Posted by: Fr Chris | July 11, 2020

Benedict and His Medal

Today, June 11, is the Feast of Saint Benedict, the Father of Monastic life in the Latin Church. His Rule is still followed in Benedictine monasteries of men and women around the world, in many cultures. His medal is regarded as one of the most powerful tools against Satan and the demons under him.

St. Benedict Icon (McGough): Icon Reproduction

Below is an article from the Aleteia website published for the feast. At the bottom is a true story from when I was in college.

Many are familiar with the Jubilee Medal of St. Benedict, a sacramental of the Church that is traditionally known for its ability to protect against demonic influences. Embossed on the medal is a powerful prayer that can be said on a regular basis. It is quite simple and easy to memorize.

On the back of the medal, within the cross at the center, are the following letters that represent a Latin prayer against Satan:

C. S. S. M. L. (Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux): “The Holy Cross be my light”

N. D. S. M. D. (Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux) “May the dragon never be my guide!”

Around the edge of the medal are more letters that stand for the Latin exorcism prayers:

V. R. S. (Vade Retro Satan): “Get away, Satan”
N. S. M. V. (Not Suade Mihi Vana): “Never tempt me with your vanities!”
S. M. Q. L. (Sunt Mala Quae Libas): “What you offer me is evil.”
I. V. B. (Ipse Venena Bibas): “Drink the poison yourself!”

1. But who was St. Benedict?

Saint Benedict was born in Nursia, Italy, around the year 480. The twin brother of Saint Scholastica, he is considered to be the father of Western monasticism, and even though there was already a thriving monastic tradition in other Mediterranean regions, his Rule (known, appropiately enough, as the “Rule of St. Benedict”) became the basis of organization for many religious orders, starting with, of course, the whole Benedictine family, which includes Cistercians and Trappists.Read more:The Benedictine monk who changed the way we learn music

So, in order to fully grasp the meaning of the different symbols and customs associated with the medal, one must know about the particular events of St. Benedict’s life. For example, there is a tradition that the medal protects bearers from poison. This is rooted in a story about Benedict’s holiness and his special powers to discern good and evil. When Benedict had been living for at least three years as a hermit in a cave, some men who were living together as a religious community came to him for direction, since their abbot had recently died. They asked Benedict to take over their community. Some of the monks, though, didn’t like the plan of bringing in an outsider, and attempted to kill Benedict with poisoned bread and wine. However, when St. Benedict made the sign of the Cross over these things as he said grace, he came to know they were poisoned, so he toppled the cup and commanded a raven to carry off the bread. That’s why tradition says St. Benedict’s medal protects you from poisoning.

2. Besides poison, the medal is believed to…

a) Ward off witchcraft and any other diabolical and haunting influence. That means it also protects you from temptation, delusion or being tormented by evil spirits.

b) Obtain the conversion of sinners, bringing them into the Catholic Church, especially when they are in danger of death. That is why the medal has been also nicknamed “the Cross of the Happy Death” when it is attached to a crucifix.

c) Secure the timely and healthy birth of children, as tradition also claims it is a great means of protection against contagious diseases.

3. Wait… can you go back to the “Cross of the Happy Death” part?

Sure. If the medal is attached to a crucifix, then we are in the presence of a “Cross of a Happy Death,” not only because of the exorcising properties of the medal and the image of Christ’s Body itself, but because of St. Benedict’s very particular patronage, based on what tradition tells about his own death. Pope St. Gregory the Great (A.D. ca. 540-604) describes St. Benedict’s passing:

“Six days before he left this world he gave orders to have his sepulchre opened, and forthwith falling into an ague, he began with burning heat to wax faint; and when as the sickness daily increased, upon the sixth day he commanded his monks to carry him into the oratory, where he did arm himself receiving the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ; and having his weak body holden up betwixt the hands of his disciples, he stood with his own hands lifted up to heaven; and as he was in that manner praying, he gave up the ghost.”

When I attended Saint Bonaventure University, just outside of Olean, New York, I attended a small Byzantine Catholic church at the top of Fountain Street, on what was still called Russian Hill overlooking the valley.


St Nicholas Day | Father Christopher Zugger

Originally this was Saint Michael’s, as it was a mission from Saint Michael’s church in Sheffield, Pennsylvania, but in the 1970s it became a mission to the now-closed church in Amherst, New York. It became known as Saint Mary’s due to the large fresco of the Dormition of the Mother of God behind the tabernacle.

Our pastor was Father Sergius Bachkovsky, who was a Benedictine priest from Holy Trinity Monastery in Butler, Pennsylvania (also now closed, sadly). He came down every Saturday afternoon to offer the Divine Liturgy in our little church, and I served as the cantor for a couple years.

