ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Holy Monday, Holy Father John the Righteous, disciple of St. Gregory of Decapolis, Euthemios the Enlightener of Karelia, Cosmas, Bishop of Calcydon, John the New Martyr of Epiros, Athanasia the Wonderworker of Aegina
At that time, as Jesus was returning to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once?" And Jesus answered them, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea, ' it will be done. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. " And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Jesus answered them, "I also will ask you a question; and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or from men?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven, ' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'From men, ' we are afraid of the multitude; for all hold that John was a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir, ' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.
Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.
At that time, as Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" And Jesus answered them, "Take heed that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ, ' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the sufferings.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, 'Lo, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Lo, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Lo, he is in the wilderness, ' do not go out; if they say, 'Lo, he is in the inner rooms, ' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Holy Week: A Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week
3. MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY: THE END
These three days, which the Church calls Great and Holy have within the liturgical development of the Holy Week a very definite purpose. They place all its celebrations in the perspective of End Times; they remind us of the eschatological meaning of Pascha. So often Holy Week is considered one of the “beautiful traditions” or “customs,” a self-evident “part” of our calendar. We take it for granted and enjoy it as a cherished annual event which we have “observed” since childhood, we admire the beauty of its services, the pageantry of its rites and, last but not least, we like the fuss about the Paschal table. And then, when all this is done we resume our normal life. But do we understand that when the world rejected its Savior, when “Jesus began to be sorrowful and very heavy… and his soul was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death,” when He died on the Cross, “normal life” came to its end and is no longer possible. For there were “normal” men who shouted “Crucify Him” who spat at Him and nailed Him to the Cross. And they hated and killed Him precisely because He was troubling their normal life. It was indeed a perfectly “normal” world which preferred darkness and death to light and life…. By the death of Jesus the “normal” world, and “normal” life were irrevocably condemned. Or rather they revealed their true and abnormal inability to receive the Light, the terrible power of evil in them. “Now is the Judgment of this world” (John 12:31). The Pascha of Jesus signified its end to “this world” and it has been at its end since then. This end can last for hundreds of centuries, but this does not alter the nature of time in which we live as the “last time.” “The fashion of this world passeth away…” (I Cor. 7:31).
Pascha means passover, passage. The feast of Passover was for the Jews the annual commemoration of their whole history as salvation, and of salvation as passage from the slavery of Egypt into freedom, from exile into the promised land. It was also the anticipation of the ultimate passage—into the Kingdom of God. And Christ was the fulfillment of Pascha. He performed the ultimate passage: from death into life, from this “old world” into the new world into the new time of the Kingdom. And he opened the possibility of this passage to us. Living in “this world” we can already be “not of this world,” i.e. be free from slavery to death and sin, partakers of the “world to come.” But for this we must also perform our own passage, we must condemn the old Adam in us, we must put on Christ in the baptismal death and have our true life hidden in God with Christ, in the “world to come….”
And thus Easter is not an annual commemoration, solemn and beautiful, of a past event. It is this Event itself shown, given to us, as always efficient, always revealing our world, our time, our life as being at their end, and announcing the Beginning of the new life…. And the function of the three first days of Holy Week is precisely to challenge us with this ultimate meaning of Pascha and to prepare us to the understanding and acceptance of it.
1. This eschatological (which means ultimate, decisive, final) challenge is revealed, first, in the common troparion of these days:
Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight,
And blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching,
And again unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep,
Lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.
But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, are You, O our God!
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us!
Midnight is the moment when the old day comes to its end and a new day begins. It is thus the symbol of the time in which we live as Christians. For, on the one hand, the Church is still in this world, sharing in its weaknesses and tragedies. Yet, on the other hand, her true being is not of this world, for she is the Bride of Christ and her mission is to announce and to reveal the coming of the Kingdom and of the new day. Her life is a perpetual watching and expectation, a vigil pointed at the dawn of this new day. But we know how strong is still our attachment to the “old day,” to the world with its passions and sins. We know how deeply we still belong to “this world.” We have seen the light, we know Christ, we have heard about the peace and joy of the new life in Him, and yet the world holds us in its slavery. This weakness, this constant betrayal of Christ, this incapacity to give the totality of our love to the only true object of love are wonderfully expressed in the exapostilarion of these three days:
“Thy Bridal Chamber I see adorned, O my Savior
And I have no wedding garment that I may enter,
O Giver of life, enlighten the vesture of my soul
And save me.”
2. The same theme develops further in the Gospel readings of these days. First of all, the entire text of the four Gospels (up to John 13: 31) is read at the Hours (1, 3, 6 and 9). This recapitulation shows that the Cross is the climax of the whole life and ministry of Jesus, the Key to their proper understanding. Everything in the Gospel leads to this ultimate hour of Jesus and everything is to be understood in its light. Then, each service has its special Gospel lesson :
At Matins: Matthew 21: 18-43—the story of the fig tree, the symbol of the world created to bear spiritual fruits and failing in its response to God.
