Archive for February, 2009

The Sunday Of Forgiveness.We are going to do violence now.

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

 

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.[1]

 

 

 

Today is the Sunday of Forgiveness, and it is also the day we enter Great Lent.  After we pray the Vespers service of Forgiveness early this afternoon, we will then be in the Holy Fast.  Why is it that we fast?  We have a blueprint for our life, and why we fast, in the Gospel today.  Today is also interesting, because we are also commemorating the Finding of the Head of the Forerunner, and so we have this additional Gospel reading that has much richness in it. I want to quickly focus on one thing that it said:

 

 

 

"… the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."[2]

 

 

 

We are going to do violence now.  We are setting out on a path of doing violence to the violent one.  We are casting that which is corrupt within us, and the Church has given us a path to do so.  Our Lord said, first of all, "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will forgive you."[3]  First and foremost in the Christian life is to forgive.   To forgive is to be like God – because God forgives all.  God loves all, without any respect for persons.  So when we forgive, we are participating in the energy of God.  We are acting like God!  And indeed, that is what we are to do.  In the scripture it says, "Ye are gods"[4].  We are to act like gods.  We are to acquire virtue, compassion, holiness, yea, even perfection, because the scriptures also say, "Be ye perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect"[5]

 

 

 

So one must become like unto God, and the first step is to forgive.

 

 

 

And He says, "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."[6]

 

 

 

This is actually a promise and a threat, but the promise is so much more powerful than the threat.  Oh, yes, if you do not forgive, you won’t be saved.  If you hold grudges, even though someone has harmed you greatly in this life, you won’t be saved, because, over and over, the Church says, the Holy Scripture says, the saints say, the Holy Spirit says: forgive, forgive, forgive. 

 

 

 

And if you do forgive, what will happen?   You will see Christ.  You won’t be corrupt anymore.  You’ll have peace, you’ll have rest.  The promise is greater than the threat.  Absolutely.

 

 

 

And then He gives us some counsel about fasting.  "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."[7] These are among the most terrible words in all of scripture: "They have their reward."  This life, this life of corruption, and foul odors, and difficulties, and sadness and strife, and tempests – that is where they have their reward.  These are terrible words.  So if you want your reward now, God will give it to you.  You can be as a hypocrite, you can make it appear that you are holy, and some people will say, "Isn’t that remarkable what he is doing.  I could not do that.  He must be filled with the Holy Spirit."  But if you have the reward only now, your life is a total waste. 

 

 

 

Then He tells us, in a figure through the glass darkly, as it were, what our reward will be.  He says, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."[8]  Do you know what we have been promised?  All the world tells us a story of death, dying, difficulties, passions and sadness – all the world.  No matter how rich a man becomes, the world is a difficult place because within, there is a pitched battle.  And a man with a conscience is not at peace with whom he is.  He wants to become better.  The whole world is corrupt, all we ever see.  But what does He say?  "If you lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven, they do not corrupt.  They will last forever."  These are amazing thoughts here: Forever.  No corruption. Full of satisfaction, peace, rest.  I do not have a day that I am at rest.  There is not a day that I do not endure sadness.  There is not a day that I do not sin.  But there will be a day, in the eighth day, if I struggle now, and also, if you struggle, that we will be in the presence of God.  The mind cannot conceive and understand what this means, because all we see is corruption, and everything changes.  It is so hard to stay good.  Things change all the time, and so often, it seems, for the worse.  But our Lord and Savior is telling us, If we lay up treasures for ourselves now, in heaven they will not corrupt.  We won’t corrupt!"

 

 

 

In the other reading, John, a great man, greatest born of woman, could not understand.  It was so incomprehensible to him that the Messiah had actually come.  He believed, but he was full of wonderment, so he sent his disciples to Christ, and our Lord said, "Look at the evidence.  The blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to them."[9]  That is the greatest miracle. It gives people hope.  It makes people know what they are alive for.  We know what our Lord can do. 

 

 

 

The evidence is all there, even though the world constantly countermands and slanders that evidence, every single day of our life, but we know the truth!  And this is why we are entering upon the Fast.  Because we want to lay up treasures in heaven, and we want to win the kingdom of Heaven by violence.  Violence against our passions, violence against that which saddens us – that part of us which is incomplete.  We want to cast it out, so that we can be filled.  That’s why we fast.  The reason one must forgive is because the task in our life is to become like God, to be filled with Him, and to become like Him morally – to share in the energies of God.  His love for us will transfigure us and make us incorrupt.  And a man cannot become incorrupt, he cannot become like God, if fundamentally he disavows himself from that most fundamental aspect of God: God is love.  Love forgives.  Love forgives seventy times seven times; love forgives infinite times.  No matter how great the transgression, the forgiveness is greater. 

