Sunday, April 11: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

THE ELEVENTH EOTHINON GOSPEL

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint John 21:14-25

At that time, Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead, and said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my lambs.” A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him a third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This was said to show by what death Peter was to glorify God.) And after this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to His breast at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow Me!” The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself contain the books that would be written. Amen.

THE EPISTLE

The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews 4:13-20

Brethren, when God made a promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.” And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For people indeed swear by Fourth Sunday of Lent what is greater, and in every dispute of theirs the oath is final for confirmation. So when God, being minded to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the immutability of His counsel, He interposed it with an oath, that by two immutable things—in which it is impossible for God to lie—we might have a strong consolation, we, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us; a hope, which we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and entering into “that which is within the veil,” where Jesus entered as a Forerunner on our behalf, having become a High Priest “forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

THE GOSPEL

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark 9:17-31

At that time, a man came to Jesus, kneeling down and saying unto him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked Thy Disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to Me.” And they brought the boy to Him; and when the spirit saw Jesus, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if Thou canst do anything, have pity on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when Jesus had entered the house, His Disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And Jesus said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And Jesus would not have anyone know it; for He was teaching His Disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and after He is killed, He will rise on the third day.”

ORTHROS

RESURRECTIONAL APOLYTIKION

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad, for the Lord hath done a mighty act with His own arm. He hath trampled down death by death, and become the first-born from the dead. He hath delivered us from the depths of Hades, granting the world the Great Mercy.

APOLYTIKION OF ST. JOHN CLIMACUS

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

The barren wilderness thou didst make fertile with the streams of thy tears; and by thy deep sighing thou hast given fruit through thy struggles a hundredfold. Accordingly, thou hast become a star for the universe, sparkling with miracles. Therefore, O righteous Father John Climacus, intercede with Christ God to save our souls.

RESURRECTIONAL THEOTOKION

Both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Thou Who for our sake wast born of a Virgin, and didst suffer crucifixion, O good One, and didst despoil death through death, and as God didst reveal Resurrection. Despise not those Whom Thou hast created with Thine own hand, show forth Thy love for mankind, O merciful One. Accept the intercessions of Thy mother, the Theotokos for us, and save Thy despairing people, O our Savior.

DIVINE LITURGY

RESURRECTIONAL APOLYTIKION

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad, for the Lord hath done a mighty act with His own arm. He hath trampled down death by death, and become the first-born from the dead. He hath delivered us from the depths of Hades, granting the world the Great Mercy.

APOLYTIKION OF ST. JOHN CLIMACUS

The barren wilderness thou didst make fertile with the streams of thy tears; and by thy deep sighing thou hast given fruit through thy struggles a hundredfold. Accordingly, thou hast become a star for the universe, sparkling with miracles. Therefore, O righteous Father John Climacus, intercede with Christ God to save our souls.

THE APOLYTIKON OF THE PROTECTION OF THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS

Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!

KONTAKION FOR SUNDAYS IN GREAT LENT

To thee, the Champion Leader, do I offer thanks of victory, O Theotokos, thou who hast delivered me from terror; but as thou that hast that power invincible, O Theotokos, thou alone can set me free: from all forms of danger free me and deliver me, that I may cry unto thee: Hail, O Bride without Bridegroom.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Only by Prayer and Fasting

Mark 9:17-31

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Mark by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

14-18. And when He came to His disciples, He saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. And straightway all the people, when they beheld Him, were greatly amazed, and running to Him, saluted Him. And He asked the scribes, What question ye with them? And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto Thee my son, who hath a dumb spirit; and wheresoever it taketh hold of him, it teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and wasteth away: and I spake to Thy disciples that they should cast it out; and they could not. When He came to His disciples, that is, to the nine that had not gone up onto the mountain with Him, He saw that they were being questioned by the Pharisees. For the Pharisees had seized the opportunity of Jesus absence to attempt to turn the disciples away from the Lord. The multitude, however, suddenly caught sight of Him, and greeted Him. They had been longing to see Him, and now they caught sight of Him and greeted Him as if He had just returned from a long journey. Some say that even His appearance had become more beautiful from the light of the Transfiguration which drew the multitude towards Him to greet Him. A man in the crowd spoke in answer to the Lords question. This man was weak in faith, as even the Lord attests when He says, O faithless generation, and again, all things are possible to him that believeth. The man himself attests to his unbelief when he says, Help Thou mine unbelief. His complaints against the disciples clearly shows his unbelief. For he ought not to have accused them in front of everyone, but privately.

19-27. He answereth him, and saith, 0 faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him unto Me. And they brought him unto Him: and when He saw him, straightway the spirit tore him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And He asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Since a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if Thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and tore him much, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. The man who approached the Lord accused the disciples of not having the power to heal. But the Lord turns the blame onto him, all but saying, “It is your unbelief which is the cause of your sons not being healed.” The Lord does not address only this man, but He directs this saying to all, reproaching all the Jews for their unbelief. For it is likely that many of the bystanders were also scandalized by the disciples inability to heal. The Lord shows that He welcomes death, when He says, How, long shall I be with you? meaning, it is a torment to Me to live with you and your unbelief. But though He reproaches them, He grants the healing as well. He does not desire to heal the son as a show of His power, but rather He proceeds with great humility. See how He does not attribute the healing to His own power, but to the man’s faith, when He says, All, things are possible to him that believeth. As soon as He saw a crowd beginning to gather around, He rebuked the spirit, not wanting to heal in front of the multitude as though for show. When He rebuked the spirit and said, Come out of him, and enter no more into him, this suggests that because of the man’s unbelief, the demon would have again entered into him if it had not been prevented by the Lords command. The Lord permits the spirit to rend the son, so that all might recognize the attack of the demon, and understand that it would have killed the man if it had not been held in check by the hand of God. A man is thrown by a demon into the fire of anger and desire, and into water, meaning, into the pounding surf of worldly cares. This demon is both mute and deaf. It is deaf, not wanting to hear the words of God; and it is mute, not able to teach others what ought to be taught. But if Jesus, Who is the Word of the Gospel, should take him by the hand, that is, strengthen his power to act, then that man will be freed from the demon. See how God first helps us, and then we ourselves are required to work. For the Evangelist says that Jesus lifted him up—this is the divine help, and he arose—this is the effort of the man himself to do good.

28-29. And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, Why could not we cast it out? And He said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. The disciples were afraid they had lost the grace which the Lord had given them, and this was why they had not been able to cast out the demon. See that out of respect they approached the Lord privately. This kind—what kind? The kind which may make their abode in lunatics, or, in general, the whole race of demons, does not come out except through prayer and fasting. Both the one suffering, and the one about to heal, must fast. Both are necessary. Good sense dictates that the one suffering must fast. He must not only fast, but also pray; and he must not only pray, but also fast, for true prayer is rendered when it is yoked to fasting. When the one who prays is not weighed down by the effects of food, his prayer is not burdened and ascends easily.

30-31. And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and He would not that any man should know it. For He taught His disciples, and said unto them, The Son of Man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him; and after He is killed, He shall rise the third day. Whenever the Lord spoke of His passion on the cross, He would precede and follow His words with miracles, so that no one could think that He would suffer because He was powerless. And when He spoke sad words, such as, they shall kill Him, He would add words of joy, He shall rise the third day, teaching us that gladness always follows after grief, and that we should not anguish needlessly in our sorrows, but should hope for better things.