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THE FIRST WEEK OF THE GREAT LENT

(Between Pre-Lent Sunday and “Treasures Sunday”)


Throughout the year, we become pre-occupied with the cares of this life. For
those of us who lose sight of our true purpose in life, the Lenten Period is the
Church’s way of leading us back to our true goal.

We begin Lent distracted, but by the end we are reminded of Resurrection. We


remember that we who were baptized have actually shared in the death and
resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have put on Christ. This is our
purpose. This is our new life in Him. We are God’s. Our true purpose is to be
united with Him.

On the first Sunday of the Great Lent (“Treasures Sunday”), we appropriately


begin this journey toward Christ by reading Matthew 6:19-33. Christ tells us, “Do
not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your
body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than
clothing” (Matthew 6:25). Our Lord tells us to lay our treasures in heaven where
neither moth nor rust destroy, and above all, to seek after the Kingdom of God.

The following sayings speak about Christ as the center to Whom we must all
return. They also speak of the greater importance of decorating our souls with
virtue than decorating our bodies with ornaments and fine clothing.

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Monday of the First Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 1:2-18

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before
My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend
the fatherless, Plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together,” says the
LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they
are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:16-18).

A PURE SOUL

Why do you deck out your body while you neglect your soul, enslaved as it is by
impurity? Why do you not give as much thought to your soul as to your body? You
ought, rather, to give it more care. Beloved, you ought at least to give it an equal amount
of thought. Tell me, please, if someone should ask you which you would prefer: for your
body to be glowing in health and to excel in beauty but to be clad in mean clothing, or for
your body to be crippled and full of disease but adorned with gold and lavishly decked
out – would you not choose by far to possess beauty as part of the very nature of your
body rather than merely in the outward covering of your clothes?

Apply this adornment within yourself and place these necklaces around your soul. For
the ornaments placed about the body do not contribute either to its health or its beauty,
since they do not make what is white, black – or what is discreditable, beautiful or good-
looking. If you place ornaments about your soul, on the contrary, they quickly make it
white instead of black, beautiful and comely instead of foul and deformed.

+ Saint John Chrysostom (4th Century), Homilies on the Gospel of John 69.

Tuesday of the First Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 1:19 – 2:3

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall
be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all
nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2).

CHRIST THE MOUNTAIN

The central place they are all coming to is Christ; He is at the center, because He is
equally related to all; anything placed in the center is common to all . . .

Approach the mountain, climb up the mountain, and you that climb it, do not go down it.
There you will be safe, there you will be protected; Christ is your mountain of refuge.
And where is Christ? At the right hand of the Father, since He has ascended into heaven.

+ Blessed Augustine of Hippo (4th Century)

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Wednesday of the First Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 2:3-11

“Their land is also full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their
land is also full of horses, and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is also full of
idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made”
(Isaiah 2:7-8).

ABUSE OF POSSESSIONS

Someone might ask, what is wrong with having silver or horses…? How should we
respond? The prophet was not criticizing the use of these possessions but the misuse of
them. When he said, “Woe to the mighty,” he was not condemning them for having
possessions but for hoarding so much more than they needed.

+ Saint John Chrysostom (4th Century)

Thursday of the First Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 2:11-19

“The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought
low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day, but the idols He shall utterly abolish.
They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror
of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily”
(Isaiah 2:17-19).

THE LORD EXALTED ABOVE ALL

You have opened “the eyes of our hearts” so that we realize You alone are “highest
among the highest, and ever remain holy among the holy.” “You humble the pride of the
arrogant, overrule the plans of the nations, raise up the humble and humble the haughty.
You make rich and make poor; You slay and bring to life; You alone are the guardian of
spirits and the God of all flesh.”

You see into the depths: You look upon men’s deeds; You aid those in danger and “save
those in despair.” You are the creator of every spirit and watch over them. You multiply
the nations on the earth, and from out of them all You have chosen those who love You
through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son. Through Him you have trained us, made us
saints, and honored us.

+ Saint Clement of Rome (1st/2nd Century), First Epistle 59.3

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Friday of the First Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 3:1-14

“As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My
people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah
3:12).

