Readings of the Day: 

Hebrews 9:11-14  &  Mark 10:32-45

Today's Gospel reading tells of the journey to Jerusalem.  Jesus is with the twelve and, while walking, tells them of the upcoming events.  "See, we are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him.  And after three days he will rise." (Mark 10:33-34)  Today we read this and know full well what Jesus speaks of here.  But if I were one of the twelve I wonder at the fear and confusion it must have caused.  Surely when James and John make their request to sit at his side, they did not understand the torment he was going to face?  If I had been one of the twelve would I have made this request or would I have been one of the other ten who became indignant at such a request?  But more importantly to us this day, we must remember the words of Jesus upon answering their words among each other.  "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45)  The greatest man who has walked this earth is Jesus, our Lord, and He walked here to serve us and give us life.  Who are you serving this day?

St. Mary of Egypt

The story of St. Mary of Egypt has always fascinated me.  Mary's story is well-known FullSizeRenderamong the Orthodox of course; we commemorate her life each year on this Fifth Sunday of Lent. It's a powerful story and one that sticks in your mind of how true repentance can truly change your life.  Mary was a prostitute for 17 years!  One day she came upon a group of pilgrims headed to Jerusalem and, out of curiosity, decided to join them ,still engaging in her sinful lifestyle along the way.  Upon ...continue reading "The Fifth Sunday of Lent: St. Mary of Egypt"

On this third Sunday of preparation for Lent, we read the story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32.  This Sunday's theme, as was last week on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, is repentance.

The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1667/1670 (detail)

 

Jesus tells the parable of a man with two sons.  The youngest son asks for his inheritance, leaves home and squanders it away.  He is left with nothing and nowhere to go.  Finding a job feeding swine and still finding himself hungry, he realizes that his father's hired servants always had enough to eat.  He decides to go home and ask his father for a job.  But upon his arrival, his father welcomes him and chooses to celebrate saying, "For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (vv. 20-24). They have a feast! The older son, coming in from working that day wonders what the celebration is for and becomes resentful upon learning it is for his brother.  He has been ever faithful to his father and his father has never given him such a celebration.  Yet this brother, who squandered all he was given is honored with a lavish feast!  The father says to his angry son, "You are always with me, and all that I have is yours," but explains that his brother is cause for celebration as "your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found" (vv. 31-32)

The parable demonstrates that repentance is a man's return from exile.  Alexander Schmemann writes in Great Lent:  Journey to Pashca  "A man who has never had that experience, be it only very briefly, who has never felt that he is exiled from God and from real life, will never understand what Christianity is about. And the one who is perfectly "at home" in this world and its life, who has never been wounded by nostalgic desire for another Reality, will not understand what is repentance."  The prodigal son felt his exile.  He was enslaved to strangers and hunger.  He returned back, repentant, to his father's home, admitting his sin.

This parable offers hope to those who have fallen into despair with their sinful ways. It allows us to see that we must recognize and admit to our own sinful ways and return to God through repentance.  Just as the father of the prodigal son hoped and waited for the return of the prodigal son, our Heavenly Father is patiently waiting our return to Him.

I think we can look at this parable in two ways. The obvious one is described above- that of repentance and the need to repent of our own sins. But I also see forgiveness being taught here...do you?

As much as we are the prodigal sons of God who must look into our souls and see the sin there and repent of it- we must also look around at the prodigals around us - AND FORGIVE THEM.  Just as the father took his son in and celebrated with a big feast- we must recognize the prodigals around us and take them in.  They may not always be as recognizable as the prodigal son who came home, homeless, hungry and shamed. That doesn't release us of our need to forgive them.  It is not up to us to determine if someone is truly repentant  or not.  It is up to us to forgive them.  For in our inability, or rather stubbornness, to do so, we are also being sinful. And then it goes around again- we must be repentant of our sinful nature to hold grudges, anger and resentment.

So take this opportunity as Lent approaches.  Look into your heart.  What sins must you overcome?  Is there someone you need to forgive?  Or someone you must ask forgiveness of?

Kontakion: (Tone 3)

When I disobeyed in ignorance Thy fatherly glory, I wasted in iniquities the riches that Thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to Thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, I have sinned before Thee, O compassionate Father, receive me repentant, and make me as one of Thy hired servants.

 

Sources and Related Resources:

Great Lent: Journey to Pascha

The Second Sunday of the Triodion Period: The Sunday of the Prodigal Son

The Repentance of the Prodigal


*Note:  The above book, Engaging Today's Prodigal, is NOT an Orthodox source.  However, this reader did find much benefit in its contents and would recommend it highly.

