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On behalf of the Annunciation in Little Rock, welcome to our parish! While the Annunciation in
Little Rock was established in 1920 and has been in its present location since 1983, Orthodox
Christianity has spanned the globe since 33 AD. This parish was originally founded by a small
group of Greek immigrants, but today the Annunciation aptly reflects America, and is comprised
of over 200 families representing 18 different nationalities all witnessing to the good news of
Christ, striving to reflect His love, and living according to the principles and discipline of the
Orthodox Church. Adhering to Orthodox Christian principles which are concurrently Scriptural,
Traditional, Apostolic, and Eucharistic, this church family continually searches for dynamic ways
to please, serve and follow the Lord our God.

It is hoped that this booklet on Great Lent & Holy Week will help you gain some insight into the
Orthodox Christian faith, particularly its teachings, practices, & disciplines during Great Lent &
Holy Week. Though it must be noted that this particular booklet is only a synopsis of the
Orthodox Church’s teaching regarding this most sacred season and by no means definitive. Thus,
you may also want to visit our web site; as well as
explore our bookstore for further resources of interest. If this or any information about Orthodox
Christianity raises further questions, or you have issues that are not aptly addressed in this
booklet, by all means feel free to contact the parish office (501-221-5300).

As always, please keep in mind that research and study are but one step in the spiritual journey
towards the Risen Lord in the Orthodox Christian Church. The process of learning more about
this precious faith and spiritually growing closer to our Lord and Savior during Great Lent &
Holy Week will always be incomplete without practice, prayer, and participation in the worship of
the Church. Therefore, please feel free to visit the Annunciation in Little Rock and pray

with us on any given Sunday or for any Lenten & Holy Week Service. You will discover a
welcoming Church family, an ancient and dynamic Orthodox Christian Faith, and
perhaps even a spiritual home where you and yours may want to plant roots and expand
your relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

May you and yours have a blessed Great Lent and Pascha!
Rev. Dr. Nicholas J. Verdaris


(His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios,

the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America)

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we embark upon the sacred period of Holy and Great Lent, we approach the salvific
Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, entering into a season filled with resplendent
opportunities to prepare ourselves for the sacred and exhilarating celebration of His
Resurrection. Our journey throughout these next few weeks is, thus, of extraordinary
significance for our spiritual lives. During this time, our occasions for prayer and worship
are greatly increased, and our fasting efforts are deeply intensified. As we cultivate these
important Lenten disciplines, we become the recipients of a magnificent myriad of
spiritual fruits.

Foremost among these fruits is the restorative peace of God that fills our hearts when we
focus upon Him. The peace of God leads us to overcoming all the barriers that potentially
stand in our way of attaining a closer communion with Christ, the crucified and risen
Lord. In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul describes the peace of God as a peace
"which passes all understanding," and which "keeps our hearts and minds in Christ
Jesus" (4:7). Such peace becomes available through daily prayer and communal worship,
which are intensified during the Lenten period. In turn, our relationships with others are
enhanced, for only with a peaceful heart may we cultivate love, trust, and mutual respect
among our neighbors. Thus, the Lenten season is a time for enhancing our relationships
not only with Christ, but also with others from all walks of life; it is a time to grow in the
peace of God, an ever-present reality that binds all of us perfectly and willfully to His
inexhaustible love.

With the peace of God also comes great spiritual liberation: the Lenten season is a time
whereby we may gain deeper insight into our deeper selves; it is a period whereby we
cultivate the strength to know ourselves truly, to acquire honesty with ourselves, and to
develop the courage to practice repentance as a means of constant transformation and
purification of our innermost selves.

In addition, the Lenten season aims at nurturing within our hearts the important virtue of
askesis --spiritual struggle in the pursuit of godliness. Here, our practice of fasting is
especially vital. The purpose of fasting extends far beyond a superficial abstinence from
certain foods; it is a discipline that has as its principle aim our overcoming of all worldly
pursuits or material desires that divert our attention away from our spiritual communion
with God. Its purpose is to strengthen our capacity to focus constantly and consciously
upon God, to "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33)
before all else. By defining God as the chief priority in our lives, we restore to our minds
a proper view of reality in which He is the One who ultimately sustains us with our every

The Lenten season now at hand is rich with many spiritual treasures and fruits that have
the power to liberate our souls and restore our relationships with God and with others.
During this sacred period, let us commit ourselves to drawing nearer to God through
prayer, worship, and fasting, so that our faith in Him may continue to grow, and our
hearts may be filled with His abiding love and peace. May this love and peace be with
you and your families during this Lenten season as we approach the salvific Passion and
the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

With paternal love in Christ,

Archbishop of America


Over 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, including some six million in North
America, will enter the season of Great and Holy Lent on February,15th. This solemn day
will mark the beginning of a forty-day period of spiritual preparation imbued with prayer
and fasting in anticipation of the celebration of Easter (Pascha), the most sacred and holy
day of the Orthodox Church. This year, the Orthodox Christian Churches will celebrate
Easter on Sunday, April 4th.

Acknowledging the spiritual significance of the Lenten period, the Standing Conference
of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas stated the following: “We arrive
again at the great and sacred season of Holy Lent. As Orthodox Christians we have been
given the blessed opportunity to enter into an intense period of worship, prayer, fasting,
and philanthropy that will direct our lives in the path of salvation and draw us into deeper
communion with God. In addition, through our observance of Lent in our contemporary
world, we will offer a witness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one who
overcomes the darkness of evil and sin and illumines hearts with truth and life."



Great Lent Begins - February 15
Holy Week (Saturday of Lazarus through Holy Saturday) - March 27 - April 4
Easter (Pascha) Sunday - April 4
The Feast of Ascension - May 13
Pentecost - May 23


Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos, Ph. D.

Almost from the very beginning of the existence of the Christian Church, the issue
regarding the date of our Lord's death and resurrection presented variations. Although the
New Testament relates these events to the Jewish Passover, the details of this relationship
are not clear. On the one hand, the tradition of the synoptic gospels identifies the Lord's
last supper with His disciples as a Passover meal. This would place the death of our Lord
on the day after Passover. On the other hand, the tradition of the gospel of St. John
situates the death of our Lord at the very hour the paschal lambs were sacrificed on the
day of Passover itself. This variation in the interpretation of the scriptures led to two
different practices. The one observed Pascha on the day of Passover, regardless of the day
of the week. The other observed it on the Sunday following Passover. By the 4th century,
the latter practice prevailed throughout the Church universally; nevertheless, differences
continued to exist.

In response to this ongoing problem, the First Ecumenical Council convened at Nicaea in
325 took up the issue. It determined that Pascha should be celebrated on the Sunday
which follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox-the actual beginning of spring.
If the full moon happens to fall on a Sunday, Pascha is observed the following Sunday.
The day taken to be the invariable date of the vernal equinox is March 21. Hence, the
determination of the date of Pascha is governed by a process dependent on the vernal
equinox and the phase of the moon.

Another factor which figures prominently in determining the date of Pascha is the date of
Passover. Originally, Passover was celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal
equinox. Christians, therefore, celebrated Pascha according to the same calculation-that
is, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The
correlation between the date of Pascha and the date of Passover is clear. Our Lord's death
and resurrection coincided with Passover, thereby assuring a secure point of reference in
time. This assurance lasted, however, only for a short time.

Events in Jewish history contributing to the dispersion of the Jews had as a consequence
a departure from the way Passover was reckoned at the time of our Lord's death and
resurrection. This caused the Passover to precede the vernal equinox in some years. It
was, in fact, this anomaly which led to the condemnation reflected in Canon 1 of Antioch
(ca. 330) and Canon 7 of the Holy Apostles (late 4th century) of those who celebrate
Pascha "with the Jews." The purpose of this condemnation was to prevent Christians
from taking into account the calculation of Passover in determining the date of Pascha.

Most Christians eventually ceased to regulate the observance of Pascha by the Jewish
Passover. Their purpose, of course, was to preserve the original practice of celebrating
Pascha following the vernal equinox. Thus, the Council of Nicaea sought to link the

principles for determining the date of Pascha to the norms for calculating Passover during
our Lord's lifetime.

Despite the intervention of Nicaea, certain differences in the technicalities of regulating

the date of Pascha remained even thereafter. This resulted occasionally in local variations
until, by the 6th century, a more secure mode of calculation based on astronomical data
was universally accepted. This was an alternative to calculating Pascha by the Passover
and consisted in the creation of so-called "paschal cycles." Each paschal cycle
corresponded to a certain number of years. Depending upon the number of years in the
cycle, the full moon occurred on the same day of the year as at the beginning of the cycle
with some exceptions. The more accurate the cycle, the less frequent were the exceptions.
In the East, a 19-year cycle was eventually adopted, whereas in the West an 84-year
cycle. The use of two different paschal cycles inevitably gave way to differences between
the Eastern and Western Churches regarding the observance of Pascha.

A further cause for these differences was the adoption by the Western Church of the
Gregorian Calendar in the 16th century. This took place in order to adjust the discrepancy
by then observed between the paschal cycle approach to calculating Pascha and the
available astronomical data. The Orthodox Church continues to base its calculations for
the date of Pascha on the Julian Calendar, which was in use at the time of the First
Ecumenical Council. As such, it does not take into account the number of days, which
have since then accrued due to the progressive loss of time in this calendar.

Practically speaking, this means that Pascha may not be celebrated before April 3, which
was March 21, the date of the vernal equinox, at the time of the First Ecumenical
Council. In other words, a difference of 13 days exists between the accepted date for the
vernal equinox then and now. Consequently, it is the combination of these variables
which accounts for the different dates of Pascha observed by the Orthodox Church and
other Christian Churches.

Specifically with regard to this year's date of Pascha, the following observations are
made. The invariable date of the vernal equinox is taken to be April 3 (March 21 on the
Julian Calendar). Pascha must therefore be observed on the Sunday following the full
moon which comes after that date. The provision of the First Ecumenical Council calls
for Pascha to be observed on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal


His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver

Forty days after His glorious resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into the
heavens. Before His ascension, He had promised His disciples that He would return after
His initial departure. Actually, Jesus had mentioned His departure and His glorious return
many times during the three years of His public ministry.

As the Book of Acts records, on the day of His ascension two men in white apparel were
standing near the Apostles and the other eye witnesses who were watching the event.
They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus

who was taken up from you into heaven will so come in like manner as you saw him go
into heaven." (Acts 1:11)

The first Christian communities in the days of the Apostles and immediately after the
Apostolic era lived with the fervent anticipation of the return of Jesus in their lifetime.
Even the Apostles themselves expected His return very soon. This belief was held in large
measure because of the Lord's words to the Apostle Peter when the two were walking
together after His resurrection. It was at the time when John the Evangelist was walking
slightly behind them. After the Lord had informed Peter of his impending martyr's death,
Peter turned for a moment toward John and asked Jesus, "But Lord, what about this
man?" Jesus replied, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow
me."(John 21:21-22)

Yet John clarified the incident when he wrote in his gospel about that particular
discussion. It was necessary for him to keep the record accurate; for the body of believers
was repeating the statement that John was to remain alive until the Lord's return. John
wrote, "Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die."
Yet Jesus had not said this, but "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to
you?" (John 21:23) John was so concerned with the accuracy of this statement of the
Lord, that he repeated it at the end of his gospel.

However, the belief persisted throughout the Christian communities that John would still
be alive upon the return of Christ. Even the Apostle Paul seemed to have given credence
to the saying about John. This is probably why he wrote to Timothy his disciple saying
“...keep this commandment without spot until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing." (1
Timothy 6:14) He wrote virtually the same thing to his other disciple, Titus, telling him
that the followers of Christ should live righteous and godly lives because they were
anticipating "…the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior

Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:13) Besides Paul, Peter and James also wrote about the Parousia or
the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in their epistles, as if it were to be soon.

There were no discernible changes in the world, even after the lifesaving, cosmic events
of the death and the resurrection of Christ. The Roman Empire remained intact and
controlled all of the known world. However, with the destruction of Jerusalem by the
Emperor Titus in 70 AD many of the faithful equated this destruction and their suffering
with the prophecies of Christ as recorded in Saint Matthew's gospel (24:1-22) about the
end of the age. Many of them did not enter into marriage. Others gave all they had to the
Church and lived as brothers and sisters in the various Christian communities, identifying
them-selves as members of the family of God and the Body of Christ. Still others, most of
whom are unknown in the Church today, but certainly known to God, went out into the
wilderness throughout the Middle East, Asia Minor and northern Africa where they lived
as hermits, praying unceasingly, and waiting in caves and in the crevasses of the earth for
the end to come. It was not the desire for Christians to continue to live in the world in the
face of the tyranny of Rome and the subjugation of thousands by the military might of the
pagan empire. They preferred to be with Christ and their expectations centered on Christ.
After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jewish community was in shambles. The religious
practices and the strict adherence to the Jewish faith had come to a sudden stop with the
destruction of the temple and the dispersion of the people to different parts of the known
world. The Christians also found themselves under tragic circumstances. Rome's grip
upon the world continued unabated.

Yet even in the face of all this, the Apostles, greatly empowered by the Holy Spirit,
continued to preach and to teach of Christ and His coming Kingdom. They established
new communities wherever they went and continued to convert many to the faith. As
conditions settled down after the destruction of Jerusalem, the Christians there began to
receive the help which was so desperately needed from Paul the Apostle and many others.

The Apostle Paul's love for his people was so great that wherever he went, he received
donations and gifts for the "saints in Jerusalem." (Romans 15: 25 -32)

In all of this adversity and destruction, what was it that kept the members of the Church
fervently committed to Christ and His promises? Many wondrous signs and miracles took
place. People were healed of severe infirmities; some were also raised from the dead. The
Holy Spirit was manifesting His presence and power among the people, strengthening
them in their faith. The mighty works performed by the Apostles in the name of Jesus
Christ gave courage and determination to the people to be persistent in the faith. Eye-
witnesses of the resurrected Lord and of the great day of Pentecost who were yet alive
confirmed the reality and the truth of the Christian faith. In the face of those glorious
events, the unifying strength of Christ was experienced throughout the expanding
Christian communities.

The hope, then, of the soon return of Jesus Christ continued to dominate the hearts of the
people who were looking forward to this event with joyful anticipation. They reminded
one an-other to be watchful and to be vigilant like the five wise virgins in the parable.
The Lord Jesus was to appear. "Maranatha" (See 1 Corinthians 16:22) was the
watchword. They repeated it often: "O, Lord, come!"

As time passed, the realization began to set in that it was not the time for Christ's return.
His prophecies in the holy gospels had not yet come to pass. They recalled that when the
disciples asked the Lord about the signs before the end, His response included many
events which had not as yet been fulfilled. The destruction of Jerusalem mislead them.
There were to be many other events that were to occur in the heavens, as well as on the
earth. They recalled also that Jesus said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not
even the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Watch therefore, for you do not know
what hour your Lord is coming" (Matthew 24: 36, 42).

The Christian believers soon began to accept that they were going to continue to live in
the world. The Lord was not about to come and to gather them up. Yet they also knew
that they could never become identified with the world; for one day the whole world
would be consumed by fire (2 Peter 3:10). Suddenly they began to realize that something
unexpected was happening in the world around them. Better days had come about. The
Church was growing in increasing numbers. Their beliefs and the Church were now
tolerated by the empire. In time - less than three hundred fifty years after Pentecost - the
Christian Church would become the official religion of the converted and Christianized
empire. The Church found a new freedom to develop in all Her expressions for the
salvation of Her people. Still the Church never forgot that there would be an end to the
age and that Her Lord would one day return to take Her with Him.

