Sunday, March 29, 2015

Monday - Wednesday Passion Week - Readings

"Ballum - Hochaltar - Fußwaschung" by Wolfgang Sauber - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Jesus Anointed at Bethany by Mary

Monday of the Passion Week
Tuesday of the Passion Week.
Wednesday of the Passion Week

The Wise and Foolish Virgins (Ten Virgins)

The Wise and Foolish Virgins [Matthew 25:1-13]

Service of the Parable of the Ten Virgins

The Order of The Entrance in the Haven, commonly called The Parable of the Ten Virgins, is celebrated in the Syriac Orthodox Church. At the close of the second service on the eve of Monday (Sunday evening), which is the first day of Passion Week, the clergy and the deacons shall put on their vestments. Carrying the cross, the Gospel, the fans and the censer, they shall make ready to start the procession inside the church, as usual, starting from the northern door of the chancel and ending at the southern door.
After the procession, all stand before the sanctuary and the priest starts the service. The curtain is kept closed. Most of the lights in the Church are put out and very few are left shining. The darkness signifies the dark night on which the virgins were expecting the arrival of the Bridegroom.

Towards the end of the service they bow down before the door of the sanctuary, and with a contrite heart, they shall say each of the following petitions ten times, five to each side. At each time they shall bow their heads until they touch the floor:
Kuriealison, Lord have mercy upon us. Lord have compassion and mercy upon us. Lord hear us and have mercy upon us.

Here they all stand up. The priest shall say the following petition three times with a tone that is full of sorrow, sadness and remorse. The choir repeats the same after him:
Peter sat at the outer door weeping and crying out: Master, open Your door, I am Your disciple, heaven and earth weep for me because I have lost the keys of the kingdom.

Then the priest approaches the curtain of the door of the sanctuary holding the cross in his right hand. He touches the curtain with the cross three times, each time saying:
O Lord, our Lord, our Lord, open Your door to us

At the third time, the curtain is drawn back, all the lights are put on and the clergy and the deacons enter into the sanctuary. [source: Book of Festivals]

Commentary on the Ten Virgins - Matthew 25:1-13
By St. John Chrysostom

These parables are like the former parable of the faithful servant, and of him that was ungrateful and devoured his Lord's goods. For there are four in all, in different ways admonishing us about the same things, I mean about diligence in almsgiving, and about helping our neighbor by all means which we are able to use, since it is not possible to be saved in another way. But there He speaks more generally of all assistance which should he rendered to one's neighbor; but as to the virgins, he speaketh particularly of mercifulness in alms, and more strongly than in the former parable. For there He punishes him that beats, and is drunken, and scatters and wastes his lord's goods, but here even him that doth not help, nor spends abundantly his goods upon the needy. For they had oil indeed, but not in abundance, wherefore also they are punished.

But wherefore doth He set forth this parable in the person of the virgins, and doth not merely suppose any person whatever? Great things had He spoken of virginity, saying, "There are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake;" and, "He that is able to receive, let him receive it."He knew also that the generality of men would have a great opinion of it. For indeed the work is by nature great, and is shown so by this, that neither under the old dispensation was it fulfilled by these ancient and holy men, nor under the new was it brought under the compulsion of the law. For He did not command this, but left it to the choice of his hearers.

Wherefore Paul also said "Now, concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord." "For though I praise him that attains thereto, yet I constrain not him that is not willing, neither do I make the thing an injunction." Since then the thing is both great in itself and hath great honor with the multitude, lest any one attaining to this should feel as though he had attained to all, and should be careless about the rest, He putteth forth this parable sufficient to persuade them, that virginity, though it should have everything else, if destitute of the good things arising out of alms-giving, is cast out with the harlots, and He sets the inhuman and merciless with them.

And most reasonably, for the one was overcome by the love of carnal pleasure, but these of money. But the love of carnal pleasure and of money are not equal, but that of carnal pleasure is far keener and more tyrannical. And the weaker the antagonist, the less excusable are these that are overcome thereby. Therefore also He calls them foolish, for that having undergone the greater labor, they have betrayed all for want of the less. But by lamps here, He meaneth the gift itself of virginity, the purity of holiness; and by oil, humanity, alms-giving, succor to them that are in need.

