From Old Testament times believers have burned incense as an offering when worshiping God. The ancient temple in Jerusalem even had priests whose sole duty was to keep the censer burning twenty-four hours a day.
Ancient pagan kings were often escorted with large fans of peacock feathers and burning incense when entering their palaces. Early Christians took both these symbols for their worship in recognition of Christ as their Sovereign King and Lord. To this day the Orthodox Church uses incense in most of her services, and large circular fans, reminiscent of the peacock fans of ancient times, are held over the Gospel book during the proclamation of God's word during celebrations of the Divine Liturgy.
As a young man attending my very first Orthodox Liturgy, I was struck by the use of incense. The words of the Psalmist King David, "Let my prayer arise as incense before Thee...", is chanted during every celebration of Vespers during the censing of the temple. During every service where there is a great censing of the whole church, the priest (or deacon) censes the frescoes and icons as windows into eternity, as the incense wafts upward as an offering of the people of God.
The people are also censed by the priest in recognition of their having been created in the image and likeness of their Creator God. Incense is so central in Christian worship that it is even used in the worship of the domestic church, where the family gathers in prayer around their own icons, reading the scriptures together, and offering their family prayers to the Lord.
Let my prayer arise as incense before Thee!
With love in Christ,
Notice: In previous postings on this blog, I wrote that the monastery is not supported by the Western American Diocese, of which we are a part. This statement was incorrect, and in fact our diocese holds a special collection each year for its two main monasteries, of which All-Merciful Saviour Monastery is one, and parishes all throughout the diocese, which are often themselves extremely poor, offer what they are able on our behalf. Additionally, the diocese has in the past offered us additional financial support in cases of extreme need, and has even this year made adjustments to its collections to help bring funds to us earlier in the year. As a monastery of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, we are grateful to the diocese, and to its parishes and many faithful who contribute to our life in this way--whose small but heartfelt contributions join with those of our many other benefactors to make our life here possible.
Sunday April 6, 2014 / March 24, 2014
Fifth Sunday of the Great Lent. Tone eight.
Great Lent. Food with Oil
Venerable Mary of Egypt (movable holiday on the 5th Sunday of the Great Lent).
Forefeast of the Annunciation.
Venerable Zacharias the Recluse of Egypt (4th c.).
St. Artemon, bishop of Seleucia (1st c.).
New Hieromartyr Vladimir priest (1920).
Venerable Zachariah, faster of the Kiev Caves (13th c.).
Martyrs Stephen and Peter of Kazan (1552).
Venerable James the Confessor, bishop of Catania (802-811).
"The Clouded Mount" Icon of the Mother of God.
Hieromartyr Parthenius, patriarch of Constantinople (1657).
St. Savvas the New of Kalymnos (1948) (Greek).
Eight Martyrs of Caesarea in Palestine (Greek).
Venerable Martin of Thebes, monk (Greek).
St. Thomas, abbot of the monastery of St. Euthymius (542).
St. Severus of Catania (802-811).
St. Artemius, bishop of Thessalonica.
St. Dunchad, abbot of Iona.
You can read the life of the saint by clicking on the highlighted name.
The Scripture Readings for the Day
The Heavenly Sanctuary11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Jesus a Third Time Predicts His Death and Resurrection32 Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: 33 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; 34 and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
Greatness Is Serving35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
39 They said to Him, “We are able.”
So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
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All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA
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