Posted by: Fr Chris | November 28, 2022

Jesus living in Mary

Holy Infant Jesus, living in Mary! To Thee I surrender myself totally, with body and soul and all that I have and am, and all that I am capable of being and having. Grant me to partake of they innocence, and out of the fountain of Thy most sweet Heart, allow me to draw childlike simplicity wherewith to moisten the powers of my soul, and to fructify them with Thy Holy Spirit. Let me draw out of Thee,  Thou primeval fountain of life eternal, divine strength in order to receive the spirit of Thy holy infancy, and  divine power in order to preserve it.  

And then come and reign within me through Mary, then through Thy greatness within me confound all earthly greatness; and through Thy wisdom in me let all carnal wisdom and worldly prudence be silenced; and through Thy goodness in me let all diabolical malice be dispersed!

Posted by: Fr Chris | November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving Day

Luke 17: 11-19

To be truly grateful, we have to remember. When we are truly grateful, we are slow to forget what made us grateful.

The nine Jewish lepers in the gospel reading do not even remember to thank Jesus in the few minutes after they have left him, and they discover that they are healed. In the painting below, they run off in joy. Only the Samaritan man, despised by the Jews in general, goes back to the Jewish rabbi to thank him.

When the Pilgrims held their thanksgiving day, it was after half of them had died of hardship, yet they still celebrated in church and with a big festive meal. They were indebted to the Catholic Indian, Squanto, for their survival, and the forgiveness extended to them by the local tribes after the Pilgrims stole some of their cached food. Sadly, the English would launch terrible wars against those same tribes, and the Catholic Indians to the north. Their memory was all too short! We are invited to thank God not only today, but every day.

Secondly, we need to always recognize the goodness of God. When we are truly grateful, we come to understand that as we say in the psalms, and in the Matins service, God’s mercies endure forever.

We may not always be aware, we may be as foolish as the nine lepers, but God’s mercy  lasts and is always present. Notice that in Ukraine, despite bombardments, lack of electricity and gas heating and water, people are still going to church. Despite their sufferings, they continue to worship God!

Finally, we need true humility. When we are truly grateful, we humbly confess that we are indebted to God, that we belong to him and that we are not our own.

The first thanksgiving service in America of Europeans and Native Americans was in 1565, when the colony of Saint Augustine was founded in Florida. Rather than the normal procedure of planting the flag and claiming land in the name of the king that had been done for the previous 70 years, the Spanish governor Pedro Menéndez de Avilés planted a cross, which he kissed, and then claimed Florida in the name of God.

If we were to focus entirely on the Holy Name of God, and recognize every day that everything comes from Him and through Him, surely our lives would be much different! I pray daily for the conversion of our government to Catholic principles, for the conversion and salvation of our country, and for my own ongoing conversion and salvation. We need to do this every day, not only on Thanksgiving Day, and root ourselves in the Cross of  Christ, in the worship of God, and in humility, recognizing God’s goodness, and remembering always that His mercy and goodness endure forever.

Posted by: Fr Chris | October 22, 2022

Ask A Priest – Part 2, October

Is it Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost?

In Old English the words Ghost and Ghostly were often used to refer to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity and to spiritual matters. Today, Ghost has come to mean only spirits of the deceased. So, the English translations have gone to the word Spirit. That is closer to the Hebrew original, in that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the living God, “ruach elohim.”

Did Mary ever commit a venial sin? 

No. Our Blessed Lady continued to live her life in union with God. She is the New Eve, the Mother who exemplifies what the Old Eve was supposed to do. We were made to live in God’s Presence, and to be with Him always. The failure of Adam and Eve to do so introduced sin, and therefore death, into the human race. While Our Lady did die, and then was assumed into heaven body and soul, she did not sin.

Did Joseph ever commit a mortal sin?

I would say it is doubtful. Joseph is described in Scripture as a righteous man, and every time he has a message from God, he gets up and immediately fulfills what God has asked of him. Many theologians taught that Joseph did not commit any sins, and some have claimed that he was sanctified in his mother’s womb after his conception. But one must be careful of over-exaggerating someone’s holiness. We have a bad tendency to exalt all saints, and make them so otherworldly that we think we don’t have a chance at achieving holiness. I think it is sufficient to say that Saint Joseph was a man who achieved great sanctity, who treasured and protected the virginity of the Virgin Mary and his own purity, and who was the perfect role model for the Son of God.

Do we know the names of angels besides Michael, Gabriel, and Rafael? Why do we call Saint Michael a Saint when he is an angel?

Traditionally there are seven archangels listed: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selathiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel. The suffix -el is the Name of God in Hebrew; each of them has a duty to God and an action they perform on his behalf. Michael is “he who is like unto God.” Michael serves as the protector of God’s people against evil in Daniel and again in the Epistle of Jude. Gabriel is “he who stands in the presence of God” and he appears as God’s messenger to Daniel, Zechariah, and the Virgin Mary. Raphael means “God heals” and he brings both spiritual and physical healing in the Book of Tobit, and it is presumed he is the angel at the pool of Bethesda. These three archangels are the only ones listed in the canonical books of the Bible. Jegudiel punishes sinners;  Uriel is the angel of wisdom; Selathiel is the angel for intercession of prayer; Berachiel is the angel of blessings. These last four appear in the Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox traditions, some Catholic practices, and some Jewish traditions.

The word “saint” is French in origin, and simply means “holy.” It became a title of holy people in Old English. Michael is certainly holy, and thus he and the other two archangels are routinely referred to as Saints.

These are some of the anonymous questions passed to me at the high school and college groups.

What’s the best way to respond to a Protestant who asks, “Are you saved?”

Quote Saint Paul: I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2). Salvation is not a one-time decision; in fact, some Evangelicals have even taken the deplorable attitude that “Because ‘I am saved’ I can therefore do whatever I want and still get to heaven.” That is most definitely not a Christian belief and certainly is unbiblical. A Catholic was saved (baptism), is being saved  (working with the Holy Spirit for the transformation of my soul), and hopes to be saved by persevering to the end. The comment may then be made to us that no sin can separate us from Christ, so why do we think we have to still work at it? But Saint John himself pointed out the dangers of mortal sin (1 John 5:16-17). Jesus willingly ascended the Cross, yes, but He does not spare us from suffering and struggle. The Holy Spirit comes to us to help us conquer sin and so get to heaven, as we embrace our cross here on earth. Paul himself was still working at his spiritual life. So too should we, until the last moment of our lives on earth.

Did Mary ever commit a venial sin? 

No. Our Blessed Lady continued to live her life in union with God. She is the New Eve, the Mother who exemplifies what the Old Eve was supposed to do. We were made to live in God’s Presence, and to be with Him always. The failure of Adam and Eve to do so introduced sin, and therefore death, into the human race. While Our Lady did die, and then was assumed into heaven body and soul, she did not sin.

In the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, did the Rich Man go to Hell or Purgatory (Luke 16)?

Jesus was not giving a theological treatise on Hell and Purgatory. He was doing two things. First, he was warning the rich of their fate if they ignored the needs of the poor and the teachings of the Law and the warnings of the prophets regarding eternal life. Second, and more clearly, he was warning that Israel would reject him, even though he would rise from the dead in fulfillment of the Prophets. In fact, in the story the rich man knows the name of Lazarus, yet he treated a man whose name he knew abominably by leaving him starving and sick at the gate. Only the dogs come out well in this parable! Jesus is pointing out hell and heaven, damnation or salvation. But some have thought that the fact that the rich man is worried about the salvation of his family members shows compassion, and therefore the man must have been in purgatory. But hell excludes God’s supernatural love, not the affection that people may still hold onto. After all, the rich man longs desperately for a drop of water on his tongue. And Abraham points out that there is a chasm between heaven and the flames tormenting the rich man (verses 25-26). Those in purgatory go to heaven; those in hell are stuck there. For more on this, check out Jimmy Akin’s essay at: https://jimmyakin.com/2019/11/the-point-of-lazarus-and-the-rich-man.html

Posted by: Fr Chris | May 26, 2022

Christ ascends in glory!

