Thread: Readings for Lent
March 7th 2010, 08:33 AM #31
Readings for Lent - Wk 3 Day 7"We venerate Your Cross, O Master,
and we glorify Your Holy Resurrection!"
"The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those who are headed for ruin, but to us, who are experiencing salvation, it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
The Cross this day is placed before me
Its message to contemplate
Truth about life, of God's love
For me, others, the whole world
What has been and what is yet to be.
Christ was born of a Virgin Mother
Took on our humanity
Graced the world with His presence
Leading all to salvation
By doing the will of the Father.
His death He accepted willingly
Giving self up for our sake
Becoming our cleansing Pasch
Bringing us life eternal
His Resurrection for all to see.
Let us bow before the Cross this day
Filled with the light of His love
Hearts aglow in gratitude
For the life He sacrificed
To His Kingdom He showed us the way.
Kiss the life-giving Cross of Glory
Embrace it so lovingly
Taste of the Resurrection
The fullness of life anew
Cry Out: "Rejoice in His victory!"
This is the message, so long foretold
Through the Precious Cross comes joy to all the world.
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 4:14-5:6, Mark 8:34-9:1"The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God." - Seraphim of Sarov
March 8th 2010, 06:04 AM #32
Readings for Lent - Wk 4 Day 1
"Purified by the grace of fasting and with a pure mind entirely cleansed, let us raise our voices in thanksgiving to the only sinless Lord: `O Word, for our salvation, You have given Your precious Blood, and You have sanctified us by Your Cross.' " Matins for the Fourth Great-Fast Monday: Canon, Ode One
During World War II, an army officer was leading a company of soldiers through the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe back to the battle front after several days of rest behind the front lines. The road was bumpy and potted with shell holes filled with mud. The countryside was barren.
The spirits of the troops were equally desolate. They had tasted a few days of peace, warmth, and comfort. Now they were going back to mud and shells, noise and wounds - perhaps even death. Their shoulders drooped. Their eyes were cast down. Their feet dragged. There was no singing and very little talking.
As they trekked past one of the mountain ranges, they suddenly encountered a ruined church which had been built in the wooden Ruthenian style so prevalent throughout Carpathia. The officer peered through the open door, and he beheld a large Byzantine three-barred cross, intricately-carved in the manner of the local mountain artisans of Ruthenia. The cross, somewhat damaged, stood at the front of the church to the side of the iconostasis. The eyes of the officer were riveted to the cross for several minutes, and it gave him a feeling of assurance and a spurt of renewed courage. Finally, with a tear in his eyes, he turned to his company with the command: "Eyes right!"
As the soldiers looked to the right, they saw what the officer had beheld. The sight of the cross gave those depressed and discouraged men new strength. They lifted their heads, squared their shoulders, and picked up their feet. The sight of the cross gave purpose and value to their march.
In a similar way, the Church brings into focus the Precious Cross of Christ now at the mid-point of the Great-Fast because the Church realizes that the sight and thought of our Lord suffering and dying will give us renewed strength, courage, and determination. The Church knows that focusing on the life-creating
Cross produces wholesome results in our spiritual life because such a vision teaches us perseverance in the face of trials. The emphatic presence of the Holy Cross before us reminds us of the value God has placed on each of us and the awesome example of unqualified love that He extends to us in order that we might have peace in this life with happiness unending in the next.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 14:24-32; Genesis 8:21-9:7; Proverbs 11:19-12:6;"The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God." - Seraphim of Sarov
March 9th 2010, 06:07 AM #33
Readings for Lent - Wk 4 Day 2
"On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.... The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.... `Behold our God, to Whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for Whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!' " Isaiah 25:6,8,9
In the exquisite reading we have from Isaiah the prophet at the Sixth Hour - noontime prayer - on Cross-Veneration Tuesday, we hear in prophetic poetry the promised rewards of our Great-Fast endeavors.
