Today is sometimes referred to as the “Third Saturday of Souls” because the Church offers a memorial service at the end of Divine Liturgy. Technically speaking, it is not a Saturday of Souls, as only two days each year have that designation, on the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday and the Saturday before Pentecost. As we complete the first week of the Fast, the Church commemorates a historical miracle of faith. The Miracle of the Kollyva in 362AD, at the hands of Saint Theodore the Recruit, saved the faithful from defilement on the first week of Great Lent, thus we offer a memorial today.
Today is only the fifth day of Great Lent, and I for one have already fallen short. I didn’t say all the prayers I wanted to say. I didn’t fast quite like I planned to fast. I failed to pick up the Holy Scriptures like I wanted to this week. Well….that didn’t take long, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Sin has been a long-term problem with humanity, and today’s reading from Genesis reminds us just how ancient our struggle is.
Today is day four of the Great Fast, and I am already feeling better physically. I am less tired. I have more energy. I am sleeping better. Just after a few days of fasting, I have already noticed my body is reacting positively, and I am thankful. Even the prayers of the Church recognize there is both a spiritual and physical reality to fasting.
Now that Great Lent is upon us and the Church offers the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evening, the question of fasting and Holy Communion again raises to the surface. On Sunday we know (provided we are healthy and no other prohibitions from our doctor regarding fasting) that we should refrain from all food and drink until after we receive Holy Communion on Sunday mornings. But what if we are planning on receiving Holy Communion on Wednesday night, when should we fast?
Today is the second day of the Great Fast, and many are tempted already to search for that perfect gimmick that will make the Great Lenten Journey fun “fun for the whole family”. This might especially be true for those new Orthodox families who remember events such as “funny hats Sunday” or “wear blue days” during which days the pastor might even pass out rewards for the best hat.
On the last day before Holy and Great Lent, the Sunday of Forgiveness, Saint Paul reminds us, “Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” His urgent message for us should remind us that the time is now for us to get ready for the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord says, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Don’t put it off any longer. The time is NOW.
The following are some suggested guidelines for Great Lent this year.
If you currently do not fast regularly or at all… abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays
If you currently fast from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays… abstain from meat every day during Great Lent
If you currently fast… increase your fasting one “level” this year following the example above beginning with Wednesdays and Fridays.
During Great Lent this year, please consider joining our efforts to help other Live A New Life In Christ. Your 2019 Lenten Donation will help us grow our ministry for the glory of God.
When Christ returns, He will separate the sheep from the goats – the righteous from the condemned. The righteous will inherit the kingdom of heaven because they served others as if they were serving Christ Himself. The condemned, the goats, were only willing to help Christ, but couldn’t see Him in others. Each human being is created in the image of God, and only when we can see each other as Christ and serve others as if we are serving Christ, will we be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. That is judgment.
Whether we admit it or not, we all want to know what heaven is going to be like, and we hope we “get in” so we can have something to look forward to when we die. On the Third Sunday of the Triodion, known as Judgment Sunday, we hear an answer from Christ Himself, this time without parables. He speaks directly about the future judgment.