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Post-Easter Sundays

St Thomas Sun­day: Antipascha

Every day dur­ing the week of East­er, called Bright Week by the Church, the paschal ser­vices are cel­e­brat­ed in all their splen­dor. The East­er bap­tismal pro­ces­sion is repeat­ed dai­ly. The roy­al gates of the sanc­tu­ary remain open. The joy of the Res­ur­rec­tion and the gift of the King­dom of eter­nal life con­tin­ue to abound. Then, at the end of the week, on Sat­ur­day evening, the sec­ond Sun­day after East­er is cel­e­brat­ed in remem­brance of the appear­ance of Christ to the Apos­tle Thomas “after eight days” (Jn 20:26).

It is impor­tant to note that the num­ber eight has sym­bol­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance in both Jew­ish and Chris­t­ian spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tion. It sig­ni­fies more than com­ple­tion and full­ness; it sig­ni­fies the King­dom of God and the life of the world to come since sev­en is the num­ber of earth­ly time. The sab­bath, the sev­enth day, is the blessed day of rest in this world, the final day of the week. The “first day of the week,” the day “after Sab­bath”; stressed in all of the gospels as the day of Christ’s Res­ur­rec­tion (Mk 16:1, Mt 28:1, Lk 24:1, Jn 20:1, 19), is there­fore also the eighth day,” the day beyond the con­fines of this world, the day which stands for the life of the world to come, the day of the eter­nal rest of the King­dom of God (see Hebrews 4)

The Sun­day after East­er, called the Sec­ond Sun­day, is thus the eighth day of the paschal cel­e­bra­tion, the last day of Bright Week. It is there­fore called the Antipascha, and it was only on this day in the ear­ly church that the new­ly-bap­tized Chris­tians removed their robes and entered once again into the life of this world.

In the Church ser­vices the stress is on the Apos­tle Thomas’ vision of Christ and the sig­nif­i­cance of the day comes to us in the words of the gospel:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your fin­ger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faith­less, but believ­ing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:27–29).

We have not seen Christ with our phys­i­cal eyes nor touched his risen body with our phys­i­cal hands, yet in the Holy Spir­it we have seen and touched and tast­ed the Word of Life (1 Jn 1:1–4), and so we believe. At each of the dai­ly ser­vices until Ascen­sion Day we sing the East­er Tropar­i­on. At each of the Sun­day ser­vices begin­ning with Antipascha, we sing the East­er canon and hymns, and repeat the cel­e­bra­tion of the “first day of the week” on which Christ rose from the dead. At all of the litur­gies the epis­tle read­ings are tak­en from the Book of Acts telling us of the first Chris­tians who lived in com­mu­nion with the Risen Lord. All of the gospel read­ings are tak­en from the Gospel of St John, con­sid­ered by many to be a gospel writ­ten par­tic­u­lar­ly for those who are new­ly-bap­tized into the new life of the King­dom of God through death and new birth in Christ, in the name of the Holy Trin­i­ty. The rea­son for this opin­ion is that all of the “signs”—as the mir­a­cles in St John’s Gospel are called—deal with sacra­men­tal themes involv­ing water: wine and bread. Thus, each of the Sun­days after Thomas Sun­day with the excep­tion of the third, is ded­i­cat­ed to the mem­o­ry of one of these “signs.”

The Myrrhbear­ing Women

The third Sun­day after Pascha is ded­i­cat­ed to the myrrhbear­ing women who cared for the body of the Sav­iour at his death and who were the first wit­ness­es of his Res­ur­rec­tion. The three troparia of Holy Fri­day are sung once again and from the theme of the day:

The noble Joseph, when he had tak­en down Thy most pure body from the Tree, wrapped it in fine linen and anoint­ed it with spices, and placed it in a new tomb.

When Thou didst descend to death, O Life Immor­tal, Thou didst slay hell with the splen­dor of Thy Godhead.

