33rd SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 8. Sunday of Zacchaeus. Translation of the Relics of Hieromartyr Ignatius the Godbearer, Bishop of Antioch (107).
Tone 8 Troparion (Resurrection)
You descended from on high, O Merciful One! You accepted the three day burial to free us from our sufferings!// O Lord, our Life and Resurrection, glory to You!
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 4 Troparion (St. Ignatius)
By sharing in the ways of the Apostles, you became a successor to their throne. Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation, O inspired one of God; by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith, even to the shedding of your blood.// O Hieromartyr Ignatius, entreat Christ God to save our souls!
Tone 8 Kontakion (Resurrection)
By rising from the tomb, You raised the dead and resurrected Adam. Eve exults in Your Resurrection,// and the world celebrates Your rising from the dead, O greatly Merciful One!
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 4 Kontakion (St. Ignatius)
Today you rose from the east, enlightening all of creation with your teachings,// and you are crowned with martyrdom, Godbearing Ignatius.
Tone 6 (Steadfast Protectress)
Steadfast Protectress of Christians, Constant Advocate before the Creator; Do not despise the cries of us sinners, but in your goodness come speedily to help us who call on you in faith. Hasten to hear our petition and to intercede for us, O Theotokos, for you always protect those who honor you!
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)
1 Timothy 4:9-15 (Epistle)
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. Come, let us rejoice in the Lord! Let us make a joyful noise to God our Savior! (Ps. 94:1)
V. Let us come before His face with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! (Ps. 94:2)
V. The righteous cried, and the Lord heard them and delivered them out of all their troubles. (Ps. 33:17)
Luke 19:1-10 (Gospel)
Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
The paschal season of the Church is preceded by the season of Great Lent, which is also preceded by its own liturgical preparation. The first sign of the approach of Great Lent comes five Sundays before its beginning. On this Sunday the Gospel reading is about Zacchaeus the tax-collector. It tells how Christ brought salvation to the sinful man, and how his life was changed simply because he “sought to see who Jesus was” (Luke 19:3). The desire and effort to see Jesus begins the entire movement through Lent towards Pascha. It is the first movement of salvation.
Our lenten journey begins with a recognition of our own sinfulness, just as Zacchaeus recognized his. He promised to make restitution by giving half of his wealth to the poor, and by paying to those he had falsely accused four times as much as they had lost. In this, he went beyond the requirements of the Law (Ex. 22:3-12).
The example of Zacchaeus teaches us that we should turn away from our sins, and atone for them. The real proof of our sorrow and repentance is not just a verbal apology, but when we correct ourselves and try to make amends for the consequences of our evil actions.
We are also assured of God’s mercy and compassion by Christ’s words to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation is come to this house” (Luke 19:9). After the Great Doxology and Trisagion at Sunday Matins (when the Tone of the week is in Tone 1, 3, 5, or 7) we sing the Troparion of the Resurrection: “Today salvation is come to the world, let us sing praises to Him Who arose from the tomb, and is the Author of our life. For having destroyed death by death, He has given us the victory and great mercy.”
Zacchaeus was short, so he climbed a tree in order to see the Lord. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). We are also short in our spiritual stature, therefore we must climb the ladder of the virtues. In other words, we must prepare for spiritual effort and growth.
Saint Zacchaeus is also commemorated on April 20.
The Holy Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer
The principal feast of St. Ignatius is celebrated in winter, on December 20. On this date (January 29th) we commemorate the translation of his relics from Rome, where he suffered martyrdom, to Antioch, where he had earlier been bishop. When St. Ignatius was summoned to Rome to account for his faith before Emperor Trajan, he was accompanied on this long journey by several citizens from Antioch, who were motivated in this by a great love toward their wonderful arch-pastor. Since he would never deny his faith in Christ, this saint of God, who abhorred all the adulation and promises of Emperor Trajan, was condemned to death and thrown to wild beasts in the Circus Maximus. The wild beasts tore him apart, and he surrendered his soul to God. His companions then gathered his exposed bones, took them to Antioch, and honorably buried them. When the Persians captured Antioch in the sixth century, the relics of St. Ignatius were again translated from Antioch to Rome.
Velimirovic, Saint Nikolai. The Prologue of Ohrid (p. 156).
The more a man advances in spiritual knowledge and in purification of the heart, the more it appears to him that the depth in which he finds himself is even lower than he had previously thought, and that the height to which he strives is even higher. When one spiritual giant, who was on his deathbed, heard that his companions were praising him because of his great asceticism, he began to weep, and said: “My children, I have not even begun my spiritual life.” When St. Ignatius the God-bearer lay chained in the dungeon, he wrote to the Ephesians: “I do not command you as though I were someone significant. Even though I am in chains for the name of Jesus Christ, nevertheless, I still have not perfected myself in Him. Now I am beginning to be His disciple, and I speak to you as to an assembly of my teachers.”
Velimirovic, Saint Nikolai. The Prologue of Ohrid (pp. 158-159).
An Earthly Heaven
One of the unique features of Orthodox worship is that the Divine Liturgy is not a solely human rite or action directed toward God, but is considered to be “heaven on earth”—since Emmanuel (“God is with us”) comes to us.( Fr. Alexander Schmemann: The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom) The opening words of the Divine Liturgy, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” attest to the understanding that earthly humans are preparing to enter the eternal Kingdom of the Lord. In Orthodoxy, there is a cooperation, or synergy, between God and humanity in all of life, but especially in Orthodox worship. The Church is not understood as a merely human activity or construction, nor is it mainly a divine activity or construction—rather, the Church is a joining together of heavenly and earthly action.
Tibbs, Eve. A Basic Guide to Eastern Orthodox Theology (p. 146).
The Greatest Need of Man
Everyone, ancients and moderns, in East and West, has need of the fullness of grace which is offered liturgically by the Orthodox Church and which saves man. Man is not created to worship idols. Nor can he be nourished with “husks” (see Lk 15:16). He is created to become god by grace, to live in freedom.
To Be Truly Human
Creation seeks neither worship nor contempt from us; creation seeks but one thing—for us to be truly human. And this is not a matter of “returning to nature,” but of returning to a life lived according to our God-given nature. And to live according to our nature is to become gods by grace.
Vasileios of Iveron, Archimandrite. The Thunderbolt of Ever-Living Fire: “American” Conversation with an Athonite Elder (Contemporary Christian Thought Series, number 24 Book 1) .