THE WORD MAGAZINE MARCH, 1980 PAGE 23-24
ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN YEAR
by father stephen upson
THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
The First Sunday in Lent is called Orthodoxy Sunday, because on this day each year is celebrated the Feast in honor of the restoration of the use of icons, or holy pictures, in the Church. This Feast was first celebrated on March 11, 843, when after more than a century of controversy the Byzantine Empress Theodora finally brought about a restoration of the icons. The First Sunday of Lent has been kept as an anniversary of Orthodoxy ever since that time, because those who had wished to do away with the pictures were also desirous of modifying the Orthodox Faith; the icons were and are a symbol of the Orthodox Faith, and no Orthodox Church is without them.
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
The second Sunday of Lent commemorates St. Gregory Palamas, a monk of Mt. Athos, who about 1350 became Archbishop of Salonika in Greece. St. Gregory was a famous ascetic who developed a system of mystical contemplation aimed at promoting union with God. His ideas found favor among the Eastern monks, and in 1368, eight years after his death, he was declared a Saint by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Philotheos, who had convened a Council to consider his life and works. From that time to the present, he has been remembered every year on the Second Sunday of Lent.
THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
The Third Sunday of Lent marks the middle of the Lenten period. This day is dedicated to the Holy Cross, and the ceremonial of the day is similar to that of Holy Cross Day, September 14. At the end of the Liturgy, the Cross is carried in procession on a tray of flowers, and placed on a table in the center of the Church.
The Priest stands before the table and raises the Cross aloft, praying for the welfare of all Orthodox Christians. He circles the table, stopping at each side and raising and lowering the Cross, and praying in turn for the government of the land, for the Armed Forces, for the Archbishop, and for all Orthodox clergy.
After the prayers the blessed flowers are distributed to the people, in token of the refreshing beauty and strength which comes from the Cross of Christ, and to encourage them in the midst of the Lenten fast.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
The Fourth Sunday of Lent celebrates the memory of the famous Saint and ascetic, St. John of the Ladder, who was head of the monastery located on Mt. Sinai, where he died in 605 A.D. St. John got his name from a famous book of spiritual exercises which he wrote and entitled ‘The Ladder of Perfection,” and which he intended to serve as a means of climbing spiritually from earth to heaven.
St. John’s regular Feast Day falls on March 30; his commemoration on the Fourth Sunday of Lent as well probably had its origin in the fact that his book of spiritual directions was read in the monasteries during the Lenten period, and that he was regarded as one of the greatest monastic ascetics.
SATURDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
The Service prescribed for the Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent is that of the AKATHISTOS HYMN, a devotion in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This Service consists of the recitation of Little Compline, with which is combined a series of special hymns in honor of Mary.
Present custom. is to hold the service on each of the first five Friday evenings of Lent. The Akathistos Hymn itself is divided into four parts, and on each of the first four Friday evenings a successive part is sung, and on the fifth Friday evening the whole hymn is performed.
The Akathistos Hymn was composed as an offering of thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin in the year 626 A.D. In that year the Persians and Avars attacked the city of Constantinople and besieged it. The Patriarch Sergius led the despairing people in a great procession round the walls of the city, singing and bearing with them icons of the Lord and His Mother. Strengthened by their devotion, and aided by a tempest which sprang up and wrecked many ships of the fleet drawn up before the city, the inhabitants sallied forth and put the invaders to flight. They considered their deliverance all the more miraculous because the Emperor Heraclius was absent on a campaign with the major part of his army.
In thanksgiving the people gathered in the great Church of the Holy Wisdom, and stood the whole night through singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving. The word “Akathiston” means “not sitting,” and it is still customary for the congregation to stand while the stanzas of the hymn are being sung. The Akathistos Hymn is one of the great devotional compositions of Christian hymnography and has been translated into many languages. It is often used as a Service of Intercession to the Blessed Virgin, and is sung in all Orthodox Churches during Lent.
THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
– On the Fifth Sunday of Lent is commemorated St. Mary of Egypt. one of the most famous women penhents of Christian history. Her story is told in the Menaion, on April 1. her Feast Day. She is called to remembrance on the Fifth Sunday of Lent as well, not only because of her ascetic life, but in order that the example of her repentance may have a salutary effect on the faithful, and urge them to similar sincere repentance of their misdoings.
The day before Palm Sunday is LAZARUS SATURDAY, on which is celebrated Christ’s raising of Lazarus from the dead (St. John 11:1-45). The miraculous raising of Lazarus is regarded as a presagmg of Christ’s Resurrection, and the promised Resurrection of all those who believe in Him.
PALM SUNDAY commemorates the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, just before the Jewish Passover, which He came to observe with His disciples. The story is told in the Matin Gospel for the day (St. Matthew 21:1-17). As Jesus entered the city, the people met Him with shouts of joy, and spread palm branches before Him as He rode through the city. They greeted Him as a king, come to set the people of Israel free from bondage. The palm branches they used were an ancient symbol of victory; today they symbolize Christ’s triumph over death.
On Palm Sunday the Priest blesses the palms and they are distributed to the people. At the end of the Liturgy there is a procession around the church; they carry the palm branches and sing the Palm Sunday Hymn: “Before thy Passion, 0 Christ our God, Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead, assuring us of a common resurrection; wherefore we also, like the children bearing the emblems of victory, cry out unto Thee, the Conqueror of Death: Hosanna in the Highest: Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord!”
A Lenten Discipline
Overcoming Anger: Love, Action, and Likeness of Christ
by The Rev. George Morelli, Ph.D.
THE WORD MAGAZINE
Mankind is created in the image of God and as Christians we are called by God to be like Him. The essence of this likeness of Christ is to love. Our Lord tells us, “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another”, (John 13, 34-35). What greater love could the Father have for us that even though He is God, nevertheless, sent His Son to take on our nature so we — all mankind, in fact, the entire universe, be lifted up to Him? Listen to some of the things Our Lord has told us about Love: “If you forgive the faults of others your Heavenly Father will forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you”, (Matthew 6, 14-15). “My Son your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). “If you want to avoid judgment, stop passing judgment” (Matthew 7:1).
How do we achieve this love shown to us by the Father and his Son, Our Lord,Jesus Christ. So Paul tells us what to do. “Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:31). Our calling as part of God’s creation, as a member of Christ’s Body, the Church, is to grow and actualize ourselves; to find those imperfections in us that are barriers preventing us from being “like God”; that prevent us from loving and forgiving. In keeping with St. Paul’s words, our emotions, such as anger, is just such an imperfection or barrier. By making ourselves less angry, we can grow in the love of God and our neighbor.
Some current findings from behavioral science research can help us to understand how anger comes about and what we can do to overcome and prevent anger. The Cognitive — Behavioral Model of Emotional Dysfunction (Beck, Rush, Shaw and Emery, 1979; Ellis 1962) has been shown to be effective in dealing with anger. According to this model, emotions such as anger, are produced by distorted or irrational beliefs, attitudes and cognitions. Situations (something that someone has said or done or events that have happened) do not produce or cause our upset. We upset ourselves over people and events, thereby make ourselves angry, anxious or depressed. If our thinking is clear, rational and nondistorted we have normal feelings like annoyance, concern and disappointment.
There are seven cognitive distortions. Selective Abstraction is focusing on one event while excluding others. A mother, for example, pays attention to the “D” on her son’s report card while ignoring the “A’s” and “B’s”. Arbitrary Inference is drawing a conclusion unwarranted by the facts in an ambiguous situation. For example, a parishioner says “Hello” to the Pastor in the Church Hall; the Pastor doesn’t reply; the person concludes that the Pastor doesn’t like him or her. Personalization, an event occurs that you conclude is directed to you personally. A patron in a busy restaurant feels the waiter is purposely not waiting on his or her table. Polarization is the tendency to see things in all-or-nothing terms. Cynthia, a college student, feels that if she passes an examination she would be brilliant but if she fails she would be stupid. Generalization is the tendency to see things in always or never categories. A husband feels his wife will always be inconsiderate and never change. Demanding Expectations, the belief that there are laws or rules that must or have to be obeyed. A mother believes her son should nor talk back because she is his mother (Note: God gave us free will, he asks us to obey his commandments. Like Christ, parents can prefer and constructively work toward obedience from their children. A program of rewards for appropriate behavior and punishment, without anger, for inappropriate behavior would be constructive.). Catastrophizing, the perception that something is more than 100% bad, terrible or awful. In the example above, the mother feels that it is terrible, the end of the world, that her son answered back.
