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Easter The Holy Pascha

The Great Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – Easter or the Holy Pascha, represents the Idn Poker88 starting point of Orthodox understanding of the sanctification of time. It stands at the center of Orthodox liturgical life, at the center of that segment of time that the Orthodox Church calls a year. We are talking about an experience that has its origins in apostolic times.

In the world governed by time and death, resurrection becomes an expression of life without end. Many religions and philosophies confess “the immortality of the soul”, but the Church differs from all these since it understands immortality not as an inexplicable form of “survival” after death.

It is, rather, understood as a matter of overcoming death through the relationship with God. As far as the Church is concerned death is a form of separation from God, a rejection of association with God, a denial of life as being love and a communion of love.

Resurrection of Christ does not concern only Christ himself. This event occurred for our sake and concerns each and every one of us. In this world such as it is, in a single moment in history, there appeared a Somebody who stood above death while remaining within the framework of our time.

God and man, God-man &&(Theanthropos)&& Jesus Christ, pulled human nature through death and resurrection and by doing so opened our path to eternity. All those who make God rather than created nature foundation of their existence, all those that grow into His Body – the Church, prepare themselves to participate in the joy and exultation of the Kingdom of Christ.

The Holy Pascha

This participation in joy starts already in this life only to achieve its fullness in the one that is yet to come. Christian life is the life of resurrection, and resurrection itself is the focal point of Orthodoxy, the very essence of its entire experience. This is why the Orthodox world regards Easter as the happiest feast of all, the Feast of all feasts, and every Sunday of the year is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ.

Easter is celebrated each year at a different date, but always on Sunday. The day of celebration is connected to a calculation in relation to the spring equinox and the first subsequent full moon in order to correspond to the 14. day of Nissan (month in the Jewish calendar) which was the day when Christ died (Good or Holy Friday), and the first following Sunday.

At the occasion of Easter matins the priest and the faithful go around the church in a procession three times, while church bells ring. The procession then halts in front of the closed door of the church. After censing the faithful and the closed door, and after the troparion “Christ is Risen” has been sung, the priest enters the church bearing the Cross and the Gospel Book in his arms.

He then walks through the Royal Door, the main entrance on the altar-screen, into the altar section of the church. The faithful follow the priest into a well-illuminated church and, after matins and the service of first hour, the Easter Liturgy is being celebrated. It is the most joyous service of the year. The faithful take the Holy Eucharist, the Great Lent is over, and the first food that the faithful will usually take to break the fast would be painted Easter eggs.

Easter Eggs

Easter eggs are painted in memory of the event when Saint Mary Magdalene – the Myrrh-barer, traveled to Rome to visit Emperor Tiberius. As a token of her special consideration for the Emperor she presented him with a red egg and saluted him with words: “Christ is Risen!” The red paint symbolizes Savior’s innocently shed blood on Golgotha, but the red color is also the color of Resurrection.

The egg itself is a symbol of renewal – renewal of nature and life. Just as the Yule Log contributes that special something to the general feeling of contentment on Christmas Eve, so does the red Easter egg bring happiness on Easter Day both to those giving it away and those receiving it.

Feast Day

On one side, the entire life of the Church is a ceaseless festivity and, on the other, that life represents a preparation for the final feast, for the fulfillment of all – the entire world, in God. Therefore, every feast day, every festivity of the Church rests upon a twofold model of preparation and fulfillment.

We do not arrive to a feast day, let us say Easter Day, just simply by following the dates in the calendar. We arrive to it through the feat of fasting, as we also do when Christmas is concerned. Every feast day is preceded by preparations – fasting, communal and private praying … This is how we learn to discover the significance of festivities, which is living participation. Without preparation there can be no participation.

Pascha

Earliest Christians were celebrating the Resurrection every Sunday but towars the end of the 1st century an annual observance of Christ’s death and resurrection became customary and was named Pascha.

This is a Greek name for the Jewesh festival of unleavened bread, Pesach (14th of Nisan – first month of the Jewish lunar year, April-May by our calendar) which is celebrated in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt.

