Posted by: Fr Chris | April 21, 2021

Sunday of the Paralytic 2021

This is the third Sunday of Easter in the Byzantine Rite.

Last Sunday we heard the last Paschal gospel, that of the Myrrh-bearing Women. Today and for the rest of the Easter/ Paschal season, our Sundays will deal with water. At these Divine Liturgies, the newly baptized adult catechumens were given further instruction in the Christian faith, and the Sundays all dealt with the symbolism of water, used in Baptism. These are: the Sunday of the Paralytic, Samaritan Woman, and the dramatic text of the Man Born Blind. In all of these Jesus uses water either in the cure (Paralytic, Man Born Blind) or for teaching (Samaritan Woman).

Divine Mercy Apostolate: The Healing of a Paralytic [February 19, 2012]

For the other Christians, these teachings also served as a reaffirmation of their faith in Jesus and His Church. For them, these Sundays, and Mid-Pentecost on the Wednesday after the Paralytic Man, fortified them and renewed them in their preparation for the great feast of Pentecost. Note that the mid-point of the Easter season is itself called Mid-Pentecost, not Mid-Pascha. The Church is getting ready, through the power of the new life in the Risen Lord, to receive the Holy Spirit and be lifted up in the Gifts of the Spirit to go forth into the world, as the Apostles, Our Lady, and the disciples did after that first, awesome Descent of the Holy Spirit.

The Children's Word: "I have no one..."

The pool of Bethesda did not have the power to heal the man paralyzed for thirty-eight years, but the pool of the waters of baptism, touched by Christ, risen from the dead and by the power of the Holy Spirit, have the power to heal our souls of sin and bring us to eternal life. In the fourth week after Pascha, we learn of the grace of baptism – from the Typikon.

In John’s gospel, this healing is the first public miracle performed by Jesus, one which immediately got the attention of the Jewish leadership. The site was lost to the many destructions of old Jerusalem, and skeptics wrote that this was a fiction created by John. Archaeological excavations in the 19th century recovered the Pool of Bethesda, proving that John knew the sites of Jerusalem very well. It is as he described it: a pool with five porches possibly representing the five books of Jewish law, but more likely because of the layout of the two pools. Also it is indeed near the city’s Sheep Gate (an easy symbolism for Jesus the Good Shepherd!), exactly where John said that it would be! In Aramaic, “beth hesda” means “house of mercy.” However, saying “beth hesdo” meant house of disgrace; the word play was popular because the great number of disabled people waiting for the healing to take place was considered to be undesirable.  

Royalty Free Pool Of Bethesda Pictures, Images and Stock Photos - iStock

The double pool is found inside a ruined Byzantine basilica, and nearby is a pagan temple to the Romans’ god of healing. Obviously, Jews, pagans, and Christians all realized that something marvelous happened in the rushing of the water when “the angel stirred the waters.” This stirring probably came about when water from the upper pool shifted into the lower, healing pool, and for some reason an angel was associated with that movement.

December | 2017 | THE SWORD OF FIRE
Posted by: Fr Chris | April 10, 2021

THOMAS SUNDAY

Thomas Sunday. "Believing disbelief" is the most important part of the story.

It is worth noting that the inscriptions of Icons of this event never say “Unbelief” or “Doubting” regarding Thomas. In Greek, the inscription reads Η ψηλάφηση του Θωμά, that is, the “Touching of Thomas”, making no reference to Thomas’ doubt and implying Jesus touching Thomas, both in body and soul, and not the other way around.  In Slavic icons, the meaning is even clearer because the inscriptions always read Уверение Фомы, i.e., the “Assurance of Thomas.”

Usually, English icons mistranslate the Greek and Slavonic and inscribe their icons “The Belief of Thomas”. They miss the point: the Slavonic emphasizes that Jesus assures Thomas of the reality of His resurrection, His glorified body which still is wounded, His living presence. So too, for us moderns who think we know everything – Christ touches us, Christ comes to us. He takes the initiative, and we are healed as a result.

