Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, Redeemer, and Only True Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
ALL HOLY PASCHA SUNDAY Resurrection Ode
Let us who have beheld the Resurrection of Christ, worship our Holy Lord Jesus, Who is alone without sin. We worship Thy Cross, O Christ, and praise and glorify Thy Holy Resurrection. For Thou art our God, and we know none other beside Thee, and we call upon Thy Name. Come, all ye faithful, let us worship Christ's Holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross, joy has come to the whole world. We praise His Resurrection, and forever glorify the Lord. He endured the Cross for us, and by death destroyed Death.
Jesus, having risen from the grave, as He foretold, has given to us Eternal Life and the Great Mercy.
Shine, shine O New Jerusalem! For the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. Rejoice and be glad, O Zion; and thou O Pure Theotokos, exalt in the Resurrection of Him, Whom thou didst bear.
O Divine and Beloved and Most Sweet voice! Thou, O Christ, hast truly promised that Thou wouldest be with us unto the end of all Ages. Wherefore, we, the faithful, rejoice, holding these Thy words as an anchor of hope.
O Great and Holiest Pascha, Christ! O Wisdom, Word, and Power of God! Grant to us a most clear signs that we shall share with Thee in the unwaning Day of Thy Kingdom.
Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem! For the glory of the Lord has Risen upon thee. Rejoice and be glad, O Zion! And thou, O Pure Theotokos, exalt in the Resurrection of Him, Whom thou didst bear.
SAINT MAXIMOS THE CONFESSOR WRITES:
"A genuine friend is one who, when his neighbor is undergoing tribulation, imperturbably and calmly suffers with him: afflictions, needs, temptations and calamities--as if they were his own. 'A faithful friend is a strong defense.' (Eccl. 6:14); for when one is faring well, he is a good counselor and wholehearted supporter, and when one is faring badly, he is a more genuine helper and a most sympathetic defender. Only the diligent keepers of the Commandments and genuine initiates of Divine judgments do not abandon friends who are being tested by God's consent. Those who despise the Commandments and are not initiates of the Divine judgments, when a friend is faring well, enjoy things along with him; but when a friend is tried and is having a hard time, they forsake him--sometimes even to side with his enemies."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS)
On April 26th (Bright Saturday and the Sunday of Thomas) Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and of every righteous soul who is perfected in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Stephen, Bishop of Perm; Saint Glaphyra of Nicomedia and St. Basil of Amasea; Saints Andrew and Anatole, Disciples of Saint Efthymius the Great; Saint Ioannicios of Devich (Serbia); Saint Nestor the Silent; Holy Righteous Justa.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Disciples, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Righteous, O Christ Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 3:11-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 3:22-33
SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"As, then, Jonah spent three days and as many nights in the whale's belly, and was delivered up sound again, so shall we all, who have passed through the three stages of our present life on earth--I mean the beginning, the middle and the end, of which all this present time consists--rise again. For there are altogether three intervals of time, the past, the future and the present. And for this reason the Lord spent so many days in the earth symbolically, thereby teaching clearly that when the fore-mentioned intervals of time have been fulfilled, then shall come our resurrection, which is the beginning of the future age, and the end of this."(Saint Methodius of Olympus)
ANTIPASCHA, ALSO SUNDAY OF THOMAS
Though the doors were shut at the dwelling where the disciples were gathered for fear of the Jews on the evening of the Sunday after the Passover, our Savior wondrously entered and stood in their midst, and greeted them with His customary words. "Peace be unto you." Then He showed unto them His hands and feet and side; furthermore, in their presence, He took some fish and a honeycomb and ate before them, and thus assured them of His bodily Resurrection. But Thomas, who was not then present with the others, did not believe their testimony concerning Christ's Resurrection, but said in a decisive manner, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." Wherefore, after eight days, that is, on this day, when the disciples were again gathered together and Thomas was with them, the Lord Jesus came while the doors were shut, as He did formerly. Standing in their midst, He said, "Peace be unto you"; then He said to Thomas, "Bring hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and bring hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not unbelieving, but believing."
And Thomas, beholding and examining carefully the hands and side of the Master, cried out with faith, "My Lord and my God." Thus he clearly proclaimed the two natures--human and divine--of the God-man (St. Luke 24:36-49; St. John 20:19-29).
This day is called Antipascha (meaning "in the stead of Pascha," not "in opposition to Pascha") because with this day, the first Sunday after Pascha, the Church consecrates every Lord's Day (Kyriaki or ημέρα Κυρίου) of the year to the commemoration of Pascha, that is, the Resurrection (Anastasis). Every Sunday (Lord's Day) in the Orthodox Christian Tradition is observed as "a little Pascha" or "the little day of the Resurrection".
