+ If we considering the great lent is the holiest fast entire year, without question the Holy Pascha week is the holiest week of the entire year. The artistic beauty and spiritual depth of the rites of the Coptic Orthodox church are at its zenith during this week. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are the foundation upon which is built the whole fabric of Christianity.
+ The word “Pascha” is a Coptic word which means “Passover.” It is the week of the Passover from the authority of the devil to the freedom of the glory of God’s children.
On this day, the Church celebrates the miracle of raising Lazarus from death as an introduction to Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection with Him. The Church indicates that death has no authority over Christ, whose death and Resurrection we shall celebrate.
It is a great feast. The prayers of the Church are performed in a festal and uplifting tune. The procession of the cross is performed around the Church. During the procession, 12 passages of the Gospel are read before the different icons of the saints. It stands for the Jews receiving Christ as king when He entered Jerusalem. It is the day of enthroning the King and receiving Him with the hymn “Evlogemenos.”
The Pascha Prayers
+ Prayers are raised in the second choir of the Church as Christ suffered outside Jerusalem. The Church also teaches us that before the crucifixion and death of Christ, we had no right to enter heaven (the Church’s sanctuary). Paradise was closed and the Cherubim were placed to guard the way and prevent anyone from entering.
+ The Church is dressed in black as a sign of protesting against the people’s sin, which caused pains and shame to Jesus. We do not mourn for the passions and death of the Savior since they gave us salvation, but we mourn for our sins that caused these passions.
The Holy Liturgy is not performed on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday; it is then performed on Thursday. In the Old Testament, people used to buy the Passover lamb on the 10th of Nissan, and it remained with them till the night (the eve) of the 14th day. On that day, they slaughtered it. Christ entered Jerusalem on Sunday (10th of Nissan) and was kept there for three days; then He offered Himself as a Sacrifice on Thursday, in the Mystical Supper (14th of Nissan), because Christ is our Passover.
+ The day of the Pascha is divided into five day prayers and five night prayers. These are the first hour, third hour, sixth hour, ninth hour, and the eleventh hour prayers. A new day begins at sunset. Each prayer is set in the following order:
- Passover Hymn “Thok te tigom” (12 Times)
- The Psalm with a sad tune
- The Gospel followed by the interpretation of the Gospel – a summary of it and a contemplation.
- The Intercession, the conclusion and the blessing
These prayers start from the beginning of the 9th Hour on Palm Sunday till the 11th Hour on the eve of Maundy Thursday.
Maundy Thursday is the day of Christ’s mystical death. On this day, He offered Himself as a Sacrifice and established the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is the foundation and pillar of the Church and is a great feast.
The Sanctuary is opened because through communion we obtain everlasting life and the right to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
In the early morning, the procession of reproaching Judas is performed; the Church declares that it’s expels Judas and those who are like him because he rejected Jesus’s love.
Prayers for sanctifying the water (Lakan) are said, and the priest washes the people’s feet in memory of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
Before offering the Lamb, the customary Agpeya hourly prayers are not said; instead, we pray the Pascha prayers – the 3rd, 6th and 9th hours.
Some hymns and passages are deleted from the Liturgy. These are the ones that refer to salvation and reconciliation; salvation is achieved through the Cross, and reconciliation is achieved through the Resurrection. That is why the Hymn “Soutis Amen” and the “reconciliation prayers” are not recited.
Both the Commemoration and Requiem prayers are not said because before the Cross, the righteous were taken to Hades and there is no fellowship between the Church and those who dwell in Hades; therefore the Church does not pray for them in this Liturgy.
The Rites of the Good Friday
Prayers are recited in the same order from Friday eve till the end of the third hour on Friday.
The Savior was crucified at the 6th hour. The Church knows that the Cross is the royal throne and that this hour is a decisive moment for the Church to overcome the devil. The Church receives the Holy Christ as a victorious King crowned on His throne. The church lights the candles and censers, the priest put on their priestly garments and raise incense as the hymn “O Monogenis” is recited. The lights are put out while the Gospel is being read as a sign of the darkness that took place when the Savior was crucified. Then the passage about the faithfulness of the robber is recited; we take part in acknowledging the Godhead of the dead and the living.
+ At the 12th Hour, the crucifixion Icon is brought down in memory of bringing down the Savior’s Body to wrap Him in linen. The Sanctuary door is opened as a sign of opening the gates of Paradise when Christ died for us;.
+ A procession is done around the Church with the Crucifixion Icon in a merry tune, saying “Lord have Mercy (Kyrie-eleison)” as if we were declaring the happy news of salvation to the whole world.
Then the Crucifixion Icon is buried in spices and aloes on the altar between two candle sticks, one at the east and the other at the west; this was the way our Savior was buried in the tomb
- Why we are calling the Holy Saturday “Abo Ghalamses” and what does it mean?
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