March 15, 2017 + Part 2: Letter for Lenten Encouragement
From St. Athanasius the Great, written 333 AD
3. Wherefore then, my beloved, do we not acknowledge the grace as becomes the feast? Wherefore do we not make a return to our Benefactor? It is indeed impossible to make an adequate return to God; still, it is a wicked thing for us who receive the gracious gift, not to acknowledge it. Nature itself manifests our inability; but our own will reproves our unthankfulness. Therefore the blessed Paul, when admiring the greatness of the gift of God, said, 'And who is sufficient for these things 2 Corinthians 2:17?' For He made the world free by the blood of the Saviour; then, again, He has caused the grave to be trodden down by the Saviour's death, and furnished a way to the heavenly gates free from obstacles to those who are going up. Wherefore, one of the saints, while he acknowledged the grace, but was insufficient to repay it, said, 'What shall I render unto the Lord for all He has done unto me ?' For instead of death he had received life, instead of bondage , freedom, and instead of the grave, the kingdom of heaven. For of old time, 'death reigned from Adam to Moses;' but now the divine voice has said, 'Today shall you be with Me in Paradise.' And the saints, being sensible of this, said, 'Except the Lord had helped me, my soul had almost dwelt in hell.. ' Besides all this, being powerless to make a return, he yet acknowledged the gift, and wrote finally, saying, 'I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord; precious in His sight is the death of His saints. '
2. With regard to the cup, the Lord said, 'Are you able to drink of that cup which I am about to drink of?' And when the disciples assented, the Lord said, 'You shall indeed drink of My cup; but that you should sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give; but to those for whom it is prepared Matthew 20:22-23.' Therefore, my beloved, let us be sensible of the gift, though we are found insufficient to repay it. As we have ability, let us meet the occasion. For although nature is not able, with things unworthy of the Word, to return a recompense for such benefits, yet let us render Him thanks while we persevere in piety. And how can we more abide in piety than when we acknowledge God, Who in His love to mankind has bestowed on us such benefits? (For thus we shall obediently keep the law, and observe its commandments. And, further, we shall not, as unthankful persons, be accounted transgressors of the law, or do those things which ought to be hated, for the Lord loves the thankful); when too we offer ourselves to the Lord, like the saints, when we subscribe ourselves entirely [as] living henceforth not to ourselves, but to the Lord Who died for us, as also the blessed Paul did, when he said, 'I am crucified with Christ, yet I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me Galatians 2:20.'
Letter 5, For 333 AD. Accessed at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2806005.htm.
St. Theophylactus, Bishop of Nicomedia
Troparion, Tone 4
Your soul aflame with love for Christ, You gathered a company of illustrious athletes, O glorious Agapius. With them you excelled in righteous contest, And together you were beheaded by the sword. Henceforth always pray for the forgiveness of our sins!
Kontakion, Tone 4
Out of love for Christ, The eight-fold choir of martyrs spurned all earthly things. As they were beheaded, They cried out together: O compassionate One, give joy to your servants!
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