HOLY RESURRECTION ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL
(Orthodox Church in America)
591 North Main Street Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
WELCOME TO OUR CHURCH COMMUNITY!

HOLY RESURRECTION ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL is a parish community of the Diocese of Philadelphia & Eastern Pennsylvania of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Our bishop, Archbishop MARK (Maymon), provides spiritual oversight for our community. The parish community was founded in 1892 by Fr. Alexis Toth (now a canonized saint in the Orthodox Church).

 

Click the link for Archbishop Marks' Palm Sunday message.

Archbishop MARK's Message for PASCHA | Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania (doepa.org)

Archbishop MARK's Message for Palm Sunday | Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania (doepa.org)

 

Diocesan Council Makes Significant Announcements • Bath | Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania (doepa.org)

 

Decisions-of-the-Diocesan-Council..pdf (doepa.org)

A warm welcome to our new choir director (Nektaria) Olivia Insignares. Olivia is a recent graduate of St. Tikhon’s Seminary. If you are interested in singing in our choir, please see her for details.

Microsoft Word - Updated Directive Coronavirus Mitigation.docx (doepa.org)

 

Guidelines for Funerals:

https://doepa.org/files/Policies/CDC-Guidelines/CDC-Funeral-Guidelines.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPCOMING EVENTS...
Follow the Diocese on Instagram: Follow us @oca_doepa or OCA Diocese of Eastern PA
 

 

WORSHIP, PRAYER and SERVICE SCHEDULE
Regular Weekly Services (Unless otherwise noted)

Saturday-  Great Vespers 4:00 p.m.

Sunday-    Prayer of the Hours 8:40 am  &  Divine Liturgy 9:00 a.m.

Eve of Major Feast Days - Great Vespers 6:00 pm (followed by holy Confession), see DOEPA Directive 

Major Feast Days -  Divine Liturgy 9:00 a.m. 

Rector: Fr. Gregory G. White Sr. 570-822-7725 gregory.white@stots.edu

Mitred Archpriest Vladimir Petorak: Pastor Emeritus

Protodeacon: Sergei Kapral

Mr. Michael Pieck: Board of Directors President

Choir Director (Nektaria) Olivia Insignares

Catechism Classes - For those who are interested in finding out more about the Holy Orthodox Church or how to go about joining, classes are offered on a continual / rotating basis. For more information contact Fr. Gregory at 570-822-7725 or email him at:  gregory.white@stots.edu

Study Group & Recommended Reading

 

Our Orthodox Christian study group is currently reading:

A five book series: Revelation, The Seven Golden Seals by Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios ISBN 978-0-9851915-2-8, Zoe Press, Monday nights @ 6:30 p.m. held in the hall of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral 591 N. Main St. Wilkes-Barre, PA. Bring your Orthodox Study Bible! First time visitors should call ahead of time to confirm the weekly schedule. 

Many of the following books are rated four to five stars. These books are recommended reading for those who want to know more about the Holy Orthodox Faith and Christs' Church! If you take the time to read you will find out that the Church still exists today.  James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and without reproach; and it shall be given him."

Information on Mount Athos

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Athos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mXl8C4-M_4&t=15s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5D8OxrSZZU8&t=361s

Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells by Matthew Gallatin, St. Valdimir's Seminary Press, ISBN 978-1-888212-28

https://www.svspress.com/

The Truth, What Every Roman Catholic Should Know About the Orthodox Church by Clark Carlton, Regina, Salisbury, MA

The Faith, Understanding Orthodox Christianity, An Orthodox Catechism also by Clark Carlton 

The Way, What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Faith also by Clark Carlton

Knowledge of God by Dr. Harry Boolas, St. Tikhon's Seminary Press ISBN 978-1-878997-83-8

Current members of the Holy Orthodox Faith, or the more advanced inquirer are encouraged to also check out the following titles. They will help with your understanding of who Jesus Christ is... What happened to the early Church?  Does it still exist?  What's Orthodox Salvation all about? 

Matthew The Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, The Interior Way, by Father Matta El-Meskeen, St. Valdimirs Press, ISBN 978-0-88141-250-5

The Soul's Longing An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation by Dr. Mary Ford ISBN 978-0-9905029-6-8 

A must read for those that struggle with Biblical Interpretation in this day and age of Denominationalism. Read how the early Church understood the Holy Scripture and it's Tradition. 

The Orthodox Study Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishing. Full of commemtary, teachings, references and study articles ISBN 978-0-7180-0359-3 

Orthodox Spirituality by Metropolitan Nafpaktos Hierotheos, Birth of the Theotokos Monastery ISBN 978-960-7070-20-3 

Passions and Virtues According to St. Gregory Palamas by Anestis Keselopoulos, St. Tikhon's Seminary Press,                     ISBN 1-878997-75-0  

Acquiring the Mind of Christ by Archimandrite Serguis, St. Tikhon's Monastery Press, ISBN 978-0-995029-9-9 

https://sttikhonsmonastery.org/

Glory and Honor, Orthodox Christian Resources on Marriage by Dr. David Ford, Dr. Mary Ford and Alfred Kentigern Siewers. Editors, St. Valdimirs Seminary Press, ISBN 9789-0-8841-540-1. A must read before you get married! 

