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March 22, 2017 + Part 3: Letter for Lenten Encouragement

From St. Athanasius the Great, written 333AD

4. Now our life, my brethren, truly consists in our denying all bodily things, and continuing steadfast in those only of our Saviour. Therefore the present season requires of us, that we should not only utter such words, but should also imitate the deeds of the saints. But we imitate them, when we acknowledge Him who died, and no longer live unto ourselves, but Christ henceforth lives in us; when we render a recompense to the Lord to the utmost of our power, though when we make a return we give nothing of our own, but those things which we have before received from Him, this being especially of His grace, that He should require, as from us, His own gifts. He bears witness to this when He says, 'My offerings are My own gifts. ' That is, those things which you give Me are yours, as having received them from Me, but they are the gifts of God. And let us offer to the Lord every virtue, and that true holiness which is in Him, and in piety let us keep the feast to Him with those things which He has hallowed for us. Let us thus engage in the holy fasts, as having been prescribed by Him, and by means of which we find the way to God. But let us not be like the heathen, or the ignorant Jews, or as the heretics and schismatics of the present time. For the heathen think the accomplishment of the feast is in the abundance of food; the Jews, erring in the type and shadow, think it still such; the schismatics keep it in separate places, and with vain imaginations. But let us, my brethren, be superior to the heathen, in keeping the feast with sincerity of soul, and purity of body; to the Jews, in no longer receiving the type and the shadow, but as having been gloriously illumined with the light of truth, and as looking upon the Sun of Righteousness Malachi 4:2; to the schismatics, in not rending the coat of Christ, but in one house, even in the Catholic Church, let us eat the Passover of the Lord, Who, by ordaining His holy laws, guided us towards virtue, and counselled the abstinence of this feast. For the Passover is indeed abstinence from evil for exercise of virtue, and a departure from death unto life. This may be learned even from the type of old time. For then they toiled earnestly to pass from Egypt to Jerusalem, but now we depart from death to life; they then passed from Pharaoh to Moses, but now we rise from the devil to the Saviour. And as, at that time, the type of deliverance bore witness every year, so now we commemorate our salvation. We fast meditating on death, that we may be able to live; and we watch, not as mourners, but as they that wait for the Lord, when He shall have returned from the wedding, so that we may vie with each other in the triumph, hastening to announce the sign of victory over death.

5. Would therefore, O my beloved, that as the word requires, we might here so govern ourselves at all times and entirely, and so live, as never to forget the noble acts of God, nor to depart from the practice of virtue! As also the Apostolic voice exhorts; 'Remember Jesus Christ, that He rose from the dead 2 Timothy 2:8.' Not that any limited season of remembrance was appointed, for at all times He should be in our thoughts. But because of the slothfulness of many, we delay from day to day. Let us then begin in these days. To this end a time of remembrance is permitted, that it may show forth to the saints the reward of their calling, and may exhort the careless while reproving them. Therefore in all the remaining days, let us persevere in virtuous conduct, repenting as is our duty, of all that we have neglected, whatever it may be; for there is no one free from defilement, though his course may have been but one hour on the earth, as Job, that man of surpassing fortitude, testifies. But, 'stretching forth to those things that are to come ,' let us pray that we may not eat the Passover unworthily, lest we be exposed to dangers. For to those who keep the feast in purity, the Passover is heavenly food; but to those who observe it profanely and contemptuously, it is a danger and reproach. For it is written, 'Whosoever shall eat and drink unworthily, is guilty of the death of our Lord 1 Corinthians 11:27.' Wherefore, let us not merely proceed to perform the festal rites, but let us be prepared to draw near to the divine Lamb, and to touch heavenly food. Let us cleanse our hands, let us purify the body. Let us keep our whole mind from guile; not giving up ourselves to excess, and to lusts, but occupying ourselves entirely with our Lord, and with divine doctrines; so that, being altogether pure, we may be able to partake of the Word.

6. We begin the holy fast on the fourteenth of Pharmuthi (Apr. 9), on the [first] evening of the week ; and having ceased on the nineteenth of the same month Pharmuthi (Apr. 14), the first day of the holy week dawns upon us on the twentieth of the same month Pharmuthi (Apr. 15), to which we join the seven weeks of Pentecost; with prayers, and fellowship with our neighbour, and love towards one another, and that peaceable will which is above all. For so shall we be heirs of the kingdom of heaven, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom to the Father be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. All the brethren who are with me salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss. Here ends the fifth Festal Letter of holy Athanasius.

Letter 5, For 333AD. Accessed at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2806005.htm.

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Hieromartyr Basil of Ancyra

 

Troparion — Tone 3

Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit you worthily received the anointing of the priesthood, O Basil. You offered your martyr’s contest as a royal sacrifice to the King of the Ages. Righteous Father, entreat Christ God to grant us His great mercy.


Kontakion — Tone 8

Having run the race in righteousness, You preserved the faith, O Hieromartyr Basil. For this you were made worthy of the crown of martyrdom, and You have become an unshakable pillar of the Church, Confessing the undivided Trinity: the Son, co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit. Entreat Him to deliver those who honor you from distress, that we may cry to you: Rejoice, O divinely wise Basil!

Readings and Inspiration from the Diocese of Charleston Homepage 

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