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From: Metropolitan Moses
Subject: HOLY WEEK AND PASCHA IN JERUSALEM

The following text was originally translated by Holy Transfiguration
Monastery in Boston and printed in “Orthodox Life.”
It is excellent reading for all during the Paschal season.

Christ is Risen!

http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/reading/holyfire.html

HOLY WEEK AND PASCHA IN JERUSALEM
by the Monk Parthenius

For the Christians the greatest feast days and festival were approaching.
The time of joy and sorrow was approaching. We rejoiced because of this,
that we would receive the new grace of the heavenly Fire, and celebrate the
most radiant festival of Holy Pascha in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Yet we
grieved in heart that the time was coming for everyone to part. We had
lived six months together and had come to know one another. But most of all
we feared those bitter moments when we should have to leave the holy city
of Jerusalem, the holy and life-bearing Sepulchre of Christ and the other
holy places. We came to our rooms, we ate dinner, rested and then went to
spend the night in the Church of the Resurrection. Matins on Thursday was
solemn; the early Liturgy was performed on the Grave of Christ; a bishop
acted as proto-celebrant and there were many communicants at the Liturgy.

The late Liturgy was in the Patriarchate; the Patriarch himself served. The
washing of the feet was in the court opposite the holy gates of the Church
of the Resurrection. There was a platform made three steps high; around it
were railings and on the railings columns rested. There were large candles
on the columns. The platform was spread with carpets. In the center there
stood a gold-plated table, and along the sides twelve chairs. On the wall
towards the east they hung icons and before them candles were burning; by
this wall a throne was erected for the reading of the Gospels. A hundred
soldiers came and stood around the throne. In the court, at St. Abraham’s
Monastery, at the Gethsemane metochion, in the patriarchal monastery, and
in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre there were great multitudes of people.
We stood in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We saw the Patriarch coming
out of the Patriarchal monastery in all his vestments, accompanied by the
bishops and twelve priests. In front of them went twelve boys in servers’
vestments with candlesticks and candles; then the chanters; then deacons
with censers. Then came the priests and seven deacons with the dikiri and
trikiri. Behind them came the Patriarch who was blessing the people with
both hands; behind him, the bishops in rassas. Having mounted the platform,
the Patriarch sat in his place and ordered the other priests to sit
according to rank. The bishops stood by and watched. The order of the
washing of the feet began according to the typicon, and the archimandrite
read the Gospel from the throne.

Before evening the blessing of oil was performed in all the monasteries,
and everywhere the bishops themselves anointed all the pilgrims with the
oil. That evening the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was not opened and they
allowed no one to spend the night there. But a Russian noblewoman
petitioned the Patriarch and the consul to conduct the vigil on Golgotha
half in Russian. The Patriarch respected their request and when it was
already late in the evening, they opened the holy gates and allowed only
the Russians into the church. Compline was read on Golgotha and they
chanted the whole canon to the Cross in Greek. Then the Greeks went to
sleep, and we Russians went to the cave where the Empress Helen found the
Cross. There we read the twelve Gospels of the Passion and the synaxarion
and other things appropriate for that day, and we chanted the Akathist to
the venerable Cross.

When they began beating the semantron for Matins, we all went to Golgotha,
and Matins was served according to the typicon. They read the Gospels —
six in Greek and six in Russian. The antiphons and canons were chanted by
the right choir in Greek and the left in Russian; and the service lasted
six hours. The Royal Hours were all read and chanted on Golgotha in
Russian. In the morning the doors to the church were not opened and there
was silence in the church. At the twelfth hour of the day two deacons were
sent to each holy place to cense it. First two Orthodox deacons censed.
Then two Armenian deacons wearing mitres censed. Then two Coptic deacons
went also, wearing mitres. The Latins did not cense. Their deacons wear
clothing different from all other religions. Then everyone had processions.
At one o’clock in the afternoon, they opened the holy great gates of the
church. The people rushed into the church, and there was a great din in the
church. Everyone rushed to get a place. We were already occupying our
places. In a minute the whole church was filled with people.