At the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts: Matthew 24: 3-35: the great eschatological discourse of Jesus. The signs and announcement of the End. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away….”
“When the Lord was going to His voluntary Passion,
He said to His Apostles on the way:
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem,
And the Son of Man shall be delivered up
As it is written of Him.
Come, therefore, and let us accompany Him,
With minds purified from the pleasures of this life,
And let us be crucified and die with Him,
That we may live with Him,
And that we may hear Him say to us:
I go now, not to the earthly Jerusalem to suffer,
But unto My Father and your Father
And My God and your God,
And I will gather you up into the heavenly Jerusalem,
Into the Kingdom of Heaven….”
by: The Very Reverend Alexander Schmemann
Saint John was born at the end of the eighth century. At a young age he became a disciple of Saint Gregory of Decapolis (November 20) and accepted monastic tonsure from him at a monastery in Thessalonica. Under the guidance of this experienced teacher, Saint John attained great spiritual perfection.
When the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) renewed the persecution against Orthodox Christians because they venerated the holy icons, Saint Gregory of Decapolis and Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4) and his disciple Saint John went from Thessalonica to Constantinople, to raise opposition to the Iconoclast heresy.
In spite of persecution, Saints Gregory and John fearlessly defended Orthodoxy for several years, and preached the veneration of icons. After many hardships Saint Gregory died (around 820), and soon after, his faithful disciple John also departed to the Lord. Saint Joseph the Hymnographer transferred the relics of Saints Gregory and John and placed them in the church of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.
The Holy Martyrs Victor, Zoticus, Acindynus, Zeno, Severian and Caesarius suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) when he began a fierce persecution against Christians. One of the first to suffer was the holy Great Martyr and Victory-Bearer George (April 23). Saint George’s unshakable faith and bravery during his suffering led many pagans to Christ.
The saints were struck with astonishment that Saint George suffered no harm from the wheel of torture, and they declared in the hearing of all that they also believed in Christ. At the judge’s order, the holy martyrs were beheaded at Nicomedia in 303.
Saint Cosmas, Bishop of Chalcedon, and his companion Saint Auxentius, lived during the ninth century, at a time when the Iconoclasts oppressed the Orthodox. Saint Cosmas while still in his youth had entered a monastery and received monastic tonsure. Later, he was consecrated as Bishop of Chalcedon, and zealously defended the Orthodox Faith against the Iconoclast heretics. Saint Auxentius helped the saint in this struggle.
The Iconoclasts tried in many ways to win the saint over to their side, but he remained faithful to Orthodoxy until the very end. Saint Cosmas did not obey the decree of Emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) ordering the removal of the holy icons from the churches. For this he was expelled from his See and exiled to prison.
When the saint returned from exile, he and Saint Auxentius continued to defend the veneration of holy icons. At the end of the persecution, Saint Cosmas was weak in body, but remained strong in spirit. Saint Cosmas and Saint Auxentius steadfastly preserved the Orthodox Faith until the end of their lives.
The holy martyr John Kulikos was born in the Greek district of Epirus, in the city of Ioannina. His parents were pious, but he was orphaned at an early age, and he went to Constantinople. With the means left him by his parents, he built a small stall in the city bazaar and was occupied with trade.
He loved to work, he honorably filled all his orders, and his business was successful. However, his soul did not yearn for earthly blessings, but for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Saint John lived during difficult times. Constantinople was under the dominion of the Turks, and Christians were subjected to oppressions. Many Christian tradesmen and merchants went over to the Moslem religion. Saint John reproached them for their betrayal of Christ, and he also sustained the unwavering in their faith. The apostates were filled with hatred for Saint John, and they desired his ruin. The saint knew this, but was not afraid. He was willing to suffer for Christ.
On Great and Holy Friday he went to his spiritual Father and asked his blessing to seek martyrdom. The priest counselled the youth to examine himself and to prepare himself by fasting and prayer, so that at the time of torture he would not deny Christ. Saint John prayed ardently to the Lord to strengthen him. At night on Great and Holy Saturday he saw himself in a dream, standing in a fiery furnace and singing praises to the Lord. Interpreting this vision as an indication to go to martyrdom, Saint John received the Holy Mysteries and asked the priest’s blessing.
When Saint John arrived at the market, the vexed tradesmen began to reproach him that he had promised to renounced Christ, but that he was not fulfilling his word. In reply, the martyr declared that he was a Christian and had never renounced, nor would he ever renounce Christ.
Then the envious merchants had him arrested. The judge tried to persuade Saint John to accept Islam, for he respected him as a skilled master craftsman. But the martyr steadfastly confessed himself a Christian. For several days, they wearied him with hunger and thirst, and beat him without mercy. They sentenced the martyr to be burned alive.
