Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Each of the Sundays of Great Lent has its own special theme. In the course of the Church history, almost each Lenten Sunday has obtained a second theme, a historical theme. Originally the Lenten fast was the time for catechumens to prepare for baptism and entry into the Church. The Sunday spiritual themes were part of the early Christian cathesis.
The first Sunday is called the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. It is a historical feast commemorating the return of the icons to the churches in the year 843 after the heresy of iconoclasm was overcome. The spiritual theme of the day is first of all the victory of the True Faith. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith” (1 Jn 5:4). Secondly, the icons of the saints bear witness that man, “created in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26), becomes holy and godlike through the purification of himself as God’s living image.
The Second Sunday of Lent is the commemoration of St Gregory Palamas. It was St. Gregory (d.1359) who bore living witness that men can become divine through the grace of God in the Holy Spirit; and that even in this life, by prayer and fasting, human beings can become participants of the uncreated light of God’s divine glory.
The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross. The cross stands in the midst of the church in the middle of the lenten season not merely to remind men of Christ’s redemption and to keep before them the goal of their efforts, but also to be venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:38). For in the Cross of Christ Crucified lies both “the power of God and the wisdom of God” for those being saved (1 Cor 1:24).
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to St John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt 10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against… the rulers of the present darkness… the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places ...” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 24:13).
The Fifth Sunday recalls the memory of Saint Mary of Egypt, the repentant harlot. Mary tells us, first of all, that no amount of sin and wickedness can keep a person from God if he truly repents. Christ himself has come “to call sinners to repentance” and to save them from their sins (Lk 5:32). In addition, Saint Mary tells us that it is never too late in life—or in Lent—to repent. Christ will gladly receive all who come to him even at the eleventh hour of their lives. But their coming must be in serious and sincere repentance.
The Sixt Sunday is called Palm Sunday. This Sunday commemorates the triumphant entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem received Christ as a king, and , therefore, took branches of palms and went out to meet Him, laying down the palms in His path. The people cried out the prophecy of Zechariah: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel".
The Seventh Sunday is HOLY WEEK. This is the time when Christians who went through the whole period of Lent in prayer and fasting approach the Feast of the Feasts to celebrate the Passions of Christ and His Resurrection.
May God help us to testify Our Lord Jesus Christ by the way we live. Now and always let us choose the narrow way leading to the Kingdom of God.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Fr. Sasa Turkic
A Letter from His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios
February 3, 2017
My Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Where there is no vision, the people will perish” - Proverbs 29:18
I greet you with love and joy, praying that God will bless you and your families always, bestowing upon you good health, wisdom, peace and abundant joy! I humbly ask you to join me at “DYNAMIS: A Dialogue for Strengthening Our Parishes and Parishioners”.
As your Metropolitan, I am always thinking of questions that we face as a Metropolis. What are the most critical needs of our parish families? How can we help our parish leaders with their critical work? For this reason, your Metropolis has been focused on better serving the faithful in the Lord’s vineyard.
Therefore, we would like to share our vision with you in an upcoming program we are bringing to you, called: “DYNAMIS: A Dialogue for Strengthening Our Parishes and Parishioners.” When the clergyman says “DYNAMIS” at every Divine Liturgy, he is asking for the congregation to sing with more strength. The Metropolis wants to bring you and your parishes dynamis through our efforts during these programs. As we prepare to enter the Triodion, I think of how, often, many Spiritual Fathers go on pilgrimages to prepare them for Great Lent. In this same spirit, throughout the month of March, I, and some of my co-workers, will embark on our own pilgrimage—visiting every region of our Metropolis to open a dialogue with you, the clergy, parish leaders and parishioners. The dates and locations of this program are described here.
"DYNAMIS" will present to you our exciting vision in our Strategic Plan, as well as the many other life-changing ministries that will help you better meet both the practical and spiritual needs of your faithful. This is our gift to help provide you dynamis.
It will be a blessing to see and hear from all Parish leaders, Parish Council and Philoptochos Members, Clergy, Parish Champions, and any other interested parishioners at a "DYNAMIS" dialogue event near you. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend, and I hope to see as many of you there as possible.
I pray that, guided by the Holy Spirit, this unique dialogue will prove a spiritually uplifting beginning to 2017 for our Holy and God-Protected Metropolis of Atlanta. I remain,
Paternally yours with love in the Lord,
+ A L E X I O S
Metropolitan of Atlanta