Venerable Pimen the Great
(courtesy of oca.org)
Saint Pimen the Great was born about the year 340 in Egypt. He went to one of the Egyptian monasteries with his two brothers, Anoub and Paisius, and all three received monastic tonsure. The brothers were such strict ascetics that when their mother came to the monastery to see her children, they did not come out to her from their cells. The mother stood there for a long time and wept. Then Saint Pimen said to her through the closed door of the cell, “Do you wish to see us now, or in the future life?” Saint Pimen promised that if she would endure the sorrow of not seeing her children in this life, then surely she would see them in the next. The mother was humbled and returned home.
Fame of Saint Pimen’s deeds and virtues spread throughout the land. Once, the governor of the district wanted to see him. Saint Pimen, shunning fame, thought to himself, “If dignitaries start coming to me and show me respect, then many other people will also start coming to me and disturb my quiet, and I shall be deprived of the grace of humility, which I have acquired only with the help of God.” So he refused to see the governor, asking him not to come.
For many of the monks, Saint Pimen was a spiritual guide and instructor. They wrote down his answers to serve for the edification of others besides themselves. A certain monk asked, “If I see my brother sinning, should I conceal his fault?” The Elder answered, “If we reproach the sins of brothers, then God will reproach our sins. If you see a brother sinning, do not believe your eyes. Know that your own sin is like a beam of wood, but the sin of your brother is like a splinter (Mt. 7:3-5), and then you will not enter into distress or temptation.”
Another monk said to the saint, “I have sinned grievously and I want to spend three years at repentance. Is that enough time?” The Elder replied, “That is a long time.” The monk continued to ask how long the saint wished him to repent. Perhaps only a year? Saint Pimen said, “That is a long time.” The other brethren asked, “Should he repent for forty days?” The Elder answered, “I think that if a man repents from the depths of his heart and has a firm intention not to return to the sin, then God will accept three days of repentance.”
When asked how to get rid of persistent evil thoughts, the saint replied, “This is like a man who has fire on his left side, and a vessel full of water on his right side. If he starts burning from the fire, he takes water from the vessel and extinguishes the fire. The fire represents the evil thoughts placed in the heart of man by the Enemy of our salvation, which can enkindle sinful desires within man like a spark in a hut. The water is the force of prayer which impels a man toward God.”
Saint Pimen was strict in his fasting and sometimes would not partake of food for a week or more. He advised others to eat every day, but without eating their fill. Abba Pimen heard of a certain monk who went for a week without eating, but had lost his temper. The saint lamented that the monk was able to fast for an entire week, but was unable to abstain from anger for even a single day.
To the question of whether it is better to speak or be silent, the Elder said, “Whoever speaks on account of God, does well, and whoever is silent on account of God, that one also does well.”
He also said, “If man seems to be silent, but his heart condemns others, then he is always speaking. There may be a man who talks all day long, but he is actually silent, because he says nothing unprofitable.”
The saint said, “It is useful to observe three things: to fear God, to pray often, and to do good for one’s neighbor.”
“Wickedness never eradicates wickedness. If someone does evil to you, do good to them, and your goodness will conquer their wickedness.”
Once, after Saint Pimen and his disciples arrived at the monastery of Scetis, he learned that the Elder living there was annoyed at his arrival and was also jealous of him, because monks were leaving the Elder to see Abba Pimen.
In order to console the hermit, the saint went to him with his brethren, taking food with them as a present. The Elder refused to receive them, however. Then Saint Pimen said, “We shall not depart from here until we are permitted to see the holy Elder.” He remained standing at the door of the cell in the heat. Seeing Saint Pimen’s humility and patience, the Elder received him graciously and said, “Not only is what I have heard about you true, but I see that your works are a hundred times greater.”
He possessed such great humility that he often sighed and said, “I shall be cast down to that place where Satan was cast down!”
Once, a monk from another country came to the saint to receive his guidance. He began to speak about sublime matters difficult to grasp. The saint turned away from him and was silent. They explained to the bewildered monk that the saint did not like to speak of lofty matters. Then the monk began to ask him about the struggle with passions of soul. The saint turned to him with a joyful face, “Now you have spoken well, and I will answer.” For a long while he provided instruction on how one ought to struggle with the passions and conquer them.
Saint Pimen died at age 110, about the year 450. Soon after his death, he was acknowledged as a saint pleasing to God. He was called “the Great” as a sign of his great humility, uprightness, ascetic struggles, and self-denying service to God.
6th Sunday of Pentecost
In the Ninth Article of the Nicea-Constantinople Symbol of Faith proclaimed by the holy Fathers of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, we confess our faith in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” By virtue of the catholic nature of the Church, an Ecumenical Council is the Church’s supreme authority, and possesses the competence to resolve major questions of church life. An Ecumenical Council is comprised of archpastors and pastors of the Church, and representatives of all the local Churches, from every land of the “oikumene” (i.e. from all the whole inhabited world).
The Orthodox Church acknowledges Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils:
The First Ecumenical Council (Nicea I) (May 29, and also on seventh Sunday after Pascha) was convened in the year 325 against the heresy of Arius, in the city of Nicea in Bithynia under Saint Constantine the Great, Equal of the Apostles.
The Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople I) (May 22) was convened in the year 381 against the heresy of Macedonias, by the emperor Theodosius the Great.
The Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus) (September 9) was convened in the year 431 against the heresy of Nestorius, in the city of Ephesus by the emperor Theodosius the Younger.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council (Chalcedon) (July 16) was convened in the year 451, against the Monophysite heresy, in the city of Chalcedon under the emperor Marcian.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constnatinople II) (July 25) “Concerning the Three Chapters,” was convened in the year 553, under the emperor Justinian the Great.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople III) (January 23) met during the years 680-681, to fight the Monothelite heresy, under the emperor Constantine Pogonatos.
The fact that the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) is not commemorated today testifies to the antiquity of today’s celebration. The Seventh Council, commemorated on the Sunday nearest to October 11, was convened at Nicea in the year 787 against the Iconoclast heresy, under the emperor Constantine and his mother Irene.
The Church venerates the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils because Christ has established them as “lights upon the earth,” guiding us to the true Faith. “Adorned with the robe of truth,” the doctrine of the Fathers, based upon the preaching of the Apostles, has established one faith for the Church. The Ecumenical Councils, are the highest authority in the Church. Such Councils, guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and accepted by the Church, are infallible.
The Orthodox Church’s conciliar definitions of dogma have the highest authority, and such definitions always begin with the Apostolic formula: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...” (Acts 15: 28).
The Ecumenical Councils were always convened for a specific reason: to combat false opinions and heresies, and to clarify the Orthodox Church’s teaching. But the Holy Spirit has thus seen fit, that the dogmas, the truths of faith, immutable in their content and scope, constantly and consequently are revealed by the conciliar mind of the Church, and are given precision by the holy Fathers within theological concepts and terms in exactly such measure as is needed by the Church itself for its economy of salvation. The Church, in expounding its dogmas, is dealing with the concerns of a given historical moment, “not revealing everything in haste and thoughtlessly, nor indeed, ultimately hiding something” (Saint Gregory the Theologian).
A brief summary of the dogmatic theology of the First Six Ecumenical Councils is formulated and contained in the First Canon of the Council of Trullo (also known as Quinisext), held in the year 692. The 318 Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council are spoken of in this Canon I of Trullo as having: “with unanimity of faith revealed and declared to us the consubstantiality of the three Persons of the Divine nature and, ... instructing the faithful to adore the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with one worship, they cast down and dispelled the false teaching about different degrees of Divinity.”
The 150 Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council left their mark on the theology of the Church concerning the Holy Spirit, “repudiating the teaching of Macedonius, as one who wished to divide the inseparable Unity, so that there might be no perfect mystery of our hope.”
The 200 God-bearing Fathers of the Third Ecumenical Council expounded the teaching that “Christ, the Incarnate Son of God is One.” They also confessed that “she who bore Him without seed was the spotless Ever-Virgin, glorifying her as truly the Mother of God.
The 630 Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council decreed that “the One Christ, the Son of God... must be glorified in two natures.”
The 165 God-bearing Holy Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council “in synod anathematized and repudiated Theodore of Mopsuestia (the teacher of Nestorius), and Origen, and Didymus, and Evagrius, renovators of the Hellenic teaching about the transmigration of souls and the transmutation of bodies and the impieties they raised against the resurrection of the dead.”
The 170 Holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council “taught that we ought to confess two natural volitions, or two wills [trans. note: one divine, and the other human], and two natural operations (energies) in Him Who was incarnate for our salvation, Jesus Christ, our true God.”
In decisive moments of Church history, the holy Ecumenical Councils promulgated their dogmatic definitions, as trustworthy delimitations in the spiritual battle for the purity of Orthodoxy, which will last until such time, as “all shall come into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4: 13). In the struggle with new heresies, the Church does not abandon its former dogmatic concepts nor replace them with some sort of new formulations. The dogmatic formulae of the Holy Ecumenical Councils need never be superseded, they remain always contemporary to the living Tradition of the Church. Therefore the Church proclaims:
“The faith of all in the Church of God hath been glorified by men, which were luminaries in the world, cleaving to the Word of Life, so that it be observed firmly, and that it dwell unshakably until the end of the ages, conjointly with their God-bestown writings and dogmas. We reject and we anathematize all whom they have rejected and anathematized, as being enemies of Truth. And if anyone does not cleave to nor admit the aforementioned pious dogmas, and does not teach or preach accordingly, let him be anathema” (Canon I of the Council of Trullo).
In addition to their dogmatic definitions, the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils exerted great efforts towards the strengthening of church discipline. Local Councils promulgated their disciplinary canons according to the circumstances of the time and place, frequently differing among themselves in various particulars.
The universal unity of the Orthodox Church required unity also in canonical practice, i.e. a conciliar deliberation and affirmation of the most important canonical norms by the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. Thus, according to conciliar judgment, the Church has accepted: 20 Canons from the First, 7 Canons from the Second, 8 Canons from the Third, and 30 Canons from the Fourth Ecumenical Synods. The Fifth and the Sixth Councils concerned themselves only with resolving dogmatic questions, and did not leave behind any disciplinary canons.
The need to establish in codified form the customary practices during the years 451-680, and ultimately to compile a canonical codex for the Orthodox Church, occasioned the convening of a special Council, which was wholly devoted to the general application of churchly rules. This was convened in the year 692. The Council “in the Imperial Palace” or “Under the Arches” (in Greek “en trullo”), came to be called the Council in Trullo. It is also called the “Quinisext” [meaning the “fifth and sixth”], because it is considered to have completed the activities of the Fifth and Sixth Councils, or rather that it was simply a direct continuation of the Sixth Ecumenical Council itself, separated by just a few years.
