April 19, 2014 </br>Great and Holy Saturday

April 19, 2014
Great and Holy Saturday

In the early Church, Holy Saturday was the day when catechumens were baptized. In the Byzantine tradition, this took place at the Vespers with Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil which we still have on Holy Saturday. This service is the original “Easter Vigil.” In recent centuries it has been sadly neglected; some parishes rush through it. Other parishes abbreviate it in a poorly considered way. And many parishes do not hold it at all. But those who discover the Biblical and dogmatic wealth of this celebration treasure it, and look forward to it every year.

Holy Saturday is a day of strict fast and abstinence. The service should begin in late afternoon, perhaps at four or five o’clock. The tomb and the Holy Shroud are still in the center of the church; the altar is still draped in dark cloths and the clergy put on dark vestments. Vespers begins with “Blessed is the Kingdom, and we chant “Come, let us worship” and Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul…” After the Litany of Peace, we sing “Lord, I have cried,” with four Resurrection prosomia in tone 1, and three special prosomia for today which express our joy at what happened when the Lord Jesus Christ descended into Hell:

“Today Hell cries out groaning: ‘I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary! He came and destroyed my power! He shattered the gates of brass, and as God He raised up the souls which I once held!’…”

“Today Hell cries out groaning: ‘My power has been trampled down! The Shepherd was crucified, and has raised Adam from the dead! I have been deprived of those whom I had ruled! He Who was crucified has emptied the graves; death has no power any more!”

This teaching is also expressed in the Paschal Icon of the Byzantine tradition, showing Our Lord trampling underfoot the gates of Hades, breaking the chains and locks, and with His Hands pulling up Adam and Eve and all the others. Life has overcome death.

After the Entrance with the Gospel Book and the hymn sing “O Joyful Light,’ there are 15 lessons from the Old Testament (it takes about an hour to read them all). During these readings, in earlier centuries, the baptisms took place; the faithful remained in the church, listening to the readings, while the bishop took the catechumens to the baptistery where he baptized and chrismated them.

We begin with the account of creation. We read how God commanded Moses and Aaron to have the children of Israel prepare and eat the Paschal Lamb. Almost the whole book of Jonah tells us how the prophet was thrown into the sea, and spent three days and nights in the great fish, but by the power of the Lord his life was saved. The sixth reading describes the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, when God parted the waters so that the children of Israel could pass through, and then God brought back the waters and drowned all the chariots and soldiers of Pharaoh, fulfilling the promise of Moses that “the Egyptians you see today you shall never see again!”

When the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea in safety, and looked back and saw their pursuers drowned in the waves, they turned to God and sang a triumphant anthem: “I will sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously triumphant—horse and chariot He has thrown into the sea!” When the reader reaches this point in the account, we open the Royal Doors and sing the refrain of the anthem: “Let us sing to the Lord, for gloriously has He been glorified.” We repeat this acclamation after each verse.

Thus we join the moment of the first Pascha, the miraculous deliverance of God’s People by the crossing of the Red Sea. We have prepared for this by reading the Book of Exodus at Vespers every day during Holy Week. This event underlies the Christian Pascha, the Resurrection of Our Lord. We pass with Jesus Christ from death to life, by being baptized—and so passing through the waters without danger—into Christ’s death, and being raised with Him into life.

After this song of Moses and the Children of Israel, we listen to the balance of the Old Testament lessons. We hear how the Lord answered the prayers of Saint Elias the Prophet and brought the dead son of a widow back to life. We recall how Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. The Lord announces good news for the poor, freedom for captives, joy instead of mourning, and a lasting covenant. The Prophet Eliseus raises from the dead the young son of the Shunamite woman. Isaias calls to God with the plea: “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down!” The Lord gives us a new covenant, written upon our hearts; we shall know Him; He will forgive us and He will remember our sins no more.

The final Old Testament reading is the account of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who tried to compel everyone to worship an idol, and threw the three young men into a burning, fiery furnace, because they would not worship the false god. God sent His Angel to protect the three young men, and kept them safe from all harm, even in the midst of the flames.