New Evangelization at work: Pray to Saint Thomas for his help, and then invite someone who is weak in their faith to read the Scripture passage from John, or to hear the story again, and then talk to them about how the Byzantine Catholic Church interprets the event as an assurance from Jesus, not a condemnation, and of Thomas’ growth in faith, not his doubts. And then invite them to let Christ touch them, come to them, help them by coming to Divine Liturgy with you. Invite them for next Sunday, to come to worship and then to go out for “breaking of the bread” someplace (your treat) and listen to their faith story, and agree to walk with them on their journey. You have no idea what the Holy Spirit can do in and through us – be open!

By showing us that it is incorruptible, he would urge us on toward our reward, and by offering it as touchable he would dispose us toward faith. He manifested himself as both incorruptible and touchable to show us that his body after his resurrection was of the same nature as ours but of a different sort of glory. – St. Gregory the Great, Incorruptible but Touchable.

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 15, 2021

Enlightener of Ireland

Sorry to have been absent – I have had some serious flare-ups of neural pain and inflammation, which have kept me away from writing. Here is what I submitted to our parish for Saint Patrick’s Day

St Patrick of Ireland Hand-Painted Icon - BlessedMart

March 17 is the feast of Saint Patrick. In the Byzantine Typikon, he is honored as the “Enlightener of Ireland.”

Patrick lived from about 387 to about 417, and he is the most famous of the Romano-British missionary saints. After being enslaved at 16 years of age by Irish raiders, he escaped after six years and was reunited with his family. But he went on to study for the priesthood in order to fulfill the dreams God sent him of saving Irish souls. Consecrated as Bishop of Ireland by Pope Celestine I around 431 AD, he returned to serve the small Christian population and to preach to the pagans. He spent 30 years preaching, ordaining priests, establishing dioceses with bishops, and teaching missionaries. Icons depict him in green vestments, the traditional color of Ireland, holding the three-leaf shamrock. Irish legend has it that Patrick and his missionaries used the shamrock to teach the people about the Three Persons of the Trinity in the One God. 

While the shamrock story may be a legend, it is a fact that he established the beautiful Celtic crosses. The story of Patrick driving out the snakes is a metaphor for driving out pagan worship and rooting the Church deep into Irish culture.

Saint Patrick’s Mountain, Croagh Patrick. A striking cone-shaped mountain in County Mayo, this was a holy place under the druids of the old Celtic pagan religions. Patrick came here often to pray, and once he was inspired by his guardian angel to imitate Moses and spend forty days and nights, in intense intercessory prayer for the Irish people. He had only a slight recess in the rocks as his shelter at night, and otherwise spent the time praying exposed to wind and rain, interceding for the Irish of his day and the generations to come.

Pilgrims are advised not to climb Croagh Patrick barefoot
Pilgrims on Croagh Patrick – the tradition is to walk barefoot for penance

As the Catholic Encyclopedia relates:

The whole purpose of his prayer was to obtain special blessings and mercy for the Irish race, which he evangelized. The demons that made Ireland their battlefield mustered all their strength to tempt the saint and disturb him in his solitude, and turn him away, if possible, from his pious purpose. They gathered around the hill in the form of vast flocks of hideous birds of prey. So dense were their ranks that they seemed to cover the whole mountain, like a cloud, and they so filled the air that Patrick could see neither sky nor earth nor ocean. St. Patrick besought God to scatter the demons, but for a time it would seem as if his prayers and tears were in vain. At length he rang his sweet-sounding bell, symbol of his preaching of the Divine truths. Its sound was heard all over the valleys and hills of Erin, everywhere bringing peace and joy. The flocks of demons began to scatter. He flung his bell among them; they took to precipitate flight, and cast themselves into the ocean. So complete was the saint’s victory over them that, as the ancient narrative adds, “for seven years no evil thing was to be found in Ireland.”

