Archive | News & Notes RSS feed for this section

Family Pascha Guide

by Dn. Mark Oleynik

As we draw near to Pascha, our journey becomes more intense and our anticipation of the Great and Saving Night grows. The anticipation is particularly acute in children and parents should be prepared to take advantage of their curiosity. Below are some notes and tips to assist parents in guiding their children during the Paschal weekend (April 12-15).

Matins of Holy Friday (Thursday, 7 p.m.)
This service features the reading of the 12 Passion Gospels. The first gospel relates Christ’s discourse with His disciples at the Last Supper, the next ten gospels relate the Lord’s sufferings, and the last gospel describes His burial and the sealing of the tomb. These readings provide the narrative for the events that take place while the accompanying hymns sung throughout the service clarify and give deeper meaning to the text. Between the fifth and sixth gospels there is a solemn procession with the large wooden cross from the sanctuary into the center of the nave. We find additional clarity when visible actions are added to the gospels and hymns.

Parent Tips

  • This is a lengthy service so give your children advance notice (so you can limit the number of times the question of “how much longer?” is asked.)
  • Focus your children on how the text advances the events or provides additional detail in each subsequent lesson. If possible, read these gospels with your children prior to the service.
  • As always, everyone should stand or kneel during the gospel readings.
  • Explain to your children that although Matins is a morning service, this service is “anticipated” and is celebrated on Thursday evening.

Royal Hours (Friday, 10 a.m.)
There is no liturgy on Holy Friday since the Divine Liturgy is always a celebration of communion with the Risen Lord. We do however read the Royal Hours on Friday morning. This service takes its name from the fact that it used to be officially attended by the Emperor and his court in Constantinople.

Parent Tips

  • If you cannot attend, you can teach your children the significance of each of the hours: First—when Christ was led into the Praetorium (i.e., the palace of the governor) before Pilate (~7 a.m.). Third—when the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles on Pentecost and Christ was condemned by Pilate (~9 a.m.). Sixth—when Christ was released to the Jews, condemned, and nailed to the Cross (~12 noon). Ninth—when He died on the Cross (~3 p.m.).
  • This is the strictest fast day of the year. Help your child as much as possible to refrain from eating other than minimally.

Unnailing Vespers (Friday, 4 p.m.)
At Vespers on Holy Friday, the shroud (a large icon depicting Christ lying in the tomb) is lifted by the priest from the altar table and then carried in procession out of the altar to the specially prepared tomb in the middle of the church.

Parent Tips

  • The service’s structure is like Saturday Vespers so children should be able to recognize most parts.
  • The Gospel reading tells the story of the Christ dying on the cross. Don’t be afraid to discuss with your children (of all ages) that Christ really died and this is the story of how He died.
  • The most moving and solemn part is the carrying of the shroud to the special tomb. Children quickly understand this movement just as the children understood Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
  • You can show your child that the same words (“The Noble Joseph…“) sung during the carrying of the shroud are embroidered on the edge of shroud.
  • Ask your child what Joseph of Arimathea (i.e., the “Noble Joseph”) may have been thinking as he carried the lifeless Body of our Lord to the tomb.

Lamentations (Friday, 7 p.m.)
During Matins of Holy Saturday, the tone and theme gradually changes from lamentation to victory over death. We stand before the tomb—but it is revealed to us as the life-giving tomb. The shroud is carried in a procession around the church while all the people (including children) carry lighted candles and sing “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us…” Upon returning to the entrance of the church we walk under the shroud reminding us that we must pass through death to the Resurrection. While the church is softly illuminated with the faithful’s candles, we hear the Ezekiel’s dry bones prophecy and words of Pascha: “Let God arise…” As the day ends, we are left with a sense of anticipation.

Parent Tips

  • Children love processions and they like to hold candles—here they can do both. Tell them they are a very important part of the service.
  • Ask them (especially older children) to listen to the music for “changes” (tone, rhythm, etc.), what they were, when they happened, and what was being sung at the time. Teens and preteens listen to a lot of music with their iPods: get them “into” the music and how the Church uses it to help us.
  • As you drive home, discuss how we are dependent on light (car lights, street lights, etc.) and how we could not function without it. Use this as a transition to discussing the light of Christ.

Vesperal Divine Liturgy (Saturday, 10 a.m.)
Saturday is called the “Blessed Sabbath.” For the Jews, this was a day of rest, but for us it is when Christ worked and our sorrow is transformed into joy. During Vespers, there are 15 Old Testament readings! After these readings, and during “Arise, O Lord” (which is sung in place of the “Alleluia” verses), the dark (purple) clerical vestments are exchanged for bright (white) ones. The votives and coverings and are also changed at this time—this is an exciting moment for kids. The “light” of Resurrection is really made visible to us as the Liturgy of St. Basil continues in this joyful light.