This reading also ends in song; as the reader comes to the Song of the Three Youths, we open the Royal Doors and sing the refrain “Praise the Lord and exalt Him throughout the ages!” This canticle is a joyous blessing of God in His Creation; in singing this blessing of God we accept the Eucharistic vocation of men and women, to unite Creation to God by our voluntary offering of thanks. By the Resurrection of Christ all creation is changed and redeemed, so that we shall see “a new heaven and a new earth.”

Since Holy Saturday is the great day of Baptism, instead of the Trisagion we sing “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia!” In earlier centuries, this was a processional hymn, as the faithful welcomed the bishop and all the newly-baptized coming into church from the baptistry. The Epistle lesson teaches us that we are baptized into Christ death, so that we may be united with Christ in His Resurrection.

After the Epistle, there comes a dramatic moment: the changing of the vestments from dark to bright. On this one day of the year, we do not sing “Alleluia” before the Gospel. Instead, we chant Psalm 81 , with the last verse for a refrain: “Arise, O God, and judge the earth, for all nations belong to You!” The clergy close the Royal Doors and remove their dark vestments, putting on bright vestments, and also robe the Holy Table of the Altar in bright vestments. When they have finished, they open the Royal Doors and announce the Gospel of the Rcsurrection.

It is a moment of Paschal joy. But notice: the Shroud is still in the Tomb, in the center of the church. We announce the Resurrection while the image of the dead Christ is still before our eyes! How can this be?

To strengthen the paradox, later on Holy Saturday the priest will carry the Shroud into the Altar and set it on the Holy Table, so that for the forty days of Paschaltide, every Divine Liturgy is served on the Holy Shroud, with this image of Christ lying dead in the Tomb.

Still further: the same image is normally found on the Antimension, without which we never serve the Divine Liturgy. Yet every Divine Liturgy commemorates Christ’s Resurrection. How are we to understand this seeming contradiction?

This is an expression of our Christian life. We keep before us the image of Christ’s death, while we proclaim the triumph of Christ’s Resurrection. And we live in this present age, this present world, while we proclaim the Resurrection, and the Second Coming which we await. Understood in the light of Holy Saturday, the tomb of Christ becomes the life-giving Tomb.

Holy Saturday can be a very long day. We know that Pascha is coming, in just a few hours, hut those few hours pass so slowly! As eternity goes, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again in glory very soon—but that “very soon” seems so long delayed. We are not forbidden—quite the contrary—to beg the Lord to make haste and come. We even believe that He hears that prayer particularly. But meanwhile, in this world, we must live by faith.

How often do we not see the Body of the Lord crucified? Every time the Church suffers, every time even one of the people for whom Christ died suffers, we behold again the humiliation of Christ. In Church, in Holy Week, it is not difficult to look upon the Cross and the Shroud, surrounded with flowers and incense, and recognize the Lord of Glory. But we must learn from Holy Week to recognize the Lord in the poor, in the lonely, in the sick, in the oppressed, in all those who are in need. This is what it means for our faith to sustain us from Pascha to Pascha, year by year.

This Vesperal Eucharist of Holy Saturday takes us from the Beginning to the End, from Creation to the Second Coming. This Liturgy teaches us the meaning of salvation. We rejoice with Moses at the crossing of the Red Sea, and we exult with the Hebrews at the drowning of the Egyptians, and God’s promise that “the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again!”

The Second Coming will be like that. Redeemed by the Lord, Who will come again to take us to the Father, we shall look back, one final time, to behold all of our sinfulness, all of our wrongdoing, drowning like the Egyptians in the Red Sea, and in eternal thanks we shall turn to Christ our King and sing again the Song of Moses: “for gloriously has He been glorified!”