In 1976 a new store opened on a main street of Olean selling pornographic magazines, and the whole town was upset about. The people in the parish told Father Sergius, and he gave them a medal of Saint Benedict, and explained the power of Saint Benedict over Satan. He suggested that they bury it next to the building. So, some of the women went down to the store at night, dug a little hole, and put in the medal. Then they said a prayer, covered it up, and went back up the hill to their homes.

Early in the morning, that pornography store blew up and burned to the ground. The owner didn’t try to reopen. People could not wait to tell Father Sergius about the miraculous destruction, and thought he’d give us quite a reaction. His answer was simply, “I told you he has great power over the devil,” and went into church to prepare for the Liturgy. I’ve never doubted Saint Benedict and his medal after that!

Posted by: Fr Chris | June 4, 2020

Science, Jesus’ Heart, and Eucharistic Miracles

Behold the heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing... - Catholic Digest
Jesus reveals His Heart to St. Maraaret Mary Alacoque

June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Roman Rite, and among some Eastern Catholics. This is a presentation I did in March on Science, the Heart of Jesus, and Eucharistic Miracles. Enjoy –

Recording talk I gave for the University of New Mexico’s Catholic Expo

Adrian Sisneros, a 3rd year Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, put together an exposition on Eucharistic Miracles, along with a display of chalice sets, icons, vestments, relics in reliquaries, and other Catholic items, both Roman and Byzantine. It was all in the Student Union Building, and concluded with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

I gave this pre-recorded talk, which ran all day long, plus a live talk during the lunch hour. The Eucharistic Miracles that have taken place in Italy, Poland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland, France and Argentina were all shown on panels.


A young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, traveled across Europe, dragging his agnostic parents with him, to catalogue these miracles. He taught himself computer programming to make a website of them. Even better though, he brought his parents back to an active Faith life. He was a regular teen, with friends and a joy for life. When he developed a painful form of leukemia, he bore it with patience and peace. Appropriately, the miracle approved for his beatification was the healing of another young boy, in Brazil, after prayers to Venerable Carlo. Soon he will be Blessed Carlo.

From Women of Grace:

According to The Catholic Miscellany, the newspaper for the diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, Carlo Acutis was only 15 years-old when he researched and compiled the “Vatican International Exhibition of the Eucharistic Miracles of the World” from a collection of 140 officially recognized Eucharistic miracles. Carlos’ mother, Antonia Salzano Acutis, who is a curator at the Pontifical Academy Coltorum Martyrum in Rome, helped him in the project.

Carlos died in 2006 from an aggressive type of leukemia, but is remembered as being a pleasant and thoughtful boy who had a variety of interest. His strong faith manifested itself in daily Mass and in the way he defended the moral teachings of the Church whenever they were contested in school.

In the book, The Eucharist: My Road to Heaven: A Biography of Carlo Acutis, author Nicola Gori calls him a “teen of our times.”

“He tried hard in school, with his friends, [and] he loved computers.  At the same time he was a great friend of Jesus Christ, he was a daily communicant and he trusted in the Virgin Mary.  Succumbing to leukemia at the age of 15, he offered his life for the Pope and for the Church.”

In the book, his mother recalls how, as a little boy, especially after receiving his First Communion, Carlos “never missed his daily appointment with the Holy Mass and the Rosary, followed by a moment of Eucharistic adoration.”

She remembers how he offered his sufferings for the Pope and the Church as his young life was coming to an end.

Surely the heroism with which he faced his illness and death has convinced many that he was truly somebody special,” she said. “When the doctor that was treating him asked him if he was suffering a lot, Carlo answered: ‘There are people who suffer much more than me!’”

Carlos’ exhibit is currently on tour throughout the world and is sponsored on U.S. campuses by The Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to restoring the Catholic identity to the nation’s Catholic institutions of higher learning.

“He is still spreading his faith and devotion universally as a youthful eucharistic evangelizer, especially helping those who are skeptical about the sacramental realities of our faith,” writes Fr. Stanley Smolenski for the Miscellany. PS His body is still incorrupt after 14 years in the grave.

Posted by: Fr Chris | May 10, 2020

Samaritan Woman and Christ our God

42 best Cristo e la Samaritana images on Pinterest | Woman, Orthodox icons and Jesus christ

The Sundays of Pascha are all connected with the theme of baptism, and belief in Christ as Son of God. These Sundays were set up for the instruction of the newly baptized adult converts who were received into the Church at Easter.   

The fifth paschal Sunday is given over to the texts of the Samaritan Woman, she who boldly bantered with a certain Jewish rabbi on a hot afternoon by the well of Shechem. Afterward, she led her townspeople to faith in Him as the Messiah. Known in Greek as Photina and Slavonic as Svetlana, or “Light”, the Samaritan Woman moves from being a woman living in shame (and thus her appearance all alone at the well during the hottest part of the day), to a vibrant missionary. Recounted in John 4, this lively exchange between the woman and the Son of God is one of the most important conversations in the New Testament.

