Posted by: Fr Chris | December 31, 2019

New Year’s Eve: Am I thankful? And for what?

1 Timothy 2:1-6    Luke 4:16-22

The Sabbath Day: Holy Day or Holiday? - Mormon Voice

The last words of the Gospel today are, They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”  And of course, it is not Joseph’s son. Jesus is Joseph’s legal son, but not his biological son. This alone shows how ordinary the life of the Holy Family was in Nazareth. They’ve heard of his deeds elsewhere and now wonder what’s coming to them in His hometown. If they were open to it, it would have been the celebration of God’s mercy and power in their midst. But they weren’t open to this at all – they all thought they knew who Jesus was, but they didn’t.

The epistle is classic Pauline – he emphasizes that all Christians want is the ability to live quietly, but in the Roman Empire that would really be impossible.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people But everyone in the empire except Jews had to be willing to acknowledge the ruling emperor as a god, as the intercessor for the empire with the whole pantheon of pagan gods and goddesses. Instead, we have one God, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have been saved.

Affirming Faith - Extra

We have a duty to pray for governments – in Europe they prayed for the anointed emperors and kings,  in republics we pray for the elected rulers and also all the civil servants who keep government running and for those in the armed forces. But the duty is to pray FOR them, not to exalt them on high. No mortal man or woman can take the place of God. The Divine Liturgy reflects Paul’s admonition, since we pray repeatedly for our government and military. Why do we pray for them?

We are asking God’s mercy upon them so that they will do the right thing at all times, and so that the Church will be allowed to live in peace and be able to proclaim its message, that God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. We live in a weird time where information is available at the click of a computer mouse, but now there are false stories, exaggerations, outright lies competing for the truth. To do research on the internet, you have to dig constantly, and a lot of people would rather believe the latest inflammatory story that fits their own world view, rather than be challenged to examine that world view.

Nate's Nonsense: The Missing Years of Jesus

Jesus and Saint Joseph in Nazareth 

Jesus could not work many miracles in Nazareth because most of the people did not believe in Him. They were too focused on His ordinary life with Our Lady and Saint Joseph, and could not believe that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. Ironically, after Pentecost Nazareth became a stronghold of orthodox faith in Jesus Christ. When the Christians of Palestine were torn apart by heresies, they went to Nazareth to get their answers as to just who Jesus was. The descendants of His relatives and neighbors were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they could always give the right answer to those asking questions.

Just as we have to dig through the internet, we have to dig through Scripture and Church writings to get our answers. We have to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and have confidence in the authentic magisterium of the Church.

Too often in 2019 people have been angry, and people are much too prone to believing what they want to believe, not facts. People are much too willing to put all their trust and confidence in politicians, even though Psalm 143 warns us, put not your trust in princes in whom there is no help. Instead Psalm 124 says put your trust in the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Icon of The Creation of the Stars - (11T08) - Uncut Mountain Supply

And instead of saying what a lousy year 2019 was, let’s look more at thanking God we are still here, we belong to the Church entrusted with the fullness of God’s revelation despite all the sins of its members and leaders, we are still able to receive the holy mysteries of penance and Holy Communion, we have a very good healthy parish, and we are still living in a country that is wonderful despite all its problems.

It is up to us to make the most of 2020, by being people of prayer, people of conversion, people who love others in the name of God, people who are truly thankful to the Lord for all his blessings. Then we will be open to the Holy Spirit, then we will be able to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us, then we will be a people on fire for salvation and for truth. Then we will be a people who are thankful, grateful, and happy. There is always going to be bad news, there are always going to be sinful people – including all of us here – and there are always going to be political messes in government and church alike.

LOVE IN THE RUINS: January 2011

Saint John Paul II wrote: Let us put our hope in Jesus, the Name of salvation given to men and women of every language and race. Confessing His Name, let us walk trustfully toward the future, certain that we will not be disappointed if we trust in the Holy Name of Jesus. The key to a happy life in 2020 is this: will I set aside time for prayer and union with God, as Jesus Himself did? Will I receive Holy Communion aware that it is Jesus Christ rejoicing to come inside of me? Will I receive absolution in confession grateful that God has shown His mercy to me? Will I be willing to dig for truth, to learn about the truth? Will I be brave enough to encourage others to come to church with me, despite the failures of Catholic bishops and priests?

Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Indeed, it is completely fulfilled in our hearing every day of our lives, but only if we intend to make God and His Sacraments the center of our lives, on which everything else that we do is based.

May we be thankful to God for what we have, and may we all have a year of blessings in 2020.

