SCHEDULE OF SERVICES
There is a potluck meal after each Liturgy
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo
ASCENDING TOWARD GREAT LENT
Readings for the five Sundays preceding the Great Lent.
SUNDAY OF THE LAST JUDGMENT
Choosing our destination; planning the voyage.
“The day of death is better than the day of birth” (Eccl.7:1).
“Why rejoice when a ship sets sail upon a perilous journey; rather rejoice when it safely enters its harbour” (Hebrew commentary on Eccl.7:1).
Brethren, when one is about to take a journey, it is
wise to look ahead to the destination, and to plan the voyage well. Many
perils and dangers await the one who sets sail on a vast sea. No matter
how well we plan, our lives remain an uncharted course, for no one
knows what the dawning of each day will bring, nor whether, as dusk
falls, he will live to see another dawn. Nevertheless, when a ship sets
sail, not only the crew, but each passenger has made his plans and
preparations for the end of the journey, when the destination is finally
The Church has ordained that on this Sunday of preparation, as we make ready to sail on the voyage of Great Lent, we look forward to the end of our journey and contemplate our destination.
On Saturday, we celebrated the “great memorial” service, commemorating all those who have fallen asleep in faith, “in the hope of resurrection and life everlasting.”
In this service, we not only commemorated those who have already departed this life, but we contemplated the day of our own death. The Holy Church called upon us to remember that each of us must come to that final hour of earthly life, and so prepare ourselves for it.
To bring us through to a complete awareness and contemplation of our destination, we celebrate in advance the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment on this Sunday.
Contemplating the end of our voyage on the sea of this worldly life is by no means morbid, and not altogether sorrowful. It calls upon us to prepare ourselves, through spiritual struggle and repentance, for those rewards which the Lord has promised to the faithful. The verses and readings of the services for both Saturday and this “Sunday of the Last Judgment” call to mind the terrible fate of those who do not take thought for their end, and who do not prepare, through faith, love and spiritual struggle, to come before the judgment seat of Christ.
All this is done to help make us ready for the fast, so that we might understand fully the purpose and meaning of our spiritual and physical fast, and make us aware of the nature of true fasting. Thus, in the Matins service of this Saturday we chant: “Dost thou fast? Do not deal treacherously with thy neighbour. Dost thou decline certain foods? Do not judge thy brother, lest thou thyself be judged and sent to that fire and burned like wax.”
As the end of our voyage in this life is death and the last judgment, the end of our journey of Great Lent is the glorious feast of the Resurrection of Christ. The end of both these journeys is summarized in a hymn of Saturday’s vespers:
“Thou, O Saviour, didst redeem us with Thine own precious blood. By Thy death, Thou didst deliver us from a bitter death, and by Thy Resurrection, Thou didst grant us life everlasting.”
As we read the hymns for this “Soul Saturday” and “Sunday of the Last Judgment,” we find instructions for planning our journey, navigational aids to plot the course of our voyage, a guide for making our preparations.
Beloved of Christ, bearing these things in our hearts, let us set forth on the journey of Great Lent with the vision of our destination clearly before us and, seeing the end even as we begin, let us, with joyous sorrow, make ready to depart, to cross the sea of Lent to Holy Pascha, to cross the sea of life to the longed-for harbour of Paradise.
May our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ be the captain and navigator of our vessel, to the glory of His Holy name, and of the Eternal Father and Life-bestowing Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.