Parent Tips

  • On your way to church talk with your child about what they have experienced in the Church during the past few days. Certainly, they will remind you how long the services have been but you may be surprised by other things they may have noticed.
  • Perhaps you can dress your child in white/light colored clothes and have them wear a dark sweater or jacket as a top layer. During the changing of the vestments, have them remove the top layer.
  • Tell your children that catechumens were originally baptized and received into the Church during the Old Testament readings. (Later in the day, some of our Holy Trinity catechumens will be received into the Church as well.)

Great and Holy Pascha (Sunday, 12 a.m.)
Finally, we arrive at the Paschal night: the most joyous celebration in the Orthodox Church. After the shroud is carried into the altar and placed on the altar table, the Church is dark. As midnight approaches, the clergy begin to sing, “Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Savior, the angels in heaven sing…” Suddenly, the priest exits the Sanctuary with a lighted candle and by this candle all the people light theirs—one by one. We go in procession around the church until we arrive at the closed doors of entrance to the church. It is now that we hear for the first time “Christ is Risen!” After the doors are opened, everyone enters into a fully lit church where there is no darkness and we celebrate Matins and the Divine Liturgy in the middle of the night.

Parent Tips

  • Although it may be difficult, try to get your child to rest or take a nap on Saturday. Every kid wants to stay up late…this is their big chance!
  • Dress your child warmly and perhaps bring a blanket to wrap them in to keep the chill away.
  • Younger children will probably fall asleep at some point—this is to be expected. They will still probably remember many things about the night.
  • “Gently” rouse your child for communion several minutes before they will receive the Body and Blood.
  • Teach your children the Paschal greeting (Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!) in different languages. They will like to respond out loud to these greetings—especially in church.

Although the services are somewhat longer than usual, you can/should bring your children and prepare them to participate. Please be considerate and aware of your children’s whereabouts, actions, movements, etc., at all times during the services so those around you can also fully experience the joy of the Feast.

Youth Pascha Workshop This Saturday!

On Lazarus Saturday (April 12), our Church School is sponsoring a Pascha preparation workshop for children of all ages. There will be a variety of activities, including baking, crafts, and egg-dying. Bring the whole family!

If Christ Be Not Risen, Our Faith Is Vain

by Fr. John Reeves

Last year on Western Easter, Marianne Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, DC, opined that if someone were to discover a tomb with Jesus’ remains in it, “the entire enterprise would not come crashing down.” (virtueonline.org) This isn’t a new notion. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe it as doctrine. But it’s been around a lot longer than that.

The belief that Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead is part of the Gnostic family of heresies, this one in particular being called “docetism”, (from Greek, δοχειν, to appear). In other words, Jesus would only have appeared as man. This would make Him a divine spirit masquerading in human form; His death was only an appearance, as well as his Resurrection. If that is the case, the Resurrection would be superfluous.

Such errant preaching and teaching led me from the Episcopal Church to Orthodoxy almost forty years ago. It is sad to see how the denials of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Miracles, and oh yes, the Resurrection, have been multiplied over the past five decades.

Either Christ rose from the dead, or death is not conquered. If death is not conquered, we are still in our sins, to borrow from St. Athanasius (cf. On the Incarnation). Either Christ was and remains God in the flesh, before, during, and after his Passion and Resurrection, or all that we are about to celebrate is simply play-acting, a myth, a drama without much to compel it.

In writing to the Church in Corinth, this is St. Paul’s point: our faith, our life, and our eternal salvation are all based upon the Resurrection of Christ. If the Resurrection is not true, in what then do we place our hope? St. Paul says that his preaching, and our faith, would then be vain, pointless. He does not talk about the moral teaching of Jesus. He does not exhort the Corinthians merely to live ethical lives. He is blunt: Christ’s resurrection is our hope of resurrection. Without His victory over sin and death, we are all losers.

The story is told of a young man arrested during Soviet days for shouting “Christ is risen!” in front of Lenin’s tomb. Upon being interrogated, he was asked why he was “disturbing the peace.”

He asked his questioners simply, “Is there a body in Lenin’s tomb?”

“Of course, young man! Everyone knows that!” was the brusque reply.

“Christ’s tomb is empty! Christ is risen!”

On Pascha night, at Orthodox churches around the world, bishops, priests, deacons, and laymen will wait for the “Light of Christ” to pierce the darkness, in anticipation of the Resurrection. We know Christ’s tomb is empty. We fill the night skies with the cry which makes devils tremble: “Christ is risen!”

And we will say it, not merely because it is our tradition, but because it is the truth, a truth we believe down to the core of our being, down to the marrow in our bones. That in a nutshell is Orthodoxy: the Truth about God, the Truth about Man, and the Truth about Christ—God’s rising from the dead to save Man from sin and death. Otherwise, why bother?

