Sunday 15 May 20225th Sunday of EasterYear C

Almighty God,

who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ

have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:

grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires,

so by your continual help

we may bring them to good effect;

through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

or

Risen Christ,

your wounds declare your love for the world

and the wonder of your risen life:

give us compassion and courage

to risk ourselves for those we serve,

to the glory of God the Father.

Readings

[Baruch 3.9-15, 32-4.4


9 Hear the commandments of life, O Israel;
   give ear, and learn wisdom! 
10 Why is it, O Israel, why is it that you are in the land of your enemies,
   that you are growing old in a foreign country,
that you are defiled with the dead, 
11   that you are counted among those in Hades? 
12 You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. 
13 If you had walked in the way of God,
   you would be living in peace for ever. 
14 Learn where there is wisdom,
   where there is strength,
   where there is understanding,
so that you may at the same time discern
   where there is length of days, and life,
   where there is light for the eyes, and peace. 


15 Who has found her place?
   And who has entered her storehouses? 
32 But the one who knows all things knows her,
   he found her by his understanding.
The one who prepared the earth for all time
   filled it with four-footed creatures; 
33 the one who sends forth the light, and it goes;
   he called it, and it obeyed him, trembling; 
34 the stars shone in their watches, and were glad;
   he called them, and they said, ‘Here we are!’
   They shone with gladness for him who made them. 
35 This is our God;
   no other can be compared to him. 
36 He found the whole way to knowledge,
   and gave her to his servant Jacob
   and to Israel, whom he loved. 
37 Afterwards she appeared on earth
   and lived with humankind. 

4She is the book of the commandments of God,
   the law that endures for ever.
All who hold her fast will live,
   and those who forsake her will die. 
2 Turn, O Jacob, and take her;
   walk towards the shining of her light. 
3 Do not give your glory to another,
   or your advantages to an alien people. 
4 Happy are we, O Israel,
   for we know what is pleasing to God. 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

or Genesis 22.1-18]

22After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 2He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ 6Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ 8Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.

9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 12He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ 13And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies,18and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Acts 11.1-18†

11Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, 3saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ 4Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 8But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”9But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 10This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.” 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ 18When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’ 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

† The reading from Acts must be used as either the first or second reading.

Psalm 148

1  Alleluia.
      Praise the Lord from the heavens; •
   praise him in the heights.
2  Praise him, all you his angels; •
   praise him, all his host.
3  Praise him, sun and moon; •
   praise him, all you stars of light.
4  Praise him, heaven of heavens, •
   and you waters above the heavens.
5  Let them praise the name of the Lord, •
   for he commanded and they were created.
6  He made them fast for ever and ever; •
   he gave them a law which shall not pass away.
7  Praise the Lord from the earth, •
   you sea monsters and all deeps;
8  Fire and hail, snow and mist, •
   tempestuous wind, fulfilling his word;
9  Mountains and all hills, •
   fruit trees and all cedars;
10  Wild beasts and all cattle, •
   creeping things and birds on the wing;
11  Kings of the earth and all peoples, •
   princes and all rulers of the world;
12  Young men and women,
      old and young together; •
   let them praise the name of the Lord.
13  For his name only is exalted, •
   his splendour above earth and heaven.
14  He has raised up the horn of his people
      and praise for all his faithful servants, •
   the children of Israel, a people who are near him.
      Alleluia.

[or Psalm 148.1-6]

1  Alleluia.
      Praise the Lord from the heavens; •
   praise him in the heights.
2  Praise him, all you his angels; •
   praise him, all his host.
3  Praise him, sun and moon; •
   praise him, all you stars of light.
4  Praise him, heaven of heavens, •
   and you waters above the heavens.
5  Let them praise the name of the Lord, •
   for he commanded and they were created.
6  He made them fast for ever and ever; •
   he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Revelation 21.1-6

21Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them; 
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’6Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Gospel Reading

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

AllGlory to you, O Lord.

John 13.31-35

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

AllPraise to you, O Christ.

Post Communion

Eternal God,

whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:

grant us to walk in his way,

to rejoice in his truth,

and to share his risen life;

who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Sunday 1 May 20223rd Sunday of EasterYear C

Collect

Almighty Father,

who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord:

give us such knowledge of his presence with us,

that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life

and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

or

Risen Christ,

you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:

strengthen us to proclaim your risen life

and fill us with your peace,

to the glory of God the Father.

Readings

[Zephaniah 3.14-end]


14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
   shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
   O daughter Jerusalem! 
15 The Lord has taken away the judgements against you,
   he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
   you shall fear disaster no more. 
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
   do not let your hands grow weak. 
17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
   a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
   he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing 
18   as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
   so that you will not bear reproach for it. 
19 I will deal with all your oppressors
   at that time.
And I will save the lame
   and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
   and renown in all the earth. 
20 At that time I will bring you home,
   at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
   among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
   before your eyes, says the Lord.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Acts 9.1-6 [7-20]†

9Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’[ 7The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ 11The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ 13But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ 15But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ 17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’]

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

† The reading from Acts must be used as either the first or second reading.

Psalm 30

1  I will exalt you, O Lord,
      because you have raised me up •
   and have not let my foes triumph over me.
2  O Lord my God, I cried out to you •
   and you have healed me.
3  You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; •
   you restored me to life from among those that go down to the Pit.
4  Sing to the Lord, you servants of his; •
   give thanks to his holy name.
5  For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,
      his favour for a lifetime. •
   Heaviness may endure for a night,
      but joy comes in the morning.
6  In my prosperity I said,
      ‘I shall never be moved. •
   You, Lord, of your goodness,
      have made my hill so strong.’
7  Then you hid your face from me •
   and I was utterly dismayed.
8  To you, O Lord, I cried; •
   to the Lord I made my supplication:
9  ‘What profit is there in my blood,
      if I go down to the Pit? •
   Will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
10  ‘Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; •
   O Lord, be my helper.’
11  You have turned my mourning into dancing; •
   you have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness;
12  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; •
   O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

Revelation 5.11-end

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12singing with full voice,
‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honour and glory and blessing!’ 
13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might
for ever and ever!’ 
14And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the elders fell down and worshipped. 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Gospel Reading

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

AllGlory to you, O Lord.

John 21.1-19

21After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

AllPraise to you, O Christ.

