March 17, 2010 + Great Lent and Holy Week (Part 1)


by Maureen Massiwer Gurghigian
from The Word, March 1993

Each of the Sundays of Great Lent has its own special theme. The first Sunday is called the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. It is a historical feast commemorating the return of the Icons to the Churches in the year 843 A.D., after the heresy of iconoclasm was overcome.

The second Sunday of Great Lent is the commemoration of St. Gregory Palamas. It was St. Gregory who died in 1359, who bore living witness that men can become divine through the Grace of God in the Holy Spirit; and that even in this life, by prayer and fasting, human beings can become participants of the uncreated Light of God’s Divine Glory.

The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross, a day marked by its beauty and pageantry. The Cross stands in the midst of the Church at the midpoint of the Lenten season to remind us of Christ’s redemption and to keep before us the goal of our efforts .   But even more importantly to be revered and venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:38). In the Cross of Christ Crucified, lies both “the power of God and the Wisdom of God” for those being saved, (I Corinthians 1:2 4).

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to St. John Climacus (St. John of the Ladder), the author of the work: The Ladder of Divine Ascent. St. John was an abbot at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in the sixth century His work encourages the faithful to persevere in their efforts; for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved;” (Matthew 24:13).

The Fifth Sunday of Lent recalls the memory of St. Mary of Egypt, the repentant harlot. Mary tells us, first of all, that no amount of sin can keep a person from God if the sinner truly repents. In addition, St. Mary tells us that it is never too late, either in life or in lent, to repent. Christ will gladly receive all who come to Him, even at the eleventh hour of their lives. But their coming must be in serious and sincere repentance.

The week following the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt is called Palm Week. At Tuesday services of this week, the Church recalls that Jesus’ friend Lazarus has died and that the Lord is going to raise him from the dead. On Friday evening, the eve of the celebration of the Resurrection of Lazarus the “Great and saving forty days” of Great Lent are formally brought to an end.

Lazarus Saturday is a paschal celebration. It is the only time during the entire Church year that the resurrectional service of Sunday is celebrated on another day.  At the Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the Church glorifies Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life” who, by raising Lazarus, has confirmed the universal resurrection of mankind, even before His own suffering and death.

The Sixth Sunday after the beginning of Great Lent begins Holy Week. Palm Sunday is the commemoration of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, Christ was hailed by the masses as the long-awaited Messiah. Thus, in fulfillment of the prophesies of the Old Testament, He entered Jerusalem, “the City of the King”, riding on the colt of an ass, (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:12). The crowds greeted him with branches in their hands and shouted praises: “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna to David’s son!” This glorification drove the priests and the scribes to destroy Him and put Him to death.

Palm Sunday is one of the major feasts of the Church. It immediately follows those services of Lazarus Saturday The Church building continues to be vested in resurrectional splendor, filled with hymns which continually repeat the “Hosanna” offered to Christ as the Messiah who comes in the name of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

Great Lent and Holy Week Part 2

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Holy Fathers Slain In Saint Sabbas Monastery - March 20

Troparion, Tone 4

As holy and chosen lambs of the Saviour, from many lands you were gathered in wise Sabbas' flock. You were put to death by the cruelty of the barbarians and you departed joyfully for the heavenly fold. And now as righteous Athletes you are praying for our souls.

Kontakion, Tone 2

You dyed your monastic habits with your own martyrs' blood, O blessed and holy fathers. Thus adorned you now stand with twofold crowns of glory before Christ's throne in the heavenly abodes.