Orthodox Community of the Archangel Gabriel, Glasgow published a note.
2 days ago
Scripture and TraditionThe Orthodox Church throughout the ages has maintained a continuity of faith and love with the apostolic community which was founded by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy believes that she has preserved and taught the historic Christian Faith, free from error and distortion, from the time of the Apostles.
She also believes that there is nothing in the body of her teachings which is contrary to truth or which inhibits real union with God. The air of antiquity and timelessness which often characterizes Eastern Christianity is an expression of her desire to remain loyal to the authentic Christian Faith.
Orthodoxy believes that the Christian Faith and the Church are inseparable. It is impossible to know Christ, to share in the life of the Holy Trinity, or to be considered a Christian, apart from the Church. It is in the Church that the Christian Faith is proclaimed and maintained. It is through the Church that an individual is nurtured in the Faith.
God is the source of faith in the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy believes that God has revealed Himself to us, most especially in the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom we know as the Son of God. This Revelation of God, His love, and His purpose, is constantly made manifest and contemporary in the life of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Orthodox Faith does not begin with mankind's religious speculations, nor with the so-called "proofs" for the existence of God, nor with a human quest for the Divine. The origin of the Orthodox Christian Faith is the Self-disclosure of God. Each day, the Church's Morning Prayer affirms and reminds us of this by declaring, "God is the Lord and He has revealed Himself to us.” While the inner Being of God always remains unknown and unapproachable, God has manifested Himself to us; and the Church has experienced Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which is central to the Orthodox Faith, is not a result of pious speculation, but of the overwhelming experience of God. The doctrine affirms that there is only One God, in whom there are three distinct Persons. In other words, when we encounter the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, we are truly experiencing contact with God.
While the Holy Trinity is a mystery which can never be fully comprehended, Orthodoxy believes that we can truly participate in the Trinity through the life of the Church, especially through our celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments, as well as the non-sacramental services.
Incarnation of Jesus Christ
Together with the belief in the Holy Trinity, the doctrine of the Incarnation occupies a central position in the teaching of the Orthodox Church. According to Orthodox Faith, Jesus is much more than a pious man or a profound teacher of morality. He is the "Son of God who became the Son of Man.” The doctrine of the Incarnation is an expression of the Church's experience of Christ. In Him, divinity is united with humanity without the destruction of either reality. Jesus Christ is truly God who shares in the same reality as the Father and the Spirit. Moreover, He is truly man who shares with us all that is human. The Church believes that, as the unique God-man, Jesus Christ has restored humanity to fellowship with God.
By manifesting the Holy Trinity, by teaching the meaning of authentic human life, and by conquering the powers of sin and death through His Resurrection, Christ is the supreme expression of the love of God the Father, for His people, made present in every age and in every place by the Holy Spirit through the life of the Church. The great Fathers of the Church summarized the ministry of Christ in the bold affirmation, "God became what we are so that we may become what He is.”
The Holy Scriptures are highly regarded by the Orthodox Church. Their importance is expressed in the fact that a portion of the Bible is read at every service of Worship. The Orthodox Church, which sees itself as the guardian and interpreter of the Scriptures, believes that the books of the Bible are a valuable witness to God's revelation.
The Old Testament is a collection of forty-nine books of various literary styles which expresses God's revelation to the ancient Israelites. The Orthodox Church regards the Old Testament as a preparation for the coming of Christ and believes that it should be read in light of His revelation.
The New Testament is centered upon the person and work of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early Church.
The four Gospels are an account of Christ's life and teaching, centering upon His Death and Resurrection.
The twenty-one epistles and the Acts of the Apostles are devoted to the Christian life and the development of the early Church. The Book of Revelation is a very symbolic text which looks to the return of Christ.
The New Testament, especially the Gospels, is very important to Orthodoxy because here is found a written witness to the perfect revelation of God in the Incarnation of the Son of God, in the person of Jesus Christ.
While the Bible is treasured as a valuable written record of God's revelation, it does not contain wholly that revelation. The Bible is viewed as only one expression of God's revelation in the ongoing life of His people. Scripture is part of the treasure of Faith which is known as Tradition.
Tradition means that which is "handed on" from one generation to another. In addition to the witness of Faith in the Scripture, the Orthodox Christian Faith is celebrated in the Eucharist; taught by the Fathers; glorified by the Saints; expressed in prayers, hymns, and icons; defended by the seven Ecumenical Councils; embodied in the Nicene Creed; manifested in social concern; and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is lived in every local Orthodox parish.
The life of the Holy Trinity is manifested in every aspect of the Church's life. Finally, the Church, as a whole, is the guardian of the authentic Christian Faith which bears witness to that Revelation.
Councils and Creed
As Orthodoxy has avoided any tendency to restrict the vision of God's revelation to only one avenue of its life, the Church has also avoided the systematic or extensive definition of its Faith.
Orthodoxy affirms that the Christian Faith expresses and points to the gracious and mysterious relationship between God and humanity. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, not to institute a new philosophy or code of conduct, but primarily to bestow upon us "new life" in the Holy Trinity. This reality, which is manifest in the Church, cannot be wholly captured in language, formulas, or definitions.
The content of the Faith is not opposed to reason, but is often beyond the bounds of reason, as are many of the important realities of life. Orthodoxy recognises the supreme majesty of God, as well as the limitations of the human mind. The Church is content to accept the element of mystery in its approach to God.
Only when the fundamental truths of the Faith are seriously threatened by false teachings does the Church act to define dogmatically an article of faith. For this reason, the decisions of the seven Ecumenical Councils of the ancient undivided Church are highly respected. The Councils were synods to which bishops from throughout the Christian world gathered to determine the true faith. The Ecumenical Councils did not create new doctrines but proclaimed, in a particular place and a particular time, what the Church has always believed and taught.
The Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the Councils of Nicaea in 325 and of Constantinople in 381, has been recognised since then as the authoritative expression of the fundamental beliefs of the Orthodox Church.
The Creed is often referred to as the "Symbol of Faith." This description indicates that the Creed is not an analytical statement, but that it points to a reality greater than itself and to which it bears witness. For generations, the Creed has been the criterion of authentic Faith and the basis of Christian education. The Creed is recited at the time of Baptism and during every Divine Liturgy.
"I believe in One God, Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in One Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made.
For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became Man.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and He suffered and was buried.
On the third day He rose according to the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.
In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
I expect the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the age to come.
Amen." ... See MoreSee Less
Would you like to see all of Katherines work in one complete collection? Meet saints you know and saints you haven’t all together. She is creating icons based on these which Patreons can watch and online lessons coming soon. ... See MoreSee Less
The Holy SacramentsOne of the best-known prayers of the Orthodox Church speaks of the spirit of God being "present in all places and filling all things." This profound affirmation is basic to Orthodoxy's understanding of God and His relationship to the world. We believe that God is truly near to us. Although He cannot be seen, God is not detached from His creation. Through the persons of The Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit, God is present and active in our lives and in the creation about us. All our life and the creation of which we are an important part, points, to and reveals God.
There are special experiences in our corporate life as Orthodox Christians when the perception of God's presence and actions is heightened and celebrated. We call these events of the Church Sacraments. Traditionally, the Sacraments have been known as Mysteries in the Orthodox Church. This description emphasizes that in these special events of the Church, God discloses Himself through the prayers and actions of His people.
Not only do the Sacraments disclose and reveal God to us, but also they serve to make us receptive to God. All the Sacraments affect our personal relationship to God and to one another. The Holy Spirit works through the Sacraments. He leads us to Christ who unites us with the Father. By participating in the Sacraments, we grow closer to God and to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This process of deification, or theosis, as it is known by Orthodoxy, takes place not in isolation from others, but within the context of a believing community. Although the Sacraments are addressed to each of us by name, they are experiences which involve the entire Church.
The Sacraments of the Orthodox Church are composed of prayers, hymns, scripture lessons, gestures and processions. Many parts of the services date back to the time of the Apostles. The Orthodox Church has avoided reducing the Sacraments to a particular formula or action. Often, a whole series of sacred acts make up a Sacrament. Most of the Sacraments use a portion of the material of creation as an outward and visible sign of God's revelation. Water, oil, bread and wine are but a few of the many elements which the Orthodox Church employs in her Worship. The frequent use of the material of creation reminds us that matter is good and can become a medium of the Spirit. Most importantly, it affirms the central truth of the Orthodox Christian faith: that God became flesh in Jesus Christ and entered into the midst of creation thereby redirecting the cosmos toward its vocation to glorify its Creator.
The Holy Eucharist, which is known as the Divine Liturgy, is the central and most important worship experience of the Orthodox Church. Often referred to as the "Sacrament of Sacraments", it is the Church's celebration of the Death and Resurrection of Christ offered every Sunday and Holy day. All the other Sacraments of the Church lead toward and flow from the Eucharist, which is at the centre of the life of the Church.
The Sacrament of Baptism incorporates us into the Church, the Body of Christ, and is our introduction to the life of the Holy Trinity. Water is a natural symbol of cleansing and newness of life. Through the three-fold immersion in the waters of Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity, one dies to the old ways of sin and is born to a new life in Christ. Baptism is one's public identification with Christ Death and victorious Resurrection. Following the custom of the early Church, Orthodoxy encourages the baptism of infants. The Church believes that the Sacrament is bearing witness to the action of God who chooses a child to be an important member of His people. From the day of their baptism, children are expected to mature in the life of the Spirit, through their family and the Church. The Baptism of adults is practiced when there was no previous baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The Sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation) immediately follows baptism and is never delayed until a later age. As the ministry of Christ was enlivened by the Spirit, and the preaching of the Apostles strengthened by the Spirit, so is the life of each Orthodox Christian sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Chrismation, which is often referred to as one's personal Pentecost, is the Sacrament which imparts the Spirit in a special way.
In the Sacrament of Chrismation, the priest anoints the various parts of the body of the newly-baptised with Holy Oil saying: "The seal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit." The Holy Oil, which is blessed by the bishop, is a sign of consecration and strength. The Sacrament emphasizes the truths that not only is each person a valuable member of the Church, but also each one is blessed by the Spirit with certain gifts and talents. The anointing also reminds us that our bodies are valuable and are involved in the process of salvation.
The Sacraments of initiation always are concluded with the distribution of Holy Communion to the newly-baptised. Ideally, this takes place within the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. This practice reveals that Orthodoxy views children from their infancy as important members of the Church. There is never time when the young are not part of God's people.
As members of the Church, we have responsibilities to one another and, of course, to God. When we sin, our relationship to God and to others is distorted. Sin is ultimately alienation from God, from our fellow human beings, and from our own true self which is created in God's image and likeness.
Confession is the Sacrament through which our sins are forgiven, and our relationship to God and to others is restored and strengthened. Through the Sacrament, Christ our Lord continues to heal those broken in spirit and restore the Father's love to those who are lost. According to Orthodox teaching, the penitent confess to God and is forgiven by God. The priest is the sacramental witness who represents both Christ and His people. The priest is viewed not as a judge, but as a physician and guide. It is an ancient Orthodox practice for every Christian to have a spiritual father to whom one turns for spiritual advice and counsel. Confession can take place on any number of occasions. The frequency is left to the discretion of the individual. In the event of serious sin, however, confession is a necessary preparation for Holy Communion.
God is active in our lives. It is He who joins a man and a woman in a relationship of mutual love. The Sacrament of Marriage bears witness to His action. Through this Sacrament, a man and a woman are publicly joined as husband and wife. They enter into a new relationship with each other, God, and the Church. Since Marriage is not viewed as a legal contract, there are no vows in the Sacrament. According to Orthodox teachings, Marriage is not simply a social institution, it is an eternal vocation of the kingdom. A husband and a wife are called by the holy Spirit not only to live together but also to share their Christian life together so that each, with the aid of the other, may grow closer to God and become the persons they are meant to be. In the Orthodox Marriage Service, after the couple have been betrothed and exchanged rings, they are crowned with "crowns of glory and honour" signifying the establishment of a new family under God. Near the conclusion of the Service, the husband and wife drink from a common cup which is reminiscent of the wedding of Cana and which symbolised the sharing of the burdens and joys of their new life together.