If we keep in mind that the Cross of Christ stood on a little rise near Mount Zion upon which Jerusalem was built, the reading speaks with even richer imagery. On this mountain we will find the banquet of rich food and choice wine... on this mountain the black garb of grief will be taken away... on this mountain death will be destroyed.
But we ask ourselves: did those who stood by the Cross of Jesus see these wonderful promises fulfilled at the time of the Lord's execution? To be honest, we don't know. Certainly the rabble did not see this grisly affair as the triumph of life over death and joy over grief. But that is precisely the scandal of the cross: it is emblematic of all those events in life that do not seem to be what they are! For all through the Scriptures we have examples of those who acted in accordance with God's designs often seeming to fail or lose, but then - like a boomerang returning - they found victory. Think of Joseph sold into Egypt! Think of Moses set adrift on the Nile as an infant.
As the Holy Great-Fast progresses, it is natural that we will become weary, that we will be tempted to cut back on our efforts. That is why we need this lesson from the Holy Prophet Isaiah today: a song of thanksgiving to remind us that the strain and the effort of these days will provide exultation and satisfaction. As our vices are whittled down, the ground will be cleared for the growth of virtue. The good that is in us will be nourished so that we will find deliverance from all that snags our souls and clutters our hearts. With the prophet we, too, shall cry: "Lord, You are my God. I extol You! I praise Your name! For You have carried out Your excellent design - long planned, trustworthy and true." Yes, the Precious Cross is the emblem of a plan, not some random happening, not some chance born of a twist of circumstances. And if we are to enter deeply into the mystery of the Cross, we must stick to our plan. We must rally all our energies to push on with the labor of building the Kingdom of God which "is within." Finally we, too, shall proclaim: "See, this is our God."
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 25:1-9, Genesis 9:8-17, Proverbs 12:8-22"The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God." - Seraphim of Sarov
March 10th 2010, 07:11 AM #34
Readings for Lent - Wk 4 Day 3
"Purifying the thoughts of our hearts with our tears, and being cleansed through fasting, come let us bow before the wood of the Cross. Through abstinence, it pacifies the rebellion of the flesh. Deem us worthy, O Savior, to adore the light of Your third-day Resurrection."vespers for Cross-Veneration Wednesday
Cross-Veneration Week signals the mid-point of our journey into Light. As a child, did you ever run up to a see-saw and try walking to the center, struggling to keep your balance? You know that once you reach its mid-point, you need a foot planted on either side of the center to maintain your balance. However, one doesn't remain in that position very long. Either you decide to jump off, or you maintain a steady, balanced position and descend the other side of the board.
Like children eagerly anticipating the challenge of the see-saw, we begin our Great-Fast journey with joy-filled hearts, determined to find our particular pattern of balance to carry us through this season of repentance. But, as we ascend the path, we begin to discover our bondage, our weaknesses, our frustrations - all the elements that keep us from reaching our balanced position. Maintaining our balance can become difficult, and we may easily get discouraged. We have reached the mid-point of our penitential journey to Holy Pascha. Are we ready to give in to the temptation to terminate the journey?
During this fourth Great-Fast week, the Church sets before us the Honorable Cross as a symbol of hope. At a time when we may be tempted to "ease-off," the Church brings us face to face with true love, true surrender, true abandonment, and complete self-giving.
The Holy Cross reminds us that if we wish to demonstrate our own love as Jesus did, then we must suffer the pangs of the journey, for such tribulations enable us, through the power of His precious and life-creating Cross, to loosen our bondage and to discover those diabolical actions within which cause us to lose our balance in that holy journey to the salvific Pasch.
We must keep the Precious Cross of the Lord as our focal point as we walk the second-half of the road to Jerusalem with renewed strength, asking Him to fortify us along the way with His love shown for us on the wood of the Cross.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 26:21-27:9, Genesis 9:18-10:1, Proverbs 12:23-13:9
March 11th 2010, 06:22 AM #35
Readings for Lent - Wk 4 Day 4
"Seeing Your Holy Cross exposed on this day, O Lord, we come forward faithfully kissing it in fear and in joy to the sound of our songs and hymns. Sanctify Your servants, and give peace to the world by the power of Your Precious Cross, O God of tenderness."Matins for Cross-Veneration Thursday: Sessional Hymn
How often have we gazed upon the life-giving Cross and have given thanks to the Lord Jesus for all that He has suffered, patiently endured, and offered for each of us? How often do we praise Him for all the blessings we have received; for life, health, strength; for home, love, and friendship; for the happiness of our success and for prosperity? The majority of us would most probably respond in the affirmative, for how could we not appreciate the gifts of salvation He has so generously bestowed upon us!
