Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
Christ is in our midst! He was and is and ever shall be. Ο Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.
FROM THE DIVINE LITURGY OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT
As for all of us, partaking of the One Bread and Cup, unite us to one another in the communion of the One Holy Spirit, and let none of us partake for judgment or condemnation of the Sacred Body and Blood of Your Christ, but rather that we might know mercy and grace, together with all the Saints who through the ages have pleased You well: Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous soul who has been perfected through faith.
On February 25th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: St. Tarasios, Archbishop of Constantinople; Reginos, Bishop of Skopelos; St. Alexander at Drizipara of Thrace; St. Theodore, fool-for-Christ; St. Erasmus of Kephala; St. Markellos, Bishop of Apamea; Holy Martyr Anthony; Holy Martyrs Alexander and Hypatios at Marchianopolis; Paphnutios of Kephala.
SAINT TARASIOS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE: Saint Tarasios was a layman, a senator, and chief secretary to Empress Irene, who ruled as regent for her ten-year-old son Constantine VI. When Patriarch Paul stepped down to become a monk, he recommended Tarasios to succeed him. Within a week, he was ordained a reader, a priest, a bishop, and then patriarch in 8th century Constantinople. He summoned the 7th Ecumenical Council, inviting over three hundred bishops from all over the Empire to end the heresy of iconoclasm. He also reunited all of the Patriarchates with Constantinople. When Constantine reached adulthood and had taken a wife, whom he later tired of, he declared his own marriage annulled and married a relative. Saint Tarasios counseled, rebuked, and then excommunicated them. Irene was forced to rule again for her son. After twenty-two years as Patriarch, as St. Tarasios lay dying, he was seen defending himself from the demons and his face was illumined.
+ By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 5:22-26, 6:1-2
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 6:1-13
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"All things are directed by the goodness of the Master. Nothing which happens to us should be received as distressful, although at present it affects our weakness. In fact, even if we are ignorant of the reasons for which each event is applied as a blessing to us from the Master, nevertheless, we ought to be convinced of this - that what happens is assuredly advantageous either for us as a reward for our patience, or for the soul which was taken up, lest tarrying too long in this life, it should be filled with the evil which exists in this world." (Saint Basil the Great)
THE PRESANCTIFIED LITURGY
by Rev. Father Nicon Patrinacos
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is in reality a religious service composed of elements drawn from Hesperinos, the Vespers service, and from the first part of the Liturgy beginning with 'Blessed be the Kingdom...' and ending just before the Cherubic hymn begins. It includes no Consecration, but prepared believers can receive Holy Communion from the Consecrated Elements reserved from the Divine Liturgy of the previous Sunday. According to holy Canons 49 and 51 of the Synod in Laodicea (about 365 A.D.), the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is prohibited during the Great Lent before Pascha (Easter), apart from Saturdays and Sundays. It was in order to supply the need for frequent Communion, widespread at that time, that the Presanctified was instituted. The Church historian Socrates (about 380-450 A.D.) speaks of an ancient custom in Alexandria by which not only during Lent but on Wednesdays and Fridays of the whole year, 'the Scriptures are read and the teachers interpret them, and everything pertaining to the synaxis takes place apart from the celebration of the Mysteries'. A service of the nature of the Presanctified can be traced back to pre-Nicene times 646 A.D. an 'Apostolic' institution. This means that he considered it to go first official enactment by which the Presanctified is attested as a Lenten substitute for the Holy Eucharist is Canon 52 of the Trullan Synod (Quinisext) in 692 A.D. One should bear in mind, however, that the Councils hardly introduced anything new, either in the faith, or in the liturgical practice of the Church; rather, they verified and vested with universal authority teachings or practices that the conscience of the church had in sufficient measure already accepted. This means that the Trullan Canon in reality aimed at safeguarding an established practice within the Church at large.
Discovering the author of the Presanctified in its present form would be very difficult. It is generally attributed to Saint Gregory Dialogos, that is, to Gregory, the Pope of Rome (about 540-604 A.D.). Gregory lived in Constantinople for a few years as the personal representative of Pope Pelagius II to the Byzantine imperial court. But according to his own admission, he never learned Greek and actually he returned to Rome filled with anti-Greek feelings and openly against the Byzantine Patriarchate. When he became Pope, Gregory contributed more than anyone else in widening the gap between East and West by advancing the monarchical claims of the Papacy and by disregarding decisions even of Ecumenical Councils granting precedence in the East to the Patriarch of Constantinople. His composing a Greek Liturgy appears, therefore, completely out of the question.