The theme of water from last Sunday – the cure at the pool of Bethesda – and Mid-Pentecost Wednesday – the cry of Jesus to all to come to Him to drink of immortal water – is continued today with the water at Jacob’s Well. Here, the famous encounter takes place between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. The Woman who sought more than water, as we know by her ready questions and challenges to the Jewish teacher, and she finds fulfillment far beyond her imagination.

Jacob’s Well « See The Holy Land

Photina lives in shame, yet when Jesus engages her in the talk which will save her soul, she emerges as a bright soul who is searching, though she does not realize it, for Truth. And in Jesus she will find all that she needs! In fact, she leaves the water pot at the well, because the message she proclaims to the other Samaritans is so important. When Jesus exposed her sins, she replies that he must be a prophet, and we can tell that there is hope in her heart. Because of this hope, and Jesus’ loving but firm manner, she realizes that He is more than any prophet. In icons the well is generally depicted like a baptismal font, or in the shape of a Greek cross, as a sign of the salvation that came to that place. The actual Jacob’s Well today has an ancient baptismal font placed directly in front of it.

Jacob’s Well — from Jacob to Jesus | Ferrell's Travel Blog

Posted by: Fr Chris | May 4, 2020

A Message to Grads in a Difficult Time

Having gone into the former Communist countries I can say that Mr. Dreher really hits the mark. The people of faith weathered the dictatorships and the rocky transitions to democracy the best. Their faith carried them through 50 years or more of constant, unrelenting, grim times, and in the end they are here, and the dictatorships are gone. I encourage you to share this, especially with high school and college graduates who are nervous about the years ahead.


by Rod Dreher of the Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2020

A young man once confided to a religious elder his anxiety over the hard times in which he was living. This is natural, said the elder, but such things are beyond our control: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

In fact, the anxious youngster was no man, but a hobbit, Frodo Baggins; the religious elder was the wizard Gandalf, to whom Frodo disclosed his fear on the road to the evil realm of Mordor. These heroes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” saga came up in a conversation I had two years ago in Prague with Kamila Bendova, a key figure among Czech anticommunist dissidents.

Kamila Bendova

Despite constant pressure from the secret police, Ms. Bendova and her late husband Vaclav Benda had raised their children under totalitarianism, teaching them all to be faithful Catholics. How had they done it? She talked about the many books she read to the kids. Tolkien was a particular treasure. Why Tolkien? I asked. “Because we knew that Mordor was real,” she replied.

The Mordor into which you all are now graduating has no doomed mountains or political prisons, no orcs or secret police. But thanks to the pandemic, it is still a frightening place. You did not ask to live in these times—but here you are. What to do?

The courage and vision of ordinary people who faced down Soviet communism can light the way forward through the darkness. Traveling last year in countries once under the Soviet yoke, I met many people who lived in defiance of their dark age. None of these heroes expected communism to collapse in their lifetime. They resisted in part because their Christian faith taught them to receive suffering as an opportunity to demonstrate love for God and others.

The late Silvester Krcmery was a Slovak physician who helped to organize the underground Catholic Church in his country. Thrown into prison in 1951 and tortured, Krcmery resolved never to pity himself but to help others and offer his suffering for God’s glory.

As a college student in the 1980s, the Slovak historian Jan Simulcik was inspired by the heroism of Krcmery’s generation to join a Catholic resistance cell. Standing inside what was once a samizdat printing room in Bratislava, accessible only by a secret passage under a house, Mr. Simulcik told me, “When you see someone acting courageously, you will act courageously as well.”

He felt the miracle of God's warm embrace in a frozen gulag | God Reports
Alexander Ogorodnikov

In Moscow in the 1970s, Alexander Ogorodnikov scandalized his communist parents by converting to Orthodox Christianity and becoming a youth leader. He too was imprisoned and tortured. When I met him last fall, the aging dissident told me that he believed God had a mission for him which gave him the inner resources to endure horrific persecution.

In our interview in Warsaw, Solidarity trade union activist Zofia Romaszewska, 79, exhorted young people today to fight despair and oppression by forming strong small communities and discovering the joy of, well, solidarity. “What you must never do is surrender!” she said.

Your mission is not their mission, exactly. But the Class of 2020, believers and nonbelievers alike, does have a mission. It is to be a source of light in a world suddenly shrouded by the pandemic’s darkness, a source of warmth in a world struck cold by the hand of fear. So ask yourself a radical question called forth by these Christian dissidents’ labors of love: What if the trying times you have been given are not a curse but a blessing—indeed, a severe mercy?

“Those who pray do more for the world than those who fight. If the world is going from bad to worse, it is because there are more battles than prayers.” – Juan D. Cortes

There have been many seemingly hopeless occasions when prayer to the Mother of God led to surprising results. The President of Poland went to Czestochowa to implore the protection of the Mother of God for deliverance from the coronavirus pandemic. President Andrzej Duda donated a special rosary to the shrine and prayed in front of the icon in March. In doing so, he follows a long tradition of the Church. The oldest known prayer to Mary is the Sub Tuum Praesidium/ Under Your Protection, which late 1st-century Christians probably prayed for the intercession of their Savior’s Mother before His Throne.