~ Global Empower Media ~ Uniting Nations in Peace: Shroud of Turin, Prince of Peace I AM Akiane ...

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 28, 2019

Mark your calendars: Three Talks in Rio Rancho in 2020

All these are at 7 pm at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church, in their hall

All in the family: Vatican book focuses on Eastern Catholic churches

Jan 20 – Introduction to the Eastern Catholics

Did you know that the Catholic Church is actually a family of Churches, all entrusted to the guidance of the Pope? The large family of Eastern Churches has a rich legacy of art, prayer, worship. The Eastern Catholic Churches are those Eastern Christians who have united with the Holy See of Rome out of conviction that Catholicism has the fullness of revelation. To adhere to these Unions has often required heroic determination, as these people have experienced fierce persecution by opponents and frequent misunderstandings by Roman Catholics. Join  us as we present Father Christopher Zugger, from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine Catholic Church as we begin a journey of exploration of fellow Catholics of whom we know all too little. This talk will give an overview of the formation of these Churches, the challenges to their union with Rome, and some of the brave witnesses who gave up everything so as to remain Catholics.

AtonementOnline: St. Sharbel Makhluf

Jan 27 Spirituality of Catholic East

Did you know that the Hail, Holy Queen which concludes the Rosary is actually an Eastern Christian prayer from the 600s? Have you ever heard of the Jesus Prayer? Each of the Eastern Christian families – Armenian, Byzantine, Coptic, and Syriac – have treasures of prayer and different approaches to God. In this talk,  Father Christopher Zugger, from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine Catholic Church will give us a taste of these prayers and customs from throughout the church year. We will meet famous saints in their writings such as Basil the Great and John Chrysostom, and lesser known but very important writers like Gregory of Narek and Ephrem the Syrian. The talk will include a presentation on how icons are made and the messages that they contain.

Fear Not Little Flock: Is the Jesus Prayer 'Vain Repetition?' -a guest post from Eastern ...

Feb 3 Worship and Liturgy of the Eastern Catholics

 There is an ancient story that when the ambassadors of Saint Vladimir the Great attended their first Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite, they told their prince that the experience was so awesome that they no longer knew if they were still on earth or had been lifted up into heaven. Eastern Christian worship is designed to affect all of our senses so as to truly lift up our hearts to God.  Father Christopher Zugger, from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine Catholic Church will go over some of the prayers, architecture, and art of the Eastern Churches, with a display of some treasures from the parish and explain how they are used. Did you know that not all Catholics use flat hosts? Or that Eastern liturgies always include Our Blessed Mother in the prayers? Or that the fact that we use English and Spanish in the Roman rite today is due to centuries of examples by the Eastern Catholics? Come and get a taste of heaven in our last presentation on the Catholic East.

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 27, 2019

The New War Against Africa’s Christians

Fulani raiders ‘are Islamic extremists of a new stripe, more or less linked with Boko Haram,’ but present throughout Nigeria.

Bernard-Henri Lévy speaks to Fulani men in Nigeria. PHOTO: GILLES HERTZOG

Lagos, Nigeria

A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.

A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.

Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.

When her turn came and they noticed she was pregnant, a discussion ensued. Some didn’t want to see her belly slit, so they compromised by cutting up and amputating her left arm with a machete. She speaks quickly and emotionlessly, staring into space as if she lost her face along with her arm. The village chief, translating for her, chokes up. Tears stream down his cheeks when she finishes her account.

I venture north to Adnan, where Lyndia David, 34, tells her story of survival. On the morning of March 15, rumors reached her village that Fulani raiders were nearby. She was dressing for church as her husband prepared to join a group of men who’d stand watch. He urged her to take refuge at her sister’s home in another village.

Her first night there, sentinels woke her with a whistle. She left the house to find flames spreading around her. Fulani surrounded her. Then she heard a voice: “Come this way, you can get through!” She did, and her putative savior leapt out of the underbrush, cut three fingers off her right hand, carved the nape of her neck with his machete, shot her, doused her body with gasoline, and lit it. She somehow survived. A few weeks later she returned to her village and learned that the raiders had leveled it the same night. Her husband was among the 72 they murdered.

The Christian Middle Belt is a land of blooming prairies that once delighted English colonizers. On the outskirts of Jos, capital of Plateau state, I visit the ruins of a burned-down church. I spot another, intact. A man emerges to yell at me in English that I don’t belong there. Stalling, I learn that he is Turkish, a member of a “religious mutual assistance group” that is opening madrassas for the daughters of Fulani.