 

 

 

This is why we begin Great Fast with Forgiveness ceremony.  No, it is not just a ceremony.  Every man who looks into his heart sees that he falls short with every breath he takes, and that he wrongs every man.  If you see one of your brothers or sisters, and they have a difficulty, some conflict in their marriage, or with their children or with some substance or some other such thing – we all fall into difficulties – you should berate yourself and say, "Have I prayed for my brother?  Have I done something to help my brother?  Is it possible that he or she is in peril because of my incompetence?"  That’s why we ask forgiveness of one another, even if we have not exactly offended everyone specifically.  But then again there might be grudges that need to be settled today, too, and we must do this if we wish to enter into the Fast. 

 

 

 

The Apostle says, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. "[10]  This is the time.  The church sets aside this time, this tithe, or tenth, of the year, so that we would be able to intensify and remember who we are, and who God is, and change.  The first step is to forgive, and then we proceed with the Fast.  And I tell you it will be difficult.  I have been through seventeen of them, and all of them were difficult. 

 

 

 

We all have our different temptations.  One is tempted to eat meat.  Another is tempted to be angry.  Another is tempted to fall into despondency.  Another is tempted in another way.  As many souls as there are, so many temptations are there.  But we struggle together as a community praying for one another and fasting and believing that there is a reward and that it is permanent.  Nothing in this life – nothing – is permanent, and we are living for permanence.  And when I think of these thoughts, it makes it a bit easier to abstain from this food or that, or to make more prostrations, or to forgive my brother, even when he has harmed me, even when he has hurt me purposefully, because everything in this life is going away, except for how we have lived.  The way we have lived, if it is holy, is going to endure

 

 

 

 

There is something else during this great fast all of you should do.  It is very important for us to pray for one another, and also to pray for Paul, Susan and Seth.  They are going to be made catechumens next week.  We are going to have the service to make them catechumens, and the exorcism part of the service, just before Liturgy next Sunday. I would ask you and admonish you, as ones who love, because He loved us, that you will be here to support them in prayer, and not just on Sunday, but during the whole time of their catechuminate, that they would learn of sweetness, learn about faith, about the sweetness you can never have enough of.  And yet indeed there will come a time when we will have enough.  But not in this life.   In the next life.  We will be completely filled with Him if we live now according to Who He is.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in booklet and electronic form from:

 

 

 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas

Mailing Address

2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75070

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

Email

seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page

http://www.orthodox.net

 

 

This particular text may be found at:

 

 http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-05_1999+sunday-of-forgiveness.doc

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any way that is edifying to your soul, and copy it for personal use if you so desire.  We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the contact information above, to any electronic mailing list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romans 13:11-14

 

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. {12} The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. {13} Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. {14} But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. {41:1} Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. {2} For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. {3} Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. {4} Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

 

 

 

Matthew 6:14-21

 

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: {15} But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. {16} Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. {17} But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; {18} That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. {19} Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

[1] This homily was transcribed from one given in 1997, on the Sunday of Forgivensss, the last Sunday before Great Lent.  There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style.

 

 

 

It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy.  In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

 

 

 

 

 

[2] Mat 11:12, partial

 

 

 

[3] Mat 6:14

 

 

 

[4] Psalm 82:6, Isaiah 41:23, John 10:34

 

 

 

[5] (Mat 5:48)  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

[6] Mat 6:15

 

 

 

[7] Mat 6:16

 

 

 

[8] Mat 6:19-21

 

 

 

[9] (Mat 11:5)  "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them."

 

 

 

 

 

[10] Romans 13:11

Share

Something to “give up” for Great Lent.

Friday, February 27th, 2009








 When I was a boy, the great emphasis on Great Lent (Roman Catholic style) was to "give up" something. They have no common concept of fasting during Great Lent as the Orthodox do, so everybody picked something to give up. Ridiculous things were given up, like "candy" or "coffee", or even smoking. Unfortunately, this approach has even infiltrated some Orthodox people, who are ignorant about fasting. There are multiple problems with this ad-hoc approach, and we have a much better ways, tried and true, and our tradition for two millennia.

 

However, in conjunction with following the fast as strictly as we can (and with the knowledge and guidance of our confessor – we DO NOT do this on our own), it is excellent and necessary to attempt to "give up" things and also to "give" things (that is, focus on or start doing something with more zeal)

 I recently sent the words of St John Chrysostom about fasting to this blog. It contains an excellent list of things to put fasting in perspective::

 

If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!

If thou seest in enemy, be reconciled to him!

If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!

If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!

 

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice.

Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.

Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties.

 

Today’s reading (Friday of Cheesefare week) from Zechariah also provides and excellent list of what we should "give up", and "give":

 

"These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: 17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD. (Zechariah 8:16-17)

 

Lent is about moral amendment – we must be changing. Fasting, and extra effort in spiritual things will facilitate this goal – this can only be understood if it is experienced.

 

It is excellent to have reachable, tangible goals during Great Lent, such as, for example:

·       I will go to vigil during Great Lent.

·       I will follow the fast.

·       I will read scripture every day.

·       I will read the “Ladder” or some other spiritual book.

·       I will visit the sick once a week.

·       I will pray for everyone in the parish by name every day.

·       I will not watch television.

·       I will do something that I am supposed to do anyway with more attention and care.

·       Etc.