The Black Madonna of Czestochowa

One of the most popular feasts of Our Lady in the Christian East is the Holy Protection, or Intercession, on October 1. The city of Constantinople was under siege and in danger of falling to a pagan army from Rus’. The patriarch led the Akathist in honor of the Mother of God in the Blachernae Church which was said to contain the belt of the Virgin Mary. Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ’s Sake, a Slav, and his Greek disciple Saint Epiphanius saw the Theotokos appear in the dome, surrounded by the heavenly court of saints and angels, and extending her veil over the congregation. At that moment, the city was saved.

In 1683, the largest Muslim army ever assembled marched across Europe to lay siege to Vienna. The Ottomans sent 200,000 troops on jihad, having conquered the Balkans, Hungary, and Transylvania. If the Austrian capital fell, the way would be clear to invade Germany, Bohemia, Slovakia, and Poland. The Viennese were starving, outmanned, outgunned, and the Turks were tunneling under their walls. Christians were butchered as the army had marched north and 30,000 captives were slain in the Turkish camp. The only hope for Vienna and Europe was the Polish and German army under King Jan III Sobieski. After sixty days of siege, the Viennese paraded the famous Weeping Icon of Our Lady of Mariapocs around the walls, and held non-stop prayer in the cathedral, petitioning Our Lady to save their city. On September 11, the prayers concluded. The allied army was camped on Kahlenberg hill, ready to strike, lighting fires to give the desperate Viennese hope.

Pötscher Madonna | (from Máriapócs in Hungary) | Walter A. Aue | Flickr
The Weeping Mother of God of Mariapocs in St Stephen Cathedral, Vienna

On September 12, 1683, the Turks struck. But having attended Mass, the allied army swept down with Poland’s famous winged hussars striking the Turkish forces. The Ottoman army was crushed, and the slow deliverance of occupied Europe began as the Turks were steadily pushed back by 1911. To this day the Viennese credit Our Lady with saving them, and the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary was established for September 12 by Pope Innocent IX.

Pilgrim Virgin Statue to be on display at local churches
Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima

In 1945 the Allies partitioned both Germany and Austria. Like Berlin, Vienna was partitioned. The Soviets held eastern Austria, which bordered West Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. They could easily have held onto Austria and eastern Vienna and created yet another “People’s Democracy” in the heart of Europe. But they didn’t. Why?

File:Austria Occupation Zones 1945-55.svg - Wikimedia Commons

After three years, the Austrians wanted the Soviets out. The eastern zone was the poorest, and also the most dangerous for anyone who was anti-communist. An Austrian priest, Petrus Pavlicek, was praying at the Marian shrine of Mariazell, when he heard a voice say, “Do as I say, and you will have peace.” In 1947 he began a Rosary Crusade, and asked that 10% of Austrians, or 700,000 people, sign up to pledge a daily Rosary for the Soviets to leave and for Austria to be restored. A pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried to every town and village to encourage a perpetual recitation of the Rosary. Thousands went to Confession and received Holy Communion all over the country. Special events were held every year on September 12. The Prime Ministers attended every special Marian event asking Mary’s intercession for Austria’s freedom. On October 26, 1955, in the month of the Holy Rosary, the Soviets pulled out, leaving a united and neutral Austria behind. It is the only time that the USSR gave up territory peacefully and unilaterally.

Mary’s intercession has defeated armies. Devotion to her has brought about massive conversions and return to the sacraments. Here we are, starved of worshipping together, deprived of Holy Communion, and some of those dying from this coronavirus are not even anointed. Surely the Theotokos, the Holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, can intercede for us now in this crisis?


Pope Francis has composed this prayer to the Virgin Mary, and it concludes with the oldest known prayer to the Mother of God, the early second-century Sub Tuum Praesidium, We hasten to your protection.

O Mary, you always shine on our path as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need, and we are sure you will provide so that, as in Cana of Galilee, we may return to joy and to feasting after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus, who has taken upon himself our sufferings and carried our sorrows to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.

Under your protection, we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not disdain the entreaties of we who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Salus Populi Romani - Wikipedia
“Salvation of the Roman People”, the 6th century icon which Pope Francis prayed in front of for deliverance from the coronavirus
Posted by: Fr Chris | April 19, 2020


The Assurance of Thomas | Believing not Doubting | A Reader's ...

Jesus comes to the Upper Room to visit the apostles and instruct them. Thomas is not there, as he is presumably out on errands. He cannot bring himself to believe, despite the apostles’ urging. He says those fateful words, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Christ knew all things, as we often saw in the Gospels. Still He comes to Thomas, and confirms his faith by physically being there. Thomas is thus able to cry out, “My Lord and my God.” Right now Jesus cannot come to us in the Holy Eucharist due to Covid-19. But He can come to us in our hearts, through what we read, what we watch, how we pray. God remains close to us at all times, knocking on the doors of our hearts.

