Posted by: Fr Chris | May 29, 2023

PENTECOST SUNDAY – The Holy Spirit and us

 Scripture tells us that at nine o’clock in the morning on that Pentecost day, 50 days after the first Easter, there appeared many tongues as of fire, being carried above the heads of the Virgin Mary, the apostles, and the disciples who were gathered together to pray. The onion domes atop our church and on the tabernacle represent these very flames of the Holy Spirit – the parish community, is supposed to be on fire, in the power of that Spirit. We are meant to be a community that lives out the law of God in our hearts, in our actions, in our words, in our prayers, in our thoughts. Why fire? Why didn’t the Spirit come in the form of a dove, as at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan?  

The Jewish feast of Pentecost, or Shavout, is a four-day feast also known as the “Feast of Weeks,” and takes place 50 days after the Passover. Passover and Shavout are intimately connected. Passover is the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Shavout commemorates the end of that initial stage of Israel’s journey out of Egypt, and their deliverance from idolatry, when Moses brought them to Mt. Sinai and gave the people the Ten Commandments, written by the hand of God, proclaimed to Moses by the Eternal Word of God, that Word which became incarnate in the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit as we proclaim in the Creed.

The Law told the Israelites how they would live as a unique people, worshipping only one God and professing that their God was the only God for the entire human race. Passover celebrated their freedom from bondage, while Shavout celebrated the new covenant formed between God and Israel. It is a reminder that they were freed for something: to be God’s holy people, a royal priesthood, a light to the nations.

When Moses went up to Sinai in Exodus chapter 19, 16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire”. That’s why the Spirit descended on Pentecost morning in the form of tongues of fire and why we have onion domes atop our churches –

the fire that once touched Sinai to reveal God’s law, the fire that spoke once only to Moses, now descends on all of the men and women gathered in the upper room, to set them on fire for God’s new revelation, the fulfillment of the Law, the fulfillment of God’s plan, in the proclaiming of the New Covenant, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles of the world. Jesus fulfilled the Law by His death and resurrection, as the true Lamb of God (John 1:29). Jesus’ death on the cross took place just prior to the beginning of the Passover, when the Passover lambs were being slain. In his crucifixion, Jesus is both victim and priest, offering Himself in atonement for our sins. One chief purpose of the Law of Moses was to provide the people of Israel ways to make reparation for their sins.  Yet, as St. Paul points out in the Letter to the Romans, the sacrifices of the Law could not justify us. Jesus’ self-sacrificial offering, however, is infinitely perfect and we are justified through his Cross.

Jesus fulfills the Law by offering Himself as the pure sacrifice by which a new and eternal covenant (Jeremiah 31:31, 32:40) would be made between humanity and God. This new covenant is sealed not only with Jesus’ death, but with His resurrection, which shows that sin and death have been conquered, and that eternal life is offered to us. 

The first Pentecost brought thousands to faith in Christ, Jews who spoke multiple languages, who each heard the good news proclaimed by Saint Peter and the disciples  in their own languages; the Spirit that descended at Babel to scatter people now unites them. People were in Jerusalem from every part of the Roman and Persian empires, and probably beyond. That stormy noise from heaven brought the curious to the house, but Peter’s sermon brought people from all walks of life into the new faith. We teach that we have the fullness of God’s revelation, given to the Catholic Church. We have access to this once and final revelation entrusted to our Church, entrusted to each of us through the holy mysteries of baptism and chrismation. We are fed through the Holy Eucharist, we are forgiven our faults through confession, we are healed through the mystery of anointing. We have the opportunity, like the apostles, to encounter Christ through these sacred mysteries, to be transformed by Jesus Christ through our personal and liturgical prayers.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote that being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” We are his disciples; we are entrusted with the mission and message of the gospel. The Holy Spirit can help us speak well, witness well, to the people around us, to bring them to faith in the Church of Jesus Christ.

Pentecost launched the Catholic Church into the world, proclaiming the Good News through the words of the very man who had denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest. Within two generations, Christianity was firmly entrenched across the Middle East, Italy, North Africa, Spain, France, most of the Middle East and into Iran and India.

The world then was pagan, worshipping many gods, Much of what used to be considered the Christian world now is losing its way, and it needs disciples, people who are on fire with the Holy Spirit. God has raised up multiple people in our time to inspire us to go forward, in faith and love for Him. Carlo Acutis ( ) was 15 when he died of leukemia, but his example and computer work set people on fire today. Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi

were the first married couple to be beatified together, and saved their daughter from dying in an abortion.

The Brazilian Guido Schäffer

was a medical student and surfer who led other young men to Christ. We are blessed with a new cloud of witnesses, and we are called to imitate them in faith, by opening ourselves to personally meeting Christ in worship, in prayer, in the sacraments, in our reading and study.

Disciples today need to experience once again, or for the first time, this encounter. The Byzantine rite prays in the way that it does today to inspire the faithful to be open to the action of the Holy Spirit, to be open to that personal encounter, to be open to being missionaries, to be open to growing in faith. May we have a blessed Pentecost, and blessed lives, and be on fire always for Christ and His holy Church.

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 29, 2023

Do you want to be healed?

Sunday of the Paralytic Man John 5:1-15

This crippled man after 38 years of waiting probably had no patient helpers left. He was degraded, weak and isolated. His condition was helpless, hopeless. For Jesus nothing is impossible if he is approached in faith. And it was the Lord’s habit to seek out the rejected and to approach them with merciful concern. This was what had inspired Tabitha in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles to conduct her own merciful activities: this was the early tradition of the Church, that Jesus did good, changed things by merciful action.

Do you want to be healed?’ Jesus asks.

Locked in his isolation and misery, the paralytic needed such a shock. He excuses his inertia by saying that no-one is available to help him. Jesus ignores the excuse. He gives the paralytic his big chance.

‘Get up, pick up your sleeping mat and walk.’’ Jesus was fulfilling the prophets of the law; and the gospel suggests this in several ways. The 38 years in which the man had been waiting for a cure reminds us of the 38 years in which the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2:14). And the length of time we had traveled from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the Wadi Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation of warriors had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn concerning them. After that generation died, then and only then could Israel enter the Promised Land under the leadership of a new prophet, Joshua. Now with the true prophet, the true messiah, this man, who has been waiting just as long for deliverance, will find not only physical healing, he will be restored to the people of Israel, and introduced to Christ, the fulfillment of the Jewish faith. Remember that most Jews of the time period saw illness, and especially chronic long-term sickness like paralysis, as a punishment from God. People who were suffering like that were cut off from the nation – by being cured, by listening to Jesus, by picking up his mat and walking despite it being a sabbath, this man is showing his full restoration to Israel and his new place with God in the community of faith.

Do we want to be changed? Do we want to make a deep division between our old life and our new possibilities? Do we have faith? Christianity emphasizes Synergia –that is, spiritual synergy, the co-operation between ourselves and God. His grace cannot heal us unless we want to be healed, to be changed. Sometimes this is a very abrupt experience. The cure of the paralytic takes place on the Sabbath.

Do you want to be healed?  His grace cannot heal us unless we want to be healed; and being healed may take us very far from familiar things, to something new and demanding.