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Grave Tone
Whilst the tomb was sealed, Thou, O Life, didst shine forth from the grave, O Christ God; and whilst the doors were shut, Thou didst come unto Thy Disciples, O Resurrection of all, renewing through them an upright Spirit in us according to Thy Great Mercy.
Kontakion Hymn. Plagal of Fourth Tone
With his searching right hand, Thomas did probe Thy Life-bestowing side, O Christ God; for when Thou didst enter whilst the doors were shut, he cried out unto Thee with the rest of the Apostles: Thou art my Lord and my God.
All of Renewal or Bright Week (The week following the celebration of the Resurrection Sunday) we live in the Paschal joy in the Risen Savior Jesus Christ; and our joy, just like that of the Holy Apostles, was mixed with confusion: not long ago we had remembered the death of Him Who is the Source of Life, but now we rejoice, having been raised to life by Him Who had been in the tomb. Just like the Holy Apostles during the first days after the Resurrection, we vividly remembered the Passion of Christ during the reading of the 12 Gospels, the Lord's death and the taking down of His Holy Body from the Cross, which we symbolize by the bringing out of the shroud; the Savior's burial, when we carried the shroud in a procession around the church, and the long hours awaiting the miracle on the Saturday of Great Stillness.
Although from the very early morning on the Day, of the Resurrection the Good News of the Resurrection was carried throughout creation, and even though Angels from heaven (St. Mark 16:6) and holy Myrrhbearers on earth (St. Luke 24:9) and even the guards at the Sanhedrin (St. Matthew 28:11) had already told of the miracle, the Holy Apostles were still in a state of fear and doubt, hiding behind doors and locks "For the fear of the Jews" (St. John 20:19). The Disciples' doubt is not surprising, for they were witness to the greatest miracle in the history of mankind.
Human weakness, incapable of encompassing the magnitude of the miracle that took place, is reflected in the famous words of the Holy Apostle Thomas: "Unless I see the print of the nails in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (St. John 20:25).
Many refer to Saint Thomas as "doubting Thomas", not really considering the depth and the height of the "doubt" of this Holy Apostle of the Lord. But let us look more carefully at this man. Was his doubt the same as that of the Judeans who yelled about the Savior Whom they crucified, "Let Him come down now from the Cross, and we will believe in Him" (St. Matthew 27:42); or was it similar to that which we hear from our contemporaries, "If there is God, let Him show Him to all, and we will believe in Him and live happily ever after?"
Holy Apostle Thomas loved and was always faithful to the Lord. We know about his faithfulness and sacrificial love for his Teacher. After following the Savior for three years, St. Thomas understood very well the danger Christ faced from the Scribes and the Pharisees. The other disciples also understood it very well; that is why when the Savior decided to go to Jerusalem, the Apostles tried to convince Him not to, warning Him of the danger awaiting for Him (St. John 11:8). But it was Saint Thomas who said, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (St. John 11:16). One does not hear such words from a doubter! After the Ascension of the Savior, the Holy Apostle Thomas, according to the Holy Tradition of the Church, went to preach the Gospel in one of the furthest and most difficult to reach places of the ancient world--India, where he was tortured and killed for Christ.
"The faith that saves is complete faith: not just the mind believing and the tongue confessing, but the whole man trusting in the Living God...Our faith grows and affects our actions, or it dies. 'Faith alone' (by itself, v. 17) static faith, does not save...(As Saint Maximos the Confessor points out), 'Do not say...that faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save you, for this is impossible unless you acquire love for Him through your works. As for faith by itself, 'the (demons) also believe and tremble." (Orthodox Study Bible, p. 543). This faith, the faith that we hope we have in us, is the faith that sustained many thousands of holy Martyrs, including the Holy Apostle Thomas, throughout the ages.
In His desire to save mankind, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ suffered everything: mocking and scourging, torture and shameful death, and even others poking at His wounds with their fingers after His Glorious Resurrection. If He is awaited, Christ will even go through closed doors (St. John 20:26). But what will He hear having entered our heart? Will He hear from the words "my Lord and my God" or will He only receive mocking and scourging? Will we worship Him, as did Saint Thomas, or will we crucify Him with our lack of repentance, sins and by not abiding by His Divine Commandments? How long are we continue to disbelief? How long are we be rebellious and disobedient? How long are we allow our pride and ego to blind us?
Lord, through the holy intercessions of the Holy Apostle Thomas, give us genuine faith and help our unbelief (St. Mark 9:24). Amen.
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God