The advent fast started on 15 November. It is a period of intense spiritual struggle and preparation of the body and soul for the great feast of the Nativity of the Lord.
From 15 November to 12 December (in some traditions 17 December) we forced from meat, dairy and eggs, while fish is allowed, apart from Wednesdays and Fridays, of course, when we keep our usual strict fast. Following the 12th of 17th December we also force from fish.
According to the Lord’s example of thing only has meaning when it is joined with prayer and acts of mercy. It is for this reason that from the start of this fast the church invites us to a deeper liturgical life and good works.
So, in this period that we see the traditional practice of liturgy every single day for the next 40 days. This tradition of 40 days of liturgies is a major blessing of the church. The wonderful opportunity to experience the mystical life of worship, to come into contact with the richness of the hymns and listen to divine Scripture, or frequent communion, and more frequent gatherings of the church community.
St Ignatius the God-bearer, “Take care to all gather together thanksgiving to God and glory. When you do this frequently, you abolish the power of Satan and eliminate all his perdition.”
The power of the Divine Liturgy is not based on magic. It is the power of love and unity in Christ; Divine Liturgy teaches us to forgive, to love and to be united with other people.
This is why we also give out gifts to God, the bread and the wine, praying for our brothers and sisters both living and dead. The reading of the names of the living and the third, the diptychs, is an extremely important and sacred work, founded by the holy Apostles and continuing without ceasing until today.
The tradition of 40 Liturgies
St John of Krondstadt tells us that, in the Divine Liturgy we celebrate the mysterious of love, and love in essence is contagious. Love, especially divine love, hurries to spread out its light its joy to all. He continues, “O most perfect love! I love that embraces all things! All of most strong! What can we give in gratitude towards God for the love that He gave towards us? This love is founding price sacrifice which he gave free all of every evil..
Elder Paisios, stresses the importance of praying for the dead, he said,” set aside a part of your prayer for those fallen asleep. The dead can do nothing (for themselves). The living can… Take the things needed for the liturgy to church, such as prosphoro, and give the names of those fallen asleep so that the priest can remember them in the proskomide. In addition, we should hold memorial services and trisagion prayers.”
Just a trisagion, without a Divine liturgy, is the least you can do.
The greatest thing you could do for someone, is the 40 days liturgy. It’s good to join this with charitable works. You light a candle one of the dead who has boldness before God is obliged to pray for you before God.
On the other hand, when you pray for someone who has died and you think might not have boldness towards God, when you light a simple candle it’s like you’re giving refreshments to someone burning the thirst. The Sts Glad receive the offer of a candle and are obliged to pray for one who visited, and God gladly welcomes it.” (Elder Paisios)
The benefits of a 40 day liturgy are told in the following story:
There was once a noble from Nicomedia who became seriously sick, saying that death was near, he called his wife to express his last wishes. Divide my possessions amongst the poor and the orphans. Free our slaves. But don’t give the priests money for liturgies. In this time of trial this noble store in faith call upon the blessing of Abba Isaiah, a holy Monk who lived in ascetic life close to Nicomedia. Unbelievably, the man became well. When he was able ran to the holy man full of joy. Otherwise I received him giving glory to God for the great miracle:
“Do you remember my child what time you recovered from your sickness?”
“The moment I called upon your blessing, ” he replied. The holy man, with illumined mind, knew exactly what had been said during the man sickness:
“My child, did you leave money for the priests to say liturgies is for the salvation of your soul?”
“No, elder. How would it have helped if I left something? Wouldn’t it have gone to waste?”
“Don’t say that!”
James the brother of Lord says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” Is were the prayers of the priests are effective, for all those who ask for them with faith. Therefore make your contribution towards the liturgy is now, and you will get a fitting message from God.”
This is what he did. He gave contribution to a priest so that he would celebrate 40 liturgies, and he returned to his house. When the liturgies have been completed, 40 days later, arising from sleep he suddenly saw the doors of his house opening and 40 men on horses entering, they were bright like angels 20 on the right and 20 on the left.” My Lords, ” he cried in astonishment, “how did you come into the house of sinful man?
“We forty, that you see before you” they replied, “represent the liturgies that were given on your behalf toGod, who loves mankind. He sent us so that we can accompany you to the church. And therein joyfully, without hesitation. The liturgies were celebrated, through the priest’shands, that took place to unite Christ with you and for Him to dwell in your heart.”
After this, the nobleman shared out his property to devout priests for liturgies to take place for the remission of sins, spreading the word of that Divine liturgy is and acts of mercy could raise up the soul of man from the depths of the earth to the heights of heaven.
It is the greatest and most powerful prayer, because it is participation in the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. St Cyril of Jerusalem teaches,” we believe that the greater benefit is received by those for whom we pray during the holy and dread sacrifice of the Divine liturgy, even if they are sinners, because we offer Christ who was slain for our sins.” St John Chrysostom says, “the apostles did not lay down by chance that we should remember the third during the fearful mysteries. They know the benefit for them is great.”
Experience tells us that the power of this prayer is not that of an individual prayer but the prayer of the whole church.