Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church
Holy Annunciation
Orthodox Church
15 Prospect Street, Maynard, MA 01752 | 978-897-7695
Theotokos, and Ever Virgin Mary
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Parish Service Hours

2017 Lenten Services(pdf)

Regular Schedule
Great Vespers:
Saturday, 5 PM
Church School:
Sunday, 9 AM
Choir Rehearsal:
Sunday, 9 AM
Divine Liturgy:
Sunday, 10 AM

Summer Schedule
Great Vespers:
Saturday, 5 PM
Divine Liturgy:
Sunday, 9:30AM

Feast Days
Vespers:
6:30 PM
Liturgy:
9:30 AM

Orthodox Church in America

International Orthodox Christian Charities

 

 

Photo of Fr. Robert

Message from Fr. Robert

Lenten Thoughts - 2013

Rich and fertile was the earth allotted to us,
But all we planted were the seeds of sin.
We reaped the sheaves of evil with the sickle of laziness.
We failed to place them on the threshing floor of sorrow.
Now we beg You, Lord, eternal Master of the harvest,
May your love become the breeze to winnow the straw of our worthless deeds.
Make us like precious wheat to be stored in heaven, and save us all!
(Lord I call, Sunday of the Prodigal)

For most of our sojourn on this earth, we are inured to the beauty that surrounds us. We pass the beauty of creation day in and day out while traveling to and from our labors, appointments, and chores rarely taking note as we are preoccupied with or exhausted by the tasks of the day. Even standing in the Lord’s temple in the midst of the divine services, we are consumed by our own cares at times, so much so that the beauty of the Word proclaimed by the choir is little more than sonic wallpaper, a pleasant background to the more important cares of the moment. Then, for no apparent reason, we are shaken awake. Like a bolt out of the blue, something we hear--a word, a phrase, a verse--resonates with us forever changing our relationship with the Divine. Such was the case for me upon hearing the above as if for the first time this year. Why does this hymn suddenly speak to me? Why had I never noticed it before despite having sung these words for the past two and half decades?

As poetry, the above stikheron beautifully sets forth the movement of salvation from creation to redemption, the fall and rise of humanity, and the renewal of all in the love of God. Through the Cross, Tomb, Resurrection on the third day, Ascension into Heaven and Sitting at the Right Hand, those who believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God recognize the promise of eternal communion with God in the Kingdom of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a place of brightness, verdure, and rest where all sickness sorrow and sighing have fled away. Yet, through the welter of daily cares, we, too, become desensitized to this great promise. We may even come to resent it as an imposition on our already complete lives. This is the root of sin in the modern age. We declare: “I am complete within myself or my family. I have no need of others.” In fact, we begin to judge others by their utility to us: “What have you done for me lately?” Above all, we judge God and his holy Church accordingly. Our faith is weakened. Our love turns inward. Our desire for communion grows cold. We judge God by what we perceive he has done for us and the Church becomes extraneous to our lives. In the end, all we sow are the seeds of selfishness, of envy, of jealousy, of destruction.

In spite of our waywardness, God does not abandon us. Through his holy Church, we are continually called to become one with God and with each other in communion in the Kingdom. The Great Fast exists as a wake-up call, to shake us from our routines so that we may “know the power of God’s goodness” in a world that tends toward degradation. The discipline of abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving is given not as a burden but as a restoration to right relationship with God, neighbor, and self. The robust service schedule exists not as an ordeal, but so that everyone may come to at least some of the additional services and in doing so, see the good in God, neighbor and self in order to let that goodness shine forth transforming lives darkened by sin, overshadowed by death. The Word of God is Love, a Love stronger than death, a Love that transforms and transfigures life, setting right that which is disordered and darkened by sin. The Word of God is Light that illumines all who dwell in darkness, a Light that shines into the deepest corners of despair, depression and disorder, a Light that beckons all to come and be consoled, to turn and be healed. Who can deny such a wonderful opportunity!

Brothers and Sisters, the Great Fast affords us the possibility of seeing the never-setting Light. It grants us the possibility of entering into Life without end. It reveals to us a Love that never grows cold. Let us view Lent as an opportunity to renew mind, body, and soul, to refresh the spirit by entering more fully into the embrace of Divine Love that is Light and Life prepared for us by the Father through his Son in the Holy Spirit. Let us embrace Lent!

May the winnowing love of God “make us like precious wheat to be stored in heaven, and save us” and through us, all of creation.

A few words about abstinence.

First, why do we abstain? Abstinence is part of the ascetic life together with prayer, both corporate and personal, and almsgiving or charity. Abstinence as an act independent of the other two actions is merely a diet, one that is doomed to failure. In its proper context, abstinence reminds us that, if we are what we eat as Fr. Schmemann contends, Christians by partaking of the divine Body and Blood of Christ are alive in Christ and He in us. The only way we can perceive this life in Christ as living and life-giving is by freeing ourselves from bondage to the world. Abstinence is that vehicle or way to freedom.

Therefore, in practical terms, how do we abstain? As regards the practical, we must discern the two dimensions of abstinence: the letter and the spirit. The letter is pretty clear: no meat or dairy is permitted at any meal during the Great Fast with fish being allowed at Annunciation as the only exception. Furthermore, we are encouraged to practice xerophagy or dry eating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This is relaxed on all other days with wine and oil being permitted. Not too much to remember, right? The spirit is also clear: the purpose of all of this denial is to lead us into deeper union and communion with God. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, practically speaking, NO! Too often, rigid adherence to the former leads to the death of the latter. So, what are we to do?

In practical terms we do what we can and then we try to do a little more. We cannot be liberated from an earthly slavery without a little effort on our part, a response if you will, to the crucified and risen Lord who suffered and gave his life for us so that we may have life unending in his Name. It should be difficult. It should provoke a positive response. Thus, if the response is the opposite of that desired, instead of drawing closer to God we move further away, then something is out of balance. It profits us little if all this abstinence makes us ornery, depressed, irritated, ill and ill-tempered. If this is the case, then maybe we need to rethink the way we are fasting.

Beware! If we become homicidal or suicidal in the fourth week of the Great Fast, then we are either ignoring prayer or almsgiving or both. Before we take our frustrations out on God, ourselves, and our neighbor, best to have a cheeseburger to restore our good humor. If we are suffering greatly, then we need to moderate the fast. I leave it to you to decide how.

Beware! If you are under a physician’s care and need to eat certain food groups or eat at regular intervals or take medication with food, follow your physician’s instructions. I’m not eager for more hospital visits or funerals. Doctor’s orders, however, should not be a ready excuse to park ourselves in front of a seven course meal. As far as abstaining for evening liturgies, I offer three possible courses of action: to fast from midnight before, to partake of a Lenten breakfast and fast the rest of the day or to partake of a Lenten breakfast and light Lenten lunch and fast until liturgy. I leave it to you to decide what is best.

Parents: If you have children who express an interest in joining you in fasting, see what you can do. If it is simply driving you (and them) crazy, try offering a cheeseburger. Above all, if we do not attend any of the midweek Lenten services, all of this effort will be a waste of time and energy. This is not an invitation to skip it completely, but to make a good faith effort. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The rewards are great, but effort is required.

 


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