The Jews celebrate the God’s punishment of the Egyptians by which he saved their first-born and demonstrated his love for the chosen people. At the time of Pesach. Jews from all sides of the world used to assemble by the Temple of Jerusalem to attend special rites of purification.

So that’s a little explanation from Easter that we often hear. Hopefully with the Easter day we can all get blessings and favors from one God. Hopefully with this we will all be given endless health and hopefully we will be kept away from all problems.

Don’t forget to often give thanks and pray to God so that we can always bless and protect him. Don’t forget to go to church often so that we can all be clean from all our sins so far. Thanks.

The Holy Temple

The word Church with a capital C is used to name the Communion of Christians, while the same word with a small c serves to name the edifice were Church services are being held. This speaks clearly that the Communion of the faithful realizes itself as the Church of God, as a spiritual temple, in such a place where the Holy Liturgy is being served, i.e. in the church.

Orthodox architecture, therefore, has its liturgical significance through symbolism complementing the very symbolism of the Liturgy itself. History of church architecture is extensive and it includes a grand manifestation of national expressions and styles that depend on moments in time coinciding with the actual time respective churches were being built.

However, all Orthodox temples have one thing in common and this is the central idea that the temple of God is “Heaven on earth”, i.e. the place where by partaking in the Holy Liturgy of the Church we enter into communion (communication) with the “coming ages”, or the Kingdom of God.

The temple is usually seen as divided into three respective sections: entrance area or the vestibule (nartex), central section or the nave (naos), and altar section or the sanctuary – the mystical heart of the church. All three sections are decorated with fresco paintings and icons, which assist us in forging strong ties with saints – our intercessors in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is thus that we are able to taste the fullness of the Church at every Liturgy.

The material temple – the church, is not an end to itself. It is there to help us construct a spiritual temple – the Church of God.

ALTAR

Christian temples-churches are built to be orientated east-west. Altar section or the sanctuary takes up the eastern part of the structure. This is the most holy section of the temple containing the Holy Altar – Holy Table or the Throne, Prothesis or Proskomidia (Offertory), and Diakonikon (Sacristy). The Holy Altar must have following items placed upon it: Antimens, a Gospel Book, a crucifix, the Tabernacle (a receptacle in which the Holy Gifts of the Eucharist are preserved for the communion of the sick, or for the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts during Lent), oil container – required for the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, an oil candle, and a service book.

CHOIR

Choirs are sections of the church located in front of the Altar area on both sides (north and south) of the iconostasis, usually separated from the rest of the nave by being raised a little by a few steps. There is sometimes only one choir section. During church services choir sections are occupied by actively participating chanters. They respond to Ektenials, chant, or read individual Church readings as prescribed by the Typikon.

VESTIBULE

Vestibule or nartex once included a baptismal font (Gr. kolymbethra) containing the water for immersion in Baptism. In fact, Baptism was performed in the inner vestibule, and new members of the Church were then led in a solemn procession into the main area of the church. During church service, apart from the catechumens (unbaptized learners, those preparing themselves for Baptism) vestibule was also intended to accommodate penitents waiting to be allowed to participate fully in the Eucharist again.

NAVE

Nave or naos is the central area of the temple where the faithful gather for the celebration of Eucharist and for communal prayer. This is the place where they form the visible part of the Church headed by Christ. Its members are also the Most Holy Theotokos, prophets, apostles, martyrs and the holy who are visibly present owing to their images on icons and fresco paintings on the walls. It is in the nave of the church that we participate in the liturgical journey towards the end of history while we are, at the same time, being already received in the Kingdom of God.

ROYAL DOORS

Central doors on the iconostasis (altar screen), located in front of the Altar Table itself. Royal doors derive their name from the fact that it is through these doors that the Holy Gifts are being transferred from the Offertory table to the Altar Table; it is through these doors that the King of Glory passes through, in order to become food for the faithful.

They are also called Royal because it was the practice for Orthodox emperors to be anointed in front of it. At certain occasions emperors could also enter the altar area through this door to offer gifts to God. Only clergy, monks and those of the laity serving in the church may enter altar area. To the left and to the right of the Royal Doors there stand the north and the south door, also called deaconic or angelic since it is the deacons who come and go through them symbolizing angels.

