THE LENTEN SPRING HAS COME!

The Lenten spring has come – the light of repentance! O brothers, let us cleanse ourselves from all evil, crying out to the Giver of Light: Glory to Thee, O Lover of man.

Let us begin the fast with joy! Let us prepare ourselves for spiritual effort! Let us purify our souls and cleanse our flesh. Let us abstain from passion as we abstain from food, Let us rejoice in the spirit and persevere with love, That we may all see the Holy Passion of Christ, Our God And rejoice in spirit at the Holy Pascha!

DEANERY LENTEN SERVICE AT ST. VLADIMIR’S

Mark your calendar!  Sunday, April 6th,  Wilkes Barre Deanery clergy and faithful will make a trip to Lopez for a Lenten Vespers service.  The vespers will be at 4 P.M. and a Lenten meal will follow  in the parish hall.  We hope to have several nuns from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ellwood City with us to sing the vespers.  We will be promoting the event through the local media and especially hope that many of our Lopez neighbors will join us.  Pass the word to your relatives, friends and neighbors.

HOLY TRANSFIGURATION MONASTERY ON-LINE CHAPEL

A daughter of the parish,  Kathleen Matychak in her “former” life, is now the Abbess Christophora of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ellwood City, PA.   The nuns record and broadcast their worship services over the internet.  You can watch and listen to live services, for example Saturday evening vigils and Sunday morning Divine Liturgies.  With Great Lent underway there are many other services during the week that you can watch live.  They also archive the services on YouTube.  You can watch a Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete or Presanctified Liturgy from the first week of Lent.  This is very inspirational and a great blessing to all of us who cannot attend services, especially during Lent.  Go here (www.orthodoxmonasteryellwoodcity.org/chapel) to watch and pray along with the monastic mothers and sisters.  Fr. Thomas Hopko is the “resident” Priest and spiritual father to the nuns.

St. Ephrem the Syrian 2

A Fast Pleasing Unto God ―

Is this not the fast I have chosen:

To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;  when you see the naked that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you;  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;  you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

(Isaiah 58:6-9, New King James)

From the Lenten Triodion, Wednesday of the first week of Great Lent…

“Brethren, while fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually;  let us loosen every bond of injustice;  let us destroy the strong fetters of violence;  let us tear up every unjust writing;  let us give bread to the hungry and let us welcome the homeless poor to our houses,  that from Christ our God we may receive the great mercy.”

The Discipline of Great Lent ―

Secret fasting.  Secret almsgiving.  Secret prayer.

So that our lips would refrain from gossip, hurtful words and idle talk.

So that our eyes would turn from fleshly temptations.

So that our ears would be deaf to blasphemous talk.

So that our hands would refrain from base and evil deeds.

So that our feet would not trod upon our brother.

So that we may be able…

“…to know Christ and the power of His Resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

(St. Paul to the Philippians, 3:10-11)

descent into hades

Make a daily practice of St. Ephrem’s Prayer (his icon is at the top of this page).  The prayer is not just for when you are in Church!  Try to do the prostrations so that your body participates in the prayer.   Pray the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father…) at least three times during the day.   If you do this you will find that you will begin to pray more.

The Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust for power and idle talk.

(prostration)

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

(prostration)

Yea, O Lord and King,  grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother.  For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

(prostration)

Then, repeat the verse of the Jesus prayer twelve times: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,”  after each repetition crossing yourself and touching the ground.

Then, repeat St. Ephrem’s prayer in its entirety and close with another full prostration.

SCRIPTURE READING DURING GREAT LENT

Lent is a return to our Biblical roots, and that includes our roots in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament Books of Genesis (History), Isaiah (Prophets) and Proverbs (Wisdom) are read in their entirety during the daily services of the six weeks of Lent. The Psalter (all 150 Psalms) is read through twice each week during Lent. During Great and Holy Week, reading of the Scriptures is very intense. The Books of Exodus (History), Ezekiel (Prophets) and Job (Wisdom) are read in their entirety during the services of the week.  The Psalter is read through once, a return to the practice of the Church for non-Lenten weeks during the year. It is spiritually rewarding to read along at home these Books that the Church incorporates in Her worship life during the Fast.

