Radontisa and the Panikhida this Saturday

Christ is risen!

In the Slavic tradition that we, in the OCA, have inherited from the Russian Mission to North America, a particularly important celebration is Radonitsa, “The Day of Rejoicing”. This celebration is essentially the Christian “baptism” of the remembrance of the departed that is so fundamental to us as human beings and which, in Christianity, is transformed by the joy of the Resurrection. This joyful remembrance of the departed is traditionally clebrated (in a custom which may stretch as far back as the time of St. John Chrysostom) on the first day that commemorations of the dead are allowed after Bright Week – namely, the Tuesday of the week following Bright Week – and, in the Slavic tradition, is celebrated with a general Panikhida (memorial service), blessing of Paschal food, and a procession to bless the graves in the church cemetery.

We obviously missed the “official” day of Radonitsa (and have no church cemetary to bless, yet!), but, in honour of the day, we will celebrate a general Panikhida just before Vespers this Saturday at 5:30pm. It is perhaps fitting that, after Vespers this Saturday, many of us will also be celebrating the departure of our beloved not-yet-departed medical students, David and Jeff, who have survived their intensive studies and will soon be leaving us to undertake their two-year residency training in Montreal and Victoria. Death, in the Christian understanding, is rather like departure – “we sorrow,” as the Apostle Paul says, “but not as those who have no hope.” In the joy of the Resurrection, no parting is permanent!

Love in Christ,
Fr. Justin.

Bright Saturday Liturgy

It seems that people keep wanting to celebrate this week, for some reason… Accordingly, for those who wish to rejoice in our Lord’s Resurrection even more, we will be celebrating Divine Liturgy on Bright Saturday at 9am, followed by the distribution of the Artos – and, I imagine, a communal breakfast! My apologies for the late notice – this is a spur-of-the-moment response to the desire to celebrate the very festal Bright Saturday Divine Liturgy. Please feel free to come if you can!

Love in Christ,

Fr. Justin.

Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!
Hristos vosskresse ; vo iss-ti-nou vosskresse.
Christos anesti ; aléthos anesti.
Le Christ est ressuscité ; en vérité, il est ressuscité.
Gaydolk folkwoot leew ; tchan tek, ta folkwoot leew.
Jidu fuhuo liao ; zhende, ta fuhuo liao.
Christus ist auferstanden ; er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden.
Khristus er oppstanden; Han er sanneleg oppstanden.
Harisutosu hukkatsu ; jitsu ni hukkatsu.
Hristos a-înviat ; adev?rat a-înviat.
Tá Criost éirithe ; go deimhin tá sé éirithe.
Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

Vigil and All-Night Vigil

Tonight, at 9pm, we will begin the Vigil service – that is, the Vespers of Holy Friday immediately followed by the Matins of Holy Saturday – in which we are “buried with Christ”. This lengthy Vigil service will be followed by the local custom of keeping watch over the tomb of Christ all night, watching and praying and chanting the Psalter – for those who are willing and able to do so. This literal all-night vigil begins (again, according to local custom) with a brief foot-washing ceremony.

I want to emphasize that the all-night vigil is a labour of love, undertaken only by those able to do so. No one should feel obligated to undertake it, nor should any who are not able to undertake it feel guilty that they are not able to do so. I myself will only be there for the beginning of the vigil, so that I will be able to serve the rest of the weekend’s services, beginning with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at 9am on Saturday morning – and others have similarly important responsibilities. That being said, I have to say, I wish I could stay up all night for the all-night vigil! My experience of the all-night vigil at St. Herman’s was one of the greatest spiritual highlights of the whole spiritually rich time I spent there…

Finally, on a spiritual note, it is never too late to begin to “watch and pray”. This is one of the great blessings of the Christian life, that God, being rich in mercy, accepts us sinners and prodigals as we return to Him, whenever we return to Him. St. John Chrysostom emphasizes this in his Paschal homily as he makes reference to Jesus’ parable of the landowner who paid everyone the same wage for working in his vineyard (Matthew 20):

“If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant and triumphal feast. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have waited even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his lateness; for the Lord, who is jealous of His honour, will accept the last even as the first; He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has laboured from the first hour. And He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one He gives, and upon the other He bestows gifts. And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honours the acts, and praises the offering. Therefore, enter, all of you, into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first and likewise the second.

“You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honour the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast all of you, sumptuously! The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away. Enjoy, all of you, the feast of faith: receive, all of you, the riches of loving-kindness. Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free!”

Come. Fast as you are able. Keep watch. Pray to Him who loves us and gave Himself for us. And, above all and in all, rejoice!

Fast and Pray

Just a quick reminder regarding fasting rules and guidelines for the last two days of Holy Week – from the OCA website:

On Great Friday those who have the strength follow the practice of the early Church and keep a total fast. Those unable to do this may eat bread, with a little water, tea or fruit-juice, but not until sunset, or at any rate not until after the veneration of the [Plashchanitsa] at Vespers. On Holy Saturday there is in principle no meal, since according to the ancient practice after the end of the Liturgy of St. Basil the faithful remained in church for the reading of the Acts of the Apostles, and for their sustenance were given a little bread and dried fruit, with a cup of wine. If, as usually happens now, they return home for a meal, they may use wine but not oil; for on this one Saturday, alone among Saturdays of the year, olive oil is not permitted.

These guidelines indicate that if a meal is eaten on Holy Saturday, it would be eaten shortly after the Liturgy of St. Basil; the rest of the day a strict fast would be kept in preparation for communion at the midnight Paschal Liturgy.

As always, remember that health considerations may mitigate the fasting rules (as can be seen in the phrase “those who have the strength”, above), and that we are all called to keep the fast as well as we are able so that we can “watch and pray”, preparing for the coming of our Lord’s Pascha.