"Then, while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." He shows that the time intervening will not be short, leading His disciples away from the expectation that His kingdom was quite immediately to appear. For this indeed they hoped, therefore He is continually holding them back from this hope. And at the same time He intimates this too, that death is a sleep. For they slept, He saith.

"And about midnight there was a cry made." Either He was continuing the parable, or again He shows that the resurrection will be at night. But the cry Paul also indicates, saying, "With a shout, with a voice of an archangel, with the last trump, He shall come down from Heaven."And what mean the trumpets, and what saith the cry? "The bridegroom cometh." When therefore they had trimmed their lamps, the foolish say unto the wise, "Give us of your oil."

Again He calls them foolish, showing that nothing can be more foolish than they who are wealthy here, and depart naked thither, where most of all we have need of humanity, where we want much oil. But not in this respect only were they foolish, but also because they looked to receive it there, and sought it out of season; and yet nothing could be more humane than those virgins, who for this especially were approved.

Neither do they seek for it all, for, "Give us," they say, "of your oil;" and the urgency of their need is indicated; "for our lamps," they say, "are going out." But even so they failed, and neither the humanity of those whom they asked, nor the easiness of their request, nor their necessity and want, made them obtain.

But what now do we learn from hence? That no man can protect us there, if we are betrayed by our works, not because he will not, but because he cannot. For these too take refuge in the impossibility. This the blessed Abraham also indicated, saying, "Between us and you there is a great gulf,"so that not even when willing is it permitted them to pass it.

"But go to them that sell, and buy." And who are they that sell? The poor. And where are these? Here, and then should they have sought them, not at that time.

Seest thou what great profit arises to us from the poor? shouldest thou take them away, thou wouldest take away the great hope of our salvation. Wherefore here must we get together the oil, that it may be useful to us there, when the time calls us. For that is not the time of collecting it, but this. Spend not then your goods for nought in luxury and vainglory. For thou wilt have need of much oil there.

Having heard these things, those virgins went their way; but they profiled nothing. And this He saith, either pursuing the parable, and working it up; or also by these things showing, that though we should become humane after our departure, we shall gain nothing from thence towards our escape.

Therefore neither did their forwardness avail these virgins, because they went to them that sell not here, but there; nor the rich man, when he became so charitable, as even to be anxious about his relations. For he that was passing by him that was laid at the gate, is eager to rescue from perils and from hell them whom he did not so much as see, and entreats that some be sent to tell them these things. But nevertheless, he derived no benefit from thence, as neither did these virgins. For when they having heard these things went their way, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with Him, but the others were shut out. After their many labors, after their innumerable toils, and that intolerable fight, and those trophies which they had set up over the madness of natural appetite, disgraced, and with their lamps gone out, they withdrew, bending down their faces to the earth. For nothing is more sullied than virginity not having mercy; so that even the multitude are wont to call the unmerciful dark.

Where then was the profit of virginity, when they saw not the bridegroom? and not even when they had knocked did they obtain, but they heard that fearful saying, "Depart, I know you not."And when He hath said this, nothing else but hell is left, and that intolerable punishment; or rather, this word is more grievous even than hell. This word He speaks to them also that work iniquity?

"Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour." Seest thou how continually He adds this, showing how awful our ignorance concerning our departure hence? Where now are they, who throughout all their life are remiss, but when they are blamed by us, are saying, At the time of my death, I shall leave money to the poor. Let them listen to these words, and be amended. For indeed at that time many have failed of this, having been snatched away at once, and not permitted so much as to give charge to their relations touching what they wished to be done.

This parable was spoken with respect to mercy in alms; but the one that comes after this, to them that neither in money, nor in word, nor in protection, nor in any other things whatever, are willing to assist their neighbors, but withhold all.

And wherefore can it be that this parable brings forward a king, but that a bridegroom? That thou mightest learn how close Christ is joined unto the virgins that strip themselves of their possessions; for this indeed is virginity. Wherefore Paul also makes this as a definition of the thing. "The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord;"such are his words: and, "For that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. These things we advise," he saith.

[Source:Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

40th Friday - End of Great Lent

After 40 days of Fast Jesus being Tempted by Satan
The 40 days of fasting of the Great Lent ends on the Friday before Palm Sunday (or the 40th Friday). The following week is the Passion week and as we practice fasting and abstinence during that week, the Great Lent is also called as the 50 day lent.
The 40 day fast ends with Holy Qurbana and we read about Jesus' temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), one of the most riveting episodes in the Bible. How dare Satan do that, not once, but three times! It is very telling that after the 40 days of fast, when you are tired and ready to do anything to get a piece of bread, that is when Satan approaches you, in your weakness.

