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

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

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

Did Mary ever commit a venial sin? 

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

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

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

Posted by: Fr Chris | September 14, 2022

The Life-Giving Cross: A paradox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Fr Chris | August 16, 2022

The Assumption is a sign to all of us

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Posted by: Fr Chris | June 29, 2022

Nativity of John the Baptist – June 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I show the way?

Which of his parents am I?

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

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

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

Posted by: Fr Chris | May 26, 2022

Christ ascends in glory!

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

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

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

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

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

The messages of Ascension Thursday are a few:  

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

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

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

Posted by: Fr Chris | April 15, 2022

It is ia privilege to be here: Holy Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a privilege to be here.

It is a privilege to be invited to this altar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consecration in Saint Peter’s basilica

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

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

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

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

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

Refugees from Irpin

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

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

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 10, 2022

Helping Refugees in western Ukraine

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

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

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

Posted by: Fr Chris | March 2, 2022

Beginning the 40 Days

The Lenten Fast began on Pure Monday for Byzantine Catholics and Ash Wednesday for Latin  Catholics. This is Pure Week in the Byzantine Rite. The Matins for today includes these verses: Tossed about by the waves of sin, I am drowning in the deep waters of despair, but I hasten to the ocean of your love; save me, O Lord!

The number forty appears many times in the Bible:

  • Forty days and nights of rain during the flood
  • Moses lived forty years in Egypt
  • Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai
  • The Jews journeyed through the desert for forty years to the Promised Land
  • Jonah preached forty days to Nineveh
  • Elijah fasted for forty days on Mount Horeb
  • Goliath taunted Israel for forty days
  • Jesus fasted in the desert forty days

The flood ended with new life and a new beginning with God; Moses is saved from the genocide and prepared to become the leader of God’s Chosen People; Moses got the commandments; Israel arrived in the Promised Land at last; Nineveh repented and is saved; Elijah triumphs against the pagan priests and Jezebel; David defeats Goliath with the five stones; Jesus begins his public ministry.

When we see the number forty used to denote time in the Bible, we are being told that something extraordinary is about to happen and that God will triumph. So, what is extraordinary now for us? We are living in an extraordinary moment in history, that’s for sure, with this war raging in Ukraine due to Putin’s invasion and all of the intense reaction around the world to it. But we are also each living in our own extraordinary moment. If we are being serious about Lent, then this time is supposed to be extra-ordinary, beyond ordinary. We are all tossed about by sin, as we each have our own spiritual battles to fight. And we each have a choice: drown in those battles, surrender to temptation, give up the struggle, or run, hurry, to the loving embrace of God the Father.

The second Sunday of the Triodion is that of the Prodigal Son. He is going back in disgrace, shamed for what he did, but the father comes running toward him to embrace him, to restore him to his true dignity as the father’s son once more. That is what awaits us on  Easter Sunday. That is the key of the paschal joy, to be restored, and to be triumphant over Satan and all the temptations of our broken world.

There is a lot of darkness in the world: the war and the unnecessary deaths and injuries and wreckage due to that war; ongoing persecution of Christians around the world on a massive scale; the decay of religion in the western world; violence here in our own city and elsewhere; the pandemic and the damage it has done. So many things are wrong – but the sun rises every morning, we wake up every day, the Church continues to exist, people continue to love, the laws of nature still work. Either I can despair, or I can ask the Holy Trinity to strengthen me in my determination not to drown in sin.

Jesus fasted in the desert to defeat Satan and his temptations. Now this year, as we fast and abstain, as we pray more, as we receive the Eucharist more often, we do so in order to defeat Satan and his attacks on not only ourselves, but to intercede for those around us. There is always darkness, hatred, jealousy, and other vices running rampant in the world. But there is always the clarion call of God to fallen humanity as well: come home to Me.

Let us hasten to the ocean of God’s love this year especially, let us pray hard for the Prince of Peace to rule in the hearts of all people, and pray for the conversion of each other and the whole human race. Let us listen to the God’s clarion call that pierces through all darkness and be strengthened and renewed in our Catholic Faith.

