First Sunday of the Great Fast
March 9, 2014
Sunday of Orthodoxy
John 1:43-51 - The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Beth-sa'ida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathan'a-el, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathan'a-el said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathan'a-el coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathan'a-el said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathan'a-el answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." (RSV)
Are you following the Lord? – “To every thoughtful man there is a benefit" (Proverbs 14:23 LXX) … and Christ implied more than this when He said, “He that seeks finds.” (Matthew 7:8) This is whey I no longer wonder how it was that Philip followed Christ. Andrew was persuaded when he heard from John, and Peter was persuaded when heard from Andrews. But Philip, not having learned anything from anyone but Christ who said to him only this, “Follow me,” immediately obeyed and did not go back. In fact, he even became a preacher to others. For he ran to Nathaniel and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Laws and the Prophets wrote.” Do you see what a thoughtful mind he had, how assiduously he meditated on the writings of Moses, expecting the advent? For the expression “we have found” belongs always to those who are in some way seeking. (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John)
On the first Sunday of the Great Fast we celebrate the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy [True Worship]. This is an historical feast commemorating the restoration of icons, which had been banned for several decades, to their rightful liturgical use in the year A.D. 843. The major emphasis of this feast is the victory of the true Faith, the Faith which always triumphs. [The icon above is a detail of the icon commemorating the Restoration of Icons.]
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.