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March 4, 2011

St. Theodore the Studite: Friday of Cheesefare

By St. Theodore the Studite

On Self-Mastery and Prayer

Delivered on the Friday of Cheese Week

Brethren and fathers, I often call your way of life blessed, not by way of flattery but truth; nor do I wish to call those in the world unhappy, but I aim to make you more fervent. Since too you know the sort of things that take place in the world, drinking bouts and drunkenness, revels and intoxication, shouts and caperings, and all the other things, "whose condemnation is deserved", as it is written, which are the results of the activity of the evil one. But our manner of life is not like this. But what is it? Night and day we praise the Lord according to the legislation which has been handed down to us by our holy fathers. Psalmody succeeds psalmody, reading reading, prayer prayer. Government of thoughts in accord with the mind, in the heart meditation of divine words, timely stillness, fitting speech. We serve one another, we keep close to one another, everything is ordered with stability and measure, and if there is need for some bodily consolation at the feast, that is not discordant; for hear what the Lord says to Judas, "What you are doing, do quickly. Not one of those at table knew why he said this to him. For some thought that, because Judas held the purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the feast’, or that he should give something to the poor." Do you see that among them the consideration both of the feast and of the poor was a matter for concern? Which we also, lowly as we are, as you see, try to achieve. But blessed is God, who has granted us to be admitted to such a way of life, "not because of any works of justice that we have done," for we have done nothing good upon earth, but according to his mercy the call is freely given. So then each one of us is a debtor, to say always with "a contrite heart, Who am I, O Lord, my Lord, and what the house of my father, that you have loved me?" And such is ours; while rarely are such things found in the world. Because day succeeds night with the care of this age, the deception of wealth, with the other concerns, so that a person is unable to draw breath. People bring trouble on each other, they wrangle with one another, "Adultery and theft and cursing and lying have been poured out upon the earth," to speak like the Prophet, and all those other things which it is not easy to detail. With all this in mind the blessed Chrysostom has already said, "The majority of the world is hardly to be saved." It is a fearful word, but nevertheless it is true. For this reason one must grieve and be sad for one who is truly conscious that he is under this sentence. For are we not all one another’s brothers? Are we not of one blood? Are we not of the same dust? Is not someone who sees a beast of burden being carried over a precipice seized with pity? How much more then for brothers and fellow believers. Hence the blessed Apostle wept for the "enemies of the Cross of Christ", praying with "unremitting grief of heart". Hence the Prophet Jeremy lamented over Israel and left behind various lamentations in writing. Hence the great Moses cried to God, "If you will forgive them their sin, forgive; if not, wipe me out of your book of life." And indeed each of the saints had the same sympathy and made entreaty for the others. Should not we then, if want to walk in their footsteps, not simply have in view what concerns ourselves, but also pray on behalf of the world, having mercy and pity for those who are living in the distraction of life, those who are in the grip of heresies, those who have been led away into error, those in the darkness of paganism, in brief all mankind, according to what we have been commanded by the Apostle "to make supplications and prayers". For thus we shall profit ourselves before the rest, being filled with compunction and cleansed of passionate habits; and delivered from which may we be granted to reach eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.