The Holy Spirit preserved the continuity of the Church through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Through ordination, men who have been chosen from within the Church are set apart by the Church for special service to the Church. Each is called by God through His people to stand amid the community, as pastor and teacher, and as the representative of the parish before the Altar. Each is also a living icon of Christ among His people. According to Orthodox teaching, the process of ordination begins with the local congregation; but the bishop alone, who acts in the name of the universal Church, can complete the action. He does so with the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the imposition of his hands on the person being ordained.
Following the custom of the Apostolic Church, there are three major orders each of which requires a special ordination. These are Bishop, who is viewed as a successor of the Apostles, Priest and Deacon, who act in the name of the Bishop. Each order is distinguished by its pastoral responsibilities. Only a Bishop may ordain. Often, other titles and offices are associated with the three orders. The Orthodox Church permits men to marry before they are ordained. Since the sixth century, Bishops have been chosen from the celibate clergy.
Anointing of the Sick (Holy Unction)
When one is ill and in pain, this can very often be a time of life when one feels alone and isolated. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Holy Unction as it is also known, remind us that when we are in pain, either physical, emotional, or spiritual, Christ is present with us through the ministry of his Church. He is among us to offer strength to meet the challenges of life, and even the approach of death.
As with Chrismation, oil is also used in this Sacrament as a sign of God's presence, strength, and forgiveness. After the reading of seven epistle lessons, seven gospel lessons and the offering of seven prayers, which are all devoted to healing, the priest anoints the body with the Holy Oil. Orthodoxy does not view this Sacrament as available only to those who are near death. It is offered to all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit. The Church celebrates the Sacrament for all its members during Holy week on Holy Wednesday.
Other Sacraments and Blessings
The Orthodox Church has never formally determined a particular number of Sacraments. In addition to the Eucharist she accepts the above six Mysteries as major Sacraments because they involve the entire community and most importantly are closely related to the Eucharist. There are many other Blessings and Special Services which complete the major Sacraments, and which reflect the Church's presence throughout the lives of her people. ... See MoreSee Less
Special services and blessingsAt the centre of the life of the Church is the Holy Eucharist, which is the principal celebration of our faith and the means through which we participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity. The major Sacraments are closely related to the Eucharist and they bear witness to the continuing presence of Christ in the lives of His people.
Besides the Eucharist and the major Sacraments, the Orthodox Church has a number of Special Services and Blessings which are associated with the needs, events, and tasks of human life. In celebrating these various Services and Blessings, the Church is constantly bearing witness to the presence and action of God in our lives. Our God is one who loves us, cares for us, and is near to us. The liturgical Services and Blessings also serve to remind us that all of life is important, and that the many events and gifts of life can be directed toward God and receive their fulfilment in Him.
The Special Services are often referred to as Non-sacramental Services in the sense that they are events of community worship which are not usually counted among the major Sacraments. However, they clearly have a sacramental quality in the sense that they reveal the presence of the Holy Trinity. Many of these Services, such as the Funeral, the Blessing of Water, and the Entrance into Monastic Life, just to name a few, are very significant to the life of the Church. The various Blessings are brief ceremonies which are occasional and do not necessarily involve directly the entire parish community.
The Church blesses individuals, events such as trips, and objects such as icons, churches, flowers, fields, animals, and food. In so doing, the Church is not only expressing our thanks giving, but also affirming that no gift, event, or human responsibility is secular or detached from God. For the Orthodox Christian, all good things have God as their origin and goal. Nothing is outside of God's love and concern.
The death of a Christian not only affects the family, but also the entire Church, for we are all part of the Body of Christ. The Orthodox Funeral Service, which expresses this fact, is not to be seen primarily as an opportunity to extol, in a sentimental way, the virtues of an individual. Rather, the various prayers and hymns emphasize the harsh reality of death, as well as the victorious Resurrection of Christ through which the power of death is conquered. The Funeral Service comforts those who mourn; it is also the means through which the Church prays for one of its members who has died in the faith of Christ. Orthodoxy views the end of physical existence only as the termination of one stage of life. God's love is stronger than death, and the Resurrection of Christ bears witness to this power.
The Orthodox Funeral consists of three Services. First, there is a Vigil Service after death, which is usually conducted at the time of the wake. This service is called the Trisagion Service. The Church prays to Christ "to give rest with the Saints to the soul of Your servant where there is neither pain, grief, nor sighing but life everlasting." While the Church prays for the soul of the deceased, great respect is paid to the body.
Orthodoxy believes the body of the Christian is sacred since it was the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
The body will share also in the final restoration of all creation. The Funeral Service is continued at the Church, where the body is brought on the day of burial. After the Funeral Service, the congregation offers its Farewell to the deceased. The Trisagion Service is repeated at the graveside.
Death alters but does not destroy the bond of love and faith which exists among all the members of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that through our prayers, those "who have fallen asleep in the faith and the hope of the Resurrection" continue to have opportunity to grow closer to God. Therefore, the Church prays constantly for her members who have died in Christ. We place our trust in the love of God and the power of mutual love and forgiveness. We pray that God will forgive the sins of the faithful departed, and that He will receive them into the company of Saints in the heavenly Kingdom.
The Orthodox Church remembers the departed in the prayers of every Divine Liturgy. Besides this, there is a Memorial Service in which the Church also remembers the dead. According to tradition, the Memorial Service is offered on the third, ninth, and fortieth day after a death, as well as on the yearly anniversary of the death. In addition to these times, the Memorial Service is always offered for all the faithful departed on four "Saturdays of the souls." These are: the two Saturdays preceding Great Lent; the first Saturday of Great Lent; and, the Saturday before Pentecost.
When the Memorial Service is offered, it is customary for the family of the deceased to bring a dish of boiled wheat to the Church. The boiled wheat is placed on a table in the centre of the nave during the Service. The wheat, known as kollyva, is a symbol of the Resurrection. When speaking of the Resurrection, our Lord said: "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
The Great Blessing of Water
Epiphany, one of the oldest and most important Feast days of the Orthodox Church, commemorates the manifestation of the Holy Trinity which took place at the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. Recognising rich meaning in this event, Orthodoxy believes that when Christ was baptised, it not only marked the beginning of its public ministry and revealed the Trinity, but also signified that the entire creation is destined to share in the glory of redemption in Christ. While Christ entered into the Jordan to be baptised, two things were happening: He was identifying Himself with the people He had come to save; and, He was identifying Himself with the whole of Creation which was represented by water. Through His baptism, the Lord revealed the value of the created world and He redirected it toward its Creator. Creation is good and it belongs to God.
The Great Blessing of Water is held on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany and on the day itself, following the Divine Liturgy. The Blessing not only remembers the event of Our Lord's baptism and the revelation of the Holy Trinity but also expresses Orthodoxy's belief that creation is sanctified through Christ. The Blessing affirms that humanity and the created world, of which we are a part, were created to be filled with the sanctifying presence of God. After the solemn blessing, the Holy Water is distributed to the faithful and is used to bless homes during the Epiphany season. When the faithful drink the "Epiphany Water," we are reminded of our own baptism. When the Church blesses an individual, or object, or event with the water, we are affirming that those baptised, their surroundings, and their responsibilities are sanctified through Christ and brought into the Kingdom of the Father through the Spirit.
In addition to the Great Blessing of Water, there is a Lesser Blessing of Water service which can take place at anytime. Usually, it is celebrated when a home is blessed, on the first day of the month, the beginning of the school year, and beginning of new responsibilities.
The Blessing of Bread; Artoklasia
The Blessing of Five Loaves of Bread is a brief service of thanksgiving through which we express our gratitude for all the blessings of life. Oil, wine, wheat, and the loaves of bread which are used in the service, are viewed as the most basic elements necessary for life. The Blessing reminds us of the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish by which Christ fed the multitude. This Blessing is usually offered during Vespers or after the Divine Liturgy on Feast days and other special occasions. After the Service, the bread is cut and distributed to the congregation.
The Orthodox Church worships God alone. Yet, she does offer veneration to individuals who have been important human instruments of God in the history of salvation. Among those so venerated is Mary, the Mother of God the Theotokos. The Orthodox Church greatly honours Mary because she was chosen to give birth to the Son of God. As one of the hymns declares:
"By singing praise to your maternity, we exalt you as a spiritual temple, Theotokos. For the One Who dwelt within your womb, the Lord who holds all things in his hands, sanctified you, glorified you, and taught all to sing to you ... “
The most beautiful and poetic service of the Orthodox Church in honour of Mary, the Theotokos, is the Akathist Hymn. The word akathist means without sitting. The congregation stands throughout the Service out of respect for Mary and her unique role in our salvation in Christ.
The Service of Supplication: Paraklesis
The Service of Supplication, which is also known as Paraklesis, is one offered especially at times of sickness, temptation, or discouragement. The various prayers ask the Lord for guidance, personal strength, and healing. Many of the hymns and prayers are directed toward Mary, the Theotokos, and they ask for her assistance. Orthodoxy affirms that each of us, with Mary, the Saints, and the faithful departed is united in a bond of faith and love in Christ. Therefore, just as in this life we can turn to each other for prayer, the Church believes that we can also turn to Mary - the human being closest to God - and ask her to pray to God for us. This belief is expressed in the hymn which says:
"O never failing protectress of Christians and their ever-present intercessor before the Creator; despise not the petitions or sinners who have recourse to you, by your goodness extend your help to us to call upon you with confidence. O Theotokos, intercede for us, you who have always protected those who honour you.”
There are two forms of the Service of Supplication: the Greater and the Lesser. It is Lesser Service of Supplication which is briefer and the one most frequently offered. Both forms of the Service are offered during first fourteen days of August which precedes the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos celebrated on August 15th. ... See MoreSee Less
There Is Hope for Us All: Homily for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Orthodox ChurchBy: Fr Philip LeMasters
None of us can tell the story of our lives without pointing to particular persons we have known and who have shaped us. In our families and friendships, people are not interchangeable, for we are all unique in our relationships with one another and with God. We play particular roles that are coloured by our character, personal history, and distinctive blend of strengths and weaknesses. That is also how it is in the life of the Church. Particular people matter.
Today we celebrate two of the most glorious Saints of the Christian faith. They are both pillars of the Church, apostles, and martyrs whose unique personalities and experiences have made decisive and permanent contributions to the Body of Christ. Saint Peter was the head disciple whose confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” is the rock on which Christ, our true foundation, has built His Church. The gospels describe Peter’s presence at so many crucial moments in the ministry of the Lord, including at His arrest when Peter, who had so clearly confessed Him earlier and vowed never to abandon Him, denied Him three times. Of course, the risen Christ restored Peter by asking him three times if he loved Him and giving him the command to feed His sheep as a shepherd of the flock of Christians. And in the book of Acts, we see Peter boldly proclaiming the good news, performing miracles, and playing a key role in welcoming Gentiles into the Church. After serving as the first bishop of Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians, then he went to serve in Rome. Peter was crucified there upside down for his faith in Jesus Christ, for by Peter’s own request he was unworthy to die in the same way as His Saviour.
That St. Paul plays a glorious role in the formation of the faith is obvious to anyone who knows the New Testament, for he wrote so much of it. He travelled for decades founding and supporting churches, especially among Gentiles. Paul himself was Jewish and had been a strict Pharisee who had persecuted Christians. But on the road to Damascus, the risen Lord appeared to Him in a blinding light and called him to repentance and the shocking ministry of bringing Gentiles into the Body of Christ through faith, not circumcision and obedience to the Old Testament law. Perhaps more than anyone else, Paul made clear that the Christian faith is not a sect of Judaism primarily for people of a particular ethnic and religious heritage, but instead good news for all people, regardless of their ancestry.
