Archive for the ‘Holy Week’ Category

Holy Thursday. Passion Gospels.

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The narrative of our Lord's Passion — His suffering, death and resurrection — begins in earnest on Holy Thursday after supper. And we therefore began to read and meditate on it today at Vespers (which almost all Orthodox celebrated this morning by anticipation so that we wouldn't be up in the middle of the night tonight for the Matins service).

Tonight at Matins our reading and reflection will continue. We will read together the words of all four evangelists, woven into 12 composite texts that tell nearly the entire account of the Passion from Christ's last words to His disciples at the supper table to his burial by Joseph and Nicodemus. After each reading, we will sing hymns meditating on what we have just read, so that the significance of these events might pass into our hearts and we might give glory to our Lord and Savior. This service, which lasts more than 3 hours, is a wonderful opportunity to learn who our Lord is, to learn something about His love and humility which truly surpass our understanding.

Tomorrow morning at the Royal Hours we will continue our reading and meditation. At each of the four hours we will read a long excerpt from the narrative of one of the four evangelists, along with prophecies from the Old Testament and reflections by the Apostles in their epistles. We will also sing hymns reflecting on these texts.

May our Lord grant that, through prayerful attention during these services, we may each come to love Him more.

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The Resurrection makes the Impossible Possible!

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Holy Saturday

2002

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Brothers and sisters, did you hear in the readings – those fifteen beautiful readings[1] – did you hear of the resurrection? Did you hear of faith? Did you hear of things that seemed to be impossible and yet became possible?

How was it that if God promised to Abraham that He would make him a father of many nations[2], and he was an old man, and he had a boy, Isaac — that if God told him to kill his son Isaac, how can he become a father of many nations? But Abraham obeyed when God said, “Sacrifice thy son Isaac.” And even when his son in innocence, asked, “Father, we have the fire and the wood, but where is the ram for the burnt offering?” he said, “God will provide, my son.”

What about when the widow gave hospitality to Elias?[3] This was during the drought that Elias had called upon the earth. People were dying because there was no food. The widow had just a little food left, and Elias said, “Make me a meal first, and then you and your son shall eat, and the cruse of oil shall never run out.” And indeed, it did not during that entire time. But her son died, and Elias prayed, and her son was raised.

An even more poignant example is when Elisseus came to the Sidonian woman.[4] The Sidonian woman had made him a place to stay because she knew that he was a holy man. He, desiring to give her something good, asked her what she would need, and she, out of modesty, would not tell him, so Gezi his servant (who later on turned out to have a sin, a problem in his life — this was a good turn that he did and may the Lord save him for this thing) said that the woman was old and had not a son.  So a son was born according to the promise of Elisseus. And not too long thereafter, the son gets a headache in the fields, goes to his mother, lays his head between her knees and dies.

So what does this woman do? Does this woman tear out her hair and start screaming and wailing, as is the custom of peoples of that area to mourn their dead? No. It doesn't’t even say that she told her husband. She brought the boy up to where the holy man stayed, put him on the bed, and saddled an ass, and went to see the holy man on Mount Carmel. An impossible thing she was wanting – something she could not even express with her lips. She couldn’t even say “Raise my son from the dead.” She could only say, “I told you not to deal deceitfully with me.”

So Elisseus came. Did you listen carefully; do you see what he did? He went up into the room, and he made the sign of the cross on the boy! His hands to his hands, his feet to his feet, his lips to his lips – what was he doing? Making the sign of the cross on the boy, and breathing on him – and it took seven times, and the boy was raised. Impossible things!

What about when the Egyptians, a huge amount of heavily armed, very well trained soldiers, warred against a ragtag group who had no arms – perhaps a few sickles, a few axes, a few clubs, nothing much to speak of – and were running away from Egypt being pursued by this army?[5] The Lord made a wall of waters, so that the people of Israel could go through the Red Sea.  And when the Egyptians, in their arrogance, came into the Red Sea and the wall of waters was still there, the Lord made the wall of waters crash upon them, and horse and rider fell into the red sea. Do you think any Jew, at that moment, when they came to the Red Sea, before the wall of waters; do you think any one of them really thought that they were going to be victorious? They probably thought all was lost. And if you read carefully Exodus and Deuteronomy, you can see that constantly they doubted the Lord. They tormented poor Moses, and yet the Lord saved them.

An impossibility became possible. Elias raises a son, Elisseus raises a son, the people of God are saved from their pursuer – impossibilities become possible because of our Lord. Now how is it that if such things happen and we have such an array of witnesses about us, as the Apostle talks about in Hebrews, how is it that we live such mediocre lives? Why don’t we believe? The resurrection is available to all of us. The power of the resurrection, sure belief, is available to all of us.