Royal doors carry icons depicting the event of Annunciation. Archangel Gabriel is presented on the left wing, whilst it is the Most Holy Theotokos that is presented on the right wing of the doors.

Great Friday – Holy Friday

The great sacrifice has been offered. Since God the Father does not regard the world as being material or spiritual but sees all creation through His Son, and since mankind fell into the slavery of nature, of that which was corruptible – of death, the Son of God was incarnated and lived an earthly life in human body, only in the end to die a martyr’s death on the cross – so that He may rise, resurrect human nature from the grave, and open the path to eternal life for men.

He suffered crucifixion and yet He was the only One without sin, and He was sent off to the cross with shouts “Crucify him!” Christ was crucified “under Pontius Pilate”, but He is crucified again and again with every sin we ourselves commit. On the occasion of Great Friday the Church marks each moment in the event of salvation of the world with services.

Time of Savior’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and His sentencing by archpriests and elders to suffer death is marked with matins. Celebrating the first hour marks time when Savior was on his way to be judged by Pilate; time of His sentencing by Pilate is marked by the third hour; time of His suffering on the cross is remembered by the sixth hour; and taking down of Christ’s body from the cross with evening service (it is then that the Shroud is brought out to the center of the church so that the faithful could venerate the image of the dead Lord depicted on it). On Great Friday hours are being celebrated in following order: first, sixth, ninth, and they are called Imperial Hours since Byzantine emperors always attended them at church.

SHROUD

Shroud is a large rectangular peace of cloth bearing the image of Lord Jesus Christ laid out in His tomb and covered with white burial garments. It also bares the following inscription: “With your body in the tomb, with your soul in Hades as God, in paradise with the thief, and on the throne, oh Christ, You were with Father and the Holy Spirit, fulfilling all, o Infinite One.”

During the evening service on Great Friday the Shroud is brought out of the altar section of the church and laid out on the improvised tomb of Christ where it is to remain until Easter. Ahead of Easter matins it is returned to the altar section and laid out on the altar table itself only to be kept there until the Feast of the Holy Ascension of our Lord. After this Great Feast of our Savior, the Shroud is put away in the church treasury for safe keeping until next Great Friday.

CROSS

Christians venerate the cross since the event of our Lord Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. It was Christ Himself who, before ascending to Heaven, gave the following command to the Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” (Mt. 28.19).

Christians indicate the sign of the cross on their own person with by crossing themselves, using three fingers and saying: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Priests cannot perform any sacred rite without a crucifix being present as one of the sacred objects of the cult. Every bishop has the right to wear a cross hanging on a chain placed around the neck and over the vestments. It is a symbolic seal of faith released from the heart, and a seal of love that every bishop should feel for the cross of Christ and for the crucified Lord.

Serbian Orthodox Church also permits cross-bearing (&&stavrophoros&&) proto-presbyters and archimandrites to wear a visible cross. Decision on who is to be chosen for such honor is taken by the Holy Synod of Bishops on the recommendation of the local bishop. Every Wednesday and Friday is dedicated to the power of the honorable and life-giving cross. The day before Epiphany, Holy Cross Day, is dedicated to the cross, as is the third Sunday of the Great Lent. 27/14.

September is the Feast day of the Elevation of the Precious Cross when we celebrate the occasion when Helen the Holy Empress, Emperor Constantine’s mother, had found the cross on which Lord Jesus Christ was crucified on Golgotha.

CHRISTS TOMB

It is the location where Joseph of Arimathea laid the body of our Lord Jesus Christ to rest after it was taken down from the cross. Our Lord’s body rested there for three days in anticipation of Easter Day – the day of Resurrection. In every church there is a location where the Shroud is being laid every Great Friday and this spot is called Christ’s Tomb. See Shroud.

Church As A Communion

The Orthodox Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, as we confess in the Creed, i.e. in the Symbol of Faith. It is the communion (Gr. &&koinonia&&) of the holy since all its members are united in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. There exists a ceaseless unity in prayer between the visible, earthly, part of the Church and that part of it which is in Heaven.

