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Sermon on the Annunciation by St. Gregory the Wonderworker

Sermon on the Annunciation by St. Gregory the Wonderworker

Today are strains of praise sung joyfully by the choir of angels, and the light of the advent of Christ shines brightly upon the faithful.
Today is the glad spring-time to us, and Christ the Sun of righteousness has beamed with clear light around us, and has illumined the minds of the faithful.
Today is Adam made anew, and moves in the choir of angels, having winged his way to heaven.
Today is the whole circle of the earth filled with joy, since the sojourn of the Holy Spirit has been realized to men.
Today the grace of God and the hope of the unseen shine through all wonders transcending imagination, and make the mystery that was kept hid from eternity plainly discernible to us.
Today are woven the chaplets of never-fading virtue.
Today, God, willing to crown the sacred heads of those whose pleasure is to hearken to Him, and who delight in His festivals, invites the lovers of unswerving faith as His called and His heirs; and the heavenly kingdom is urgent to summon those who mind celestial things to join the divine service of the incorporeal choirs.
Today is fulfilled the word of David,
“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. The fields shall be joyful, and all the trees of the wood before the Lord, because He cometh.”
David thus made mention of the trees; and the Lord’s forerunner also spoke of them as trees
“that should bring forth fruits meet for repentance,”
or rather for the coming of the Lord. But our Lord Jesus Christ promises perpetual gladness to all those who believe on Him. For He says,
“I will see you, and ye shall rejoice; and your joy no man taketh from you.”
Today is the illustrious and ineffable mystery of Christians, who have willingly set their hope like a seal upon Christ, plainly declared to us.
Today did Gabriel, who stands by God, come to the pure virgin, bearing to her the glad annunciation,
“Hail, thou that art highly favoured!”
And she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. And the angel immediately proceeded to say,
“The Lord is with thee: fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? “
Shall I still remain a virgin? is the honour of virginity not then lost by me? And while she was yet in perplexity as to these things, the angel placed shortly before her the summary of his whole message, and said to the pure virgin,
“The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
For what it is, that also shall it be called by all means. Meekly, then, did grace make election of the pure Mary alone out of all generations. For she proved herself prudent truly in all things; neither has any woman been born like her in all generations. She was not like the primeval virgin Eve, who, keeping holiday alone in paradise, with thoughtless mind, unguardedly hearkened to the word of the serpent, the author of all evil, and thus became depraved in the thoughts of her mind; and through her that deceiver, discharging his poison and refusing death with it, brought it into the whole world; and in virtue of this has arisen all the trouble of the saints.
But in the holy Virgin alone is the fall of that (first mother) repaired. Yet was not this holy one competent to receive the gift until she had first learned who it was that sent it, and what the gift was, and who it was that conveyed it. While the holy one pondered these things in perplexity with herself, she says to the angel,
“Whence hast thou brought to us the blessing in such wise? Out of what treasure-stores is the pearl of the word despatched to us? Whence has the gift acquired its purpose toward us? From heaven art thou come, yet thou walkest upon earth! Thou dost exhibit the form of man, and (yet) thou art glorious with dazzling light.”
These things the holy one considered with herself, and the archangel solved the difficulty expressed in such reasonings by saying to her:
“The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God “
And fear not, Mary; for I am not come to overpower thee with fear, but to repel the subject of fear.
Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. Question not grace by the standard of nature. For grace does not endure to pass under the laws of nature. Thou knowest, O Mary, things kept hid from the patriarchs and prophets. Thou hast learned, O virgin, things which were kept concealed till now from the angels. Thou hast heard, O purest one, things of which even the choir of inspired men was never deemed worthy. Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Daniel, and all the prophets, prophesied of Him; but the manner they knew not.
Yet thou alone, O purest virgin, art now made the recipient of things of which all these were kept in ignorance, and thou dost learn the origin of them. For where the Holy Spirit is, there are all things readily ordered. Where divine grace is present, all things are found possible with God. The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall; overshadow thee.
Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” And if He is the Son of God, then is He also God, of one form with the Father, and co-eternal; in Him the Father possesses all manifestation; He is His image in the person, and through His reflection the (Father’s) glory shines forth. And as from the ever-flowing fountain the streams proceed, so also from this ever-flowing and ever-living fountain does the light of the world proceed, the perennial and the true, namely Christ our God. For it is of this that the prophets have preached:
“The streams of the river make glad the city of God.”
And not one city only, but all cities; for even as it makes glad one city, so does it also the whole world. Appropriately, therefore, did the angel say to Mary the holy virgin first of all,
“Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; “
inasmuch as with her was laid up the full treasure of grace. For of all generations she alone has risen as a virgin pure in body and in spirit; and she alone bears Him who bears all things on His word. Nor is it only the beauty of this holy one in body that calls forth our admiration, but also the innate virtue of her soul. Wherefore also the angels addressed her first with the salutation,
“Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee,”
and no spouse of earth; “He Himself is with thee who is the Lord of sanctification, the Father of purity, the Author of incorruption, and the Bestower of liberty, the Curator of salvation, and the Steward and Provider of the true peace, who out of the virgin earth made man, and out of man’s side formed Eve in addition. Even this Lord is with thee, and on the other hand also is of thee. Come, therefore, beloved brethren, and let us take up the angelic strain, and to the utmost of our ability return the due meed of praise, saying,
“Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee!”
For it is thine truly to rejoice, seeing that the grace of God, as he knows, has chosen to dwell with thee-the Lord of glory dwelling with the handmaiden;
“He that is fairer than the children of men “
with the fair virgin; He who sanctifies all things with the undefiled. God is with thee, and with thee also is the perfect man in whom dwells the whole fulness of the Godhead. Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the fountain of the light that lightens all who believe upon Him! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the rising of the rational Sun, and the undefiled flower of Life! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the mead of sweet savour! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the ever-blooming vine, that makes glad the souls of those who honour thee?
Hail, thou that art highly favoured!
the soil that, all untilled, bears bounteous fruit: for thou hast brought forth in accordance with the law of nature indeed, as it goes with us, and by the set time of practice, and yet in a way beyond nature, or rather above nature, by reason that God the Word from above took His abode in thee, and formed the new Adam in thy holy womb, and inasmuch as the Holy Spirit gave the power of conception to the holy virgin; and the reality of His body was assumed from her body.
And just as the pearl comes of the two natures, namely lightning and water, the occult signs of the sea; so also our Lord Jesus Christ proceeds, without fusion and without mutation, from the pure, and chaste, and undefiled, and holy Virgin Mary; perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, in all things equal to the Father, and in all things consubstantial with us, apart from sin.
Most of the holy fathers, and patriarchs, and prophets desired to see Him, and to be eye-witnesses of Him, but did not attaint hereto. And some of them by visions beheld Him in type, and darkly; others, again, were privileged to hear the divine voice through the medium of the cloud, and were favoured with sights of holy angels; but to Mary the pure virgin alone did the archangel Gabriel manifest himself luminously, bringing her the glad address,
“Hail, thou that art highly favoured!”
And thus she received the word, and in the due time of the fulfilment according to the body’s course she brought forth the priceless pearl. Come, then, ye too, dearly beloved, and let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say,
“Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou, and the ark of Thy sanctuary.”
For the holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary.
“Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest.”
Arise, O Lord, out of the bosom of the Father, in order that Thou mayest raise up the fallen race of the first-formed man.
Setting these things forth, David in prophecy said to the rod that was to spring from himself, and to sprout into the flower of that beauteous fruit,
“Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear, and forget thine own people and thy father’s house; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty: for He is the Lord thy God, and thou shalt worship Him.”
Hearken, O daughter, to the things which were prophesied before time of thee, in order that thou mayest also behold the things themselves with the eyes of understanding.
Hearken to me while I announce things beforehand to thee, and hearken to the archangel who declares expressly to thee the perfect mysteries.
Come then, dearly beloved, and let us fall back on the memory of what has gone before us; and let us glorify, and celebrate, and laud, and bless that rod that has sprung so marvellously from Jesse.
For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary the mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David:
“For Joseph went up,” says he, “from Galilee, unto a city of Judea which is called Bethlehem, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child, because they were of the house and family of David. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; and she brought forth her son, the first-born of the whole creation, and wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who is covered with light as with a garment. She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who made every creature. She laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim, and is praised by myriads of angels.
In the manger set apart for dumb brutes did the Word of God repose, in order that He might impart to men, who are really irrational by free choice, the perceptions of true reason.
In the board from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide participation in spiritual sustenance for men who live like the beasts of the earth.
Nor was there even room for Him in the inn. He found no place, who by His word established heaven and earth;
“for though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor,”
and chose extreme humiliation on behalf of the salvation of our nature, in His inherent goodness toward us. He who fulfilled the whole administration of unutterable mysteries of the economy in heaven in the bosom of the Father, and in the cave in the arms of the mother, reposed in the manger.
Angelic choirs encircled Him, singing of glory in heaven and of peace upon earth.
In heaven He was seated at the right hand of the Father; and in the manger He rested, as it were, upon the cherubim. Even there was in truth His cherubic throne; there was His royal seat.
Holy of the holy, and alone glorious upon the earth, and holier than the holy, was that wherein Christ our God rested.
To Him be glory, honour, and power. together with the Father undefiled, and the altogether holy and quickening Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of the ages. Amen.

