10:00 AM Vesperal Divine Liturgy
Following the evening entrance with the Gospel Book, fifteen readings from the Old Testament scriptures are traditionally read (at Holy Trinity, we read only the seven most ancient), all relating to God's work of creation and salvation, which has been summed up and fulfilled in the coming of the predicted Messiah. In place of the Thrice-Holy Hymn, the baptismal verse from Galatians is sung: As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia
(Gal 3:27). The epistle reading is the normal baptismal selection of the Orthodox Church (Rom 6:3-11).
At this time the royal gates are closed, and the celebrants and altar servers change their robes from the dark vestments of the passion into the bright vestments of Christ's victory over death. All vestings in the church (altar cloths, etc) are also changed to white, signifying Christ's triumph over sin, the devil and death. The empty Cross at the tomb is turned to reveal the angel's words: Why do you seek the living among the dead?
This transformation takes place while the people sing Arise, O God, judge the earth, for to Thee belong all the nations!
After the solemn chanting of the psalm verses, the celebrant emerges from the altar to announce over the tomb of Christ the glad tidings of His victorious triumph over death and His command to the apostles to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded..." (Mt 28:1-20). This Gospel text is another baptismal reading.
Originally, this Liturgy was the Easter baptismal liturgy for all Christians. It is fulfilled in the communion with Him who lies dead in His human body and yet is enthroned eternally with God the Father; the One who, as the Creator and Life of the World, destroys death by His life-creating death. His tomb, still standing in the center of the church, is shown to be the fountain of our resurrection.
11:30 PM - Nocturnes, Matins, and Divine Liturgy of Pascha
In the Orthodox Church the feast of Easter is called Pascha, which means the Passover. It is the new Passover of the new and everlasting covenant foretold by the prophets, the eternal Passover from death to life and from earth to heaven. It is the Day of the Lord, "the day which the Lord has made" for His judgment over all creation, the day of His final and everlasting victory. A little before midnight on Holy Saturday, the Nocturne service is chanted. At midnight the Easter procession begins. The people leave the church building singing: Thy Resurrection, 0 Christ our Savior, the angels in heaven sing. Enable us on earth to glorify Thee in purity of 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 light and the life of the Kingdom of God. It is the procession of the holy Passover, from death to life. Before the closed doors of the church building, the resurrection of Christ is announced. The celebrant intones the blessing to the Trinity. The Easter troparion is sung for the first time, with the verses of Psalm 68 that will begin all 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. There is 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!
(At Holy Trinity the proclamation and response are made in various languages of our traditions.)
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. 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).
After the Liturgy, our Easter baskets-laden with food brought from home-are blessed, and we gather together downstairs to break the long Lenten fast and share an agape meal.
To learn more about Holy Saturday, click here