The Church is present on all continents and with its presence and apostolic work it serves as a witness of Gospel to all nations. Millions of Orthodox faithful are organized as autocephalous Churches of which the Serbian Orthodox Church is also one: that of Constantinople (Patriarch of Constantinople is the first in honor among all heads of autocephalous Orthodox Churches), Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Cyprus, Poland, Albania, America; and as autonomous Churches: Czech, Slovakian, Churches of Sinai, Crete, Finland, Japan, China and Ukraine.

They believe in the same God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they get baptized and labor to live according to their baptism; they partake in the Communion of the body and the blood of Christ at the same Last Supper with Apostles, martyrs and the holy of all ages.

Autocephalous Churches consist of dioceses, and these are divided up into parishes.

At the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church there stands a patriarch chosen by the Holy Council (Assembly) of Bishops consisting of all bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Serbian Orthodox Church is divided into dioceses each headed by its own bishop.

Church As A Communion Of Love

All in all, Serbian Orthodox Church consists of 40 dioceses: The Archbishopric of Beograd and Karlovats, with its See in Beograd; Australia and New Zealand (See in Elaine); Australia and New Zealand (Hall, Metropolis of Nova Grachanitsa); Banat, (Vrshats); Banyaluka, (Banyaluka); Bachka, (Novi Sad); Bihach and Petrovats, (Bosanski Petrovats); Branichevo, (Pozharevats); Britain and Scandinavia (Stockholm); Buda (Sentandrea); Vranye, (Vranye); Upper Karlovats, (Karlovats); Dabar Bosna, (Sarayevo); Dalmatia, (Shibenik); Zhica, (monastery Zhica); Zagreb and Lyublyana, (Zagreb); West America (Alhambra); West Europe (Paris); Zahumlje and Hercegovina, Mostar); Zvornik and Tuzla, (Tuzla); Zletovo and Struma, Ser. (Shtip); East America (Edgeworth); Canada (Milton); Milesheva, (monastery Milesheva); Nish, (Nish); America, Canada and the Third Lake (Metropolis of Nova Grachanitsa); Ohrid and Bitola, (Bitola); Osechko-polska and Baranya (Dalj), Rashka and Prizren, (Prizren), Skoplye, (Skoplye), Slavonia, (Pakrats), Mid-West American (Libertyville), Central Europe (Hildesheim), Srem, (Sremski Karlovtsi), Serbian Orthodox Vicariate of Skadar (Skadar), Temishvar, (Temishvar), Timok, (Zajechar), Crna Gora and Primorye, (Montenegro and the Littoral, Cetinye), Shabac and Valyevo, (Shabac), Shumadia, S (Kraguyevats).

Dioceses are divided up into Episcopal Deaneries, each consisting of several Church Congregations and Parishes. Church Congregations consist of one or more Parishes. Parish is the smallest Church unit – a communion of Orthodox faithful congregating at the Holy Eucharist with the parish priest at their head.

Patriarch

Metropolitans (bishops of provincial Capitals) did not all have the same standing in the Christian world. The most important cities of the Empire – Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and later Constantinople, all included metropolitan sees that had higher standings than other metropolies, and enjoyed spiritual jurisdiction over those that were physically the closest.

Metropolitans of the above-mentioned cities came to be known as patriarchs in V century. In accordance with the local popular custom Patriarch of Rome was also known as the Pope. Metropolitan of Jerusalem received the title of Patriarch at the occasion of the IV Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon (431), owing to the honor enjoyed by this great city in the eyes of all Christians – as the mother of all the churches of the world.

Canon 36 of The Council of Trullo established the rank of patriarchs as follows: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. All rights enjoyed by the metropolitans of these cities were passed on to the patriarchs. All bishops under their spiritual jurisdiction were obliged to mention their names at church services.