The belief, then, in the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, His Parousia / Second Coming,
would remain constant and the paramount eschatological tenet in the life of the Church.
In the recitation of the Lord's Prayer in almost every worship service the Lord's words of
His coming Kingdom were to remain basic. From the year 381 AD and the Second
Ecumenical Council the confession of faith now known as the Nicean-Constantinopolitan
Creed would allow the faithful to proclaim as in the days of the Apostles the coming of
the Lord Jesus Christ in glory, the future event before the consumation of the present age.

The Church grew and developed in Her primary years, the divinely established, living
organism which can never be destroyed by any power antithetical to Her. This the Lord
promised when He told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to them Who
would abide with the Church forever (John 14:16). He also said that not even the power
of Hades would ever be able to prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18).
The Holy Spirit, then, Who presides over the Church gave direction to the divinely
inspired Fathers in Her formative years to place the teaching of the Parousia / Second
Coming at the core of the faith. In doing so, the Church to this day preserves the belief in
the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in the services of the Church which take

place at the holiest time of the annual ecclesiastical cycle, the period called Triodion,
Great Lent, and Holy Week, a duration of seventy days.

From the very beginning then, and as we shall see further on, the Church has held this
basic belief in the Parousia / Second Coming uninterruptedly down through the centuries
to the present day. Although the people of the Church are reminded annually of the
dreadful and terrifying latter-day events before the return of Christ, they also are ever
mindful of the most wonderful and joyful events which shall occur thereafter with the
beginning of the Eighth Day, the day of perfection. This wondrous day begins with the
glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Day of Holy Pascha. For one to experience this
day, it is imperative for him and for her to prepare themselves properly.

In Her preservation of the teaching regarding the Second Coming of Christ, the Church
uses the depiction, which Christ gave to Himself in His parable of the Ten Virgins and the
Bridegroom. It is this most dramatic parable, which describes so simply, yet so
eloquently, the events of the last days, the return of Jesus Christ, and the establishment of
His eternal Kingdom. Many of the services of the Church during this seventy-day period
allude to Christ as the Bridegroom. The meaningful prayers and hymns of the Triodion
and of Great Lent are replete with the message of the coming Bridegroom to claim His
Bride, the Church.

The days of preparation involving the three-week Triodion and Great Lent lead the
practicing believer through a symbolic spiritual wilderness for sixty-three days to the first
service of Holy Week which is called the Service of the Bridegroom, and which takes
place every Palm Sunday evening in all the churches.

Throughout the penitential period of the Fast or Great Lent, the Church encourages Her
people to increase their time of prayer, both private and corporate, while at the same time
invites them to abstain and to fast from those things in life which identify one as

belonging to the world. The purpose of this discipline is to strengthen one's spirit, so that
the mind and the heart begin to dwell on the things not of this world. In this regard the
believer runs a parallel course to that which Christ traveled in the wilderness for forty
days and forty nights before He went forth to be tempted by Satan.

Relative to the temptations which Christ faced, the practicing Christian is also expected
to defeat the three temptations which Christ experienced and which identify one with the
world: the temptations of pride, power, and possessions. In today's world we would use
the terms, egotism or self-esteem, control, and unabated consumerism. In the temptations
faced by Jesus, He was told by Satan to demonstrate His power by changing stones into
bread to satisfy His hunger (Matthew 4:3). The Lord was then tempted by pride when
Satan said to Him that if He were the Son of God, that if He were to throw Himself from
the pinnacle of the temple, He would not be hurt. For it is written that God would send
His angels to bear Christ up, lest He dash His foot against a stone (Matthew 4:6). Finally
Satan took Jesus to a high mountain from where he showed to Him the kingdoms of the
world and their glory. He said to Jesus, "All these things I will give you if you will fall
down and worship me." (Matthew 4:9)

This temptation was, probably, not really an enticement for Jesus, since He knew that all
things came from Him and that all things were in His hands, except the corruption His
eyes saw because of fallen man who first had been victimized by Satan in the Garden of
Eden. This last temptation revealed the fact that Satan never realized who Jesus really
was. For Satan could never comprehend in his vainglory that Almighty God would so
humble Himself to the point of becoming a man: Jesus, then, as the new Adam, overcame
the three great temptations and Satan was gone.

In the iconographic image of the temptations, which Christ overcame, the Church instills
in Her people the desire to acquire such spiritual strength through the discipline of prayer
and fasting throughout the preparation period of Great Lent. The faithful are reminded of

our first parents in the Garden who were first tempted by Satan with the very temptations,
which Satan used to tempt Christ. Adam and Eve failed the temptation of power by
desiring to know the difference between good and evil. They failed the temptation of
pride by desiring to be like God. And they failed the temptation of possessions because
they desired to have it all, even the fruit of the one forbidden tree.

During the penitential, and yet spectacular and exciting period of Great Lent, which the
people should eagerly desire to experience, there is one basic message and that is for the
people of the Church to take control of their lives. Once they do this, then the anticipation
of meeting Christ in a personal way and experiencing a taste of the coming Kingdom
becomes basic and natural in their daily lives.

How did all this process begin regarding Great Lent and its expectations? It was Christ
Himself Who established the process. He gave the formula for this Lenten season, the
season in which we experience a joyful sorrow, sorrow that He left and anticipated joy
that we will see Him again. To understand this process biblically we must read the words
of Saint Matthew in his Gospel. He writes the following: "Then the disciples of John
came to him saying, `Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not
fast?' And Jesus said to them, `Can the friends of the Bridegroom mourn as long as the
Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken
away from them, and then, they will fast.' " (Matthew 9: 14-15)

It is in this gospel quotation that we see and understand that Christ Himself establishes
the connection between His impending departure from the world and the discipline of
fasting with a new meaning. Fasting, in this regard, is a basic practice of the believing
Christian to remind him that Jesus Christ will one day return in glory.

The benefits of fasting or abstinence are enormous. This does not have anything to do
with the reasons many today use the discipline of fasting. For in our day we see

individuals fasting as a political tool or other type of protest, a way of losing extra
pounds, or even as a desire to die. Christian fasting is blessed by God Himself for it is the
message of the believer to God that he desires the eternal blessings that are to come rather
than the finite blessings of this life. Its benefits include increased spiritual strength, true
obedience to God and total patience with one's fellow man. It assists the believer to take
control of his lower appetites that involve the physical senses. The believer becomes
mentally alert and sensitive to what is happening all around him. Moreover his
understanding of life is also expanded.

Spiritual fasting for the Christian believer, then, makes him more watchful and vigilant to
the expectations which God has established for His people. Fasting to an Orthodox
Christian is what physical and mental exercise are to a professional athlete who aspires to
win the big title and the trophy. Fasting of mind and body to the Christian, based on the
obedience of prayer, renews the health of the soul, which in most people is parched and
possibly dying. The achievements experienced by the believer include spiritual grace and
an inner peace and joy that no one can take away. It is this blessed state that allows one
not only to focus on, but to continually be mindful of the heavenly blessings that Christ
promises to His people.

Christian fasting is the most effective weapon one can have next to prayer. The two
together in the name of Jesus can do wonders. One day His disciples asked Jesus why
they could not heal a boy by expelling a demon from within him. They asked, "Why
could we not cast it out?" The Lord's reply was, "This kind does not go out except by
prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:19, 21)

In the Gospels Jesus instructs us to fast in secret. Why? Obviously, faith is an inner
power; the real power of a person is in his spirit. This spiritual power is developed by the
heart and the mind, which work in concert to strengthen the inner man. Man is energized
and renewed by God esoterically, through his inner being and his inner heart. Anyone can

have this kind of spiritual strength and power if he practices the Christian discipline of
prayer and fasting. It is important to remember that many of God's most devout servants,
who had the power of healing others because of their inner strength, were themselves
physically infirm, such as Saint Paul the Apostle. Fasting, moreover, makes one realize
that he is dependent on God, even if he may have no infirmities. He knows that without
God he can do nothing.

Increased prayer and fasting are encouraged by the Church during Great Lent as a means
to purification and preparation. Both physical and spiritual purification are stressed so
that the believer may feel prepared to experience a spectacular event, the event of the
Lord's return. His Bride, the Church is always in anticipation of the glorious return of Her
Bridegroom. This anticipation is brought into focus during the first Divine Liturgy of
Holy Week, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, which is celebrated on Holy Monday
morning. The Gospel reading of the Liturgy, which is taken from Saint Matthew's Gospel
(24:3-35) speaks of the disciples of the Lord asking Him when His return will take place,
as well as the end of the world. Fasting and prayer, therefore, during this time of the year
is not simply because it is Great Lent but because the Church is awaiting the return of
Her Bridegroom.

In this eschatological theme of Great Lent another basic truth is stressed which is that
Christ will return as the Eternal Judge Who is to come with great power to judge all
people. This is why it is imperative that the believing Christian should be prepared as
much as possible through humility and repentance to come before God. At the same time
his desire to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Who died for the sins of the world never

The Supreme Sacrifice on the Cross, established for the Church the mystery of Holy
Eucharist. It is at each Divine Liturgy that the penitent and humble and obedient Christian
is invited to receive the very Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of his sins and

for the promise of eternal life. He does it in fulfillment of Christ's words at the Last
Supper, which the Apostle Paul records most accurately saying, "For as often as you eat
this bread and drink this cup, you will proclaim the Lord's death till he comes." (1
Corinthians 11:26)

As the practicing believer goes forth on this annual pilgrimage to the symbolic Jerusalem
to meet the Lord at His Tomb through the special worship services, he will certainly
encounter the scoffers of these latter days. They are more numerous than ever before. But
they will not de-tract the obedient and devout Christian. Peter the Apostle speaks of them
when he says that in the last days people will cynically be asking, "Where is the promise
of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the
beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:4). They may not be using these very words, but their
life-style, their behavior, their speech, their obsessions with the things of this world, will
all witness to their unbelief, their cynicism, and their scorn.

Nevertheless, the faithful believer will persevere. He will go on with his fasting, his good
deeds, his increased time in prayer. In a symbolic, yet in a very real way, the three-week
period of the Triodion is the crossing by the people of God of the Red Sea from pagan
Egypt into the wilderness of the Sinai. The forty days of spiritual toil and the traversing
of one's penitential journey is symbolic, in a very real sense, of the ancient Israelites'
forty-year sojourn in the wilderness of the Sinai peninsula. This spiritual journey for the
Christian is the time for him to leave behind all the excess baggage he may have brought
from the secular world, as well as to shed all vestiges of rebellion and idolatry.

As the ancient Israelites zigzagged their way through Sinai, sometimes obedient to God,
but at other times reverting to their pagan past and re belling against God, in like manner
the penitential Christian travels the difficult wilderness of the influences of the secular
world, sometimes standing strong in his faith and sometimes falling. The Israelites could
have reached the Promised Land much sooner than they did, had they traveled a more

direct route. But God kept them in the Sinai for forty years, so that the generation which
had come out of Egypt and which had been heavily tainted with idolatry and rebellion
would not be able to enter the Promised Land. It was the second generation, those born in
the wilderness of the Sinai, who were to enter.

In the very same way as Moses led his people, the Church leads Her children through the
forty-day sojourn of Great Lent. For it takes at least this long for many of the faithful to
discard the vanity and the concerns of this world and to be transformed. In this
transformation the faithful people of God become the newborn children from the secular
wilderness who will be able to experience the joy of the Promised Land.

The additional and lengthy services, the periods of silence and introspection, the
discipline of prostrations both in the services and in private prayer will help the repentant
Christian to rid himself of impatience, anger, foul talk, and all the various expressions of
rebellion against God, against others, and even against oneself. The struggling Christian
must, after this intense discipline, be at peace with himself, with others, and especially
with God.

Once the believer accomplishes these things, never by himself, but with the help of God,
he will be able to climb the spiritual mountain, not only to peer into the Promised Land,
as did Moses, but to enter it. This entrance into the land of promise is for the Christian the
beginning of Holy Week and Pascha. At the first service of Holy Week which is held on
the evening of Palm Sunday, the faithful pilgrim of the forty-day struggle will hear the
words of the parable as the icon of Christ comes forth from the sanctuary: "Behold the
Bridegroom is Coming!" The believing Christian will follow in the footsteps of the
Bridegroom throughout the holy services of that spiritually moving week. In so doing, he
will experience, in a real way, as the original events continually reflect themselves down
through the centuries, the public ministry of the Lord and the words regarding His return.
He will relive in a dramatic way the Lord's betrayal, arrest, extreme suffering, painful and

torturous death, and His burial, especially through the services of Holy Thursday and
Holy Friday.

On the next day, the Holy and Great Sabbath, all of nature will observe a brief silence
while the body of Jesus lies in the tomb. This silence will be experienced mostly by those
who followed Jesus through the dramatic events of His passion in the holy services. They
will be meditating on the final events of His earthly life. Then on the first day of the
week, which today is called Sunday, but which is the dawn of the Eighth Day, the day
that knows no sunset, the words of the Lord will swell up like a fountain in their hearts,
"Can the friends of the Bridegroom fast while the Bridegroom is with them?" (Mark

At the midnight services of Holy Saturday evening in the darkened churches throughout
the Orthodox world, the celebrant will emerge from the sanctuary with lighted tapers
chanting, "Come and receive light from the Unfading Light and glorify Christ Who is
risen from the dead!" The new and glorious day of the Resurrection of Christ the Lord
will shine forth with extreme joy and gladness. Although it will not have been the actual
Parousia/Second Coming during the present year, it will definitely have the same spiritual
glow that shone on the faces of the first Christians.

At the final service of this seventy-day period called Agape, one of the hymns that will
resound in the churches will announce: "Come from that scene, O women, bearers of
good tidings and say to Zion, `Receive from us the tidings of joy of the Resurrection of
Christ; Exult, rejoice and be glad, O Jerusalem, for you are beholding Christ the King as
the Bridegroom coming forth from the Tomb!"'

The lengthy preparation and watchfulness of the believer during this holiest time of the
year will not have been in vain; for in his inner heart he will remember the word,
"Maranatha" which his Christian fore-bearers had in their hearts and on their lips. And in

response to that expression of uncontainable joy, he will hear, in anticipation, the heart
stirring words of the Bridegroom of the Church ringing out for all the world and the
heavens to hear: "Surely I am coming quickly! Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
" (Revelation 22:20).



By Rev. Spencer Kezios

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is of very early and, in a sense, practical origin;
practical in that it was seen as the means for the faithful to commune of the Sacrament on
days when the Eucharistic Liturgy could not be celebrated. In early times, at least until
the fourth century, Communion was considered so much a part of the Eucharistic
Sacrifice that it was unthinkable to attend without partaking. In fact, the faithful
sometimes received the Sacrament more often than they attended the Liturgy, usually
celebrated on Sunday only, the Lord's Day, and this by virtue of taking the Sacrament
home, in a special "arca "fashioned for this purpose. Tertullian testifies to the practice
when he asks, "Will not your husband know what it is that you secretly consume before

any other food?" In Syria the practice was still current in the sixth century. John
Moschos, a spiritual writer of the period, speaks of the faithful taking home with them on
Holy Thursday enough of the Eucharist to last the year.