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Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos by St. John of Kronstadt

Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos by St. John of Kronstadt

The mystery that transpired upon this day awes not only the human mind; it likewise astonishes all angelic, exalted minds. They, too, are amazed at how God, Who is without beginning — Who is uncircumscribable, unapproachable — how He could lower Himself to the status of a servant and become a man, without ceasing to be God — and without in any way diminishing His Divine glory.

How could the Virgin contain within Her most-pure womb the unbearable fire of Divinity and remain unscathed — and, throughout all ages to come, be the Mother of God-incarnate?

So great, so marvelous, fraught with such Divine Providence, is this mystery of the annunciation to the Most Holy Virgin by the Archangel [Gabriel] — and the incarnation of the Son of God from Her! Rejoice, O ye who are earth-born; rejoice, especially, ye faithful Christian souls — but rejoice with trepidation in the face of the magnitude of this mystery, being encompassed by the filthiness of sin.

With pure hearts and lips, magnify the Mother of God, Who is magnified and exalted above all creatures, angels and men; Who is magnified by God Himself, the Creator of all — and remember that the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, and of His becoming man, was accomplished for our salvation from sin, from the curse that was rightfully pronounced upon us by God, in the beginning, by reason of our sins, and from temporal and eternal death.

With peace and joy, receive ye the Lord, Who comes to us in order to establish upon earth, in our hearts and in our souls, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 4, 17) — and come to hate divinely-detested sin, impurity, incontinence, pride, hardness of heart, lack of mercy, self-love, satisfaction of [the cravings of] the flesh, and all unrighteousness.

Christ descended to the earth in order to raise us up to heaven (Akathist to the Mother of God, kondak 8). Let us, therefore, being nailed down to the earth by the passions of life, incline our heads towards heaven, whither it is that the Lord Jesus Christ desires to raise us all up, and lift up the eyes of our heart. Lift up the heart! Long enough have we crept along the ground, like worms, in our thoughts and in our hearts. It is true that we are insignificant worms, according to our sins, although our souls have been created in the image of God, which we have disfigured by our sins, and which we must invariably re-instate through sincere penitence while we yet live.

If is necessary that this image of God, like the sun, shine forth within us as it did in the beginning, when Adam and Eve alone had been created. It is for this purpose that we have been given life; it is for this reason that our life continues on, that we are joined to God’s Church and participate in her divine services, mysteries and fasts.

Behold: how the image of the Ever-Virgin Mother of God gleams! Yet, She is also human…. What exalted Her to such incomparable heights? What made Her so glorious and so great — loftier than the Cherubim and more glorious than the Seraphim?
It was the three supreme virtues: humility, purity and a fiery love for God — a love that is alien to earthly, external, love.
She Herself confesses that the Lord has looked upon the humility of His hand-maiden (Luke 1, 48).
Do thou also, O Christian, begin to love, and implant deep within thine heart that humility which is divinely-pleasing; acquire also, though exerted labors lasting thine entire life, a purity of heart — do this by [means of] fasting, prayer, meditation upon God, tears, and especially by a frequent and worthy communion of the
Holy Mysteries of Christ.

Begin, also, to love God, your Creator and your Saviour, with all your heart, and prefer nothing that is in the world to His holy love. Meditate ever upon Him and upon His wondrous works; live Him and breathe Him; nourish your soul with Him; attire yourself in Him; purify yourself, enlighten yourself, sanctify yourself, establish yourself, adorn yourself, praise yourself, console yourself through Him. By means of Him, vanquish the temptations and impositions of foes, visible and invisible.

Whatsoever ye do, do all with thought of Him, and for His sake. Wheresoever ye might be, be everywhere with Him, as He is always with us, being everywhere, and filling all things (Troparion to the Holy Spirit). If you come to love the Lord in such a way, then in you also shall the Lord be magnified — and the Lord shall magnify you, as the holy Church says on His behalf: those who glorify Me, I shall likewise glorify (“The Epistle of Tarasios, the Patriarch of Constantinople, to Pope Adrian of Rome.” (The Rudder, Part 1, Chapter 36, 1787 edition.)

Learn, O Christian, to hate, to humiliate, to annihilate every sin within yourself — and the Lord of Glory shall be magnified in you, and you shall be great before God and men; begin to love humility — and the Lord will exalt you.


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Annunciation of the Mother of God

Annunciation of the Mother of God


6th Hour – Reading from the Prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:10-24)

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and all ye that love her hold in her a general assembly: rejoice greatly with her, all that now mourn over her: that ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breast of her consolation; that ye may milk out, and delight yourselves with the influx of her glory. For thus saith the Lord, ‘Behold, I turn toward them as a river of peace, and as a torrent bringing upon them in a flood the glory of the Gentiles: their children shall be borne upon the shoulders, and comforted on the knees. As if his mother should comfort one, so will I also comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And ye shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall thrive like grass: and the hand of the Lord shall be known to them that fear Him, and He shall threaten the disobedient. For, behold, the Lord will come as fire, and His chariots as a storm, to render His vengeance with wrath, and his rebuke with a flame of fire. For with the fire of the Lord all the earth shall be judged, and all flesh with His sword: many shall be slain by the Lord. They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves in the gardens, and eat swine’s flesh in the porches, and the abominations, and the mouse, shall be consumed together,’ saith the Lord. ‘And I know their works and their imagination. I am going to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see My glory. And I will leave a sign upon them, and I will send forth them that have escaped of them to the nations, to Tharsis, and Put, and Lud, and Mosoch, and to Tubal, and to Greece, and to the isles afar off, to those who have not heard My name, nor seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring your brethren out of all nations for a gift to the Lord with horses, and chariots, in litters drawn by mules with awnings, to the holy city Jerusalem,’ said the Lord, ‘as though the children of Israel should bring their sacrifices to Me with psalms into the house of the Lord. And I will take of them priests and Levites,’ saith the Lord. ‘For as the new heaven and the new earth, which I make, remain before Me,’ saith the Lord, ‘so shall your seed and your name continue. And it shall come to pass from month to month, and from sabbath to sabbath, that all flesh shall come to worship before Me in Jerusalem,’ saith the Lord. ‘And they shall go forth, and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.’

Vesperal Liturgy

Reading from Genesis (Genesis 49:33- 50:26)

