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 Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church
THE IMPORTANCE OF FASTING AND ITS OBSERVANCE TODAY

WEEKLY DIOCESAN BULLETIN 

Sunday, April 2, 2017
Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great

FIFTH SUNDAY OF GREAT LENT: SAINT MARY OF EGYPT; THE VENERABLE FATHERS OF THE MONASTERY OF SAINT SABBAS

RESURRECTIONAL TROPARION - TONE EIGHT:
Thou didst descend from on high, O Merciful One! Thou didst accept the three-day burial to free us from our sufferings! O Lord, our Life and Resurrection: Glory to Thee!

TROPARION TO SAINT MARY OF EGYPT - TONE EIGHT: The image of God was truly preserved in you, O mother, for you took up the Cross and followed Christ.  By so doing you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away; but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.  Therefore your spirit, O holy mother Mary, rejoices with the angels.

TROPARION TO THE VENERABLE FATHERS OF THE MONASTERY OF SAINT SABBAS – TONE FOUR:
As chosen and holy lambs of the Savior, you were gathered together in wise Sabbas’ flock from many lands.  You were put to death by the cruelty of the barbarians and you departed joyfully to the heavenly fold.  As righteous athletes, you now pray for our souls.

RESURRECTIONAL KONTAKION - TONE EIGHT:
By rising from the tomb Thou didst raise the dead and resurrected Adam.  Eve exults in Thy Resurrection, and the world celebrates Thy rising from the dead, O greatly Merciful One!

KONTAKION TO SAINT MARY OF EGYPT - TONE THREE: Once you were filled with every impurity, but today you have become a bride of Christ through repentance.  Desiring the angelic life, you defeated the demons with the weapon of the Cross!  Therefore, O most glorious Mary, you were made a bride of the Kingdom!

KONTAKION TO THE VENERABLE FATHERS OF THE MONASTERY OF SAINT SABBAS – TONE FOUR:
You openly disdained the pleasure of earthly and corruptible things, choosing instead a life in the desert.  You despised the beautiful things of this world together with the food that passes away.  Therefore, all-blessed ones, you were counted worthy of the Kingdom of heaven, where you rejoice with the choirs of martyrs and ascetics.  As we honor your memory, we earnestly cry out to you: ‘Deliver us, O Fathers, from tribulations!’

KONTAKION OF THE FIVE SUNDAYS OF GREAT LENT:
To thee, the Champion Leader, do I offer thanks of victory, O Theotokos, thou who hast delivered me from terror; but as thou that hast that power invincible, O Theotokos, thou alone can set me free: from all forms of danger free me and deliver me, that I may cry unto thee: ‘Rejoice, O Bride without Bridegroom!’

HYMN TO THE THEOTOKOS (INSTEAD OF “IT IS TRULY MEET”):  All of creation rejoices in you, O full of grace; the assembly of angels and the race of men.  O sanctified temple and spiritual paradise, the glory of virgins, from whom God was incarnate and became a Child, our God before the ages.  He made your body into a throne, and your womb He made more spacious than the heavens.  All of creation rejoices in you, O full of grace.  Glory to you!

EPISTLE READINGS

PROKIMENON IN THE 8TH TONE:
Pray and make your vows before the Lord our God. 

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT: HEBREWS 9: 11-14
Brethren, Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

SAINT MARY OF EGYPT: GALATIANS 3: 23-29
Brethren, before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.  Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

THE ALLELUIA VERSES:
Come let us rejoice in the Lord!  Let us make a joyful noise to God our Savior!  Let us come before His face with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with psalms!

GOSPEL READINGS

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT: MARK 10: 32-45
At that time, they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them, and they were amazed.  And as they followed they were afraid.  Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him.  And the third day He will rise again.”  Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other one on Your left, in Your glory.”  But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”  And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.  But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great one’s exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

SAINT MARY OF EGYPT: LUKE 7: 36-50
At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him.  And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.  And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.  Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”  So he said, “Teacher, say it.”  “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors.  One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.  Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”  And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.”  Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.  You gave me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.  You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.  Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.  But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”  Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.”

FROM THE PROLOGUE:
MARCH 20/APRIL 2, BY SAINT NIKOLAI VELIMIROVIC:

The Venerable Martyr John and those with him from the Monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified near Jerusalem

This glorious monastery, which still exists today, was visited by St. Sava of Serbia and endowed by several Serbian rulers. Many times, it was attacked, pillaged and laid waste by ruthless Arabs. But, by the providence of God, it was always restored and is preserved to this day. During the reign of Constantine and Irene, it was attacked and pillaged by the Arabs. The monks did not want to flee, but taking counsel with their abbot Thomas they said: “We have fled from the world into this wilderness for the sake of our love for Christ, and it would be shameful if we fled from the wilderness out of fear of men. If we are slain here, we will be slain because of our love for Christ, for Whose sake we came here to live.” Having decided this, they awaited the armed Arabs, unarmed like lambs before wolves. The Arabs slew some of the monks with arrows and some they sealed off in the cave of St. Sava. Then the Arabs lit a fire at the entrance of the cave, and the monks were suffocated by the smoke. Thus, many of them died as martyrs for the sake of Christ and went to the Kingdom of Him Whom they loved and for Whose love they perished. They suffered honorably before Pascha in 796, during the time of Constantine and Irene, and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Elias. A just punishment quickly befell the savage marauders. Returning to their tents, they began to quarrel among themselves and, fighting with one another, slew one another.