The pool of Bethesda, John says, was in a building with 5 porticos. Commentators who rejected the authenticity of the gospels used this as an example of supposed biblical error, since having an ancient building with an odd number of porches was considered to be impossible. But then archaeologists discovered the pool in the late 1800s, with its five porches, and it was realized that there were five as a reference to the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Old Testament.

The pool itself we know was a double pool – a reservoir that poured into the lower pool, where the sick would go, but that lower pool also served as a mikveh, a pool for ritual cleansing. So, it was a place for the healing of both soul and body.

‘Do you want to be healed?’

In his sermon for this Sunday, St. John Chrysostom posed a similar challenge to his congregation in 4th-century Constantinople. He wrote that after the celebrations and joy of the Easter worship, there is a great stir, a great burst of activity, crowds of people enter the churches. There are wonderful services, vigils and hymn-singing. What comes of all this? What is achieved? Not as much as should be, I say, for many come simply out of curiosity and vanity. Pascha goes, activity abates, excitement subsides, and then there sets in the indolence which speaks of much fruitlessness.

What was he saying? He was giving a warning: Indolence equals laziness.

The same for us now. Lent is a time of conversion, movement of the soul, confessions, penances, fasting. But the paschal season is a time of what? Joyful liturgies, pretty much eat anything, no special weekday services, abstinence from meat on Fridays, but what else?

This Wednesday shows us exactly what should be happening. It is Mid-Pentecost – we will be marking 25 days from Pascha, and 25 days until Pentecost Sunday. The day is not called Mid-Pascha. It is Mid-Pentecost, halfway to Pentecost. The paschal season is a movement toward the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and apostles gathered in the upper room. Those men and women would be totally transformed by that descent, and the  missionary work of the Church would begin, a missionary work that continues today.

The paralytic is transformed by his encounter with Jesus. The same should be true now for each of us, that we should be transformed by our encounter with the Risen Christ. We may be sliding backwards, and be getting discouraged. We may have broken a bad habit, but now find ourselves tempted to return to it. We may feel that we are not healthy anymore, not praying as intensely as we did, not embracing our crosses and challenges. Evil still abounds in the world – the war goes on in Ukraine, communism remains rampant in China, bad people still do bad things. I may have given up smoking or pornography or swearing during Lent and now suddenly find myself tempted to go back to those sins.

Chrysostom warned his congregation that spiritual laziness comes after Easter, and we can suddenly become fruitless spiritually despite having a truly fruitful Lent. Christ comes before us, the baptized, just like he did before the paralytic, and he asks each of us, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ Our answer of course, is Yes.

The paschal cycle of readings from Saint John and the Acts of the Apostles was devised to instruct the newly baptized converts, but also to strengthen the faith of the longtime baptized. The readings from the Acts, like today, show that the work of the Lord continued in the early Church, with cures of the sick, and raising of the dead, and conversions. Saul became Paul; Jewish priests became Christian priests; Jewish believers came to belief in the risen Lord as both messiah and Son of God.

The same is true today – the work of the Church as the Body of Christ continues: people are converted to the faith, believers who were lazy in faith become fervent in faith; people who were physically or spiritually sick still find healing, demons are expelled from those who are possessed, spiritual fervor still takes root in souls, the work of the Holy Spirit continues to show itself.

Christ will always be asking each of us, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ And sadly, there will always be a need to be healed of something as we progress through the stages of the spiritual life. There will always be difficult people popping up in our lives; there will always be international crises led by leaders who are not focused at all on bringing souls closer to God but rather achieving power for themselves or their countries or both; there will always be people who reject God and do the works of Satan instead the works of the Holy Spirit.

But we as Christian believers, we as Catholics entrusted with the fullness of revelation, we as people of faith, should always be looking to say yes to Jesus when he comes into our lives and asks, Do you want to be healed? We have 28 days until Pentecost – if we are having a good paschal season, then let’s build on that to go forward. If it is a fruitless paschal season, let us take the opportunity to get going again. The man had to acknowledge that he wanted to get better, and the Lord poured his grace into him. Let us be eager to work out that spiritual synergy with God, and once again step forward as warriors of Christ, ready to fight off sin and temptation and darkness, and go forward in the power of the risen Lord, wanting to be changed by the Holy Spirit and transformed by the power of God once more. Christ is risen!

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 11, 2023

They recognized him in the breaking of the bread

This is an interesting incident in the gospels on several levels. It shows Christ’s great patience, the centrality of the Eucharist, and also a bit about Jesus’ sense of humor.

For the sense of humor, that we rarely think about, consider this: for a distance of 7 miles, Jesus walks with these two disciples, concealing who he is, when he could have just said, Hey fellows, it’s me. Instead,  he shows up, and deliberately conceals himself. Partly this is so that he can unpack the scriptures to them and slowly reveal the mystery of the suffering servant to them; but partly I do think he rather enjoyed appearing in locked rooms, popping in and out of the lives of the disciples in over a dozen recorded resurrection appearances, and hiding his identity from these two.

His patience with us is enormous: Jesus walks with Cleophas and the other disciple to Emmaus – 7 miles. It would have taken about two and a half hours to make the trip, and he spent the whole time explaining the writings of the prophets and psalms to them, how the coming and suffering of the messiah was predicted over the centuries. By the same token, he walks with us spiritually here today, as we slowly continue to overcome doubts or as we slowly absorb the teachings of the bible and the Church. He is willing to take his time with us and walk with us. Their hearts were on fire – they went from being confused about what had happened on Sunday, to being on fire again as they understood that the messiah had to suffer, had to die, had to be buried, and now is raised again on the third day. They are hungry to learn more, as they insist that he must stay with them.

Seven miles is a long walk – probably it took them two and a half to three hours to reach Emmaus, maybe longer. But they finally arrive, and when does Jesus fully reveal himself to them? It is this marvelous phrase that Luke uses: in the breaking of the bread. He carefully repeats the words and ritual used at the Last Supper, and then they know who he is. His body, soul, humanity, divinity were made present in that breaking of the bread and he revealed himself completely, then disappeared from their sight. But their hearts were still on fire, now invigorated by the reception of that consecrated bread.

The holy Eucharist is made for us, given for us, presented for us, so that our hearts will be on fire. The liturgy prepares us for what is coming, just as Jesus prepared the two disciples with patient instruction. The early Church always saw this moment as a confirmation of the Eucharist, and rejoiced in the gracious love of the Lord for us. This is how the Lord stays with us – we don’t need his physical presence anymore. He rooted the disciples in scripture, he rooted them in love and service, but above all he rooted thm in the breaking of the bread and the awareness that he was with them always.

Let us ask him today, on this day of Emmaus, for the gift of recognizing him in this holy Eucharist. Let us rejoice in the gift of the Most Blessed Sacrament reserved in our churches. Let us above all live with fire in our hearts, fed by this Eucharist and nurtured in the bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church founded by our Lord on the rock of Peter, and be a people rooted in the power of the Risen Christ.

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 7, 2023

Paradoxes of Holy Thursday

Today is a day of paradoxes: the Eternal Word of God is a servant; he who cannot be contained by the universe descends into bread and wine; the apostle who was given the body and blood of the Lord sells him for a few coins. Christ serves as the humblest, most worthless slave by washing the feet of the apostles. In the Cathedral Vespers we hear this verse: He who wraps the heavens with clouds now girds himself with a towel; he who once divided the Red Sea now pours water into a basin, and kneeling before them, he begins to wash the feet of the disciples.

