Tuesday, March 19, 2013
THE GREAT LENT
March 18 marks the beginning of the Great Lent. lt is known in
Greek as ‘Kathara Deftera’ or Clean Monday. The word kathara is
closely related to catharsis or cleaning.
Everyone needs cleanliness. Fortunately, scientific technology
has given us many ways of achieving cleanliness, of keeping our
bodies clean. Are our bodies entirely clean?
Are our tongues clean? Is it not true that they speak words which
are not clean, but are offensive, words which show malice or envy, or
which indicate a hostile attitude to the progress of others? It is
obvious that our tongues need to be cleaned. The Great Lent is an
opportunity for cleansing ourselves with silence, so that we stop
saying unjust, false and offensive words against our brethren.
Do we have clean eyes? Christ told us that when the eyes are
clean, then the whole body is radiant. Do we really regard others with
contempt and envy and only find fault with them and not virtue? Are
our eyes clean? The Great Lent gives us the opportunity to cleanse
our eyes, so that we can discover in other people not their mistakes,
but goodness and love and other qualities which adorn the image of
God i.e. the image of God in each person.
Do we have clean ears? Do we listen attentively to idle gossip
about our friends and neighbors? If so, the Great Lent gives us a
chance to cleanse our hearing so that we may ignore rumors which
are repeatedly circulated against other people. We know that there
are people who hear exactly what they want to hear, and gossip about
other people adding their own malicious condemnations. But
whatever they hear and say is nothing but falsehood and idle gossip.
They speak against the church, against Christ, His Bishops and
priests, and lay leaders. Do our ears need cleansing? If so, Clean
Monday gives us a chance to cleanse our hearing from all the vicious
attacks which we hear against other people.
Additionally, our hands and feet and the other members of our
bodies need the same cleansing, not only with soap, but also with
honesty. Our feet must not take us to places where the enemies of
our churches congregate, and our hands must not move us against
justice and dignity and against the property of others. The Great Lent
invites us to cleanse our ears, our hands, our feet and our eyes, but
most of all, our hearts.
In the book of Psalms we read: “Create in me a clean heart, O
God.” These words, from the 50"' Psalm, contain a special significance
for our repentance, which we begin on Clean Monday and continue
throughout the period of Great Lent. Repentance means the cleansing
of our feelings, our thoughts our intentions, and our hearts. It is
redirecting our minds towards the mind of Christ. As Saint Paul says
“Acquire the mind of Christ”.
During Great Lent, our Church guides us to the cleanliness of our
eyes and tongues, of our ears and hands, our feet, our hearts and
minds, that is to say, to our whole being. Our church prepares us to
approach the Cross and receive His Precious Body and Blood.
Metropolitan Methodios of Boston
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Judgment Sunday (Meatfare Sunday) Sermon by Fr Ted Toppses
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
If something happens to my child, it happens to me. The love of a parent can give us the truly amazing understanding that whatever happens to our children happens to us. Their happiness is our happiness, their sorrow is also ours, and their pain is clearly felt by their parent. If we feel this way about our own children, how much more can we expect God to feel about each of us, and all of His children? The problem we face is that we can live this life without looking to help the lowliest of people, and it may be difficult to recognize that they are also God’s Children. We can live our lives and not recognize our first responsibility is to God and all His Children. If we are committed to live our lives with God, then we must truly understand that to live our faith fundamentally includes helping even the lowliest of people.
Imagine if we have someone who loves us and says they follow us and yet rejects our children, does not help them or even does them harm. Can we say a person loves us and yet rejects our children?
In today’s Gospel we see how harshly we will be judged if we do not help those in need, and how blessed we can be if we help the lowliest of people.
Let us review today’s Gospel from St. Matthew 25:31-46
The Lord said, "When the Son of man comes in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
In a world where the soul of a person can be awake and earthly life can take on new meaning, we can be truly free because of our faith in Christ. We are free to walk towards or away from the light. One may ask why we would walk away from the light, and yet we often do. The sinful tendency is part of our fallen nature and yet we are all called to the light through the image of God created in us. This image is restored in us by Christ.