Pilgrims still climb the mount, especially on the last Sunday of July, when thousands of pilgrims will gather to climb to the summit and see where Patrick prayed. It was traditional to go barefoot over the sharp and rough scree rocks, and many men would go shirtless exposed to the harsh winds; these practices were to atone both for their own sins and the sins of others. Now the Irish police try to convince people to be more modern in their penances, and thus safer, but some still follow the old ways.

In 2010, a huge crowd of 20,000 climbed Croagh Patrick. Given the shock over the sexual abuse scandals in Ireland, people felt that there was much to pray for.

Posted by: Fr Chris | February 22, 2021

Praise of the Redeemer: Monday Matins

Let us welcome Christ with joy and divine gladness. Behold the Fast, the time of repentance let us weep and sigh, and let us raise our hands to our only Redeemer, that He may save our souls.

The Lord is my help and my protection: He saved me. He is my God and I will glorify Him.

Daniel 3: The Image of Gold and Fiery Furnace
The Eternal Word comforts the three youths in the furnace of Babylon

You descended into the midst of the furnace and covered the Youths with dew, and you taught them to sing: all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord and praise Him forever. Mother of God, the Sun of justice comes forth you to illuminate the whole universe.

Theotokos of Vladimir - Wikipedia

Posted by: Fr Chris | February 20, 2021

First Saturday of Great Lent

Jesus Reigns in Glory: the Ascension | St. Paul Center

Jesus, the true God, Who sits in glory upon the divine throne, now appears, riding on a swift cloud: and with His pure hand He saves those who cry out: Glory to Your power, O Lord!

Christ is my strength, my Lord and my God! This is the hymn that the holy church proclaims, and with a purified heart she praises the Lord.

O Word, born of the Father before all time, we the faithful now offer You the intercession of the one who gave you birth; hear her prayer by showing yourself full f goodwill for your servants.

Intercession of the Theotokos Holy Virgin Mary | Християни, Малюнок, Живопис
Intercession of the Virgin Mary

O Redeemer of the world and almighty One, You descended into the furnace and covered the three youths with dew, and You taught them to sing: all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord and praise Him above all forever.

Jesus in the Old Testament | What's Happening...?

Posted by: Fr Chris | February 18, 2021

1st Week: Thursday

THE LORD IS MY ROCK: WHEN MY FATHER AND MOTHER FORSAKE ME THEN THE LORD WILL TAKE ME UP - YouTube

O Lord, grant repentance to me, a sinner, for You wish to save Your unworthy servant. I prostrate myself before You, and I implore Your immense goodness; humble my heart in this holy Fast, for in You alone I find refuge and compassion.

Seizing me in the trap of sensual pleasure, the Serpent has made his prisoner, but you, O holy apostles, whose word has caught the whole world in its net, deliver me from the evil one.

Night and day, in my anguish, I cry out to you, and I am saved by escaping my passions; and I am protected by your, O Virgin Mary, my refuge and only defense.

Pin on Blessed Mother Mary

Unique and indivisible and omnipotent Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit. You are my God, my Lord, and my Light; bowing low before You, I sing your praises.

Posted by: Fr Chris | February 17, 2021

Great Lent – Prayers from Matins

I will be posting excerpts from Matins during the season.

DayBreaks for 1/15/18 - It Is Finished..It Is Just Beginning | DayBreaks Devotions

By the Fast, let us crucify our members and our flesh; let us be vigilant in prayer as it is written: let us follow the steps of the divine Crucified One, but putting to death our passions.

Rejecting the bitterness of sin, let us strive to please our God, Who willed to taste gall, and destroyed the enemy by His Cross. By taking up the habit of sin, I am driven toward complete destruction. But You, O Lord, deliver me, by Your Cross, O God of goodness.

Abstinence has flourished on the tree of the Cross, and the universe, embracing it with fervor, shall enjoy the abundant flowering whic hblossoms from the divine precepts of Christ.