This same humble Lord then proceeds to pour himself out in the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood, conferring his ability to transform bread and wine into his living Body and Blood to the twelve, including Judas who will walk out of the room with that Body and Blood inside him, so as to betray the Lord for the cost of a cheap slave, the price of turning in a thief to the police.

He who gave of himself in the Eucharist, will soon, as we hear in the prophet Isaiah, chapter 50, offer his back to those who beat him, his cheeks to those who pulled out his beard; he will not hide his face from mocking and spitting.

We hear in the first letter to the Corinthians,  chapter 11, that Jesus took the bread and broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Only 31% of American Catholics believe that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist. Not even one-fifth of American Catholics now go to Sunday Mass every week. There is no hunger, no sense of starvation for Holy Communion. Ah, but we believe all this as people who come to a Byzantine Catholic church. We have no problem believing that. Do we? Do we really believe that the Eucharist is a great mystery, a powerful sacrament? And just what is it really? How do we explain our belief to non-Catholics who see it is a memorial meal, who say that Jesus did not mean that it really IS His Body?

Body – what did Jesus give? He would have said this word: BaSaR – His entire personhood, His living body. Blood – the blood he received from Our Lady, human blood, united to His divinity, POURED OUT as a sacrifice. When a host is changed into flesh, when a host gives off blood, and those elements are subjected to scientific tests, the results are always, always, the same – the Church has allowed scientists to test Eucharistic miracles from Lanciano in the eighth century and Argentina in the twenty-first century. The results are always the same: the flesh is alive, from a bruised heart, a heart that shows signs of terrible trauma and suffering, from the left ventricle, the ventricle that pushes out purified blood into the body. The blood is always AB blood, the blood type of Jewish men from first-century Palestine, the blood that is used for plasma for the healing of burns and wounds, pumped in a purified form from that Sacred Heart that has so loved us, as Jesus revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

ZiKKaRoN – the bible was not written in English! Jesus did not speak in English! He did not say, remember me as somebody from the distant past. He used Hebrew and Aramaic – ZKKRN means to make real, NOT remember. When the Jews celebrated Passover this week, they did not say, “Why was this night different from other nights?” They say why IS this night different from other nights? They are THERE, in Egypt, in the darkness of slavery, waiting for the angel of death to pass over each Israelite house marked with the blood of the lamb. We, the spiritual and theological heirs of Judaism, are at the Last Supper, at Calvary, at the Resurrection. ZKKRN means to make the event real – do this in ZKKRN of me: Make Me Real: I will be there when you do.

Judas did not allow Christ to change him from his path of betraying the Lord. The Apostles themselves did not let the reception of the Eucharist transform themselves at the moment of crisis in the garden of Gethsemane. We must let Christ into our hearts, to pierce through our attachment to sin, to stir us up out of indifference or spiritual laziness.

Yes, we recite the prayer of St John  Chrysostom before receiving Communion: O Lord, I believe and profess … But do we believe and profess this through our lives? do I let the power of Communion come into me and change me? If I am fed with the Body and Blood of the Lord, I can go forward, fortified with Him. His blood is healing, his body is strength, he who made heaven and earth can make a change in me, but only if I cooperate with the grace that he is pouring out on me, waiting to soak me with his abundant love that conquers all problems and fears.

All of the ancient liturgies of the Church build up to the great moment of the consecration of the gifts and distribution of those gifts in Holy Communion. And then the liturgies swiftly come to a close. An hour devoted to the buildup, and within fifteen minutes after Communion everyone can pack up and head out of the church. Why? Because we are filled with the living Body, with the healing Blood that can heal all spiritual and emotional wounds. We are each a living tabernacle, filled with the Holy Eucharist, with the most Blessed Sacrament. We are sent out into the world, to perform the liturgy after the divine liturgy, to change this broken world and hasten the in-breaking of the kingdom of God into time and so hasten His Second Coming.

Jesus gives one commandment, and he gives it at the Last Supper after he warns the apostles that his time is coming to an end.  He says in John 13:“Love one another. As I love you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. He later reiterates in chapter 15, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. We are his friends. In every celebration of the Divine Liturgy, we are his friends. Indeed, through the mystery of Baptism, we are his brothers and sisters, we are his children. Our Lady at the foot of the cross became our mother. We are a massive family, united with all Catholics around the world, who stand in the shadow of the cross but also at the door of the tomb, fed with the body of the Lord, washed in the blood of the true Lamb of God, the true Lamb of Passover. Tonight especially, let us rejoice in our union with Christ that we will experience through this holy mystery. Tonight especially let us ask with our whole heart that we be brave enough to let his body and blood transform our behaviors, our attitudes, our desires, so that we will walk alongside Him, our brother, our savior, our redeemer who willingly lay down his life for us, his friends.

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 5, 2023

Anointing and Conversion: Holy Wednesday

Two opposite events happen today: Jesus is anointed at Bethany, and Judas confirms his betrayal with the priests.

Either Mary of Bethany, or an anonymous woman, breaks open an expensive jar of ointment, anointing our Lord with a spice so powerful that John says its aroma filled the whole house. Judas is furious, since it was so expensive, that it was equal to a year’s salary. But the gospels put in the telling detail of course that Judas was the treasurer of the apostles who embezzled from them, so a year’s wages would have been quite an addition to the pot. Yet he betrays Christ for 30 pieces of silver, the cost of a cheap slave. Like the innocent Joseph who was sold into slavery centuries before by his jealous brothers, Jesus is sold for next to nothing.

Christ of course rebukes Judas for his comments, and affirms that the anointing is preparation for his burial. After all he has been warning the apostles that he would indeed be betrayed, turned over to the Sanhedrin, suffer, and die on the cross. In the various readings of this week, we read about those who prepare for the Lord and those who don’t, in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. We read of innocents who suffered: Job, whose wife makes the infamous comment “Curse God and die!” and Joseph, who was sold by his own brothers into Egyptian slavery. Moses loses his position of wealth and power and has to go out into the desert. Jesus is also innocent, and is sold to the high priest by one of his apostles, one of Christ’s chosen ones loved by Jesus.

So now the challenge lies before us as we enter the Triduum, the three holiest days of the calendar. Am I prepared for Jesus or not? Am I wise or foolish? Am I willing to give of myself completely to Jesus, the way the woman who anoints him does? Or am I letting some of my sinful habits hold me back from being fully embraced by Jesus, from fully embracing Jesus myself? What path am I walking on?

Christ suffers in order to save the human race. He will establish the sacraments of the Eucharist and the priesthood tomorrow night. When he dies on the cross, his pierced heart will gush forth blood and water, representing baptism and the eucharist, and he will breathe out his last, representing the sacrament of chrismation/ confirmation. He gives of himself enormously, completely. Like Job and Joseph he is innocent, but their sufferings led to triumph: Job’s faith in God is rewarded with multiple blessings, and Joseph’s role in Egypt will save the new nation of Israel from dying of starvation. Moses lost his position of power in Egypt, but through God’s grace will lead Israel out of a land of slavery and idolatry into Sinai to meet God. Jesus in his innocence will do more than that, providing the way for the Church to be founded, born from his passion and death, in order to provide the human race with a path to salvation and deliverance from idolatry.