Of all the Lenten rules, one is unique to Orthodoxy, and so gives us a key to its liturgical
spirit: it forbids the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on weekdays in Lent, as
incompatible with fasting, the sole exception being the Feast of the Annunciation. But so
as not to deprive the faithful of "the food of immortality", the Liturgy of the Presanctified
Gifts is prescribed, that is, a "Eucharistic synaxis /gathering" without the Consecration.
The festal nature of the Eucharist is thus reserved for Saturdays and Sundays in Lent,
while on the days of total fasting, Wednesdays and Fridays, the people may receive the
Holy Gifts that were sanctified on the previous Sunday.

The Presanctified was from the start an evening service, Communion following Vespers,
to be conducted after the Ninth Hour, i.e. three o'clock in the afternoon. The daylong fast
was thus broken early in the evening, much as the total fast on Sunday is broken after
Communion. It is likely that this service was not always confined to Lent, but was
common to all of the Church's fasting seasons. However, permeated as it is with the
"bright sadness" of Lent, it has taken on a special beauty and solemnity. As we pray for
the Catechumens, those being made ready for Holy Baptism on Easter Saturday, we sense
a direct connection with the Christian Church of the early centuries, and understand the
initial character of Lent as preparation for Baptism and for Easter.

But it is the Prayers of the Faithful that really illuminate the Lenten road, giving us a
fuller understanding of the meaning and purpose of the Lenten discipline:
"Liberate all our senses from killing passion, setting over them as benevolent sovereign
our inner reason. Let the eye be averted from every evil sight, and the ear be deaf to idle
talk. May the tongue be purged of unseemly speech. Purify these lips that praise You,

Lord. Make our hands abstain from wicked deeds, doing only such things as are pleasing
to You, thus sealing with Your grace all our members, and our mind."

Then, as we prepare for the Entrance of the preconsecrated Gifts: "Behold, His spotless
body and life-giving blood are about to make their entrance at this hour, to be laid on this
mystical table, invisibly attended by a multitude of the heavenly host. Grant that we may
receive them in blameless communion, so that as the eyes of our understanding see the
light, we may become children of light and of day."


By Rev. Nicon Patrinacos

This is a long poem prefaced by a hymn to the Virgin Mary which has become known to
almost every Orthodox Christian (most especially Lent). The poem was written in honor
of the Virgin Mary, considered to be the protector of the great city of Constantinople. As
we have it today, the poem, together with the long Canon preceding it and written by the
famous Joseph the Hymnographer, forms a service in itself held in the Orthodox churches
in the evenings of the first four Fridays of Great Lent before Easter. The poem is made up
of twenty four separate blocks (called oikoi in ancient Greek. Oikos in Greek means
home, and the name is given to each of the twenty-four blocks as if they were actual
buildings progressing upwards in meaning to a poetic pinnacle), each one beginning in
an acrostic manner with a letter of the alphabet. Each ‘oikos’ consists of a number of

verses that very between the odd and even ‘oikoi’; the odd ‘oikoi’ are composed of 18
verses, while the even have only 6. At the end of each odd ‘oikos’, the famous but almost
untranslatable in any language refrain, “Hail, O Bride unwed!” is sung, wile at the end of
the even ‘oikoi’, the “Alleluia” is sung. The last 11 verses of the odd ‘oikoi’ constitute
what is really known as the Salutations, addressed to the Virgin Mary as follows:
‘oikoi’ 1 & 3 by Archangel Gabriel
‘oikos’ 5 by the unborn St. John the Baptist
‘oikos’ 7 by the Shepherds
‘oikos’ 9 by the Magi
‘oikos’ 11 by those redeemed from paganism
‘oikoi’ 13, 15, 17, 19, 21 & 23 by the faithful
The even ‘oikoi’ 2, 4, 6 & 24 refer to the Virgin Mary and numbers 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18,
20 & 22 refer to Jesus Christ.

As regards the theme of the poem, ‘oikoi’ 1, 2, 3, & 4 are related to the Annunciation (the
Archangel announcing to the Virgin Mary that she is to bear the Christ); oikos 5 is related
to the visit of the pregnant Virgin to Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist; ‘oikos’
6 to the doubts of Joseph; ‘oikos’ 7 to the worship of the Christ Child by the Shepherds;
‘oikoi’ 8, 9, & 10 are related to the adoration of the Magi; ‘oikos’ 12 to the receiving of
Christ into the Temple; oikos 11 to the apocryphal narration of the flight into Egypt. The
first part, 1-12, is historical while the second part is theological; in it, the poet expounds
beliefs connected with the Incarnation of the Lord and the salvation of believers in Him.
And in spite of the fact that this famous poem does nowhere mention the name of the
author, yet the Akathist Hymn is the only one which has been introduced in Orthodox
worship in its entirety in spite of its nature being all three, narrational, theological, and

The name Akathist Hymn signifies the fact that the people used to listen to it standing up.
It is widely believed, though historically unproven, that the poem was composed and

offered in a special all night service in the year 626, when Constantinople was saved from
the siege of Avars and Persians. It seems more probable, however, that poem was not
composed on that occasion. It is obvious from the prelude hymn “To Thee, Our
Defender” (Ti Ipermacho) that the poem is closely connected with a siege of the city of
Constantinople and its subsequent liberation ascribed to the intervention of the Virgin
Mary with Jesus Christ. The occasion of the composition of the Akathist Hymn and its
authorship have been and are still the subjects of scholastic research and debate. It
appears that most researchers side with the opinion that the Akathist is connected with
one of the many sieges Constantinople went through, and that its author is Patriarch
Germanos I (715-730). It seems that originally the Akathist Hymn was sung in its
entirety. Today only the prelude and other hymns and refrains are sung, while the
Salutations to the Virgin Mary are melodically intoned by the priest or bishop. The
Akathist Hymn was translated into Latin about the year 800; it has also been translated
into Italian, Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Modern Greek and English.

The great value of the Akathist Hymn seems to relate to the inner states of the faithful in
attuning his/her soul to Christ and the example of the Mother of God; rather than to its
literary excellence. And though its literary clichés and expressions have survived in the
memory and usage of Orthodox Christian sacred literature, other Orthodox poems and
hymns, as for example, the very Canon preceding it, are perhaps of superior literary
merit. Yet both, the personal spiritual circumstances and the group trials and tribulations
to which the poem refers have secured for it a place without equal in Orthodox Christian

Rev. George Mastrantonis

There are institutes and symbols adopted by nations, churches or groups of men which
represent certain ideals accumulated in the past. These institutes, that is precepts
recognized as authoritative, and symbols represent the thoughts and feelings of those who
created or adopted them and put in them all the experience of the past, often through
struggle and sacrifice. A few feet of ribbon for instance, red, blue and white in color, have
little value as is. But if one puts them in a certain pattern of stripes and stars, they become
the flag of the United States and represent the ideals and unity of the people of America.
The flag reminds us of the people's struggle for liberty. It represents the national unity
which attained for them their rights as a people. The same could be said for the institutes
of a nation, army or any group of people. These institutes are created by the people and
are used by them in certain ways for certain aims. Some of these institutes are the means
for achieving certain values and ideals. In the life of the Church of Christ there are many
institutes created and maintained to meet the needs of the people - the Ecclesia. Among
these is the Great Lent which falls within the year-cycle of the life of the Church before
Pascha-Easter. Lent is the period of time for self-examination by the believer; of putting
on the spiritual armor of the Militant Church; of applying the riches of prayers and
almsgiving; of adopting deeply the meaning of repentance; of atonement and
reconciliation with God Almighty.

This great period of Lent before Easter is called by the Orthodox Church, Tessaracoste
(Quadragesimal), which comes from the word forty (the 40 days of "fasting"). This
Institute of the 40. days of Lent precedes the Resurrection of Christ. The celebration of
the Resurrection of Christ does not fall on the same date each year, but according to the
determination of the position of the moon and spring equinox, which is based on the
original setting during the last Events of the life of Christ on earth. This 40-day period of
Lent is a period of "abstinence" from foods, but primarily from personal iniquities.
Abstinence from foods (fasting) alone is a means of attaining virtue; it is not an end in
itself. During the period of fasting one makes a special attempt to evaluate his calling as a
Christian; to listen to the voice of the Gospel and heed its commandments; to accept the

constant invitation to enter Christ's Kingdom. It is an open invitation to everyone willing
to enter; who believes in Christ and repents his iniquities; who makes an "about face"
directly to Christ. To accomplish this - Which is a year-round concern - the Christian
Church, dating back many years, out of experience and according to the nature of man
instituted certain days of prayer and fasting as steps in a ladder to help those who need
guidance to reach this spiritual plateau. All of these steps must have genuine personal
meaning to avoid becoming merely a habit and routine. Fasting encompasses the entire
pious life of the Christian, as Christ proclaimed, that symbolizes a deep acceptance of His
admonition to "repent". This can be achieved not so much in terms of time, but in deeds
in love of God and one's fellow man.

During the period of the Great Lent the awakening of the spirit of man comes about
through inspiration from the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. It is a time of self-
examination and preparation, and of taking an inventory of one's inner life. He and Christ
know his exact condition. At this time one sees himself in the mirror of the Gospel - how
he looks. One finds the means and ways to correct and improve himself. Lent is a period
of time when one delves into himself with the light of the Holy Spirit in order to rid
himself of the impediments which hold him back. It is a period when one strengthens his
faith by more prayer and devotional life.

Although the period of Lent appeals to the function of man as a whole in repentance, self-
examination, almsgiving, relationship with people with whom one is at odds, attitudes
toward life, the abstinence from foods plays a vital role in the life of the Christian. The
quantity and kinds of foods selected for this period of Lent help control carnal desires and
develop discipline and a pious life. Fasting from foods is not a virtuous activity in itself,
but a means for its achievement. But it has a distinct place in the life of the Christian,
especially during the Great Lent.


Sunday of the Tax Collector & The Pharisee (Luke 18: 10-14)
The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is the first Sunday of a three-week period
prior to the commencement of Great Lent. It marks the beginning of a time of preparation
for the spiritual journey of Lent, a time for Orthodox Christians to draw closer to God
through worship, prayer, fasting, and acts of charity. It is also on this day that the
Triodion is introduced, a liturgical book that contains the services from this Sunday, the
tenth before Pascha (Easter), to Great and Holy Saturday.

Arrogance is the perversion of the soul and spirit of man; it is the greatest weapon of the
evil one; it is the mother of hypocrisy; it is the obstacle of spiritual progress: it is the
degradation of civilization; it is the greatest enemy of man; it is the opposite of
repentance; it is the corruption of the conscience of man. This is why the Church
designated the first Sunday of preparation for acceptance of the Message of the
Resurrection of Christ, with the Parable of the Tax Collector and Pharisee being read. The
root of evil, arrogance, should be uprooted and replaced with the virtue of humbleness,
which is the teaching of this Parable. The highest degree of man's arrogance is when a
person speaks to God in prayers as did the Pharisee, who said, "God I thank thee", only
for the opportunity to enumerate his achievements publicly, comparing himself to others
who, according to him, were sinners, saying "I am not like other men, sinners, or even
like this tax collector". He extolled himself saying, "I fast, I give tithe", which he did. But
the more he boasted, the more he condemned himself through arrogance.

On the other hand, the tax collector confessed: "God be merciful to me a sinner". The
repentance of the tax collector is the basis of Christian life; it is the passage into the
Kingdom; it is the reestablishment of the image of God in the soul of His creature.

Humbleness is the queen of all virtues. Thus, the first phrase of the hymnology of the day
is: “Let us not pray pharisee-like. . . . Open to me the doors of repentance”. The
combination of almsgiving, prayer and piety, along with the intention of repentance like
that of the tax collector, is imperative in the life of a Christian. The attitude of the tax
collector made him a steward of divine gifts. Repentance and confession of faith is the
same two-sided coin.

The theme of this parable is repentance. Repentance is the door through which we enter
Lent, the starting-point of the journey to Pascha. To repent signifies far more than self-
pity or futile regret over things done in the past. The Greek term metanoia means “change
of mind.” To repent is to be renewed, to be transformed in our inward viewpoint, to attain
a fresh way of looking at our relationship with God and with others. The fault of the
Pharisee is that he has no desire to change his outlook; he is complacent, self-satisfied,
and so he allows no place for God to act within him. The Gospel depicts him as a man
that is pleased only with himself who thinks that he has complied with all of the
requirements of religion. But in his pride, he has falsified the meaning of true religion
and faith. He has reduced these to external observations, measuring his piety by the
amount of money he gives.

The Publican, on the other hand, truly longs for a “change of mind.” He humbles himself,
and his humility justifies him before God. He becomes, in the words of the Sermon on the
Mount (Matthew 5:3), “poor in spirit.” He acknowledges that he is a sinner, and he
knows that salvation is only found in the mercy of God. Here we find an example of true
humility, an essential aspect of repentance. A “change of mind” and the transformation of
our lives can only happen when we humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our
willingness to turn from sin, and receive His grace into our lives.

Our preparation for Lent thus begins with a prayer for humility, the beginning of true
repentance. Through repentance, we can find and return to the true order of things, a

restoration of our spiritual vision that will guide us in a very difficult and challenging
world. By entering Great Lent in humility and repentance, we can attain deeper
communion with God as we receive His forgiveness and He blesses by guiding us to
greater spiritual heights.

The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of
Saint John Chrysostom, which is preceded by the Matins service. A Great Vespers is
conducted on Saturday evening. The hymns of the Triodion for this day are added to the
usual prayers and hymns of the weekly commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ.
The naming of the Sunday is related to the reading of the story from the Gospel at the
Divine Liturgy.

The week that follows the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee is designated by the
Church as a non-fasting week. All foods are allowed on everyday of the week, including
Wednesday and Friday. This dispensation from fasting is offered as a way of indicating
that Great Lent and a more intense fasting period is approaching.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

The Sunday of the Prodigal Son is the second Sunday of a three-week period prior to the
commencement of Great Lent. On the previous Sunday, the services of the Church began
to include hymns from the Triodion, a liturgical book that contains the services from the
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the tenth before Pascha (Easter), through Great
and Holy Saturday. As with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the theme of
this Sunday is repentance, and the focus on the parable of the Prodigal Son leads
Orthodox Christians to contemplate the necessity of repentance in our relationship with
our Heavenly Father.

This Parable relates to man's prodigality with the divine gifts to man. It is the
consequence of arrogance. Prodigality is the unreckoning extravagance in sensuality. The
prodigal is one who cannot be saved, whose life is dissolute, who squandered his father's
property. Prodigality, then, is the second basic corruption toward which man is inclined.
This is why this Parable is known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the subject matter of
this week. Despite the characterization in this Parable, its main subject is the warm
parental love of the Father. The father's love was unbroken and firm for his prodigal son.
His love was shown more at the return of his son than in the beginning, despite the fact
that his son squandered his "properties". In the end, however, the son exchanged his
prodigality for repentance, and this is the crux of the parable. This moment changes the
prodigal son into the prudent son, expelling arrogance with repentance. While the son
was returning to his father, he kept rehearsing over and over again: "Father, I have sinned
against heaven and before you". But when the son saw his father's house from afar, his
father saw him, and ran to him and embraced him warmly. Thus, the son did not have the
opportunity to tell his father what he had been rehearsing. The son at the beginning said,
"give me", but in the end he asked, "make me", which is the depth of repentance and
obedience, the challenging factors of a Christian.