The patriarch himself is responsible to the Holy Assembly of Bishops of his Church. Today there are nine patriarchs in the Orthodox world: Patriarch of Constantinople, Patriarch of Alexandria, Patriarch of Antioch, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Patriarch of Russia, Patriarch of Serbia, Patriarch of Romania, Patriarch of Bulgaria, and Patriarch of Georgia. Serbian church became a patriarchate in 1346.

Baptism

The communion of the Church is entered through the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is the Holy Mystery of our rebirth in Christ, of our inclusion into the communion of a renewed mankind. God has united with man through Christ, and to all those who believe in Him as being the Son of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He bestows new life through the grace of being reborn.

In the early Church those that have discovered faith in Christ and wanted to become members of the Church became first of all catechumens. They were instructed in faith by being introduced to the teachings of the Church and by attending that part of Liturgy that served to communicate the basics of Christian faith (this part of Liturgy is called Liturgy of the Catechumens even today). The Church prayed for them.

Today, the basic preparation consists of a small service observed before Baptism itself. This service includes three prayers of exorcism, the denial of Satan, the acceptance of Christ, the Confession of Faith (reading of the Symbol of Faith, the Creed; this is done by the Godfather in case a child is being baptized), and a short prayer by the priest for the enlightenment of the catechumen through the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Sacrament of Baptism begins with the consecration of water. The following sequence of events is observed: initial solemn blessing, the grand ektenial, prayers for the blessing of the water, anointment of the catechumen with the oil of joy, threefold immersion of the catechumen in the water accompanied with pronunciation of following words “In the name of the Father. Amen. And the Son. Amen. And the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Following that, the 32. psalm is being read and the newly baptized puts on a white garment thus symbolizing purity of life received through Baptism.

The Sacrament of Confirmation or Chrismation then follows the Sacrament of Baptism. The priest anoints the forehead, the eyes, the nostrils, hands, and feet of the newly baptized with the Holy Oil, pronouncing each time: “Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”.

This ceremony ends with the solemn circling of the baptismal font, with the reading of the Epistle to the Romans, with removal of traces of the Holy Oil, and with the ceremonial hair cutting.

Wedding Matrimony

The Church has included matrimony as one of its Sacraments. Orthodox matrimony is a Holy Mystery whereby two persons of opposite sex commit themselves, in the manner prescribed by the Church, to a lifelong spiritual and corporal bond, seeking to achieve total communion, which would also effect birth of children and result in their proper upbringing. Wedding ceremony is a sacred rite as prescribed by the Euchologion. It cannot be concluded on fasting days or during a fasting season.

The wedding ceremony consists of two services combined into one: betrothal, usually performed in the vestibule of the church, and consisting of an exchange of rings between the betrothed; and their solemn entrance into the church while being adorned with crowns.

This entrance into the church is particularly significant since it reveals the transfiguration of matrimony from being something completely natural into matrimony in Christ. It is here that matrimony adopts a new meaning, a new dimension.

Wreaths (crowns) reveal the essence of matrimony. A person becomes a ruler of a kingdom however small it might be, but the same person also becomes a martyr (wreath = symbol of martyrdom). Matrimony, as life itself, is a journey, a common journey, and its goal is the same as the goal of life itself – Kingdom of God. This journey demands growth, martyrdom, deeds and love – in its deepest sense – a love inseparable from the cross.

Christmas Everyone

It was due to the census of population of Palestine that the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Righteous Joseph had found themselves in Bethlehem nine months after Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Since many others came to the town for that same reason it became very difficult to find lodgings for the overnight stay.

There was no room to stay either at inns or in private houses. They were thus forced to spend the night in a cave which served as a stable to shepherds. It happened that Lord Jesus Christ was laid in a manger immediately upon His birth, and that he was to be greeted initially by simple shepherds and some wise men, astrologers from the East who arrived in Bethlehem following celestial signs of the great event.

Christmas Eve marks the final stages of the Christmas fast and it is the culmination of our anticipation of the arrival of the Savior, of the of birth of the Son of God in a human body. It is in the atmosphere of jovial silence that the Church prepares to greet the Emmanuel. The faithful receive consecrated yule logs, which they then bring to their homes. Families gather in their homes over straw and leaves representing Christ’s manger in the Bethlehem cave. The night of joy, of shepherds and the wise men lies ahead.