As today’s epistle passage reminds us, Paul’s ministry was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. He was beaten, imprisoned, humiliated, and ultimately martyred in Rome for his faith in Jesus Christ. He knew both the heights of spiritual ecstasy and the chronic challenge of a “thorn in the flesh” that God did not remove, despite his three-fold request. Whatever that thorn may have been, Paul learned through his sufferings the sufficiency of God’s strength for him. God’s “strength is made perfect in (Paul’s) weakness.“ As the apostle said of himself, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When we study the lives of these two great saints, we do not see people who made no mistakes or who were rich, famous, or without problems. These were real human beings who fell short, repented, grew over time in their understanding, and faced such opposition that both suffered capital punishment at the hands of the pagan Romans. They gained absolutely no worldly advantages by their faithful ministry, but their selfless service strengthened the Church in ways too numerous to count. We are here today as Orthodox Christians because of what God did through them and so many other lesser known apostles, martyrs, and evangelists across the ages.
In order to celebrate worthily the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, we must go beyond praising them with our words. We must participate personally in the holiness so evident in them. In other words, we must become like them in a way appropriate to our particular calling and location. For just as God used a fisherman and a Pharisee with given sets of strengths and weaknesses to His glory, He intends to do likewise with each of us. The first century is long gone, but there is plenty of time left in the twenty-first century for us to hear and respond to the same risen Lord who called Peter to feed His sheep and Paul to become a missionary to the Gentiles. Like the Ephesians to whom Paul wrote, we too have become “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…” (Eph. 2:19-20)
Each generation is like a new story added to the building or a new branch growing on a tree. Even as we find our personal history in the previous generations of our families, we take our spiritual life from the living history of what the Holy Spirit has done through each generation in the life of the Church. We are called to make present in our day the same faithfulness that we see in those who have gone before us, but we do so as unique, unrepeatable persons called to grow in the divine likeness and to find the fullness of our identity through union with the Lord like an iron left in the fire. Just as a fisherman and a Pharisee became radiant with the divine energies through their repentance and steadfast dedication to Christ, the same can be true of us.
We may think, however, that we are simply too sinful to achieve such spiritual heights. We know that we fall short and may be ashamed even to think of becoming like these great saints. Remember for just a moment, however, that Peter denied Christ three times at His arrest and Paul persecuted Christians to the point of death. If they can repent, follow Jesus Christ faithfully, and have such exalted roles in the life of the Church, who are we to excuse ourselves from whatever God wants of us in our families, our parish, our work, or whatever it might be? In all likelihood, we will live and serve in obscurity and face obstacles much smaller than the brutal persecution these great saints endured.
As well, we may be tempted to think that they were so much stronger than we are. Remember that St. Paul found God’s strength precisely in his weakness, in his infirmities and pains that opened his life to the gracious power of God. St. Peter must have felt weak when the Lord said “Get behind me, Satan” to him when he tried to explain to Christ that He would not be rejected and killed. And could there be any greater moment of weakness than when the disciple who boasted that he would never abandon the Saviour did so at his arrest by denying Him three times?
Our moments of weakness are probably less dramatic, but they are no less real. We find it hard to do the basics of the Christian life: forgive our enemies; pray each day and fast regularly; attend the Divine Liturgy and other services of the Church whenever possible; take Confession on a regular basis and especially when we have a guilty conscience about a grave sin; give generously to the poor; visit the sick and lonely; and guard our hearts and minds from the moral decay that permeates our culture.
When we are aware of our weaknesses, we are in the perfect place to follow in the way of the fisherman and the Pharisee who in humble repentance found a strength that makes up what is lacking, heals infirmities, and even conquers sin and death. Let us not use a false sense of humility to excuse ourselves from true discipleship as we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Instead, we must follow their example as the unique people we are, with all our strengths, failings, and peculiarities, for from the very beginning of the faith, that is the only way that anyone has become a saint. ... See MoreSee Less
Worship in the Orthodox ChurchO Come, let us Worship and bow down before our King and God.
O Come, let us worship and bow down before Christ, our King and God.
O Come, let us worship and bow down to Christ Himself, our King and God.
This invitation marks the beginning of each day for the Orthodox Church. It comes from the office of Vespers, and it expresses the attitude which is at the heart of Orthodoxy. The Worship of God - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, - is fundamental to the life and spirit of the Orthodox Church.
Since Worship is so important to Orthodoxy, the best introduction to the Orthodox Church is for the non-Orthodox to attend the Divine Liturgy or the celebration of one of the major Sacraments. At first, the visitor may be overwhelmed by the music and the ceremonies, but it is in Worship that the distinctive flavour, rich traditions, and living faith of Orthodoxy are truly experienced.
Dimensions Of Worship
Worship is an experience which involves the entire Church. When each of us comes together for Worship, we do so as members of a Church which transcends the boundaries of society, of time and of space.
Although we gather at a particular moment and at a particular place, our actions reach beyond the parish, into the very Kingdom of God. We worship in the company of both the living and the departed faithful.
There are two dimensions to Orthodox Worship which are reflected throughout the many Services of the Church. First, Worship is a manifestation of God’s presence and action in the midst of His people. It is God who gathers His scattered people together, and it is He who reveals Himself as we enter into His presence. The Worship of the Orthodox Church very vividly expresses the truth that God dwells among His people and that we are created to share in His life.
Second, Worship is our corporate response of thanksgiving to the presence of God and a remembrance of His saving actions - especially the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Orthodox Worship is centred upon God. He has acted in history, and He continues to act through the Holy Spirit. We are mindful of His actions and we respond to His love with praise and thanksgiving. In so doing we come closer to God.
Expressions Of Worship
Worship in the Orthodox Church is expressed in four principal ways:
The Eucharist, which is the most important worship experience of Orthodoxy. Eucharist means thanksgiving and is known in the Orthodox Church as the Divine Liturgy.
The Sacraments, which affirm God’s presence and action in the important events of our Christian lives. All the major Sacraments are closely related to the Eucharist. These are: Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the sick.
Special Services and Blessings, which also affirm God’s presence and action in all the events, needs and tasks of our life.
The Daily Offices, which are the services of public prayer which occur throughout the day. The most important are Matins, which is the morning prayer of the Church, and Vespers, which is the evening prayer of the Church.
Although Orthodox Services can very often be elaborate, solemn, and lengthy, they express a deep and pervasive sense of joy. This mood is an expression of our belief in the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of humanity, which are dominant themes of Orthodox Worship. In order to enhance this feeling and to encourage full participation, Services are always sung or chanted.
Worship is not simply expressed in words. In addition to prayers, hymns, and scripture readings, there are a number of ceremonies, gestures, and processions. The Church makes rich use of non-verbal symbols to express God’s presence and our relationship to Him. Orthodox Worship involves the whole person; one’s intellect, feelings, and senses.
Services in the Orthodox Church follow a prescribed order. There is a framework and design to our Worship. This is valuable in order to preserve its corporate dimension and maintain a continuity with the past. The content of the Services is also set. There are unchanging elements; and there are parts which change according to the Feast, season, or particular circumstance.
The regulating of the Services by the whole Church emphasises the fact that Worship is an expression of the entire Church, and not the composition of a particular priest and congregation.
An important secondary purpose of Worship is the teaching of the Faith. There is a very close relationship between the Worship and the teachings of the Church. Faith is expressed in Worship, and Worship serves to strengthen and communicate Faith. As a consequence, the prayers, hymns, and liturgical gestures of Orthodoxy are important mediums of teaching. The regulating of the Services also serves to preserve the true Faith and to guard it against error.
The celebration of the Divine Liturgy and the Sacraments is always led by an ordained clergymen. In the local parish, this will generally be a priest who acts in the name of the bishop, and who is sometime assisted by a deacon. When the bishop is present, he presides at the Services.
The vestments of the clergy express their special calling to the ministry as well as their particular office. Since Worship in Orthodoxy is an expression of the entire Church the active participation and involvement of the congregation is required.
There are no “private” or “said” Services in the Orthodox Church and none may take place without a congregation. This strong sense of community is expressed in the prayers and exhortations which are in the plural tense.
The congregation is expected to participate actively in the Services in ways such as: singing the hymns; concluding the prayers with “Amen” responding to the petitions; making the sign of the Cross; bowing; and, especially, by receiving Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy.
Standing is the preferred posture of prayer in the Orthodox Church. The congregation kneels only at particularly solemn moments.
The Litany is an important part of Orthodox Services. A litany is a dialogue between the priest or deacon and the congregation, which consists of a number of prayer-petitions, followed by the response “Lord, have mercy” or “Grant this, O Lord”. Litanies occur frequently throughout the Services and often serve to distinguish particular sections.
Orthodox Worship has always been celebrated in the language of the people. There is no official or universal liturgical language. Often, two or more languages are used in the Services to accommodate the needs of the congregation. Throughout the world, Services are celebrated in more than twenty languages which include such diverse ones as Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Albanian, Romanian, English, and Luganda.
VIDEOS: Frederica Matthews- Green: One of the Things That Surprised Me About the Orthodox Church
Frederica Matthews-Green: An overview of the Divine Liturgy ... See MoreSee Less
The Holy Eucharist“We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendour or beauty anywhere on earth. We cannot describe it to you, we only know that God dwells there among men and that their Service surpasses the worship of all other places.”
In the latter part of the tenth century, Vladimir the Prince of Kiev sent envoys to various Christian centres to study their form of worship. These are the words the envoys uttered when they reported their presence at the celebration of the Eucharist in the Great Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople. The profound experience expressed by the Russian envoys has been one shared by many throughout the centuries who have witnessed for the first time the beautiful and inspiring Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church.
The Holy Eucharist is the oldest experience of Christian Worship as well as the most distinctive. Eucharist comes from the Greek word which means thanksgiving. In a particular sense, the word describes the most important form of the Church’s attitude toward all of life.
The origin of the Eucharist is traced to the Last Supper at which Christ instructed His disciples to offer bread and wine in His memory. The Eucharist is the most distinctive event of Orthodox worship because in it the Church gathers to remember and celebrate the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ and, thereby, to participate in the mystery of Salvation.
In the Orthodox Church, the Eucharist is also known as the Divine Liturgy. The word liturgy means people’s work; this description serves to emphasise the corporate character of the Eucharist. When an Orthodox attends the Divine Liturgy, it is not as an isolated person who comes simply to hear a sermon.
Rather, he comes as a member of the Community of Faith who participates in the very purpose of the Church, which is the Worship of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, the Eucharist is truly the centre of the life of the Church and the principal means of spiritual development, both for the individual Christian and the Church as a whole. Not only does the Eucharist embody and express the Christian faith in a unique way, but it also enhances and deepens our faith in the Trinity. This sacrament-mystery is the experience toward which all the other activities of the Church are directed and from which they receive their direction.
The Eucharist, the principal sacrament mystery of the Orthodox Church, is not so much a text to be studied, but rather an experience of communion with the Living God in which prayer , music, gestures, the material creation, art and architecture come into full orchestration.
The Eucharist is a celebration of faith which touches not only the mind but also the emotions and the senses. Throughout the centuries, Christians have seen many dimensions in the Eucharist. The various titles which have come to describe the rite bear witness to the richness of its meaning. The Eucharist has been known as the Holy offering, the Holy Mysteries, the Mystic Supper, and the Holy Communion.
The Orthodox Church recognises the many facets of the Eucharist and wisely refuses to over-emphasize one element to the detriment of the others. In so doing, Orthodoxy has clearly avoided reducing the Eucharist to a simple memorial of the Last Supper which is only occasionally observed.
Following the teachings of both Scripture and Tradition, the Orthodox Church believes that Christ is truly present with His people in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine become for us His Body and His Blood. We affirm that these Holy Gifts are transfigured into the first fruits of the New Creation in which ultimately God will be “all in all”.
As it is celebrated today, the Divine Liturgy is a product of historical development. The fundamental core of the liturgy dates from the time of Christ and the Apostles. To this, prayers, hymns, and gestures have been added throughout the centuries. The liturgy achieved a basic framework by the ninth century.
There are three forms of the Eucharist presently in use in the Orthodox Church:
The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which is the most frequently celebrated.
The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which is celebrated only ten times a year.