Half an hour later, suddenly, near the Grave of Christ there was a noise
and the Arabs started shouting in their strange tongue; about fifty men
joined hands and stood on one another’s shoulders three-high and raised
their hands to heaven and all began shouting. They began to run around the
Sepulchre of Christ and then around the whole church: they ran and shouted
until the evening. Then a thousand men of the Turkish military came and
made a guard near the holy gates, and placed watchmen about the whole
church. The Patriarch then came with much glory, and he was met
majestically. Vespers was solemn; but they did not take the epitaphios from
Golgotha because of the possibility of disorder. After Vespers the Arabs
again took to their “work” and again began to run around and shout. I asked
those who understood Russian, “What are they saying?” They told me that
they were praising the one Orthodox faith, but were reviling the other
confessions as being false and soul- destroying. They came to the Armenians
and reviled them, saying that they themselves had wanted to receive the
grace, but instead of that had eaten defilement.

Let me tell you about this: At the Great Gates themselves, on the left
side, stands a column made out of marble with a fissure from which the
grace, that is, the Holy Fire, came forth. This column is honored by
Orthodox as well as non-Orthodox, and even the Armenians. I would like to
write a little about this incident, how the Orthodox Eastern Christians
unanimously speak of it and the Turks themselves confirm it. In the wall
there is an inscribed marble slab, and they say that this very incident is
written on it; but we could not read it because it is written in Syrian
letters, in the Arab tongue; and I only heard about it, but did not read
it. But the incident happened something like this: At one time when the
Greeks were completely oppressed by the Turkish yoke, some rich Armenians
took it into their heads to force the Greeks out of the Holy Sepulchre and
out of the Church of the Resurrection. They gathered a large sum of money
and bribed the Ottoman Porte and all the Jerusalem authorities, assuring
the unbelievers that the Holy Fire comes forth not simply for the sake of
the Greeks, but for all Christians, and “if we Armenians are there, we also
will receive it!” And the Turks, who are greedy for money, accepted the
bribe and therefore did as the Armenians wished, and they affirmed that
only the Armenians would be allowed to receive the Holy Fire. The Armenians
rejoiced greatly and wrote to all their lands and to their faithful, that
more of them should go on a pilgrimage. And a great multitude of them did
come. Holy Saturday approached: the Armenians all gathered in the church,
and the Turkish army drove the poor Greeks out. Oh, what unspeakable grief
and sorrow filled the Greeks! There was only one comfort for them — the
Grave of the Saviour, and they were being kept away from it, and the Holy
Gates were locked to them! The Armenians were inside the church and the
Orthodox were on the streets. The Armenians were rejoicing and the Greeks
were weeping. The Armenians were celebrating and the Greeks were bitterly
lamenting! The Orthodox stood opposite the Holy Gates on the court and
around them stood the Turkish army, watching so that there would not be a
fight. The Patriarch himself with all the rest stood there with candles,
hoping that they would at least receive the Fire from the Armenians through
the window. But the Lord wished to dispose things in a different way, and
to manifest His true Faith with a fiery finger and comfort His true
servants, the humble Greeks. The time had already come when the Holy Fire
issues forth, but nothing happened. The Armenians were frightened and began
to weep, and ask God that He send them the Fire; but the Lord did not hear
them. Already a half hour had passed and more, and still no Holy Fire. The
day was clear and beautiful; the Patriarch sat to the right side. All of a
sudden there was a clap of thunder, and on the left side the middle marble
column cracked and out of the fissure a flame of fire came forth. The
Patriarch arose and lit his candles and all the Orthodox Christians lit
theirs from his. Then all rejoiced, and the Orthodox Arabs from Jordan
began to skip and cry out, “Thou art our one God, Jesus Christ; one is our
True Faith, that of the Orthodox Christians!” And they began to run about
all of Jerusalem and raise a din, and to shout all over the city. And to
this day they still do this in memory of the incident and they jump and
shout, running around the Holy Sepulchre, and they praise the one true God,
Jesus Christ, and bless the Orthodox Faith. Beholding this wonder, the
Turkish army, which was standing around on guard, was greatly amazed and
terrified. From amongst them one named Omir, who was standing at the St.
Abraham’s Monastery on guard, immediately believed in Christ and shouted,
“One is the true God, Jesus Christ; one is the true faith, that of the
Orthodox Christians!” And he jumped down to the Christians from a height of
more than 35 feet. His feet landed on the solid marble as if though on soft
wax. And to this day one can see his footprints imprinted as though in wax,
although the non-Orthodox tried to erase them. I saw them with my own eyes
and felt them with my own hands. And the column with the fissure still
bears the scorch marks. As for Omir the soldier, having jumped down, he
took his weapon and thrust it into the stone as though into soft wax, and
began to glorify Christ unceasingly. For this, the Turks beheaded him and
burned his body; the Greeks gathered up his bones, put them into a case and
took them to the Convent of the Great Panagia, where they gush forth
fragrance until this day. The Armenians in the Holy Sepulchre received
nothing and were left only with their shame. The Pasha of Jerusalem and
other Turkish authorities were greatly displeased with them and wanted to
slaughter them all, but they feared the Sultan. They only punished them
heavily: they say that they made each one to eat dung as he left the church.