Post Communion

Living God,

your Son made himself known to his disciples

in the breaking of bread:

open the eyes of our faith,

that we may see him in all his redeeming work;

who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Sunday 24 April 20222nd Sunday of EasterYear C

Almighty Father,

you have given your only Son to die for our sins

and to rise again for our justification:

grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness

that we may always serve you

in pureness of living and truth;

through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

or

Risen Christ,

for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:

open the doors of our hearts,

that we may seek the good of others

and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,

to the praise of God the Father.

Readings

[Exodus 14.10-end; Exodus 15.20-21]

10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord.11They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ 13But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.’

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. 17Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.’

19 The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. 20It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. 22The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. 24At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.25He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.’ 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lordand in his servant Moses.

20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21And Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Acts 5.27-32†

27 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’ 29But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

The reading from Acts must be used as either the first or second reading.

Psalm 118.14-end

14  The Lord is my strength and my song, •
   and he has become my salvation.
15  Joyful shouts of salvation •
   sound from the tents of the righteous:
16  ‘The right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds;
      the right hand of the Lord raises up; •
   the right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds.’
17  I shall not die, but live •
   and declare the works of the Lord.
18  The Lord has punished me sorely, •
   but he has not given me over to death.
19  Open to me the gates of righteousness, •
   that I may enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20  This is the gate of the Lord; •
   the righteous shall enter through it.
21  I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me •
   and have become my salvation.
22  The stone which the builders rejected •
   has become the chief cornerstone.
23  This is the Lord’s doing, •
   and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24  This is the day that the Lord has made; •
   we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25  Come, O Lord, and save us we pray. •
   Come, Lord, send us now prosperity.
26  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; •
   we bless you from the house of the Lord.
27  The Lord is God; he has given us light; •
   link the pilgrims with cords
      right to the horns of the altar.
28  You are my God and I will thank you; •
   you are my God and I will exalt you.
29  O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; •
   his mercy endures for ever.

or Psalm 150

1  Alleluia.
      O praise God in his holiness; •
   praise him in the firmament of his power.
2  Praise him for his mighty acts; •
   praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3  Praise him with the blast of the trumpet; •
   praise him upon the harp and lyre.
4  Praise him with timbrel and dances; •
   praise him upon the strings and pipe.
5  Praise him with ringing cymbals; •
   praise him upon the clashing cymbals.
6  Let everything that has breath •
   praise the Lord.
      Alleluia.

Revelation 1.4-8

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
   every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
   and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.

8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Gospel Reading

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

AllGlory to you, O Lord.

John 20.19-end

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

AllPraise to you, O Christ.

Post Communion

Lord God our Father,

through our Saviour Jesus Christ

you have assured your children of eternal life

and in baptism have made us one with him:

deliver us from the death of sin

and raise us to new life in your love,

in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,

by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday 17 April 2022 Alternative 2 of 2EasterEaster Day orYear C

Lord of all life and power,

who through the mighty resurrection of your Son

overcame the old order of sin and death

to make all things new in him:

grant that we, being dead to sin

and alive to you in Jesus Christ,

may reign with him in glory;

to whom with you and the Holy Spirit

be praise and honour, glory and might,

now and in all eternity.

or

God of glory,

by the raising of your Son

you have broken the chains of death and hell:

fill your Church with faith and hope;

for a new day has dawned

and the way to life stands open

in our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Readings

Acts 10.34-43†

34 Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

or Isaiah 65.17-end


17 For I am about to create new heavens
   and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
   or come to mind. 
18 But be glad and rejoice for ever
   in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
   and its people as a delight. 
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
   and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
   or the cry of distress. 
20 No more shall there be in it
   an infant that lives but a few days,
   or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
   and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
   they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
   they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
   and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 
23 They shall not labour in vain,
   or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
   and their descendants as well. 
24 Before they call I will answer,
   while they are yet speaking I will hear. 
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
   the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
   but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain, 

says the Lord. 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Psalm 118.1-2, 14-24

1  O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; •
   his mercy endures for ever.
2  Let Israel now proclaim, •
   ‘His mercy endures for ever.’
14  The Lord is my strength and my song, •
   and he has become my salvation.
15  Joyful shouts of salvation •
   sound from the tents of the righteous:
16  ‘The right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds;
      the right hand of the Lord raises up; •
   the right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds.’
17  I shall not die, but live •
   and declare the works of the Lord.
18  The Lord has punished me sorely, •
   but he has not given me over to death.
19  Open to me the gates of righteousness, •
   that I may enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20  This is the gate of the Lord; •
   the righteous shall enter through it.
21  I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me •
   and have become my salvation.
22  The stone which the builders rejected •
   has become the chief cornerstone.
23  This is the Lord’s doing, •
   and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24  This is the day that the Lord has made; •
   we will rejoice and be glad in it.

[or Psalm 118.14-24]

14  The Lord is my strength and my song, •
   and he has become my salvation.
15  Joyful shouts of salvation •
   sound from the tents of the righteous:
16  ‘The right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds;
      the right hand of the Lord raises up; •
   the right hand of the Lord does mighty deeds.’
17  I shall not die, but live •
   and declare the works of the Lord.
18  The Lord has punished me sorely, •
   but he has not given me over to death.
19  Open to me the gates of righteousness, •
   that I may enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20  This is the gate of the Lord; •
   the righteous shall enter through it.
21  I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me •
   and have become my salvation.
22  The stone which the builders rejected •
   has become the chief cornerstone.
23  This is the Lord’s doing, •
   and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24  This is the day that the Lord has made; •
   we will rejoice and be glad in it.

1 Corinthians 15.19-26

19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

or Acts 10.34-43†

34 Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

The reading from Acts must be used as either the first or second reading.

Gospel Reading

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

AllGlory to you, O Lord.

John 20.1-18

20Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

AllPraise to you, O Christ.

or Luke 24.1-12 †

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

AllGlory to you, O Lord.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

AllPraise to you, O Christ.

Post Communion

God of Life,

who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son 

to the death of the cross,

and by his glorious resurrection

have delivered us from the power of our enemy:

grant us so to die daily to sin,

that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday 17 April 2022 Alternative 1 of 2Easter VigilorYear C

Reading Notes: The New Testament readings should be preceded by a minimum of three Old Testament readings. The Exodus reading should always be used.