Angels and Demons by Dr. Harry Boosalis, ISBN 978-1-878997-83-8 

Holy Traditon by Dr. Harry Boosalis, ISBN 978-0-9884574-2-3 

Orthodox Spiritual Life According to Saint Silouan the Anthonite by Dr. Harry Boosalas, St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, ISBN 978-1-878997-60-9

https://www.stspress.com/

Man the Target of God by Archimandrite Zacharias, Mount Tabor Publishing 

The following series of titles expand even more on Wisdom and Spirituality inspired by the Holy Spirit by the Monastic life on Mount Athos. The three stages of Orthodox Christian Salvation; Purification, Illumination and Deification are outlined throughout these timeless resources.  

Remember Thy First Love by Archimandrite Zacharias, Mount Tabor Publishing 

Enlargement of the Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias, Mount Tabor Publishing 

The Hidden Man of the Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias, Mount Tabor Publishing  

Saint Silouan the Anthonite by Archimandrite Sophrony, Mount Tabor Publishing  

http://mountthabor.com/

Information on Mount Athos, also posted above!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Athos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mXl8C4-M_4&t=15s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5D8OxrSZZU8&t=361s

ABOUT THE UPCOMING FEAST...

 

HOLY PASCHA: The Resurrection of Our Lord

 

 

Pascha (Easter)

 

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith; receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
(Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom, read at Paschal Matins)

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Christian faith. Saint Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and faith are in vain (I Cor. 15:14). Indeed, without the resurrection there would be no Christian preaching or faith. The disciples of Christ would have remained the broken and hopeless band which the Gospel of John describes as being in hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They went nowhere and preached nothing until they met the risen Christ, the doors being shut (John 20: 19). Then they touched the wounds of the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. The resurrection became the basis of everything they said and did (Acts 2-4): “. . . for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

 

The resurrection reveals Jesus of Nazareth as not only the expected Messiah of Israel, but as the King and Lord of a new Jerusalem: a new heaven and a new earth.

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . the holy city, new Jerusalem. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. . . He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:1-4).

 

In His death and resurrection, Christ defeats the last enemy, death, and thereby fulfills the mandate of His Father to subject all things under His feet (I Cor. 15:24-26).

 

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing (Rev. 5: 12)

 

THE FEAST OF FEASTS

 

The Christian faith is celebrated in the liturgy of the Church. True celebration is always a living participation. It is not a mere attendance at services. It is communion in the power of the event being celebrated. It is God’s free gift of joy given to spiritual men as a reward for their self-denial. It is the fulfillment of spiritual and physical effort and preparation. The resurrection of Christ, being the center of the Christian faith, is the basis of the Church’s liturgical life and the true model for all celebration. This is the chosen and holy day, first of sabbaths, king and lord of days, the feast of feasts, holy day of holy days. On this day we bless Christ forevermore (Irmos 8, Paschal Canon).

 

PREPARATION

 

Twelve weeks of preparation precede the “feast of feasts.” A long journey which includes five prelenten Sundays, six weeks of Great Lent and finally Holy Week is made. The journey moves from the self-willed exile of the prodigal son to the grace-filled entrance into the new Jerusalem, coming down as a bride beautifully adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2) Repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and study are the means by which this long journey is made.

 

Focusing on the veneration of the Cross at its midpoint, the lenten voyage itself reveals that the joy of the resurrection is achieved only through the Cross. “Through the cross joy has come into all the world,” we sing in one paschal hymn. And in the paschal troparion, we repeat again and again that Christ has trampled down death—by death! Saint Paul writes that the name of Jesus is exalted above every name because He first emptied Himself, taking on the lowly form of a servant and being obedient even to death on the Cross (Phil. 2:5-11). The road to the celebration of the resurrection is the self-emptying crucifixion of Lent. Pascha is the passover from death to life.

 

Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ.
Today I arise with Thee in Thy resurrection.
Yesterday I was crucified with Thee:
Glorify me with Thee, O Savior, in Thy kingdom (Ode 3, Paschal Canon).

 

THE PROCESSION

 

The divine services of the night of Pascha commence near midnight of Holy Saturday. At the Ninth Ode of the Canon of Nocturn, the priest, already vested in his brightest robes, removes the Holy Shroud from the tomb and carries it to the altar table, where it remains until the leave-taking of Pascha. The faithful stand in darkness. Then, one by one, they light their candles from the candle held by the priest and form a great procession out of the church. Choir, servers, priest and people, led by the bearers of the cross, banners, icons and Gospel book, circle the church. The bells are rung incessantly and the angelic hymn of the resurrection is chanted.

 

The procession comes to a stop before the principal doors of the church. Before the closed doors the priest and the people sing the troparion of Pascha, “Christ is risen from the dead...”, many times. Even before entenng the church the priest and people exchange the paschal greeting: “Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!” This segment of the paschal services is extremely important. It preserves in the expenence of the Church the primitive accounts of the resurrection of Christ as recorded in the Gospels. The angel rolled away the stone from the tomb not to let a biologically revived but physically entrapped Christ walk out, but to reveal that “He is not here; for He has risen, as He said” (Matt. 28:6).