 

staticflicker.com
Icon of The Pharisee and the Publican https://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/

Today is the first Sunday of a three-week period before Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. This is a preparatory time for the spiritual journey of Lent. It is a time that Orthodox Christians attempt to draw closer to God through worship, prayer, fasting, and acts of charity(Note: This is not the only time we do that - it’s just a time we set in the church year to be particularly mindful of it.) The Triodion, a special liturgical book used during the Lenten period, will be used today as it contains the hymns, prayers, and services of Lent held between this Sunday and Pascha Sunday. ...continue reading "Sunday Reflections – The Publican and the Pharisee"

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s295922263988903417_p44_i1_w600"If you have sinned, acknowledge the sin and repent.   God will forgive the sin and once again give you a new heart...and a new spirit (Ez. 36:26).  There is no other way:  Either do not sin, or repent."    ~ St. Theophan the Recluse from The Path to Salvation:  A Manual of Spiritual Transformation

I stumbled upon the above quote in one of my many searches for Orthodox Quotes to put on my Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/Orthodoxmom3 ).  I post a quote or prayer there every morning - well, almost every morning...

I am always attracted to anything that speaks on forgiveness.  Whether it be the human need to forgive others or God's forgiveness of us.  It's a constant struggle - forgiveness.  And I know that not to be true of just myself.  It's a common theme among Christians and non-Christians alike.  Everyone has someone who has wronged them and struggles with their feelings about that person and what he or she has done to offend them.

St. Theophan, in the quote above, addresses our own sinfulness and the need to repent for God to forgive us.  All we have to do is acknowledge the sin and repent of it.  Easier said than done sometimes.  We, humans, are stubborn.  We don't care to admit that we have been capable of hurting someone or doing something wrong in the site of God.  And yet, we are human.  How do any of us live a day without sinning in some form or manner?  But God forgives.  That's so far out of the grasp of our understanding sometimes.  But, indeed, He does.

And we humans are called to do the same.  FORGIVE.

It matters not what the person has done, whether it was voluntary or involuntary.  Whether it was by word or by deed.  Whether it was in knowledge or of ignorance.  We are called to FORGIVE and to repent of our own sins and ask Him for FORGIVENESS.

 

Orthodox Prayer Before Communion

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen.

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.

May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body. Amen.

 

Peaceful Reflections

for those times you just need some quiet time to sit, read just a short bit and reflect

 

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And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are a temple of the living God.  As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk with them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people."  Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate , says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."  "I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty."  

Therefore, having thee promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.    ~ 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1

To cleanse ourselves, according to the Orthodox Study Bible, means that by the promises of GOD, we are to venture into a long struggle for holiness. This, of course, includes true repentance.

"Whoever wishes to be saved must turn to the Lord with a pure heart, andmust cleanse oneself with repentance and tears, and in such a manner wpid-img_20141003_194109_937.jpgunite with Christ, the True Vine. For without Christ there is no salvation. Christ is Life and Light. He who has departed from Life and Light must then be in death and darkness. Consider this, O Christian, and with tears and repentance wash away your sins, that you may once again be united with Christ - your very life."
~St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

 

“Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.”                                                 – St. Nicholas of Myra

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

 

 

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The conference started on Thursday.  Unfortunately we were running behind schedule and did not make it in time to attend the Akathist service- this one being a prayer service to the Mother of God as the nurturer of children.  It is a beautiful service as we have attended them in the past.

We did make it for dinner and were happy to see familiar faces and see many new faces as well. After dinner was a nice group photo session and orientation activities including the phenomenal display of photography by Jocelyn Mathewes in the museum at Antiochian Village titled Women With Icons.

Friday brought us a beautiful Pre-sanctified Liturgy service followed by the first sessions!  I attended one called "Maneuvering through the High School Years" given by Dianthe Livanos.  Dianthe shared her wisdom and reminded us that life is NOT about a title, position or amount of money we make and that we must remember to place Loving God above everything and teach this to our children. I had a wonderful discussion with Dianthe after the session about refocusing my outlook on some recent challenges - we truly must set our sights on God as parents - in doing this our children will hopefully learn to do the same.

Another session was conducted by Susan Papademetris on setting goals and following through.  Susan reminded us to set goals- have them in writing - something I use to do but haven't actually done this for several years.  It's something I certainly intend to work on.  I have writing goals but not written homeschool goals...something is wrong with that picture! We need to review these goals annually - some of us may be fine doing this monthly or weekly...others may need to do it daily.  I think the overall goals - especially our goals involving our faith- should be reviewed quite frequently! Susan provided a wonderful handout that I still need to reread to get it all. It will definitely be put in my pile of planning materials for next year as I want to keep it all in mind as I plan and organize.

My session 3 was on Free Online Resources for Education and I'm looking forward to the list of sources Bob Weaver will be sending to those of us in the session!  He did a fabulous job  of presenting a list of places to look for information and the questions to ask yourself about your sources (Is it authoritative? Comprehensive? Reliable? Current?) and how to go about answering those questions.