The mystery of anointing is given tonight in commemoration of Jesus’ anointing. It is for healing of soul and body, for the gift of new life through the power of God. In coming up to be anointed, let us ask the Lord for the grace to come through the Triduum well, to let go of our sins, and to be healed not only physically, but also of whatever is holding me back from God’s love. Unlike Judas, let us not hold on to what we know is sinful, but turn it over to God’s power and mercy.

Posted by: Fr Chris | January 30, 2023

Publican and Pharisee: Be merciful!

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others:  An unusual introduction to a parable in any of the four gospels. Usually, the parables are addressed to the crowd in general. Not this one.

Pharisees formed the dominant strain of Judaism, and they had contrast between demanding unyielding obedience to every rule and regulation while many of them were devout men who sincerely prayed. They were both honored for their devotion to the Law and disliked for the arrogance and hypocrisy of many of their members. Even so, the opening lines of the parable had the people prepared for the tax collector to be condemned and the Pharisee praised.

Why the reputation for hypocrisy? God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ They set themselves above the rest of the population  – he lumps all of the Jews into terrible categories: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, and traitors. What good is his fasting, his tithing, when combined with such arrogance? We have to be cautious – here is the first warning of the preparation for Great Lent. We must be humble, sorrowful for our sins, and cognizant of what we have to work on.

There is a famous story from the Desert Fathers of Egypt: An old man much given to simplicity questioned Father Ammonas: “Three thoughts occupy me, either, should I wander in the deserts, or should I go to a foreign land where no one knows me, or should I shut myself up in a cell without opening the door to anyone, eating only every second day?” Father Ammonas replied, “It is not right for you to do any of these three things. Rather, sit in your cell and eat a little every day, keeping the word of the publican always in your heart, and you may be saved.” What was the word of the publican? God, be merciful to me a sinner!

The Publican, as a publican, dwelled in the depths of sin: he worked for the pagan Romans. The publicans were tax farmers – they did not just collect the taxes due to the Roman state, but got their salary by charging extra. They charged far more than the tax rate. The publicans were generally rich, and because the rest of the Jews despised them, they hung out with other publicans and their families, they invited prostitutes and public sinners to their homes, they generally avoided going to synagogue out of shame and because they would be harassed. They were very much on the fringe of Jewish life, and thoroughly disliked. In paintings and icons of this parable, the publican is always shown in the background, in shadows, in darkness.

 St Gregory Palamas writes: All he has in common with those who live virtuously is one short utterance, but he finds relief, is lifted up and rises above every evil. He is numbered with the company of the righteous, justified by the impartial Judge Himself. If the Pharisee is condemned by his speech, it is because, as a Pharisee, he thinks himself somebody, although he is not really righteous, and utters many arrogant words which provoke God’s anger with their every syllable.

Humility leads me to holiness but arrogance leads me to the depths of sin. The elderly monk I mentioned earlier surely wanted to be holy, but he is looking the wrong way  – he actually was being proud by coming up with exotic and impressive penances. But Ammonas tells him that the only penance that will save him is this one sentence – God, be merciful to me a sinner!

It is so important a phrase that we have incorporated it into our prayer before Communion, it can be used as a short Act of Contrition, it is a prayer that can be used throughout the day.

God – Lord of my life, source of my existence, the one I can call on over and  over again

Be merciful – soak me in your mercy, shower your love on me, pour yourself out over me, love me, love me, love me, love me

A sinner! – forgive me, for I know I’ve done wrong and I am truly sorry. No excuses, no mitigation, no explaining – just I know I’ve done wrong and I am so truly sorry for being a sinner.

 God, be merciful to me a sinner! One of the great dangers historically of being a church-going Christian is hypocrisy, just like so many of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the time of Christ. There are way too many stories of arrogant believers who have exalted themselves and looked down on those known to be sinners; way too many episodes where some of those who condemned people turned out to be leading secret lives of sin themselves. Go back to the opening verse of this parable: He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.

It is very easy to condemn the politician I don’t like or the other team or fans of the other team or non-Catholics or non-Christians or whatever and whoever! It is very easy to become arrogant about what I know and what I have learned or read or studied. But the key element always in the gospel, in the Christian message, in Catholic teaching is this: to be humble, and to be loving.

God hears the prayer of the sinners who are sorry. God hears our prayers. God longs to hear us cry out to him. God wants us to love him, to change our ways, to come home to him. In the book of the prophet Hosea, God speaks to Israel when the people abandon their pagan gods and return to worship their true Lord. In chapter 14 he says: I will love them freely. The same holds true for us – when we sincerely confess our sins, when we sincerely repent, when we sincerely turn back to the Lord in all humility and trust, when we ask him to once again soak us in his love, he says to each one of us: I will love you freely, for my anger is turned away from you.

Let us make this coming Lent a Lent of loving sorrow, of loving repentance, of honest regret for our faults, and turn to the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and souls.

Posted by: Fr Chris | January 6, 2023

Baptism of the Lord

In the early Church, January 6 was the feast of the birth of Christ, the coming of the Magi, and the baptism of the Lord: three events separated in terms of natural time, but in liturgical time they were kept together. Why? Because the birth of the Lord led directly to his revelation to the Gentiles in the person of the Magi, and both events led directly to the baptism and the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and the beginning of His public ministry. While in the secular world Christmas has become its own big gift-giving extravaganza, liturgically the whole celebration of Christmas leads directly to the Theophany and the baptism. Just like Easter Sunday is meant to lead us to Pentecost, Christmas is meant to lead us to the bigger feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

First, we have the word today repeated over and over again. Why? The Church inherited many things from the Jews and Judaism, and one of those is the whole idea of sacred time. We are not repeating something from 2,000 years ago, but rather we are at the original event, and so are present at the baptism. 

Secondly, it is a theo-phany. It is a manifestation of God, since, as the troparion makes clear, worship of the Trinity was revealed. Jesus steps into the Jordan River, and is revealed as the full Son of God. God the Father speaks, the Son is revealed, and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, in the form of a dove.

Third, we have the transformation of water. Water can give life when we drink it, especially in a desert. It can bring death, as in a flood. Now the water, through Christ’s descent into it, and today through the power of the Holy Spirit, becomes a defense against the wickedness of the devil and the vehicle through which we are incorporated into the Holy Trinity. Water is used for baptism, and through the mystery of baptism, through that first sacrament that we receive, we are brought into eternal life. This is why the priest is invited into our homes to perform the annual rite of house blessings. The holy water sanctified today is used to sanctify the house, to bring God’s presence into the home, to drive away forces of evil. This is why holy water is so important, because the tap water is changed by the Holy Spirit so as to be used by Christ’s Church to bring salvation and protection.

Finally, we have the full revelation of who Jesus of Nazareth is. John the Baptizer, who worshipped Jesus when they were each in the wombs of their mothers, proclaimed how great Jesus would be. All four Gospels have a similar sentence:  

Matthew: after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. 

