On this day, the fourth Sunday of Great Lent, we commemorate our venerable Father among the saints, St. John of Sinai, the author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent.
No one knows the birthplace or parentage of our venerable Father John of Sinai. In his youth, at the age of sixteen, he came to the wilderness of Sinai and dwelt under the guidance of Abba Martyrius.
When Abba Martyrius tonsured our venerable Father John at the age of twenty, he took him and went to that pillar of the wilderness, Abba John the Sabbaite in the wilderness of Gouda where he had with him his disciple Stephen the Cappadocian. When the Sabbaite elder saw them, he arose and took water, poured it into a small basin, washed the feet of the disciple (the young John) and kissed his hand; but he did not wash the feet of Abba Martyrius his superior. Abba Stephen was scandalized by the situation. After the departure of Abba Martyrius and his disciple, Abba John noticed that his own disciple was greatly perplexed and said to him, “Why are you so troubled? Believe me, I do not know who the boy is, but today I received the abbot of Sinai and washed his feet.” After forty years, he did indeed become the abbot according to the prophecy of the elder.
Lark Buns (Zhavoronki) Recipe for the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste These lark buns are traditionally baked in Russia each year to celebrate the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. There are forty buns to celebrate each of the forty martyrs. The larks are the first bird to arrive in Russia each spring, and the feast day of the Forty Martyrs falls during Lent, so the buns also celebrate the arrival of spring.
These "larks" are not sourdough like the ones referred to in the Siberian cookbook article. However, they are good. If readers have any recipes for these or other foods which are associated with the Church calendar, such as the "crosses" made for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, please send them in so that we can share them.
On n this day, the third Sunday in Great Lent, we celebrate the veneration of the precious and Life-giving Cross.
As we have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24), and will have mortified ourselves during these forty days of the Fast, the precious and Life-giving Cross is now placed before us to refresh our souls and encourage us who may be filled with a sense of bitterness, resentment, and depression. The Cross reminds us of the Passion of our Lord, and by presenting to us His example, it encourages us to follow Him in struggle and sacrifice, being refreshed, assured, and comforted. In other words, we must experience what the Lord experienced during His Passion – being humiliated in a shameful manner. The Cross teaches us that through pain and suffering we shall see the fulfillment of our hopes: the heavenly inheritance and eternal glory.
On this day, the second Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of our Father among the saints, Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica and Wonder-worker.
Our holy father Gregory, the son of the Divine and unwaning Light, true servant of the true God and initiate of His wondrous mysteries, was born in the imperial city of Constantinople. His parents were noble and renowned persons who took care that he be taught both the secular sciences and divine wisdom and that he learn every virtue.
On this day, the first Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the restoration of the holy and venerable icons by the ever-memorable rulers of Constantinople, the Emperor Michael and his mother, the Empress Theodora, during the patriarchate of St. Methodius the Confessor.
It was with God’s permission that when St. Germanos (comm. May 12) had taken up the rudder of the Church, Leo the Isaurian (717-41) seized the scepter of the empire after having been a mule driver and manual laborer. The Patriarch was summoned immediately to hear the Emperor say, “In my opinion, Bishop, the holy images are no different from idols; therefore, I command that they be removed from among us as soon as possible. If it should be the case that they are the true forms of the saints, however, then at least see that they be hung up high so that we, who are stained by sin, may not soil them with our kisses.”
The Patriarch sought to turn the Emperor away from such hatred, saying, “God forbid, Emperor, that you should rage against the holy images, for we hear that some have nicknamed you the “One Who Plasters Over.”
Οn this day we commemorate the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge.
The most-godly Fathers placed the present commemoration of the Second Coming of Christ after the two parables of the preceding Sundays so that no one, having learned of God’s love for mankind, might lead a life of negligence, saying to himself, “God loves mankind, and when I finally cease sinning, everything will go easily.”
