FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT — Tone 1. Sunday of Orthodoxy.
Ven. Aleksy (Alexius) the Man of God (411). Ven. Macarius, Abbot and Wonderworker of Kalyázinsk (Tver’—1483). Martyr Marinus. St. Patrick, Bishop of Armagh, Enlightener of Ireland (ca. 461).
Saint Alexis was born at Rome into the family of the pious and poverty-loving Euphemianus and Aglais. The couple was childless for a long time and constantly prayed the Lord to grant them a child. And the Lord consoled the couple with the birth of their son Alexis.
At six years of age the child began to read and successfully studied the mundane sciences, but it was with particular diligence that he read Holy Scripture. When he was a young man, he began to imitate his parents: he fasted strictly, distributed alms and beneath his fine clothing he secretly wore a hair shirt. Early on there burned within him the desire to leave the world and serve God. His parents, however, had arranged for Alexis to marry a beautiful and virtuous bride.
On his wedding night, Alexis gave her his ring and his belt (which were very valuable) and said, “Keep these things, Beloved, and may the Lord be with us until His grace provides us with something better.” Secretly leaving his home, he boarded a ship sailing for Mesopotamia.
Arriving in the city of Edessa, where the Icon of the Lord “Not-made-by-Hands” (August 16) was preserved, Alexis sold everything that he had, distributed the money to the poor and began to live near the church of the Most Holy Theotokos under a portico. The saint used a portion of the alms he received to buy bread and water, and he distributed the rest to the aged and infirm. Each Sunday he received the Holy Mysteries.
The parents sought the missing Alexis everywhere, but without success. The servants sent by Euphemianus also arrived in Edessa, but they did not recognize the beggar sitting at the portico as their master. His body was withered by fasting, his comeliness vanished, his stature diminished. The saint recognized them and gave thanks to the Lord that he received alms from his own servants.
The inconsolable mother of Saint Alexis confined herself in her room, incessantly praying for her son. His wife also grieved with her in-laws.
Saint Alexis dwelt in Edessa for seventeen years. Once, the Mother of God spoke to the sacristan of the church where the saint lived: “Lead into My church that Man of God, worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. His prayer rises up to God like fragrant incense, and the Holy Spirit rests upon him.” The sacristan began to search for such a man, but was not able to find him for a long time. Then he prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos, beseeching Her to clear up his confusion. Again a voice from the icon proclaimed that the Man of God was the beggar who sat in the church portico.
The sacristan found Saint Alexis and brought him into the church. Many recognized him and began to praise him. The saint secretly boarded a ship bound for Cilicia, intending to visit the church of Saint Paul in Tarsus. But God ordained otherwise. A storm took the ship far to the West and it reached the coast of Italy. The saint journeyed to Rome and decided to live in his own house. Unrecognized, he humbly asked his father’s permission to settle in some corner of his courtyard. Euphemianus settled Alexis in a specially constructed cell and gave orders to feed him from his table.
Living at his parental home, the saint continued to fast and he spent day and night at prayer. He humbly endured insults and jeering from the servants of his father. The cell of Alexis was opposite his wife’s windows, and the ascetic suffered grievously when he heard her weeping. Only his immeasurable love for God helped the saint endure this torment. Saint Alexis dwelt at the house of his parents for seventeen years and the Lord revealed to him the day of his death. Then the saint, taking paper and ink, wrote certain things that only his wife and parents would know. He also asked them to forgive him for the pain he had caused them.
On the day of Saint Alexis’ death in 411, Archbishop Innocent (402-417) was serving Liturgy in the presence of the emperor Honorius (395-423). During the services a Voice was heard from the altar: “Come unto Me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt.11:28). All those present fell to the ground in terror.
The Voice continued: “On Friday morning the Man of God comes forth from the body; have him pray for the city, that you may remain untroubled.” They began to search throughout Rome, but they did not find the saint. Thursday evening the Pope was serving Vigil in the Church of Saint Peter. He asked the Lord to show them where to find the Man of God.
After Liturgy the Voice was heard again in the temple: “Seek the Man of God in the house of Euphemianus.” All hastened there, but the saint was already dead. His face shone like the face of an angel, and his hand clasped the paper, and they were unable to take it. They placed the saint’s body on a cot, covered with costly coverings. The Pope and the Emperor bent their knees and turned to the saint, as to one yet alive, asking him to open his hand. And the saint heard their prayer. When the letter was read, the righteous one’s wife and parents tearfully venerated his holy relics.
The body of the saint was placed in the center of the city. The emperor and the Pope carried the body of the saint into the church, where it remained for a whole week, and then was placed in a marble crypt. A fragrant myrrh began to flow from the holy relics, bestowing healing upon the sick.
The venerable relics of Saint Alexis, the Man of God, were buried in the church of Saint Boniface. The relics were uncovered in the year 1216.
The Life of Saint Alexis, the Man of God, was always very popular in Russia.
TROPARIA AND KONTAKIA
Troparion of the Sunday, Tone 1
When the stone had been sealed by the Jews; / while the soldiers were guarding Thy most pure Body; / Thou didst rise on the third day, O Savior, / granting life to the world. / The powers of heaven therefore cried to Thee, O Giver of Life: / Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Christ! / Glory to Thy Kingdom! / Glory to Thy dispensation, O Thou Who lovest mankind.
The First Sunday of Great Lent, Troparion, Tone 2
We worship Thy immaculate Image, O Good One, and ask forgiveness of our sins, O Christ God; for of Thy own will Thou wast pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, to deliver from slavery to the enemy those whom Thou hadst created. Therefore we thankfully cry to Thee: Thou hast filled all things with joy, O our Saviour, by coming to save the world.
Kontakion of the Sunday, Tone 1
As God, Thou didst rise from the tomb in glory, / raising the world with Thyself. / Human nature praises Thee as God, for death has vanished! / Adam exults, O Master! / Eve rejoices, for she is freed from bondage, and cries to Thee: / Thou art the Giver of Resurrection to all, O Christ!
Kontakion, Tone 8
The illimitable Word of the Father accepted limitations by incarnation from thee, O Mother of God; and He transformed our defiled image to its original state and transfused it with the divine beauty. But we confess and give thanks for our salvation, and we proclaim it by deed and word.
Hebrews 11:24-26, 32-12:2 (Epistle)
- By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
- choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
- esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
- And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:
- who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
- quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
- Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
- Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.
- They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented –
- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
- And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
- God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
- Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
- looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
John 1:43-51 (Gospel)
- The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”
- Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
- Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
- And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
- Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”
- Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
- Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
- Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
- And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”