The Liturgy of St. James, which is celebrated on October 23, the feast day of the Saint.
While these saints did not compose the entire liturgy which bears their names, it is probable that they did author many of the prayers. The structure and basic elements of the three liturgies are similar, although there are differences in some hymns and prayers.
In addition to these Liturgies, there is also the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts. This is not truly a Eucharistic liturgy but rather an evening Vesper Service followed by the distribution of Holy Communion reserved from the previous Sunday. This liturgy is celebrated only on weekday mornings or evenings during Lent, and on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week, when the full Eucharist is not permitted because of its Resurrection spirit. The Eucharist expresses the deep joy which is so central to the Gospel.
The Divine Liturgy is properly celebrated only once a day. This custom serves to emphasise and maintain the unity of the local congregation. The Eucharist is always the principal Service on Sundays and Holy Days and may be celebrated on other weekdays. However, the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated by the priest privately, without a congregation. The Eucharist is usually celebrated in the morning but, with the Bishop’s blessing, may be offered in the evening.
The Actions of Divine Liturgy
The Divine Liturgy may be divided into two major parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the Faithful, which are preceded by the Service of Preparation.
Although there are many symbolic interpretations of the Divine Liturgy, the most fundamental meaning is found in the actions and prayers.
The Service of Preparation
Prior to the beginning of the Liturgy, the priest prepares himself with prayer and then precedes to vest himself. The vestments express his priestly ministry as well as his office. Next, the priest goes to the Proskomide Table which is on the left side of the Altar Table in the Sanctuary. There, he prepares the offering of bread and wine for the Liturgy. Ideally, the leavened loaves of bread, and the wine from which the offering is taken, are prepared by members of the congregation.
The elements are presented to the priest before the service, together with the names of those persons, living and dead, who are to be remembered during the Divine Liturgy. The offering symbolizes the entire Church gathered about Christ, the Lamb of God.
The Liturgy of the Catechumens
The Divine Liturgy begins with the solemn declaration: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit now and for ever ant to the ages of ages”.
With these words we are reminded that in the Divine Liturgy the Church becomes a real manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth.
Since the first part of the Liturgy was designed originally for the Catechumens, those being schooled in the faith, had a very instructive quality. The Eucharist also has elements which are in common with other Services. We gather as Christians who share a common faith in the Holy Trinity. We sing and pray as a people united in Christ, who are not bound by time, space, or social barriers.
The Little Entrance is the central action of the first part of the Liturgy. A procession takes place in which the priest carries the Book of Gospels from the sanctuary into the nave. The procession directs our attention to the Scripture and to the presence of Christ in the Gospel. The entrance leads to the Epistle lesson and the Gospel.
The Liturgy of the Faithful
In the early Church, only those who were baptised and not in a state of sin were permitted to remain for this most solemn part of the Liturgy. With the Great Entrance marking the beginning of this part of the Liturgy, the offering of bread and wine is brought by the priest from the Preparation Table, through the nave, and to the Altar Table.
Before the offering can proceed, however, we are called upon to love one another so that we may perfectly confess our faith. In the early Church, the Kiss of Peace was exchanged at this point. After the symbolic kiss of Peace, we join together in professing our Faith through the words of the Creed.
Only now can we properly offer our gifts of bread and wine to the Father as our Lord directed us to do in His memory. This offering is one of great joy, for through it we remember the mighty actions of God through which we have received the gift of salvation, and especially the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. We invoke the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and upon our offering, asking the Father that they become for us the Body and Blood of Christ.
Through our thanking and remembering the Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst. The priest comes from the altar with the Holy Gifts, inviting the congregation to draw near with reverence of God, with faith, and with love.
Our sharing in the Eucharist Gifts not only expresses our fellowship with one another, but also our unity with the Father in His Kingdom.
Individuals approach the Holy Gifts and receive the Eucharistic bread and wine from the common chalice. The priest distributes the Holy Gifts by means of a communion spoon. Since the Holy Communion is an expression of our Faith, reception of the Holy Gifts is open only to those who are baptised, chrismated, and practicing members of the Orthodox Church.
The Liturgy comes to an end with prayer of Thanksgiving and the Benediction. At the conclusion of the Eucharist, the congregation comes forward to receive a portion of the liturgical bread which was not used for the offering.
Gospels on the Last Supper: Matthew 26:17–29, Mark 14:12–25, Luke 22:7-23
Gospel on the Eucharist being the body and blood of Christ: John 6:22-71 ... See MoreSee Less
Happy feast of Sts Peter and Febronia, the patron saints of newly weds.
Holy Prince Peter (David in monasticism) and Holy Princess Febronia (Euphrosyne in monasticism), Wonderworkers of Murom. Prince Peter was the second son of the Murom prince Yuri Vladimirovich. He entered upon the throne of Murom in the year 1203. Several years before this Saint Peter had fallen ill with leprosy, from which no one was able to heal him. In a vision it was revealed to the prince that the daughter of a bee-keeper would be able to heal him: the pious maiden Febronia, a peasant of Laskova village in Ryazan gubernia. Saint Peter sent his emissaries to this village.
When the prince saw Saint Febronia, he fell in love with her because of her piety, wisdom and virtue, and vowed to marry her after being healed. Saint Febronia healed the prince and became his wife. The holy couple loved each other through all their ordeals. The haughty boyars did not wish to have a princess of common origin, and they urged that the prince leave her. Saint Peter refused, and so they banished the couple. They sailed off on a boat from their native city along the River Oka, and Saint Febronia continued to console Saint Peter. Soon the wrath of God fell upon the city of Murom, and the people begged the prince return together with Saint Febronia.
The holy couple was famous for their piety and charity. They died on the same day and hour, June 25, 1228, having received the monastic tonsure with the names David and Evphrosyne. The bodies of the saints were put in the same grave.
Sts Peter and Febronia showed themselves exemplary models of Christian marriage, and are considered as the patron saints of newly-weds. ... See MoreSee Less
Nativity of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John(Source: OCA)
The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The Gospel (Luke. 1: 5) relates that the righteous parents of Saint John the Baptist, the Priest Zachariah and Elizabeth (September 5), lived in the ancient city of Hebron. They reached old age without having children, since Elizabeth was barren. Once, Saint Zachariah was serving in the Temple at Jerusalem and saw the Archangel Gabriel, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. He predicted that Saint Zachariah would father a son, who would announce the Saviour, the Messiah, awaited by the Old Testament Church. Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. He had doubts that in old age it was possible to have a son, and he asked for a sign. It was given to him, and it was also a chastisement for his unbelief. Zachariah was struck speechless until the time of the fulfilment of the archangel’s words.
Saint Elizabeth came to be with child, and fearing derision at being pregnant so late in life, she kept it secret for five months. Then her relative, the Virgin Mary, came to share with her Her own joy. Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” was the first to greet the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. Saint John leaped in his mother’s womb at the visit of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Son of God incarnate within Her.
Soon Saint Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and all the relatives and acquaintances rejoiced together with her. On the eighth day, in accordance with the Law of Moses, he was circumcised and was called John. Everyone was amazed, since no one in the family had this name. When they asked Saint Zachariah about this, he motioned for a tablet and wrote on it: “His name is John.” Immediately his tongue was loosed, and Saint Zachariah glorified God. He also prophesied about the Coming into the world of the Messiah, and of his own son John, the Forerunner of the Lord (Luke. 1: 68-79).
After the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worship of the shepherds and the Magi, wicked king Herod gave orders to kill all male infants. Hearing about this, Saint Elizabeth fled into the wilderness and hid in a cave. Saint Zachariah was at Jerusalem and was doing his priestly service in the Temple. Herod sent soldiers to him to find out the abode of the infant John and his mother. Zachariah answered that their whereabouts were unknown to him, and he was killed right there in the Temple. Righteous Elizabeth continued to live in the wilderness with her son and she died there. The child John, protected by an angel, dwelt in the wilderness until the time when he came preaching repentance, and was accounted worthy to baptize the Lord. ... See MoreSee Less
Saint Alban, Protomartyr of Britain(Source: OCA) (Icon: Aidan Hart)
Saint Alban (or Albanus), the protomartyr of Britain, was a Roman citizen who lived at Verulamium (modern Saint Albans), a few miles northwest of London, during a time of persecution. Nothing is known about his family or his occupation.
The chief magistrate of the city had orders to arrest all Christian clergy. One of them, a priest named Amphibalus, fled to Alban’s home in order to hide from the soldiers who wished to kill him. Alban was impressed by the priest’s constant prayer and vigil, and so he questioned Amphibalus about his beliefs. As a result, Alban came to believe in Christ and asked to be baptized.
Eventually, Amphibalus was forced to move on, and Alban changed clothes with him so that he could get away. The soldiers heard there was a priest hiding in Alban’s house, so they came to search it. Seeing Alban dressed in the priest’s clothes, they arrested him and brought him before the judge.
The magistrate was offering sacrifice to idols when Saint Alban appeared before him. After questioning him, he discovered how Alban and the priest had switched clothes. Furious because Alban had allowed a fugitive to escape, the magistrate threatened him with death unless he returned to paganism and revealed where Amphibalus had gone. Saint Alban replied, “I am also a Christian, and I worship the true God.”
After having the saint beaten and tortured, the magistrate threatened him with execution. Saint Alban rejoiced and glorified God. The magistrate ordered the soldiers to take Saint Alban to the Holmhurst Hill to be beheaded. When they came to the river Ver, they saw that the bridge was crowded with people who had come to witness Alban’s martyrdom. Since they could not proceed because of the multitude of people, Saint Alban prayed and made the Sign of the Cross over the river. At once, the waters parted so that they were able to cross over to the other side.
The executioner was so astonished by the miracle that he threw down his sword and refused to behead the saint. He was arrested, and another man was found to behead them both. There is a tradition that Saint Alban became thirsty while climbing the hill and asked for water. A small spring gushed forth near the top of the hill, and he was able to drink from it. Pilgrims used to come and drink from Saint Alban’s well, but it is now dry.
The date of Saint Alban’s martyrdom is uncertain, but it is believed that it took place during the reign of Decius (ca. 251) or Valerian (ca. 257). The eighteenth century Turin manuscript (which may be based on a fifth century source) suggests that Saint Alban may have been executed as early as 209, when the emperor Septimus Severus and his two sons were in Britain. The name of the executioner who was converted has not been preserved. The priest Amphibalus was ultimately caught and put to death at a place called Redbourn, four miles from Verulamium.
When people began to cry out against the magistrate, he put an end to the persecution. In later years a cathedral was built on the site of the martyrdom, and the relics of Saint Alban, the priest Amphibalus, and perhaps even the executioner were enshrined within. Saint Bede (May 27) tells us that miracles frequently took place at Saint Alban’s tomb. When the Danes invaded England in 860, the relics were removed for safekeeping, then later returned.
A new chapel and shrine were built for the relics in the early fourteenth century. Two hundred years later, during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the marble shrine was destroyed. Much later, the fragments of the shrine were reassembled on its former site. What happened to the relics is uncertain, but it is probable that they were either destroyed or buried in an unmarked spot.
Although Saint Alban is sometimes depicted in military garb, there is no evidence that he was a soldier. After all, he was living in a private home when he was arrested, and not in a barracks. There is a medieval painting in the south aisle beside the Choir in the Abbey which depicts Saint Alban with red hair. A medieval seal, now in the Durham Cathedral Chapter Library, shows him with a thick beard. He is stocky, with a high, round and balding forehead, and a cloak covers his left side and right shoulder. ... See MoreSee Less
Dear all! We have now posted our first two catechetical lessons; please look on our "Notes" section. We will continue to build on this by posting something new every week. We hope you enjoy the content and that you're all keeping well! 🙏 ... See MoreSee Less
Introduction Part 1An ever-growing number of persons from various backgrounds are becoming interested in the Orthodox Church. These individuals are discovering the ancient faith and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church. They have been attracted by her mystical vision of God and His Kingdom, by the beauty of her worship, by the purity of her Christian faith, and by her continuity with the past. These are only some of the treasures of the Church, which has a history reaching back to the time of the Apostles.