The parable of the Prodigal Son forms an exact icon of repentance at its different stages.
Sin is exile, enslavement to strangers, hunger. Repentance is the return from exile to our
true home; it is to receive back our inheritance and freedom in the Father’s house. But
repentance implies action: “I will rise up and go…” (v. 18). To repent is not just to feel
dissatisfied, but to make a decision and to act upon it.

In the words of our Lord, we also learn of three things through this parable: the condition
of the sinner, the rule of repentance, and the greatness of God’s compassion. The reading
of this parable follows the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee so that, seeing in the
person of the Prodigal Son our own sinful condition, we might come to our senses and
return to God through repentance. For those who have fallen into great despair over their

sins thinking that there is no forgiveness, this parable offers hope. The Heavenly Father is
patiently and lovingly waiting for our return. There is no sin that can overcome His love
for us.

Finally, this parable offers us insight into the world in which we live. It is a world where
the activities of people are disconnected and not ordered toward the fulfillment of God’s
divine purpose for life. It is a world of incoherent pursuits, of illusory strivings, of
craving for foods and drinks that do not satisfy, a world where nothing ultimately makes
sense, and a world engulfed in untruth, deceit and sin. It is the exact opposite of the world
as created by God and potentially recreated by his Son and Spirit. There is no cure for the
evils of our age unless we return to God. The world in which we live is not a normal
world, but a wasteland. This is why in the Slavic tradition of the Orthodox Church the
reading of Psalm 137 is added to the Matins service for this and the the following two
Sundays. This nostalgic lament of the Hebrew exiles states: "By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept as we remembered Zion. On the willows we hung our harps, for how
could we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land” (Psalm 137).

Here we can see the challenge of life in this world and the alienation from God that can
happen when sin reigns in our lives. As a result of sin in our lives, we lose the joy of
communion with God, we defile and lose our spiritual beauty, and we find ourselves far
away from our real home, our real life. In true repentance, we realize this, and we express
a deep desire to return, to recover what has been lost. On this day the Church reminds us
of what we have abandoned and lost, and beckons us to find the desire and power to
return. Our Heavenly Father is waiting and ready to receive us with His loving
forgiveness and His saving embrace.

For the week that follows the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, fasting is observed on
Wednesday and Friday. This is the last week that meat is allowed on non-fasting days.

The next Sunday is the Sunday of the Last Judgment, also known as Meatfare Sunday. It
is the last day that meat can be eaten prior to the fast of Great Lent.

Sunday of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

The Sunday of the Last Judgment is the third Sunday of a three-week period prior to the
commencement of Great Lent. During this time, the services of the Church have begun to
include hymns from the Triodion, a liturgical book that contains the services from the
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the tenth before Pascha (Easter), through Great
and Holy Saturday. On this day, focus is placed on the future judgment of all persons who
will stand before the throne of God when Christ returns in His glory.

On the past two Sundays of this pre-Lenten period, the focus was placed on God’s
patience and limitless compassion, of His readiness to accept every sinner who returns to
Him. On this third Sunday, we are powerfully reminded of a complementary truth: no one
is so patient and so merciful as God, but even He does not forgive those who do not
repent. The God of love is also a God of righteousness, and when Christ comes again in
glory, He will come as our Judge. Such is the message of Lent to each of us: turn back
while there is still time, repent before the End comes.

This Sunday sets before us the eschatological dimension of Lent: the Great Fast is a
preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior, for the eternal Passover in the Age to
Come, a theme that is also the focus of the first three days of Holy Week. But the
judgment is not only in the future. Here and now, each day and each hour, in hardening
our hearts toward others and in failing to respond to the opportunities we are given of
helping them, we are already passing judgment on ourselves.

Another theme of this Sunday is that of love. When Christ comes to judge us, what will
be the criterion of His judgment? The parable of the Last Judgment answers: love—not a
mere humanitarian concern for abstract justice and the anonymous “poor,” but concrete

and personal love for the human person—the specific persons that we encounter each day
in our lives.

Christian love is the “possible impossibility” to see Christ in another person, whoever he
or she is, and whom God, in His eternal and mysterious plan, has decided to introduce
into my life, be it only for a few moments, not as an occasion for a “good deed” or an
exercise in philanthropy, but as the beginning of an eternal companionship in God

The parable of the Last Judgment is about Christian love. Not all of us are called to work
for “humanity,” yet each one of us has received the gift and the grace of Christ’s love. We
know that all persons ultimately need this personal love—the recognition in them of their
unique soul in which the beauty of the whole creation is reflected in a unique way. We
also know that people are in prison and are sick and thirsty and hungry because that
personal love has been denied them. And, finally, we know that however narrow and
limited the framework of our personal existence, each one of us has been made
responsible for a tiny part of the Kingdom of God, made responsible by that very gift of
Christ’s love. Thus, on whether or not we have accepted this responsibility, on whether
we have loved or refused to love, shall we be judged.

It is a strong conviction and belief of the Church that Christ will come a second time into
the world, not to save the world, but in "glory" to judge the world. In as much as God
knew in advance the destiny of each man, why did He not prevent the non-believers and
wrong-doers from being born and being condemned everlastingly, someone might ask.
The fate of people is wrought on this earth, because after death, there is no opportunity
for repentance in order to better one's state. Man's finite mind cannot comprehend God's
love for his salvation and judgment for his condemnation. Yet, here is the center of the
belief that there is a Supreme Judge for those who committed iniquities and wrong-
doings without punishment or discovery while on earth. Approaching Lent and Easter, the

Christian is admonished to correct his faults by fasting, praying and almsgiving, as
recorded in the Gospel passage of the day. The Last Judgment will be made according to
the good works of each person as a result of his faith in and worship of God. These good
works are directed to the "least", those in need, as Christ Himself says, "as you did it not
to one of the least of these, you did it not to me", (v. 45).

The Sunday of the Last Judgment is also known as Meatfare Sunday. This is the last day
that meat can be eaten before the Lenten fast. Dairy products are allowed on each day of
this week, even Wednesday and Friday. The next Sunday is the Sunday of Cheesefare, It
is the last day that dairy products can be eaten prior to the commencement of Great Lent.
On the Saturday before this Sunday, the first of three Saturdays of the Souls are held.
This is a special commemoration on this and the next two Saturdays, when the Church
offers a Divine Liturgy and Memorial Service for the departed faithful. This is considered
a universal commemoration of the dead. It is closely related to the theme of the Sunday
of the Last Judgment since the services focus on the Second Coming of Christ and the
resurrection of the dead. Through the memorial services, the Church is commending to
God all who have departed and who are now awaiting the Last Judgment.

Sunday of Forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-21).

The Sunday of Forgiveness is the last Sunday prior to the commencement of Great Lent.
During the pre-Lenten period, the services of the Church include hymns from the
Triodion, a liturgical book that contains the services from the Sunday of the Publican and
the Pharisee, the tenth before Pascha (Easter), through Great and Holy Saturday. On the
Sunday of Forgiveness focus is placed on the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of
Eden, and event that shows us how far we have fallen in sin and separated ourselves from
God. At the onset of Great Lent and a period of intense fasting, this Sunday reminds us of
our need for God’s forgiveness and guides our hearts, minds, and spiritual efforts on
returning to Him in repentance.

The Sunday of Forgiveness has two themes: it commemorates Adam’s expulsion from
Paradise, and it accentuates our need for forgiveness. There are obvious reasons why
these two things should be brought to our attention as we stand on the threshold of Great
Lent. One of the primary images in the Triodion is that of the return to Paradise. Lent is a
time when we weep with Adam and Eve before the closed gate of Eden, repenting with
them for the sins that have deprived us of our free communion with God. But Lent is also
a time when we are preparing to celebrate the saving event of Christ’s death and rising,
which has reopened Paradise to us once more (Luke 23:43). So sorrow for our exile in sin
is tempered by hope of our re-entry into Paradise.

The second theme, that of forgiveness, is emphasized in the Gospel reading for this
Sunday (Matthew 6:14-21) and in the special ceremony of mutual forgiveness at the end
of the Vespers on Sunday evening. Before we enter the Lenten fast, we are reminded that
there can be no true fast, no genuine repentance, no reconciliation with God, unless we
are at the same time reconciled with one another. A fast without mutual love is the fast of
demons. We do not travel the road of Lent as isolated individuals but as members of a
family. Our asceticism and fasting should not separate us from others, but should link us
to them with ever-stronger bonds.

The Sunday of Forgiveness also directs us to see that Great Lent is a journey of liberation
from our enslavement to sin. The Gospel lesson sets the conditions for this liberation. The
first one is fasting—the refusal to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as
normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of the flesh and matter over the
spirit. To be effective, however, our fast must not be hypocritical, a “showing off.” We
must “appear not unto men to fast but to our Father who is in secret” (vv. 16-18).

The second condition is forgiveness—“If you forgive men their trespasses, your
Heavenly Father will also forgive you” (vv. 14-15). The triumph of sin, the main sign of

its rule over the world, is division, opposition, separation, hatred. Therefore, the first
break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness—the return to unity, solidarity, love. To
forgive is to put between me and my “enemy” the radiant forgiveness of God Himself. To
forgive is to reject the hopeless “dead-ends” of human relations and to refer them to
Christ. Forgiveness is truly a “breakthrough” of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen

The Sunday of Forgiveness is also known as Cheesefare Sunday. This is the last day that
dairy products can be eaten before the Lenten fast. The full fast begins the following day
on Clean Monday, the first day of Great Lent. Orthodox Christians are encouraged to
enter Great Lent in repentance and confession by attending these services, coming for the
Sacrament of Confession, and dedicating themselves to worship, prayer, and fasting
throughout the Lenten period. The first day of Lent, Clean Monday, signifies the
beginning of a period of cleansing and purification of sins through repentance.

On the Saturday before this Sunday, the second of three Saturdays of the Souls are held.
This is a special commemoration when the Church offers a Divine Liturgy and Memorial
Service for the departed faithful. This is considered a universal commemoration of the
dead. Through the memorial services, the Church is commending to God all who have
departed and who are now awaiting the Last Judgment. This specific Saturday is a
general commemoration of all the ascetic Saints of the Church, both men and women. As
we set out on the Lenten fast we are reminded that we will make this journey as members
of a family, supported by the intercessions of the Saints.


Great Lent is a period of time when the people are more conscious of their spiritual
character. The passages of the Gospels and the Epistles, the hymnology and prayers, the
spirit of the Church - all endeavor to help the Christian cleanse himself spiritually
through repentance. "Repent" is the first word Jesus Christ spoke in His proclamation to
the people, as the epitome of His Gospel. Repentance is the main motivation of the
Christian which acts to free him from sin. One's recognition of his sin, his contrition over
it and lastly his decision to make an about-face change of his attitude are the steps of
repentance. For one can learn to recognize iniquities from the Bible and the teachings of
the Church. During the period of Lent the Christian is called to self-examination and self-

control by the radiance of the Event of the Resurrection of Christ. This is why the Church
designated such a period of time be observed before this great feast day.

Fasting in its religious setting is abstinence from food, always in relation to a religious
event or feast. Fasting in itself has no meaning in the Christian Church, but has a role the
attainment of Christian virtues. It is not to be accepted as a mere custom without a
spiritual purpose. Fasting is understood as a means of temperance and sobriety, especially
in relation to prayer, devotion and purity. It is also understood to be related to giving alms
to the poor. The roots of fasting in the Christian Church are to be found in the Old
Testament and the Jewish religion, both for certain days and certain foods. As a general
rule, fasting precedes a religious feast. Many verses in the Old Testament refer to this:

"Thus says the Lord of Hosts: the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the
fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy
and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore, love, truth and peace", Zechariah 8:18-19.

In continuation of the practice of fasting, the Christian Church determined the period of
Lent to depend upon the great Feast of Easter, as set forth by the First Ecumenical Synod
in 325. The Church determined the day on which the Resurrection of Christ would be
celebrated, according to the conditions that existed at the time of this Event. Thus, the
Synod set forth that the great Feast of Easter would be celebrated on: the first Sunday,
after the full moon, after the Spring Equinox (March 21), and always after the Jewish
Passover. Thus, this great Feast is a moveable date in the calendar. Therefore, Great Lent,
which depends upon the date of Easter, also is moveable, each year being celebrated on a
different date, (Sunday), depending on the above conditions.

The four weeks which precede Great Lent are considered preparatory, a forerunner to


Sunday of the Tax Collector and Pharisee (from the Parable),

Sunday of the Prodigal Son (from the Parable),
Sunday of the Final Judgment),
Sunday of Forgiveness


First Sunday (Sunday of Orthodoxy),

Second Sunday (St. Gregory Palamas),
Third Sunday (Adoration of Cross),
Fourth Sunday (St. John of Climacus),
Fifth Sunday (St. Mary of Egypt),
Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

Great Lent before Easter is when the Christian participates fully in preparing himself to
praise and glorify his God as Lord and Savior. Great Lent is like a "workshop" where the
character of the faithful is spiritually uplifted and strengthened; where his life is
rededicated to the principles and ideals of the Gospel; where the faith culminates in deep
conviction of life; where apathy and disinterest turn into vigorous activities of faith and
good works. Lent is not for the sake of Lent itself, as fasting is not for the sake of fasting.
But they are means by which and for which the individual believer prepares himself to
reach for, accept and attain the calling of his Savior. Great Lent is the sacred Institute of
the Church to serve the individual believer in participating as a member of the Mystical
Body of Christ, and, from time to time, to improve the standards of faith and morals in
his Christian life. The deep intent of the believer during the Great Lent is "forgetting what
lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the
prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus", Philippians 3:13-14


First Sunday Of Lent – The Sunday of Orthodoxy

(John 1:43-52).

The Sunday of Orthodoxy is the first Sunday of Great Lent. The dominant theme of this
Sunday since 843 has been that of the victory of the icons. In that year the iconoclastic
controversy, which had raged on and off since 726, was finally laid to rest, and icons and
their veneration were restored on the first Sunday in Lent. Ever since, this Sunday has
been commemorated as the "Triumph of Orthodoxy."

The Seventh Ecumenical Council dealt predominantly with the controversy regarding
icons and their place in Orthodox worship. It was convened in Nicaea in 787 by Empress
Irene at the request of Tarasios, Patriarch of Constantinople. The Council was attended by
367 bishops.

Almost a century before this, the iconoclastic controversy had once more shaken the
foundations of both Church and State in the Byzantine empire. Excessive religious
respect and the ascribed miracles to icons by some members of society, approached the
point of worship (due only to God) and idolatry. This instigated excesses at the other
extreme by which icons were completely taken out of the liturgical life of the Church by
the Iconoclasts. The Iconophiles, on the other-hand, believed that icons served to preserve
the doctrinal teachings of the Church; they considered icons to be man's dynamic way of
expressing the divine through art and beauty.

The Council decided on a doctrine by which icons should be venerated but not
worshipped. In answering the Empress' invitation to the Council, Pope Hadrian replied
with a letter in which he also held the position of extending veneration to icons but not
worship, the last befitting only God.