 

Goals are wonderful, and very necessary. They help put the (shall we say?) “meat” into our actions. I advise all of you to have some tangible goals, and discuss then with me, but the major goals of Lent are the intangible ones, which today’s reading summarizes well.

 

Remember: IT IS ALWAYS ABOUT MORALITY.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Share

Cheesefare Week: “kind of” like being in Great Lent

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

"Serving Suggestion " for Wednesday night dinner.








Cheesefare week, the last full week before Great Lent begins, is an “in between” week liturgically in the Orthodox Church. Each day is “kind of like” Great Lent and “kind of like” outside of Great Lent. This is to provide a transition into Great Lent. Everything we do is better if we are prepared and in the proper state of mind. This week, if we read the readings and attend the services, gets us ready for Great Lent.

 

How is the week “kind of like” being in Great Lent?

·        We fast all week, but in the most unique way of the entire year, fasting from meat only, with all other foods being allowed. We are fasting every day, but only “partially” and we even eat cheese and other milk products on days we normally would not throughout the year, such as Wednesday and Friday.

·        We are using the Triodion in Vespers and Matins at all services, and its content definitely is Lenten in tone.

·        On Wednesday and Friday, we do not celebrate the Divine Liturgy, just as in Great Lent we do not celebrate it on most weekdays. The readings on Wednesday and Friday are of a Lenten character; we do not read the usual Epistle and Gospel, but instead read from the Old Testament (on Wednesday, all the selections are from Joel, and on Friday, from Zechariah). We follow the Lenten format of having a reading during the Sixth Hour and Vespers.

·        Daily Vespers on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday begin in a “non-Lenten” way just as during the rest of the year, but the end of Vespers is ”Lenten” with the usual prayers with bows after the Aposticha, and the prayer of St Ephrem.

·        Wednesday and Friday Vespers are Lenten in tone, with an Old Testament Reading, and the prayer of St Ephrem, but the ending is non-Lenten in tone.  

·        The quintessential prayer of Great Lent, the “Prayer of St Ephrem”, is said at every weekday Vespers beginning on Tuesday evening.   

 

How is the week “kind of like” being outside of Great Lent?

·        Sunday and Monday evening Vespers are just like in “regular time”, but there are selections from the Triodion for Vespers and Matins, which definitely point us toward Great Lent.

·        All days except Wednesday and Friday we can serve Divine Liturgy, with its usual Epistle and Gospel readings.

·        As noted above, we are “kind of” fasting, and “kind of” not fasting.

 

Another aspect of the week that makes it seem more “Lenten” is the content of the Gospel readings. They are all concerning the day of the Lord’s passion. We will return to these readings during Holy week. I always think of the weeks preceding Great Lent, and especially the last two weeks, as a foreboding of Holy Week and Pascha.

 

If you want to be ready for Great Lent, follow the fasting rules for this week (cheese pizza is allowed on Wednesday and Friday!) and attend the “kind of”  Lenten Vespers on Wednesday night.

 

 







 

 

From the Lenten Triodion – Tuesday of Cheesefare week


People, receive Lent with gladness!

 

The beginning of spiritual warfare arrives!

 

Forsake the indulgence of your flesh, that the gifts of the spirit may be increased in you!

 

Embrace your share of suffering, soldiers of Christ!

 

Prove yourselves to be children of God!

 

The Holy Spirit will take up his abode in you, // and your souls will be filled with his light!

 

 

Faithful, let us receive with joy the divinely-inspired announcements of lent!

 

Like Ninevites of old, like harlots and publicans who heard John preaching repentance,

let us prepare ourselves through fasting for the master’s communion in zion!

 

Let us wash ourselves with tears of purification; Let us pray to behold the fulfillment of pascha, the true revelation!

 

Let us prepare ourselves to adore the cross and resurrection of Christ our God!//

do not deprive us of our expectation, Lover of mankind!

 

(Selections from the Triodion from the “SSOC Daily Email Ministry-February 25

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

O Lord and Master of my life… a few words about the Prayer of St Ephrem.

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

 

 

 

The “Prayer of St Ephrem” is ubiquitous during Great Lent, and is used in all weekday services, and in prayers at home.

 

 

 

This prayer is much like the “Our Father”, in the following way. When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He told them to “pray in this way”, and then recited the “Our Father”, thus giving us a model for how to pray and a prayer which perfectly fulfilled these principles. So should we treat the prayer of St Ephrem. Its content is truly sublime, and teaches us the right way to approach God in prayer, how to think of ourselves, and what to ask for. It also is a perfect prayer fulfilling these principles.

 

 

 

Everyone should say this prayer daily during the week in Great Lent. Because of the  physical way in which we say this prayer (it is done with bows and prostrations), it has the remarkable ability to put the soul in the right frame of mind.  One might even go so far to say that if the Prayer of St Ephrem has been prayed with attention at least once during the day,  and nothing else has been done, the Christian has prayed well.

 

 

 

The reality of our scattered, busy, distracted and often lazy lives is that we do not pray often enough, or with enough attention, or in the proper frame of mind. If a person is consistent in praying the prayer of St Ephrem, no matter how well he does in other prayer and spiritual reading, he has a “life line” and is grounded in the most important aspects of the way a Christian should conduct himself during Lent.

