Saturday, January 17, 2009

Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of the Last Judgement

http://lent.goarch.org/judgement/learn/

The Sunday of the Last Judgment is commemorated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, which is preceded by the Matins service. A Great Vespers is conducted on Saturday evening. The hymns of the Triodion for this day are added to the usual prayers and hymns of the weekly commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ. The naming of the Sunday is related to the reading of the story from the Gospel at the Divine Liturgy.

Scripture readings for the Sunday of the Last Judgment are: At the Orthros (Matins): The prescribed weekly Gospel reading. At the Divine Liturgy: I Corinthians 8:8-9:2; Matthew 25:31-46.

The Sunday of the Last Judgment is also known as Meatfare Sunday. This is the last day that meat can be eaten before the Lenten fast. Dairy products are allowed on each day of this week, even Wednesday and Friday. The next Sunday is the Sunday of Cheesefare, It is the last day that dairy products can be eaten prior to the commencement of Great Lent.

On the Saturday before this Sunday, the first of three Saturdays of the Souls are held. This is a special commemoration on this and the next two Saturdays, when the Church offers a Divine Liturgy and Memorial Service for the departed faithful. This is considered a universal commemoration of the dead. It is closely related to the theme of the Sunday of the Last Judgment since the services focus on the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. Through the memorial services, the Church is commending to God all who have departed and who are now awaiting the Last Judgment.


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Prayer on the Sunday of the Last Judgment

Receive our unworthy prayers, O Christ our God, as Thou didst accept the tears and the myrrh of the harlot, and be Thou entreated by our songs of praise, as by her kisses, and grant us a good conversion, like hers, unto Thee, bestowing upon us, as to her, the remission of our sins; and as Thou didst not reject her that touched Thy most pure feet, so too cast us not off who fall down at the unseen feet of Thy merciful kindness: and as Thou didst not send her away in shame when she confessed Thee, the Knower of Hearts, neither cause us, who confess our hidden sins, to be shamed before Angels and men at Thy dread Judgment: but rather make us heirs of eternal forgiveness, and of Thine incorruptible glory.

For Thou art merciful, and glorified together with Thy Father Who is from all ages, and Thine All-Holy, and Good, and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

(Orlov, Prayer No. 53, p. 328)



"...By the commemoration of the Dread Judgment the Holy Church more strongly prompts the sinners to repentance and points out the true meaning of hope in the mercy of God. God is merciful but at the same time He is the Righteous Judge, having to render to everyone according to his deeds; therefore sinners should not be mistaken concerning their responsibility for their moral condition and abuse of the long-suffering God. Recalling the Dread Judgment and turning our mental eyes on "the eternal fire, the multitude in darkness and the Tartarus, the dread worm, the gnashing of teeth and the unceasing anguish that befalls those who have sinned without measure", "the inscrutable trembling and dread", "the incorruptible torture" and "the soul corrupting Hades", the Holy Church inspires us with the idea of the absolute necessity of repentance both of amending and preliminary plaintive prayer to the Lord, while there is still time and opportunity, and on behalf of all of us exclaims: "today let abstain from food, let us make haste to do good deeds and let us worthily repent our transgressions". The Holy Church especially calls us for spiritual struggles of philanthropy, so this order of struggles is the most possible for everyone and is most proper during the of time of fasting and repentance: "Knowing the commandments of the Lord, let this be our way of life: let us feed the hungry, let us give the thirsty drink, let us clothed the naked, let us welcome strangers, let us visit those in prison and the sick: Then the Judge of all the earth will say even to us: 'Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you."


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