The Council in Trullo, with its 102 Canons (more than of all the Ecumenical Synods combined), had a tremendous significance in the history of the canonical theology of the Orthodox Church. It might be said that the Fathers of this Council produced a complete compilation of the basic codex from the relevant sources for the Orthodox Church’s canons. Listing through in chronological order, and having been accepted by the Church the Canons of the Holy Apostles, and the Canons of the Holy Ecumenical and the Local Councils and of the holy Fathers, the Trullo Council declared: “Let no one be permitted to alter or to annul the aforementioned canons, nor in place of these put forth, or to accept others, made of spurious inscription” (2nd Canon of the Council in Trullo).
Church canons, sanctified by the authority of the first Six Ecumenical Councils (including the rules of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787, and the Constantinople Councils of 861 and 879, which were added later under the holy Patriarch Photius), form the basis of THE RUDDER, or KORMCHAYA KNIGA (a canon law codex known as “Syntagma” or “Nomokanon” in 14 titles). In its repository of grace is expressed a canonical norm, a connection to every era, and a guide for all the local Orthodox Churches in churchly practice.
New historical conditions can lead to the change of some particular external aspect of the life of the Church. This makes creative canonical activity necessary in the conciliar reasoning of the Church, in order to reconcile the external norms of churchly life with historical circumstances. The details of canonical regulation are not fully developed for the various eras of churchly organization at all once. With every push to either forsake the literal meaning of a canon, or to fulfill and develop it, the Church again and again turns for reasoning and guidance to the eternal legacy of the Holy Ecumenical Councils, to the inexhaustable treasury of dogmatic and canonical truths.
The Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils
Come, all people!
Let us fall down in worship before the blessed Tree,
for by the Cross, eternal justice has come to pass.
The devil deceived Adam by the Tree;
now he has been deceived by the Cross.
He held the royal creation in bondage;
now he has been cast down with an amazing fall.
The serpent's venom is washed by the blood of God.
The curse is destroyed by the righteous sentence of the just One Who was unjustly condemned.
The Tree has been healed by the Tree!
The Passion of the passionless God has destroyed the passions of the condemned.
Glory to thy dispensation, O Christ,
our gracious King and the Lover of mankind!
The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary
"The feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is the celebration of the fact that all men are 'highly exalted' in the blessedness of the victorious Christ, and that this high exaltation has already been accomplished in Mary the Theotokos. The feast of the Dormition is the sign, the guarantee, and the celebration that Mary’s fate is, the destiny of all those of 'low estate' whose souls magnify the Lord, whose spirits rejoice in God the Saviour, whose lives are totally dedicated to hearing and keeping the Word of God which is given to men in Mary’s child, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.
Finally it must be stressed that, in all of the feasts of the Virgin Mother of God in the Church, the Orthodox Christians celebrate facts of their own lives in Christ and the Holy Spirit. What happens to Mary happens to all who imitate her holy life of humility, obedience, and love. With her all people will be 'blessed' to be 'more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim' if they follow her example. All will have Christ born in them by the Holy Spirit. All will become temples of the living God. All will share in the eternal life of His Kingdom who live the life that Mary lived.
In this sense everything that is praised and glorified in Mary is a sign of what is offered to all persons in the life of the Church. It is for this reason that Mary, with the divine child Jesus within her, is call in the Orthodox Tradition the Image of the Church. For the assembly of the saved is those in whom Christ dwells."
Read more about the Feast of the Dormition
The Feast of the Transfiguration
Thou hast been transfigured, O Saviour, on Mount Tabor, indicating the transformation of mankind which shall take place at thy dreadful Second Coming. Moses and Elijah did converse with thee. But thy Disciples, whom thou didst call, when they beheld thy glory, O Master, were dazzled by thy brightness. Wherefore, O thou who didst at that time cause thy light to shine on them, lighten our souls.
O thou holy One who hast sanctified the whole universe by thy light, thou hast been transfigured on a high mountain, and hast shown thy Disciples thy might and that thou shalt deliver the world from transgression. Wherefore, do we cry out to thee, O compassionate Lord, save our souls.
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Saints Peter and Paul
Verily, the all-solemn Feast of the two Apostles hath arrived, bringing us salvation. Wherefore, let us mystically exult, crying unto them: Rejoice, O ye who have become luminaries to those in darkness, two rays of the Sun! Rejoice, O Peter and Paul, adamant pillars of the divine doctrines, ye friends of Christ and two honored vessels! Be ye present among us in an invisible manner, and grant immaterial gifts to those who extol your feast with songs.
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Synaxis of All Saints
As with fine porphyry and royal purple, Your church has been adorned with Your martyrs’ blood shed throughout all the world. She cries to You, O Christ God: Send down Your bounties on Your people, Grant peace to Your habitation, and great mercy to our souls!
The universe offers You the God-bearing martyrs, As the first fruits of creation, O Lord and Creator. Through the Theotokos, and their prayers establish Your Church in peace!
"The Sunday following Pentecost is dedicated to All Saints, both those who are known to us, and those who are known only to God. There have been saints at all times, and they have come from every corner of the earth. They were Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, Monastics, and Righteous, yet all were perfected by the same Holy Spirit.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to rise above our fallen state and to attain sainthood, thereby fulfilling God’s directive to 'be holy, for I am holy' (Lev. 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16, etc.). Therefore, it is fitting to commemorate All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost."
