Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Dallas, Texas
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Redeeming the Time Vol. 01.24 FifthSunday of Great Lent Mar 23/April 5 1998

Redeeming the Time

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church Dallas TX

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Mar 23/ April 5 1998

Fifth Sunday of Great Lent

St Mary of Egypt

Vol. 01.24

News and Announcements *

Travelers *

Sick *


Questions about the Life of St Mary of Egypt *

Questions about Altar Serving *

Answers to Questions about St Mary *

Answers to Questions about Altar Serving *

News and Announcements


  • Sergius (Sumeet) is still travelling in India and South Africa. Please pray for his safe return, and spiritual protection during his trip.
  • Catechuman Nicholas will be abroad for a month (in Copenhagen). Please pray for his safe return.


Please pray for the sick every day. Your prayer can be very simple: "Lord have mercy upon Thy (suffering) servantů"

    • Child Nikita
    • Nikita was born prematurely (at 26 weeks) in Australia, and is fighting for his young life.
    • Priest Martin
    • Serious back pain. Fr Martin will be having neck surgery after Pascha.
    • Mother Seraphima - God's little sufferer
    • Tim Clader
    • serious ankle injury
    • David Miller
    • David will be having back surgery soon.
    • Alexandra
    • breast cancer
    • Emily
    • severe headaches
    • Iakavos (James)
    • James is the son of Fr Paul Volmensky (CA). He has problems with pain in his legs and ankles.





Mar 24 / Apr 6 Strict Fast

Forefeast of the Annunciation

St. Zacharias the Recluse

6th Hour: Isa 48:18-49:4

Vesp: Gen 27:1-41 Prov 19:167-25

6:30 PM - Vigil

Mar 25 / Apr 7 Fish, Wine & Oil

Annunciation of the Theotokos

6th Hour: Is 37:33-38:6

Vesp: Gen 13:12-18 Prov 14:27-15:4

Feast: Vesp: in Typicon Mat: Luke 1:39-49,56

Lit: Heb 2:11-18 Luke 1:24-38

6:30 AM - Vespral Divine Liturgy

Mar 26 / Apr 8 Wine & Oil

Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel

6th Hour: Isa 58:1-11 Vesp: Gen 43:26-31; 45:1-16 Prov 21:23-22:4

6:30 AM - Presanctified




Mar 28 / Apr 10 Strict Fast

St. Hilarion the New

St. Stephen the Wonderworker

6th Hour: Isa 66:10-24

Vesp: Gen 49:33-50:26 Prov 31:8-32

6:30 PM Vespers and Matins for the Raising of Lazarus

Mar 29 / Apr 11 Wine & Oil

Lazarus Saturday

Heb 12:28-13:8 Jn 11:1-45

10 AM - Divine Liturgy


Making of Palm Crosses

5 PM - Confessions

6 PM - Vigil for Palm Sunday

Mar 30 / Apr 12 Fish, Wine & Oil


Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem

See Typicon for Readings

Regular Service Schedule and

Procession of Palms after liturgy

Catechetical Discussion

2:00 PM - Bridegroom Matins

Questions about the Life of St Mary of Egypt


We recall the story of St. Mary on a certain day in Great Lent, by reading her remarkable story aloud. When and in which service? What are other distinctives of this service?


Who wrote the life of St. Mary of Egypt? How did it make its way so firmly into the mind of the church?


Who are the main characters in the story of St. Mary of Egypt? Somewhat trivially, who are incidental characters?


What were the events that led up to Abba Zosimas meeting St. Mary? Where did he meet her?


Describe the first meeting between Abba Zosimas and St. Mary. What things did St. Mary do or say that proved to Abba Zosimas that she was blessed?


St. Mary was forced by the Abba to tell her story to him. Summarize it.


St. Mary's difficulties in the desert are extremely instructive for us. Her repentance was fervent and real, and yet she still had terrible struggles with demonic attacks. How long did these attacks last? What was their nature?


How old was St. Mary when she died?


Describe the second meeting between St. Zosimas and St. Mary. What instructions did she give him? What marvelous miracle occurred? What did Abba Zosimas reproach himself for?


Describe the burial of St. Mary.

Questions about Altar Serving


What is the primary duty of an acolyte?


Who may be an acolyte?


What is the first thing that an altar server does upon entering the altar with the intention of serving?

The second thing? The third thing?


What is the name of the vestment an acolyte uses? When does he put it on? What must he do before putting it on or taking it off?


What are the duties of a server in preparing for the Divine Liturgy?


Describe a small entrance for Divine Liturgy.

  1. When is the small entrance?
  2. What do the servers carry?
  3. Where do they go while waiting for the priest to leave the altar? Describe what they do.
  4. Describe the entrance from just before it begins till everyone has reentered the altar.
  5. When do the servers go back into the altar?
  6. What do the servers do when they reenter the altar?