PUT ON CHRIST

Isaiah also, filled with the Holy Spirit, cries out and chides the daughters of Zion who
have been defiled by gold and raiment, and he reproves those who have an abundance of
harmful riches and withdraw from God for the sake of the pleasures of time . . .

This, God blames; this, He brands with reproach. By this He declares that they have been
defiled; by this they have departed from the true adornment and have merited disgrace
and shame. Having put on silk and purple, they cannot put on Christ; adorned with gold
and pearls and necklaces, they have lost adornments of the heart and soul . . .

If, on draining the cup, he who had taken the potion should die, you would know that
what he drank was poison; if, after taking food, he who had taken it should perish, you
would know that what could kill, when taken, was deadly. Seeing this you would not eat
nor would you drink from that which had been used by those who died.

Now what ignorance of the truth it is, what madness of mind to wish for what has always
been and still is harmful, and to think that you yourself will not perish from the same
causes from which you know that others have perished!

+ Saint Cyprian of Carthage (3rd Century), The Dress of Virgins 13

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SECOND WEEK OF THE GREAT LENT
(Between “Treasures Sunday” and “Temptation Sunday”)
Just as Christ faced temptation in the wilderness when He set out to begin His
ministry, we too, who have decided to follow Christ, must undergo temptation.
On “Temptation Sunday” we read Matthew 4:11. In overcoming Satan, Christ
has given us an example, the power, and the hope to do the same.

The following sayings teach us that we must resist temptation and put away all
material and carnal desires in order to follow the Savior. “Blessed are the pure
in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:6). How we long to see the glorious
vision of Isaiah of God on His throne surrounded by the Seraphim. How we long
to behold the mystery of the virgin birth.

Monday of the Second Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 4:2-5:7

“Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My


Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its
stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made
a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild
grapes” (Isaiah 5:1-2).

THE HUMAN SOUL

[God] calls us to produce much fruit so that we will not be cast into the fire because we
do not. He constantly compares human souls with vines. He says, “My beloved has a
vineyard on a hill in a fruitful place.” And “I planted a vineyard and put a hedge around
it.”

Obviously He called human souls the vineyard, around which he puts the security of His
commandments and His angels as a hedge…

Our soul is “dug around” when we lay aside the cares of the world that burden our hearts.
Therefore, the one who has laid aside carnal love and the desire of possessions and has
deemed desire for small glory of greatest contempt has been dug around and liberated
from the vain burden of the spirit of the world.

+ Saint Basil the Great (4th Century), Homilies on the Hexaemeron 5.6

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Tuesday of the Second Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 5:7-16

“Woe to those who join house to house; They add field to field, till there is no place
where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land” (Isaiah 5:8)!

MONEY AND THINGS TO BE SHUNNED

The lust of possessions and money are not to be sought for. In Solomon, in Ecclesiastes:
“He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver.” …Also in Isaiah: “Woe to them
who join house to house, and lay field to field, that they may take away something from
their neighbor. Will you dwell along upon the earth?” Also in Zephaniah: “They shall
build houses, and shall not dwell in them; and they shall appoint vineyards, and shall not
drink the wine of them, because the Day of the Lord is near.” Also in the Gospel
according to Luke: “For what does it profit a man to make a gain of the whole world, but
that he should lose himself?”

+ Saint Cyprian of Carthage (3rd Century), To Quirinus, Testimonies against the Jews
12.3.61

Wednesday of the Second Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 5:17-25

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for
darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in
their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:20-21)!

WARNINGS AGAINST OVERCONFIDENCE

Wherefore let us walk circumspectly in these last days…Let us flee from all vanity. We
should utterly despise the works of the evil way. Do not live separately from one
another, as though you have already become perfect, but come together and seek what is
the common good….

Let us be a perfect Temple to God. To the best of our ability let us meditate on the fear
of God and strive to keep His commandments, so that we might rejoice in His ordinances.

+ From the Letter of Barnabas, 4:9-11 (2nd Century)

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Thursday of the Second Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 6:1-12

“Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two
he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is
the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory’” (Isaiah 6:2-3)!

