Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Sunday

By Stefano Bistolfi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The angel answered the women, “Don’t be afraid, for I
know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified.

He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said.
Come, see the place where the Lord was lying

At the end of the third Kauma of the night, the priest and the deacons enter the sanctuary and put on their vestments. Then the tomb behind the altar is opened and the cross is taken out and the wrappings of burial around the cross is removed. The priest covers the cross with a red scarf and a red silk velvet veil over it as prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah, saying: Who is this that comes from Edom in crimsoned garments (Isaiah 63:1). The cross is then placed on the stand in between two lighted candles. While the sanctuary is closed, the celebrant conducts secret prayers. During this time, the congregation sings Kuriealison. After the supplication, the sanctuary is opened and the priest holds the cross high and comes to the door of the sanctuary. With lighted candles and marvahasas (fans) on both sides of the cross, the priest says in a loud voice: 
“Priest: My brethren, I bring you new glad tidings: Christ has risen from the tomb and has struck His enemies behind Him“
Congregation: "We believe and confess that He has indeed risen"

For the next 50 days, until Pentecost, the faithful shall greet one another by saying:
“Christ is risen“ and the response shall be “Indeed He is risen“
Easter Sunday

Celebration of the Holy Cross

Dialog between the Cherubim and The Thief

By Anonimous (Solovetsk closter. Cоловецкий монастырь. Ризница) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Cherubim (Uriel) with flashing sword at the garden of Eden and
Titus (Dismas), the Penitent Thief carrying the cross trying to enter the garden

Most of us are very familiar with the dialog between the two thieves on the cross during the Good Friday's ninth hour canonical prayers (watch). The penitent thief on the cross is known as Titus (Theethos) in Syriac tradition and as Dismas in the Western tradition. The back and forth between the two thieves is known as "precedent dispute", an ancient form of argument. 

There is another gem of a precedent-dispute dialog in our prayers on Gospel Saturday. It is the dialog between the Cherubim with the flashing sword at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24) and the penitent thief. After Jesus promised the penitent thief, Titus, the paradise on the cross, that night he arrives at the gates of Garden of Eden. The dialog that follows between the Cherubim, who is unaware of the promise, and Titus is sung during the first watch (Qauma) of the Gospel Saturday Midnight prayers. In some churches in Syria, there is a tradition where a deacon sings the part of the Cherubim and a small boy sings the part of Titus. At the end of the dialog, the deacon carries the boy on his back into the altar, since in the Syriac tradition, the unordained cannot set foot in the altar. The Indian Orthodox Church follows the Pampakuda Penkeesa which only has alternate verses of the song compared to the one found in the Mosul Penkeesa. The verses from the Pampakuda Penkeesa of the dialog is provided in red font below. The song has been translated in its entirety by Dr. Sebastian Brock. Fr. Dr. Baby Varghese has translated the dialog in the Prayers of the Holy Week for the Indian Orthodox Church.

  1. At the Crucifixion I beheld a marvel
   when the Thief cried out to our Lord, "Remember me, Lord, on the day when You

   come to that Kingdom which does not pass away". [Luke 23:43]


Praise to You, Lord, for at Your coming

sinners turned back from their wickedness;

they entered and found shelter

in the Garden of Eden - which is the holy Church.

2. He made a petition, stretched out and gave it

to the crucified King, asking for mercy;

and He who is full of mercy heard his cry

and opened the door to his request.

3. "Remember me, Lord", was what he cried out on the cross, "in that Kingdom which

does not pass away, [Luke 23:43]

and in that glory in which You will be revealed

may I behold Your rest, seeing that I have acknowledged You". [Luke 12:8]

4. Our Lord replied, "Since you have acknowledged me

this very day you shall be in the Garden of Eden;

in very truth, man, you will not be kept back

from that Kingdom to which you are looking.

5. "Take with you the cross as a sign, and be off:

it is a great key whereby the mighty gate

of that Garden shall be opened,

and Adam, who has been expelled, shall enter again". [Gen. 3:24]

6. The word of our Lord was sealed

like a royal missive from the palace;

it was handed over to the thief

who took it and made off for the Garden of Eden.

7. The Cherub heard him and rushed up,

he grabbed the Thief at the gate,

stopping him with the sharp blade that he held.

