Commemoration of the Ascetics
On Cheesefare Saturday, we commemorate all the Saints, both men and women, who shone forth in asceticism.
Having led us gently through the preceding Feasts, the God-bearing Fathers have prepared us for the arena of the Fast and led us away from luxury and satiety. They have instructed us with fear of the future Judgment, and have skillfully cleansed us by anticipation during Cheesefare week, having placed two fast days in the middle of the preceding week, in order gradually to rouse us to fasting. Behold, they now set in our midst those who lived lives of sanctity, through their many labors and toils, both men and women, so that, by reminding us of their struggles, they might make us more vigorous for the contest, and so that, having their lives as an example and guide, and eliciting their alliance and aid, we might disrobe for spiritual exertions, taking it into account that they shared in the same nature as ourselves. For, just as generals, when their armies are arrayed and are already standing in line, stir up their own troops by recounting examples and memories of men of old who fought with distinction and valor, and the troops, stimulated thereby with the hope of victory, set out wholeheartedly for combat, so also do the God-bearing Fathers wisely act in our case. Encouraging both men and women to spiritual contests through the example of those who have lived in holiness, in this way they bring them to the arena of the Fast, in order that, looking to their lives as an excellent prototype, we might attain to the many different kinds of virtue, as each of us is able: first, love, and then conscious abstinence from unseemly works and deeds, and fasting itself, that is, not just from food, but also from the sins of the tongue, anger, sins of the eyes, and, to put it simply, refraining from all that is evil. For this reason, the Holy Fathers appointed the present commemoration of all the Ascetic Saints, adducing those who were well-pleasing to God for fasting and other good works, urging us to proceed, in their image, to the arena of the virtues, and exhorting us to arm ourselves valiantly against the passions and the demons, reckoning that if we show zeal equal to theirs, there is no impediment to our achieving all that they achieved and being vouchsafed the same rewards; for, they shared in the same nature as ourselves.
Apolytikion of Cheesefare Saturday
O God of our Fathers, even dealing with according to Thy gentleness: take not Thy mercy from us, but by their entreaties guide our life in peace.
Kontakion of Cheesefare Saturday
Plagal of the Second Tone
As preachers of true piety who silenced all impiety, Lord, Thou hast made the whole host of God-bearing Saints shine forth with splendour on the world. By their prayers and entreaties, keep all them that extol and sincerely magnify Thee in perfect peace, to chant and to sing to Thee: Alleluia.
On Saturday of Cheese Fare Week we commemorate “all the venerable Fathers and dedicated Mothers of the Lord, with the Hieromartyrs and Holy Women, known by name and unknown, “who brightly shone forth living ascetically”.
Just as leaders before fully armed warriors and already standing in the front lines speak about the exploits of old heroes and that encourages the warriors, so precisely the holy Fathers entering into the fast direct the holy men, who have shone in fasting, and teach that fasting is not only abstaining from food, but also in controlling one’s tongue, heart and eyes (Synaxarion).
In the hymns for this day the Holy Church appeals to her children:
“Come, all ye faithful, let us praise the choir of the venerable fathers; “Looking with awe at their valor, let us strive to equal them in virtue”;
“Their radiance appearing in our souls, and through the brightness of their signs they have shed their light spiritually upon all the ends of the earth”
“They pray to the Lord for all the world to deliver us from the ancient curse, freeing us from torments”.
Praising those who are well-pleasing to God, the Holy Church, turning from the face of their children exclaims in a melodious voice to them:
“O Fathers of all the world, who among those born on earth can recount the wonder of your way of life? What tongue can express your holy efforts in the Spirit and your sweat? Was it your feats of virtue, the exhaustion of your flesh, your struggles against passions, in vigils, in prayers and tears? Truly you are shown to be like angels in the world, completely destroying the demonic powers, performing strange and wondrous signs. Therefore pray, most blessed Ones, that we may receive the never ending joy”.
Together with these hymns the Holy Church, in view that this Saturday follows the commemoration of the Sunday of the Last Judgment, turning to us exclaims:
“Let us cleanse ourselves, brethren, from all defilement of flesh and spirit, let us light the lamps of our souls by our love for the poor, not devouring one another by curses. For the time is nigh when the Bridegroom shall come to reward all according to their works. In the coming of the wise virgins, may we enter with Christ, crying to Him with the voice of the thief: Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom”.
(by S. V. Bulgakov)