How is it that we can attain this understanding? The Apostle Paul tells us how. He says, “Know you not that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that as like Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, that we should also be in the likeness of His resurrection.”[6]

What does this mean? What is the likeness of His death? What kind of death did Christ die?

I’m not talking about how He was executed. That He was put on a cross is immaterial. The Cross has become our symbol of victory, but it could have been some other form of punishment that would become our symbol of victory. The Cross itself — although it was prefigured by the prophets and therefore we know it should be the Cross — is not the likeness of His death.

Jesus Christ lived in a way that He gave Himself to the world. He did not live for Himself, but He lived for others. Actually, to be more precise, He lived for One Other. He lived to do the will of His Father. And His Father’s will was that He would become incarnate, He Who had been in the bosom of the Father from the ages of ages, and would walk upon the earth and be an example for others and die a terrible death so that we would live. That is the likeness of His death. It is obedience and righteousness.

 

The reason why the world does not understand the resurrection – even those who say they are Christians – is that they don’t understand that in order to understand the resurrection you have to live it. You have to live like the One Who was resurrected first. You have to live in His likeness. You have to die like He died. Now, He did not have to die to self, because His whole self was willing to do the deed. His whole self was willing to obey His Father.

 

Now our self, on the other hand, many times is not willing to obey God. Stubborn. Obdurate. I was just reading Deuteronomy recently, and I thought, “Things have not changed very much” – we are just like those chosen people, who continually complained, and continually were faithless. And they didn’t understand. They couldn’t understand the greatness of God because of their selfishness.

The key to understanding Christ, the key to being empowered, brothers and sisters, the key to happiness, the key to what God wants us to be, to the fulfillment of our destiny, of what God has predestined us to be, is to live in the likeness of His death. And I say live in the likeness of His death, because He is not dead anymore. He was dead for only a short while, and then He was alive. Now we, we can become alive by living as He lived.

If you struggle to follow virtue, then you will understand about the resurrection. It will enlighten you. That is the key. This is the key. This is why we read this epistle on this day. Because all of the pomp, and all of the beauty, and the rose petals[7] – and the Lord knows, I love the rose petals; the Lord knows, I love all of the beauty of Holy Saturday: the flowers, and the festivity later on, with the foods, the Kulich, the sausages, the Pascha, the eggs, and all the rest, and all the joy and all the feasting – all of that cannot be understood in such a way that brings real joy to the heart — joy that, as our Savior said to His apostles just before He was killed, no one can take away from you, that kind of joy, the kind of joy that cannot be stolen, cannot be lost, is ever with us, never dissipates — that kind of joy can only be had if we live as He lived and if we live in the likeness of His death, and therefore the likeness of His resurrection.

All these things are possible. The Sidonian woman’s son dies, and yet he was risen. Abraham was told he would be a father of many nations, and yet he was told to kill his son, but he believed still, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Do you have anything in your life that you have trouble believing? Don’t despair—the key to believing is not in trying to force yourself to believe this thing. When you have doubts, you cannot force yourself to undo your doubts. We’re temporal creatures, we believe this way, that way, and we’re like a reed blowing in the wind.

The way to no longer have doubts, the way to be able to have power and strength, to live according to the resurrection in its power, is to strive to become righteous, to desire to be pure, to desire to put off all sin – even the difficult ones. Even if you continue to fall, if you desire to live righteously, the Lord not only will forgive you of your sins, but much more than that, He will give you joy, joy which cannot be taken away, joy which ever abides in your heart. And He will give you, with that joy, certainty. How many things in this life are certain? None of us are certain that we will live another hour! If your souls strives to become righteous, to live as Christ lived, God will give you certainty about Himself and the resurrection. And the key is trying to live righteously.

What a blessed day this is! For us still, the Lord is in the tomb, but we know what is occurring right now; We read about it last night.[8]

He went down to Hades, having been preceded by His good messenger, John, and He destroyed the hold that death had over us. Not for only those who were before Christ went down into Hades when they died – that is not the only extent to which death has a hold over us. Even now to this day, death has a hold over people who do not believe in Christ, or who believe in Christ only weakly. And they live as though dead. He made us able to live as though completely alive, completely pure, completely happy, complete in all things, lacking nothing!

What a joy it is to be a Christian! Is there any greater name that a man can have than to be called a Christian? I mean a true Christian – not a Christian in name, not a Christian by patrimony, not a Christian by coming to Church, but a Christian by living righteously and knowing that God will help him with whatever is amiss.

