The Forty Days
The two preceding Sundays, of the Last Judgment and of Forgiveness, together constitute – albeit in reverse order – a recapitulation of the whole range of sacred history, from its beginning point, Adam in Paradise, to its end-point, the Second Coming of Christ, when all time and history are taken up into eternity.During the forty days that now follow, although this wider perspective is never forgotten, there is an increasing concentration upon the central moment in sacred history, upon the saving event of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, which makes possible man’s return to Paradise and inaugurates the End. Learn More
February 18: Forgiveness (Cheese-Fare) Sunday
‘Woe is me!’ Adam cried lamenting: ‘for the serpent and the woman have deprived me of my boldness before God, and through eating from the tree I have become an exile from the joy of Paradise. Woe is me! No more can I endure the shame. I who was once king of all God’s creatures upon earth have now become a prisoner, led astray by evil counsel. I who was once clothed in the glory of immortality must now, as one condemned to die, wrap myself miserably in the skins of mortality. Woe is me! Who will share my sorrow with me? But, O Lord who lovest mankind, who hast fashioned me from the earth and art clothed in compassion, call me back from the bondage of the enemy and save me.
- Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:14-21
- The Sunday Before Great and Holy Lent
- Homily on Genuine Forgiveness by Saint John Chrysostom
- A Short Homily, On Forgiveness, by Saint Mark the Ascetic
February 11: The Last Judgment (Meat-Fare Sunday)
Come, merciful Lord, before it is too late: save me and deliver me from punishment.
O Lord supreme in love, as I think upon Thy fearful judgment-seat and the day of Judgment, I tremble and am full of fear, for I am accused by my own conscience. When Thou sittest on Thy throne and bringest all to trial, none will be able then to deny his sins, for the truth will accuse him and terror will constrain him. The flames of Gehenna will roar and the sinners will gnash their teeth. Therefore have mercy upon me before the end, and spare me, Judge most righteous.
- Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
- The Last Judgment: Meat-Fare Sunday
February 4: Sunday of the Prodigal Son
O Jesus my God, as the Prodigal Son now accept me also in repentance. All my life I have lived in carelessness and provoked Thee to anger.
The divine wealth that once Thous gavest me I have sinfully wasted. I have departed far from Thee and lived as the Prodigal, O compassionate Father. Accept me also now as I return.
Open Thy fatherly embrace now and accept me also as the Prodigal Son, O most merciful Lord, that I may glorify Thee with thanksgiving.
- Gospel Reading: Luke 15:11-32
- Return from Exile: The Sunday of the Prodigal Son
- The Prodigal Son Returns Home to the Father, by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan
January 28: Sunday of the Publican & the Pharisee
The Publican and the Pharisee ran the race of life together, but the one was overcome by foolish pride and brought to shameful shipwreck, while the other was saved by humility.
Changing to a righteous course of life, let us emulate the wisdom of the Publican and flee from the hateful conceit of the Pharisee; and so let us attain to life.
Let us eagerly follow the ways of Jesus the Saviour and His humility, if we decide to attain the everlasting tabernacle of joy and to dwell in the land of the living.