THE PRIMARY AIM OF FASTING… 

The primary aim of fasting is to make us conscious of our dependence upon God. If practiced seriously, the Lenten abstinence from food involves a considerable measure of real hunger, and also a feeling of tiredness and physical exhaustion. The purpose of this is to lead us in turn to a sense of inward brokenness and contrition; to bring us, that is, to the point where we appreciate the full force of Christ’s statement, “Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)  If we always take our fill of food and drink, we easily grow over-confident in our own abilities, acquiring a false sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency…Lenten abstinence gives us the saving self-dissatisfaction of the Publican (Luke 18:10-13), “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Such is the function of the hunger and tiredness: to make us “poor in spirit,” aware of our helplessness and of our dependence on God’s aid.     (Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diocleia,  in the introduction to he and Mother Mary’s translation of the Lenten Triodion, 1977.)

Not Made with Hands

THE ICON “NOT-MADE-BY-HANDS”…the “HOLY NAPKIN”

Eusebius, in his HISTORY OF THE CHURCH (I:13), relates that when the Savior was preaching, Abgar ruled in Edessa. He was stricken all over his body with leprosy. Reports of the great miracles worked by the Lord spread throughout Syria (Mt.4:24) and reached even Abgar. Without having seen the Savior, Abgar believed in Him as the Son of God. He wrote a letter requesting Him to come and heal him. He sent with this letter to Palestine his own portrait-painter Ananias, and commissioned him to paint a likeness of the Divine Teacher. Ananias arrived in Jerusalem and saw the Lord surrounded by people. He was not able to get close to Him because of the large throng of people listening to the preaching of the Savior. Then he stood on a high rock and attempted to paint the portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ from afar, but this effort was not successful. The Savior saw him, called to him by name and gave him a short letter for Abgar in which He praised the faith of this ruler. He also promised to send His disciple to heal him of his leprosy and guide him to salvation.  Then the Lord asked that water and a cloth be brought to Him. He washed His Face, drying it with the cloth, and His Divine Countenance was imprinted upon it. Ananias took the cloth and the letter of the Savior to Edessa.  Reverently, Abgar pressed the holy object to his face and he received partial healing.  Only a small trace of the terrible affliction remained until the arrival of the disciple promised by the Lord.  He was St Thaddeus, Apostle of the Seventy,  who preached the Gospel and baptized Abgar and all the people of Edessa. Abgar put the Holy Napkin in a gold frame adorned with pearls, and placed it in a niche over the city gates. On the gateway above the icon he inscribed the words, “O Christ God, let no one who hopes on Thee be put to shame.” During the time of the Iconoclast heresy, those who defended the veneration of icons, having their blood spilled for holy icons, sang the Troparion to the Icon Not-Made-by-Hands.  In proof of the validity of Icon Veneration,  Pope Gregory II (715-731) sent a letter to the Byzantine emperor,  in which he pointed out the healing of King Abgar and the sojourn of the Icon Not-Made-by-Hands at Edessa as a commonly known fact.     (from OCA.org)

Fr. Dennis’ Note: A “cloth” with the image of the Savior was hidden in the wall in Edessa.  This cloth was later rediscovered in its hiding place, removed and taken to Constantinople with great celebration. This is historically documented.  The cloth is believed to be the source of the iconographic images of Christ (the face of Christ we see in our icons), and possibly the source of the Orthodox tradition of the “Burial Shroud”(Plashchanitsa in Russian, Epitaphios in Greek) that plays such a powerful and moving part of our Holy Week services. The cloth disappeared from Constantinople with the ransacking of the city and Orthodox churches by the Crusaders. It is quite possible the cloth was stolen rather than destroyed and that the Shroud of Turin is that same cloth! If you want to read more about this possible link between the “missing” cloth from Edessa/Constantinople and the Shroud of Turin; read the several books by Ian Wilson.  They are good readsvery educational, entertaining, thought-provoking and persuasive.  More information HERE (older, but significant historical/scientific info) and HERE (more recent info).

Also, this tradition of the Holy Napkin/Icon-Not-Made-by-Hands is referred to in the prayer for the blessing of icons when you ask the Priest to bless your icons.  The reality of the Son of God’s face being able to be depicted on a material object is the source, the “legitimizer,”  of all such images/icons.  In fact, such images/icons of Christ, His Mother and all the saints are necessary and essential to accurately and fully express the Christian Faith.