April 11, 2011

The Sixth Week of Great Lent

By Sergei V. Bulgakov

Being disclosed in a Canon of the 5th week, the Gospel parable about the rich man and Lazarus serves as the subject of hymns also in the 6th week. The Holy Church calls us "to run from the cruelty and hatred of mankind of the rich man and to emulate the fortitude and longsuffering of Lazarus" and to beg the Lord that, "Having grown poor through the pleasures of this life, He make us rich in virtues", and deliver us "from the torment of Gehenna" and "that we may enjoy rest in the bosom of the Patriarch Abraham". Continuing also in this week, as well as in the previous one to call us to spiritual efforts of piety, the Holy Church appeals to us:

"Come, brethren, and before the end with pure hearts let us all draw near to the compassionate God. Casting aside the cares of this life, let us take thought for our souls. Through abstinence let us reject with loathing the pleasures of food, and let us busy ourselves with acts of virtue."

"Through abstinence let us destroy the passions and through godlike actions let us bring to life the spirit."

"Let us fast, pouring out streams of tears from our soul, that we may be granted mercy".

Together with this the Holy Church, "having begun the sixth week", invites all of us: "Let us sing to Christ a hymn in preparation for the Feast of Palms who comes" "to raise Lazarus from the tomb" and "who comes seated on the foal of an ass".

According to this, the 6th week is called "the threshold of the lifegiving of Lazarus", but mainly is the Week of Palms", "the Flowery" or "Flower bearing". In its Forefeast hymns the Holy Church sings:

"Rejoice, O Bethany, home of Lazarus: for Christ comes to you and shall perform a mighty work, bringing Lazarus to life."

"O faithful let us follow Martha and Mary, let us send to the Lord divine acts as prayers, that He may come to raise up from the dead our mind, which lies dead in the tomb of insensible laziness, lacking all feeling of the fear of God, and now having no vital energy, crying out: O Lord, by Your dread authority You has raised up Your friend Lazarus of old, O Compassionate One, so now enliven all of us, granting us Your great mercy".

"The Lord comes seated, as is written, upon a foal. O people, prepare to receive in fear the King of all, and to welcome Him with palms as Victor over death, who raised Lazarus from Hades."

"Having enlightened and cleansed our souls by fasting, let us go to meet Christ, who comes into Jerusalem in the flesh."

"With the Children let us also meet Christ our God, bringing works of mercy instead of palms, and fervent prayer instead of branches singing Hosanna: bless, and exalt Him forever."

"Come let us prepare for meeting the Lord, carrying branches of virtue to Him. So shall we receive Him in our souls as in the city of Jerusalem, worshipping and singing to Him".