The decree of the Council for restoring icons to churches added an important clause
which still stands at the foundation of the rationale for using and venerating icons in the
Orthodox Church to this very day: "We define that the holy icons, whether in colour,
mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the

sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along
the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, that of our Lady
the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever
these representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to
commemorate and love their prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that
they are an object of veneration and honour (timitiki proskynisis), but not of real worship
(latreia), which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our faith and is proper for the
divine nature. The veneration accorded to an icon is in effect transmitted to the prototype;
he who venerates the icon, venerated in it the reality for which it stands".

An Endemousa (Regional) Synod was called in Constantinople in 843. Under Empress

Theodora. The veneration of icons was solemnly proclaimed at the Hagia Sophia
Cathedral. The Empress, her son Michael III, Patriarch Methodios, and monks and clergy
came in procession and restored the icons in their rightful place. The day was called
"Triumph of Orthodoxy." Since that time, this event is commemorated yearly with a
special service on the first Sunday of Lent, the "Sunday of Orthodoxy".

Orthodox teaching about icons, as defined at the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787, is
embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.
From the Vesper Service:
“Inspired by your Spirit, Lord, the prophets foretold your birth as a child incarnate of the
Virgin. Nothing can contain or hold you; before the morning star you shone forth
eternally from the spiritual womb of the Father. Yet you were to become like us and be
seen by those on earth. At the prayers of those your prophets in your mercy reckon us fit
to see your light, "for we praise your resurrection, holy and beyond speech. Infinite, Lord,
as divine, in the last times you willed to become incarnate and so finite; for when you
took on flesh you made all its properties your own. So we depict the form of your outward
appearance and pay it relative respect, and so are moved to love you; and through it we
receive the grace of healing, following the divine traditions of the apostles.”

“The grace of truth has shone out, the things once foreshadowed now are revealed in
perfection. See, the Church is decked with the embodied image of Christ, as with beauty
not of this world, fulfilling the tent of witness, holding fast the Orthodox faith. For if we
cling to the icon of him whom we worship, we shall not go astray. May those who do not
so believe be covered with shame. For the image of him who became human is our glory:
we venerate it, but do not worship it as God. Kissing it, we who believe cry out: O God,
save your people, and bless your heritage.”

“We have moved forward from unbelief to true faith, and have been enlightened by the
light of knowledge. Let us then clap our hands like the psalmist, and offer praise and
thanksgiving to God. And let us honor and venerate the holy icons of Christ, of his most
pure Mother, and of all the saints, depicted on walls, panels and sacred vessels, setting
aside the unbelievers' ungodly teaching. For the veneration given to the icon passes over,
as Basil says, to its prototype. At the intercession of your spotless Mother, O Christ, and
of all the saints, we pray you to grant us your great mercy. We venerate your icon, good
Lord, asking forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God. For you freely willed in the flesh
to ascend the cross, to rescue from slavery to the enemy those whom you had formed. So
we cry to you with thanksgiving: You have filled all things with joy, our Savior, by coming
to save the world.”

The name of this Sunday reflects the great significance which icons possess for the
Orthodox Church. They are not optional devotional extras, but an integral part of
Orthodox faith and devotion. They are held to be a necessary consequence of Christian
faith in the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Jesus
Christ. They have a sacramental character, making present to the believer the person or
event depicted on them. So the interior of Orthodox churches is often covered with icons
painted on walls and domed roofs, and there is always an icon screen, or iconostasis,

separating the sanctuary from the nave, often with several rows of icons. No Orthodox
home is complete without an icon corner, where the family prays.

Icons are venerated by burning lamps and candles in front of them, by the use of incense
and by kissing. But there is a clear doctrinal distinction between the veneration paid to
icons and the worship due to God. The former is not only relative, it is in fact paid to the
person represented by the icon. This distinction safeguards the veneration of icons from
any charge of idolatry.

The theme of the victory of the icons, by its emphasis on the incarnation, points us to the
basic Christian truth that the one whose death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter was
none other than the Word of God who became human in Jesus Christ.

The Sunday of Orthodoxy is commemorated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the
Great, which is preceded by the Matins service. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, a
service is conducted in commemoration of the affirmations of the Seventh Ecumenical
Council in 787 and the restoration of the use of icons in 843. Orthodox faithful carry
icons in a procession, while the clergy offer petitions for the people, civil authorities, and
those who have reposed in the faith. Following is a reading of excerpts from the
Affirmation of Faith of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and the singing of hymns.

On the Saturday before this Sunday, the third of three Saturdays of the Souls are held.
This is a special commemoration when the Church offers a Divine Liturgy and Memorial
Service for the departed faithful. This is considered a universal commemoration of the
dead. Through the memorial services, the Church is commending to God all who have
departed and who are now awaiting the Last Judgment.

Second Sunday of Lent – Saint Gregory Palamas (Mark 2:1-12).
On the Second Sunday of Lent the Orthodox Church commemorates our Holy Father
Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, the Wonderworker. The feast day of Saint
Gregory Palamas is November 14, however, he is commemorated on this Sunday as the
condemnation of his enemies and the vindication of his teachings by the Church in the
14th century was acclaimed as a second triumph of Orthodoxy.

The Church dedicates this Sunday to St. Gregory for his orthodox faith, theological
knowledge, virtuous life, miracles and his efforts to clarify the orthodox teaching on the
subject of Hesychasm (from the Greek, meaning quiet.) Hesychasm was a system of
mysticism propagated on Mt. Athos by 14th century monks who believed that man was
able, through an elaborate system of ascetic practices based upon perfect quiet of body
and mind, to arrive at the vision of the divine light, with the real distinction between the
essence and the operations of God. Gregory became noted for his efforts to explain the
difference between the correct teaching and this theory. With St. Gregory’s theology a
holistic view of man and a dynamic conception of faith, are intimately bound up in a
spirituality of sanctification and transfiguration that is in line with the patristic tradition in
which the saint lived and thought. Saint Gregory was dedicated to an ascetic life of prayer
and fasting, which are practices of Lent.

Third Sunday of Lent – Veneration of the Cross

(Mark 8:34-38; 9:1).
On the Third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, the Orthodox Church commemorates the
Precious and Life-Giving Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Services include a

special veneration of the Cross, which prepares the faithful for the commemoration of the
Crucifixion during Holy Week.

This Sunday’s services include a special veneration of the Cross, which intends to prepare
the faithful for the commemoration of the Crucifixion during Holy Week. Like those who
walk on a long and hard way and are bowed down by fatigue and find great relief as well
as strength under the cool shade of a leafy tree, so do the faithful find comfort,
refreshment, and rejuvenation under the Life-giving Cross, which our Fathers “planted”
on this Sunday. In order to fortify and better enable us all to continue our Lenten journey
with a light step, rested and encouraged the Church lifts up the Life-giving Cross of our
Lord and Savior. As was once the custom, before a king makes his triumphant entrance
he was always proceeded by emblems of victory filling those were under him with joy, so
too does the Feast of the Cross precede the coming of our King, Jesus Christ. It warns us
that He is about to proclaim His victory over death and appear to us in the glory of the
Resurrection. His Life-Giving Cross is His royal scepter, and by venerating it we are
filled with joy, rendering Him glory. Therefore, we become ready to welcome our King,
who shall manifestly triumph over the powers of darkness. The present feast has been
placed in the middle of Great Lent for another reason. The Fast can be likened to the
spring of Marah whose waters the children of Israel encountered in the wilderness. This
water was undrinkable due to its bitterness but became sweet when the Holy Prophet
Moses dipped the wood into its depth. Likewise, the wood of the Cross sweetens the days
of the Fast, which are bitter and often grievous because of our tears. Yet Christ comforts
us during our course through the desert of the Fast, guiding and leading us by His hand to
the spiritual Jerusalem on high by the power of His Resurrection. Only by embracing the
Holy Cross can we inherit life eternal.

The Cross as such takes on meaning and adoration because of the Crucifixion of Christ
upon it. Therefore, whether it be in hymns or prayers, it is understood that the Cross
without Christ has no meaning or place in Christianity. The adoration of the Cross in the

middle of Great Lent is to remind the faithful in advance of the Crucifixion of Christ.
Therefore, the passages from the Bible and the hymnology refer to the Passions, the
sufferings, of Jesus Christ: The passages read this day repeat the calling of the Christian
by Christ to dedicate his life, for "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me (Christ)" (v. 34-35). This verse clearly indicates the
kind of dedication which is needed by the Christian in three steps:

 To renounce his arrogance and disobedience to God's Plan,

 To lift up his personal cross (the difficulties of life) with patience, faith and the
full acceptance of the Will of God without complaint that the burden is too heavy;
having denied himself and lifted up his cross leads him to the,
 Decision to follow Christ.

These three voluntary steps are three links which cannot be separated from each other,
because the main power to accomplish them is the Grace of God, which man always
invokes. The Adoration of the Cross is expressed by the faithful through prayer, fasting,
almsgiving and the forgiveness of the trespasses of others.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, a special service is held. The Cross is placed on a
tray surrounded by basil or daffodils and is taken in solemn procession through the
church to the chanting of the Thrice Holy Hymn. The tray is placed on a table before the
people, and the hymn of the Feast of the Cross is chanted. As the priest venerates the
Cross, the priest then the people chant, “We venerate Your Cross, O Christ, and Your holy
Resurrection we glorify.” At the conclusion of the service, the people come and venerate
the cross and receive the flowers or basil from the priest.

Fourth Sunday of Lent - Saint John Climacus (Mark 9:17-31).

On the Fourth Sunday of Holy Lent the Orthodox Church commemorates our Righteous
Father John Climacus. Saint John was an ascetic and writer on the spiritual life as a
monk-abbot of Sinai Monastery. He is called Climacus (which is a derivative of the
Greek word to climb) due to his authorship of the renowned spiritual work entitled: The
Ladder of Divine Ascent. This famous book contains 30 chapters, with each chapter as a
step leading up to a faithful and pious life as the climax of a Christian life. Along with an
examination of monastic virtues and vices, the spirit of repentance and devotion to Christ
dominates the essence of this most treasured text. The steps of the ladder as set forth by
St. John aptly describe some of the beautiful practices to be embraced by all Christians
especially during this period of the Great Lent, with each step leading a person closer to
God, that in turn gives meaning of a Christian way of life. Ultimately, the Church
designates his commemoration on Fourth Sunday of Lent because his life and writings
affirm him as a supreme bearer and proponent of Christian asceticism and the ascetic
example of this great Saint of the Church is meant to inspire all people in the midst of
their Lenten journey.

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Saint Mary of Egypt (Mark 10:32-45).

On the Fifth Sunday of Lent the Orthodox Church commemorates our Righteous Mother
Mary of Egypt. She is commemorated on this Sunday due to her recognition by the
Church as a model of repentance.

St. Mary of Egypt initially lived a sinful life for many years, but was then converted to
the Christian way of life and changed dramatically. Upon her conversion, she went into
the wilderness to live an ascetic life for many years, praying and fasting in repentance of
her previous sinful life, and dying there. St. Mary's life exemplifies her conviction about
Christ, which motivated the changing of her life from sin to holiness through repentance.
Her understanding of repentance involved not a mere change from small things in her

life, but an extreme change of her entire attitude and thoughts. The Church
commemorates St. Mary for her recognition of her own sins as an example of how one
can free oneself from the slavery and burden of wrongdoings. This recognition of sin is
imperative during Lent for the faithful as a means of self-examination and preparation for
a more virtuous life in anticipation of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Christ.

Saturday of Lazarus
On the Saturday before Holy Week, the Orthodox Church commemorates a major feast of
the year, the miracle of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when he raised Lazarus from the
dead after he had lain in the grave four days. Here, at the end of Great Lent and the forty
days of fasting and penitence, the Church combines this celebration with that of Palm
Sunday. In triumph and joy the Church bears witness to the power of Christ over death
and exalts Him as King before entering the most solemn week of the year, one that leads
the faithful in remembrance of His suffering and death and concludes with the great and
glorious Feast of Pascha.

The miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead is performed by Christ as a reassurance
to His disciples before the coming Passion: they are to understand that, though He suffers
and dies, yet He is Lord and Victor over death. The resurrection of Lazarus is a prophecy
in the form of an action. It foreshadows Christ’s own Resurrection eight days later, and at
the same time it anticipates the resurrection of all the righteous on the Last Day: Lazarus
is “the saving first-fruits of the regeneration of the world.”

As the liturgical texts emphasize, the miracle at Bethany reveals the two natures of Christ
the God-man. Christ asks where Lazarus is laid and weeps for him, and so He shows the
fullness of His manhood, involving as it does human ignorance and genuine grief for a

beloved friend. Then, disclosing the fullness of His divine power, Christ raises Lazarus
from the dead, even though his corpse has already begun to decompose and stink. This
double fullness of the Lord’s divinity and His humanity is to be kept in view throughout
Holy Week, and above all on Good Friday. On the Cross we see a genuine human agony,
both physical and mental, but we see more than this: we see not only suffering man but
suffering God.

Palm Sunday (John 12:12-18)

On the Sunday before the Feast of Great and Holy Pascha and at the beginning of Holy
Week, the Orthodox Church celebrates one of its most joyous feasts of the year. Palm
Sunday is the commemoration of the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem following His
glorious miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. Having anticipated His arrival and
having heard of the miracle, the people when out to meet the Lord and welcomed Him
with displays of honor and shouts of praise. On this day, we receive and worship Christ in
this same manner, acknowledging Him as our King and Lord.

The biblical story of Palm Sunday is recorded in all four of the Gospels (Matthew
21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; and John 12:12-18). Five days before the
Passover, Jesus came from Bethany to Jerusalem. Having sent two of His disciples to
bring Him a colt of a donkey, Jesus sat upon it and entered the city.

People had gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover and were looking for Jesus, both
because of His great works and teaching and because they had heard of the miracle of the
resurrection of Lazarus. When they heard that Christ was entering the city, they went out
to meet Him with palm branches, laying their garments on the ground before Him, and

shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of

At the outset of His public ministry Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God and announced
that the powers of the age to come were already active in the present age (Luke 7:18-22).
His words and mighty works were performed "to produce repentance as the response to
His call, a call to an inward change of mind and heart which would result in concrete
changes in one's life, a call to follow Him and accept His messianic destiny. The
triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is a messianic event, through which His divine
authority was declared.

Palm Sunday summons us to behold our king: the Word of God made flesh. We are called
to behold Him not simply as the One who came to us once riding on a colt, but as the One
who is always present in His Church, coming ceaselessly to us in power and glory at
every Eucharist, in every prayer and sacrament, and in every act of love, kindness and
mercy. He comes to free us from all our fears and insecurities, "to take solemn possession
of our soul, and to be enthroned in our heart," as someone has said. He comes not only to
deliver us from our deaths by His death and Resurrection, but also to make us capable of
attaining the most perfect fellowship or union with Him. He is the King, who liberates us
from the darkness of sin and the bondage of death. Palm Sunday summons us to behold
our King: the vanquisher of death and the giver of life.