Jesus leaves, but with promises in the four gospels and Acts:

I will send you an advocate, and You will be clothed with power from on high

I am with you always, as it says in the kontakion, from Matthew chapter 28.

And from the two angels, who represent Moses and Elijah: He will come back.  

When they go back to Jerusalem, they do not go back in distress, but in anticipation. They are already being transformed after the 40 days of Christ being with them on and off, from the group of frightened men to becoming the apostles who will transform the Roman and Persian empires with their preaching. They start their nine days of prayer but in full confidence – they don’t know if it will be 9 days or 90 but they go into the upper room and the temple and start praying joyfully. We know they spend a lot of time praying as on Pentecost the 120 men and women are praying together when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.

The messages of Ascension Thursday are a few:  

  1. Have faith and confidence. Jesus is with us always, until the end of the world.
  2. He will indeed return.
  3. His promises to the apostles were fulfilled, and so are His promises to us.
  4. He shows the way we will all go: indeed, we will die, just as he had to die, but with a purpose, to go to heaven and to the Father.

We are made for more than this fallen, broken world. We are made to live a life of glory, a life that we can barely taste here. We are made to go forward spiritually, but not on our own. We are made for God, and to transform this world by being His disciples.

One of the big problems today is that people have forgotten that we are all made in God’s image, that we are all God’s children, that we all have a place as members of the human race, the human brotherhood, to be united in charity here on earth and to live in such a way that we will be transformed, and help others to transform themselves, through the power of God. We are plagued with violence, discrimination, hatred, crime,  poverty, and various wild ideas while forgetting our unique status on this planet as  God’s people. The liturgical year moves us toward Pentecost, when 120 people who had trusted in Jesus’ promises were praying together. We are meant to be a nation of prayer – not just America but the whole world as a nation of prayer – in order to live in such a way so that when it is our turn to die, the gates of heaven are opened to us individually. Christ is with us always, not just in good times but in all times. Christ invites us to accept the comforter, the Holy Spirit. Christ wants us to follow Him in our life style, and also to follow Him into glory. Now in these 9 days: what do I need to do in order to fulfill just that? We can make this time of the first novena an opportunity, a great moment in our lives, to move closer to Jesus, to be nearer Him, and more like Him, as we await His spirit. Christ is among us.

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 15, 2022

It is ia privilege to be here: Holy Thursday

Holy Week is called the week that changed the world. All of human history is found here. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday stand alone in what is called the Triduum, the Three Days. Tonight Jesus institutes the Eucharist, which we are now celebrating and the priesthood that will provide the Eucharist. Tonight Judas leaves the banquet, with the Eucharist still in his mouth, to complete his betrayal of Christ for the miserable price of thirty silver coins, the reward for turning in a bandit. Tonight and tomorrow Jesus enters fully into His Passion. He gave himself to the apostles in the transformed bread and wine, tomorrow He gives Himself to all of us, to the whole human race, in order to save us through the shedding of His blood.  Tonight He is put on trial illegally, at night, with no chance to prepare a defense, in violation of Jewish law. Tonight He is hit by the Jewish soldiers, and thrown into a dark pit, left alone and abandoned, in violation of the law. He Who spoke the law to Moses on Sinai is left exhausted and weak, having shed the first of his precious blood in the garden of Gethsemane. Tomorrow he will be hauled off to the Roman procurator, a bloodthirsty tyrant feared by all, but a Roman who will find himself perplexed by this Jewish rabbi who dares to banter with him. He will suffer the agony of scourging and humiliation, be dragged through the streets, and finally crucified between two thieves. Instead of James and John who wanted to sit at his right and his left, it will be real bandits who die with him. And then of course will come the burial and sorrowing of tomorrow night, until we move towards the resurrection. These are the events that change the world, when the Son of God fulfills the promise made centuries before, that humanity will be restored to its original destiny, its original goal, of walking alongside God as did Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.

So here we are on the first night, gathered for the Divine Liturgy, waiting to hear the proclamation of salvation history in the Eucharistic Prayer of Saint Basil the Great. But within that great prayer, we will hear the very words of Jesus spoken from his own pure lips, when he said those momentous phrases: This Is My Body. This Is My Blood.

Since the very beginning, the Catholic Church has firmly taught, without reservation, that Jesus meant what He said. When He spoke, He told the apostles that they were to do this In Memory of Me. He used two Hebrew words: Basar, and Zikkaron. Basar: Body – the entire person, the very personhood of the person, not just the physical body, but everything that is Jesus Christ, His Body, His Soul, His Humanity, His Divinity, His very essence as Son of God and Son of Mary. Saint Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of Saint John the Beloved himself, and he wrote in the early 100s I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.” When Protestants deny the reality of the Real Presence, when they deny that the consecrated bread kept in this tabernacle is indeed Christ, when they deny that Jesus Himself descends to the altar through the power of the Holy Spirit, they are denying the faith of the apostles who walked with Jesus and the faith of the people who learned from their very lips what the apostles taught.

Being here tonight is a privilege. Zikkaron, do this in remembrance of me, in memory of me, is not to “remember” like we do in English. It is to be THERE, in the upper room. At Passover Jews are not sitting at a table – they are in Egypt, waiting for their deliverance from bondage. At the Divine Liturgy, at the mystery of the Mass, we are not in a eucharistic service of memory. Jewish and Christian theology clearly teaches that we are spiritually at the original event. It is an enormous privilege given by God to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to allow the faithful to be present, to hear the words repeated, to worship, to adore.

If we had put out a big sign in front of the church announcing in capital letters JESUS CHRIST WILL ARRIVE THIS EVENING AT 7 PM, what would the locals have thought? Had we sent an invitation to all of the television news stations and to the newspaper with those words, what would have been the reaction? They would have sent at least a few crew members to see what was happening, especially announcing it during Holy Week. But indeed, He is coming, in a few minutes. Here we are, at the Last Supper, at Calvary, at the empty tomb, at Pentecost, in every Liturgy that is offered at this altar.    

Father Artur and I went to see the movie Father Stu. Now unfortunately Stuart Long was raised in an atheist family that used the most incredible combinations of foul language that I have ever heard in my life, and they put all that in the movie. So children can’t see it. That’s unfortunate, because it is a journey of a man who went from being a boxer and would-be actor to conversion to the Catholic Faith and to the mystery of being called to be a priest. Yet God allowed him to be afflicted with a disease much more painful and aggressive than the one I have, inclusion myositis, and served only three years as a parish priest, and then four years were spent ministering from a chair in a nursing home. When the bishop of Helena prayed about whether or not to ordain a man who was already afflicted with a fatal disease, the phrase that came to him over and over again was this – There is power in suffering, move him forward.

As I said last night, Americans run from suffering. We immerse ourselves in avoiding pain of all kinds, and quite honestly our society now encourages those who are supposedly terminally ill, or severely ill, or chronically ill, or whatever the most recent phrase is, to go and commit suicide rather than quote suffer. We as a culture in the western world of North America and Western Europe, because we have lost our way spiritually in abandoning the Faith for which Christians in Africa and Asia suffer death every day, no longer believe this sentence – There is power in suffering, move him forward. To be honest, a lot of churchgoing Christians in North America do not accept that. I think that one reason why the American Catholic Church cannot produce enough vocations to the priesthood is that we are running from something that the bishop who ordained Father Stuart Long said: A priest is ordained to be like Christ, the Suffering Servant who hung on a cross.  All priests suffer. It is the price of being able to stand in front of an altar and repeat the words of Jesus Himself. It is the price of being asked to administer the sacraments. It is the price of being asked to be shepherds in the spirit of the Good Shepherd. There is power in suffering. There is power in suffering.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch prayed that he would “not merely be called a Christian but actually prove to be one” and that is something that every priest is called to do. That is what we who are members of the Body of Christ must work at doing.