The Liturgy is attributed by others to Saint Epiphanios (315-403 A.D.), Saint Germanos, Patriarch of Constantinople (about 634-733 A.D.) and even to Saint James, Saint Peter, and in Sinai it was ascribed to Saint Basil, Patriarch Michael (12th century) wrote that the Presanctified was known to the Church before the Liturgies of Saint Basil and Saint John Chrysostom. Obviously, the pre-Byzantine core of the Presanctified goes deeply back into the beginning and only a little later than the 'Synaxes' of the primitive Church. Its preset Byzantine form appears to be the work of more than one composer. Parts obviously added to the ancient core are of different hands.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GREAT AND HOLY LENT
by Rev. Father George Mastrantonis
Great and Holy Lent before Pascha is when the Christian participates fully in preparing himself to praise and glorify God as Lord and Savior. Great and Holy Lent is like a "workshop" where the character of the faithful is spiritually uplifted and strengthened; where his life is rededicated to the principles and ideals of the Gospel; where the faith culminates in deep conviction of life; where apathy and disinterest turn into vigorous activities of faith and good works. Lent is not for the sake of Lent itself, as fasting is not for the sake of fasting. But they are means by which and for which the individual believer prepares himself to reach for, accept and attain the calling of his Savior. Therefore, the significance of Great Lent is highly appraised, not only by the monks and who gradually increased the length of time of the Lent, but also by the lay people themselves, although they do not observe the full length of time. As such, Great Lent is the sacred Institute of the Church to serve the individual believer in participating as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and, from time to time, to improve the standards of faith and morals in his Christian life. The deep intent of the believer during the Great Lent is "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus", (Philippians 3:13-14).
Fasting in its religious setting is abstinence from food, always in relation to a religious event or feast. Fasting in itself has no meaning in the Christian Church, but has a role the attainment of Christian virtues. It is not to be accepted as a mere custom without a spiritual purpose. Fasting is understood as a means of temperance and sobriety, especially in relation to prayer, devotion and purity. It is also understood to be related to giving alms to the poor. The roots of fasting in the Christian Church are to be found in the Old Testament and the Jewish religion, both for certain days and certain foods. As a general rule, fasting precedes a religious feast. Many verses in the Old Testament refer to this:
"Thus says the Lord of Hosts: the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore, love, truth and peace" (Zechariah 8:18-19).
... BUT BY PRAYER AND FASTING
Father Alexander Schmemann writes, "There is no Lent without fasting. It seems, however, that many people today either do not take fasting seriously of, if they do, misunderstand its real spiritual goals. For some people, fasting consists in a symbolic "giving up" of something; for some others, it is a scrupulous observance of dietary regulations. But in both cases, seldom is fasting referred to the total Lenten effort...Today people fast (or abstain) for all kinds of reasons, including sometimes political reasons. It is important, therefore, to discern the uniquely Christian content of fasting. It is first of all revealed to us in the interdependence between two events which we find in the Holy Bible: one at the beginning of the Old Testament and the other at the beginning of the New Testament. The first event is the 'breaking of the fast' by Adam in Paradise. He ate of the forbidden fruit. This is how man's ancestral (original) sin is revealed to us. Christ, the New Adam--and this is the second event-begins by fasting. Adam was tempted and he succumbed to temptation; Christ was tempted and He overcame that temptation. The results of Adam's failure are expulsion from Paradise and death. The fruits of Christ's victory are the destruction of death and our return to Paradise... It is clear, however, that in this perspective fasting is revealed to us as something decisive and ultimate in its importance. It is not a mere 'obligation,' a custom; it is connected with the very mystery of life and death, of salvation and damnation."
In the Orthodox teaching, sin is not only the transgression of a rule leading to punishment; it is always a mutilation of life given to us by God. It is for this reason that the story of the original sin is presented to us as an act of eating. For food is means of life; it is that which keeps us alive. But there lies the whole question: what does it mean to be alive and what does 'life' mean? For us today this term has a primarily biological meaning: life is precisely that which entirely depends on food, and more generally, on the physical world. But for the Holy Scripture and for Christian Tradition, this life 'by bread alone' is identified with death because it is mortal life, because death is a principle always at work in it. God, we are told, 'created no death'. He is the Giver of Life. How then did life become mortal? Why is death and death alone the only absolute condition of that which exists? The Church answers: Because man rejected life as it was offered and given to him by God and preferred a life depending not on God alone but on 'bread alone.' Not only did he disobey God for which he was punished; he changed the very relationship between himself and the world. To be sure, the world was given to him by God as 'food' --- as means of life; yet life was meant to be communion with God; it had not only its end but its full content in Him. "In Him was life and the life was the light of man."
What then is fasting for us Christians? It is our entrance and participation in that experience of Christ Himself by which He liberates us form the total dependence on food, matter, and the world. By no means is our liberation a full one. Living still in the fallen world, in the world of the Old Adam, being part of it, we still depend on food. But just as our death--through which we still must pass--has become by virtue of Christ's Death a passage into life, the food we eat and the life it sustains can be life in God and for God. Part of our food has already become 'food of immortality' --the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ Himself."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God