Synaxarion for the Saturday of Cheesefare.

On this day we commemorate all the holy men and women who have shone forth in the ascetic life.

The God-bearing Fathers, having made us ready for the course of the Fast by gently instructing us by means of the two preceding Sundays, have thus led us away from luxury and satiety. They have instilled in us the fear of the future Judgment and purified us in advance – as is right – by means of Cheesefare week. Furthermore, they have wisely inserted the two intervening weeks of partial fasting so as to prepare us little by little for the full fasting which will begin next Monday.

16.03.2024Read more

Synaxarion of the Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare Sunday).

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.

10.03.2024Read more

Synaxarion of the The Sunday of the Prodigal Son.

Today, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, we call to remembrance the noble parable that is in the Holy Gospel according to the Apostle Luke.

There are people, as they live prodigally from their youth, who observe in themselves many improper things. Spending their time in drunkenness and wantonness, they have fallen into a depth of wickedness and reached despair, which is a result of pride. Yet they do not wish to engage in the pursuit of virtue because, as they say, their evils are very many. And so they continually fall into the same and worse evils. For this reason, in their paternal and loving care for such people, the Holy Fathers placed this parable on this day, wishing to save them from despair, and by showing God’s forbearance and plenteous goodness, they aim to entirely uproot such passions ol prodigality from sinners’ hearts and to inspire them to take up a virtuous life again. The Fathers’ purpose is to show, through this parable of Christ, that there is no sin whatsoever that can prevail over His love for mankind.

02.03.2024Read more

Synaxarion of the The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.

On this day we commemorate the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, which occurs in the Holy Gospel according to the Apostle Luke.

With God’s blessing, we enter this day into the period of the Triodion, in which many of our holy and godly Fathers who were hymnographers inspired by the Holy Spirit composed hymns and odes. St. Cosmas, Bishop of Maiuma (comm. Oct. 14), a famous ecclesiastical poet and hymnographer, was the first to devise the pattern of the three-ode canon (tri-ode = Triodion), in the image of the life-originating Holy Trinity. He first used this model in his canons for the Great and Holy Week of the Passion of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, composing the hymns and using acrostics containing the names of the days of that week. Then the rest of the Fathers, and particularly Saints Theodore (comm. Nov. 11 and Jan. 26) and Joseph (comm. April 3) the Studites, in zealous imitation of St. Cosmas, composed canons for the other weeks of Holy and Great Lent. When they had further arranged and ordered the odes and collected and compiled the book’s other material from the different Fathers, they first used it in their own Monastery of the Studion in Constantinople.

25.02.2024Read more

Saint Maximus, Bishop of Turin in Italy – Two sermons on Zacchaeus.

Sermon 95. On Zacchaeus{1}.

1. It has been my frequent wish, beloved brethren, to preach on the parable from this section of the Gospel and to speak of the grace of the wealthy Zacchaeus in words of great eloquence and to be abundant in praise of him, since he was free-giving for his own salvation. For who would not praise a person who was able to give his own wealth to himself and to acquire everlasting dominion for himself by owning temporal property?{2} He gave his wealth, I say, to himself, because what we possess is another’s if we do not use it properly for salvation{3}; for whatever seems to be mine will not be mine when I depart from the world if it is kept from being useful to me in the world.

It has been my wish, then, to preach on Zacchaeus’ wealth and grace – that of a rich person, clearly, and of one for ever rich, because he merited to be richer to Christ than to the world, and he was wealthier in the possession of faith than in temporal goods. Zacchaeus must be praised, then, because although the rich are excluded from the glory of the heavenly kingdom (as the Lord says: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19.24)), he hastened to enter into the kingdom of heaven by means of those very riches and to pass through that strait and narrow needle’s eye with the twisted mass of his body. What is a ruinous hindrance to others was profitable to his salvation.

17.02.2024Read more

Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica – Homily on the meeting of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ including the subject of chastity and its evil opposite.

1. Before Christ we all shared the same ancestral curse and condemnation poured out on all of us from our single forefather, as if it had sprung from the root of the human race and was the common lot of our nature. Each person’s individual action attracted either reproof or praise from God, but no one could do anything about the shared curse and condemnation, or the evil inheritance that had been passed down to him and through him would pass to his descendants.