We are supposed to live, pray, work, love, suffer, so that we would BE Christians. And we can only BE Christians if we are participants in this Eucharist, if we are people who knowingly receive the life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Saint Augustine tells us

approach with fear and trembling to take part in this feast, knowing that God himself is at work in you. Recognize in this bread the body that was hanged on the cross. Recognize in this cup of wine the blood that gushed out from his pierced side. Take and eat the body of Christ, since in the body of Christ you have become Christ’s members. Take and drink the blood of Christ. To counter your tendency to disunity, eat that body which is the bond of your unity. So as not to appear to be without value in your own eyes, drink that blood which is the price that was paid for you. When you eat this food and drink this wine, they will be transformed into your substance. Equally you will be transformed into the body of Christ, if you live in obedience and faithfulness.

It is a privilege to be here.

It is a privilege to be invited to this altar.

It is a privilege to be able to be united with Jesus Christ and be transformed into Him by receiving His Body and Blood.

It is a privilege to walk away carrying Him inside of us.

It is a privilege to stand or sit with Him being dissolved into our bodies, being carried in tiny particles through our blood, coursing into our organs, touching us from head to toe.

It is a privilege to be a member of the Catholic Church to whom this opportunity is given.

It is a privilege, an enormous privilege and gift, one that we can too often treat as our right, instead of a generous act of love. There are people who rarely have this chance, due to the shortage of priests in their country, or persecution by a hostile government, who weep tonight, on this night when Jesus first gave Himself for us, that they cannot receive Him. There are places in the world where a radio broadcasts the Mass from the Vatican and people kneel down and prostrate at the words This is My Body, This is My Blood, worshipping the distant consecrated Christ on the altar of Saint Peter’s basilica, and imploring God for the opportunity to receive the Lord once more before they die.

It is a privilege to be here tonight. May we not run from the suffering that comes our way, but rather unite it to what Jesus endured for our sake so that we will find the healing that we are in need of and the strength and courage to go forward. May we come forward tonight for Holy Communion especially alert, especially conscious of what will be placed on our tongues. May we come forward in gratitude, in joy, in peace, in love, and spend time quietly letting Jesus speak to us while He is physically in us. And may we always, always, be grateful for the gift of faith that has brought us here.

Consecration in Saint Peter’s basilica

Blagoveshchensk is a town in Russia’s Siberia. It was dedicated to the Good News of the Annunciation, and its first Orthodox parish was dedicated to this feast day. In 1910 a Catholic church was dedicated under the same title. In 1932 that church was closed, and all of the Orthodox churches and the Annunciation Catholic church were destroyed; only the Catholic Transfiguration church survived but it was also closed. In 1937 Russia was engulfed in the Great Purge, or Great Terror, of Stalin, with millions being arrested on false charges. A pregnant Catholic woman was faced with the arrest of her husband, and she knew that since she was in the category of “wife of an enemy of the people” she would be next. In despair, she arranged for an abortion, since she knew the conditions of a Soviet prison would be harsh on her. As she went to the clinic, she realized the date – it was March 25th, the feast of the annunciation, this feast day, and she realized that she could not possibly kill her baby on the feast of which the Christ Child became incarnate in the womb of Mary. She gave birth to a baby boy, and to her surprise, was never arrested, which she attributed to the intercession of our Lady. She baptized her son all alone, and raised him in the faith as best she could. In 1994, her son heard that there were Catholic priests far away in Vladivostok, and he became the founder of the new Catholic parish under their direction. The boy who should  have died in 1937 was now a missionary.

God can do whatever He wants, and overturn evil. The incarnation of Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary takes place as a fulfillment of the promise made to our physical ancestors Adam and Eve, and to our spiritual ancestors the Jewish patriarchs from Noah to Zechariah, that a messiah would come to build the new Israel, the new people of God, and reopen the gates of heaven to the souls of all those waiting to enter into God’s presence.

Pope Francis chose today to fulfill the request of the bishops of Ukraine to consecrate both Russia and Ukraine to the intercession of the most pure heart of Mary, the Immaculate Heart. In 1917 the Virgin Mary asked for this consecration at Fatima, where she predicted that otherwise Russia would spread its errors throughout the world. It is sad that only in 1984 did Sister Lucia dos Santos, the last surviving visionary of Fatima, write that the consecration was done correctly, by St. John Paul II on this day, in conjunction with all the Catholic bishops of the world. But in 1989 as we all know, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and in 1991 the USSR itself ended, opening the door for men like our pastor to serve God publicly in the Byzantine Catholic Church.

One of the main themes of Fatima, that is too often forgotten in the debates about the prophecies regarding the horrors of hell, the second world war, and the spread of communism, and the  martyrdom of many and attack on the pope, is the need for penance. Over and over, Mary called for people to pray for the conversion not just of Russia, but of sinners; she called for repentance against sins of blasphemy and especially purity, something we see all around us today, and the need for prayer to save souls from the fires of hell. The pope today put the consecration in the context of both Fatima and penance. The ceremony was at the end of a Lenten penance service, in which he went to confession and many of the 5,000 people attending did the same with him or one of over 100 priests in Saint Peter’s basilica. The image of Mary – out of all of the possible Marian images stored in Vatican City and Rome – was the pilgrim virgin of Fatima.

War is unnecessary, and this war especially is unnecessary. War is dangerous, particularly when we remember that Russia has nuclear and chemical weapons and that Putin is himself already guilty of who knows how many crimes as a KGB agent as well as president of Russia. The devil himself must rejoice at the hatred that is being unleashed by this war and the horrors inflicted upon tens of thousands of innocent citizens of Ukraine.

Refugees from Irpin

In 1937 that pregnant woman had no hope of seeing her husband, of avoiding prison, of raising her baby, of ever seeing a Catholic church reopen in Blagoveshchensk. But her own child became the agent of the parish’s restoration, and countless souls have received the sacraments in that region of Siberia in the last 28 years as a result. None of that was foreseeable on this day in 1937, but she trusted in Mary’s protection, and God acted. In 1984 the Soviet Union was expected to last for decades more, and billboards across communist-ruled Europe proclaimed socialism forever. Now it’s gone.

Who knows how this war will go? Who knows how long Putin will be around? We do know that God keeps his promises. The pope pointed out that the world has forgotten the horrors of the twentieth century, and in his sermon, he pointed out that the consecration is not a magic formula, but a “call to pray for peace even as bombs are destroying the homes of many of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters.” As Christians we believe in the power of prayer, and the reality that God will keep his promises. As Catholics we trust in the ability of the Virgin Mary to pray for us in heaven, and to stand before the throne of God to intercede for special graces for us. The messiah became incarnate in her womb on this day over 2,000 years ago, and his words of peace and his call to follow him remain just a important now as they did when he was alive on earth. Through the prayers of Our Lady, may peace and just be restored in Ukraine,  may we reject the temptations of this fallen world and may our hearts be turned to her divine Son tonight, and all the nights of our lives. Christ is among us.

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 10, 2022

Helping Refugees in western Ukraine

As everyone knows, Russia launched a massive invasion into Ukraine. The Ukrainian army and citizens are fighting back, under the leadership of their president, Mr. Zelenskyy. But millions are in flight, seeking safety in adjacent countries. The Mission Society that I founded back in 2000 has been providing aid to the Eparchy of Mukachevo for many projects. Now that diocese is helping people who are fleeing to Slovakia or Hungary. It is also finding shelter and food for those who decide to stay in the Transcarpathian Oblast. You can now make online donations to the work of the society at our website: https://missionboronyavo.org/ which are all tax-deductible.

Mother of Perpetual Help, intercede for Ukraine and for peace in the whole world!

No one ever expected to see such a disaster in our time! May Putin and his fellows listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and put an end to this atrocity, and may the peace of Christ the King rule in the tortured land of Ukraine, and Russia move away from its current. Holy Mother of God, intercede for us!

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 18, 2021

Genealogy of Jesus: Don’t skip over this!

