Tag Archives: Easter

Holy Saturday from an Orthodox perspective

Holy Saturday is one of the mis-understood days the sacred Triduum. As a church body, we just don’t have a firm  grasp of what Mother Church has to say and experience. Several theologians, for example, Popes John Paul and Benedict, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Richard John Neuhaus have all tried to focus our attention on what God has done for us on Holy Saturday. Father Alexander Schmemann, an orthodox liturgical theologian and priest, is one of my favorite liturgical authors. Sadly, he died of cancer many years ago, but his work continues to bear much fruit, as I hope you will appreciate by reading the following entry. Since today is Holy Saturday for the Orthodox Church, I am offering for our meditation (a review?) the events of our salvation.


Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath.

“The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said:

God blessed the seventh day.

This is the blessed Sabbath

This is the day of rest,

on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works….” (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

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By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.

THE TRANSITION

Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day–Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another–Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death that Christ continues to effect triumph.

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The Time of the Holy Spirit is now

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In the days leading up to the great feast of Pentecost which we celebrate next week, it seems right that we look to what we know and believe about the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate sent to us by the Trinity. 


We need to work in a concerted way to educate our religious sense on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were given in the sacraments of Initiation. The Holy Spirit is not talked about too often in the teaching of the faith and you rarely hear of the Spirit in homilies. I would love to see a parish provide as part of their formation of adults an in-depth course on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It is noted by many that we lack a firm grasp of how the Holy Spirit leads and guides each one of us, and how the Spirit is the agent in the sacred Liturgy (Mass and the Divine Office). The Paulist Fathers’ evangelization work has mentioned recently that “Until we appropriate the Holy Spirit more fully in our Catholic consciousness, we will not have the spirituality to do the reaching out, welcoming, inviting, and sharing that are essential parts of our Catholic life and mission. Father Isaac Hecker, Servant of God, founded the Paulist Fathers will a strong spirituality of the Holy Spirit. Part of his cause for canonization might well include a greater awareness of the Spirit in our American/Canadian Catholic lives.”


Father Isaac Hecker is one of America’s priests who took evangelization and adult faith formation seriously. Let’s take inspiration from him.

New Haven Orthodox Christians celebrate Pascha

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The beauty and triumph of the Lord Jesus over death by His own death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead is sadly celebrated by Christians on different dates. The divisions are scandalous. Western Christians had Easter on March 31, and Orthodox Christians will have their Easter, or Pascha, tonight. I hope, one day soon, all Christians can witness to the Lord’s resurrection on the same day. As Jesus said, ‘that they be one.”

In the meantime, New Haven’s Greek Orthodox community is small yet lively at Saint Basil’s Church. Connecticut has a rich history of Eastern Christianity, one that still needs to be told and appreciated. Ed Stannard of The New Haven Register wrote a story on the festivity and hope of Saint Basil’s.
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Christians follow a messiah who loved us more than himself

Today, we are observing the 5th Sunday of Easter (John 13:31-35). 

 “‘I give you a new commandment’, said Jesus: ‘love one another.’ But how, we may ask, could he call this commandment new? Through Moses, he had said to the people of old, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’…He showed the novelty of his command and how far the love he enjoined surpassed the old conception of mutual love by going on immediately to add: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ To understand the full force of these words, we have to consider how Christ loved us.’…The law commanded people to love their brothers and sisters as they love themselves, but our Lord Jesus Christ loved us more than himself. He who was one in nature with God the Father and his equal would not have descended to our lowly estate, nor endured in his flesh such a bitter death for us, nor submitted to the blows given him by his enemies, to the shame, the derision, and all the other sufferings that could not possibly be enumerated; nor, being rich, would have he become poor, had he not loved us far more than himself. It was indeed something new for love to go as far as that!”

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Catholics are reborn and have a new humanity through baptism

The second reading in the daily Office of Readings are generally stunning. Most focus on the paschal mysteries, that is, the Mysteries of Easter that we live. As Catholics, are we reborn in the Spirit? You bet we are. It is the consistent teaching of the Church and those we call “the Fathers of the Church.” Don’t be fooled: Protestants aren’t the only ones reborn in baptism (cf. Creed). Today’s reading is from the first apology in defense of the Christians by Saint Justin, martyr.

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Our new birth, a new humanity, is a baptismal regeneration

Through Christ we received new life and we consecrated ourselves to God. I will explain the way in which we did this. Those who believe what we teach is true and who give assurance of their ability to live according to that teaching are taught to ask God’s forgiveness for their sins by prayer and fasting and we pray and fast with them. We then lead them to a place where there is water and they are reborn in the same way as we were reborn; that is to say, they are washed in the water in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the whole universe, of our Savior Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. This is done because Christ said: Unless you are born again you will not enter the kingdom of heaven, and it is impossible for anyone, having once been born, to re-enter his mother’s womb.


An explanation of how repentant sinners are to be freed from their sins is given through the prophet Isaiah in the words: Wash yourselves and be clean. Remove the evil from your souls; learn to do what is right. Be just to the orphan, vindicate the widow. Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. If your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as wool; if they are like crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if you do not heed me, you shall be devoured by the sword. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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