection. The following passages compare Christ with the rising of the sun:

■ “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings;” (Malachi 4:2)

■ “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19)

■ “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” (Revelation 22:16)

With these details of Christ and his resurrection, there is no mystery as to why Anglo-Saxon Christians called the day of his resurrection “Easter,” a word derived from “east,” which means dawn, sunrise, morning. Just as the sun rises from the darkness of night, the “Sun of righteousness” rose (resurrected) from the darkness of death. Christ’s resurrection was the sunrise of all sunrises – hence, Easter. This association of Christ’s resurrection with the dawn is not pagan but based on biblical narrative and symbolism.

Christians reclaimed the true meaning of “Easter”

Anglo-Saxon Christians may have given the name “Easter” to the day of Christ’s resurrection to identify Christ as the true God of sunrise (in the sense of being Creator of the sun as well as spiritually being the “Sun of righteousness”). Thus the word “Easter” stands as a testimony of the Anglo-Saxon Christians’ rejection of the goddess in reception of the true God, Jesus Christ. It is counterproductive to suggest that Christians should abandon the word “Easter”. Why should we give the pagans a monopoly over a word which signifies the dawn, one of God’s most stunning works of creation? The funny thing is that many Christians who oppose the use of the word “Easter” still celebrate “Good Friday”. Yet the word “Friday” is based on the name of a pagan goddess. The word “Friday” means “Day of Frige” – Frige being the name of a Norse goddess. “Good Friday” literally means “Good day of Frige (the goddess)”. Some Christians say that Christ rose on “Saturday”, yet “Saturday” is also derived from the pagan god Saturnus. If one would actually like to avoid a “pagan connection”, he would be wiser to avoid using the words “Friday” and “Saturday” rather than the Christian word “Easter”. Avoiding all of these words, of course, is an impossibility if we wish to communicate with others regarding the days of the week. We just have to admit that the English language is the language of a people who were once pagan and that there are many vestiges of pagan etymology in English. It is only by God’s redemptive grace that the words of our mouths (notwithstanding the occasional pagan etymologies) are found acceptable in His sight:

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Read also: Was Easter Borrowed From a Pagan Holiday?

Reprinted with permission.

For further reading:

Christmas and “Pagan Origins”

The Pagan Origins of Christmas?