On the Sunday before Christmas, the Byzantine Rite presents the genealogy of Jesus according to Saint Matthew. This is given in the Roman Rite on December 17. The genealogy places Jesus in time, as a descendant of Abraham and King David, through his legal father Saint Joseph, and of course as a Man through his mother Mary. But Matthew puts four women into the listing of names, the only time it happens in the whole Bible. And these four are very unusual ancestors! Tamar: a Gentile widow who disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law. Rahab: a Canaanite prostitute of Jericho, who hid the spies of Joshua and so saved her family. Ruth: A woman from Moab— the nation condemned as having been born of incest, and so the worst foreigner of all. Bathsheba: the Jewish wife of King David’s loyal officer Uriah; Solomon was born out of the adultery she and David committed. Not exactly who you would want to emphasize in your family tree! For that matter, David of course we just saw was an adulterer; Abraham lied about his wife Sarah; and Isaac and Jacob aren’t great saints either. No family is made of perfect people, even the legal ancestors of our savior Himself!

Matthew’s gospel readers could take comfort that Jesus does not hide His human relatives, or create a legend so that they all look terrific. These four unusual pregnancies from those four women all are used by God to bring about our salvation, and to show that EVERYONE has a place in God’s plan, no matter what their ethnic or racial origin, no matter their gender, their social status, their wealth or poverty. Compared to the scandal of those four pregnancies, the virginal conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb through the power of the Holy Spirit looks positively normal!

Child Jesus Images Free Download - Holy Pictures of Jesus

God’s grace conquers all difficulties. God’s mercy fixes all problems. God’s love provides a way for everyone to find their way home. In these last days of preparation for Christmas, let’s focus on what truly is important: where I and Jesus are going together! It is so easy to think that everything should be perfect, flawless, special. But God chose to come into the world through a family line that was messy, even shameful. The centuries of longing for the Messiah are fulfilled in Joseph’s family tree in ways that were unusual in the eyes of “holy people” === but as Jesus repeated over and over, He did not come for the self-righteous, but for us. The ordinary, sinful, broken folks who lose their way, but who bravely pick themselves up and get back onto the right road again. May we open up our hearts to the love, mercy, and grace of the Holy Child, and may we really and truly understand this year that God hungers for each of us, and hungers for those we bring to Him. Nobody is perfect except God Himself. No family feast is going to be “just right.” No celebration is flawless. God is perfect, flawless, and always right. I never will be 100% right, or perfect, or flawless. But in His eyes, I am what He wants: a sinful servant who wants to be saved. May the Holy Child bring us many blessings, may He bring us healing, may He bring us awareness of how loved we are, may He fill us with divine peace and give us rest in His own unique Heart. Merry Christmas.

Welcome To My Christian Circle Of Faith* Hope* Love*...`* *` - ~*` `*~`JESUS LOVES ME THIS I ...
Posted by: Fr Chris | December 6, 2021

Saint Nicholas Day

St. Nicholas, Two Icons

The oldest icon in our parish church is the one of Saint Nicholas – it dates back to the early 1700s, about 300 years old. For centuries people have prayed to Saint Nicholas for his intercession in front of that icon.

So THIS is what Santa Claus really looks like, according to science | SHEmazing!
RECREATION OF SAINT NICHOLAS’ FACE, BASED ON HIS RELICS IN BARI, ITALY

Nicholas is so important that his icon must  be at the north end of every icon screen in every church that uses the Byzantine rite, Catholic or Orthodox. He the saint of charity and justice, a model for bishops, and is one of the only saints other than Saint John the Baptist with two feast days, the other being May 9, the commemoration of the arrival of his relics in Bari, Italy, where they rest in a huge shrine.

Even during his life, he was credited with being a powerful intercessor with God, with many miracles attributed to him of the unjustly condemned being saved from execution, children rescued from kidnappers, sailors saved at sea. He is the patron saint of multiple occupations – sailors, children, singers, clergy, merchants and the poor, orphans, innocent prisoners, women seeking a husband and men seeking a wife, pharmacists,  teachers and students, babies, judges, preachers, pilgrims, notaries, and along with St Christopher he is the patron of travelers. For our Byzantine Catholic Church, he is the patron saint of the monastery where the bishops used to live above the town of Mukachevo, and it was the site of annual pilgrimages for over 1,000 years until it was taken over by the communists and the Russian Orthodox patriarchate in 1949. Every European country has churches dedicated to him, and he is the patron saint of several nations as well as our own Metropolitan Province in America.

So, what’s his real history? We know for sure that he was born around 280, and as the bishop of Myra was arrested during the last big persecution of the Roman Empire under Diocletian; all of those bishops in prison were tortured, sometimes quite horribly. In 325 he was able to go to the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, which rejected the Arian heresy that Christ was a created being. An old legend claims that he punched the heretic Arius during a debate at the council, and for this was deprived of his role as a bishop. But that night all of the other bishops had a dream in which Jesus and the Virgin Mary restored the Gospel Book and his white omophorion to him, and that is usually shown in his icons. Oddly enough, a reconstruction of his face based on his skull shows that he had a broken nose, so maybe Arius punched him back.  The story’s point is that Nicholas was passionate about defending Jesus as the co-eternal word son of God before becoming the son of Mary. Jesus Christ must have a fully divine nature in order to save us and reopen paradise to the human race. Almost every bishop at the council had spent time in prison for defending the faith, and that meant terrible torture for many. Nicholas was not about to let a heresy about Jesus wreck the Church and authentic faith that he had fought to defend.

We know that in Myra he founded charitable institutions like an orphanage, old age home, and hospital, since the Christian Church did that everywhere then. Based on all the stories, he obviously interceded for children, the poor and the sailors at sea. His charity, his orthodox faith, his determination for justice, all contributed to incredible devotion to him after his death in 343. For the last few centuries, the Catholic Church requires two or three miracles to be proven by a person’s heavenly intercession before they can be declared to be a saint. With Nicholas the abundance of miracles is such that the Roman authorities would have had a hard time deciding which ones to use.

So, what does this mean today? For Byzantine Catholics, in particular Nicholas is someone to imitate, to ask him to intercede with God that our Church, our parish, should be strong, alive, flourishing, and healthy. For all Catholics, he should be a model for justice, for charity, and for a strong faith in God and His Church, no matter what. Am I a good Catholic in my actions, my words, my personal faith, my example to others? Do I encourage others to come to our church? Do I serve the poor, at least by giving to charities that do so? Do I pray for innocent prisoners, relief of those persecuted for their faith in Christ? Do I trust in God’s love and great mercy?

It is easy to say, oh he was so holy, I wish I could be like him. No, I am supposed to be like him. A person who is a model of faith and life in Jesus Christ is a model for a reason. My parents gave me a great devotion to Nicholas. When I was leaving a hospital after a medical procedure as a little boy, an old German Franciscan nun stopped my mother in her wheelchair, and told her that Saint Nicholas would be very important in my life. When they saw the big icon of him in the little Byzantine Catholic church I was going to, my mother said that this is where I belonged. He has helped me for over 60 years, and that’s why I gave out holy cards of him at my 40th anniversary. He is a great patron saint to turn to, a wonderful bishop to look to, an example to hold onto. He points the way to the Infant Jesus, savior of the world, and shows us the path we need to walk on.

May he be our intercessor, may he pray for our Byzantine Catholic Church in both Europe and America, and may we follow his example as much as possible so as to grow in faith as Catholics and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is among us.

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 4, 2021

For Kids (and Adults) St Barbara Twig for Dec. 4

Free st. barbara twigs Stock Photo - FreeImages.com
Barbara Branch in bloom

According to legend, a cherry tree twig, which Saint Barbara placed in a vase on her way to prison, is said to have blossomed completely unexpectedly on the day of her death. Thus the custom and the blossoming of the buds should bring life. Suitable twigs are fruit tree twigs (cherry, apple, pear, Chaenomeles), forsythia or lavender. These twigs may only be cut after the frost so that the dormancy period is interrupted and the sprouting capacity is encouraged. If there has been no frost up to then, simply place the twigs in the freezer for two days.

Those now wishing to do things perfectly should place the twigs overnight in a cool room, then again for half a day in warm water. Before placing the St. Barbara twigs in the vase, you should mix the vase water with a special freshness retainer for woody twigs. Cut off one inch of the twig at an angle at the lower end. Then place the twigs in a spacious vase in which they stand in deep water. Put this vase in a light, warm place. Now you have a good chance that your Barbara twigs will blossom by Christmas.