Glory be to God! Glory be to God that we can live! Brothers and sisters, the key, I say again, you must live as if you were baptized into the death of Jesus. The way He died – with humility, with long-suffering, with forgiveness – this is the way which you must die. And your dying will be occurring for the rest of your natural, human life – that is, on the earth.

Live by dying. The world thinks, “We don’t understand what he is talking about.” But Christians understand. And as you die a little, then you feel more alive. Glory be to God that we can live. Amen.

Priest Seraphim Holland

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/holy-week-day-06_2002+great-saturday.html

 


[1]  Fifteen Old Testament readings are read at Vespers on Holy Saturday: Genesis 1:1-13; Isaiah 60:1-16; Exodus 12:1-11; Jonah 1:1-4:11; Joshua 5:10-15; Exodus 13:20-15:19; Zephaniah 3:8-15; 3 Kings (1 Kings) 18:8-24; Isaiah 61:10-62:5; Genesis 22:1-18; Isaiah 61:1-9; 4 Kings (2 Kings) 4:8-37; Isaiah 63:11-64:5; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Daniel 3:1-23.

[2] [Genesis 22:1-18]

[3] [3 Kings 17:8-24]

[4] [4 Kings 4:8-37]

[5] [Exodus 13:20-15:19]

[6] [Romans 6:3-11]
[7] There is a tradition of scattering rose petals, and sometimes bay leaves, around the church on Holy Saturday, while the choir sings “Arise, O God” and the vestments are changed from black to white in honor of the resurrection. After the priest has changed his vestments, he comes out of the altar with a basket full of rose petals and scatters them on the tomb and around the whole church. The faithful have the custom of picking up and keeping some of the petals as a blessing.
[8] In the sermon of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus for Holy Saturday, read before the tomb after the Lamentations Matins.
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NB: Joseph the All-Comely, a type of Christ

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Holy Week Services: Holy Monday Matins

 

 

joseph-the-all-comely.jpg

 

 

Monday of Holy Week commemorates the blessed and Noble Joseph the All-Comely and the fig tree which was cursed and withered by the Lord.

 

Joseph is a type of Christ.  Cliff Notes Version about Joseph: [1]

 

 

Kontakion and Ikos Holy Monday Matins.

 

Tone 8:  Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph, /

but his righteous son was seated in a chariot and honored as a king.  /

For he was not enslaved to the pleasures of Egypt, /

but he was glorified by God who sees the hearts of men //

and bestows on them a crown incorruptible.

 

Ikos:   Let us now add our lamentation to the lamentation of Jacob, and let us weep with him for Joseph, his wise and glorious son who was enslaved in body but kept his soul free from bondage, and became lord over all Egypt.  For God grants unto his servants a crown incorruptible.

 

 

There are many parallels between Joseph and our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Joseph was a slave “in body”, and our Lord took on the form of a slave – humanity.

 

Joseph was sold into slavery because of the envy of his brothers for 20 pieces of silver –

Jesus the Savior was sold for thirty pieces of silver by his close confederate, the unworthy Apostle Judas, because of the envy of the Jewish rulers.

 

Joseph was cast in to a pit and later thrown into prison – our Lord Jesus Christ went into the gloomy pit of Hell to save imprisoned humanity.

 

Joseph did not complain about his lot, our Lord was silent in the face of His accusers.

 

Joseph was chaste when tempted by Potiphar’s wife, unlike the First Adam, who gave into temptation, and the Second Adam was perfectly sinless and showed us the way to perfect chastity.

 

Joseph became Lord over Egypt (which represents sin), and Jesus Christ is Lord over all of His human nature, making us capable of becoming Lords over our Egypt – our human nature.

 

Joseph was immersed in a land with many temptations (especially since he became the second greatest man in Egypt), an yet he remained chaste and good, and eventually saved all his people, and our Lord was immersed in many temptations, and did not sin once, and eventually made us capable of perfection.

 

He saved his people by feeding them bread in a time of famine. Jesus the Savior saves mankind, and feeds them with the bread of heaven – His body and blood.

 

 

 

“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/dailylent/holy-week-day-01_2010_03-29+joseph-the-all-comely-type-of-christ+holy-week-services-holy-monday-matins.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] The ”Cliff Notes” version of the story of Joseph. His story is told in Genesis. He was the penultimate of  Patriarch Jacob’s 12 sons, and his favorite. His father fashioned a “coat of many colors” for Joseph. This, in addition to Joseph telling his brothers about dreams that were not flattering to the brothers made them very envious.