Read below an excerpt from St. John Chrysostom's (Golden Tongue) commentary on the temptation of the Christ by Satan

Having then fasted forty days and as many nights,

He was afterwards an hungered;  affording him a point to lay hold of and approach, that by actual conflict He might show how to prevail and be victorious. Just so do wrestlers also: when teaching their pupils how to prevail and overcome, they voluntarily in the lists engage with others, to afford these in the persons of their antagonists the means of seeing and learning the mode of conquest. Which same thing then also took place. For it being His will to draw him on so far, He both made His hunger known to him, and awaited his approach, and as He waited for him, so He dashed him to earth, once, twice, and three times, with such ease as became Him.

3. But that we may not, by hurrying over these victories, mar your profit, let us begin from the first assault, and examine each with exact care.
Thus, after He was an hungered, it is said, The tempter came, and said unto Him, If Thou be Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Matthew 4:3

For, because he had heard a voice borne from above, and saying, This is My beloved Son; and had heard also John bearing so large witness concerning Him, and after that saw Him an hungered; he was thenceforth in perplexity, and neither could believe that He was a mere man, because of the things spoken concerning Him; nor on the other hand receive it that He was Son of God, seeing Him as he did in hunger. Whence being m perplexity he utters ambiguous sounds. And much as when coming to Adam at the beginning, he feigns things that are not, that he may learn the things that are; even so here also, not knowing clearly the unutterable mystery of the Economy, and who He may be that has come, he attempts to weave other nets, whereby he thought to know that which was hidden and obscure. And what says he? If Thou be Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. He said not, because you are an hungered, but, if Thou be Son of God; thinking to cheat Him with his compliments. Wherefore also he was silent touching the hunger, that he might not seem to be alleging it, and upbraiding Him. For not knowing the greatness of the Economy which was going on, he supposed this to be a reproach to Him. Wherefore flattering Him craftily, he makes mention of His dignity only.

What then says Christ? To put down his pride, and to signify that there was nothing shameful in what had happened, nor unbecoming His wisdom; that which the other had passed over in silence to flatter Him, He brings forward and sets it forth, saying, Man shall not live by bread alone. Matthew 4:4

So that He begins with the necessity of the belly. But mark, I pray you, the craft of that wicked demon, and whence he begins his wrestlings, and how he does not forget his proper art. For by what means he cast out also the first man, and encompassed him with thousands of other evils, with the same means here likewise he weaves his deceit; I mean, with incontinence of the belly. So too even now one may hear many foolish ones say their bad words by thousands because of the belly. But Christ, to show that the virtuous man is not compelled even by this tyranny to do anything that is unseemly, first hungers, then submits not to what is enjoined Him; teaching us to obey the devil in nothing. Thus, because the first man did hereby both offend God, and transgress the law, as much and more does He teach you:— though it be no transgression which he commands, not even so to obey.

And why say I, transgression? Why, even though something expedient be suggested by the devils, do not thou, says He, even so give heed unto them. Thus, for instance, He stopped the mouths of those devils also, proclaiming Him Son of God. And Paul too again Acts 16:18 rebuked them, crying this self-same thing; and yet what they said was profitable; but he more abundantly dishonoring them, and obstructing their plot against us, drove them away even when doctrines of salvation were preached by them, closing up their mouths, and bidding them be silent.

And therefore neither in this instance did He consent to what was said. But what says He? Man shall not live by bread alone. Now His meaning is like this: God is able even by a word to nourish the hungry man; bringing him a testimony out of the ancient Scripture, and teaching us, though we hunger, yea, whatever we suffer, never to fall away from our Lord.

But if a man say, still He should have displayed Himself; I would ask him, with what intent, and for what reason? For not at all that he might believe did the other so speak, but that he might, as he thought, over-argue Him into unbelief. Since the first of mankind were in this way beguiled and over-argued by him, not putting earnest faith in God. For the contrary of what God had said he promised them, and puffed them up with vain hopes, and brought them to unbelief, and so cast them out of the blessings they actually possessed. But Christ signifies Himself not to have consented, either to him then or afterwards to the Jews his partisans, in their demand of signs: invariably instructing us, whatever we may have power to do, yet to do nothing vainly and at random; nor even when want urges to obey the devil.

