At Holy Cross Orthodox Church we recently celebrated our third Christmas as an Orthodox parish, and we are now beginning our third Lent (or fourth if you count 2013, when we were in the process of being received into the Orthodox Church and were already under the protection of Bishop Jerome). God has been very good to us!
Shrove Tuesday was a wonderful day at Holy Cross parish. Confessions were heard from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and in the evening we enjoyed our annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. We had visitors, delicious food, and warm fellowship. Shrove Tuesday is an ancient English tradition and a wonderful preparation for Lent which, in the Western Rite, began the next day on Ash Wednesday.
On Ash Wednesday Confessions were again heard from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and in the evening we gathered for worship. The sung Litany was followed by the Blessing and Imposition of Ashes, and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist.
With Ash Wednesday the Great Fast of Lent has begun, but Lent isn’t a morbid time of suffering in the Orthodox Church - far from it! Holy Lent is a wonderful opportunity for new beginnings in the Christian life; and a time for recommitment, getting our priorities right and focusing on the “the one thing needful.” What is “the one thing needful”? We know from the Gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ visited the home of Martha and Mary in Bethany. While He was there, Mary set aside her normal duties (which were good in themselves) to sit at His feet and listen to His word. Jesus explained that Mary had chosen the one thing needful - listening to the Word of God.
Lent is a time for us to set aside as many of the cares and activities of the world that we can and to focus on “the one thing needful.” Have you purchased a copy of the Orthodox Study Bible? If not, Lent is the perfect time to do so. Take some of the money that you will save on groceries due to the Fast and buy one. You can purchase the Orthodox Study Bible locally at Parable Christian Store, order it from Ancient Faith Publishing, http://store.ancientfaith.com/, or buy it from Amazon. Why the Orthodox Study Bible? Because it is a complete Bible, not a readers digest version with missing books; the Old Testament is the authorized Septuagint version rather than the late Masoretic text; and the study notes are like having a Bible teacher with you in your own home. I encourage everyone to own and use the Orthodox Study Bible.
Already have the Orthodox Study Bible? Then as Blessed Augustine of Hippo was told, “Pick it up and read it.” Make your Lenten resolution be that you are going to choose “the one thing needful” - listening to the Word of God. Make time every day to pick up the Holy Bible and read it.
In addition to the Holy Bible, I encourage you to read at least one good devotional book this Lenten season. I would like to recommend two books that I have read again and again with great profit.
The first is The Way of a Pilgrim and A Pilgrim Continues His Way. This book is a spiritual classic, written by an anonymous 19th century wandering Russian Pilgrim. I first read this book in the 1970s, and I return to it again and again. You can purchase it from Ancient Faith Publishing, from Light and Life Publishing, http://www.light-n-life.com/, or from Amazon. Do you have a Prayer Rope? The Russians call it a Chotki and the Greeks call it a Comboschini. A Prayer Rope is a string of knots used for praying the Jesus Prayer. While reading The Way of a Pilgrim and A Pilgrim Continues His Way you will learn all about the Jesus Prayer and will find it such a blessing that you will want your own Prayer Rope. You can purchase a Prayer Rope from many sources, including Ancient Faith Publishing, Light and Life Publishing, various monasteries, and Chotki.com, http://www.chotki.com/, which sells Prayer Ropes and has a lot of helpful information on the Jesus Prayer and the Prayer Rope.
The other book that I would like to recommend for you to consider for your Lenten reading is The Confessions of St. Augustine. This book is some sixteen centuries old and is still in print. It is a spiritual classic. The Confessions is not a “tell all” like modern readers may expect, but a very insightful and spiritual autobiography. Through it the reader will see his own past follies, his own wrestling with doubts, mistaken ideas and false choices, and with his own search for Truth.
The Confessions will help you to see God’s hand on your own life, will encourage you in your daily walk with our Lord and will give you great hope as you too pick up your cross and follow Christ. Fr. Seraphim (Rose) read this important book every Lent and recommended it to others. It is available from many sources, including Amazon, and locally at Gloria Deo Bookstore at 132nd & West Center Road.
The Lenten Fast can seem daunting to some, especially those raising young children, or concerned about working and having little time to plan special meals, or who have special dietary needs - but it doesn’t have to be. The Lenten Fast can be both very simple and spiritually very profitable. Fr. Theodore Liudogovsky, an Orthodox priest in Russia, has written a very helpful article. While written from an Eastern Rite perspective, it will be helpful to Orthodox Christians of whatever rite. The article is called, Simple Fasting, and I hope that you will read it. Here is the link:
This coming Sunday is the First Sunday in Lent. It is also known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. On the Sunday of Orthodoxy we do not celebrate the triumph of the Orthodox Church over some other church or religion, but over heresy that had risen up within the Orthodox Church in ancient times - specifically the Iconoclast heresy. The Sunday of Orthodoxy is an annual reminder that Christ Himself built His Church, and that the gates of hell can never prevail against it. This is something that we can take great comfort in and should give us great hope.
Jesus Christ is the Truth Revealed, and Orthodox Christianity is the Truth Lived. Lent is here to help us to begin to live the Orthodox Christian Way of Life in its fullness. It’s our Faith, so let’s live it!
There will be no adult Christian Education class on Sunday, March 20, or Sunday, March 27. Christian Ed will resume on Sunday, April 3rd.
Sunday Matins is at 9:15 AM, followed by the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, with fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall after the Liturgy. Visitors are always welcome. We are a faithful and friendly parish, and we have a place for you. I hope to see you on Sunday!