But now to return to the services in the Church of the Resurrection. Having
reviled the Armenians, the Arabs reviled the Latins, saying that they do
not believe in grace, and do not receive the Holy Fire from the Grave of
the Lord, but they start their own fire. And we saw their ungodliness from
what had happened the week before. On the sixth Sunday of the Fast we
prepared for communion. On the eve of Lazarus Saturday we went to spend the
night in the church at the Holy Sepulchre in order to receive the Holy
Mysteries. In the evening they read Compline on Golgotha; then we wanted to
read the rule of preparation for Holy Communion. But the Latins had begun a
procession: for them it was Holy Saturday, and they were going to Golgotha
with their cross. We wanted to wait until they passed by; but our Orthodox
people, Russians and Greeks, were also standing on Golgotha to watch their
procession and rites. There were very few of us; there were no more than
fifty Greeks, counting the chanters. But there were more than five hundred
Latins, and they also had with them about fifty soldiers. When they came to
Golgotha, the Latins first chanted and read at their own place; then they
went over to our place, where the Cross of Christ had stood. Our monks took
down all the lamps which could possibly interfere with them and carried
away the candlestands, and thus cleared the area. There remained only a
covering on the Holy Table. The Latins set up their cross behind our Holy
Table and said that we should take the covering off the Holy Table. The
Greeks refused, saying, “We cannot do this, for the covering is never taken
off, and the firman does not allow it; but you spread your own cloth on
top”; when the Latins tried to take the covering off by force, the Greeks
did not let them. Then the Latin archbishop came and scandalously grabbed
the covering off the Holy Table. There were two consuls standing by: a
Russian and a Greek. Immediately the Greeks made an uproar and dashed out
into the corridor and brought many pieces of wood from the kitchen, and a
fight began on Golgotha. The Greeks were beating them with pieces of wood,
and the Latins hitting back with candles, but afterwards they also brought
pieces of wood. The Turks rushed in to break it up, but their guns had been
taken away; and they ran to save the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the
Resurrection, for at that time, since it was towards Palm Sunday,
everything was ornamented with silver and gold. We did not know where to
run and we froze from fear. The Russian consul was saving his own people
and conducting them to the trapeza. We, about twenty of us, went to the
Church of the Resurrection and from fear did not know where to go, whether
into the altar or even under the Holy Table! Noise, shouting, cries rose to
heaven, especially on Golgotha. All the Christians were sounding alarms —
the Orthodox on all the semantra, but also the Armenians, Latins, and
Copts. The soldiers were standing around the Holy Sepulchre, hand to hand,
with their weapons too, and so that there would not be any theft, they
stood by the gates of the Church of the Resurrection. The fight had spread
all over the church. They threw the Latin Patriarch down from Golgotha; it
was good that he fell on the people, or else he would have been killed.
Metropolitan Meletius began admonishing them to stop the fight, but they
said to him, “You stand in your own place, Vladyka, but we will die for our
faith here; for there are few of us and many heretics.” Unable to do
anything the bishop sat down with the Turks. The fight continued for more
than an hour, until the Turkish army and the Pasha himself came. Then they
separated them one by one and locked them up in the guest houses. We, the
few Russians, went away to the Church of the Mother of God. The soldiers
wanted to take us and shut us up also, but we said that we were Muscovites
and they left us alone. Then for an hour they had a council: the
Archbishop, the Pasha, and the consul were discussing the matter. At that
time I was able to read the rule for preparation for Holy Communion. After
the meeting the Pasha, Archbishop, and consuls each went home. The Latins
began their procession again, and finished on the Grave of Christ; then the
soldiers drove them all out and they went away themselves. They locked the
gates of the church and sent everyone away. And again they began beating
the semantra for Matins.