That day I crisscross the Middle Belt. Roads are crumbled, bridges collapsed; destroyed houses cast broken shadows over tree stumps and trails of black ash and blood. Maize rots in the abandoned fields. The local Christians have been killed or are too terrorized to come out and harvest it. In the distance are clusters of white smudges—the Fulani herds grazing on the lush grass. When we approach, the armed shepherds wave us off.

The Anglican bishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi, has had his livestock stolen three times. During the third raid he was dragged into his room, a gun to his head. He dropped to his knees and prayed at the top of his voice until the thrumming of a helicopter drove his assailants off.

Bishop Kwashi describes the Fulani extremists’ pattern: They usually arrive at night. They are barefoot, so you can’t hear them coming unless they’re on motorcycle. Sometimes a dog sounds the alert, sometimes a sentinel. Then a terrifying stampede, whirling clouds of dust, cries of encouragement from the invaders. Before villagers can take shelter or flee, the invaders are upon them in their houses, swinging machetes, burning, pillaging, raping. They don’t kill everyone. At some point they stop, recite a verse from the Quran, round up the livestock and retreat. They need survivors to spread fear from village to village, to bear witness that the Fulani raiders fear nothing but Allah and are capable of anything.

The heads of 17 Christian communities have come to the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, to meet me in a nondescript compound. Some have traveled for days in packed buses or minivans. Each arrives accompanied by a victim or two.

Here they are, an exhausted yet earnestly hopeful group of some 40 women and men, keenly aware of the moment’s gravity. One carries a USB key, another a handwritten account, a third a folder full of photos, captioned and dated. I accept these records, overwhelmed by the weight of the bearers’ hope that the world will recognize the horrors they experienced.

Taking the floor in turn, the survivors confirm the modus operandi Bishop Kwashi described, each adding an awful detail. The mutilated cadavers of women. A mute man commanded to deny his faith, then cut up with a machete until he screams. A girl strangled with the chain of her crucifix.

Westerners here depict the Fulani extremists as an extended, rampant Boko Haram. An American humanitarian says the Fulani recruit volunteers to serve internships in Borno State, where Boko Haram is active. Another says Boko Haram “instructors” have been spotted in Bauchi, another northeastern state, where they are teaching elite Fulani militants to handle more-sophisticated weapons that will replace their machetes. Yet whereas Boko Haram are confined to perhaps 5% of Nigerian territory, the Fulani terrorists operate across the country.

Villagers west of Jos show the weapons they use to defend themselves: bows, slings, daggers, sticks, leather whips, spears. Even these meager arms have to be concealed. When the army comes through after the attacks, soldiers tell the villagers their paltry weapons are illegal and confiscate them.

Several times I note the proximity of a military base that might have been expected to protect civilians. But the soldiers didn’t come; or, if they did, it was only after the battle; or they claimed not to have received the texted SOS calls in time, or not to have had orders to respond, or to have been delayed on an impassable road.

“What do you expect?” our driver asks as we take off in a convoy for his burned-down church. “The army is in league with the Fulani. They go hand in hand.” After one attack, “we even found a dog tag and a uniform.”

“It’s hardly surprising,” says Dalyop Salomon Mwantiri, one of the few lawyers in the region who dare to represent victims. “The general staff of the Nigerian army is a Fulani. The whole bureaucracy is Fulani.”

So is President Muhammadu Buhari. In April 2016 Mr. Buhari ordered security forces to “secure all communities under attack by herdsmen.” In July 2019 a spokesman for the president said in a statement: “No one has the right to ask anyone or group to depart from any part of the country, whether North, South, East or West.”

Most Christians I meet express disgust at the vague language suggesting culpability on both sides. Their stories tend to validate claims of the government’s complicity. In Riyom district, three displaced Nigerians and a soldier were gunned down this June as they attempted to return home. The villagers know the assailants. Police identified them. Everyone knows they took refuge in a nearby village. But there they are under the protection of the ardos, a local emir. No arrests occurred.

Village chief Sunday Abdu recounts another example, a 2017 attack on Nkiedonwhro. This time the military came to warn villagers of a threat. They ordered the women and children to take shelter in a school. But after the civilians complied, a soldier fired a shot in the air. A second shot sounded in the distance, seemingly in response. Minutes later, after the soldiers had departed, the assailants appeared, went directly to the classroom, and fired into the cowering group, killing 27.