 

In the paschal canon we sing:

 

Thou didst arise, O Christ, and yet the tomb remained sealed, as at Thy birth the Virgin’s womb remained unharmed; and Thou has opened for us the gates of paradise (Ode 6).

 

Finally, the procession of light and song in the darkness of night, and the thunderous proclamation that, indeed, Christ is risen, fulfill the words of the Evangelist John: “The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

 

The doors are opened and the faithful re-enter. The church is bathed in light and adorned with flowers. It is the heavenly bride and the symbol of the empty tomb:

 

Bearing life and more fruitful than paradise
Brighter than any royal chamber,
Thy tomb, O Christ, is the fountain or our resurrection (Paschal Hours).

 

MATINS

 

Matins commences immediately. The risen Christ is glorified in the singing of the beautiful canon of Saint John of Damascus. The paschal greeting is repeatedly exchanged. Near the end of Matins the paschal verses are sung. They relate the entire narrative of the Lord’s resurrection. They conclude with the words calling us to actualize among each other the forgiveness freely given to all by God:

 

This is the day of resurrection.
Let us be illumined by the feast.
Let us embrace each other.
Let us call “brothers” even those who hate us,
And forgive all by the resurrection. . .

 

The sermon of Saint John Chrysostom is then read by the celebrant. The sermon was originally composed as a baptismal instruction. It is retained by the Church in the paschal services because everything about the night of Pascha recalls the Sacrament of Baptism: the language and general terminology of the liturgical texts, the specific hymns, the vestment color, the use of candles and the great procession itself. Now the sermon invites us to a great reaffirmation of our baptism: to union with Christ in the receiving of Holy Communion.

 

If any man is devout and loves God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. . . the table is fully laden; feast you all sumptuously. . . the calf is fatted, let no one go hungry away. . .

 

THE DIVINE LITURGY

 

The sermon announces the imminent beginning of the Divine Liturgy. The altar table is fully laden with the divine food: the Body and Blood of the risen and glorified Christ. No one is to go away hungry. The service books are very specific in saying that only he who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ eats the true Pascha. The Divine Liturgy, therefore, normally follows immediately after paschal Matins. Foods from which the faithful have been asked to abstain during the lenten journey are blessed and eaten only after the Divine Liturgy.

 

THE DAY WITHOUT EVENING

 

Pascha is the inauguration of a new age. It reveals the mystery of the eighth day. It is our taste, in this age, of the new and unending day of the Kingdom of God. Something of this new and unending day is conveyed to us in the length of the paschal services, in the repetition of the paschal order for all the services of Bright Week, and in the special paschal features retained in the services for the forty days until Ascension. Forty days are, as it were, treated as one day. Together they comprise the symbol of the new time in which the Church lives and toward which she ever draws the faithful, from one degree of glory to another.

 

O Christ, great and most holy Pascha.
O Wisdom, Word and Power of God,
grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the never-ending day of Thy kingdom
(Ninth Ode, Paschal Canon).

 

The V. Rev. Paul Lazor
New York, 1977

The Lenten Fast: Its Rule and Spirit

A reflection by Fr. Ayman Kfouf
Great Lent 2012

I- Historical Background

Fasting is not new in the Church. Fasting had its origin in the life of our first parents Adam and Eve. Fasting was the first, and only, law given to Adam and Eve1.

The Old Testament provides an extensive record of fasts kept by the Jews as commanded by God2 and fasts, without specific commandment, in times of distress, grief or when asking for forgiveness3.

In the New Testament, the Lord Himself fasted for forty days4. He commanded His disciples to fast after His ascension5 and prescribed fasting as a spiritual weapon against evil6. After Christ’s ascension, the disciples continued to practice fasting, beside prayer, in every aspect of their apostolic lives7 and they handed down this tradition to their disciples to preserve and practice it after them.

The aforementioned scriptural examples of fasting inspired Christians to imitate them, thus fasting quickly became part of the regular Christian experience. Evidently, the earliest Christian documents show that fasting in the first five centuries took different shapes and passed through various phases of transformation until it evolved into its current form today.

The practice of fasting in the first and second centuries took the shape of complete abstention from food for a day or two8. During the third century, fasting was extended to a full week in preparation for Pascha (Easter). By the fourth century, fasting had transformed in form and length and had evolved from a one week preparation for Pascha into a forty day fast9.

In the year 330, as indicated by St. Athanasius in his Festal Letters, Lent had expanded to forty days and had taken on the symbolism of Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights.

Holy Week was instituted sometime after the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher by Constantine (335), giving a total of seven weeks10 of fasting; forming “Lent” in its current shape.

Lent was an exclusive spiritual training for the catechumens in preparation for baptism before Pascha. Gradually, the sponsors (Godparents), family and friends of the catechumens started to participate in the preparation process of the catechumenate11. Therefore, fasting seven weeks prior to Pascha, “Lent” became a standard practice in the piety of the Church.

II- Development of Form and Rules of Fasting

As we noticed from its historical background, fasting gradually transformed from one or two day fast, in preparation for Pascha, to a full seven week fast, forming “Lent” as we know it today.

