Next Sunday, February 14, will be the last Sunday of the calendar before the period called the Lenten Triodion. From now until the end of June, our services will be governed by the approach of the Great Fast and the Resurrection of our Lord.
Sunday, February 14: Sunday of Zacchaeus. Divine Liturgy: 1 Timothy 4:9-15; Luke 19:1-10. The last Sunday before the pre-Lenten season begins is always the story of Zacchaeus the tax-collector. The theme of all these Sundays before Lent is preparation for the coming period of repentance. Zacchaeus is an example of radical repentance, but also of humility: he is short, but is not embarrassed to climb a tree like a child in order to see Jesus. We must come to repentance in humility.
Sunday, February 21: Sunday of the Tax-collector and the Pharisee. Divine Liturgy: 2 Timothy 3:10-15; Luke 18:10-14. The first Sunday of preparation shows us a proud religious person and a terrible sinner – a tax collector like Zacchaeus last week. The religious man who does everything right but is proud has no forgiveness from God but the worst sinner who chooses to forsake his sins is welcomed by God. We must come to repentance with sorrow for our own sins and no judgment on others.
Some Christians fast very trictly and some neglect all fasting. In order so that nobody can be proud, for the next week we have no fasting. Everybody is like the tax-collector. For those who neglect fasting completely, there is no shame because we are all together.
Sunday, February 28: Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Divine Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Luke 15:11-32. The second Sunday of preparation; today we read about the son who disrespected his father and wasted his inheritance; but his father ran to meet him, forgive him, and welcome him. The son teaches us to come to our senses and repent; the father stands for Christ who never rejects those who truly repent; and the older son represents us churchgoers who judge those repenting. We must come to repentance in confidence that the Lord will accept us.
This week we have only the ordinary fasts on Wednedsay and Friday. As usual, on these two days we have no wine, eggs, dairy, or meat. We begin to enter into the fast with only the bare minimum effort this week.
Saturday, March 5: Memorial for the dead. Divine Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 10:23-28 & 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Luke 21:8-9, 25-27, 33-36 & John 5:24-30.
Sunday, March 6: Sunday of the Last Judgment (Last day for meat.) Divine Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 8:8-9:2; Matthew 25:31-46. This Sunday is nicknamed “meatfare” because it is the last day we will eat meat until Pascha. More importantly, on this Sunday we meditate on the fearful judgment seat of Christ and our sins. Pardon and healing are available to all who repent, but we sin continually. We must come to repentance with soberness, fear of God, and certainty that what we do now determines our fate forever.
For this week, we eat anything and everything except for meat (pork, chicken, beef, goat.) Dairy, eggs, and =wine are all permitted on every day this week.
Sunday, March 13: Sunday of casting-out from Paradise (last day for dairy, eggs, wine.) Divine Liturgy: Romans 13:11-14:4; Matthew 6:14-21. This Sunday is nicknamed “cheesefare” because it is the last time we eat dairy, eggs, or wine until Pascha. More importantly, today we meditate on how Adam and Eve were evicted from Paradise when they failed to keep a fast. Their satisfied their appetite and lost their home with the Lord. Now we are refugees and foreigners in the world, and this is not our home country. We must come to repentance with desire to be made worthy to return to Paradise and with righteous actions.
After the day’s services, all the parish members ask one another’s forgiveness.
“Forgive my sins against you!”
“God forgives and I forgive; forgive my sins against you!”
“God forgives and I forgive.”
So tomorrow, together, we will enter into the battle against our sins without being hindered at all by resentment, or by any separation from our brothers and sisters.
Monday, March 14: Lent begins. Beginning today, we eat no eggs, dairy, meat or wine. There are no weekday Liurgies at all during Lent; the Liturgy is served only on Saturday and Sunday. (On Wednesdays and Fridays we serve the Presanctified Liturgy, using Gifts that were already consecrated the preceding Sunday. This service has many new hymns, different every day, and none are in Cebuano yet, so I don’t think we can serve it yet.)
All weekday services during Lent end with the Prayer of Saint Ephrem:
This prayer is said by the priest or leader, not by all, but all prostrate (or if they are old or unwell, they only bow.) Note that “Master” in this prayer does not mean “teacher” but “slave-owner.” In Cebuano we should say either Agalon or a similar word meaning someone who owns and commands slaves.
This prayer is not said on Sundays because we do not prostrate on Sundays, even during Lent.
Sunday, March 20: Triumph of Orthodoxy. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 11:24-26, 11:32-12:2; John 1:43-51. This Sunday celebrates the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which restored icons to the Church after a heretic emperor made icons illegal. All the parish members bring their icons from their homes, and after the day’s services we have a procession around the church, proudly holding the icons of Christ and the saints, singing the troparion of the feast.
Saturday, March 26: Memorial for the dead. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 3:12-16 & 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Mark 1:35-44 & John 5:24-30.
Sunday, March 27: Sunday of St Gregory Palamas. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 1:10-2:3 & Hebrews 7:26-8:2; Mark 2:1-12 & John 10:9-16.