With that in mind, our immediate response is the Eucharist itself. It may be that because of the unparalleled solemnity of Holy Saturday, the Divine Liturgy of Saint James survived on this day in Byzantine usage. In any case, this is the one day of the year that we still sing “Let all mortal flesh keep silence” instead of the Cherubic Hymn. The present Typikon prescribes the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great. In keeping with the “vigil” nature of this particular celebration, the Anaphora should be read aloud, without hurry.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the Triodion prescribes the blessing of five loaves and some wine, using the same prayer that we use on the vigil of great feasts, but with no blessing of oil or wheat. In principle, this is the only food we shall eat on Holy Saturday itself. (Bishop Basil Losten)


GREAT VESPERS AND DIVINE LITURGY OF ST. BASIL THE GREAT

At Psalm 140

In Tone 1

8. Accept our evening prayers, O holy Lord,
and grant us the remission of our sins,
for You alone have revealed to the world the Resurrection.

7. Walk about Zion, you people, and encompass her;
and within her walls give glory to Him Who is risen from the dead.
For He is our God Who has delivered us
from our iniquities.

6. Come, you people, let us praise and worship Christ,
glorifying His Resurrection from the dead.
For He is our God Who has delivered the world
from the delusion of the enemy.

5. By Your Passion, O Christ,
we have been set free from our passions,
and by Your Resurrection
we have been delivered from corruption.
O Lord, glory be to You!

In Tone 8

4. Today hell groans and cries aloud:
“It had been better for me had I not accepted Mary’s Son,
for He has come to me and destroyed my power;
He has shattered the gates of brass,
and as God He raised up the souls that I once held.”
Glory to Your Cross, O Lord, and to Your Resurrection!

3. Today hell groans and cries aloud:
“It had been better for me had I not accepted Mary’s Son,
for He has come to me and destroyed my power;
He has shattered the gates of brass,
and as God He raised up the souls that I once held.”
Glory to Your Cross, O Lord, and to Your Resurrection!

2. Today hell groans and cries aloud:
“My power has been destroyed.
I accepted a mortal man as one of the dead;
yet I cannot keep Him prisoner,
and with Him I shall lose all those whom I ruled.
I held in my power the dead from all ages;
but see, He is raising them all.”
Glory to Your Cross, O Lord, and to Your Resurrection.

1. Today hell groans and cries aloud:
“My dominion has been swallowed up;
the Shepherd has been crucified and He has raised Adam.
I am deprived of those whom I once ruled;
in my strength I have devoured them, but now I have cast them forth.
He who was crucified has emptied the tombs;
the power of death has no more strength.”
Glory to Your Cross, O Lord, and to Your Resurrection.

In Tone 6, Glory…

Moses the Great mystically prefigured this present day, saying:
“And God blessed the seventh day.”
For this is the blessed Sabbath, this is the day of rest,
on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works.
Suffering death in accordance with the plans of salvation,
He kept the Sabbath in the flesh;
and returning once again to what He was,
through His Resurrection He has granted us eternal life,
for He alone is good and loves mankind.

Now…

Let us praise the Virgin Mary,
glory of all the world and gate of heaven,
Daughter of men and Mother of the Lord,
song of the angelic hosts and adornment of the faithful.
For she is revealed as heaven and the temple of the Godhead.
It is she who, breaking down the middle wall of enmity,
established peace and opened the palace of the King.
With her, therefore, as anchor of our faith,
we have as our defender the Lord whom she has borne.
Be of good courage, then, people of God, be of good courage:
for in His almighty power
He will make war upon our foes.

Readings
Genesis 1:1-13
Isaiah 60:1-16
Exodus 12:1-11
Jonah 1:1-4:11
Joshua 5:10-15
Exodus 13:20-15:19

When the Reader comes to the beginning of the Canticle of Moses (Exodus 15:1): “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:”

Reader: Let us sing to the Lord

All: For He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my fathers God, and I will exalt him.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name. Pharaohs chariots and his host he cast into the sea; and his picked officers are sunk in the Red Sea. The floods cover them; they went down into the depths like a stone.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: In the greatness of Your majesty You overthrow Your adversaries; Your send forth Your fury, it consumes them like stubble. At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, terrible in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them. You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed, You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: The peoples have heard, they tremble; pangs have seized on the inhabitants of Philistia. Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling seizes them; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of Your arm, they are as still as a stone, till Your people, O LORD, pass by, till the people pass by whom You have purchased.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: You bring them in, and plant them on Your own mountain, the place, O LORD, which You have made for Your abode, the sanctuary, LORD, which Your hands have established.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: The LORD will reign for ever and ever.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

All: Let us sing to the Lord, for He has been clothed with glory.

