Taking Orthodoxy beyond the self-congratulatory
We must guard against noticing when another parishioner seems careless in the making of the sign of the cross, while we go about demonstrating for all around us, the proper way. Making sweeping signs of the cross that are done in such a way as to be almost a caricature, following up with profound bows, we can end up distracting fellow worshipers in the process. If we make a public display of our fasting, making sure our non-Orthodox family and friends know how strict we are, we miss the point of fasting. If we struggle to make our icon corner the largest and most complete of anyone in the parish, but never stand before it in prayer, we treat it as nothing more than nice art.
If we allow ourselves to become spiritual gluttons, and turn the traditions of Orthodoxy into occasions for sensual and prideful displays, we will not embrace the grace that can be ours through quiet and penitential struggle. If our public displays of piety become distractions for fellow worshipers, we can actually be diverting our attention from the all important confrontation of our personal sin. Externals, while important to Orthodox piety, and the deepening of our faith, must not be allowed to replace the mystery of faith that comes only with the acquisition of a humble and contrite heart.
We must guard against allowing external displays of Orthodoxy to become an end in themselves, and remember these traditions and pious practices were designed to serve as aids for deepening our faith by connecting our whole being, both body and soul, on this journey to God. We must take Orthodoxy beyond the self-congratulatory of being a part of a beautiful faith, with sublime worship practices, glorious temples, and beautiful vestments.
Without giving our full attention to the struggle for holiness, and deepening our prayer time, we will end with a weak form of Orthodoxy, that is beautiful on the outside , but hollow on the inside. Taking simple little steps under the guidance and direction from one’s priest or spiritual father, or by council with that pious little old lady, whose face radiates the light of Christ, we will be able to enter into the Kingdom of God, having gained the humility and joy that does not necessitate being extravagant with the externals.
With love in Christ,
Notice: In previous postings on this blog, I wrote that the monastery is not supported by the Western American Diocese, of which we are a part. This statement was incorrect, and in fact our diocese holds a special collection each year for its two main monasteries, of which All-Merciful Saviour Monastery is one, and parishes all throughout the diocese, which are often themselves extremely poor, offer what they are able on our behalf. Additionally, the diocese has in the past offered us additional financial support in cases of extreme need, and has even this year made adjustments to its collections to help bring funds to us earlier in the year. As a monastery of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, we are grateful to the diocese, and to its parishes and many faithful who contribute to our life in this way–whose small but heartfelt contributions join with those of our many other benefactors to make our life here possible.
Thursday April 17, 2014 / April 4, 2014
Passion Week: Great Thursday.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil
Venerable Joseph the Hymnographer of Sicily (883).
Venerable George, monk, of Mt. Maleon in the Peloponnesus (9th c.).
New Hieromartyrs Archimandrite Benjamin (Kononov) and Hieromonk Nicephorus (Kuchin) of Solovki (1928).
New Hieromartyr Nicholas bishop of Velsk, martyr Mary (1932).
New Hieromartyr John priest (1933).
Martyr John (1943).
Venerable Joseph the Muchailing of the Kiev Caves (14th c.).
Venerable Zosimas, abbot of Vorbozomsk (1550).
Venerable Zosimas, monk, of Palestine (560).
Virgin-martyr Pherbutha of Persia, her sister and servants (343).
New Hieromartyr Nicetas the Serb of Albania, Mt. Athos and Serres (1808).
Venerable Theonas, metropolitan of Thessalonica (1541).
Icons of the Mother of God, named “Gerontissa” and “Deliveress”.
St. Isidore, bishop of Seville (636).
Holy Martyr Kallinikos.
Venerable James of Old Torzhok in Galich, Kostroma (15th-16th c.).
Martyr Basil of Mangazea in Siberia (1602).
You can read the life of the saint by clicking on the highlighted name.
The Scripture Readings for the Day
1 Corinthians 11:23-32Institution of the Lord’s Supper
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
2 “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
3 Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4 and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
The Anointing at Bethany
6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”
10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
Jesus Celebrates Passover with His Disciples
17 Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”
18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’”
19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.
3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”
7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”
8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”
12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”
23 He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?”
He said to him, “You have said it.”
Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
31 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”
And so said all the disciples.
The Prayer in the Garden
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.
40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.
44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane
47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”
Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”
55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
Jesus Faces the Sanhedrin
57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.
59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”
62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?”
They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”
67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”
Peter Denies Jesus, and Weeps Bitterly
69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.”
70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.”
71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!”
73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.”
74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus Handed Over to Pontius Pilate
27 When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. 2 And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.