Bright Week

Bright WeekBright Week begins with the Sunday of Pascha, and comes to a close on Bright Saturday, at Vespers. At this time, the holy doors and the deacons doors, which have been wide open all week, are closed. This is a sad and significant moment. Just like our forefathers Adam and Eve, we cannot remain in Paradise in this life because of our sins. Ours is a life of struggle against our passions, which hold us back from full realization of paradise in this life.

Fasting

The fasting typicon for Bright Week is easy to remember — do not fast! All foods are permitted until the second Wednesday after Pascha, which is a regular fast day, with wine and olive oil allowed. Gluttony, however, is a temptation, and there is never a blessing to overeat.

Bright Friday

On Friday of Bright Week is The Feast of the Life Giving Spring.

Paschal Hours

In place of all the monastic daily services (the Hours, Small Compline, and the Midnight Office) the Paschal Hours are appointed. The entire service is meant to be sung, and takes less than five minutes.

O Heavenly King

The prayer to the Holy Spirit, “O Heavenly King”, said in almost every Orthodox prayer service, is not said from Paschal Matins until the Vespers service for Pentecost. Anywhere this prayer occurs it is omitted, and until Ascension Thursday, is substituted with the Paschal troparion (Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life), sung three times. We are like the Apostles during this period, “waiting” for the Holy Spirit to come, and the absence of this prayer makes a strong statement of our profound need and expectation of the Holy Spirit’s coming.

Dangers of Bright Week

It is very easy, while feasting with foods, to let down our spiritual guard, and forget the inner feast of Pascha. Too much rich food makes it impossible to pray. It also can incite other serious passions, such as lust, anger and despondency. Sometimes people hardly pray during this week, because of overeating, and tiredness. The mind of the church, in her ascetical tradition, has always known this. The church lessens the prayer rule during Bright Week so that it is easy to pray, but only if we continue to make an effort, and do not over abuse our freedom to eat delicious foods. We emulated the Apostles and the Myrrh-bearing women by proclaiming “Christ is risen” multiple times during the Paschal vigil, likewise, let us emulate them in joyful, although abbreviated prayer during the period of Bright Week.

Vespers during Bright Week

Paschal Vespers (and Matins) differ from the regular services in that the priest is always fully vested in all his vestments.

During all of Bright Week, the Psalter is not used, since there is no reading in the church, except for the thanksgiving prayers after communion. (Ordinarily, appointed sections from the Psalter are read daily at Matins and Vespers.)

The beginning of Vespers is very different during Bright Week. After the blessing, “Christ is risen” is sung three times, then the moving and triumphant verses of “Let God arise”, from Psalm 67* interspersed with the Paschal troparion. The priest holds a three branched candlestick. He also holds the censer, and at each verse of “Let God arise”, he censes the four corners of the altar. This is a moving and triumphant moment, much like the singing of “For God is with us” at the Great Compline service. Here is the text:

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. (sung by the priest, then repeated 3 times by the people)

Priest: Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee from before His face.
People: Christ is risen from the dead… (1x)
Priest: As smoke vanishes so let them vanish, as wax melts before the fire.
People: Christ is risen from the dead…
Priest: So the sinners will perish before the face of God. But let the righteous be glad.
People: Christ is risen from the dead…
Priest: This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it
People: Christ is risen from the dead…
Priest: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
People: Christ is risen from the dead…
Priest: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
People: Christ is risen from the dead…
Priest Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death.
People: And upon those in the tombs, bestowing life.

Normally, a given week is governed by one “Tone” or family of melodies. During Bright Week, however, since Pascha is the “Feast of feasts”, a different tone is used each day, starting with the Second Tone for Sunday Vespers, with the seventh tone being skipped.

The Great Prokeimenon is used (a different one each day) instead of the usual Prokeimenon used for each day at Vespers.

The Agape Vespers for bright Monday, which is served on the evening of Pascha itself, includes a gospel reading in many different languages. This reading is the first half of the story of the doubting of the Holy Apostle Thomas, and this reading is reiterated and completed on the following Sunday of St. Thomas.

____________________________
*The 67th Psalm is Psalm 68 in Protestant Bibles

Leave a Reply