Palm Sunday summons us to accept both the rule and the kingdom of God as the goal and
content of our Christian life. We draw our identity from Christ and His kingdom. The
kingdom is Christ - His indescribable power, boundless mercy and incomprehensible
abundance given freely to man. The kingdom does not lie at some point or place in the
distant future. In the words of the Scripture, the kingdom of God is not only at hand
(Matthew 3:2; 4:17), it is within us (Luke 17:21). The kingdom is a present reality as well

as a future realization (Matthew 6:10). Theophan the Recluse wrote the following words
about the inward rule of Christ the King:
“The Kingdom of God is within us when God reigns in us, when the soul in its depths
confesses God as its Master, and is obedient to Him in all its powers. Then God acts
within it as master ‘both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13). This
reign begins as soon as we resolve to serve God in our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of
the Holy Spirit. Then the Christian hands over to God his consciousness and freedom,
which comprises the essential substance of our human life, and God accepts the sacrifice;
and in this way the alliance of man with God and God with man is achieved, and the
covenant with God, which was severed by the Fall and continues to be severed by our
willful sins, is re-established.”

The kingdom of God is the life of the Holy Trinity in the world. It is the kingdom of
holiness, goodness, truth, beauty, love, peace and joy. These qualities are not works of the
human spirit. They proceed from the life of God and reveal God. Christ Himself is the
kingdom. He is the God-Man, Who brought God down to earth (John 1:1,14). “He was in
the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came
to His own home, and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11). He was reviled
and hated.

Palm Sunday summons us to behold our king - the Suffering Servant. We cannot
understand Jesus' kingship apart from the Passion. Filled with infinite love for the Father
and the Holy Spirit, and for creation, in His inexpressible humility Jesus accepted the
infinite abasement of the Cross. He bore our grief and carried our sorrows; He was
wounded for our transgressions and made Himself an offering for sin (Isaiah 53). His
glorification, which was accomplished by the resurrection and the ascension, was
achieved through the Cross.

In the fleeting moments of exuberance that marked Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem,
the world received its King, the king who was on His way to death. His Passion,
however, was no morbid desire for martyrdom. Jesus' purpose was to accomplish the
mission for which the Father sent Him.

“The Son and Word of the Father, like Him without beginning and eternal, has come
today to the city of Jerusalem, seated on a dumb beast, on a foal. From fear the cherubim
dare not gaze upon Him; yet the children honor Him with palms and branches, and
mystically they sing a hymn of praise: ‘Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to the Son of
David, who has come to save from error all mankind.’”
(A hymn of the Light.)

“With our souls cleansed and in spirit carrying branches, with faith let us sing Christ's
praises like the children, crying with a loud voice to the Master: Blessed art Thou, O
Savior, who hast come into the world to save Adam from the ancient curse; and in Thy
love for mankind Thou hast been pleased to become spiritually the new Adam. O Word,
who hast ordered all things for our good, glory to Thee.”
(A hymn of the Matins)

Holy Week

The period of Great Lent includes the days of Holy Week. This is the time when
Christians who went through the whole period of Lent in prayer and fasting approach the

Feast of Feasts to celebrate the Passions of Christ and His Resurrection. During the entire
Lent the faithful try to practice and live the ideals and standards of this period in the light
of Easter. This is why the Hymnology of the entire period of Lent, especially during Holy
Week, refers to the Resurrection of Christ as the center of the Christian Faith. Each day of
Holy Week is dedicated to the Events and teachings of Christ during His last week on
earth. The faithful who participate in the services of this week are more conscious of their
duties to themselves and to their neighbors through fasting, praying, giving alms,
forgiving the trespasses of others; in other words, participating, day by day, in the spirit
of the Gospel of Christ.

Palm Sunday Evening through Holy Wednesday

Beginning on the evening of Palm Sunday and continuing through the evening of Holy
Tuesday, the Orthodox Church observes a special service known as the Service of the
Bridgegroom. Each evening service is the Matins or Orthros service of the following day
(e.g. the service held on Sunday evening is the Matins / Orthros service for Holy
Monday). The name of the service is from the figure of the Bridegroom in the parable of
the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13.

Beginning on the evening of Palm Sunday and continuing through the evening of Holy
Tuesday, the Orthodox Church observes a special service known as the Service of the
Bridgegroom. Each evening service is the Matins service of the following day (e.g. the
service held on Sunday evening is the Matins service for Holy Monday). The name of the
service is from the figure of the Bridegroom in the parable of the Ten Virgins found in
Matthew 25:1-13.

The first part of Holy Week presents us with an array of themes based chiefly on the last
days of Jesus' earthly life. The story of the Passion, as told and recorded by the
Evangelists, is preceded by a series of incidents located in Jerusalem and a collection of
parables, sayings and discourses centered on Jesus' Divine Sonship, the kingdom of God
the Second Coming (the Parousia), and Jesus' castigation of the hypocrisy and dark
motives of the religious leaders. The observances of the first three days of Great Week are
rooted in these incidents and sayings. The three days constitute a single liturgical unit.
They have the same cycle and system of daily prayer. The Scripture lessons, hymns,
commemorations, and ceremonials that make up the festal elements in the respective
services of the cycle highlight significant aspects of salvation history, by calling to mind
the events that anticipated the Passion and by proclaiming the inevitability and
significance of the Second Coming (the Parousia).

The Matins of each of these days is called the Service of the Bridegroom. The name
comes from the central figure in the well-known parable of the ten virgins (Matthew
25:1-13). The title Bridegroom suggests the intimacy of love. It is not without
significance that the kingdom of God is compared to a bridal feast and a bridal chamber.
The Christ of the Passion is the divine Bridegroom of the Church. The imagery connotes
the final union of the Lover and the beloved. The title Bridegroom also suggests the
Second Coming (the Parousia). In the patristic tradition, the aforementioned parable is
related to the Second Coming; and is associated with the need for spiritual vigilance and
preparedness, by which we are enabled to keep the divine commandments and receive the
blessings of the age to come. The hymn of the feast, "Behold the Bridegroom comes in
the middle of the night…", which is sung at the beginning of the Matins of Great
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, relates the worshiping community to that essential
expectation: watching and waiting for the Lord, who will come again to judge the living
and the dead.

Holy Monday

On Holy Monday we commemorate Joseph the Patriarch, the beloved son of Jacob. A
major figure of the Old Testament, Joseph's story is told in the final section of the Book
of Genesis (chs. 37-50). Because of his exceptional qualities and remarkable life, our
patristic and liturgical tradition portrays Joseph as “tipos Christou”, i.e., as a prototype,
pre-figurement or image of Christ. The story of Joseph illustrates the mystery of God's
providence, promise and redemption. Innocent, chaste and righteous, his life bears
witness to the power of God's love and promise. The lesson to be learned from Joseph's
life, as it bears upon the ultimate redemption wrought by the death and resurrection of
Christ, is summed up in the words he addressed to his brothers who had previously
betrayed him, “’Fear not ... As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for
good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not
fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he reassured them and comforted
them” (Genesis 50:19-21). The commemoration of the noble, blessed and saintly Joseph
reminds us that in the great events of the Old Testament, the Church recognizes the
realities of the New Testament.

Also, on Great and Holy Monday the Church commemorates the event of the cursing of
the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-20). In the Gospel narrative this event is said to have
occurred on the morrow of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:18 and
Mark 11:12). For this reason it found its way into the liturgy of Great Monday. The
episode is also quite relevant to Great Week. Together with the event of the cleansing of
the Temple this episode is another manifestation of Jesus' divine power and authority and
a revelation as well of God's judgment upon the faithlessness of the Jewish religious
classes. The fig tree is symbolic of Israel become barren by her failure to recognize and

receive Christ and His teachings. The cursing of the fig tree is a parable in action, a
symbolic gesture. Its meaning should not be lost on any one in any generation. Christ's
judgment on the faithless, unbelieving, unrepentant and unloving will be certain and
decisive on the Last Day. This episode makes it clear that nominal Christianity is not only
inadequate, it is also despicable and unworthy of God's kingdom. Genuine Christian faith
is dynamic and fruitful. It permeates one's whole being and causes a change. Living, true
and unadulterated faith makes the Christian conscious of the fact that he is already a
citizen of heaven. Therefore, his way of thinking, feeling, acting and being must reflect
this reality. Those who belong to Christ ought to live and walk in the Spirit; and the Spirit
will bear fruit in them: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-25).

Holy Tuesday

On Holy Tuesday the Church calls to remembrance two parables, which are related to the
Second Coming. The one is the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-3); the other
the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). These parables point to the inevitability of
the Second Coming (the Parousia) and deal with such subjects as spiritual vigilance,
stewardship, accountability and judgment.

From these parables we learn at least two basic things. First, Judgment Day will be like
the situation in which the bridesmaids (or virgins) of the parable found themselves: some
ready for it, some not ready. The time one decides for God is now and not at some
undefined point in the future. If "time and tide waits for no man," certainly the Parousia is

no exception. The tragedy of the closed door is that individuals close it, not God. The
exclusion from the marriage feast, the kingdom, is of our own making. Second, we are
reminded that watchfulness and readiness do not mean a wearisome, spiritless
performance of formal and empty obligations. Most certainly it does not mean inactivity
and slothfulness. Watchfulness signifies inner stability, soberness, tranquility and joy. It
means spiritual alertness, attentiveness and vigilance. Watchfulness is the deep personal
resolve to find and do the will of God, embrace every commandment and every virtue,
and guard the intellect and heart from evil thoughts and actions. Watchfulness is the
intense love of God.

Holy Wednesday

On Holy Wednesday the Church invites the faithful to focus their attention on two
figures: the sinful woman who anointed the head of Jesus shortly before the passion
(Matthew 26:6-13), and Judas, the disciple who betrayed the Lord. The former
acknowledged Jesus as Lord, while the latter severed himself from the Master. The one
was set free, while the other became a slave. The one inherited the kingdom, while the
other fell into perdition. These two people bring before us concerns and issues related to
freedom, sin, hell and repentance.

The repentance of the sinful harlot is contrasted with the tragic fall of the chosen disciple.
The Triodion, (the prescribed hymns of the season), make is clear that Judas perished, not
simply because he betrayed his Master, but because, having fallen into the sin of betrayal,
he then refused to believe in the possibility of forgiveness. If we deplore the actions of
Judas, we do so not with vindictive self-righteousness but conscious always of our own
guilt. In general, all the passages in the Triodion (the prescribed hymns of the season),

that seem to be directed against the Jews should be understood in this same way. When
the hymns denounce those who rejected Christ and delivered Him to death, we recognize
that these words apply not only to others, but to ourselves: for have we not betrayed the
Savior many times in our hearts and crucified Him anew?

“I have transgressed more than the harlot, O loving Lord, yet never have I offered You my
flowing tears. But in silence I fall down before You and with love I kiss Your most pure
feet, beseeching You as Master to grant me remission of sins; and I cry to You, O Savior:
Deliver me from the filth of my works. While the sinful woman brought oil of myrrh, the
disciple came to an agreement with the transgressors. She rejoiced to pour out what was
very precious, he made haste to sell the One who is above all price. She acknowledged
Christ as Lord, he severed himself from the Master. She was set free, but Judas became
the slave of the enemy. Grievous was his lack of love. Great was her repentance. Grant
such repentance also unto me, O Savior who has suffered for our sake, and save
us.” (Hymn of Holy Wednesday)

On the afternoon or evening of Great and Holy Wednesday, the Sacrament or Mystery of
Holy Unction is conducted in Orthodox parishes. The Sacrament of Holy Unction is
offered for the healing of soul and body and for forgiveness of sins. At the conclusion of
the service of the Sacrament, the body is anointed with oil, and the grace of God, which
heals infirmities of soul and body, is called down upon each person. The Sacrament is
performed by a gathering of priests, ideally seven in number, however, it can be
performed by a lesser number and even by a single priest.

Holy Unction….
When one is ill and in pain, this can very often be a time of life when one feels alone and
isolated. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Holy Unction as it is also known,
reminds us that when we are ion pain, either physical, emotional, or spiritual, Christ is

present with us through the ministry of His Church. He is among us to offer strength to
meet the challenges of life, and even the approach of death.

As with Chrismation, oil is also used in this Sacrament as a sign of God's presence,
strength, and forgiveness. After the reading of seven Epistle lessons, seven Gospel
lessons and the offering of seven prayers, which are all devoted to healing, the priest
anoints the body with the Holy Oil. Orthodoxy does not view this Sacrament as available
only to those who are near death. It is offered to all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit.
Christ came to the world to “bear our infirmities.” One of the signs of His Divine
Messiahship was to heal the sick. The power of healing remains in the Church since
Christ himself remains in the Church through the Holy Spirit.

The Sacrament of the Unction of the sick is the Church's specific prayer for healing. If
the faith of the believers is strong enough, and if it is the will of God, there is every
reason to believe that the Lord can heal those who are diseased.

The biblical basis for the Sacrament is found in James 5:14-16:

Is any among you sick, let him call for the presbyters of the church, and let them pray
over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save
the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be
forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you
may be healed.

In ancient Christian literature one may find indirect testimonies of the Mystery of
Unction in Saint Irenaeus of Lyons and in Origen. Later there are clear testimonies of it in
Saints Basil the Great and John Chrysostom, who have left prayers for the healing of the
infirm which entered later into the rite of Unction; and likewise in Saint Cyril of
Alexandria. In the fifth century, Pope Innocent I answered a series of questions
concerning the Mystery of Unction, indicating in his answers that a) it should be

performed "upon believers who are sick"; b) it may be performed also by a bishop, since
one should not see in the words of the Apostle, let him call for the presbyters, any
prohibition for a bishop to participate in the sacred action; c) this anointment may not be
performed "on those undergoing ecclesiastical penance,' because it is a "Mystery,' and to
those who are forbidden the other Mysteries, how can one allow only one?

The express purpose of the Sacrament of Holy Unction is healing and forgiveness. Since
it is not always the will of God that there should be physical healing, the prayer of Christ
that God's will be done always remains as the proper context of the Sacrament. In
addition, it is the clear intention of the Sacrament that through the anointing of the sick
body the sufferings of the person should be sanctified and united to the sufferings of
Christ. In this way, the wounds of the flesh are consecrated, and strength is given that the
suffering of the diseased person may not be unto the death of his soul, but for eternal
salvation in the resurrection and life of the Kingdom of God.

It is indeed the case that death inevitably comes. All must die, even those who in this life
are given a reprieve through healing in order to have more time on the earth. Thus, the
healing of the sick is not itself a final goal, but is merely "instrumental" in that it is given
by God as a sign of his mercy and as a grace for the further opportunity of man to live for
him and for others in the life of this world.

In the case where a person is obviously in the final moments of his earthly life, the
Church has special prayers for the "separation of soul and body." Thus, it is clear that the
Sacrament of Holy Unction is for the sick-both the physically and mentally sick-and is
not reserved for the moment of death. The Sacrament of Unction is not the "last rites" as
is sometimes thought; the ritual of the anointing itself in no way indicates that it should
be administered merely in "extreme" cases. Holy Unction is the Sacrament of the
spiritual, physical, and mental healing of a sick person whatever the nature or the gravity
of the illness may be.

Holy Thursday

On Thursday of Holy Week four events are commemorated: the washing of the disciples’
feet, the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony
in the garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas.

Commemorations of Holy Thursday - The Institution of the Eucharist…

At the Mystical Supper in the Upper Room Jesus gave a radically new meaning to the
food and drink of the sacred meal. He identified Himself with the bread and wine: "Take,
eat; this is my Body. Drink of it all of you; for this is my Blood of the New
Covenant" (Matthew 26:26-28).

