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The First Sunday of Great Lent The Sunday of Orthodoxy

The First Sunday of Great Lent The Sunday of Orthodoxy

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 Iconodules, 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 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, but not of real worship, 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”.

A 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”.

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Sunday of the Last Judgment-Meatfare

From the book, “Thoughts for Each Day of the Year”, St. Theophan the Recluse:

Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare)

Matt. 25: 31 – 46

The Dread Judgment! The Judge comes in the clouds, surrounded by a countless multitude of bodiless heavenly powers. Trumpets sound to all the ends of the earth and raise up the dead. The risen regiments pour into the preordained place, to the throne of the Judge, having a foreboding of what verdict will sound in their ears. For everyone’s works are written on the brow of their nature, and their very appearance will correspond to their deeds and morals. The division of those on His right hand and those on His left is accomplished in and of itself.

At last all has been determined. Deep silence falls. In another instant, the decisive verdict of the Judge is heard: to some, “Come,” to the others, “Depart.” “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! May Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us!” they shall say, but then it will already be too late to plead. We need to take the trouble now to wash away the unfavorable marks written upon our nature. At the Judgment, we may be ready to pour out rivers of tears in order to wash ourselves, but this would do us no good then. Let us weep now – if not rivers of tears, then at least streams; if not streams, then at least drops. If we cannot find even this much, then let us become contrite in heart, and confess our sins to the Lord, begging Him to forgive them, and promising not to offend Him any more through the violation of His commandments. Then, let us be zealous to faithfully fulfill this promise.

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Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-32

The Sunday of the Prodigal Son says so much to us! It speaks about our peace and abundance in the house of the Heavenly Father, about our mad departure from the Father’s guardianship to unbridled freedom, about the richness of the heritage given us despite our disobedience, about its reckless waste on all sorts of indecencies, and about our utter impoverishment as a result. But then it talks also about how one recovers his senses and coming to himself, decides to return to his greatly merciful Father. It talks about how he returns, how he is received. lovingly and is restored to his first state. Who will not find this lesson profitable? If you abide in your Father’s house, do not strive for freedom. You see how a similar experience ended! If you have run away and are squandering all, stop this quickly. If you have already squandered everything and are living in poverty, resolve quickly to return – and then, return. There every lenience and the former love and prosperity await you. This last step is the most necessary one. But there is no point in enlarging upon this. All has been said concisely and clearly. Come to your senses, resolve to return, arise and hasten to the Father. His embrace is open and ready to receive you.

From the book, “Celebration of Faith”, Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

This parable is read in church as believers are beginning to prepare themselves for Great Lent, the time of repentance. And perhaps nowhere else in the gospels is the essence, of repentance better revealed. The prodigal son left home and went into “a far country,” and it is this “far country,” this foreign land which shows us the deepest essence also of our own life, of our own condition. Only if we have understood this can we begin the return to authentic life. The person who has never felt this distance, even once in his life, who has never felt himself to be in a spiritual wasteland, separated, exiled, can never understand the meaning of Christianity.

A person who is totally “at home” in this world, who has never experienced longing for a different reality, cannot comprehend remorse and repentance. These are not simply the formal enumeration of one’s shortcomings, mistakes and even crimes. No, remorse and repentance are born from an experience of alienation from God and from joy in communion with him. It is relatively easy to admit my mistakes and shortcomings, but how much more difficult it is suddenly to realize that I have broken, betrayed and lost my spiritual beauty, that I am such a long way from my true home, from my true life; that something in the very fabric of my own life, something priceless, pure and beautiful has been destroyed and torn apart. But this realization is precisely repentance, and therefore necessarily involves a deep desire to go back, to return, once again to find the lost home.

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Presentation of our Lord into the Temple-February 2nd

Today the Church commemorates an important event in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:22-40). Forty days after His birth the God-Infant was taken to the Jerusalem Temple, the center of the nation’s religious life. According to the Law of Moses (Lev. 12:2- 8), a woman who gave birth to a male child was forbidden to enter the Temple of God for forty days. At the end of this time the mother came to the Temple with the child, to offer a young lamb or pigeon to the Lord as a purification sacrifice. The Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, had no need of purification, since she had given birth to the Source of purity and sanctity without defilement. However, she humbly fulfilled the requirements of the Law.
At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he should behold the promised Messiah. By
inspiration from above, Saint Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and Saint Joseph had brought the Infant Jesus to fulfill the Law.
The God-Receiver Simeon took the divine Child in his arms, and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles,and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Saint Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
At the Temple was the 84-year-old widow Anna the Prophetess, daughter of Phanuel (February 3), “who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. She arrived just when Saint Simeon met the divine Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem”
(Luke 2:37-38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: “This Child has established Heaven and earth.”
Before Christ was born, righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous people of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet the Savior in the Temple.
The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons on the Feast by the holy bishops Methodius of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilocius of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated so splendidly until the sixth century.
In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverence from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving to God, the Church established
a more solemn celebration of this Feast.
Church hymnographers have adorned this Feast with their hymns: Saint Andrew of Crete in the seventh century; Saint Cosmas Bishop of Maium, Saint John of Damascus, and Saint Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople in the eighth century; and Saint Joseph, Archbishop of Thessalonica in the ninth century.

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Joint Statement of the Serbian and Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchs

Irenic  & Official visit of His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X to the Serbian Orthodox Church
From October 11th to 19th, 2018

BELGRADE – 19th of October 2018 – This historical visit, the first since Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch THEODOSIOS VI (Abou-Rjaili) visited Belgrade, was made in the context of the difficult and painful circumstances that are facing the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East. This visit also coincides with the crisis that is currently facing the world-wide Orthodox Church, where developments are evolving rapidly and in a disturbing manner, and could lead to the occurrence of permanent detrimental impacts on the bonds of communion, peace and unity between brothers.

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