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Some Thoughts On Fasting

Source: Conciliar Press

(From an Orthodox Pastor, From the Fall 2008 issue of The Handmaiden Journal – Vol. 12)

Fr. Seraphim serves a moleben to St. Panteleimon in the monastery church.

   

   Fasting is not optional for Christians. Neither are prayer and almsgiving. Our Lord did not say “if you fast,” but rather “when you fast.” He Himself fasted. Those to whom He personally directed His words and teachings maintained a tradition of fasting. Perfecting that tradition by coupling it with prayer and almsgiving, our Lord revealed that the very heart of our lives as Christians is rooted in these ascetic traditions.

  However, our Lord was also clear in chastising those who observed the fast, who prayed, and who gave alms for the purpose of being observed and applauded by others or as a means to fulfill the law. Indeed, the Pharisees received their reward: “My,” they delighted in hearing, “aren’t they spiritual, aren’t they righteous, aren’t they generous, and aren’t they worthy of emulation?” But their actions were to no avail, and brought with them no heavenly blessing. Hence, we are taught to fast “in secret,” to pray “in secret,” to give alms “in secret,” not allowing our left hand to know what our right hand is doing, so that our heavenly Father will reward us openly.

Fasting as Preparation for True Celebration

  Our Lord fasted for forty days before beginning His public ministry. This indicates that one aspect of fasting is preparation. The Church’s fasting seasons prepare us to celebrate, to feast, and to focus our attention on that which we anticipate celebrating, rather than on the mundane things that all too often compete for, or dominate, our attention.

  While food is an essential element of any celebration—as we are reminded on Pascha, as our festal food is blessed, or as we bless fruit on the Great Feast of Transfiguration—it can also be a preoccupation, something that can dominate our time and attention to the detriment of more important aspects of our earthly existence. Sadly, before major celebrations we tend to spend inordinate amounts of time planning menus, testing new recipes, and the like, all with the hope that our celebration will be memorable, enjoyable, and tasty. In the process, the very thing we gather to celebrate is often obscured, misplaced, and lost.

  This is especially so in the days—or, to be more specific, the months—leading to the celebration of Christmas, during which we are tempted to focus our preparations on foods, decorations, gifts, and the like, rather than on the glorious mystery of the Incarnation, which is at the very heart of our faith as Christians. The Nativity Fast (like all the fasting seasons) is meant to remind us to prepare ourselves spiritually, to bring under control those things, including food, that are well within our control, but that we have allowed to control us, and to apply the self-control that fasting teaches us to other areas of our lives.

Fasting from Passions, not from “Prohibited Foods”

  During the first week of Great Lent we are reminded that, while fasting from food, we must fast from our passions—anger, gossip, jealousy—while intensifying our vigilance, our prayer lives, and our ministry to others, especially the least among us. Hence, fasting as a preparation is quite the opposite of the worldly preparations that all too often focus our celebration on ourselves, rather than on our Lord and the joyous mysteries He so lovingly shares with us and engages us in celebrating.

  Of course, fasting from food is at the very heart of the ascetic life. Food can be a passion, a preoccupation that can easily dominate our lives. We fret over what to eat and what not to eat. We agonize over trans fats, cholesterol, carbs, and calories. We drink Ensure to gain weight, and then sign up at a weight loss clinic to lose it. In fact, we have an entire TV network devoted to food! All too often, we have ceased “eating to live” and instead “live to eat.”

  If fasting is ever to become a real solution to this preoccupation with food, we need to recognize that fasting does not mean merely avoiding certain “prohibited” foods while partaking of others that are “approved.” Years ago, I was given a Lenten cookbook that, in the preface, offered an extremely detailed explanation of the Church’s fasting tradition. As was to be expected, it noted that one should refrain from eating meat and meat products, dairy products, fish, wine, and oil. And also, as was to be expected, it noted that eating shellfish—lobster tail, crab legs, scallops, prawns and shrimp, clams, and the like—does not violate the fast. But, curiously, this preface offered a warning, in bold underlined letters, that when eating shellfish, one should not use drawn butter, but melted margarine, since butter is a dairy product! How ridiculous, I thought. Emptying ourselves of our passion for food involves reducing not only how much and what we eat, but also how much time we spend thinking about food, preparing food, reading about food, discussing food, and manipulating food to fit the fasting tradition of the Church.

  The same cookbook offered a recipe for a Lenten chocolate cake, at the end of which was written, “Your family will enjoy this delicious cake so much that you’ll want to serve it all year ’round!” Consider this: One could devise a Lenten weekly menu that, while fully avoiding meat and meat products, dairy products, fish, wine, and oil, would be anything but ascetic—lobster tail on Monday, grilled prawns on Tuesday, Alaskan king crab legs on Wednesday, lemon-drenched shrimp on Thursday, and scallops on Friday, all with melted margarine so as to avoid butter, of course! Legally, this indeed fulfills the fasting laws, but it completely misses the spirit of fasting, as does the yummy Lenten chocolate cake or the tofu Italian “sausage” or “chicken wings” guaranteed to “taste like the real thing.”

  It’s only my opinion, but approaching fasting in this manner—”this is permitted, but that isn’t”—not only misses the mark of fasting, but can become a spiritually dangerous temptation, the same temptation to which the Pharisees succumbed by adhering meticulously to the externals of the law while remaining clueless as to its internal spirit. This approach can easily lead to spiritual pride and delusion and the self-satisfaction that comes in assuring oneself that “while I’m delighting in this tasty cake, I’m relieved to know that it meets all Lenten requirements since there’s not a drop of half-and-half in it.” This, it seems to me, is neither fasting, nor ascetical, nor a desire to free oneself from a preoccupation with food. In fact, it reflects the opposite, as more time is spent figuring out how to make tofu taste like sausage than it would take to simply and mindlessly fry a link of real sausage.

Putting the Time Saved and Money Saved to Work

  Taking things one step further, this legalistic approach to fasting is utterly detached from prayer and almsgiving. The time saved by not worrying about what we’ll eat or how we’ll prepare it, much less adapting recipes to fit Lenten rules, could be more wisely spent in prayer, in worship, in meditation and the reading of Scripture or the Holy Fathers. To the degree we rely on very simple and basic foods and spend little time in food preparation during the fast, we’ll have time to reflect on the countless other things (our anger, our jealousy, our self-centeredness, our sloth, our despair, our lust for power, our idle talk) that are surely within our control, but that we so often have allowed to control us.

  And, to take all of this one step further, might not the money saved by purchasing simple food be stewarded more wisely by giving it to those who have less, or nothing? By quietly and anonymously giving it to an agency that assists those who are out of work or homeless or abused? Might we not devote a portion of our time to volunteering at one of those agencies, feeding those in need with the loving and personal human contact that reveals God’s presence in this world?

