On Holy and Great Monday we commemorate the blessed Joseph the All-comely and also the withered fig tree.
Inasmuch as the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ has its beginning on this day, and as Joseph is regarded as an image of Christ from former times, he is thus set forth here.
Joseph was the son of the Patriarch Jacob, born to him by Rachel. Being envied by his brethren on account of certain of his dreams, he was first concealed in a dug-out pit, and his father was tricked by a bloody garment and the deceit of his children into thinking that he had been devoured by some beast. Joseph was then sold to some Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver; they, in turn, sold him to Potiphar, captain of the eunuchs of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. His wife was enraged by the young man's chastity, because not wishing to commit sin, he fled from her, leaving behind his garment. She slandered him to his master, and he was put into bonds in a harsh prison. Afterwards, he was released because of his ability to interpret certain dreams; he was brought before the king and appointed governor of the whole land of Egypt. Later, he was made known to his brethren through his distribution of grain. Having spent the whole of his life well, he died in Egypt, recognized as being great in his chastity and kindness toward others. He is, moreover, a prefiguring of Christ. Christ was also envied by His own people, the Jews: He was sold by a disciple for thirty pieces of silver and was imprisoned in the dark and gloomy pit of the grave, whence He broke out by His own power, triumphing over Egypt, that is, over every sin. In His might He conquered it, and He reigns over all the world. In His love for mankind He redeemed us by a distribution of grain, inasmuch as He gave Himself up for us, and He feeds us with Heavenly Bread, His own Life-bearing Flesh. For this reason, Joseph the All- comely is brought to mind at this time. He is also commemorated on the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ.
On this day, Palm Sunday, we celebrate the bright and glorious feast of the Entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
After the raising of Lazarus from the dead, many people who witnessed this event believed in Christ. Moreover, a decree was passed by the council of the Jews to have both Christ and Lazarus killed. Therefore, giving place to their wickedness, Jesus withdrew. The Jews, for their part, made plans to kill Him during the Feast of the Passover. Having stayed away for a long time in the wilderness near Ephraim, six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany to the house of Lazarus, who had been dead. There at supper, Lazarus ate with Him, and his sister Mary poured ointment on Christ's feet. Since Lazarus had been raised from the dead, numerous Jews had forsaken the lifeless synagogue and believed in Jesus. In the future, these would be recognized as the first Christians. At this time, the Jews were divided between those who wished Christ dead and were planning His death and those who acknowledged Him as the Messiah.
On this day, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, we celebrate the fourth-day raising from the dead of Lazarus, the righteous friend of Christ.
“Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.” With these words, the Most-Pure Virgin Mary ended her conversation with Archangel Gabriel, in which he told her that she would become the Mother of God. Some of our contemporaries now express pious surprise: how could she give her consent, for it implies that she recognizes her ability to become the Mother of God. How could she agree? How could she not decline? Yet these questions are incorrect, for one must discern between consent to recognize her ability and consent to obedience. Yes, she gave her consent, not because she deemed herself capable, but because she admitted being the servant of the Lord.
On this day, the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of our holy and venerable Mother, Mary of Egypt.
The recorder of the life of this wonderful saint is St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem. A hieromonk, the elder Zossima, had gone off at one time during the Great Fast on a twenty-days’ walk into the wilderness across the Jordan. He suddenly caught sight of a human being with a withered and naked body and with hair as white as snow, who fled in its nakedness from Zossima’s sight. The elder ran a long way, until this figure stopped at a stream and called, “Father Zossima, forgive me for the Lord’s sake. I cannot turn around to you, for I am a naked woman. ” Then Zossima threw her his outer cloak, and she wrapped herself in it and turned around to him. The elder was amazed at hearing his name from the lips of this unknown woman. After considerable pressure on his part, she told him the story of her life.
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On this day, the Saturday of the fifth week of Great Lent, we celebrate the Akathist Hymn of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
In 626, when Heraclius (610-41) held the imperial authority of the Romans, Chozroes, the king of the Persians, seeing that Roman resources had been extremely depleted by the previous emperor, Phocas the Tyrant (602-10), sent one of his satraps named Sarvaros with many thousands of troops in order to subjugate the entire East to himself. Prior to this, Chozroes had captured one hundred thousand Christians whom the Jews bought and killed. The chief satrap Sarvaros ravaged the entire East and even reached as far as Chrysopolis, which is now called Skoutarion. Emperor Heraclius, being destitute of public funds, converted the sacred vessels of the churches into currency, promising to later replace them with more and finer ones. And thus, crossing the Black Sea with his ships, he invaded the regions of Persia, which he vanquished, utterly defeating Chozroes with his army. Shortly thereafter, Chozroes' son Seiroes rebelled against his father and killed him; he assumed authority and made peace with Emperor Heraclius.
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.
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.”