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Icon of the Prodigal Son

Today is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. It is the second Sunday of the Pre-Lenten period.

“The Lord overlooks nothing. Even secrets are open to Him. Let us then do everything as if He were dwelling in us. Thus we shall be His temples, and H will be within us as our God – as He actually is. This will be clear to us just to the extent that we love Him rightly.” ~~ St. Ignatius of Antioch. Letter to the Ephesians.

“When, in my wretchedness I ran away from Thy fatherly love, I squandered in wickedness the riches Thou hadst given me. And so now, like the Prodigal Son, I cry out to Thee: I have sinned in Thy sight, O Merciful Father: receive me now that I repent and make me as one of Thy hired servants” ~~ Kontakion, Sunday of the Prodigal Son


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Lord, have mercy: The most misunderstood prayer in the Christian West
By Amelia Bacic-Tulevski


A really excellent commentary by an Orthodox woman with deep understanding of Orthodox history, theology, and spirituality. Check out her other posts and her books while you are on her website.

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“If the Humility of Christ becomes the way of our life, any place may, and will, become a place of Resurrection.” ~ Gerontissa Gavriela

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Sell Art Online

Much has been written about St. Gregory Palamas, and I, certainly, am not qualified to write about the saint or even comment on those writings. I do know that St. Gregory Palamas was greatly misunderstood during his life. I shall allow others to do my speaking for me on this.

First, there are the writings of St. Gregory Palamas himself (only 3 are included here – there are many more):

Gregory Palamas: The Triads

Gregory Palamas: The Saving Work of Christ

Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas: On Bearing Difficulties: To Those Who Find Hard to Bear All the Different Kinds of Difficulties Which Come Upon Us from All Sides (ed by Christopher Veniamin)

Next, there are commentaries about St. Gregory, of which six are included below:

The Contribution of Saint Gregory Palamas to Hesychasm: Theological Presuppositions of the Life in the Holy Spirit (Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries)

Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews: St. Gregory Palamas and the Prayer of Silence

St. Gregory Palamas on Icons as Tools for the Heart (Podcast from Ancient Faith Radio) [Link opens the podcast; Length: 16:01]

Fr. Bassam A. Nassif: Light for the World: the Life of St. Gregory Palamas (1296–1359)

Sergei V. Bulgakov: St. Gregory Palamas and the Second Sunday of Great Lent [on Mystagogy]

Second Sunday in Lent: St. Gregory Palamas

Although there are many more good references, this is all I will include here for now.

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Most people know I don’t write something when someone else has written it. So, here is a timely reflection by Fr. Tryphon, Abbot of the All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, WA:


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{I may have entered this in the past, but this is now, and I’m entering it – again.}


A Child’s Lent Remembered:  Clean Monday

An excerpt from Ivan Shmelyov’s “Anno Domini”, a wistful recollection of Life in his pious, old-fashioned, well-to-do home in pre-Revolutionary Moscow. Translated from the Russian by Maria Belaeff and published in “Orthodox America”, v5, #7,  February 1985. Posted with permission of the editors.

Found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20110830083030/http://www.roca.org/OA/47/47g.htm


Clean Monday

I waken from harsh light in my room: a bare kind of light, cold dismal.  Yes, it’s Great Lent today.  The pink curtains, with their hunters and their ducks, have already been taken down while I slept, and that’s why it’s so bare and dismal in the room.  It’s Clean Monday today for us, and everything in our house is being scrubbed.

Greyish weather, the thaw.  The dripping beyond the window is like weeping. Our old carpenter – Gorkin, “the panel man” – said yesterday that when Lady Shrovetide leaves, she’ll weep.  And so she is – drip…drip…drip… There she goes!

I look at the paper flowers reduced to shreds, at the gold-glazed “Shrovetide” sweetcake – a toy, brought back from the baths yesterday; gone are the little bears, gone are the little hills – vanished, the joy. And a joyous something begins to fuss in my heart; now everything is new, different. Now it’ll be “the soul beginning” – Gorkin told me all about it yesterday.  “It’s time to ready the soul.” To prepare for Communion, to keep the fast, to make ready for the Bright Day.

“Send One-eye in to see me!” I hear Father’s angry shouting.

Father has not gone out on business; it’s a special day today, very strict.  Father rarely shouts.  Something important has happened.  But after all, he forgave the man for drinking; he cancelled all his sins; yesterday was the day of Forgiveness.  And Vasil-Vasillich forgave us all too, that’s exactly what he said in the dining room, kneeling: “I forgive you all!”  So why is father shouting then?

The door opens, Gorkin comes in with a gleaming copper basin. Oh, yes, to smoke out Lady Shrovetide! There’s a hot brick in the basin, and mint, and they pour vinegar over them.  My old nurse, Domnushka, follows Gorkin around and does the pouring; it hisses in the basin and a tart steam rises – a sacred steam.  I can smell it even now, across the distance of the years.  Sacred… that’s what Gorkin calls it. He goes to all the corners and gently swirls the basin.  And then he swirls it over me.

“Get up dearie, don’t pamper yourself,” he speaks lovingly to me, sliding the basin under the skirt of the bed.  “Where’s she hid herself in your room, fat old Lady Shrovetide… We’ll drive her out!  Lent has arrived… We’ll be going to the Lenten market, the choir from St. Basil’s will be singing  ‘My soul, my soul arise;’ you won’t be able to tear yourself away.”