 

 

 

Of course, to just pray the prayer of St Ephrem is NOT enough for a Christian, but a pastor must prescribe “baby steps for baby feet” We all are in some measure “babies”, and all of us should pray this prayer, attentively, and carefully, without fail. The person who takes this advice to “come and see” will soon find the fruit of this practice.

 

 

 

The prayer of St Ephrem is found in any complete Orthodox prayer book. For instance, the “Jordanville prayer book” has this prayer in its Triodion section (page 166 in the latest printing). Our website has it in English and Slavonic with 4 sections per page so it can be printed, cut in quarters and inserted in a prayer book, in RTF and PDF formats.  It is part of  a dedicated page containing information about our Theology, Homilies, Services, and other Resources about Great Lent.

 

 

 

Other resources for this prayer include a catechetical talk about the prayer of St Ephrem.

 

 

 

Like anything worth doing, the prayer of St Ephrem takes some practice before we can receive the full benefit. There are bows AND prostrations during the prayer, and a certain number of repetitions. To someone who is accustomed to this prayer, the physical actions and specific repetitions free the mind and penetrate the soul. This can only be understood if it is done, else, a person will consider the prayer to be too complicated, or worse, an example of “vain repetition”, which the scripture forbids. He who has ears to hear, and mouth to speak, arms to make the sign of the cross, and knees to bend, let him understand!

 

 

 

The prayer of St Ephrem is said two different ways in church. The best way to say it at home is the “longer” way, twice a day, in morning and evening prayers. If a person only prayers in the morning, than once. If both times, then twice. If a person is not organized or motivated enough to say formal morning of evening prayers, at least this prayer can be said. As my father used to say, Once or twice, but never “nunce”!

 

 

 

 

This is the “long way”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The prayer is said two times, one time in parts, and the last time in full. After each part, or the entire prayer, a prostration is made. In between the two “O God cleanse me a sinner” is said twelve times, with a bow each time. This is easy to remember after doing it a few times.  Two prayers, four prostrations, twelve bows (and 100 calories burned).

 

 

 

“O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not.“

 

 

 

Prostration

 

 

 

“But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant.“

 

 

 

Prostration.

 

 

 

“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.“

 

 

 

Prostration.

 

 

 

Then, twelve repetitions of:

 

 

 

“O God, cleanse me a sinner.”  

 

Bow.

 

 

 

And then repeat the entire prayer all at once:

 

 

 

“O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not. But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

 

 

 

 Prostration. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Prostration is a full bow to the ground with the knees touching the ground, and the head touching or near the ground, then immediately standing back up. As the bow to the ground is begun, the sign of the cross is made. Some people touch their knees to the ground first and then bend their upper body down, and the more athletic or coordinated essentially “fall” forward to the ground  with their knees and hands touching at essentially the same time. This is very similar to the familiar gym class “burpee”.

 

 

 

A Bow, also known as a “reverence” or “Poklon” is when the sign of the cross is made, while simultaneously bowing the head by bending at the waist. Some bow deeply and touch the ground with their right hand, and other make very shallow bows. It really does not matter as long as the movement is done with attention.

 

 

 

Something NOT TO DO: No “waving at the air”. Some do prostrations and bows quickly or carelessly, and the sign of the cross they make looks like they are shooing away a fly. “Let all things be done in good order”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The author has many fond memories of saying this prayer way back when, when a layman, especially in church, or with his children. The church would be dark, and lit only by candles, the priest standing in front of the royal doors. It would be very quiet, and only his voice and “swishing” sounds from the prostrations or bows would be heard. Everybody would be doing the same thing at once; this was always a profoundly holy moment and I remember thinking sometimes that I wish I would always be in this state of mind.  There was a feeling that something profoundly good and important was happening. A mixture of sorrow for my personal condition and great hope in God that I really would get better sometime, would flood my soul. Many times I would even feel warmth. With the sublime, was always mixed “real life” – sounds of grunts, heavy breathing, the sights of children making very creative prostrations.  When I had to say the Trisagion prayers immediately after, I would sometimes struggle to say them without betraying that I was out of breath!

 

 

 

Parents: say this prayer with your children! I know, it is sometimes a “circus”, but where are they going to learn piety is not from you. Prayer is not always neat and pretty with children, but you will be glad you went to the trouble.

 

 

 

 

 

In another post, we will look at some of the profound theology in this prayer.

 

 

 

Here is the most important “take home” point: SAY THIS PRAYER EVERY WEEKDAY IN GREAT LENT!

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

This document is available at http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/o-lord-and-master-of-my-life-prayer-of-st-ephrem-01.html. It is also in DOC or PDF format.

Share

By the Waters of Babylon, The Great Fast, Our Exile

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

 


by Fr.Seraphim (Rose) March 1965

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/by-the-waters-of-babylon-the-great-fast-our-exile.html

 

 

 

This weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son, we will sing Psalm 135.[1]

 

 

 

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion".

