The Paschal Season
The Paschal season consists of the forty days from Pascha to the Ascension. We consider the time our risen Lord spent with his disciples, preparing them for the tasks which lay ahead, after our Lord's return to heaven. We also commemorate several miracles of the Messiah's earthly ministry. In the liturgical books, the days from Pascha up to (but not including) the feast of the Ascension are called days of Pascha.
The Weeks of the Paschal Season
The Paschal season consists of five full weeks and one partial week (follow the links for more information about each week):
- The first Sunday of Pascha is, of course, the great feast of Pascha itself, and the week that follows it is called Bright Week.
- On the second Sunday of Pascha, Thomas Sunday, we commemorate the appearance of the risen Lord to the apostles in the upper room.
- On the third Sunday of Pascha, the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women, we remember the women who came to the Lord's tomb to anoint his body, and found that He had been raised.
- On the fourth Sunday of Pascha, the Sunday of the Paralytic, we hear of the first of several great miracles that our Lord performed during his ministry. During this week, we also celebrate the feast of Mid-Pentecost - halfway between Pascha and Pentecost.
- On the fifth Sunday of Pascha, the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, we hear our Lord's discussion with the woman he met at Jacob's well.
- On the sixth Sunday of of Pascha, the Sunday of the Man Born Blind,
The Paschal season ends on Wednesday in the sixth week, the day before the feast of the Ascension. On this day, called the Leave-taking of Pascha, the Paschal services are celebrated once more as they were on Pascha and during Bright Week, to conclude our celebration of the Lord's Resurrection.
The Services of the Paschal Season
During the Paschal Season:
- Each service begins with the triple singing of the Paschal troparion, Christ is risen.
- At Matins, the Sunday hymn Having beheld the Resurrection is sung every day, even on weekdays. On most days, the Hymn of Light for Pascha, "You, O King and Lord", is sung at the end of the canon.
- At the Divine Liturgy, the Sunday antiphons are always sung. In place of "It is truly proper", we sing the Magnification and Irmos of Pascha: "The angel exclaimed..." and "Shine in splender, O new Jerusalem."
Sundays in the Paschal Season are particularly festive. The Paschal stichera are sung at Vespers, and the Divine Liturgy ends with the triple singing of "Christ is risen", with the special conclusion: "Let us bow before his resurrection on the third day."
From Pascha to Pentecost, there is no fasting (though Wednesday and Friday remain days of abstinence, except during Bright Week), and we do not kneel at any services, in honor of the Resurrection. Also, the prayer to the Holy Spirit ("O heavenly King") and the thansgiving hymn to the Holy Spirit ("We have seen the true light") are not said or sung until Pentecost.
Onward to Ascension, and Pentecost
On the fortieth day of Pascha, we celebrate our Lord's return to heaven, on the feast of the Ascension. The postfeast continues for the following nine days. During this time, we recall the nine days the disciples waiting for the sending of the Holy Spirit.
One the fiftieth day of Pascha, or Pentecost, we celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit, and like Pascha, this celebration continues for a full week.
The first Sunday after Pentecost is the Sunday of All Saints, dedicated especially to the saints and martyrs of the Church.
On the following day, we return to "ordinary time", the weeks after Pentecost. This Monday also marks the beginning of the Apostles' Fast, which continues through June 28.
- Father Basil Shereghy. The Liturgical Year of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite.
(Pittsburgh, PA: Byzantine Seminary Press, 1968.)
- A Monk of the Eastern Church (Father Lev Gilet). The Year of Grace of the Lord.
(Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001.)