Preparation for the Heavenly Banquet 

  Fasting is not optional. Neither are repentance, prayer, almsgiving, preparation, asceticism, ministering to the least among us, wisely managing our time and talents and treasures, struggling to overcome our passions, and so on. They’re all related, interconnected, essential. So fast we must—to the extent that we can—without comparing ourselves to others. Still less should we engage in endless and spiritually dangerous public discussions on what we’ve given up this Lent or how weary we’ve become by fasting from those things (including but hardly limited to food) that we’ve allowed to control us even though we have the ability, with God’s help, to control them.

  Fast we must, in the Holy Spirit rather than in the spirit of the Pharisees, and in secret, without fanfare or discussion. And fast we must, delighting not in our ability to transform chocolate cake into a Lenten delight, but in allowing our Lord to transform us as we delight in tasting and seeing how good He, the “Bread which came down from heaven,” truly is. Such fasting not only prepares us for the celebration of His Incarnation or Resurrection, but prepares us for the eternal heavenly banquet, to which He invites us, in His Kingdom.

(The author, a priest of thirty-four years, is rector of a parish of the Diocese of the Midwest of the Orthodox Church in America). 

The Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete: text

St. Nicolai Velmirovich: On Fasting and Prayer

A sermon by Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesenskhy) on St Andrew of Crete’ Great Canon of Repentance

“My soul, o my soul, rise up! Why art thou sleeping? The end draws near, and soon thou shalt be troubled … ”

In a sense, these words are at the core of the Great Penitential Canon, composed by St. Andrew of Crete, one of the great Saints of God.

He addresses his soul, “My soul, o my soul, rise up, why art thou sleeping?” If that great righteous one could criticize his own soul for having spiritually fallen asleep, what can we say about ourselves?

The Holy Fathers often say that in spiritual life there is a certain paradox (an assertion that at first glance seems self-contradictory, but in fact contains a profound philosophical meaning). According to the Holy Fathers, the “spiritual paradox” rests in the fact that sinners see themselves as righteous, while the righteous see themselves as sinners. Why is this? Why does a sinner see himself as a righteous person? Because he does not know himself, while the righteous man focuses all of his spiritual power on knowing himself.

 

The Canon In Russian

 

The best of the pagans also recognized that you have to somehow know how to look into your internal world. Even in pre-Christian antiquity, we heard the phrase – attributed either to Socrates or to some other of the pagan thinkers – “know thyself.” With respect to the Christian understanding of that truth, there is after all reason for us to pray throughout Great Lent “Yea, 0 Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults … ” Were we to see them as we should, there would be no need for us to pray with such words.

We used to mention the following example from the lives of the saints: A certain righteous man began to implore God to show him to what depths sin had penetrated man’s being, to what extent it had, as it were, maimed him, filled, and defeated him. When the Lord granted the ascetic’s humble prayer and showed him the extent to which our nature was poisoned and maimed by sin, the terrified ~scetic felt that he was about to go mad, and began to implore the Lord to hide th~t awful vision from his sight as soon as possible. That is just how poisoned by sin man is.

The deeper one delves into himself, the more accustomed he becomes to comprehending his internal world, the more clearly and painfully he feels the internal harm done by sin.

 

In Romanian

 

It was for a reason that in their prayers before Holy Communion, Sts. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and other Saints like them called themselves the worst of sinners, unworthy to look upon the heights of Heaven. This was no rhetorical phrase-mongering, no hyperbole. They saw themselves just as what they said.

It was for a reason that St. Seraphim, that great Venerable One of the Russian Land, whom others saw as radiant as the sun, whom they saw rising up into the air while praying, liked to call himself the “poor wretched Seraphim.” For the righteous person truly feels himself to be a sinner.

If in some room there is a dirty rag, but there is no light in the room, the dirt on the rag is not visible. Should light come into the room, the dirt immediately becomes perceptible. The more light, the more clearly visible will be the dirt. Therefore, the closer the Saints approach God, the more clearly they see their sinfulness. When someone truly comes close to God, his conscience is illumined, its voice becomes clear, and sounds like a bell, sounds a reproach for any falling away from God, for any instance of being unfaithful to Him.

As to the sinner, he knows neither himself nor his soul, and even when he goes to Confession, it seems to him that he is not all that bad. When he hears about great sinners, he, like many others like him, thinks, “Well, at least I am not like that! I don’t consider myself to be a righteous person, and I am not a saint, but still, I am not that bad. Certainly there are people worse than me … “ However, no truly righteous person – a person who remembers only his own sins, and not someone else’s, one who always has compunction for them, and sees himself as meek before God ­would allow even the slightest self-justification to enter into his soul.

 

In English (St Vladimir Seminary)

 

We have now entered a period of repentant reflection and prayer.

Let us pray that the Lord might also truly grant unto us sinners to see our transgressions, and not those of others. We always notice others’ sins, deficiencies and blunders, but often we don’t notice our own; even if we do notice them, we don’t have any problem justifying them, but always can find a reason [to justify them]. Thus, I repeat, let us sincerely pray that the Lord grant unto us to see our transgressions, for without that spiritual sight, there can be no true repentance.

More Sermons on the Great Fast at:

“Lent: Our Personal Journey” with Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (video)

 

 

 

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed.

 

(The great miracle of Orthodox Christianity: the Holy Fire,

Jerusalem 2010)

 

See also:

Fr George Calciu – Christ is Risen!

 

  

A sermon on the Pascha Homily of St John Chrysostom

(sorry for the bad sound, for a better recording please go to:

Fr. Michael Varlamos sermon on April 26, 2009)

Behold the Man – Fr Evans (Mp3)

Click on the images  Taken from GOARCH Website

Holy Friday Vespers

On Great and Holy Friday the Orthodox Church commemorates the death of Christ on the Cross. This is the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins. This commemoration begins on Thursday evening with the Matins of Holy Friday and concludes with a Vespers on Friday afternoon that observes the unnailing of Christ from the Cross and the placement of His body in the tomb.

Requirements:

116 min.

Holy Friday Service of the Hours

On Great and Holy Friday the Orthodox Church commemorates the death of Christ on the Cross. This is the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins. This commemoration begins on Thursday evening with the Matins of Holy Friday and concludes with a Vespers on Friday afternoon that observes the unnailing of Christ from the Cross and the placement of His body in the tomb.

Requirements:

104 min.

Great and Holy Friday and Saturday  

(Video – Real Player)  

 

Discourse On the Passion of the Saviour by Our Venerable Father Ephrem the Syrian

I am afraid to speak

and touch with my tongue

this fearful narrative

concerning the Saviour.

For truly it is fearful

to narrate all this.

Our Lord

was given up today

into the hands of sinners!

For what reason then

was one who is holy

and without sin given up?

For having done no sin

he was given up today.

Come, let us examine closely

why Christ our Saviour

was given up.

For us, the ungodly,

the Master was given up.

