Second Week of the Great Fast
March 10-16, 2014
Isaiah 6:1-8 - In the year that King Uzzi'ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." (RSV – Part of the Reading for the Sixth Hour on Thursday)
St. John of Damascus – With eyes, lips and faces turned toward it, let us receive the divine burning coal, so that the fire of the coal may be added to the desire within us to consume our sins and enlighten our hearts, and so that by this communion with the divine fire we may be set afire and deified. (On the Orthodox Faith)
The icon is of St. Gregory Palamas, who is commemorated in the Byzantine Church especially on the Second Sunday of the Fast. Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) was a monk, archbishop and eminent theologian. He was also a major figure in fourteenth-century Byzantium. His greatest work, In Defense of Holy Hesychasts [commonly known as the Triads], was written between 1338 and 1341 as a response to the charges of Barlaam. Barlaam denied the legitimacy of the spiritual methods of Byzantine monastic groups known as hesychasts and discredited their claims to experience the divine presence. Hesychasm, a movement dating back to the Fathers of the desert, believed that since the body itself receives the grace of sacraments and the pledge of final resurrection it would properly have a share in "pure prayer". They believed that God is accessible to personal experience because He shared His own life with humanity. It is from this tradition that we have the famous "Jesus Prayer": “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
Damascus’ suffering and praying Church begins Great and Holy Lent Monks’ Monday, 3 March 2014
- Created: 05 March 2014
Prot. N° 123 /2014D
Damascus’ suffering Church celebrated the start of Great and Holy Lent, with the first day, known as Monks’ Monday, since in days gone by Christians bade farewell to the monastics among them who would leave the villages for the deserts and caves of the region, only to return on Lazarus Saturday to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Several parishes commemorated Monks’ Monday around midday, by eating the popular dish called Mujadara (lentils and rice) cooked in huge tureens.
His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III, celebrated Monks’ Monday in the village of Jdeidet Artuz near Damascus, where people from several Syrian regions, including many of his own relatives from Daraya, have taken refuge. The parish priest, Father Shehadeh Abbud, invited his parishioners to welcome the Patriarch, who presided at the celebration of the Sixth Hour commemorating Christ’s Passion, which continues in the suffering of Syrian people.
In his sermon, the Patriarch presented his Lent Letter, called “The Grace of Fasting.” Then His Beatitude visited the parish kindergarten and shared in the traditional Lenten meal of Mujadara and salad with the parishioners.
Lent Letter from Patriarch Gregorios III
- Created: 25 February 2014
Servant of Jesus Christ,
by the Grace of God
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem,
to the Bishops, members of our Holy Synod,
to our sons the priests, to monks, nuns and all the faithful
“called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name
of Jesus Christ our Lord…Grace be unto you, and peace,
from God our Father,
and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1: 2, 3)
On the Occasion of
Great and Holy Lent, 2014
The grace of fasting
“The grace of the Holy Fast is most glorious.”
When I began thinking about the topic of Lent for this year, I opened at random the Triodion (the book of services and prayers proper to the Lenten period), and happened upon a kathisma which begins by underlining the glory of the “grace of the Holy Fast.” I took that as a sign from the Holy Spirit. I heeded it and decided that the topic of my meditation and letter would be on the beautiful meanings of holy Lent.