On the fifth Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the feast of the Samaritan woman.
This feast has been placed during the week of Mid-Pentecost because Jesus, on this day, clearly bore witness to Himself as the Messiah, that is, the Christ or anointed One (for Messiah in Hebrew means anointed one), and also because He had worked the miracle at the Sheep’s Pool on the previous Sunday.
The Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom is read during Matins of Pascha.
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; He gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
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.
I shall introduce my homily to your charity today with the Lord’s own words, the quintessence, in fact, of the Gospel preaching: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17; cf. 3:2 and Mark 1:15). Not only is it at hand, but it is in us, for the Lord also says, “The kingdom of heaven is within you” (Luke 17:21). Nor is it merely within you, for before long it will come more openly to abolish every principality, power and might (cf Eph. 1:21), and to grant invincible strength, inexhaustible riches and unchanging, incorruptible and unending enjoyment, glory and might solely to those who live according to God’s will and have passed their time here in a way that pleases Him.
2. Since the kingdom of God is at hand and within us and will soon arrive, let us make ourselves worthy of it by works of repentance. Let us exercise force on ourselves, driving away evil prejudices and habits. For "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matt. 11:12). We should emulate the patience, humility and faith of our God-bearing Fathers. “Whose faith follow”, it says, “considering the end of their manner of life” (Heb. 13:7). Let us mortify those parts of us which belong to the earth: fornication, impurity, evil passion and covetousness, especially during these holy days of the fast. This is why the grace of the Spirit taught us first about God’s terrible Judgment which is to come, then reminded us of Adam’s exile, and afterwards pointed out to us the faith that is surest of all. For fear of the Judgment and in grief at the exile, we should hold fast to the faith, humble ourselves and neither yield to self-indulgence, nor open the door to all the passions and make room for them by means of our unbelieving, insatiable stomachs. This would mean following the wide and easy way, destroying ourselves with pleasure. Since we love the strait and narrow way which leads to life, and fasting is its starting point and first furlong, let us vigorously make our way through these forty days of fasting.
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.
I will arise and go to my father (Luke 15:18)
Brethren! All our attention must be centered on the parable of the Prodigal Son. We all see ourselves in it as in a mirror. In a few words the Lord, the knower of hearts, has shown in the person of one man how the deceptive sweetness of sin separates us from the truly sweet life according to God. He knows how the burden of sin on the soul and body, experienced by us, impels us by the action of divine grace to return, and how it actually does turn many again to God, to a virtuous life. We will repeat it and discuss how necessary and easy it is for a sinner to return to God.
One man had two sons. When they came of age, the younger one said to the father, “Give me my rightful share of the estate.” And the father divided the property. The elder son did not take his portion and remained with the father, a sign that he loved his father with a pure heart, and he found satisfaction in fulfilling his will (neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment), and to depart from him he considered madness. But the younger, in a few days, having gathered all his property, left his father’s house for a distant country where he wasted all his substance, living dissolutely. From all this it is evident that he did not have a good and pure heart, that he was not sincerely disposed towards his good father, that he was burdened by his supervision and he dreamed it better to live according to the will of his own depraved heart. But let us hear what happened to him in exile from his father’s house. When he had spent everything in the foreign country in a disorderly manner, a great famine came upon that country and he began to be in need. He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have been happy to fill his stomach with the food (acorns and chaff) that the swine ate; but no one gave him any. Having come to his senses, he said, “How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father and I will say unto him: Father! I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. Receive me as one of thy hired servants.” He arose and went to his father. When he was still afar off, his father saw him and had compassion on him and went to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him. He forgave him and led him to his house, dressed him in the finest clothes and made a feast in honor of his return. And so the lost son entered again into the love of his father.
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.
On this day, the Sunday before the beginning of the Lenten Triodion, we commemorate the repentance of the tax-collector, the Holy Apostle Zacchaeus, who desired to behold Christ.
The Holy Fathers placed today's commemoration here to prepare us, little by little, for dawning season of Great Lent. Knowing that we are basically slow to exhibit a desire for repentance, the Holy Fathers, by Zacchaeus' example, teach us in these preliminary weeks the need to recognize our sins and our need to turn away from them.
ICON OF NEW MARTYRS OF RUSSIA,
as painted by Archimandrite Cyprian (Pyzhov) of Jordanville
A report read at the 15th Diocesan Conference of the Western-European Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on June 6, 1981, in Luxemburg.
THE CHURCH IN THE FIRST CENTURIES
THE APOSTLES, the pillars of, the Church who proclaimed the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world, all except for the Apostle John the Theologian, received a martyr's death before the end of the first century. In them were fulfilled the words of Christ: "Ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake" (Matt. 10:22). The blood of the Apostles, and with them of a multitude of martyrs, moistened the Church abundantly from the middle of the first to the beginning of the fourth century. The first martyrs became the glory, the power, and the symbol of victory for the whole Christian world. Many prepared themselves to become martyrs, for there seemed to be no other path for one who believes in Christ, in this world which lies in evil! The ideal of the most powerful and strong was to shed their blood for Him Who was crucified for our sake.