My beloved spiritual children 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.
SUNDAY OF THE PUBLICAN AND PHARISEE
Kontakion Hymn. Tone Four
Let us flee the proud speaking of the Pharisee and learn the humility of the Publican, and with groaning let us cry not the Savior: Be merciful to us, for Thou alone art ready to forgive.
Second Kontakion Hymn. Tone Three
As the Publican let us bring cries of sorrow to the Lord, and let us fall before Him as sinners at the Master's feet. For He desires the salvation of all men; He grants forgiveness unto all that repent, and He has for our sake taken flesh, though He is God coeternal with the Father.
Let us all humble ourselves, brethren; groaning and lamenting, let us beat our conscience, that at the Eternal Judgment we may be numbered with the faithful and the righteous, receiving forgiveness. Let us pray to see the true peace of the Age to Come, where there is no more pain, nor sorrow, no groaning from the depths, in the wondrous Eden fashioned by Christ, for He is God coeternal with the Father.
(Irmos) An Angel made the furnace moist with dew...The Pharisee, exalted by the works of justification, was grievously ensnared in the nets of vainglory through his wild boasting; but the Publican was lifted on the light wing of humility and he drew near to God.
The Publican used humility as a ladder and was raised to the height of heaven; but the wretched Pharisee was lifted on the rotten emptiness of pride and fell into the snare of hell.
In our prayer let us fall down before God, with tears and fervent cries of sorrow, emulating the Publican in the humility which lifted him on high; and let us sing in faith: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou.
THE LENTEN TRIODION (Part II)
translated from the original Greek by Mother Mary and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
The Sunday of the Last Judgment (Gospel reading: St. Matthew 25:31-46). The two past Sundays spoke to us of God's patience and limitless compassion, of His readiness to accept every sinner who returns to Him. On this Third Sunday, we are powerfully reminded of a complementary truth: no one is so patient and so merciful as God, but even He does not forgive those who do not repent. The God of love is also a God of righteousness, and when Christ comes again in glory, He will come as our judge. 'Behold the goodness and severity of God' (Romans 11:22). Such is the message of Lent to each of us: turn back while there is still time, repent before the end comes. In the words of the Great Canon:
The end draws near, my soul, the end draws near; Yet thou dost not care or make ready. The time grows short, rise up: the Judge is at the door. The days of our life pass swiftly, as a dream, as a flower.
This Sunday sets before us the 'eschatological' dimension of Lent: the Great Fast is a preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior, for the eternal Passover in the Age to Come. (This is a theme that will be taken up in the first three days of Holy Week.) Nor is the judgment merely in the future. Here and now, each day and each hour, hardening our hearts towards others and in failing to respond to the opportunities we are given of helping them, we are already passing judgment on ourselves.
On Saturday in the week before Lent ('Cheese Week'), there is a general commemoration of all the ascetic Saints of the Church, both men and women. As we set out on the journey of the Lenten fast, we are reminded that we do not travel alone but as members of a family, supported by the intercessions of many invisible helpers.
The Sunday Before Lent. The last of the preparatory Sundays has two themes: it commemorates Adam's expulsion from paradise, and it is also the Sunday of Forgiveness. There are obvious reasons why these two things should be brought to our attention as we stand on the threshold of the Great Fast. One of the primary images in the Triodion is that of the return to paradise. Lent is a time when we weep with Adam and Eve before the closed gate of Eden, repenting with them for the sins that have deprived us of our free communion with God. But Lent is also a time when we are preparing to celebrate the saving event of Christ's death and rising, which has reopened paradise to us once more (St. Luke 23:43). So sorrow for our exile is sin is tempered by hope of our re-entry into Paradise:
O Precious Paradise, unsurpassed in beauty, Tabernacle built by God, unending gladness and delight, Glory of the righteous, joy of the prophets, and dwelling of the saints, With the sound of thy leaves pray to the Maker of all: May He open unto me the gates which I closed by my transgression, And may He count me worthy to partake of the Tree of Life And of the joy which was mine when I dwelt in thee before.
Note how the Triodion speaks here not of 'Adam' but of 'me': 'May He open unto me the gates which I closed'. Here, as throughout the Triodion, the events of sacred history are not treated as happenings in the distant past or future, but as experiences undergone by me here and now within the dimension of sacred time.
The Second Theme, that of forgiveness, is emphasized in the Gospel reading for this Sunday (St. Matthew 6:14-21) and in the special ceremony of mutual forgiveness at the end of Vespers on Sunday evening. Before we enter the Lenten fast, we are reminded that there can be not true fast, no genuine repentance, no reconciliation with God, unless we are at the same time reconciled with one another. A fast without mutual love is the fast of demons. As the commemoration of the ascetic Saints on the previous Saturday has just made clear to us, we do not travel the road of Lent as isolated individuals but as members of a family. Our asceticism and fasting should not separate us from our fellow man but link us to them with ever stronger bonds. The Lenten ascetic is called to be a man for others.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God