Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
READING OF THE HOLY GOSPEL OF THE RESURRECTION--PERICOPE IN VARIOUS LANGUAGES
"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst and said unto them, 'Peace be unto you'. And when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, 'Peace be unto you: as My Father has sent me, even so send I you'. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them, 'Receive Ye the Holy Spirit: whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins you retain, they are retained. But Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, 'We have seen the Lord'. But he said unto them, 'Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nail, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe'.
Glory to Thee, O Lord, Glory to Thee.
Pascha Sunday Vespers
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE "AGAPE SERVICE"
As the Feast of feasts, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most significant and inspirational event which embodies the center of worship in the Orthodox Christian Church. It is the epitome and crowning of the life, deeds and redemptive work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the faith and hope of all Christians. It is the source of love both in its content and power; it is the living background of inner peace of the heart and mind; it is the hopeful expectation and repentance and forgiveness. The Resurrection of Christ is destined to be heard all over the Universe, and to be pronounced in all 1,300 languages and dialects of mankind. Faith in the Resurrection should be lived daily with unselfish love. It is the reason that this Great Feast is celebrated as the day of "love" of one another, to forgive one another, to embrace one another, as a witness of brotherhood in the faith in the Resurrection of Christ. Only then may Christians joyfully declare: "Christ has risen from the dead!" From this deep significance of the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ the people gathered together in the tradition especially of the villages, where at the end of the holy service the Orthodox Christians formed a line to greet and embrace one another; forgiving and being forgiven. Those who have had misunderstandings and not spoken to one another reconciled after the divine service. This practice is a vivid witness of true meaning of agape. This is the reason that this service is called the "Agape Service"--the Service of the Agape-Feast.
The Agape Service is an extension of the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. The Orthodox Christians with lighted candles participate in the chant the holy hymns of the Anastasis (Resurrection). The Holy Gospel Lesson according to Saint John (20:19-25) is read in various languages, proclaiming the good news of Resurrection all over the universe. The divine Service of the Sunday of Agape proclaims the real meaning of the Resurrection of Christ, which is love of fellow man, brotherhood among all men, especially in serving the needy. This Agape service remains as a reminder to all Orthodox Christians to proclaim the gospel of love and peace not only among their friends and relatives, but especially among their enemies and those with whom they have had disagreements. This agape is depicted in the hymn of our Church: "It is the day of Resurrection…let us embrace one another. Let us speak also, O brethren, to those that hate us, and in the Resurrection let us forgive all things and so let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling upon death, and has bestowed life upon those in the tombs."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God