Collect

Grant, Lord,

that we who are baptized into the death of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ

may continually put to death our evil desires and be buried with him; 

and that through the grave and gate of death

we may pass to our joyful resurrection;

through his merits,

who died and was buried and rose again for us,

your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

or

In the depths of our isolation

we cry to you, Lord God:

give light in our darkness

and bring us out of the prison of our despair;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings

Genesis 1.1-2.4a

1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

14 And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20 And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24 And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so.25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ 
27 So God created humankind in his image,
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them. 
28God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ 29God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Genesis 7.1-5, 11-18

7Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation.2Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; 3and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. 4For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.’ 5And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.

11 In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12The rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights. 13On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons, entered the ark, 14they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind—every bird, every winged creature. 15They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.

17 The flood continued for forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Genesis 8.6-18

6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; 9but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; 11and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.

13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying.14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15Then God said to Noah, 16‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’ 18So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Genesis 9.8-13

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ 12God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Genesis 22.1-18

22After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 2He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ 6Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ 8Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.

9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 12He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ 13And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies,18and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Exodus 14.10-end, 15.20-21

10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord.11They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ 13But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.’

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. 17Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. 18And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.’

19 The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. 20It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. 22The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. 24At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.25He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.’ 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lordand in his servant Moses.

20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21And Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Isaiah 55.1-11

55Ho, everyone who thirsts,
   come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
   come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
   without money and without price. 
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
   and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
   and delight yourselves in rich food. 
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
   listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
   my steadfast, sure love for David. 
4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
   a leader and commander for the peoples. 
5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
   and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
   for he has glorified you. 


6 Seek the Lord while he may be found,
   call upon him while he is near; 
7 let the wicked forsake their way,
   and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
   and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts. 


10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
   and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
   giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
   it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
   and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Baruch 3.9-15, 32-4.4


9 Hear the commandments of life, O Israel;
   give ear, and learn wisdom! 
10 Why is it, O Israel, why is it that you are in the land of your enemies,
   that you are growing old in a foreign country,
that you are defiled with the dead, 
11   that you are counted among those in Hades? 
12 You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. 
13 If you had walked in the way of God,
   you would be living in peace for ever. 
14 Learn where there is wisdom,
   where there is strength,
   where there is understanding,
so that you may at the same time discern
   where there is length of days, and life,
   where there is light for the eyes, and peace. 


15 Who has found her place?
   And who has entered her storehouses? 
32 But the one who knows all things knows her,
   he found her by his understanding.
The one who prepared the earth for all time
   filled it with four-footed creatures; 
33 the one who sends forth the light, and it goes;
   he called it, and it obeyed him, trembling; 
34 the stars shone in their watches, and were glad;
   he called them, and they said, ‘Here we are!’
   They shone with gladness for him who made them. 
35 This is our God;
   no other can be compared to him. 
36 He found the whole way to knowledge,
   and gave her to his servant Jacob
   and to Israel, whom he loved. 
37 Afterwards she appeared on earth
   and lived with humankind. 

4She is the book of the commandments of God,
   the law that endures for ever.
All who hold her fast will live,
   and those who forsake her will die. 
2 Turn, O Jacob, and take her;
   walk towards the shining of her light. 
3 Do not give your glory to another,
   or your advantages to an alien people. 
4 Happy are we, O Israel,
   for we know what is pleasing to God. 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

or Proverbs 8.1-8, 19-21, 9.4b-6

8Does not wisdom call,
   and does not understanding raise her voice? 
2 On the heights, beside the way,
   at the crossroads she takes her stand; 
3 beside the gates in front of the town,
   at the entrance of the portals she cries out: 
4 ‘To you, O people, I call,
   and my cry is to all that live. 
5 O simple ones, learn prudence;
   acquire intelligence, you who lack it. 
6 Hear, for I will speak noble things,
   and from my lips will come what is right; 
7 for my mouth will utter truth;
   wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 
8 All the words of my mouth are righteous;
   there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
   and my yield than choice silver. 
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
   along the paths of justice, 
21 endowing with wealth those who love me,
   and filling their treasuries. 
4 ‘You that are simple, turn in here!’
   To those without sense she says, 
5 ‘Come, eat of my bread
   and drink of the wine I have mixed. 
6 Lay aside immaturity, and live,
   and walk in the way of insight.’ 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Ezekiel 36.24-28

24I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. 25I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Ezekiel 37.1-14

37The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ 4Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord Godto these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11 Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’ 

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Zephaniah 3.14-end


14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
   shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
   O daughter Jerusalem! 
15 The Lord has taken away the judgements against you,
   he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
   you shall fear disaster no more. 
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
   do not let your hands grow weak. 
17 The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
   a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
   he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing 
18   as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
   so that you will not bear reproach for it. 
19 I will deal with all your oppressors
   at that time.
And I will save the lame
   and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
   and renown in all the earth. 
20 At that time I will bring you home,
   at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
   among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
   before your eyes, says the Lord.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Romans 6.3-11

3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

This is the word of the Lord.

AllThanks be to God.

Gospel Reading

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

AllGlory to you, O Lord.

Luke 24.1-12

24But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body.4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ 8Then they remembered his words,9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

AllPraise to you, O Christ.

Post Communion

God of Life,

who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son 

to the death of the cross,

and by his glorious resurrection

have delivered us from the power of our enemy:

