The Second Sunday of Lent is kept as a feast of Saint Gregory Palamas, the Archbishop of Thessaloniki in the fourteenth century. Like the restoration of the holy icons, this memorial of Saint Gregory has to do with historical events, but also relates to our understanding of the Christian vocation, and the possibility for every Christian to achieve genuine holiness. Saint Gregory taught that all Christians are called to union with God, which is the object of the Christian life. Saint Gregory was a great ascetic, and a great master of the monastic life, but he taught that this invitation to union with God is open to every Christian. This is the challenge of Lent, but that challenge faces us all year round. Likewise this is the challenge of monasticism, but not just for the monks and nuns. The Holy Father has expressed it very well: “…in the East, monasticism was not seen merely as a separate condition, proper to a precise category of Christians, but rather as a reference point for all the baptized, according to the gifts offered to each by the Lord; it was presented as a symbolic synthesis of Christianity.” (Pope John Paul II, Orientale Lumen, 9)

A reference point and a synthesis. The monks and nuns must always remember that in this way they are responsible to and for the whole Christian people, and all of us should seek to nourish our Christian lives with the values which the monastics particularly exemplify.

Saint Gregory Palamas himself has enjoyed an increasing popularity in the past fifty years or so. His spiritual theology is not absolutely binding, but he is an important and influential figure in patristic spirituality. At one time, Saint Gregory’s ideas were highly controversial, and his memorial was removed from our liturgical books after the Synod of Zamost’. But with the recent profound studies of Saint Gregory, and the deeper appreciation of the Christian East, the Holy See restored Saint Gregory’s memorial on the Second Sunday of Great Lent in the Anthologion published by the Oriental Congregation. Our own Patriarch Joseph Cardinal Slipyj made a strong and positive contribution to this restoration of Saint Gregory Palamas to Catholic liturgical practice… the new English translation of the Lenten Triodion contains the full service to St. Gregory Palamas, and … this will increase our understanding of our spiritual and theological tradition.

Excerpt from Our Paschal Pilgrimage. A Guide for the Great Fast for Ukrainian Catholics by Bishop Basil Losten.


GREAT VESPERS

Kathisma Reading
“Blessed is the man…” is sung.

At Psalm 140

In Tone 2

  1. Lead my soul forth from prison* that I may give thanks to Your name.

Come, let us adore God the Word,
Who was born of the Father before all ages,
and was incarnate of the Virgin Mary;
for of His own free will He suffered the Cross
and submitted Himself to burial,
and arose from the dead to save me, a sinful one.

  1. The just shall gather around me* when You have been good to me.

Christ our Saviour cancelled the decree that was written against us,
by nailing it to the Cross;
and He abolished the dominion of Death.
Let us glorify His Resurrection on the third day.

  1. Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord;* O Lord, hear my voice!

Let us, together with the archangels, sing of Christ’s resurrection;
for He is the Redeemer and Saviour of our souls.
He will come again in awesome glory and mighty power
to judge the world which He has fashioned.

  1. Let Yours ears be attentive* to the voice of my prayer.

Although You died and were buried,
the angel yet declared You as Master.
He said to the women: Come and see where the Lord was placed;
for He is risen as He foretold,
because He is almighty.
Therefore, we worship You, the only Immortal One,
and we beseech You to have mercy on us, O Giver of Life.

  1. If You mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?* But with You forgiveness is that You may be revered.

O Christ, You have abolished the curse of the tree by Your Cross;
You have destroyed the power of Death by Your burial,
and You enlightened the human race by Your Resurrection.
Therefore, we cry out to You:
O God and Benefactor, glory to You!

  1. I have waited for You as You have commanded; my soul patiently relies on Your promise,* for it has trusted in the Lord.

O Lord, the gates of death opened before You in fear,
and the gatekeepers of Hades were filled with dread at the sight of You.
You smashed the gates of brass and crushed the posts of iron.
Then You burst our chains asunder,
and led us out from the darkness, away from the shadow of death.

In Tone 2

  1. From the morning watch until night* let Israel trust in the Lord.

What hymns of praise shall we sing in honour of the holy bishop?
He is the trumpet of theology,
the herald of the fire of grace, the honoured vessel of the Spirit,
the unshaken pillar of the Church, the great joy of the inhabited earth,
the river of wisdom, the candlestick of the light,
the shining star that makes glorious the whole creation.

  1. For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him there is plentiful redemption;* and He shall redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

What hymns of praise shall we sing in honour of the holy bishop?
He is the trumpet of theology,
the herald of the fire of grace, the honoured vessel of the Spirit,
the unshaken pillar of the Church, the great joy of the inhabited earth,
the river of wisdom, the candlestick of the light,
the shining star that makes glorious the whole creation.

  1. Praise the Lord, all the nations;* proclaim His glory, all you people.

What words of song shall we weave as a garland to crown the holy bishop?
He is the champion of true devotion and the adversary of ungodliness,
the fervent protector of the Faith, the great guide and teacher,
the well-tuned harp of the Spirit, the golden tongue,
the fountain that flows with water of healing for the faithful,
Gregory the great and marvellous.

