Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Please note: On Sunday February 24th the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee our Holy Orthodox Church begins the Triodion. What is the Triodion?
The Triodion is the Orthodox liturgical book that contains the hymns and prayers of the Liturgy and other holy services for the pre-Lenten and Lenten period of the Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical calendar. It begins on the fourth Sunday before the Holy and Great Fast (Lent), the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, and ends on Saturday morning of Holy and Great Week.
The Triodion gets its name from a part of the morning service of Orthros (Matins). Mid-way through Matins, the chanters and faithful begin chanting the Canon (various hymns that are chanted about the feast-day or Saint). They usually have odes (i.e., eight sets of hymns), however, in the Lenten period, there are only three sets of odes; because of the three odes (or τρείς ωδές) the book took on the name "Triodion".
"Brethren, let us not pray like the Pharisee, for those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Let us be humbled before God through fasting like the Tax Collector, as we cry aloud, 'God, forgive us sinners."
With this hymn of the Publican and Pharisee, we begin the journey to the All-Holy Pascha, our Lord's Resurrection. Our Holy Church prepares us in such a magnificent manner as to greet our Lord's Resurrection with our spiritual world changing for the better. "It gives us the humility of the tax collector, the repentance of the prodigal son, the thoughts of the Last or Final Judgment, and the rule of fasting." The Church instructs us to repent during the entire year, especially in this time of prayer and fasting. When we repent, we change our lives. We can change from sinful ways to a new path of agape and forgiveness.
Who were the Pharisees? The Pharisees were an ancient and outstanding sect among the Jews known for their diligent observance of the outward matters of the Law. Although, according to the word of our Lord, they "did all their work to be seen of men" (St. Matthew 23:5), and were hypocrites (ibid. 23:13, 14, 15, etc.), because of the apparent holiness of their lives they were thought by all to be righteous, and separate from others, which is what the name Pharisee means. On the other hand, Publicans, collectors of the royal taxes, committed many injustices and exhortations for filthy lucre's sake, and all held them to be sinners and unjust. It was therefore according to common opinion that the Lord Jesus in His parable signified a virtuous person by a Pharisee, and a sinner by a Publican, to teach His disciples the harm of pride and the profit of humble-mindedness.
Since the chief weapon for virtue is humility, and the greatest hindrance to it is pride, the Holy Fathers have set these three weeks before the Forty-day Fast as a preparation for the spiritual struggles of virtue. This present week they have called Harbinger, since it declares that the Fast is approaching, and they set humility as the foundation for all our spiritual labors by appointing that the Parable of the Publican and Pharisee be read today, even before the fast begins, to teach, through vaunting of the Pharisee, that the foul smoke of self-esteem and the stench of boasting drives away the Grace of the Spirit, strips man of all his virtue, and casts him into the pits of Hades, and through the repentance and contrite prayer of the Publican, that humility confers upon the sinner forgiveness of all his wicked deeds and raises him up to the greatest heights.
All foods are allowed the week that follows this Sunday. It is fast free throughout this week.
Resurrectional Apolytikion (Dismissal Hymn). Tone 4
Let us worship the Logos [Word] Who is Unoriginate with the Father and the Spirit, and from a Virgin was born for our salvation, O believers, and let us sing His praise. For in His goodness He was pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, and to undergo death, and to raise up those who had died, by His glorious Resurrection.
Kontakion of the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Tone 4
Let us flee from the boasting of the Pharisee and learn through our own sighs of sorrow the humility of the Publican. Let us cry out to the Savior, "Have mercy on us, for through You alone are we reconciled.
The three weeks that commence on the Fourth Sunday prior to Great and Holy Lent constitute the weeks of preparation. Each has its own distinct theme which is expressed in the Gospel readings appoint for the Divine Liturgies on these days:
1. Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee (St. Luke 18:9-14).
2. Sunday of the Prodigal Son (Saint Luke 15:11-32), and
3. Sunday of the Last Judgment (also called Meat-fare Sunday; (St. Matthew 25:31-46).
4. Sunday of Forgiveness (also called Cheese-fare Sunday; the expulsion of Adam from Eden is also a theme of this day); (Saint Matthew 6:14-21)
GREAT AND HOLY LENT
Great Lent begins on the Monday following Forgiveness Sunday (also called Cheesefare Sunday) with each Sunday highlighted as follows:
1. Sunday of Orthodoxy (St. John 1:43-51)
2. Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas,
3. Sunday of the Holy Cross,
4. Sunday of Saint John Climacus, and
5. Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt
Personal note: Please teach your children our Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition and together practice our faith daily through prayer, fasting and family worship.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God