The long expected event of Messiah’s birth is drawing near – birth of Emmanuel, incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God. He, the Lord of the world, and the King of all kings, is to be born in a human body to accomplish the act of salvation of mankind which could not be carried out by His servants.

Yule log day, one day ahead of Christmas, derives its name from the Eve of the Yule log and the ensuing night is not to be slept through. Everyone should, rather, stay awake and keep vigil. Imperial hours are celebrated on the eve of the Feast of Christ’s Birth. Each of the four hours is integrated into a single service.

The Yule Log

Oak or cerris tree log, which the master (head) of the household brings to his home on Yule Log Day (Christmas Eve Day) and eventually burns on the hearth at the occasion of the Eve of the Yule Log (Christmas Eve). Yule Log flames transfigure the Old Testament and the pagan religion of our ancestors into the light of the New Testament. Christian Yule Log tradition derives from that wonderful Bethlehem night when shepherds, guarding their flocks close to the cave where Christ was to be born, made fires to keep warm. After the announcement made by an angel of the Lord concerning Christ’s birth they cut some logs and branches so that they could light a fire at the side of the Newborn and His Mother.

The Christmas Cake

Christmas cake or Chesnytsa is also part of Serbian traditional customs for Christmas. This cake is really a type of a flat round bread which is usually made on Christmas Day early in the morning. A coin is inserted into the dough together with some other items symbolizing various types of accomplishments. Tradition says that once the cake is broken and shared, persons finding these items in their portions of the cake would achieve particular types of success in their lives. Christmas cake sometimes takes form of a corn bread or a pie.

Fast And Abstinence

Fast or abstinence is a specific period of time during which the faithful, being advised so by the Church, double their prayers and abstain from eating foods containing animal fats. Lord Jesus Christ Himself has said when referring to demons: “This kind is banished by fasting and prayer”. Holy Fathers say that fasting and prayer are two spiritual wings, which serve to carry us to the Lord. The Church has prescribed following fasts: Christmas fast, lasting from 28/15. November to the Christmas Day (7. January / 25. December). The Great Lent or the Easter Fast lasts seven weeks. Apostle’s fast starts on the Sunday of All Saints and lasts until the Feast of the Holy Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Its length depends on the date of Easter celebrations in the particular year. If it happens that Easter is celebrated earlier in the year, than this fast is longer, and vice-versa. Fast preceding the Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos starts 14/1. August and brakes on the Feast day itself. Should the Feasts of Saint Peter and Staint Paul, and the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos fall on a Wednesday or a Friday than the fast preceding the Feasts is continued to cover the Feast days themselves. Christmas Day is never a fasting day even if it should fall on a Wednesday or a Friday.

In addition to seasonal fasts lasting several days or more, there are also those that last only one day: every Wednesday and Friday of the year except Compact Weeks, Holy Cross Day being the day before the Feast of Epiphany (18/5. January), Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (11. September / 29. august), Elevation of the Precious Cross (27. September).

It should be emphasized that marriage ceremonies are not allowed on fasting days.

Compact Weeks are fast free and they occur: from Christmas Day until the Day of the Holy Cross (18. January); week after Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee; week following Meat-Fare Sunday; week after Pascha (Bright Week); week after Pentecost.

Sanctification Of Life

The Orthodox Church approach to life is fully sacramental. Sacrament is an act of transfiguration. Our transfiguration is the true goal of Lord God in his acts of salvation. It is in Christ that God not only redeems and saves, and forgives our transgressions, but He also transfigures our lives. Sacraments are such consecrating acts as used by the Church to transfigure and sanctify our lives. God created matter as well as the spirit, and the real transgression of man rests in his act of separation of matter from the spirit in order to subordinate himself to matter, to become slave to matter. Sacraments bring together again that which has once been torn apart.

It is commonly said that there are seven Sacraments, or Holy Mysteries, since number seven signifies perfection. However, there are countless Holy Mysteries in the Church. Everything within the Church is a Holy Mystery.

