St John of the Ladder, the 4th Sunday of Great Lent

Today, we observe the the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent and our Byzantine Catholic Church commemorates our Father among the saints, John Climacus of the 7th century. He is also called St. John of the Ladder. In addition to the commemoration made today his other feast day is March 30.

As you know, he is called Climacus due to his authorship of the great spiritual work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. In this work, St. John posits describes how we can ascend to God, like the Ten Commandments or the Eight Beatitudes tells us how we will find order in our lives. Chaos –disorder– will never lead us to God but to further chaos and anxiety. Thus, the book outlines 30 steps of the spiritual life as rungs of a ladder leading to heaven. As we climb and gain a new understanding of what it means to live the virtuous life through God’s help and grace, we ascend further towards the Kingdom of God. You can understand why The Ladder of Divine Ascent is required reading for the season of Lent. Hence, now is an excellent time to approach the priest to receive the graces attained in the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession of sins).

St. John’s commemoration on one of the Sundays of Lent is given to us, after the Sunday of the Holy Cross, as a bearer and proponent of Christian asceticism. The ascetic example of the great Saint John inspires us in our Lenten journey.

Sister Vassa explores in this video the meaning of remembering St. John Climacus:

Fifth Tuesday of the Great Fast

Fifth Tuesday of the Great Fast: Isaiah 40:18-31

Our faith begins with creation. We say, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things both visible and invisible.” The reading from Isaiah today tells us, “The Lord is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth.” God indeed is the Creator, not only of our physical bodies and the world in which we live, but of our hearts and minds and souls and of all the values that we hold dear.

The journey of the Great Fast brings us to this understanding: all that we are comes not from ourselves, but from God. All that we have, the very qualities that make us who we are come from God, not from ourselves. To believe otherwise is idolatry, as Isaiah reminds us, “To whom can you liken God? With what likeness can you confront him? An idol?” If we do not put our complete trust in God, who is not some far away Creator, who makes everything and leaves it on its own, but the lover of his creation, by our side in everything we do, we become idol-worshippers. Worshippers of ourselves, or worshippers of our money or possessions or worshippers of some other created human beings, or, I think most often, of ourselves. We do not call celebrities “idols” for nothing. Isaiah gives us a physical image of “the one who is enthroned above the vault of the earth, its inhabitants like grasshoppers,” but this is only an image.

We know in faith that God is everywhere, in our inmost being, in the center of our souls, and is guiding us to life and love, but we are sometimes deaf to his voice. The Great Fast tries to make us become less deaf, to hear God, who as Mary said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly, (Luke 1:49-52)” and who Isaiah tells us today “brings princes to nought and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.”

First Sunday of the Great Fast: the Witness of Phillip

The original title of this Sunday was the Sunday of the Prophets.

Today it is the Sunday of Orthodoxy because we celebrate the victory of the true faith in icons in A.D. 843. We can depict our Lord in icons because he has become a human being, with a human body that we can see, and in this way see in him the glory of God’s love for us.

It is interesting then that this Sunday also celebrates the memory of the holy Apostle Phillip. He brings Nathanael to Jesus with the words, “Come and see!” (John 1:46). Then, later in the same Gospel, he will lead us to see God as much as we can with our bodily eyes, asking the Lord, ““Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Jesus replies, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)”

This is what is revealed to us this Sunday.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Great Lent 2022 begins

Great Lent, or the Great Fast, begins tonight with Forgiveness Vespers. What is Forgiveness Vespers? It is the praying of the psalms and other Scripture passages assigned for the evening before Lent at the conclusion everybody asks to be forgiven by God and the community and often with the anointing with holy oil at the conclusion.

As Eastern Christians, we do not initiate this important penitential season preparing for Holy Pascha with the blessing and imposition of ashes on the forehead as done in the Latin Catholic Church. Many Eastern Catholic parishes will chant the 3rd part of the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete with prostrations for the first week of Lent and then on Wednesdays a prayer service offered to the Mother of God.

On Fridays during Great Lent at 7:00 p.m. we will pray the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts which is a vespers service with the reception of Holy Communion that was consecrated at a previous Divine Liturgy.

Our pre-Lent period included Meat-fare and Cheese-fare Sundays when the Church like a good mother and teacher eases her children into preparing for Lent by saying good-by first meat and the cheese in the diet. Thus, we begin fasting, which is what we call abstaining, from meat and dairy, having begun abstaining for meat a week prior.

Zacchaeus Sunday

Today is Zacchaeus Sunday! (Lk 19:1-10)
“Behold, salvation now enters the city of Jericho. Behold, salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus, the son of Abraham. May that same Salvation enter our hearts and our homes.”
Prep for the Great Fast (Lent) begins!

Presanctified Liturgy TONIGHT

Today, Friday, March 29, at 7:00 p.m. Father Iura will serve the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, in English and Ukrainian.

This is our weekly Lenten devotion. Join us in prayer and the reception of the Eucharist. Bring a friend.

The Feast of the Annunciation

Today the Church celebrates summit of our salvation.

The Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary that she would be the Theotokos almost always falls during the Great Fast. (*) According to the liturgical norms, it is celebrated on whatever day it falls, and the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, even on Good Friday. (**) The meaning of the Annunciation, however, is in conformity with the meaning of the Great Fast. The Great Fast is a journey from the sin of Adam and Eve to the Resurrection of our Lord. It is a passage from human pride to fidelity to God’s plan of salvation. The sin of Eve, which became the fundamental sin of the whole human race was to choose one’s own plan for salvation over God’s. It’s result, though, was death. Jesus in the resurrection, takes the power of death and twists it into life, as St. Paul said, “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Jesus was able to do this because he became a human being in the womb of Mary, who replaced Eve’s disobedience with obedience to God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)” Thus, God “condescended” (that is, he came down to be with us) so that the plan of God could be lifted up. “Though he was in the form of God, [Christ] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Therefore, the Annunciation is a part of Pascha, as Melito of Sardis explained in his Paschal Homily: “And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.”

When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death” (65-66). We sing, “Today is the summit of our salvation.” (Troparion)