Abstaining from the passions, let is crucify our flesh, and our spirit for the Lord: let us mortify our desires and our thoughts, to ilve in the spirit of God. I praise Your crucifixion and Your side, which has been pierced by a lance. From it, I draw immortality O Christ, and each day I am sanctified.

The Science behind Crucifixion - YouTube

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 8, 2020

Immaculate Conception/ Conception of Saint Anne

St. Joachim & St. Anna by Afroditi Petroula | Byzantine ...
SS. Joachim and Anne meet at the Golden Gate to tell each the wonderful news: they will be the parents of the Mother of the Messiah!

Known in the East as the Conception of Saint Anne, December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the West. In the Eastern Churches, this is kept on December 9, in order to emphasize that though sinless, Our Lady is still inferior to Christ, Who alone has a perfect pregnancy (March 25-December 25). However, the Latin Church preferred the date of December 8, giving Our Lady a perfect pregnancy (December 8 – September 8). Because the United States is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, our Byzantine Catholic Church has accepted the December 8th date in America.

The dogma teaches this: the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin. (Pope Pius IX).”

What does this mean? The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:

Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.

The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul.  Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin, the state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam — from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death. The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptismMary needed the redeeming Savior to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ’s redeeming wisdom.

Antique French Religious Icon Saint Anne and Saint Maria Print
Saint Anne with the Virgin Mary as a child

The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul.  Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin, the state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties ofAdam — from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death. The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptismMary needed the redeeming Savior to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. Theperson of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ’s redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.

The feast of the Conception of Saint Anne originates in the monasteries of Palestine in the late 600s; it spread through the Syriac and Byzantine Churches so that by 1166 it was a holy day of obligation in the Byzantine Empire with no work allowed. In the texts of this feast, Mary is acclaimed as all-holy, immaculate, sinless, and most pure. Icons of “The Conception of St. Anne” shows SS. Joachim and Anne embracing at the Golden Gate after being told by angels that they would conceive a daughter who would become the mother of the Messiah.

Posted by: Fr Chris | May 8, 2021

Last Sunday of Easter: Man Born Blind

My Weekly Confession: Letting Light in the Window
Christ touches the eyes of the blind man

Today is the last Sunday of the Easter season – this week we will have Ascension Thursday, which begins the nine-day preparation for Pentecost.

Easter is meant to be disturbing- the holy women went out to the grave to mourn and to finish their task of anointing the body of Jesus. Instead, there are angels giving a completely unexpected message and an empty tomb. They ran back to the city to announce the news to the apostles, who of course refused to believe them. Only Peter and John go out – the leader of the apostles and the youngest – to see for themselves, and they came back bewildered by it all.

The resurrection is meant to challenge us, to disturb us, to make us think, to wonder.

This young man was born blind – that is important. Saint Ambrose points out that

There is, indeed, a kind of blindness, usually brought on by serious illness, which obscures one’s vision but that can be cured, given time; and there is another sort of blindness, caused by cataract, that can be remedied by a surgeon: he can remove the cause, and so the blindness is dispelled. Draw your own conclusion: this man, who was actually born blind, was not cured by surgical skill but by the power of God.

Spiritual Renewal and the Healing of the Blind — Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick
The Man Born Blind is sent to the pool, which resembles the baptismal font

Some of the Pharisees can’t accept this because Christ made a paste of clay, working on the sabbath, and they go to his parents, sure that this cannot be their son, or that surely, he was not born blind. Other Pharisees accept the miracle, precisely because this was not removal of cataracts but giving sight where there had never been sight.