grant us so to die daily to sin,

that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As I was preparing the music for August 20, 2017—the After-Feast of the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos—I noticed that in the first stichera at “O Lord, I have cried” for Vespers, after it states how Christ translated His Mother out of this world, and brought His disciples together to give her proper burial, it says:”. . . Then the Apostles, seeing thee, O Virgin, were filled with grace, and with exceeding great reverence, they all then sacredly worshipped thee and cried out with firm faith: O rejoice, thou who hast brought forth Great Mercy for the world.”I was really struck by the words “sacredly worshipped thee” regarding the Virgin Mary. Unless we are doing daily services, we may not hear them on August 20th except when it happens to fall on a Sunday; or perhaps we are chanting them every year but using a different translation. This particular translation from Holy Transfiguration Monastery uses the word “worship.” I kept that in mind and continued on with the second Stichera, wherein the Virgin asks the disciples how they came to know of her departure from the body and she inquires about this most wondrous sight. The disciples respond:“. . . We suddenly were all lifted upon the clouds; and as thou seest, we are come unto thine abode, now to worship thee as a holy and fiery throne, and to see thy departure and divine emigration hence, . . . .”So, again, we are called upon to pray these words of “worshipping” to the Mother of God, this time as a holy and fiery throne. It was amazing for me to see these words set in the context of the word “worship.” Yet think about all of the various titles we give to the Virgin Mary from the Canon of the Akathist to the Theotokos, such as: O Immaculate One, thou living Book of Christ; Virgin Bride of God; O Dwelling-place of Light; the Ladder which raised all from earth to grace; Uplifter of mankind; Downfall of demons; Crown of chastity; Door of hallowed Mystery, to name only a few. Then we also attribute various types to her from Scripture: the Living Ark; the Burning Bush; the Jar of Manna; the Ladder to Heaven, to name only a few.We surely honor her in our services with great and glorious titles and affirmations, but we would never think of her as the fourth Person of the Holy Trinity. Truly, our ultimate worship would only go to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in Essence, and undivided. So then, how are we to understand these words, and their meaning and place in our Orthodox theology, doctrine, and practice, if we truly believe what we pray?Since these words come from the August Menaion published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, MA, I decided to write to Fr. Pachomius and ask him, as I have done so many times before. His wisdom, insight and humor are always needed in moments like this. This was his response:Dear Christopher,In answer to this e-mail and that following [I wrote him twice], I’ll see you and raise you one: On September 8th, the Nativity of the Theotokos, in the Ninth Ode of the second canon, third troparion, we chant: “We worship thy swaddling clothes, O Theotokos . . .”We also chant on Orthodoxy Sunday and August 16, for the Icon not made by Hands, “We worship Thine immaculate icon, O Christ our God . . .”A clue to the answer is in the Exapostilarion for November 4 and February 14: “With longing, faith, and godly fear, * I kiss and honour thy divine * and all-immaculate icon, * showing it relative worship.”The key word here is “relative.” Absolute worship as God is given only to God, the holy Trinity. But the central miracle of Christianity is that the Word became flesh; God became man, and made man God; He deified matter itself in assuming it, so that we worship the human nature of Christ that He took from the Virgin Mary together with His divine nature that He had from before eternity as God.In his defence of the holy icons, St John of Damascus writes, “I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter” (On the Divine Images, St. John of Damascus, p. 23, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980.)So if, as St Peter says, the object of our life is to become “partakers of the divine nature” [2 Peter 1:4], then all the Saints, but most of all the Mother of God, are partakers of the divine nature, and we worship God in them and through them.Another explanation, less theologically intense, is that “worship” can also mean “show reverence to,” but the problem with this as with all words is that in different contexts it can mean different things. The explanation I still prefer is that we offer God aloneabsolute worship; but we offer, in the words of the Exapostilarion quoted above, “relative worship” to all in whom God dwells. …In Christ,Father PachomiusI found his explanation quite helpful and informative, especially his references to other places in our services where we make the same type of claim in our prayers, of worshipping the swaddling clothes of the Theotokos or the immaculate icon of Christ. I do understand the concept that he presents here. But I also must admit that I still have a little trouble with the English language when we use the word “worship” for anyone or anything other than God alone. In “The Divine Prayers and Services” by Nassar, it says that we “adore thy swaddling clothes,” and in other translations of the Apolytikion of Orthodoxy Sunday, we say “We reverence [or venerate] thine immaculate icon, O Christ our God . . . .” We do use other words for these prayers in English, and could reserve the word “worship” for God alone.With this in mind, then, we are brought to another aspect of these words we pray. Since the word “worship” is used here in English, and Fr. Pachomius says that it is to be understood as relative worship, I wondered what the actual word was in the original Greek. What word is used for all of these phrases in the above texts? So with Bishop Basil’s help, and looking online for the Greek Menaion, I came to see that the words used in all the above texts are all verbal forms of the noun προσκύνησις, proskynesis, which means to kneel or bow down before, and to show reverence and honor. It is the word we use for the veneration we give to icons and the relics of the saints. It is also the word we use when we sing, “Come let us worship and fall down before Christ,” and “For unto thee are due all glory, honor, and worship…,” and also “Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, Master.” It is not, however, the word we use when referring to our worship and adoration of God. That word is λατρεία, latreia, which means to adore. We find the word latreia in the Doxastikon of the Aposticha for the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. At the end of this hymn we pray: “Wherefore, following their divine doctrines and believing with assurance, we worship, in one Godhead, the Father, Son, and All-holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence.” Then, in the Apolytikion of the Nativity of Christ, we have the verbal forms of both proskynesis and latreia: “. . . for they that worshipped (latreia) the stars did learn therefrom to worship (proskynesis) thee, O Sun of justice. . . .” So, instead of giving all their adoration to the stars, the wise men now came to worship and fall down before Christ Himself, the Son of God, the Sun of justice.With this last example, we see that using the word “worship” in English for both proskynesis and latreia can surely make things a bit confusing, which is what brought about this whole dilemma.So, as we celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos, her falling asleep and translation to heaven, sacredly worshiping her as the holy and fiery throne, let us do so knowing that we are offering her this “worship” as proskynesis. We bow down before her in veneration, with all honor and reverence given to her as the Mother of God, in “relative worship,” as an outward form of our worship and piety. But we also realize that she is the one who brought forth “Great Mercy for the world,” who is Christ our Lord, the pre-eternal, uncreated, Incarnate Son of God, through the good will of our Father in heaven, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is this God, the Trinity, one in Essence, whom we worship and offer our inward form of adoration as latreia. Thus we stay true to our words and teachings, knowing that what we pray is what we believe.

As I was preparing the music for August 20, 2017—the After-Feast of the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos—I noticed that in the first stichera at “O Lord, I have cried” for Vespers, after it states how Christ translated His Mother out of this world, and brought His disciples together to give her proper burial, it says:

“. . . Then the Apostles, seeing thee, O Virgin, were filled with grace, and with exceeding great reverence, they all then sacredly worshipped thee and cried out with firm faith: O rejoice, thou who hast brought forth Great Mercy for the world.”

I was really struck by the words “sacredly worshipped thee” regarding the Virgin Mary. Unless we are doing daily services, we may not hear them on August 20th except when it happens to fall on a Sunday; or perhaps we are chanting them every year but using a different translation. This particular translation from Holy Transfiguration Monastery uses the word “worship.” I kept that in mind and continued on with the second Stichera, wherein the Virgin asks the disciples how they came to know of her departure from the body and she inquires about this most wondrous sight. The disciples respond:

“. . . We suddenly were all lifted upon the clouds; and as thou seest, we are come unto thine abode, now to worship thee as a holy and fiery throne, and to see thy departure and divine emigration hence, . . . .”

