Sunday, March 13, 2016

"The Stadium of Virtue is Now Open"

Tomorrow we enter the most beautiful period of our Church calendar, Great Lent. It is the perfect opportunity to get our spiritual lives back on track as we prepare to follow Christ through His Crucifixion and Holy Resurrection. In today's Matins service, we chanted:

"The stadium of virtue is now open; those who wish to compete, enter therein, girded for the good contest of Lent, for those who compete according to the rules shall receive their laurels rightfully. Taking up the full armor of the Cross, let us do battle against the Enemy. As an impregnable wall, we have the Faith, prayer as our breastplate, and acts of mercy as our helmet. Instead of sword, there is fasting, which cuts every evil from the heart. He who does this shall attain a true crown from Christ, the King of all, on Judgment Day."

As we struggle through Lent, let us remember the ultimate sacrifice that Christ showed for us leading up to His Crucifixion. Below is an extract from a Homily by St Ephraim the Syrian on the Passion of Christ:

Come, observe well
the abundance of compassion,
the forbearance and mercy
of our sweet Master.

He had a useful slave
in the Paradise of delight,
and when he sinned
he was given to the torturers.

But when the Good One
saw his weakness of soul
he took compassion on the slave
and had mercy on him
and presented Himself
to be scourged by him.

I wished to remain silent
because my mind
was utterly amazed;
but then again I was afraid
lest I reject
by my silence
my Saviour’s grace.
For my bones tremble
when I think of it.

The fashioner of all things,
our Lord Himself,
was today arraigned
before Caiaphas,
like one of the condemned;
and one of the servants
struck Him a blow.

My heart trembles
as I think on these things:
the slave is seated,
the Master stands,
and one full of iniquities
passes sentence
on the One who is sinless.

The heavens trembled,
earth’s foundations shuddered;
Angels and Archangels
all quailed with terror.
Gabriel and Michael
covered their faces
with their wings.

The Cherubim at the throne
were hidden beneath the wheels;
The Seraphim struck their wings
one with the other
at that moment,
when a servant gave
a blow to the Master.

How did earth’s foundations
endure the earthquake
and the tremor
at that moment,
when the Master was outraged?

I observe and I tremble
and again I am stunned,
when I see the long-suffering
of the loving Master.

For see my inward parts
tremble as I speak,
because the Creator,
who by grace fashioned
humanity from dust,
He the Fashioner is struck.

Let us fear, my brethren
and not simply listen.
The Saviour endured
all these things for us.

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