Wednesday, January 20, 2021 UTC

JAN 17: SUNDAY OF ZACCHAEUS & PRE-LENTEN READING PREPARATION

JAN 17: CONFESSION – CANCELLED, DIVINE LITURGY – CANCELLED.

PROPERS: 01-17-21_Sunday_DL

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Reading from the “Journey Through the Great Fast” – Preface: JourneyThroughtheGreatFastPrefac

Reading from the “Journey Through the Great Fast” – The Sunday of Zacchaeus: SundayofZacchaeus

Bible Reading for Sunday of Zacchaeus: PRELentenReadingSundayofZacchaeus

Today’s Gospel Reading is Luke 19: 1-10 in which Jesus Seeks Zacchaeus, the Tax-Collector & for that reason the Sunday is known as “Zacchaeus Sunday.” The account was chosen to open the Lenten season because of 2 reasons: Jesus’ call to Zacchaeus to come down from the tree (symbolizing the divine call to humility) and Zacchaeus’ subsequent repentance. It tells how Christ brought salvation to the sinful man, and how his life was changed simply because he “sought to see who Jesus was” (Luke 19:3). Our Lenten journey begins with a recognition of our own sinfulness, just as Zacchaeus recognized his. He promised to make restitution by giving half of his wealth to the poor, and by paying to those he had falsely accused four times as much as they had lost. In this, he went beyond the requirements of the Law. We are also assured of God’s mercy and compassion by Christ’s words to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation is come to this house” (Luke 19:9).

The season of the Great Fast is preceded by its own liturgical preparation. The first sign of the approach of the Great Fast comes five Sundays before its beginning, during which the faithful prepare themselves for the abstinence, prayer, and repentance.

“Preparation for the Great Fast

The Church seldom starts us on a path without providing some preliminary orientation and preparation; and the Great Fast is no exception. The four weeks leading up to the Fast (five Sundays, and the weekdays in between) remind us of our need for a “Lenten springime”, and of the spiritual pitfalls that can divert us from our goal of communion with God.

The pre-Fast preparations begin with the fifth Sunday before the start of the Fast, the Sunday of Zacchaeus. On this Sunday, we hear of the tax-collector Zacchaeus, his ardent desire to see Jesus, and how this desire was fulfilled beyond his expectations.

The next Sunday is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Sunday Gospel reminds us of the dangers of hypocrisy and the need for true humility in order to come close to God. Penitential hymns (stichera) are added at Sunday Matins, and we sing these every Sunday from now till the end of the Fast.

During the following week, there is no fasting or abstinence, even on the ordinary meatless days of Wednesday and Friday. (This is one of four such periods in the course of the year; the others are days from December 25 to January 5, and the weeks following the feasts of Pascha and Pentecost.)

The following Sunday is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, on which we are shown a story of repentence and acceptance. The Prodigal Son is an image of each of us, as we “remember ourselves” and resolve to break with our sins, return from exile, and start a new life. On this Sunday and the two Sundays that follow, we sing Psalm 137 (“By the waters of Babylon“) at Matins. This song of the Israelite captivity expresses our situation as exiles in a foreign land. Unlike the Israelites – but like the prodigal son – we can choose to return home.

With the next Sunday, the Sunday of the Last Judgment, we are only eight days from the start of the Great Fast. At the Divine Liturgy, we hear the Gospel account of the second coming of the Lord in glory, and of the final judgment. To prepare us for the rigors of the Fast, the Church’s traditional fasting rules call on the faithful to fast from flesh-meats for the final week before the Fast. That is why the Sunday of the Last Judgment is also called the Sunday of Meat-fare (that is, the Sunday of meat-eating).

During the final week before the Fast, called Cheesefare Week, the traditional fasting rules continue to allow the eating of eggs and dairy products.

Finally, on Cheesefare Sunday, we have come to the very brink of the fast. At the Divine Liturgy, our Lord’s words in the Gospel speak of forgiveness: “If you forgive men their trespasses, then your heavenly Father will forgive you.” For this reason, the day is also called Forgiveness Sunday. The service of Vespers on this day is especially solemn, and also followed by a ceremony of mutual forgiveness between priest and people.” From the Metropolitan Cantor Institute, Byzantine Eparchy of Pittsburgh – https://mci.archpitt.org/liturgy/Great_Fast.html