THE HOLY TRINITY

The mouths of the seraphim are filled with blessings. They offer a doxology in turn, not
in my opinion because they are tired, but because they show respect to one another, both
receiving and giving the doxology.

They say “holy” three times and then conclude with “Lord of hosts.” This demonstrates
that the Holy Trinity exists in one divine essence. All hold and confess that the Father
exists, along with the Son and the Spirit. Nothing divides those who are named nor
separates them into different natures. Just the opposite is true. We recognize one
Godhead in three persons.

+ Saint Cyril of Alexandria (375 – 444 A.D.), Commentary on Isaiah 1.4

Friday of the Second Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 7:1-14

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and
bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

MANY LONGED TO SEE HIS DAY

You must appreciate, brothers and sisters, what a tremendous desire possessed the saints
of old to see the Christ. They knew He was going to come, and all those who were living
devout and blameless lives would say, “Oh, if only that birth may find me still here! Oh,
if only I may see with my own eyes what I believe from God’s Scriptures!”

The saints who knew from the holy Scripture that a virgin was going to give birth…So do
not let it surprise you, unbelieving soul, whoever you are, do not let it strike you as
impossible that a virgin should give birth, and in giving birth remain a virgin. Realize
that it was God who was born, and you will not be surprised at a virgin giving birth…

+ Blessed Augustine (4th Century), Sermon 370.3

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THIRD WEEK OF THE GREAT LENT
(Between “Temptation Sunday” and “Prodigal Son
Sunday”)
The third week of the Great Lent leads us to the reading of the Parable of the
Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Our pride is an obstacle to repentance. The spirit
of pride motivated the son to claim his inheritance and leave his father’s home,
determined to make it on his own. How many because of the hardness of their
hearts have refused to return to their heavenly Father’s home, His Church and
the mysteries? How many who are away from God find themselves in a
desperate and empty condition?

The following readings speak about God’s grace and power. God shines His
light upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Though we
rebel, God waits patiently with His hand stretched out. He desires that we all
return as members of His Body, the Church.

Monday of the Third Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 8:13-9:7

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the
shadow of death, upon them a light has shined…For unto us a Child is born, unto us a
Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder…” (Isaiah 9:2,7).

GOD’S GRACE AND HIS DIVINE POWER

Hence He was in the shadow of life, whereas sinners are in the shadow of death.
According to Isaiah, the people who sinned sat in the shadow of death. For these a light
arose, not by the merits of their virtues but by the grace of God…

Accordingly, to call the nations to the grace of His resurrection...He bowed his shoulder
to labor, bowed Himself to the cross, to carry our sins. For that reason the prophet says,
“whose government is on His shoulder.”… Therefore He bowed His shoulder, applying
Himself to the plow – patient in the endurance of all insults, and so subject to affliction
that He was wounded on account of our iniquities and weakened on account of our sins.

+ Saint Ambrose of Milan (4th Century)

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Tuesday of the Third Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 10:12-20

“Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself
against him who saws with it” (Isaiah 10:15)?

HOW TO OVERCOME THE SPIRIT OF PRIDE

And so we shall be able to avoid the snares of this most wicked spirit if, in the case of
each virtue where we have felt that we have made progress, we speak the words of the
Apostle, “Not I, but the grace of God with me.” And, “By the grace of God I am what I
am.” And that is God “who works in us both to will and to accomplish, for the sake of
His good pleasure.”

The Author of our salvation Himself also says, “He who abides in Me and I in Him, he
bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” And, “Unless the Lord build
the house, they who build it have labored in vain; unless the Lord guard the city, in vain
has he who guards it watch”…

Therefore, if we wish in deed and in fact to attain to the true perfection of virtue, we must
be at one with those teachers and leaders who did not engage in empty talk about it but
who grasped it through direct experience and who are also able to teach us, to direct us to
it, and to show us the surest way of arriving at it…The purity of heart that they acquired
also made it possible for them, most especially, to be ever more aware that they were
weighed down by sinfulness…

And so it is apparent that a person cannot attain the end of perfection and purity except
by true humility, which he should show first to the brothers and also manifest to God in
the depths of his heart, in the belief that, unless He offers him His protection and help at
every moment, he cannot ever reach the perfection that he desires and after which he is
running with all his might.

