ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
Holy Thursday, Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome, Theodosios the Martyr, Zoilos the Martyr
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 11:23-32
BRETHREN, I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
MATTHEW 26:1-20; JOHN 13:3-17; MATTHEW 26:21-39; LUKE 22:43-44; MATTHEW 26:40-75; 27:1-2
The Lord said to his disciples, "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified.
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult among the people.
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.
For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.
Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand." Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you." For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "You are not all clean.
When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
And as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." Peter declared to him, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away." Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you." And so said all the disciples.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go yonder and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.
And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.
And rising from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him." And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, "Friend, why are you here?" Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?
At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.
Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter followed him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.'
And the high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?" They answered, "He deserves death." Then they spat in his face, and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a maid came up to him, and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you mean." And when he went out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man." After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.
Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, "Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and they bound him and led him away and delivered him to Pilate the governor.
The Lord said to his disciples, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come.' A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.
Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And where I am going you know, and the way you know." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause.' But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me." Some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'? " They said, "What does he mean by 'a little while"? We do not know what he means." Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him; so he said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. I have said this to you in figures; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say to you that I shall ask the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father." His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God." Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do; and now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made. I have manifested your name to the men whom you gave me out of the world; yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you; for I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you did send me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours; all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you did send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you; and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.
Great and Holy Thursday
THURSDAY: The Last Supper
Two events shape the liturgy of Great and Holy Thursday: the Last Supper of Christ with His disciples, and the betrayal of Judas. The meaning of both is in love. The Last Supper is the ultimate revelation of God’s redeeming love for man, of love as the very essence of salvation. And the betrayal of Judas reveals that sin, death and self-destruction are also due to love, but to deviated and distorted love, love directed at that which does not deserve love. Here is the mystery of this unique day, and its liturgy, where light and darkness, joy and sorrow are so strangely mixed, challenges us with the choice on which depends the eternal destiny of each one of us. “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come… having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end…” (John 13:1). To understand the meaning of the Last Supper we must see it as the very end of the great movement of Divine Love which began with the creation of the world and is now to be consummated in the death and resurrection of Christ.
God is Love (1 John 4:8). And the first gift of Love was life. The meaning, the content of life was communion. To be alive man was to eat and to drink, to partake of the world. The world was thus Divine love made food, made Body of man. And being alive, i.e. partaking of the world, man was to be in communion with God, to have God as the meaning, the content and the end of his life. Communion with the God-given world was indeed communion with God. Man received his food from God and making it his body and his life, he offered the whole world to God, transformed it into life in God and with God. The love of God gave life to man, the love of man for God transformed this life into communion with God. This was paradise. Life in it was, indeed, eucharistic. Through man and his love for God the whole creation was to be sanctified and transformed into one all-embracing sacrament of Divine Presence and man was the priest of this sacrament.
But in sin man lost this eucharistic life. He lost it because he ceased to see the world as a means of Communion with God and his life as eucharist, as adoration and thanksgiving. . . He loves himself and the world for their own sake; he made himself the content and the end of his life. He thought that his hunger and thirst, i.e. his dependence of his life on the world—can be satisfied by the world as such, by food as such. But world and food, once they are deprived of their initial sacramental meaning—as means of communion with God, once they are not received for God’s sake and filled with hunger and thirst for God, once, in other words, God is no longer their real “content,” can give no life, satisfy no hunger, for they have no life in themselves… And thus by putting his love in them, man deviated his love from the only object of all love, of all hunger, of all desires. And he died. For death is the inescapable “decomposition” of life cut from its only source and content. Man thought to find life in the world and in food, but he found death. His life became communion with death, for instead of transforming the world by faith, love, and adoration into communion with God, he submitted himself entirely to the world, he ceased to be its priest and became its slave. And by his sin the whole world was made a cemetery, where people condemned to death partook of death and “sat in the region and shadow of death” (Matt. 4:16).
