Lent/ The Great Fast: Holy Week What’s Love Got To Do With It? (Part Two)

 

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Lead me on
Lead me on
To a place where the river runs
Into your keeping, oh.

Lead me on
Lead me on
The awaited deliverance
Comforts the seeking, lead on

-Amy Grant. “Lead Me On”.

(Note: All of the Lectionary (Scripture readings for the week) come from the website of the Byzantine Catholic Church of America. If you are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or other denomination that follows a Lectionary, please refer to your respective Diocese/Eparchy/Church bulletin for the readings of the week)

Here are the readings for Holy Week:

Great and Holy Week  
Saturday of Saint Lazarus the Righteous Hebrews 12:28-13:8

John 11:1-45

The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem: Flowery (Palm) Sunday Vespers:

Genesis 49:1,2,8-12

Zephaniah 3:14-19

Zechariah 9:9-15

Matins:

Matthew 21:1-11,15-17

Liturgy:

Philippians 4:4-9

John 12:1-18

Great and Holy Monday

 

During the first three days of Holy Week there is a custom in some places of reading the whole of the four Gospels, with the exception of the Passion account from John, divided between the Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours. The readings given immediately below for these days are optional.

 

Third Hour: Matthew 1:1 to 14:21 – Sixth Hour: Matthew 14:22-28 – Ninth Hour: Mark 1:1-8:34

Matins:

Matthew 21:18-43

Sixth Hour:

Ezekiel 1:1-20

Vespers (Presanctified):

Exodus 1:1-20

Job 1:1-12

Matthew 24:3-35

Great and Holy Tuesday

 

Third Hour: Mark 8:34-15:40 – Sixth Hour: Luke 1:1-8:39 – Ninth Hour: Luke 8:40-14:24

Matins:

Matthew 22:15-23:39

Sixth Hour

Ezekiel 1:21-2:1

Vespers (Presanctified):

Exodus 2:5-10

Job 1:13-22

Matthew 24:36-26:2

Great and Holy Wednesday

 

Third Hour: Luke 14:24-25:53 – Sixth Hour: John 1:1-6:47 – Ninth Hour: John 6:48-12:50

 

On Great and Holy Wednesday night it is customary to celebrate the Service of Holy Anointing. There are seven epistles and seven Gospels for this service. Those references are not given here.

Matins:

John 12:17-50

Sixth Hour:

Ezekiel 2:3-3:3

Vespers (Presanctified):

Exodus 2:11-22

Job 2:1-10

Matthew 26:6-16

Great and Holy Thursday Matins:

Luke 22:1-39

First Hour:

Jeremiah 11:18-12:5,9-11,14,15

Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil:

Exodus 19:10-19

Job 38:1-23; 42:1-5

Isaiah 50:4-11

1 Corinthians 11:23-32

Matthew 26:1-20; John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:21-39; Luke, 22:43-45; Matthew 26:40-27:2 (Composite Reading)

 

Holy Friday (Thursday Evening)

Matins – The Twelve Passion Gospels:

1) John 13:31-18:1

2) John 18:1-28

3) Matthew 26:57-75

4) John 18:28-19:16

5) Matthew 27:3-32

6) Mark 15:16-32

7) Matthew 27:33-54

8) Luke 23:32-49

9) John 19:25-37

10) Mark 15:43-47

11) John 19:38-42

12) Matthew 27:62-66

Great and Holy Friday First Royal Hour:

Zechariah 11:10-13

Galatians 6:14-18

Matthew 27:1-56

Third Royal Hour:

Isaiah 50:4-11

Romans 5:6-11

Mark 15:16-41

Sixth Royal Hour:

Isaiah 52:13-54:1

Hebrews 2:11-18

Luke 23:32-49

Ninth Royal Hour:

Jeremiah 11:18-23; 12:15,9-11,14,15

Hebrews 10:19-31

John 18:28-19:37

Vespers:

Exodus 33:11-23

Job 42:12-16

Isaiah 52:13-54:1

1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2

Matthew 27:1-38; Luke 23:39-43; Matthew 27:39-54; John 19:31-37; Matthew 27:55-61 (Composite Reading)

Great and Holy Saturday Matins:

Ezekiel 37:1-14

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 3:13,14 (Composite Reading)

Matthew 27:62-66

Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil:

1) Genesis 1:1-13

2) Isaiah 60:1-16

3) Exodus 12:1-11

4) The Book of Jonah

5) Joshua 5:10-15

6) Exodus 13:20-15:19

7) Zephaniah 3:8-15

8) 1 Kings 17:8-24

9) Isaiah 61:10-62:5

10) Genesis 22:1-18

11) Isaiah 61:1-9

12) 2 Kings 4:8-37

13) Isaiah 63:11-64:5

14) Jeremiah 31:31-34

15) Daniel 3:1-90

 

Romans 6:3-11

Matthew 28:1-20

 

Over the last several weeks of out Lenten/Great Fast season, I have talked about the four “simple gifts” or guides as it were, in order to help us as we follow Jesus Christ along the way to His Passion. Now, here we are at Holy Week, standing at the entrance of Jerusalem and entering in, knowing that our “journey of a thousand steps” as Lao Tzu would put it, is nearly at an end. Yet, I hope that the use of the gifts I’ve mentioned has helped you endure this long forty-day discipline.

Last week, I described love as not necessarily a feeling. There may indeed be feelings associated with love, but it is not the only (or within Christendom) the highest of all values when it comes down to it. In fact, I argued that the true measure of love is not as a feeling, but of a person, which I described God as Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). For love can never operate singularly, but requires something outside itself with which it inhabits and reaches out for the greater good of that which encounters it. As I said, love is a Person: God.

