Sts Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Church
3056 Reeves Avenue, Lorain, Ohio
The Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) is the last Sunday prior to the commencement of Great Lent. The Gospel reading, Matthew 6:14-21,focuses on the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, an 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.
This Sunday gives directions to our turnaround from one spirit to another: Forgiveness Sunday – the essential condition of repentance: our willingness to forgive. Today we will hear ‘Lord have mercy’ fervently repeated forty times followed by the recitation of St. Ephraim’s prayer with prostrations. People ask forgiveness of each other so that they can start Lent at peace with everyone. After such a solemn service and such a moving exchange with our fellow Christians, most people quietly exit the church trying to hold on to the emotions engendered by the prayers and events of today’s service.
Let Us Start with Forgiveness
We are entering the time of Great Lent. We are beginning a mystical voyage which will bring us, together with Jesus, through His sufferings up to His Resurrection. It is a difficult voyage. We shall find opposition!
We will be tempted to put off starting or not go at all – or simply go through the motions, to do the very minimum to accompany the Savior. We shall be tempted to desire the fruits of abstinence, peace and joy in the Lord, without truly abstaining.
Thus, so that we can make a sure and certain start on the trip, we must first get rid of the things that hold us back – our pride and arrogance, our insistence on always being the one who are right. We must become humble and small before the Lord and before others – like children. This is why the Church asks us today, February 26, to ask each others' forgiveness. With the humility and with the freedom that forgiveness brings we shall be able to start on the journey of Lent with confidence and serenity.
Let us freely take upon ourselves the discipline of abstinence. It is true that sin does not enter our soul through the things that we eat, but the source of our energy, our food, does have importance to us. If we can succeed in controlling what we eat, we shall have greater success in controlling that which proceeds from our minds and from our lips. Let us be courageous! Forward with God the Director of our journey! ~ Ihor George Kutash, Priest
The Sunday of the Last Judgment or Meatfare Sunday is the third Sunday using the Lention Triodion, the liturgical book used in the services of Great Lent. It is the Sunday after the Sunday of the Prodigal Son and Sunday before Forgiveness Sunday. This is the third week of the pre-Lenten start of the Easter cycle of worship in the Orthodox Church.
This Sunday is called Meatfare Sunday since it is traditionally the last day before Easter for eating meat. Orthodox Christians observe a fast from meat all week, but still eat dairy products and eggs till the start of Great Lent.
The Gospel reading this Sunday remembers Christ's parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).
With the end of Jesus' earthly ministry quickly approaching, He shares this story about the final judgment. We know that Jesus will return and at His second coming all will be judged. Since we do not know when this will occur, it is important that we as Christians remain prepared so that we can be numbered among the sheep. In this passage, we are told very specifically what we will be judged for: our acts of Christian love toward others. This love challenges us to go beyond society's notion of charity and calls us to see Christ in everyone, serving each person as we would Christ. This Sunday is also known as Meatfare Sunday. After this day, we begin to fast from meat products. From the reading, the faithful hear:
… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison and you visited me. …. For truly I say to you, if you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25).
Sources: Orthodoxwiki.org; goarch.org
One Sunday, as parishioners arrived at church, they were horrified to see a dirty homeless man begging for change on the steps as they entered church. Everyone quickly walked by without saying so much as a word to the man. As they took their seats in church, they waited for the pastor, who appeared to be running late. After most of the parishioners arrived, to their horror the homeless man came into the church and walked to the front. When he reached the pulpit, he removed the glasses and hat he was wearing; the parishioners could see that this was not a homeless man but in fact their pastor. Still in the tattered and dirty clothes, he began his sermon by saying, "Today I want to talk about Christian love." - Author unknown
A Closing Prayer
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. Amen.
Knowing the commandments of the Lord, let this be our way of life; let us feed the hungry, let us give the thirsty drink, let us clothe the naked, let us welcome strangers, let us visit those in prison and the sick. The Judge of all the earth will say even to us: 'Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.'
- from the Vespers of Judgment Sunday
The Sunday of the Prodigal Son, February 12, 2017, is the second 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. Jesus told this parable of ‘The Prodigal Son’ which could also be titled ‘The Forgiving Father’. The Gospel reading is from Luke15:11-32. This Gospel tells the story of a wayward son and a loving, forgiving father.
Once there was a man who had two sons. Together they took care of the land. But the younger son did not want to work on the land. He asked his father to give him his inheritance in money instead of his share of the property. The father does this, and soon after the younger son leaves and journeys to a distant country to live.
Soon he had wasted all of his money on his wayward new life. He was able to find work feeding swine. His employer paid him very little, made him work very hard, and did not give him enough to eat. A severe famine came and he had nothing. The young son was always hungry and the animals he fed ate better than he. He remembered his father’s home, and how well the workers there were treated and had enough to eat. He thought to himself, “I have no right to ask my father to take me back as a son. I will go home and say to my father, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’."
And so he went home and told his father how badly things had gone. He told his father about the bad choices he had made. He wanted a chance to start over; he wanted to be a son again.
The father was very happy. He welcomed him and began to prepare a big celebration. He wanted to help his son start over. The older son, who stayed home and worked, came in from the fields and saw the preparations for the party. He complained to his father about the welcome his foolish brother was being given. The older brother felt that he, not his younger brother, should be given a party. He was not like his brother who had gone away and wasted his money in self-indulgent ways. He reminded his father how he had stayed home and worked. The father said to his oldest son, “My son, I care for you. You are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found. That is why we are celebrating.’
The wayward son discovered that he belonged. His father cared about him. He belonged to a family. With his family he celebrated forgiveness, love and a chance to start over. He learned inside the family is salvation; outside is a life of hunger among the swine.
