The Fifth Week of Great Lent offers us models of repentance, self denial, and the fruit that can be born from such effort. We have just been shown the way of being "in, but not of this world," through the life and teaching of St. John of the Ladder ("The Ladder of Divine Ascent") on the Fourth Sunday. Now during the fifth week, it is made manifest through the witness of Holy Scripture and the masterful Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. He shows us the way through repentance, fleeing the errors of those brought to our attention from Scripture, seeking to emulate those who sought after righteousness. This way is not limited to those under monastic obedience. All of us who bear the name of Christ are called to this way. Here is a helpful study of this work.
Along with this immense liturgical masterpiece, the lives of St. Zosimas and St. Mary of Egypt are brought to our attention. Their lives are read within Matins for the fifth Thursday that would be offered over the midnight hours early Thursday morning. The fifth Sunday of Great Lent honors St. Mary of Egypt. When we were anticipating the soul saving days of Lent with four preparatory Sundays, we heard the Lord tell the parable of the prodigal son. His metaphoric prodigal life and repentance are mirrored in extraordinary fashion by the real life of St. Mary of Egypt. Her work that came from real compunction and repentance are shown again as the way for us to emulate. While some may like to suggest that Jesus hung around with people like this because he wanted to affirm their actions, the suggestion ignores the central word of his gospel, "Repent!" So the life of St. Mary of Egypt gives us an example of how much change is capable in the human who yields to the Creator in repentance and desires to change.
The fruit born from generations of a small number of persons faithful to the righteous statutes of God, a fruit that is accomplished in the fullness of time, is that of the maiden born to a barren couple that were among those few faithful ones from generation to generation, the Mother of God and ever virgin, Mary. The fifth week of Great Lent calls for another liturgical masterpiece to be offered in praise of this one who held her creator in her arms (blasphemy for many, even some who call themselves Chrstians). Again, within the overnight early Saturday service of Matins, the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos (St. Romanos the Melodist) is offered, woven around a canon to the Theotokos and the elements of Matins itself. We continue to be the fruit of this fruitful vine, also yielding ourselves to the way of repentance, self denial, holiness that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us.
The Great Canon will be offered very simply in candle light this evening (4/15) at 7:00pm. It will not be within a service, and will not contain the Life of St. Mary of Egypt.
The Akathist Hymn to the Theotoks will be offered very simply on Saturday morning (4/17) at 9:00am. It will not be within a service.
The Life of St. Mary of Egypt will be the focus of Sunday morning (4/18) and the homily within the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, the Hours beginning at 9:00am.
Dean, Appalachian Deanery, Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America
V. Rev. David F. Arnold
Rector, St. Cyprian of Carthage Church, Midlothian, VA