Christian fasting practices began expanding from their basic biblical roots in the early centuries of the church. In its first form, fasting was a complete abstention from food and drink until sunset. Later on, the Church established more rules pertaining to the length and the form of fasting, including a list of permissible and prohibited types of food12 during fasting periods13.

Monastics in early Christianity incorporated fasting as an essential element of ascetic life. The monastic communities kept the rules of fasting intact. They observed fasting in its first form, which took the form of a complete abstention from food and drink until the sunset. After the sunset, monastics were able to eat a light vegetarian meal14.

Christians adapted ascetic principles as models of pious life and tried to imitate their practices, especially the practices of the heroic monastic figures in early Christianity. However, taking into consideration the differences between the normal life of a pious Christian and the strict life of monastics, the church adapted more elastic rules to encourage Christians to fast. Therefore, Christians (non-monastics) were allowed to eat vegetarian food any time during the day, all week days, with exception of Fridays and Wednesdays. On Fridays and Wednesdays, Christians were called to abstain completely from eating until the sunset, or until they receive the Holy Communion in the Presanctified Liturgy.

The following chart contains the rules of fasting as followed in our Antiochian Orthodox Church today. Before you observe and follow these rules, please remember:

  1. These rules are means to an end. They are not an end by themselves.
  2. The level of strictness in fasting is best worked out in each Christian's own setting and spiritual state of being, therefore laity must council their spiritual father, pastor, who will determine their appropriate level and strictness of fasting.
  3. There are many exceptions to the rules given here, depending on the liturgical feasts that fall during Lent. Therefore, council your pastor, spiritual father, for details pertaining to exceptions.
Fasting rules as followed in our Antiochian Archdiocese
Saturdays and Sundays of Great Lent Abstain from meat, fish, dairy, eggs
Monday through Friday of Great Lent Abstain from meat, fish, dairy, eggs, alcohol, oil
Feast of Annunciation of the Theotokos on March 25 of every year. Abstain from meat, dairy, eggs. Fish is allowed.
Palm Sunday Abstain from meat, dairy, eggs. Fish is allowed.

Please note that there are many more strict fasting rules that are followed in monasteries, where complete abstinence from food and drink takes place for a certain period of time. Laity are encouraged to imitate such practices but only under the observation and supervision of their spiritual father, pastor.

III- Fasting, the Spirit of the Rule

Generally speaking, fasting is a voluntary denying abstention from certain foods and drinks or both for a certain period of time. However, there is a clear contradistinction between fasting or “νηστεία” (nistia) and hunger or “λιμός” (limos)15. Fasting is not measured by how much hunger “λιμός” we endure. Even though hunger is an important factor in fasting, it is not enough by itself. In addition to physical hunger, we are called to recognize our spiritual hunger and seek to feed it with repentance, prayer and almsgiving.

Fasting isn’t substituting certain kinds of foods for different kinds of food; like substituting fish for meat, soy milk for regular milk, non-dairy coffee creamer for dairy creamer, and the list goes on. Accordingly, fasting isn’t only changing our food, but also changing the direction of our life and redirecting it back towards God.

Fasting is not only abstaining from meat and dairy products, rather, fasting is to live in austerity and renounce the worldly pleasures. By doing so, and we become more able to feel compassionate with those who are in need, we will be able to save our resources and give back to the poor and hungry.

Fasting isn’t a virtue by itself. Fasting is a means to obtain virtues. We don’t fast because it gratifies God when we don’t eat for “the devil also never eats"16, neither do we fast because it gratifies God when we endure affliction and pain. Neither do we fast as an act of penance for our sins, because fasting is not a punishment; quite the opposite, fasting is a joyful act of love, through which we express our love, faith and obedience towards God.

Through fasting, we control our senses and our physical weakness from all that hinders the contemplation of God; and we become more free to commune with Him in prayer. St. Isaac the Syrian states: “Fasting, vigil and prayer are God’s holy pathway and the foundation of every virtue.”17

Fasting without prayer becomes a bodily punishment, a physical diet or a false ritual, and likewise prayer without fasting loses its power and misses its goal. Fasting without effort in virtue is wholly in vain, and likewise it is impossible to acquire virtues without fasting and prayer, for to acquire virtues is to reacquire the divine likeness of God18.

Great Lent is a time for self-examination and self-denial. It is a time renew and fortify our relationship with God and others through works of mercy, charity, visitation of the sick and assistance to the unfortunate. Lent is a time when we get closer to our family, relatives and friends. Lent is a time to reconcile hostility and hatred; a time to forgive and forget; a time for a new beginning.

IV- Practical Remarks on Fasting Today

  1. In no way should we fast in a manner to cause damage to our health or to an extent where we become unable to accomplish our daily tasks and work responsibilities.
  2. Very young children, pregnant woman, elderly people, nursing mothers and individuals with certain medical conditions are exempted from strict fasting unless they are advised otherwise by their doctor. That being said, people in these groups are encouraged to abstain from some kinds of food one or two days of the week, as much as they can tolerate.
  3. We should not fast “like the hypocrites”19, in a way to draw attention to ourselves. When we are invited to eat in others homes, we should accept what we are offered to eat raising no objections. If our fasting embarrasses others or causes them extra work, then our fasting has lost its value and missed its purpose.
  4. In today’s Orthodox world, we spend a considerable amount of time and efforts, during Lent, trying to find tasty Lenten recipes, which are of gourmet status or duplicate meat dishes using textured soy protein. By doing so, we delude ourselves that we are keeping the Fast, and instead of using fasting as a spiritual cure it becomes a burden that adds to our estrangement from God.
  5. Let us, then, fast not to fulfill a legalistic obligation, but to obtain the Holy Spirit of God and unite ourselves with our Savior. Let us take Lent as an opportunity to pause and meditate on the real meaning of fasting and its purpose.
  6. Finally let us always remember, that fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are three elements that can’t exist apart from each other.