But how often do we render thanks for the crosses that beset us daily - for the discipline of trials and temptations? When wrongs and injustices sadden our hearts, do "we come forward faithfully kissing it," not only in fear, but in joy and with love? During the times when we become overly burdened and deeply conscious of our own shortcomings, is our tendency to despair and discouragement? Or do we come before the redeeming Cross of Jesus, acknowledging our failings, praying for His forgiveness and for the forgiveness of those whom we have wronged or offended?
Each of us has suffered severe trials, either from others, or as a result of our own limitations and sinfulness. We could chose to let these daily crosses embitter our spirits and shatter our trust in the Lord. These crosses could be viewed and experienced as "punishments" from God, as burdens too heavy to bear, and weights that bend and break our spirit. Or we can chose to accept them as opportunities leading to the New Life. We should meditate upon the holy icon of the crucifixion, firmly believing that everything Jesus does is for our own best interests. We can turn to the life-giving Cross and find strength to meet adversity with quiet courage and unshaken trust. We can come to believe that although weeping may indeed tarry for the night, joy shall return in the morning.
Especially during this sacred season of the Holy Forty-Days Fast, may we truly believe that He is our Protector and our Savior in every trial and peril and that His mercy is extended to us with loving kindness which will never fail. May we accept and embrace each cross as a mini-death of our old self and as a stepping stone to the New Life - the Life in Christ Jesus achieved through His Radiant Resurrection.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 65:8-16, Genesis 46:1-7, Proverbs 23:15 - 24:5
March 12th 2010, 06:35 AM #36
Readings for Lent - Wk 4 Day 5
"The evil bows down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous." Proverbs 14:19
Evil has been and is a part of the reality of life upon this earth. The power of evil in the world has been terminally conquered by Jesus through the Holy Wood of His Precious Cross. However, each of us must still deal and struggle with this concept. God created His people good, yet evil can live in each person because of brokenness. At times, there are those urges which seem to control our very desires and needs. Then there are those nasty feelings which one has towards another. What about those slips of the tongue which we really did not mean? These arise from the unconscious. Does that mean that one cannot help oneself - that one, therefore, is not responsible? Or can something be done?
As one grows in a dynamic relationship with God, the various faces and forms of evil become more easily discerned. A growing, living relationship enables one to face the unknown, the feared, the evil within. This relationship is called prayer. Prayer can be words from a book, memorized or recited in a group, but this is only the first step in a prayer relationship. More advanced prayer in an animated relationship with the Lord acknowledges, talks to, dialogues with, expresses oneself totally: emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. It breathes, cries, sings, works, plays, sleeps, and eats. In such a relationship, God is a real, living Person! The season of the Great-Fast calls us to prayer - to intimate prayer with God where one listens and hears. Prayer is as necessary as breathing.
The urges, nastiness, or slips of the tongue are not handled in the open, but hidden, repressed or relegated to some deep, dark unknown. In health, it is a known fact, that germs multiply in a dark, damp, and warm area. Could it be true that evil when hidden grows in power and strength? Such things as shame, guilt, and ignorance provide the same dark atmosphere for evil to grow. As the power of evil grows, it can take possession of the person through the unconscious.
This world of evil and unknown that is within us does not readily reveal itself. But in the context of prayer - a meditative prayer and a living relationship with God - the Lord reveals this unknown world to us. Once this unknown world from which evil arises is revealed, dialoguing with God enables one to place the evil outside oneself. Only with God can this unknown evil be identified and cast Out as Jesus does in the gospel account of the Holy Evangelist Mark: "This kind, you can drive out only by fasting and prayer." (Mark 9:29)
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 29:13-23, Genesis 12:1-7, Proverbs 14:15-26
Last edited by Traveller; March 12th 2010 at 06:48 AM.