So, again, we are called upon to pray these words of “worshipping” to the Mother of God, this time as a holy and fiery throne. It was amazing for me to see these words set in the context of the word “worship.” Yet think about all of the various titles we give to the Virgin Mary from the Canon of the Akathist to the Theotokos, such as: O Immaculate One, thou living Book of Christ; Virgin Bride of God; O Dwelling-place of Light; the Ladder which raised all from earth to grace; Uplifter of mankind; Downfall of demons; Crown of chastity; Door of hallowed Mystery, to name only a few. Then we also attribute various types to her from Scripture: the Living Ark; the Burning Bush; the Jar of Manna; the Ladder to Heaven,to name only a few. 

We surely honor her in our services with great and glorious titles and affirmations, but we would never think of her as the fourth Person of the Holy Trinity. Truly, our ultimate worship would only go to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in Essence, and undivided. So then, how are we to understand these words, and their meaning and place in our Orthodox theology, doctrine, and practice, if we truly believe what we pray?

Since these words come from the August Menaion published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, MA, I decided to write to Fr. Pachomius and ask him, as I have done so many times before. His wisdom, insight and humor are always needed in moments like this. This was his response:

Dear Christopher,
In answer to this e-mail and that following [I wrote him twice], I’ll see you and raise you one: On September 8th, the Nativity of the Theotokos, in the Ninth Ode of the second canon, third troparion, we chant: “We worship thy swaddling clothes, O Theotokos . . .”

We also chant on Orthodoxy Sunday and August 16, for the Icon not made by Hands, “We worship Thine immaculate icon, O Christ our God . . .”

A clue to the answer is in the Exapostilarion for November 4 and February 14: “With longing, faith, and godly fear, * I kiss and honour thy divine * and all-immaculate icon, * showing it relative worship.”

The key word here is “relative.” Absolute worship as God is given only to God, the holy Trinity. But the central miracle of Christianity is that the Word became flesh; God became man, and made man God; He deified matter itself in assuming it, so that we worship the human nature of Christ that He took from the Virgin Mary together with His divine nature that He had from before eternity as God.

In his defence of the holy icons, St John of Damascus writes, “I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter” (On the Divine Images, St. John of Damascus, p. 23, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980.)

So if, as St Peter says, the object of our life is to become “partakers of the divine nature” [2 Peter 1:4], then all the Saints, but most of all the Mother of God, are partakers of the divine nature, and we worship God in them and through them.

Another explanation, less theologically intense, is that “worship” can also mean “show reverence to,” but the problem with this as with all words is that in different contexts it can mean different things. The explanation I still prefer is that we offer God alone
absolute worship; but we offer, in the words of the Exapostilarion quoted above, “relative worship” to all in whom God dwells. …

In Christ,
Father Pachomius

I found his explanation quite helpful and informative, especially his references to other places in our services where we make the same type of claim in our prayers, of worshipping the swaddling clothes of the Theotokos or the immaculate icon of Christ. I do understand the concept that he presents here. But I also must admit that I still have a little trouble with the English language when we use the word “worship” for anyone or anything other than God alone. In “The Divine Prayers and Services” by Nassar, it says that we “adore thy swaddling clothes,” and in other translations of the Apolytikion of Orthodoxy Sunday, we say “We reverence [or venerate] thine immaculate icon, O Christ our God . . . .” We do use other words for these prayers in English, and could reserve the word “worship” for God alone.

With this in mind, then, we are brought to another aspect of these words we pray. Since the word “worship” is used here in English, and Fr. Pachomius says that it is to be understood as relative worship, I wondered what the actual word was in the original Greek. What word is used for all of these phrases in the above texts? So with Bishop Basil’s help, and looking online for the Greek Menaion, I came to see that the words used in all the above texts are all verbal forms of the noun προσκύνησις, proskynesis, which means to kneel or bow down before, and to show reverence and honor. It is the word we use for the veneration we give to icons and the relics of the saints. It is also the word we use when we sing, “Come let us worship and fall down before Christ,” and “For unto thee are due all glory, honor, and worship…,” and also “Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, Master.” It is not, however, the word we use when referring to our worship and adoration of God. That word is λατρεία, latreia, which means to adore. We find the word latreia in the Doxastikon of the Aposticha for the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. At the end of this hymn we pray: “Wherefore, following their divine doctrines and believing with assurance, we worship, in one Godhead, the Father, Son, and All-holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence.” Then, in the Apolytikion of the Nativity of Christ, we have the verbal forms of both proskynesis and latreia: “. . . for they that worshipped (latreia) the stars did learn therefrom to worship (proskynesis) thee, O Sun of justice. . . .” So, instead of giving all their adoration to the stars, the wise men now came to worship and fall down before Christ Himself, the Son of God, the Sun of justice.

With this last example, we see that using the word “worship” in English for both proskynesis and latreia can surely make things a bit confusing, which is what brought about this whole dilemma.

So, as we celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos, her falling asleep and translation to heaven, sacredly worshiping her as the holy and fiery throne, let us do so knowing that we are offering her this “worship” as proskynesis. We bow down before her in veneration, with all honor and reverence given to her as the Mother of God, in “relative worship,” as an outward form of our worship and piety. But we also realize that she is the one who brought forth “Great Mercy for the world,” who is Christ our Lord, the pre-eternal, uncreated, Incarnate Son of God, through the good will of our Father in heaven, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is this God, the Trinity, one in Essence, whom we worship and offer our inward form of adoration as latreia. Thus we stay true to our words and teachings, knowing that what we pray is what we believe.

Sinlessness of Our Lady

How exactly does the Orthodox Church view the sinlessness of Mary? In the Liturgy it is said, “One is Holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the Glory of God the Father” and in other places that Jesus is the only sinless one. Also, in reference to 1 John 1:8 where it says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” How can these be reconciled? Is the Theotokos all-pure, all-holy, all-blameless because of her deification through her Son, so that she is those things because her Son is, as we are holy, pure, etc. through our union to Christ?

Also, how is it that she is referred to as the only refuge for sinners, and various phrases like this? Isn’t Christ our only refuge and the salvation of sinners?