All astonished, he addressed him as follows:

. CHERUB "Tell me, my man, who has sent you?

What is it you want, and how did you get here?

What is the reason that brought you here?

Reveal and explain to me who it is who has sent you".

9. THIEF "I will tell you who has sent me,

just hold back your blade and listen to my words.

I am a thief, but I supplicated for mercy,

and it was your Lord who sent me on my way here".

10. CHERUB "By what powerful means did your arrival take place?

Who brought you to this dread spot?

Who transported you across the sea of fire

so that you could enter Eden? Who is it who sent you?"

11. THIEF "It was through the power of the Son, who sent me,

that I crossed over and came here without hindrance.

Through Him I subdued all powers

and I have come to enter here, seeing that He has given me confidence".

12. CHERUB "You are indeed a thief, just as you have said,

but you can't steal into this region of ours:

it is fenced in with the sword that guards it. [Gen. 3:24]

Turn back, my man, you have lost your way".

13. THIEF "I was indeed a thief, but I have changed:

it was not to steal that I have come here.

Look, I've got with me the key to Eden,

to open it up and enter: I will not be prevented".

14. CHERUB "Our region is awesome and cannot be trodden,

for fire is its indomitable wall;

the blade flashes out all around it.

How is it you have made so bold as to come here?"

15. THIEF "Your region is indeed awesome, just as you have said,

- but only until our Lord mounted the cross,

when He transfixed the sword of all suffering

so that your blade no longer kills".

16. CHERUB "Ever since the time that Adam left

I haven't ever seen anyone turn up here;

your race has been banished from the Garden;

you shall not enter it, so don't argue any more".

17. THIEF "Ever since the time that Adam left

your Lord has been angered at our race,

but now He is reconciled and has opened up the gate. [Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:16]

It is to no purpose that you are standing here".

18. CHERUB "You should realize that it isn't possible

for an unclean man to enter in here

- and you are a murderer, and a shedder of blood.

Who is it who has brought you to this pure place?"

19. THIEF "You should realize that such is the wish

of Him who makes the unclean clean, who was crucified together with me;

with the blood from His side He has washed me completely clean. [John 19:34]

It was He who has sent me to Paradise".

20. CHERUB "Be off with you, man, and don't argue any further,

for this is what I have been ordered:

to guard from your race, by means of the sword,

the Tree of Life that is to be found in here". [Gen. 3:22]

21. THIEF "Be off with you, angel; you should learn and see

that I've left behind, hanging on Golgotha,

that very Fruit of Salvation that's in your garden

- so that our race may now enter without any hindrance".

22. CHERUB "Eve and Adam fell into debt and wrote out

a document that will not be erased: [Col. 2:14]

they went out of here under sentence

to live in low estate in the land of thorns". [Gen. 3:18]

23. THIEF "The debt is repaid. Just listen, O Cherub:

the document has now been transfixed on the cross; [Col. 2:14]

by means of both blood and water your Lord has wiped it out,

and pinned it there with nails so that it won't be exacted".

24. CHERUB "Adam was driven out from this Garden

and there is no way he can enter here again,

for the sword's blade is revolving

and he'll encounter it should he come near".

25. THIEF "He who was driven out has returned to his father's house,

for the great Shepherd has gone out and found [John 10:11]

that sheep that had left the Garden;

carrying him on His shoulders, He has escorted him back". [Luke 15:5]

26. CHERUB "It is something totally novel that

I've seen today: a path leading back into the Garden.

But here are Adam's footprints, take a look:

he has left here and not returned again".

27. THIEF "Jesus your Lord has performed a novel deed,

for now He has released Adam who had been confined;

He has raised up whole crowds from inside Sheol, [Matt. 27:52]

and they have sent me in advance, to open up for them".

28. CHERUB "I am the cherub: how is it you have transgressed

against my office of guarding, with which I've been entrusted?

A fiery being like me cannot be vanquished,

but as for you, an offspring of Adam, how bold you are!"

28. Alternate from Pampakuda Penkeesa:
CHERUB "You are not my companion, O Created one!
My Lord is angry with your race
Set out from here
For you are a stranger to the garden

29. THIEF "I am your companion and we have but a single Lord
in common for both of us;
His authority is much higher than either yours or mine,
and so I've no fear, seeing that it was He who has sent me".

