PREPARATION FOR THE GREAT FAST

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE

Preparation for the Great Fast

On this day, the First Sunday of the TRIODION,
our Holy Orthodox Christian Church makes
remembrance of the Parable in the Sacred Gospel
concerning the TAX COLLECTOR and the PHARISEE.

The one who was pharisaical distanced himself from the holy place; for
Christ is received within, Who ACCEPTS THOSE WHO ARE HUMBLE.

O Fashioner of all above and below, as Thou dost receive the thrice-holy
hymn of the Angels, receive the TRIODION from man.

It is in accordance with God that this present day we commence the TRIODION season. Thy hymns of this period were composed by many of our holy and God-bearing Fathers and melodists. They were incited by the Holy Spirit, according to their excellence and as useful vessels, to compose melodic hymns. The first of all was the great author Kosmas of Maiouma, who composed the three ODES (tri-ode, symbolic of the Holy and Life-Creating Trinity) for the Great and Holy Week of the Passion of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, composing the hymns and using acrostics containing the names of the days of the week. Together with him are other holy Fathers, including Theodore and Joseph of the Stoudite Monastery. Filled with zeal, they composed hymns for the remaining weeks of the Forty-day Great Fast., reserving them at first for the use of the Stoudite Monastery. Furthermore, they composed and arranged hymns, seeking them and collecting them from other books of the Holy Fathers. Since, according to the book of the TRIODION, Sunday, the celebration of the Resurrection, is the first day of the week, as well as the last or EIGHTH DAY OF THE WEEK, that is MONDAY. The Second Ode is for Wednesday; the Fourth Ode is for Thursday; the Fifth Ode is for Friday; and the Sixth and Seventh Ode are for Saturday. The rest, the Eighth and Ninth Odes, are prescribed for every day. It must be known, however, that although it is called TRIODION yet it does contain services that are arranged other than with THREE-CANTICLE CANONS. But the name TRIODION remained so on account of the majority of the services having three-canticled canons. This is observed especially during Great and Holy Week. Furthermore, Saint Kosmas also composed a four-ode canon (tetra-ode) for Great and Holy Saturday.

It was the purpose of our holy Fathers that throughout the TRIODION texts there would be commemorated, in a concise form, ALL OF GOD’S BENEFITS TO US FROM THE BEGINNING. Thus, the services might be used AS A REMINDER TO ALL OF US THAT WE WERE CREATED BY HIM. They would also put us in remembrance OF HOW WE WERE EXILED FROM THE DELIGHTS OF PARADISE, by means of setting at nought the Commandment and tasting of the fruit. We are mindful that WE WERE CAST OUT THROUGH THE ENVY OF THE ORIGINATOR AND AUTHOR OF EVIL, THE SERPENT AND ADVERSARY, WHO WAS CAST DOWN FOR HIS PRIDE, BUT WE WERE CAST OUT FROM THE BENEFITS OF PARADISE AND WER LED BY THE DEVIL. However, we also ARE BIDDEN TO CALL TO MIND HOW THE Son and Logos/Word of God, having suffered in His mercy, bowing the heavens, DESCENDED AND MADE HIS ABODE IN THE Virgin and BECAME MAN FOR OUR SAKE. Indeed, by His conduct of life and other deeds, He SHOWED US THE ASCENT HEAVENWARD: FIRST OF ALL, THROUGH HUMILITY, THEN BY FASTING AND REJECTING BAD WAYS. Even so, He SUFFERED AND ROSE FROM THE DEAD AND WAS TAKEN UP INTO THE HEAVENS. As promised, He sent down the Holy Spirit upon His Holy Disciples and Apostles, who all proclaimed Him TO BE THE SON OF GOD AND GOD MOST PERFECT. By means of the preaching of the Holy Apostles, through the grace of the Most Holy Spirit, there is the gathering of all the Saints from the ends of the earth, filling the world on high, which was the intention of the Creator from the beginning.