We are a little parish in the grand scheme of the Catholic Church, but then Jesus had only the eleven apostles and the band of women who walked with them. Great things happen in Scripture always after 40 days; may great things happen for us individually, in the parish, in the larger Church, and in the world after these 40 days are over.

Posted by: Fr Chris | February 2, 2022

Christ our Light- February 2

Every night as the sun sets, Catholics read or sing Vespers. In every ritual Church, Simeon’s prayer is sung, the Nunc Dimittis: Now you shall dismiss your servant, O Lord, according to Your word in peace; a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people, Israel.

Presentation of Christ in Temple Antique Icon, 19th C

As the daylight fades, candles are lit, electric lights are turned on, and the Church focuses on the light of Jesus. Vespers in the Byzantine rite launches the next day; we follow the Jewish and Old Testament practice of evening begins the next day which begins not at midnight but at sunset. So as daylight fades, the True Light illuminates the new day.

Two couples mark the celebration today. They are of different generations, but united in fidelity to worship at the temple and in being obedient to the Law, and to what God has asked of them over time. Joseph and Mary and Simeon and Anna are both couples who represent the anawim of God, the little ones, the people who listen to the Spirit of God and act upon God’s wishes. Simeon and Anna were both very old by the standards of their time period. They probably had outlived everyone they grew up with, but continued to wait for the Messiah in prayer and sacrifice.

Order of the Most Holy Mary Theotokos - Come, Pray the Rosary - The Joyful Mysteries

Joseph and Mary were young, just starting out their married life and now family life. They already had made sacrifices of remaining virginal, of traveling to Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecy of the town where the Messiah would be born, of being alone without their parents and friends in such an emotionally and spiritually important time. To redeem Jesus from service as a Levite, they could only afford to sacrifice two birds, being far from home and without Joseph’s carpenter shop producing income.

All four are listening to God regarding this little forty-day old boy. For Mary and Joseph, Simeon’s proclamation and Anna’s preaching are confirmation that they have indeed heard the voice of God. This little baby is not just the messiah, but the holy one of God. The road ahead promises to be difficult: a sword will spiritually pierce Mary’s heart, and Simeon accurately predicts that Jews will be forced to make final decisions regarding Jesus – He will accepted be the messiah, or He will be rejected. Everything will focus on Him and His destiny.

It is a bitterly cold night tonight. The wind is howling out of the mountains, much of North America is at freezing or below freezing temperatures, snow is falling in much of the country. We have a storm that stretches from Vermont to New Mexico and all points in between. But it remains February 2, it remains the feast of the Encounter, of the Meeting of Jesus and His people, the presentation of Christ not just in the temple but to Simeon and Anna who personify the faithful of Israel, the generations and generations of Jews who were waiting patiently for God to send the  messiah. Even though the arrival of the messiah is in the person of a 40-day old infant and not a triumphant general leading an army against pagan Rome, Simeon and Anna are happy. They rejoice, they preach, they sing, they pray, they tell anyone who will listen that salvation is now close at hand.

The light of Christ never goes away. During the Presanctified Liturgy in Great Lent the priest holds a single candle in the doorway of the icon-screen, and that light pierces the darkness. Vespers comes, and the Nunc Dimittis promises that no physical, spiritual, or moral darkness will ever conquer against the true light. He is the light of revelation to the Gentiles – and to all Israel. He is the light of revelation to our souls. He is the light of revelation to our searching hearts. His Church stands firm against all darkness, against all hostility, against all heresy, against all failures of its members.

Tonight, then should be a night of rejoicing. Candles are blessed tonight as a sign that Jesus is the light of the world, as the prayer makes clear. In praying tonight in this liturgy, let the power of the Holy Spirit bring us warmth on this cold winter night, and let the power of Jesus Christ, even as a 40-day old baby, even under the form of a little cube of bread soaked in wine and water, transform us into souls as patient and faithful as Simeon and Anna, and to imitate Joseph and Mary in staying true to what has been handed to us in our Catholic faith.

There will always be attempts by forces of darkness to conquer the light. But the light will never be defeated. Christ is among us.

Shining Candle Flame in a Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free) 1054350134 | Shutterstock

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