We had Matins in the Church of the Resurrection and had Liturgy on the
Grave of Christ, and I was deemed worthy to be a partaker of the Holy
Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ. But Mount Golgotha was all
covered with blood; and during the whole of Matins two men were washing it
with water. Three people were killed. I have not seen such terror since the
day I was born.

Again let us return to the Holy Week services. The non- Orthodox gave money
to the soldiers so that they would beat the Arabs who were reviling
everyone else’s faith and drive them away. For that reason the Arabs were
all in a blood and sweat. They took their long shirts from their shoulders
and would walk about half-naked. If someone would beat them, they would not
worry, but would continue their task. When they ran around the Grave of
Christ and the Church of the Resurrection they kept saying just one thing,
and we found out that this is what they were saying: “One is God, Jesus
Christ! One is the faith of the Orthodox Christians!” Then the Christians
of all confessions carried the epitaphios: the Armenians, Copts, and
Syrians. First they went to Golgotha, then to the taking down from the
Cross, and then three times around the Grave of Christ and then went away
to their own sections. Thus we spent the night until dawn amidst unceasing
noise. In the church it was like a bazaar or a fair. Till now the pilgrims
were scattered out all over Jerusalem; and now all Christians from
different countries were gathered in the one church, at the Sepulchre of
their Saviour, Jesus Christ. The balconies and all the galleries were
filled with people. All were asking, all were pleading in their different
ways. Crowds everywhere, and fights everywhere because of the crowdedness.
No one understood the other’s language and Turkish soldiers were
ceaselessly dispersing the people. You could say that the church, like
Heaven itself, was gathering in itself the whole world. Thus we spent the
night until dawn.

Then they began to beat the wood for Matins and the Arabs stopped making
noise. The Patriarch began Matins and they passed out candles to all the
Orthodox. They chanted the whole Kathisma “Blessed are blameless” in the
Church of the Resurrection. They went to Golgotha to read the Gospel.
Having read the Gospel they lifted the epitaphios and carried it from
Golgotha with banners and lanterns. There was a great gathering of clergy:
besides the deacons, priests, abbots, and archimandrites, there were six
bishops and the Patriarch, and a host of chanters. When they had carried
the epitaphios from Golgotha, they went around three times — for the
taking down from the Cross. Then they laid it on the place where Jesus
Christ was wrapped in linen and anointed with myrrh for burial. Here a long
sermon was given. Then they carried the epitaphios to the Grave of Jesus
Christ, and carried it around the Sepulchre three times. They carried it
into the Sepulchre and placed the epitaphios on the Tomb itself. The clergy
stood around the shrine of Christ’s Sepulchre. Only the clergy chanted the
whole canon (“Kimati thalasses”) and the verses. The people held candles in
their hands. There they also chanted the Praises and the Great Doxology,
and read the Gospel. And there, they finished Matins and the Hours. After
this they took the epitaphios to its place and the Turks sealed the
Sepulchre.