2. But Christ came, setting human nature free and changing the common curse into a shared blessing. He took upon Himself our guilty nature from the most pure Virgin and united it, new and unmixed with the old seed, to His divine person. He rendered it guiltless and righteous, so that all His spiritual descendants would remain outside the ancestral curse and condemnation. How so? He shares His grace with each one of us as a person, and each receives forgiveness of his sins from Him. For He did not receive from us a human person, but assumed our human nature and renewed it by uniting it with His own person. His wish was to save us all completely and for our sake He bowed the heavens and came down. When by His deeds, words and sufferings He had pointed out all the ways of salvation, He went up to heaven again, drawing after Him those who trusted in Him. His aim was to grant perfect redemption not just to the nature which He had assumed from us in inseparable union, but to each one of those who believed in Him. This He has done and continues to do, reconciling each of us through Himself to the Father, bringing each one back to obedience and thoroughly healing our disobedience.

15.02.2024Read more

Saint Maximus, Bishop of Turin in Italy – Sermon given after Epiphany.

Sermon 65. Given after Epiphany{1}.

1. I believe that my preaching on the holy day of Epiphany reached all of you, brethren, especially you catechumens. In it we spoke to those who assert that water was changed into wine then{2} and also to the many who testily that the Lord was baptized in the Jordan on that day{3}. Although it is believed by different people that only one of these took place, nonetheless I hold that both took place and that one is a sign of the other, for both took place. For when the Lord was baptized He instituted the mystery of washing and also, by contact with the Divinity{4}, changed the human race – brackish water, as it were – into an eternal substance. Likewise, when He turned the jars full of spring water into wine He did both things: He presented something far better to the wedding feast and also showed that, by the washing, the bodies of human beings are to be filled with the substance of the Holy Spirit. The Lord declared this in clearer fashion elsewhere when He said that new wine was to be stored in new skins{5}, for in the newness of the skins the purity of the washing is signified, and in the wine the grace of the Holy Spirit.

2. Therefore it behooved you catechumens to have listened to this quite closely. There is greater need that your understanding, which is now as chilly as water because of ignorance of the Trinity, should become as warm as wine with a knowledge of the mystery, and that the brackish and weak liquid of your souls may be decanted into a precious and strong grace. Thus, instead of wine we may taste what is good and be redolent of what is sweet, and hence we can say, in the words of the Apostle: For we are the good odor of Christ to God (2 Cor. 2.15). For a catechumen is like water, cold and pale, before he is baptized, but a believer is strong and red like wine. A catechumen, I say, is like water, having no taste or smell, valueless, useless, unpleasant to drink, and unable to keep{6}. For just as water spoils and smells when it is kept a long time and has deteriorated within itself, so also a catechumen becomes worthless and goes to ruin when he remains a catechumen a long time, for he deteriorates within himself{7}. As the Lord says: Unless one is born again from water and the Holy Spirit he will not enter into the kingdom of heaven (John 3.5). The one who does not enter into the kingdom, however, necessarily remains in hell. But rightly is the faithful compared to wine, for just as every part of the whole creation goes to ruin as it gets older and only wine improves with age, so, while all are perishing of old age from throughout the human race, only the Christian improves with age. And just as wine acquires a pleasant savor and a sweet odor as its bitterness diminishes from one day to the next, so also the Christian takes upon himself the wisdom{8} of the Divinity and the agreeable aroma of the Trinity as the bitterness of his sins diminishes with the passing of time.

21.01.2024Read more

Saint Maximus, Bishop of Turin in Italy – Sermon on Epiphany.

Sermon 64: On Epiphany{1}.

1. There are very many who, on this holy day of Epiphany, commemorate the marvelous deeds enacted by the Lord at the time when, upon having been importuned at a wedding feast, He changed the substance of water into the appearance of wine and, by His blessing, turned spring water to a better use{2}. The servants who had drawn water from the wells discovered wine in the jugs and, by a profitable loss, what they had filled them with disappeared and they found what had not been there. With this marvelous sign the power of His divinity was made manifest for the first time.