  1. Strong is the love of the Lord for us;* eternally will His truth endure.

With what words shall we who dwell in earth praise the holy bishop?
He is the teacher of the Church,
the herald of the light of God,
the initiate of  the heavenly mysteries of the Trinity,
the chief adornment of the monastic life,
renowned alike in action and in contemplation,
the glory of Thessalonica;
and now he dwells in heaven with the great and glorious martyr Demetrius
whose relics flow with holy oil.

In Tone 6, Glory…

Thrice-blessed Saint, most holy father,
good shepherd and disciple of Christ the Chief Shepherd,
you have laid down your life for your sheep.
And now in your intercessions,
O God-bearing Gregory our father,
pray that great mercy may be granted to our souls.

In Tone 2, Now…

O Virgin, the shadow of the Law passed away
with the realization of grace.
For as the bush had burned without being consumed,
so you gave birth while a virgin
and you remained a virgin.
Instead of the pillar of fire there rose the Sun of Justice.
Instead of Moses, Christ God came forth,
the Saviour of our souls.

Aposticha

In Tone 2

Your Resurrection, O Christ our Saviour,
has enlightened the whole universe;
and, through it, You call back to Yourself all Creation.
Almighty God, glory to You!

The Lord reigns, He is clothed in majesty. Robed is the Lord, and girt about with strength.

By the wood of Your Cross, O Saviour,
You have abolished the curse of the tree;
by Your burial You have destroyed the power of death;
and by Your Resurrection You enlightened the human race.
We, therefore, cry out to You:
O Christ our God, Giver of Life, glory to You!

For He has made the world firm, which shall not be moved.

O Christ, when You were nailed to the Cross,
the distorted nature of creation was made manifest.
The soldiers showed their inhumanity by piercing Your side with a lance,
and the people showed their ignorance of Your power
by asking that Your tomb be sealed.
But, in Your mercy, You accepted burial
and then arose on the third day.
O Lord, glory to You!

Holiness befits Your house, O Lord, for length of days.

O Christ, Giver of Life,
You freely endured the Passion for the sake of mortals.
In Your power You descended into Hades;
and snatching, as from a mighty monster, the souls of those who awaited Your coming,
You placed them in Paradise.
Therefore, show Your great mercy to us who glorify Your Resurrection,
and cleanse our souls.

In Tone 8, Glory…

Your tongue, watchful in teachings,
rings in the ears of our heart and wakens the souls of the slothful.
Your words, inspired by God,
are a ladder leading us from earth to heaven.
O Gregory, wonder of Thessaly,
pray to Christ without ceasing
that we who honour you may be illumined with the divine light.

Now…

O Virgin who knew not carnal union,
O you who ineffably carried God in the flesh,
O Mother of the Almighty God.
O you who obtain for all of us the cleansing of sins
accept now our supplication
and intercede for the salvation of us all.

Troparia

In Tone 2
When You went down to death, O Life Immortal,* You struck Hades dead with the blazing light of Your divinity.* When You raised the dead from the nether world,* all the powers of heaven cried out:* “O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory be to You!”

In Tone 8, Glory…
Light of orthodoxy, teacher of the Church; its confirmation!* Ideal of monks and invincible champion of theologians.* Wonder-working Gregory, glory of Thessalonica and preacher of grace:* always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved!

Now…
O gracious Lord, for the sake of mankind You were born of a virgin;* through Your death on the cross You conquered death;* and through Your resurrection You revealed yourself as God.* O merciful Lord, do not disdain those whom You have created with Your own hands,* but show forth Your love for mankind.* Accept the intercession which the Mother, who bore You, makes in our behalf.** O Saviour, save Your despairing people!

 


DIVINE LITURGY

The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is celebrated today.

Troparia and Kontakia
Troparion, Tone 2: When You went down to death, O Life Immortal,* You struck Hades dead with the blazing light of Your divinity.* When You raised the dead from the nether world,* all the powers of heaven cried out:* “O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory be to You!”

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and ever. Amen.

Kontakion, Tone 4: The time for action is now revealed;* the Judge is at the door.* Let us rise and keep the fast,* offering tears of contrition with alms and crying aloud:* our sins are more numerous than the sands of the sea,* but forgive us, O Maker of all, that we may receive incorruptible crowns.

Prokeimenon, Tone 5
You, O Lord, will guard us* and will keep us* from this generation* and forever.

verse: Save me, O Lord, for there is no longer left a just man. (Psalm 11:8,2)

Epistle
Hebrews 1:10-2:3

Alleluia, Tone 2
verse: The Lord will hear you in the day of tribulation; the name of the God of Jacob will shield you.

verse: Lord, grant victory to the king and hear us in the day that we shall call upon You. (Psalm 19:2,10)

Gospel
Mark 2:1-12

Hymn to the Mother of God
In you, O Full of Grace, all creation rejoices: the angelic ranks and all the human race. Sanctified temple and spiritual paradise, virgins’ pride and boast, from whom God is made flesh and became a little Child; and He who is our God before all ages, He made your womb a throne, and He made it wider that all the heavens. In you, O Full of Grace, all creation rejoices. Glory be to you.

Communion Hymn
Praise the Lord from the heavens;* praise Him in the highest.* Alleluia, alleluia,* alleluia. (Psalm 148:1)