After the service the Arabs took up their task again, but they had
multiplied now, because the people of Jerusalem, merchants and old people,
took off their turbans, took each other by the hand, and began to shout and
skip. When dawn came, they began to put out the fires and lamps and nowhere
was a lamp left burning. The Turks opened Christ’s Sepulchre and put out
all the lamps. Then the Turkish authorities and the Pasha himself came; and
host of armed soldiers stood around Christ’s Sepulchre. In the church
everything had changed; everyone had become melancholy and the Arabs had
become hoarse and weak. The church was unusually crowded and stuffy. Above,
all the balconies were crammed with people in four rows. All the iconstasia
and the domes were full of people. All were holding thirty-three candles in
both hands in remembrance of the years of Christ’s life. There was nothing
lit anywhere.

The Patriarch went up to the main iconostasis with the consul. Meletius,
the Metropolitan of Trans-Jordan, sat in the altar with the rest of the
bishops, all melancholy and hanging their heads. In the church the Moslems
with their weapons of war were giving orders; the Arabs had already stopped
running about, but stood lifting their hands to heaven and uttering
compunctionate cries; the Christians were all weeping or continually
sighing. And who at that time could withhold his tears, beholding such a
multitude of people from all countries of the world weeping and wailing and
asking mercy from the Lord God? It was joyous to see that now, although
unwillingly, the rest of the Christians were showing some respect for the
Orthodox Greek Faith and for the Orthodox themselves, and that they were
looking upon the Orthodox as though upon the brightest of suns, because
everyone was hoping to receive the grace of the Holy Fire from the
Orthodox. The Armenian patriarch went to the altar with two bishops and the
Coptic metropolitan, and they bowed to Metropolitan Meletius and the rest
of the bishops and asked that when we receive the grace of the Holy Fire,
that we grant it to them also. Metropolitan Meletius answered with humility
and told them to pray to God. They went to their own places. Then the royal
gates were taken off and were replaced with others with a special opening.

It is not possible to describe what was then happening in the church. It
was as though all were waiting for the Second Coming of the King of Heaven.
Fear and terror fell upon all, and the Turks became despondent. And in the
church there was nothing to be heard except sighing and groans. And
Metropolitan Meletius’ face was wet with tears. Then the Turkish Pasha came
with the other authorities, and they went into Christ’s Sepulchre to make
sure that nothing remained alight there. When they came out they sealed the
Sepulchre, but previously they had placed a large lamp inside, filled to
the very brim with oil. In it floated a large wick. They put the lamp in
the middle of the Tomb of Christ. Now there were no Christians near the
shrine, but only the Turkish authorities. And from the balconies they let
down on ropes hundreds of wires with bunches of candles attached.

At eight o’clock according to Russian time (two in the afternoon), they
began preparing for the procession with the Cross. The bishops, priests,
and deacons, having dressed in all their sacred vestments, each took
thirty-three unlit candles. Then from the altar, through the royal doors,
were handed twelve banners, and whoever could took them. The soldiers
cleared the way, and the chanters went behind the banners. From the altar
through the royal doors came the deacons, priests, abbots and
archimandrites, two by two, then the bishops, and behind all of them,
Metropolitan Meletius. They went to the Lord’s Sepulchre, and went around
it three times chanting, “Angels in the heavens, O Christ our Saviour,
praise Thy Resurrection with hymns; deem us also who are on earth worthy to
glorify Thee with a pure heart.”

Having finished the procession, all the clergy went quickly into the altar
with the banners. Metropolitan Meletius stayed alone at the entrance of the
Sepulchre in the hands of the Turks. The Turks divested him, and the
authorities searched him. Then they put the omophorion on him, opened the
Sepulchre of Christ, and let him go inside. Oh, what fear and terror fell
upon all them that were there at the time! All were silent and moaning and
asking the Lord God that He not deprive them of the grace of His heavenly
Fire. Some time passed, I do not know how long, for we were all beside
ourselves from a kind of fear. But all of a sudden from near Christ’s
Sepulchre there shined a light. Soon light also appeared from the altar in
the royal doors in the opening. And it flowed like two rivers of fire, one
from the west, from Christ’s Sepulchre, and another from the east, from the
altar. Oh, what joy and exultation there was in the church then! Everyone
became as though drunk or besides himself, and we did not know who was
saying what, or who was running where! And a great noise rose in all of the
church. All were running around, all were crying out in joy and
thanksgiving — most of all the Arab women. The Turks themselves, the
Moslems, fell on their knees and cried, “Allah, Allah,” that is, “O God, O
God!” Oh, what a strange and most wonderful sight! The whole church was
transformed into fire. Nothing could be seen in the church besides the
heavenly Fire. Above and below, and round all the balconies the Holy Fire
was being poured forth. And afterwards there was smoke about the whole
church. And a good half of the people went out with the Fire and carried it
about Jerusalem to their own homes and to all the monasteries.

