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.”
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.
The Testament of the Forty Holy and Glorious Martyrs of Christ who died at Sebaste .
Meletius, Aetius, and Eutychius, prisoners of Christ, send greetings in Christ to the holy bishops and presbyters in every city and country, to the deacons and confessors and to all others who pertain to the Christian Church.
1. When by God’s grace and the common prayers of all we accomplish the contest set before us, and hasten to the prize of our heavenly calling, then this is the determination we wish made with regard to the collection of our remains by the friends of our father, the presbyter Proidus, and our brothers Crispinus and Gordius, with all their zealous community, and Cyril, Mark, and Sapricius son of Ammonius, so that our bones may be laid to rest in the town of Sarim below the city of Zelon. For, though we come from different localities, we have none the less decided that we should have one and the same place of rest. We endured the same contest: and therefore we have decided to have a common resting-place at the spot we have mentioned. This was a determination of the Holy Spirit, and it was pleasing to us as well.
On this day, Cheesefare Sunday, we commemorate the banishment of Adam, the First Creature, from the Paradise of Delight.
Our Holy Fathers appointed this commemoration before the beginning of Great Lent to demonstrate how beneficial the medicine of fasting is to human nature and how shameful are gluttony and disobedience by an example of the results of each. They set before us the example of Adam, the first formed man. Skipping over the detailed account of the innumerable things made for him in the world, they give a clear, case-in-point demonstration of how many evils he suffered – and hence introduced into our nature – from neglecting to fast for only a short time. Furthermore, they show that the first precept of God given to mankind was the ideal of fasting. By not keeping this precept but yielding instead to his stomach, or rather to the serpent-deceiver by the agency of Eve, Adam not only failed to become God, but he also brought death upon himself and communicated this sickness to the entire human race. In order to remove the first Adam’s indulgence, the Lord fasted forty days, thus obeying the commandment of fasting. This was the origin of the forty-day Fast of Great Lent. It was instituted by the Holy Apostles so that, if by means of Great Lent we keep the Fast, unlike Adam who did not, we might again enjoy the incorruptibility that he lost.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What a tender scene the Meeting of the Lord shows us! The venerable elder Simeon, holding the infant God in his hands, on either side of him are the righteous Joseph and the Most Holy Mother of God. Not far away is the Prophetess Anna, an eighty-year-old faster and woman of prayer. Their eyes are all directed toward the Savior. Their attention is absorbed by Him and they drink in spiritual sweetness from Him, which feeds their souls. You can judge for yourself how blessed was the state of these souls!
However, brethren, we are called not only to think about this blessedness, but also to taste it in reality, for all are called to have and carry the Lord in themselves, and to disappear in Him with all the powers of their spirit. When we have reached that state, then our blessedness will be no lower than that of those who participated in the Meeting of the Lord. They were blessed who saw it; we shall be blessed who have not seen, but believed. Pay attention. I will show you briefly how to achieve this. Here is what you should do.