Who would not marvel?

Who would not give glory?

When the slaves had sinned

the Master was given up.

The sons of perdition

and the children of darkness

went out in the darkness

to arrest the sun

who had the power

to consume them in an instant.

But the Master, knowing

their effrontery

and the force of their anger,

with gentleness,

by his own authority,

gave himself up

into the hands of the ungodly.

 

The Earth Trembled in Fear – Efrikse Gi – Holy Friday Heirmos

And lawless men, having bound

the most pure Master,

mocked the one

who had bound the strong one

with unbreakable bonds,

and set us free

from the bonds of sins.

They plaited a crown

of their own thorns,

the fruit borne

by the vine of the Jews.

In mockery

they called him ‘King’.

 

 

The lawless spat

in the face of the most pure,

at whose glance

all the Powers of heaven

and the ranks of Angels

quake with fear.

See, once again grief and tears

grip hold of my heart,

as I contemplate the Master

enduring outrage and insults,

scourgings, spitting

from slaves, and blows

 

(Above photo: Ecce Homo convent is located on the former Roman Pretorium where Christ was judged and condemned by the Hebrew, this monastery is also the first of the Stations of the Cross Road. This “way of sorrows” – Via Dolorosa – reminds us about the supreme love that God has for man, by giving His only Son to be crucified. On Great Friday, may Christians walk in the footsteps of the Savior, on the narrow streets of the ancient city of Jerusalem)

Come, observe well

the abundance of compassion,

the forbearance and mercy

of our sweet Master.

He had a useful slave

in the Paradise of delight,

and when he sinned

he was given to the torturers.

But when the Good One

saw his weakness of soul

he took compassion on the slave

and had mercy on him

and presented himself

to be scourged by him.

I wished to remain silent

because my mind

was utterly amazed;

but then again I was afraid

lest I reject

by my silence

my Saviour’s grace.

For my bones tremble

when I think of it.

 

Holy Friday Lamentations (fragment) – Greek

 

The fashioner of all things,

our Lord himself,

was today arraigned

before Caiaphas,

like one of the condemned;

and one of the servants

struck him a blow.

My heart trembles

as I think on these things:

the slave is seated,

the Master stands,

and one full of iniquities

passes sentence

on the one who is sinless.

 

Lamentations, Romanian

  

 

The heavens trembled,

earth’s foundations shuddered;

Angels and Archangels

all quailed with terror.

Gabriel and Michael

covered their faces

with their wings.

The Cherubim at the throne

were hidden beneath the wheels;

The Seraphim struck their wings

one with the other

at that moment,

when a servant gave

a blow to the Master.

How did earth’s foundations

endure the earthquake

and the tremor

at that moment,

when the Master was outraged?

I observe and I tremble

and again I am stunned,

when I see the long-suffering

of the loving Master.

For see my inward parts

tremble as I speak,

because the Creator,

who by grace fashioned

humanity from dust,

he the Fashioner is struck.

Let us fear, my brethren

and not simply listen.

The Saviour endured

all these things for us.

Wretched servant,

tell us why

you struck the Master?

All servants,

when they are set free,

receive a blow,

that they may obtain

freedom that perishes;

but you, miserable wretch,

unjustly gave a blow

to the liberator of all.

Did you perhaps expect

to receive from Caiaphas

a reward for your blow?

 

1st station Lamentations – English translation from Greek

  

 

Had you perhaps not heard,

had you perhaps not learned

that Jesus is

the heavenly Master?

You gave a blow

to the Master of all things,

but became slave of slaves

to age on age,

a disgrace and abomination,

and condemned for ever

in unquenchable fire.

A great marvel, brethren,

it is to see the gentleness

of Christ the King!

Struck by a slave

he answered patiently,

with gentleness

and all reverence.

 

Live from Balamand Monastery (Greek and Arabic)

 

A servant is indignant,

the Master endures;

a servant is enraged,

the Master is kind.

At a time of anger,

who could endure

rage and disturbance?

But our Lord

submitted to all this

by his goodness.

Who can express

your long-suffering,

Master?

You that are longed for

and loved by Christ,

draw near, with compunction

and longing for the Saviour.

Come, let us learn

what took place today

in Sion, David’s city.

The longed-for and chosen

offspring of Abraham,

what did they do today?

They gave up to death

the most pure Master

on this day.

Christ our Saviour

was unjustly hanged

on the tree of the Cross

through lawless hands.

Come, let us all

wash our bodies

with tears and groans,

because our Lord,

the King of glory,

for us ungodly people

was given up to death.

If someone suddenly hears

of one truly beloved

having died,

or again, suddenly sees

the beloved himself

  

2nd stasis –English translation from Greek 

 

lying a dead corpse

before their eyes,

their appearance is altered,

and the brightness

of their sight is darkened.

So, in heaven’s height,

when it saw

the outrage to the Master

on the tree of the Cross,

the bright sun’s

appearance was altered;

it withdrew the rays

of its own brightness,

and unable to look on

the outrage to the Master,

clothed itself

in grief and darkness.

 

Greek

 

Likewise the Holy Spirit,

who is in the Father,

when he saw

the beloved Son

on the tree of the Cross,

rending the veil,

the temple’s adornment,

suddenly came forth

in the form of a dove.

All creation was

in fear and trembling

when the King of heaven,

the Saviour suffered;

while we sinners

for whom the only immortal

was given up

ever treat this with contempt.

We laugh each day

when we hear of the Saviour’s

sufferings and outrage.

We enjoy ourselves daily

filled with great zeal

to deck ourselves in fine clothing.

The sun in the sky

because of the outrage to its Master

changed its radiance

into darkness,

so that we, when we saw it,

might follow its example.

 

3rd stasis – Greek 

 

 

The Master on the Cross

was outraged for your sake,

while you, miserable wretch,

ever deck yourself

in splendid raiment.

Does your heart not tremble,

does your mind not quail,

when you hear such things?

The One who alone is sinless

was for you given over

to a shameful death,

to outrages and revilings,

while you hear all this

with lofty indifference.

 

Live – Blamand Monastery

 

The whole rational flock

should look intently

on its shepherd,

and ever long for him

and respect him,

because for its sake

he suffered, he

the dispassionate and all pure.

Nor should it deck itself

in corruptible garments,

nor yet indulge in pleasure

and worldly nourishment,

but should give its Maker pleasure

by ascesis and true reverence.

Let us not become

imitators of the Jews;

a people harsh and disobedient

and that ever rejects the blessings

and benefactions of God.

 

15th Antiphon for Great and Holy Friday

“Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection.”

Greek

  

 

God Most High

for the sake of Abraham

and his covenant

from the beginning bore

the stubbornness of the people.

From heaven he gave

them Manna to eat;

but they, the unworthy,

longed for garlic,

evil-smelling foods. 