Mark: After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

Luke: one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

John: among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

John is still revered as the last of the prophets by the Jews. There had not been a preacher like him in 400 years. In the gospels it is clear that many people hoped he was the messiah – that is how powerful his call to repentance was, the call to conversion. But he made it very clear that he was the voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord.  Jesus himself says that John is the greatest man born.

As awesome as he was, as powerful a preacher as he was, he says in all four gospels that he was not worthy to undo the sandal straps of the one he was preparing for. That job was reserved for the lowest slave in a rich house, because shoes got filthy in the streets of the towns. The sandals could be covered in dirt, animal manure, garbage, all kinds of stuff, so that was the worst job in a household. But John makes it clear that compared to the one whose way he was preparing, he was the lowest of the low. There simply was no comparison between John and Jesus.

All of that is confirmed by the events of today. God’s voice comes from heaven, confirming that Jesus of Nazareth is actually His Son, and the Son who brings joy to the Father. The power of God, the spirit of the living God, comes down upon Christ’s head, in the form of a dove, the bird that represented both purity and God’s promises to the Jews. And as the song says, John humbly steps aside, sending his disciple Saint Andrew the first-called to follow the Lord, and Andrew of course will go get his brother Peter, the future rock of the Church of Christ.

We are baptized into the Trinity, and in Chrismation, Confirmation, we are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Baptism into the Trinity is not an end in and of itself  – we are meant to be people on a mission. The apostles who are called by Christ are not initiated into a secret religion for the chosen few, but prepared by Him to be transformed by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost so as to preach the good news to the whole world. Our houses are not blessed by the priest so as to be little islands locked away, but to be strongholds of faith, houses of light and goodness and truth.

As Catholic Christians, we are empowered with the fullness of God’s revelation to proclaim the good news to the human race that salvation is at hand. Yes, we belong to a Church that has been rocked by scandals, but the Church has always been rocked by scandals, starting with the betrayals, not only by Judas but also the denial by Peter himself. It is home to sinners who are trying to become saints. It is the refuge of sinners, of sinners who are trying to fulfill the mission entrusted to them, of teaching and healing and guiding and loving the people of our broken world and bringing them into the embrace of our loving Father in heaven. Let us ask our Lord tonight in Holy Communion for the courage to go forward in mission, to fulfill the charge given to us to be His hands in the world. And let us be, through the power of the Holy Spirit who descended onto Jesus that day, people of prayer, and people who are not afraid to be converted away from sinful behavior into lives of goodness and faithfulness.

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 27, 2022

Saint Stephen: A Wound in the Soul

You can still enter the old city of Jerusalem through the gate of Saint Stephen. Though the city was destroyed by the Romans, when it was rebuilt, the wall was put up again and the gate restored, and it has been known ever since as Saint Stephen’s gate and is more than likely the place where he was martyred.

Like Jesus, witnesses were brought against him. Like Jesus, he was hauled off without a proper trial or defense. It was against the Romans’ law for the Jews to execute anyone, which was why the Sanhedrin had taken Jesus to Pilate. So like Jesus, he was attacked by breakers of the law. And like Jesus, Stephen remained firm in his commitment to the gospel, and like Jesus he forgives those who are killing him. And of course, the final blow, in the eyes of the Jews, was his sudden proclamation that he saw Christ sitting at the right hand of God, declaring that Jesus therefore is God.

Stephen’s day has been kept as a holy day connected to Christmas since the early 300s. Why? He is the first person to knowingly die for Christ, to die because of his Christian faith, and he sets the model for all future martyrs, down to our day, through his imitation of Christ. He does not waver in his faith, and he forgives those killing him. From then down to our own time with the Christians who are routinely killed by Muslim fanatics in Nigeria almost every week, martyrs do those two things.

It is significant that in Chapter 7 Verse 57 we read Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Shortly thereafter, we read in the beginning of Chapter 8 verses 2-3 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Saul of course was known also by his Roman name, Paulus, and becomes Saint Paul, the great evangelizer and theologian. He will go from destroying the Church to building up and expanding the Church through his preaching, writing, and journeys. Stephen would not know that one of the official witnesses of his martyrdom was going to become one of the great pillars of Christianity. We have no idea what seeds we plant through friendships, relationships, and simply holding firm to our beliefs in the face of harassment or persecution. In the end, Stephen’s testimony and prayers surely helped Paul’s conversion since Luke makes such a point of stating that Saul was one of the legal witnesses of the killing.

The great Catholic martyr of Scotland is Saint John Ogilvie, who was put to death for the crimes of being a priest, converting Protestants to the Catholic faith, and offering Mass in Scottish cities. In 1615 he was executed in Glasgow, and this is what happened:

There were many brave Catholics who came to the execution site to support the saint with prayers and with shouts.   They were fearless.  John said on the scaffold “If there be here any hidden Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have.”   Then something spontaneous happened, by divine intervention and inspiration.   Just before they tied his hands on the scaffold the saint quickly pulled out his rosary and tossed it to the crowd as a token of farewell.   There was a Protestant Baron, John ab Eckersdorf, who happened to be in the crowd and the rosary bounced off his chest.   The man tried to reach down for the beads but was beaten to them by the surrounding faithful anxious to get such a relic. Here is how the event is related, in the words of the Baron: I was on my travels through England and Scotland as it is the custom of our nobility, and I did not have the faith. I happened to be in Glasgow the day Father Ogilvie was led forth to the gallows, and it is impossible for me to describe his lofty bearing in meeting death.   His farewell to the Catholics was his casting into their midst, from the scaffold, his rosary beads just before he met his fate.   That rosary, thrown haphazard, struck me on the breast in such wise that I could have caught
it in the palm of my hand;  but there was such a rush and crush of the Catholics to get hold of it, that unless I wished to run the risk of being trodden down, I had to cast it from me.   Religion was the last thing I was then thinking about : it was not in my mind at all; yet from that moment I had no rest.   Those rosary beads had left a wound in my soul; go where I would I had no peace of mind. Conscience was disturbed, and the thought would haunt me : why did the martyr’s rosary strike me,
and not another?   For years I asked myself this question it followed me about everywhere.    At last conscience won the day    I became a Catholic; I abandoned Calvinism – and this happy change I attribute to the martyr’s beads and to no other
cause those beads which, if I had them now, gold could not tempt me to part with and if gold could purchase them, I should not spare it.”

Those rosary beads left a wound in my soul.

I wonder sometimes if Saul was so ferocious in his persecution because Stephen’s words left a wound in his soul. Surely as Paul, Stephen’s testimony right before he died strengthened him in his own sufferings on behalf of Christ.

We never know how our actions, our words, our constancy in the Catholic faith in the face of challenges and obstacles can affect someone. The smallest action can leave a wound in someone’s soul, a wound that will not heal until that person resolves the crisis by becoming a Catholic, or returning to the practice of the faith. Saint Wenceslaus, the king of Bohemia, famously celebrated the day by setting out an elaborate dinner for a poor man, and 1,300 years later we still sing about that. His act of charity is still remembered; Stephen’s faith is still remembered.  

We should celebrate Stephen’s day with prayers, asking him to intercede for us with God that at this challenging time in western civilization, we will be faithful to Christ, faithful to his Church, and be brave enough to witness about Jesus, in the best way that we can. John Ogilvie led the baron to faith simply by throwing his rosary out; we can throw seeds of faith out in many different ways, if we are brave enough to do so, and thus we may leave a wound in someone’s soul for the sake and love of Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 26, 2022

Christmas 2022

Christ is born! In the book of the prophet Micah, chapter 5, verse 2, we read: But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,     who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me  one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old,   from ancient days.