Today, I want to point out a simple fact about our simple gifts (Prayer, Contrition (Penance), Fellowship, and Faith). Each of these “tools” are in fact Christocentric. That is, what we use during the Lenten/Great Fast season, are parts of the life of Christ and are intimately connected with Who He is.

Let us look at each of the four to see this:

 

Prayer-Both in its petitionary and worship senses, prayer is a communication between us and our heart’s desire, that is, Christ Himself. It is also entering into the greater part of the life of Christ and His church.

Contrition (Penance)-Contrition is the direct relationship between not only us and Christ, but is the very meaning behind Lent/The Great Fast. Our desire to be forgiven is bent towards Christ, as His Atonement for our sins is bent towards us

Fellowship-Properly understood, Fellowship bonds us as a single family towards the Single Family that is God. It is also a singular goal, that our eyes be fixed on Jesus. Fellowship also strengthens our purpose by fortifying each other’s resolve to not fall behind nor fall away from Jesus. A bond is only as good as the cause. In this case, the cause is God through Jesus Christ Himself. The Fellowship, this bond, is caught up with Christ as its focus.

Faith-Neither blind nor weak, Faith is the confidence we have in the consistent grounding of the Great “I am” (Exodus 3:14), God Himself. In Christ, we have a confidence that He has done and will do what He has promised. This confidence is centered on the reality of Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and God,“…before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

So in effect, all the of four gifts are not only pointing towards Christ, they are themselves Christocentric. While we are walking the discipline of Lent/The Great Fast we are also walking with Christ through these gifts, which is why I call them our “simple gifts”, because in the final analysis, Jesus Christ is always there with us, walking with us deep inside towards Holy Week.

This is true love. We give up our sometimes half hearted selves and He gives His all, literally.

In one sense, during all of Lent/The Great Fast, we become partakers of Christ’s story from the beginning to the end of this season, into Holy Week, and beyond. In another sense, just using these four gifts, we become imitators of the twelve Apostles and all who followed Him. Like the Apostles, we each experience in certain ways, unique to every individual, the amazement at His sayings and doings, as well as struggle with the exhaustion and doubts, the unsettling witnessing of things Christ encountered and answered in word and deed. Perhaps at times on our Lenten journey, we, like the prophets of the Old Testament, look towards heaven and proclaim wearily, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,  and thou wilt not hear?…” (Habakkuk 1:2). This too is part of the Lenten season. And these wanderings are love’s cry to the One he or she longs for. This longing too is what we should expect from this time. We, after all, are walking the Scriptures with people who had the same questions and the same expectations. Lent/The Great Fast is part trial, reliving the Gospel message, and encountering Love as a person.

For my Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends, our entrance into Jerusalem is one we encounter every week when we go to Mass (Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities) when we encounter the Eucharist, or when we gather for service in prayer with each other and engaging in Scripture. But only at this time of the year, are our encounters so acute. We should experience more strongly the intrinsic value of our encounter with Jesus Christ during Holy week.  Whether during the  Mass/Divine Liturgy or at church services among non-Catholic communities, I hope we mourn our sin, receive our salvation, and with hope in our eyes, anxiously await the conviction that He is Who He says He is. The culmination of His claim lies in the Cross which we struggle to comprehend and appreciate, even in the twenty first century.

So when we encounter our Lord through the Eucharist, let us be aware of these facts and make our hearts tender, knowing that Jesus Christ had His own heart tendered, rent in two, as he suffered a most painful, tortuous, and ignoble death. This week, Love Himself will pour out love or the sake of mankind.

And for my Evangelical, Non-Denominational, and Protestant friends, I would wholeheartedly recommend that you read the Passion narratives. They are:

While reading these narratives, imagine yourself in Palestine in 33 A.D. Imagine Jerusalem open to the crowds with you among them with Christ just ahead, riding an ass. You like the others have palm branches in your hand. Go through each part of the Passion story with you in the center of the scene. Who are you? One of the Apostles? Perhaps you are one that Christ has healed in His ministry. Or maybe you are one of those who are not sure, or maybe you are one who’s heart has yet to be swayed. All of these are possible. Our Lenten journey should be an honest one. One of constant conversion. After all, in each and every one of us is a part of ourselves which needs the illuminating light of God to shine in the open and to bring conversion about. This kind of exercise is called “recollection” and our meditation in the readings can open us up to what God wants to show in our lives. He wants our Lenten journey to be intimate with Him. You can do recollection at any time in the year, but especially in Lent/The Great Fast, where we encounter a special intimacy with Him.

To all my Christian friends, I would suggest you to be in prayer, both public and private. Continue on your almsgiving and fasting. This is the perfect time to connect with people in sharing the love of God. Reach out to family and friends. Reach out to that homeless person or lonely figure you keep seeing in your neighborhood, echoing Isaiah, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).

And if you stand tired of this long journey, or have just met us at the entrance, be heartened. God Himself will stand right beside you throughout Holy Week. Remember, the Prodigal was met from the [F]ather when he saw his son from afar (Luke 15: 20). For the truth of Lent/The Great Fast is that we share this journey of a thousand miles as an eternal journey with God, for we will never be able to exhaust His Grace we long for. And that should bring comfort indeed.

This began with the beat of our hearts approximately forty days ago come the evening of Holy Thursday this week. Then we took a single step. Now we have taken several. We journey because we long to have communion with Love Himself: Jesus Christ.

May the final journey of Lent/Great Fast during this Holy Week be a blessing to you all.

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