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Cor. 15:14)

 

A “Soup-er” Time for Bridge of Hope

Souper Sunday - 7 Souper Sunday - 6After Liturgy this Sunday, March 16, Church School students will be hosting their annual Souper Sunday charity luncheon.

The meal is open to the public and there is no cost to attend: All proceeds from the free-will offering will be given to Bridge of Hope Centre County, who will match a mother with our mentor team the following Thursday.

Sunday School children are asked to come to the church Saturday at 4 p.m. to prepare the soup; all others are asked to give generously at the meal and consider offering their time and talents as well—it is not too late to join the mentor team. Email bridgeofhope@holytrinity-oca.org for details.

Parishioners to Attend Liturgy at Hawk Run on March 21

The faithful of St. John the Baptist (Carpatho-Russian) Church warmly invite all from Holy Trinity to attend liturgy with them in Hawk Run next Friday evening, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. A lenten meal will follow. So they know how many to expect, please email us if you plan to come. There will be no services at Holy Trinity that evening.

Get directions | Request a ride

 

Good News from Syria

CNN reports that thirteen nuns and three workers kidnapped in late November from a Orthodox monastery in Syria were freed on March 9. They were greeted by a large crowd of clergy and faithful when they arrived at the Syrian border earlier this morning.

Lent 2014: Rejoice in the Great Fast

by Dn. David Smith

Smith - Version 2This winter has given many of us “snow days”—days of grace and contemplation because of a winter storm, when life is “forced” providentially to slow down and our agendas com-pelled to yield to the greater work of God. It is an opportunity granted to us for refreshment if we but step into it and receive it with faith, hope, and love as God’s gift.

Such is Great Lent, the Great Fast. We have entered into this providential season of contemplation and of grace: of prayer and of fasting and of almsgiving. Like the other fasts, this one is afforded to us by the Church for our renewal through the personal and communal practice of intensified spiritual disciplines. It is the Great Fast, however, because of its more intense rigor, a rigor preceding and leading us into the Resurrection of Christ God, a rigor worthy of the Church’s participation and of the Great and Holy Pascha. It is a holy season and a divinely appointed opportunity for our spiritual renewal and reclamation (shades of Ebenezer Scrooge here).

But, the question is: Will we receive this holy season as a gift of utter grace for our salvation or will we bear it, begrudge it, put up with it, tolerate it, resent it, and not find joy in the salvation it offers us? May we not forget last month’s parable of the elder brother of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). It is the younger brother, the prodigal, who tends to get our attention and limelight. (Pesky younger siblings and troublemakers tend to!)

ProdigalSonA

Icon of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24), courtesy of oca.org.

However, this parable of our Lord is just as much about the older brother as it is about the younger. It is a sad commentary that the elder—and obviously, more responsible—sibling could not rejoice in the return of the family’s black sheep to the fold. Perhaps it takes the heart of a father to thoroughly bask in such a return or repentance.

But, at the same time, it certainly is not out of the question for such joy to be shared by all in the family, including the dutiful older brother. Sadly, despite never leaving the family estate and the preserve of his father, the dutiful elder son of the family could not tolerate such wasteful extravagance on someone who had obviously failed and proven his unworthiness!

Sadly, having served faithfully his father “these many years,” going about his father’s business each and every day without so much as a request, the elder son, loved dearly by his father, had lost the joy (I wonder, did he ever have it?) of being a part of the family, of celebrating the fact that he was the son of so loving and forgiving a father as his. It is so very easy to “neglect [the joy] of so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3) when we get focused solely on our fulfill-ing of “obligations” and start comparing ourselves to others who may not be living up to our standards. Insidiously, the old devil turns our attention from whence we have come and saps our hearts of the joy of being made sons and daughters of our heavenly Father by Whose utter grace “we live, and move, and have our [very] being” (Acts 17:28)

In these holy days of “obligation,” the Church invites us to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” (Matt. 5:12) in the midst of the “duty” of our Lenten labors, basking in the sublime reality that we are profoundly loved by God our Father, though unworthy sinners that we are. Through the coming of our true elder Brother, Jesus Christ, in the flesh we have all been made children of the Most High to share in the joy of His Kingdom (Rom. 14:17-18).

$13.3 Million For the Kids!

IMG_5018Congratulations to the Orthodox Christian Fellowship’s (OCF) Evan Bittner and Rachael Krizmanich, the first from the group to participate in the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.

They made it through the entire 46 hours, inspiring many to join the fight against pediatric cancer. Donors from Holy Trinity and the Chapel helped OCF raise $6,633.39 this year, which allowed Evan and Rachael to qualify.