When Jacob ceased giving charges to his sons, having lifted up his feet on the bed, he died, and was gathered to his people. And Joseph fell upon his fathers face, and wept on him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the embalmers to embalm his father; and the embalmers embalmed Israel. And they fulfilled forty days for him, for so are the days of embalming numbered; and Egypt mourned for him seventy days. And when the days of mourning were past, Joseph spoke to the princes of Pharaoh, saying, ‘If I have found favour in your sight, speak concerning me in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, “My father adjured me, saying, ‘In the sepulchre which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there thou shalt bury me;’ now then I will go up and bury my father, and return again.”’ And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Go up, bury thy father, as he constrained thee to swear.’ So Joseph went up to bury his father; and all the servants of Pharaoh went up with him, and the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt. And all the household of Joseph, and his brethren, and all the house of his father, and his kindred; and they left behind the sheep and the oxen in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him also chariots and horsemen; and there was a very great company. And they came to the threshing-floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan; and they bewailed him with a great and very sore lamentation; and he made a mourning for his father seven days. And the inhabitants of the land of Canaan saw the mourning at the floor of Atad, and said, ‘This is a great mourning to the Egyptians;’ therefore he called its name, ‘The mourning of Egypt,’ which is beyond Jordan. And thus his sons did to him. So his sons carried him up into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the double cave, which cave Abraham bought for possession of a burying place, of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre. And Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brethren, and those that had gone up with him to bury his father. And when the brethren of Joseph saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘Let us take heed, lest at any time Joseph remember evil against us, and recompense to us all the evils which we have done against him.’ And they came to Joseph, and said, ‘Thy father adjured us before his death, saying, “Thus say ye to Joseph, ‘Forgive them their injustice and their sin, forasmuch as they have done thee evil; and now pardon the injustice of the servants of the God of thy father.’”’ And Joseph wept while they spoke to him. And they came to him and said, ‘We, these persons, are thy servants.’ And Joseph said to them, ‘Fear not, for I am God’s. Ye took counsel against me for evil, but God took counsel for me for good, that the matter might be as it is today, and much people might be fed.’ And he said to them, ‘Fear not, I will maintain you, and your families:’ and he comforted them, and spoke kindly to them. And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his brethren, and all the family of his father; and Joseph lived a hundred and ten years. And Joseph saw the children of Ephraim to the third generation; and the sons of Machir the son of Manasseh were born on the sides of Joseph. And Joseph spoke to his brethren, saying, ‘I die, and God will surely visit you, and will bring you out of this land to the land concerning which God sware to our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ And Joseph adjured the sons of Israel, saying, ‘At the visitation with which God shall visit you, then ye shall carry up my bones hence with you.’ And Joseph died, aged an hundred and ten years; and they prepared his corpse, and put him in a coffin in Egypt.

Reading from Exodus (Exodus 3:1-8)

Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he brought the sheep nigh to the wilderness, and came to the Mount of Horeb. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the bush, and he saw that the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will go near and see this great sight, why the bush is not consumed.’ And when the Lord saw that he drew nigh to see, the Lord called him out of the bush, saying, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘What is it?’ And He said, ‘Draw not nigh hither: loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ And He said, ‘I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses turned away his face, for he was afraid to gaze at God. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people that is in Egypt, and I have heard their cry caused by their taskmasters; for I know their affliction. And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land, and to bring them into a good and wide land, into a land flowing with milk and honey.’

Reading from Proverbs (Proverbs 8:22-30)

The Lord hath made me the beginning of His ways for His works. He established me before time was in the beginning, before He made the earth: even before He made the depths; before the fountains of water came forth: before the mountains were settled, and all the hills, He begetteth me. The Lord made countries and deserts, and the highest inhabited parts under the heavens. When He prepared heaven, I was present with Him; and when He prepared His throne upon the winds: and when He strengthened the clouds above; and when He secured the fountains of the earth: and when He strengthened the foundations of the earth: I was by Him, arranging all things, I was that in which He took delight; and daily I rejoiced in His presence continually.

Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Hebrews (2:11-18)

Brethren: Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of One, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, ‘I will declare Thy name unto My brethren; in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee.’ And again, ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again, ‘Behold I and the children whom God hath given Me.’ Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death — that is, the devil — and deliver those who all their lifetime were subject to bondage through fear of death. For verily He took not on Himself the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Therefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor those who are tempted.

Holy Gospel according to Luke (1:24-38)

In those days, Elisabeth, the wife of Zechariah, conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, ’Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.’ And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her and said, ‘Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.’ And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and cast about in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.’ Then said Mary unto the angel, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’ And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that Holy Being who shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth: she hath also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ And the angel departed from her.


Troparion of the Annunciation (Tone 4)
Today is the crown of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery which is from before the ages! The Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel announceth the glad tidings of grace. Wherefore, with him let us cry out to the Theotokos: Rejoice, O thou who art full of grace! The Lord is with thee!

Kontakion of the Annunciation (Tone 8)
To thee, the champion leader, we, thy servants, dedicate hymns of victory and thanksgiving, as ones delivered from evils, O Theotokos; but in that thou hast invincible might, free us from all misfortunes, that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, O Bride unwedded!

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Поучение Митрополита Арсения (Москвина), Киевского и Галицкого (+1876г.) в неделю пятую Великаго поста

(Лук. 7, 36-50).

Ныне чтенное Евангелие представляет нам повествование о событии весьма важном и занимательном. Состав сего повествования сам в себе очень прост и естествен, но смысл его глубок и чрезвычайно поучителен.

Вот в кратких словах его сущность! Некто из фарисеев просил Иисуса Христа к себе на обед. Господь не отказал просителю, но, пришед в дом его, встретил от него прием хотя почтительный, но в тоже время довольно холодный. Фарисей не почтил своего высокаго Гостя гостеприимным лобзанием и не дал Ему, по восточному обычаю, воды на ноги Его. Тем не менее Господь Иисус, нисколько не огорчившись тем, возлег за трапезу фарисееву. Но вот, вдруг отворяются двери гостиной комнаты и, к великому изумлению и соблазну фарисеев, входит в нее жена грешница с сосудом мира в руке и со слезами на глазах, и, став позади Христа Иисуса, начинает омывать слезами ноги Его, и отирать власами своими и помазывать оныя миром. Хозяин дома, при этом непривычном и тяжком для фарисейскаго глаза зрелище, не вытерпел и сказал сам в себе: «если бы Человек этот был действительно Пророк, то знал бы, кто и какова жена, прикасающаяся Ему». Тоже, вероятно, подумали и такой же тайный приговор об Иисусе Христе произнесли в сердцах своих и все прочие, возлежавшие с Ним: ибо мы после увидим всех их единодушно ропщущими на Него, и следовательно согласными между собою. Но Господь не захотел лукавых их помыслов оставить без ответа, и потому, обратившись к хозяину, сказал ему: «Симон, Я имею нечто сказать тебе», и когда последний согласился слушать Его, Он продолжал так: «Два должника было у одного заимодавца; один должен был пятью стами динариев, а другой пятьюдесятью. Когда же он, за несостоятельностию к уплате того и другаго, простил долг обоим, скажи Мне, который из них более возлюбит Его?» — «Думаю», отвечал Симон, «которому более прощено». — «Правильно разсудил ты», сказал Господь; «но теперь посмотри на эту женщину. Я пришел в дом твой, и ты воды Мне не дал на ноги, а она слезами облила Мне ноги, и волосами главы своей отерла их. Ты лобзания Мне не дал; а она с тех пор, как Я пришел сюда, не перестает лобызать у Меня ноги. Ты головы Мне маслом не помазал, а она миром помазала Мне ноги. И потому сказываю тебе: прощаются грехи ея многие за то, что она возлюбила много». И затем, обратившись к жене, присовокупил: «прощаются тебе грехи, — вера твоя спасла тебя; иди с миром». Всеобщий, хотя также тайный, ропот возлежавших против Господа Иисуса: кто Сей есть, Иже и грехи отпущает? — заключает беседу и трапезу Христову в доме Симоновом.

Здесь три особенно предмета представляются для размышления нашего: фарисей, приглашающий и угощающий Христа Спасителя, и в тоже время тайно осуждающий Его: это совершенно по нашему; жена грешница, открыто плачущая о грехах своих, и в знак искренняго раскаяния и любви своей ко Господу омывающая и лобызающая ноги Его, и драгоценным миром помазующая оныя: это далеко не в наших нравах и обычаях (мы любим скрывать свои грехи, а не открывать их; если иногда и плачем об них, то разве наедине, и то не надолго, а после снова и спокойно возвращаемся к ним; о дарах же и приношениях Господу Богу, особенно дорогих, мы даже думаем, что они и вовсе излишни, и потому не только драгоценнаго мира, но и деревянаго масла в лампаду и пятикопеечной свечи пред Его изображением во храм не приносим, возлагая на обязанность Церкви — за нас и светить, и молиться безвозмездно от нас, будто бы это все равно, что и наше собственное, от трудов наших праведных, пожертвование); и наконец Господь Иисус, прощающий и разрешающий многогрешницу кающуюся и осуждающий фарисея — лицемера и мнимоправедника: это особенно для нас отрадно и утешительно, ибо все мы грешники пред Богом и даже многогрешники. Братие, говорит святый Иоанн Богослов,аще речем, яко греха не имамы, себе прельщаем, и истины несть в нас (1 Иоан. 1, 8). Посему-то и святый апостол Павел, хотя и был избранный сосуд благодати Божией и восхищен был, еще в здешней жизни, даже до третияго небесе — в рай, называл себя открыто пред лицем всей Церкви первым из грешников (1 Тим. 1, 15).