Certainly, nothing is more expressing of the real meaning of fasting than the words of Saint John Chrysostom stating:

“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers? May He who came to the world to save sinners strengthen us to complete the fast with humility, have mercy on us and save us.”

If you enjoyed the article below. Please visit the Lives of the Saints @ the bottom of this webpage for the daily commemorations.  

5th Sunday of Great Lent: St Mary of Egypt

Please take the time to read one of the most riveting accounts ever taken from Church history from the Lives of the Saints. 

Saint Zosimas (April 4) was a monk at a certain Palestinian monastery on the outskirts of Caesarea. Having dwelt at the monastery since his childhood, he lived there in asceticism until he reached the age of fifty-three. Then he was disturbed by the thought that he had attained perfection, and needed no one to instruct him. “Is there a monk anywhere who can show me some form of asceticism that I have not attained? Is there anyone who has surpassed me in spiritual sobriety and deeds?”

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Zosimas, you have struggled valiantly, as far as this is in the power of man. However, there is no one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). So that you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land, like Abraham from the house of his father (Gen 12:1), and go to the monastery by the Jordan.”

Abba Zosimas immediately left the monastery, and following the angel, he went to the Jordan monastery and settled in it.

Here he met Elders who were adept in contemplation, and also in their struggles. Never did anyone utter an idle word. Instead, they sang constantly, and prayed all night long. Abba Zosimas began to imitate the spiritual activity of the holy monks.

Thus much time passed, and the holy Forty Day Fast approached. There was a certain custom at the monastery, which was why God had led Saint Zosimas there. On the First Sunday of Great Lent the igumen served the Divine Liturgy, everyone received the All-Pure Body and Blood of Christ. Afterwards, they went to the trapeza for a small repast, and then assembled once more in church.

The monks prayed and made prostrations, asking forgiveness one of another. Then they made a prostration before the igumen and asked his blessing for the struggle that lay before them. During the Psalm “The Lord is my Light and my Savior, whom shall I fear? The Lord is defender of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps 26/27:1), they opened the monastery gate and went off into the wilderness.

Each took with him as much food as he needed, and went into the desert. When their food ran out, they ate roots and desert plants. The monks crossed the Jordan and scattered in various directions, so that no one might see how another fasted or how they spent their time.

The monks returned to the monastery on Palm Sunday, each having his own conscience as a witness of his ascetic struggles. It was a rule of the monastery that no one asked how anyone else had toiled in the desert.

Abba Zosimas, according to the custom of the monastery, went deep into the desert hoping to find someone living there who could benefit him.

He walked into the wilderness for twenty days and then, when he sang the Psalms of the Sixth Hour and made the usual prayers. Suddenly, to the right of the hill where he stood, he saw a human form. He was afraid, thinking that it might be a demonic apparition. Then he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, which removed his fear. He turned to the right and saw a form walking southward. The body was black from the blazing sunlight, and the faded short hair was white like a sheep’s fleece. Abba Zosimas rejoiced, since he had not seen any living thing for many days.

The desert-dweller saw Zosimas approaching, and attempted to flee from him. Abba Zosimas, forgetting his age and fatigue, quickened his pace. When he was close enough to be heard, he called out, “Why do you flee from me, a sinful old man? Wait for me, for the love of God.”

The stranger said to him, “Forgive me, Abba Zosimas, but I cannot turn and show my face to you. I am a woman, and as you see, I am naked. If you would grant the request of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so I might cover my body, and then I can ask for your blessing.”

Then Abba Zosimas was terrified, realizing that she could not have called him by name unless she possessed spiritual insight.

Covered by the cloak, the ascetic turned to Zosimas: “Why do you want to speak with me, a sinful woman? What did you wish to learn from me, you who have not shrunk from such great labors?”

Abba Zosimas fell to the ground and asked for her blessing. She also bowed down before him, and for a long time they remained on the ground each asking the other to bless. Finally, the woman ascetic said: “Abba Zosimas, you must bless and pray, since you are honored with the grace of the priesthood. For many years you have stood before the holy altar, offering the Holy Gifts to the Lord.”

These words frightened Saint Zosimas even more. With tears he said to her, “O Mother! It is clear that you live with God and are dead to this world. You have called me by name and recognized me as a priest, though you have never seen me before. The grace granted you is apparent, therefore bless me, for the Lord’s sake.”

Yielding finally to his entreaties, she said, “Blessed is God, Who cares for the salvation of men.” Abba Zosimas replied, “Amen.” Then they rose to their feet. The woman ascetic again said to the Elder, “Why have you come, Father, to me who am a sinner, bereft of every virtue? Apparently, the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought you to do me a service. But tell me first, Abba, how do the Christians live, how is the Church guided?”