But if man betrayed, God remained faithful to man. He did not “turn Himself away forever from His creature whom He had made, neither did He forget the works of His hands, but He visited him in diverse manners, through the tender compassion of His mercy” (Liturgy of Saint Basil). A new Divine work began, that of redemption and salvation. And it was fulfilled in Christ, the Son of God Who in order to restore man to his pristine beauty and to restore life as communion with God, became Man, took upon Himself our nature, with its thirst and hunger, with its desire for and love of, life. And in Him life was revealed, given, accepted and fulfilled as total and perfect Eucharist, as total and perfect communion with God. He rejected the basic human temptation: to live “by bread alone”; He revealed that God and His kingdom are the real food, the real life of man. And this perfect eucharistic Life, filled with God, and, therefore Divine and immortal, He gave to all those who would believe in Him, i,e. find in Him the meaning and the content of their lives. Such is the wonderful meaning of the Last Supper. He offered Himself as the true food of man, because the Life revealed in Him is the true Life. And thus the movement of Divine Love which began in paradise with a Divine “take, eat. ..” (for eating is life for man) comes now “unto the end” with the Divine “take, eat, this is My Body…” (for God is life of man). The Last Supper is the restoration of the paradise of bliss, of life as Eucharist and Communion.
But this hour of ultimate love is also that of the ultimate betrayal. Judas leaves the light of the Upper Room and goes into darkness. “And it was night” (John 13:30). Why does he leave? Because he loves, answers the Gospel, and his fateful love is stressed again and again in the hymns of Holy Thursday. It does not matter indeed, that he loves the “silver.” Money stands here for all the deviated and distorted love which leads man into betraying God. It is, indeed, love stolen from God and Judas, therefore, is the Thief. When he does not love God and in God, man still loves and desires, for he was created to love and love is his nature, but it is then a dark and self-destroying passion and death is at its end. And each year, as we immerse ourselves into the unfathomable light and depth of Holy Thursday, the same decisive question is addressed to each one of us: do I respond to Christ’s love and accept it as my life, do I follow Judas into the darkness of his night?
The liturgy of Holy Thursday includes: a) Matins, b) Vespers and, following Vespers, the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great. In the Cathedral Churches the special service of the Washing of Feet takes place after the Liturgy; while the deacon reads the Gospel, the Bishop washes the feet of twelve priests, reminding us that Christ’s love is the foundation of life in the Church and shapes all relations within it. It is also on Holy Thursday that Holy Chrism is consecrated by the primates of autocephalous Churches, and this also means that the new love of Christ is the gift we receive from the Holy Spirit on the day of our entrance into the Church.
At Matins the Troparion sets the theme of the day: the opposition between the love of Christ and the “insatiable desire” of Judas.
“When the glorious disciples were illumined by washing at the Supper,
Then was the impious Judas darkened with the love of silver
And to the unjust judges does he betray Thee, the just Judge.
Consider, 0 Lover of money, him who hanged himself because of it.
Do not follow the insatiable desire which dared this against the Master,
0 Lord, good to all, glory to Thee.”
After the Gospel reading (Luke 12:1-40) we are given the contemplation, the mystical and eternal meaning of the Last Supper in the beautiful canon of Saint Cosmas. Its last “irmos,” (Ninth Ode) invites us to share in the hospitality of the Lord’s banquet:
“Come, 0 ye faithful
Let us enjoy the hospitality of the Lord and the banquet of immortality
In the upper chamber with minds uplifted….”
At Vespers, the stichira on “Lord, I have cried” stress the spiritual anticlimax of Holy Thursday, the betrayal of Judas:
“Judas the slave and Knave,
The disciple and traitor,
The friend and fiend,
Was proved by his deeds,
For, as he followed the Master,
Within himself he contemplated His betrayal….”
After the Entrance, three lessons from the Old Testament:
1) Exodus 19: 10-19. God’s descent from Mount Sinai to His people as the image of God’s coming in the Eucharist.
2) Job 38:1-23, 42:1-5, God’s conversation with Job and Job’s answer: “who will utter to me what I understand not? Things too great and wonderful for me, which I knew not…”—and these “great and wonderful things” are fulfilled in the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood.
3) Isaiah 50:4-11. The beginning of the prophecies on the suffering servant of God,
The Epistle reading is from I Corinthians 11:23-32: Saint Paul’s account of the Last Supper and the meaning of communion.
The Gospel reading (the longest of the year is taken from all four Gospels and is the full story of the Last Supper, the betrayal of Judas and Christ’s arrest in the garden.
The Cherubic hymn and the hymn of Communion are replaced by the words of the prayer before Communion:
“Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant,
For I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies,
Neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss;
But like the thief will I confess Thee:
Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.”
by The Very Rev. Alexander Schmemann, S.T.D.