Again, he gave them water

from the rock in the desert,

while they in place of these

gave him vinegar

when they hanged him on a Cross.

Let us be careful, brethren,

not to be found

as fellows of the Jews

who crucified the Master,

their own Creator.

Let us always be fearful,

keeping before our eyes

the Saviour’s sufferings.

Let us always keep in mind

his sufferings,

because it was for us he suffered,

the dispassionate Master;

for us he was crucified,

the only sinless One.

What return can we make

for all this, brethren?

Let us be attentive to ourselves

and not despise his sufferings.

 

Romanian, Greek and Arabic

 

Draw near all of you,

children of the Church,

bought with the precious

and holy blood

of the most pure Master.

Come, let us meditate

on his sufferings with tears,

thinking on fear,

meditating with trembling,

saying to ourselves,

‘Christ our Saviour

for us the impious

was given over to death’.

Learn well, brother,

what it is you hear:

God who is without sin,

Son of the Most High,

for you was given up.

Open your heart,

learn in detail

his sufferings

and say to yourself:

God who is without sin

today was given up,

today was mocked,

today was abused,

today was struck,

today was scourged,

today wore

a crown of thorns,

today was crucified,

he, the heavenly Lamb.

Your heart will tremble,

your soul will shudder.

Shed tears every day

by this meditation

on the Master’s sufferings.

Tears become sweet,

the soul is enlightened

that always meditates

on Christ’s sufferings.

Always meditating thus,

shedding tears every day,

giving thanks to the Master

for the sufferings

that he suffered for you,

so that in the day

of his Coming

your tears may become

your boast and exaltation

before the judgement seat

Endure as you meditate

on the loving Master’s

sufferings,

endure temptations,

give thanks from your soul.

Blessed is the one

who has before his eyes

the heavenly Master

and his sufferings,

and has crucified himself

from all the passions

and earthly deeds,

who has become an imitator

of his own Master.

This is understanding,

this is the attitude

of servants who love God,

when they become ever

imitators of their Master

by good works.

 

Sermon on Great Friday – Fr Anthony, MI

(Click on the Image bellow)

Shameless man, do you watch

the most pure Master

hanging on the Cross,

while you pass the time

that you have to live on earth

in pleasure and laughter?

Don’t you know, miserable wretch,

that the crucified Lord

will demand an account

of all your disdainful deeds,

for which, when you hear of them, you show no concern,

and as you take your pleasure

you laugh

and enjoy yourself with indifference?

The day will come,

that fearful day,

for you to weep unceasingly

and cry out in the fire

from your pains,

and there will be no one at all

to answer

and have mercy on your soul.

Byzantine Chant for Great Friday

I worship you, Master,

I bless you, O Good One,

I entreat you, O Holy One,

I fall down before you, Lover of humankind,

and I glorify you, O Christ,

because you, only-begotten

Master of all,

alone without sin,

for me the unworthy sinner

were given over to death,

death on a Cross,

that you might free

the sinner’s soul

from the bonds of sins.

And what shall I give you

in return for this, Master?

Glory to you, Lover of humankind!

Glory to you, O Merciful!

Glory to you, O Long-suffering!

Glory to you, who pardon

every fault!

Glory to you, who came down

to save our souls!

Glory to you, incarnate

in the Virgin’s womb!

Glory to you, who were bound!

Glory to you, who were scourged!

Glory to you, who were crucified!

Glory to you, who were buried!

Glory to you, who were raised!

Glory to you, who were proclaimed!

Glory to you, who were believed!

Glory to you, who were taken up!

Glory to you, who were enthroned

with great glory

at the Father’s right hand,

and are coming again

with the glory of the Father

and the holy Angels

to judge every soul

that has despised

your holy sufferings

in that dread

and fearful hour,

when the powers of heaven

will be shaken;

when Angels, Archangels,

Cherubim and Seraphim

will come all together

with fear and trembling

before your glory;

when all the foundations

of the earth will tremble,

and everything that has breath

will shudder at your great

and unendurable glory.

 

Descent from the cross

In that hour

your hand will hide me

under its wings

and my soul be delivered

from the fearful fire,

the gnashing of teeth,

the outer darkness

and unending weeping,

that blessing you, I may say,

‘Glory to the One, who wished

to save the sinner

through the many acts of pity

of his compassion.

 

(Translation by Archimandrite Ephrem, 1997)

  

 

Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let then pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.

James 5:13-16

Holy Wednesday and Thursday

 Real Media Format  

Thy bridal chamber I behold, adorned O my Savior. But I have no wedding garment that I may enter. Make radiant the vesture of my soul O Giver of Light and save me.  

 

 

  

Holy Wednesday 

 

The primary theme of Holy Wednesday is our human need for the healing and forgiveness that comes into our lives when we establish a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We are reminded that the way to this relationship is to be found, above all else, through the life of prayer. In the Sacrament of Holy Unction, the faithful are anointed and thus, healed both physically and spiritually. They are also reconciled to God and one another so that they might receive the gift of the Holy Eucharist instituted by Christ at the Last Supper.

Holy Wednesday Matins: The Service of the Bridegroom

Beginning on the evening of Palm Sunday and continuing through the evening of Holy Tuesday, the Orthodox Church observes a special service known as the Service of the Bridgegroom. The name of the service is from the figure of the Bridegroom in the parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13.

 

Requirements: 126 min.

Holy Wednesday Unction Service  

On the afternoon or evening of Great and Holy Wednesday, the Sacrament of Holy Unction is offered for the healing of soul and body and for forgiveness of sins. The body is anointed with oil, and the grace of God, which heals infirmities of soul and body, is called down upon each person.  

Requirements: 318 min.

  

Holy Thursday

The Icon: The Last Supper – Christ: The central figure, St. John the Beloved (Evangelist, Theologian): The figure seated to the right of Christ. Judas Iscariot the Betrayer: He is depicted leaning over the table and dipping into the dish (Matthew 26:20-25).

Holy Thursday  

 
 
  

Come, O faithful, let us enjoy the Master’s hospitality: the banquet of immortality, in the upper chamber with uplifted minds. Let us receive the exalted words of the Word whom we magnify.

Holy Thursday Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great  

On Thursday of Holy Week four events are commemorated: the washing of the disciples’ feet, the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas.  

   

Requirements: 161 min.

Holy Friday Matins  

On Great and Holy Friday the Orthodox Church commemorates the death of Christ on the Cross. This is the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins. This commemoration begins on Thursday evening with the Matins of Holy Friday and concludes with a Vespers on Friday afternoon that observes the unnailing of Christ from the Cross and the placement of His body in the tomb.  

Requirements: 223 min

  

They have stripped me of My garments

   

Today is hung upon the (wood) Cross 

He, who hanged the earth upon the waters.
A crown of thorns is put upon Him,
who is King of the angels.
A fake crimson robe surrounds Him
who surrounds the sky with clouds.
A slap on the face suffers He,
who freed Adam in Jordan.
 