March 13th 2010, 07:39 AM #37
Readings for Lent - Wk 4 Day 6
"In the ocean of this life, my deeds have made me sink to the very bottom. But like Jonah in the belly of the whale, I cry to You: `Draw me out from the abyss of my faults, I pray You, the Son and Word of God.' " Matins for the Fourth AII-SouIs Saturday: Canon, Ode Six
As the Great-Fast journey began, we enthusiastically set out hoping to arrive at the Radiant Resurrection Feast as a better person. We want to experience metanoia, a change of heart. Surely, it would be a shame if we were not a little different by Holy Passover Sunday. Yet, do we make our list of goals as if preparing for a trip and expect to check off our accomplishments as the weeks go by? Do we independently decide where we should change? So perhaps by now, the fourth Saturday of the Holy Great-Fast, we are tired and discouraged, and maybe our goals have become burdensome. Is it because we have set out alone on this Great-Fast journey, focusing on ourselves? Perhaps, our purpose has been influenced by mundane considerations: we want a new improved product.
In order to journey to Pascha, our eyes must be fixed on the Lord. Our minds must be open, and our hearts soft and pliable. We must give ourselves over to quiet prayer and listen to where Jesus calls us to change our lives. We respond by taking the first step and leaving the rest of this transformation to Him.
Today, we make our third and final universal commemoration during the Holy Great-Fast for all of the faithful departed. They have already gone to their eternal reward and have experienced the healing transformation and sublime forgiveness that is with the Just Judge - the Lord Jesus. As we pray for the repose of their immortal souls, let us bear in mind how the holy gospels show us that Jesus heals, forgives, and transforms those who believe and trust in Him. He usually expected some initial step or action on the part of the person seeking His help. Likewise, He expects us to make the effort to respond to where He calls us to change. Yet, only by His power will we experience the fullness of healing, of a change of heart. Only by His power will we be different when the day of the Holy Resurrection Feast arrives and when we, like the faithful departed for whom we pray today, also stand in judgment before Him.
For those of us who have journeyed thus far alone, let us renew our faith and trust, put aside our ego-centered goals, and walk with the Lord Jesus. In the quiet of His presence, let us listen to His call and allow the Light from on high "to visit us and direct our path along the way of peace." (Matins for the Fourth Great fast Saturday: Canon, Ode Nine)
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Hebrews 6:9-12, Mark 7:31-37
March 14th 2010, 07:30 PM #38
Readings for Lent - Wk 4 Day 7
Sorry to the readers of this thread, time change messed up my whole day.
"Hearing the voice of the Gospel of the Lord, O holy father John Climacus,... you have cried out to all: `Love God, and you shall find eternal grace. Set nothing higher than His love..... Vespers for the Fourth Great-Fast Sunday: Doxastiko
We are presented at this point in our journey to Pascha with both the very purpose of our Great-Fast pilgrimage and the way in which we can remain on course. However, it may be easy now to become weary and to loose sight of our desired goal. The vesperal verse cited above speaks about loving God and placing nothing above His love. Our purpose here in this life is to experience God's love and to respond to it. There can be nothing higher, nothing more satisfying than union with our God.
If there be anything that God would want to convey to us, it is precisely how incredibly much He loves us. He knows that once we are truly aware of His love, all other virtues will be realized, all weakness and doubts will be eased.
The saint whom we commemorate on this fourth Sunday of the Holy Fast, our venerable father Saint John Climacus likened the practice of the virtues in the light of God's love to a great spiritual ladder, the rungs of which bring us ever closer to the one thing that we desire the most: divinization, becoming like God and being united with Him forever.