 

 

 

In these words of the Lenten psalm, we Orthodox Christians, the New Israel, remember that we are in exile. For Orthodox Russians, banished from Holy Russia,[2] the Psalm has a special meaning; but all Orthodox Christians, too, live in exile in this world, longing to return to our true home, Heaven.

 

 

 

For us the Great Fast is a session of exile ordained for us by our Mother, the Church, to keep fresh in us the memory of Zion from which we have wandered so far. We have deserved our exile and we have great need of it because of our great sinfulness. Only through the chastisement of exile, which we remember in the fasting, prayer and repentance of this season,

 

 

 

Do we remain mindful of our Zion?

 

 

 

"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…"

 

 

 

Weak and forgetful, even in the midst of the Great Fast we live as though Jerusalem did not exist for us. We fall in love with the world, our Babylon; we are seduced by the frivolous pastimes of this "strange land" and neglect the services and discipline of the Church which remind us of our true home. Worse yet, we love our very captors – for our sins hold us captive more surely than any human master – and in their service we pass in idleness the precious days of Lent when we should be preparing to meet the Rising Sun of the New Jerusalem, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

There is still time; we must remember our true home and weep over the sins which have exiled us from it. Let us take to heart the words of St. John of the Ladder: "Exile is separation from everything in order to keep the mind inseparable from God. An exile loves and produces continual weeping." Exiled from Paradise, we must become exiled from the world if we hope to return.

 

 

 

This we may do by spending these days in fasting, prayer, separation from the world, attendance at the services of the Church, in tears of repentance, in preparation for the joyful Feast that is to end this time of exile; and by bearing witness to all in this "strange land" of our remembrance of that even greater Feast that shall be when our Lord returns to take His people to the New Jerusalem, from which there shall be no more exile, for it is eternal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An outline for a catechetical talk on “By the Waters of Babylon” is available at: http://www.orthodox.net/prayers-of-the-church-lenten-prayers_+by-the-waters-of-babylon_psalm136.pdf.

 

 

 

The talk given may be heard here: http://www.orthodox.net/prayers-of-the-church-lenten-prayers_+by-the-waters-of-babylon_psalm136.mp3

 

 

 

 


 


 

 

[1] “By the Waters of Babylon” is the entire Psalm 136, sung to a plaintive melody, after the Polyelos Psalm during Matins. It is only sung in church the three Sundays that precede Great Lent, Sunday of the Prodigal Son, The Last Judgment (Meatfare) and Forgivensss (Cheesefare)  It is significant that this same hymn is chanted at the beginning of the service of monastic tonsure.

 

 

 

[2] This homily was written in 1965, when the church in Russia was still under captivity to the Communist regime.

 

 



Share

Sunday of the Last Judgment – Meatfare 2009. Audio Homily.

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

LISTEN NOW

Matthew 25:31-46 31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.



If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-04_2009-02-22+sunday-of-the-last-judgment-meatfare.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-04_2009-02-22+sunday-of-the-last-judgment-meatfare.mp3



RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

Archive of Audio and text homilies:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Share

Mystery photograph

Friday, February 20th, 2009

 

Do you know who these people are? Hint:This is a B&W photograph. 

Share

Sunday Of The Prodigal Son, 2009. The most important part of the parable.

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

LISTEN NOW

 

Other Homilies on this Sunday:

 

 


 

Luke 15:11-32 11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.



If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-03_2009-02-16+sunday-of-the-prodigal-son.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-03_2009-02-16+sunday-of-the-prodigal-son.mp3



RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

Archive of Audio and text homilies:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Share

The Sunday Of The Prodigal Son. How to repent in order to receive God’s forgiveness.

Friday, February 13th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.[1]



The Church gives us another example today, about repentance. It tells us another part of the story. This is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, and is yet another Sunday that prepares us for the Great Fast. We are coming quickly upon it. Next week will be the Sunday of the Last Judgment, after which we stop eating meat, and after that is the Sunday of Forgiveness, and we then begin the fast, the following day.

 

The church has had something very important to say about repentance the past few Sundays, if you have been listening carefully. There have been three aspects of repentance that have been shown to us. One aspect is humility. We saw the publican[ii] whom, in our mind’s eye, we may consider to be Zacchaeus[iii],  and we saw how his humility saved him. This was humility with knowledge, because with humility comes knowledge of God. Although he was humble and would not look up to heaven, he was still bold in his prayer to ask God for mercy, because he knew God would give him mercy.

 

The Sunday before, we saw Zacchaeus. We saw that he was a very bad man, but he changed. Repentance involves changing the way you live, the way you think. It also involves making restitution. It is not that restitution will save us. There is nothing that we can do to earn our salvation. Restitution is something that should come from deep within us.  We should desire to make ourselves better in those things in which we have been lax. Whether our sin be depriving a man of his goods, as Zacchaeus did, or unclean thoughts, or any other sin, whether our sin be an internal sin, or an external one, or whether it has affected other people or affected no one except ourselves, we must desire and struggle to be better.