Abba Zosimas answered her, “By your holy prayers God has granted the Church and us all a lasting peace. But fulfill my unworthy request, Mother, and pray for the whole world and for me a sinner, that my wanderings in the desert may not be useless.”

The holy ascetic replied, “You, Abba Zosimas, as a priest, ought to pray for me and for all, for you are called to do this. However, since we must be obedient, I will do as you ask.

The saint turned toward the East, and raising her eyes to heaven and stretching out her hands, she began to pray in a whisper. She prayed so softly that Abba Zosimas could not hear her words. After a long time, the Elder looked up and saw her standing in the air more than a foot above the ground. Seeing this, Zosimas threw himself down on the ground, weeping and repeating, “Lord, have mercy!”

Then he was tempted by a thought. He wondered if she might not be a spirit, and if her prayer could be insincere. At that moment she turned around, lifted him from the ground and said, “Why do your thoughts confuse you, Abba Zosimas? I am not an apparition. I am a sinful and unworthy woman, though I am guarded by holy Baptism.”

Then she made the Sign of the Cross and said, “May God protect us from the Evil One and his schemes, for fierce is his struggle against us.” Seeing and hearing this, the Elder fell at her feet with tears saying, “I beseech you by Christ our God, do not conceal from me who you are and how you came into this desert. Tell me everything, so that the wondrous works of God may be revealed.”

She replied, “It distresses me, Father, to speak to you about my shameless life. When you hear my story, you might flee from me, as if from a poisonous snake. But I shall tell you everything, Father, concealing nothing. However, I exhort you, cease not to pray for me a sinner, that I may find mercy on the Day of Judgment.

“I was born in Egypt and when I was twelve years old, I left my parents and went to Alexandria. There I lost my chastity and gave myself to unrestrained and insatiable sensuality. For more than seventeen years I lived like that and I did it all for free. Do not think that I refused the money because I was rich. I lived in poverty and worked at spinning flax. To me, life consisted in the satisfaction of my fleshly lust.

“One summer I saw a crowd of people from Libya and Egypt heading toward the sea. They were on their way to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I also wanted to sail with them. Since I had no food or money, I offered my body in payment for my passage. And so I embarked on the ship.

“Now, Father, believe me, I am very amazed, that the sea tolerated my wantonness and fornication, that the earth did not open up its mouth and take me down alive into hell, because I had ensnared so many souls. I think that God was seeking my repentance. He did not desire the death of a sinner, but awaited my conversion.

“So I arrived in Jerusalem and spent all the days before the Feast living the same sort of life, and maybe even worse.

“When the holy Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross of the Lord arrived, I went about as before, looking for young men. At daybreak I saw that everyone was heading to the church, so I went along with the rest. When the hour of the Holy Elevation drew nigh, I was trying to enter into the church with all the people. With great effort I came almost to the doors, and attempted to squeeze inside. Although I stepped up to the threshold, it was as though some force held me back, preventing me from entering. I was brushed aside by the crowd, and found myself standing alone on the porch. I thought that perhaps this happened because of my womanly weakness. I worked my way into the crowd, and again I attempted to elbow people aside. However hard I tried, I could not enter. Just as my feet touched the church threshold, I was stopped. Others entered the church without difficulty, while I alone was not allowed in. This happened three or four times. Finally my strength was exhausted. I went off and stood in a corner of the church portico.

“Then I realized that it was my sins that prevented me from seeing the Life-Creating Wood. The grace of the Lord then touched my heart. I wept and lamented, and I began to beat my breast. Sighing from the depths of my heart, I saw above me an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Turning to Her, I prayed: “O Lady Virgin, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word! I know that I am unworthy to look upon your icon. I rightly inspire hatred and disgust before your purity, but I know also that God became Man in order to call sinners to repentance. Help me, O All-Pure One. Let me enter the church. Allow me to behold the Wood upon which the Lord was crucified in the flesh, shedding His Blood for the redemption of sinners, and also for me. Be my witness before Your Son that I will never defile my body again with the impurity of fornication. As soon as I have seen the Cross of your Son, I will renounce the world, and go wherever you lead me.”

“After I had spoken, I felt confidence in the compassion of the Mother of God, and left the spot where I had been praying. I joined those entering the church, and no one pushed me back or prevented me from entering. I went on in fear and trembling, and entered the holy place.

“Thus I also saw the Mysteries of God, and how God accepts the penitant. I fell to the holy ground and kissed it. Then I hastened again to stand before the icon of the Mother of God, where I had given my vow. Bending my knees before the Virgin Theotokos, I prayed:

“‘O Lady, you have not rejected my prayer as unworthy. Glory be to God, Who accepts the repentance of sinners. It is time for me to fulfill my vow, which you witnessed. Therefore, O Lady, guide me on the path of repentance.’”

“Then I heard a voice from on high: ‘If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest.’

“I immediately believed that this voice was meant for me, and I cried out to the Mother of God: ‘O Lady, do not forsake me!’

“Then I left the church portico and started on my journey. A certain man gave me three coins as I was leaving the church. With them I bought three loaves of bread, and asked the bread merchant the way to the Jordan.