In order to truly follow the light of God we must understand that God dwells inside of us and all other people. We are his children and from today’s Gospel lesson we learn that it is imperative that our faith is lived only in the Light of the Love of God which shines on all people. If we truly have God’s Light and love in us, we will understand that we can only live our faith and keep this light if we share it.
If we do not share God’s Light in us, we are actually rejecting the light and walking away from God. If we move away from God in this way we will be filled with darkness.
We must remember the Lord insists, in His Judgment of our Love and Faith for Him, that 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' He does not ask what we did for those who are nice to us, nor for those whom we like, but “the least of these my brethren”. This is the true challenge of living our faith and not simply accepting it intellectually.
May we live our lives faithfully, loving each other and even the lowliest of people! May we live our faith by caring for each other and especially the least of God’s children! May we hear the blessing that God would say to us “'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Sunday, March 3, 2013
The Love of the Father, and the Confession of the Prodigal
Sermon by Fr Ted Toppses
3-3-2013 Sunday of the Prodigal Son
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…
It is of no doubt that as we approach Great Lent the fathers of the Church made sure we would have fixed in our hearts the lesson of the return of the prodigal son. It is a wonderful thing that we have come to know that God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit loves us more than we can even begin to comprehend. We feel this profound love of God at times and yet we live in the fallen world. God’s love for us is something truly profound and akin to the love a parent has for their child. Yet God’s love is far more than that of an earthly parent. Christ in today’s Gospel lesson illustrated this Divine Love and our need to embrace this love by turning from sin through the parable of the prodigal son. Repentance and confession allow our souls to return to the Father who loves us and is always waiting for our return so He will shower us with His Abundant Grace.
Today’s Gospel lesson is from St. Luke 15:11-32
The Gospel Begins…
The Lord said this parable: "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.
Not that long ago we heard the Gospel of the parable of the Talents and learned that it is critical in our life not to waste what God has given us. To depart from God is sin and this represents our fallen desire to satisfy the sinful passions and desires. Many are given great gifts from God and squander them on earthly pleasure and glory.
The Gospel Continues…
And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.
St. Gregory Palamas says that the swine are a reference to the filth of sin that was partaken by the prodigal.
We should remember that pigs or pork is restricted under Judaic law. It is no doubt that Christ uses this reference to show the utter depravity that can result when a person embraces sin seeking to satisfy sinful fallen desires.
People are often fooled by a desire for earthly pleasure because as human beings made in the likeness and image of God we cannot be truly satisfied by the pleasures of this earthly worldly life. If we try to satisfy the sinful desires in us, we will soon be in want again having clung to what will eventually become dust. The true satisfaction and fulfillment of people comes from Christ our Lord.
The Gospel continues…
But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.' And he arose and came to his father.
This is a miracle showing that in utter depravity we can come to our senses and return to God our Father who loves us. Humility is a critical ingredient in repentance and confession. In the prodigal’s return to Christ he was willing to give up all the rights of being a child and simply be God’s servant. He was going to his humble confession before our Heavenly Father.
The Gospel continues….
But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.
The father had been looking on from afar and waited patiently for his son’s return. He waited knowing the amazing benefits of sincere and humble repentance. Seeing his son he knew his heart and ran to him. He heard the son’s confession when the son said to the father: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' What did the father say, how was his love for his son expressed after the prodigal’s repentance and confession? He immediately showered him with undeserved gifts and graces due to the prodigal’s sincere humble repentance and confession.
The Gospel continues…
Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"
We are lost and yet God has found us. We have sinned and we humble ourselves in confession. We confess, and God showers us with His grace. The prodigal son was lost and dead and the older brother sees the unfairness of God’s mercy and sinned by not rejoicing in the return of his brother to God. We must love each other as God loves us and rejoice for all people’s return to God by understanding this does not take away from the gifts we have, but even more blesses by rejoicing in the salvation of the ones we must always remember to love.