VIDEO: Fr Thomas Hopko: Advice for beginners Part1
The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures of Eastern Christianity. It should not be forgotten that the Gospel of Christ was first preached and the first Christian communities were established in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was in these eastern regions of the old Roman Empire that the Christian faith matured in its struggle against paganism and heresy. There, the great Fathers lived and taught. It was in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
The spirit of Christianity which was nurtured in the East had a particular flavour. It was distinct, though not necessarily opposed, to that which developed in the Western portion of the Roman Empire and subsequent Medieval Kingdoms in the West.
While Christianity in the West developed in lands which knew the legal and moral philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern Christianity developed in lands which knew the Semitic and Hellenistic cultures. While the West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the sin of man, the East emphasised the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of man. While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology. Since the Early Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for more than a thousand years until the Great Schism divided the Church.
Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition, and the Orthodox are heirs to the Eastern tradition.
Christians of the Eastern Churches call themselves Orthodox. This description comes to us from the fifth century and has two meanings which are closely related. The first definition is “true teaching.”
The Orthodox Church believes that she has maintained and handed down the Christian faith, free from error and distortion, from the days of the Apostles.
The second definition, which is actually the more preferred, is “true praise.” To bless, praise, and glorify God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the fundamental purpose of the Church. All her activities, even her doctrinal formulations, are directed toward this goal.
Occasionally, the word Catholic is also used to describe the Orthodox Church. This description, dating back to the second century, is embodied in the Nicene Creed, which acknowledges One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. From the Orthodox perspective, Catholic means that the Church is universal and also that she includes persons of all races and cultures.
It also affirms that the Church has preserved the fullness of the Christian faith. It is not unusual for titles such as Greek, Russian, and Antiochian to be used in describing Orthodox Churches. These appellations refer to the cultural or national roots of a particular parish, diocese, or archdiocese.
Orthodoxy in the West
The Orthodox Church in this country owes its origin to the devotion of so many immigrants from lands such as Greece, Russia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. In the great wave of immigrations in the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox Christians from many lands and cultures came to the West in search of freedom and opportunity. Like the first Apostles, they carried with them a precious heritage and gift. To their new homes they brought the ancient faith of the Orthodox Church.
Many Orthodox Christians in the West proudly trace their ancestry to the lands and cultures of Europe and Asia, but the Orthodox Church in the West can no longer be seen as an immigrant Church. While the Orthodox Church contains individuals from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the majority of her membership is composed of persons who have been born in the West.
Following the practice of the Early Church, Orthodoxy treasures the various cultures of its people, but it is not bound to any particular culture or people. The Orthodox Church welcomes all!
Diversity in Unity
The Orthodox Church is an international federation of patriarchal, autocephalous, and autonomous churches. Each church is independent in her internal organisation and follows her own particular customs. However, all the churches are united in the same faith and order.
The Orthodox Church acknowledges that unity does not mean uniformity. Some churches are rich in history, such as the Church of Constantinople, while others are relatively young, such as the Church of Finland. Some are large, such as the Church of Russia, while others are small, such as the Church of Sinai.
Each Church is led by a synod of bishops. The president of the synod is known as the Patriarch, Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Catholicos. Among the various bishops, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is accorded a place of honour and is regarded as first among equals.
In the West, where Orthodoxy is relatively young, there are a number of dioceses and archdioceses which are directly linked to one of these autocephalous Churches. ... See MoreSee Less
Introduction Part 2VIDEO: Fr Thomas Hopko: Advice for beginners part 2
House of God: What’s Inside an Orthodox Church?
The visitor to an Orthodox Church is usually impressed by the unique features and the external differences between this place of worship and those of the various traditions of Western Christianity. The rich colour, distinctive iconography and beauty of the interior of an Orthodox Church generally are in sharp contrast to the simplicity which one finds in many Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.
When one enters the interior of the Orthodox church it is like stepping into a whole new world of colour and light. The art and design of the church not only create a distinctive atmosphere of worship, but they also reflect and embody many of the fundamental insights of Orthodoxy.
Beauty and Symbols
The Orthodox Church believes that God is the Creator of heaven and earth. The Creator is present through His creative energies of His handiwork. This means that the material world, being valuable and good, is an important means through which God expresses Himself.
The Orthodox Church affirms this conviction through her extensive use of material creation not only for the embellishment of her places of worship, but also in her sacramental mysteries and services. For example, when the bread and wine -the first fruits of - are offered in the Eucharist, they are also a symbolic offering of all creation to God its Creator.
Since there is no hesitation in using the gifts of creation, the interior of an Orthodox church is frequently very beautiful. Designed to create an atmosphere which is special, the building is filled with a feeling of joy and an appreciation of God’s bounty.
Orthodoxy recognises that beauty is an important dimension of human life. Through iconography and church appointments, the beauty of creation becomes a very important means of praising God. The divine gifts of the material world are shaped and fashioned by human hands into an expression of beauty which glorifies the Creator.
As the pious woman poured her most precious oil on the feet of Our Lord, Orthodoxy seeks always to offer to God what is best and most beautiful.
The interior church is most importantly, both the background and the setting for Orthodox worship. The art and architecture are designed to contribute to the total experience of worship, which involves one’s intellect, feelings, and senses.
The Eucharist and the other sacramental mysteries take place in God’s midst, and they bear witness to His presence and actions. Therefore, in the Orthodox tradition there is a very strong feeling that the church is the House of God and the place where His glory dwells. For this reason, all Orthodox churches are blessed, consecrated and set aside as sacred space.
The whole church bears witness to God’s indwelling among His people. As one old admonition says:
“Let the Christian consider well when he enters the church that he is entering another heaven. That same majesty of God which is in heaven is also in his church, and on this account the Christian must enter with reverence and awe.”
Ideally, an Orthodox church is relatively small in order to emphasize and enhance the sense of community in worship. The church is generally constructed in the form of a cross and is divided into three areas: the narthex, the nave, and the sanctuary.
The narthex is the entrance area. Centuries ago this area was the place where catechumens (unbaptised learners) and penitents remained during parts of the services. Today, the beginning of the Baptismal service and in some parishes, the Marriage service, begins in the narthex and proceeds into the nave. This procession symbolically represents a gradual movement into the Kingdom of God.
In many Orthodox parishes, the narthex is the area where the faithful make an offering, receive a candle, light it before an icon, and offer a personal prayer before joining the congregation. The nave is the large centre area of the church. Here the faithful gather for worship.
Although many Orthodox churches in this country have pews, some follow the old custom of having an open nave with no seats. The choir and the cantors frequently occupy areas on the far sides of the nave.
The sanctuary is considered the most sacred part of the church, and the area reserved for the clergy and their assistant. The sanctuary contains the Holy Altar and is separated from the nave by the Iconostasis. This division serves to remind us that God’s reign is not complete and that we often find ourselves separated from God, through sin.
However, during the Divine Liturgy, when we have access to the Holy Gifts, we are reminded that, through Christ, heaven and earth are united and that through Him, we have access to the Father. It should be noted that not all services take place within the sanctuary. Many are celebrated in the centre of the nave, in the midst of the congregation. In so doing, Orthodoxy emphasizes the fact that the worship of the Church is offered by, and for all the people.
The Altar or Holy Table is the heart and focal point of the Orthodox Church. It is here that Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine are offered to the Father as Christ commanded us to do.
The altar, which is usually square in shape, stands away from the wall and is often covered with cloths. A tabernacle, with reserved Holy Communion for the sick or dying, is set upon the Altar, together with candles. When the Divine Liturgy is not being celebrated, the Book of Gospels rests on the Altar. Behind the Altar is a large cross with the painted figure of Christ.
The Iconostasion is the panel of icons which separates the sanctuary from the nave. The origin of this very distinctive part of an Orthodox church is the ancient custom of placing icons on a low wall before the sanctuary.
In time, the icons became fixed on a standing wall, hence the term iconostasion. In contemporary practice, the Iconostasion may be very elaborate and conceal most of the sanctuary, or it may be very simple and open.
The Iconostasion has three entrances which are used during services. There is a Deacon Door on either side, and the centre entrance which is called the Royal Door. A curtain or door, usually conceals the Altar when services are not being celebrated.
On the right-hand side of the Iconostasion are always the icons of Christ and St. John the Baptist. On the left-hand side are always the icons of the Theotokos (Mother of our Lord) and the patron saint or event to which the church is dedicated. In addition to these icons, others may be added, depending upon custom and space.
An icon is a holy image which is the distinctive art form of the Orthodox Church. In actual practice the icon may be a painting of wood, on canvas, a mosaic or a fresco. Icons depict such figures as Christ, Mary the Theotokos, the saints and angels. They may also portray events from the Scriptures or the history of the Church, such as Christmas, Easter, etc.
Icons occupy a very prominent place in Orthodox worship and theology. The icon is not simply decorative, inspirational, or educational. Most importantly, it signifies the presence of the individual depicted. The icon is like a window which links heaven and earth.
When we worship we do so as part of the Church which includes the living and the departed. We never lost contact with those who are with the Lord in glory. This belief is expressed every time one venerates an icon or places a candle before it.
Many Orthodox churches have icons not only on the iconostasion but also on the walls, ceilings, and in arches. Above the sanctuary in the apse, there is very frequently a large icon of the Theotokos and the Christ Child.
The Orthodox Church believes that Mary is the human being closest to God. This very prominent icon recalls her important role in the Incarnation of the Son of God. The icon is also an image of the Church. It reminds us of our responsibility to give birth to Christ’s presence in our lives.
High above the church, in the ceiling or dome, is the icon of Christ the Almighty, the Pantocrator. The icon portrays the Triumphant Christ who reigns as Lord of heaven and earth. As one gazes downward, it appears as though the whole church and all of creation comes from Him. As one looks upward, there is the feeling that all things direct us to Christ the Lord. He is the “Alpha and the Omega”, the beginning and the end.
This is the message of Orthodoxy. ... See MoreSee Less
Martyr Nectan of Hartland(Source: OCA)
Saint Nectan was born in Wales and lived in the sixth century, but we know few details about his life. He was the oldest of the twenty-four children of Saint Brychan of Brecknock (April 6). While he was still living in Wales, God inspired him to imitate the example of Saint Anthony (January 17) and other ascetics, and to embrace the monastic life.
Seeking greater solitude, Saint Nectan and his companions left Wales, intending to settle wherever their boat happened to land. Divine providence brought them to the northern coast of Devonshire at Hartland, where they lived for several years in a dense forest. The saint’s family would visit him there on the last day of the year. Later, he relocated to a remote valley with a spring.
Once, Saint Nectan found a stray pig and returned it to its owner. In gratitude, the swineherd gave Saint Nectan two cows. The saint accepted the gift, but the cows were soon stolen by two robbers. Saint Nectan found the thieves who took the animals, and tried to preach to them about Christ. They became angry and cut off his head. Then the saint picked up his head and carried it for half a mile, laying it down near the spring by his cell. Seeing this, the man who killed Saint Nectan went out of his mind, but the other thief buried the Saint. From that time, miracles began to take place at Saint Nectan’s tomb.
In 937, on the eve of the Battle of Brunanburgh, a young man from Hartland who was in a tent near King Athelstan’s pavilion suddenly felt himself afflicted with the plague which was then destroying the English army. The young man wept and called upon God and Saint Nectan to help him. His cries were so loud that he woke the king and others around him.
Saint Nectan came to the young man just after midnight and touched the afflicted area of his body, healing him. In the morning, he was brought before the king and admitted that it was he who had disturbed Athelstan’s sleep. The king asked gently why he had been crying out during the night.
The young man explained that he felt himself stricken with the plague, and was afraid that he would die. Therefore, he entreated God and Saint Nectan to help him, and his prayer was answered.
Athelstan asked for more information about the life and martyrdom of Saint Nectan, which the young man provided. He also urged the king to turn to Saint Nectan with faith, promising that he would be victorious in battle if he did so.