I also meet some Fulani—the first time by chance. Traveling by road near a river bed, we come on a checkpoint consisting of a rope stretched across the road, a hut and two armed men. “No passage,” says one, wearing a jacket on which are sewn badges in Arabic and Turkish. “This is Fulani land, the holy land of Usman dan Fodio, our king—and you whites can’t come in.” The conquests of dan Fodio (1754-1817) led to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate over the Fula and Hausa lands.

The second encounter is on the outskirts of Abuja. Driving toward the countryside, we reach a village unlike the others we’ve seen in the Christian zone. There’s a ditch, and behind it a hedge of bushes and pilings. The place seems closed off from the world. From huts emerge a swarm of children and their mothers, the women covered from head to foot.

It’s a village of Fulani nomads who carried out a tiny, localized Fulanization after the Christians cleared out. “What are you doing here?” demands an adolescent boy wearing a T-shirt adorned with a swastika. “Are you taking advantage of the fact that it’s Friday, and we’re in the mosque, to come spy on our women? The Quran forbids that!” When I ask if wearing a swastika isn’t also contrary to the Quran, he looks puzzled, then launches into a feverish tirade. He says he knows he’s wearing “a German insignia,” but he believes that “all men are brothers,” except for the “bad souls” who “hate Muslims.”

Later I encounter Fulani near Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, which is in the south on the Gulf of Guinea. North of the city is an open-air market where Fulani sell their livestock. I am with three young Christians, survivors of a Middle Belt massacre who live in a camp for displaced persons. They pretend to be cousins buying an animal for a family feast. As they negotiate over a white-horned pygmy goat, I look for Fulani willing to talk.

Most have come from Jigawa state, on the border with Niger, crossing the country south in trucks to bring their stock here. Although I learn little about their trip, they eagerly express their joy in being here, on the border of this contemptible promised land, where they expect to “dip the Quran in the sea.”

There are “too many Christians in Lagos,” says Abadallah, who looks to be in his 40s. “The Christians are dogs and children of dogs. You say Christians. To us they are traitors. They adopted the religion of the whites. There is no place here for friends of the whites, who are impure.” A postcard vendor joins the group and offers me portraits of Osama bin Laden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He agrees the Christians will eventually leave and Nigeria will be “free.”

Some professional disinformers will try to reduce the violence here to one of the “interethnic wars” that inflame Africa. They’ll likely find, here and there, acts of reprisal against the Fula and Hausa. But as my trip concludes, I have the terrible feeling of being carried back to Rwanda in the 1990s, to Darfur and South Sudan in the 2000s.

Will the West let history repeat itself in Nigeria? Will we wait, as usual, until the disaster is done before taking notice? Will we stand by as international Islamic extremism opens a new front across this vast land, where the children of Abraham have coexisted for so long?

Mr. Lévy is author of “The Empire and the Five Kings: America’s Abdication and the Fate of the World” (Henry Holt, 2019). This article was translated from French by Steven B. Kennedy.

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 27, 2019

Jesus’ Mother as our Mother

"Wüstenlicht" Orthodoxie-Orthodoxy : Icon of the Mother of God “the Rescuer of the Drowning”

When we have a synaxis, it means that the feast of the day comes out of and is connected to the day before.  People would gather in church on the day after Christmas to celebrate Our Lady’s role in bringing the Savior to us. So today we observe the divine maternity of Our Lady as the Theotokos, the God-bearer, the living tabernacle of Jesus Christ. The propers for today spell that out nicely:

Before the morning star, He was born of the Father without a mother; today, on earth, he has become man from you without a father. The angels join with the shepherds to sing the glory of your marvelous childbearing, O Woman Full of Grace.

Chrysostom:  Consider, O man, all creatures and see — is there anything equal or greater than the holy God bearer Mary? Consider all the visible and invisible forces and tell me — is there a wonder similar among all the creatures? … She alone miraculously conceived in her womb Him Whom all creatures praise in fear and trembling. Blessed are women, for they no longer labor under the curse. She gave birth to a child through whom she sur­passes all the angels in glory… Therefore, let us say to her: ‘Blessed are you among women! You alone removed the grief of Eve; you alone wiped away her tears; you alone brought redemption to mankind.

Valaam Icon of the Mother of God - Orthodox Church in America

But it is not all glory and honor today. The gospel text refers to suffering also when they have to flee to Egypt. This is after the presentation in the temple, where Simeon gave her the warning that her heart would be pierced by a sword. Mary and Joseph had been in Bethlehem for forty days, so the Magi must have showed up after this event, as the gospel says that the star came and stood over the house where the mother and child were, not the stable.  Possibly the Holy Family planned to stay on in the city of David, but Herod is determined to murder this new king of kings. So off they go, abandoning everything so as to save the baby Jesus from the wicked plans of a wicked king. They already had the warning from Simeon, and now this warning from God.