 

Now we see another aspect of repentance that is so important today, especially in light of what we are going to read and contemplate next week. That is, God receives a man’s repentance. This may seem to be an obvious statement, hardly worth making, but in actuality, many people do not really believe God will receive their repentance, or that they can truly change. We can see how marvelous God’s mercy is in this parable we have before us.

 

The father who has the two sons is God the Father. The younger of the two sons is humanity. The younger son is you and me. We should see ourselves in this younger son. What did he do? The father was getting old, and the son did not want to wait for him to die. He wanted his inheritance NOW. So he said, "Give me my inheritance now."  His father, who loved him, must have grieved over such a request, because he knew it would most probably be harmful to his son, and also he wished to have his son with him, but he gave in to him because of love.

 

God does the same thing with you and me. He gives us things that are good and precious, and we misuse and abuse them, but He gives them nonetheless. He causes the rains to fall on the evil and the good, and He even does much good to the evil, hoping that they will turn and repent. That’s what he did with the younger son, knowing what the son was going to do.

 

The son goes into a FAR country. There is sometimes much meaning in a single word. He went into a FAR country; it was far away, a land full of debauchery and uncleanness, FAR away from God, FAR away from salvation. And, indeed, if the man had died in such a state, he would have perished. He would have died far from God. But when he was in this far country, did he give any thought to God? No. He wasted his living with harlots, as his older son is so careful to point out later, and in debauchery and uncleanness of every kind. He had not thought whatsoever for his father, and how he had caused his father pain. He had no understanding how far away he was from salvation.

 

And that is how we are, too. Maybe not all of the time, but so much of the time what we do is so foolish, so stupid, and yet we do not see this or understand. We might live many, many years and not understand how evil the things we do are.

 

This son was the same as we are. He had no understanding of the evil he was doing and of the uncleanness and of how far away he was from God. And then the inevitable happened to him. He had wasted all of his living, and now began to be in want. He had no money, and was hungry and cold. He had to join himself to a citizen of the country who really did not care about him at all, and he was told to feed pigs. And this unclean food, which the pigs were eating, looked appetizing, because he was so hungry.

 

He began to be in want – what does this really mean?

 

It describes much more that the younger son’s penury. Humanity is in want. Remember that this younger son represents humanity – he represents you and me.  Both the good and the evil that are in humanity are represented in this man, the debauchery, and also, the dignity of soul, later, when he repents.

 

When the son begins to be in want, he recognizes what his needs are. The unclean food, given him by the devil (for that is who the citizen of that far country is), cannot satisfy him, even though he is hungry for it. He looks back in his mind’s eye and he says: "I once lived with my father who loved me, and I had food and clothing and friends. And I was in an atmosphere of love and acceptance and affection. How could I have been so foolish to have left that all behind?" And he grieves and weeps bitterly over his misfortune.

 

But notice that he did not blame anyone for his situation. He did not blame his father for allowing him the inheritance, which, by the way, is something that a lot of people do with God. They blame Him for their sins. They do not understand how much God loves them and gives them all good things for their salvation. Instead, they blame Him if there is something wrong. "Why hasn’t God taken this sin away from me? I have been struggling with it for two months, two years. Why is this happening to me? Why don’t these people like me? Why do I have troubles here, troubles there?" Always blaming God.

 

By the way, as an aside, every single evening at Vespers, we pray that we not make "excuse with excuses in sins"[iv]. This shows how prevalent this sin is, and how important the church thinks it is to fight it. This son did not make excuses. He recognized his want, and what was wrong with him.

 

Then he "came to himself". This is a very hard thing to understand. A man cannot be saved unless he comes to himself. What does this mean?

 

We have spoken of it many times. In saving our souls, what two things must we know? One is to know God, and other is to know ourselves. The two are learned in parallel. If you learn only of God, you will be filled with pride, and your soul will be paralyzed. If you know only about your sins and your unworthiness and know little about God, you will be filled with despondency and fear, or escapism, and your soul will also be paralyzed, unable to do good. This latter sin is the more common one for Christians, I think.

 

Despondency is also very common and happens in each one of us to a greater or lesser degree. And if it happens in too great a degree, I tell you, you won’t be saved, because you won’t be able to do the things you need to do to learn of God. But if you learn of yourself and God at the same time, God will reveal Himself and self-knowledge also, within you. Then you will believe in the depths of your soul that you are a great sinner, but you will nonetheless say to yourself with confidence,  "God will receive my repentance!’ and you will see the situation you are in, and you will want to be better, and you will know that you CAN become better!

 

I see this again and again, where people do not ACCEPT that they CAN change.

 

Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, people don’t want to change. They have an inkling, a desire, a little bit, to change. "I want to stop this sin. But I like this sin." And they don’t have the gumption to make the effort. God even understands this!

 

This is why we have a "baseline" of things we must do as Christians – keeping the fasts, saying our prayers, coming to church – because without those things we would truly fall far away. But that is not enough, mind you, because a man must make an inner change. He must know of God and he must come to himself. And he must say exactly what the younger son said. He said, "I will arise and I will go to my father. I will make an effort. I will not only talk about my sins and lament about them and do nothing. I will arise and make a great effort."