Reader: Both now and forever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

All: Let us sing to the Lord

Reader: For He has been clothed with glory.

Readings
Zephaniah 3:8-15
Kings 17:8-24
Isaiah 61:10-62:5
Genesis 22:1-18
Isaiah 61:1-9
Kings 4:8-37
Isaiah 63:11-64:5
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Daniel 3:1-88

After verse 56: “Blessed are You in the firmament of heaven, praiseworthy and glorious forever,” all stand and sing:

Refrain: Sing praise to the Lord, and exalt Him above all forever.

This refrain is sung after each verse of the Canticle.

Canticle of the Three Youths

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord. R.
Angels of the Lord, and you heavens, bless the Lord. R.
All you waters above the heavens, and all you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord. R.
Sun and moon, and stars of heaven, bless the Lord. R.
Every shower and dew, and all you winds, bless the Lord. R.
Fire and heat, frost and chill, bless the Lord. R.
Ice and snow, and nights and days, bless the Lord. R.
Light and darkness, lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord. R.
Let the earth bless the Lord. R.
Mountains and hills, and everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord. R.
You springs, and seas and rivers, bless the Lord. R.
You dolphins and all water creatures, and all you birds of the air, bless the Lord. R.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord. R.
You children of the earth, bless the Lord: O Israel, bless the Lord. R.
Priests of the Lord, and servants of the Lord, bless the Lord. R.
Spirits and souls of the just, holy people of humble heart, bless the Lord. R.
Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, bless the Lord. R.
Apostles, prophets and martyrs of the Lord, bless the Lord. R.
Let us bless the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. R.
Both now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen. R.
Let us praise, bless and worship the Lord. R.

Small Litany

Instead of the Trisagion Hymn
All who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia. (3)
Glory… Both now…
Have put on Christ, Alleluia.
All who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia.

Prokeimenon, Tone 8
Let all the earth worship and sing to You, * chanting praise to Your Name, O Most High.
verse: Sing joyfully to God, all you the earth; chant the glory of His Name, give to Him noble praise.

Epistle
Romans 6:3-11

We do not sing Alleluia; in its place we sing the following verses from Psalm 81 in Tone 7:
Refrain: O God, arise and judge the earth, * for all the nations are Yours.
verse: God arises in the divine assembly; He judges in the midst of the heavens.
verse: How long will you judge unjustly and favour the cause of the wicked?
verse: Defend the lowly and the fatherless, give justice to the afflicted and the destitute.
verse: Rescue the lowly and poor; deliver them from the hands of the wicked.
verse: They do not know or understand; they go about in darkness.
verse: I have said: You are divine; you are the sons of the Most High. Yet like men, you will die; you shall fall like any other prince.

Gospel
Matthew 28:1-20

Instead of the Cherubic Hymn, we sing:
Let all mortal flesh be silent and stand with fear and trembling. Let thoughts remove earthly concerns, for the King of kings, the Lord of lords comes to be sanctified. He is given as food to the faithful. All ranks of angelic choirs of glory go before Him. Many-eyed Cherubim, six-winged Seraphim hide their faces and cry out the hymn: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Hymn to the Mother of God
Do not weep over Me, O Mother, as you see in the grave the Son Whom you have conceived in your womb without seed. I will resurrect and be glorified and I, as God, will forever gloriously raise those who with faith and love magnify you.

Communion Verse
The Lord has waked as if from sleep: * He is risen and saves us. Alleluia, alleluia,* alleluia.

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