Monthly Archives: April 2016

Holy Week Meditation & Study Guide

The services of Holy Week transform us into eyewitnesses and direct participants in the awesome events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In readings taken from both Old and New Testaments, in hymns, processions, and liturgical commemoration, we see the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies, and the mighty acts by which God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, grants us forgiveness for our sins, and rescues us from the pain of eternal death.

Click to view / download the HOLY WEEK MEDITATION

 

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A Homily Near the End of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church

We Must Enter into Christ’s Death In Order to Rise with Him: A Homily Near the End of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church

We go to great lengths to insulate ourselves from the realities of suffering and death. Consequently, people who experience profound loss and sorrow often find themselves alone. Surely, it is difficult to be in the presence of those in great pain of any kind, especially those who are dying, for we often feel helpless before them and are reminded of our own mortality. At some level, we know that something similar is in store for us.

Perhaps these tendencies have at least something to do with why so few of our Lord’s followers stood at the foot of His cross as He suffered and died. The Theotokos, the other women, and St. John refused to abandon Him, but the rest of the disciples fled in fear. Surely, they had good reason to be afraid for it had to be dangerous to be associated publically with someone who was crucified as a traitor to the Romans after being rejected as a blasphemer by the leaders of the Jews. But the Theotokos, the other righteous women, and St. John did not flee. They refused to allow their shock and sorrow to cause them to abandon their Saviour, even in the midst of His horrible suffering and death. Continue reading

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Why the Wise Thief Was Pardoned

The faith of the thief, born of his esteem for Christ’s moral greatness, proved stronger than the faith of the Apostles . . .

The Apostles wavered in their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, because they anticipated and desired to see in Him an earthly king, in whose kingdom they could sit at the right and the left hand of the Lord.

The thief understood that the Kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth, despised and given over to a shameful death, was not of this world. And it was precisely this Kingdom that the thief now sought: the gates of earthly life were closing after him; opening before him was eternity. He had settled his accounts with life on earth, and now he thought of life eternal. And here, at the threshold of eternity, he began to understand the vanity of earthly glory and earthly kingdoms. He recognized that greatness consists in righteousness, and in the righteous, blamelessly tortured Jesus he saw the King of Righteousness. The thief did not ask Him for glory in an earthly kingdom but for the salvation of his soul. Continue reading

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The Sign of the Cross

Make the sign of the cross regularly to acknowledge the presence of our Lord.
This signifies Christ’s suffering, Crucifixion and Resurrection for our salvation.
This reminds us that we are called to follow in the steps of Christ.
This helps us bear our sorrows and deprivations in His name.
This keeps the image of the cross in front of us.
This helps gain strength against our battle with the devil.
This keeps in mind the glory of Christ in the Second Coming which is preceded by the sign of the Cross in the sky.

Trisagion Prayer
You can begin all your prayer times with this prayer –

Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, the Treasury of Good and Giver of life;
come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls, Gracious One.
Holy God. Holy Mighty. Holy Immortal Have mercy on us. (3)

Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen
All Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, be merciful to our sins. Master, forgive our transgressions. Holy One, visit us and heal our infirmities, for Your name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (3)
Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen
Our Father, in Heaven, hallowed be Your name, your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

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Homily for Palm Sunday in the Orthodox Church

Philippians 4:4-9  John 12:1-18

Human beings are blessed with the ability to focus on what is most important. So much of what we do at work or school, for example, requires that we tune out distractions and give our minds to the task before us.

St. Paul reminds us that we especially need to do so in the Christian life by giving our minds to what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, and praise worthy. Palm Sunday is a time that we all need this reminder as we enter into the mystery of our salvation as Jesus Christ journeys to His cross, descent into Hades, and glorious resurrection. Continue reading

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Words from the Church Fathers – 17 Apr

The saints were people like all of us. Many of them came out of great sins, but by repentance they attained the Kingdom of Heaven. And everyone who comes there comes through repentance, which the merciful Lord has given us through His sufferings.
– St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings

Do not forsake prayer, for just as the body becomes weak when it is deprived of food, so also the soul when it is deprived of prayer draws nigh to weakness and noetic death.
– St. Gennadius of Constantinople, The Golden Chain

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On the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

At the end of the coming week Great Lent will be over. Next Saturday is Lazarus Saturday, which is followed by Palm Sunday, the Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem, and then by Passion Week. However, today we commemorate another entry into Jerusalem, not the Entry into Jerusalem of our Lord, but the entry into Jerusalem of Mary of Egypt. Who was she and what is her significance today?

