SUNDAY OF MEATFARE — Tone 4. The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.
Tone 4 Troparion (Resurrection)
When the women disciples of the Lord learned from the angel the joyous message of Your Resurrection, they cast away the ancestral curse and elatedly told the apostles: “Death is overthrown! Christ God is risen,// granting the world great mercy!”
Tone 4 (St. Nicholas)
The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of meekness and a teacher of self-control; your humility exalted you; your poverty enriched you.// O Father Bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Tone 3 Kontakion (St. Nicholas)
You proved yourself to be be a holy priest, O Nicholas. You served God in Myra and lived the gospel of Christ. You offered your life for your people, And rescued the innocent from death. Therefore God has glorified you as a trustworthy guide of things divine.
Tone 6 Kontakion (from the Lenten Triodion)
O Master, Teacher of wisdom, Bestower of virtue, Who teach the thoughtless and protect the poor, strengthen and enlighten my heart! O Word of the Father, let me not restrain my mouth from crying to You: “Have mercy on me, a transgressor,// O merciful Lord!”
Tone 8 Prokeimenon (Resurrection)
Pray and make your vows / before the Lord, our God! (Ps. 75:10a)
V. In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel. (Ps. 75:1)
Romans 13:11-14:4 (Epistle)
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High. (Ps. 91:1)
V. To declare Your mercy in the morning, and Your truth by night. (Ps. 91:2a)
Matthew 6:14-21 (Gospel)
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Today’s scripture announces the threshold of the Great Fast. In the text—prescribed for the Wednesday before Great Lent—God calls His people to return to Him. In almost the same breath, He orders a period of fasting. Clearly, God’s beckoning and His decree for a fast are connected. God calls me back to Him, knowing my heart is far, far away. Similarly, I acknowledge my focus has strayed from Him—I have sought nourishment, happiness, security, and fulfillment everywhere and in everything but Him. And I realize: no matter how much “life” I try to consume, I am never really satisfied. When I am honest with myself, I know I am far from Him, because my heart is stone cold. My prayer is weak, and I grow bored reading His Word. I go through the motions during church services, yet they have no effect on me. I am usually unhappy and complaining. I have no joy. Instead, I feel spiritually shipwrecked. Sometimes I feel nothing. My thoughts and emotions signal I have moved away from my Lord, who gives abundant life (see John 10:10). Yet God is always calling me back, asking me to turn and to focus on Him. If I do, He will receive me gladly and provide the fulfillment that now escapes me. To make this possible, God has set aside a fast—moments in time when I can turn from my usual activities and reflect and repent. He shows the way and provides the strength. Given His great grace and my meager effort, He will fill me with the life-giving spring of water my inner heart craves (John 4:14).
Font of Wisdom
As abbot of the Monastery of St. Mamas, St. Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022) instructed the monks under his charge daily, usually at the Matins service. His spiritual advice—captured in a body of works known as the Discourses—often included encouragement not only to seek God but also to accept His love. He describes the astounding effects of divine love: As soon as I called to mind the beauty of undefiled love, its light suddenly appeared in my heart. I have been ravished with its delight and have ceased to perceive outward things. . . . O all-desirable love, how happy is he who has embraced you, for he will no longer have a passionate desire to embrace any earthly beauty! Happy is he who is moved by divine love to cling to you! He will deny the whole world, yet as he associates with all men, he will be wholly untainted. Upon meeting divine love, Symeon counts “the treasures of the world as nothing” and counts God alone as the font of “truly inexhaustible riches.”
Let me count God as my prize possession and accept His love as I begin my interior Lenten pilgrimage.
Hymn from Vespers
Let us not pray like the Pharisee: He who exalts himself will be humbled! Let us prepare to humble ourselves by fasting. Let us cry aloud with the voice of the publican: O God, forgive us sinners.
Mark the Ascetic of Egypt
Commemorated March 5/18 (next Sunday)
Saint Mark the Ascetic came from a very wealthy family of merchants in fifth-century Athens. His family valued intellectual thought and scholarship, and they lovingly supported Mark when he chose to pursue religious knowledge rather than the family business. Mark had the best education possible, due to his family’s wealth and his outstanding academic ability. As he studied diligently and excelled in all areas of theological knowledge, he came to the attention of St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople, who tutored him extensively. It was reported that Mark knew the whole Bible by heart! Nine of his thirty discourses have come down to us. Three of them are included in Volume I of the English Philokalia. The Byzantines had such a high regard for his writings that they said, “Sell everything and buy ‘Mark.’” Mark’s one desire was to attain spiritual perfection. He gave up the comfort of his family’s wealth, loving support, and academic acclaim in order to seek union with God. He became an ascetic on a secluded mountaintop in Ethiopia, where he began to meditate, pray, fast, and write about religious concerns. During sixty years of solitude and spiritual intensity, Mark became intimately attuned to the presence of the Holy Spirit and was completely filled with God’s joy and holy peace. He reposed in the Lord at age 120.
Lord, You have given me many blessings. Help me to follow the example of St. Mark by desiring in my heart to know You above all else.
Belonick, Archpriest Steven John; Constable, Michele; Soroka, Michael. Pilgrimage to Pascha: A Daily Devotional for Great Lent
What Is Commensurate
Saint Symeon the New Theologian
What’s more beautiful than a soul that mourns, in the knowledge that, if it’s patient, it’ll inherit the joy of all? What’s more bold than a broken and contrite heart which effortlessly puts to flight the hordes of demons and routs them entirely? What’s more glorious than the spiritual poverty, which is a herald of the kingdom of heaven? And what can be commensurate to spiritual poverty, now or in the age to come?