In the Great Church Vespers began, and then the Liturgy of St. Basil the
Great. The Metropolitan served with the priests, and he ordained a deacon.
The people stood through the Liturgy with candles. When the Metropolitan of
Trans- Jordan goes into the Sepulchre, he finds a large lamp standing on
the Grave of Christ which has been lit by itself; sometimes it lights
itself unexpectedly while he is there. However, he himself has never seen
it light. In Jerusalem, I heard from many people with whom the Metropolitan
himself had spoken about it openly: “Sometimes I go in and it is already
burning; then I take it out quickly. But sometimes I go in and the lamp is
not yet burning; then I fall down to the ground from fear and begin with
tears to beg mercy from God. When I get up the lamp is already burning and
I light two bunches of candles and I carry them out and distribute them.”
The Metropolitan carries the fire out into the vestibule and puts the
bunches of the candles into iron holders and gives them out from the
Sepulchre through openings made for that purpose, with the right hand to
the Orthodox and the left hand to the Armenians and the rest. The Orthodox
Arabs stand in a crowd near the opening. As soon as the Metropolitan shows
the Holy Fire, one Arab, laying hold of it, runs straight to the altar and
there through the royal doors it is distributed to the people; but one is
hardly able to light his candles in the openings. Then the Metropolitan
again returns to Christ’s Sepulchre and lights another two bunches and goes
out of the door of the Sepulchre. The strongest Arabs stand at the doors of
the Sepulchre and await him. As soon as he goes out holding in his hands
the thirty-three burning candles, the Arabs, taking him in their hands,
carry him directly to the altar. All the people rush toward him. They all
desire to touch his clothing. And with great difficulty, they are barely
able to carry him into the altar. They sat him on a chair, and he sat
through the whole Liturgy as though beside himself, with his head bowed; he
did not look up and did not say a word; and no one disturbed him. As soon
as they carried him out of the Sepulchre, the people rushed in to venerate
it. And I was deemed worthy to do the same. The whole of Christ’s Sepulchre
was wet, as though dampened by rain; but I could not find out what it was
from. In the middle of the Grave stood the large lamp which lit itself and
a great flame was burning.

After the Liturgy each person went to his place, and all congratulated each
other on the reception of the grace of the Holy Fire.

In the evening we all went to spend the night in the church at Christ’s
Sepulchre. And when we came to the church we beheld a wondrous and most
glorious sight: the whole church, especially the Sepulchre, was wondrously
decorated with various silver and gold icons and figures, and above a
multitude of silver and gold-plated lamps, burning with a great brilliance.
A host of candles made of white wax were set in place, but not yet burning.
The whole church was hung with lamps; where there was previously one lamp,
now there were ten; I wanted to count them, but I could not. Everywhere it
was quiet and peaceful. The doors of the church remained unlocked the whole
night through. The soldiers in the court started a fire. And that night was
happiest of all: no matter where you went, you would find joy everywhere.
And not only was this joy in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but all over
Jerusalem. The whole night people were walking along the streets in crowds;
everywhere they were burning fires, and all the monasteries were open. The
Turks themselves became happy and meek, and went in crowds to look at the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Only the Jews locked themselves in their homes, and not bearing to behold
the light of truth, they stayed moldering in their evil. The Latins,
however, although they are the enemies of the Eastern Church, celebrated
with us. Although soldiers stood in the church around the Sepulchre of
Christ, they did not prevent anyone from approaching the Sepulchre. Thus we
spent the evening until ten o’clock. Then at the third hour before midnight
they began to call us to Matins on various semantra, and with various
rhythms all in a most solemn manner. The Patriarch came with his whole
assembly, and there was a most ceremonial meeting for him.

