March 17 – 23
At that time: Jesus said unto his disciples: when ye fast, be
not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Saint Focus: this Sunday is the feast of St. Patrick of Ireland, one of the world’s best known saints. The ‘Lorica’, St Patrick’s prayer, represents the ancient Celtic Christian realization that Christ is present in all things and places in the physical world. These words are an example: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left…” In other words He is ‘everywhere present and fillest all things.”
This day [commentary on this past Sunday] the Holy Church commemorates the victory of Orthodoxy over heresies and is why this day is also called the “Sunday of Orthodoxy”. The Synaxarion explains that the day celebrates “the restoration of the holy and venerable icons”, which happened in first half of the 9th century (in 842) “by the Emperor Michael (the Byzantine Emperor), the holy and blessed Empress Theodora and the Holy Methodius Patriarch of Constantinople”. This commemoration was established to celebrate the final victory of the Holy Church over the iconoclastic heresy. In the hymns for this day the Holy Church, glorifying the holy icons, and also its iconodule adherents and inspiring in us the obligation of venerating icons, sings: “A feast of joy and gladness is revealed to us today. For the teachings of the true Faith shines in all their glory, and the Church of Christ is bright with splendor, adorned with the holy icons which now have been restored; and God has granted to the faithful unity of mind.”
1O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
2Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
3My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?
4Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. Psalm 6 (Bede’s Abbreviated Psalter)
But in this way the Holy Church at the time of victory over the iconoclasts in the struggle against various heresies finally explained and defined in the canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council the Orthodox Christian teaching that is now a celebrated event and is not called the celebration of iconolatry but the Triumph of Orthodoxy. It does not mean that after the 10th Century heresies would or could not appear any more; but it means that all following heresies, even though they were numerous and various, find their accusation and refutation in the definitions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
3Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; Psalm 13
“Come let us cleanse ourselves with mercies and compassions for the poor, not trumpeting them, nor revealing our good deeds, but let us not hang on the left hand the right hand business, let us not squander with vanity the fruit of mercies”; “In this season of repentance, let us stretch out our hands in works of mercy; and then the ascetic struggles of the Fast will bring us to eternal life. For nothing saves the soul so much as generosity to those in need, and almsgiving combined with fasting will deliver a man from death. Let us do all this with gladness, for there is no better way, and it will bring salvation to our souls.”
1Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer,
5Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
6I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.
7Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.
8Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, Psalm 17
During the harvest season food for the body is gathered, so that during the season of the spiritual harvest we should gather food for the soul, which could be eaten for eternal life. If we are negligent and have not prepared anything during its season, the whole year endures famine. So the one, who neglects fasting, reading the Sacred Scriptures, prayers during this period fails to gather spiritual wheat and heavenly food for the soul, and will reap eternal thirst and heavy distress”. Even the Holy Church expresses a similar idea when she prays to God for us that He guide us “in these most honorable days” of the Holy Forty Days, “for the cleansing of souls and bodies, for the abstention from passions, for the hope of resurrection”.
19But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20Deliver my soul from the sword;
21Save me from the lion’s mouth:
St. Nikolai Velimirovich on God’s Eternal Presence…
“God’s own life is dramatic internally, and externally (in relation to the world). That is the real meaning of the dogma of the Trinity. God is somehow one, and yet not one; rather He is a pluralistic unity. He can take part in the human drama and still remain the God of the Universe. He can suffer and still remain perfect. He can be omnipresent in the world and still not be wholly immersed in it. “I cannot understand it; it is a mystery to me,” exclaimed Tolstoi. Certainly he could not understand it; who could? We cannot understand our own beings. Modern biology discovered that a human body consists of millions and millions of corpuscles, minute organic cells which live their life and go their way unconscious of the human person formed by themselves. New discoveries may open up new problems, but the ancient mysteries about everything in the world continue to be omnipresent. How could we have more knowledge about God except some few glances, some imperfect allusions, some symbolical combinations? However, lacking a clear and perfect understanding, we still feel that we are not alone in the world. God is all round us like the atmosphere that we breathe. The more we try to escape from this atmosphere, the closer it seems to pervade us.”
Mother Alexandra+ on Christ’s Way for Us…
“Would we but apply Christ’s teaching to all our problems, we would see that there are great challenges for us to meet and that God has a purpose in every situation….The way of Jesus Christ is not always the easy way out. Christ demands of us patience, courage and the power of sacrifice. These qualities are intimately related to the precept of love: “Love ye one another, as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12). As Jesus loved us! That love cost Him the ultimate sacrifice. For us to love each other means the same readiness to give our lives for our friends. Jesus never said that His would be the easy way, but it would be full of blessings. “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, falsely, for My sake” (Mt. 5:11). Jesus warned us that we would suffer persecution, and even that the persecutors would think they were serving God. Meekness and mildness were not the only precepts He preached. He indicated that there were times when we would have to fight for our belief, for HIM. He promised us peace—His peace, but not such as the world gives (see Jn. 14:27). His peace, which stands as a rock unmoved in a sea of trouble, is that of the spirit and mind.”
cleanse thou me from secret faults.
13Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins;
14Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.