“It was nine o’clock when I saw the Cross. At sunset I reached the church of Saint John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the church, I went down to the Jordan and washed my face and hands in its water. Then in this same temple of Saint John the Forerunner I received the Life-Creating Mysteries of Christ. Then I ate half of one of my loaves of bread, drank water from the holy Jordan, and slept there that night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crossed the river to the opposite shore. Again I prayed that the Mother of God would lead me where She wished. Then I found myself in this desert.”

Abba Zosimas asked her, “How many years have passed since you began to live in the desert?”

“‘I think,” she replied, “it is forty-seven years since I came from the Holy City.”

Abba Zosimas again asked, “What food do you find here, Mother?”

And she said, “I had with me two and a half loaves of bread when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried out and hardened Eating a little at a time, I finished them after a few years.”

Again Abba Zosimas asked, “Is it possible you have survived for so many years without sickness, and without suffering in any way from such a complete change?”

“Believe me, Abba Zosimas,” the woman said, “I spent seventeen years in this wilderness (after she had spent seventeen years in immorality), fighting wild beasts: mad desires and passions. When I began to eat bread, I thought of the meat and fish which I had in abundance in Egypt. I also missed the wine that I loved so much when I was in the world, while here I did not even have water. I suffered from thirst and hunger. I also had a mad desire for lewd songs. I seemed to hear them, disturbing my heart and my hearing. Weeping and striking myself on the breast, I remembered the vow I had made. At last I beheld a radiant Light shining on me from everywhere. After a violent tempest, a lasting calm ensued.

“Abba, how shall I tell you of the thoughts that urged me on to fornication? A fire seemed to burn within me, awakening in me the desire for embraces. Then I would throw myself to the ground and water it with my tears. I seemed to see the Most Holy Virgin before me, and She seemed to threaten me for not keeping my vow. I lay face downward day and night upon the ground, and would not get up until that blessed Light encircled me, dispelling the evil thoughts that troubled me.

“Thus I lived in this wilderness for the first seventeen years. Darkness after darkness, misery after misery stood about me, a sinner. But from that time until now the Mother of God helps me in everything.”

Abba Zosimas again inquired, “How is it that you require neither food, nor clothing?”

She answered, “After finishing my bread, I lived on herbs and the things one finds in the desert. The clothes I had when I crossed over the Jordan became torn and fell apart. I suffered both from the summer heat, when the blazing heat fell upon me, and from the winter cold, when I shivered from the frost. Many times I fell down upon the earth, as though dead. I struggled with various afflictions and temptations. But from that time until the present day, the power of God has guarded my sinful soul and humble body. I was fed and clothed by the all-powerful word of God, since man does not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God (Dt 8:3, Mt.4:4, Luke 4:4), and those who have put off the old man (Col 3:9) have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24:8, Heb 11:38). When I remember from what evil and from what sins the Lord delivered me, I have imperishible food for salvation.”

When Abba Zosimas heard that the holy ascetic quoted the Holy Scripture from memory, from the Books of Moses and Job and from the Psalms of David, he then asked the woman, “Mother, have you read the Psalms and other books?”

She smiled at hearing this question, and answered, “Believe me, I have seen no human face but yours from the time that I crossed over the Jordan. I never learned from books. I have never heard anyone read or sing from them. Perhaps the Word of God, which is alive and acting, teaches man knowledge by itself (Col 3:16, 1 Thess 2:13). This is the end of my story. As I asked when I began, I beg you for the sake of the Incarnate Word of God, holy Abba, pray for me, a sinner.

“Furthermore, I beg you, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, tell no one what you have heard from me, until God takes me from this earth. Next year, during Great Lent, do not cross the Jordan, as is the custom of your monastery.”

Again Abba Zosimas was amazed, that the practice of his monastery was known to the holy woman ascetic, although he had not said anything to her about this.

“Remain at the monastery,” the woman continued. “Even if you try to leave the monastery, you will not be able to do so. On Great and Holy Thursday, the day of the Lord’s Last Supper, place the Life-Creating Body and Blood of Christ our God in a holy vessel, and bring it to me. Await me on this side of the Jordan, at the edge of the desert, so that I may receive the Holy Mysteries. And say to Abba John, the igumen of your community, ‘Look to yourself and your brothers’ (1 Tim 4:16), for there is much that needs correction. Do not say this to him now, but when the Lord shall indicate.”

Asking for his prayers, the woman turned and vanished into the depths of the desert.

For a whole year Elder Zosimas remained silent, not daring to reveal to anyone what he had seen, and he prayed that the Lord would grant him to see the holy ascetic once more.

When the first week of Great Lent came again, Saint Zosimas was obliged to remain at the monastery because of sickness. Then he remembered the woman’s prophetic words that he would not be able to leave the monastery. After several days went by, Saint Zosimas was healed of his infirmity, but he remained at the monastery until Holy Week.

On Holy Thursday, Abba Zosimas did what he had been ordered to do. He placed some of the Body and Blood of Christ into a chalice, and some food in a small basket. Then he left the monastery and went to the Jordan and waited for the ascetic. The saint seemed tardy, and Abba Zosimas prayed that God would permit him to see the holy woman.