Hence, they appointed the remembrance of that fearful day in order to frighten the negligent with the thought of death and the anticipation of the future torments and rouse them to the acquisition of virtue so that they will not merely trust in God’s love for man but also bear in mind that He is a just Judge who rewards everyone according to his deeds.
On this day, Soul Saturday, according to the order instituted by our Holy Fathers, we call to remembrance all those who have died from the beginning of the ages in faith and in the hope of the resurrection and of life eternal.
The present commemoration of the dead is based on the reality that many of our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters died under such circumstances that funeral prayers and normal memorial services could not be offered for them. Either in a foreign land or on the seas, on impassable mountains or in gulfs or precipices, through starvation or diseases, in wars, in fires, or during earthquakes, and in so many other ways, perhaps in poverty or in need, our known and unknown brothers and sisters in Christ did not enjoy the chanting and necessary spiritual care. Therefore, our Holy Fathers, moved by their love for humanity, appointed the present celebration to take place in the Church everywhere, having received this from the Holy Apostles, so that all who have died through various mishaps or accidents may be remembered together, for the benefit of their souls. There is great profit to the soul from these memorials in the Church. This is the first reason.
The Right-believing Prince Daniel was the fourth son of the ever-memorable Great Prince Saint Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky. He was the last among his brothers, as was also his great-grandfather Great Prince Vsevolod Yurevich. Thus, Princes Daniel and Vsevolod were likened by the Lord unto the ancient king, ancestor of God, and Prophet, David, who also was the youngest of his brothers.
This blessed Prince Daniel was left without parents two years from birth, but from his childhood the Lord preserved him. The Lord chose him, prospered and established him. No one went to war against him, but the God-preserved dominion of the pre-eminent city of Moscow was obtained by him as an inheritance. God loved and glorified Prince Daniel and his righteous posterity and permitted them to reign for centuries. If at that time the Moscow dominion was not so extensive as afterwards, nevertheless, then the blessed and Great Prince Daniel was invincible. When among the brethren of Prince Daniel and their relatives there occurred civil strife near his dominions, he, clever and courageous, always sought to appear as a zealot of humble-mindedness. Valiantly arming himself against those at enmity with him, he went out against them with his hosts, but he appeased the rancor without the shedding of blood.
Original text of this homily was formed as a result of integrating 3rd and 4th homilies of the "Commentary on the Gospel of Luke" (PG 77, 1039-1050) – Ed.
[Sermons 3 on Luke 2:21-24]
Very numerous indeed is the assembly, and earnest the hearer: – for we see the Church full: – but the teacher is but poor. He nevertheless Who giveth to man a mouth and tongue, will further supply us with good ideas. For He somewhere says Himself, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Since therefore ye have all come together eagerly on the occasion of this joyous festival of our Lord, let us with cheerful torches brightly celebrate the feast, and apply ourselves to the consideration of what was divinely fulfilled, as it were, this day, gathering for ourselves from every quarter whatsoever may confirm us in faith and piety.
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As we celebrate the Epiphany, we remember how God revealed himself as the Trinity, that Jesus appeared to the people as Christ. Where did Christ appear Hos did He begin His mission? Did He enter a great city and reveal Himself in His glory? Did He ascend a great mountain as many thousands of people beheld Him from below, wondering at the miracle? No! Christ went into the wilderness, to the Jordan River, where John was baptizing the people. John preached repentance, and called upon sinners, in a sign of repentance, to be baptized in the Jordan. And it was as a sinner that Christ came and asked for baptism. Yet He had no sin. John was afraid: “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Adam sinned through pride, he wished to elevate himself, to become like God. But Christ cam to fulfill the truth of God, to correct Adam’s pride through humility. Christ entered the water and received baptism from His servant. Trembling, John placed his hand upon his God and Master, and Christ humbly bowed His head. Christ’s humility opened up the heavens, and the voice of God the Father boomed forth: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This is My Son, Who humbled Himself in order to fulfill My will, My true Son, Who humbles Himself in order to elevate mankind. Christ’s meekness opened the heavens and revealed to mankind the Trinitarian nature of God.