THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT — Tone 7. Veneration of the Cross. Martyrs Chrysanthus and Daria, and those with them at Rome
Tone 7 Troparion (Resurrection)
By Your Cross You destroyed death. To the thief You opened Paradise. For the Myrrhbearers You changed weeping into joy. And You commanded Your disciples, O Christ God, to proclaim that You are risen,// granting the world great mercy.
Tone 1 Troparion of the Cross
O Lord, save Your people, and bless Your inheritance! Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries; and by virtue of Your Cross,// preserve Your habitation!
Tone 7 Kontakion (Cross)
Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden; it has been mysteriously quenched by the wood of the Cross. The sting of death and the victory of hell have been vanquished; for You, O my Savior, have come and cried to those in hell:// “Enter again into Paradise!”
Tone 6 Prokeimenon
V. To O Lord, save Your people, / and bless Your inheritance! (Ps. 27:9a)
You, O Lord, will I call. O my God, be not silent to me! (Ps. 27:1a)
Hebrews 4:14-5:6 (Epistle)
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old! (Ps. 73:2)
V. God is our King before the ages; He has worked salvation in the midst of the earth! (Ps. 73:13)
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”
On Inner Peace
We must give ourselves over to the Lord. We must commit ourselves and all that we have to Him, for He is ever present. He wants us to be quiet and at peace, with no thoughts at all. This means that the heart must keep silence. The Holy Fathers tell us that our nous must descend into the heart. That is where our nous should be, without any thoughts or imaginings. The Holy Fathers further say that we must occupy the nous with the Jesus Prayer. Let our minds always be saying the Jesus Prayer, for He is always present, and let us always be in communion with Him.
We know that the Lord, while in the flesh, was kind to all people, even those who persecuted Him—Him, the Almighty God. He showed us how to avoid evil and not oppose it. He said so Himself (cf. Matt. 5:39). Not opposing evil means preserving one’s inner peace. Opposing evil is evil; it involves a desire to return evil for evil, which is what the fallen spirits thrive on. However, when they attack us and find that we do not oppose them, then our peacefulness disarms them and they are defeated. Therefore we must try to always pray like this: “Lord, help me to preserve my inner peace, teach me how to be calm and peaceful and kind, just like Thine angels.” In order to be able to do this, we must be with the Lord constantly in our thoughts. You see, we direct all our thoughts and all our attention to those whom we love. This is exactly how we should be toward God, for as our Parent, He rightfully asks that we give back to Him what He has given us. This is for our own good, in order that we may participate in Divine joy, peace, and life. Let us, therefore, learn to turn to God and seek Him ceaselessly through prayer.
The Holy Fathers tell us that we must preserve our inner peace at all costs and always be joyful, always in a good mood. But even St. John of Kronstadt says, “We are like the weather: now the wind is blowing, a storm is raging, there is thunder and lightning and rain—but then the sun comes out and we feel well. Then another storm comes, and so on.” He goes on to say that since we are in the body, the atmospheric conditions influence us a lot. When the conditions are good, when the atmospheric pressure is not too high or too low, and when the weather is fine, we also feel well. But when the skies are gray and cloudy, we become depressed. We must learn how to preserve our spiritual balance, and when the weather is cloudy and stormy we must be at peace and be joyful. We must try to always be in good spirits, always joyful, because the spirits of evil want us to be sad all the time.
You must strive to have peace in your homes. Peace starts with each one of us. When we have peace in us, we spread it around to others. You can see for yourself that there are very few humble and meek souls on the earth—but also that they are truly blessed. They will not be offended if you insult them in any way. Whatever way you treat them, they are quiet and peaceful and they are truly sorrowed because you are in such spiritual torment.
Here on earth we are given the chance to conquer all evil with peace and stillness. We can have peace when we live in surroundings that are peaceful and quiet, but that peace is not as stable and as permanent as the peace we acquire while living in chaotic conditions. When you move from quiet surroundings to chaotic ones, your mood changes instantly and you become irritable—all of a sudden evil thoughts assail you, and your mind is in hell. That is the end of our peace. This is why the Lord guides us through sufferings and sorrows—so that we may, through them, acquire real peace. Without Him we would not have the strength to overcome these things. There is the example of the holy martyr Catherine, who suffered for Christ when she was very young, only eighteen years old. Her tormentors threw her into a dungeon all tortured and broken, and the Lord appeared to her. When she asked Him, “Lord, where have You been all this time?” He answered, “I was here all the time, in your heart.” “How can that be, O Lord, when my heart is impure, and full of evil and pride?” “Yes,” said the Lord, “but you have left room in it for Me. Had I not been with you, you would not have been able to bear all these tortures. I will give you strength so that you can endure until the end.” The Holy Fathers say, “We know that God loves us when He takes us through many sufferings and misfortunes.” Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27), says the Lord, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. John 14:6).
Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.
Commemorated on March 19
The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross. The cross stands in the midst of the church in the middle of the lenten season not merely to remind men of Christ’s redemption and to keep before them the goal of their efforts, but also to be venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt.10:38). For in the Cross of Christ Crucified lies both “the power of God and the wisdom of God” for those being saved (1 Cor.1:24).
Jesus’ solemn command to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him seems extreme, even severe. Yet the Church deems it necessary for us to hear this Gospel passage annually, midway through Great Lent. Experientially, I understand this wise decision. Each year, as I listen to this passage and kiss the beautifully decorated cross in the center of the church, I am inspired to try harder in my Lenten efforts. I become more diligent in prayer and in reading the Bible. I fast more rigorously. I do good deeds toward others in secret. I practice self-denial (for a time). Sadly, after Pascha, I usually shelve all my good intentions, without having internalized the lessons of Lent. Why? In one word: pride. Over the years I have figured out I am afraid there will be nothing left of “me” if I do not hold on to my own self—if I let go and follow Him completely. My prideful fear places a barrier between Him and me. I need to remember Jesus has pledged to be with me not only on my Lenten journey but also on my life’s journey. In the Scriptures I read that Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor occurs soon after His message about the cross. God promises that if I lose myself for His sake and for the sake of the gospel, I will witness His glory. I will also be transformed. Let me cling to His promise. In so doing, I will find my true self.
Belonick, Archpriest Steven John ; Constable, Michele; Soroka, Michael. Pilgrimage to Pascha: A Daily Devotional for Great Lent. Ancient Faith Publishing.
Season of Repentance
He offered Himself, according to His Own will, as a sacrifice to God, His Father, for our sins and for propitiation for us, who sin countlessly every day and hour; and we, earthly beings, priests covered in infirmities, bear the dignity of Christ, and through the grace of His Holy Spirit continue to perform His awesome and saving work of reconciliation between God and men; and He Himself, through us, offers in propitiation the awesome and life-giving sacrifice of His Body and Blood on the altar. Always have reverence for this sacrifice and for those who offer it to the Lord; pray also for us, His servants, in your prayers and intercessions; remember His cross, His tomb, His resurrection after three days and His ascension to heaven, and His terrible second coming, and let each and every one take up his cross and follow Him, crucifying his flesh with its passions and lusts. Amen.
Season of Repentance: Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt. Holy Trinity Publications.