The angel came to the myrrhbear­ing women at the tomb and said: Myrrh is fit­ting for the dead, but Christ has shown Him­self a stranger to cor­rup­tion! So pro­claim: The Lord is risen, grant­i­ng the world great mercy.

The Par­a­lyt­ic

The fourth Sun­day is ded­i­cat­ed to Christ’s heal­ing of the par­a­lyt­ic (Jn 5). The man is healed by Christ while wait­ing to be put down into the pool of water. Through bap­tism in the church we, too, are healed and saved by Christ for eter­nal life. Thus, in the church, we are told, togeth­er with the par­a­lyt­ic, to sin no more that noth­ing worse befall you” (Jn 5:14).

The Feast of Mid-Pentecost

In the mid­dle of this fourth week, the mid­dle day between East­er and Pen­te­cost is solemn­ly cel­e­brat­ed. It is called the feast of Mid-Pen­te­cost, at which Christ, “in the mid­dle of the feast” teach­es men of his sav­ing mis­sion and offers to all “the waters of immor­tal­i­ty” (Jn 7:14). Again we are remind­ed of the Master’s pres­ence and his sav­ing promise: “If any­one is thirsty let him come to me and drink” (Jn 7:37). We think also once again of our death and res­ur­rec­tion with Christ in our bap­tism, and our recep­tion of the Holy Spir­it from him in our chris­ma­tion. We “look back to one, and antic­i­pate the oth­er” as one of the hymns of the feast puts it. We know that we belong to that king­dom of the Risen Christ where “the Spir­it and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life with­out price” (Rev 22:17. Is 55:1).

In the mid­dle of the feast, O Sav­iour, fill my thirst­ing soul with the waters of god­li­ness, as Thou didst cry unto all: If any­one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! O Christ God, Foun­tain of life, glo­ry to Thee! (Tropar­i­on).

Christ God, the Cre­ator and Mas­ter of all, cried to all in the midst of the feast of the law: Come and drink the water of immor­tal­i­ty! We fall before Thee and faith­ful­ly cry: Grant us Thy boun­ties, for Thou art the Foun­tain of our life! (Kon­takion)

The Samar­i­tan Woman

The fifth Sun­day after East­er deals with the woman of Samaria with whom Christ spoke at Jacob’s Well (Jn 4). Again the theme is the “liv­ing water” and the recog­ni­tion of Jesus as God’s Mes­si­ah (Jn 4:10–11; 25–26). We are remind­ed of our new life in him, of our own drink­ing of the “liv­ing water,” of our own true wor­ship of God in the Chris­t­ian mes­sian­ic age “in Spir­it and in Truth” (Jn 4:23–24). We see as well that sal­va­tion is offered to all: Jews and Gen­tiles, men and women, saints and sinners.

The Blind Man

The sixth Sun­day com­mem­o­rates the heal­ing of the man blind from birth (Jn 9). We are iden­ti­fied with that man who came to see and to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. The Lord has anoint­ed our eyes with his own divine hands and washed them with the waters of our bap­tism (John 9:6-ll).

Jesus used clay of spit­tle and told the man to wash in the waters of Siloam. He did so because it was the Sab­bath day on which spit­ting, clay-mak­ing and wash­ing were strict­ly for­bid­den. By break­ing these rit­u­al laws of the Jews, Jesus showed that he is indeed the Lord of the Sab­bath, and, as such, that he is equal to God the Father Who alone, accord­ing to Jew­ish tra­di­tion, works on the Sab­bath day in run­ning his world.

There is scan­dal over the heal­ing of the blind man on the Sab­bath day. He is sep­a­rat­ed from the syn­a­gogue because of his faith in Christ. The entire Church fol­lows this man in his fate, know­ing that it is those who do not see Jesus as the Lord who are real­ly blind and still in their sins (Jn 9:41). The oth­ers have the light of life and can see and know the Son of God, for “you have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you” (Jn 9:37).

I come to Thee, O Christ, blind from birth in my spir­i­tu­al eyes, and call to Thee in repen­tance: Thou art the most radi­ant Light of those in dark­ness! (Kon­takion)