Но, дабы нам ближе ознакомиться с сею беседою Христовою во всей полноте ея и вернее понять и усвоить всю силу и значение ея, то прочитаем снова подлинныя слова Евангелиста, в которых она излагается.

Моляше Иисуса, говорит евангелист Лука, некий от фарисей, дабы ял с ним; и вшед в дом фарисеов, возлеже (Лук. 7, 36).

К мытарям и грешникам Иисус Христос приходил сам и незванный. Так Он пришел в дом начальника мытарей Закхея, и — на самую даже мытницу к мытарю Левию, или Матфею; но фарисеям надлежало умолять и просить Его, дабы Он посетил домы их и вкусил трапезы. Моляше Иисуса некий от фарисей.Почему же это так? По тому общему, для своего ходатайственнаго служения, правилу, которое Он сам объявил, говоря: не приидох призвати праведники, но грешники на покаяние: не требуют бо здравии врача, но болящии (Матф. 9, 12-13). Правда, фарисеи, как видно из обличений от Иоанна Крестителя и самого Иисуса Христа, не только не были здоровы, но и крайне больны, и потому казалось бы, что им пособие небеснаго Врача нисколько не излишне, а напротив еще прежде всех и более всех, как руководителям народа, нужно; но поелику они не сознавали себя больными, выдавая себя пред народом за великих праведников, то небесный Врач и не хотел к ним с своею помощию, так сказать, навязываться, и ожидал прежде от них вызова и приглашения.

Но фарисеям о чем бы то ни было просить Иисуса Галилеанина было дело не легкое: они были горды и надменны, богаты и сильны, высоко стояли во мнении народа, — само правительство уважало и боялось их, а смиренный Господь Иисус, не имевший где главы приклонити и слывший за сына тектонова: кому Он нужен? Правда, простой народ охотно Его слушал, удивлялся Его учению и прославлял Его, как великаго Пророка и Чудотворца; но о народе фарисеи говорили: народ сей, иже не весть закона, прокляти суть, и в подтверждение своего мнения указывали на пример князей, соединяя с ними и себя: еда кто от князь верова в Он, или от фарисей? прибавляли они (Иоан. 7, 48-49). Притом же эта-то именно народная молва об Иисусе Христе, отнимающая у них, или по крайней мере ослабляющая их честь и славу, особенно и ожесточала и вооружала их против Него: им тяжело было даже слышать об Нем.

Тем не менее однакоже Симон фарисей моляше Иисуса, следовательно всеусильно просил Его, дабы ял с ним. Что же было причиною сего? Конечно не вера в Иисуса Христа: ибо он не признавал в Нем даже и Пророка, и в прикосновении к Нему жены грешницы нашел для себя сильное на то доказательство: Сей аще бы был пророк, ведел бы, кто и какова жена прикасается Ему, яко грешница есть (Лук. 7, 39), — и неусердие к Нему: ибо прием его не соответствовал приглашению: здесь не были соблюдены, общепринятыя на Востоке для почетных гостей, правила гостеприимства, каковы суть лобзание хозяина, умовение ног и помазание главы.

Что же заставило Симона так усильно просить к себе Иисуса Христа? Вероятно, желание — ближе всмотреться в новоявленнаго Пророка и Чудотворца, и что нибудь подметить в Его словах и поступках такого, за что бы можно было обвинить, и тем легче погубить Его впоследствии. Посему-то, когда Господь Иисус объявил жене грешнице прощение грехов ея, то все собеседники и сотрапезники Его, какбы обрадовавшись случаю, целым хором и с сильным ропотом осудили Его, сказав про себя: кто сей есть, иже и грехи отпущает (Лук. 7, 49)? а, быть может, вместе и предположение — не удастся ли преклонить Иисуса Христа на сторону фарисеев, и тем — поддержать и усилить в народе авторитет свой, видимо падающий, или по крайней мере ослабить Его влияние и действие на народ, столь неблагоприятныя для фарисеев.

Как бы то ни было, только так принимать и угощать, как принимал и угощал Симон Иисуса Христа, есть дело крайне преступное и богопротивное. Как после сего не поскорбеть и не пожалеть, что все наши взаимныя сношения, все приветы и угощения, все вечера и обеды, пиры и банкеты приняли характер именно фарисейский и потеряли христианский? Ласкательных слов — бездна, а душевнаго расположения мало, или даже вовсе никакого; на устах — похвала и улыбка, а в сердце — насмешка и укоризна; в руках — заздравный кубок, а в душе — проклятия и порицания, непримиримая злоба и готовое мщение. Собираются друг к другу для удовольствия, а расходятся с обоюдным огорчением; ищут наслаждения, а встречают горькое злословие; приходят с душами покойными, хотя, быть может, и не слишком веселыми, а возвращаются с душами, нередко до самой глубины встревоженными и растерзанными. О! други мои, для чего вы пренебрегли своим и прилепились к чужому, оставили христианское и обратились к фарисейскому?

Для чего вы забыли и предания своих предков, которые умели взаимно принимать и угощать себя, но не умели взаимно себя мучить и терзать, — забыли и прямую заповедь Христову, которая повелевает и обязывает нас внимательно блюсти себя от кваса фарисейскаго (Матф. 16, 6), как начала для наших нравов опаснаго, тлетворнаго и разрушительнаго, а вы, между тем, как будто нарочно, в явное нарушение сей заповеди и в поругание обычаев отеческих, этот-то именно квас и внесли в свои, так называемыя, приятельския беседы и собрания, приветствия и угощения? Неужели вы не знаете, что имал квас, как говорит Апостол, все смешение квасит (Гал. 5, 9)? А квас фарисейский, как квас ветхий злобы и лукавства (1 Кор. 5, 8), отнюдь не малый. Неужели вы не замечаете и не видите, что от этого кваса все в ваших взаимных между собою сношениях, не только внешних и общественных, но и даже внутренних и домашних или семейных, — окисло, повредилось и разстроилось? Очистите убо ветхийфарисейский квас от сердец ваших, увещаваю вас словами Апостола, да будете ново смешение (1 Кор. 5, 7), смешение Христово. Начните жить и действовать в безквасиих чистоты и истины (1 Кор. 5, 8). Старайтесь не казаться только, но и быть действительно всегда и ко всем добрыми. Отымите лукавство и притворство от душ и уст ваших, и отложше лжу, глаголите, где можно и должно, истину кийждо ко искреннему своему: зане есмы друг другу удове (Ефес. 4, 25); в противном же случае, когда слово правды представляется вам неуместным, или для вас опасным, лучше молчите, но не оскверняйте языка своего ложью, изобретенною на нашу пагубу диаволом, и не оскорбляйте Духа Святаго Божия, имже знаменастеся в день избавления (Ефес. 4, 30). Аминь.

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Fifth Sunday of Great Lent – St Mary of Egypt

Sunday of St Mary of Egypt


The Reading from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Hebrews (9:11-14)

Brethren: Christ, having come a High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands (that is to say, not of this building), neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if sprinkling the unclean with the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Galatians (3:23-29)

Brethren: Before faith came, we were kept under the law, being shut apart from the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark (10:32-45)

At that time: Jesus took the twelve, and began to tell them what things would happen unto Him, saying, ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock Him and shall scourge Him, and shall spit upon Him and shall kill Him. And the third day He shall rise again.’ And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto Him, saying, ‘Master, we would that Thou should do for us whatsoever we shall desire.’ And He said unto them, ‘What would ye that I should do for you?’ They said unto Him, ‘Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand and the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory.’ But Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye know not what ye ask. Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ And they said unto Him, ‘We can.’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized with, also shall ye be baptized. But to sit on My right hand and on My left hand is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.’ And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Him and said unto them, ‘Ye know that they that are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister, and whosoever of you would be the chiefest shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life as a ransom for many.’

Holy Gospel according to Luke (7:36-50)

At that time, One of the Pharisees desired Jesus that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee’s house and sat down to meat. And behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and began to wash His feet with tears and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had bidden Him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, ‘This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is who toucheth him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘Simon, I have something to say unto thee.’ And he said, ‘Master, say on.’ ‘There was a certain creditor that had two debtors. The one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, ‘Thou hast rightly judged.’ And He turned to the woman and said unto Simon, ‘Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house: Thou gavest Me no water for My feet, but she hath washed My feet with tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. Thou gavest Me no kiss, but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.’ And He said unto her, ‘Thy sins are forgiven.’ And those who sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, ‘Who is this that forgiveth sins also?’ And He said to the woman, ‘Thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace.’