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THE FEAST OF PENTECOST
Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit: through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net. O Lover of Man, Glory to Thee.
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he divided the nations. But when he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit!
"Once again it must be noted that the feast of Pentecost is not simply the celebration of an event which took place centuries ago. It is the celebration of what must happen and does happen to us in the Church today. We all have died and risen with the Messiah-King, and we all have received his Most Holy Spirit. We are the 'temples of the Holy Spirit.' God’s Spirit dwells in us (Rom 8; 1 Cor 2-3, 12; 2 Cor 3; Gal 5; Eph 2-3). We, by our own membership in the Church, have received 'the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit' in the sacrament of chrismation. Pentecost has happened to us."
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The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ
"It is rare, if one has lived through the joy of Easter time sincerely, that one does not experience a certain constriction of the heart when the day of the Ascension comes. We know perfectly well that it is one of the very great Christian feasts, and yet, despite ourselves, it seems like a parting, a separation, and that after it, our Lord is not with us in quite the same way any longer. The disciples did not react like this. They could have been overwhelmed with grief, but, on the contrary, they ‘returned to Jerusalem with great joy’. We, too, can try and enter into this joy of the Ascension. Why does the Ascension bring joy to Christians?
First of all, the glory of our Lord must be very precious to us, and the Ascension is the crown of his earthly mission. He has accomplished on earth the whole mission which he had received from the Father. It is to the Father that his whole being reaches out. Now he will receive from the Father the welcome that his victory over sin and death—a victory gained so grievously—has merited for him. Now he will be glorified in heaven. The glory and the desire of our Lord are surely more important to us than the sort of ‘perceptible consolations’ that we might receive from his presence. Let us know how to love our Lord enough to rejoice in his own joy.
Then the Ascension marks God’s acceptance of the Son’s whole work of reparation. The Resurrection was the first dazzling sign of this acceptance, and Pentecost will be the last sign. The cloud which today envelopes Jesus and ascends with him to heaven represents the smoke of the sacrifice rising from the altar to God. The sacrifice is accepted, and the victim is admitted to God’s presence where it will continue to be offered in an eternal and heavenly manner. The work of our salvation has been accomplished and is blessed."
Read more about the Feast of Ascension
Sunday of the Blind Man
O Bestower of light, Who art Light coming forth from Light,
Thou dost give eyes to the man who was blind from his birth, O Word.
The Savior met this man, born blind and incurable after every human effort, while leaving the Temple on the Sabbath. Jesus spat into the dirt, made clay, rubbed it in his eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam, a famous water spring in Jerusalem. The Savior did not send him there because his eyes were covered in clay, nor did the pool have healing power, but instead to test his faith and obedience. The blind man proclaimed that Jesus healed him, but this confession caused him to be cast out by the enemies of the truth. Even his own parents would not defend him. However, the blind man followed Jesus from that moment forward.
Read more about the Sunday of the Blind Man
Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
When thou camest to obtain corruptible water, O woman,
Thou didst draw forth living water that washeth away the soul’s stains.
The Samaritan woman—the holy, glorious Great-martyr Photeini—met Jesus at midday at Jacob’s Well, which was located in the city of Sychar. And being tired from travel and the heat, Jesus sat at Jacob’s Well. A little after, the Samaritan woman came to draw water, and had a long conversation with Him (it is the longest recorded discourse between Christ and a human in the entire Bible). Photeini did not want to talk to Jesus, because the Samaritans did not have any dealings with Jews; Jews considered her people heretics because Samaritans kept only the first five books of the Old Testament. However, the Lord talked with her anyway, read her heart, revealed her secrets and gave her the “Living Water”—the grace of the Holy Spirit that leads to eternal life and flows to all humanity—to drink. Photeini immediately ran throughout the city to proclaim Christ. Through her, many other Samaritans believed in Jesus.
By the intercessions of Thy Martyr, Photeini, O Christ God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Having come to the well in faith, the Samaritan woman beheld Thee, the Water of Wisdom; whereof having drunk abundantly, she, the renowned one, inherited the Kingdom on high forever.
Let us hear of the august mysteries, as John teacheth us what cometh to pass in Samaria: how the Lord speaketh unto a woman, asking water of her, even He that gathered the waters into the places where they are gathered, and Who is of one throne with the Father and the Spirit; for He, the renowned One, came, seeking out His image forever.
Read more about St. Photeini
Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers
When Thou didst cry, Rejoice, unto the Myrrh-bearers, Thou didst make the lamentation of Eve the first mother to cease by Thy Resurrection, O Christ God. And Thou didst bid Thine Apostles to preach: The Savior is risen from the grave.
As the Myrrh-bearers went to Thy tomb, O Savior, they were perplexed in mind and said to themselves: Who will roll the stone away from the sepulcher for us? And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled away. They were awestruck by the form of the Angel and his raiment. They were taken with trembling and thought to flee; and the youth cried to them: Be not afraid; He Whom ye seek is risen; come, behold the place where the body of Jesus lay, and go quickly, proclaim unto the Disciples: The Savior is risen from the grave.