Friday, March 1, 2013
A Prayer for Repentance between Confessions - Saint Ephraim the Syrian A VERY COMPUNCTIONATE PRAYER TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
This prayer is a very cathartic prayer by St. Ephraim. It is good to use when a person commits sin that needs confession, and wants to begin the process of repentance now. A person should repent using this prayer to feel oneself as first among sinners, with the full understanding that confession is still needed. We must beware not to focus on ourselves, but God at all times.
We must also beware not to use such prayers to fall into self pity! We must understand of our unworthiness, and put all our focus and confidence in God and His mercy. This prayer is not a substitute for confession but meant to help us return our focus to God through a catharsis that culminates in the sacrament of confession.
Return always to God and be constantly mindful that God is Joy, Mercy and Love!
Saint Ephraim the Syrian
A VERY COMPUNCTIONATE PRAYER
TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Now, once again today,
ashamed and with eyes cast down
I dare to speak to you,
the Master and creator of all:
I am but dust and ashes,
a reproach of men,
truly a worm and not a man,
completely condemned and in deep sorrow
How can I look upon you, O Master?
With what heart?
With what conscience?
With what tongue shall I speak to you?
How can I begin my confession?
Of which sins
shall I, the miserable one, »
first ask remission?
For those I have committed knowingly
and have no excuse
or for those by which
I have violated your holy commandments?
Or should I begin, rather, with my evil thoughts
that have been recorded
and must be accounted for?
I know, O Lord,
that because of my many and evil sins,
I am not worthy
to call upon your fearful and holy name
nor to stand in prayer ,
nor to look up and see the height of heaven,
for I have transgressed more than any man,
I have violated the law more than Manasseh;
I have lived more prodigally
than the prodigal son;
the enemy has taxed me
more than the publican;
I, who love prostitution,
have prostituted myself
more than the harlot;
I have transgressed
more than Nineveh, but unrepentantly;
my iniquities have risen higher than my head
and as a heavy burden
have pressed heavily upon me,
having become wretched,
I am utterly bowed down.
I have enraged your holy name;
I have distressed your Holy Spirit;
I have despised your commandments;
I have in various Ways stained my soul,
created in your image;
I have wasted in sins
the time that you gave me for repentance;
I have shamed my face;
I have totally blinded my eyes;
I have defiled my lips with lies;
and all the parts and the portions
of my soul and body
have been instruments of sin.
has been mingled With demonic thoughts
and I find
that with every Work and thought
I embitter your goodness
while serving my enemy,
even though he fights against me.
Therefore, I am self-condemned
and, before my forthcoming judgment,
I have my evil life to indict me
and the foul smell of my passions
to put me to shame.
From the years of my childhood
I am always stained by filthy thoughts.
I have been an instrument of destructive sin
although I hear every day
about judgment and retribution,
I cannot resist sin,
but I, the wretched one,
am always captured by it.
Alas! O Lord,
for I have badly wasted your longsuffering.
Alas! for the time of my life
has passed by in vanity.
Alas! How shall I lament
the blindness of my soul? .
How shall I mourn
my passionate and thoughtless will?
But, O Master,
look mercifully from your holy high place,
behold my incorrigible soul
and with the means and ways you know
correct me by your mercy. v
As if standing before you, O Christ King,
as if touching your immaculate feet,
so I implore you
with a broken heart.
Have mercy on me, O merciful one.
Do not wait for my corrupt will,
for I have no eagerness to correct myself.
For many times, I have been ready to repent,
yet I, the most miserable one,
have become a liar
with respect to my decision to be with you.
many times you have had mercy on me,
but I have neglected you;
you have raised me up many times,
but I have again fallen down;
you have endured me,
but I have again enraged you.
How many times my humble soul
has been filled with your grace, O Lord!
How many times
has it illumined my dark mind!