The king promised to honor God and Saint Nectan, and so his faith was rewarded. Not only did he win the battle, but the plague disappeared and his soldiers recovered. The first time that King Athelstan visited Hartland in Devonshire, he donated property to the saint’s church. For the rest of his life, the king placed great confidence in the intercession of Saint Nectan.
Saint Nectan is the patron of Hartland, Devonshire. The fullest surviving Life dates from the twelfth century (See Vol. 5 of THE SAINTS OF CORNWALL by G. H. Doble for an English translation).
“O holy Father Nectan you followed the bidding of the Lord and left your father and mother for His sake to embrace the hermit’s life. Faithful follower of Christ unto death pray that He may save our souls.” ... See MoreSee Less
Dear all! We will start posting catechetical material here on our page on a weekly basis. Please look on our “Notes” and “Video” sections. The material is suitable for everybody; but will be especially helpful to people who are new to Orthodoxy and for those who wish to deepen their knowledge. We hope this will be beneficial for you all!
Please know that you are all in our prayers and that we look forward to seeing you again soon. ... See MoreSee Less
55 Maxims of the Christian LifeBelow is a series of short phrases, or maxims, that I have found to be very practical and helpful. We can often times think that the spiritual life is very complicated and and hard to live. Fr. Thomas was asked to come up with a simple and concise list of the essence of our Life in Christ as we struggle on the path towards salvation. He came up with these 55 maxims. I would encourage you to post them somewhere where you can see them often.
By: Fr. Thomas Hopko
Be always with Christ and trust God in everything
Pray as you can, not as you think you must
Have a keepable rule of prayer done by discipline
Say the Lord’s Prayer several times each day
Repeat a short prayer when your mind is not occupied
Make some prostrations when you pray
Eat good foods in moderation and fast on fasting days
Practice silence, inner and outer
Sit in silence 20 to 30 minutes each day
Do acts of mercy in secret
Go to liturgical services regularly
Go to confession and holy communion regularly
Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings
Reveal all your thoughts and feelings to a trusted person regularly
Read the scriptures regularly
Read good books, a little at a time
Cultivate communion with the saints
Be an ordinary person, one of the human race
Be polite with everyone, first of all family members
Maintain cleanliness and order in your home
Have a healthy, wholesome hobby
Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time
Be totally honest, first of all with yourself
Be faithful in little things
Do your work, then forget it
Do the most difficult and painful things first
Be simple, hidden, quiet and small
Never bring attention to yourself
Listen when people talk to you
Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are
Think and talk about things no more than necessary
Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly
Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis, figuring things out
Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance
Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine
Don’t seek or expect pity or praise
Don’t compare yourself with anyone
Don’t judge anyone for anything
Don’t try to convince anyone of anything
Don’t defend or justify yourself
Be defined and bound by God, not people
Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully
Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty
Do nothing for people that they can and should do for themselves
Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice
Be merciful with yourself and others
Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath
Focus exclusively on God and light, and never on darkness, temptation and sin
Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy
When you fall, get up immediately and start over
Get help when you need it, without fear or shame
#OrthodoxChristianity #EasternOrthodoxChurch #OrthodoxScotland #FrThomasHopko #55MaximsoftheChristianLife ... See MoreSee Less
A Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ for Missions
O Sweet Savior, Lord Jesus Christ our God, we give thanks to Thee for Thy marvelous works of salvation: For Thine Incarnation by which Thou didst heal mankind; For Thy precious and life-giving Cross and Thy triumphant Resurrection from the dead by which Thou didst trample down death and the devil, didst free us from the slavery to our sins, and didst grant to us and all who believe life eternal.
We thank Thee for sending forth Thine apostolic witnesses to the ends of earth, and for bringing to us the saving good news here in the distant West. Implant, O Word of Father, the Gospel of salvation deeply into our hearts and minds. Evangelize us, O Christ. Grant us to ever remember Thy magnificent and saving deeds, and to meditate upon them day and night. Enlarge our hearts, O Lord, with love for those who have not been enlightened by Thy truth, here and abroad, and use us, Thine unworthy servants, to bring the knowledge of Thee to others that they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Thy Name may be praised among all the peoples of the world.
Cause Thy word to run swiftly and to gather a great harvest in our city and country, and among all the nations of the earth. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Thy servants, our bishops, priests, monks and nuns, and missionaries who labour with the Holy Gospel in fields ripe for harvest. Enkindle missionary zeal within us. Enable us to welcome our local community to the Orthodox faith. Inspire our parish to participate in missions, domestic and international, both short-term and long-term, and call forth from our midst priests, monastics, and missionaries who will labour for the salvation of men in the front lines of Thy Church.
Forgive us, O Merciful Lord, for the times when we are indifferent to Thy Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations, and for the times when we do not sympathize with and yearn for those outside the Church. Make our hearts generous and willing to share the treasures of our faith and the wonders of dwelling in Thy House, and receive our grateful adoration which we ascribe to Thee, together with Thine Unoriginate Father, and Thine all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. ... See MoreSee Less
Fast, Pray, and Leave Behind Your Nets:Homily for the Apostles FastApostles Fast 2020: 15. June- 29. June
By: Fr Philip LeMasters
The services, practices, and calendars of the Orthodox Church can be hard for people in our time and place to understand. Some will use their confusion as an excuse to disregard them and suffer spiritually as a result. So it is a good to get to the heart of the matter, to speak plainly and openly about what the rhythms of the Church mean for our lives. For the mission of the Body of Christ is not to preserve a set of esoteric rituals and rules, but to bring the entire world into the great salvation worked by our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
As I hope everyone knows by now, we are currently in the Apostles Fast, one of the most ancient fasting periods in the Church that extends from the Monday after All Saints until the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29. The Sunday of All Saints comes a week after Pentecost, which reminds us that we are all enabled to share in the holiness of God by the active presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Yes, the very purpose of our lives is to acquire the Holy Spirit. But in order to do that, we have to become like our Lord’s apostles, who left behind their nets in order to become fishers of men. Sts. Peter and Paul, along with all the disciples except John the evangelist, died as martyrs, making the ultimate witness for the Savior’s victory over death. They were prepared to do so by decades of self-denial in putting God first in their lives. They left all that was comfortable and familiar to obey the command of the Lord “Come follow Me.” And if we are to develop the spiritual strength and maturity necessary to respond faithfully to His will for us, we must also die to self and gain a measure of freedom from the nets in which we are entangled, whatever they may be.
The Apostles Fast fulfills what the Lord said in response to the question about why His disciples did not fast during His earthly ministry: “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (Matt. 9:15) Christ ascended into heaven forty days after Hi s resurrection, but then sent the Holy Spirit to His followers at Pentecost. Now, after celebrating Pentecost, is when we fast in order to humble ourselves before God and to fight our passions so that we will gain the spiritual strength that we see so clearly in Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as in all the apostles. Like them, we want to hear and respond to Christ’s command to us, whatever it may be. We want to be able to turn aside from distractions, obsessions, and habits that hold us back from living the lives to which our Savior calls us.
For Orthodox Christians, fasting is not reserved only for special seasons of the year, for outside of a few celebratory exceptions, Wednesdays and Fridays are fast days on which those who are physically able abstain from meat, dairy products, fish, wine, and olive oil. We fast on Fridays in commemoration of our Lord’s crucifixion and on Wednesdays in commemoration of His betrayal. In the prayers and hymns of the Church, Wednesdays and Fridays are both associated with the cross, so it makes perfect sense that these are days on which we deny ourselves just a bit by taking up the cross of self-denial and humility in remembrance of the unbelievably profound sacrificial offering made by our Lord Himself for our salvation.
Just as we should not resist temptation only during Lent, we should not attempt to reserve fasting only for penitential periods, such as Lent, Advent (the Nativity Fast), the Dormition, or the Apostles Fast. If we do so, we may find it impossibly hard to fast then from anything at all for several days or weeks at a time. Likewise, may find it impossibly hard to reject any self-centered desire if we are used to making a god out of our taste buds, stomachs, and self-centered desires. If we want to be faithful disciples, we have to leave our nets behind every day. We have to take up our crosses all the time, often when we least expect to have to do so. So we must always be prepared. Two thousand years of experience has taught Orthodox Christians that regular fasting is a source of great strength for doing so. This is not, of course, because God is impressed by hunger or dietary changes. It is, however, because we all need to grow in humility and to turn aside from anything that weakens our ability to say “yes” to the Lord. Especially if we find fasting difficult and frustrating, we must persevere in it every fast day. It is precisely through struggles that reveal our weakness and spiritual sickness that we are able like all the repentant sinners who have become saints to open ourselves to the mercy and healing of Jesus Christ from the depths of our hearts and souls.
Too often in our culture, we think that we have done our religious duty simply by being present in a church service on Sunday. If the service lasts more than an hour, we may think that we have really impressed God. As Orthodox Christians, we know that we should attend the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and major feast days whenever possible. (Of course, it is also beneficial to pray with the Church at vespers and orthros/matins.) Doing so is the very first step of Christian faithfulness, for corporate worship constitutes the Body of Christ and enables us to enter into heavenly worship even now. But coming to services is only the beginning of our journey. God calls us to participate fully in the heavenly liturgy every day, every moment, with every thought, word, and deed, regardless of where we are. That is why we must all devote time and energy each day of our lives to prayer in a regular, disciplined way if we want to become faithful Christians. It is why even a few minutes of Bible reading, studying the life of a saint, other spiritual reading, or listening to recordings of Orthodox chant is so important for us all. We are bombarded constantly by messages from our culture, as well as by our own thoughts and the words and actions of others, that are usually not spiritually beneficial. Unless we cultivate a regular habit of prayer and of focusing on the things of God in our daily lives, we will have little of hope of hearing, let alone responding faithfully to, our Lord’s calling.
Let us all take advantage of the remaining week of the Apostles Fast to humble ourselves before the Lord as we devote ourselves to prayer and fasting in ways appropriate to our health, age, and life circumstance. Let us all leave the nets of our spiritual laziness and other excuses behind in order to cultivate just a bit of that spiritual clarity and devotion that shines so brightly in Sts. Peter and Paul and all the other apostles, saints, and martyrs who heard and obeyed the calling of our Lord. He is surely calling each and every one of us to serve Him in some way. The only the question is whether we have the ears to hear and the spiritual strength to leave behind all that keeps us from following Him. ... See MoreSee Less
Sunday of All SaintsBy: Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
The Mother of God and the Saints whose memory we keep today, those who are known to us because God has revealed them, and because they have been understood and recognised, either by their contemporaries, or years, at times - centuries later, all the Saints are the response of the earth to the love of God. And this response is given by them not only in their own name but in the name of all creation and in our names also; because each of us has the privilege to be called by one name, our Christian name, the name of one of those Saints. And the Saints whose names are ours stand before God and pray that their name should not be made unworthy in the eyes of the Lord. The Saints of God embrace the whole of Creation in their love, in their intercession, in their prayer, in their real, continuous presence. How wonderful it is that we belong to this vast family of men, of women, of children who have understood what the Lord meant when He came, and lived, taught and died for us! They responded with their own heart, they understood with all their mind, and they accepted His message with all their determination, to overcome in themselves all that have been the cause of the crucifixion; because if only one person on earth had strayed, fallen away from God, Christ would have come to save at the cost of His life. This is His own testimony to a Saint of the early centuries who had been praying that the sinners should be confounded; and He appeared to him, and said, Never pray that way! If one sinner have existed, I would have died for him...
The Saints are people who responded to love by love, people who realised that if someone can die for them, their only response of gratitude is to become such that he should not have died in vain. To take up our cross means exactly this: to turn away from all those things which are Christ's death and crucifixion, from all those things which surrounded Christ with hatred and lack of understanding. We are all free to do this, more than those who lived in His time because they could be mistaken in Him in those days; but in our days, after two thousand years, when we can read the Gospels, and see emerging from the story the stature, the Person of Christ, when we have got millions of witnesses that tell us that He truly gave His life for us, and that the only response we can give is to give our lives for one another in His name - how can't we respond?