With nails was He detained,
the Bridegroom of the Church.
With a spear was He pierced,
the Son of the Virgin.
We venerate Your Passion, o Christ;
We venerate Your Passion, o Christ;
We venerate Your Passion, o Christ;
Show us also Your glorious Resurrection.
    

 

  

  

 

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem  

  

   

  

   

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday and Holy Week Processions, Jerusalem

 

“Behold, the Bridegroom coming at

midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He

shall find watching, but unworthy is the

servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware,

therefore, O my soul, do not be weighted

down with sleep, lest you be given up to

death, and be shut out of the Kingdom. But

rouse yourself crying: “Holy, Holy, Holy art

Thou, O God! Through the Theotokos, have

mercy on us.”

 

The theme of watchfulness, which is so fundamental to true Orthodox belief, is forcefully presented in the scriptures:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. {2} And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. {3} They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: {4} But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. {5} While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. {6} And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. {7} Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. {8} And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. {9} But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. {10} And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. {11} Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. {12} But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. {13} Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Mat 25:1-13) . The present hymn basically summarizes and emphasizes the above parable. This hymn, and it’s theme, is so important for Christians that the church also sings it every day in it’s daily Midnight Office.

Bridegroom Matins

(Arabic)

 Romanian

  

“Behold, I am coming soon”(Revelation 22:7).

(written by St Nikolai Velimirovic)

The unfaithful and the slayers of the spirit will say, “Nearly two thousand years ago He promised that He will come and He has not come yet!” This is how they, who ridiculed Him, will lament in eternal torment.

But we who are prepared for happiness in His Kingdom know that He will come in power and glory just as He promised. We know that He has already come countless times and showed Himself to His faithful ones. Did He not come to John the Divine [the one who saw God] to whom He spoke these words, “Behold, I am coming soon?” John saw Him in power and glory and felt His hand on him when he was  frightened and fell before His feet as dead, “And He touched me with His right hand” (Revelation 1:17).

 Greek

Greek, Arabic and Romanian

Did He not come to Saul when in the beginning he breathed hatred against the Christians and when on the road to Damascus fell on the ground, seeing the Lord and hearing His voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts of the Apostles 9:4). And again, did He not enter into the heart of the Apostle Paul when he recognized that “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me!” (Galatians 2:20). Did He not come to the countless martyrs, both male and female, who suffered for His Name, to encourage them, to heal them, and to have mercy on them? Did He not come to Anthony the Great, Theodore Stratelates, St. Haralambos, St. Marina, St. Sylvester and many, many more? What are we saying? Did He not return from the Kingdom of Death on the third day and appeared before the apostles? Did He not come to the aid of the Church many, many times and, as out of the dead, resurrected it whenever her enemies rejoiced, thinking that they had given His Church over to death forever? Did He not appear in His power in the Church at the time of Nero as well as at the time of Constantine; at the time of Julian, as well as at the time of Justinian; at the time of Arab tyranny, as well as at the time of the Turkish and Mongolian oppression over Christians?

O, my faithful brethren, do not submit to deception. He came countless times and comes even today.

Russian

He comes to every soul to whom He can, regardless of impurity. However, we are all waiting for Him to come for the last time in power and glory. We know that His coming is certain. O Lord Most Gracious, before You come, make us worthy to recognize Your face and to be ashamed of our faces, darkened by sin.

  Palm Sunday Sermon
 

 

Holy Monday Matins: The Service of the Bridegroom

Beginning on the evening of Palm Sunday and continuing through the evening of Holy Tuesday, the Orthodox Church observes a special service known as the Service of the Bridgegroom. The name of the service is from the figure of the Bridegroom in the parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13.

 

Requirements: 107 min.

Holy Tuesday Matins: The Service of the Bridegroom

Beginning on the evening of Palm Sunday and continuing through the evening of Holy Tuesday, the Orthodox Church observes a special service known as the Service of the Bridgegroom. The name of the service is from the figure of the Bridegroom in the parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13.

Requirements: 102 min.

Holy Tuesday Sermon by Fr. Michael (video)

 

 

The rising of Lazarus from the death is celebrated in the Orthodox Church the day before Palm Sunday. From the Holy Gospels we learn that Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary and lived in Bethany. Bethany is known to the Arab world as “al-Azariyya” and it is an old city situated in the Holy Land south-east of Mount Olives.

In the days that preceded our Lord’ Passion, Jesus was traveling in the far desert to a place named Perea. Here, He got the news that Lazarus was seriously ill and Jesus was expected to heal him. The Gospels do not mention Lazarus illness, however this was undoubtedly a disease with no cure leading to death. Jesus did not go to see Lazarus until two days after hearing the news. He got to Bethany along with His disciples, only on the fourth day of Lazarus’s death.

Upon entering the village He is greeted by Martha with these words: “Lord, if you were here earlier, my brother had not died”. But Jesus replied: “I am the resurrection and the life!“, meaning He is the One who brought us all from nothingness into existence and the One who has power to overcome death.

At His question “Where did you buried him?” they answered: “Lord, come and see”.

In the Triodiom, it is said: “As a mortal man you had asked oh Lord, but as God, You rose from the death.”

According to the Holy Gospels, Christ would cry in front of Lazarus tomb. In this, He shed tears for all fallen humanity, not only for Lazarus.

Before entering the tomb, He prayed to the Father than He called Lazarus out.

Lazarus came out of the grave as he had been buried: clothed in shroud and with his face covered in veil.

 

Lazarus is a general symbol

 

“According to an ancient tradition, it is said that Lazarus was thirty years old when the Lord raised him; then he lived another thirty years on Cyprus and there reposed in the Lord. It is furthermore related that after he was raised from the dead, he never laughed till the end of his life, but that once only, when he saw someone stealing a clay vessel, he smiled and said, “Clay stealing clay.” His grave is situated in the city of Kition, having the inscription: “Lazarus the four days dead and friend of Christ.” In 890 his sacred relics were transferred to Constantinople by Emperor Leo the Wise, at which time undoubtedly the Emperor composed his stichera for Vespers, “Wishing to behold the tomb of Lazarus . . .” (from the Synaxarium)

The crying of Christ calling Lazarus from the grave, is seen as a symbol of calling all of us from death before standing the final judgement. It should be noted that Lazarus’ victory over death was not final, been only a reification of his body. Only through Christ, death was to be fully defeated.

Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

Lazarus – Bishop of Cyprus

After the martyrdom of Archdeacon Stephen, Lazarus and his sisters went to the island of Cyprus because he was also in danger to be killed. Later, when Paul and Barnabas, on their first missionary journey arrived in Cyprus, they had met Lazarus and consecrated him as the Bishop of Cyprus. The Holy tradition tell us that after Christ resurrection, Lazarus lived for 30 more years, then he died.

