“Possibly a contentious unbeliever will maintain that we worshiping images in our churches are convicted of praying to lifeless idols. Far be it from us to do this. Faith makes Christians, and God, who cannot deceive, works miracles. We do not rest contented with mere colouring. With the material picture before our eyes we see the invisible God through the visible representation, and glorify Him as if present, not as a God without reality, but as a God who is the essence of being. Nor are the saints whom we glorify fictitious. They are in being, and are living with God; and their spirits being holy, the help, by the power of God, those who deserve and need their assistance.”
Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was never depicted. Now, however, when God is seen clothed in flesh, and conversing with men, (Bar. 3.38) I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honouring that matter which works my salvation. I venerate it, though not as God. How could God be born out of lifeless things? And if God’s body is God by union (καθ υποστασιν), it is immutable.
The nature of God remains the same as before, the flesh created in time is quickened by a logical and reasoning soul. I honour all matter besides, and venerate it. Through it, filled, as it were, with a divine power and grace, my salvation has come to me. Was not the thrice happy and thrice blessed wood of the Cross matter? Was not the sacred and holy mountain of Calvary matter? What of the life-giving rock, the Holy Sepulchre, the source of our resurrection: was it not matter? Is not the most holy book of the Gospels matter? Is not the blessed table matter which gives us the Bread of Life? Are not the gold and silver matter, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made? And before all these things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter?
Either do away with the veneration and worship due to all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the worship of images, honouring God and His friends, and following in this the grace of the Holy Spirit.Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. Nothing is that which God has made. This is the Manichean heresy. That alone is despicable which does not come from God, but is our own invention, the spontaneous choice of will to disregard the natural law,—that is to say, sin.
Excerpt from Apologia of St John of Damascus Against Those who Decry Holy Images
By Fr. Seraphim Holland of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in McKinney, TX
The “Prayer of St Ephrem” is ubiquitous during Great Lent, and is used in all weekday services, and in prayers at home.
This prayer is much like the “Our Father,” in the following way. When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He told them to “pray in this way”, and then recited the “Our Father”, thus giving us a model for how to pray and a prayer which perfectly fulfilled these principles. So should we treat the prayer of St Ephrem. Its content is truly sublime, and teaches us the (more…)
The Great Canon of St. Andrew is appointed to be read in four parts on the first four days of Lent during Great Compline. It is also read on the Fifth Thursday of Lent with the Life of St. Mary of Egypt. An explanation about the Great Canon can be found here.
Monday of the First Week of Lent [pdf]
Tuesday of the First Week of Lent [pdf]
Wednesday of the First Week of Lent [pdf]
Thursday of the First Week of Lent [pdf]
The Greek tradition of Kyra Sarakosti (“Lady Lent” in English) is a great activity for children to count down the weeks of Lent. This excerpt from The Festive Fast Cookbook explains the details of this custom:
…[W]hen there were no calendars and people wanted to have some sense of time during Great Lent (before Easter), they devised an easy method of doing this. They drew up an image of Sarakosti as a nun. They took a piece of paper and cut out a shape of a woman. Kyra Sarakosti does not have a mouth as she is fasting: her hands are crossed in prayer. She has seven feet for the seven weeks of Great Lent [including Holy Week]. Every Saturday one of her feet is cut. The last foot to be cut on Holy Saturday is folded and placed in a dried fig or nut and whoever finds it is considered to be lucky. (G.A. Mega, Greek Feasts)(more…)
The doors of repentance are opening, Great Lent is beginning. Every year Great Lent is repeated, and each time it brings us great benefit if we spend it as we should. It is a preparation for the life to come and, more immediately, a preparation for the Bright Resurrection.
Just as a stairway is built into a tall building in order to (more…)
O Lord and Master of my Life, take me from me the spirit of despondency, negligence, avarice, and idle talk. Prostration.
Grant unto me the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love. Prostration.
Yea, O Lord and King grant me to see my own sins and faults and not to judge my brother for blessed and glorified art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen. Prostration.
Then twelve metanias (bows from the waist with the sign of the Cross). With each one we say:
O God, cleanse me a sinner.
And then the entire prayer:
O Lord and Master of my Life, take me from me the spirit of despondency, negligence, avarice, and idle talk. Grant unto me the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love. Yea, O Lord and King grant me to
see my own sins and faults and not to judge my brother for blessed and glorified art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen. Prostration.
The lenten spring has shone forth; Let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast.”
The majority of today’s Christians understand neither the cause for rejoicing, nor the meaning of a true fast. Many, very many people of this day and age regard the essence of the fast to consist solely in the prohibition of certain foods: meat, milk, cheese, eggs; and they do not understand the purpose of such a prohibition. Some who enjoy eating go so far as to become indignant at the Church for having established this tradition. “There is no reason for it; it’s unnecessary,” they say. “It makes no difference what you eat. ” And in practice they ignore the fast and make no effort to keep it. It is rare nowadays to find anyone who rejoices (more…)
“If a man insults me, kills my father, my mother, my brother, and then gouges out my eye, as a Christian it is my duty to forgive him. We who are pious Christians ought to love our enemies and forgive them. We ought to offer them food and drink, and entreat God for their souls. And then we should say: ‘My God, I beseech Thee to forgive me, as I have forgiven my enemies.’”
Brethren! All our attention must be centered on the parable of the Prodigal Son. We all see ourselves in it as in a mirror. In a few words the Lord, the knower of hearts, has shown in the person of one man how the deceptive sweetness of sin separates us from the truly sweet life according to God. He knows how the burden of sin on the soul and body, experienced by us, impels us by the action of divine grace to return, and how it actually does (more…)