Thus the custom and the blossoming of the buds should bring life, light and joy to the dark season – in memory of Saint Barbara. Those now wishing to do things perfectly should place the twigs overnight in a cool room, then again for half a day in warm water, e.g. in the bath. Before placing the St. Barbara twigs in the vase, you should mix the vase water with a special freshness retainer for woody twigs. Cut off two to three centimetres of the twig at an angle at the lower end. Then place the twigs in a spacious vase in which they stand in deep water. Put this vase in a light, warm place. Now you have a good chance that your Barbara twigs will blossom by Christmas. The vase or glass containing the St. Barbara Twigs may be placed on the family altar or icon corner until Christmas. Then it goes to the Nativity set.

Posted by: Fr Chris | November 18, 2021

2021 Christmas Cards to help Church in Ukraine

Every year the Mission Society of the Mother of God of Boronyavo issues Easter and Christmas Cards that can be purchased to benefit the work of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo in the Transcarpathian Oblast of Ukraine.

This year Bishop Nil, the apostolic administrator for the Mukachevo eparchy, has asked for help in building a social center to assist the homeless.  Russia’s long war in eastern Ukraine has increased poverty and weakened health care and social services in a country that was already poor. This results in more people losing their homes or what little support they had. The Catholic Church has been working hard at helping all those in need, regardless of religious affiliation. Every dollar will go so very far over there.

If purchased at church a packet of 5 cards sells for $10 including envelopes. We can also mail them to you at $12 per packet. All orders by mail must be in by Wednesday, December 15th to insure that you receive them in time for Christmas giving. If you would like to order by mail you can e-mail us at admin@missionboronyavo.org
Each packet of cards includes a prayer list. Fill out the slip with the names of the recipients and return by mail or drop them by the parish office by January 1st. All names will be sent to ]Bishop Nil Lushchak in the Ukraine. On January 7th (Old Calendar Christmas), the Bishop places all of these names on the altar at Exaltation of the Holy Cross Cathedral in Uzhhorod and pray for your intentions. Thank you for your
generosity, and please encourage family, friends & other parishioners to purchase our cards!

our lady of tenderness, this year’s card
Uzhhorod city, Ukraine travel guide
Holy Cross Cathedral, Uzhhorod
Posted by: Fr Chris | October 2, 2021

Love your enemies: do good to those who hate you. Do we??

19th Sunday after Pentecost; 2 Corinthians 11:31 – 12:9; Luke 6:31-36

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

RADICAL WAY OF LIVING THEN AND TODAY Jesus is proposing a radical, really radical message. No one is taught to simply stand there and get hit. We certainly aren’t taught to give away our own clothing, nor to give to every single person. His point is that as Christians – as people of Christ – we must be patient, loving, accepting, kind, and to do so to everyone. Do I acknowledge the humanity of a homeless person by saying hello, by praying for their deliverance from addiction, mental illness, or poverty? Do I give to charities that help the homeless, the persecuted, or the sick? Do I curse those who have abused me, hurt me, even hated me? Or do I pray for them, show them kindness in return, hope that they get out of their anger and hatred? There’s always a choice, always.

In World War II, the Axis invasion of the USSR was accompanied by the horrendous massacres of Jews, persecution of the Slavs, terrible destruction of towns due to the heavy fighting, killing of communists and people – rightly or wrongly – denounced as communists. The return of the Red Army was especially violent across eastern Europe, punishing anyone remotely connected to the German nationality or accused – rightly or wrongly – of having helped the Axis forces. On July 17, 1944,  Stalin had 57,000 captured German soldiers marched through Moscow. The people watched not with curses or assaults but in silence. And then women broke through the lines of the secret policemen and Red Army soldiers to take cups of water to those soldiers, to the hated enemy, literally following Matthew 10:42 and Mark 9:41 – whoever gives a cup of water in my name, shall have their reward.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

We live in an era of cancel culture – a clip on the internet can result in me losing my job, respect from others, being denounced as a racist or a hateful person. Even if the clip is a short one, people jump on it. The Border agents were accused of whipping Haitians on the basis of one photograph, and politicians said they would pay for what they did. But they never did whip anyone – their horses have long reins. But all three men are now wicked racists who do violence to helpless immigrants.

No one is forgiven, no one is given the chance for explanation, no one is handed the chance to reform or learn from their errors – instead people are fired, reviled, despised, threatened and can have protestors on their front lawn or apartment door. Where is the teaching of Our Lord? Are we even willing to do what the gospel says: to give to those who have hurt us tremendously, to be those women in Moscow that hot July day? What reward do we want? Self-righteous pride and anger or being a child of the Most High God? Our society has so lost its way with the decline of church attendance and Christian values and it is the duty of every Christian to bring it back.

Saint Paul: He was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, This mystical experience of experiencing heaven itself, the very presence of God, comes after he has gone through so much. He gives a little verse at the start of his scary escape from Damascus, being lowered over  the city wall in a basket, at night, in darkness, because of his preaching. But then God gives him this enormous, awesome, stunning consolation. God consoles him enormously.

but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Thorn in the flesh in the Old Testament did not refer to physical pain or affliction, but to attacks by one’s enemies. Speculating on what he meant is useless – the Corinthians knew. Put into the context of his letter, it comes during all kinds of suffering during his mission: misunderstanding by other Jews, assaults by pagans, beatings to the point of being unconscious. Proclaiming the gospel was dangerous, as it is today. We may not be beaten to that level physically, but emotionally that can happen.

He boasts about his own limitations – he stuttered, he had obvious hardships, nowhere does he say that his family from Tarsus accompanies him – who boasts about their limitations? We live in a culture of promoting oneself, of pride, of striving for power, money, youth, beauty, perfection. We look up to athletes who throw a ball or use a bat and are paid millions upon millions of dollars. That’s yet another sign of our American, our Western culture losing its way. People complain about 90 minutes in a heated church but sit for 3 hours in a freezing cold stadium to watch a football game.

What am I proud of? I should be proud of whether or not I love, whether or not I forgive, whether or not I am charitable to others and to organizations that help those in need or who are suffering or persecuted for their faith. We are a little parish – not even 80 households. But Paul was one man traveling on foot. We have a YouTube channel that can influence others for years to come, but even more so, we have the love for Christ, and His love for us, from the God-Man Who hung on the cross for hours in terrible agony, to teach us how to truly love, forgive, repent, and live a new life. I can give a cup of water, and change the world. Christ is among us.

Posted by: Fr Chris | September 4, 2021

To love: the fate of the world rests on this

15th Sunday; 2 Cor. 4: 6-15, Matthew 22:35-46.

Glory to Jesus Christ. After my last posting, I ended up in the hospital, then rehab, then I got a Covid infection from the rehab and I was flattened at home for a few weeks. But here I am back again, ready to make trouble and to confront myself in what I write and what I preach.

Both readings 2 Cor. 4: 6-15 and Matthew 22:35-46 are very important. Paul starts out with the image from the beginning of the bible: Let light shine out of darkness – and he ties that to the entire process of conversion. It is a new life, a new way to exist. But then he goes on to say that we are like earthen vessels, pots made of clay, easily breakable, referring to the pots used in the temple to hold sin offerings. But we are not to be destroyed, to have an end with no hope, we are not filled with sin or destined to disappear like those pots –  we have the treasure of God’s grace, God’s energy in our ordinary, frail, sinful bodies.

These vessels will go away – our souls will not. Verse 14: He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. Into his presence. And these earthen vessels will be raised up in the resurrection of the dead, no longer as broken and damaged by sin, but glorified and raised up as Jesus was.

The question always is, how will we get there? Am I living in such a way that I will get there? Am I doing what is right? Am I living a life of conversion? The Gospel gives us the answer.

This scene in Matthew, chapter 22, is a set-up, a confrontational scene, but this kind of debate about Jewish theology also happened normally. The Pharisees created heavy burdens on people by trying to make all of over 600 various laws and rules equally important, but they also did a lot of popular education. They liked producing summaries, short answers to hard questions that could be easily memorized by anyone regardless of education. So, the question posed to Jesus is one of those that invites a summary:

Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?