It is so hard for us to be away from Holy Communion, but remember those who suffered in the underground in Protestant Britain for over 200 years; in communist nations of both Europe and still today in Asia and Cuba; in regions where a priest can only come a few times a year. They remained faithful to the Church, they kept up their prayer life, and in the end were greatly rewarded with strong faith and many blessings. On this joyful day of faith, let us keep our faith that, no matter what, Christ our God is with  us.


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”.

Today is the eighth day after Pascha. It is the eighth day of the Resurrection, and it is the commemoration of the appearance of the Risen Lord to the apostles and most especially, Thomas, who doubted the testimony of the apostles and holy women and insisted he would not believe unless “I put my fingers into the wounds” of Jesus’ body.  Eight is significant in Christian theology, as it signifies more than completion, more than fullness – it is the Kingdom of God and the life of the world to come. This is the eighth day of Pascha, and Thomas now understands exactly Who Jesus, and that His Kingdom is beyond earthly time!

From about 70 AD the Christians called the day of Pascha the eighth day.  While seven denotes fullness (thus there are seven Holy Mysteries/ Sacraments), eight means more than completion, more than fullness.

Eight means the Kingdom of God and the new life to come, the new time of kairos, or sacred time. In these forty days, the Church goes beyond normal time, or chronos, and celebrates the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

This is because Christ was raised from the dead on the first day of the week (Sunday). This day quickly came to be experienced as the first day of the new creation, the day which has no evening, the day of the Kingdom, the everlasting day of God.

His death on the cross has ‘put death to death’, since “death took in a body and encountered God,” as St John Chrysostom says in his exquisite Paschal Homily. Death itself is abolished, and Christ has become the first fruits of the new creation.

We can preach and celebrate all of this not because it happened once upon a time, but because it has been accomplished for all time. Thus, when the Church speaks of Pascha, the resurrection of Christ, it is always in the present tense. “Christ is Risen!” the priest cries out. From the nave of the church the people, the royal priesthood, joyously respond, “Indeed He is Risen!”

Thinking Anew: Lessons in faith from Doubting Thomas
Posted by: Fr Chris | April 12, 2020

Christus Resurrexit! Christos Voskrese!

The joy of the Resurrection should always permeate our life. In Eastern Europe, the word for Sunday is often “Resurrection Day” and in the Byzantine Rite, every Sunday is considered a continuation of the Resurrection of Christ. The verse “risen from the dead” appears several times.

This Month: The First 300 Years of Christianity

This year the Resurrection comes at a time of worry, concern, even despair. Many people are mourning loved ones who were snatched away by the coronavirus. Sure, a lot of them had underlying health conditions – I could easily be one of them given my medical history! Nevertheless, they died before they were supposed to die, as most of them were managing quite well. Now they are gone, taken from us by a disease that does not allow for big funerals, hugs, handshakes, all the things that comfort the mourners.

It is Pascha, Easter Sunday, the Resurrection Day, no matter what is happening, no matter how oppressive a government is, no matter what the death rate is, no matter if people want to observe this feast or not. Stores work hard at commercializing holidays, but even those who focus on the Easter Bunny and candy know that Christians are remembering that Jesus rose from the dead.

As for those who recover, a long time on a ventilator can lead to cognitive issues, and functioning issues. Patients may have trouble thinking clearly, walking, speaking. For other survivors there is serious lung damage. And for all survivors, there really is question as to whether or not there are any other long-term effects. Because the world is so united by communications – despite the efforts of China’s Great Wall blocking off much of the internet, and Russia’s threat to do the same – people in New Delhi; Johannesburg in South Africa; in Santiago, Chile; New York City; Moscow; Berlin; and Anchorage, Alaska all know what’s happening in these countries. China has given us a terrible legacy, as caring for public health does not meet the standards for a stable society that never rocks the boat.

Christ fulfills His promise – He was buried on Friday, lay in the tomb on Saturday, and rose with the dawn. We are all in a dark period now of anxiety, worry, even boredom. Domestic violence is on the rise where people are in lockdown, and the millions out of work worry about their future. The numbers of sick people continue to rise as the virus makes it way through the nation and other countries.

But … CHRIST IS INDEED RISEN! Not WAS risen but IS risen. His triumph over death means that the doors of heaven are opened for me, for you reading this, for all of us. Yes, we face many challenges – every generation since the Fall of Adam and Eve has faced its own challenges! But in the midst of a sinful, worried, stressed world, CHRIST IS RISEN! He IS my life, He IS my hope, He IS my love, He IS in the end, all that I should desire.