 

One day, when out in the field, all the brothers  save Rueben (the eldest) and Benjamin, who was yet to be born, conspired to kill Joseph. Rueben suggested that instead they throw him into a pit, and wait to see what happened. He intended to come back later and rescue Joseph, in the meantime, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by some traders. The brothers killed a sheep, and put its blood on Joseph’s coat, which they had taken from him previously, and told their father that Joseph had been torn to pieces by a wild animal

 

He was in the employ of Potiphar, an important man in Egypt. Potiphar’s wife made many passes at Joseph, but he was chaste. One day, when Joseph was alone in the house, his wife grabbed him, and he fled away naked. She made up a story about his advances, and Joseph was thrown in prison. In prison, he interpreted the dream Pharaoh’s butler and baker, and his interpretation came true to the letter. The butler was restored to Pharaoh’s service, and the baker was executed. The butler had promised to bring Joseph’s case before Pharaoh, but forgot until Pharaoh  had a dream that none of his wise men could interpret. The butler then remembered Joseph, and he correctly interpreted the dream as prophesying seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.

 

Pharaoh put Joseph over all of Egypt, in order to prepare for the famine. When the famine struck, Jacob sent his sons to get food in Egypt. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not know him. After Benjamin also came to Egypt, much to the consternation of Jacob, Joseph made himself known to his brothers in an incredibly emotional scene. Soon thereafter, all of Jacob’s family moved to Egypt.

 

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Receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved…

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Today’s reading from St. Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews[1] is a beautiful exposition of how we, as disciples of Christ, should live our lives. Why is the reading read on this particular day, the day on which we celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection of Lazarus? I think that the key is in the first words of the appointed selection: "we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved…." Truly, our kingdom cannot be moved, since our King is the "Vanquisher of death," as we sing in the troparion for the day:

In confirming the common resurrection, O Christ God,

Thou didst raise up Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion,

Wherefore, we also, like the children,

bearing the symbols of victory,

cry to The, the Vanquisher of death,

Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!

Our Lord rose the dead on three occasions during his earthly ministry [2]. On one ocassion, he rose the daughter of Jairus, who had only recently died and who still lay on her sickbed in her parents’ home [3]. On another ocassion, he rose the son of the widow of Nain, who was already being carried to burial [4]. Finally, he raises his friend Lazarus, who has already lain in the tomb for four days – long enough for his body to begin to decay [5]. This latter incident is the subject of today’s celebration. We remember it now because it took place shortly before the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But it is significant to remember this event now for another reason as well; it shows us clearly that Christ is the victor over death, and thereby foreshadows Christ’s own resurrection, which we will celebrate in just over a week.

Christ, having conquered death, "the last enemy to be destroyed" [6], is truly the master of all. We, then, being his followers and disciples, can have nothing to fear from anybody, so long as we remain true to Him. It is in this way that His words, "Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?,"[7] acquire their power, for He is truly able to provide all things. Even if we should be given over to death for following Him, He has the power to raise us from the dead.

We, then, can confidently and without being worried by "what-ifs", give ourselves entirely to living in the manner that God has directed, having as our only goal the perfection of His image in our souls. Setting aside our worries, we can "have grace, that we may serve God acceptably." We can zealously pursue brotherly love, hospitality, charity toward those in bonds, purity of body and soul, contentment and submission.

[1] Hebrews 12:28-13:8: 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire. 1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. 4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. 5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. 7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

[2] Archbishop Andrie of Rockland NY, of blessed memory, points this out in a sermon for the day, which is available here:

http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/sermons_archbishop_andrei.htm

http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/russian/sermons_archbishop_andrey.htm

[3] Luke 8:40-56

[4] Luke 7:11-16

[5] John 11:1-45

[6] 1 Cor 15:26

[7] Matthew 6:31

 

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Now is the judgment of this world…

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die. The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:31-38)

Ever since mankind’s decision to reject God, to love the world more than its Creator, to wish to be gods ourselves – ever since the fall of mankind, there has been a tension — a battle — between good and evil, between light and darkness, between God and this world. The entire sacred history of the Old Testament describes this battle, as the Israelite people repeatedly abandon God and repeatedly repent.

This battle intensifies when Christ is born, for now He who alone can satisfy the needs of our nature, He who created us, He whom we have rejected – He is present in the flesh. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:10-12). We see this especially clearly in the many accounts of Christ’s interaction with the scribes and pharisees – but it is also clear in the hardness of heart of the apostles prior to Pentecost: “For He taught His disciples and said unto them, ‘The Son of Man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him; and after He is killed, He shall rise the third day.’ But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask Him. And He came to Capernaum; and being in the house, He asked them, “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves on the way?” But they held their peace, for on the way they had disputed among themselves as to who should be the greatest” (Mark 8:31-34).

