Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday of Departed Priests

Preparation for Great Lent: Remembering The Departed Priests of the Holy Church

The Church has set apart two Sundays after the Nineveh Lent to remember the departed priests and the departed faithful of the Holy Church. Following this the Great Lent begins.

An excerpt from one of the prayers while remembering the departed priests:

"Glory to Him Who adorns the priests and perfects the high priests, Who chose for Himself the mortal priests and gave them authority over the treasury of His kingdom, Who delivered to them the keys of His treasure that they might distribute His wealth among the needy. When it seemed good to Him, those who labored in His vineyard from the morning till the evening, He took to Himself that they might delight in the light of His countenance."

Why did the Holy Church arrange the two Sundays before Great Lent for remembering the departed?

Great Lent is a time of spiritual warfare. From ancient times, before setting out for wars, people would visit the tomb of their departed parents to receive blessings. Similarly, "Let us remember our forefathers who taught us in their life to be the Children of God", receive their blessings and prepare for this spiritual warfare.
Our departed forefathers are a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us and strengthening us and continuously interceding for us as we set out for this spiritual warfare. 

So just as St. Paul says in Hebrews 12:1
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..”

Also, St. Paul, tells us to put on the whole armor of God and he gives a vivid description of the enemy so that we are prepared and not caught off-guard.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places..(Ephesians 6:11-12)

St. John Chrysostom says "He [St. Paul] says not, against the fightings, nor against the hostilities, but against the wiles. For this enemy is at war with us, not simply, nor openly, but by wiles. What is meant by wiles? To use wiles, is to deceive and to take by artifice or contrivance; a thing which takes place both in the case of the arts, and by words, and actions, and stratagems, in the case of those who seduce us. The Devil never proposes to us sins in their proper colors; he does not speak of idolatry, but he sets it off in another dress, using wiles, that is, making his discourse plausible, employing disguises. Now therefore the Apostle is by this means both rousing the soldiers, and making them vigilant, by persuading and instructing them, that our conflict is with one skilled in the arts of war, and with one who wars not simply, nor directly, but with much wiliness. And first then he arouses the disciples from the consideration of the Devil's skill; but in the second place, from his nature, and the number of his forces. It is not from any desire to dispirit the soldiers that stand under him, but to arouse, and to awaken them, that he mentions these stratagems, and prepares them to be vigilant; for had he merely detailed their power, and there stopped his discourse, he must have dispirited them. But now, whereas both before and after this, he shows that it is possible to overcome such an enemy, he rather raises their courage; for the more clearly the strength of our adversaries is stated on our part to our own people, so much the more earnest will it render our soldiers."

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