Returning of the written off #5*invited only * (Page 42) | 3560437 | Chat Clubs Forum

An anonymous Greek wrote in the 400s:

It is the day on which the heavens were opened at the rising of Christ the Lord, and on which, for the good of the human race, the flourishing and fruitful tree of the resurrection sent forth branches all over the world, as if the world were a garden. It is the day on which the lilies of the newly enlightened sprang up, the streams that sustained sinners ran dry, the strength of the devil drained away, and demonic armies were scattered.

This, then, is the day which the Lord has made: let us keep it with gladness and rejoicing by the grace of Christ. By his resurrection he has illuminated the whole world, which was in darkness and in the shadow of death. May glory and adoration be given to him together with the Father and the Holy Spirit for endless ages. Amen.

Ukrainian Easter
Posted by: Fr Chris | April 10, 2020


After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.”

In all convents of Mother Teresa’s missionaries of Charity, there is a life-sized crucifix in the chapel next to the altar with these two words painted on the wall under Jesus’ right arm. I thirst.

Like Streams in the Desert — Because the World is Thirsty | MercySong

John tells us that the soldiers stick a long branch of hyssop into a jug of sour wine, or the word vinegar, and so we often interpret that as a bad joke from these rough men – the prisoner thirsts, let’s give him vinegar. Actually this was basically the Roman soldiers’ Gatorade when serving in a hot climate like Jerusalem, and they put it up to His broken lips. It is perhaps an act of mercy on the part of those who really didn’t understand everything that was going on in terms of the words Jesus has already said, but who are most definitely aware of the drama and are being caught up in it more and more. Or it is an intervention by someone hoping to revive Jesus with this vinegary wine, to drag out Jesus life a bit longer so as to see if God was going to intervene or the Prophet Elijah was going to appear.

Even the most ignorant soldier on duty that day knew these things:

  • The priests have come out to a public execution site on the biggest Jewish holy day to watch this man suffer and die, and they have mocked him and cursed him;
  • there is a large crowd that is simply watching – no words from those people at all are recorded, but probably a steady stream of crying and sad sounds;
  • darkness, wind, sand, the sun blocked out over the holy city;
  • no matter their religion they probably are frightened and worried – will they be caught in a massacre, is there going to be rioting, why this crowd that all the evangelists say just watches,
  • why are the priests and elders coming out when even the Roman soldiers know that Jewish purity laws should be keeping them in the temple on Passover;

My God My God why hast thou forsaken me, and the gospels say that Jesus screamed that one out. Prisoners on crosses screamed all the time, but not a scream in Aramaic to the Jewish God, quoting a prayer that suddenly got that big crowd moving around because the people were trying to interpret the words to one another.

No matter how tough these soldiers are, they are all getting affected by this tragedy and the obvious religious elements that are present, as we know from the conversion of their leader which will happen when Jesus dies.

‘I Thirst for You!’ – Renewal Ministries

And so Jesus says I thirst, and they respond with the hyssop branch, unconsciously recognizing Jesus as the Paschal Lamb. Hyssop: a hyssop branch was used in Exodus to sprinkle the blood of the first Passover lambs on the doorways of the Israelites to shield them from the avenging angel of death, it was used in the temple by the priests for sprinkling of water, and it is symbolically used still today in Roman Catholic parishes with the large aspergillum which the priest puts into holy water and blesses the people with at the beginning of Mass. You see, no detail is too small in the Passion narrative, or in any of the gospels. The soldiers didn’t use any kind of stick, or even a spear.

They use a branch from the plant that is filled with such symbolism to assuage the thirst of this, the eternal Passover Lamb Who saves us from the death of sin and opens the doors of paradise to the thief, to the souls trapped in Sheol, and to the souls of those who believe in Him and do His will.

Introduction To Sociology 10:10am - The Collaboratory

When Terri Schiavo was killed by her husband and the complicit judges in Florida at the same time that our venerable pope Saint John Paul II was dying 14 years ago this month, she died of thirst. Remember the children who tried to take water to the door of the nursing home where she was dying? Because everyone in America, everyone with a radio anywhere on the planet heard this story of how her husband refused to let her have even the little sponge that is put on the lips of the dying, here in this wealthy land of so many freedoms. And people around the world said, what is wrong with those Americans? What indeed. The soldiers, who nailed Jesus to this cross, who had no compunction about doing their bloody duty, have compassion on him. 

Ever been truly thirsty? We live in a desert, and it is easy to forget that in the city because we have trees and gardens and flowers and so on, but already in the afternoons it can be pretty hot out and if we don’t keep water with us, we can get thirsty. Now consider what it is like here in March and April when we get those high winds that blow all afternoon, and to be naked, with no covering, so that that same wind is drying out our skin and taking away every drop of moisture.

I thirst.


He most certainly was thirsty. This is why the flow of the blood and water is seen as a miracle as we will hear next Friday night. He could not have had much water left inside him at this point. In psalm 22 that he had begun to quote, it says, “My throat is as dry as a pot shard and My tongue sticks to My jaws.”