Being Is Good: Homily: Feast of the Holy Family

 Nothing about being the parents to Christ our God was easy. Life would not settle down for them until after Herod’s death.  So being devoted to Christ does not mean we will be spared suffering – the most holy Mother of God herself suffered for the sake for her beloved Son. We live at a time when there are more refugees around the world since World War II; there is still sickness and death in the world; every person’s life has its own challenges. But if we meet those challenges head with full confidence in God, and if we turn to Our Lady and St. Joseph to ask their intercession for us before the throne of God, we will be able to handle whatever difficulties we encounter, in the same spirit of trust and belief that Mary and Joseph had. And never forget, that the name of our parish means that Mary is constantly praying on our behalf for us before the throne of her beloved Son. May she always be our protector and helper! Christ is born!  

01 Mother of God ‘Avgustovskaya’ 3 | Voices from Russia

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 24, 2019

CHRIST IS BORN!

Christ is born! Glorify Him! These words open the Canon of the Nativity in the Divine Office, and we use them for the next days to greet one another.

I want to look at all the familiar figures of the story tonight:

Star – heavens subject to God – this moving star leads the Magi directly to Bethlehem and the house where Mary and Jesus are found by them.

Census – Romans subject to God so that Jesus is born in the right town, to fulfill the promise of the Messiah.

Birthing a Godman - Nativity of Jesus

The animals in the Nativity Scene must include the  ox and donkey – fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy in 1:3 The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

 The animals definitely know their master: what animal will Jesus ride on Palm Sunday: The colt of a donkey, one never ridden before. That colt also knows Jesus and does not buck or resist Him but welcomes Him.

Back to the stable: the other animals in the nativity are the sheep: the shepherds come with their sheep and dogs from the field where the wool of the sheep is used to make the vestments of the temple’s priests and lambs are raised for the Passover sacrifice, but the shepherds are kept on the fringe of society because they could not keep the complicated rituals of purity. Here they come, having seen the night sky lit up by angels who commission them to be the first Jews to behold the true Lamb of God, the true High Priest. They become the first evangelists, going from fringe to preachers, into the hill country of Judea, the region where the most devout Jews lived at the time, announcing the birth of a baby put into a manger.

Bible Stories Visit of Magi | Bible Vector - 10 Full Versions of the Holy Bible

Magi – They are foreigners who had interactions with Jews but would never be invited to a meal with them. But they are the ones who see this unique moving star, and when they see the Child and His Mother they prostrate in worship of this unique Infant Who is both God and Man.

Gifts of the Magi – gold for a king, frankincense to use in worshipping Jesus as God, myrrh for preparing the bodies of the dead but myrrh and frankincense also were used in healing medicines: this Child comes to bring healing to everyone, physical and spiritual, and will die so as to save the entire human race.

Beit-Lechem: The House of Bread | Ladder of Jacob

Bethlehem means:  “House of bread” because the town’s main industry was making bread for the residents of Jerusalem. Micah wanted the great cities to see the world differently, and most importantly, he wanted the cities to live differently. God does not work according to our plans.

 The greatest of all the rulers of Israel would come not from their ranks but from the least of the least of towns. In Chapter 5 of Micah, the prophet says:  But you Bethlehem are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come the ruler who will be the shepherd of My people, Israel.

One Prayer a Day: A Prayer for the First Sunday After Christmas

Jesus in the feed trough, Jesus in the hay that animals ate, is laying in that manger as a prefiguring of Him giving Himself to us as food, the gift of all gifts, the greatest present anyone has ever given to another person: His entire self, Humanity, Divinity, Body and Soul, His entire Personhood in the Holy Eucharist.  All that is lying in that wooden feed trough of a manger when Mary puts Him in there to keep Him warm, and that is exactly Who we will receive tonight in Holy Communion. Christmas is indeed CHRIST’s MASS!

On The Feast of the Holy Innocents, A Meditation on the Sins Committed Against Children ...

There is also violence in the story. Herod actually arranged for prominent men to be killed at his death so people would weep at his passing because the Jews hated him so much he knew that no one would mourn his passing. He’d gladly have some little boys killed the boys of Bethlehem and surrounding area so as to kill another opponent for His throne. The deaths of 20 or 30 little boys, the slaughter of the Holy Innocents occasioned great grief in the area in what is possibly the most powerful sign of our fallen world which Jesus came to redeem.

