Christ is Risen! Христосъ воскресе! Christus resurrexit est!
We had a glorious celebration of Holy Pascha at Holy Cross parish with shouts of "Christ is Risen!" "He is Risen Indeed!" echoing through the temple. The Paschal Hymn, "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death..." was sung repeatedly throughout the Liturgy. The Processional Hymn was, Jesus Christ is Risen Today! And the Recessional Hymn was, Hail Thee Festival Day! (6th century). One catechumen was received into the Church by chrismation and another person was received into the catechumenate and is preparing for baptism. Red Easter Eggs were distributed. A festive Potluck Luncheon followed the Paschal Liturgy with a wide variety of delicious food, three kinds of wine, baklava, hot cross buns, Easter cakes and more. It was a glorious celebration and a joyful Feast. Easter has an Octave in the Western Rite so the celebration continues through Bright Week with the Octave Day this Sunday.
This was our fourth Pascha as an Orthodox parish, if you include the year that we were in transition to Orthodoxy and were under the protection of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. God has been very good to us, and we are so happy to be Orthodox Christians!
While we love and value our English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual patrimony, we are Orthodox Christians who happen to be Western Rite, not Western Christians who happen to belong to the Orthodox Church. Why? Because “this is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe.”
Metropolitan Hilarion has encouraged us to draw on the spiritual riches of the Christian East as well as restore the Western Rite to the Orthodox Church. This year we adopted a beautiful Eastern Rite practice during Holy Week. For the first time we had a bier with an Epitaphios (Icon of the Burial of Christ) set up in the church and decorated with flowers. It was deeply moving to pray on Good Friday before the bier of our Lord while awaiting His resurrection on the third day.
I am attaching for you links to some important articles, beautiful photographs and inspiring videos that will bless and uplift you, and encourage you in your walk with our Lord. I hope that you will take the time to visit these links. Believe me, you will be blessed!
First, is a link to a six minute video of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill celebrating the Paschal Liturgy at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. This magnificent cathedral was blown up by the bolsheviks after the communist revolution in Russia, but was rebuilt, just as it had been, after the fall of communism. It is beautiful!
Here is a link to a twelve minute video of the Paschal Service and Agape Vespers on the Holy Mountain of Athos:
Here is a link to photographs of Orthodox Christians throughout the world celebrating Holy Pascha:
Are you familiar with the Miracle of the Holy Fire? This is a wondrous miracle of God that has been happening every year on Orthodox Pascha (Easter) since the first century. This great miracle takes place at the Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel.
Every year the tomb is sealed and all of the candles and lampadas are extinguished. Before the Patriarch of Jerusalem enters theTomb of Christ for the Paschal Services he is carefully searched so that it can be verified by the faithful that nothing that could start a fire is brought in with him. This has been done year after year for centuries. After a period of prayer, the Holy Fire miraculously descends from God into the Tomb of Christ. This fire is then used to light the candles of the thousands of faithful who gather in and around the Church to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. Often lampadas and candles in various parts of the church also spontaneously light. The Holy Fire is then taken to other Orthodox countries. Today, it is usually flown by jet planes, sometimes by military jets. In both the video from Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow and the video from Mount Athos you will see the Holy Fire arriving from Jerusalem.
The Holy Fire is miraculous. Initially, it is unlike any other fire. The faithful can bathe their hands and faces in the flame without being burnt in any way by it - as you will see in the photos and in the video from Jerusalem. But later, it burns like any other flame. This miracle only occurs on Orthodox Easter and only at the Paschal Services of Orthodox Christians.
I am attaching for you some articles on the Miracle of the Holy Fire, some photographs, and a short video taken of it this year.
Skeptical? There is no reason to be. This miracle has happened year after year since the first century and has been attested to by vast numbers of witnesses throughout the centuries. This year the Holy Fire was even subjected to a scientific test. Here is an article about it in the Roman Catholic media by a formerly skeptical Roman Catholic reporter:
Here is a link to a short Video of the Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem 2016:
There is even a website dedicated to sharing the Miracle of the Holy Fire with those who have not heard of it. There you will read a description of the Miracle of the Holy Fire from the Patriarch of Jerusalem himself. Here is the link:
I am also attaching for you a link to a report written almost a thousand years ago, titled, How the Holy Light Descends Upon the Holy Sepulchre, from The Pilgrimage of the Russian Abbot Daniel in the Holy Land AD 1106-1107:
As I was writing this Update, a friend of mine who is highly placed in the Roman Catholic media sent me this quote about the Miracle of the Holy Fire from Pope Urban of Rome in 1096:
“Of holy Jerusalem, ...This very city, in which, as you all know, Christ Himself suffered for us, because our sins demanded ...in that place ...He died for us; there He was buried. How precious would be the longed for, incomparable place of the Lord's burial, even if God failed there to perform the yearly miracle! For in the days of His Passion (Holy Week) all the lights in the Sepulchre and round about in the church, which have been extinguished, are relighted by divine command. Whose heart is so stony, brethren, that it is not touched by so great a miracle? Believe me, that man is ...senseless whose heart such divinely manifest grace does not move to faith!”
On Easter Sunday, May 1st, I posted some amazing photographs of the Miracle of the Holy Fire on the Holy Cross Parish Facebook page. You will want to see these seven photographs. Here is the link to the Holy Cross Parish Facebook page:
If you have not visited the Holy Cross Facebook page I encourage you to do so today. Please “Like” our Facebook page so we can more effectively share the Good News of Jesus Christ and the full deposit of the Orthodox Christian Faith with others. The Holy Cross Parish Facebook page is updated regularly with important information so you will want to follow it closely.
We are now in the midst of Bright Week, commonly called Easter Week. Bright Week is Fast free, so there is no Fast or Abstinence all week long. We will celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist tomorrow, Bright Wednesday, at 12:10 PM. Receiving the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion in the midst of the week will change your week. Making it a habit will change your life. I hope to see you on Bright Wednesday!
This coming Sunday, May 8th, is the Octave Day of the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Holy Pascha has an Octave in the Western Rite and so we will continue to celebrate Easter this Sunday with the glorious Paschal Hymn, “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” Sunday is also Mothers Day and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the day than by being at the Liturgy to pray for our mothers and by bringing our mothers to church.
Faith is not a leap into the dark, but a step into the Light of Christ. The Holy Fire that illumines the Tomb of Christ year after year on Orthodox Pascha is a reminder from God that the Tomb is empty, Christ is Risen, and He remains with His people. “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). “We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true Faith by worshipping the undivided Trinity. This has saved us” (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).
Sunday School is at 8:45 AM, followed by Matins at 9:15 AM, and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. Fellowship and refreshments in the parish hall will follow the Liturgy. Everyone is always welcome at Holy Cross Orthodox Church. Invite your family and friends. We are a faithful and friendly parish, and we have a place for you!
Christ is Risen! Христосъ воскресе! Christus resurrexit est!
Fr. Victor Novak
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
A Western Rite Parish of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127