4. What then does this accursed one? Overcome, and unable to persuade Him to do his bidding, and that when pressed by such violent hunger, he proceeds to another thing, saying,

If Thou be Son of God, cast Yourself down; for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning You, and in their hands they shall bear You up. Matthew 4:6

What can the reason be, that at each temptation He adds this, If Thou be Son of God? Much the same as he did in that former case, he does also at this time. That is, as he then slandered God, saying, In the day you eat, your eyes shall be opened; Genesis 3:5 thereby intending to signify, that they were beguiled and overreached, and had received no benefit; even so in this case also he insinuates this same thing, saying, in vain God has called You Son, and has beguiled You by His gift; for, if this be not so, afford us some clear proof that You are of that power. Then, because Christ had reasoned with him from Scripture, he also brings in a testimony of the prophet.

How then does Christ? He is not indignant, nor provoked, but with that extreme gentleness He reasons with him again from the Scriptures, saying, You shall not tempt the Lord your God: Matthew 4:7 teaching us that we must overcome the devil, not by miracles, but by forbearance and long-suffering, and that we should do nothing at all for display and vainglory.

But mark his folly, even by the very testimony which he produced. For while the testimonies cited by the Lord were both of them spoken with exceeding fitness: his, on the other hand, were chance and random sayings, neither did he bring forward on his part that which applied to the matter in hand. For that it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning You, this surely is not advice to dash and toss one's self down headlong; and moreover, this was not so much as spoken concerning the Lord. However, this for the time He did not expose, although there was both insult in his manner of speech, and great inconsistency. For of God's Son no man requires these things: but to cast one's self down is the part of the devil, and of demons. Whereas God's part is to raise up even them that are down. And if He ought to have displayed His own power, it would not have been by casting and tossing Himself down at random, but by saving others. But to cast ourselves down precipices, and into pits, pertains properly to his troop. Thus, for example, the juggler among them does everywhere.

But Christ, even when these things are said, does not yet reveal Himself, but as man for a while discourses with him. For the sayings, Man shall not live by bread alone; and, You shall not tempt the Lord your God, suited one not greatly revealing Himself, but representing Himself as one of the many.

But marvel not, if he in reasoning with Christ oftentimes turn himself about. For as pugilists, when they have received deadly blows, reel about, drenched in much blood, and blinded; even so he too, darkened by the first and the second blow, speaks at random what comes uppermost: and proceeds to his third assault.

5. And he leads Him up into a high mountain, and shows Him all the kingdoms, and says, All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me. Then says He, Get behind me, Satan, for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. Matthew 4:8-10

For since he was now come to sinning against the Father, saying, that all that is the Father's was his, and was endeavoring to make himself out to be God, as artificer of the universe; He then rebuked him: but not even then with vehemence, but simply, Get you hence, Satan; which itself had in it something of command rather than of rebuke. For as soon as He had said to him, Get you hence, He caused him to take to flight; since he brought not against Him any other temptations.

And how says Luke, that he ended all temptation. To me it seems that in mentioning the chief of the temptations, he had spoken of all, as though the rest too were included in these. For the things that form the substance of innumerable evils are these: to be a slave to the belly, to do anything for vainglory, to be in subjection to the madness of riches. Which accordingly that accursed one considering, set last the most powerful of all, I mean the desire of more: and though originally, and from the beginning, he was travailing to come to this, yet he kept it for the last, as being of more force than the rest. For in fact this is the manner of his wrestling, to apply those things last, which seem more likely to overthrow. And this sort of thing he did with respect to Job likewise. Wherefore in this instance too, having begun with the motives which seem to be viler and weaker, he goes on to the more prevailing.

How then are we to get the better of him? In the way which Christ that taught us, by fleeing to God for refuge; and neither to be depressed in famine, as believing in God who is able to feed even with a word; nor amidst whatever good things we may receive to tempt Him who gave them, but to be content with the glory which is from above, making no account of that which is of men, and on every occasion to despise what is beyond our need. For nothing does so make us fall under the power of the devil, as longing for more, and loving covetousness. And this we may see even by what is done now. For now also there are those who say, All these things will we give you, if you will fall down and worship; who are indeed men by nature, but have become his instruments. Since at that time too he approached Him, not by himself only, but also by others. Which Luke also was declaring, when he said, that he departed from Him for a season; showing that hereafter he approached Him by his proper instruments.

And, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him. Matthew 4:11 For when the assault was going on, He suffered them not to appear, that He might not thereby drive away the prey; but after He had convicted him in all points, and caused him to take to flight, then they appear: that you also may learn, that after your victories which are copied from His, angels will receive you also, applauding you, and waiting as guards on you in all things. Thus, for example, angels take Lazarus Luke 16:22 away with them, after the furnace of poverty and of famine and of all distress. For as I have already said, Christ on this occasion exhibits many things, which we ourselves are to enjoy.

6. For as much then as all these things have been done for you, emulate and imitate His victory. And should any one approach you of those who are that evil spirit's servants, and savor the things that be of him, upbraiding you and saying, If you are marvelous and great, remove the mountain; be not troubled, nor confounded, but answer with meekness, and say some such thing as you have heard your Lord say: You shall not tempt the Lord your God.

[Source:Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Annunciation to St. Mary (March 25 and 3rd Sunday after Koodos Eetho in November)

Archangel Gabriel announcing the Lord to Mary

Annunciation to St. Mary (25th March)
    • Description
We celebrate the Feast of Annunciation to St. Mary twice a year, on the 3rd Sunday after Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification of Church) and on March 25th. Holy Qurbana must be celebrated on this day even if it comes during the Great Lent, during the Passion Week or on Good Friday. (The Holy Eucharist is not celebrated during the Great Lent days except all Saturdays and Sundays, Wednesday of Mid-Lent, 40th Friday, and Maundy Thursday during the Passion week.)

The mere fact that we celebrate Holy Qurbana even on Good Friday, if the feast of Annunciation falls on Good Friday, tells of the importance of this feast. Of all the messages God has sent to this world through His angels and prophets, this one stands out in that annunciation was the beginning of fulfillment of everything that was pre-figured in the Old Testament - waiting for the Messiah is over, salvation is at hand. Regaining of the lost paradise is ever closer for all mankind starting with Adam.
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. He shall come down like rain upon the fleece; and as showers falling gently upon the earth.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 72:6)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. He inclined the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 18:9)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Great Lent - Week 6 Readings

Healing of the Blind Man by Jesus Christ

Sixth Sunday of Great Lent (Catholicate Day/ Blind man healed)
Monday before Hosanna
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 98:1)
Tuesday before Hosanna
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Let Mount Zion rejoice, Let the daughters of Judah be glad.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 48:11)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Give unto the Lord glory and strength; Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 29:1-2)
Wednesday before Hosanna
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Let Mount Zion rejoice, Let the daughters of Judah be glad.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 48:11)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 98:2)
Thursday before Hosanna
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Let Mount Zion rejoice, Let the daughters of Judah be glad.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 48:11)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 98:1)
Friday before Hosanna (40th Friday)
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 91:11)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 91:12)
Saturday before Hosanna (Lazarus' Saturday)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 104:29)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Great Lent - Week 5 Readings

Jesus Healing the Crippled Woman
Jesus Healing the Crippled Woman 
Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (Kpiptho/Crippled Woman)
Fifth Monday of Great Lent
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Lord, hear my voice in the morning and in the morning, I have prepared myself to be present before You. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 5:3)
Fifth Tuesday of Great Lent
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord.. Halleluiah (Psalm 118:19)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Lord, hear my voice in the morning and in the morning, I have prepared myself to be present before You. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 5:3)
Fifth Wednesday of Great Lent
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord.. Halleluiah (Psalm 118:19)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Lord, hear my voice in the morning and in the morning, I have prepared myself to be present before You. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 5:3)
Fifth Thursday of Great Lent
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. This is the gate of the Lord, Through which the righteous shall enter.. Halleluiah (Psalm 118:20)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Lord, hear my voice in the morning and in the morning, I have prepared myself to be present before You. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 5:3)
Fifth Friday of Great Lent
    • Evening
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord.. Halleluiah (Psalm 118:19)
Halleluiah.. Halleluiah.. Lord, hear my voice in the morning and in the morning, I have prepared myself to be present before You. Halleluiah.. (Psalm 5:3)
Fifth Saturday of Great Lent