Laura's Icons: St. Joseph

Saint Joseph – gets up every single time the angel of the Lord comes to him, and does it constantly out of love for Mary and Son of God. As I said Sunday, he had such great love for Our Lady that he planned to divorce her quietly, which meant he would take the blame as having forced himself on her. He would be the bad guy, and willingly abandon Nazareth and all he had there so as to spare her from being stoned to death. He loved Mary so much that he would give up everything for her. God loves us so much that He gives up being only in heavenly glory and becomes one of us so as to save our lives from the curse of sin and death.

After the Presentation in the Temple, they have to go to Egypt. The Holy Family were refugees who fled into exile, just like so many millions do today all around the world. Egypt was both the ancient homeland of the Jews, but also in Jewish history provided a sanctuary for those in need. And again, a prophecy is fulfilled: out of Egypt I have called my Son: the prophet Hosea, chapter 11.

Christ came to save every person, and creation itself is redeemed from the sin of Adam: earth gives a cave, heaven gives the star, humanity gives the Virgin Mary, nature gives the animals: AND JESUS GIVES HIMSELF ALL FOR US! 

“On the Eighth Day of Christmas: The Circumcision and Name of Jesus” (Sermon on Luke 2:21, by Pr ...

Christmas comes with an octave liturgically, of eight days to New Year’s, the day on which Jesus is given His Name publicly. From there it is four more days to Epiphany or Theophany, for a total of twelve days. February 2nd is the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, forty days from now. Christmas music will no longer be on the radio, lights and trees and Nativity sets will be gone, and no one will speak about the “spirit of Christmas.” It is up to us to keep the true spirit of Christmas alive on the 26th, the 27th, and all year. That spirit is the self-emptying gift that God gives us so as to save us, Jesus Christ.

San River - WikiVisually

We live in a nation where church attendance is dropping, where young adults have been raised by parents who failed to bring them close to God, where too many people think they know what the Catholic Church is all about, but actually know very little of our Faith. We as a parish have been privileged to watch a father and son prepare this year to receive the holy mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist on Theophany. One-fourth of young Americans in Colin’s age group have no church affiliation, but he and his dad have been drawn into this great mystery of Emmanuel, God is with us.

We give presents in imitation of the Magi who gave gifts to Christ, the shepherds who praised Him, the animals who kept Jesus warm and gave up their food trough, Mary and Joseph who protected Him and gave Him both enormous love and the witness of their pure love for each other.

This year we can each give important gifts to anyone we know who has stopped attending church, never attended, or is searching for something to give comfort in a cold and confusing world:

– The angels said, Be not afraid, we have news of great joy. Each parishioner here has news of great joy: there has been born for this fallen world a Savior, Who is born FOR EACH OF US HERE. This is really and truly GREAT JOY.

– there is an enormous present waiting for everyone: the fullness of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, as our priests do EXACTLY what Jesus ordered the apostles to do; Christmas after all means Christ’s Mass, which is the real center of the holiday;

In a nation that is changing so fast, we belong to the original Church, using a fantastically beautiful worship brought over by immigrants, with rituals that still speak to the soul;

– Our parish offers a community that is rooted in that Faith, that Eucharist, that certainty. Kings, bishops, presidents, popes come and go but the Faith founded by this little crying baby boy in a manger of straw endures.

17 Best images about Byzantine Catholic on Pinterest | Nicholas d'agosto, Holy spirit and Saints

This is the gift of our Byzantine Catholic Church, that everyone who comes here finds a family ready to welcome them, offering a Liturgy that is meant to confirm in our hearts that God is absolute Love Who always welcomes us back to Him, and a worship style that should leave us having had a taste of heaven on earth.

Greek eastern orthodox byzantine icon of the Annunciation of Theotokos, Panagia, Virgin Mary ...

Through the power of the Holy Spirit Who made the Eternal Word in the virgin womb of the Blessed Mother of God, may we have the courage, wisdom, and love for others in 2020 that will impel us to invite others to come home not only for Christmas, but forever, in the embrace of the Church, the Church which has endured sin and scandal while still holding on to the apostolic truth for 2,000 years. Despite the sins of popes, bishops, clergy, nuns, and laity the Church is still here, and is still the Bride of Christ Who is born tonight.

The old English Christmas carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, is not saying may :merry gentlemen have a holy repose: but rather that God gives a happy rest to the people.