For those who have fallen into great despair over their sins thinking that there is no forgiveness, this parable offers hope. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go home and confess ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’. Our Heavenly Father is patiently and lovingly waiting for our return. There is no sin that can overcome His love.
Our Heavenly Father is waiting and ready to receive us with His loving forgiveness and His saving embrace.
The Publican and the Pharisee
Yes, Great Lent will soon be here.
The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, February 5, 2017, 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.
The Gospel reading is from Luke18:10-24. This Gospel tells the story of the Publican and the Pharisee and shows us how conceit and pride in one's virtues do not count in God's eyes. A sinner, if he is humble and owns up to his faults and repents, is nearer God's love than the person who prides himself on his outward good works and despises his fellowmen. The hyms and canon of the Week of the Publican and Pharisee speak to us of humility.
The day is named after one of Jesus’ Parables as told in the Gospel of Luke. This week is followed by that of the Prodigal Son, then by Meatfast and then Cheesefast (Forgiveness Sunday)and then Great Lent begins on February 27.
Jesus spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector [or Publican]. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying: ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
(From: Luke 18:9-14)
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.
O Lord, You condemned the Pharisee who justified himself by boasting of his works, and You justified the Publican who humbled himself and with cries of sorrow begged for mercy. For You reject proud-minded thoughts, O Lord, but do not despise a contrite heart. Therefore in abasement we fall down before You Who have suffered for our sake: Grant us forgiveness and great mercy.
Let us flee the proud speaking of the Pharisee and learn the humility of the Publican, and with groaning let us cry to the Saviour: Be merciful to us, for You alone are ready to forgive.
To move our hears to penitence, special penitent prayers to Jesus Christ and His Mother are sung:
'Open Thou the gates of repententance to me, O Lifegiver, for my soul longs for thy holy Temple, though its own bodily temple is wholly defiled. But Thou, in Thy bounty, cleanse it according to Thy loving kindness.'
'O Mother of God, lead me into the path of salvation, for I have hardened by soul by shameful sins, and have spent all my life in laziness. Save me, by Thy prayers, from all imputiry.'
The Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ
So much of the month of December is the time of Advent or preparing for the coming of Christ. People prepare in many ways - some meditate more about the life of Christ, fast and pray and gain a sense of peace.
Others rush around in frenzy - from store to store, from party to party. They hope to get a bit of peace and quiet but it eludes them, as they do not allow themselves any downtime to even think about the reason for the celebration. Christ is forgotten in the rush, rush.
Most are somewhere in the middle, straddling both ways for preparing for the great day. As the day becomes more secularized, it will take more effort to prepare for it.
Little by little the theme of the Nativity is introduced into church services. The first mention is made on the eve of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. We hear for the first time the announcement: “Christ is born! Glorify Him!”
Then on the two Sundays before the Nativity, the Church commemorates the Forefathers and Fathers, who are the prophets and the saints of the Old Testament who prepare us for the Coming, for the salvation and reconciliation of mankind with God.
The Eve of the Holy Day is dedicated to an especially strict fast. Many observe a special meal.
On the great day itself, Christmas - the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - we hear the familiar “Christ is born! God is with us!” and we respond “Glorify Him!”
Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian
The ancient Orthodox Church reminds us, its faithful, that it's that time in its yearly liturgical and sacramental cycle to prepare to look deeply into oneself to assess one's spiritual condition and how it governs his/her life and influences the lives of others.
Great Lent was and is a spiritual journey in preparation for the Resurrection of Christ (Pascha). Its main intent being to humbly and sincerely search one's soul in order to see oneself as he/she truly is. By honestly recognizing one's sins. Through prayer, worship, reading of Scripture, almsgiving and especially forgiveness and love, change the direction of our lives. In this way we begin to gain control over the things that have controlled us or badly influenced us that need to be 'turned around' (repentance). – Matushka Nina Stroyen
There is a powerful prayer of the ancient church attributed to a 4th century monk, St. Ephraim the Syrian, found in Lenten worship services:
Prayer of St Ephraim
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust for power and idle talk. But rather give to me Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother for blessed art Thou O Lord unto ages of ages. Amen
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
PASCHA - May 1, 2016
Pascha is the greatest and most joyful feast in the Church!
It is a movable Feast and the date of its celebration each year is determined according to a formula agreed to by the Church at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. This year Pascha is celebrated on May 1.
Pascha celebrates Our Lord and Saviour's Resurrection from the dead conquering death for all those who follow him.
It is immediately preceded by Great Lent and Passion Week, times during which Orthodox Christians prepare themselves with prayer, fasting and repentance for their spiritual growth and the coming feast.
Passion Week ends and Pascha begins at sunset on Great Saturday, April 30, recalling the Jewish Sabbath which begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.
We know from the Gospels that Christ was crucified on Friday and remained in the tomb during the Sabbath.
ORTHODOX GREAT LENT
The Orthodox Church and the Western Church both have a 40 day Great Lent, but they are calculated differently.
The Orthodox Church starts Great Lent on Monday and ends on Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday.
The Western Church starts on a Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday.
During the period of Great Lent the Church helps us to assess our spiritual condition and renew ourselves by creating conditions which predispose us towards fasting and repentance.
Some of us give up something and add something, both in an effort to help us to recognize our sins and gain control over our spiritual lives...
Give up cookies and smile one more time each day...
Give up gossiping about the neighbor and open the door for someone at the store...
Give up a favorite TV show and pray for someone you don't like...
Give up an extra cup of coffee and arrive at church 5 minutes early...
We complete our Lenten effort by going to Confession and receiving Holy Communion.