Professor of Liturgical Theology, Saint Vladimir’s Seminary
Hieromartyr Artemon of Laodikeia
The Hieromartyr Artemon (Artémon) was born of Christian parents in Laodikeia (Laodίkeia), Syria in the III century. From his youth, he devoted himself to the service of the Church, and was a Reader for sixteen years. For his zeal, Bishop Sisίnnius ordained him as a Deacon. Saint Artemon also carried out this service with fervor and diligence for twenty-eight years, then he was ordained to the priesthood. In that position, Saint Artemon served the Church of God for another thirty-three years, preaching Christianity among pagans. When Emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305) began his fierce persecution of the Church, issuing an edict ordering Christians to offer sacrifice to the idols, Saint Artemon was already quite old.
Knowing of the impending arrival of the military commander Patricius at Laodikeia, Saint Sisίnnius went with the priest Artemon and some other Christians into the temple of the "goddess" Artemis. There they smashed and burned the idols, reducing them all to dust.
Afterward, Saint Sisίnnius and Saint Artemon gathered the flock into the church and fervently exhorted the Christians to remain firm in the Faith, and not to fear the threats of torturers.
When he arrived in Laodikeia, Patricius celebrated a five-day festival in honor of the pagan "gods," and then entered the temple of Artemis to offer sacrifice. When he was told who had destroyed the temple, he went with a detachment of soldiers to the church where the Christians were praying.
As he approached the church, Patricius suddenly felt a chill, and then developed a fever, which left him scarcely alive. He was carried him home and put to bed. “The Christians have put a curse on me, and their God torments me,” he said to those around him. Although Patricius prayed to the idols, they did not relieve his sufferings. He sent a messenger to Bishop Sisίnnius, asking for his help, and promised to set up a gold statue of that Hierarch in the middle of the city. The Saint replied, “Keep your gold, but if you believe in Christ, He will heal you.”
Patricius was afraid of death, so he declared that he believed in Christ, and the affliction left him. But even this miracle did not affect the obdurate pagan's soul. Although he did not raise a hand against Bishop Sisίnnius, he did enforce the imperial edict against other Christians in the city of Caesarea.
Along the way he encountered Saint Artemon, who was followed by six wild donkeys and two deer. When Patricius asked how he was able to control these wild beasts, Saint Artemon replied that he held them with the Word of Christ. Patricius learned from the idolaters that it was Artemon who had destroyed the pagan temple of Artemis, so he ordered that Artemon be arrested and taken to the city of Caesarea. The Saint went with the soldiers without fear, but he told the animals to go to Saint Sisίnnius. Seeing the animals, Bishop Sisίnnius asked, “Why have these animals come here?”
A doe received the gift of speech from God and said, “The servant of God Artemon is being held by the impious Patricius, and is being brought to Caesarea in chains. He commanded us to come here to give you this news.”
Do not be astonished that the Lord, Who opened the mouth of Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22:28), also permitted the doe to speak. The Bishop sent Deacon Phileas to Caesarea to verify what he had been told.
At Caesarea, Patricius brought Saint Artemon to trial and tried to force him to offer sacrifice in the temple of Asclepius. In that pagan temple there were many poisonous vipers. The pagan priest never opened the doors, nor did he place the sacrifice before the idol. But Saint Artemon, calling on the Name of Jesus Christ, went into the temple and drove the snakes out. The pagans fled, but the Saint stopped them and killed the snakes by his breath. Vitalius, one of the pagan priests, believed in Christ and asked Saint Artemon to baptize him.
Patricius thought that Saint Artemon killed the snakes by sorcery, and again he interrogated and tortured him. Then the doe which had spoken arrived at Caesarea. She lay down at the Martyr's feet, licking his wounds. By God’s command the doe spoke again, denouncing the impious pagans. Addressing Patricius, the doe predicted that he would be seized by two birds of prey, and dropped into a cauldron of burning pitch. Patricius was enraged because he had been censured by a wild beast. He commanded his soldiers to shoot the doe with arrows, but she escaped. Afraid that the miracles performed by Saint Artemon would attract more people to him, Patricius ordered his execution.
An enormous cauldron was filled with boiling pitch, and the soldiers intended to throw Saint Artemon into it. But when Patricius rode up to the cauldron on horseback to see if the pitch was indeed boiling, two Angels in the form of eagles seized him and dropped him into the cauldron. His body was consumed so that not a single bone remained, but Saint Artemon survived.