30. CHERUB "You simply cannot enter in here,
for it is a resplendent place that no one can tread:
the Shekhina is escorted around inside it,
and the sword of fire is guarding it".

31. THIEF "You cannot hold anyone back,
for the sword is not blunted and made dull.
The cross has opened up the Garden of Eden;
there's no means by which it can still be kept closed".

32. CHERUB "Haven't you heard from the Bible
how the cherub and the sword go round
guarding the way to the Garden of Eden,
so that none of Adam's offspring can enter here?"

33. THIEF "Haven't you heard from the Revelation
that your Lord has come down and become man,
thus reconciling Adam, who was in a state of anger,
bringing back to Eden the one who had been driven out?"

34. CHERUB "The sign of the revolving sword
that guards the Tree of Life
frightened off Adam when he was driven out,
so how is it that you're not afraid?"

35. THIEF "The sign of your Lord is with me,
and by it the sharp sword is blunted;
but it too is the sentence remitted,
and by it, Adam, once expelled, shall return".

36. CHERUB "The ranks of fire are standing here,
thousands of them in bands innumerable;
the multitudes are awesome, and quite simply
you can't travel on any further and enter among them".

37. THIEF "The multitudinous ranks of which you've told me
are themselves in awe as they look upon the Cross:
the sign of the Son inspires them with awe
and they worship before it, while me they hold in honour".

38. CHERUB "The sign of my Lord is upon the Chariot, [Is. 66:15]
resplendent upon the Throne, but from us it is hidden, [Ezek. 1:26-7]
so how is that you—as you are claiming—
carry this sign of His and escort it?"

39. THIEF "His sign is upon the Chariot above,
but look, His Cross is on Golgotha below,
and with His own blood He has written a new missive
permitting Adam to come back into the Garden".

40. CHERUB "O agent in blood, who has brought you here?
Who is it has sent you, a murderer?
The sword is drawn, and if you make bold
the blade will flash out against you".

41. THIEF "O agent for the King, don't be upset;
your authority is repealed, for your Lord has willed it so.
It is His cross that I've brought to you as a sign:
look and see if it's genuine, and don't be so angry".

42. CHERUB "This Cross of the Son which you've brought to me
is something I dare not look upon at all.
It is both genuine and awesome; no longer will you be debarred
from entering Eden, seeing that He has so willed it".

43. THIEF "The Cross of your Lord has breached the fence [Eph. 2:14]
that had been built up between us and you,
Anger has passed away and peace has come,
and the path to Eden is no longer cut off".

44. CHERUB "He who was slain has sent to me and testified with His own blood
that I should let go of the blame which I've been wielding.
Fearful is this sign which you have brought me;
enter in, O heir; I will not turn you back".

45. THIEF "Resurrection has occurred for the race of humankind
that had been thrust out of their home.
You cherubim and angels, rejoice with us, [cp Luke 15:10]
for we have returned now to your city".

46. CHERUB "Great is the compassion that has been shown to you,
the descendants of Adam who sinned and thus died.
Enter, thief, you will not be kept back,
for the gate is now open for those who repent".

47. THIEF "Great and most glorious is the compassion of my Lord,
for His mercy has effected and His love has constrained Him.
Rejoice with us, O spiritual beings,
for we have been mingled into your race".

48. CHERUB "The Gentle One has held back from your race [Matt.11:29]
the blade and the sword that I have been wielding.
Outcasts who have returned, have no fear,
enter inside the Garden with exultation".

49. THIEF "Praise be in Eden that is now at peace,
peace on earth which has been liberated.
Blessed is the Crucified One who has reconciled us
so that we shall not longer be deprived of your race".

50. Thanks be to You, O Lord of all,
who have brought back Adam who had been driven out,
while to the thief who asked for mercy
You opened up the gate that had been closed.

51. Thanks be to You, at whose word
the thief entered into the Garden of Eden,
and there was good hope for Adam again
and he returned to the place from which he had gone out.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Gospel Saturday (Saturday of Annunciation or Saturday of Good Tidings)

"Descent into Hell by Dionisius and workshop (Ferapontov monastery)" by Moscow school, Dionysius and his workshop - File:Descent into hell-Russian Museum.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
The Descent of Christ into Hades (Hell)
The Gospel Saturday is one of the most important days leading up to Easter. After crucifixion, Christ descended into Sheol (Hades/Hell) to preach the good news to the men and women who departed this world and had never heard the gospel. 

