St. Mary of Egypt

home altar 2

The Fifth Sunday of Lent – St. Mary of Egypt

Our holy mother Mary was born in Egypt. She had left her parents at the age of twelve to go to Alexandria, where she spent the next seventeen years in debauchery and the greatest profligacy. One day, seeing a crowd of Lybians and Egyptians moving towards the port, she followed them and set sail with them for Jerusalem, offering her body to pay her fare. When they arrived in the Holy City, she followed the crowd that was thronging towards the Church of the Resurrection, it being the day of the Exaltation of the Cross. But, when she reached the threshold of the church, an invisible force prevented her entering in spite of repeated efforts on her part, although the other pilgrims were able to go in without hindrance. Left alone in a corner of the narthex, she began to realize that it was the impurity of her life that was preventing her approaching the holy Wood. She burst into tears and smote her breast and, seeing an icon of the Mother of God, made this prayer to her: “O Sovereign Lady, who didst bear God in the flesh, I know that I should not dare to look upon thine icon, thou who are pure in soul and body, because, debauched as I am, I must fill thee with disgust. But, as the God born of thee became man in order to call sinners to repentance, come to my aid! Allow me to go into the church and prostrate before His Cross. And, as soon as I have seen the Cross, I promise that I will renounce the world and all pleasures, and follow the path of salvation that thou willest to show me.”

She felt herself suddenly freed from the power that had held her and was able to enter the church. There she fervently venerated the Holy Cross and then, returning to the icon of the Mother of God, declared herself ready to follow the path that the Virgin would show her. She then lived from that time on in the desert, remaining there for forty-seven years without ever encountering either another human being or any animal.

On the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent, let us focus on the care of the family Altar.

The family Altar establishes an area that is dedicated to prayer and reflection. This may simply include an icon on the east wall of a room, or a small table for icons, vigil lights and incense. Please refer to Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home by Father Anthony Coniaris – page 93 – for additional details.

This week’s take aways…

The family Altar is a special place within the home. It replicates the Church as is a reminder hat God is with us always. Do you have a family Altar? Are there icons throughout your home? Visit your Church’s bookstore to purchase what you need.

Develop a daily habit of morning and evening prayers in front of your family Altar. This is a place of peace and reflecton within your home. Encourage all of your family members to do this as well.

When your priest visits for a home blessing, place the bowl for Holy Water, the censer and the icons on your family Altar table.

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The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The LadderThis upcoming Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Great Lent We reflect upon the teachings of St. John Climacus or St. John of the Ladder. In his famous work known as The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John writes how our life can be perfected in a union with Christ. He illustrates 30 steps that are necessary to reach Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Through these steps, we make changes in our lives that help us to become Christ-like, to experience Orthodox Christian perfection which is to live just as Jesus did.

At work or school, everyone discusses the newest and latest self-help books… identifying ways in which you can grow rich, put your kids through college, make thousands of dollars working at home. However, one of the only books that identifies our daily struggle and work for our salvation is the Ladder of Divine Ascent. The common theme we have heard throughout Lent this year is that we will be judged by our works. As we pass the mid point of Great Lent, let us refocus our Stewardship efforts on our Time, Talents and Treasures. Pray and consider how we can make a difference and let’s remember St. John’s guidance that we “live just as Jesus did” and exercise all of the gifts that God has provided to us.

O holy Father John, with rivers of tears you have made the barren desert bloom, and with heartfelt sighings of repentance you have made your labors bear fruit a hundredfold. O Saint, pray to Christ our God for the Salvation of our souls. Amen.

Dismissal Hymn, Feast of St. John of the Ladder

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The Second Sunday of Great Lent – St. Gregory Palamas

St Gregory Palamas

The second Sunday of Great Lent, which commemorates St. Gregory Palamas. The Epistle reading  is Hebrews 1:10-2:3

10 He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” 13To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” 14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? 1We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 

There are several themes found within these verses… St. Dorotheos of Gaza says “who will give us back this present time if we waste it?” 

1 Corinthians 2:9 says “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 

In order to see what God has prepared for us, we must work towards our salvation and do what is necessary to enter the eternal Kingdom. God will judge us by our works. To fit into Heaven, we must be prepared during this life here on earth – in our daily existence, body, soul and spirit and this requires a change… a change that is the primary focus of the period of Great Lent. 

St. John Chrysostom says, “after our time on earth, there are no more opportunities for change so this leaves our life on earth as the only time during which change is possible.” 

· Change, with our focus on Church

· Change, with how we interact with people

· Change, with all of those bad habits we have

· Change, with the Stewardship of our Time, Talents and Treasures 

This change is necessary for our salvation, for we know that God will judge us by our works, we just don’t know when! We pray that this time of Great Lent provides you with the opportunity for reflection and the contemplation of change in your life. 

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Father John Kudrick – “Journey Through the Great Fast”

icon_christ_faceWe must consider almsgiving as an opportunity to share the hardships of others and to share with them our resources. Self-sacrifice is not a punishment for success: it is God’s way of helping us to realize our interdependence with others.

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It’s not what goes in your mouth – it’s what comes out of your mouth!

Sunday_of_Orthodoxy
Reflection from a parishioner

As a child, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s… our focus during Great Lent was always on meals that did not include meat or dairy products. What could you cook that did not include either and would actually taste good? As a result, the default was always food that was very simple. Now that I am older, I have learned a little more about the Orthodox faith and what the Great Fast entails. We fast from animal products to show us that we are dependent upon God. In today’s society, we have so many more options available that make Lenten meals even better. Many grocery stores carry vegan products, bakeries can create dairy free cakes, restaurants have vegan pulled pork sandwiches. What I remembered through this menu planning process is what a monk told me a few years ago… don’t focus so much on the food but on your actions and what you do. I don’t think I have ever received better advice. As I sat down and thought about my Lenten preparations, I also reflected on helping others…whether it is your brother, a homeless person, a baba who can’t find a shopping cart in the grocery store or simply just a kind word in a time of need. Helping others is what Christ did, the Saints did and we are called to do. Let us remember that during this time of Great Lent, the Stewardship that we give to our Church is also used for the many ministries that provide this opportunity to help others.
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Giving to the Needy

Sophia

Matthew 6:1-4

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

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Reflection from the Sunday before Great Lent

Christs MercyNext Sunday’s Gospel reflects on Forgiveness and our preparation for Great Lent. God tells us that we must forgive men for their trespasses, if we expect our Heavenly Father to forgive us for our trespasses. Jesus also reflects upon our treasures, how we use them and prepare for Salvation through Stewardship. The key is to focus on the Heavenly in your daily life so that when you come before the dread Judgment Seat of Christ, you will be placed on the right hand and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you. We must lay up our treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume. Every aspect of how we use our Time, Talents and Treasures will determine where God places us on Judgment Day. “For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.”

During Great Lent, pray and ask God to guide you so that your focus will be on the Heavenly and not the earthly… determine how you can help your Church. Whether it is volunteering to prepare the Church for Pascha, hosting a coffee fellowship after the Divine Liturgy or feeding the homeless – God asks us to do all that we can as good and faithful Stewards.

Turn not away Thy face from Thy servant for I am afflicted!
Hear me speedily. Attend to my soul and deliver it!
Forgiveness Sunday Vespers

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