Yet, it seems at times as though our spirits are imprisoned in our bodies and our earthliness shackles us from our divine ascent. For this we need to engage ourselves fully in Christian asceticism. This does not mean that we must hate the body or the things of this earth. Rather it implies that by stripping away the excess layers of selfishness which blind our vision, we see the things of this earth and our own flesh as imbued with the presence of God.
Our vision is clearer through the eye of the contemplative who sees things as they really are with true value and meaning. Things are perceived not merely as items for consumption, but they are seen as somehow manifesting the glory of God. The contemplative sees God not as One Who has rejected earthliness, but rather as One Who has become incarnate and Who therefore deified our nature. John Climacus prayed and fasted because he had a vision of holiness, a sense of unity with God.
Our asceticism will likewise be blessed and fruitful during this Great-Fast season only if it be rooted in the realization that God has so loved us. Like John Climacus, we must construct our own ladder of divine ascent, for this is the only pathway to inner peace whereby we can arrive at that place of genuine love we so desperately desire.
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 6:13-20, Mark 9:17-31
March 15th 2010, 11:14 AM #39
Readings for Lent - Wk 5 Day 1
"Now that we have passed beyond the middle point of the Fast, let us manifest in ourselves a beginning of divine glory, and let us hasten eagerly towards our journey's end: the life of holiness so that we might receive that joy which is ageless." Vespers for the Fifth Great-Fast Monday: Sticheron
As we begin this fifth week of the Holy Great-Fast, we eagerly await the termination of our spiritual journey with Jesus. Having repented for our past sins with true contrition, we realize that we must endure the trials of the Passion with the Lord before we can participate in the divine glory and joy of His Holy Resurrection.
God loved His world so much that He gave us the Gift of His Divine Son for our salvation. And the Lord Jesus loved His Father so much that He was obedient to Him even to the death on the Cross.
The entire life of Christ was motivated by love as seen in His teachings and actions. However, love is a word that in today's world is misused constantly in conversation, and consequently it has lost much of its deeper meaning. Many times it is used without interior feeling and sentiment. We need to reawaken our perception of love for what it really means in our spiritual lives.
Love implies sacrifice as demonstrated by Christ. Love and sacrifice walk hand in hand throughout the length of the journey of life. Without sacrifice, love cannot exist. The more profound the love, the greater is the willingness to sacrifice. And the greater the sacrifice, the greater and deeper is the love that it serves. There are countless examples of this in everyday life, but Christ gives us the ultimate example in his Holy Passion and Precious Cross.
Suffering is an integral part of love. We never know how much one loves until we know exactly what that person is willing to endure for us. It is this element of suffering that measures life. Great are those individuals who willingly and perseveringly experience pain for us. But we must also be ready to bear and endure hardships and tribulations for others because of our love for them. We do this in imitation of the divine love manifested by Jesus - the strongest love that the world has ever known.
As we enter this fifth week of the Holy Fast, let's remember the love that Christ showed for us. Following His example, we can ease the pain and suffering of others and thereby help each other along that road which leads to Divine Love: Jesus.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 37:33-38:6, Genesis 13:12-18, Proverbs 14:27-15:4
March 16th 2010, 05:12 AM #40
Readings for Lent - Wk 5 Day 2
"The Lord God took Abraham outside and said, `Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. In the same way shall your descendants be.` Abraham put his faith in the Lord, Who credited it to him as an act of righteousness." Genesis 15:5-6
In our pilgrimage of life, we try so hard to be faithful servants of God, but there are many times when we waiver and doubt that God is really in charge of our existence. During the Great-Fast we have the opportunity to pause and reflect upon our lives. And almost wherever we turn in the Holy Bible, we are bound to find the consoling evidence that God does watch over us with utmost concern: "Here comes the Lord God with power....like a shepherd, He feeds His flock; in His arms, He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom and leading the ewes with care." (Isaiah 40:10-77) As the Holy Prophet Isaiah further instructs us, we discover that the idols which we fashion from gold or silver can in no way be compared to the Lord God Who "brings princes to naught and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing."