+ From John Cassian’s “The Institutes” (c. 365 – c. 435 A.D.), Twelfth Book: The
Spirit of Pride

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Wednesday of the Third Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 9:9-10:4

“For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still” (Isaiah
9:12,17,21; 10:4).

GOD’S FATHERLY LOVE AND MERCY

Rise and run to the church. Here is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He who
hears you pondering in the secret place of the mind runs to you. When you are still far
away, He sees you and runs to you. He sees in your heart. He runs, perhaps someone
may hinder, and He embraces You.

His foreknowledge is in the running, His mercy in the embrace and the disposition of
fatherly love. He falls on your neck to raise one prostrate and burdened with sins and
brings back one turned aside to the earthly toward heaven.

Christ falls on your neck to free your neck from the yoke of slavery and hangs His sweet
yoke upon your shoulders.

+ Saint Ambrose of Milan (4th Century), Exposition on the Gospel of Luke

Thursday of the Third Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 11:10-12:2

“O LORD, I will praise You; though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned
away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid;
for YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation” (Isaiah
12:1-2).

ALL MY HOPE IS IN GOD’S MERCY

I know, O Lord, that my sins exceed those of all other men, but I have as my refuge the
abyss of Your compassions which exceeds all things. I am confident that You will accept
and have mercy on all who approach Your goodness, for it pleases You to behold
repentance, and You rejoice at the ascetic struggles of Your servants.

When a caring mother is rejected by her child, she does not scorn him, for her motherly
care triumphs over all; may my sins likewise not surpass Your grace.

Only hope in the manifestation of Your grace, O man-befriending Master, consoles me


and keeps me from despair.

+ Saint Ephrem the Syrian (4th Century)

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Friday of the Third Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 13:2-13

“The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like that of many people! A tumultuous noise
of the kingdoms of nations gathered together! The LORD and His weapons of
indignation, to destroy the whole land” (Isaiah 13:4).

THE CHURCH GATHERED TOGETHER IN LOVE AND UNITY

Many who have waged war against the Church perished, but the Church soared up to the
skies. The Church is your hope, salvation, and refuge. It is higher than heaven, and
wider than the world.

+ Saint John Chrysostom (4th Century)

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FOURTH WEEK OF THE GREAT LENT
(Between “Prodigal Son Sunday” and “Samaritan Woman
Sunday”)
The fourth week of the Great Lent leads us to the passage in the Gospel of Saint
John about the Samaritan Woman (John 4:1-42). This Gospel reading reminds
us of God’s personal care for each of us. He desires to write His name on our
hearts. The Gospel also reminds us that true worship is not just reserved to the
Jews and their temple, but that all nations have been called to worship God in
“spirit and truth”. The followings sayings from the Fathers more or less touch on
these themes.

Monday of the Fourth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 14:24-32

“For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back?”

ENDURE AND ALL WILL END WELL

For their part [Joseph’s brothers] plotted to hand him over to death, distress, slavery and
the worst of evil fates; but God who is skillful in devising good used the wickedness of
the plotters for the credit of him whom they plotted to sell.

Lest anyone think that these things happened through some coincidence or reversal of
circumstances, by the very men who opposed and hindered them God brings about the
events that they tried to prevent, using Joseph’s enemies as servants for His credit.

From this you may learn that what God has planned no one will scatter, and no one will
turn aside His lofty hand, so that when people plot against you, you may not fall or be
annoyed but may keep in mind that the plot leads to good at the end, if only you endure
noble whatever happens to you.

+ Saint John Chrysostom (4th Century)

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Tuesday of the Fourth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 25:1-26:8

“Therefore the strong people will glorify You; The city of the terrible nations will fear
You” (Isaiah 25:3).

THE NATIONS GLORIFY GOD

Israel was called to the knowledge of God through the tutoring of the law and was richly
endowed with the things of God. It was delivered [from Egypt] and inherited the
Promised Land. Although there were many other peoples living in other parts of the
world, all were alien to spiritual matters and heavenly things. They had not tasted the
gifts that come from God. They were, as it were, naked and unclothed, enjoying neither
divine protection nor shelter from on high, nor spiritual wealth that comes from virtue nor
other things worthy of praise or admiration.

