The interior of Ss. Constantine and Helen Church in Nish, Serbia, the birthplace of Emperor Constantine the Great.The Renewal, or Bright, Season following Great and All-holy Pascha continues into the month of May. In the month’s third week, the Orthodox Church celebrates two important saints and a great feast of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. May’s liturgical texts, blessed by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, are now ready for clergy and laity to download from the Online Liturgical Guide.
The theme of water runs through the second half of Renewal Season. At the feast of Mid-Pentecost, we ask our Savior to quench our thirsty souls with “the waters of true worship,” coming from Christ Himself, the “Fountain of life” (apolytikion of Mid-Pentecost). The ancient church (and some of our congregations today) would have just celebrated the soul-cleansing baptisms of catechumens on Holy Saturday, and so we all call upon our Lord to refresh us with His wisdom as we maintain our baptismal purity.
Our baptisms cleanse and heal our bodies as well, which are made mostly of life-sustaining water, as shown in the fourth, fifth and sixth Sundays of Pascha. On the Sunday of the Paralytic, Christ heals at the Sheep’s Pool the man who was paralyzed for 38 years (John 5:1-15). On the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, Christ tells St. Photeini at Jacob’s Well that she can partake of the “living water,” Christ Himself, and never thirst again (John 4:5-42). On the Sunday of the Blind Man, Christ reveals His creative power and gives eyeballs to the man born without them, and sends him to wash in the Pool of Siloam where he gains his sight (John 9:1-38).
This year, the Sunday of the Blind Man coincides with the commemoration of the holy, glorious, God-crowned and great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, the Equals to the Apostles (May 21). The Emperor Constantine abolished the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire in his Edict of Milan in 313. Then, he adopted their faith. His pious mother, Helen, visited Jerusalem, discovered the Honorable Cross of the Lord, built the Church of the Resurrection on Golgotha and other churches throughout the Holy Land (Synaxarion at Orthros).
A few days later, on the fortieth day (or sixth Thursday) after Pascha, the Orthodox Church celebrates the great feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. Even though He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, Christ promised that He would still be with His disciples and all of us, and no one could be against us (kontakion of the Ascension). This great feast prefigures our ascension into heaven to sit next to God Himself.
On the Sunday following the Ascension, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325. Once St. Constantine ended the state-sanctioned persecution of the Church, her clergy and laity began to fight over doctrine and the true natures of God in Trinity. St. Constantine called the council which abolished the heretic Arius and his false teaching that the Word was not God consubstantial with the Father, but that He was created as a stranger to the Substance of the Father and His glory (Synaxarion at Orthros). This council also gave us “The Creed” which Orthodox Christians recite to this day.
The Online Liturgical Guide, produced by the Committee on Liturgics, provides the official, uniform word-for-word texts to be used for the divine services in all parishes across the Archdiocese. Should you have any questions, please contact Subdeacon Peter Samore at firstname.lastname@example.org.