St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

The Journey from Pascha to Pentecost and Beyond
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
Adult Class - April 28/May 11, 2006.


I. Background Perspective

Orthodox Christians are familiar with the journey of Great Lent. Orthodox Christians are familiar with the preparatory Sundays preceeding Great Lent and the journey through Great Lent.

Great Lent is a time of seriousness. Great Lent is a time for repentance and examination of the condition of the soul. Great Lent is a time for fasting and prayer.

The services change during Great Lent. The colors of clergy vestments and colors used in the Church change during Great Lent. The Cross of Christ looms large during Great Lent.

The death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross is on the minds of Orthodox Christians during Great Lent. The journey of Great Lent can seem long and arduous.

The Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is served on Wednesdays and Fridays. Believers are nourished by the Precious Body and Blood of Christ during the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts.

Forgiveness, Holy Confession and Communion are on the minds of believers during Great Lent. As Holy Week approaches, Holy Unction can be on the minds of believers.

The element of joy associated with Lazarus Saturday and the Feast of Jesus Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, buoys the attitudes and hopes of believers.

The Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos and the Canon of St.Andrew of Crete are etched in the minds, hearts and souls of believers participating in these services during Great Lent.

The emphasis on prayers for the departed on Saturdays of Great Lent and the themes of the Sundays for Great Lent give a certain structure for believers to expect and draw strength from.

The daily Scripture readings during the weeks of Great Lent bring the Old Testament to the fore and ask believers to think back centuries and centuries ago.

The lenten journey is a journey that asks much of the believer. The lenten journey is established for all believers. Those choosing to follow the Church in the journey shall proportionately share in the joy of Pascha.

Glorious Pascha awaits those at the end of the journey who from the clarion call on Zacchaeus Sunday give their attention to God more intently. i

The days of Holy Week are all consuming for believers paying total attention to Chris. The days of Holy Week take on meaning that reaches to the depths of believers' hearts and souls.

The Crucified Christ overshadows everthing that exists. On Great and Holy Friday attention appropriately is only given to the Crucified Christ. All else in the world pales as thoughts of believers turn to Christ upon the Cross.

Believers traveling through Great Lent must come to terms with the Crucified Christ.

The Cross of Christ is the theme of each Wednesday and Friday of the Church year. The Cross of Christ is the theme of the Third Sunday of Great Lent.

Believers must determine how to react to the Crucified Jesus. Believers must determine how to honor the Crucified Jesus. Believers must determine if they are faithful to the Crucified Christ.

Each day of Great Lent has meaning. Each day of Great Lent represents an opportunity to repent and seek the Kingdom of God. Each day the opportunity is lost or wasted when a believer does not seriously seek the Kingdom of God.

For the serious believer fasting involves more than abstaining from certain types of food and only eating certain other types of food. Fasting involves a discipline and a vision.

Fasting involves a determination to remain with and follow Christ. Fasting involves a commitment to adhere the teachings of Christ. Fasting involves a determination to follow the path of Christ.

Serious believers draw strength from the holy martyrs having held true to Christ. Serious believers draw strength from the saints.

The Lord Jesus Christ is apparent in the lives of the saints. The love for Christ is apparent in the lives of the martyrs.

Believers must determine how firm they will be in following Christ. Believers must determine how firm they will be internally in making decisions pleasing to Christ.

Believers must determine internally how firm they will be, that they not compromise their identification with Christ.

Internal strength is required to stand in the face of adversity challenging the believers fundamental Christian identity. Internal strength is necessary to stand against environmental/cultural/social influences counter to the believer's Orthodox identity.

Fundamental aspects of the believer's identity summarized in the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed cannot be compromised for the person to remain acceptable in the Orthodox Christian context.

Sin comes at believers during Great Lent as sin comes at believers during the rest of the year. Vigilance is necessary. Repentance is necessary. Prayer is necessary. Fasting is necessary. Reading the Holy Scriptures is necessary.

Between Zacchaeus Sunday and the end of Great Lent, the Orthodox Christian is expected to be different. The Orthodox Christian is expected to have changed during Great Lent as a result of Great Lent.

The Orthodox believer is expected to have benefitted from Great Lent As a result of increased prayer and fasting, as a result of examination of the condition of the soul, of Holy Confession and Holy Communion, of participation in the Divine services of the Church, the Orthodox Christian is expected to end Great Lent living more consistently with the way of Christ.

Great Lent draws attention to the Baptismal experience.ii Throughout life, believers are expected to remain true to Christ as confessed at Holy Baptism. Growth in Christ is assumed to occur between the period of baptism and departure from this life.

Christians are not to remain stagnant following baptism. Christians are expected to become increasingly more knowledgeable using the talents given by God.

Christians are expected to remain true to Christ through following the way of Christ from baptism to departure from this life.

The celebration of Pascha brings the joy exceeding all joy. The celebration of Pascha bring the light surpassing all other lights.

