ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Holy Monday, Terence and his Companions beheaded at Carthage, 150 and more Righteous Martyr Fathers of the Sacred Monastery of Pantocrator Daou Pentelis, Gregory V, the Holy Martyr and Patriarch of Constantinople, Holy Father Theonas, Archbishop of Thessolonica
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.
Great and Holy Monday
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
Martyr Terence and 40 others beheaded at Carthage
The Holy Martyr Terence and his companions suffered under the emperor Decius (249-251). The emperor issued an edict commanding all subjects to offer sacrifice to the pagan idols.
When the governor of Africa Fortunianus received this edict, he gathered the people into the city square, set out cruel instruments of torture and declared that everyone without exception had to offer the sacrifice to the idols.
Many, afraid of torture, complied. However, Saint Terence and forty other Christians bravely affirmed their faith in the Savior and ridiculed the idols. Fortunianus was amazed at their boldness and he asked how they as rational people, could confess as God, One Whom the Jews crucified as a malefactor.
Saint Terence answered that their belief was in the Savior, Who voluntarily endured death on the Cross and rose on the third day. Fortunianus saw that Terence inspired the others by his example, and so he ordered him to be isolated in prison with his three closest companions: Africanus, Maximus, and Pompeius. Fortunianus was determined to force the rest of the martyrs, including Zeno, Alexander and Theodore, to renounce Christ.
Neither threats nor terrible tortures could sway the holy martyrs. They burned them with red-hot iron, they poured vinegar on the wounds, they sprinkled on salt, and they raked them with iron claws. In spite of their sufferings, the saints did not weaken in their confession of Christ, and the Lord gave them strength.
Fortunianus gave orders to lead the martyrs into the pagan temple, and once again he urged them to offer sacrifice to the idols. The valiant warriors of Christ cried out, “O Almighty God, Who once sent down fire on Sodom for its iniquity, destroy this impious temple of idolatry.” The idols fell down with a crash, and then the temple lay in ruins. The enraged governor gave orders to execute them, and the martyrs, glorifying God, bowed their necks beneath the executioner’s sword.
After the execution of the thirty-six martyrs, Fortunianus summoned Terence, Maximus, Africanus and Pompeius before him. He showed them the martyrs’ bodies and again urged them to offer sacrifice to the idols. The martyrs refused. The governor put heavy chains on them, and gave orders to starve them to death. By night, an angel of the Lord removed the martyrs’ chains and fed them.
In the morning, the guards found the saints cheerful and strong. Then Fortunianus ordered sorcerers and conjurers to carry snakes and all kinds of poisonous creatures into the prison. The guards looked into the cell through an opening in the ceiling and saw the martyrs unharmed, praying, and the snakes crawling at their feet. When the sorcerers opened the door of the prison cell, the snakes bit them. The furious Fortunianus gave orders to behead the holy martyrs. Christians took up their holy bodies and buried them with reverence outside the city.
Martyrs James (Jacob) the Presbyter, and Azadanes and Abdicius, Deacons, of Persia
The Holy Martyrs James the Presbyter and the deacons Azadanes and Abdikius died in Persia under the emperor Sapor in about the year 380. They were arrested together with Bishop Akepsimas (November 3). Weak from hunger, the sufferers had mustard and vinegar inserted into their nostrils. Then they were stripped and led out to stand all night in the cold.
In the morning, after new torments, the martyrs were returned to prison and beheaded.
Martyrs of the Kvabtakhevi Monastery in Georgia
In the 14th century, during the reign of King Bagrat V (1360-1394), Timur (Tamerlane) invaded Georgia seven times. His troops inflicted irreparable damage on the country, seizing centuries-old treasures and razing ancient churches and monasteries.
Timur’s armies ravaged Kartli, then took the king, queen, and the entire royal court captive and sent them to Karabakh (in present-day Azerbaijan). Later Timur attempted to entice King Bagrat to renounce the Christian Faith in exchange for permission to return to the throne and for the release of the other Georgian prisoners.
For some time Timur was unable to subjugate King Bagrat, but in the end, being powerless and isolated from his kinsmen, the king began to falter. He devised a sly scheme: to confess Islam before the enemy, but to remain a Christian at heart. Satisfied with King Bagrat’s decision to “convert to Islam,” Timur permitted the king to return to the throne of Kartli. At the request of King Bagrat, Timur sent twelve thousand troops with him to complete Georgia’s forcible conversion to Islam.
When they were approaching the village of Khunani in southeastern Georgia, Bagrat secretly informed his son Giorgi of everything that had happened and called upon him and his army to massacre the invaders.
The news of Bagrat’s betrayal and the ruin of his army infuriated Timur, and he called for immediate revenge. At their leader’s command, his followers destroyed everything in their path, set fire to cities and villages, devastated churches, and thus forced their way through to Kvabtakhevi Monastery.
Monastics and laymen alike were gathered in Kvabtakhevi when the enemy came thundering in. Having forced open the gate, the attackers burst into the monastery, then plundered and seized all its treasures. They captured the young and strong, carrying them away.
The old and infirm were put to the sword. As the greatest humiliation, they mocked the clergy and monastics by strapping them with sleigh bells and jumping and dancing around them.