Then they began Matins. They chanted the canon “The waves of the sea”
completely, verse by verse, antiphonally, with the heirmos and fourteen
troparia. They chanted two hours. At that time they lit the candles and oil
lamps around the whole church; in the domes themselves more than a thousand
lamps were lit. We monastics all stood in the altar. Then the Patriarch and
the metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, archimandrites, abbots, priests
and deacons and all the church clergy, having put on all their sacred
vestments, took twelve banners. The banners were richly adorned; they had
been presented by ancient Greek and Georgian kings. They were sewn with
gold and pearls. They bring them out only on Pascha. Behind the Patriarch
they carried a banner which took three men to hold; it was sewn only with
gold, and was an image of the Resurrection of Christ of Russian workmanship
offered by Muscovite merchants. Then they gave everyone large candles of
white wax. They also lit candles and oil lamps around the whole church. The
Sepulchre seemed as though it were one fiery lamp. From the large candles
in the hands of each person the whole church became as though on fire and
the domes of the church shone like the sun. Those that were in the
procession of the Cross took the Gospels, icons, crosses, and the candles
and went from the altar of the Church of the Resurrection through the royal
gates directly to Christ’s Sepulchre, chanting, “Angels in the Heavens, O
Christ our Saviour, praise Thy Resurrection with hymns; deem us also who
are on earth worthy to glorify Thee with a pure heart.” When they had gone
in procession around the Sepulchre three times, the whole concourse of
clergy stopped opposite the doors of the Sepulchre. Then the Patriarch
himself read the Gospel of the Resurrection from Matthew which is read in
the evening on Saturday in the Liturgy. Then he took the censer inside, and
censed the Grave of Christ. When he came out he censed around the whole
shrine and all the brethren. Then with all the bishops he went into the
Sepulchre of Christ, and there, having censed, he exclaimed, “Glory to holy
and consubstantial and indivisible Trinity, always, now and ever, and unto
the ages of ages.” The bishops exclaimed, “Amen.” Then the Patriarch
himself with all the bishops, from within the Sepulchre itself, chanted,
“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those
in the graves hath He bestowed life.” And they chanted this three times.
They did not chant in Russian, but only in Greek, that is, “Christos anesti
ek nekron, thanato thanaton patisas, kai tis en tis mnemasi zoen
charisamenos.” Then the chanters chanted and all those standing around the
Sepulchre of Christ chanted it many times.

O what joy there was then, and who would not weep for joy, beholding the
Grave of their Saviour Jesus Christ before their own eyes, standing empty,
for He has risen from the dead! Who could not thank their Creator Who had
deemed them worthy to celebrate Holy Pascha, His glorious Resurrection from
the dead, in the Holy City of Jerusalem, around His very Grave and on that
very spot where the mystery of our salvation was accomplished? What pen can
describe our joy? Or who could explain it in words? Which tongue could tell
of it? Only he can understand it who tastes of this joy in the purity of
his heart. How is it possible not to rejoice or to be happy? We had
gathered from the four corners of the earth, Christians of different
tongues, all gathered in one church. We all stood around the Grave of our
Saviour and were glorifying His glorious Resurrection from the dead. In
truth, all things were now filled with light; then the canon of Pascha
became for us real and clear. For that which we were chanting, we were
seeing with our own eyes. And with what feelings did we exclaim to Sion on
which we were standing: “Lift up thine eyes about thee, O Sion, and see,
for behold, from the west, from the north, and from the sea and from the
south as to a light by God illumined, have thy children come to thee,
blessing Christ forevermore” (8th Ode, 2nd Trop.). Truly for us, holy and
worthy of all solemn triumph is this redeeming and radiantly effulgent
night, the harbinger of the bright- beaming Day of the Resurrection on
which Light eternal shone forth in the flesh from the grave for all.