There are several important points in this story:

  1. Out of all of the places in Jerusalem with water, Jesus sent the man to Siloam. The pool at Siloam had two purposes: the practical was that it provided the water that enabled Jerusalem to endure a siege by an army as its water could not be cut off. Spiritually, priests poured water from the Pool of Siloam onto the temple steps “so that it would flow down and out through the Temple to the world outside, and so indicate the way that the Jewish faith would satisfy the world.” Christ uses this water to save the man from blindness, and the miracle will bring about faith in Jesus; He fulfills the mission of Judaism and will save the world.
  • John hints further that the water has a special link with Christ since he tells us that “Siloam,” the name of the pool, means “the One sent,” a frequent description of Jesus. No wonder that in art on the walls of the catacombs the early Christians often depicted the healing of the blind man as a symbol of Baptism.
  • God is the only one who can work on the sabbath according to the Jewish tradition, because He keeps the universe functioning. Jesus has appropriated that to Himself, affirming His divinity and power.
  • Jesus asks the man if he believes in the Son of Man – using the title of the Messiah. The man recognizes Jesus’ voice, and falls down to worship Him and recognizes Him as the savior.
  • At the time of the miracle, believers in Jesus were not being expelled from the synagogues. But when John was writing, that is what was happening. The Church and the Synagogue had split, and Jewish Christians had to decide where to go – follow Christ as God and Man, or stay with Judaism. This addition to the story of the miracle is meant by John to encourage his readers to stay with Christ instead.
  • The last 3 Sundays of the paschal season and Mid-Pentecost are all tied to the theme of baptism and water. Besides recognizing a baptismal theme in this story, readers of John would also be taught that a series of testing may be necessary before sight really comes. Only gradually and through suffering does the man born blind come to full faith and enlightenment. The same thing holds for every generation of Christians.
  • Every generation will also have those who are blind to faith, those who choose to be blind to faith, and those who do not know about the faith.
    The baptized have an obligation to teach all the truth – just as the young man tries to teach the Pharisees themselves.

Do you believe in the Son of Man? We have to move from the baptism we received as babies to a mature faith. Do I believe? This man is able to say Yes, Lord, I do believe.

Now we have to do the same, every year, every month, every day.

The western world has very much lost its way. Western civilization has its roots in the Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds, but grew and flourished through its embrace of Christianity. Today church attendance has plummeted in western Europe and Canada to record lows. In Europe only 40% of people say that they even pray, in Ireland 55% never go to Mass at all. In Canada only 13% of people go to any kind of religious service of any faith. Even in Mexico only two-thirds of the people say that they are Catholic.

In America 55% of Catholics went to weekly Mass in 1965; in 2019 it was 23%.

Coronavirus and the mass closing of churches has just made it worse. In the 1918 flu churches were only closed from August until Christmas. Now people have learned to spend nearly a year watching services online or television.

Every single person here today knows folks who have lost their faith, or who have never had faith. Every one of us has relatives and friends who don’t know Jesus Christ. Each of us can easily fall into the same category, each of us can get lazy, each of us can become blind to the beauty of faith and its mysteries.

Not only that, but how many of us who still have a traditional faith have a mature faith?

Too often when people face a hardship, or learn about a church’s scandal, or things don’t go the way they want, they simply walk away not only from prayer but from God Himself. We have to be brave enough to say “I do believe” and worship. We have to be brave enough to trust even when we feel that we are blind spiritually. We have to be brave enough to love God and those around us no matter what. We have to be willing to put ourselves out there and change the world.

In Africa, 90% of Catholics go to Mass every week. The majority walk for miles, in harsh weather or tough conditions. They understand that at Mass they receive the Body and Blood of Christ – which too many American Catholics don’t believe – and they stay in church for up to two hours at each Mass. We in America need that enthusiasm, that hunger, that desire, that willingness to share our faith with others. This is the last Sunday of the Easter season, and when we come back on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, there will no longer be the song “Christ is risen.” But that disturbing resurrection remains, that disturbing proclamation that God has changed everything continues. The question will be, do we live accordingly? Christ is risen.

