SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT — Tone 6. St. Gregory Palamas. Synaxis of the Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves Lavra.
Tone 6 Troparion (Resurrection)
The Angelic Powers were at Your tomb; the guards became as dead men. Mary stood by Your grave, seeking Your most pure body. You captured hell, not being tempted by it. You came to the Virgin, granting life. O Lord, Who rose from the dead,// glory to You.
Tone 4 Troparion (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 8 Troparion (St. Gregory Palamas)
O light of Orthodoxy, teacher of the Church, its confirmation, O ideal of monks and invincible champion of theologians, O wonderworking Gregory, glory of Thessalonica and preacher of grace,// always intercede before the Lord 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 8 Kontakion (St. Gregory Palamas)
Holy and divine instrument of wisdom, joyful trumpet of theology, together we sing your praises, O God-inspired Gregory. Since you now stand before the Original Mind, guide our minds to Him, O Father,// so that we may sing to you: “Rejoice, preacher of grace!”
Tone 4 Kontakion (from the Lenten Triodion)
Now is the time for action! Judgment is at the doors!
So let us rise and fast, offering alms with tears of compunction and crying: “Our sins are more in number than the sands of the sea; but forgive us, O Master of all,// so that we may receive the incorruptible crowns!”
Tone 5 Prokeimenon
You, O Lord, shall protect us / and preserve us from this generation forever. (Ps. 11:7) V. Save me, O Lord, for there is no longer any that is godly! (Ps. 11:1a)
Tone 1 Prokeimenon (St. Gregory Palamas)
My mouth shall speak wisdom; / the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. (Ps. 48:3)
Hebrews 1:10–2:3 (Epistle)
And: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.” But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.
Hebrews 7:26–8:2 (Epistle, Saint)
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the heavenly God. (Ps. 90:1)
V. He will say to the Lord: “My Protector and my Refuge; my God, in Whom I trust.”(Ps. 90:2)
V. The mouth of the righteous shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak of judgment. (Ps. 36:31)
Mark 2:1-12 (Gospel)
And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
John 10:9-16 (Gospel, Saint)
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
In the Gospel writings, the beatitudes introduce the teachings of Jesus and are traditionally considered to contain the most concise summary of the spiritual life of man. In the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the beatitudes are chanted when the Book of the Gospels is carried in solemn procession to the sanctuary to be proclaimed as the Word of God to the faithful. Thus it is the clear teaching of the Gospel and the Church that one enters into the mysteries of Christ and the Kingdom of God only by way of following the Lord’s teachings in the beatitudes.
And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”
(Mt 5.2–12; cf. Lk 6.20–26)
Poverty in Spirit
In speaking about the meaning of our life [on the Holy Mountain of Athos], we share the basic experience inherited by all of us. The things we share are simple advice. Christ is known in the Orthodox Church as the sanctification of our souls and our bodies. Externally, the one who is in Christ does not look any different from a criminal; it is internally that he is in Christ.
I like the story in the Gerontikon when St. Anthony asks God where he should go [to see someone who had attained the grace of the desert ascetics], and God sent him to a cobbler. This cobbler is now in the position of St. Anthony. St. Anthony is not as great as a cobbler: one who is unknown, unrecognized by the world, and yet living in the same holiness of life. That is the greatest thing. You might say, “You are on the Holy Mountain, a place holy and sacred, but we are in the world. So, you are in a coveted position.” But it is not so. The great fact is that God is love and that we are Orthodox Christians. Whether we find ourselves on the Holy Mountain or in the world, it is the same thing.
Because God is love, one realizes that the greatest blessings are the trials, not the easy things. Within Orthodoxy we are helped in order to love life, and we are given a grace that conquers death. The Lord Himself said, I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Consequently, this is what is offered in the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy differs from heterodoxy (the non-Orthodox) in a small way, but this small matter is the greatest thing. Orthodoxy gives you rest. A heresy is an easy answer, but it is one that actually tortures you because it ignores man. The way of Orthodoxy is filled with difficulties and crosses, but it leads you to the path wherein you glorify God for all things and are thankful for all things—the Resurrection. I remember reading somewhere that man is an ungrateful biped.(Dostoyevsky) When you say, “Glory be to God for all things,” then all things become holy. Therefore, in the Divine Liturgy we have the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist (thanksgiving). Giving thanks for all, everything becomes holy, sanctified. Whereas if we complain—we’re murmuring, we’re grumbling—then things change. One who lives in Christ and breathes in Christ—even if you put him in hell he would rejoice. One who complains and never says “thank you”—even if you put him in Paradise, he would consider it hell. Therefore it is greatly important to have trust in the love of Christ. And I think this is what the Church teaches us. When you realize that whatever Christ does He does out of love, then you accept everything.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5.3). This first beatitude is the fundamental condition for all man’s spiritual progress and growth. Before everything else, if a person wants to live the life of God, he must be poor in spirit.
To be poor in spirit is to recognize clearly that one has nothing which he has not received from God, that one is nothing except by the grace of God. This blessed poverty is called “spiritual” in Saint Matthew’s Gospel because, first of all, it is an attitude of mind and heart, a conviction of the soul. It is the condition of man in total emptiness and openness before God, primarily in relation to the things of the Spirit, that is, to understanding and insight, to will and desire.
To be poor in spirit is to be devoid of all pride and trust in the power of one’s own spirit. It is to be freed from all reliance on one’s own ideas, opinions and desires. It is to be liberated from the “vain imaginations” of one’s own heart (Jer 23.17, Rom 1.21). For as the holy Virgin Mary, the perfect model of poverty in spirit, has sung in her magnificent song:
God has shown strength with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And has exalted the humble and meek,
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty (Lk 1.51–54).
Jesus Himself was poor, not only in body but in spirit. Not only was the Lord a poor man, without “place to lay His head” (Mt 8.20) but His physical poverty was the direct result of His perfect poverty of spirit. Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing . . . I can do nothing on my own authority . . . (Jn 5.19, 30).
If a person wishes to embark on the spiritual life, he must abandon all things and follow Christ in poverty of spirit. To be poor in spirit is simply to be wholly set free from the sinful lusts of this world.
If anyone loves this world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 Jn 2.15–17).
The first revelation of the will of God is that His creatures must be poor in spirit. The violation of this spiritual attitude is the original sin and the source of all sorrows.
Good intentions beget efforts. Efforts beget virtues. Virtues beget spiritual labor. Finally, when spiritual labor is continuous and persistent, it makes virtue a permanent feature of the soul, a natural state. When you reach this last rung, you’ll be very close to touching God.
~ Saint Dimitri of Rostov
It’s not wings that raise us above the earth, but purity and simplicity of heart. You have to be simple in what you do, and pure in your thoughts and feelings. Seek God with a pure heart and you’ll find and enjoy him through simplicity. A pure heart has no difficulty in passing through the gates of heaven.