Christ quotes two passages: Deuteronomy chapter 6, verse 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  Deuteronomy actually says to love God with all your heart and soul and strength. But here it is changed to mind. Normally it was interpreted that strength meant using your wealth in God’s service, but Jesus is saying no, it has to be again from inside – from the mind, which itself was seen by the Jews as being rooted in the heart.

Then he adds Leviticus chapter 19, verse 18 Love your neighbor as yourself.Finally, he throws in this sentence – All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

That is NOT what was taught at the time. What was taught is this: The fate of the world hangs on observance of the law, service in the temple, and deeds of loving-kindness: truth, judgment, and peace. Jesus makes the fate of the world hang solely on how we love.

3 Ways to Act and Not Overreact | Rachel Britton

What kind of love? Loving God was to fulfill the covenant, the relationship established by God with humanity, through Abraham, then Moses, then David, but now through Christ, the last covenant. Romantic love is meant to imitate Christ’s love – the romantic love we have today really did not exist in this form before Christianity. People loved, we see that in ancient writings and in Scripture, but modern love is is an echo of the love shown on the cross. The fate of the world hangs on how these two commandments are lived, which are given on the Cross.

In the dialogue about the messiah being David’s son, there was a lot of debate then about who the messiah would be. In the dialogue Jesus is saying that the new supersedes the old – God’s new work in the kingdom, the whole mission of Jesus, is built upon the traditions and faith of the Jewish ancestors, but now, it is David’s legal descendant, David’s son, Jesus, who is fulfilling the mission as he gets close to enduring the passion. Remember the opening verse of Matthew’s gospel: An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah,[the son of David, the son of Abraham.  Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham – his mission is built on the mission of the prophets and God’s beloved ones of Israel – but he will go so much further since He is the absolute fulfillment of all those prophecies and writing as the son of Mary and Son of God. His divine nature and His unique blood of God and Man on the Cross are given out in love.

No one could answer him regarding David or David’s son as the key – why? The Jewish leadership of that era had reached its limit – they had no answer to give anymore.

Jesus is going a new way – the love he is using is covenant love – faithful love – love that is mutual – love that continues though even if the other party has failed. Love does not depend on the other; if I love, I simply love. I do not demand a response, I do not make my love conditional on the other’s behavior, I continue to love. God loved Israel always, even during their breaks of the covenant by worshipping false gods and doing terrible things. God loves the Jewish people still. God loves me when I worship my false gods and I do terrible things. God loves me still.

Here’s the thing – while our culture throws around the word love, how much love is there?

Love is rooted in commitment, respect, hope, passion, and above all fidelity. Love must be constant. This is the huge leap of Christianity. We give that respect and fidelity and absolute love to everyone and to God, and we must be absolutely, completely, totally, radically, firmly, lovers of God, and so a holy nation set apart which loves our neighbors completely. And this is supposed to be consistent, all the time, no exceptions granted.

Where is that totally achieved? By Whom? 

Life in the cloister: Inside the peaceful world of southeast Michigan's Discalced Carmelite Nuns ...

Only on the cross, only by Christ Himself. But – here’s the key – we KNOW we are earthen vessels. We KNOW that the light comes from the hand of God. We KNOW that grace is God’s energy, poured out to us. And so, we KNOW that while we will fail – guaranteed unfortunately – to always live up to this commandment, we also KNOW that a) we have to get up and try again, and b) the future of humanity hangs on how well Christians do this. If we as the new Israel fail to change the world, how can we expect others to join into the Body of Christ?

But if we as the new Israel keep on trying, then we can indeed expand the Body of Christ, the Church. And that is a life of conversion.

So, going back to the beginning; Am I living in such a way that I will get there? Am I doing what is right? The answer is going to be no often. The goal is to make sure that the answer is yes much more often; that I say yes because of love and trust, not fear; that I am seriously working to love not only the ones I like, but the people who are “other” to me; and above all that I am striving – reaching, working – to fulfill what Jesus taught that day and be one with God and imitate God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  Love your neighbor as yourself – everything hangs on those 2 commandments. We can say easily well all Christians do that; Well, all good people do that. Really? Look at the divisions that are ripping apart our own country, the horrible behaviors that people think are perfectly acceptable as we proclaim the need to preserve my rights, my interpretation of the laws and even the very constitution of the United States. We put down the right, the left, the moderate, the wrong religion, the wrong political view, the wrong interpretation of history – we suppress one another and refuse to forgive one another for past faults and we do so with a smile proclaiming our own righteousness. Seriously? This is how western civilization is supposed to be? Modern civilization is rooted in the achievements of Christianity – and the core of that is love, which includes forgiveness for past sins, and in the end, only love endures as Saint Paul wrote in chapter 13 of First Corinthians.  Love – the love that impels me forward into the embrace of the life-giving Trinity. Out of the three great theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, love endures – why? Because when we get to heaven, our faith and hope are fulfilled, and love will call my soul forward into the court of the great heavenly king. How I behave here determines my destiny getting into the presence of the Lord.

Does my speech impel souls towards the Holy Trinity? Do my actions, my internet searches, my Facebook postings, my video choices? How do I treat my spouse, my children, my in-laws, my relatives, my friends, my co-workers, the people I go to school with, my literal neighbor on my block? Do I even know the neighbors on my block? What do I do with my pets? What do I do when someone comes over to my house?

We are earthen vessels. We are flawed. But we are made to know God, to serve God, to love God, and in knowing and serving and loving Him, we must absolutely love those around us, and those far away from us, and all those made in the image and likeness of God, whether we agree with them or not, whether we like them or not.

If I do that, if I live as an earthen vessel relying on God’s great mercy, and if I live as if the fate of the entire world hangs on how well I live these commandments, then I – we – can indeed change the course of history and bring souls into that embrace of the Holy Trinity.

Love your neighbor as yourself.Finally, he throws in this sentence – All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

And quite honestly, that is why each of us is here: to be transformed by knowing divine love, to love others, and to bring souls to Christ.

I AM A CATHOLIC by heart: Life of Saints
John of the Cross

One of the greatest of the Catholic mystics is Saint John of the Cross. He worked with Saint Teresa of Avila in reforming the Carmelite Order, and ultimately in calling the Spanish Church into a new explosion of spirituality. He was fiercely persecuted, wrongly imprisoned, beaten and whipped because of his preaching that cut to the hearts of those who heard him and responded with violence. Yet he wrote some of the most sublime, magnificent spiritual poetry ever composed. He also wrote that at the end of life, we will be judged by God as to how much we loved.

We are meant to walk with God, as Adam and Eve did before original sin broke that relationship between God and human beings. We can only do that if we imitate God. And once again from the little friar, Saint John of the Cross: Where there is no love, put love, and then you will find love.

We can change the course of our parish, our town, our Church, the entire world if only we do that.

Christ is among us.

Posted by: Fr Chris | July 10, 2021

Healing the blind

This chapter is filled with miracles of healing: raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead, forgiving and curing the paralyzed man, healing the woman suffering from a long-term hemorrhage,  conversion of Matthew himself, deliverance of the man possessed, and then these 2 blind men.

He also gives teachings about conversion, and in the cure of the 2 blind men, he tells them not to say anything. That of course is pointless as everyone would know right away when these men walked out of the house that they could see. And it is pointless since everybody everywhere talked about the cures Jesus performed. So no matter where he goes, people are ready and waiting for him. And what are they waiting for? Two things: his teaching, which brings spiritual health, and the cure of the sick and diseased.

The big question in all of this is Do you believe I can do this? The second big question is, what do I see when I look at Him? The Pharisees were deeply disturbed, because he was constantly breaking the various rules such as no work on Sabbath and talking to women when he was alone. They were committed to protecting the Jewish people from paganism by enshrining all of the hundreds of rules and regulations. And surely there were those who were just plain jealous. The two blind men on the other hand, praise Jesus as the Messiah – they call him Son of David and ask for his mercy first, then the cure. They have faith, great faith, that he can do so.