Troparion of the Resurrection (Tone 1)

When the stone had been sealed by the Jews, and the soldiers were guarding Thine immaculate Body, Thou didst rise on the third day, O Saviour, granting life unto the world. Wherefore, the Hosts of the heavens cried out to Thee, O Life-giver: Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Christ. Glory to Thy kingdom. Glory to Thy dispensation, O only Lover of mankind.
Troparion of St Mary of Egypt (Tone 8)

In thee, O Mother, was preserved unimpaired that which is according to God’s image, for thou hast taken up the Cross and followed Christ. By thine actions thou hast taught us to despise the flesh, for it passes away, but to care for the soul, which is a thing immortal; and so thy spirit, holy Mary, rejoiceth with the angels.

Kontakion of the Resurrection (Tone 1)

As God, Thou didst arise from the tomb in glory, and Thou didst raise the world together with Thyself. And mortal nature praiseth Thee as God, and death hath vanished. And Adam danceth, O Master, and Eve, now freed from fetters, rejoiceth as she crieth out: Thou art He, O Christ, that grantest unto all resurrection.

Kontakion of St Mary of Egypt (Tone 3)

Once thou wast defiled, with every impurity, but today through repentance thou hast become the Bride of Christ. Desiring the life of the angels, thou hast cast down the demons with the weapon of the Cross: therefore, O glorious Mary, thou wast made a bride of the Kingdom.

Lenten Synaxarion
Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt

On this day, the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the memory of our holy and ven-erable Mother, Mary of Egypt.
The recorder of the life of this wonderful saint is St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem. A hieromonk, the elder Zossima, had gone off at one time during the Great Fast on a twen-ty-days’ walk into the wilderness across the Jordan. He suddenly caught sight of a human being with a withered and naked body and with hair as white as snow, who fled in its na-kedness from Zossima’s sight. The elder ran a long way, until this figure stopped at a stream and called, “Father Zossima, forgive me for the Lord’s sake. I cannot turn around to you, for I am a naked woman.” Then Zossima threw her his outer cloak, and she wrapped herself in it and turned around to him. The elder was amazed at hearing his name from the lips of this unknown woman. After considerable pressure on his part, she told him the story of her life.

She had been born in Egypt and had lived as a prostitute in Alexandria from the age of twelve, spending seventeen years in this way of life. Urged by the lustful fire of the flesh, she one day boarded a ship that was sailing for Jerusalem. Arriving at the Holy City, she attempted to go into one of the churches to venerate the Precious Cross, but some unseen power prevented her from entering. In great fear, she turned to an icon of the Mother of God that was in the entrance and begged her to let her go in and venerate the Cross, con-fessing her sin and impurity and promising that she would then go wherever the Most Pure One led her. She was then allowed to enter the church. After venerating the Cross, she went out again to the entrance and, standing in front of the icon, thanked the Mother of God. Then she heard a voice saying, “If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace.” She immediately bought three loaves of bread and set off for the Jordan, arriving there the same evening. She received Holy Communion the following morning in the monastery of St. John the Baptist, and then crossed the river. She spent the next forty-eight years in the wilderness in the greatest torments, in terror, in struggles with passionate thoughts like gigantic beasts, feeding only on plants.

Later, when she was standing in prayer, Zossima saw her lifted up in the air. She begged him to bring her Holy Communion the next year on the bank of the Jordan, and she would come to receive it. The following year, Zossima came with the Holy Gifts to the bank of the Jordan in the evening and stood in amazement as he saw her cross the river. He saw her coming in the moonlight and, arriving on the further bank, make the sign of the Cross over the river. She then walked across it as though it were dry land. When she had re-ceived Holy Communion, she begged him to come again the following year to the same stream by which they had first met. The next year Zossima went and found her dead body there on that spot. Above her head in the sand was written: “Abba Zossima, bury in this place the body of the humble Mary. Give dust to dust. I passed away on April 1, on the very night of Christ’s Passion, after Communion of the Divine Mysteries.” For the first time, Zossima learned her name and also the awe-inspiring marvel that she had arrived at that stream the previous year on the night of the same day on which she had received Holy Communion – a place that he had taken twenty days to reach. And thus Zossima bur-ied the body of the wonderful saint, Mary of Egypt. When he returned to the monastery, he recounted the whole story of her life and the wonders to which he had been an eye-witness. Thus the Lord glorifies repentant sinners. She entered into rest in about the year 530.

St. Mary is remembered today, as we reach the end of the Great Fast, to arouse the energy of the slothful and to urge sinners to repentance, imitating her example. She is also commemorated on April 1. The Righteous Zossima, who buried St. Mary, is commemorat-ed on April 4.


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Неделя 4-я Великого Поста. (Епископ Митрофан)

Дорогие, сегодня, в 4-ое воскресенье Великого Поста, св. Церковь вспоминает преп. Иоанна Лествичника, на 16-м году взошедшем для подвига на Синайскую гору. О нем говорят его современники, что на 16-м году жизни своей Иоанн был “тысячелетен совершенством разума.” В день его памяти оглашаются в Евангельском чтении Заповеди Блаженства. Словами св. Отцов Церкви скажу вам об этом благодатном Евангельском Законе, который возвестил Господь на горе Галилейской.

“Не думайте, что Я пришел нарушить Закон или пророков: не нарушить пришел Я, но исполнить,” — говорит Господь. Сравнивая Закон Моисея с Евангельским Законом, мы обнаруживаем между ними существенную разницу. Помните, Библия повествует о том, как суровый Закон Моисея был провозглашен среди громов и молний, грозно раздававшимся трубным гласом. — А вот благодатный Евангельский Закон возвещен миру среди весеннего дня при тихом веянии прохлады с Галилейского озера, на склоне горы, покрытой зеленью и цветами. Там, в Ветхом Завете, — густые грозные тучи закрывали вершину Синая и глас Невидимого Бога поражал ужасом сынов Израилевых. — Здесь же сладостно для сердца возвещались глаголы Жизни вечной из пречистых уст кроткого и смиренного сердцем Господа Иисуса. Там — в Ветхом Завете — под страхом смерти никто не смел подойти к горе ближе намеченной черты, — а здесь народ тесною толпою окружал Христа, стараясь как можно ближе подойти и хотя бы прикоснуться к одежде любвеобильного Законодавца, источавшего мир и всеисцеляющую силу. В Ветхом Завете Небесный Учитель не стесняет свободы приходящих к Нему суровым повелением, не устрашает угрозами, Он только указывает то, чего все ищут, к чему стремится каждый человек; Он говорит о счастье, о блаженстве, и указывает путь к этому блаженству. Он не приказывает, а лишь, как любящий Отец, побуждает к исполнению их Своим тихим любящим словом: блаженны — счастливы, — говорит Христос, — кто имеет мир в совести, доброту и радость в сердце и уверенность в будущей жизни блаженной.

На Синае данный Закон был законом суровой судебной правды. Евангельский Закон это — Закон Любви; в нем соединились истина, правда Ветхого Завета, с Новозаветной милостью. В Евангельском Законе, как говорит Давид псалмопевец: “Правда и мир облобызались.” Более того, если Ветхий Закон говорит: “не делай зла,” Новый Закон говорит: “и не думай о зле, о нем и мысли к сердцу не допускай.” Новый Закон, таким образом, из сердца исторгает самые корни зла.

Евангельский Закон дан нам в Нагорной Проповеди и начинается он словами: “Блаженны нищие духом, ибо тех есть Царствие Небесное. Не те блаженны, которые бедны материально, — эта бедность может быть и от лени и от праздности, — не те блаженны, которые смиряют себя лицемерно или поневоле перед людьми, а те блаженны, кто считает себя хуже других, кто видит свои недостатки, сознает немощность своих сил, не превозносится своим умом, кто прибегает к Богу за благодатной помощью, “как нищие просят милостыни у богатых.”

