The Epistle for the Sunday of Forgiveness, Romans 13:11-14:4, is a perfect introduction into the purpose and aim of Great Lent.
The week before Great Lent begins, we visit the Passion of the Lord; we will of course look at it in great detail Holy Week. The account of the passion is so full and rich that we learn something new from it every time we read it. Today we look at the friendship of Herod and Pilate – it has much to teach us about our friendships. We also look at Jesus’ last great teaching by example: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
The Sunday of the Last Judgment gives the 3rd piece of important information to us in our preparation for Great Lent. We have learned that to be saved one must not judge others, and feel the weight of personal sins and ask God for mercy. We have seen the process of repentance, from the onset of sin, its destructive affects, self-realization of sin, and the importance process to "arise and go" to our Father, and the critical detail, without which we would never complete our repentance and be saved – our Father will go to us, as we are trying to change, and comfort us and empower us to complete the good work we have started. Today’s Gospel about the last judgment shows the end result of true repentance, and also the "flip side" – the outcome for those who do not repent. It is a frightening spectacle, and not a pleasant one to meditate upon, but absolute necessary for us to remember. Lets us talk about how Jesus Christ came the first time, how His second coming will be, and what we must do to hear the blessed words: " Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world".
Perhaps one of the best remembered scriptures among those who do not fast and do not read the scripture much is the well known phrase of Saint Paul: “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.” We look at the context of this true statement, and its application to our day. The entire passage is about sensitivity to our brother’s weakness, and how the phrase “when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ” is quite similar to the one in today’ Gospel: ” ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” We also discuss why we fast – it is a natural requirement of our human nature, and is an easy and readily available way to train ourselves in self-control. Without self-control, we cannot make any progress in the spiritual life.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is part of a 4 week preparation period for Great Lent. We discuss the purpose and main teaching of the 4 Sundays, and then do a somewhat quick survey of the parable, mentioning all the lush symbolism and metaphor, and concentrating on the most important part – the core of the parable – that we must learn. It consists of two things. We must “come our ourselves” – this is not a one time epiphany as described in the parable, but a daily process, that changes over time, and as we are in the process of “arising and going”, we must be ever aware of how our Father is always with us and will help us, even when we feel abandoned, fruitless, or our resolve to change falters. We also look briefly at the older son, who teaches us a very important lesson regarding self-knowledge. This is important stuff!
This is really two homilies. The first is about the simple meaning of the parable of the Publican and Pharisee. It is that we will not be saved if we are proud and judge others. We discuss some of its nuances. We also discuss the prayer of the publican “God be mercy to be a sinner”, and the Jesus prayer. There is a lot of practical detail. This is really important stuff.
The first 3 hymns of Vespers from the Triodion teach us the meaning of the Publican & Pharisee parable. We also examine the epistle for this day, and tremble regarding our example to others. We look at the expectation of persecution that a Christian must have and example from the current news of how “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” is being fulfilled in our day. Also the power of scripture and the necessity of reading it.
We proclaim the resurrection every week in the scriptures read in matins on Sunday. The resurrection is also declared in a hidden way in the OT. On this Holy Saturday, after we have read the Gospel of Matthew in front of the tomb which proclaims the resurrection, let us see how three of the readings we have recently read from the OT proclaim it in a mystical and beautiful way, with examples including Abraham, Ezekiel, and the Sunamite woman.
he readings of the narrative of the passion of our Lord give us an understanding of the character of our Lord and our our character. I found, and I am sure many of you found this as well, that last night and this morning as Father was reading, as the Lord stood before Pilate, that my heart was often cold, and my mind wandered. The words from St Ephrem the Syrian really resonate: “All creation was in fear and trembling when the King of Heaven, the Savior, suffered, while we sinners, for whom the Only immortal was given up ever treat this with contempt” What follows is a short discussion of the responses to our Lord during His passion, and at all times: devotion, hatred, and indifference. By Deacon Nicholas Park.
Brothers and sisters, behold the Man.
That?s what Pilate said. He also said, ?What is truth??
To ?behold the man? is to behold truth, but Pilate didn?t notice. Why didn?t he notice?
Because he did not live according to the truth.
Why was Jesus Christ crucified?
Because people did not live according to the truth.
Why was the crowd, the tumult, why was the crown of thorns, the sham trial, the false witnesses?
Because people did not live according to truth, and therefore they did not recognize Truth.
When the Scripture says something, we must listen. Pilate said, ?Behold the Man.? So we must then obey this instruction….