So, what do I see when I look at Christ, and how strong is my faith? In various parts of the gospel, we read that Jesus withdraws to pagan territories like Tyre and Sidon, and that pagans come to him for cures. Ironically a lot of people who worshipped pagan gods had more trust in him than many of the Jewish leaders. Those same leaders, and often Jewish public opinion, often saw sickness and handicaps as a punishment from God for the person’s sins or even their parents’ sins. Christ saw people who were hurting in soul and body and came to heal both.

Paul warns us in the reading from Romans that we have to Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (verse 7).
The beginning of this reading starts with a warning: put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. Just as Matthew had to convert from a way of life that brought him wealth and power, but also isolation from most of Jewish society, every one of us has to convert from the wrong things that we are attached to and which isolate us from God.

I think it is easy for us to forget that even if we are hooked on a substance or behavior or attitude, we really can be delivered from it, just like all of the various people who are delivered from possession by Satan throughout the gospels. We can easily forget that people who drive us crazy with their negative behaviors are accepted with all their faults by Jesus Christ, just as we who all have our own issues are accepted by Him. We are still called to conversion, to radical conversion, but God does not withhold his love from us until we do so.

Jesus asks the two blind men: Do you believe that I can do this for you? They both say yes. They both have complete trust in him. When the man possessed opens his mouth, the people are stunned. They were used to they physical miracles by now, but they were not used to spiritual ones. That is why they cry out that nothing like this has ever been in God’s chosen people. Lots of prophets had preached and taught, and a large number had performed cures and physical miracles, like Elijah – whose feast we observe on the 20th – did. They all knew about that. They did not expect this miracle. This man is cured not just of being mute, he is freed from the powers of hell.

Too often people think that they are forsaken by God. Too often we think our souls are incurable. Too often we do not see the people around us as people whose very souls are known by God and loved by him., Too often we forget that God is the source of all healing, physical and spiritual. Too often we just give up. Saint Monica prayed for years that her son would come to Christ, and he becomes both a great theologian and bishop. Who knows how long these two men had been blind? That doesn’t matter. What matters is they saw who Christ really is, freely praised him, and had complete confidence in him. Saint Paul constantly went to people and called his new Christians to love not only each other but the whole world.

It is up to us  do the same: to have trust, to accept people as Jesus accepted them, and to keep on going with confidence. It can be very hard sometimes, but with God’s mercy and grace, all things are possible.

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 | October 31, 2022

Ask A Priest 3 – Eastern Questions

Why is daily Mass common but not daily Divine Liturgy?

Actually,  daily Divine Liturgy is quite common among Byzantine Catholics, but less so among Orthodox. It’s not found in certain regions like the Middle East where hostile Muslim rule often made frequent celebration of the Eucharist dangerous. Just gathering for weekly celebration could be risky in times of Islamic fundamentalism.

In large towns of Eastern Europe, daily Divine Liturgy was ordinary among the Orthodox into the 16th century. Then it was rejected as “Catholic” during the controversies over the reunion of the Churches in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Some Orthodox traditions teach that a married priest and his wife cannot be intimate before the celebration of the Eucharist, which is a revival of the Jewish purity laws.

Another reason for its decline in Orthodoxy was the reception of Holy Communion by the laity. Many Orthodox people would only approach the altar at Christmas, Easter, Dormition, and maybe SS. Peter and Paul, after the four fasting seasons were completed.

Finally, the complexity of Byzantine-rite services means that ideally a church had a priest, deacon, and cantor at every service. In the villages where most people lived that was simply impossible.

Why do Byzantine Catholics say “Amen” after the words of institution?  

“Amen” is a Hebrew word which simply affirms a blessing. It shows up in Deuteronomy, Numbers, Psalms, Isaiah, etc. In Christian prayer, Jesus used it repeatedly to emphasize a particular teaching or saying and appears 77 times total. It was added into early Christian worship. When we say it in the Liturgy, we are simply affirming our belief that through the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine are now the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Can women become deaconesses?

Yes, and the missionary work of the Greek Orthodox Church in Africa has revived that order. Deaconesses are important in the African and Asian societies where men were restricted in their ministry to women for cultural reasons. Also, deaconesses were needed to anoint the naked bodies of women and girls coming to baptism in the ancient Church.

They were responsible for charitable work among women and giving religious instruction to them, and supported by the Church. While in the Byzantine Church the deaconesses are known to have had their own ordination ritual, walked in the Great Entrance procession in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, received Communion inside the sanctuary, and took Communion to sick women, they did not have a liturgical role whatsoever. Deaconesses could not preach or confer baptism. So, the current push in certain Roman Catholic circles for deaconesses is actually not pushing for a restoration of the original order, but to have women serving at the altar next to the priest like a deacon. That is simply NOT what deaconesses were in the past or in modern Orthodoxy; cf. Didascalia Apostolorum (circa 240); Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion (375); Constitutiones Apostolorum (circa 380).

Eventually deaconesses merged into the communities of celibate women which maintained the works of charity and education. This happened especially with the spread of infant baptism, and the acceptance of priests and deacons ministering directly to women in the Eastern cultures. This order did not exist in most of the Latin Church, though it endured in Rome itself into the 700s, but again, they had no liturgical role whatsoever.  

Deaconesses exist now in the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece, Zaire, East Africa, and in the Ethiopian Church. Read more about what’s happening in the Orthodox Church here at the Saint Phoebe Center: https://orthodoxdeaconess.org/contemporary-orthodox-deaconesses/

Deaconesses in Ethiopian Orthodox Liturgy:

Armenian Apostolic deaconess

Posted by: Fr Chris | September 14, 2022

The Life-Giving Cross: A paradox

If you watched anything of the transfer of the body of Queen Elizabeth II this week, there was an interesting element that affirmed her deep Christian faith. Both in Scotland and England the royal crowns of those countries were brought out and put on top of the coffin. The crowns are of course covered in jewels and elaborate silver and gold, but each one is topped by a cross. The cross is supreme, the cross is the actual crown. The monarch is supposed to rule in the  spirit of Jesus Christ, exemplifying both the qualities of Jesus as a ruler but also be willing to sacrifice oneself for the sake of the nation.

Jesus sacrificed himself on the  cross not for the Jewish nation, but for the entire human nation – He willingly ascended the cross so as to reopen the closed gates of heaven, closed since original sin ruptured the bond between God and Humanity, and He willingly gave His life, pouring out His precious blood, so as to save souls. In this self-giving, this self-emptying, the cross of death became the life-giving cross.

And of course, the lifting up of the cross back at the time of Saint Helena was because they had applied the cross to sick people who  were instantly cured and to the body of a dead man, who was brought back to life.

It is the great paradox of Christianity – the instrument of Jesus’ death is the tool of salvation for the entire human race. Jesus Himself refers to the cross and His future death on it as being like the staff of Moses with the bronze serpent on it. The Israelites had rejected God once again and he sent in poisonous snakes as punishment. But those who looked on the bronze serpent held up by Moses were cured. We have been bitten by original sin and are bitten over and over by the devil but are redeemed by Jesus’s sacrifice.

Christ was seen by the early Church and the Fathers as the new Moses. Moses had led the Israelites out of the darkness of slavery in Egypt to freedom and from the darkness of idol-worship to knowing the one true God. Jesus leads us out of the darkness of sin and into lives rooted in Him, through the mystery of the life-giving cross, which is the gate to holiness.

Moses used his wooden staff to open the waters of the Red Sea, so that the Israelites could be saved from the Egyptian army. The Cross opened the closed gates of heaven. Moses used the staff later to strike the rock which gushed out water, which saved the lives of the Israelites and their animals; Jesus’ cross is the source of life for us. Moses stood on the cliff with his arms out in the shape of the cross and the pagan Amalekites were defeated; the devils themselves run from the cross.

So, when we say that the wood of the cross brings life, we are not saying something trite but it is a profound truth that Israel was slowly prepared for over the centuries. Once Jesus died on the cross, the temple had fulfilled its purpose – there was no more need for sacrificing animals.