During Holy Week, believers are nourished greatly from the Holy Gospels. Believers are nourished with the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Believers are exposed to the healing coming fron the anointing at Holy Unction.

Holy Friday stands at the end of the week. The darkness of Holy Friday is the epitome of darkness. The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross stands alone in history.

The death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross is a day like no others. Many have died for Christ. All believers must carry crosses in following Christ (Mt. 16:24) The strength of martyrs in dying for Christ comes from Christ upon the Cross. The inspiration for believers to take up crosses and follow Christ is the love for Christ and desire to follow Him.

While Jesus was alive, the Holy Apostle Peter said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life." (Jn. 6:68) The statement of belief put in the form of a question by Holy Apostle Peter remains valid today.

With the newness in life that comes with Pascha, with the joy that comes with Pascha, the believer must determine how he or she will live out that joy. The believer must determine how he or she will celebrate the Lord's Resurrection in the heart, in the home and in the community.

The believer must determine the way to incorporate the Resurrection of Christ in daily life. The believer must determine the way his or her life will be true to the Resurrection and be founded in the Resurrection.

II. Pascha to Pentecost and Beyond

The Holy Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Romans is read during Holy Baptism expressing the belief we are buried with Christ in baptism and are raised up in the likeness of His resurrection. (Rom. 6:3-11) iii

The question is how during the remaining days of life, we will attempt to ascend the steps of The Ladder of Divine Ascent.iv Following Pascha, the question is the degree to which each believer seeks "first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Mt. 6:33).

The proclamation by the angel at the tomb changed the world: "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said." (Mt. 28:5-6)

The Church nourishes believers each day from Pascha to Pentecost as the Church nourishes believers throughout the year. The question is: "Do believers avail themselves of this nourishment?"

From Pascha to Pentecost, "Do believers invest themselves in the life of the Church with the same degree of effort as during Great Lent?" Do believers cherish the newness of life identified with Pascha and put this newness to work in daily living?

As the Church provides the Triodionv and Lenten Triodion Supplementvi to guide believers through Great Lent and Holy Week, the Church sets forth the Pentecostarion to guide believers from Pascha to the Sunday of All Saints. vii

The question is: "Do believers invest in and honor Great Lent equally with an investment and honor for the period from Pascha to the Sunday of All Saints, the period covered by the Pentecostarion?"

Does the conscious effort to be better Christians end on Holy Friday? Does the joy of the celebration of Pascha become all consuming? Does large scale thought among believers about seeking first the Kingdom of God end with celebration of Pascha and not return until some later period in the liturgical year?

Have comparative service attendance studies been done in the Orthodox Church for period of Great Lent in comparison with the period of time from Pascha to the Sunday of All Saints?

A common practice exists in America for Orthodox parish churches to increase services during Great Lent. A common practice exists for combined Sunday evening services during Great Lent.

While liturgical changes occur in the Divine services during the period between Pascha and Ascension and Pascha and the Sunday of All Saints, does the average believer have a knowledge base of this period equal to the period of Great Lent?

Do believers in general experience the joy of Pascha throughout Bright Week? What can be done for believers to increase attentiveness to the period between Pascha and the Sunday of All Saints including attention to the daily liturgical messages?

Orthodox believers face choice each day. The daily nourishment from the Church enables believers to have a foundation and criteria for the making of these choices.

Obviously each believer cannot spend extensive hours in Divine church services. Each believer can be attentive to the life of the Church and the daily order of the Church.

Each believer can structure his or her life to conform to the order of the Church throughout the year. Each believer can be conscious of the Church as he or she goes through each day.

Each believer can attempt to pray as deemed appropriate by the Church throughout each day. Each believer can be sensitive to the daily cycle of services of the Church and draw strength from them.

Each believer can structure his or her family life to be consistent with the life of the Church, honoring days of fasting and being knowledgeable of the meaning of each day in the life of the Church.

Each believer can examine his or her daily life and determine if the joy of the Resurrection is reflected in his or her outlook. Each believer can examine his or her life and draw strength from the message of the Resurrection proclaimed during the period from Pascha to Ascension.

Believers can make an effort to be in church on the Feast of the Ascension of Christ. Believers can make an effort to think seriously about Christ's Ascension and His glorious Second Coming.

Believers can weigh each day and measure the way each day is used. Believers can take steps to ensure each day is lived to the glory of God. Believers can heed the words of the Psalmist and number each day to gain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 89/90:12)

Believers can be appreciative being given each day as a gift of God. Believers can make a determined effort to live each day to the glory of God. Believers can recall Christ upon the Cross and cherish the love of Christ demonstrated by the Crucifixion.

Believers can incorporate the love of Christ in daily life. Believers can examine themselves to determine the love of God shines forth in their hearts, their homes and their lives.

The First Epistle of St.John states: "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (I John 4:8)

Finding and maintaining the vision of the Kingdom of God on a daily basis is a challenge for believers. Living true to that vision is a challenge. Every day, every moment believers make decisions to draw closer or depart from the Kingdom.