Такими “нищими духом” могут быть и нищие и богатые. Нищие — бедные, когда они с благодарностью Богу, без ропота несут крест своей нищеты, трудясь в меру сил, только в случаях крайней необходимости прибегая за помощью к ближним; а богатые — когда считают себя не хозяевами, а только приставниками у Богом им вверенных земных благ, не гордятся своим богатством, но употребляют его во славу Божию, на пользу ближним. Богат был Авраам, но он говорил о себе: “я прах и пепел.” Царем был Давид, но он смиренно взывал к Богу: “я червь, а не человек, нищ и убог.” “Нищие духом” это бедные и богатые, простецы и мудрецы, господа и рабочие, это все, кто стяжал добродетель смирения, и им принадлежит блаженство. Смиренные сердцем, еще здесь на земле, ощущают радость и благодатный мир, о которых гордые люди и понятия не имеют. Нет ничего, в очах Божиих, дороже смирения. Без смирения нет и спасения, потому что без смирения ни одна добродетель не может быть угодна Богу, не может быть духовно созидающей и спасительной для человека. Ведь, все бедствия, удручающие мир, произошли от гордости. И ангел света по гордости стал противником Богу, диаволом, и Адам, надеясь стать Богу равным, сделался смертным. Гордость это — источник всякого нечестия.

Вот почему Христос предлагает с корнем исторгнуть гордость из сердца человеческого, вот почему Христос предлагает нам смирение, как крепкий камень, на котором можно безопасно созидать все добродетели. Если не будет “нищеты духовной,” т.е. смирения говорит св. Иоанн Златоуст — “хотя бы ты отличался постом, молитвой, милостыней, целомудрием, хотя бы ты имел все другие добродетели, все это без смирения разрушится и погибнет,” как это случилось с евангельским фарисеем.

Преподобный Иоанн Лествичник указывает на три главных признака истинного смирения: 1ый признак — когда душа с радостью принимает всякое уничижение, всякое оскорбление, как врачевство, исцеляющее недуги греховные; 2ой признак — когда ни на что и ни на кого не гневаешься; 3й признак — когда не доверяешь своим добродетелям и постоянно желаешь научаться добру, жизни во имя и во славу Божию.

Таким смирением обладали все подвижники, все святые. Образец же смирения имеем мы в Господе нашем Иисусе Христе. “Научитесь от Меня, — говорит Он, — ибо Я кроток и смирен сердцем, и найдете покой душам вашим.” Если Он, безгрешный, так смирял Себя, то нам ли, грешникам, гордиться, превозноситься? — а ведь мы в гордости-то и ходим.

Кто приобрел дар “нищеты духовной,” тот всегда видит свои недостатки, свои грехи, о них скорбит и плачет, закрывая свои уста для осуждения ближних. Аминь.

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Fourth Sunday of Great Lent – St John Climacus (of the ladder)

Sunday of St. John Climacus

John who lived in the flesh, yet was dead to the world,
become now breathless and dead, lives forever.
Leaving his writings, the Ladder of Ascent,
to show us the means of his own ascent.
John died on the thirtieth day (of March).

At the age of sixteen, this clever man offered himself as a most sacred sacrifice to God by going up to join the monastery on Mount Sinai. When he reached the age of nineteen he took a vow of silence. Living in the monastery at Thole for forty years, he burned always with love and the fire of the desire for God. He ate anything, which was not against the monastic rule, but with great temperance, thus wisely breaking the horn of pride. Yet what mind could express the source of his tears! He partook of sleep only insomuch as not to harm his body, though his mind was vigilant. His prayer was constant, and his love for God limitless. Having lived a life of amendment pleasing to God, and having written his ladder of ascent, expounding his words of instruction, he fell asleep in the Lord, full of goodness. He left many other writings as well.


The Reading from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Hebrews (6:13-20)

Brethren: When God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thee.’ And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath of confirmation is to them an end to all strife. Thereby God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we, who have fled for refuge, might have strong consolation to lay hold upon the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, where the Forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, who is made a high priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.

Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Ephesians (5:8b-19)

Brethren: Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them, for it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Therefore He saith: ‘Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, be ye not unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark (9:17-31)

At that time, one of the multitude came to Jesus, bowing before Him and saying: ‘Master, I have brought unto thee my son, who hath a dumb spirit. And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him; and he foameth and gnasheth his teeth and pineth away. And I spoke to thy disciples that they should cast him out, and they could not.’ Jesus answered him and said, ‘O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto Me.’ And they brought the boy unto Him. And when the spirit saw Him, straightway he tore the boy; and he fell on the ground and wallowed about foaming. And He asked his father, ‘How long is it ago since this came unto him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And oftentimes it hath cast him into the fire and into the waters to destroy him; but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said unto him, ‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.’ And straightway the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, ‘Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him and enter no more into him.’ And the spirit cried, and rent the boy sorely and came out of him; and he was as one dead, insomuch that many said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could not we cast him out?’ And He said unto them, ‘This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.’ And they departed thence and passed through Galilee, and He would not that any man should know it. For He taught His disciples and said unto them, ‘The Son of Man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him; and after He is killed, He shall rise the third day.’

Holy Gospel according to Matthew (4:25-5:12)

At that time, there followed Jesus great multitudes of people from Galilee and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and from Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, He went up onto a mountain; and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.’


Troparion of the Resurrection (Tone 8)
From on high didst Thou descend, O Compassionate One, to burial of three days hast Thou submitted, that Thou mightest free us from our passions. O our Life and Resurrection, O Lord, glory be to Thee!

Troparion of St John Climacus (Tone 1)

O John our father, saint of God, thou wast revealed as a citizen of the desert, an angel in a body and a worker of miracles. Through fasting, prayer, and vigils thou hast received heavenly gifts of grace and thou healest the sick and the souls of those that turn to thee with faith. Glory be to Him Who gave thee strength; glory be to Him Who crowned thee; glory be to Him Who through thee grants to all men healing.

Kontakion of the Resurrection (Tone 8)

Having risen from the tomb, Thou didst raise up the dead, and didst resurrect Adam. Eve also danceth at Thy resurrection, And the ends of the world celebrate Thine arising from the dead, O Greatly-merciful One.

Kontakion of St John Climacus (Tone 4)

Truly the Lord has set thee as a fixed star in the firmament of abstinence, giving light to the ends of the earth, O father John our teacher.

St. John of the Ladder Sunday


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
More than once, brethren, the fact has been mentioned that on each Sunday in the Great Fast there are other commemorations beside that of the Resurrection. Thus, on this day, the Church glorifies the righteous John of the Ladder, one of the greatest ascetics, which the Church, in speaking of them, calls “earthly angels and Heavenly men.”

These great ascetics were extraordinary people. They commanded the elements; wild beasts willingly and readily obeyed them. For them, there were no maladies they could not cure. They walked on the waters as on dry land; all the elements of the world were subject to them, because they lived in God and had the power of grace to overcome the laws of terrestrial nature. One such ascetic was Saint John of the Ladder.

He was surnamed “of the Ladder” (Climacus) because he wrote an immortal work, the Ladder of Divine Ascent. In this work, we see how, by means of thirty steps, the Christian gradually ascends from below to the heights of supreme spiritual perfection. We see how one virtue leads to another, as a man rises higher and higher and finally attains to that height where there abides the crown of the virtues, which is called “Christian love.”

Saint John wrote his immortal work especially for the monastics, but in the past his Ladder was always favorite reading in Russia for anyone zealous to live piously, though he were not a monk. Therein the Saint clearly demonstrates how a man passes from one step to the next.

Remember, Christian soul, that this ascent on high is indispensable for anyone who wishes to save his soul unto eternity.

When we throw a stone up, it ascends until the moment when the propelling force ceases to be effectual. So long as this force acts, the stone travels higher and higher in its ascent, overcoming the force of the earth’s gravity. But when this force is spent and ceases to act, then, as you know, the stone does not remain suspended in the air. Immediately, it begins to fall, and the further it falls the greater the speed of its fall. This, solely according to the physical laws of terrestrial gravity.

So it is also in the spiritual life. As a Christian gradually ascends, the force of spiritual and ascetical labours lifts him on high. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Strive to enter in through the narrow gate.” That is, the Christian ought to be an ascetic. Not only the monastic, but every Christian. He must take pains for his soul and his life. He must direct his life on the Christian path, and purge his soul of all filth and impurity.
Now, if the Christian, who is ascending upon this ladder of spiritual perfection by his struggles and ascetic labours, ceases from this work and ascetic toil, his soul will not remain in its former condition; but, like the stone, it will fall to the earth. More and more quickly will it drop until, finally, if the man does not come to his senses, it will cast him down into the very abyss of hell.