The Messiah of course is Jesus Christ, who is the ancient of ancients, existing before time as the eternal Word of God and then being incarnated in time in the womb of Our Lady, and born for us in little Bethlehem. 

Bethlehem actually has two meanings. In Hebrew: house of bread but in Arabic: house of meat. Both names lead us to the Eucharist, the life-giving body and blood of the savior of the world. Under the form of bread, we have the flesh of the Lord Himself. Ephrathah means fruitful. So, we have the messiah incarnated, born in the house of bread and the house of meat,  in the fruitful region. He will give us spiritual fruits, fruits which we still benefit from.

Jesus laid in the manger – the feed trough for the animals which is transformed into the feeding place for people who worship Christ. Luke emphasizes the location three times in the span of ten short verses, that the infant is laid in a manger by Mary; the angels announce he is the manger; and the shepherds themselves find him lying in the manger, in the presence of Mary and Joseph. The shepherds are invited to worship him, to adore him, in that feed trough. We are preparing now for the coming of Christ, as he does in every liturgy, to descend to the altar through the holy spirit, and he comes in answer to our petitions and prayers. Every altar, at every liturgy, becomes Bethlehem.

The Child will be our food spiritually and physically – the icon of St John the Baptist at the south end of the iconostas shows the Child Jesus resting on the diskos, in place of the bread, as a constant reminder to us of just what happens to the bread placed there before the liturgy during the rite of preparation. Saint John points to the Child as he proclaims “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This little baby whose birth we have prepared for over the last forty days, this speechless child who is the eternal word of God, is the Lamb of God. The sheep and lambs in the shepherds’ field produced the wool for the vestments of the priests of the temple, but here we have the true High Priest. The spring lambs would be sacrificed for the Passover feast, but here we have the true Paschal Lamb, who will be sacrificed on the cross. No lamb can take away sins, only this lamb born of the Virgin Mary can take away the sins of the entire world.

Chrysostom preached that “Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, but His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.”

Jesus proclaims throughout chapter 6 of John’s Gospel the importance of eating his flesh and receiving his blood  – he emphasizes that if we don’t do that, we won’t have life in us. And of course, he came to give us life, the opportunity to have the fullness of spiritual life and abundant eucharistic union with him that gives us a taste of eternal life.

Being here is a privilege, as I have said repeatedly this year. It is an enormous gift from God that we can come together to spiritually be in Bethlehem, at the cave, to be like the shepherds and come to worship the new-born King of the Jews, the true messiah, our savior. In Communist China, no one under 18 is allowed into the churches. In occupied Ukraine, all of the Latin and Byzantine Catholic priests have been expelled by the Russians or are in the jails of the secret police. In much of Africa, Siberia, and Latin America, because there are not enough priests, people gather not for the holy sacrifice of the Mass but for a service led by a reader, and maybe they can receive Communion. In many places this weekend in America, the storm has closed churches.

We are privileged to be able to come to church and be present at the Divine Liturgy; we are privileged to share in the Catholic faith; we are privileged to be given the fullness of God’s revelation through the teachings of the Catholic Church in the magisterium; we are privileged to have a pastor who came from far away to serve with such devotion; we are privileged to have produced two nuns, one monk, one seminarian and four priests from such a small parish; we are privileged to have a parish with so many children and young families; we are privileged to have active ministries to college adults and high school students; we are privileged to see a future ahead of us, lit by the fires of faith and devotion; we are privileged to have older parishioners who guide us through their fidelity; we are privileged in so many ways. The Mother of God has watched over this parish since 1974, and her Son whose birth we celebrate has been the core of this parish’s spiritual life.

This Child Jesus is a free offering, a gift of salvation that is wrapped in that little baby boy lying in the straw of the manger on that unique holy night. The gift continues in every celebration of the Divine Liturgy, in every offering of the Catholic Mass. Tonight is the night that is different from every other night, the night when God pierces the division between heaven and earth so as to reunite us, so that we can walk with Him and be with Him, and flourish with Him, and conquer with Him over the forces of darkness. The Child born at midnight in piercing cold in the cave of Bethlehem is the true light of the world, especially now in a world that faces so much darkness and pain.

Presents are great, but they are not eternal. Cards are lovely, but they are not eternal. Human bodies can do many things, but eventually they fall apart. The only thing we have of ourselves that is eternal is the soul, and later on the glorified body that we will receive at the resurrection of the dead. Christ came into the world to die, so as to open the door for the soul to live eternally with him after our own deaths, and for us to live body and soul with the Holy Trinity forever after the end of the universe. Let us enjoy being in Bethlehem, and let us rejoice in the privilege given to us in faith, and let us above all commit ourselves to Christ on this holy night, and serve Him always. Christ is born. Glorify Him. Have a Merry Christmas.

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 5, 2022

Saint Nicholas – December 6

He is on every iconostas, always on the north side. He has been given the title of “Wonder-Worker” because of the many miracles performed during his lifetime and after his death through his intercession, miracles that God wrought in answer to his prayers because of the life he led. Nicholas was leading a life of constant conversion, a life rooted in Jesus Christ. The town of Myra had many bishops until the Turks drove out the last of the Christians in 1923, but in 1,800 years of Christianity it is this one bishop who became the model for all bishops, who left such a profound imprint on his parishioners then and on Christians around the world today. In the Divine Office, the canon in the matins for tomorrow morning starts with the proclamation of Christ’s birth, because Nicholas is considered to be so  Christ-like. How did he show this?

He is the saint of charity, giving to others and doing for others in the Name of Jesus. He is the saint of justice, having saved those wrongly accused of crimes and exposing the corruption of government officials. He himself was imprisoned under the emperor Diocletian during the last big persecution in the Roman Empire, so he was a confessor of the faith.

Sailing in the ancient world was hazardous – as we see in the Acts of the Apostles when Paul had to sail to Rome, to go across the open sea was a frightening prospect, and there was no guarantee that a ship would arrive at its destination. As the bishop of the port of Myra, he would go down to the harbor to bless the ships and prayed in the church for those who were at sea. To this day he remains the patron saint of sailors and travelers, and his icons travel on the navy ships of majority-Orthodox countries like Greece.

Nicholas spent his inheritance helping orphans and abandoned children, building hospitals and schools, and giving relief to the poor. He’s famous for coming to the aid of three poor daughters who could not afford a dowry and so could not  get married. Icons show him tossing  three bags of gold through the window, landing in the stockings that were hanging up by the fire to dry. To this day, unmarried Italian women go to the shrine in Bari and put three coins into the collection box to ask his intercession in finding a husband.

A popular legend says that at the council of Nicaea, he was so scandalized about the heresy of Arius, which denies that Jesus is fully God as well as fully Man, that he got up and slapped Arius. The bishops then deposed him, saying he was out of control and offended those who favored Arius, including the imperial government. But that night, they all had the same dream, where Jesus and Mary restored the symbols of the bishop’s office, the Gospel book and the omophorion, to him. So in the morning they all contritely returned to him, and restored him to his rightful office. Unfortunately, we have the record of who attended that council, and Nicholas wasn’t there, and neither was Arius. But the point of the story is that Nicholas was solidly orthodox in faith, and having suffered for the Christian faith in Jesus Christ, he would not give in to the pressures of the government and the opinions of popular churchmen. Instead he held firm to the faith.

