Great and Holy Saturday at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL
Great and Holy Saturday at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL

Богослужіння Страсної Суботи

в Українському Православному Соборі св. Володимира в Чікаго, штат Ілиной

On Holy Saturday (April 23, 2022), His Eminence Archbishop Daniel once again presided over the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL, during which numerous faithful of Chicago Metropolitan area prayerfully gathered to reflect upon the great Mystery of Salvation of the Crucified Savior. The pastor of the cathedral parish family Very Rev. Fr. Ival Lymar, Very Rev. Fr. Mykola Lymar and Protodeacon Abdriy Fronchak assisted Vladyka Daniel.

On Great and Holy Saturday the Orthodox Church commemorates the burial of Christ and His descent into Hades. It is the day between the Crucifixion of our Lord and His glorious Resurrection. For Orthodox Christians Great Saturday is the day between Jesus' death and His resurrection. It is the day of watchful expectation, in which mourning is being transformed into joy. The day embodies in the fullest possible sense the meaning of joyful-sadness, which has dominated the celebrations of Great Week.

The Liturgy served on the morning of Holy and Great Saturday is that of Saint Basil the Great. It begins with Vespers. After the entrance, the evening hymn 'O Gentle Light' is chanted as usual. Then the Old Testament readings are recited. They tell of the most striking events and prophecies of the salvation of mankind by the death of the Son of God. The account of creation in Genesis is the first reading. The sixth reading is the story of Israel's crossing of the Red Sea and Moses' song of victory - over Pharaoh, with its refrain: 'For gloriously is He glorified'. The last reading is about the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, and their song of praise with its repeated refrain: 'O praise ye the Lord and supremely exalt Him unto the ages.' In the ancient church the catechumens were baptized during the time of these readings. The Epistle, which follows, speaks of how, through the death of Christ, we too shall rise to a new life.

After the Epistle, the choir chants, like a call to the sleeping Christ: 'Arise, O Lord, Judge the earth, for Thou shall have an inheritance among all the nations... As the chanting progresses, the altar vestments as well as all sacred vestments are changed in the temple into the bright snow-white colors. The deacon carries out the Book of the Gospels, and reads the first message of the resurrection from Saint Matthew. Because the Vespers portion of the service belongs to the next day (Pascha) the burial hymns of Saturday are mingled with those of the resurrection, so that this service is already full of the coming Paschal joy.

At the conclusion of the liturgical services the bishop spoke of the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection.

"My brothers and sisters in Christ, may the joy and peace of the Lord Jesus fill all your hearts on this beautiful Easter Sunday that commemorates the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

As many of you are aware, Pascha is the main feast of the liturgical year.  You may wonder why Easter is the greatest of all feasts celebrated during the liturgical year? It is because it commemorates the awesome Resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the first day of the week. Based on the testimonies of "over five hundred" (1 Cor. 15:5-8) believers who have witnessed the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, it cannot be denied that "the Lord has risen indeed." (Lk. 24:34)

On the Feast of Easter, we commemorate the most important turning point in the history of mankind. We honor the fulfillment of the "blessed hope" of every living being, "the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (Tit. 2:13)

In order to appreciate the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we have to consider what the outcome would have been if there had been no resurrection. Saint Paul summarizes this subject in the following words:

"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ - whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Cor. 12-19)

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ." (1 Cor. 20-22)

In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead! He was not only raised from the dead to prove to us that He is God; He was raised to prove to us that "we will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?'" (1 Cor. 15:52-55; Is. 25:8)

My brothers and sisters, as we hear in the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians, because we have been raised with Christ, we should seek the things that are from above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. We should set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For we have died in Christ, and our new life is hidden with Christ in God.

For us Christians, Easter/Pascha is a time of joy. Our joy in Christ is manifested many ways. It is manifested through our presence at the celebration of this Liturgy on Holy Saturday during which time, with all our hearts, we praise our Lord Jesus Christ in thanksgiving. It is manifested in the warmth of the homes where family members and friends have been invited to a great feast of excellent foods. It is manifested in the laughter of the little children who will be provided with the opportunity to play games with their parents, be it searching for colored eggs or other games. For some children, this special relationship with their parents is a rare opportunity because sometimes during the year, we forget to make ourselves little so we can share in the joy of our little ones.

In the midst of all this outward joy that we are celebrating, let us not forget those who's joy is inward. There are those who are sick in the hospital, the prisoners who have been forgotten, those who's countries have been torn apart by warfare – especially our brothers and sisters in Ukraine that live under the threat of constant aggression and devastation, the seniors who live in solitude, all those who share in our joy in their own way. Our Lord is also their Lord. Inwardly, they also share in the joy of knowing that the Lord has indeed risen.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us live the joy of Easter with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us make a special effort to reach out to those who do not share in our joy and especially those who have been forgotten so they may manifest their joy outwardly as we are doing today. As of today, may you all go forth in the Spirit of Christ and bring the joy of the Lord to all those who touch your lives!

...Though we are surrounded by sorrows today, we know that they are temporary and that our unending joy approaches, as the Son prepares to return to renew our fallen nature. Our repentance is not in vain, for the King of Glory hears our cries and grants us His mercy shown on His Cross with the power revealed at His Glorious Resurrection. Therefore, with firm faith and great love, let us all prayerfully prepare to shout together: Christ is Risen!”

Great and Holy Saturday at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL

Photos by Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan and Olena Lymar

(17 images)

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