Of all the days the Holy and Great Forty Day Fast is the most distinguished, but more than the Holy Forty Day Fast the Holy and Great Passion Week is exalted, and more than the days of Holy Week Great and Holy Saturday is the most exalted. This week is called great not because these days or hours are more exalted but because the great, portentous and extraordinary deeds of our Savior were accomplished during this week, but especially on this day.
On Great and Holy Friday, Christ died on the Cross. He gave up His spirit with the words: “It is finished” (John 19:30). These words are better understood when rendered: “It is consummated.” He had accomplished the work for which His heavenly Father had sent Him into the world. He became a man in the fullest sense of the word. He accepted the baptism of repentance from John in the Jordan River. He assumed the whole human condition, experiencing all its alienation, agony, and suffering, concluding with the lowly death on the Cross. He perfectly fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Commemoration of the Mystical (Last) Supper
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
On the day of the feast of unleavened bread, when according to the Law of the Old Testament a lamb was to be slaughtered and eaten, the hour was come that the Savior should depart out of this world unto the Father (cf. Jn. 13:1). Having come to fulfill the law, Jesus Christ sent His disciples, Peter and John, to Jerusalem to prepare the Passover, which, as the shadow of the law, He wanted to exchange it with the New Pascha—His own Body and Blood. When evening had come, the Lord came with His twelve disciples to a large, prepared upper room of a man who lived in Jerusalem (cf. Mk. 14:12–17) and reclined there. Telling them that the Kingdom of God, which is not of this world, and not earthly greatness and glory, but love, humility, and purity of spirit is what distinguishes its members, the Lord rose from the table and washed the feet of His disciples. Having washed the feet and again reclined, the Lord said to His disciples: Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say correctly, for I am exactly that. Thus, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, then you should wash each others’ feet. For I have given you an example, so that you would do the same thing I have done for you.
Recent statistics indicate that about half of all pregnancies in America are “unintended,” and of those, four out of ten end in abortion. Perhaps most disturbingly, over 70% of women involved in an abortion report some sort of religious affiliation.
In the Orthodox Church, we commemorate the Great Feast of Annunciation on March 25. Without coincidence, this occurs nine months before the Great Feast of Nativity or Christmas. In the Annunciation, we celebrate not only the Incarnation, but the actualconception of Jesus Christ. As the Creed states, “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.” We also remember the conception of Mary herself later in the year. And again, not merely their birth or the bare facts of their existence, but theirconception—what the Church has forever, and ever shall recognize as the beginning of life. This is without question, and has been universally attested since the apostles.
He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord
Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.
Jerusalem is abuzz… Jerusalem trembles with joyous excitement… So close is the dawn of her rising up, her resurrection in the brilliance of her former glory.
The righteous soul of the Jews suffered under the yoke of the heathen rule of Rome. O, Lord, how much longer? That was the hope, the fervent desire of the disobedient, rebellious seed of the Patriarch Abraham, who found the path to heavenly and earthly glory through his own obedience.
On this day, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, we celebrate the fourth-day raising from the dead of Lazarus, the righteous friend of Christ.
Lazarus was a Hebrew, of the sect of the Pharisees and, as far as is known, he was the son of Simon the Pharisee, who dwelt in the village of Bethany. He became a friend of our Lord Jesus Christ when He sojourned on earth for the salvation of our race. For when Christ continually conversed with Simon, entering his house and discoursing on the resurrection from the dead, Lazarus was quite pleased with the genuineness of this teaching, and not only he, but also his two sisters, Martha and Mary.