Saturday, April 2: Memorial for the dead. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 10:32-38 & 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Mark 2:14-17 & John 5:24-30.
Sunday, April 3: Sunday of the Cross. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 4:14-5:6; Mark 8:34-9:1. This week is the middle of the Great Fast. We are tempted to become discouraged. So the Chruch puts the Cross in the center of our worship to remind us that the only way to the Resurrection is through the cross. This was true for Christ and it is true for us. So we honor the life-giving cross and we embrace our little sufferings now. And we look with confident expectation toward Pascha, the bright resurrection of Christ.
Thursday, April 7 (March 25): Feast of the Annunciation to the Theotokos. This great fest is the one exception to the rule about weekday Liturgies during Lent: We serve the Divine Liturgy today for the beginning of our salvation in the womb of the Mother of God.
Saturday, April 9: Memorial for the dead. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 6:9-12 & 1 Corinthians 15:47-57; Mark 7:31-37; John 5:24-30.
Sunday, April 10: Sunday of St John of the Ladder. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 6:13-20; Mark 9:17-31. The Ladder of Ascent to God is St John’s book about ascetic struggle. It is a model for monks but also profitable for us laymen.
Sunday, April 17: Sunday of St Mary of Egypt. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 9:11-14 & Galatians 3:23-29; Mark 10:32-45 & Luke 7:36-50. St Mary of Egypt was a prostitute and became an amazing ascetic saint. Her example of repentance gives hope to every sinner, even the most scandalous of us.
Saturday, April 23: Saturday of Lazarus. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 12:28-13:8; John 11:1-45. On this day we commemorate Christ’s resurrecting his friend Lazarus from the dead. The troparion for the day is both for today and also for tomorrow.
Sunday, April 24: Entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday.) Divine Liturgy: Philippians 4:4-9; John 12:1-18. We celebrate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Like the peole of Jerusalem, we carry palm branches. Many parishes also weave palm crosses. At the end of the day’s services, we have a procession around the church carrying our palms and singing the troparion of the Entrance into Jerusalem.
Saturday, April 30: Great Saturday. Divine Liturgy: Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-20.
Sunday, May 1: PASCHA, the Resurrection of the Lord. Divine Liturgy: Acts 1:1-8; John 1:1-17. Beginning on this day, we do not say the prayer “O Heavenly King.” Instead, we read or sing the Troparion of Pascha: “Christ is risen form the dead…”
Sunday, May 8: Sunday of St Thomas. Divine Liturgy: Acts 5:12-20; John 20:19-31. At Pascha, all the Apostles except Saint Thomas saw the resurrected Lord. Today, a week later, Thomas meets his Lord and touches His wounds. In this way Thomas provides for us additional proof that Christ is risen in a real, human body.
Tuesday, May 10: Radonitsa (memorial for the dead.) Divine Liturgy: Acts 4:1-10 & 1 Corinthians 15:39-57; John 3:16-21 & John 5:24-30.
Sunday, May 15: Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers. Divine Liturgy: Acts 6:1-7; Mark 15:43-16:8. We commemorate the women who came to the grave before dawn on the morning of the bright Resurrection of Christ and found the grave empty.
Sunday, May 22: Sunday of the Paralytic. Divine Liturgy: Acts 6:1-7; Mark 15:43-16:8.
Sunday, May 29: Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. Divine Liturgy: Acts 11:19-26, 29-30; John 4:5-42.
Sunday, June 5: Sunday of the Blind Man. Divine Liturgy: Acts 16:16-34; John 9:1-38.
Wednesday, June 8: Leavetaking of Pascha. Divine Liturgy: Acts 18:22-28; John 12:36-47. On this day we repeat the Divine Liturgy of Pascha. This Liturgy is the last time we ewill say or sing the troparion “Christ is risen from the dead…” However we do not return to saying “O heavenly king.” Instead we skip it completely: something is noticeably missing, because the Holy Spirit has not yet come to the Church.
Thursday, June 9: Ascension of Christ. Divine Liturgy: Acts 1:1-12; Luke 24:36-53.
Sunday, June 12: Sunday of the First Ecumenical Council. Divine Liturgy: Acts 20:16-18, 28-36; John 17:1-13. The First Ecumenical Council was called in order to respond to the heresy of Aris. Arius claimed that Christ is only a creature like us and not God. The Fathers wrote the Creed so that all Christians, east and west, would confess one single faith: that Christ is of the same substance and essence as the Father.
Saturday, June 18: Memorial for the dead. Divine Liturgy: Acts 28:1-31 & 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; John 21:15-25& John 5:24-30.
Sunday, June 19: Pentecost. Divine Liturgy: Acts 2:1-11; John 7:37-52; 8:12. Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Church is decorated in green: some parishes bring in many live potted plants, tree branches, and green leaves to decorate the church on this day. We have not said the prayer “O Heavenly King” since Pascha. But today this prayer finally returns to the Church because the Holy Spirit has come.
Sunday, June 26: Sunday of All Saints. Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 11:33-12:2; Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30. This is the last Sunday before the Apostles’ Fast, which will last until the Feast of Saitns Peter and Paul on July 12.