There was a litany. When they began to chant the canon, they went into the
great church; and on the Grave of Christ one priest with a deacon began
early Liturgy. In the great church they chanted the whole canon. After
Matins, without stopping, they began the Liturgy also. The Patriarch served
with all the clergy in a most majestic and solemn manner. They read the
epistle in three languages: Greek, Slavonic, and Arabic. The Gospel was
read in many various languages: In Slavonic, they read three, and the rest
in Helleno-Greek and Greek, Latin, Turkish, Georgian, Syrian, Arabic,
Egyptian, and Abbysinian, and they read while beating the semantron.
Everyone stood through the Liturgy with candles. We stood through and
Matins and Liturgy in the altar.

When Liturgy was finished, it had begun to dawn. The Orthodox went to the
Patriarchate, and there at the gates they gave to each person two red eggs;
then everyone went to their place.

By the way it was made known to all Orthodox pilgrims that at the first
hour in the afternoon they were to go to the Patriarchal Church for
Vespers. And so we went into the Patriarchal Church. It was adorned and
decorated with a multitude of lamps and candles. They gave into each
person’s hand a large candle made of white wax and we stood through the
whole Vespers with candles. It was most solemn. For the entrance there came
more than a hundred priests and a multitude of deacons. In front there were
seven deacons with candles. Behind them they carried twelve fans. They went
behind all the pillars. They read the Gospel like they did at the Liturgy,
in many languages with the ringing of the bells. After Vespers there was
food for the pilgrims. And then they opened the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre and the pilgrims went to venerate the Tomb. There — a mournful
sight: everyone was weeping, all were wailing. Everyone was embracing the
Grave of their Saviour Jesus Christ, were wetting it with warm tears,
because the time had come to part with it and to leave it forever. There
was weeping and wailing all over the whole church; and especially the women
were emitting loud sounds and wailing. And on all the holy places the
people were lying and did not want to get up. Thus it was sad and grievous
to part with Jerusalem and to be parted from the life-bearing Tomb of
Christ.

________________________________________________
The monk Parthenius (Ageev) was born in 1807 of Old-Ritualist parents in
Jassy, Moldavia, and named Peter at Baptism. He was a child inclined to
reading, especially the spiritual books which his parents had in their
home. His soul was so influenced by these that at age 13 he ran away to a
nearby monastery, only to be brought back by his parents after three
months. As a young man he left Moldavia in search of an Old-Ritualist
monastery where he could give himself over to Christ in the spiritual life.
Disillusioned by the divisions between the various Old-Ritualist groups, he
visited the Russian Orthodox monastery of Sarov, where he met the future
Saint Seraphim. After returning to Moldavia and spending time in two
Old-Ritualist monasteries, he was received into the Russian Orthodox Church
at the age of 30. He then went to Mount Athos and entered the Monastery of
St. Panteleimon. After being mistakenly arrested and spending fourteen
months in Siberia (during the persecution of the Old Believers, while the
abbot of St. Panteleimon’s was away, Fr. Parthenius was mistaken for an
Old-Ritualist priest in disguise), he returned to Mount Athos. He was
counselled by his starets, the blessed Arsenius, to return to Russia as a
missionary among the Old Believers. He spent seven years with the saintly
Bishop Athanasius in Tomsk, Siberia, being made igumen of Berlukov, and was
then commissioned by the Holy Synod to found Guslitsy Monastery. He fell
asleep in the Lord in 1878 in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, where he
had retired, and was buried there.

Of Father Parthenius’ numerous writings, the most widely-read is his five
volume work Report of the Wanderings and Journeys across Russia, Moldavia,
Turkey, and the Holy Land, in which are described his diverse experiences,
and acquaintances with many notable personalties. Four volumes were
published in Moscow in 1855, the fifth being published posthumously by
Archimandrite Nicon, after appearing in serialized form in the review
“Soul- Profiting Reading” between 1989-1901. Fr. Parthenius journeyed to
the Holy Land in 1845, shortly before the death of his beloved elder. The
following account of Holy Week and Paschal services in Jerusalem and of the
miracle of the Holy Fire in 1846 is taken from the second volume of his
Wanderings.

 

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