How many times
has it comforted my poverty
and expelled my despair!
How many times
has it collected my mind together
from the delusion of the imagination!
Yet I, the unfortunate one,
always reject your grace, O compassionate one
thinking and reﬂecting upon these things,
I am completely amazed
as I am plunged into the depths of wonder;
for I, the miserable one,
have nothing good to use as an apology.
O lover of mankind,
how can I proclaim your blessings to me,
which I, the impious one, reject?
I am Worthy of a myriad of punishments,
for you have filled me, the ungrateful one,
with a myriad of gifts.
Even so, O Master,
having an ocean of long-suffering .
and boundless compassion inherent to your nature,
do not allow me, the ungrateful one,
to be cut off as the fruitless fig tree,
neither seize me unprepared,
nor present my soul
as pitifully condemned
before your dreadful
and impartial seat of judgment.
But as a good God, who loves mankind,
have mercy on me,
the ungrateful one,
the hardened one, o
the one with no excuse,
the one who is worthy of every hell
How can I call upon you, O Master of all,
without having kept your commandments?
For after I received
the knowledge of your truth,
I became irritable, merciless,
and especially a captive to evil thoughts;
I also became captive to gluttony,
greed, pride, slander
While I myself lie, I grieve for the liers;
I, who am full of transgressions,
judge those who transgress.
If insulted, I defend myself.
If I am not honored, I feel abhored
and I consider as enemies
those who tell me the truth.
If I am not ﬂattered,
I feel disgusted.
I expect honors.
If someone does not serve me,
I defame him as arrogant.
I ignore the brother who is sick,
but when I am sick,
I want to be loved and cared for.
I despise the superiors
and overlook the inferiors.
If I keep myself even for a little bit
from unreasonable desires,
I become vainglorious.
If I attain some degree of vigilance,
I am entrapped by its opposite.
If I restrain myself from foods,
I am thrown down because of my pride.
If I make some progress in virtue,
I boast before my brothers.
Externally I appear humble,
but in my soul I am presumptuous.
I am not going to mention
the vain thoughts I have in church
and the Wanderings of my mind during prayer
I leave aside the hypocritical meetings,
the greed in the give and take of business,
the publication of the mistakes of others
and the disastrous slanders.
This is my accursed life.
Among a myriad of such evils,
I struggle for my salvation,
but my arrogance and pride
do not allow me to understand them.
What apology have I before you, my God,
if I claim that the evil one
has suggested these to me?
Not even Adam was helped
when he apologized in this manner.
Who will not mourn my loss?
Who will not sigh for my blindness?
Who will not lament my insensitivity?
O Lord, grant me repentance
for the sake of your infinite compassion.
O all Saints,
intercede for me, the sinner,
pouring out your supplication
to the compassionate God
that he may recall my soul
which has been attached to hades
through disgraceful passions.
O Saints, intercede for me,
so that through your holy prayers
I may become Worthy of repentance.
For it is your work, O holy ones,
to intercede for sinners,
and it is God’s Work to be merciful
upon those who are in despair.
O. blessed and righteous ones,
who have carried out Well the fight,
come, gather for me, the wretched,
and either lament over me
as one does for the dead
or have pity on me
as one does for one half-dead.
I have no boldness before God
because of my many sins.
Pour out your mercy on me, O saints,
as you would to a hostage and an injured one
For I know that if you entreat God,
all my transgressions will be forgiven by him
because of his ineffable mercy,
for as he is loving to mankind so are you.
Only do not overlook me.
Receive, O Lord,
this humble supplication of mine
and have mercy on me
through the intercessions
of your immaculate Mother
and of all your Saints,
so that I too,
together with all the saved,
through your ineffable mercy,
may worship you, God the Logos,
Who is glorified in the Father and the Spirit
- From the Book "Voices in the Wilderness: An Anthology of Patristic Prayers " edited byNikolaos S. Hatzinikolaou 1988 Holy Cross Press