That unforgettable, that sacred smell. The smell of Great Lent.  And Gorkin himself, completely special – as if he were kind of sacred too.  Way before light, he had already gone to the bath, steamed himself thoroughly, put on everything clean.  Clean Monday today!  Only the kazakin is old; today only the most workaday clothes may be worn, that’s “the law.”

And it’s a sin to laugh, and you have to rub a bit of oil on your head, like Gorkin.  He’ll be eating without oil now, but you have to oil the head, it’s the law, “for the prayer’s sake.”  There’s a glow about him, from his little grey beard, all silver really, from the neatly combed head.  I know for a fact that he’s a saint.  They’re like that, God’s people, that please Him.  And his face is pink, like a cherubim’s, from the cleanness.  I know that he’s dried himself bits of black bread with salt, and all Lent long he’ll take them with his tea, “instead of sugar.”

But why is Daddy angry… with Vasil-Vasillich, like that?

“Oh, sinfulness…” says Gorkin with a sigh.  “It’s hard to break habits, and now everything is strict, Lent.  And, well, they get angry.  But you hold fast now, think about your soul.  It’s the season, all the same as if the latter days were come… that’s the law!  You just recite, “O Lord and Master of my life…” and be cheerful.”

And I begin silently reciting the recently memorized Lenten prayer.

The rooms are quiet and deserted, full of that sacred smell. In the front room, before the reddish icon of the Crucifixion, a very old one, from our sainted great-grandmother who was an Old Believer; a “lenten” lampada of clear glass has been lit, and now it will burn unextinguished until Pascha.  When Father lights it – on Saturdays he lights all the lampadas himself – he always sings softly, in a pleasant-sad way: “Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master,” and I would sing softly after him, that wonderful refrain:

“And Thy ho-ly.. Re-sur-re-e-ec-tion, we glo-ri-fy!”

A joy-to-tears beats inside my soul, shining from these words. And I behold it, behind the long file of lenten days – the Holy Resurrection, in lights.  A joyful little prayer!  It casts a kindly beam of light upon these sad days of Lent.

I begin to imagine that now the old life is coming to an end, and it’s time to prepare for that other life, which will be… where?  Somewhere, in the heavens.  You have to cleanse the soul of all sinfulness, and that’s why everything around you is different. And something special is at our side, invisible and fearful. Gorkin told me that now, “it’s like when the soul is parting from the body.” THEY keep watch, to snatch away the soul, and all the while the soul trembles and wails: “Woe is me, I am cursed!”  They read about it in church now, at the Standings.

“Because they can sense that their end is coming near, that Christ will rise!  And that’s why we’re a-given Lent for, to keep close to church, to live to see the Bright Day.  And not to reflect, you understand.  About earthly things, do not reflect! And they’ll be ringing everywhere: ‘Think back!… Think back!…” He made the words boom inside him nicely.

Throughout the house the window vents are open, and you can hear the mournful cry and summons of the bells, ringing before the services: think-back.. think-back.  That’s the piteous bell, crying for the soul.  It’s called the Lenten peal.

They’ve taken the shutters down from the widows, and it’ll be that way, poor-looking, clear until Pascha.  In the drawing-room there are grey slip-covers on the furniture; the lamps are bundled up into cocoons, and even the one painting, “The Beauty at the Feast,” is draped over with a sheet.  That was the suggestion of His Eminence.  Shook his head sadly and said: “A sinful and tempting picture!”  But Father likes it a lot – such class!  Also draped is the engraving which Father for some reason calls “the sweetcake one”, it shows a little old man dancing, and an old woman hitting him with a broom.  That one His Eminence liked a great deal, even laughed.

All the housefolk are very serious, in workday clothes with patches, and I was told also to put on the jacket with the worn-through elbows.  The rugs have been taken out; it’s such a lark now to skate across the parquet.  Only it’s scary to try – Great Lent: skate hard and you’ll break a leg.  Not a crumb left over from Shrovetide, mustn’t be so much as a trace of it in the air.  Even the sturgeon in aspic was passed down to the kitchen yesterday. Only the very plainest dishes are left in the sideboard, the ones with the dun spots and the cracks… for Great Lent.

In the front room there are bowls of yellow pickles, little umbrellas of dill sticking out of them, and chopped cabbage, tart and thickly dusted with anise – a delight.  I grab pinches of it – how it crunches!  And I vow to myself to eat only lenten foods for the duration of the fast.  Why send my soul to perdition, since everything tastes so good anyway!  There’ll be stewed fruit, potato pancakes with prunes, “crosses” on the Week of the Cross… frozen cranberries with sugar, candied nuts…  And what about roast buckwheat kasha with onions, washed down with kvass!  And then lenten pasties with milk-mushrooms, and then buckwheat pancakes with onions on Saturdays… and the boiled wheat with marmalade on the first Saturday… and almond milk with white kissel, and the cranberry one with vanilla, and the grand kuliebiak on Annunciation…  Can it be that THERE, where everyone goes to from this life, there will be such lenten fare!

And why is everyone so dull-looking?  Why, everything is so… so different, and there is much, so much that is joyous.  Today they’ll bring the first ice and begin to line the cellars – the whole yard will be stacked with it.  We’ll go to the “Lenten Market,” where I’ve never been… I begin jumping up and down with joy, but they stop me: “It’s Lent, don’t dare!  Just wait and see, you’ll break your leg!”

Fear comes over me.  I look at the Crucifixion.  He suffers, the Son of God!  But how is it that God… How did He allow it?…

I have the sense that herein lies the great mystery itself – GOD.

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Orthodox Way of Life: Walking the Path to Theosis posted this:
10 Things Orthodox Christians Would Like You to Know

This is an excellent post.

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