Seeing this miracle, everyone ran away except Saint Artemon, who blessed and glorified God. When the Saint finished his prayer, a spring of water gushed forth from the ground. Saint Artemon baptized the pagan priest Vitalius and many pagans, who had come to believe in Christ. On the following morning, Saint Artemon communed the newly-baptized with the Holy Mysteries. Many of the baptized were ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood, and Vitalius was made Bishop of Palestine.
The Bishop of Caesarea came to visit Saint Artemon, noting the place where he had suffered. Subsequently, a church was built on that site.
Instructed by God's voice, Saint Artemon preached the Gospel in Asia Minor. Then an Angel appeared and transported him to the place which had been revealed to him, and there he converted many to Christ. The pagans arrested the Saint and beheaded him († 303).
In the Roman Martyrology, Saint Artemon is listed under October 8, while in Greek usage he is commemorated on April 12.
Saint Artémon the Presbyter of Laodikeia should not be confused with Saint Artemon the Bishop of Seleukeia (March 24).
Martyr Crescens of Myra in Lycia
The Holy Martyr Crescens (Kreskes) was descended from an illustrious family and lived in Myra of Lycia. When a throng of city inhabitants were on the way to the pagan temple, he urged them to forsake paganism and come to Christ. This incident became known to the city prefect.
When the prefect asked the saint about his parentage, the saint, not wishing to bring unpleasantness to his parents, said nothing except that he was a Christian. The prefect knew Saint Crescens’ father and wanted to do him a favor. He suggested that Saint Crescens only appear to offer sacrifice to idols, while remaining a Christian.
The holy martyr replied, “It is impossible for the body not to do as the soul thinks, since the soul governs and moves the body.” They beat the holy martyr Crescens and raked him with iron claws, and then burned him in a fire.
Saint Andrew of Crete (July 4) mentions the Martyr Crescens in his Sermon on the Feast of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker (December 6), who also came from Myra of Lycia.
Womanmartyr Thomais of Alexandria
The Holy martyr Thomais was born into a Christian family in the city of Alexandria. She was raised in piety, and loved to read spiritual books.
When she was fifteen, the girl married a fisherman, who was also a Christian. The young couple lived in the house of her husband’s family, where Saint Thomais was loved for her mild and gentle disposition, and for other good traits.
Saint Thomais’ father-in-law, at the prompting of the devil, was captivated by her beauty. One night, when his son went out fishing, he attempted to lead his daughter-in-law into sin. Horrified, Saint Thomais admonished the senseless old man, reminding him of the Last Judgment and the penalty for sin. Infuriated by her steadfastness, he seized a sword and threatened to cut off her head. Saint Thomais answered resolutely, “Even if you cut me to pieces, I shall not stray from the commandments of the Lord.” Overcome with passion, the old man cut Saint Thomais in two with the sword. The saint received the crown of martyrdom in the year 476.
Divine punishment overtook the murderer. He became blind and could not find the door in order to escape. In the morning, the companions of the saint’s husband came to the door. They saw the body of the saint, and the blind old man covered with blood. The murderer confessed his evil deed and asked to be taken to the judge for punishment. He was beheaded for his crime.
At this time, Saint Daniel of Skete (June 7) happened to be in Alexandria. He told the monks of the Oktodekadian monastery (at the eighteenth mile on the road leading west from Alexandria) to bring the body of the martyr to the monastery and bury her in the cemetery with the departed fathers. Some of the monks were scandalized because he wanted to bury a woman’s body with the monks. Saint Daniel replied, “She is a mother to me and to you, because she died for her chastity.”
After the funeral Saint Daniel returned to his own skete. Soon one of the young monks began to complain to him that he was tormented by fleshly passions. Saint Daniel ordered him to go and pray at the grave of the holy martyr Thomais. The monk did the bidding of the Elder. While he prayed at the grave, he fell into a light sleep. Saint Thomais appeared to him and said, “Father, accept my blessing and go in peace.”
When he awakened, the monk felt joy and peace in his soul. After this, he told Saint Daniel that he was no longer bothered by the temptations of the flesh. Abba Daniel exclaimed, “Great is the boldness of those who have struggled for chastity.”
Many found both spiritual joy and release from their passions at the grave of Saint Thomais. Her holy relics were transferred to Constantinople to one of the women’s monasteries. The Russian pilgrim Archdeacon Zosimas venerated them in 1420.
Saint Thomais is invoked by those seeking deliverance from sexual impurity. Other saints whose intercession we seek for this purpose are: Saint John the Much-Suffering (July 18) and Saint Moses the Hungarian (July 26).