When Christ appeared, destroying the arrogance of the devil, He led the nations to God
the Father, and they basked in the splendor of the true light and shared in His glory.

+ Saint Cyril of Alexandria (375 – 444 A.D.), Commentary on Isaiah 3.1.25

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 26:21-27:9

“In that day God shall bring His holy and great and strong sword upon the dragon, even
the serpent that flees, upon the dragon, the crooked serpent: He shall destroy the
dragon” (Isaiah 27:1).

THE CROOKED SERPENT

Let us earnestly endeavor, therefore, to flee every crooked and tortuous act, and let us
keep our mind and the judgment of our soul as straight as a rule, in order that the praise
of the Lord may be permitted to us since we are upright.

In the same way the serpent, which is the author of sin, is called crooked, and the sword
of God is drawn against the dragon, the crooked serpent, which makes many twists and
turns in its progress…he who follows the serpent shows that his life is crooked, uneven,
and filled with contrariness; but, he who follows after the Lord makes his paths straight
and his footprints right.

+ Saint Basil the Great (4th Century), Homily 15 on Psalm 32

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Thursday of the Fourth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 28:14-22

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a
sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isaiah 28:16).

CHRIST IS THE STONE

Jacob, hastening to seek a bride, met Rachel unexpectedly at the well. And a great stone
lay upon the well, which a multitude of shepherds were [accustomed] to roll away when
they came together and then gave water to themselves and to their flocks. But Jacob
alone rolls away the stone and waters the flocks of his spouse.

The thing is, I think, a dark saying, a shadow of what should come. For what is the stone
that is laid but Christ? For of Him Isaiah says, “And I will in the foundations of Zion a
costly stone, precious, elect”; and Daniel likewise, “A stone was cut out but not by hand,”
that is, Christ was born without a man.

+ Saint Gregory of Nyssa (4th Century), On the Baptism of Christ

Friday of the Fourth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 29:13-23

“Therefore the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and
honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear
toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…’” (Isaiah 29:13).

GOD DESIRES TO WRITE ON THE HEART

If we do not see our children deriving any benefit from the teachers we send them to, then
we blame the teachers and take our children to other teachers.

What excuse will we have for putting so much emphasis on earthly things but not putting
emphasis on virtue?

Our teachers here [at church] are far more numerous. No less than the prophets and
apostles and patriarchs and all righteous people are set over you as teachers in every
church. And there is no profit in merely chanting out two or three psalms, making the
accustomed prayers at random and then being dismissed. Do you think this is enough for
your salvation? Have you not heard the prophet (or rather God through the prophet) say,
“These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me”?

To keep this from being the case with us as well, then wipe out the letters and
impressions the devil has engraved on your souls, and bring me a heart that has been set
free from worldly tumults so I can write on it what I want to.

+ Saint John Chrysostom (4th Century), Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew 11.9

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FIFTH WEEK OF THE GREAT LENT
(Between “Samaritan Woman Sunday” and “The Paralyzed
Man Sunday”)
As we have journeyed through more than half the Great Lent, we are in need of a
reminder that our Lord Jesus Christ continues to walk with us. The fifth week
leads us to the story of the paralyzed man in John 5:1-18. This man had an
infirmity for 38 years, and patiently waited at the Pool of Bethesda.

The following readings and sayings remind us that Christ never leaves us. Our
Lord came to the paralyzed man, a man who had not given up hope, but desired
healing. We too, no matter how much we must endure in our spiritual journey
must constantly seek healing, must never cease praying, and must lay our hope
in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday of the Fifth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 37:33-38:6

Go and tell Hezekiah, “Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father, ‘I have heard
your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years. I will
deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city.’”
(Isaiah 38:5-6).

THE RESULT OF PRAYER

Blessed is he, who makes himself a friend to faith and prayer; he will live with one
thought. Prayer rising in a man’s heart will open up the doors of heaven. Prayer sets
peace with God’s wrath.