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 10, 2021

Sunday of Myrrh-Bearing Women

Jesus chooses to have these women be the first witnesses of the Resurrection. The angel tells them to go and announce the good news to the disciples – the men – and to give instructions to the men to go to Galilee. Jesus Himself appears to Mary Magdalene, and charges her to testify, to witness, to Peter and the other apostles. Women had no ability to testify in Jewish law courts, and needed a man’s testimony to back them up.  Jesus does not provide a soldier, or a gardener, or any other male figure. He empowers them by His Risen Presence, and sends them forward on their new mission

Tradition, through Sacred Scripture, preserves these names as the women who came to fulfill their duty to their slain Lord on Easter Sunday morning:

•   Mary Magdalene , who is known in the liturgy as “equal to the apostles”, and whose name Magdalene means either from Magdala, or being a hairdresser;
•   Mary, the wife of Cleophas , and mother of James and Joses; traditionally said to be relatives of Saint Joseph;
•   Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Chuza who held a very important position under King Herod and Joanna benefited from his high place in the royal court. However Joanna is credited with rescuing the head of Saint John the Baptist from Herod’s court, and she abandoned a life of luxury and power to follow Jesus in His preaching ministry;
•   Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John  – she and her sons left Zebedee and a comfortable life as middle-class fishermen in order to walk with Christ;
•   Susanna  – of whom nothing is known other than that she is one of the women who supported Jesus out of her own pocket;
•   Mary, the sister of Lazarus , the one who sat at Jesus’ feet in Bethany and anointed Him before Palm Sunday;
•   Martha, the other sister of Lazarus , the one who was “busy with details of hospitality” but after the death of her brother testified to her living faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah.

Saint Luke writes that there were “many” women who followed Jesus during His preaching ministry and that they supported Him “out of their own substance,” or from their own money. These were women who came not only from lives of content, and even privilege – Joanna being from a palace – but who also had the courage to break out of the traditional semi-enclosure of Jewish women in that time and publicly follow this rabbi, without their male relatives to chaperone them.

We don’t always realize just how radical Jesus’ preaching and ministry was. Men were never supposed to be alone with women to whom they were not related by marriage or blood. But Jesus defies that barrier, along with other barriers. His family is composed of those who “hear the word of God and act upon it.” The disciples included married and single people, young and elderly, former public sinners, and upright citizens. And they were a mixed company in gender – even today such things would be considered unusual in most of the Asian world, and Jesus and his fellow Jews were indeed Asians. Those who push for women’s ordination and claim that the early Church had not ordained women because of patriarchal pressures in society forget that that same early Church was a radical community, which kept up Jesus’ other radical practices.

Notice that the women do not debate the niceties of Jewish law or custom with the Risen Lord: they are “incredulous for joy” and fulfill His charge. They become the first evangelists, the first announcers of the complete Good News: Jesus has come as Son of God, died for us, and been raised for us, and now raises us up to a whole new level of spiritual existence in Him.

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 27, 2021

Entry into Jerusalem

Large Icon Painted on Glass with Hand Painted by VArtGallery

Today we begin Holy Week, the most important time of the year for all Christians. Palm Sunday is the commemoration of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. He is joyfully welcomed by pilgrims and residents of Zion alike, yet in a few days He will be cruelly tortured and crucified.

The icons show Jesus riding on the colt of a donkey, an animal that had never had a human rider on its back. But the colt submits instantly to Jesus: it recognizes its Creator, and further it is a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
 

People had heard of the raising of Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb, as well as of Jesus’ preaching and miracles over the past years. The crowds placed their cloaks on the road as a sign of submission to Jesus and honoring Him.  They cut branches to wave in the air as a sign of a royal welcome, and sang Hosanna which means “save now”:  the people were still looking for a military Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and establish an independent Jewish kingdom. The people acclaim Jesus as “Son of David”, thus giving Him the title of Messiah, but not the Messiah Jesus had identified Himself as: the Prince of Peace. In western Churches, the Passion is read today. In Eastern Churches, only the entry into Jerusalem is read, as we begin a chronology of walking with the Lord every day this week, culminating in Easter/ Pascha.


