On the Third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Services include a special veneration of the Cross, which prepares the faithful for the commemoration of the Crucifixion during Holy Week.
What shall we offer you O Christ?
For You have given us Your precious Cross to venerate,
on which Your holy Blood was shed,
to which Your flesh was fixed by nails.
With love we kiss it and give thanks to You.
3rd Sunday of Lent, The Veneration of the Holy Cross, Mark 8: 34-38, 9:1
How many of us would say that today, or yesterday or this past week, we have suffered in some form or another, that we’ve had a bad day or a difficult moment in which we felt pain and despair? And when we felt this way did we ask: why me, why now or just why? And where was this question directed: towards another person, towards myself or towards God? Where did we try and find relief from suffering: in some form of escape, by talking with a friend or a priest, in prayer, in the scriptures?
Mark 2: 1-12
Your Friends May Never Read the Scriptures, But They are Always Reading You
Our Gospel lesson for the Second Sunday of Lent might be summarized in this way: One day, four men carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus. They laboured hard to get their friend into the Lord’s presence. As any of you who have ever carried another human being know – the man is literally dead weight. He is paralyzed and can’t help the others who are carrying him. When Jesus saw the faith of the four men, he pronounced that the paralyzed man’s sins had been forgiven.
What does `Theotokos’ mean?
Although this term refers to the Virgin Mary, it is in fact a statement of conviction about who we believe Christ to be.
The Greek term ‘Theotokos’ literally means ‘the one who gave birth to God’. We thereby confess our faith that Christ is not simply an enlightened teacher or prophet. Nor is He a human being who somehow ‘achieved’ divinity through His life and work. Rather, He is God in the flesh. He became a full human being, like us, without for a moment ceasing to be fully divine.
Source: St. Elisabeth Convent
To avoid turning Lent into hard and senseless weeks of diet, one should keep several simple rules. The aim of a fast is to bend our body to our soul (to restore the right hierarchy of soul and body), to sharpen attention to our spiritual life, to train our will and gain our powers for spiritual fight.
~ Words of the Church Fathers ~
Possibly a contentious unbeliever will maintain that we worshiping images in our churches are convicted of praying to lifeless idols. Far be it from us to do this. Faith makes Christians, and God, who cannot deceive, works miracles. We do not rest contented with mere colouring.
With the material picture before our eyes we see the invisible God through the visible representation, and glorify Him as if present, not as a God without reality, but as a God who is the essence of being. Nor are the saints whom we glorify fictitious. They are in being, and are living with God; and their spirits being holy, the help, by the power of God, those who deserve and need their assistance.
St. John of Damascus, Treatise on Images
First Sunday of Lent, Sunday of Orthodoxy, John 1: 43-51
One of the great dangers of our age is the tendency to set our sights too low, to expect too little of ourselves and others. It is so appealing to think that being true to ourselves means indulging every desire and finding fulfillment by getting whatever want at the moment. It is so easy to envision our neighbors and even God in our own image, as though the meaning and purpose of all reality boils down to whatever makes us comfortable here and now. The blessed season of Lent, however, calls us to an entirely different way of life that reveals the holy beauty for which God created us in His image and likeness.
Fasting from foods is intended as spiritual preparation for an experience of deeper communion with God. Each person is a unity of body and soul. A right spiritual diet and a discipline of fasting go together and strengthen each other. Just as prayer benefits not only the soul but also the body so also fasting from foods benefits not only the body but also the soul. Fasting and prayer make us more sensitive to God’s personal presence. At important times of their lives the Prophets fasted and prayed. So did Jesus, the Apostles, Saints and Church Fathers.
Fasting must be undertaken willingly and not by compulsion. God doesn’t need our fasting. We don’t fast as a kind of personal punishment for our sins. We cannot pay God back for our sins but we can only confess them to Him to receive forgiveness. Fasting with a willing spirit and not just with an attitude of fulfilling a religious obligation means that we keep the purposes of fasting always before us which is to develop self-control and to remember God and His Kingdom. That way we fast not only in what we eat but also in how much we eat. Fasting is simplicity of eating. We leave the table not with loaded stomachs. Being a little hungry during the day becomes a constant reminder of God, of our dependence on Him, and of the fact that the Lord alone can give us “food that lasts for eternal life” (John 6:27).
In fasting and prayer, He reveals Himself to us as our true food and drink.
A Year of the Lord – Theodore Stylianopoulos
Matthew 6: 14-21
“Where Your Treasure Is, There Will Your Heart Be Also” – Homily for Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church
If all of your money is in a certain bank or investment, you will be very concerned about that bank or investment. Your treasure is there, and your heart will follow. If you invest your time, energy, and effort in any relationship or any activity, you will value it highly. You give your life to it, and your heart follows.
Sermon on Judgement (Meatfare) Sunday, Matthew 25: 31-46
When You, O God, shall come to earth with glory, all things shall tremble and the river of fire shall flow before Your judgment seat; the books shall be opened and the hidden things disclosed! Then deliver me from the unquenchable fire, and make me worthy to stand at Your right hand, righteous Judge! (Hymn of the Last Judgement)