Saint John met his sentence with joy. When they led him to the blazing fire, he went boldly into the midst of the flames. The torturers, seeing that Saint John was prepared to die in the fire, pulled him out and beheaded him with the sword (+ 1526). They then threw the martyr’s head and body into the fire.
Christians gathered up the bones of the martyr which remained from the fire, and reverently brought them to the cathedral church.
According to an ancient manuscript Hemerologion (Ημερολογιον), Saint Euthymios was born in the
second half of the XIV century. From his youth, he felt drawn to the monastic life, so when he reached adulthood, he travelled north around the year 1400, in order to live as an Anchorite. Later, about 1410, several disciples came to him, begging him to guide them in the monastic life. On the shores of the White Sea in Karelia, 34 versts from Archangelsk, they built a monastery dedicated to the Holy Wonderworker Saint Nicholas of Myra in Lycia (December 6), with cells for the monks.
At first, nothing seemed to go well for the monks, who had settled in an area inhabited by pagans. Saint Euthymius knew, however, that in the place where they labored, one day the monastic life would be firmly established, and the Faith would flourish.
In 1418, the Venerable Anthony and Felix, the two devout sons of Martha Boretska, the wife of a government official (посадница) from Novgorod, were drowned at the mouth of the North Dvina River while exploring the land. These young brothers were buried at Saint Nicholas monastery. In life, they were distinguished for their works of charity, and their grief-stricken mother asked Saint Euthymius to pray for the sons who had been taken from her. Subsequently, their names were included in the manuscript Lives of the Saints of Saint Nicholas Monastery.
In 1419, the monastery was destroyed by Norwegian invaders, who descended upon the monastery, burned the church, and killed several of the monks. Saint Euthymius decided that he would rebuild the monastery, and Martha Boretska gave a large sum of money for the monastery to be rebuilt over the graves of her sons.
Saint Euthymius reposed peacefully in 1435, and was buried at the monastery in Karelia, as were his disciples Stephen the Ascetic, Isaiah, and Nikanor.
In 1641, Saint Euthymios of Karelia was glorified for his apostolic labors in Karelia, and his holy relics were uncovered in 1647. Now they rest in a hidden place within the monastery.
A Church Service has been composed for Saints Euthymius, Anthony and Felix. They are commemorated on April 18, and again on May 21, the Synaxis of All Saints of Karelia.
The Saint Maximus Icon is in the cathedral church of the city of Vladimir. Metropolitan Maximus (December 6), a Greek by birth, painted the Icon in 1299, as he was told to do in a vision while he slept in his cell. When St. Maximus arrived in Vladimir from Kiev, the Mother of God appeared to him in a dream and gave him an omophorion saying, "My servant Maximus, it is good that you have come to visit my city. Take this omophorion and shepherd the rational flock of my city."
When he awoke, he found he was holding an omophorion. The appearance of the Mother of God was regarded as a sign of approval for the transfer of the metropolitan See from Kiev to Vladimir.
A description of this vision was inscribed on the left side of his crypt. The Mother of God is shown in full stature, holding the Divine Child on her left arm. With her right hand, she offers the omophorion to Saint Maximus, who is standing on a pillar. The contrast in the size of their figures is meant to show the difference in their spiritual states. A variant Icon depicts Saint Maximus kneeling at the feet of the Theotokos.
Later, a golden coffer was made, and the omophorion was placed inside. This omophorion was kept in the Vladimir cathedral as a relic for 112 years. It was hidden by the cathedral’s doorkeeper Patrick in 1412 during an invasion by the Tartars, Patrick was killed when he refused to show them where the cathedral's treasures were hidden. The coffer has not yet been found.
This Icon, which measures five feet by two and a half feet, has been glorified by many miracles.
Saint Basil Ratishvili, one of the most prominent figures of the 13th-century Church, was the uncle of Catholicos Ekvtime III. He labored with the other Georgian fathers at the Ivḗron Monastery on Mt. Athos. Endowed with the gift of prophecy, Saint Basil beheld a vision in which the Most Holy Theotokos called upon him to censure King Demetre’s impious rule. (This is actually Saint Demetre the Devoted, who in his youth lived profligately but later laid down his life for his nation.)
Having arrived in Georgia and been brought before the king, the God-fearing father denounced the sovereign’s uncrowned marriage [i.e., a conjugal union without the blessing of the Church]. He promised the king that if he abandoned his present way of life, he would find great happiness and success. Saint Basil also condemned the ungodly ways of Georgia’s apostate feudal lords.
But the king and his court disregarded the virtuous elder’s admonitions, and in response Saint Basil prophesied: “A vicious enemy will kill you, and your kingdom will remain without refuge. Your children will be scattered, your kingdom conquered, and all your wealth seized. Know that, according to the will of the Most Holy Theotokos, everything I have told you will come to pass unless you repent and turn from this way of life. Now I will depart from you in peace.”
Saint Basil returned to Mt. Athos and peacefully reposed at the Ivḗron Monastery.
His vision was fulfilled.