The Second Week of Pascha

During the second week of the Paschal season, also called Thomas Week, we continue our celebration of the Lord's Resurrection.

During Bright Week, the hymns overflow with exaltation and joy. In the two weeks that come next, the Church's liturgy comes slightly down to earth, as it were, and looks again at the people and events surrounding the Resurrection.

The Sunday of Thomas

On the evening of the Resurrection, our Lord appeared to the disciples in the upper room - but one of the apostles, Thomas, was not there. On the eighth day - that is, one week later, the following Sunday - our Lord once again came to the apostles, and to Thomas, who had doubted the word of the Resurrection. On the Sunday after Pascha - Thomas Sunday - the opening hymns of Vespers refer to these two appearances:

When the doors were closed and the disciples were gathered together, You suddenly appeared in their midst, O Jesus our Almighty God; You commanded them to wait and not depart from Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high. Therefore, we cry to You, O Lord: Glory to You, our Light, our Resurrection, and our Peace.

Eight days after your Resurrection, O Lord, You appeared to your disciples in the room where they were gathered; You greeted them, saying: Peace be with you! Then you showed your hands and your feet to your doubting disciple. He therefore cried out in an act of faith: My Lord and my God, glory to you!

The "power from on high" in the first hymn refers to the descent on the Holy Spirit (on Pentecost). The second hymn points out the central event of Thomas Sunday: the apostle Thomas, meeting the risen Lord, makes the first clear act of faith in the divinity of Christ: "My Lord and my God!"

Thomas Sunday is a feast of the Lord - putting it in a category with feasts such as the Ascension, and the Meeting in the temple. When a feast of the Lord falls on Sunday, certain hymns usually sung on Sunday (such as the Resurrectional stichera and Resurrectional aposticha at Vespers, and the Canticle of the Theotokos at Matins) are not sung, to make room for the hymns of the feast.

The tone of the week

During Great and Holy Week, the usual hymns of the eight tones were completely put aside to focus on the hymns of our Lord's Passion. On Pascha and during Bright Week, we sang each of the tones, one per day.

With Thomas Sunday, we return to the pattern of the "tone of the week". The opening hymns of Vespers (quoted above) are in Tone 1, and this tone will be used throughout Thomas Week.

"Christ is risen!"

During Bright Week, we sang the troparion of Pascha, "Christ is risen!", over and over throughout the Divine Liturgy and the other services. Starting with Thomas Sunday, we sing it not quite so many times. For example, we continue to sing this troparion three times at the start of each service, in place of the thanksgiving hymn to the Holy Spirit ("We have seen the true light"). But we no longer sing it in place of "May our mouth be filled", and so on. (This is in accord with the rubrics in the Ruthenian Apostol. At one time, it became customary to follow the Bright Week customs throughout the entire Paschal season; the current practice represents a return to a more common tradition.)

At Vespers

At the beginning of Vespers for Thomas Sunday (that is, on the evening of Bright Saturday), we sing the opening section (the first Kathisma) of the Psalter. With this service, we resume chanting the Book of Psalms each week.

As noted above, the hyms of Vespers are realistic in nature as they recount our Lord's appearance to his disciples. Over and over, we are reminded how Christ extended peace to them, and took away their fears - and how He dispelled the doubts of Thomas.

A litija procession, asking for the protection of the world, is held. At the aposticha hymns which accompany the clergy's procession back to the sanctuary, we do not sing the Paschal stichera which are used at the other Sunday Vespers services in the Paschal season; instead, all the aposticha hymns consider the meeting of our Lord with Thomas. Each hymn begins, "O marvelous wonder!":

O marvelous wonder! For grass has touched the fire and is not burned. Thomas placed his hand into the fiery side of the Savior, and he was not consumed by touching Him. Truly, his soul was changed from doubt to faith, and he exclaimed from the depth of his spirit: You are my Master and my God who rose from the dead. O Lord, glory to You!

Vespers concludes, with the troparion of Thomas Sunday (listen). This troparion is sung three times, as is usual on a great feast:

Though the tomb had been sealed, O Life,
from the grave you arose, O Christ our God.
Though the door had been locked,
you appeared among the disciples, O Resurrection of All.
Through them you renewed an upright spirit in us, according to your great mercy.

Note the words "through them"; it is through the apostles that the good news of the Resurrection will go out into the world. Thus, at the beginning and end of this Vespers, we look back to the Resurrection, and ahead to Pentecost.

At Matins

Matins follows the pattern of Vespers (feast of the Lord on Sunday). The Exaltation, sung after the Polyeleos, clarifies the meanng of this feast:

We extol You, O Life-giving Christ,
because you descended into Hades for our sake,
and you Resurrected all with You.

The prokeimenon at Matins brings us to the scene of the Resurrection, and the events of the following week, while the psalm verse almost appears chosen to make fun of the apostles, hiding behind locked doors:

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! Zion, praise your God!
V. He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed the children within you.

The Gospel at Matins is the first of the eleven Resurrectional Gospels (Matthew 28:16-20); as with the tone of the week, we "start fresh" on Thomas Sunday. This particular Gospel does not mention Thomas and the upper room; instead, it telescopes our Lord's time with his apostles after the Resurrection into a single appearance, during which He commissions them to go out into the world, "making disciples of all nations."

The canon of Thomas Sunday is somewhat reminiscent of the Paschal Canon, whose irmosy are sung as katavasia. Today's canon moves back and forth between joy in the Resurrection, a recounting of the story of the upper room, and another recurring theme: the presence of the newly-baptized in the community:

O first of days and Lord of days! This is the day whose brightness brings joy to the new people of God. It bears the sign of eternity and completes the octave of the time to come.

At the Divine Liturgy

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At Vespers on Sunday evening

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 days of Thomas Week

During the Paschal Season:

Sundays in the Paschal Season is 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.

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