Good afternoon […] ,
As you may know, the four Sundays before Great and Holy Lent are called the Triodion. Before this important period, the Church gives us a gentle warning when the Gospel reading about Zacchaios is read. The Church basically nudges us to say that Great and Holy Lent is around the corner when we discuss Zacchaios. The Church Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, as they assigned the Gospel readings to the Triodion are alerting us to focus our minds, hearts, and even stomachs on Christ, as we will see.
The progression of themes is very important, as follows:
The Sunday of Zacchaios tells us how Zacchaios had a burning desire for Christ. So should we have such a burning desire for Christ. In doing so, the Church alerts us that Great a Holy Lent is around the corner.
The next Sunday this year interrupts the progression of themes (this depends on when Pacha falls) to introduce the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, 40 days after His Nativity.
Last Sunday, the progression of themes continues as the period of the Triodion begins. The first Sunday of the Triodion is always the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. This Sunday introduces the humility of the Publican as he realizes his sinfulness and requests God’s mercy (vs. the arrogance of the Pharisee and the lack of realizing his dependance on God’s mercy)
The progression of themes here is that if we don’t have a burning desire for Christ like Zacchaios, we can’t have humility like the Publican.
This coming Sunday, we will read the Gospel reading about the Prodigal Son, which reminds us of the repentence of the Prodigal Son, after realizing his sinfulness.
The progression of themes is that: if we don’t have a burning desire for Christ (like Zacchaios), we can’t have humility (like the Publican). If we don’t have humility, we can never be reprennent (Like the Prodigal Son)
Next Sunday, we will read the Gospel reading about the Last Judgment and how Christ, at His second coming, will have the sheep at His right hand side (i.e. those who did good deeds by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the imprisoned,…) and the goats on His left hand side (i.e. those who didn’t do good deeds, imagine what would happen to those who did evil deeds). Jesus sent those who did good deeds to Heaven (as He told them: ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’) and those who didn’t to Hell (as He told them: ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’).
Notice that both groups on the right and left hand sides were ignorant of what they did! The ones on the right hand side had ‘holy ignorance’, as the Church Fathers say, since they did good deeds without expecting anything in return.
The progression of themes is that: if we don’t have a burning desire for Christ (like Zacchaios), we can’t have humility (like the Publican). If we don’t have humility, we can never be reprennent (Like the Prodigal Son). If we can’t repent, then our judgment (on the Last Judgment day as presented by the Last Judgment Gospel reading) will be harsh!
The next Sunday, the last Sunday of the Triodion, is Forgiveness Sunday. The Church is letting us know that if we don’t forgive each other, God will not forgive us.
The progression of themes is that: if we don’t have a burning desire for Christ (like Zacchaios), we can’t have humility (like the Publican). If we don’t have humility, we can never be reprennent (Like the Prodigal Son). If we can’t repent, then our judgment (on the Last Judgment day as presented by the Last Judgment Gospel reading) will be harsh. Furthermore, if we don’t forgive each other, then our fasting and prayers during Great and Holy Lent will be in vain.
The Church Fathers have assigned another theme to The Sunday of the Last Judgment. It is Meatfare Sunday as well, which means it is the last day we eat meat until Holy Pacha (fish is allowed on the feast of the Annunciation and Palm Sunday). Thus, the Church is focusing gradually even our stomachs on Christ.
The Church Fathers have assigned two more themes to Forgiveness Sunday. It is Cheesefare Sunday as well, which means it is the last day we eat dairy products until Holy Pacha. Thus, the Church is focusing further our stomachs on Christ.
The third theme is the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise and, by extension, we are expelled from Paradise as a consequence of the Original sin (although we aren’t guilty of the Original sin). However, the Church doesn’t keep us hanging for long! On Great and Holy Friday, as we pass under the Bier as we enter the nave, we symbolically entrr Paradise, having labored throughout Great Lent in fasting and intensified prayers during the extra services and our personal prayers.
Every Sunday of Great and Holy Lent has at least two themes. I invite you to discover them as you journey to Holy Pacha
Our third and final preparation period (the first one being the Triodion and the second being Great and Holy Lent) is Holy Week. Everyday of Holy Week has at least one theme that is intended to prepare us further for Holy Pacha. I invite you as well to discover those themes as you journey to the empty Tomb.
I pray that you will have a spiritually edifying Triodion, Great and Holy Lent, Holy Week, and a glorious Holy Pacha!
†Bishop NICHOLAS, Diocese of Miami and the Southeast