Let nothing you dismay/ For Jesus Christ our Savior / Was born upon this day / To save us all from Satan’s power / When we were gone astray.

This salvation is all possible because of this unique and holy birth tonight. May we all have a happy and blessed Christmas, and may we be open to this Christ Child bringing us His grace always.

January 01 – Naming and Circumcision of Jesus

Light of the world, Lamb of God

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 23, 2019

O Jesus living in Mary!

Image result for znamenie

O Infant Jesus living in Mary! To Thee I surrender

myself totally, with body and soul and all that I am and

have, and all that I am capable of being or having.

Grant me to partake of Thy innocence, rule within me

through Our Lady. Through Thy greatness in humility

confound earthly greatness in me!

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 21, 2019

Holy Infant Jesus, living in Mary!

 

O holy infant Jesus, living in Mary!

Infuse into me the spirit of prayer and grant that, in

virtue thereof, I may adore and imitate, in the still

fountain of my soul, in the innermost peace of my

heart, in the blessed quiet of my spirit, Thy sublime

silence in midst of the turmoil of the world and Thy

most profound quiet in midst of worldly noise!

 

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 8, 2019

Preaching Schedule at Our Lady of Fatima, Dec 9-11, 2019

I am preaching an Advent Mission on December 9,10, and 11 at Our Lady of Fatima Church on Lomas Blvd NE, at 6:30 pm. Confessions will be heard after each presentation.

Please share this with others, attend, and bring someone along!

Day 1 God wishes to come to each one of us

'God Comes to Us' - sermon by Dion Frasier from December 24th, 2014 | Reynoldsburg Church of Christ

Day 2 Walking with our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph

82. From Bethlehem to Calvary: God Lives on the Margins [I] – Dr. Jeffrey & Angie Goh

Day 3 Born in a Manger in the House of Bread: God is with us!

1000+ images about CCD - First Holy Communion on Pinterest | Eucharist, Communion and Catholic

COME, O JESUS, AND SAVE US!

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OUR LADY OF THE SIGN: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and  he will be called Emmanuel, which means, God-with-us. Book of Isaiah 7:14

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 6, 2019

Saint Nicholas Day 2019

Ten Miracle-Working Icons of Saint Nicholas | A Reader's ...

 

While Nicholas is enormously popular in both the Latin Church and the Christian East, he is especially important for us. For at least seven centuries, the head of the Byzantine Catholic Church in Subcarpathian Rus’ lived in the Saint Nicholas monastery. As a result, he has been invoked as the special protector of our Church.

Saint Nicholas Monastery (Mukachevo) - Wikipedia

St Nicholas Monastery, Mukachevo: Since 1949 this has been occupied by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has built the Russian-style church in the background. 

Born into a Christian family, his parents left him a large wealthy estate. Both as a layman and priest and later bishop, he used his wealth for others. As a Spiritual Shepherd, St. Nicholas distinguished himself for his pastoral zeal and uncommon goodness of heart. He also worked miracles which made people consider him a Saint even before his death. He had been imprisoned during the last national persecution of Christians and so was also revered as a Confessor of the faith. He strongly defended the Faith at the Nicaean Council (325) and protected his flock from paganism and the Arian heresy. He assisted the poor, saved the innocent from injustice, and comforted the suffering and the sick. Several times during his episcopacy St. Nicholas saved his people from imminent starvation with miraculous multiplication of grain. He died on December 6,  and is commemorated in the liturgical calendar on the anniversary of his holy death.

The Miracles of Saint Nicholas | ferrebeekeeper

St Nicholas intercedes for sailors at risk 

The public veneration of St. Nicholas started very early after his death. Fifth century records indicate that his grave was the site of constant pilgrimages. People came from to venerate his relics and to implore his intercession, and many miracles were recorded at the site of his tomb. In particular his body gave off a special crystalline liquid that is still used to anoint the sick. Thus St. Nicholas, after the Blessed Mother and St. John the Baptist, became the most venerated Saint in the Churches of the Byzantine tradition.

The solemn celebration of the feast of St. Nicholas was introduced in Constantinople within 150 years of his death, which testifies to his popularity and the authenticity of his miracles.

There are many miracles ascribed to St. Nicholas. The principal miracles ascribed to St. Nicholas by constant tradition are these:

1) St. Nicholas, by his prayer during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, calmed a violent storm on the open sea, and prevented certain shipwreck; from this he became the patron saint of sailors.

2) St. Nicholas, either in a dream to Emperor Constantine, or by his own personal intervention, saved three innocent officers from execution; he thus became patron of those unjustly accused.