 

And then the son realized how far away he was. He was in a far country. And he still had to travel a long way, even until his father would see him, from a long way off. So that was a great struggle. That is what we must do. We pile sin upon sin in our soul. Everything that we pile onto our soul we must painstakingly take off, one brick at a time. So the more we pile on ourselves, the more difficult it is, and the further away we are, and the further we must travel back. But this younger son was great of soul, because he struggled back.

 

What was his attitude? It was not absolutely correct, but his misunderstanding was corrected by his father later. He went and said " I will go to my father and say I have sinned against heaven and earth, and I am not worthy to be called your son". So far, he is absolutely correct. But then he said, "Make me as one of thy hired servants," and God will not do that! That’s not our God! He will make us friends![v] This son, as he was walking back to his father, did not understand this. But we can understand, because we have the perspective of history and the Holy Scriptures to tell us: God will not make us as hired servants! Jesus Christ said He would make us friends. "I will call you friends, and there are many mansions in my father’s house."[vi] So we will not be hired servants. We will have everything that our Father has available for us!

 

And this is the meaning when the father saw his son and ran out to him. Can you imagine this meeting? The son is bedraggled and poor, starving, faint both of heart and of body, and the father comes to him and embraces him and kisses him. He puts the ring on his finger, a token of the father’s love and his authority; He kills the fatted calf, and makes merry because his son has come home. The son was only expecting to stay in the shack with the hired hands, and maybe to have a little bit of meat once in a while and his father gave him back EVERYTHNG that he had lost, and more than he had lost. That is what our Father will do for us.

 

The Church tells us about it right now, because we are now about to enter into a period of time when we had better think about our sins quite a bit. Next week we will talk about the Last Judgement, and it is terrifying what will happen in the Last Judgement for those who do not repent. But, if you only read that, and do not understand from today that the Father will accept your repentance, then you have lost the most important part of the story. This part is that God will accept you, if you arise, and go.

 

I will speak honestly here, that the major problem is that most people don’t want to "arise and go". And therefore when they don’t arise and go, they cook up in their minds all kinds of ideas, about why they cannot stop a certain sin, or do better. And yet, they are not doing the things that God has laid out for them to do to bring them back to Him. If this fits any one of you, then may it be that you would understand the things that you must do, and that you would have a firmer resolve to arise and go.

 

A man cannot do something with full effort unless he believes it with full conviction. Our life is difficult. It is painful. And we have trouble fighting our sins, and some are so pleasurable that we have trouble wanting to fight them. The question is, "Why bother?"  If we do not know what God will do for us, then we do not have the resolve to really, really attack our sins, and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

So the Church tells us what God will do. He shows us, as a loving Father, He will take us in His arms, and will put the ring upon our finger, which is His authority, you know, and His dignity, and His image. The ring has an image on it, doesn’t it? That is the image of God, which is within man. And He will kill the fatted calf, and we will feast sumptuously for all eternity.

 

But we’re not at that point yet because we’re still wearing flesh, and we’re still having difficulty with our sins. So, most of us are somewhere in that journey from the far country. And we must continue that journey. It is described with only a few words here in the Scriptures. He starts to journey, and then his Father comes upon him. Well … that’s not the way it really happened! He had to journey for quite some way before his Father saw him. He was quite a ways away, and he still had to travel a long way. Rectifying our life is like that. It takes a long time, and a lot of effort, but the Church tells us clearly what the effect of it will be, what the outcome will be. Keep this in your mind. It’s very important to remember these kinds of readings in the Scriptures because when you start to think of your sins, they will overwhelm you if you don’t realize the love of God. And next Sunday, and then the Sunday after that, and all the Sundays of Great Lent and all of the services of Great Lent, are full of recounting and remembering our sins and our unrighteousness and our wickedness.

 

It’s good to know those things; and remember them, because it keeps us from pride. But if you only learn those things, and you don’t know of God’s mercy, then you will fall away. Vast amounts of people that call themselves Christian have fallen away already, because they cannot understand the greatness of God in parallel with their wickedness. They either cast one away, or the other. They dumb down God, or they have exalted pride in themselves — one or the other. And you can see that many modern day heresies are because of these two things.

 

So, arise! Today, decide to arise. And when you fall down tomorrow, get up out of the dust and continue to walk. And if you cannot walk, then crawl, but keep going towards God. And if you have fixed in your mind what God has promised, then God will help you. And you will have the strength. No matter how weak you feel, you will have the strength to be saved. Amen.

 

 

Luke 15:11-32

And he said, A certain man had two sons: {12} And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. {13} And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. {14} And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. {15} And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. {16} And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. {17} And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! {18} I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, {19} And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. {20} And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. {21} And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. {22} But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: {23} And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: {24} For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. {25} Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. {26} And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. {27} And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. {28} And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. {29} And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: {30} But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. {31} And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. {32} It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.



