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Services for Holy Week at Sioni Cathedral will be held thus:

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Holy Wednesday: Administration of the sacrament of Holy Unction, the anointment of the faithful with oil at the conclusion of the liturgy. Commences at 5 p.m.

Holy Thursday: The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil, incorporating the  Twelve Gospel Readings of the Passion of Christ. The readings are:

The service commences at 6 pm

Holy Friday: The Deposition of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated with a Liturgy. Christ’s body is represented by the Epitaphios ,an icon of His dead body embroidered on a silk cloth, which is borne around the church by the clergy and solemnly installed in a “tomb” within the sanctuary of the cathedral. This service commences at 2 pm, the same time as Christ was reported to have died.

Holy Saturday: The Vigil of the Resurrection begins at midnight on Holy Saturday, preceding the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, Pasqa. The service typically continues until dawn, although not all will stay for that length.

The Vigil service is very heavily attended and past experience is that one must be inside the cathedral by 10.30 p.m. or one will not gain admittance. Many hundreds of people congregate outside the cathedral and participate in the service despite being outside, and they can witness the parade of resurrection icons circling the cathedral and join in the Resurrection Hymn, Kriste Aghsdga.

May you all have a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Pascha.

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The Holy Martyr Longinus the Centurion, a Roman soldier, saw service in Judea under the command of the procurator, Pontius Pilate. During the time of the execution of the Saviour it was the detachment of soldiers under the command of Longinus, which stood watch around Golgotha, at the very foot of the holy Cross. Longinus and his soldiers were eye-witnesses of the final moments of the earthly life of the Lord, and of the great and awesome portents that appeared at His death. These events jolted the soul of the soldier. Longinus believed then in Christ and before everyone confessed that, “in truth – this was the Son of God” (Mt. 27: 54). (according to Church tradition, Longinus was that soldier, who with a spear pierced the side of the Crucified Saviour, and from the outflowing of blood and water received healing from an eye affliction).

After the Crucifixion and Burial of the Saviour, Longinus with his company stood watch at the Sepulchre of the Lord. Here the soldiers were given to behold the All-Radiant Resurrection of Christ. The Jews persuaded them with a bribe to bear false witness that His disciples had stolen away the Body of Christ, but Longinus and two of his comrades refused to be seduced by the Jewish gold.

Having believed in the Saviour, the soldiers accepted Baptism from the apostles and decided to forsake military service. Longinus quit Judea and set out preaching about Christ Jesus the Son of God in his native land, in Cappadocia. His two comrades also followed after him. The fiery words of actual participants of the great occurrences in Judea swayed the hearts and minds of the Cappadocians; Christianity began quickly to spread about in the city and the surrounding villages.

Having learned of this, the Jewish elders persuaded Pilate to dispatch a company of soldiers to Cappadocia, to kill Longinus and his comrades. The dispatched company of soldiers arrived in the native village of Longinus; the former centurion himself came out to meet the soldiers and took them to his home. After a meal, the soldiers told about the purpose of their arrival, not knowing – that the master of the house – was that very selfsame man, whom they were seeking. Then Longinus and his fellows identified themselves and asked the surprised soldiers, unperturbedly, to do their duty of military service. The soldiers wanted to set free the saints and advised them to flee, but the saints refused to do this, shewing firmness of will to accept suffering for Christ. The holy martyrs were beheaded, and their bodies were buried there where the saints made their final witness, and the cut-off heads were sent on to Pilate. Pilate gave orders to cast the martyrs on the trash-heap outside the city walls. After a certain while a certain blind woman arrived in Jerusalem to pray at the holy places. Saint Longinus appeared to her in a dream and said, that she should find his head and bury it. They led the blind woman to the rubbish heap. Having touched the head of the martyr, the woman was granted sight to her eyes. She reverently conveyed the venerable head to Cappadocia and there gave it burial.

From “Orthodox Liturgical Calendar of The St. John of Kronstadt Press,”

 

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The text of the Holy Saturday Matins is deeply moving and poetic, with very dramatic hymns. It is performed late at 6 a.m. Saturday.

An English translation is provided here, kindly translated by nuns of The Community of Holy Myrrhbearers in  New York.

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Holy Friday (Good Friday) involves the second-most dramatic service of the Church year, the reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion, death and entombment.

Late in the morning, the priest will instal the Epitaphios (an icon embroidered on silk, of Christ’s dead body lying surrounded by his mother and his closest followers) on the altar.

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An image of a Georgian epitaphios from Mtskheta can be seen here

A wooden icon of Christ crucified is placed in the centre of the church.

The service of the Deposition from the Cross involves a number of gospel readings recounting Christ’s Passion, death and removal from the cross. Before the service, the Icon is removed from the centre of the church and moved to the sanctuary.

Towards the end of the service, the Epitaphios is borne by the priests, as if they are pall-bearers, from the altar to a table in the centre of the church, representing Christ’s tomb. The priest carrying the Gospel walks beneath the Epitaphios. The Epitaphios is reverently laid down on the table, surrounded by flowers, as a recapitulation of His entombment, and a copy of the Gospel placed on top of the Epitaphios. The congregation will have already surrounded the tomb with flowers, eggs dipped in red dye, cakes, and even small punnets of sprouting barley. Some of this symbolism may be pre-Christian in origin but is consistent with Christian principles.

The “tomb” is censed and the congregation will file past to venerate the Epitaphios within the “tomb”.

The hymns for this service are very beautiful; Paliashvili’s arrangement of the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!) is commonly sung.

Services at Sameba and Sioni cathedrals start at 2 pm Friday; if attending, you will need to arrive at least an hour early to get into the church.

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