Born in Alexandria in Egypt in the middle of the fifth century, as a young girl Mary fell into the vice of prostitution. For seventeen years, from the age of 12 until the age of 29, she lived the life of a harlot. However, once finding herself in Jerusalem, out of curiosity, she went to see the Precious Cross of Christ. She found that she was unable to enter the church where St Helen had placed the Cross, for some invisible force prevented her from entering in. So frightened was she at this that she asked the Mother of God through an icon at the entrance to the church, why this was. The Mother of God replied to her that Mary first needed to repent and obey her. Only after promising to do this was Mary allowed to enter the church in Jerusalem. After then entering and venerating the Cross, Mary heard the Mother of God telling her: ‘If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace’.

So shaken was Mary by these events that she did indeed forsake all her old life and, having taken communion, she crossed the Jordan, and went to live there in the desert. We do not know the exact details of her day-to-day life, but we do know that she dwelt there as a hermitess, eating plants, living in torments and struggle with passionate thoughts, and eventually obtaining the grace to work miracles, crossing the Jordan as if on dry land. She lived naked and became withered and emaciated, as we can see in the icon of her, but nevertheless she survived there for some forty-eight years. Then she was discovered by a pious monk, Zosimas, who is portrayed in the icon together with her. It was to him that she related her life which we have today.

The Life of St Mary teaches us many things. Perhaps the first and most obvious lesson we can learn from her is that we should never judge, never pre-judge. Who will be saved? It is impossible to answer this question, for it is never too late to repent, even for us. Humanly speaking, when we consider the life of Mary until her twenty-ninth year, we might think that salvation had become impossible for her. And yet the service to her calls her ‘the great-est of saints’. Humanly speaking, we are condemned; but by the grace of God everything, including the height of repentance, is possible. No man has the right to judge another.

The Life of St Mary of Egypt also teaches us something about human nature. In each of us there is the desire for worldly pleasures, for amusement and entertainment, for food and drink, for the pleasures of the senses. But there is also the desire for pleasures of a higher sort, pleasures that are lasting, which we may call joys. Those joys are so much higher than the fleeting pleasures of the senses that they alone constitute the path to lasting happiness. Societies which are devoted only to the satisfaction of the pleasures of the senses, pleasure-seeking societies, are societies without lasting joys, they are full of sad faces.

The Life of St Mary teaches us that the values of the Church are quite different from those of the world. She went out into the desert and had nothing, no friends, no home, no possessions, no clothes and hardly any food and drink. The world looked for pleasure, the satisfaction of the senses, money and power, but St Mary was money-less and powerless in the world. Today’s Gospel confirms the choice of St Mary, for it says that those who wish to be great must be servants. This is upside down from all the ways of this world. But our Lord preached this and like Him St Mary lived this.

Indeed, as we have already said, the Church calls St Mary ‘the greatest of saints’. The use of this word ‘great’ may surprise. In everyday life, we use ‘great’ in other meanings. The world speaks of ‘great politicians’, ‘great soldiers’, great film stars’, ‘great performances by sportsmen’, ‘a great holiday’, ‘a great car’, ‘a great amount of money’. But the Church calls St Mary ‘great’ and a thousand and a half years after she lived we ask for her prayers, but not for those of any politician or soldier or film star or sportsman. Let us think more carefully before next we utter this word ‘great’.

And as this last week of Great Lent begins, let us also ponder on the words of the Mother of God, which led Mary to her salvation through repentance and her greatness: ‘If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace’. These mysterious words are today also addressed to each of us; the interpretation of their mystery is open to the souls of each of us, but only if we ask the Mother of God and St Mary to guide us. And then we shall find our own ‘entry into Jerusalem’.

Holy Mother Mary, pray to God for us! Amen.

Orthodox England
Archpriest Andrew Phillips

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