+ Saint Ephrem the Syrian (4th Century)

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Tuesday of the Fifth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 40:1-8

“The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth” (Isaiah 40:4)

WALKING ON THE LORD’S PATH

According to the plain teaching of the Lord, the king’s highway is easy and smooth,
though it may be felt as hard and rough: for those who piously and faithfully serve Him,
when they have taken upon them the yoke of the Lord, and have learned of Him, that He
is meek and lowly of heart, at once somehow or other lay aside the burden of earthly
passions, and find no labor but rest for their souls, by the gift of the Lord…

For to them at once ‘the crooked shall become straight and the rough ways plain’ and
they shall ‘taste and see that the Lord is gracious’, and when they hear Christ proclaiming
in the Gospel, ‘Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh
you,’ they will lay aside the burden of their sins, and realize what follows, ‘For My yoke
is easy, and My burden is light.’

The way of the Lord then has refreshment if it is kept to according to His law.

+ From John Cassian’s Conferences (c. 365 – c. 435 A.D.), Conference of Abbot
Abraham, Chapter 25

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 41:4-14

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

DO NOT FEAR

[Our Lord Jesus Christ] announced as a general law, useful and necessary for salvation,
not only to the holy apostles but to all living on the earth, that people must seek His
kingdom. He announced this, being sure that what He gives will be sufficient for them to
be in need of nothing else.

What, then, does He say? Fear not, little flock (Luke 12:32). And by “do not fear,” He
means that they must believe that certainly and without doubt their heavenly Father will
give the means of life to those who love Him.

He will not neglect His own. Rather He will open His hand to them – the hand which
ever fills the universe with goodness.

+ From Saint Cyril of Alexandria (c. 375 – 444 A.D.), Commentary on Luke, Homily 91

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Friday of the Fifth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 43:1-9

“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O
Israel: ‘Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall
not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the
flame scorch you” (Isaiah 43:1-2).

GOD’S COMFORT

To bestow yet another means of comfort on our minds, He forcibly added that five
sparrows are scarcely perhaps worth a penny, and yet God does not forget even one of
them. He also said that the separate hairs of your head are all numbered (Luke 12:6-7).

Consider how great care He takes of those that love Him. The Preserver of the universe
extends His aid to things so worthless and descends to the smallest animals. How can He
forget those who love Him, especially when He takes so great care of them? He
condescends to visit them, to know exactly each particular of their state, and even how
many are the hairs of their heads…

Let us not doubt that with a rich hand He will give His grace to those who love Him. He
will not permit us to fall into temptation. If, by His wise purpose He permits us to be
taken in the snare in order that we may gain glory by suffering, He will most assuredly
grant us the power to bear it.

+ Saint Cyril of Alexandria (c. 375 – 444 A.D.), Commentary on Luke, Homily 87.

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SIXTH WEEK OF THE GREAT LENT
(Between “The Paralyzed Man” and “The Man Born
Blind”)
The sixth week leads us to the healing of the man who was born blind (John 9:1-
41). This Sunday, in the Coptic Church, is also called “Baptism Sunday.” The
Church makes the connection between baptism and the healing of the blind man.
Just as the man washed in the Pool of Siloam and regained his sight, we too
wash in the baptismal font and receive spiritual enlightenment. We have shared
in the resurrection of Christ and eagerly await the Pascha.

Monday of the Sixth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 43:10-28

“Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will
even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field will
honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and
rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen” (Isaiah 43:19-20).

THE LIVING WATERS OF BAPTISM

But as often as water is named alone in the Holy Scriptures, baptism is referred to, as we
see intimated in Isaiah…There, God foretold by the Prophet, that among the nations in
places which previously had been dry, rivers should afterwards flow plenteously and
should provide water for the elected people of God, that is, for those who were made sons
of God by the generation of baptism.

Moreover, it is again predicted and foretold before, that the Jews, if they should thirst and
seek after Christ, should drink with us, that is, should attain the grace of baptism.

“If they shall thirst,” he says, “He shall lead them through the deserts, shall bring forth
water for them out of the rock; the rock shall be cloven, and the water shall flow, and My
people shall drink” (Isaiah 48:21), which is fulfilled in the Gospel, when Christ, who is
the Rock, is cloven by a stroke of the spear in His passion; who also, admonishing what
was before announced by the Prophet, cries and says, “If any man thirst, let him come
and drink. He that believes in Me, as the Scripture says, out of his belly shall flow rivers
of living water” (John 7:38).