The Holy Martyr Photina
This was the Samaritan woman who had the rare fortune to converse with the Lord Christ Himself at the Well of Jacob, near Sychar (John 4:4–31). Believing in the Lord, Photina afterward went to preach His Gospel with her two sons Victor and Josiah, and with her five sisters, Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Parasceva and Cyriaca. They went to Carthage in Africa. There they were arrested, taken to Rome and thrown into prison during the reign of Emperor Nero. By God’s providence, Domnina, the daughter of Nero, came into contact with St. Photina, who converted her to the Christian Faith. After imprisonment they all suffered for the sake of Christ. Photina, who was first enlightened with the light of truth at the well of Sychar, was now thrown into a well where she died and entered the Eternal Kingdom of Christ.

HYMN OF PRAISE: Saint Photina, the Samaritan Woman

The Samaritan Woman met Christ at the well,
And was enlightened with the light of Christ Himself.

Under Nero she ended her life in another well,
And she gave her spirit to Christ God, her Lord.

Her glorious sons were Victor and Josiah:
The saintly mother enlightened both of them with holiness.

Five sisters suffered for the name of Christ,
And with her were translated to heaven, to receive their reward.

O penitent Photina, wonderful sufferer,
How your countenance now shines with eternal light!

Once, you did not even give water to the Savior;
Finally, even your blood you shed for Him.

Your soul had once been darkened, as you were a Samaritan;
When you became a Christian, you shone more brightly than the sun’s rays.

In Sychar you proclaimed Christ with fear;
In the center of Rome you witnessed to Him by your death.

Love destroys every fear and makes one a hero—
O Photina, love forever glorifies you.

Two or three Romes can Nero burn down,
But the soul of Christians cannot burn.

Vessels of clay can Nero smash,
But he had no power over the spirit of Photina.

O immortal saint, help us now,
By your prayers, before the throne of Christ the Savior.

REFLECTION
God punishes a sinner not because it gives Him gratification to destroy men. If that gave Him gratification, He would not have created man from nothing. He punishes a sinner for more important and constructive reasons, two of which are most apparent to us. First, by punishment, He corrects him and leads him on the true path of salvation, and second, He frightens others from sinning. St. Isaac also thinks this when he says: “A righteous wise man is like unto God—for he punishes a man not to reproach him for his sin but either to correct him or to instill fear in others.” One recalcitrant young man, who ridiculed God and his parents, suddenly went insane. The whole city in which this young man lived saw in this the punishment of God and was filled with the fear of God. The young man was held bound in isolation for three years. His mother wept bitterly and prayed to God for her son. One year, on the Feast of Pentecost, the mother brought him to the Monastery of St. Basil of Ostrog. Following prayers, the insane youth was cured and came to himself. After that he repented and became an exemplary person and a true Christian.

CONTEMPLATION
Contemplate the Lord Jesus crucified on the Cross:

1. How blood flowed from His hands and dripped to the ground;
2. How blood flowed from His feet and dripped to the ground;
3. How blood flowed from beneath His ribs and dripped to the ground.

HOMILY
on the battle of the Lamb with the beasts

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).

Who speaks these marvelous words? John, who saw God. Who is this Lamb? Christ the Lord. Who is this Lord of lords and King of kings? Christ the Lord. With whom will He wage war and whom will He defeat? He will defeat the beast which has seven heads and all those who received authority, honor and riches from the unclean beast.

The Lamb among the beasts! St. John also saw the Lamb as the Victor over all the beasts. Christ among the demons! One would say: “They will devour Him!” Nevertheless, the terrified demons cry out to Him for mercy and flee from Him without turning back. Christ among His tormentors! One would say: “They will destroy Him forever.” Nevertheless, He resurrects and conquers, and they flee from Him in terror and perish. The Church among the heathens! One would say: “They will flood her like a wave covering a small island.” Nevertheless, the pagan kingdoms sank and fell apart, while the Church still exists, flourishes and advances. The Christian Faith among dry philosophers and theoreticians! One would say: “They will outwit it and drive it from the world.” Nevertheless, they steer one another into lies and persecutions, but the Christian Faith saves men. Piety in the midst of blasphemers and apostates! One would say: “They will soil it!” Nevertheless, they are smothered in their own filth, and reverence preserves itself in unsoiled purity. Christian meekness and tears surrounded by tyrants and abductors! One would say: “It will die of hunger!” Nevertheless, they live and are satiated, while the tyrants and abductors suffer from starvation. The Lamb among the beasts! Nevertheless, the Lamb is the Victor.

O Lord, meek and good, Lamb of God all-gentle, imbue us with Thy meekness and goodness, so that even we may share in Thy victory.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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