I hope you are all having a peaceful, grace-filled Holy Week thus far. May God make us worthy to worship His Cross and see His glorious Resurrection!
I haven’t posted a ‘Tips from the Monastery’ in quite some time. The other day I remembered the practice of reading the Acts of the Apostles on Holy Saturday and I was happy to share it in a ‘Tips’ post.
Spending time at Orthodox monasteries I learned of a revered custom that still takes place in some monasteries today. On Holy and Great Saturday, after the Vesperal Liturgy is celebrated in the morning, the Acts of the Apostles is read in its entirety. In the Catholicon of the monastery the Evangelist Luke’s account of the early years of the Church is read until the Paschal Vigil begins. For obvious reasons the whole brotherhood or sisterhood would not necessarily be able to be present for the whole reading, but the 28-Chapter book is easily read by one or a few chanters.
I find this practice so beautiful. For the first few years I was Orthodox I would read it in my home. I don’t have as much time now, but truth be told with technology the way it is I could certainly listen to a recording of the Acts of the Apostles while getting ready for Pascha.
During Holy Week we hear the whole account of Christ’s last days. We hear Him declare He is going up to Jerusalem to suffer. We listen as He nudges the Apostles awake, admonishing them to ‘keep watch’. Our hearts break at the words ‘Judas, do you betray me with a kiss?’. With Peter we ‘weep bitterly’ at the realization of our own denial of Christ the Master. And finally, our hearts are pierced by Christ’s words ‘It is finished’ as He hangs on the Cross. Joseph of Arimathea takes Him from the Cross. We sing His lamentations and kiss His most pure body in the Epithaphios icon. And as we wait for His Resurrection, as we go with the women to see His empty tomb, we read of what became of His Apostles in the Book of Acts-the same Apostles who hide themselves in fear following Christ’s Passion. It’s the perfect compliment to all we’ve heard this week. It describes Christ’s ascent into Heaven. It tells us what became of Judas the betrayer. It reminds us of the power of God through Jesus Christ, and it inspires us to go out and preach Christ crucified, ‘foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews’.
Having gone with Christ up to Jerusalem, having been ‘crucified with Him’ that we might live with Him in His Kingdom, we arrive at Holy and Great Saturday. Reading the Acts of the Apostles we have the great blessing of hearing all about the Apostles “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence”. May we, through the prayers of the Holy Apostles, be found worthy to Resurrect with Him and to follow in their footsteps!
To listen to the Acts of the Apostles go here.
Thank God for such beautiful, inspiring customs that our Church and Tradition are replete with!