It is necessary to remember this. People forget that the path of Christianity is indeed an ascetical labour. Last Sunday, we heard how the Lord said: “He that would come after Me, let him take up his cross, deny himself, and follow Me.” The Lord said this with the greatest emphasis. Therefore, the Christian must be one who takes up his cross, and his life, likewise, must be an ascetic labour of bearing that cross. Whatever the outward circumstance of his life, be he monk or layman, it is of no consequence. In either case, if he does not force himself to mount upwards, then, of a certainty, he will fall lower and lower.

And in this regard, alas, people have confused thoughts. For example, a clergyman drops by a home during a fast. Cordially and thoughtfully, they offer him fast food, and say: “For you, fast food, of course!” To this, one of our hierarchs customarily replies: “Yes, I am Orthodox. But who gave you permission not to keep the fasts?” All the fasts of the Church, all the ordinances, are mandatory for every Orthodox person. Speaking of monastics, such ascetics as Saint John of the Ladder and those like him fasted much more rigorously than the Church prescribes; but this was a matter of their spiritual ardour, an instance of their personal ascetic labour. This the Church does not require of everyone, because it is not in accord with everyone’s strength. But the Church does require of every Orthodox the keeping of those fasts which She has established.

Oftentimes have I quoted the words of Saint Seraphim, and once again shall I mention them. Once there came to him a mother who was concerned about how she might arrange the best possible marriage for her young daughter. When she came to Saint Seraphim for advice, he said to her: “Before all else, ensure that he, whom your daughter chooses as her companion for life, keeps the fasts. If he does not, then he is not a Christian, whatever he may consider himself to be.” You see how the greatest saint of the Russian Church, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a man who, better than we, knew what Orthodoxy is, spoke concerning the fasts?

Let us remember this. Saint John Climacus has described the ladder of spiritual ascent; then let us not forget that each Christian must ascend thereon. The great ascetics ascended like swiftly-flying eagles; we scarcely ascend at all. Nonetheless, let us not forget that, unless we employ our efforts in correcting ourselves and our lives, we shall cease our ascent, and, most assuredly, we shall begin to fall. Amen.


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Неделя 3-я Великого Поста: Крест Господень – Митрополит Филарет

Около полугода назад, в канун праздника Воздвижения Честнаго и Животворящаго Креста Господня, в этом святом храме совершалось торжественное богослужение. Вы знаете, конечно, что особенностью богослужения этого великого праздника является совершение обряда воздвижения самого Креста; но это торжественное, и исполненное глубокого смысла, священнодействие является принадлежностью только этого дня, только этого праздника.
Святая Церковь как бы не удовлетворяется этим, воздвигая Животворящий Крест Господень, поклоняясь ему и прославляя его в день праздника Воздвижения, она вторично совершает празднование, посвященное Животворящему Кресту Господню в третье воскресенье Великого Поста.
Не трудно догадаться, почему именно в это время — середине Великого Поста Церковь снова поставляет пред нами Животворящий Крест. Человеческая немощь нуждается в укреплении. Те, кто не постятся, не чувствуют нужды в духовном укреплении, но те, кто, как должно, в послушании Церкви проходят подвиг пощения, те чувствуют немощь человеческой природы и ослабление сил: некоторые изнемогают. И вот, для того, чтобы ободрить нас и подкрепить нашу немощь, Церковь и предлагает нам Животворящий Крест, чтобы мы освятили и укрепили себя силою крестною, и вспомнили, что сделал Господь для нашего спасения. Если верующий человек вспомнит об этом, как должно, то снова бодростью наполнится его душа, и он будет ревностно проходить великопостный подвиг поста и молитвы, помня о том Крестоношении, которое было у Самого Спасителя в течение Его жизни. Ведь, еще до того, как Господь Иисус Христос нес Свой Крест на Голгофу, чтобы там быть пригвожденным на Нем, вся Его жизнь была сплошным крестоношением! И так как подвиг поста является в некотором смысле, как бы крестоношением для нашей немощной природы, то для того, чтобы мы могли нести этот спасительный крест, как должно, Церковь и укрепляет нас силою Честнаго и Животворящаго Креста Христова.
Но не только об этом, говорит нам Животворящий Крест — знамение победы христианской. Он говорит нам и о силе Крестной. Как часто неразумные люди говорят: “Во сне Крест видел — быть какой-то беде.” Какое нехристианское рассуждение! А почему бы тебе, человек христианин, не обрадоваться, увидев величайшую христианскую Святыню? Быть может, никакая особая беда тебя не ожидает, а Церковь напоминает тебе о силе Крестной, о той силе, которая является непреоборимой защитой для всякой верующей души. В сложных и тяжких условиях наших дней Церковь этим стремится тебя поддержать и укрепить, а вовсе не пугать тебя какими-то бедами, которые, вероятно, и не придут…
Тот, кто благоговейно чтит Животворящий Крест, кто благоговейно, с верой и молитвой употребляет крестное знамение, часто на опыте убеждается в победоносной и спасительной силе Животворящаго Креста. И не нужно думать, что за чудесами от Креста, от Крестного Знамения следует идти куда-то далеко, — назад, в древность.
Теперь часто говорят, что в наше время чудес не бывает, — они бывали только в древности… Но вот, совсем недавно, перед самой кровавой годиной всероссийской разрухи, было одно из чудес, рассказанное очевидцем — чудо, в котором явно проявилась животворящая и спасающая сила Крестного Знамения. Один священник заехал в гостиницу, где, кроме него, были и другие люди. Всем им был предложен обед. И, когда они собрались к этому столу, то священник, как пастырь Церкви, говорит: “Братие, прежде всего станем на молитву. Помолимся перед тем, как вкушать пищу.” Все встали; священник прочитал молитву Господню “Отче наш” и, заканчивая ее, обращается к столу и осеняет его крестообразно своим пастырским благословением. И в эту секунду большой графин с квасом, стоявший на столе, без всякой видимой причины и без всякого удара со стороны, разлетелся вдребезги. Квас разлился; все ахнули. Хозяйка схватилась за голову, бросилась в соседнее помещение, откуда донесся ее крик; она снова вбежала обратно, бросилась священнику в ноги и тут же призналась, что этот графин она поставила на стол по ошибке. В нем был отравленный квас преступно приготовленный ею для отравления собственного мужа. На стол же она хотела поставит другой графин с хорошим квасом, но перепутала ввиду того, что оба графина совершенно походили один на другой, и подала убийственную отраву на стол. И, если бы ни молитва Господня, если бы пастырь Церкви не осенил своим благословением этот стол для трапезы, — то, быть может, последовала бы страшная катастрофа массового отравления. Сила Креста спасла людей от этого. Подобные случаи бывали не раз. Поэтому, когда Церковь укрепляет нас во время силою Животворящей Креста — человек должен с радостью вспоминать, как Крест его укрепляет и спасает. Тот христианин, который благоговейно, по-настоящему верует, прибегает к силе крестной и осеняет себя крестом во все важные моменты своей жизни: перед началом каждого дела, в минуту опасности, отправляясь куда-нибудь в далекий путь…
Как часто видели мы, как верующий, благоговейный христианин, уже умирая, в последний момент, холоднеющей рукой, осенял себя крестным знамением, ограждал и освящая себя этим на последний свой путь. И на могиле христианина ставится крест, чтобы знали все, что под этим крестом, в этой могиле лежит христианин.
Будем же это помнить, преклоняя колена пред Животворящим Крестом; будем укреплять себя на время прохождения постного подвига и ободрять себя тем, что непобедимая, непостижимая и божественная сила Честнаго и Животворящего Креста не оставит нас грешных, если мы сами не уйдем от неe. Аминь.
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On this third Sunday of the Great Fast we celebrate the Veneration of the precious and life-giving Cross. Since during the forty days of the Fast we are also in a way crucified, mortified to the passions, contrite, abased and despondent, the precious and life-giving Cross is offered to us as refreshment and confirmation, calling to mind the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and comforting us. If our God was crucified for our sake, how great should be our effort for His sake, since our afflictions have been assuaged through the Lord’s tribulations, and by the commemoration and the hope of the Cross of glory. For as our Savior in ascending the Cross was glorified through dishonor and grief; so should we also endure our sorrows, in order to be glorified with Him. Also, as those who have traveled a long hard road, weighed down by the labors of their journey, in finding a shady tree, take their ease for a moment and continue their journey rejuvenated, so now in this time of the Fast, this sorrowful and laborious journey, the Holy Fathers have planted the life-giving Cross, for our relief and refreshment, to encourage and make easier the labors that lie ahead. From the Lenten Synaxarion.