Thank you!

Children are the Church’s Present

by Joelle Rush and Jesse Torbic

Joelle Rush (left) and Jesse Torbic (behind her to the left) participate in the March for Life in Washington DC.

Sunday School students and article authors Joelle Rush (left) and Jesse Torbic (behind her and to the left) participate in the March for Life in Washington DC.

Last December, middle school students left Holy Trinity for a middle school retreat at Antiochian Village. At the retreat we had a great time, but also learned about our faith as Orthodox Christians. We also met other middle school aged Orthodox Christians as well as Bishop Thomas.

One idea that we looked at on this retreat was “Children are the Present of the Church”, not just the future. This means that we are a part of the church from baptism and we should live in the presence of God. Another thing we talked about at the retreat was not only how to be a Christian inside the Church, but also outside the Church. We discussed how the Church isn’t only a building; it is a world we live in, and that we have a toolbox that God has provided us with. In it are things such as faith, the Church, the Bible, and saints.

Another topic we discussed is how we dedicate ourselves to Christ. The kids were split into six different groups. We were all assigned a saint to learn about. An example of one of these saints was the Theotokos. She gave her life to Christ at about the age of 14. Other examples were Faith, Hope, and Love, who in a time of trouble, always believed in their faith. They gave their lives to Christ at about the ages of 9, 12, and 14. A third topic that was discussed was that we should love ourselves, but not be in love with ourselves. We should love ourselves because we are God’s creation.

Alongside of having discussions, we did many other activities including sledding and playing in the snow, playing four-square, having a bonfire, singing Christmas carols, making cinnamon flavored apples, assembling hygiene kits for charity, and other team building activities that required us to interact with other people outside of our church parish.

Along with spending time with others, Bishop Thomas was there as well. He talked to us about always following God and not making excuses to skip church and church activities; that church is a feast we should take advantage of. In the sermon on Sunday, he talked about being in time-out, which means that we need to take a break and look at our faith.

On the drive back from the retreat we asked everyone what their favorite part was and what they took out of this weekend. Nick McFarland quoted, “It was fun to hang out with my friends and make more friends.” “I learned you have to be yourself all the time,” said Nicholas Siewers. “I learned you have to believe in your faith,” stated Anna Abashidze. “The church isn’t only a building,” Lauren Torbic said. “My favorite part was sledding and making a ramp for the sleds,” said Ben Oleynik.

An Interview with Choir Intern Zach Mandell

Last month we sat down to catch up with Zach Mandell, who is serving as Holy Trinity’s Choir Director as part of a two-semester internship. Here are some excerpts.

Zach Mandell

What have you enjoyed most?
On one hand, getting to know people a little bit better… we do have a large parish so it’s been nice to get to know people better. It’s been really fun working musically with people… There is a varying level of musical training and musical knowledge so it’s been enjoyable to teach and learn how to teach… [I’ve also enjoyed] just being a part of the service [as director] and being engaged… To be at the heart of everything, of the prayers, of the Psalms—it’s just been a real blessing…That is one thing I really love about this parish. So many people in the congregation sing. They are very engaged and that is very encouraging and I think that is very important for one’s spiritual growth.

What are some of your objectives for Lent?
One thing is to work with the choir so we can conserve our voices and use our voices properly. It will be a combination of things like musical technique so that when we have all these services we make sure we aren’t overdoing things. [To help with this] I may break things up a little bit and have smaller groups do services at times. Also, this semester I really want to reach out to the congregation to get more people involved in the choir, especially when [we are entering] a time when there are so many services. I want to take this opportunity to extend a hand to the people who might be interested but haven’t come forward for whatever reason.

Why is rehearsing so important?
When you are singing, you aren’t just performing, it is a sacred office so you need to know what you are doing and be committed to what you are doing… We want to sing to the glory of God, not for entertainment… What is the center is the Eucharist and the service itself. The choir is there to lead but not be the focus of everyone’s attention. You are a part of a much larger thing happening. If you (prepare), knowing what you are doing is prayer, you are able to garner the spiritual benefits.

What is the best way to join the choir?
If you have any interest whatsoever, talk to me, talk to Deacon Alex, talk to Father John—if you have  any interest in the slightest, you are welcome. All you have to do is ask and I’ll be there. We will also have a social at the rectory on Meatfare Sunday (February 23) at 6 p.m. for all current and prospective singers.

This internship is an experiment for the parish. Would you recommend the parish doing this again in the future?
It’s been very good for me and my perception is that it has been good for the choir. When you have an internship you know you are going to do things differently than they used to be, and if you do it again, that person is also going to do things differently. I think that is an important thing for a choir as well. A little bit of change is a good thing within context.

Related: Read a transcript of the full interview with Zach Mandell.