And he also says this word to fulfill Scripture: Ps 69:22 “and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

He remains faithful to the will of the Father. Even what the prophets wrote about me are fulfilled as I fulfill my life to the Father.

His anguished suffering is a mission, remember, a mission to save human souls and to restore the balance of broken creation. He came to fulfill the will of the Father, the Father whose will you and I promise to fulfill every single time we recite Jesus’ prayer, Our Father. We are invited to be obedient children, obedient brothers and sisters, thankful souls rescued from the horrors of a life ruled by Satan. He is tormented by thirst – my tongue sticks to my jaws  – but he is going to give us living water soon. He said in life to his followers walking those dusty desert roads in the hot sun, in the courtyard of the Temple in John 7:37-38 “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, “out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water”.

Let us listen to the words of two other Terris, Teresa of Lisieux, and Teresa of Calcutta:

Crucifix Stickers | Zazzle

: “He has so much need of love and He is so thirsty, that He expects from us the drop of water that must refresh Him! Ah! Let us give without counting the cost.”

 As long as you do not know in a very intimate way that Jesus is thirsty for you, it will be impossible for you to know who He wants to be for you, nor who He wants you to be for Him.

St Therese was loved and is loved for her Little Way – the smallest things can be moments of absolute love for God. Consider though her words: He has so much need of love” – really! God needs my love! Why? Because He is Absolute Love, He is indeed thirsty, thirsting for love. God does not thirst for animal sacrifices; He tells the people in Isaiah 1 that He wants converted hearts, and that is the first reading for Lent in the Byzantine rite at the Sixth Hour. God needs our love –He who made me, wants me to love Him. Let us give to Him without counting the cost – oh let us do so!

Mother Teresa writes that we must end God’s thirst. She was asked when did you first feel Jesus’ thirst? She said, “My First Communion.”  The Sister asked, “But as an experience?”

And Mother Teresa answered, “It is reality – not just an experience that is felt, but reality.”

He thirsts for souls – first our own individual and then those which we will lead to Him. He thirsts, and He ends all thirst. Water will come suddenly upon those who see Jesus naked, wounded, dried out, bloody, worn and ragged, it will come to us next Friday night from a source unbelievable. Tonight walking these stations, tonight going to bed, tomorrow getting up, and every day thereafter, Jesus has a thirst that is for me, and for the world. It is in our ability, thru the waters of baptism, to bring souls to him and end his thirst.

But we must feel it as Mother Teresa says, we must feel it as a reality that will drive us forward to Him and inward into His all-loving and all-forgiving Heart.

Let us give back to Him without counting the cost.

Truly This Was The Son Of God 4087 | Mark 15:39 When the cen… | Flickr





Posted by: Fr Chris | April 9, 2020

Eucharist, Priesthood, and Me

Today is Holy Thursday – we commemorate two major Sacraments: the Most Holy Eucharist, instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper, and priesthood. No priests = No Holy Communion.

We live now in a time where the vast majority of Catholics are cut off from the Eucharist, on this the day on which it was first created by Christ. For many, this is the first time in their lives that churches were closed, and that Mass/ Divine Liturgy disappeared. Early Christians risked their lives to attend Sunday Mass/ Liturgy in the Roman and Persian Empires when persecutions raged. They told their persecutors that they could not live without the Holy Eucharist. Deacons and designated laity would carry the Holy Eucharist to their homes so that they could partake of It during the week, or deliver It to the sick and prisoners. According to Pope Damasus, Saint Tarcisius was killed by pagans in the last great persecution while carrying Holy Communion – he died rather than give up that most precious treasure, and was buried in the Roman catacombs.

Tarsitius -figure in the altar of the church of S_ Lorenzo fuori le mura in Rome

St Tarcisius, still holding the Eucharist in Its container 

When we say that the Church has gone into the catacombs, it is a reference to the belief that the Roman Christians worshipped in the underground cemeteries that lie beneath Rome’s streets. Those of us in North America and Western Europe have lived with access to Holy Communion whenever we want. And pretty much everyone who is at a Mass/ Liturgy will receive Communion, even though many don’t believe it is the Body and Blood of Christ but just a symbol. For those who thought it was just a nice thing to do and for those who knew that receiving Communion means receiving Christ Himself, being deprived of this Sacrament is a great sorrow. And maybe those who thought it’s just a symbol now realize after being deprived of It, that there is indeed something more.

When Jesus said, Eat, this is My Body, the word He used was basar. That means he said to the astonished disciples: Eat of this, My entire Personhood, Everything that I AM. Some symbol! Christ gives us not only His Body, but all that He Is, Divine and Human, together in one unique Person. The apostles must have been stunned. Now they understood His teaching from John’s Gospel, chapter 6.