Read more about the Myrrh-bearing Women
Continue to recent Feasts and Saints >>
Sunday of St. Thomas
excerpt of a homily by +Archbishop Dmitri of Blessed Memory:
"Near the end of the Gospel passage, after Thomas exclaims, 'My Lord and my God,' Jesus says to him, 'Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.' Faith: this is the way that God would have us come to Him. 'Faith,' says St. Paul, 'is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' (Hebrews 11:1) People sometimes lament the fact that they did not live in Apostolic times when it would have been possible to see for themselves and talk face to face with the Incarnate Lord. In the minds of many, this would constitute tangible proof of God’s existence and alleviate any doubts concerning Christ. But would it? Israel was prepared for almost two thousand years for the Messiah’s advent. Miracles were performed by Him in the peoples’ midst. Yet, in the end, those who heard and saw Jesus for themselves wound up shouting, 'Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him.' Only a few individuals stood with Him at the foot of the Cross. One really has to wonder seriously if we would have been any different given the chance. For regardless of how and when the Lord chooses to reveal Himself it is always possible, in freedom and because of sin, to explain away that revelation."
Read more from Archbishop Dmitri's message
GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA, THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
THE PASCHAL SERMON OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
IF ANY MAN BE DEVOUT AND LOVE GOD, LET HIM ENJOY THIS FAIR AND RADIANT TRIUMPHAL FEAST. IF ANY MAN BE A WISE SERVANT, LET HIM REJOICING ENTER INTO THE JOY OF HIS LORD. IF ANY HAVE LABORED LONG IN FASTING, LET HIM NOW RECEIVE HIS RECOMPENSE. IF ANY HAVE WROUGHT FROM THE FIRST HOUR, LET HIM TODAY RECEIVE HIS JUST REWARD. IF ANY HAVE COME AT THE THIRD HOUR, LET HIM WITH THANKFULNESS KEEP THE FEAST. IF ANY HAVE ARRIVED AT THE SIXTH HOUR, LET HIM HAVE NO MISGIVINGS; BECAUSE HE SHALL IN NOWISE BE DEPRIVED THEREFOR. IF ANY HAVE DELAYED UNTIL THE NINTH HOUR, LET HIM DRAW NEAR, FEARING NOTHING. IF ANY HAVE TARRIED EVEN UNTIL THE ELEVENTH HOUR, LET HIM, ALSO, BE NOT ALARMED AT HIS TARDINESS; FOR THE LORD, WHO IS JEALOUS OF HIS HONOR, WILL ACCEPT THE LAST EVEN AS THE FIRST; HE GIVES REST UNTO HIM WHO COMES AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR, EVEN AS UNTO HIM WHO HAS WROUGHT FROM THE FIRST HOUR.
AND HE SHOWS MERCY UPON THE LAST, AND CARES FOR THE FIRST; AND TO THE ONE HE GIVES, AND UPON THE OTHER HE BESTOWS GIFTS. AND HE BOTH ACCEPTS THE DEEDS, AND WELCOMES THE INTENTION, AND HONORS THE ACTS AND PRAISES THE OFFERING. WHEREFORE, ENTER YOU ALL INTO THE JOY OF YOUR LORD; AND RECEIVE YOUR REWARD, BOTH THE FIRST, AND LIKEWISE THE SECOND. YOU RICH AND POOR TOGETHER, HOLD HIGH FESTIVAL. YOU SOBER AND YOU HEEDLESS, HONOR THE DAY. REJOICE TODAY, BOTH YOU WHO HAVE FASTED AND YOU WHO HAVE DISREGARDED THE FAST. THE TABLE IS FULL-LADEN; FEAST YE ALL SUMPTUOUSLY. THE CALF IS FATTED; LET NO ONE GO HUNGRY AWAY.
ENJOY YE ALL THE FEAST OF FAITH: RECEIVE YE ALL THE RICHES OF LOVING-KINDNESS. LET NO ONE BEWAIL HIS POVERTY, FOR THE UNIVERSAL KINGDOM HAS BEEN REVEALED. LET NO ONE WEEP FOR HIS INIQUITIES, FOR PARDON HAS SHOWN FORTH FROM THE GRAVE. LET NO ONE FEAR DEATH, FOR THE SAVIOR’S DEATH HAS SET US FREE. HE THAT WAS HELD PRISONER OF IT HAS ANNIHILATED IT. BY DESCENDING INTO HELL, HE MADE HELL CAPTIVE. HE EMBITTERED IT WHEN IT TASTED OF HIS FLESH. AND ISAIAH, FORETELLING THIS, DID CRY: HELL, SAID HE, WAS EMBITTERED, WHEN IT ENCOUNTERED THEE IN THE LOWER REGIONS. IT WAS EMBITTERED, FOR IT WAS ABOLISHED. IT WAS EMBITTERED, FOR IT WAS MOCKED. IT WAS EMBITTERED, FOR IT WAS SLAIN. IT WAS EMBITTERED, FOR IT WAS OVERTHROWN. IT WAS EMBITTERED, FOR IT WAS FETTERED IN CHAINS. IT TOOK A BODY, AND MET GOD FACE TO FACE. IT TOOK EARTH, AND ENCOUNTERED HEAVEN. IT TOOK THAT WHICH WAS SEEN, AND FELL UPON THE UNSEEN.
O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? O HELL, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? CHRIST IS RISEN, AND YOU ARE OVERTHROWN. CHRIST IS RISEN, AND THE DEMONS ARE FALLEN. CHRIST IS RISEN, AND THE ANGELS REJOICE. CHRIST IS RISEN, AND LIFE REIGNS. CHRIST IS RISEN, AND NOT ONE DEAD REMAINS IN THE GRAVE. FOR CHRIST, BEING RISEN FROM THE DEAD, IS BECOME THE FIRST FRUITS OF THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP. TO HIM BE GLORY AND DOMINION UNTO AGES OF AGES. AMEN.