Between Pascha and the Sunday of All Saints, a series of themes are in place that give structure and content to the liturgical life of the Church. The period from Pascha to the following Saturday is known as Bright Week or Renewal Week. Each of the weeks following the respectives Sundays take on the theme of the Sunday until the Leave-taking of Pascha (Apodasis) viii

The 2006 Calendar of the Serbian Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood lists the Sundays in this order: " Bright Sunday-Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ-Pascha, Sunday of St.Thomas, Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, Sunday of the Paralytic, Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, Sunday of the Blind Man, Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. Pentecost (Trinity Sunday), First Sunday after Pentecost (Sunday of All Saints). ix

The Feast of the Holy Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ comes on the Thursday following the Sunday of the Blind Man. The Feast of the Holy Ascension falls on June 1, 2006 and the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension continues until June 9. x

The celebration of the Feast of Pentecost continues from June 11 until June 17, 2006. xi

The celebration of Pascha, of the Feast of the Holy Ascension and of Pentecost occurs each year in the Holy Orthodox Church. The celebration of each of the respective Sundays mentioned between Pascha and Pentecost and of the Sunday of All Saints following Pentecost occurs each year.

All believers may not be aware of the order existing in the Holy Orthodox Church. In effect, everything has a place. Order is expected throughout the Church in all matters.

Order is expected in lives of believers. The Holy Mysteries of the Church follow a certain sequence and cannot be served in violation of that sequence. Each day has a certain order to it liturgically and the order is expected to be followed.

The certainty of the order of the Church gives the believer certain expectations and assurances. The certainty of the order of the Church enables believers to move about the world and have the same experience. When parish churches, monasteries and chapels in Orthodox schools use the same calendar and follow the same order, the effect is broad and cumulative.

Believers benefit from examining the themes of the respective weeks between Pascha and the Feast of the Ascension. Believers benefit from examining the themes identified with the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost.

The troparia of Pascha, Ascension and Pentecost summarize the theology involved. Believers do well when they are attentive to the troparia of the Church.

While Pascha, Ascension and Pentecost are dominant as successive themes, the Church makes provision for recognizing saints and other important occurrences in the Church that have become part of the liturgical calendar.

An example of the accomodation made by the Church can be readily found in the Pentecostian when looking at the verses for Vespers on a particular day. For instance, for Vespers on the eve of April 28/May ll, three verses from the Menaion are to be used in addition to those of the Feast. xii

From Pascha to Ascension to Pentecost and beyond, believers are inspired to think about the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the meaning this has for each person and the world, present and future.

When considering the Feast of the Holy Ascension, the glorious Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ needs to be considered. When considering the Feast of Pentecost, thoughts of the Holy Spirit dominate the mind.

Orthodox believers cannot separate their lives from the lives of the saints. The saints give shape to the daily life of the Church and inspire successive generations of believers to live in faithfulness to Christ.

The lives of the saints instruct successive generations of believers of the large variety of ways individuals can live in dedication, honor and glory to God.

The writings of the lives of the saints serve to teach believers wanting to grow in Christ. The writings serve as boundaries and guides which can be used by believers in later times to determine what is within the Orthodox persective and what is not.

Believers learn about prayer, fasting and ascetic practices from the saints. Believers learn from the saints about the sacrifices and hardships necessary in following Christ. Believers learn about the joy and peace in Christ that is exhibited in the lives of the saints.

The block of time between Pascha and Pentecost is deserving of the careful attention of believers. It is not simply a period of time during which the feasts are celebrated on three particular days.

Just as everyday of Great Lent has importance and everyday of Holy Week has importance, everyday between Pascha and Pentecost has importance. Everyday of the year has importance.

Believers increase their life in Christ when each day is lived to the glory of God and for the salvation of the soul. Everyday,every moment is to be directed to the Kingdom of God.
i Alexandar Schmemann. Great Lent. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, Sixth Printing, 2001, p. 17

ii Ibid. p. 14

iii The Great Book of Needs. Vol. 1. St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, 1998, p. 41

iv Saint John Climacus. The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Massachusetts, 2001

v The Lenten Triodion. Translated from the original Greek by Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware. Faber and Faber, London, 1977.Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Massachusetts, 2001

vi Lenten Triodion Supplement. Translated from the original Greek by Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware. Monstery of the Veil of the Mother of God. Bussy-en-Othe. 1979

vii The Pentecostarion. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1990

viii See Pentecostarian.

ix The Serbian Orthodox Year 2006. Editors: Very Rev. Djuro Krosnjar, Rev. Darko Spasojevic, Rev.Deacon Damjan S. Bozic. The Clergy Brotherhood of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada. Published by Seraphim Press, Park Ridge, Illinois, pp. 18-21

x Ibid. p. 21

xi Ibid.

xii Pentecostarian, pp. 141-142


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