Let us therefore, on this day make a new resolve: to listen in the way in which they listened, with all their heart, all their mind, all their will, all their self to see what happened, to hear what He said, to respond by gratitude and by determination. And then, if we offer this little to God - our gratitude and our good will - the strength, the power for us also to grow into the stature which God has willed, dreamt for us, - the power will be of God; as He had said, My strength deploys itself in weakness, My grace sufficeth... And Paul, who knew that, added, in another passage, All things are possible unto us in the power of Christ Who sustains us... There is no doubt: we can, if we only will allow God to save, to carry us from earth to heaven.
Let us make a new start, so that the Saints whose names we wear should rejoice in us, so that the Mother of God Who gave Her Son unto death that we may respond, that we may understand, that we may be saved should rejoice, and that Christ should see that it is not in vain that He lived, taught, and died. Let us be His glory, a light; it may be a small light, just like a small candle, it may be a bright light as one of the great Saints - but let us be a light that lights the world and makes it less dark! Let us be joy so that others may learn to rejoice in the Lord. Amen! ... See MoreSee Less
Saint Columba of Iona, Enlightener of Scotland(Source: OCA)
Saint Columba (or Colum Cille, "the dove of the Church") was of noble birth, a member of the powerful Ui Néill clan, which traced its descent to Niall of the Nine Hostages, who died around the year 450. His parents were Fedelmid mac Ferguso and Eithne. Although it is difficult to determine the date of Saint Columba's birth with any degree of certainty, it is believed that he was born in County Donegal on December 7, 521.
His parents may have been pagans, and named their son Crimthann. He was brought up by a foster-father, according to the custom of that time, a priest named Cruithnechan. We do not know what happened in Saint Columba's life from the time he completed his studies until his departure from Ireland in 563. He may have been baptized with the name Colum, which later became Columba (dove). Some sources state that after being ordained as a priest, Saint Columba preached in Ireland, and established monasteries at Derry and Durrow. It is said that he also founded one hundred churches.
Adomnan says (I: 7) that the Saint left Ireland two years after the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne (561), supposedly for causing the deaths of so many men. Adomnan does not explain why the Saint blamed himself. However, in a different Life of Saint Columba it is stated that there was a dispute between Saints Columba and Finnian of Moville (September 10), concerning the ownership of a copy of Saint Jerome’s Latin Vulgate version of the Bible (some sources say it was a Psalter). The dispute involved the ownership of the copy. Saint Finnian claimed that the copy was his, since he owned the original manuscript. Saint Columba maintained that the copy was his, since he had copied the original. The High King Diarmait mac Cerbaill, who was a pagan, decided in favor of Finnian. He said, "To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy."
The Saint is said to have been so angry that he stirred up his relatives of the Uí Néill clan to make war against the High King. The Battle of Cúl Dreimhne led to the loss of many Christian lives. In his remorse, Saint Columba decided that he must gain as many souls for Christ as had been slain on the battlefield.
Adomnan also mentions the Synod of Teltown in County Meath (III:3) which met in 562, one year after the battle, and one year before Saint Columba left Ireland. He declares that "Saint Columba was excommunicated for some trivial and quite excusable offenses by a Synod which, as eventually became known, had acted wrongly. The Saint himself came to the assembly that had been convoked against him."
When Saint Brendan of Birr (November 29) saw Saint Columba approaching at a distance, after the Synod had excommunicated him in absentia, he ran out to meet him, kissing him with reverence. When the members of the Synod saw this they criticized him, saying, "Why did you get up to kiss a man who has been excommunicated?” Saint Brendan replied, “If you had seen what the Lord has deigned to reveal to me today, concerning this chosen one whom you refuse to honour, you would never have excommunicated him. For God does not excommunicate in accordance with your erroneous judgement, but instead, He glorifies him more and more."
Then they became incensed and said that they should like to know just how God had glorified Saint Columba, whom they had excommunicated, as they asserted, with good reason. Saint Brendan replied, "I saw a very bright column of light going before the man of God, whom you despise, and holy angels as his companions traveling over the plain." After hearing this, the Synod dropped the charges and honoured Saint Columba with much reverence.
In 563, Saint Columba left Ireland, saying that he wished to be a pilgrim for Christ. Taking twelve companions with him, the Saint settled on the island of Iona, off the southwestern coast of Mull. He prayed that God would permit him to live there for thirty years more, and then call him to the heavenly Kingdom. It is not known whether the island was inhabited when they arrived, but there is archaeological evidence of prehistoric occupation.
After building cells and a chapel, the monks began a period of missionary activity, proclaiming the Gospel, making converts, and founding churches. They sailed to other islands, and even went inland in their labours to bring people to Christ. As a result, Iona became an important centre of Christianity for northern England and Scotland. By 574, Abbot Columba had at least one dependency on the island of Hinba. There were others on the various islands, all under the authority of Iona. Saint Columba also maintained ties with his churches in Ireland and people in other places.
There is an account of Saint Columba anointing Aedan mac Gabrain in 574 to succeed King Conall as the King of Dalriada, just as King Saul and King David had been anointed by Samuel. Some regard this as the first time in European history that Christian ritual was used to consecrate a King. There is much debate on the significance of this event, although Saint Columba did have a special relationship with the ruling dynasty of Dalriada.
Adomnan has not written a Saint's Life according to the traditional pattern. Rather than presenting a continuous narrative from birth to death, he describes Saint Columba's prophetic revelations in Book I; his miracles of power in Book II; and his visions of angels in Book III.
In Book III:22, Adomnan relates how Saint Columba beheld the angels who had come to receive his soul in the thirtieth year after his arrival on Iona. Suddenly he raised his eyes to Heaven, and he was filled with great joy and gladness. Then, a moment later, his joy had turned to sorrow. Two monks stood outside his hut when this occurred, and they asked him about it. He told them to go in peace, and not to ask him to tell them the cause of his gladness, nor of his sorrow. They fell to the ground with profuse tears and begged him to reveal what he had been told.
Seeing their distress, the holy Elder said, "Because I love you, I do not wish to grieve you. First, you must promise not to betray to anyone, as long as I am alive, the mystery that you seek to know."
After they had given their word, Saint Columba said that day was exactly thirty years since he had begun to live "in pilgrimage in Britain." He had asked God to call him to Heaven at the end of thirty years. That is why he seemed so glad. He had seen the angels who had been sent to separate his soul from his body, but now they seemed to be delayed. They were waiting on a rock across the Sound from Iona. It was as if they wished to accomplish their task, but they were not permitted to come any closer. Soon they would return to Heaven. Even though he desired to go with them, the prayers of many churches had caused this change in plans. "Even though I do not wish it, I must remain in this flesh four years longer. This sorrowful delay is the cause of my great distress today."
Then the holy Abbot predicted that at the end of four years, he would die suddenly, and without pain, when the angels would come for him again, and he would depart to the Lord. That is precisely what happened.
In April of 597, on the radiant Feast of Christ's Resurrection, Saint Columba was longing to depart from this life in order to be with Him. God would have granted his wish right then, but he did not want to turn the paschal joy of his disciples into sorrow, and so his death was delayed for the sake of the monks.
In May, as the brethren were working on the western side of Iona, Saint Columba was taken there in a cart, for he was then an old man of seventy-five. He began to speak to them of his approaching death, so that they would be prepared. When he told them how his death had been merely postponed in April, they became very sorrowful. The Saint tried to console them as much as he could. Then he looked toward the east and blessed the island, and those who dwelt there. A few days later, during the Sunday liturgy, Saint Columba looked up and his face became suffused with joy and exultation. Only he could see the angel hovering over them inside the church. Then the angel passed right through the roof of the church, leaving no trace of his passing.
When the monks noticed the Elder looking upward they asked him why he seemed so happy. He told them that an angel had been sent to recover a loan, and had been watching and blessing them during the service.
None of the monks understood what sort of loan the angel had been sent to recover, but Saint Columba was referring to his soul, which the angel would take sometime between the following Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
At the end of the week, on Saturday, Saint Columba and his servant Diarmait went to bless the nearest barn. The venerable Elder said that he was glad to know that the monks would have enough bread to last for a year, in case he had to "go away somewhere." Diarmait was saddened by his words and said, "Father, this year you have made us sad too often by speaking frequently about your passing."
Saint Columba said that he would speak more plainly about his departure if Diarmait promised not to tell anyone until after he had reposed. When Diarmait had given his word, the Saint explained that the Sabbath is a day of rest, and on this Saturday he would go the way of his fathers. "I shall go to the Lord when He calls me, in the middle of this night. The Lord Himself has revealed this to me."
At these words, Diarmait began to weep. Then they started back to the monastery, but Saint Columba had to stop and rest when they reached the halfway point. Later, a cross was set up on that spot and set in a millstone. Then a white horse, which used to carry pails of milk to the monastery, came and placed its head on the Saint's bosom. Tears fell from its eyes, and the horse mourned like a person. Diarmait would have driven the horse away, but the Elder stopped him saying, "Leave him alone! Let him who loves us pour out the tears of bitterest mourning here at my breast. Behold, though you have a man's rational soul, you would not know of my departure if I hadn't told you just now. According to His will, the Creator has revealed to this brute and unreasoning animal that his master is going away." Then he blessed the horse as it turned away.
When he returned to the monastery, Saint Columba went to his hut to copy some Psalms. He copied as far as Psalm 33/34:10: "The rich have become poor and hungry; but those who seek the Lord diligently shall not want any good thing." Then he said, "Here at the end of the page I must stop. Let Baithene write what follows."
When he finished writing, Saint Columba went to church for Vespers, and then he returned to his lodging and rested on his bed. Instead of a bed of straw, he always slept upon bare rock, with a stone for his pillow. Then he gave his last instructions to Diarmait, commanding the brethren to love one another, and to follow the example of the Holy Fathers. He continued, "God, Who strengthens the good, will help you, and I, dwelling with Him, shall intercede for you."
When the bell rang for the Midnight Office, Saint Columba hastened to the church before the others, and then he knelt before the altar in prayer. Diarmait, following at a distance, saw the church filled with angelic light around the Saint. As he reached the door, the light vanished, although some of the brethren had seen it as well. Diarmait entered the church and called out in a tearful voice, "Father, where are you?"
The lamps carried by the brethren had not yet been brought into the church. Feeling his way in the dark, Diarmait found the Elder lying before the altar. Raising him a little, he sat by his side and cradled his head on his bosom. The other monks related that before Saint Cuthbert's soul had left his body, he opened his eyes and looked about with joy and gladness upon his face, for he saw angels coming to meet him. Diarmait held up the Saint's right hand to bless the monks. The venerable Father, as much as he could, also moved his hand to bless the brethren, though he was unable to speak. Then at once his soul departed.
Two men had separate visions of the Saint's soul being carried to Heaven by angels. Lugaid mac Tailchain, "a just man and a sage," told a man named Fergnae of his vision. Although Lugaid had never been to Iona, he saw it, in the Spirit, bathed in a bright light. He beheld the radiance of countless angels who had been sent to carry the Saint's soul to Heaven, accompanied by the sweetest songs of the angelic hosts.
Another soldier of Christ, Ernene moccu Fir Roide had a vision at the same hour. When he was an old man, he related it to Adomnan, who was then a young man. Ernene and some other men were fishing in the River Finn, when suddenly, the entire sky lit up. Looking toward the east, they saw a fiery pillar rising upwards and lighting the area like the summer sun at Noon. When the pillar passed out of sight, the darkness returned once more.
After Saint Columba's blessed repose, the Matins hymns were chanted, and his body was carried from the church to his lodging. For three days and nights, the funeral rites were performed in a manner befitting one of his honour and rank. His holy relics were wrapped in linen and placed in the grave with due reverence, from which he shall rise in bright, and everlasting light.
The following miracle is mentioned in Book I:1. In the year 634, at Heavenfield in Northumbria, on the eve of a battle, Saint Columba appeared to Saint Oswald (August 5), revealing his name to the King. He promised to help Saint Oswald, ordering him to march on his enemy Cadwallon that night. He said that the enemy would be put to flight, and that Cadwallon would be delivered into King Oswald's hands. Abbot Failbe, Adomnan's predecessor, told him of this vision, swearing that he had the story from the lips of Saint Oswald himself. ... See MoreSee Less
ST SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN'S INVOCATION PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Come, true light.