God loves us, and He intimately directs our lives, placing us in the proper place at the right time in order to do our part of bringing His holy will to fruition. But we must love God in return. Help us, O Lord, to recognize what it is that You want us to do. When we obviate You in favor of our desires, that is the time when disaster will surely follow. It is not You Who lays a burden of unhappiness upon us. Rather, we fashion our own troubles whenever we begin to create our own idols.
Yes, there are times when the weights of life rest heavy on our shoulders, and we cannot discern any reason why we deserve such pain. Is it not because You have allowed us such fires of purification in order that we might become more beautiful vessels of Your will? Help us to recognize these times as opportunities for growth. Take away our human sight, and give us Your divine sight so that we can see all these things in perspective for what they truly are.
How many times have we experienced the delight of being Your instrument? How many more times have we suffered because we did what we wanted to do? Let us never place blame for our folly upon You. Our greatest moments of happiness have been those times spent accomplishing Your will: "A glad heart lights up the face.... There is joy for a man in his utterance.... a lighthearted man has a continual feast." (Proverbs 75:13,23) Our hearts can be light only when they are filled with Your light. Truly, life with You is a banquet!
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 40:18-31, Genesis 15:1-15, Proverbs 15:7-19
March 17th 2010, 06:12 AM #41
Readings for Lent - Wk 5 Day 3
"Adam, having tasted the forbidden tree learned the bitter fruits of intemperance; and You, O God of tenderness, raised on the tree of the Cross have redeemed us from the bitter condemnation. And now we pray you, O Lord, grant that we may abstain from the fruit which leads to death, and that we may do Your will and gain Your Love. Matins for the Fifth Great-Fast Wednesday: Sessional Hymn
My life appears to me as a part of the great and all-embracing battle between God and the powers that rebel against Him. The events of history are revealed as events of my life.
Adam and Eve had to make a choice, and the choice had its consequences. I also must choose whether to keep my relationship with the Lord or to turn away from Him. The word sin is a word I do not want to hear, and I often exclude it from my own vocabulary. But even when I do acknowledge that I have sinned, I often forget that I also need to repent.
Now is the time for my repentance, a time for me to return to the Lord - a time to surrender myself to his love and mercy. The Church gives me this time during the liturgical year to look at myself, at my sinfulness, and with the Lord's help to have a change of heart.
Scripture is filled with the story of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. Whether in the account of Adam and Eve, or in the story of David, I find these three elements present. Each story tells of their repentance, their change of heart, and a return to their relationship with the Lord.
I can also read about Peter, one of the Apostles chosen by Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times shortly after he left Jesus' holy presence. But realizing what he had done, Peter went out and wept bitterly. Jesus gave him the opportunity to renew his faith by asking Peter three times, "Do you love Me?" Jesus is ever ready to give us the chance to renew our faith as He did for Peter.
Remembering how the Lord loved Adam and Eve, David and Peter - even in their sinfulness - I too humbly go before Him and ask for forgiveness. I take this time during the Holy Great-Fast to repent of my sins and to know that the Lord will forgive me, for He is the Lover of Mankind.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 41:4-14, Genesis 17:1-9, Proverbs 15:20-16:9
March 18th 2010, 05:19 AM #42
Readings for Lent - Wk 5 Day 4
"My soul, my soul, arise! Why are you sleeping? The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded. Awake, then, and be watchful that Christ our God may spare you, for He is everywhere present and fills all things." Kontakion of the Great canon of Saint Andrew of Crete
My heart stirs today and almost forces me to realize the great task I am facing as the end of the Great-Fast quickly approaches. "My mind is wounded; my body has grown feeble; my spirit is sick; my speech has lost its power; my life is dead; the end is at the door." This canticle from Saint Andrew of Crete's Great Canon calls me to put everything aside, to become keenly aware that the time is short, to know the laziness within myself, and to be able to hope enough to cry to Jesus: "Save me, O Lord, before I become completely lost." I am well aware of my foolishness in wasting the talents You have given me. You, O Lord, save me! In this final effort of the Great-Fast journey before I am completely lost, give me, O Jesus, the grace to repent.
