Today is the Otdanijie, or Farewell, to the Ascension. Tomorrow is the last All Souls’ Day. At the morning Liturgy, this is the last time that the priest will be reading the names of the dead, and this is the last big day for going to the graves and leaving candles to burn all night. Here is the Mukachevo cemetery at night, showing the candles and decorations:
Then Sunday is the great feast of Pentecost, known as “Green Holidays” in the different languages of regions which adhere to the Byzantine Rite.
I was in Slovakia and Ukraine for Pentecost one year. What a great blessing! So now I can share with you what will happen this weekend “over there” among both the Greek Catholics and the Orthodox.
On Saturday, adults and children will be going into the woods or orchards to cut branches from the trees. You can see them trekking back home, bundles on their backs. Some stop along the roadsides and sell the branches from buckets of water to keep them fresh. Passersby stop to choose branches to use at home. The rest go home with their branches and start decorating.
Green leaves and flowers on the Pentecost Icon
In Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox churches, the priests and deacons wear green vestments. Greenery is tied to the iconostas. Long green grasses are laid on the floors.
Outside of the churches, you can quickly identify the homes of believers. Green branches are tied to the balconies of apartments, gates to houses, doors inside apartment buildings. On Pentecost, it is glorious to walk around town and see all of this, and to remember that until 1990, it was illegal to do any of it. Greek Catholic Pentecost services then were held in secrecy in the woods, sheds, closed rooms, abandoned chapels.
Another practice is the wearing of green wreaths, probably a pagan practice that was wisely baptized by the missionaries of old, and now it is a religious proclamation:
Now the symbol of the Holy Spirit is everywhere! Decorate your place and await His comforting glory!
It all begins with Vespers on Saturday evening. To prepare for the feast, here is the link for Vespers on Saturday night.
Here is Matins, the morning service which is rarely seen in parishes in the USA today http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org/sheetmusic/general/PentecostSundayMatins.pdf
And here is the music for the Divine Liturgy: http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org/sheetmusic/general/PentecostSundayDivineLiturgy.pdf
Everything is in glorious green in honor of the life-giving Trinity!
I will be posting the Kneeling Prayers on the weekend. Usually taken on Pentecost afternoon, the reality of our parishes in the US is that people will not be coming back for another service, especially out in the West where folks live so far from the church. So, these are usually read at the end of the Sunday Liturgy so that everyone can hear them and participate in them.
St Gregory of Nyssa, Beltsville, Maryland, where I served 1977-1981 on Pentecost Sunday