Now the purpose of the TRIODION Period intended by the Holy Fathers o these THREE PRESENT FEASTS OF THE Tax Collector and the Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, and the Second Coming of Christ IS A KIND OF PREPARATORY EXERCISE AND EXHORTATION TO PREPARE OURSELVES FOR THE SPIRITUAL LABORS OF THE FAST, HAVING PUT ASIDE OUR HABITUAL LOATHSOME HABITS. First of all, they present to us the Parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee, and they call the week following PROPHONESIS, which means something that is "DECLARED BEFOREHAND," OR THAT IS "A PRECURSOR" OR "A HARBINGER." For those who desire to go off to do military battle, first ascertain the time of the battle from the leaders, so that having cleaned and polished their swords, and preparing well all their other matters, and having removed all obstacles from their path that they might defeat the foe, they earnestly go forth to their labors, taking the necessary supplies and equipment. Often before battle, they recount anecdotes and histories and examples to incite their hearts to zeal, driving off reluctance, cowardice, despair, and other perilous thoughts that may lead to their retreat. IN LIKE MANNER, FOR THE COMING FAST, THE DIVINE FATHERS SUMMON US TO ARMS WITH A HERALDING TRUMPER THAT WE MIGHT PURGE OURSELVES OF THE LONG-ACCUMULATED POISON OF THE PASSIONS LAID DOWN BY THE DEMONS’ LINE OF BATTLE IN ORDER TO ENTRAP US. SINCE WE HAE NOT YET ATTAINED THOSE GOOD THINGS, LET US DILIGENTLY STRIVE TO OBTAIN THEM. LET US ARM OURSELVES PROPERLY AND SET OFF TO THE LABORS OF THE FAST.

What are our weapons? The chief weapon among the virtues IS REPENTANCE AND HUMILITY. And the temptation to attain the Greatest Humility often leads to PRDIE and ARROGANCE. So they place before us first of all this present trustworthy Parable from the Divine Gospel according to Saint Luke. It ENCOURAGES US TO SHUN THE DESIRE FOR THE PRIDE AND SELF-CONCEIT OF THE Pharisee, and to CULTIVATE THE OPPOSITE DESIRE WHICH IS FOUND IN THE Tax Collector: HUMILITY AND REPENTANCE. For the greatest and most grievous passion are PRIDE AND ARROGANCE, SINCE THIS IS HOW Lucifer (Satan), that rose in the morning, fell from heaven and was cast into darkness. Because of this, Adam and the father of our race were driven from Paradise through partaking of the fruit. Through this example, the Holy Fathers ENCOURAGE ALL NOT TO BE PROUD OF THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS, BUT ALWAYS TO REMAIN HUMBLE AS IT IS WRITTEN: "THE LORD RESISTETH THE PROUD; BUT HE GIVETH GRACE TO THE HUMBLE" (Proverbs 3:34). IT IS BETTER TO HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED ONE’S SIN AND TO HAVE REPENTED OF IT THAN NOT TO HAVE SINNED AND THINK ONESELF TO BE RIGHTEOUS. For Christ said, "I say to you, this one [the tax collector] went down to his house having been justified rather than that one [Pharisee]; FOR EVERYONE WHO EXALTETH HIMSELF SHALL BE HUMBLED, AND THE ONE WHO HUMBLETH HIMSELF SHALL BE EXALTED" (Luke 18:14). This Parable reveals that NO ONE SHOULD EXALT HIMSELF, EVEN THOUGH HE HAS DONE GOOD DEEDS, BUT RATHER HE SHOULD ALWAYS BE HUMBLE AND PRAY FROM HIS HEART TO GOD. But even if such a one should fall into the most serious sin, then BY HIS REPENTANCE HE SHALL FIND THAT SALVATION IS NOT FAR OFF.

In today’s account, we hear of a tax collector, a publican, who at that time was an official of the Roman Empire. Such persons collected taxes not only for the government but even were known to charge higher rates than they might benefit themselves. Needless to say, they were hated by their fellow countrymen, who saw them not only sinners but as avaricious oppressors and traitors. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

(To be continued)

_____________________

"Glory Be to GOD
For
All Things!"

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