+ Saint Cyprian of Carthage (3rd Century), The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle 62

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Tuesday of the Sixth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 44:1-8

“For I will pour water on him who is thirst, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My
Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3).

THE EFFECT OF BAPTISM

O Lord, who gave us Your Spirit in Baptism, give me the words by which I praise you
with love.

The Only-Begotten Son has descended, hauled you up from [filth], granted you His Spirit
by Baptism, and made you His brother.

In the water, we…become truly children; and since then, we gained the right to call God,
“Our Father.” This Hidden One gave us His spirit through baptism.

+ Jacob of Serug (5th/6th Century)

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 44:21-28

“I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22).

REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS

And may these words be spoken now again over you also, “Sing, O heavens, and be
joyful, O earth,” and then, “for the Lord has had mercy on His people, and comforted the
lowly of His people (Isaiah 49:13). And this shall come to pass through the loving-
kindness of God, who says to you, “Behold, I will blot out as a cloud your transgressions,
and as a thick cloud your sins.”

But you have been counted worthy of the name of Faithful of whom it is written: “Upon
My servants shall be called a new name which shall be blessed on the earth” (Isaiah
65:15); you shall say with gladness, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”
(Ephesians 1:3):

In whom we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins,
according to the riches of His grace, wherein He abounded towards us, and what follows,
and again, “But God being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, when
we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4)

+ Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (4th Century), Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 18

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Thursday of the Sixth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 45:1-10

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you
may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel” (Isaiah
45:3).

UNDERSTANDING THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD

‘Your judgments are a great deep’ (LXX Psalm 35:6).

Therefore, if you seek to know why the life of a sinner is continued, but the days of
sojourning of the just man are cut short; why the unjust man thrives, but the just man is
afflicted; why the young child is snatched away before coming to maturity; whence are
wars; why there are shipwrecks, earthquakes, droughts, heavy rains; why things
destructive of man are created; why one man is a slave, another free, one is rich, another
is poor; why this one is treated with kindness, and that one condemned; and what is the
reward in the case of each of these from the Judge; taking all these questions into your
mind, consider that the judgments of God are the depths and, because they are enclosed
in the divine storehouses, are not easily grasped by those encountering them.

To him who believes, a promise is given by God: “I will give you hidden treasures,
unseen ones” (Isaiah 45:3). When we have been deemed worthy of knowledge face to
face, we shall see also the depths in the storehouses of God. If you will gather together
the sayings in Scripture about vessels, you will better comprehend the prophetic meaning.

+ Saint Basil the Great (4th Century), Exegetic Homilies, Homily 15

Friday of the Sixth Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 45:11-17

“I have made the earth, and created man on it. I – My hands – stretched out the heavens,
and all their host I have commended” (Isaiah 45:12).

GOD THE CREATOR

And the Father is called by the Spirit ‘Most High’ and ‘Almighty’ and ‘Lord of Hosts’
that we may learn that the God, this one Himself, He is the Maker of heaven and earth
and the whole world, the Creator of angels and men, and the Lord of all, by whom all
things exist, and from whom all things are nourished – merciful, compassionate, good,
righteous, the God of all – both of the Jews and of the Gentiles and of the faithful.

However, to the faithful He is as Father, since ‘in the last times’ He opened the testament
of the adoption as sons…

+ Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd Century), On the Apostolic Preaching

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SEVENTH WEEK OF THE GREAT LENT
(Between “The Man Born Blind” and Palm Sunday)
The last week of the Great Lent completes our journey and turns our focus to
Christ’s life-giving death and resurrection. The readings and sayings point to the
hope of salvation and the resurrection. The word “Pascha” means ‘passover’. In
Lent, Holy Week, and the Feast of Resurrection, we pass over from sickness to
health, from the aridity of a spiritual desert to springs of living water, from
darkness to light, and from death to life.

Monday of the Seventh Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 48:17 – 49:4

“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).