The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Christopher Veniamin, spoke on The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation:  "Theosis" in St. Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex.  Orthodox theology is personal and unique and Dr. Veniman thoroughly covered this topic and hit many important points including:  We must pray or our enemies just as Christ did, If you don't feel bad for the sinner destined to experience the fire then you lack the spirit within you, and before we say, do , or even THINK anything - we need to refer our minds and hearts to Christ!

Saturday brought 2 more sessions and another talk by Dr. Veniamin on  Salvation. My first session on Saturday was given by Monica Klepac on "Holding and Letting Go - Sanity and Sustainability in Homeschooling".  Monica did a fabulous job at reminding us about setting goals and prioritizing those goals - always remembering which are the most important.  She also reminded we moms to remember to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first! - just as in procedures for an airplane emergency-  we need to get time for ourselves and take care of ourselves or we won't be able to care for our children - this is something I wished I would have learned years ago.

My second session on Saturday was given by Dr. Veniamin (with a rather humorous opening act by Andrew Kern I may add) on Repentance.  This is an important topic as our society really does not seem to understand repentance nor does it offer real support to a soul which desires to repent and yet we are ALL in need of repentance.  Dr. Veniamin talked about loving our enemies, laying aside our own will to learn the will of God (a really hard challenge!), and remembering that none of us can discern the will of God by ourselves - we need guidance from others that are further along the spiritual path - namely our spiritual fathers...

Of course, these are just the sessions that I went to.  Each session has three choices of speakers and topics.  Sometimes it's hard to pick which one to go to!  I'm glad my husband is with me so he can go to some different ones and take notes for me.  It gives us a lot to talk about in the days to follow.

And of course - there was the late night with other homechool moms.  I was tired -  plus my teenage son was close by - so I didn't really share that much but I still enjoyed the time with them that evening.  We stayed up way to late but it was worth the time with these dear people who I so rarely get to see and get to know.

Thank you to all that had anything to do with setting up the conference and presenting to adults as well as a big thanks to all that took on the children's sessions keeping them safe and wonderfully occupied!

I am already looking forward to next year...  so set the date on your calendar if you want to go!  People have come from all over the United States, even Canada! It's so worth it! It is to be held two weeks AFTER Pascha next year - April 23rd- 26th!!!  I hear  a certain father may be giving a talk just for Dads!  And I'm sure, as always, there will be lots of good sessions to choose from!  Will I see you there??

This past Monday marked the first day of Great Lent.  Lent is a spiritual journey leading us to Pascha (Easter).  At Pascha we celebrate Christ's resurrection not as a mere historical event but as something that not only happened, but something that continues to happen to us!  In Christ's resurrection, He enables us to walk in the newness of life.  All of us received the gift of new life and we each have the ability to accept the gift and live by it.

While there are 6 weeks and Holy Week to prepare us for Pascha there are also 5 weeks to prepare us for Lent - each dedicated to a fundamental aspect of repentance:

  1.   Sunday of Zacchaeus  (Luke 19: 1-10) - focusing on the desire to do the right thing
  2.  Sunday of the Publican & The Pharisee  (Luke 18:10-14) - focusing on humility
  3.  Sunday of  the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) - focusing on return from exile or repentance
  4. Meat- Fare Sunday (Matthew 25: 31-46) -  focusing on The Last Judgment & Christian Love
  5.  Cheese-Fare Sunday (Matthew 6:14-21) - focusing on Forgiveness

Lent actually begins during Vespers on Forgiveness Sunday, also known as Cheese-Fare Sunday.  This is one of my favorite services of the season.   It begins with a solemn Vespers service, but when the announcement of the evening Prokeimenon is made (usually symbolizing the end of one day and the beginning of another), it is also the beginning of Lent. At the end of this service, all of the faithful go up to the priest, one by one, and the priest and each person ask one another for mutual forgiveness, and continue around the church asking each person present for mutual forgiveness.

Each Lent I make goals for the Lenten Season.  Last  year, I didn't fare so well.  Hopefully this year will be better.  My personal goals involve reading -  I had actually started the reading during the two weeks prior to Lent beginning so hopefully I will attain the goals! The books I am reading for Lent are as follows:

1.  Help! I'm Bored In Church : Entering Fully Into The Divine Liturgy  - I'm not sure that I would say I am bored in Church, but I do feel that the last year or so have taken its effect on me and that I am not as attentive as I should be.  I'm hoping this book, written by an Orthodox Priest,  will help refocus me.  I'm not that far into it but am enjoying it thus far.

2.  Forgive Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hurt and Hate - I saw this book 'advertised' on a blog site and couldn't resist.  It is said to help forgiveness with all relationships, not just parental figures.  So far, I'd say it is well written.