Some, however, refer on this holy day to His having been baptized by John in the Jordan{3}. In the grace of His washing, God the Father was present in voice, and the Holy Spirit came down. Nor is it remarkable if the mystery of the Trinity was not absent at the Lord’s washing, since the sacrament of the Trinity{4} makes our washing complete. For the Lord had to demonstrate first in Himself what He would afterwards demand of the human race, since He accomplished everything not for His own sake but for our salvation. Or did He wish to be baptized on his own account even when He had no sin? As the prophet says: He did no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth (Isa. 53. 9). But [He was baptized]{5} for our sake – we who, subject to punishment because of our many crimes and sins, needed to be cleansed in Christ’s baptism. And therefore the Lord came to the washing not so that He Himself might be purified by the waters but so that the streams of waters might purify us, for He went down into the waters, thereby destroying the sins of all believers. But it was necessary that He who bore the sins of all should destroy the sins of all, as the Evangelist says: This is the lamb of God, this is the one who takes away the sins of the world (John 1.29). In a wonderful way, then, one man goes down into the waters and the salvation of all is restored.

19.01.2024Read more

St. Amphilochios of Iconium – Homily on the Circumcision of Christ and Basil the Great.

Saint Amphilochius, Speech on the Eight-Day Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ, with a panegyric, in a few words, for Basil the Great.

The Law is a Shadow

The great Paul declared that the written "Law possesses a shadow of future good things, not the very image itself" (Heb 10:1). For it is just so with painters who have set their sights on the original form and the living shape: first, using black pigment they carefully outline the form of their subject in shadows on the canvas. Then, artfully mixing up different colors, and casting them in shadow and light, they clearly display the original shape through imitation of its form.

So too the Law of the Spirit, just as in living forms and pure objects, envisions the good things prepared in heaven for those who are worthy: now the shadows and types of these things, through Moses and the Old [Testament], were faintly sketched out beforehand. But through Christ and the New [Testament], the teachings of piety and truth, indeed cast to such an extent in very florid and bright colors, have been set before the eyes of those who see the brighter form of celestial and unseen good things. Just as when the form has been arranged in colors, and has received its proper beauty, the shadow which was laid down is hidden and passes away: so now while good things have been hidden in heaven, when later they are revealed, the same image of the things, passing away, will cease to be.

As it is written, “Then the prophecies will pass away, then forms of knowledge will cease: for we know only partially, and we prophesy only partially. But when completion has come, then what is partial will pass away” (1 Cor 13:8-10). So therefore the old things have gone away, while all the new things have come to be; and the shadows and the types have passed away, while the images of things themselves have suddenly become visible through the grace of the Spirit and the apostolic wisdom of God, let us disregard the rest of the legal types, and the shadows: let us have regard instead for the finely etched form of the things itself.

14.01.2024Read more

Saint Maximus, Bishop of Turin in Italy – Sermon given before the Birthday of the Lord.

Sermon 61A. Given before the Birthday of the Lord{1}.

1. Even if I should be silent, brethren, the season warns us that the birthday of the Lord Christ is very near, since the extreme conclusion of the cycle of days has anticipated my preaching. For by this very brevity the world tells us that something is about to happen by which it will be restored to a better state, and with increasing longing it wishes for the brilliance of the shining sun to cast light on its darkness. While it dreads to have its course come to an end because of the shortness of the hours, it shows by a kind of hope that its year is to be formed anew. This longing on the pan of creation (Cf. Rom. 8.19), then, also persuades us to long that the new sun{2}, the risen Christ, may cast light upon the darkness of our sins, and that by the power of His birth the sun of justice (Cf. Mal. 4.2) may scatter the protracted gloom of sin in us; and it persuades us not to let the course of our life come to a close with shocking abruptness but to let it be extended thanks to His power. Therefore, since we know the birthday of the Lord because the world points to it, let us also do what the world is accustomed to do; that is to say, just as on that day the world extends the period of its light, so let us also prolong our righteousness. And just as the brightness of that day is common to poor and rich, so let our generosity also be common to travelers and needy folk. And just as the world has then thrown off the gloom of its nights, so let us also cut off the darkness of our avarice. And, as is the case in the winter season, just as seeds are sustained in the ground when the frost is broken up by the sun’s warmth, so let the sluggish seed of righteousness in our hearts grow strong when our hardness is broken up by the Savior’s radiance.

09.01.2024Read more