The custom developed of using 
pussy willows instead of palm fronds because the palms were very expensive to import, and the pussy willows are the first flowering branches in northern and eastern Europe.

THINGS TO DO AT HOME

“Spring Cleaning” is done early in Holy Week. The entire house is to be scrubbed, dusted, and polished so as to be ready for the newly-risen Lord on Easter Sunday. This is a Christian adaptation to the Jewish practice of cleaning the house out for Passover.  This should all be done by Holy Wednesday though, so that the services can be fully enjoyed from that night forward.

Technology Darkness: all ages, 12-24 hours
Good Friday church services often end in total darkness, leaving worshipers to imagine their lives in the wake of the dark hours after Christ’s crucifixion. While functioning as a family in total darkness might not be practical, there is a way to practice living in darkness: go dark with your technology.

  • “Unplug” from noon on Good Friday until noon on Holy Saturday.
  • Turn off (and put away!) all cell phones, tablets, game consoles, televisions, radios and computers for twenty-four hours.
  • Reflect together on how disjointed, disconnected, lost, anxious, helpless or frustrated each family member feels without their devices. On that first Good Friday, many lives were turned upside down by Christ’s death: Mary, Martha, James, John, Peter, Andrew, just to name a few…For these people and the other followers of Christ, Good Friday was more than just sad. It was a day of feeling anxious, lost, disconnected, frustrated, and helpless.
  • Ask questions: How different would our worlds be if the Story of God had stopped on Good Friday? What would life be like if grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness were not available to us?

 

If you decide to stay plugged in to social media, use your social media to proclaim the events of the week. Instead of posting political rants, pictures of your food, or updates about your activities, post Bible passages and links to great works of art that point to the most important social act of all time: how God in His great mercy kept His promise, given to Adam and Eve, to redeem His creation.

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 21, 2021

St Mary of Egypt and her conversion

Full of Grace and Truth: St. Mary of Egypt, the Righteous, and a true Icon of Repentance
Burial of Saint Mary of Egypt by Saint Zosimus and her lion

She was born around 344 AD in Alexandria, where she became a rich and beautiful courtesan. She chose to lead a selfish life of sin. Once on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, she was so wicked that she tried to seduce the men of the party! She had notic­ed throngs of pilgrims entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Curious to join the attractions, Mary tried to enter the Church, but was prevented by some mysterious force. Mary began to wonder if her sinful life was the cause for preven­ting her entrance into the Church. At that moment, she became aware of the Icon of the Mother of God above the entrance of the Church. Filled with compunction of heart, she cried for her many sins.

Saint Mary of Egypt: her dead body is discovered by Saint Zosimas and a lion. Etching by ...

Mary sought a life of repentance for her wicked past by entering the desert. This we know was a time when thousands went out into the deserts of the eastern Roman empire, living in hermitages or establishing monasteries. There she lived as a hermit for nearly fifty years, willfully depriving herself of all comforts of life and exposing her beauty to the harshness of the sun. In her later years a lion accompanied her, a sign that she had achieved great inner holiness recognized by wild animals.

While in the desert one day, she met Saint Zosimus. According to the custom of Palestinian monks, this priest-monk had gone out into the wilderness in the first days of Holy Week to meditate on the Passion of Christ. She asked him to bring the Holy Eucharist to her on Holy Thursday. Joy and peace overcame her upon the reception of the Eucharist and she prayed the Prayer of St. Simeon: “Now you may dismiss your servant in peace, O Lord. For my eyes have seen your salvation.” She related her life to the priest, and then arranged with Zosimus to meet again in a year so she could confess and receive Communion again (frequent Communion was not common among these desert dwellers). When he returned to the site in 421, she was not there, and he finally came upon her body. As happened with some other desert saints, the lion was near her body, and he helped Zosimus to bury her body, and then the lion lay down and mourned for her. May we have the courage to repent of our own sins, and to be truly converted, especially in these last days of Lent!