This is the main stumbling block I have with Orthodoxy right now. There seems to be varying beliefs within the Orthodoxy on the Theotokos. Didn’t St John Chrysostom teach that Mary had sinned at least once? When I read the earliest Church Fathers there seems to be little focus on Mary apart from the Christological issue of whether she was the Mother of God, or only of Christ. Doesn’t the teaching that Mary was sinless from birth state the same general concept, that Mary is more than the rest of humanity, as the Immaculate Conception (apart from the idea of original sin) except that it moves the moment of the supernatural grace of God to birth from conception? 

I am not trying to answer my own questions, but am simply not understanding how these contradictions, at least seemingly, can be resolved.


Answer

While I would love to be able to fully answer your question, it is far beyond the scope of an email, especially because full understanding of the Orthodox position, based on the tenor of your question, on the Virgin Mary requires a thorough explanation of some of the secondary issues to which you refer, such as original sin, the Immaculate Conception, supernatural grace, etc. As such, I would highly recommend that you meet in person with the parish priest at the Orthodox Church you have been visiting—he will no doubt be glad to answer the question at some depth.

I can say, in short, that the Orthodox Church believes that Mary, as a human being, could indeed have sinned, but chose not to. In the Roman Catholic understanding, it seems that Mary, who according to Roman doctrine had been exempted from the guilt of original sin [the Orthodox do not accept that humans share the guilt of the first sin but, rather, only the consequences] before all eternity, and thus could not have sinned. This is where the complexity comes in on a number of levels and which puts your question beyond the scope of an email.

Jesus Christ is Mary’s Savior, as well as ours, as testified in her own statement in St Luke—the Magnificat—where she says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” If Mary had been “sin-proofed,” so to speak, from all eternity, the Orthodox would argue as to why she would need a Savior.

Mary is the “new Eve” who said “yes” to God where the first Eve said “no.” She did have a choice, and you may wish to ask your local parish priest to share with you the text of the Kanon from Matins for the Great Feast of the Annunciation, in which you will see a beautiful dialogue between Mary and the Archangel Gabriel in which she debates whether or not to accept the archangel’s news, only in the end accepting that which he announced.

While much that the Orthodox say of Mary “sounds” similar to that which is taught by Roman Catholicism, there are serious differences on many levels. You are correct in saying, however, that the Orthodox Church does not seem to have such a highly developed mariological tradition as the Christian West; it is, at least in my experience, only in recent times, with the growing interest in Orthodoxy especially among many evangelicals, that we have had to delve so deeply—and sometimes deeper than we should—into the role of Mary. Sometimes our answers seem somewhat lame, but in reality there is only so much one can say before one must acknowledge that, while there are certain things we simply cannot fully understand about this, reasoned faith, as defined in St James, becomes the only recourse.

Our patron the virgin Mary: Mother of the Lord

Standing center in Orthodox tradition concerning the Virgin Mary is a singular concept. She is the Theotokos, the woman who bore the life-giving God into human life. Any other title or characterization of this woman, who bore Christ, has to stand on this core truth.The major feasts of the Church, those which celebrate the events of Christ’s life, all have a Marian element. In the traditional liturgical year’s cycle of these events, there is always a “synaxis” on the day that follows an event of salvation history. For instance, the synaxisof the Feast of the Nativity celebrates the motherhood of Mary. Within the Divine Liturgy, Mary is always granted esteem because she is the Theotokos. Immediately following the Anaphora (lifting up of gifts) and the Consecration in the Divine Liturgy of St. Chrysostom, the famous hymn Axion Estin is always sung, recognizing Mary’s role in the miracle of the Eucharist:

It is truly right to bless you, Theotokos,
ever blessed, most pure, and mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim,
and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim,
without corruption you gave birth to God the Word.
We magnify you, the true Theotokos.3

Mary, a young Hebrew woman, is the one human being to be praised by the angels of Heaven, who is ever blessed (filled with joy), most pure (filled with God’s presence and holiness), and mother (one who bore, nourished with her breasts, and raised up the man Jesus.) What can the believer do but magnify her, which is to raise her in esteem above all the inhabitants of Heaven.

Other than the many icons which celebrate Mary’s involvement in the life and work of Christ, in particular the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Ascension, and Pentecost, there are a host of other icons that magnify her cooperation with God’s plan of redemption and exemplify her life as a promise to all the faithful of God’s goodness, in particular the icon of the Dormition. Tradition teaches that at her death, Mary’s tomb was found empty. Most believe that she was taken from her burial site by her son to be with Him in Heaven. Others believe that perhaps she, too, awaits the final days to experience resurrection, but this is often the minority opinion. In every icon, there is a fathomless depth to the mystery of God that can be experienced in prayer and through contemplation of the icon.

No one knows the actual appearance of the Theotokos, but there is a strong, legendary tradition that she was painted by St. Luke. Whether or not there is truth to this legend, most Byzantine iconography portrays her with a characteristic appearance which involves: a narrow Semitic face, a long and slender nose, and dark brown eyes. Look for these features in ancient Byzantine icons, mentioning for example “the Mother of God, Salus Romani,” an 8th century icon found at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.4

Orthodoxy does believe, as do western Christians, that miracles can occur in connection with an icon. To delve into the history of miraculous icons of the Theotokos, is to open a search into the mystery of God that stretches far back into history and includes literally hundreds of icons. An illuminating article on this subject is found in Mother of God, Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art, a publication of the Benaki Museum in 2000. Alexei Lidov described the inherent academic difficulty in studying miracle-working icons:

A study of the stories about miracle-working icons could become a special sphere of research requiring the joint efforts of historians, art historians and philologists. Promising research areas are the study of the structure of these stories and of the interrelationship between archetypal, legendary, literary and real historical motifs. One of the difficulties is that archetypal models are sometimes not invented by the author, but are an integral part of the actual event.5

Lidov does, however, point out the value in studying the miracle-working icons of many centuries: “We immediately discover the important fact that a great deal of valuable historical information often not to be found in other sources has accumulated around the miracle.”6