So, what does this enormously popular saint have to say to us?

1) he was honored in his lifetime not for spending money, but for giving of himself to others in the name of Christ

2) he was known for his holiness, for the time he spent in prayer and also the time he gave to others

3) he led a life that was simple, keeping the fasting seasons, not looking to build up his own wealth or power

4) he took risks so as to help others stay strong in faith, and he was willing to stand up for what he knew was right.

All of these are qualities that you and I can and should emulate. May Saint Nicholas intercede for us individually, our parish, and the Byzantine Catholic Church, so that we will reflect Jesus Christ accurately and well to those around us. And may we have the courage, like him, to stand firm for the faith and its truths.

Posted by: Fr Chris | November 30, 2022

Annual Christmas Novena starts on St Andrew’s Day

Traditionally this prayer is said daily from November 30 until Christmas Eve:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment

In which the Son of God was born

Of the most pure Virgin Mary,

at midnight

in Bethlehem,

in the piercing cold.

In that hour vouchsafe,

I beseech Thee, O my God,

to hear my prayer and grant my desires,

through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,

and of His blessed Mother.


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:

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: 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!

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 -
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
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. "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


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 | April 3, 2023

Thoughts for the Passion

I have been “out of action” here throughout March because of an accident I had. The left front wheel of my power wheelchair popped off while I was going down our side street to the bus. Instead of heading to the gym, I was pitched off of the sidewalk landed in the street with the chair pinning me down. Since it weighs over 300 pounds, I was stuck. Two ladies stopped and, to their surprise and mine, were able to lift the chair off of me while the son of one retrieved the missing wheel.

I ended up having an interesting Lent, since my right ankle was torn up and the knee on my left leg got hurt, plus I was without a chair for two weeks. I have a “loaner” while I wait – and wait – for the $22,000 chair to get repaired. Sigh. By the grace of God and the help of some good people, especially our pastor Father Bubnevych, I was able to keep up with some obligations, but others had to be set aside. And I now have constant pain in my right ankle, which I really did not need. So I have had the ability to “offer up” a lot this Lent! I am putting below my short homily from the end of Great Lent, which in the Byzantine Rite concludes on the Friday before Palm Sunday.

We have reached the end of the forty days. Tomorrow Jesus arrives in Bethany and will go to the cemetery, to raise Lazarus from his grave four days after Lazarus’ death. Then of course on Sunday we will have the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and all of the events of Holy Week, so as to lead us to the Resurrection of Christ.

I mentioned on Sunday that I have spent a lot of time contemplating and studying the Passion of Christ this year, because of talks that I have been giving during Lent. On Tuesday I am going over the passion again for the college students. One of the interesting things I came across is the meditations on the wound in the right side of Jesus’ body. This is where the spear entered him, and then tore through his body so as to pierce his sacred heart. Some of the ancient Christian writers saw this opening into the body of Jesus, leading directly into his heart, as being especially significant. The Song of Songs is a book that, at a surface level, is a love poem between husband and wife, lover and beloved. But on a deeper level, it is the dialogue between the soul and God, the true lover and true beloved. In chapter 2, the lover compares his beloved to the doves who find refuge in the cliffs of the mountains. God invites the soul to find refuge in Him –

O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,     

in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face,       

let me hear your voice;     

for your voice is sweet,      

and your face is lovely.

For some Eastern Fathers, Jesus’ tortured body is the cliff, His open wound is the cleft of the rock.

He WANTS to see my face, He WANTS to hear my voice, He proclaims that MY voice is sweet to Him, MY face is lovely to Him.

We are invited to enter into that bloody wound, through which the blood and water of Jesus’ heart gushed out, and find refuge. We are invited to discover our true love there, in His pierced, wounded, holy heart. The heart for the Jews was where the entire personhood of someone lived, so when Christ gushes out blood and water, the symbols of the eucharist and baptism, from that very spot, it is the opportunity for us to enter into the personhood of Jesus through the passage of the Roman centurion’s spear.

Christ invites  us into that spot because he DESIRES us. My face is lovely to him, my voice is sweet to him, and he wants to hear me.  When we receive the consecrated gifts in Holy Communion, to be especially aware of Jesus’ invitation to come close to him, to be with him, to be pulled into him. Let us be profoundly aware that he desires each one of us, no matter how old or young, no matter what we do in life or what we hope to do. That dissolved Precious Body under the form of consecrated bread will go throughout our entire bodies, lovingly, gently, touching and caressing, the Beloved to the Lover, through the power of the Eucharist.

Let us listen in the stillness of our own hearts to the voice of our beloved, who calls us to a special intimacy with him next week, to be pierced by his love, and to seek to be united to him for the rest of our time on earth through this great mystery of love. Christ is among us.

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 3, 2023

Rooted in the Eucharist

March 3 is feast day of Saint Katharine Drexel; she was born into a wealthy family in Philadelphia, steeped in the Catholic Faith. Her stepmother opened their mansion to the poor three days a week, her father spent every evening in prayer, and the estate was named for Saint Michael the Archangel. Every week she and her sisters worked with their stepmother to distribute rent money, clothing, medicine, and food to the poor of Philadelphia, and every day they had family devotions and study.

Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People so as to serve, educate, and evangelize among the two most discriminated-against populations of the United States at the time, the African-Americans and the Native American tribes. In our state, her congregation reopened Saint Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe and opened Saint Michael School in diocese of Gallup. She died in 1955 and was a canonized saint just twenty years later, because of both the witness of those who knew her for her holiness and charity, and the miracles God granted through her intercession.

Why spend time on her tonight? Besides being one of the few American saints, and having an impact in our own state, Saint Katharine could not have achieved that holiness without having learned it at home. Her father and stepmother were rooted in prayer, devotion to Our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist, and recognized that the blessings of wealth that they brought into their family through their work was in order to them to help others, not to hold on to. The three girls of the Drexel family taught Sunday School in their parish, their family was close to their parish priests, and their aunt was a Sister of the Sacred Heart. Katharine’s sister and brother-in-law devoted themselves to founding and running a school in segregated Virginia that gave Black boys an education and prepared them for successful living, in defiance of the attitude that Blacks could not learn and could not work without control by White people. In other words, Katharine Drexel grew up in a Catholic family that was rooted in prayer, charity, and Catholic education for all. Those elements will make any family spiritually successful.

The Book of Proverbs that we read during Lent is set up as a book written by his father to his son, giving him the spiritual guidance and wisdom that every child is in need of. Each of us has to be rooted in prayer, each of us has to be rooted in searching for the wisdom of God, each of us has to be striving to make a parish that is rooted in the Holy Eucharist, charity, education, and love of God.

The Liturgy of the Presanctified is unique in the Byzantine Rite for one thing in particular: the procession of the Holy Gifts in absolute silence.