He was buried in the town of Larnaka, Cyprus. Over his tomb a church was built. Around 890, Emperor Leo the Wise move Lazarus relics to Constantinople. In exchange for the holy relics, the emperor offered money and craftsmen to build the church in Larnaka, dedicated to St. Lazarus, which had survived until today.

In 1204, when the Crusaders conquered Constantinople, the relics were moved initially to Marseille, than to many other places until they become lost for many years. But in 1972, during the restoration of the church of Saint Lazarus from Larnaka, underneath the altar a small marble coffin was discovered carrying a piece of the precious relics of St Lazarus and the inscription: “Lazarus risen on the fourth day, and friend of Christ”.

Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

We are called to identify ourselves with Lazarus

The last week of Lent invites us to become witnesses of what happened with Lazarus back then and to identify ourselves with him.

We ought to detach ourselves during this time of lent from everything related to the flesh…  to become like Lazarus – friends of Christ, in order to rise with Him. With our soul sicken, as Lazarus was in his mortal body, we find ourselves laying in the tomb of sloth and indifference, covered by the stone of despair:

“Roll oh Saviour, the stone of sloth from my soul and rise me from the indifference of my grave so I may glorify You”.

Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

The Tomb of Lazarus from Bethany

Bethany is known to the Arab world as “al-Azariyya” been situated in the Holy Land in a rocky area South-East of Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Its population consists of Christian and Muslim inhabitants.

Bethany is the town where Lazarus, Mary and Martha had lived, and the place where several events from the New Testament took place. Our Lord himself had passed several times through Bethany.

 Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar          Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

 

Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

Near the tomb where Lazarus were erected on the 4th day from death, a Franciscan church  was built over the ruins of some ancient settlements.

Bethany has been certified historically since the Roman civilization. In the immediate vicinity, traces of a much older settlement were found, dated to the Iron Age. It is believed that this was the biblical city “Ananias” thus in the  New Testament it is mentioned as “Bethany” – (Beth Ananias = Bethany).

 Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar          Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

The first mentioning  of this biblical city is found in the Book of Nehemiah and II book of Esdras (OT)

Before the IVth century,  no traces of any church in Bethany could be found, although the history of Eusebius and Bordeaux Pilgrim (333) mentions that the tomb of Lazarus was placed in a vault or crypt.

Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

Around 490, Blessed Jerome writes about a place mentioned in Egeria’ diary, which is in fact the guest house of Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus. According to Jerome, it is believed that during that period, pilgrims went to the house of Lazarus, not to his grave..

That structure known as “Lazarium” was destroyed by an earthquake at the time, being replaced by the Church of St. Lazarus in the VI-th century. This church is mentioned by Theodosius before the year 518 and by Arculf around 680. The church had survived until the Crusades.

Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

In 1143, during the Crusades, King Fulk and Queen Melisande had received the town of Bethany from the Patriarch of the „Holy Sepulcher”, in trade for an area near Hebron.

Queen Melisande had an important role in the development of this historic place, been preoccupied much with prayer. She built a Benedictine monastery dedicated to Mary and Martha, repaired and extended the Old Church of St. Lazarus, which she dedicated to the sisters of Lazarus – Mary and Martha. The Monastery of the Holy Mary and Martha became soon one of the richest monasteries in Jerusalem. The Queen’ sister, Jovetta, was elected abbess of this monastery at the age of only 24.

With the collapse of Crusader’ Kingdom, in 1187, nuns went into exile. The new church of St Lazarus built above the tomb was destroyed, and only the tomb remained

Betania - Mormantul lui Lazar

It is also believed that the town was deserted by inhabitants. But starting with 1347, a pilgrim confirmed the presence of few Greek monks in the tomb chapel –  the vault left over the tomb of Lazarus.

In 1384, this place was transformed into a mosque, and for a time, the entry of Christians inside the tomb of Lazarus was made very difficult.

Between 1952-1955 a modern Franciscan church dedicated to St. Lazarus was built over the top of the Byzantine church and the church dedicated to Mary and Martha. In 1965 a Greek church was also built near the tomb St. Lazarus.

After several negotiations, the Franciscans were finally permitted to dig a new entrance to the tomb, on its northern side. Once completed the new entrance, the tomb’s original entrance was blocked from the mosque.

Originally, the grave of St Lazarus was dug directly into the rock, but no one knows exactly its initial shape. The original entrance to Lazarus’ tomb can be seen in the western wall of the tomb’s antechamber.

Above, the hill a modern Greek Church is laying over one of the walls of the Crusader church standing high above the tomb. The ruins found near this church are under the care of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. They were identified with the house of Simon the leper or the House of Lazarus.

St Lazarus church from Cyprus – tradition and history

Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

Saint Lazarus Church in Larnaka – Cyprus was built in the ninth century over the tomb of St. Lazarus – who Christ resurrected from the dead (on the 4th day) in the town of Bethany. Rebuilt in the eighteenth century, the church in Larnaka is one of the most important and impressive building of the city.

Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

According to the orthodox tradition, after Lazarus was raised from the dead, he came to Cyprus, where, later, he was to be elected bishop of Kition by St. Paul and Barnabas. Lazarus had lived in Larnaka for 30 more years, then he died and was buried inside this church

The tomb of Lazarus in Larnaka is different from the tomb in Bethany where Christ came to work the miracle. The tomb from Bethany was almost forgotten during the Arab attacks. His holy relics were rediscovered in 890 and transported to Constantinople by Emperor Leo the VI th , in 901.

Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

The church of Saint Lazarus in Larnaka – Cyprus was built, as mentioned above, in the ninth century, above the tomb of Bishop Lazar. His tomb was located in a network of catacombs; other sarcophagi were also found in these catacombs.

 Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca          Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

The ninth century church was fully renovated in the XVII-th century, when the iconostasis was also changed, becoming a wonderful example of the Baroque art. But the impressive iconostasis, belonging to the eighteenth century, was badly damaged by fire in 1970.

Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

Saturday of Lazarus – the great procession in Larnaka

The church had preserved two very beautiful icons of the Saint Lazarus: one dating from 1659 made in silver depicting his rising from the death, and another icon also of the risen Lazarus where those participating in the event had to cover their nose, due to heavy stink coming from Lazarus’ tomb before his rising.

Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

This last icon is carried out in procession in the presence of the Bishop of Kition, eight days before Easter. On this day, the streets of Larnaka are full of believers.

 Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca          Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

The church’crypt (underneath the church), also preserves the marbles sarcophagus of Saint Lazarus

Biserica Sfantul Lazar din Larnaca

Through the prayers of St. Lazarus, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us sinners, Amin!