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 2, 2021

Retreat Night on Jesus’ Passion: March 3, 2021

I will be presenting a retreat night at 6:30 PM on Jesus’ Passion at 6:30 PM Mountain Time. Go to YouTube and then to OLPH Media. This will include both explanations of what happens in the Four Gospels, and applying it to ourselves. This will be recorded for future viewing as well.

Jesus Christ the Bridegroom Orthodox Icon | Legacy Icons
Posted by: Fr Chris | February 27, 2021

2nd Sunday of the Great Fast

Orthodox icon of Saint Gregory Palamas (2) - orthodoxmonasteryicons.com

Previously, Churches using the Byzantine rite celebrated St. Polycarp of Smyrna, who was ordained bishop by St. John the Evangelist, on the second Sunday of Lent. That commemoration has been replaced by that of St. Gregory Palamas, the famous defender of hesychasm in the 14th century. Replacing such an ancient commemoration as that of Polycarp gives us an idea of just how important the hesychast controversy was.

            The monks of Mount Athos had been condemned by the monk Barlaam, an Italo-Greek monk from Calabria in Italy, who favored education over contemplation, and who emphasized that God is unknowable in this life. The monks taught hesychasm, using the Jesus Prayer and certain body postures or breathing, so as to draw very close to God, and for some, to see the Divine Light in this lifetime. In this, they were following the practices of the Desert Fathers of old. The Jesus Prayer is one of the most ancient in the Church: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. The monks recommended certain breathing techniques, or positions of the body, while reciting the Prayer. This rigid use of the body postures was repeatedly – and rightly – condemned by many saints and writers as people could end making the physical position and breathing more important than the Prayer.

Gregory himself emphasized that such physical practices had to be done only with the guidance of a true spiritual elder. The Jesus Prayer, so central in our spirituality, when used well, has a profound effect so that:

he who is in prayer experiences the fullness of the divine presence, of Life Itself, of Life abundant and unfathomable, then his own life strikes him as a tiny drop in comparison to the boundless ocean. That is what the righteous and long-suffering Job felt as he attained the height of spiritual perfection. He felt himself to be dust and ashes; he felt that he was melting and vanishing as does snow when struck by the sun’s burning rays (Job 42:6) (Orthodox Life, vol. 28, no. 5, 1978).

Further, St. Gregory taught that the mystic, even without education, could have greater knowledge of God than others, but he made the crucial distinction between energies of God, and the essence of God. Essentially, God can not be known in His essence by any human, but His energies (what God sends forth in His creation), can be known. In this, he quoted the ancient Cappadocian Fathers.  these energies are mediated to mankind. That is, how God acts in forgiving and spiritual healing. Grace is the working of God himself, not a created substance of any kind. As for the body postures and breathing, since the person is body and soul, uses of the body can affect the soul. In the end, he wrote that hesychasm teaches that one can see the Light of God, but only with repentance, interior conversion, constant prayer, and spiritual direction.  This invitation to union with God is open to every Christian.

St. Gregory Palamas | Orthodox Quote of the Day | orthodoxquoteoftheday.com | Orthodox, Church ...
Posted by: Fr Chris | February 24, 2021

The Cross – Wednesday

You freely let yourself be handed over and led to death; before the judgment seat, You were struck with the hands You Yourself were created; on the Cross, You were mocked and pierced with the lance. You endured theses suffering in the flesh, O Lord, to save us.

The End Times Passover: Those Who Dabble in Prophecy Continue to Spit in Jesus' Face!

Seeing You upon the Cross, the hosts of angels in heaven shuddered: the stars lost their brightness; the earth quaked, and the whole universe trembled at the insults You endured, O Lord. By your sufferings You grant us salvation.

By Your wounds we have all been healed from our passions and from the sting of sin; when You were raised upon the Cross, You struck down our invisible Enemy. Grant that we may worthily complete this Fast, and without reproach, come to Your holy Resurrection.

By his wounds you have been healed

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