UKRAINIAN ORTHODO CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Holy Saturday at Sts Peter and Paul UOC in Palos Park, IL
By Subdeacon Vasyl Dovgan
On Holy Saturday, April 14, 2012 His Grace Bishop Daniel presided over the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Palos Park, IL, during which numerous faithful of the parish family prayerfully gathered to reflect upon the great Mystery of salvation of the Crucified Savior and to honor the pastor of the parish community Rev. Fr. Vasyl Sehdeha, who marks on this day the 5th anniversary of ordination to the Holy Priesthood.
On Great and Holy Saturday the Orthodox Church commemorates the burial of Christ and His descent into Hades. It is the day between the Crucifixion of our Lord and His glorious Resurrection. For Orthodox Christians Great Saturday is the day between Jesus' death and His resurrection. It is the day of watchful expectation, in which mourning is being transformed into joy. The day embodies in the fullest possible sense the meaning of joyful-sadness, which has dominated the celebrations of Great Week.
The Liturgy served on the morning of Holy and Great Saturday is that of Saint Basil the Great. It begins with Vespers. After the entrance, the evening hymn 'O Gentle Light' is chanted as usual. Then the Old Testament readings are recited. They tell of the most striking events and prophecies of the salvation of mankind by the death of the Son of God. The account of creation in Genesis is the first reading. The sixth reading is the story of Israel's crossing of the Red Sea and Moses' song of victory - over Pharaoh, with its refrain: 'For gloriously is He glorified'. The last reading is about the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, and their song of praise with its repeated refrain: 'O praise ye the Lord and supremely exalt Him unto the ages.' In the ancient church the catechumens were baptized during the time of these readings. The Epistle which follows speaks of how, through the death of Christ, we too shall rise to a new life.
After the Epistle, the choir chants, like a call to the sleeping Christ: 'Arise, O Lord, Judge the earth, for Thou shall have an inheritance among all the nations... As the chanting progresses, the altar vestments as well as all sacred vestments are changed in the temple into the bright snow-white colors. The deacon carries out the Book of the Gospels, and reads the first message of the resurrection from Saint Matthew. Because the Vespers portion of the service belongs to the next day (Pascha) the burial hymns of Saturday are mingled with those of the resurrection, so that this service is already full of the coming Paschal joy.