Transformation through the Lenten Journey
The Byzantine Court was filled with sycophants, busying themselves with building alliances that would help them rise in status and influence. During the thousand years of the empire, a few emperors were tricked into believing these sycophants were truly their friends, and could be trusted, when in actuality they were being played, and these flatterers were not their friends. These sycophants were quick to change allegiances should a better opportunity arise, and many an emperor was, in the end, betrayed by those whom they’d thought could be trusted.
These flatterers lacked courage, and in their dishonesty faked loyalty to the Emperor, and in the end, the whole of the Empire would suffer. Had these people been true citizens of the Empire, and not focused on their own advancement, the Emperor would have enjoyed the loyalty of a citizen who put the Empire before self. In the end, the Emperor would be betrayed, and the Empire would have suffered yet another round of intrigue.
As we begin this Lenten journey, let us reexamine our own relationships. Are we sycophants, or do we speak from the heart, without thought for self promotion? Are we true friends to those with whom we share our lives, or are we always thinking only of ourselves? Do we really desire to serve those who are over us, or do we think only of our own advancement? Do we really desire to grow in the Faith, or are we only focused on the here and now? Are we like the emperor, only surrounding ourselves with flatterers, people who tell us what we want to hear, or are we ready to receive the feedback that would actually help us grown spiritually?
Let us in all humility beseech the Lord, during this Great and Holy Fast, seeking the transformation that is ours through His grace, offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, expecting, because of His loving kindness, to be made whole. Finally, let us not be flatters and betrayers of others, but true friends, always putting ourselves last. Let us love God above all else, and let us love others as ourselves. With God’s help, this Lenten journey will be the most spiritually profitable of them all.
With love in Christ,
Monday March 11, 2019 / February 26, 2019
Beginning of the Great Lent. Tone eight.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter – Full abstention from food
St. Porphyrius, bishop of Gaza (420).
New Hieromartyr Michael priest (1918).
New Hieromartyr Peter priest (1930).
New Hieromartyr Sergius priest (1933).
Virgin-martyr Anna (1938).
New Hieromartyrs John bishop of Rylsk and John priest (1938).
Venerable Sebastian, monk of Poshekhonye (1542).
Martyrs Sebastian and Christodoulos (66).
New Martyr John Calphas (“the Apprentice”) at Constantinople (1575) (Greek).
St. Photina, the Samaritan woman, and her sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Parasceva, and Cyriaca; her sons Photinus and Joses; and Sebastian the Duke, Victor, and Christodulus — all martyred under Nero (66) (Greek).
Martyr Theoclitas, martyred with St. Photina (Greek).
The Mezhetsk Icon of the Mother of God.
The Scripture Readings
Judah Called to Repentance
1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, andHezekiah, kings of Judah.
The Wickedness of Judah
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against Me;
3 The ox knows its owner
And the donkey its master’s crib;
But Israel does not know,
My people do not consider.”
4 Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the Lord,
They have provoked to anger
The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward.
5 Why should you be stricken again?
You will revolt more and more.
The whole head is sick,
And the whole heart faints.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,
There is no soundness in it,
But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores;
They have not been closed or bound up,
Or soothed with ointment.
7 Your country is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire;
Strangers devour your land in your presence;
And it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8 So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard,
As a hut in a garden of cucumbers,
As a besieged city.
9 Unless the Lord of hosts
Had left to us a very small remnant,
We would have become like Sodom,
We would have been made like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the law of our God,
You people of Gomorrah:
11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle.
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
Or of lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who has required this from your hand,
To trample My courts?
13 Bring no more futile sacrifices;
Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts
My soul hates;
They are a trouble to Me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
The History of Creation
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.
The Beginning of Knowledge
1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
4 To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Shun Evil Counsel
8 My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
9 For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
14 Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
16 For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
17 Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
18 But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.
19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners.
The Call of Wisdom
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.