How many times is the censer used in Great Vespers with a Litya service following? When? How is the censer used and by whom?


How many times is the censer used in Sunday matins? When?


How many times is the censer used during the Oblation service and Divine Liturgy? When?


List all the things that need to be cleaned and put in order after the Divine Liturgy.

Answers to Questions about St Mary


The Life of St. Mary of Egypt is read in its entirety during matins on the 6th Thursday of Great Lent. This is the week that precedes the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt, which is the 6th Sunday of Great Lent. By anticipation, this service is usually served Wednesday night. During this service, the Great canon of St. Andrew of Crete is chanted in its entirety. This canon is also serialized during Great Compline the first four evening in Great Lent.


St. Sophronius of Jerusalem wrote the life of St. Mary. He transcribed it from the oral story, which had been passed down in the Monastery of Father Zosimas. He considered the story to be so valuable that it needed to be set down in writing. St. Mary's story is such a quintessential display of the power of repentance that the church began reading her story during Great Lent.


Besides St. Mary, Abbot Zosimas is mentioned the most in her story.

Incidental "creatures" include:

  1. The Abbot (John)
  2. The Lion
  3. A person (angel?) who gave St Mary three coins, with which she bought 3 loaves of bread.


Abba Zosimas was already old, and was troubles by thoughts that he had reached the pinnacle of monasticism. He was led by God to a Monastery in Palestine which had a custom that all the monks, save only a few, would go out into the desert for the whole of the Great Fast, where their labors and fasting would be known only to God. The first year that Abba Zosimas followed this rule, he found St Mary in the desert, a twenty days journey from the Monastery.


Abba Zosimas had been travelling in the trackless desert for twenty days when he saw a black skinned naked person some distance from him. He pursued her, not knowing who she was, or anything else about her identity. Eventually the Abba realized his objective, when St Mary called him by name and requested that she throw her his cloak so that she could cover her nakedness. The Saint knew his name, because God had revealed it to her. At the end of their first meeting, she also mentioned the name of the Abbot, John.

After they spoke for a while (after insistent urging by Abba Zosimas), St Mary prayed at his behest. After a little, the Abba looked and saw that the Saint was praying in mid air. She had become like an angel in the flesh. Let him hear who has ears to hear.


St Mary defiled her virginity at a very early age, in Alexandria Egypt. She lived as a prostitute for many years, until she was thirty.

One day, she saw a boat being made ready to sail to the Holy Land, so that pilgrims could venerate the precious cross. She wished to go, and having no money, shamelessly sold herself in order to make the voyage. Upon reaching Jerusalem, she went with the crowd to see the cross, but was held back from entering the church by the power of God. After struggling several times, she was exhausted, and rested in the portico, in front of an icon of the Mother of God. Divine grace visited her, and she realized her great impurity, from which she had been blinded so many years. She prayed to the Mother of God, begging her to allow her, the impure one, to venerate the cross. She also promised that she would go wherever and do whatsoever god willed after this.

God allowed her to venerate the cross, and she left the temple, almost delirious. On the way out, she was met by a stranger, who gave her 3 loaves, "for the journey", and she made her way to a Monastery on the Jordan river. In the morning, she confessed, and communed the holy mysteries, made her way into the wilderness across the Jordan, and disappeared from human society until her meeting with Abba Zosimas


For 17 years St. Mary struggled against the passions of lust and fornication and the desire for sumptuous foods and wines. The demons would appear to her and tempt her to despair of God's mercy and forgiveness. At these times she begged the Theotokos with tears to help her and strengthen her against her passions. She would throw herself prostrate on the ground, praying and weeping, sometimes lying there for a day and a night, until peace and calm descended upon her soul.


St. Mary was 78 when she died. She was 12 when she left her parents to go to Alexandria, and she lived as a prostitute until she was 30. After her repentance she lived 48 years in the desert: 47 before Abba Zosimas found her and one additional year, after which she received Communion and reposed. She died in the year 522 on Holy Thursday, the first of April.


The year after St. Zosimas first saw Saint Mary, he was ill just before Great Lent began, and unable to go out into the wilderness, just as the Saint had predicted. He recovered by Palm Sunday, and in obedience to the Saint, brought the Holy Mysteries, along with a basket containing some lentils, to the bank of the Jordan, and awaited her arrival.

She appeared on the other side, and, having no boat with which to cross, walked across the water. Abba Zosimas was so much in a flutter that he prostrated himself in fear, but Mary rebuked him, and told him to stand up, as he was carrying the holy mysteries. St. Mary instructed Abba Zosimas to say the Symbol of faith, and the Our Father, and communed the holy mysteries. After this, she said "Now lettest thy servant depart..." and the rest.

