2148 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

Easter Sunday: The Holy Pascha

A lit­tle before mid­night on the Blessed Sab­bath the Noc­turne ser­vice is chant­ed. The cel­e­brant goes to the tomb and removes the wind­ing-sheet. He car­ries it through the roy­al doors and places it on the altar table where it remains for forty days until the day of Ascension.

At mid­night the East­er pro­ces­sion begins. The peo­ple leave the church build­ing singing: The angels in heav­en, O Christ our Sav­ior, sing of Thy res­ur­rec­tion. Make us on earth also wor­thy to hymn Thee with a pure heart.

The pro­ces­sion cir­cles the church build­ing and returns to the closed doors of the front of the church. This pro­ces­sion of the Chris­tians on East­er night recalls the orig­i­nal bap­tismal pro­ces­sion from the dark­ness and death of this world to the night and the life of the King­dom of God. It is the pro­ces­sion of the holy passover, from death unto life, from earth unto heav­en, from this age to the age to come which will nev­er end. Before the closed doors of the church build­ing, the res­ur­rec­tion of Christ is announced. Some­times the Gospel is read which tells of the emp­ty tomb. The cel­e­brant intones the bless­ing to the “holy, con­sub­stan­tial, life-cre­at­ing and undi­vid­ed Trin­i­ty.” The East­er tropar­i­on is sung for the first time, togeth­er with the vers­es of Psalm 68 which will begin all of the Church ser­vices dur­ing the East­er season.

Let God arise, let his ene­mies be scat­tered; let those who hate him flee from before his face!

Christ is risen from the dead, tram­pling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestow­ing life. (Tropar­i­on)

This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

The peo­ple re-enter the church build­ing and con­tin­ue the ser­vice of East­er Matins which is entire­ly sung.

The canon hymns of Christ’s res­ur­rec­tion. ascribed to St John of Dam­as­cus, are chant­ed with the tropar­i­on of the feast as the con­stant­ly recur­ring refrain. The build­ing is dec­o­rat­ed with flow­ers and lights. The vest­ments are the bright robes of the res­ur­rec­tion. The East­er icon stands in the cen­ter of the church show­ing Christ destroy­ing the gates of hell and free­ing Adam and Eve from the cap­tiv­i­ty of death. It is the image of the Vic­tor “tram­pling down death by his own death.” There is the con­tin­u­al singing and cens­ing of the icons and the peo­ple, with the con­stant procla­ma­tion of the cel­e­brant: Christ is risen! The faith­ful con­tin­u­al­ly respond: Indeed he is risen!

It is the day of res­ur­rec­tion ! Let us be illu­mined for the feast! Pascha! The Pascha of the Lord! From death unto life, and from earth unto heav­en has Christ our God led us! Singing the song of vic­to­ry: Christ is risen from the dead! (First Ode of the East­er Canon)

Fol­low­ing the canon, the paschal vers­es are sung, and at the con­clu­sion of the East­er Matins, the East­er Hours are also sung. In gen­er­al, noth­ing is sim­ply read in the Church ser­vices of East­er: every­thing is ful­ly sung with the joy­ful melodies of the feast.

At the end of the Hours, before the Divine Litur­gy, the cel­e­brant solemn­ly pro­claims the famous Paschal Ser­mon of St. John Chrysos­tom. This ser­mon is an invi­ta­tion to all of the faith­ful to for­get their sins and to join ful­ly in the feast of the res­ur­rec­tion of Christ. Tak­en lit­er­al­ly, the ser­mon is the for­mal invi­ta­tion offered to all mem­bers of the Church to come and to receive Holy Com­mu­nion, par­tak­ing of Christ, the Passover Lamb, whose table is now being set in the midst of the Church. In some parish­es the ser­mon is lit­er­al­ly obeyed, and all of the faith­ful receive the eucharis­tic gifts of the Passover Sup­per of East­er night.

The East­er Divine Litur­gy begins imme­di­ate­ly with the singing once more of the fes­tal tropar­i­on with the vers­es of Psalm 68. Spe­cial psalm vers­es also com­prise the antiphons of the litur­gy, through which the faith­ful praise and glo­ri­fy the sal­va­tion of God:

Make a joy­ful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Sing of his name, give glo­ry to his praise.

Let all the earth wor­ship Thee and praise Thee! Let it praise Thy name, O most High!

That we may know Thy way upon the earth and Thy sal­va­tion among all nations.

Let the peo­ple thank Thee, O God! Let all the peo­ple give thanks to Thee.

The tropar­i­on is repeat­ed over and over again. The bap­tismal line from Gala­tians replaces the Thrice-Holy Hymn. The epis­tle read­ing is the first nine vers­es of the Book of Acts. The gospel read­ing is the first sev­en­teen vers­es of the Gospel of St. John. The procla­ma­tion of the Word of God takes the faith­ful back again to the begin­ning, and announces God’s cre­ation and reÃ?creation of the world through the liv­ing Word of God, his Son Jesus Christ.

In the begin­ning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… all things were made through him… In him was life and the life was the light of men. …

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. .. we have beheld his glo­ry, glo­ry of the only-begot­ten Son of the Father, and from his ful­ness have we all received grace upon grace. …(Jn 1:1–17).

The Litur­gy of St John Chrysos­tom con­tin­ues, crowned in holy com­mu­nion with the Passover Lamb at his ban­quet table in God’s King­dom. Again and again the tropar­i­on of the Res­ur­rec­tion is sung while the faith­ful par­take of him “who was dead and is alive again” (Rev 2:8).

In the Ortho­dox Church the feast of East­er is offi­cial­ly called Pascha, the word which means the Passover. It is the new Passover of the new and ever­last­ing covenant fore­told by the prophets of old. It is the eter­nal Passover from death to life and from earth to heav­en. It is the Day of the Lord pro­claimed by God’s holy prophets, “the day which the Lord has made” for his judg­ment over all cre­ation, the day of His final and ever­last­ing vic­to­ry. It is the Day of the King­dom of God, tile day “which has no night” for “its light is the Lamb” (Rev 21:22–25).

The cel­e­bra­tion of East­er in the Ortho­dox Church, there­fore, is once again not mere­ly an his­tor­i­cal reen­act­ment of the event of Christ’s Res­ur­rec­tion as nar­rat­ed in the gospels. It is not a dra­mat­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the first East­er morn­ing.” There is no “sun­rise ser­vice” since the East­er Matins and the Divine Litur­gy are cel­e­brat­ed togeth­er in the first dark hours of the first day of the week in order to give men the expe­ri­ence of the “new cre­ation” of the world, and to allow them to enter mys­ti­cal­ly into the New Jerusalem which shines eter­nal­ly with the glo­ri­ous light of Christ, over­com­ing the per­pet­u­al night of evil and destroy­ing the dark­ness of this mor­tal and sin­ful world:

Shine! Shine! O New Jerusalem! The glo­ry of the Lord has shone upon you! Exult and be glad O Zion! Be radi­ant O Pure Theotokos, in the Res­ur­rec­tion of your son!

This is one of the main East­er hymns in the Ortho­dox Church. It is inspired by Isaiah’s prophe­cy and the final chap­ters of the Book of Rev­e­la­tion, for it is exact­ly tile New Cre­ation, the New Jerusalem, the Heav­en­ly City, the King­dom of God, the Day of the Lord, the Mar­riage Feast of the Lamb with his Bride which is cel­e­brat­ed and real­ized and expe­ri­enced in the Holy Spir­it on the Holy Night of East­er in the Ortho­dox Church.