The Reading from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Hebrews – #311 (Ch 4:14-5:6)

Brethren: Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has passed into the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our profession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; who can have compassion on the ignorant and on those who are outside of the Way, since he himself is also encompassed by infirmity. And by reason hereof, he ought, both for the people and also for himself, to make offering for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, except he that is called by God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made a high priest, but He that said unto Him, ‘Thou art My Son; today have I begotten Thee.’ And He saith also in another place, ‘Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’

Holy Gospel according to Mark – #37 (Ch 8:34-9:1)

The Lord said: ‘Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’ And He said unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, that there are some of them that stand here who shall not taste of death till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power.’


Troparion of the Resurrection (Tone 7)
Thou didst destroy death by Thy Cross, Thou didst open paradise to the thief.  Thou didst change the lamentation of the Myrrh-bearers,  and Thou didst command Thine Apostles  to proclaim that Thou didst arise, O Christ God, * and grantest to the world great mercy.

Troparion of the Cross (Tone 1)
Save, O Lord, Thy people  and bless Thine inheritance;  grant Thou unto Orthodox Christians  victory over enemies;  and by the power of Thy Cross  do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.

Kontakion of the Sunday of the Cross (Tone 7)
No longer doth the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden,  for a strange extinction hath come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross.  The sting hath been taken from death,  and the victory from hades.  And Thou, my Saviour, didst appear unto those in hades, saying: Enter ye again into Paradise.

Instead of the Trisagion: Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection, we glorify. Thrice.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. And Thy Holy Resurrection, we glorify.
Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection, we glorify.

Sermon on the Cross – Archbishop Averky

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).

In the very middle of Great Lent, the road upon which we are now traveling, the Holy Church offers us the opportunity to honor and venerate our Holy Cross of the Lord. The image of the Honorable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord is ceremoniously brought out of the altar to the middle of the church, and we all make the three prostrations before it with the singing of the words “Before Thy cross we fall down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.”There is profound meaning in this church ritual, with great edification for us faithful. If we conscientiously followed the first half of Lent: only ate Lenten food, ate less and less frequently, abstained from pleasures and entertainment, honestly battled our sinful tendencies and habits, we cannot but feel some degree of fatigue and even faltering of energy from the unusual exertion of will power and physical weakness. When we think that only one half of Lent has passed, some may unwillingly grumble “How hard this is! I can’t go on! When will it end?”

And so in order to lift our spirits and strengthen our will to continue observing Lent, the Holy Church offers us spiritual consolation—the Cross of the Lord is solemnly brought out for veneration.

“It is hard for you, you grumble,” the Church says, “but how difficult was it for the Lord to suffer for you, enduring unimaginable sufferings on this cross? Or do you think that His suffering was less than yours? Still, He endured all in order to save you. He did that for your sake, do this for Him, for His sake! Especially since this patience is not needful for Him or for anyone else, but specifically for you, which you need for your salvation. Remember His great love for you, which He revealed in giving Himself over to crucifixion and humiliating death, and your spirits will be lifted! His love and the miraculous power of the Cross will support you and help you complete the podvig of Lent and will bring you to the joyful, radiant feast day of the Resurrection.”

In other words, the Cross of the Lord, brought out for veneration, is our military banner, the sort historically brought out during earthly battles in order for inspiration, it is brought out for us, warriors in Christ, for our morale and courage to successfully wage battle and victory over the enemy. Beholding this glorious symbol, the symbol of victory over the devil, we feel the wave of new energies, inspiring us to continue our podvig. All the hardships and sorrows endured thus far are forgotten, and, in the words of the Apostle, we “forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13), and with greater earnestness strive for our goal—to defeat sin, to defeat the devil, in order to attain “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), where inexpressible joy awaits us, promised to us by our Savior, Who suffered upon the Cross of the Lord.

But the cross of the Lord is not only a symbol for us, but an “unconquerable weapon,” for it crushes the power of the devil, as we sing in the Holy Church: “Thou gavest us Thy Cross as a weapon against the devil, O Lord; for he trembles and quakes, unable to bear the sight of its strength.”

In the teachings of the synaxarion, the Cross of the Lord is compared with the Tree of Life of the Garden of Eden, with the wood which sweetened the bitter waters of Marah during the forty years the people of God spent in the wilderness, and also with the shade trees which gives relief to travelers on the road to the promised land of eternal life.

“Crucified together with the One crucified for us, let us mortify all fleshly temptations in fasting and prayers,” is what the Holy Church calls us to, instructing us to boldly continue the podvig of holy Lent, turning our minds to the Lord Who was crucified for our sake.

At the same time, the emergence of the Cross of the Lord for veneration during Great Lent reminds the faithful of the great days when we remember the Passions of Christ and the Bright Feast Day of the Resurrection of Christ. As a victorious general is greeted, preceded by the symbols of his victory—his emblems and trophies, so here, before the Pascha of Christ, comes the ceremonious procession of the Victor over sin, hell and death, His Life-Giving Cross. It is a living reminder that if we suffer with Christ, then with Him, too, we will be glorified—we die with Him and are resurrected with Him.

In this way, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross is a foretaste of the bright Paschal joy that awaits us, because, in glorifying the Cross of the Lord, we also praise His Resurrection, thrice singing: “Before Thy cross we fall down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.”

And so the Cross of the Lord is for us Christians a military symbol and at the same time a weapon, since Christ the Savior had nailed our sins to the Cross, and, trampling the power of the devil, granted us eternal life. That is why it is a “sign of rejoicing,” as the Holy Church calls it, and this is the only glory we can boast ourselves, as Apostle Paul said: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).

The cross became a wellspring for us, bountifully pouring forth Divine grace upon us. But each Christian must become a participant in this saving power of the Cross of the Lord only by bearing his own cross. This is what our Teacher of endurance, Jesus Christ, clearly teaches us: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

“Our cross” is the freely-taken spiritual struggle in the life of the Christian in the world, the symbol of which is Lent, for every true Christian life is a podvig of fasting—a spiritual feat of self-restraint and abstention. Every true Christian is called to this, to be a podvizhnik, for without this there cannot be true Christianity, for we must force ourselves to every good deed and turn away from all wickedness. The Lord Himself summons us to this “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24), for “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

From these words of Christ we clearly see how far from true Christianity are all contemporary modernists who wish to “reform” our Church and Christianity in general, who reject any limitations and restrictions and give their passions free reign.

So Christ the Savior gave us the commandment to struggle, to enter the narrow gate, that is, to endure all and to restrain our sinful passions and desires, for “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).

And Holy Apostle Paul, in full accord, says “mastery is temperate in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25),” and so “I mortify my body and enslave it, else I will be enslaved,” that is, everyone must learn temperance.

The way of the cross is this very podvig of constant, complete bodily and spiritual abstinence, which is required of every earnest follower of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The humble endurance of all sorrows and sufferings we face on earth, the constant struggle with our sinful tendencies and the complete devotion to the will of God is the persona cross of every true Christian. Those who bear this cross emulates Christ the Cross-Bearer, and becomes a true follower of Him. And just as the Cross of Christ led to the joy of Resurrection, so the personal cross of each of us will lead to the same resurrection from the dead and eternal inexpressible joy and blessedness, the never-ending day of the Kingdom of Christ.

Great Lent is nothing other than the symbol of Christian life, and also the annual exercise of Christian living, an annual reminder of how the Christian must live, and what the final goal of his life must be.

Now we see why the enemy of God and mankind, the devil, exerts all his efforts to deprive us of this great, saving holy symbol of the Cross of the Lord, and compels us to refuse to “bear our cross,” turning us astray from following Christ.

That is why we see less frequently the image of the Cross of the Lord, which is being replaced everywhere by other symbols and emblems, leading Christians to forget the Cross of the Lord and forget to bear their own cross. Even buildings which pretend to the name “church” rarely exhibit this symbol.

The enemy wishes to tear this symbol of victory and glory from our hands, in order to disarm and vanquish us. Sorrow to anyone who gives in to imprisonment by Satan easily, to face eternal, inconsolable sorrow and suffering! Sorrow to all who join with the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and do their bidding! They will become traitors and betrayers of our Lord and Savior, and his eternal fate will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12).