Two well-known feasts reporting a miraculous aspect in Mary’s work and which also are associated with important liturgical feasts in most Orthodox traditions (especially Greek and Russian) are interesting to the ecumenical discussion of Mary as Mediatrix. They represent spiritual gifts that come to the faithful through the Theotokos, demonstrating a tradition of supplication to the Virgin Mary long before church divisions. The first feast, Theotokos of the Life-Giving Fountain, recalls an event in the 4th century in the environs of Constantinople. A young man who was to become the Byzantine Emperor, Leo the Great, was out for a daily walk when he heard the cries of a blind man with a critical thirst for water. At first, not finding any water to help the blind man, the young man then heard the voice of a woman calling him to a place of water. The place became a place of healings. The tradition of the Theotokos who gives Life-giving water, or she who metaphorically is the “Source of the Source” — that is she who is the source of Christ’s healings as represented by water, became an important feast celebrated today on the Friday following the Great Pascha, Easter. The Friday after Easter in “Bright Week” in most Eastern Orthodox churches is a surprisingly joyful celebration of Christ providing life and sustenance, physically and spiritually, to all the faithful, through his mother. The Fountain shrine is still present today, just outside modern Istanbul, having been built, destroyed and then restored many times throughout the centuries. The feast of the Theotokos of the Fountain, like all other Marian feasts, signifies a significant theological truth, in this case how Christ is the well of life, and his mother is but the fountain.7

ICON: Theotokos of the Fountain – See how Virgin Mary represents a fountain within a fountain, a source flowing with the waters of life which in reality flow from from the Source, her Son.8

A beloved title for the Theotokos in the Orthodox tradition is that of “the Panagia.” This term theologically relates most closely to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In the sense of this title, Mary is completely holy, truly blessed and pure. The difference in the theological concepts concerning mankind’s nature and the result of sin as they relate to Virgin Mary, “Panagia” for Orthodox theology and “Immaculate Conception” for Roman Catholic theology, rests mainly on two terms that are commonly used in the ecumenical discussion between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism – that of the theological understanding of “the Fall” for Orthodox theology and that of “Original Sin” for the Roman Catholic theology. Additionally, a further theological distinction has been discovered in the ecumenical exchange, that being that the Orthodox theologian prefers to speak of “the Fall” in terms of “justice or more specifically justification” and the Roman Catholic theologian tends to speak of the “juridical effects” of “original sin.” In over-simplistically stated terms, this means that the Orthodox view the salvific work of Christ more from a point of view of “justification,” where the Roman Catholic theologian views the salvific work of Christ as a satisfaction for the sin of mankind in a juridical way. In 1986, in an ecumenical discussion between Roman Catholic theologian Edward Yarnold SJ and Orthodox theologian Bishop Kallistos Ware, at an Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary meeting in Chichester, England, we find that these two theological positions may not be as untenable as we think. Bishop Kallistos agreed that he did not find himself “so very far apart from [Father Yarnold].”11 Father Yarnold described the human condition, after Adam and Eve sinned against God, to mean that humans come into the world with a “God shaped hole in their hearts,” that “the sin of the race causes each to come into this world with this God shaped hole unfilled, with this capability of receiving the Holy Spirit unrealized … an inherited spiritual defect.” However, “because of the work for which God destined Mary, that God shaped hole was never left unfilled, there was never in her a lack of original justice.”12 Bishop Kallistos stated he believed Virgin Mary was “from the very beginning of her existence … filled with grace for the task which she had to fulfill.” He responded affirmatively to Fr. Yarnold in saying: “Do I, as an Orthodox accept that, from the very beginning of her existence the Blessed Virgin Mary was filled with grace for the task which she had to fulfill? My answer is emphatically, Yes, I do believe that. But I also believe that she was given a fuller measure of grace at the Annunciation,”13 referring to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit to Mary at the moment of her fiat.

Bishop Ware explained that the Christian East sees a “continuity of sacred history” throughout the ages, putting the Mother of God in a line of humans who were seeking God in a prophetic and holy way, in a kind of growing closer and closer to the coming of salvation for humanity. Mary was “involved in the total solidarity of the human race, in our mutual responsibility”14 for the Fall.

Simply said, Orthodox theology thinks of the young Hebrew woman Mary of Galilee as a human like any other human who was or has ever been born. Her all-holiness was not a privilege, but truly a free response to God’s call. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and answered a total “yes” to the call of God’s plan for salvation.

Orthodox theology considers that humanity “fell” from God in the sin in the Garden, but that humanity continues to be born in the “image of God, (GN 1:27)” throughout the subsequent ages with the same integrity of human nature as Adam and Eve before their disobedience. The world, however, in fact the cosmos, into which subsequent human beings are born, is broken. They are whole and made in the image and likeness of God but come into a world that is filled with sinfulness. The Theotokos came into the world embracing a beautiful “imago Dei,” and received a fullness of God’s grace at the Annunciation that prepared her for her task. The fullness of the Holy Spirit came upon her with her agreement and for the subsequent Incarnation (Lk 1:35): “And the angel said to her in reply, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’” In yet another ecumenical paper, Bishop Kallistos wrote:

Mary is an icon of human freedom and liberation. Mary is chosen, but she herself also chooses. Luke’s narrative speaks not only of divine initiative but also of human response, setting before us the entire dialectic of grace and freedom. Mary was predestined to be Mother of God, but she was also free.15

Orthodox theologian Dr. George S. Gabriel, in his book about the Theotokos entitled Mary the Untrodden Portal of God, contrasts the concepts of the all-holiness of Mary and Mary as Immaculate Conception:

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception severs Mary from her ancestors, from the forefathers, and from the rest of mankind. It marginalizes the preparatory history and economy of the Old Testament as well as the true meaning and holiness of the Theotokos herself. By severing her from fallen mankind and any consequences of the fall, this legalistic mechanism makes her personal holiness and theosis nonessential in the economy of salvation and, for that matter, even in her own salvation. Moreover, “it places in doubt her unity of nature with the human race and, therefore, the genuineness of salvation and Christ’s flesh as representative of mankind. [Qutoing, A., Yevtich, TheTheotokos: Four Homilies on the Mother of God by St. John of Damascus, 3].”16

For many Catholics, this theological debate concerning “Immaculate Conception” versus “the Panagia” is upsetting. However, in the ecumenical world there are three steps that have been discovered for churches to move forward together: 1) all must repent, 2) all must listen, and 3) all must reflect. In the Orthodox mind, words can bind down the mystery of God and words of dogmas about the Virgin Mary can become a problematic division. Ultimately, it will be those theologians, both Orthodox and Catholic, who approach these theological questions in the spirit of repentance, who pray, and who listen intently to each other, who will enlighten us further and perhaps find a ground of union. The experience of the mystery of God in liturgy and iconography of the ancient eastern tradition may help to resolve this conflict.