KEEPING A VIRTUOUS LIFE

Now, my beloved, our will ought to keep pace with the grace of God, and not fall short;
lest while our will remains idle, the grace given us should begin to depart, and the enemy
finding us empty and naked, should enter [into us], as was the case with him spoken of in
the Gospel, from whom the devil went out; “for having gone through dry places, he took
seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and returning and finding the house empty,
he dwelt there, and the last state of that man was worse than the first” (Mt. 12:43-35).

For the departure from virtue gives place for the entrance of the unclean spirit.

+ Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (4th Century)

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Tuesday of the Seventh Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 49:6-10

“Thus says the Lord, The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One, To Him whom man
despises, To Him whom the nation abhors, To the Servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and
arise, Princes also shall worship, Because of the LORD who is faithful, The Holy One of
Israel; And He has chosen You” (Isaiah 49:7).

THE CHRISTIAN STRUGGLE

The Son of God assumed human nature, and in it He endured all that belongs to the
human condition….

Let mankind raise its hopes and recognize its own nature: let it observe how high a place
it has in the works of God. Do not despise yourselves, you men: the Son of God assumed
manhood. Do not despise yourselves, you women: God’s Son was born of a woman…

Do not set your heart on temporal rewards…Do not fear insults, crosses and death: for if
they did man harm..., God’s Son…would not have endured them.

+ Blessed Augustine of Hippo (4th Century)

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 58:1-11

“Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth
speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be
your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8).

CHRIST IS THE LUMINOUS SOURCE

I am the luminous source of the immortal stream and river. In it those who love Me with
all their soul are washing by the water that flows from Me, not after death but hour by
hour, and are cleansed from every stain in body and soul, so that they are completely
radiant like a lamp and have the appearance of a sunbeam.

I am the Sun who rises in them every hour as in the morning and am seen by the mind,
just as I in times past manifested Myself in the prophets. When they saw Me they sang
My praise and constantly called on Me, as David says, “In the morning hear my voice, in
the morning I shall stand before You, and You will look upon me” (LXX Psalm 5:3).

…Those who sit in darkness must see the great Light shine, if only they look toward it…

…[Do not think that] though it shone in the past, it is impossible for men of the present
day to see it while they are still in the body.

+ Saint. Symeon the New Theologian (949 – 1022 A.D.)

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Thursday of the Seventh Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 65:8-16

“For the Lord GOD will slay you, and call His servants by another name; so that he who
blesses himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he who swears in
the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and
because they are hidden from My eyes” (Isaiah 65:16).

LIVING UP TO THE NEW NAME, “CHRISTIAN”

He has already indicated this name previously; it is new and not ancient: for it was after
the Manifestation of Christ our Master that the believers received the name “Christians.”
It is the name that is conferred in lieu of all kinds of praise: for when one desires to laud
someone, one usually adds, after a series of praises: “He is truly a Christian.” And, on
the contrary, when one exhorts, one has a habit of saying: “Act Christian, do as it
behooves a Christian to do;” to such a point that this appellation is full of blessing and
praise.

“For they shall bless the true God,” that is to say, those who have merited the new name.

“And they that swear upon the earth shall swear by the true God.” For they will banish
the memory of idols and not cease to bear everywhere in their mouth [the name] of the
true God.

“For they shall forget the former affliction, and it shall not come into their heart.” He
calls the error of [idolatry] “affliction,” because it was the cause of misfortunes.

+ Theodoret of Cyrus (5th Century)

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Friday of the Seventh Week of the Great Lent: Isaiah 66:10-24

“When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like grass;
The hand of the LORD shall be known to His servants, and His indignation to His
enemies” (Isaiah 66:14).

LOOKING TOWARD THE RESURRECTION

Now, that He who at the beginning created man, did promise him a second birth after his
dissolution into earth, Isaiah thus declares: “The dead shall rise again, and they who are
in the tombs shall arise, and they who are in the earth shall rejoice. For the dew which is
from You is health to them” (Isaiah 26:19).

And again: “I will comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem: and you shall
see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish as the grass; and the hand
of the Lord shall be known to those who worship Him.”

+ Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century), Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter XV

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