Jesus’ Blood is the ultimate sacrifice, the blood literally of the new covenant as he said at the last supper, as we are going to say up here at the altar soon so that the Holy Spirit will descend and change the wine into Christ’s precious blood.

The cross is the emblem of the courage to change; the cross is the confrontation of our spiritual destiny, and the point at which a decision must be made to stand with or against the Kingship of God. Do I follow the Lord or the fallen world? Do I strive to be holy  and to transform that fallen world, or do I add to the power of sin? Does my life bring about transformation of myself, of those around me, indeed of the entire world, or do I go in the opposite direction and drag down others with me?

We wear the cross, we kiss the cross, we put the cross on the walls of our homes, it crowns the top of church towers, it is even on top of royal crowns, precisely because it calls us to remember Christ’s sacrifice, Christ’s self-gift, Christ’s life, Christ’s giving of  life to us. We put it in so many places precisely because it calls us to decisions: Jesus as our king, opting for grace from God so as to resist sin, Christ as the true final answer.

Ave crux, spes unica! Hail, O Cross, our only hope! It is one of the most ancient little prayers of Christendom, but it encapsulates everything I’ve said tonight. Hail O Cross, our only hope. It would seem that the Cross would frighten people, but instead it  invites people to come to it, to find hope, to find comfort, to find great joy, to realize the enormity of Jesus’ love for us. And to realize that through the cross, and only through the cross, only through accepting the hardship of the cross, can I find true freedom in Christ Jesus as my true Lord.

By honoring the Cross, accepting the cross, we are able to move forward spiritually. Doing only what I want will get me nowhere. Following Christ, and Christ alone, that will get me to where I am supposed to be. May we be brave enough to follow Christ, and to go forward with the life-giving Cross in confidence to change our lives.

Posted by: Fr Chris | August 16, 2022

The Assumption is a sign to all of us

Christ is our destiny, and Christ is also our example: His death and resurrection are a sign to us of our deaths and resurrection, His life in glory is a sign to us as well. The same holds true for Our Blessed Lady!

Christ holds the soul of Mary, as He comes to take her body to heaven


The Assumption of Mary is meaningless without the Resurrection of her son, Jesus Christ. He is the “first born from the dead”. In the Resurrection, Christ destroys death (1 Cor 15:26) for all who are in Christ. The salvation that the Resurrection of Christ brings is the paradigm for the salvation of all in Christ. That would, of course, preeminently include Mary. Christ died, and had a bodily resurrection. Our Lady dies, and has a bodily resurrection. Christ’s glorified body went into heaven on Ascension Thursday, and Our Lady’s glorified body goes into heaven today. Christ accomplished his earthly mission, so he returned to heaven. Mary fulfills her destiny and so she is taken into heaven. The last time we see a description of her earthly life is in Acts where she is praying in the midst of the disciples who were waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit. That’s now her role in heaven, as we see in the name of our church: she is our perpetual help because she is perpetually praying for us.


Just as the fact that we don’t have the bones of Jesus is a supporting argument for his Resurrection and Ascension, the fact that we don’t have the bones of Mary is a supporting argument for the Assumption of Mary. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches are very careful about preserving and honoring first-class relics of the martyrs and saints, but we have none of our blessed Mother whatsoever. All that is claimed of Mary is her veil, nothing more. No church has declared that they have the bones of Mary, but there is a church dating back fairly early, that claims it is the spot where Mary was assumed into heaven. One of the oldest shrines in the Holy Land is the Church of the Dormition, the spot venerated from which Mary was assumed into heaven.

Our Lady’s entry into heaven is given to us as a sign, that this is what will happen for us after the Last Judgement. Those who will go to heaven will be reunited with their bodies, since we really are made as complete beings, body and soul. God breathed into Adam after making him out of the dust, and gave life to Eve after removing the rib from near Adam’s heart. Body and soul – that is the human person, in the image and likeness of God Himself. Our bodies will decay – hers did not. Why?

  1. She was the new Ark of the Covenant, who contained God Himself in her womb. As the living Ark of the Covenant, God preserves her from decay.
  2. She is also the New Eve, the Mother of the New Adam, and remember that Adam and Eve were not meant to die, but to live forever.
  3. Every woman carries part of her baby’s DNA, even at the age of 90. Mary therefore carried part of Jesus’ DNA. Just as his body did not decay, neither does hers.
  4. Just as the Old Eve became the mother of all the living at the tree of life in paradise, Mary the New Eve became mother of all those living in Christ at the tree of life, the Cross atop Mount Calvary.
  5. Jesus does not appear to the apostles as a man covered in bloody tortured wounds, but rather as a glorified man, with just the five wounds. In all of the approved apparitions of Mary, the visionaries describe her as young and beautiful, and never as an older woman. Even when she is weeping, she is still young. That also is a sign for us of our glorified destiny: at the resurrection of the dead, we will be restored in a glorified state.

This feast of the Dormition, the defined dogma of the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, is therefore a really significant event. And by the way, the custom of bringing flowers to a funeral dates from the discovery of Mary’s empty tomb filled with flowers. Sending flowers to a funeral, putting flowers on the grave, is a sign that I believe in the resurrection of the dead, just as we proclaim in the Nicene Creed. Mary is our ultimate sign of our destiny, of our hope, of God’s promises being fulfilled. She prays for us perpetually – may we turn to her always. As Saint Ephrem the Syrian wrote in the Hail Holy Queen, may she turn her eyes of mercy towards us, and at the end of our lives, reveal to us the fruit of her womb, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Fr Chris | June 29, 2022

Nativity of John the Baptist – June 24

My home parish in Kenmore, New York, is dedicated to this saint;

There are 3 statues of John the Baptist at our original parish: Larger than life statue by the high altar – pointing to heaven, clothed in animal skin, lifting up a cross; Life sized outside the church – baptizing Jesus where two main streets intersect, and holding a cross; Oldest one, carved by our first pastor’s brother, again of John baptizing Jesus, and holding up a cross. On all three poles there is a script saying Behold the Lamb of God.

 The angel tells Zechariah to name the child John, which means “the Lord has been gracious.” John’s greatness comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.

Elizabeth – how did she know that the baby should be named John? Apparently, she like most women of that time and region was illiterate, so her husband could not write her a message after the vision in the temple. So, everyone is astounded when Zechariah writes out the sentence His name shall be John, confirming what Elizabeth had just said. She obviously had heard  the message of the Holy Spirit, which reflects her religious piety, her own personal holiness and closeness to God. She listened to the Lord more closely than her husband the priest had.

The statues at my home parish show John doing what he came to do: pointing the way for people, pointing to heaven as our ultimate destiny, carrying a pole that looks like a processional cross, and baptizing Jesus. The baptism of Christ in the Jordan is the opportunity for the Father to confirm that Jesus is His beloved Son, and also to launch Jesus into his public ministry. The Gospels show John coming out of the desert and preparing the Jews for that public ministry, for the arrival at last of the long-awaited Messiah.

John is always pointing – towards Jesus, towards heaven, holding a cross. On our iconostas this 300-year-old icon, known as the Melismos, shows him pointing to the Infant Jesus on the diskos where the bread is placed during the rite of preparation, under the star of Bethlehem, testifying to the real presence of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. John shows us that Jesus is truly in Holy Communion: Behold the Lamb of God once again.

We know that Peter’s brother Andrew was a disciple of John, and Andrew brings Peter to Christ.

Do I point the way to Christ like Andrew did? Do I point out the reality of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, like John does in the icon? Am I looking for heaven and its promise, or am I looking for fulfillment here on earth? Do I listen, like Elizabeth did, to hear what God has to say to me? If someone knows me, what do they say I am pointing to through my words, my behavior, my internet searches, my reading?

Do I show the way?

Which of his parents am I?

Elizabeth, who trusted in God so much that she stood up against everyone else when it came to naming her son?

Zechariah, who doubted God despite all of his theological knowledge?

This feast is the oldest feast day of any saint, that’s how significant John is supposed to be to the Christian. He gives up the possibility of home and family to live in the desert and to proclaim the message that someone greater than he is coming, the one who Israel has longed for. My job – our job – is to do the same thing for the people we live with and around.

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