 

Sermon on the Annunciation

by St. Gregory the Wonderworker

(an excerpt)

Our father among the saints, Gregory the Wonderworker, also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus or Gregory of Neocaesarea,  was a Christian bishop of the 3rd century. The Theotokos and Apostle John appeared to St. Gregory in a dream, and taught him about the Holy Trinity.  He was a zealous evangelist. When Gregory began his episcopacy with only seventeen Christians, but at his death there remained only seventeen pagans in all of Caesarea

When the fulness of the times came for His glorious appearing, He sent beforehand the archangel Gabriel to bear the glad tidings to the Virgin Mary. And he came down from the ineffable powers above to the holy Virgin, and addressed her first of all with the salutation,

“Hail, thou that art highly favoured.”

And when this word,

“Hail, thou that art highly favoured,”

reached her, in the very moment of her hearing it, the Holy Spirit entered into the undefiled temple of the Virgin, and her mind and her members were sanctified together. And nature stood opposite, and natural intercourse at a distance, beholding with amazement the Lord of nature, in a manner contrary to nature, or rather above nature, doing a miraculous work in the body; and by the very weapons by which the devil strove against us, Christ also saved us, taking to Himself our passible body in order that He might impart the greater grace to the being who was deficient in it. And

“where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

And appropriately was grace sent to the holy Virgin.

For this word also is contained in the oracle of the evangelic history:

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house and lineage of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary; “

and so forth. And this was the first month to the holy Virgin. Even as Scripture says in the book of the law:

“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month among the months of the year to you.”

“Keep ye the feast of the holy passover to the Lord in all your generations.”

it was also the sixth month to Zacharias. And rightly, then, did the holy Virgin prove to be of the family of David, and she had her home in Bethlehem, and was betrothed rightfully to Joseph, in accordance with the laws of relationship. And her espoused husband was her guardian, and possessor also of the untarnished incorruption which was hers. And the name given to the holy Virgin was one that became her exceedingly.

For she was called Mary, and that, by interpretation, means illumination. And what shines more brightly that the light of virginity? For this reason also the virtues are called virgins by those who strive rightly to get at their true nature. But if it is so great a blessing to have a virgin heart, how great a boon will it be to have the flesh that cherishes virginity along with the soul!

Thus the holy Virgin, while still in the flesh, maintained the incorruptible life, and received in faith the things which were announced by the archangel. And thereafter she journeyed diligently to her relation Elisabeth in the hill-country.

“And she entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth,”

in imitation of the angel.

“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leapt with joy in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Thus the voice of Mary wrought with power, and filled Elisabeth with the Holy Spirit. And by her tongue, as from an ever-flowing fountain, she sent forth a stream of gracious gifts in the way of prophecy to her relation; and while the feet of her child were bound in the womb, she prepared to dance and leap. And that was the sign of a marvellous jubilation. For wherever she was who was highly favoured, there she filled all things with joy.

“And Elisabeth spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Blessed art thou among women.”

For thou hast become to women the beginning of the new creation. Thou hast given to us boldness of access into paradise, and thou hast put to flight our ancient woe. For after thee the race of woman shall no more be made the subject of reproach. No more do the successors of Eve fear the ancient curse, or the pangs of childbirth.

For Christ, the Redeemer of our race, the Saviour of all nature, the spiritual Adam who has healed the hurt of the creature of earth, cometh forth from thy holy womb.

“Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

For He who bears all blessings for us is manifested as thy fruit. This we read in the clear words of her who was barren; but yet more clearly did the holy Virgin herself express this again when she presented to God the song replete with thanksgiving, and acceptance, and divine knowledge; announcing ancient things together with what was new; proclaiming along with things which were of old, things also which belong to the consummation of the ages; and summing up in a short discourse the mysteries of Christ.

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,”

and so forth.

“He hath holpen His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy, and of the covenant which He established with Abraham and with his seed for ever.”

Thou seest how the holy Virgin has surpassed even the perfection of the patriarchs, and how she confirms the covenant which was made with Abraham by God, when He said,

“This is the covenant which I shall establish between me and thee.”

Wherefore He has come and confirmed the covenant with Abraham, having received mystically in Himself the sign of circumcision, and having proved Himself the fulfilment of the law and the prophets.

This song of prophecy, therefore, did the holy mother of God render to God, saying,

“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour: for He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is His name.”

For having made me the mother of God, He has also preserved me a virgin; and by my womb the fulness of all generations is headed up together for sanctification.

For He hath blessed every age, both men and women, both young men and youths, and old men.

“He hath made strength with His arm,”

on our behalf, against death and against the devil, having torn the handwriting of our sins.

“He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts; “

yea, He hath scattered the devil himself, and all the demons that serve under him. For he was overweeningly haughty in his heart, seeing that he dared to say,

“I will set my throne above the clouds, and I will be like the Most High.”

And now, how He scattered him the prophet has indicated in what follows, where he says,

“Yet now thou shalt be brought down to hell,”

and all thy hosts with thee. For He has overthrown everywhere his altars and the worship of vain gods, and He has prepared for Himself a peculiar people out of the heathen nations.

“He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.”

In these terms is intimated in brief the extrusion of the Jews and the admission of the Gentiles. For the elders of the Jews and the scribes in the law, and those who were richly privileged with other prerogatives, because they used their riches ill and their power lawlessly, were cast down by Him from every seat, whether of prophecy or of priesthood, whether of legislature or of doctrine, and were stripped of all their ancestral wealth, and of their sacrifices and multitudinous festivals, and of all the honourable privileges of the kingdom. Spoiled of all these boons, as naked fugitives they were cast out into captivity.

And in their stead the humble were exalted, namely, the Gentile peoples who hungered after righteousness. For, discovering their own lowliness, and the hunger that pressed upon them for the knowledge of God, they pleaded for the divine word, though it were but for crumbs of the same, like the woman of Canaan;and for this reason they were filled with the riches of the divine mysteries. For the Christ who was born of the Virgin, and who is our God, has given over the whole inheritance of divine blessings to the Gentiles.

“He hath helped His servant Israel.”

Not any Israel in general, indeed, but His servant, who in very deed maintains the true nobility of Israel. And on this account also did the mother of God call Him servant (Son) and heir. For when He had found the same labouring painfully in the letter and the law, He called him by grace. It is such an Israel, therefore, that He called and hath holpen in remembrance of His mercy.

“As He spake to our fathers, I to Abraham and to his seed for ever.”

In these few words is comprehended the whole mystery of the economy. For, with the purpose of saving the race of men, and fulfilling the covenant that was made with our fathers, Christ has once

“bowed the heavens and come down.”

And thus He shows Himself to us as we are capable of receiving Him, in order that we might have power to see Him, and handle Him, and hear Him when the speaketh. And on this account did God the Word deem it meet to take to Himself the flesh and the perfect humanity by a woman, the holy Virgin; and He was born a man, in order that He might discharge our debt, and fulfil even in Himself the ordinances of the covenant made with Abraham, in its rite of circumcision, and all the other legal appointments connected with it.