"He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water" [1 Peter 3:18-20]. "They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit [1 Peter 4:5-6]

In Jacob's bovooso (supplication) after burial service we learn who all met Christ in Sheol. In the depths of Sheol, all the departed came and bowed down before Him; Abel the first-killed was the first one to bow before the Savior (what a privilege!!). Followed by Abel came Adam, Noah, Abraham, the Judges, Priests, Kings, Moses and the band of prophets, and the Levites.

After a long tiring Good Friday service, we tend to "skip" participation in the Holy Qurbana on Saturday. However, on Gospel Saturday, we should be giving the names of our departed forefathers to be remembered during Holy Qurbana and participate in the Holy Qurbana. 

At the conclusion of the Gospel Saturday Qurbana, the service of Reconciliation (Shub-khono) is conducted just as at the beginning of the Great Lent. With this the Great and Holy Lent comes to an end. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Good Friday (Great Friday)

Theophanes the Cretan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Crucifixion of Jesus
The theme of each canonical hour in the Good Friday prayers are provided below. 

  • Midnight Prayers - Second Qauma - Jesus seized at the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Morning Prayers - Jesus delivered to Pontius Pilate
  • Third Hour - Pilate releases Barabbas and delivers Jesus to be crucified; 1st Procession - procession outside the church recalling Jesus' journey to Golgotha. Once the procession enters the church, all the lights and candles are put out showing darkness engulfed the earth from the sixth hour until noon.
  • Sixth (Noon) Hour - Jesus crucified
  • Ninth Hour - Jesus gave up His spirit and died on the cross
  • Veneration of the Cross - Everyone venerates the cross before the burial service
  • Exaltation of the Cross - 2nd procession - inside the church - recalling the event of Joseph of Arimathea taking down Jesus' body from the cross for burial
  • Burial Service - Burial service conducted behind closed sanctuary

Good Friday

    • Evening
Many bulls have surrounded me; fierce bulls of Bashan have encircled me (Psalm 22:13)
For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me (Psalm 22:17)
For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me (Psalm 22:17)
For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me (Psalm 22:17)
    • Fourth Qauma
For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me (Psalm 22:17)
    • Morning
      • Leviticus 4:1-7, 16:3-34
      • Numbers 19:1-11
      • Acts 22:30-23:16
      • I Corinthians 1:18-31
      • Hebrews 9:11-14
My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction, and my kinsmen stand far off (Psalm 38:12)
                         Gospel Readings (combined)

      • St. Matthew 27:3 -10
      • St. Mark 15:1-10
      • St. Luke 22:63-71

    • Third Hour (9 a.m.)
I will cast my shoes upon Edom and I will shout over Philistia (Psalm 60:8)  
                         Gospel Readings (combined)
      • St.Luke 23:2-3
      • St.John 18:28-40
      • St. Mark 15:12-15
      • St.Matthew 27:12-14
      • St.Luke 23:4-16
      • St.Matthew 27:15-21
      • St.Luke 23:22
      • St.Matthew 27:24-25
      • St.Luke 23:23-25
      • St.Matthew 27:26-31

    • Noon (12 p.m.)
They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:22)
                            Gospel Readings (combined)
      • St. Luke 23:26-34
      • St. Matthew 27:34.
      • St. John 19:23-24.
      • St. Matthew 27:36-37,39-43
      • St. Luke 26:36-37
      • St. John 19:25-27

    • Ninth Hour (3 p.m.)
All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me (Psalm 22:8)
                            Gospel Readings (combined)
      • St. Matthew 27:45-47
      • St. John 19:28-29
      • St. Matthew 27:49
      • St. John 19:30
      • St. Luke 23:46
      • St. John 19:30
      • St. Matthew 27:51-56
    • Veneration of the Holy Cross
      • Genesis 22:1-14
      • Exodus 17:8-14
      • Isaiah 52:13-53:12
      • I Peter 2:19-25
      • Galatians 2: 20-3: 14, 6:11-18
They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots, Halleluiah.. (Psalm 22:18)
                            Gospel Readings (combined)

      • St. John 19:31-42
      • St. Matthew 27:60
      • St. Luke 23:55-56