The doors of repentance are opening, Great Lent is beginning. Every year Great Lent is repeated, and each time it brings us great benefit if we spend it as we should. It is a preparation for the life to come and, more immediately, a preparation for the Bright Resurrection.
Just as a stairway is built into a tall building in order to enable one, by climbing the steps, to easily reach the top, so too, the various days in the year serve as steps for our spiritual ascent.
This is especially true of the days of Great Lent and Holy Pascha.
Saint Mark of Ephesus is one of the Patron Saints of Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE – Pan-Orthodox Christian Society Movement.
Commemorated on January 19
St. Mark (nee Emmanuel) was born of pious parents in 1392 in the queen of cities, Constantinople. His father was called George and was the Chief Justice of Sakellion and deacon of the Great Church, his mother was Maria, the daughter of the pious doctor Luka.
Both parents tried and succeeded in raising little Emmanuel in teaching and upbringing in the Lord. But the death of their father left him and his younger brother John orphans at a tender age.
Today, January 14 on the Serbian Church’s calendar we celebrate the memory of the Holy Hierarch Sava (1176-1235), ‘Venerable Holy Father and First Archbishop and Eternal Enlightener of the Serbs’ and ‘the greatest of Serbian national saints’. Fr. Daniel Rogich calls him ‘the most beloved of all Serbian Orthodox saints, considered by all Serbs everywhere and at all times as the ultimate expression and example of what it means to be fully human, that is, what it means to be a devout and committed follower of Jesus Christ.’ Sir Dimitri Obolensky has said of St. Sava:
The historian who attempts to write the life of this central figure in Serbia’s medieval history may well feel apprehensive at the sheer range of Sava’s activities. He will be discouraged by his many guises: successively a provincial governor, an Athonite monk, and an archbishop; a diplomat entrusted with delicate missions by his brother the king; a founder of several monasteries and the organizer of their liturgical life and discipline; a legislator in the field of canon law; the first primate of Serbia’s autonomous Church; a voyager on the pilgrim-routes of the eastern Mediterranean; his country’s earliest articulate writer; the focus of a posthumous cult that spread throughout the Balkan peninsula and even captured some of its Muslim population later on; Serbia’s unrivalled patron saint; a semi-legendary figure right down to the present day, celebrated in folklore, poetry, and song; his mythopoeic sway must be unique in eastern Europe; and all this, and a wider compass still, are there to daunt his biographer.
We shall now say something about the present feast. Many celebrate the feastdays and know their designations, but the cause for which they were established they know not. Thus concerning this, that the present feast is called Theophany—everyone knows; but what this is—Theophany, and whether it be one thing or another, they know not. And this is shameful—every year to celebrate the feastday and not know its reason.
First of all therefore, it is necessary to say that there is not one Theophany, but two: the one actual, which already has occurred, and the second in future, which will happen with glory at the end of the world. About this one and about the other you will hear today from Paul, who in conversing with Titus, speaks thus about the present: The grace of God hath revealed itself, having saved all mankind, decreeing, that we reject iniquity and worldly desires, and dwell in the present age in prudence and in righteousness and piety—and about the future: Awaiting the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit 2:11-13). And a prophet speaks thus about this latter: The sun shalt turn to darkness, and the moon to blood at first, then shalt come the great and illuminating Day of the Lord (Joel 2:31).
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
“They will sing Pascha in the summer,” they once said in Sarov. Seventy years passed from the death of the man about whom these words were pronounced, and on July 19, 1903, all of Rus’ resounded with hymns of praise, glorifying God and His saint. Truly, all of Rus’ exalted then as on the Day of Holy Pascha-even more so.
Terrible days were to come for Russia, but the memory of St Seraphim neither died nor weakened. Russian people continue to appeal to him and glorify him, both in the suffering Homeland and throughout the ends of the world where they are scattered. Even other nations are becoming familiar with St Seraphim; his Life (biography) is being translated into various languages, evoking not only admiration, but also, in many, the striving to apply in their own lives the lessons given to us by his life. Thus, despite the changes that have taken place in the world, the memory of St Seraphim not only does not fade, but it remains a lamp that shines ever brighter to humanity.
33rd Sunday after Pentecost: Sunday before Theophany; Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles; Saint Eustasius I, Archbishop of Serbia
RESURRECTIONAL TROPARION - TONE EIGHT:
You descended from on high, O Merciful One! You accepted the three day burial to free us from our sufferings! O Lord, our Life and Resurrection: Glory to You!