Apart from Baptism and Chrismation or Confirmation, both of which may be called Sacraments of sanctification, Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (i.e. Liturgy) as the Sacrament above all sacraments, which is the seal of our membership with the People of God, Repentance and Holy Unction, which may be called healing Sacraments (they are the cure for our spiritual and physical ailments), Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and the Sacrament of the Holy Orders, we can also regard consecration of water, and that of a church, of a home, of an icon, or for that matter consecration of anything else, as sacramental, i.e. as being Holy Mysteries. We can even call each prayer a Holy Mystery since it involves the descent of the Holy Spirit upon us. Every invocation of the Holy Spirit and our meeting with Him turns into a Sacrament, i.e. a Holy Mystery of communication with Christ.

Wedding – Matrimony

The Church has included matrimony as one of its Sacraments. Orthodox matrimony is a Holy Mystery whereby two persons of opposite sex commit themselves, in the manner prescribed by the Church, to a lifelong spiritual and corporal bond, seeking to achieve total communion, which would also effect birth of children and result in their proper upbringing. Wedding ceremony is a sacred rite as prescribed by the Euchologion. It cannot be concluded on fasting days or during a fasting season.

The wedding ceremony consists of two services combined into one: betrothal, usually performed in the vestibule of the church, and consisting of an exchange of rings between the betrothed; and their solemn entrance into the church while being adorned with crowns. This entrance into the church is particularly significant since it reveals the transfiguration of matrimony from being something completely natural into matrimony in Christ. It is here that matrimony adopts a new meaning, a new dimension. Wreaths (crowns) reveal the essence of matrimony. A person becomes a ruler of a kingdom however small it might be, but the same person also becomes a martyr (wreath = symbol of martyrdom). Matrimony, as life itself, is a journey, a common journey, and its goal is the same as the goal of life itself – Kingdom of God. This journey demands growth, martyrdom, deeds and love – in its deepest sense – a love inseparable from the cross.

FUNERAL SERVICE

It is a priest or a bishop that celebrates the Funeral service over the lifeless body of a departed Christian before it is to be taken for burial. Funeral service is similar to the memorial service (Gr. &&Parastasis&&) or matins. It starts with Psalms 90 and 118 and appropriate chanting, only to continue with the Great Litany (ektenial) for the departed, troparions, and epistle and gospel readings. After carried in a procession to the gravesite, the lifeless body of the departed is lowered into the opened grave facing east. This is because we confess in the Symbol of Faith that, which our Lord had promised us: “And I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come.”

MEMORIAL SERVICE

Memoral services (Gr. parastasis) are devoted to praying so that the souls of departed Christians might rest in peace. These services are observed usually on the third, ninth and 40th day after death (in these days Jessus Christ appeared to his disciples and revealed to them the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven), half-yearly and yearly. On these occasions the faithful prepare wheat, candles, wine, bread and honey – symbols of resurrection, of blood and flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, of eternity.

CONSECRATION OF OBJECTS

Service books contain sacred rituals for consecration of objects as for example: crucifixes worn on one’s own person, incense, beeswax candles, ships, cars etc. Certain prayers are being read and each of the consecrated objects is sprinkled with sanctified water.

MEMORIAL SATURDAY

In many parts of the country there is a praiseworthy custom of people going out on Saturdies that precede their Patron Saint’s Day to visit the graves of their ancestors. In some places these are general services devoted to all known and unknown ancestors. The Orthodox Church has established the following memorial services: on the Saturday preceding the Meat Fare Sunday of the Great Lent; on Monday following the Sunday of St. Thomas; on Saturday preceding the Descent of Holy Spirit upon the Apostles – Pentecost. The dates of these spring services depend on the date of the Easter. There are two autumnal services: one on the Saturday before the celebration of Venerable Ciriacus the Anchorite and one on the Saturday before the celebration of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica. If these celebrations fall on a Saturday, the memorial services are observed on the preceding Saturady. There is a custom among the Serbian people to attend on Vidovdan day memorial services in churches devoted to all those who sacrificed themselves for their faith and their country since the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 up to the present date.