She told the Abba to meet her again next year in the place they had met the first time. At Abba Zosimas' insistence, she merely touched her finger tips to the lentils, and ate three grains, then walked across the river and disappeared. The Abba reproached himself because he had not remembered to ask St. Mary her name, and resolved to ask her the next year.


The year after Abba Zosimas gave St. Mary the Mysteries, he hastened to the spot where he had first seen her, as she had instructed. Upon reaching the place, he did not see the saint, so he beseeched God to allow him to behold one more time the blessed one. After his prayer, he saw her body lying a small distance away, with her face turned towards the east and her hands crossed on her breast. For a long time he wept over the body. After reciting the appropriate prayers and psalms, he began to wonder whether he should bury the Saint's relics or if this would be against her wishes. Then he saw, traced on the ground beside Mary's head, these words: "Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary." "Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me, who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt, called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord's Passion, after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries." Abba Zosimas was glad to be told the saint's name. He understood that after partaking of the Mysteries Mary had in one night traversed the distance it had taken the elder 20 days to cover, then had given her soul to God.

The elder then wondered how with only his hands he would dig a grave for the saint. Seeing a small piece of wood nearby, he began to dig with it, but the ground was hard and dry, and the elder could not dig a hole. Lifting up his eyes, he saw a lion licking the saint's feet and was first afraid, but after protecting himself with the sign of the Cross he contemplated that the relics of the saint lying close by would guard him from harm. When the lion approached him, he said to the beast: "The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried. But I am old and have not the strength to dig the grave (for I have no spade and it would take too long to go and get one), so can you carry out the work with you claws? Then we can commit to the earth the mortal temple of the saint." Immediately the lion dug with his front paws a grave large enough for the body of the saint. The elder reverently placed in the grave Mary's body, covered only with the ragged cloak he had thrown her 2 years earlier, and covered it with earth.

Then the lion departed into the desert and Zosimas returned to his monastery, praising God. He told all the brethren of St. Mary's wondrous life and the marvels wrought by God.

Answers to Questions about Altar Serving


The primary duty of an acolyte is to help the faithful pray. His main duties include:

  • Serving in the altar, and assisting the senior clergy (the priest, and also the deacon and bishop) by getting the censer at the proper time, and other duties associated with serving.
  • Helping the clergy by following special instructions, cleaning the altar, getting ready for services, and other tasks that are necessary to keep the temple in good order.

Throughout all of his duties, the acolyte must strive to pray and act piously, so that the people are edified by his example. This duty must be uppermost in his mind no matter what he is doing in the church.


Any Orthodox Christian male who has the blessing of the priest may serve as an acolyte in the altar.


Upon entering the altar for the first time, the acolyte should:

  1. Make three bows (poklons) or prostrations (if prostrations are allowed - they are not done on Saturday and Sunday, and some other days) while facing holy altar table.
  2. Go to the priest and ask for his blessing.
  3. Find his vestment, fold it, and present it to the priest in order to be blessed to put it on.


The vestment an acolyte wears is called a sticharion. He puts it on before serving any service, after getting the priest's blessing. At the end of the service, he must also receive a blessing before taking it off. If the acolyte wishes to commune the holy mysteries, he must also take off his sticharion (unless he is a reader or sub-deacon, or is blessed to keep the sticharion on during communion). He does not ask a blessing to do this.


The altar servers must carefully make sure all things are ready before the Divine Liturgy is begun, so that there are no delays or awkward moments. Here is a reasonably complete list (in no particular order) of some of the things that must be attended to:

  1. Fill the water pitcher that is used for the clergy to wash their hands, and make sure the towel is clean and available.
  2. Clean the area that is used to hold the incense, charcoal, etc.
  3. Put out the charcoal and incense in the usual place, making sure there is enough for the service.
  4. Clean the censer, and polish it if there is time, and it needs it.
  5. Sweep the altar and clean as necessary.
  6. Trim and light the vigil lamps in the altar.
  7. Check the big candle stand (which is put in front of the royal doors during the communion of the clergy), and replace the candle if necessary.
  8. Boil the water used to add to the holy chalice and store it in the thermos. (Some will boil the water during the service - in this case, make sure that the boiling kettle is filled and ready to be used).
  9. Bring the commemoration prosphoras into the altar, as needed.
  10. Be ready to do anything else the priest or deacon asks him to do.


The Small Entrance of the Divine Liturgy occurs at the "Both Now and ever" verse of the third Antiphon (usually the Beatitudes).