And after she had spoken these words the holy Virgin went to Nazareth; and from that a decree of Caesar led her to come again to Bethlehem; and so, as proceeding herself from the royal house, she was brought to the royal house of David along with Joseph her espoused husband. And there ensued there the mystery which transcends all wonders,-the Virgin brought forth and bore in her hand Him who bears the whole creation by His word.

“And there was no room for them in the inn.”

He found no room who founded the whole earth by His word.

She nourished with her milk Him who imparts sustenance and life to everything that hath breath.

She wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes who binds the whole creation fast with His word. She laid Him in a manger who rides seated upon the cherubim.

A light from heaven shone round about Him who lighteneth the whole creation.

The hosts of heaven attended Him with their doxologies who is glorified in heaven from before all ages. A star with its torch guided them who had come from the distant parts of earth toward Him who is the true Orient.

From the East came those who brought gifts to Him who for our sakes became poor.

And the holy mother of God kept these words, and pondered them in her heart, like one who was the receptacle of all the mysteries.

Thy praise, O most holy Virgin, surpasses all laudation, by reason of the God who received the flesh and was born man of thee.

To thee every creature, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, offers the meet offering of honour. For thou hast been indeed set forth as the true cherubic throne.

Thou shinest as the very brightness of light in the high places of the kingdoms of intelligence; where the Father, who is without beginning, and whose power thou hadst overshadowing thee, is glorified; where also the Son is worshipped, whom thou didst bear according to the flesh; and where the Holy Spirit is praised, who effected in thy womb the generation of the mighty King.

Through thee, O thou that art highly favoured, is the holy and consubstantial Trinity known in the world.

Together with thyself, deem us also worthy to be made partakers of thy perfect grace in Jesus Christ our Lord: with whom, and with the Holy Spirit, be glory to the Father, now and ever, and unto the ages of the ages. Amen.

(Taken from the Preachers Institute website)

 

Please also see:

 The Orthodox Veneration of The Mother of God; Zeal Not According to Knowledge (Romans 10:2); Attempts of Iconoclasts to Lessen The Glory of the Queen of Heaven, They Are Put to Shame; Attempts of Jews and Heretics to Dishonor The Ever-Virginity of Mary; The First Enemies of the Veneration of The Mother of God; etc

(An excellent overview of the “The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God” written by Saint John of Shanghai & San Francisco, a saint of the Orthodox Church with complete holy relics laying in the Orthodox Cathedral of San Francisco, CA)

The Iconography of Palm Sunday:

the Entrance of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ  in Jerusalem

HYMN OF PRAISE to SAINT MARY THE EGYPTIAN

  

Fr. Evans’ Sermon on the 5th Sunday of Great Lent (Mp3)_2007

Penitent wonderful, self-tormentor,

Mary hid herself from the face of men.

Oh yes, sinful me,

By passion, darkened.

Passions are beasts which eat at our heart,

In us as serpents, secretly they weave a nest.

Oh yes, sinful me,

By passion consumed!

In order to save sinners, You suffered O Christ,

Now, do not loathe impure me!

Hearken to the cry of Mary,

Of all, the most-sinful!

The Lord showed compassion, Mary He healed,

Her darkened soul, He whitened as snow.

Thanks be to You, O All-Good One,

Oh Lord, most dear!

An impure vessel You cleansed and,

With gold you gilded it,

Filled it to overflowing with Your grace –

That is true mercy,

To you O God, be glory!

And Mary became radiant with the Spirit

As an angel of God, by strength girded,

By Your power, O Christ

Mercy, Most pure!

What smells so in the awesome wilderness,

As beautiful incense in a chest of the temple?

That, Mary breathes –

With holiness, she exudes!

 

 REFLECTION

Why is it that much is said and written about the sufferings of holy men and holy women? Because the saints, alone, are considered victors. Can anyone be a victor without conflict, pain and suffering? In ordinary earthly combat, no one can be considered victorious nor heroic who has not been in combat tortured much or suffered greatly. The more so in spiritual combat where the truth is known and where self-boasting not only does not help at all but, indeed, hinders it. He who does not engage in combat for the sake of Christ, either with the world, with the devil or with one’s self, how can he be counted among the soldiers of Christ? How, then, can it be with Christ’s co-victors? St. Mary spoke about her savage spiritual combat to the Elder Zosimus: “For the first seventeen years in this wilderness I struggled with my deranged sexual desires as though with fierce beasts. I desired to eat meat and fish which I had in abundance in Egypt. I also desired to drink wine and here, I did not have even water to drink. I desired to hear lustful songs. I cried and beat my breasts. I prayed to the All-Pure Mother of God to banish such thoughts from me. When I had sufficiently cried and beat my breasts, it was then that I saw a light encompassing me on all sides and a certain miraculous peace filled me.”

  

About the fulfillment of the great prophecy “Like a lamb led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

Throughout the many centuries of time the discerning Prophet Isaiah foresaw the awesome sacrifice on Golgotha. From afar he saw the Lord Jesus Christ led to the slaughter as a lamb is led to the slaughter. A lamb permits itself to be led to the laughter as it is led to the pasture: defenseless, without fear and without malice. Thus, Our Lord Christ was led to the slaughter without defense, without fear and without malice. Neither does He say: “Men, do not do this!” Neither does He question: “Why are you doing this to Me?” Neither does He condemn anyone. Neither does He protest. Neither does He become angry.

Neither does He think evilly of His judges. When blood poured out over Him from the thorny wreath, He was silent. When His face was soiled from being spat upon, He was silent. When His Cross became heavy along the way, He endured. When His pain became unbearable on the Cross, He did not complain to men but to the Father. When He breathed His last, He directed His gaze and sigh toward heaven and not toward earth. For the source of His strength is heaven and not earth. The source of His consolation is in God and not in men. His true homeland is the Heavenly Kingdom and not the earthly kingdom.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (St. John 1:29). This was the first cry of St. John the Baptist when he saw the Lord. And, behold, now on Golgotha that prophecy was fulfilled.

Behold, under the weight of the sins of the entire world, the Lamb of God lay slaughtered and lifeless.

O brethren, this is a costly sacrifice even for our sins. The blood of this sinless and meek Lamb was destined for all times and all generations, from the first to the last person on earth. Christ also felt the pains on the Cross for our sins even those of the present day. He also wept in the Garden of Gethsemane for our wickedness, our weakness and our sinfulness. He also destined His blood for us.

Brethren let us not then despise this indescribable costly price by which we have been redeemed.

Because of these sacrifices of Christ we, indeed, have some worth as people. Without these sacrifices, or if we disavow these sacrifices, our worth, by itself alone, is equal to nothing. It is equal to smoke without a flame or a cloud without light.

O Lord, unequaled in mercy, have mercy on us also!

Written by St. Nikolaj Velimirovic in “The Prolog from Ohrid”

 

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