GREAT AND HOLY SATURDAY
"Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day—Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another—Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.
In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death that Christ continues to effect triumph.
We sing that Christ is '...trampling down death by death' in the troparion of Easter. This phrase gives great meaning to Holy Saturday. Christ’s repose in the tomb is an 'active' repose. He comes in search of His fallen friend, Adam, who represents all men. Not finding him on earth, he descends to the realm of death, known as Hades in the Old Testament. There He finds him and brings him life once again. This is the victory: the dead are given life. The tomb is no longer a forsaken, lifeless place. By His death Christ tramples down death by death."
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GREAT AND HOLY FRIDAY
"On Great and Holy Friday, Christ died on the Cross. He gave up His spirit with the words: 'It is finished' (John 19:30). These words are better understood when rendered: 'It is consummated.' He had accomplished the work for which His heavenly Father had sent Him into the world. He became a man in the fullest sense of the word. He accepted the baptism of repentance from John in the Jordan River. He assumed the whole human condition, experiencing all its alienation, agony, and suffering, concluding with the lowly death on the Cross. He perfectly fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
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GREAT AND HOLY THURSDAY
"Two events shape the liturgy of Great and Holy Thursday: the Last Supper of Christ with His disciples, and the betrayal of Judas. The meaning of both is in love. The Last Supper is the ultimate revelation of God’s redeeming love for man, of love as the very essence of salvation. And the betrayal of Judas reveals that sin, death and self-destruction are also due to love, but to deviated and distorted love, love directed at that which does not deserve love. Here is the mystery of this unique day, and its liturgy, where light and darkness, joy and sorrow are so strangely mixed, challenges us with the choice on which depends the eternal destiny of each one of us. 'Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come... having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end...' (John 13:1). To understand the meaning of the Last Supper we must see it as the very end of the great movement of Divine Love which began with the creation of the world and is now to be consummated in the death and resurrection of Christ."
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Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem
"Palm Sunday is the celebration of the triumphant entrance of Christ into the royal city of Jerusalem. He rode on a colt for which He Himself had sent, and He permitted the people to hail Him publicly as a king. A large crowd met Him in a manner befitting royalty, waving palm branches and placing their garments in His path. They greeted Him with these words: 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!' (John 12:13).
This day together with the raising of Lazarus are signs pointing beyond themselves to the mighty deeds and events which consummate Christ’s earthly ministry. The time of fulfillment was at hand. Christ’s raising of Lazarus points to the destruction of death and the joy of resurrection which will be accessible to all through His own death and resurrection. His entrance into Jerusalem is a fulfillment of the messianic prophecies about the king who will enter his holy city to establish a final kingdom. 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass' (Zech 9:9).
Finally, the events of these triumphant two days are but the passage to Holy Week: the 'hour' of suffering and death for which Christ came. Thus the triumph in a earthly sense is extremely short-lived. Jesus enters openly into the midst of His enemies, publicly saying and doing those things which mostly enrage them. The people themselves will soon reject Him. They misread His brief earthly triumph as a sign of something else: His emergence as a political messiah who will lead them to the glories of an earthly kingdom."
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"Lazarus Saturday is a paschal celebration. It is the only time in the entire Church Year that the resurrectional service of Sunday is celebrated on another day. At the liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the Church glorifies Christ as 'the Resurrection and the Life' who, by raising Lazarus, has confirmed the universal resurrection of mankind even before his own suffering and death.
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the branches of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! (Troparion).
Christ —the Joy, the Truth and the Light of All, the Life of the world and its Resurrection—has appeared in his goodness to those on earth. He has become the Image of our Resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all (Kontakion).
At the Divine Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday the baptismal verse from Galatians: As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3:27) replaces the Thrice-holy Hymn thus indicating the resurrectional character of the celebration, and the fact that Lazarus Saturday was once among the few great baptismal days in the Orthodox Church Year. Because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, Christ was hailed by the masses as the long-expected Messiah-King of Israel. Thus, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, he entered Jenrsalem, the City of the King, riding on the colt of an ass (Zech 9:9; Jn 12:12). The crowds greeted him with brancfies in their hands and called out to him with shouts of praise: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! The Son of David! The King of Israel! Because of this glorification by the people, the priests and scribes were finally driven 'to destroy him, to put him to death' (Lk 19:47; Jn 11:53, 12:10)."
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Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt
Thou didst sever with the sword of abstinence the snares of the soul and the passion of the body, O righteous one. And by the silence of asceticism thou didst choke the sins of thought. And by the stream of thy tears thou didst water the whole wilderness, bringing forth for us the fruits of repentance. Wherefore, we celebrate thy memory.
On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt. By her example, we are reminded of the extraordinary power of repentance and God's mercy, by which even the greatest sinner may be transformed and sanctified.
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Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas
"...every day we should stand in awe of Him, as He is with us, and do what is pleasing before Him. If we are unable now to perceive Him with our physical eyes, we can, if we are watchful, see Him continuously with the eyes of our understanding, and not just see Him, but reap great benefits from Him. This vision destroys all sin, demolishes all evil, and drives away everything bad. It gives birth to purity and dispassion, and bestows eternal life."
–St. Gregory Palamas
On the second Sunday of Lent, we celebrate the triumph of the teachings of St. Gregory Palamas, who upheld the Orthodox doctrine that humans can know God not through the intellect alone, but through experience of God's uncreated energies. The Council of Blachernae in 1351 which upheld St. Gregory's teachings was considered a second Triumph of Orthodoxy.