After recognizing and labeling our cognitive distortions, we can restructure them. There are three questions that lead to restructuring: 1.) Where is the evidence? 2.) Is there any other way of looking at it?
3.) Is it as bad as it seems? Using these questions, some rational responses to the examples above might be: “True, my son got aD, but he also received some A’s and B’s” (Selective Abstraction); “Father didn’t say Hello, he may not like me, but maybe he has some thing on his mind and he didn’t hear me” (Arbitrary Inference): “The waiter is so busy with the other tables, maybe he doesn’t even see me” (Personalization); “If I fail the examination it doesn’t mean I am stupid, all it means is that I did not do quite as well as I would have liked to” (Polarization); “My wife has been inconsiderate up to now, but possibly if we go to counseling we can learn how to deal with the problem” (Generalization);” I prefer that my son not talk back to me, let me praise him when he talks correctly and fine him a nickel whenever he talks back” (Demanding Expectations). In addition to the above restructuring questions, the “Mental-Ruler Technique” (Burns, 1980) is particularly helpful in dealing with catastrophizing. The situation is evaluated on a 0 to 100 scale, with 0 being the most pleasant thing you could picture happening to you. People infrequently have trouble imaging a very pleasant event (0). Sitting on a sun drenched tropical beach is typical. People frequently need help imaging a “graphic” worst event (100). Use of an example, such as the particularly horrifying death of a medical missionary in Southeast Asia several years ago can be a help. After starvation failed to kill this individual, his captors placed chopsticks in his ears and hammered them in, a little each day, until the chopsticks penetrated his brain and the missionary died. Using the “Mental-Ruler Technique” and the restructuring questions, it can be seen that the mother whose son answered back is surely not the same as chopsticks in the ears, in fact, it is probably no more than a 10 or 20 (Catastrophizing).
These techniques have to be applied rigorously and consistently. They should be used whenever we find ourselves starting to become angry. One helpful way is to excuse yourself and leave the room for a few minutes to collect your thoughts (Petition Our Lord’s help and restructure). This “time-out” can be accomplished by something as simple as going to the restroom. Restructuring should also take place during evening prayer. This active approach toward our becoming like Christ is our vocation as Christians. St. James tells us, “So you see, then, it is his actions that a person is put right with God, not by his faith alone” (James 2:24). All the wishing or prayer we do, if it does not lead us to actively make ourselves like Christ, is empty.
“Since you are God’s dear children, you must try to be like him. Your life must be controlled by love. . .“ (Ephesians 5:1-2). Work, vivified by prayer and the sacraments, is the way to advance in our likeness of Christ. Only then will we be able to say with Christ: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23;34).
Beck, D., Rush, A., Shaw, B., and Emery, G. (1979) Cognitive Therapy of Depression.
New York: Guilford Press.
Burns, D. (1980) Feeling Good. New York:
New American Library.
Ellis, A. (1962) Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. New York: Lyle- Stuart.
Father Morelli is assistant pastor at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Brooklyn, New York. He is a Professor of Psychology at Kean College of the State of New Jersey, Chief of Behavior Therapy at Memorid Hospital in Union, New Jersey and has a private practice. Father George was converted through contact with Father Alexander Schmemann and while his doctorate is in Psychology, he is a careful student of Orthodox Theology.
ALMSGIVING IS CHRISTIAN!