3.  One Thousand Gifts Devotional - I read One Thousand Gifts a couple of years ago for Lent and began my own gratitude journal.  I have not yet reached 1000 but am working on it!  This devotional covers 60 reflections including one on anxiety that really spoke to me!

4.  Great Lent:  Journey To Pascha -  I have tried to read this one several times...for some reason I never seem to get through it- another reason I started early this year!  I am already through the parts I've read before so it's looking good! 🙂

4.  The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Woman's Monastery  -  Assuming I finish the first two on the list, this is the next in line for me.  It's been on my Amazon wish list and I finally bought it.  Apparently, the author,  Constantina Palmer made frequent pilgrimages to a women's monastery in Greece and writes of the nuns' particular approach to their spiritual life.  It sounds magnificent!

5.  The Gospel of Luke: Good News for the Poor - I doubt that I will finish this bible commentary by Lawrence Farley during Lent but I haven't read one in a while and decided Lent was a good time to do so!  I only read a few segments a day because I like to mull it over before going on.

What goals or activities do you like to do during Lent as you prepare for Pascha (Easter)?

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"Christians should know better than this; God doesn't judge one person against another, he doesn't grade on a curve. Yet we find it desperately hard to believe that we're really truly sinners, because we see people so much worse than us every day in the newspaper. In comparison to them, we're just so gosh-darn nice." ~ Frederica Mathewes-Green

I think this is true for all of us. Rather than humbly looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves as the sinners we truly are, we attempt to visually better ourselves by comparing ourselves to others around us rather than to our Holy God.  It's easier to look at the paper and read an article about a murderer and think, "Well I haven't done anything that bad" and thereby make ourselves less of a sinner.  We walk down the street and hear a group of not so pleasing to the eye men (you know, the ones with their undergarments sticking out, gold chains hanging, dangling earrings, and holding the liquor bottles) swearing up a storm and think, "Well, at least I don't act like that!" Even in our own homes - we judge a spouse by something they have or have not done and think..."Hmpf... I never did that to them."  Does all of this judging of others make us less of a sinner?  The fact that we haven't killed, sworn while holding a liquor bottle on a street corner, done a particular thing that our spouse has done to us, become a terrorist or we don't stay home from church every Sunday - does this make us less of a sinner than everyone else?

We must stop comparing ourselves to other humans.  We must stop judging them and begin to judge our own sins- leading us to true repentance.  Once we stop judging and decide it is God that we must compare ourselves to and be repentful for our sins, we can approach Him and acquire an illumined heart.  As Fredrica continues to write, "Once we really decide that it is God Himself we want to approach, repentance comes to feel like a clarifying, tough- minded friend."

I was reading a friend's blog post the other day.  It was about Frederica Mathewes-Green. Frederica Mathewes-Green is a popular Orthodox Christian writer.  She also writes for Beliefnet, Christianity Today, and NPR's All Things Considered among others. She describes herself as a  "women's libber" and "mother-earth hippie" turned pro-life activist and Orthodox Christian.  I have read and loved many of Frederica's books.  The one I quoted from, above, is titled The Illumined Heart; Capture The Vibrant Faith of Ancient Christians.  It's a small book - only 102 pocket-size pages....so if you are into short and easy to read books but full of deep meaning, this is the one to read! I find her books captivating and highly informative without being overwhelming to myself as a overtired mamma who just can't always absorb materials written by those (however amazing) high thinkers who frankly, just go right over my head sometimes! LOL

The following is a link to my friend's blog post. This post talks about Frederica Mathewes-Green and her current project. I hope you will take a moment to read the post and watch the video about the documentary that is being attempted. It would be a wonderful project if they are able to raise the funds in time! http://deepinthestax.blogspot.com/2014/01/frederica-life-and-work-of-frederica.html

Once there, click on the link to the documentary.  It should lead you here.

If you care to listen to a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio by Frederica, you can do that here.

Find your way to an illumined heart and enjoy your day 🙂

Random Thoughts On A Saturday:

  • Shouldn't all librarians know when the ALA awards have been announced and what the Caldecott winner is?  (shaking head)
  •  If you are a writer and don't already know it, you can find very valuable information and insight at Kristin Lamb's blog - check it out if you haven't already done so!
  • Erich Fromm wrote in The At of Loving that children have two needs: milk and honey (from their parents) - the milk meaning care to their physical needs and the honey being the sweetness of life and the things that make life enjoyable.
  • Hot chocolate is a necessity in life...really, it is 😉
  • I'm told I need to prioritize things in life....the things I want to do and figure out what can I let go of?  Let go??  How does one do that?  Sigh...  I just want balance.
  • Today's post is #150 !  🙂