Orthodox Daily Devotional for March 10-16
At that time: Jesus took unto him the twelve, and said unto
them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.
**Most of Lent readings are from an Orthodox Buglakov handbook summarizing each week
The first week of the Holy Forty Day Fast are “the days beginning the holy fast”. The Holy Church during this week, inviting its children to begin “the all honorable abstinence”, to work “for the Lord with fear”, to fast “the pleasant fast pleasing to the Lord”, to fast not only “in body” but also “in spirit” opens the purpose and meaning of “the all honorable fast”. “The Fast has come”, sings the holy Church in its hymns, “mother of chastity, accuser of sins, advocate of repentance, life of the angels and salvation of men”. “For by this Moses was glorified, and he received the Law written upon tablets”, “Elijah having fasted, was enclosed in heaven”, “through fasting the youths were delivered from the furnace and the Prophet Daniel from the jaws of the lions”…
According to the teaching of the holy Church, “true fasting is to put away all evil, to control the tongue, to forbear from anger, to abstain from lust, slander, falsehood and perjury. If we renounce these things, then our fasting is true and acceptable”. Therefore, inviting its children to true repentance and lenten ascetic efforts, the holy Church also sings: “Clothing ourselves in the shining raiment of the Fast, let us cast off the dark and hateful garment of drunkenness”; “let us love chastity, and let us flee from fornication, let us gird our loins with temperance”, “let us wash our faces in the water of dispassion”, “let us loose every bond of iniquity, let us terminate the knots of every contract made by violence; let us tear up all unjust agreements; let us give bread to the hungry and to our house welcome the poor who have no roof to cover them”…
During the first four days of the first week of Great Lent during Compline the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read, but on Wednesday and Thursday the Canon of the Ven. Mary of Egypt is also read. The Canon of St. Andrew, as noted in the Synaxarion: “incites every soul to emulate and imitate to the best of its power all the good things, and to flee from all that is bad, and always to come back to God by repentance, by tears and confession and by every other way of well-pleasing”. The Canon of Ven. Mary of Egypt teaches “not to despair, if sometimes certain sins have taken hold”. The Canon of St. Andrew is called great because of the set of ideas and commemorations that the prolific creator included in it, and because it has more troparia than any other canon. Where in other canons there are about 30, this canon has about 250 troparia. [many examples from the Old and New Testament are cited]
**The Venerable Bede designed an ‘Abbreviated Psalter which highlighted the ‘heart’ of each Psalm. These will be included going forward**
The most ancient Christian writers unanimously testify that the Holy Forty Day Fast was established by the apostles in imitation of the forty-day fast of Moses (Exodus 34), Elijah (3 Kings 19), and mainly by the example of Jesus Christ fasting for forty days (Mt. 4: 2). Ancient Christians have observed the time of the Holy Forty Days as the season of the commemoration of the Suffering of the Savior on the Cross, anticipating the days of this commemoration, so that, strongly imitating His self-renunciation and His self-denial, these ascetical feats would show the living participation and love on the part of the Savior, who suffers for the world _), and that before all this to be morally cleansed for the time of the solemn commemoration of the passion of Christ and His glorious resurrection. The very name of the Holy Forty Days is met rather frequently in the most ancient written monuments with the indication of the purpose of its establishment. “Do not neglect the Forty Days”, wrote St. Ignatius the God-bearer in his epistle to Philippians: “for it establishes the imitation of the life in Christ”.
1Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalm 1
The didactic imitation of the fast of Christ during the time preceding the days in which the sufferings, the death and the glorious resurrection of Christ are remembered, gives to the Holy Forty Day Fast a special meaning and value for us. The suffering of the Savior and His resurrection grant to all of us hope even for our resurrection to eternal life. But to realize this hope of receiving an eternal blessed life, we need to imitate Christ in purity and holiness of life. We need to go through the same path of life, as also did the Savior: the way of self-renunciation and self denial and besides this, the way of struggle against the sensuality and sinfulness of our nature. The Holy Forty Day Fast serves as the most convenient way to follow this way. “If we shall carefully observe them”, teaches the Blessed Augustine, “the Forty Days signify the life of the present age, as the days of Pascha also signify the life of eternal blessedness”. In the Forty Day Fast we have contrition, and in Pascha we have joy. And in the present life we should be repentant so that in the future life we could reach eternal blessings.
10Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Psalm 2
Let us take, for example, the Holy Liturgy. It is a familiar friend to us, we know it well, we experience it often. But how different it is when we open our eyes to the ineffable beauty of what is in front of us. This is the mystery of heaven and earth intermingling! When you walk into the temple, as soon as you feel your foot hit the floor of the temple—every time—let that be the bell in your head that causes you to remember that this is not just another building. There is something astonishing in it, and I am being allowed to set my foot into a place where God Himself chooses to dwell, where God makes Himself manifest to people who need Him; and I’m allowed to just walk in, as if it were my house. Let us take a moment to be astonished by that, every time we walk in.
As you cross that threshold from the narthex into the main church, to remind yourself that for many centuries, in the life of our Church, people weren’t allowed beyond that threshold. It was barred off, and we still remind ourselves of it in the liturgy: ‘The doors! the doors! Close the doors to the unillumined!’ And here, we not only walk freely into the temple but even into the heart of the temple. We say in the prayers before Holy Communion, I will not speak of Thy Mysteries to Thine enemies,’ but here we’re allowed not just to speak of these things but to see them, to feel them, to touch them, to taste them; and to remind ourselves that this is an awesome thing, just walking into the temple.”
– Talk by Bishop Irenei of Western Europe