On another theological issue, which Protestants often question, can we say that Mary, the mother of Christ, is to be called “ever Virgin”? Undeniably, it is the Patristic heritage that upholds this truth of faith in the affirmative. The title “ever a virgin,” aeiparthenos, dates probably in its terminology to the 4th century. Origen refers to this idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary, and St. Athanasius clearly upholds it. From patristic times, Joseph is considered to be a widower who took on the responsibility of young Mary, as chosen to do so by his temple community. The brothers and sisters of the Lord, as mentioned in the New Testament, are consequently considered, in Orthodox tradition, to be Joseph’s children.

There are two special liturgical prayers of significant length that are important in the Orthodox tradition – the Akathistos (translated as “not sitting”) and the Paraklesis(Supplications to the Virgin). Again, there is a strong connection between these liturgical prayers and an iconographic tradition. The Akathistos hymn which is, in itself, a service prayed weekly throughout Great Lent, centers on the mystery of the Incarnation. Authorship is attributed to 5th-6th century hymnist Romanos the Melodist, but scholars find that his sources for the magnificent chanted poetry may have actually derived from more ancient Syriac poetry. The hymn, probably popular for many years for supplication to the Virgin Mary, was sung at a moment of crisis in the 10th century when Constantinople was menaced by invading marauders, the Avars. The legend is told that the people stood and sang the hymn all night long and the city was subsequently saved, thereby giving the title to the hymn, “Not Sitting.” In the Akathistos, a deeply mystical response is sung to repeated greetings of joy regarding the Theotokos. The greeting is a paradoxical phrase repeated over and over in the Akathistos, showing Orthodox regard for the mother of Christ to be awe-filled and beyond any kind of absolute comprehension. It is a phrase that portrays Mary, the mother of Christ, as one who experienced a betrothal with God, a spousal relationship that represents God’s offer of love and hope for response that is actually deeply biblical. The hymn represents a series of salutations to Mary, such as “Rejoice, To You through whom joy shall shine forth. Rejoice! To You through whom the curse will vanish. Rejoice! The recalling of the fallen Adam. Rejoice! The redemption of Eve’s tears. Rejoice! O height beyond human logic. Rejoice! O depth invisible even to the eyes of Angels. … Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.” Each section ends with the remarkable, “Rejoice, bride unwedded (Chaire, nymphe anymphete).” In the paradox, lies a remarkable mystery of spousal love that God offers.

In the ancient centuries of the Eastern Church, icons were connected with the singing of the Akathistos hymn. Most often, long processions would wind through narrow streets from shrine to shrine, with faithful singing the many verses of the hymn while carrying an iconographic banner or icon on stands.

The Service of the Small Paraklesis to the Most Holy Theotokos, is a liturgical service sung in the two-week Lenten period before the Feast of the Dormition, (paraklesis refers to a kind of salutation and petitioning set of prayers.) It is one of the most popular of Marian hymns and obviously demonstrates, that from ancient times Mary, the mother, is considered the mediator of the love and care of Her Son. The concluding verse of the Small Paraklesis in itself demonstrates the importance of her mediation as well as the humility of her motherhood:

I have you as Mediator
Before God who loves mankind;
May He not question my action
Before the hosts of the Angels,
I ask of you, O Virgin
Hasten now quickly to my aid.

You are a tower adorned with gold,
A city surrounded by twelve walls,
A shining throne touched by the sun,
A royal seat for the King,
O unexplainable wonder,
How do you nurse the Master?17

To enter an Orthodox Church building is to enter into the tradition of an ages-old spiritual culture where the faithful can prayerfully encounter Mary and her Son in liturgical prayer and iconography. Such an experience is discovered in liturgical chant and icons. One lights a candle and brings his or her own living light into the place of prayer. Then, it is the custom that one regards the icon of the Theotokos, bends, kisses the Child in her arms thus revering the Mother who bore Him. One then enters the community and joins the voices of joy and petition that abound, offering a sacrifice of one’s heart and one’s hands. One can’t avoid the icon of the Platytera offering her Son from the holy altar. One receives the Body and the Blood of Christ as Mary, Christ’s mother, received the body and blood of God’s son. One prays for those departed to God’s hands. On leaving the church building, one sees the icon of the Dormition above the departure way. One reflects. It is time to live the rest of one’s life with hope that Mary’s Dormition is the promise, the promise of a life with Christ that will never end. This is the Orthodox way, living with Mary.


© Virginia Kimball, Adjunct Professor, Department of Theology, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA September, 2006


[1] John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (New York: Fordham University Press, 1979), 8-9.
[2] These three icons, Hodegetria, Eleousa, and Deesis are found on Orthodox Photos, http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/Icons_and_Frescoes/Icons/Mother_of_God/index.shtml
[3] “Online Chapel,” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, http://www.goarch.org/en/Chapel/liturgical_texts/liturgy_hchc.asp (Accessed July 20, 2006.)
[4] Image found on website, http://www.iconsexplained.com/iec/00351.htm (Accessed July 20, 2006.)
[5] Alexei Lidov, “Miracle-working Icons of the Mother of God,” in Mother of God, Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art, edited by Maria Vassilaki (Skira Editore, Milan, Italy, and Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece, 2000), 49.
[6] Lidov, 47.
[7] Virginia Kimball, Liturgical Illuminations: Discovering Received Tradition in the Eastern Orthros of Feasts of the Theotokos, Doctoral Dissertation, International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio, 2003.
[8] Icon Gallery, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, http://www.goarch.org/en/resources/clipart/icondetail.asp?i=95&c=Theotokos&r=lifegivingfountain
[9] Icon of the Theotokos of Protection, privately owned by author.
[10] Platytera icon, apse and iconostasion, St. George’s Antiochian Church, Lowell, MA, http://www.saintgeorgelowell.org/photo14.html
[11] Bishop Kallistos T. Ware and Edward Yarnold SJ, “The Immaculate Conception, A Search for Convergence,” Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ESBVM Congress, Chichester, England, 1986, 11.
[12] Ware and Yarnold.
[13] Ware and Yarnold.
[14] Ware and Yarnold, 6.
[15] Kallistos Ware, “Mary Theotokos in the Orthodox Tradition,” The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1997, 14.
[16] George S. Gabriel, Ph.D., Mary, the Untrodden Portal (Thessalonica and Ridgewood, NJ: Zephr, 2000), 68.
[17] The Service of the Small Paraklesis (Intercessory Prayer) to the Most Holy Theotokos, translated and set to meter by Demetri Kangelaris and Nicholas Kasemeotes (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1984), 37-38.

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