THE WORD MAGAZINE
My state (Indiana) unfortunately kept up with the Jones’ this year and instituted a state lottery like our neighboring states and many states throughout the U.S.A. and Canada. The whole lottery craze is unfortunate for several reasons. Even this minor type of gambling is for many people the first step down the path of gambling addiction which destroys so many families. Lotteries also reinforce the sad American propensity to be greedy — to thinking that being wealthy is what really matters and that a lot of money will make us happy.
The worst thing about lotteries, however, is the fact that even the small amounts of money usually thrown away on them could be so much better used, especially by Orthodox Christians. They could be better used in almsgiving.
Almsgiving, a very important spiritual practice in the Orthodox tradition, is when we give to those in need. Almsgiving is different than our regular tithes and offerings given to the Church. For that giving we can expect a concrete payback-a church building, pastoral services, etc. When we give alms to the needy, we don’t expect to ever be paid back in any physical way.
The giving of alms may be through one of the fine benevolent programs of the Archdiocese as “Food for Hungry People”, or our local parishes, it may be through a charity group outside the Church, or it may be a matter of giving a dollar to a homeless person on the street. It is giving to those in need, whoever or wherever they are.
There are two main reasons why we should give alms. The first reason is to help others. The second reason is to help ourselves.
The first reason, helping others, is rather obvious. There are many people in need in our world those that are starving in distant lands, victims of natural disaster in our own land, and those in our own communities who have not enough to get by on. They need help and we have more than we need. Therefore, we should do something to help them.
Our words about how sad it is that there are needy people won’t help them — our actions can. As St.James wrote in James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”
God has commanded us to love one another. If we love one another, then we must help each other out in times of need.
The second reason to give alms is to help ourselves. No, the money isn’t going to come back to us with interest so that we’ll make a profit in the long run. However, there are some very real paybacks from giving alms.
First, there’s a payback in this life in spiritual growth. The Church Fathers are unanimous that almsgiving is one of the best ways to work on becoming a mature and healthy Christian and that’s a very good payback indeed!
Why is giving our money away so spiritually healthy? Because we all greatly love money and what it does for us. Giving some of it away is hard. It’s one of the most direct and concrete ways of practicing self-denial, of taking up our cross and following Christ. What hurts is often healthy for us. Giving away our money hurts bad — and it’s very healthy!
Do you wish to grow spiritually? Start giving money to the poor and you will as long as you’re careful to heed one warning given by our Lord. Give in such a way that others don’t know about it and so that even your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is doing. Guard against pride and showing off or you’ll end up worse off than ever.
The second payback we get from giving alms comes after this life is over. The Scriptures say that on Judgment Day we will answer for every word and deed in this life. That sounds quite frightening, but the Fathers say there will be someone to stand up for us and defend us on that day before the dread judgment seat of Christ. The Fathers say the beggars we have given to in this life will speak for us and plead for mercy for us. They will argue that we can’t be all bad because we helped them in their time of need.
Our Lord, in Luke 16, tells about a steward of a rich man’s money who was about to lose his job. Before he lost his job he lowered the debts of those who owed his master so that they would help him when he was out of work. At the end of verse 9, Christ said, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may welcome you into everlasting habitations.” When we think about going to heaven we usually think about being greeted by the saints and the angels. Christ says here that someone else will also greet us — the poor whom we have helped.
Is the thought of facing judgment frightening? It should be! But our Lord and the Fathers agree that one way to prepare ourselves is by giving alms now so that the recipients will be there to speak up for us on that day.
God gives generously to us. He gives us life. He gives us salvation in Jesus Christ. He gives us the food we eat. He gives us the air we breath. Let us, in gratitude, give to others who are in need. In doing so, we are giving back to God. Our Lord, in Matthew 25, says that when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison, we are actually doing it to Him. Let us be eager to serve our Lord in this way.
The next time the media bombards you with pleas to spend a dollar on a lottery ticket with the small chance of being a big winner, think twice. How much better to use that dollar for alms — then both you and the recipient will be sure winners and the name of Jesus Christ will be glorified.
—Father Andrew Harmon Bloomington, Indiana