The meditations given in the lengthy matins for today together with the frequent great metanies performed during the chanting of the Great Canon impel us to an experience of genuine repentance. "I fall down, Jesus, at Your feet: I have sinned against You; be merciful to me. Take from me the heavy yoke of sin, and in Your compassion, grant me tears of compunction." Falling down at the Lord's feet can move me to tears of heart and eyes and can make me recall my negligence and sinfulness before the Lord. I must immerse myself, consecrate my being with the healing oil of tears. "Where shall I begin to weep for the actions of my wretched life?"
But the "door of the Kingdom is already open." I need not feel lost or overwhelmed to the point of despair. I can look for the hope and courage I need to the Beatitudes and to the examples of the Old Testament figures presented at today's penitential Matins. "Remember us, O Lord, when you come into your Kingdom." As I perform the numerous prostrations during the canticles of the Great Canon, I can experience spiritual healing in this ascetical exercise. Cleansed and more humble, I prepare for the awesome forgiveness of Christ our God. "While you still have time, cry out with compunction: O Hope of the hopeless, O Life of the despairing: raise me up, O Savior, and save me!" I can rejoice because I am spared by God! I am saved by the merciful Jesus!
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 42:5-16, Genesis 18:20-33, Proverbs 16:17-17:17
March 19th 2010, 05:17 AM #43
Readings for Lent - Wk 5 Day 5
"Departing from Your divine commandments as from Jerusalem, and going down to the passions of Jericho, I was led astray by the false glory of the cares of this life. I fell among the thieves of my own thoughts. They stripped me of the robe of sonship that was mine by grace, and now I lie wounded, as though without the breath of life. The priest drew near and saw my body, but he took no heed. The Levite looked at it with loathing and passed by on the other side. But you, O Lord, Who ineffably have taken flesh from the Virgin, have of Your own will poured out blood and water from Your side for my salvation; and as with oil, You have anointed me. O Christ, my God, bind up my wounds with linen, and in Your compassion bring me to Your heavenly Kingdom." Vespers on the Fifth Great-Fast Friday
How often it is that even the most sincere, as well as the most selfish, of our thoughts and intentions lead us into feelings of emptiness instead of fulfillment, discontent instead of happiness, failure instead of accomplishment, anguish instead of peace. The journey through the Great-Fast is not so much to make us feel that we are the worst and lowliest of persons, as it is to make us aware of the danger and futility of trusting only in ourselves. It is a call for us to be honest not only with God, but also with ourselves.
The Holy Great Forty-Days Fast is a journey to help us see that reliance on ourselves and how we think or feel about something so often leads to less than desired results, to temporary rather than permanent peace, joy, and contentment. Saint Basil the Great calls this a "false glory" of humanity. The true glory of mankind - the achievement of peace within ourselves - comes from allowing our thought to be led, guided, and united with Christ, the Wisdom of God. It is a "putting on of Christ" in all that we do. It is an acknowledgement of our reliance upon God to help us achieve what everyone most desires: life, salvation, true inner peace.
From today's reading from the Book of Proverbs, we read: "Who lives by himself follows his own whim; he is angered by advice of any kind." (18:1) Saint Basil puts it another way: "Among the gifts given to men, the greatest and most enduring seem to be wisdom and prudence.... If they who have them have not also the Wisdom of God, all their gifts amount to nothing." (Homily No.20) In both cases the message is clear. We need Jesus, the Wisdom of God, to heal us and make us complete. To ignore His advice is to amount to nothing, truly a false glory.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 45:11-17, Genesis 22:1-18, Proverbs 17:17-18:5
March 20th 2010, 08:44 AM #44
Readings for Lent - Wk 5 Day 6
"Gabriel the Archangel shall come openly to you, O all-blameless One, and he shall exclaim to you: `Rejoice, O Deliverance from the curse, and the One who raises the fallen! Rejoice, O you who alone was chosen by God!' " Matins for Akathist Saturday: Sticheron at the Praises
The beautiful Akathist Hymn, which is chanted at the Matins on this fifth Great-Fast Saturday, warms our hearts with its poetical expressions of love and respect for Mary, the Most Holy Godbearer. The Most Pure Virgin Mary's love for Her Divine Son and her perfect obedience to the will of God are given us today as part of our Great-Fast meditation.
