Fasting for the right reasons
The Lord condemned the Pharisee, not because he fasted, but because his motivation was based on pride. The Pharisee wished to be seen by men, and he had no fear of God. He dared to stand before the Lord in pride and arrogance, while the Publican stood afar off, beating his breast, begging for the Lord’s mercy. Whereas the Publican saw his sins, and repented, the Pharisee stood before the Lord in arrogance, thinking he was better than other men. He did not desire to commune with God, but to be honored by men.
As we observe the Great Lenten fast, let us imitate the Publican, who saw himself as the worst of sinners, and who begged God’s forgiveness. Let us keep the fast, not to be seen by others, but to make way for the Lord. Let us shun meat, dairy, and fish, because we love God, and desire to be drawn closer to Him, emptying ourselves of earthly pleasures.
Let us embrace the Fast as an opportunity for self-limitation, abstinence and self-emptying. Let us bear the cross in self-crucifixion, dying to self as we put on Christ. We dare not think we are Christians if we refuse to fast, for bearing our cross is the only way we can be true followers of Christ.
Let us embrace the fast, knowing, “fasting appears gloomy until one steps into its arena. But begin and you will see what light it brings after darkness, what freedom from bonds, what release after a burdensome life… (Saint Theophan the Recluse).”
Finally, let us be mindful that, “fasts and vigils, the study of Scripture, renouncing possessions and everything worldly are not in themselves perfection, as we have said; they are its tools. For perfection is not to be found in them; it is acquired through them. It is useless, therefore, to boast of our fasting, vigils, poverty, and reading of Scripture when we have not achieved the love of God and our fellow men. Whoever has achieved love has God within himself and his intellect is always with God (St John Cassian).”
Love in Christ,
Friday February 23, 2018 / February 10, 2018
First Week of the Great Lent. Tone four.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil
Hieromartyr Charalampus, bishop of Magnesia in Thessaly, and Martyrs Porphyrius and Baptus (202).
New Hieromartyrs Peter and Valerian priests (1930).
New Martyr Anatole (Greesiuk), metropolitan of Odessa (1938).
St. Anna of Novgorod, wife of Yaroslav I (1050).
Venerable Prochorus of the Kiev Caves (1107).
Venerable Longinus, monk, of Koryazhemka (Vologda) (1540).
St. Galina (III).
Martyrs Ennatha, Valentina, and Paula of Palestine (308).
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Areovindus (“Fiery Vision”).
Synaxis of Novgorod Hierarchs: Sts. Joachim (1030), Luke the Jew (1058), Germanus (1095), Arcadius (1162), Gregory (1193), Martyrius (1199), Anthony (1232), Basil (1352), Moses (1362), Symeon (1421), Gennadius (1504), Pimen (1571), and Athonius (1648).
St. Anastasius II, archbishop of Jerusalem (706) (Greek).
Martyr Charalampus (another) and three women companions (Greek).
St. Scholastica of Italy, sister of St. Benedict (543).
St. John Chimchimeli of Bachkovo and Gremi (13th c.) (Georgia).
St. Merwinna, abbes of Romsey..
The Scripture Readings
Judgment on Judah and Jerusalem
3 For behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts,
Takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah
The stock and the store,
The whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water;
2 The mighty man and the man of war,
The judge and the prophet,
And the diviner and the elder;
3 The captain of fifty and the honorable man,
The counselor and the skillful artisan,
And the expert enchanter.
4 “I will give children to be their princes,
And babes shall rule over them.
5 The people will be oppressed,
Every one by another and every one by his neighbor;
The child will be insolent toward the elder,
And the base toward the honorable.”
6 When a man takes hold of his brother
In the house of his father, saying,
“You have clothing;
You be our ruler,
And let these ruins be under your power,”
7 In that day he will protest, saying,
“I cannot cure your ills,
For in my house is neither food nor clothing;
Do not make me a ruler of the people.”
8 For Jerusalem stumbled,
And Judah is fallen,
Because their tongue and their doings
Are against the Lord,
To provoke the eyes of His glory.
9 The look on their countenance witnesses against them,
And they declare their sin as Sodom;
They do not hide it.
Woe to their soul!
For they have brought evil upon themselves.
10 “Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them,
For they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
For the reward of his hands shall be given him.
12 As for My people, children are their oppressors,
And women rule over them.
O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err,
And destroy the way of your paths.”
Oppression and Luxury Condemned
13 The Lord stands up to plead,
And stands to judge the people.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment
With the elders of His people
And His princes:
“For you have eaten up the vineyard;
The plunder of the poor is in your houses.
20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
The Temptation and Fall of Man
3 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
16 To the woman He said:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens;
20 By His knowledge the depths were broken up,
And clouds drop down the dew.
21 My son, let them not depart from your eyes—
Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
22 So they will be life to your soul
And grace to your neck.
23 Then you will walk safely in your way,
And your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
25 Do not be afraid of sudden terror,
Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;
26 For the Lord will be your confidence,
And will keep your foot from being caught.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in the power of your hand to do so.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Go, and come back,
And tomorrow I will give it,”
When you have it with you.
29 Do not devise evil against your neighbor,
For he dwells by you for safety’s sake.
30 Do not strive with a man without cause,
If he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy the oppressor,
And choose none of his ways;
32 For the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord,
But His secret counsel is with the upright.
33 The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,
But He blesses the home of the just.
34 Surely He scorns the scornful,
But gives grace to the humble.