And His Blood? That is the chalice sealing the new covenant with us. The Old Covenant was sealed in the blood of the animals sacrificed by Abram, on the day that God called him Abraham. Now it is sealed in Jesus’ Blood, the Blood on the Crucifix, the Blood He received from the Virgin Mary, the Blood that gushed out from His pierced Heart when the centurion tore open His side with a lance. This holy Blood, this Most Precious Blood, is the life-giving Blood of the Lord.

mass rocks | Roaringwater Journal

Guards come to warn the priest and congregation during Penal Times in Ireland of approaching soldiers

English and Welsh Catholics were persecuted for centuries: the Mass was banned, devotions forbidden, relics and statues burned. Yet when emancipation came in 1850 there was a flourishing Catholic community still centered on the Mass. The same held true for Scottish Catholics in the  Highlands, and the Irish suffering under the Penal Laws.

Fr John's Trip to Vietnam: La Vang February 18, 2011

Our Lady consoles Vietnamese Catholics at La Vang, 1798

Japanese Catholics lived without a priesthood or Eucharist for 200 years, but kept the Faith intact. Catholics scattered around the USSR might have Holy Communion only a couple of times a year, but remained firm in their Faith. Prisoners in the Soviet Gulag doing forced labor would fast all day long so as to receive a tiny piece of the Consecrated Bread from a priest-prisoner in the evening, Bread consecrated when the priest offered Mass lying flat on his bunk, or in a corner of a mine lit by one lone candle. The Catholics of China suffered imprisonment, slave labor, torture and exile, but did not give up. They may very well be going that route once again. People in all of these places took enormous risks in sheltering a priest, but they did so out of hunger for Jesus.

Jānis Mendriks - Wikipedia

Grave of Father Janis Mendriks, killed at Vorkuta in 1953 while ministering to Gulag prisoners

Perhaps this forced abstinence will help people to understand the power of what happens on Catholic and Orthodox altars. I hope so – most American Catholics don’t go to church regularly, and many of those who do, fail to accept that this is JESUS HIMSELF Who descends into the gifts on every altar.

An Icon of the Kingdom of God: The Integrated Expression of all the Liturgical Arts – Part 12 ...

He pours out Himself constantly, be it pope, patriarch, or parish priest who recites those words: Take, eat This is My Body; Drink of this, all of you. Christ Jesus WANTS us. Christ DESIRES us. Christ wishes to COME and LIVE within us.

May our hunger for Him increase, our love for Him never die, our connection to His Church remain firm, no matter what. And may this pandemic be brought to an end, so that those who have been patiently waiting for Him will have this opportunity once again.


Posted by: Fr Chris | April 4, 2020

Lazarus Saturday

Jericho | Pilgrim Pat

Today we commemorate Jesus’ saving action in one of His most impressive displays of divine power, the raising of a dead man after four days in the tomb. This obviously foreshadows Christ’s Resurrection after three days in His tomb. The raising of Lazarus happens right before Palm Sunday, when Jesus enters the holy city riding a donkey.


IcSMML - Sts. Mary, Martha and Lazarus Orthodox Icon - St Joseph School for Boys Bookstore

Often we emphasize Christ’s power. Today I want to point out something different. We all know Mary and Martha from the famous episode in which Martha is “busy with all the details of hospitality” while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, taking in His words. In that episode, Mary is praised by Jesus for “taking the better part,” that is, being attentive to the words coming from the mouth of Him Who is the Eternal Word.

11 best Heilige Martha / Icons images on Pinterest | Catholic saints, Religious icons and Saint ...

But notice today that it is Martha who can make the great leap of faith! She praises Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, the true Lord of lords. Mary on the other hand reproaches Jesus: had You been here, my brother would not have died. So who listened best on that day in Bethany? Mary sitting at His feet, or Martha going in and out of the kitchen?

How well do I listen to these ancient stories? Do I apply their message to my own life? Or do I just read through them to finish them? Martha prostrates before Jesus, worshipping Him. She knows He is God, even in her mourning. She recognizes Who He is. 

Who do I say Jesus is? In this time of epidemics, death tolls, deciding in hospitals who will live and die, where is God? He is here, always next to us, always speaking to us, and we remain valuable and precious in His sight.

Sheol and Lent – The Catholic Physicist

And Lazarus? His soul had spent four days in Sheol, announcing to the all the souls of the just, from the time of  Adam and Eve down to his own day, that the Messiah was very close, and that their time of waiting was coming to an end. Soon, soon, these souls waitig for thousands of years, would be able to enter into the presence of Almighty God.

Am I ready to do so? Am I ready to die? One thing about epidemics – they force us to think the hard thoughts. By all means, have a will and last testament and funeral plans drawn up. But above all, let us be ready for Christ tomorrow, in Holy Week, and on  Pascha. Let us walk with Him, and remember that He walks with us always.


Byzantine Rite

Roman Rite

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