Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saintly Saturday: Great & Holy Saturday

Of all the truly beautiful things of Great and Holy Week in Orthodox Christianity, the one that I enjoy the most is from the Vesperal Liturgy of the Resurrection that happens on Holy Saturday. The whole week is a journey from the tomb of Lazarus and Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem; to the Last Supper and His betrayal; to the garden of Gethsemane and his arrest; His trial and torture; His crucifixion and burial; and finally, the opening of the tomb and His Resurrection. The Vespers of the Resurrection is this opening of the tomb.

There are several local traditions that accompany this moment, but all see the priest flinging basil leaves and sometimes flowers as the hymn is sung:
Arise O God! Judge the earth! For you shall have an inheritance among all the nations!
Here is one of my favorite videos of this moment:

And here is the music without all the extra activities:

All the banging of sticks is the sound of the shackles of the dead being broken and the basil leaves are both symbols of victory and of the garden tomb being opened for the resurrected Christ.

It has been a long week, and therefore I forget which blog mentioned it, but in reaction to my own musings on a campaign in a fantasy version of Alaska, it argued that some of the best settings and campaigns are based on real places and practices. This is, in part, one of the basic assumptions of my Saintly Saturday blog posts. There are almost two thousand years of Christian stories and practice upon which to build a FRPG world. And as can be seen in the videos above, truth can be even more fantastic than fiction.

I pray everyone has a blessed Resurrection.


  1. Is your Vesperal Liturgy St. Basil's? We had this service last week for the first time in our mission parish. We haven't in the past because our mission is served by five bi-ritual priests with their own RC parishes... but this year it all worked out so we had services every day, Wednesday through Sunday! For our Vespers, I chanted all fifteen readings (I wasn't sure I'd make it, since I've never attempted so much before, but was blessed and made it through them all!) and then the Epistle during the Liturgy of the Word. It was a beautiful service. I'll wait until your next post to comment with Paschal Greetings!

    1. Yes. Whenever we do a Vesperal Liturgy for a great feast, it is the Liturgy of St. Basil.

  2. I often harp on "depth and texture" to make a RPG setting "feel right,' and borrowing practices and history from the real world is one of the best --and easiest-- ways to do it.

    BTW, it looks like you folks have much more fun at your services than we do at ours. The kids must love banging the sticks. :)

    Have a happy Easter, Fr. Dave.