This battle has intensified yet more in these final days. Christ openly confronts the pharisees and scribes: “Woe unto thee, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt 12:13). In their turn, “they took counsel together to put Him to death” (John 11:53). Judas makes his choice, betraying the Lord for 30 pieces of silver. The world will soon make its choice, as the multitudes shout, “Crucify Him!” And at some point, each one of us must make our choice. Judgement is a choice we make. God is life, light, and goodness. Each one of us, in our thoughts, words, and actions, will either accept him or reject him. We have a choice – good or evil, life or death, light or darkness.

Ultimately, death, evil and darkness cannot win, for they have no substance. Only God exists by his own power, and in the end only God can be victorious. Life cannot be swallowed up in death. So goodness, light and life prevail, and God arises from the dead, “trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” We too can arise with him, through His grace, love, and power, if we choose to follow him.

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Behold, the Bridgroom comes…

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Why is the Matins service for the first three days of Holy Week called the “Bridegroom Matins”? Clearly, it must have to do with the two special hymns that are sung to a solemn melody during this service:

Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom he shall find watching, but unworthy is he whom he shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be born down with sleep, lest thou be given up to death and shut out from the kingdom. But rather, rouse thyself and cry: Holy, holy, holy art thou, O God! Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us! (Troparion)

Thy bridal chamber, O my savior, I behold all adorned, and I have no wedding garment that I may enter therein. Make the robe of my soul to shine, O light-giver, and save me! (Exapostilarion)

Why, as we celebrate this week of the Lord’s passion, is the initial emphasis on the coming of the bridegroom – the end of the world – and our preparation for it?

There are several equally valuable layers of meaning, but perhaps the most obvious reason is that this was the focus of the Savior’s own preaching during these Holy days, as we read in the Gospel readings at the Presanctified Liturgy (Matthew 24 and 25). On Monday, the Lord speaks of the coming end of the world – the signs of the approaching end, as well as the last day itself, when “the sun shall be darkened,” and “the Son of man shall come in power and great glory.” On Tuesday, he tells a series of parables emphasizing our need to be ready for this day. The parable of the wise virgins speaks of our need to gather oil for our lamps now, so that they will be lit when he comes. The parable of the talents speaks of our obligations to increase talent given to us, and the story about the last judgment clarifies the actions expected of us – mercy and service to others.

It seems quite significance that, just before beginning his voluntary passion for the sake of our salvation, our Lord speaks of our role in preparing for the coming Kingdom. As the Savior points out in the Gospel readings for Matins (Matthew 22 and 23), the Scribes and Pharisees did not wish to repent, and so all that our Lord suffered brought them no benefit at all. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

Do we wish to show gratitude to the Lord for all that he has done for us, for all that he has suffered, for all that we remember during this Holy Week? Let us then heed his warnings, and try to live in such a way that the resurrection will bear fruit in us. Then, truly, the Bridegroom –our Savior– will be able to take pleasure in His Bride — the Church, you and I. Then, truly, we will know the joy of Pascha.

Entire Readings:

Matthew 24:3-35

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25 Behold, I have told you before. 26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Matthew 24:36-26:2

36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 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. 1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, 2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

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"Having completed the forty days that bring profit to our souls…"

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Thus begins one of the hymns from tonight’s Vespers service. This service marks the transition from the 40 days of Lent to Holy Week. Every year these words seem bittersweet. Holy Week is here – but has my soul truly profited from this 40 day effort? Did I fast as I should? Did I refrain from judging my neighbor, from anger, from selfishness, from all the other sins that so beset us? Honestly, the answer has to be no. But there was profit nonetheless – profit from the small effort that I made, from the temptations sent by God for my healing and growth, from the very difficulties of life, from the moving and edifying lenten services, from the receipt of the Holy
Mysteries more often… There is always room to improve, to make a greater effort, to further grow in the grace of God. But for now, we are called to look ahead to Pascha. With our eyes set on the upcoming feast of the Resurrection, we are called to follow our Lord in the last days before his death as he raises Lazarus from the dead, enters Jerusalem in triumph, preaches in the
temple, tells his disciples of the coming end of the world, institutes the great Mystery of His Body and Blood, endures ridicule, torture, and death, descends into hades, frees the dead from ages past and rises again on the 3rd day, saving our souls. This effort – his effort – is the foundation of all of our efforts, because it alone makes our efforts bear fruit. And so let us cling to Him in thanksgiving. Let us follow Him in his last days, so that we may learn to be truly grateful for what he has done for us. Glory to God!

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