The service of the Bridegroom

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Beginning in the evening of Palm Sunday and continuing through the evening of Great and Holy Tuesday, the Orthodox Church observes a special service known as the Service of the Bridegroom. Each evening service we chant the Matins service of the following day (e.g. the service held on Sunday evening is the Matins service for Great and Holy Monday). The name “Service of the Bridegroom” is derived from the parable of the Ten Virgins, in which Christ speaks of mystical marriages in which the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night. Some of the brides were prepared with lamps to receive Him; others had come unprepared and consequently were left out of the wedding feast (Matthew 25:1-13). The term “Bridegroom” suggests the unifying intimacy of Christ’s divine-human love for us all and is of great significance; in the parable He compares the Kingdom of God to a bridal chamber. The “Bridegroom” also suggests the Parousia, and in the patristic tradition the parable is also related to His Second Coming: it is associated with the need for spiritual vigilance and preparedness, by 

Stand Fast and Watch!

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By St. John the Wonderworker, Bishop of Shanghai and San Francisco

 Stand fast on spiritual watch, because you don’t know when the Lord will  call you to Himself. In your earthly life be ready at any moment to give Him an account. Beware that the enemy does not catch you in his nets, that he not deceive you causing you to fall into temptation. Daily examine your conscience; try the purity of your thoughts, your intentions.

There was a king who had a wicked son. Having no hope that he would change for the better, the father condemned the son to death. He gave him a month to prepare. And when the month went by, the father summoned the son. To his surprise he saw that the young man was noticeably changed: his face was thin and drawn, and his whole body looked as if it had suffered.

“How is it that such a transformation has come over you, my son?” the father asked. “My father and my lord,” replied the son, “how could I not change when each passing day brought me closer to death?” “Good, my son,” remarked the king. “Since you have evidently come to your senses, I shall pardon you. However, you must maintain this vigilant disposition of soul for the rest of your life.” “Father,” replied the son, “that’s impossible. How can I withstand the countless seductions and temptations?

It is Pascha, not Easter

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There is no equivalent word for "Easter" in the Greek language, for one simple but important reason, the word is an Anglo-Saxon word for a pagan festival. The word in its original use is entirely pagan. According to the English Church historian Bede, it derives from a pagan spring festival in honour of Eastra or Ostara a Teutonic goddess. It has no associations whatsoever with Christ, His death and Resurrection, or indeed anything Christian. Is it not, therefore, unsuitable to be used to describe the greatest day in the life of the Church? The French, Italians and Spanish do not make the same mistake. Their words come from the proper source — Passover, which in Greek is the word "Pascha".
Pascha is derived from the Jewish word Pesah which means "Passover". And here there is a direct link with the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 5:7 we read, "for our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed". According to St John, Christ was crucified at the very time that the paschal lambs were being killed. There is another link with the Old Testament because of the importance to the Jews of the Feast of the Passover. The verbal form means to protect and to have compassion as well as "passover". The experience of the Israelites was literally a "passover", 

"Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

Mathew 28:19