 

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in booklet and electronic form from:

 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas

Mailing Address

2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75071

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

Email

seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page

http://www.orthodox.net

 

This particular text may be found at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-03_1997+sunday-of-the-prodigal-son.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-03_1997+sunday-of-the-prodigal-son.doc

 

 To receive regular mailings of sermons throughout the church year, subscribe to our blog “Redeeming the Time”: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime or subscribe to our parish email list which always includes all new blog posts: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any way that is edifying to your soul, and copy it for personal use if you so desire.  We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the contact information above, to any electronic mailing list.



[1] This homily was transcribed from one given in 1997, on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This Sunday is part of a five Sunday sequence that precedes Great Lent. There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style.

 

It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy.  In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

 

[ii] Luke 18:10-14

[iii] Luke 19:1-10

[iv] This is sung at "Lord I have cried" in Vespers

[v] John 15:14-15

[vi] John 14:2

 

Share

St John Chrysostom on true fasting. WORTHY TO BE READ during a fast free week!

Friday, February 13th, 2009

This is a long quotation, but very profitable to read. It explains the purpose of fasting, the proper attitude towards it, its effects on our spiritual state, and how fasting not done in the right spirit is actually injurious to us.

 

We also see from St John’s words the reason we have a fast free week following the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. He does not reference this custom, but his explanation is the reason it exists. The homily from which this quotation was taken has many other profitable things about fasting.

 

It is very fruitful to think about the true purpose of fasting during a fast-free week!

TO MY FLOCK:It would also be very fruitful to discuss this in church this weekend. Please read this carefully, so we can discuss it. 

St John Chrysostom, Letters; Homilies on the Statutes, Homily III, (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf109.xix.v.htm)

 Bold face and headings inserted.

 

 

Fasting is a help to us; we should approach fasts with expectation of spiritual improvement.

 

7. Let us not then despair of our safety, but let us pray; let us make invocation; let us supplicate; let us go on embassy to the King that is above with many tears! We have this fast too as an ally, and as an assistant in this good intercession.

 

Therefore, as when the winter is over and the summer is appearing, the sailor draws his vessel to the deep; and the soldier burnishes his arms, and makes ready his steed for the battle; and the husbandman sharpens his sickle; and the traveler boldly undertakes a long journey, and the wrestler strips and bares himself for the contest.

 

So too, when the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; and as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travelers let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the believer is at once a husbandman, and a sailor, and a soldier, a wrestler, and a traveler.

 

Hence St. Paul saith, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. Put on therefore the whole amour of God.” Eph. vi. 12.

 

Hast thou observed the wrestler? Hast thou observed the soldier? If thou art a wrestler, it is necessary for thee to engage in the conflict naked. If a soldier, it behooves thee to stand in the battle line armed at all points. How then are both these things possible, to be naked, and yet not naked; to be clothed, and yet not clothed! How? I will tell thee. Divest thyself of worldly business, and thou hast become a wrestler. Put on the spiritual amour, and thou hast become a soldier. Strip thyself of worldly cares, for the season is one of wrestling. Clothe thyself with the spiritual amour, for we have a heavy warfare to wage with demons. Therefore also it is needful we should be naked, so as to offer nothing that the devil may take hold of, while he is wrestling with us; and to be fully armed at all points, so as on no side to receive a deadly blow.

 

Cultivate thy soul.

Cut away the thorns.

Sow the word of godliness.

Propagate and nurse with much care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and thou hast become a husbandman.

 

And Paul will say to thee, “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” 2 Tim. ii. 6. He too himself practiced this art. Therefore writing to the Corinthians, he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” 1 Cor. iii. 6.

 

Spiritual and physical effects of Fasting.


Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony—sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on.

 

And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance.

 

Keep down the waves of inordinate desires.

Repel the tempest of evil thoughts.

Preserve the boat; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot.

But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things.

 

Real Fasting: from meat and sins.

 

8. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting ; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. “For the wrestler,” it is said, “is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.” 2 Tim. ii. 5.

 

Why do we fast after the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee?

 

To the end then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted,  Luke xviii. 12. but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it.

 

The Ninevites fasted, and won the favor of God. Jonah iii. 10. The Jews, fasted too, and profited nothing, nay, they departed with blame. Isa. lviii. 3, 7; 1 Cor. ix. 26.

 

Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not “run uncertainly,” nor “beat the air,” nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow.

 

Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never so profitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskilfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as various other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named. Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.

 

 

Admonition – Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!.

 

11. I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honor fasting; for the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it.

 

Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works!

 

Is it said by what kind of works?

If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him!

If thou seest in enemy, be reconciled to him!

If thou seest a friend gaining honor, envy him not!

If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!

 

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice.

Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.

Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties.

 

Fasting for all the senses explained

 

For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.

 

Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,” it says.

 

12. Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbor.

 

Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Gal. v. 15. Thou hast not fixed thy teeth in the flesh, but thou hast fixed the slander in the soul, and inflicted the wound of evil suspicion; thou hast harmed, in a thousand ways, thyself and him, and many others, for in slandering a neighbor thou hast made him who listens to the slander worse…

 

This document is at:

 

 

 

 

 

Share