We have learned to equate food with life because it sustains our earthly existence. In the
Eucharist the distinctively unique human food - bread and wine - becomes our gift of life.
Consecrated and sanctified, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.
This change is not physical but mystical and sacramental. While the qualities of the bread
and wine remain, we partake of the true Body and Blood of Christ. In the Eucharistic
meal God enters into such a communion of life that He feeds humanity with His own
being, while still remaining distinct. In the words of St. Maximos the Confessor, Christ,
"transmits to us divine life, making Himself eatable." The Author of life shatters the
limitations of our createdness. Christ acts so that "we might become sharers of divine
nature" (2 Peter 1:4).

The Eucharist is at the center of the Church's life. It is her most profound prayer and
principal activity. It is at one and the same time both the source and the summit of her

life. In the Eucharist the Church manifests her true nature and is continuously changed
from a human community into the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and the
People of God. The Eucharist is the pre-eminent sacrament. It completes all the others
and recapitulates the entire economy of salvation. Our new life in Christ is constantly
renewed and increased by the Eucharist. The Eucharist imparts life and the life it gives is
the life of God.

In the Eucharist the Church remembers and enacts sacramentally the redemptive event of
the Cross and participates in its saving grace. This does not suggest that the Eucharist
attempts to reclaim a past event. The Eucharist does not repeat what cannot be repeated.
Christ is not slain anew and repeatedly. Rather the Eucharistic food is changed concretely
and really into the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, “Who gave Himself up for the
life of the world.” Christ continually offers Himself to the faithful through the
consecrated Gifts, i.e., His very own risen and deified Body, which for our sake died once
and now lives (Hebrews 10:2; Revelation 1:18). Hence, the faithful come to Church week
by week not only to worship God and to hear His word. They come, first of all, to
experience over and over the mystery of salvation and to be united intimately to the
Passion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Eucharist we receive and partake of the resurrected Christ. We share in His
sacrificed, risen and deified Body, "for the forgiveness of sins and life eternal" (Divine
Liturgy). In the Eucharist Christ pours into us - as a permanent and constant gift - the
Holy Spirit, "Who bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God - and if
children - then heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).

The Washing of the Feet…

The events initiated by Jesus at the Mystical Supper were profoundly significant. By
teaching and giving the disciples His final instructions and praying for them as well, He
revealed again His divine Son-ship and authority. By establishing the Eucharist, He

enshrines to perfection God's most intimate purposes for our salvation, offering Himself
as Communion and life. By washing the feet of His disciples, He summarized the
meaning of His ministry, manifested His perfect love and revealed His profound humility.
The act of the washing of the feet (John 13:2-17) is closely related to the sacrifice of the
Cross. Both reveal aspects of Christ's kenosis. While the Cross constitutes the ultimate
manifestation of Christ's perfect obedience to His Father (Philippians 2:5-8), the washing
of the feet signifies His intense love and the giving of Himself to each person according
to that person's ability to receive Him (John 13:6-9).

Prayer in the Garden…

The Synoptic Gospels have preserved for us another significant episode in the series of
events leading to the Passion, namely, the agony and prayer of Jesus in the Garden of
Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46).

Although Jesus was Son of God, He was destined as man to accept fully the human
condition, to experience suffering and to learn obedience. Divesting Himself of divine
prerogatives, the Son of God assumed the role of a servant. He lived a truly human
existence. Though He was Himself sinless, He allied Himself with the whole human race,
identified with the human predicament, and experienced the same tests (Philippians
2:6-11; Hebrews 2:9-18).

The moving events in the Garden of Gethsemane dramatically and poignantly disclosed
the human nature of Christ. The sacrifice He was to endure for the salvation of the world
was imminent. Death, with all its brutal force and fury, stared directly at Him. Its terrible
burden and fear - the calamitous results of the ancestral sin - caused Him intense sorrow
and pain (Hebrews 5:7). Instinctively, as man He sought to escape it. He found Himself in
a moment of decision. In His agony He prayed to His Father, "Abba, Father, all things are
possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark

His prayer revealed the depths of His agony and sorrow. It revealed as well His
“incomparable spiritual strength (and) immovable desire and decision . . . to bring about
the will of the Father.” Jesus offered His unconditional love and trust to the Father. He
reached the extreme limits of self-denial "not what I will" - in order to accomplish His
Father's will. His acceptance of death was not some kind of stoic passivity and
resignation but an act of absolute love and obedience. In that moment of decision, when
He declared His acceptance of death to be in agreement with the Father's will, He broke
the power of the fear of death with all its attending uncertainties, anxieties and
limitations. He learned obedience and fulfilled the divine plan (Hebrews 5:8-9).

The Betrayal…
Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, the sign of friendship and love. The betrayal and
crucifixion of Christ carried the ancestral sin to its extreme limits. In these two acts the
rebellion against God reached its maximum capacity. The seduction of man in paradise
culminated in the death of God in the flesh. To be victorious evil must quench the light
and discredit the good. In the end, however, it shows itself to be a lie, an absurdity and
sheer madness. The death and resurrection of Christ rendered evil powerless.

On Great Thursday light and darkness, joy and sorrow are so strangely mixed. At the
Upper Room and in Gethsemane the light of the kingdom and the darkness of hell come
through simultaneously. The way of life and the way of death converge. We meet them
both in our journey through life.

In the midst of the snares and temptations that abound in the world around and in us we
must be eager to live in communion with everything that is good, noble, natural, and
sinless, forming ourselves by God's

Holy Friday

On Great and Holy Friday the Orthodox Church commemorates the death of Christ on the
Cross. This is the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord
suffered and died for our sins. This commemoration begins on Thursday evening with the
Matins of Holy Friday and concludes with a Vespers on Friday afternoon that observes
the un-nailing of Christ from the Cross and the placement of His body in the tomb.

On this day we commemorate the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns,
the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the
Savior endured on the Cross.

The day of Christ's death is the day of sin. The sin which polluted God's creation from the
breaking dawn of time reached its frightful climax on the hill of Golgotha. There, sin and
evil, destruction and death came into their own. Ungodly men had Him nailed to the
Cross, in order to destroy Him. However, His death condemned irrevocably the fallen
world by revealing its true and abnormal nature.

In Christ, who is the New Adam, there is no sin. And, therefore, there is no death. He
accepted death because He assumed the whole tragedy of our life. He chose to pour His
life into death, in order to destroy it; and in order to break the hold of evil. His death is
the final and ultimate revelation of His perfect obedience and love. He suffered for us the
excruciating pain of absolute solitude and alienation - "My God, my God, why hast Thou
forsaken Me!" (Mark 15:34). Then, He accepted the ultimate horror of death with the
agonizing cry, "It is finished" (John 19:30). His cry was at one and the same time an
indication that He was in control of His death and that His work of redemption was

accomplished, finished, fulfilled. How strange! While our death is radical un-fulfillment,
His is total fulfillment.

The day of Christ's death has become our true birthday. "Within the mystery of Christ
dead and resurrected, death acquires positive value. Even if physical, biological death
still appears to reign, it is no longer the final stage in a long destructive process. It has
become the indispensable doorway, as well as the sure sign of our ultimate Pascha, our
passage from death to life, rather than from life to death.

From the beginning the Church observed an annual commemoration of the decisive and
crucial three days of sacred history, i.e., Great Friday, Great Saturday and Pascha. Great
Friday and Saturday have been observed as days of deep sorrow and strict fast from
Christian antiquity.

Great Friday and Saturday direct our attention to the trial, crucifixion, death and burial of
Christ. We are placed within the awesome mystery of the extreme humility of our
suffering God. Therefore, these days are at once days of deep gloom as well as watchful
expectation. The Author of life is at work transforming death into life: "Come, let us see
our Life lying in the tomb, that he may give life to those that in their tombs lie
dead" (Hymn of Great Saturday Matins).

Liturgically, the profound and awesome event of the death and burial of God in the flesh
is marked by a particular kind of silence, i.e. by the absence of a Eucharistic celebration.
Great Friday and Great Saturday are the only two days of the year when no Eucharistic
assembly is held.

The Divine services of Great Friday with the richness of their ample Scripture lessons,
superb hymnography and vivid liturgical actions bring the passion of Christ and its
cosmic significance into sharp focus. The hymns of the services on this day help us to see

how the Church understands and celebrates the awesome mystery of Christ's passion and

The commemorations of Holy Friday begin with the Matins service of the day which is
conducted on Thursday evening. The service is a very unique Matins service with twelve
Gospel readings that begin with Christ’s discourse at the Last Supper and end with the
account of His burial: John 13:31–18:1, John 18:1-29, Matthew 26:57-75, John 18:28 -
19:16, Matthew 27:3-32, Mark 15:16-32, Matthew 27:33-54, Luke 23:32-49, John
19:38-42, Mark 15:43-47, John 19:38-42, Matthew 27:62-66

These readings relate the last instructions of Christ to His disciples, the prophecy of the
drama of the Cross, the dramatic prayer of Christ and His new commandment. After the
reading of the fifth Gospel comes the procession with the Crucifix around the church,
while the priest chants the Fifteenth Antiphon:
"Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A
Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple
of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed
Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He
was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection.”

During the Procession, Orthodox Christians kneel and venerate the Cross and pray for
their spiritual well-being, imitating the thief on the Cross who confessed his faith and
devotion to Christ. The faithful then approach and reverently kiss the Crucifix which has
been placed at the front of the church.

On Friday morning, the services of the Royal Hours are observed. These services are
primarily readings of prayers, hymns, and passages from the Old Testament, Epistles, and
Gospels. The Scripture readings for these services are: First Hour: Zechariah 11:10-13,

Galatians 6:14-18, Matthew 27:1-56; Third Hour: Isaiah 52:13-54:1, Hebrews 2:11-18;
Luke 23:32-49; Ninth Hour: Jeremiah 11:18-23,12:1-5,9-11,14-15, Hebrews 10:19-31,
John 18:28-19:37.

The Vespers of Friday afternoon are a continuation of the Royal Hours. During this
service, the removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated with a sense
of mourning. Once more, excerpts from the Old Testament are read together with hymns,
and again the entire story is related, followed by the removal of Christ from the Cross and
the wrapping of His body with a white sheet as did Joseph of Arimathea.

As the priest reads the Gospel, “and taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in a white cloth,”
he removes the Body of Christ from the Cross, wraps it in a white cloth and takes it to the
altar. The priest then chants a mourning hymn: “When Joseph of Arimathea took Thee,
the life of all, down from the Tree dead, he buried Thee with myrrh and fine linen . . .
rejoicing. Glory to Thy humiliation, O Master, who clothest Thyself with light as it were
with a garment.” The priest then carries the cloth on which the Body of Christ is painted
or embroidered around the church before placing it inside the Sepulcher, a carved bier
which symbolizes the Tomb of Christ. We are reminded that during Christ's entombment
He descends into Hades to free the dead of the ages before His Resurrection. The
Scripture readings for the Vespers are: Exodus 33:11-23; Job 42:12-17; Isaiah 52:13-54:1;
I Corinthians 1:18-2:2; and from the Gospels Matthew 27:1-38; Luke 23:39-43; Matthew
27:39-54; John 19:31-37; and Matthew 27:55-61.

On the evening of Holy Friday, the Lamentation Service is offered. It consists of psalms,
hymns and readings, dealing with the death of Christ, in contrast to His divinity, and in
expectation of His Resurrection. One of the hymns relates: "He who holds all things is
raised up on the Cross and all creation laments to see Him hang naked on the Tree". The
thoughtful, and well-written Odes, sung by the choir, compare the Compassion of God
and the cruelty of man; the Might of God and the moral weakness of man. The Odes

picture all Creation trembling when witnessing its Creator hung by His own creatures:
"Creation was moved . . . with intense astonishment when it beheld Thee hung in
Golgotha". The Odes remind us of the vision of Isaiah, who saw Christ, "the unwaning
light of the manifestation", and cried aloud, "The dead indeed shall arise and all those on
earth shall rejoice". During this service the Body of Christ is carried in procession around
the church. In some parishes the entire flower-bedecked Sepulcher, symbolizing the
Tomb, is carried in the procession.

The entire congregation joins in singing the, three parts of the "Hymns of Praise" (there
are approximately 300 hymns, but only a few are sung). After these hymns are sung, the
priest sprinkles the Sepulcher and the whole congregation with fragrant water. There is a
simultaneous praise of both the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ with their purpose
of the redemption of man. We no longer lament the sufferings of the Crucified One; we
now lament chiefly for our own sins because we are far from God. So these services
should have a rather personal meaning of repentance and of strong faith in God.

At the conclusion of the service, the faithful go in procession with the sepulcher that
represents the Tomb of Christ around the Church chanting the Thrice-Holy hymn, in a
similar manner to the traditional procession for a funeral.

It is customary for the clergy and people to hold candles during the singing of the
Lamentations and at the procession. This practice is rooted in ancient Christian burial
practices. Candles were lit in order to symbolize the victory of Christ over death, and to
express as well the Church's belief in the Resurrection.

Christians observe Good Friday with fasting, prayer, cleanliness, self-examination,

confession and good works, in humility and, repentance so that the Grace of the Cross
might descend upon them.

The Gospel reading is Matthew 27:62-66.

Holy Saturday

On Great and Holy Saturday the Orthodox Church commemorates the burial of Christ
and His descent into Hades. It is the day between the Crucifixion of our Lord and His
glorious Resurrection. The Church contemplates the mystery of the Lord's descent into
Hades, the place of the dead. Death, our ultimate enemy, is defeated from within. "He
(Christ) gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive, sold under sin.
Descending into Hades through the Cross ... He loosed the bonds of death" (Liturgy of St.

On Great Saturday our focus is on the Tomb of Christ. This is no ordinary grave. It is not
a place of corruption, decay and defeat. It is life-giving, a source of power, victory and

Great Saturday is the day between Jesus' death and His resurrection. It is the day of
watchful expectation, in which mourning is being transformed into joy. The day
embodies in the fullest possible sense the meaning of joyful-sadness, which has
dominated the celebrations of Great Week. The hymnographer of the Church has
penetrated the profound mystery, and helps us to understand it through the following
poetic dialogue that he has devised between Jesus and His Mother:

“Weep not for me, O Mother, beholding in the sepulcher the Son whom thou hast
conceived without seed in thy womb. For I shall rise and shall be glorified, and as God I
shall exalt in everlasting glory those who magnify thee with faith and love.”

"O Son without beginning, in ways surpassing nature was I blessed at Thy strange birth,
for I was spared all travail. But now beholding Thee, my God, a lifeless corpse, I am
pierced by the sword of bitter sorrow. But arise, that I may be magnified."

"By mine own will the earth covers me, O Mother, but the gatekeepers of hell tremble as
they see me, clothed in the bloodstained garment of vengeance: for on the Cross as God
have I struck down mine enemies, and I shall rise again and magnify thee."