The celebrant carries the Presanctified Gifts, the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Most Blessed Sacrament, the sacrament of all sacraments, in a silent procession around the church. There is no singing, no chant, simply the sound of the chains of the censer clinking against each other as a cloud of incense rises in honor of the Savior Who gave Himself at the Last Supper, Who gave Himself on the Cross, Who waits to give Himself to each of us in Holy Communion. It is the only service in the Byzantine tradition in which there is such stark silence. Not an empty silence, but a silence filled with awe, with worship, with reverence, and above all with the expectation of love and life.

Tonight, may we ask Our Lord in Holy Communion that we each allow ourselves to be rooted deep within His embrace. All of us need the gift of divine wisdom, all of us need to be people of charity, all of us need to grow in faith through study and reading, all of us need to be people of prayer. We can only do that if, like Katharine Drexel and her family, we strive to be a people of the Holy Eucharist who are caught up in the power, love, and glory of Christ Jesus.

Posted by: Fr Chris | February 11, 2023

The Last Judgment and Us – Meatfare Sunday

Matthew 25:31-46 The famous writer Leo Tolstoy tells this story: A shoemaker dreamed before Christmas Eve that our Lord, would be his guest the next day. But, warned Jesus,  Tonight I am going to visit your village. Look out for Me. I shall not say who I am.” All day he stayed in his shop, hoping to welcome Christ, and kiss his sacred wounds. Since he had no idea what size Jesus’ feet were, he decided to spend the day making his best shoes of all sizes.

He saw a young boy lighting the street lamps, who had no coat and was shivering, so the shoemaker wrapped him in his own blanket. Children came singing carols, and he gave them the tea he was saving for Christ. A widow and her children came along, so he gave them the soup he had  made for Christ. All the while he kept making pairs of shoes of different sizes, so as to give one pair to Jesus. But the Divine Guest never arrived. So he took all of the shoes to the local orphanage and put them next to the beds of the sleeping children. Then he went home, sad that Jesus had never come.

Then soft in the silence a voice he heard: “Lift up your heart for I kept my word.” He was of course, in the boy; the carolers; the widow and her family; the orphans.

We are commanded in the story, but even more so in Jesus’ own words today, that we must see Jesus in every single person we encounter. Each person alive is made in the image and likeness of God, whether or not we like them, whether or not they cut us off in traffic, or did better than us in our sport or class or job, whether or not they are dirty or clean, each person is Christ.

Outside of His parables, there are only three occasions when Christ explicitly speaks of the punishment of hell:

1. When people fail to perform works of mercy.

2. When adults corrupt children by bad example and serious scandal.

3. Whenever there is an unforgiving hatred of neighbor.

Jesus pulls no punches in his parables or his sermons. Why did people would travel for miles to see a man who told the truth bluntly, honestly, and openly condemned those who failed to obey God? Those folks were not that different from us, and the world they lived in was much like ours. They had families, jobs, goals in life; they all had hopes and dreams. But they also lived in a challenging fallen world.  The Sadducees and many of the temple clergy were corrupted by their cooperation with power and money. The Pharisees both attracted people by their piety and repelled them by their hypocrisy in overzealously enforcing hundreds of rules on every little aspect of life. Pagans worshipped the emperor, even though everyone knew he would get old and die. Like us, people worshipped their celebrities – we who foolishly adore rock stars, movie stars, athletic stars. Like us, they went to stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams, or wrestlers, or runners.

Huge crowds flocked to Jesus, walking for miles and miles, carrying their sick and possessed, hoping against hope that he would cure them. But they also walked for miles and miles, pagans and Jews, Greeks and Romans and Canaanites and, hoping to hear his words. They took comfort in his words, they were challenged by his words, they were converted by his words. And when the apostles went out after Pentecost, there was a harvest waiting for them among those who had been cured, those who had been delivered from demons, those whose loved ones had been saved, those who had heard Jesus’ words and gone home as changed men and women.

Today’s gospel proclaims that there will indeed be justice – this world plagued by injustice and tragedy and violence is not the world that God created. It is a world broken by sin. There will be a day when sin will get its comeuppance, and we will pay the penalty and earn the rewards. Those who lead the world astray through their public sins, through their endorsement of violence, through their constant acquiring of riches or power or both and who teach our young that power, wealth, and violence and the latest crazy fads are the only road to happiness will earn their reward at the end of time. And it will come. Time will end.

Why do we face east in our prayers?  Why do our priests still face the altar? Because like the first Christians, we wait for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. We all stand together, with the pastor leading the congregation as the spiritual father. He lifts up his arms at “Lift up your hearts” to show that he is opening his own heart, waiting for the Coming of Christ. We wait for our judgment. We wait for our deliverance.

Jesus condemned those who failed to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: Corporal: To feed the hungry; To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To give shelter to those in need; To visit the sick; To ransom the captive; To bury the dead.  Spiritual:      To instruct the ignorant ; To counsel the doubtful ; To admonish sinners ; To bear wrongs patiently; To forgive offences willingly; To comfort the afflicted; To pray for the living and the dead.

Jesus condemned those who harmed children – something that a lot of Catholic bishops apparently forgot in the last 60 years.

Jesus condemned those who hated their neighbor – something which is forgotten by racists and those who foster prejudice and violence.

Far too many people who are in positions of power and influence, in church and in society in general, have abandoned the gospel. But right now the challenge is for us who continue to be churchgoers, who continue to be worshippers, who continue to hold to the Catholic faith to be a people of compassion, a people of peace, a people of faith, a people who seek to do the right thing at all times.

In the Matins this morning this verse is proclaimed: O my soul, if you fast, do not deceive your neighbor. If you abstain from food, do not judge others, lest you go to be burned like wax in the fire. So, today is Meatfare, traditionally the last day to eat meat before Lent begins – but if I am judging, hating, lying and failing to do works of mercy, there’s no point in giving up meat or dairy products or a meal – if I am not fasting from sin, then I am not truly fasting.  Unless I am like the shoemaker, who treats others as if they were Jesus Christ, I am failing in my duties as a Christian.

The Matins ends with this: O faithful let us purify ourselves by repentance, the queen of virtues. Behold it brings an abundance of blessings: it dresses the wounds of the passions; it reconciles sinners with the Master. No one who lives is  perfect and sinless. We are all in need of repenting for something, of letting go of a behavior, an attitude, of changing my life and stopping actions that I know are wrong. We can lie to ourselves, but we cannot lie to God. In the end, today’s service proclaims, we will be condemned not for the bad that we do, but for our failures to do good.

We must be converted like those crowds who heard Jesus in person. We hear his words in the gospel at every Divine Liturgy, at every celebration of the holy eucharist.  Like them, we must take comfort in his words, be challenged by his words, be converted by his words. Only through our conversion will this city and state be converted to Christ. Only through our prayers will there be workers to go to bring in the harvest of souls. There are people in our lives who need conversion and healing, who want conversion and healing, who long to have their spiritual and emotional and physical and psychological wounds healed. It is up to us to go out of here as changed men and women, to go to our schools, our home school groups, our jobs, our neighborhoods, our clubs as messengers of God’s compassion through our behaviors.

There will be a judgment day as to how charitable and merciful we have been – not only do we want to go to heaven, but we must also must want to be able to say that yes, I lived in such a way that I saw you, my dear Lord, in every person around me.

Christ is among us.

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