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Sunday of St. John Climacus
Dweller of the desert and angel in the body, you were shown to be a wonder-worker, our God-bearing Father John.
You received heavenly gifts through fasting, vigil, and prayer: healing the sick and the souls of those drawn to you by faith.
Glory to Him who gave you strength! Glory to Him who granted you a crown! Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to St John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work "The Ladder of Divine Ascent." The abbot of St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against ... the rulers of the present darkness ... the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places ...” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).
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Sunday of the Cross
"As they who walk on a long and hard way and are bowed down by fatigue find great relief and strengthening under the cool shade of a leafy tree, so do we find comfort, refreshment, and rejuvenation under the Life-giving Cross, which our Fathers 'planted' on this Sunday. Thus, we are fortified and enabled to continue our Lenten journey with a light step, rested and encouraged.
Or, as before the arrival of the king, his royal standards, trophies, and emblems of victory come in procession and then the king himself appears in a triumphant parade, jubilant and rejoicing in his victory and filling those under him with joy, so does the Feast of the Cross precede the coming of our King, Jesus Christ. It warns us that He is about to proclaim His victory over death and appear to us in the glory of the Resurrection. His Life-Giving Cross is His royal scepter, and by venerating it we are filled with joy, rendering Him glory. Therefore, we become ready to welcome our King, who shall manifestly triumph over the powers of darkness."
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Sunday of Orthodoxy
"The name of this Sunday reflects the great significance which icons possess for the Orthodox Church. They are not optional devotional extras, but an integral part of Orthodox faith and devotion. They are held to be a necessary consequence of Christian faith in the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Jesus Christ. They have a sacramental character, making present to the believer the person or event depicted on them. So the interior of Orthodox churches is often covered with icons painted on walls and domed roofs, and there is always an icon screen, or iconostasis, separating the sanctuary from the nave, often with several rows of icons. No Orthodox home is complete without an icon corner (iconostasion), where the family prays...
The theme of the victory of the icons, by its emphasis on the incarnation, points us to the basic Christian truth that the one whose death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter was none other than the Word of God who became human in Jesus Christ."
Read more about the Triumph of Orthodoxy
"Finally comes the last day [of preparation for Lent], usually called 'Forgiveness Sunday,' but whose other liturgical name must also be remembered: the 'Expulsion of Adam from the Paradise of Bliss.' This name summarizes indeed the entire preparation for Lent. By now we know that man was created for paradise, for knowledge of God and communion with Him. Man's sin has deprived him of that blessed life and his existence on earth is exile. Christ, the Savior of the world, opens the door of paradise to everyone who follows Him, and the Church, by revealing to us the beauty of the Kingdom, makes our life a pilgrimage toward our heavenly fatherland. Thus, at the beginning of Lent, we are like Adam:
Adam was expelled form paradise through food;
Sitting, therefore, in front of it he cried:
'Woe to me...
One commandment of God have I transgressed,
depriving myself of all that is good;
Paradise holy! Planted for me,
And now because of Eve closed to me;
Pray to thy Creator and mine that I may be filled again by thy blossom.'
Then answered the Savior to him:
'I wish not my creation to perish;
I desire it to be saved and to know the truth;
For I will not turn away him who comes to Me...
Lent is the liberation of our enslavement to sin, from the prison of 'this world.' And the Gospel lesson of this last Sunday (Matt. 6:14-21) sets the conditions for that liberation. The first one is fasting-- the refusal to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of flesh and matter over the spirit. To be effective, however, our fast must not be hypocritical, a 'showing off.' We must 'appear not unto men to fast but to our Father who is in secret.' The second condition is forgiveness-- 'If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.' The triumph of sin, the main sign of its rule over the world, is division, opposition, separation, hatred. Therefore, the first break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness: the return to unity, solidarity, love. To forgive is to put between me and my 'enemy' the radiant forgiveness of God Himself. To forgive is to reject the hopeless 'dead-ends' of human relations and to refer them to Christ. Forgiveness is truly a 'breakthrough' of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen world."
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Sunday of the Last Judgment
"It is love again that constitutes the theme of 'Meat-Fare Sunday.' The Gospel lesson for the day is Christ's parable of the Last Judgement (Matt. 25:31-46). When Christ comes to judge us, what will be the criterion of His judgement? The parable answers: love-- not a mere humanitarian concern for abstract justice and the anonymous 'poor,' but concrete and personal love for the human person, any human person, that God makes me encounter in my life....
Christian love is the 'possible impossibility' to see Christ in another man, whoever he is, and whom God, in His eternal and mysterious plan, has decided to introduce into my life, be it only for a few moments, not as an occasion for a 'good deed' or an exercise in philanthropy, but as the beginning of an eternal companionship in God Himself. For, indeed, what is love if not that mysterious power which transcends the accidental and the external in the 'other'-- his physical appearance, social rank, ethnic origin, intellectual capacity-- and reaches the soul, the unique and uniquely personal 'root' of a human being, truly the part of God in him? If God loves every man it is because He alone knows the priceless and absolutely unique treasure, the 'soul' or 'person' He gave every man. Christian love then is the participation in that divine knowledge and the gift of that divine love. There is no 'impersonal' love because love is the wonderful discovery of the 'person' in 'man,' of the personal and unique in the common and general. It is the discovery in each man of that which is 'lovable' in him, of that which is from God."