Finally, he saw her standing on the far side of the river. Rejoicing, Saint Zosimas got up and glorified God. Then he wondered how she could cross the Jordan without a boat. She made the Sign of the Cross over the water, then she walked on the water and crossed the Jordan. Abba Zosimas saw her in the moonlight, walking toward him. When the Elder wanted to make prostration before her, she forbade him, crying out, “What are you doing, Abba? You are a priest and you carry the Holy Mysteries of God.”

Reaching the shore, she said to Abba Zosimas, “Bless me, Father.” He answered her with trembling, astonished at what he had seen. “Truly God did not lie when he promised that those who purify themselves will be like Him. Glory to You, O Christ our God, for showing me through your holy servant, how far I am from perfection.”

The woman asked him to recite both the Creed and the “Our Father.” When the prayers were finished, she partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Then she raised her hands to the heavens and said, “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”

The saint turned to the Elder and said, “Please, Abba, fulfill another request. Go now to your monastery, and in a year’s time come to the place where we first time spoke.”

He said, “If only it were possible for me to follow you and always see your holy face!”

She replied, “For the Lord’s sake, pray for me and remember my wrechedness.”

Again she made the Sign of the Cross over the Jordan, and walked over the water as before, and disappeared into the desert. Zosimas returned to the monastery with joy and terror, reproaching himself because he had not asked the saint’s name. He hoped to do so the following year.

A year passed, and Abba Zosimas went into the desert. He reached the place where he first saw the holy woman ascetic. She lay dead, with arms folded on her bosom, and her face was turned to the east. Abba Zosimas washed her feet with his tears and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else. For a long while he wept over her and sang the customary Psalms, and said the funeral prayers. He began to wonder whether the saint would want him to bury her or not. Hardly had he thought this, when he saw something written on the ground near her head: “Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust what is dust. Pray to the Lord for me. I reposed on the first day of April, on the very night of the saving Passion of Christ, after partaking of the Mystical Supper.”

Reading this note, Abba Zosimas was glad to learn her name. He then realized that Saint Mary, after receiving the Holy Mysteries from his hand, was transported instantaneously to the place where she died, though it had taken him twenty days to travel that distance.

Glorifying God, Abba Zosimas said to himself, “It is time to do what she asks. But how can I dig a grave, with nothing in my hands?” Then he saw a small piece of wood left by some traveler. He picked it up and began to dig. The ground was hard and dry, and he could not dig it. Looking up, Abba Zosimas saw an enormous lion standing by the saint’s body and licking her feet. Fear gripped the Elder, but he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, believing that he would remain unharmed through the prayers of the holy woman ascetic. Then the lion came close to the Elder, showing its friendliness with every movement. Abba Zosimas commanded the lion to dig the grave, in order to bury Saint Mary’s body. At his words, the lion dug a hole deep enough to bury the body. Then each went his own way. The lion went into the desert, and Abba Zosimas returned to the monastery, blessing and praising Christ our God.

Arriving at the monastery, Abba Zosimas related to the monks and the igumen, what he had seen and heard from Saint Mary. All were astonished, hearing about the miracles of God. They always remembered Saint Mary with faith and love on the day of her repose.

Abba John, the igumen of the monastery, heeded the words of Saint Mary, and with the help of God corrected the things that were wrong at the monastery. Abba Zosimas lived a God-pleasing life at the monastery, reaching nearly a hundred years of age. There he finished his temporal life, and passed into life eternal.

The monks passed on the life of Saint Mary of Egypt by word of mouth without writing it down.

“I however,” says Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem (March 11), “wrote down the Life of Saint Mary of Egypt as I heard it from the holy Fathers. I have recorded everything, putting the truth above all else.”

“May God, Who works great miracles and bestows gifts on all who turn to Him in faith, reward those who hear or read this account, and those who copy it. May he grant them a blessed portion together with Saint Mary of Egypt and with all the saints who have pleased God by their pious thoughts and works. Let us give glory to God, the Eternal King, that we may find mercy on the Day of Judgment through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory, honor, majesty and worship together with the Unoriginate Father, and the Most Holy and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

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The Mission of The Orthodox Church in America, the local autocephalous Orthodox Christian Church, is to be faithful in fulfilling the commandment of Christ to “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

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Holy Resurrection Cathedral is part of the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania, which is presided over by The Most Reverend Mark (Maymon), Archbishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania. Our mission is bringing the joy of Christ's resurrection to those who have never heard the Good News, and to strengthen and encourage the faithful who reside within Wilkes-Barre and the local area. 

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The Holy Scripture is a collection of books written over multiple centuries by those inspired by God to do so. It is the primary witness to the Orthodox Christian faith, within Holy Tradition and often described as its highest point. It was written by the prophets and apostles in human language, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and collected, edited, and canonized by the Church.

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Holiness or sainthood is a gift (charisma) given by God to man, through the Holy Spirit. Man's effort to become a participant in the life of divine holiness is indispensable, but sanctification itself is the work of the Holy Trinity, especially through the sanctifying power of Jesus Christ, who was incarnate, suffered crucifixion, and rose from the dead, in order to lead us to the life of holiness, through the communion with the Holy Spirit.

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