Οn Thursday of the sixth week after Pascha, we celebrate the Holy Ascension of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.
While the Savior was still together with the Disciples, before the Passion, He promised that the most Holy Spirit would come, saying, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7) and, “However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth...” (John 16:13). That is why, after the Resurrection from the dead, having shown Himself to them during the period of forty days – not constantly, but from time to time – eating and drinking together with them and clearly revealing the Resurrection to them, on the final day, He promised them many things about the Kingdom of God. He commanded that they not leave Jerusalem but remain there and wait for the coming of the most Holy Spirit, for they needed to be baptized in the Spirit, having been baptized before only with John’s baptism of water. Thus, He commanded them to stay in Jerusalem so they would be strengthened by preaching the Gospel first in that very place instead of going to foreign lands immediately where they would more easily be ridiculed. This was also necessary so that they would be trained there, like soldiers, with the weapons of the Spirit, and thus they would go out for battle in preaching the Gospel.
On this day, the sixth Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the miracle which our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ performed for the man who had been blind from birth.
This miracle, like those of the Samaritan woman and the paralytic, was brought about through the use of water in this way: As Christ was speaking with the Jews and showing them that He is together with the Father, existing before Abraham, they sought to stone Him. He then left that place where He had been speaking with them and met a blind man who was wandering about and who had been blind from birth, having only the shape and form of eyes. When the Savior saw him, His Disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). The reason they asked this is because they had heard Him telling the paralytic at the Sheep's Pool, “Behold, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14), as if to say that “the sins of the parents are visited upon the children...”
On the fifth Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the feast of the Samaritan woman.
This feast has been placed during the week of Mid-Pentecost because Jesus, on this day, clearly bore witness to Himself as the Messiah, that is, the Christ or anointed One (for Messiah in Hebrew means anointed one), and also because He had worked the miracle at the Sheep’s Pool on the previous Sunday.
On Wednesday of the fourth week of Pascha, the week of the Paralytic, we celebrate the feast of Mid-Pentecost.
We celebrate this present feast in honor of the two great feasts of Pascha and Pentecost, for this is the day which, in a sense, ties the two feasts together. The celebration of this present feast came about in the following manner: after Christ had performed the miracle of healing the paralytic, which surpasses all nature, the Jews sought to put Him to death, using the excuse that it was a scandal to do such a deed on the Sabbath, since this miracle had been performed on a Saturday. Knowing this, Jesus left Galillee and went about in the mountain region where He performed the miracle of the multiplication of five loaves and two fishes, feeding five thousand men, aside from the number of women and children.
On this day, the fourth Sunday after Pascha, we commemorate the paralytic who was healed by the Lord, and we celebrate this as a miracle of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.
The commemoration of this event is made on this particular day because it occurred during the celebration of the Hebrew fifty days. Christ entered Jerusalem during this time of the Jewish festival, and He went to a place north of the Temple near the Sheep Gate called the Sheep’s Pool. Built by King Solomon, this pool was covered by a dome that was supported by five sets of pillars, thus creating five porches. It was called the Sheep’s Pool because the sacrificial lambs were washed there before they were offered in the Temple. An angel of the Lord came down at a certain time and stirred the water, and the first person to step into the water after it had been stirred was healed of whatever disease he possessed. Thus, the five porches were crowded with a multitude of sick folk as they awaited the moving of the water.
On this day, the third Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the memory of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women. We also commemorate St. Joseph of Arimathea, who was one of the seventy secret Apostles. We also remember St. Nicodemus, who came to Christ at night and was one of the leaders of the Jews.
We remember the women because they were the first to truthfully bear witness to the Resurrection, while Joseph and Nicodemus were the first to bear witness to the burial of Christ. These two facts are both true and well known by us. Nicodemus was immediately banished from the synagogue and was forbidden to rejoin it. After burying the Body of Jesus, Joseph was thrown into a deep pit; however, by the grace of God, he was delivered from it and went to his estate in Arimathea. After His Resurrection, Christ showed Himself to Joseph, who was tied in bonds, thus firmly confirming the mystery of the Resurrection. Joseph suffered a great deal at the hands of his persecutors, but he could not bear to keep silent concerning all these mystical events and boldly taught all people about what had taken place regarding Jesus. It is said that Nicodemus, was the first to proclaim in detail what had occurred at the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Since he was one of the foremost in the Council of the Jews and a Pharisee, he knew firsthand the councils and plots of the Jewish leaders and all that had come to pass regarding the Lord. Thus, as was first stated, St. Nicodemus and St. Joseph are commemorated after the Resurrection, together with the women who saw the risen Christ, because they are true and authentic witnesses of the Burial.
On this Sunday, the second Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the Antipascha, that is to say the re-dedication of the Resurrection of Christ, and also commemorate the event of the Holy Apostle Thomas' touching the wounds of Christ.
This commemoration is due to the ancient custom of rededicating important events. As a year would pass and the date of such an event would arrive, a commemoration was made so that such great events would not be forgotten. This is why the Israelites celebrated the Passover at Gilgal, to commemorate the passing through the Red Sea. They also commemorated the consecration of the Tabernacle of Witness that was in the wilderness and many other holy events.
When the Roman Emperor warned that those who professed Christianity would be hunted down and killed, the great Roman soldier was not afraid.
Instead of going into hiding, George the Tribune - sometimes referred to as the "Dragon-Slayer" - decided to publicly proclaim his allegiance to Jesus Christ. After selling all his property and freeing all his slaves, he strode boldly into the Roman Senate and asked to be heard. Because he was a respected officer (a Tribune in those days commanded a thousand men), he was given permission to speak.
Without hesitating, the blunt-spoken Tribune told the stunned Senators that he was a practicing Christian ... and that he had no intention of giving up his faith, regardless of the recent decision by the Emperor Diocletian (284-305) that Christians would now be persecuted throughout the land.
Stunned, the Senators shook their heads in disbelief. Then they asked him to explain why in the world he had decided to challenge the mighty Emperor's authority in broad daylight, in front of the entire Senate. But the Tribune only smiled. Then, in a bold and determined voice, he told them quite simply, according to historians of the period: "I am a servant of Christ, my God, and trusting on Him, I have come amidst ye at mine own will, to witness concerning the Truth."
To be read during Bright Week in place of morning and evening prayers, thanksgiving prayers after Holy Communion, the prayers of the hours, compline, and the midnight office. In this manner, the Third and Sixth Hours are chanted before Liturgy. Likewise also before Vespers, for the Ninth Hour; and once for Compline. Likewise for the Midnight Office. It is a pious tradition to substitute the Paschal Hours for morning and evening prayers during all of Bright week. In this way, we take a little rest from long prayers, but do not neglect to give joyous thanks to God, so as not to fall into despondency and gluttony, as we partake of festive foods.
If a priest is present:
The priest: Bessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Or if there is no priest:
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
If any be a devout lover of God,
let him partake with gladness from this fair and radiant feast.
If any be a faithful servant,
let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
If any have wearied himself with fasting,
let him now enjoy his reward.
If any have laboured from the first hour,
let him receive today his rightful due.
If any have come after the third,
let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have come after the sixth,
let him not be in doubt, for he will suffer no loss.
If any have delayed until the ninth,
let him not hesitate but draw near.
If any have arrived only at the eleventh,
let him not be afraid because he comes so late.