Sunday of the Prodigal Son
"Repentance is often simply identified as a cool and 'objective' enumeration of sins and transgressions, as the act of 'pleading guilty' to a legal indictment. Confession and absolution are seen as being of a juridical nature. But something very essential is overlooked-- without which neither confession nor absolution have any real meaning or power. This 'something' is precisely the feeling of alienation from God, from the joy of communion with Him, from the real life as created and given by God. It is easy indeed to confess that I have not fasted on prescribed days, or missed my prayers, or become angry. It is quite a different thing, however, to realize suddenly that I have defiled and lost my spiritual beauty, that I am far away from my real home, my real life, and that something precious and pure and beautiful has been hopelessly broken in the very texture of my existence. Yet this, and only this, is repentance, and therefore it is also a deep desire to return, to go back, to recover that lost home...."
Read more about the Prodigal from Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
"The theme of this parable is repentance. Repentance is the door through which we enter Lent, the starting-point of the journey to Pascha. To repent signifies far more than self-pity or futile regret over things done in the past. The Greek term metanoia means 'change of mind.' To repent is to be renewed, to be transformed in our inward viewpoint, to attain a fresh way of looking at our relationship with God and with others. The fault of the Pharisee is that he has no desire to change his outlook; he is complacent, self-satisfied, and so he allows no place for God to act within him. The Gospel depicts him as a man that is pleased only with himself who thinks that he has complied with all of the requirements of religion. But in his pride, he has falsified the meaning of true religion and faith. He has reduced these to external observations, measuring his piety by the amount of money he gives."
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Synaxis of the Ecumenical Teachers and Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom
Let us who love their words gather together and honor with hymns the three great torch-bearers of the triune Godhead: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. These men have enlightened the world with the rays of their divine doctrines. They are sweetly-flowing rivers of wisdom, filling all creation with springs of heavenly knowledge. Ceaselessly they intercede for us before the Holy Trinity!
O Lord, You have taken up to eternal rest and to the enjoyment of Your blessings the divinely-inspired heralds, the greatest of Your teachers, for You have accepted their labors and deaths as a sweet-smelling sacrifice, for You alone are glorified in Your saints!
Read more about the Three Holy Heirarchs
Feast of the Theophany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
"Theophany is the Feast which reveals the Most Holy Trinity to the world through the Baptism of the Lord (Mt.3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). God the Father spoke from Heaven about the Son, the Son was baptized by the St John the Forerunner, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the Son in the form of a dove. From ancient times this Feast was called the Day of Illumination and the Feast of Lights, since God is Light and has appeared to illumine 'those who sat in darkness,' and 'in the region of the shadow of death' (Mt.4:16), and to save the fallen race of mankind by grace."
Read more about the Feast of Theophany
Just as Christ Himself blessed the waters and sanctified the whole earth through his baptism, so the Church blesses the waters and prays for all of creation on the Feast of Theophany. St. Anthony's performs this service each year at Woodlawn Lake with our sister parish, St. Ephraim's. Here is a traditional Russian service for the Blessing of the Waters.
The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ
"Brethren, we behold now a great and wondrous mystery. Shepherds with cries of joy come forth as messengers to the sons of mankind, not on their hilly pastures with their flocks conversing and not in the field with their sheep frolicking, but rather in the city of David Bethlehem spiritual songs exclaiming. In the highest sing Angels, proclaiming hymns Archangelic; the heavenly Cherubim and Seraphim sing out praises to the glory of God: 'Holy, Holy, Holy…' Together all do celebrate this joyous feast, beholding God upon the earth, and mankind of earth amidst the heavens."
Read more of the "Discourse on the Nativity of Christ" by St. Gregory Thaumatourgos
Why Do We Fast Before the Nativity?
Make ready, O Bethlehem: let the manger be prepared, let the cave show its welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away...
On November 15th we begin the forty day period where we proclaim the miracle of God becoming man. This is the time in the Orthodox Church where our attention is drawn to the great mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We await his coming in anticipation of the great joy of His birth on Christmas Day. For our preparation the wisdom of our Church asks us to participate in a fast, with all the inconvenience and discomfort it may bring. If this is a season of such great joy, why is this the practice of Orthodox Christians around the world? Why are we asked to fast when we hear daily the hymn "Hark, the herald angels sing!" almost every place we go?
By our fasting we are reminded that this is not simply the birth of a baby, but God being united with man. It is the moment when the unchangeable is joined with the changeable, eternal life with mortal life, He who holds the universe in His hand and who created all comes in the flesh for our salvation.
Thou who has adorned the vault of heaven with stars has been well pleased to be born as a babe; and Thou Who holds all the ends of the earth in the hallow of Thy hand art laid in a manger of dumb beasts... (Sticheron of Third Hour, Eve of the Nativity)
This is an event that should make us tremble with awe and wonder, bring us to humility and desiring to offer thanksgiving. But are we not engulfed in the secular traditions of this holiday season with its focus on gifts and parties, where the significance of this great event is often less than an afterthought? Do we take time to think about why God was incarnated and became man? Do we reflect on the truth that it is through His becoming one with us that we can now become one with Him? Do we remember that before this event man was not able to overcome the fear of death, held in bondage to sin? The reality is that the Virgin birth of Jesus is the greatest miracle in the history of mankind. Now man can become like God and be united with Him in Paradise with eternal life. With a fast we are preparing for celebration of the beginning of the transformative journey He prepared for our salvation.
St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Church
San Antonio, TX 78210