In the preamble hymn, the Holy Archangel Gabriel is astounded. He witnesses heaven coming down to earth as the Word of God is formed in Mary's womb. "Rejoice, O you through whom joy will shine forth, O you through whom the curse will disappear!" is the Archangel's response as God miraculously takes the form of a servant.
When Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, the Holy Precursor John the Baptist - yet unborn - recognizes Mary's embrace. In a leap of joy within his mother Elizabeth's womb, he cries out to her, "O favor of God to mortals, O trust of mortals before God!"
Filled with awe, the humble shepherds of Bethlehem look upon Mary holding the newborn Christ. "Rejoice, O Mother of the Lamb and Shepherd!" They recognize that her Son will be not only the Lamb sacrificed for us, but He will also be our Good Shepherd.
The Magi perceive Mary as the "Mother of the Star without setting, the one who guides the faithful toward Wisdom, the light of those who search the Trinity." We must likewise understand that the Most Holy Virgin will lead us to a deeper union with Christ, her Son and our God.
Our holy father Saint Gregory of Nyssa compares Eve with Mary. "Woman was defended by woman. The first opened the way to sin, the present one served to open the way to justice. The former followed the advice of the serpent, the latter brought forth the Slayer of the serpent and brought to light the Author of Light. The former introduced sin through the tree, the latter brings grace in through the tree."
The Akathist Hymn attempts to articulate our love for the Most Holy Mother of God, for she gave birth to Christ Who redeemed us through His Precious Cross and by His Holy Resurrection. As we reflect upon the role of Mary in our redemption, may her faithfulness inspire us to a greater fidelity to Jesus our Savior.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Hebrews 9:1-7, Luke 1:19-49,56
March 21st 2010, 10:58 AM #45
Readings for Lent - Wk 5 Day 7
"`If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'... When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman.... He said `Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' `No one Sir,'she replied. `Neither do I condemn you,' Jesus said, `Go away and sin no more.' John 8:7-11
An anonymous author once said, "Others will judge your God by the way you present Him." And how right he is. Reflecting upon our own lives, we can testify to the fact that the good Samaritans who crossed our path and radiated the spirit of joyfulness, understanding, kindness, generosity, and especially mercy and forgiveness, made an imprint upon our hearts and minds forever.
The Gospels present Jesus as that type of individual. As the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Jesus presented God as He really is. For example, to the woman caught in the act of adultery, as He witnessed her repentive disposition, He was merciful and forgiving, exhorting her to go and sin no more.
No one is beyond the reach of God no matter how serious we may have offended Him throughout life. He forgives all who approach Him especially through the Mystery of Reconciliation and anoints their soul with healing.
On this fifth Sunday of the Great-Fast, our tradition brings to our attention the life of an Egyptian woman who after living a very immoral and degrading existence, found how compassionate and loving God is. Mary the Egyptian (522 A.D.), according to her biographer Saint Sophronios, stands as the exemplar of genuine penance. After experiencing a great change of heart, she turned away from her evil ways and approached the merciful Savior with extreme sorrow. She then experienced a heavy burden lifted from her heart by reconciling herself to God. With a grateful disposition, she continually gave herself to Christ in love and devotion for the rest of her life.
During this sacred season of the Holy Fast, we are challenged to show mercy to others. Saint John Chrysostom tells us, "Do you wish to receive mercy? Show mercy to your neighbor."
We, as God's saints of the militant church, by virtue of our holy baptism, must continually strive to bring out Christ's likeness within us. Just as Mary the Egyptian committed her life to Jesus, witnessing to God's mercy and forgiveness, so must we lead others during our generation to Him by our witness and devotion. Remember, "Others will judge your God by the way you present Him."
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 9:11-14, Mark 10:32-45
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