"Let the creation rejoice exceedingly, let all those born on earth be glad: for hell, the
enemy, has been despoiled. Ye women, come to meet me with sweet spices: for I am
delivering Adam and Eve with all their offspring, and on the third day I shall rise
again." (9th Ode of the Canon)

Great Saturday is the day of the pre-eminent rest. Christ observes a Sabbath rest in the
tomb. His rest, however, is not inactivity but the fulfillment of the divine will and plan for
the salvation of humankind and the cosmos. He who brought all things into being, makes
all things new. The re-creation of the world has been accomplished once and for all.
Through His incarnation, life and death Christ has filled all things with Himself He has
opened a path for all flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible that
the author of life would be dominated by corruption.

Saint Paul tells us that:

"God was in Jesus Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). Hence,
eternal life - real and self-generating - penetrated the depths of Hades. Christ who is the
life of all destroyed death by His death. That is why the Church sings joyously "Things
now are filled with light, the heaven and the earth and all that is beneath the
earth" (Canon of Pascha).

The Church knows herself to be "the place, the eternal reality, where the presence of
Christ vanquishes Satan, hell and death itself.

The solemn observance of Great Saturday helps us to recall and celebrate the great truth
that "despite the daily vicissitudes and contradictions of history and the abiding presence
of hell within the human heart and human society," life has been liberated! Christ has
broken the power of death.

It is not without significance that the icon of the Resurrection in our Church is the
Descent of Christ into Hades, the place of the dead. This icon depicts a victorious Christ,
reigned in glory, trampling upon death, and seizing Adam and Eve in His hands, plucking
them from the abyss of hell. This icon expresses vividly the truths resulting from Christ's
defeat of death by His death and Resurrection.

The Liturgy held on the morning of Holy and Great Saturday is that of Saint Basil the
Great. It begins with Vespers. After the entrance, the evening hymn ‘O Gentle Light’ is
chanted as usual. Then the Old Testament readings are recited. They tell of the most
striking events and prophecies of the salvation of mankind by the death of the Son of
God. The account of creation in Genesis is the first reading. The sixth reading is the story
of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and Moses’ song of victory - over Pharaoh, with its
refrain: ‘For gloriously is He glorified’. The last reading is about the Three Children in
the fiery furnace of Babylon, and their song of praise with its repeated refrain: ‘O praise
ye the Lord and supremely exalt Him unto the ages.’ In the ancient church the
catechumens were baptized during the time of these readings. The Epistle which follows
speaks of how, through the death of Christ, we too shall rise to a new life. After the
Epistle, the choir chants, like a call to the sleeping Christ: ‘Arise, O Lord, Judge the
earth, for Thou shalt have an inheritance among all the nations…’

After the reading of the Epistle, the priest follows the custom of tossing of laurel, saying:
"Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth: for Thou shall take all heathen to Thine
inheritance". The Cherubic hymn of this day is: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence and
stand with fear and trembling...", a thoughtful hymn of adoration and exaltation. The
Divine Liturgy ends with the Communion Hymn: "So the Lord awaked as one out of
sleep, and He is risen to save us".

The readings are from Romans 6:3-11 and Matthew 28:1-20.

Sunday of Pascha

On the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha, Orthodox Christians celebrate the life-giving
Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This feast of feasts is the most
significant day in the life of the Church. It is a celebration of the defeat of death, as
neither death itself nor the power of the grave could hold our Savior captive. In this
victory that came through the Cross, Christ broke the bondage of sin, and through faith
offers us restoration, transformation, and eternal life.

Holy Week comes to an end at sunset of Great and Holy Saturday, as the Church prepares
to celebrate her most ancient and preeminent festival, Pascha, the feast of feasts. The time
of preparation will give way to a time of fulfillment. The glorious and resplendent light
emanating from the empty Tomb will dispel the darkness. Christ, risen from the dead,
cracks the fortress of death and takes “captivity captive” (Psalm 67:19). All the
limitations of our createdness are torn asunder. Death is swallowed up in victory and life
is liberated. “For as by a man came death, by a man came also the resurrection of the
dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians

15:21-22). Pascha is the dawn of the new and unending day. The Resurrection constitutes
the most radical and decisive deliverance of humankind.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fundamental truth and absolute fact of the
Christian faith. It is the central experience and essential proclamation of the Church. It
confirms the authenticity of Christ’s remarkable earthly life and vindicates the truth of
His teaching. It seals all His redemptive work: His life, the model of a holy life; His
compelling and unique teaching; His extraordinary works; and His awesome, life-
creating death. Christ’s Resurrection is the guarantee of our salvation. Together with His
Ascension it brings to perfection God’s union with us for all eternity.

The Resurrection made possible the miracle of the Church, which in every age and
generation proclaims and affirms “God’s plan for the universe, the ultimate divinization
of man and the created order.” The profound experience of and the unshakable belief in
the risen Lord enabled the Apostles to evangelize the world and empowered the Church
to overcome paganism. The Resurrection discloses the indestructible power and
inscrutable wisdom of God. It disposes of the illusory myths and belief systems by which
people, bereft of divine knowledge, strain to affirm the meaning and purpose of their
existence. Christ, risen and glorified, releases humanity from the delusions of idolatry. In
Him grave-bound humanity discovers and is filled with incomparable hope. The
Resurrection bestows illumination, energizes souls, brings forgiveness, transfigures lives,
creates saints, and gives joy.

The Resurrection has not yet abolished the reality of death. But it has revealed its
powerlessness (Hebrews 2:14-15). We continue to die as a result of the Fall. Our bodies
decay and fall away. “God allows death to exist but turns it against corruption and its
cause, sin, and sets a boundary both to corruption and sin.” Thus, physical death does not
destroy our life of communion with God. Rather, we move from death to life—from this
fallen world to God’s reign.

Before midnight on Saturday evening, the Odes of Lamentation of the previous day are
repeated. The Matins of the Resurrection begins in complete darkness. The priest takes
light from the vigil light and gives it to the faithful, who are holding candles. The priest
sings: "Come ye and receive light from the unwaning light, and. glorify Christ, who arose
from the dead", and all the people join him in singing this hymn again and again. From
this moment, every Christian holds the Easter candle as a symbol of his vivid, deep faith
in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as Savior.

Then comes the breathless moment as the people wait for the priest to start the hymn of
Resurrection, which they join him in singing, repeatedly: "Christ has Risen from the
dead, by death trampling upon Death, and has bestowed life upon those in the tombs".
From this moment the entire service takes on a joyous Easter atmosphere. The hymns of
the Odes and Praises of Resurrection which follow are of superb meaning and expression.
The people confess, "It is the Day of Resurrection, let us be glorious, let us embrace one
another and speak to those that hate us; let us forgive all things and so let us cry, Christ
has arisen from the dead". By this hymn they admit that love of one's fellowman is the
solid foundation of the faith in the Resurrection of Christ.

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is then officiated. At the end of the Liturgy,
a part of the marvelous festival sermon of Saint Chrysostom is read, which calls upon the
people to “Take part in this fair and radiant festival. Let no one be fearful of death, for the
death of the Savior has set us free . . . O Death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is
Thy victory? Christ is Risen and Thou art overthrown. To Him be glory and power from
all ages to all ages.”

On Easter Sunday afternoon the faithful gather once more for prayer with lighted candles.
All sing the hymn, "Christ is Risen from the Dead". The people greet one another
joyously, saying: "Christ is Risen", the Easter salutation which is answered, "Truly He is

Risen". They sing, "the dark shadows of the Law has passed away by the coming of
grace", and standing in exaltation they exclaim, "Who is so great a God as our God?"

The Gospel according to John (20:19-25) is read in various languages, proclaiming the
Good News of Resurrection all over the universe without discrimination. The fruit of
faith in the Resurrection of the Lord is love in His Name; therefore, this day is called
"Sunday of Agape" (love feast), a day dedicated to Christian principles, especially to
forgiveness and charity. At this time, Christians seek to end misunderstanding and
arguments among those whom they may be at odds. Apostle Paul firmly interprets the
Resurrection of Christ, saying: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in
vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). The Church also states in its Creed,
“The Third day He rose again.”

In Conclusion

Remembrance of the events of the last week in the life of Jesus Christ has a practical
appeal to the heart of the Christian believer. One's beliefs constitute his being; the more
our beliefs are true and firm, the more purposeful meaning life has. The Resurrection of
Christ strengthens and illuminates our beliefs; this is our being. It is not only a belief in
an historical fact which took place in a certain place and time, but it is marvelous in its
nature. The Resurrection of Christ in relation to His Crucifixion and Mystic Supper
continue to be present in the mind of the believer as a fact as well as the source of "the
power from above", for which the believer prays. Assurance of a personal participation in
the enactment of the same events in the life of Christ becomes an unfaded happiness for
the Christian.

This is the divine inheritance that the Church of Christ keeps as its treasure and solid
foundation. The goal of a member of the Church is to keep his faith living and working in

his everyday life and relations with others. The Christian will be recognized and
identified as the friend and disciple of Jesus Christ. His beliefs will be like the flag which
flies from the top of the centermost of his own ship, sailing to its divine destiny. The
flag's inscription bears the assurance that "Christ is Risen, Indeed".




2/14/10 Forgiveness Sunday

Divine Liturgy – 10:00 am


Compline Service - 6:30pm

2/17/10 Presanctified Liturgy - 6:30pm
2/19/10 Salutation Service - 6:30pm
2/20/10 Saturday of Souls Liturgy - 9:30am
2/21/10 First Sunday of Lent -
The Sunday of Orthodoxy

Divine Liturgy - 10:00 am

Luncheon Discussion on the Faith
2/24/10 Presanctified Liturgy - 6:30pm
2/26/10 Salutation Service – 6:30pm
2/28/10 Second Sunday of Lent – St. Gregory

Divine Liturgy -10:00am

3/3/10 Presanctified Liturgy - 6:30pm
3/5/10 Salutation Service - 6:30pm

3/7/10 The Third Sunday of Lent –
Adoration of the Cross
Divine Liturgy - 10:00 am
3/10/10 Presanctified Liturgy - 6:30pm
3/12/10 Salutation Service - 6:30pm
3/14/10 The Fourth Sunday of Lent –
Sunday of St. John Climacus
Divine Liturgy – 10:00 am

3/17/10 Presanctified Liturgy - 6:30pm

3/19/10 Salutation Service – 6:30 pm
3/21/10 The Fifth Sunday of Lent –
Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt
Divine Liturgy – 10:00 am

3/24/10 Great Vespers for

the Feast of the Annunciation –

3/25/10 Feast of the Annunciation

Liturgy – 9:30am

3/27/10 The Saturday of Lazarus

Divine Liturgy – 9:30 am

3/28/10 Palm Sunday
Divine Liturgy – 10:00 am

Bridegroom Service – 7:00 pm

3/29/10 Holy Monday

Bridegroom Service – 7:00 pm


3/30/10 Holy Tuesday

Bridegroom Service – 7:00 pm

3/31/10 Holy Wednesday

Presanctified Liturgy – 9:30 am

Service of Unction – 6:00 pm**
4/1/10 Holy Thursday

Divine Liturgy – 9:30 am

Passion Service – 7:00 pm
4/2/10 Holy Friday

Royal Hours – 9:00 am

Descent from the Cross – 3:00 pm

Lamentations – 7:00 pm
4/3/10 Holy Saturday

Divine Liturgy – 9:30 am

Easter Services – 11:00 pm

4/4/10 Sunday of Pascha

Agape Service – 11:30 am



If there are devout and God-loving people here, let them enjoy this beautiful,
radiant festival. If there are prudent servants, enter joyously into the Lord's joy.
Whoever may be spent from fasting, enjoy now your reward. Whoever has toiled
from the first hour, receive today your just settlement. If any came after the third
hour, celebrate gratefully. If any of you arrived after the sixth, have no misgivings,
you have lost nothing. If some have been as late as the night, come forward, do not
be at a loss. If any of you have arrived only at the eleventh hour, do not be
dismayed for being late. The Master is gracious: He accepts the last even as the
first; He gives rest to those of the eleventh as well as to those who have labored from
the first; He is lenient with the last while looking after the first; to the one He gives,
to the other He gives freely; He accepts the labors and welcomes the effort; honors
the deed, but commends the intent. So, all of you, enter into the joy of our Lord:
first and second, share the bounty. Rich and poor alike, celebrate together. Sober
or heedless, honor the day. Those who fasted and those who did not, rejoice today.
The table is full, everyone fare sumptuously. The calf is fatted; no one go away
hungry. Everyone, savor the banquet of faith; relish the riches of His goodness.

No one need lament poverty, for the kingdom is seen as universal. No one need
grieve over sins; forgiveness has dawned from the tomb. No one need fear death;
the Savior’s death has freed us from it. While its captive, He stifled it. He despoiled
Hades as He descended into it; it was vexed when it tasted His flesh. Foreseeing
this, Isaiah proclaimed: "Hades," he said, "was vexed when he met you below."

It was vexed because it was abolished. It was vexed because it was mocked. It was
vexed because it was slain. It was vexed because it was shackled. It received a body
and encountered God. It took earth and came face to face with heaven. It took what
it saw and fell by what it could not see.

Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you
are overthrown. Christ is risen and demons have fallen. Christ is risen and angels
rejoice. Christ is risen and life rules. Christ is risen and not one dead remains in the
tomb. For Christ, having risen from the dead, has become the first fruits of those
that slept. To Him be the glory and the dominion, forever. Amen.

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!


 Great Lent ,Father Alexander Schmemann, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press,

Crestwood, New York.

 His Life Is Mine, Archimandrite Sophrony, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press,

Crestwood, New York.

 The Lenten Triodion, Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, Faber and
Faber, London, England.

 The Life in Christ, Nicholas Cabasilas, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood,
New York.

 The Life of Father John of Kronstadt, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood,
New York.

 Living Prayer, Archbishop Anthony Bloom, Paulist Press, New York, New York.

 Making God Real in the Orthodox Home, Father Anthony M. Coniaris, Light and
Life Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 The Mystic of Fire and Light: Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Father George
A. Maloney, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York

 Orthodox Spirituality, Lev Gillet, The Fellowship of SS. Alban and Sergius,
London, England.


 Partakers of Divine Nature, Archimandrite Christoforos Stavropoulos, Light and

Life Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 The Power of the Name: The Jesus Prayer in Orthodox Spirituality,

Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, SLG Press, Convent of the Incarnation, Fairacres,
Oxford, England.

 Saint Seraphim of Sarov, Valentine Zander, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press,

Crestwood, New York.

 Unseen Warfare, edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by

Theophan the Recluse, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York.

 The Way of the Ascetics, Tito Colliander, St. Nectarios Press, Medina,

 The Way of the Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way, R. M. French, The
Seabury Press, New York, New York.

 The Art of Prayer, Igumen Chariton, Faber and Faber, London, England.

 The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacus, Holy Transfiguration Monastery,
Boston, Massachusetts.

 Beginning to Pray, Archbishop Anthony Bloom, Paulist Press, New York, New

 The Undistorted Image, Staretz Silouan, Faith Press, London, England.

 Living the Liturgy, Fr. Stanley S. Harakas, Light and Life, Minneapolis,


 The Orthodox Way, Fr. Kallistos Ware, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood
New York.

 Orthodoxy: Faith and Life, Bishop Gerasimos, Holy Cross Orthodox Press,
Brookline, Massachusetts.

 The Faith We Hold, Archbishop Paul, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood,
New York.

 The Bread of Life, Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, Greek Orthodox Department of

Religious Education, Brookline, MA.