Nikolai Mirlikiiskii saves Three Innocent, 1888 in 2019 | faith | Peinture russe, Timée, Russie

3) St. Nicholas, blessed with the charism of healing, restored health to innumerable people suffering from incurable diseases; he is a patron of the sick.

4) St. Nicholas, warned by God, secretly provided a dowry to three poor girls, destined by their own father to be sold into prostitution to provide him with a steady income. Not to expose the father’s sinful design, the Saint secretly, during the night, left a bag of gold pieces for each girl as a dowry for them and to enable each of them to lead an honest life. This money was put into stockings that had been put up to dry by the fireplace. Thus that particular practice of hanging stockings for Santa Claus to fill comes directly from that event.

Gentile da Fabriano, Stories of St Nicholas of Bari

From this rescue of the three girls, Nicholas became the patron saint of children and the practice arose of Nicholas as the gift-bringer. In many countries, December 6 was the day for presents, not Christmas Day. In Holland and Germany children put out their shoes on the night of December 5, and would awaken to find special treats in them.

5) Nicholas revives three students who had been murdered and restores them to their family.

St Nicholas Posters | Zazzle

The Protestant Dutch had to keep him due to his popularity with their children even though they had become Calvinists in the reformation. Their celebration in old New York City of Sankt Nicklaus became corrupted into Santa Claus, the bestower of gifts at Christmas time, and Santa in turn has lost all religious significance.

In icons of St. Nicholas, Christ is usually depicted on one side with a Gospel in His hands, and Our Lady is depicted on the other side with an episcopal omophorion in her hands. This has a twofold historical significance: first, it signifies the calling of Nicholas as a bishop – he was appointed bishop because Nicholas had a vision of both Jesus and Mary showing him those two symbols.

Second, according to an old tradition, at the council of Nicaea in 325 Nicholas was so outraged by the false teaching of Arius the heretic that he got up and punched him in the face. The other bishops were of course appalled at that, and denounced Nicholas, saying he should not be a bishop. But that very night they all had the same dream in which Jesus and Mary appeared with the Gospel book and the bishop’s omophorion, and they returned those symbols back to Nicholas. In the morning they apologized to him and restored him to his office, and recognized his zeal for the truth as the reason for his outburst.

A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons | Feeble words about powerful images | Page 10

Nicholas’ icon is always at the north end of the icon screen. His intercession for people covers a broad range, from coal miners in America saved from disaster to sailors in the navy to the miraculous rescue of children.

Feast of Saint Nicholas | Father Christopher Zugger

But he is also meant to be the model for bishops, and really for all of us. As a model bishop, he was orthodox in faith, committed to justice and charity, and above all he was a man of prayer. If we ourselves are all solidly orthodox in our Catholic faith, committed to righting injustices, willing to help the poor either personally or by donating to special causes, and are above all else people rooted in prayer and worship, then we will be faithful to Nicholas’ memory and witness. He has been venerated as an intercessor for our Church ever since the foundation of that first monastery so long ago. Let us turn to him not only today, but every day, and implore his intercession at the throne of God for holiness for our bishops; an increase in vocations to priesthood, diaconate, and  consecrated life in our Church; for the protection of children both unborn and born; and that we would all serve Christ as faithfully as he did.

A Prayer For Children Holy Card

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 2, 2019

Byzantine Catholic Breviary

Just in time for Christmas – the first English Breviary for Byzantine Catholics, for private use, $10.95
If you are Byzantine Catholic, or interested in Eastern prayer, I HIGHLY recommend this!
A Simple Byzantine Breviary
 
 Go to:   http://www.lulu.com/shop/joel-barstad/a-simple-byzantine-breviary/paperback/product-24263147.html
Contains texts for
-private Morning and Evening Prayers
-Vespers and Matins
-the Canonical Hours (6 am, 9 am, Noon, 3 pm, or First, Third, Sixth, Ninth)
– Eight Tones 
-Small Compline for night prayers
-Midnight Office (taken before going to bed) 
-Forgiveness Rite for Night Prayer 
– Commons for Saints
– Paschal and Lenten Variations in prayer
– Priestly prayers for Litanies, Panachida, Moleben, Prayers of Light
– Calendar of Saints’ Days 
This is all compiled by Joel Barstad, director of formation at the Seminary in Pittsburgh.
Sergej Rachmaninov - Vespers (All-Night Vigil), for alto, tenor & chorus, Op. 37 - YouTube
Have a blessed Saint Philip’s Fast! 

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