Already drunk on the blood they had shed, the barbarians posed an ultimatum to those who remained: to renounce Christ and live or to be driven into the church and burned alive.
Faced with these terms, the faithful cried out: “Go ahead and burn our flesh—in the Heavenly Kingdom our souls will burn with a divine flame more radiant than the sun!” And in their exceeding humility, the martyrs requested that their martyrdom not be put on display: “We ask only that you not commit this sin before the eyes of men and angels. The Lord alone knows the sincerity of our will and comforts us in our righteous afflictions!”
Having been driven like beasts into the church, the martyrs raised up a final prayer to God: “In the multitude of Thy mercy shall I go into Thy house; I shall worship toward Thy holy temple in fear of Thee. O Lord, guide me in the way of Thy righteousness; because of mine enemies, make straight my way before Thee (Ps. 5:6-7) that with a pure mind I may glorify Thee forever….”
The executioners hauled in more and more wood, until the flames enveloping the church blazed as high as the heavens and the echo of crackling timber resounded through the mountains. Ensnared in a ring of fire, the blissful martyrs chanted psalms as they gave up their spirits to the Lord.
The massacre at Kvabtakhevi took place in 1386. The imprints of the martyrs’ charred bodies remain on the floor of the church to this day.
Hieromartyr Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople
The Holy Patriarch Gregory (George Angelopoulos in the world) was born in 1745 at Dēmētsána in the Pelopónnēsos. He began his education in the village schools, since his father could not afford to send him to better schools. In 1765, he went to Athens to study under the renowned teacher Dēmḗtrios Vodas, and in 1767, he went to Smyrna to attend an ecclesiastical school. Later, he went to Patmos for further study, and was ordained as a Deacon in 1775 at Smyrna. Soon after, he was ordained as a Hieromonk.
In 1785 he was consecrated as a Bishop, and was chosen as the Metropolitan of Smyrna. His ministry produced much spiritual fruit, and he edified his flock by his eloquent sermons, by building schools, and by writing books. On May 1,1797 he was elected as Patriarch of Constantinople. From that day forward, he concerned himself with the internal and external order of the Patriarchate. He established rules for his household and staff, called regular meetings, and set agendas for the Synod of Bishops.
In the early XIX century, Greece was suffering under the heavy Turkish yoke, though many Greek patriots hoped to regain their independence. They found support from the Holy Patriarch, whose connections with Greek patriots were revealed only after Alexander Ypsilantis crossed the Prut River with his army against Sultan Mahmud.
The Patriarch was an ascetic who kept the fasts and devoted himself to the unceasing Prayer of the Heart. Such traits did not endear him to everyone, and he had many enemies. The Saint's austerity annoyed some bishops, who slandered him, resulting in his removal and exile to Mount Athos from 1798-1806, where he lived in the Greatest Lavra.
His second tenure as Patriarch began amid political turmoil. Once more he began a program of building churches and schools. Turkey declared war in 1807 as the result of Russian activity in the Balkans. The Sultan ordered Saint Gregory to issue an encyclical against Russia in order to prevent the Greeks from cooperating with them. He bore no malice toward Russia, but he was trying to avoid massacres and insurrections. Three times during his second Patriarchate, Saint Gregory was forced to quell Greek attempts to revolt. Nevertheless, he was deposed and exiled to the Holy Mountain in 1808.
In January 1819, the Holy Hierarch ascended the Patriarchal throne for the final time. He established a fund to help the poor of Constantinople and reorganized the Patriarchal printing press, which published many spiritual books. In March, several bishops were imprisoned or executed because of the failed insurrection of Alexander Ypsilantis in Moldavia. When the Greek Revolution began on March 25, 1821, the Turks ordered the Patriarch and his Synod to issue an anathema against Ypsilantis and those who had cooperated with him. The anathema was ignored, because the Greeks knew that it had been issued under duress.
During that Lent, jailings and executions were common. One of the Patriarch's friends advised him to flee from Constantinople to the Morea. Saint Gregory replied: "I have a premonition that the fish of the Bosphorus will eat my body, but I will die calmly, for the sake of of saving my nation."
On Holy Pascha, April 10, 1821, the Patriarch was seized at 10:00 A.M. and hanged at the gate of the Patriarchate, and then his body was thrown into the sea. That gate has remained shut ever since.
Greek sailors noticed the place where the Hieromartyr's body was abandoned, and placed it on a ship from Kephalonia under the command of Captain Macri Sklavos, and then it was taken to Odessa under the Russian flag. The Hierarch's relics were buried in the Greek church of the Holy Trinity on June 19, 1821. Patriarchal vestments were sent from Moscow for the Saint's relics, as well as a mitre and a cross, which had belonged to His Holiness Patriarch Nikon (1652-1658). The Hieromartyr Gregory V of Constantinople, held the See of Constantinople three times (1797-1799, 1806-1808, 1819-1821).
In 1871, at the request of the Greek government, permission was granted to transfer Patriarch Gregory's relics from Odessa to Athens for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Greek independence. A special Service was composed in Athens in honor of the Hierarch, whose martyrdom heralded the triumph of Christianity in Greece.
The Hieromartyr Gregory was glorified as a Saint in 1921. The scroll on his Icon reads: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).