  1. Just before the entrance, the acolytes light their torches, and assemble together in a neat row facing the high Place. They all bow TOGETHER toward the high place, then turn and bow towards the priest.
  2. During the singing of the last verse of the Third Antiphon, the priest (or deacon) carries the Holy Gospel from the altar table around the high place, and stands in front of the royal doors (on the ambvon). The servers all carry candles or torches, and precede the Holy Gospel. The servers form a straight row facing the iconostasis, and centered in front of the royal doors, behind the clergy. If there is an icon in the center of the church, they also stand in front of it.
  3. At the End of the singing, the priest (or deacon) raises the Holy Gospel, and chants "Wisdom! Aright!" and makes the sign of the cross with the gospel. After this, the priest goes through the royal doors, back into the altar, pausing to venerate the icon of Christ which is on the right door post, turning to bless the servers, and venerating the icon of the Theotokos on the left door post.
  4. After the priest blesses the servers, they go back into the altar, with those on the left using the left deacons' door, the those on the right the other deacons' door.
  5. When they return to the altar, they go to the high place, and make their bows just as they did before the entrance.
  6. Then they put their candles away.


The censer is used 5 times in the Great Vespers service with Litya:

  1. Great censing at the beginning (if the service is part of the All Night Vigil, which is always served on Saturday evenings).
  2. Censing at Lord I have cried.
  3. Small Entrance.
  4. Beginning of Litya while the troparia are being sung.
  5. Censing of 5 loaves while the troparia are sung, just before the blessing of the loaves.

The priest uses the censer for the first censing, and is led by the deacon around the entire church. He first censes the altar, then the iconostasis, and the people. Then he senses the center icon (if there is one) and walks around the perimeter of the temple, censing the icons, and turning occasionally to cense the people, who have moved away from the walls. He finishes by censing in front of the royal doors, reentering the altar through the royal doors, censing the altar three times. When the priest is finished, and acolyte should be ready to take the censer from him.

All the other censings are done by a deacon if one is serving:

  1. The censing at Lord I have cried is just like a great censing, except that the priest (deacon) uses the deacons' doors.
  2. The censer is carried by the priest (deacon) during the small entrance, and used to cense in front of the royal doors. At the end of the singing of the Theotokion (at the end of the Lord I have cried stichera) the priest (deacon) raises the censer, and chants "Wisdom! Aright", then makes the sign of the cross with the censer.
  3. At the beginning of the Litya service, the priest (deacon) censes the iconostasis and the people.
  4. At the signing of the main troparion, near the end of the Litya, the priest (deacon) censes the loaves of bread, wheat, wine and oil, on all four sides, three times.


The censer is used 2 times during most Sunday matins services:

  1. Polyeleos and magnification (if appointed), followed by "Blessed art Thou O Lord".
  2. Great censing during the eighth ode of the canon and the Magnificat.


The censer is used twice before the Divine Liturgy:

  1. It is used to cense the Holy Coverings and the Holy Gifts at the end of the oblation service.
  2. The entire altar and temple is censed before the Divine Liturgy begins. This often occurs immediately at the end of the oblation service, but it may occur later.

The censer is needed 4 times during the Divine Liturgy:

  1. Small censing (the altar, iconostasis, servers and the rest of the faithful) during the reading of the epistles.
  2. Small censing before the Great Entrance. The censer is also carried by the deacon or an acolyte during the Great entrance, and used to cense the holy coverings and Holy gifts after the Entrance.
  3. The altar table (and altar, if a deacon is serving) is censed after the Epiclesis.
  4. After Holy Communion, the priest censes the Holy Gifts on the altar table, and again after he has brought them to the table of oblation.

The total items the censer is needed is six. The acolytes need to be alert, and keep the censer hot!


After the divine liturgy, the acolyte is responsible for cleaning the Holy altar. Here are some of the things he must attend to:

  1. FIRST, he listens attentively to the thanksgiving prayers after Holy Communion.
  2. Before cleaning, he should remove and hang up his sticharion, after getting a blessing to do so from the priest.
  3. Clean the censer.
  4. Clean the table that is used to hold the incense and charcoal, and put these things away. Before putting them away, make sure the containers are filled
  5. Clean the vessels used for the after supper.
  6. Distribute the antidron, and clean the bowl it is in.
  7. Empty and put away the zeon. The water should not be poured in a common place.
  8. Sweep the altar.
  9. Extinguish all candles, and some or all of the oil lamps.
  10. Be ready to do anything else the priest or deacon asks him to do.

"Redeeming the Time" is an almost weekly Journal of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Texas. All issues may be found at:

All unsigned or unattributed portions Copyright 1998 Fr Seraphim Holland

Address: 2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75071

Phone: 972 529-2754



This journal is at

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Distribute this text if you wish, but only if attribution and all contact information are included. I would appreciate being contacted if any large scale use of this text is desired. Many texts like this are on our web page.

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Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Dallas, Texas
Phone: 972 529-2754
Priest Seraphim Holland
Web Editor:
Fr. Seraphim Holland
Snail Mail:
2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75071, USA

All rights reserved. Please use this Orthodox Christian material in any way that is edifying to your soul, and copy it for personal use if you so desire. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church if you wish to distribute it in any way.