Come. life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond all words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without end.
Come, light that knows no evening.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, the raising of the fallen.
Come, the resurrection of the dead.
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly you create, refashion and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible, whom none may touch and handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved, yet at every instant you are wholly in movement; you draw near to us who lie in hell, yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your Name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips; yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, eternal joy.
Come, unfading garland.
Come, purple vesture of our great God and King.
Come, belt of crystal set with precious stones.
Come, sandal that none dares to touch.
Come, royal robe and right hand of true sovereignty.
Come, for my wretched soul has ever longed and ever longs for you.
Come, Alone to the alone, for as you see I am alone: you have separated me from all things and made me to be alone upon the earth.
Come, for you are yourself the desire that is within me, and you have caused me to long after you, the wholly inaccessible.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.
I give you thanks, for you have become one spilt with me, in a union without confusion. Unchanging and unaltered, God over all, you have yet become all in all to me: food inexplicable, freely bestowed, ever nourishing my soul; a fountain springing up within my heart, a garment of light consuming the demons, purification that washes me clean through the immortal and holy tears that are granted at your coming to all whom you visit.
I give you thanks, for to me you are a light that knows no evening, a sun that never sets. You cannot remain hidden, for you fill all things with your glory. You never hide yourself from anyone, but we are always hiding from you, not wishing to come near you. For where could you hide yourself, since you have no place in which to take your rest? Or why should you hide, since you turn away from no one and are afraid of none?
Pitch your tent within me, gracious Master; take up your dwelling in me now and remain in your servant unceasingly, inseparably, to the end. At my departure from this life and afterwards, may I be found in you and reign with you, who are God over all.
Stay with me, Master, do not leave me alone. My enemies, who seek always to devour my soul, when they find you dwelling in me, will be put to flight; they will have no power at all against me, when they see. you, who are more powerful than all, lodging in the house of my humble soul.
You did not forget me, Master, when I was in the world and sunk in ignorance, but you chose me and separated me from the world and set me in the presence of your glory. Keep me constant and unshaken in the interior dwelling-place that you have made within me, Though dead, I live when I gaze upon you; possessing you, though poor, I am for ever rich, more wealthy than any ruler. Eating and drinking you, clothing myself in you from day to day, I shall be filled with blessings and delight beyond all telling. For you are every blessing and all splendour end joy, and to you is due glory, to the Holy, Consubstantial and Life-giving Trinity, worshipped and confessed by all the faithful and adored in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages.
#HappyPentecost #orthodoxchurch #stsymeonthenewtheologian #prayertotheholyspirit ... See MoreSee Less
Homily for PentecostBy: Archbishop Dmitri (Royster)
"And there appeared to them cloven tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:3-4)
Following His Ascension, when the Saviour fulfilled His promise and sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter appeared to Christ’s followers as tongues of fire. As a result of the Spirit’s operation the disciples spoke in languages foreign to them and were guided as to what to say.
It is extremely significant that on the day of Pentecost the manifestation of the Holy Spirit should take the form of tongues, and that the first results of the disciples’ baptism of the Holy Spirit should be the ability to speak in languages other than their own.
First, it affirms the universal character of Christ’s mission, one which was wrought for all nations, resulting in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the Divine Services sing of Pentecost in terms of being a reversal of that which took place at the Tower of Babel (Genesis, chapter 11). "Of old the tongues were confounded because of the audacity in the building of the tower, but now the tongues are made wise because of the glory of Divine knowledge. There God condemned the impious because of their offence, and here Christ hath enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit. At that time the confusion of tongues was wrought for punishment, but now the concord of tongues hath been inaugurated for the salvation of our souls." ("Glory … now and ever," verse for the Aposticha at Pentecost Vigil) "Once, when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations; and when He divided the tongues of fire, He called all men into unity; and with one accord we glorify the All-holy Spirit." (Kontakion for the Feast)
At Babel a false unity established out of pride led to a scattering of all men, confusion among the citizens of the earth. Diverse "tongues," in this case, became indicative of divisions, man’s inability to understand God, his fellow man and environment. On Pentecost, however, the many "tongues" of the Divine Spirit became a sign and source for unity, a profound unity established through love for Christ that can only be granted by God Himself.
Of great significance as well is the fact that the fruits of the disciples’ labours on Pentecost was the addition to the Church of about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41) Here we begin to understand what our Lord meant when He told His chosen ones that they would henceforth be fishers of men. Hearing about such a large number of individuals brought into the Church by Peter and the eleven, we recall that during Christ’s earthly ministry it was only when the disciples obeyed His will that they caught such an enormous catch of fish that their "net brake." (Luke 5:4) "Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast shown forth the fishermen as supremely wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them didst draw the world into Thy net. O Befriender of man, glory be to Thee." (Troparion for the Feast).
What happened on that fiftieth day after our Lord’s resurrection was the filling of the disciples with the Holy Spirit, their transformation into the Church. Pentecost is the day of the Church’s founding. From this point in time the disciples were empowered to do what our Lord told them: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." (John 20:21)
The record of what the disciples did from the day of their "empowerment" is clearly a matter of history. We know that even in St. Paul’s time the Gospel had gone as far as Spain in the West and we are told as far as India in the East. By the beginning of the fourth century the Emperor Constantine not only stopped the persecution of Christians but gave the Church an official status. Christians to some measure, by this time, occupied every city and town. And there were still those who were willing, if necessary, to give their lives for Christ. From that time as well, the Church never lost its conviction that Jesus had given it the strict mandate to "catch" the entire world, to bring all men into His net. The disciples — and those who came after them — were convinced that their message, committed to them by Christ, was vital, a matter of life or death. This is why they were able to convince so many, because they themselves were convinced.
Speaking of our contemporary situation, it can be said that somewhere along the line, many Church members have lost this sense of urgency with regard to the Faith. Orthodox Christianity has become, for not a few of its adherents, simply the national religion of certain people, part of their culture, their ethos. The very thought of Orthodoxy being of vital importance because the world’s salvation depends on it, is utterly alien to numerous individuals.
But, thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, many in the Church have come to understand the profound implications of Christ’s words to His disciples on a particular occasion, when they could do nothing for a man who needed healing: "Bring him to me."
The Church in our own time is regaining its deep commitment to this command relative to the entire world: "Bring him to me." We must bring those in need of healing — and who is not in need of the healing that Christ brings? — to our Lord, the only true Physician of souls and bodies.
Let us take time then and analyse to what extent we have been able to comply with Jesus’ command. If the truth be told, given the number of Orthodox in this country and the resources now available, we have not lived up to our potential in terms of making new disciples. At least one reason for any apparent failures lies in our own lack of conviction. We must ask ourselves, therefore, are we convinced, each of us individually, that our Orthodox Christian Faith is the most precious thing that we possess, that it is absolutely essential for those with whom we come in contact to know about it? By and large, according to how we live day to day, many of us would have to answer "no" to the above questions. And yet for the Body of Christ to grow the answer must be "yes." We cannot impart to others what we ourselves do not have. Christianity is so maximalistic in terms of what is expected of man — we speak of being crucified with Christ and losing our lives for His sake and the Gospel’s – that for anyone to believe the claims of its adherents, the Faith must be seen lived out by those who preach it. Thus, relative to the Feast of Pentecost, our own mission begins with an appreciation for what has already been given: "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit." At our Chrismation, which is our personal Pentecost, the same Spirit was bestowed for our enlightenment and transformation, so as to empower us to be "invincible warriors" and witnesses for the Faith as were Christ’s disciples 2000 years ago ... See MoreSee Less
Orthodox Community of the Archangel Gabriel, Glasgow was sharing a COVID-19 update.
1 month ago
Dear Friends, while the Covid-19 guidelines have changed slightly in Scotland, we continue to put your safety first and will remain closed for services until it is permitted to re-open. In the meantime, those of us in Scotland are able to meet with one other household at a time in a safe place - a park or garden - while maintaining a 2m distance. The better we all support these actions, the sooner we will be able to meet again for services. You are all in our prayers. ... See MoreSee Less
The Feast of the AscensionBy Fr Philip LeMasters
Sometimes we are all set our sights too low, expecting too little of ourselves and others. When we do so, we sell ourselves short and do a disservice not only to ourselves but to everyone around us. When we aim low, we can’t expect to achieve high goals. The season of the Ascension is a powerful antidote to such low expectations, for it reveals the great glory and dignity that Jesus Christ has given us. Through His Ascension, we are raised with Him literally to the heights of the heavenly Kingdom.
Forty days after His resurrection, our Lord ascended into heaven. In Him, humanity and divinity are united in one Person; He goes up into heaven as the God-Man. The Son shares in the glory that He had with the Father and the Holy Spirit before the creation of the world. And He brings our humanity into that glory with Him. There is perhaps no more powerful sign of our salvation than the Ascension, for it makes clear that our Lord has raised us—not only from the tomb, not only from hades—but into the eternal life of the Holy Trinity. We truly become participants in God, partakers of the divine nature by grace, in our ascended Lord.
And we are reminded by the Ascension that Jesus Christ is not merely a great teacher or example or even an angel or lesser god. As the Fathers of the Council of Nicaea proclaimed, He is light of light, very God of very God, of one essence with the Father, the only begotten Son of God. For only One who is truly divine and eternal can ascend into heaven and bring us into the divine, eternal life of the Holy Trinity. That is why the Council of Nicaea rejected the teaching of Arius, who did not think that the Son was fully divine. That is why the Orthodox Church has always disagreed with those who deny our Lord’s full divinity or His full humanity. For only One who is truly both God and human can bring humans into the life of God.
Unfortunately, some have set their sights too low in how they view Jesus Christ and themselves. If we want a Saviour who merely teaches and models a good life or advances a political agenda, we might become a bit more moral by listening to Him. But human teachers and examples cannot conquer death and cannot raise us with them into eternal life. There apparently always have been, and continue to be, those who want a Lord in their own image: a teacher of secret spiritual truths to a select few; a social or political activist of whatever ideology; or a rabbi or philosopher who speaks with wisdom. Movies, documentaries, and books come out all the time with the claim to have discovered a true or secret Jesus who is different from the Lord portrayed in Scripture and confessed in the Church.
But countless martyrs, including Jesus Christ’s disciples, did not go to their deaths out of loyalty to a mere human teacher. They looked death in the eye and did not blink because they knew that their Lord was God, that He had conquered death and would share His victory with them in heaven. In a matter of days, Christ’s disciples went from total despair and defeat at His crucifixion to the astounding joy of Pascha and Pentecost. These were life-changing experiences that gave them the strength to sacrifice their own lives for the Lord. Teachers and good examples die and are ultimately forgotten; generations of martyrs do not give their lives for them. But the life of the risen and ascended Son of God continues in the Church, especially in the witness of the martyrs who share in a victory that is not of this world.
Indeed, we all share in the eternal life of Christ through His Body, the Church. The Son prayed to the Father that His followers “may be one as We are…that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one…”
Here is a very high, very exalted view of what it means to be a human being in the image and likeness of God. In Christ’s Body, the Church, we are to be one in Him, showing forth the unity of holiness and love that are characteristic of the Holy Trinity. Christ has given us His glory, a share in life eternal, the life to which He has ascended as the Saviour of the world. And that glory, that eternal life, is not an individual undertaking; it is the life of unity in Christ, of His Body, of which we are all members by baptism.
Unfortunately, we have all fallen short of the life in Christ. The truth is that we often would rather not ascend in Him to a life of holiness. We prefer to do things which are beneath us, which are not fitting for those created in the image and likeness of God, those who are called to live the life of heaven even now. Instead of dwelling on what is true, noble, just, and pure, we too often dwell on what inflames our passions, our self-centred desires. Instead of recognizing that our salvation is a life together in the Body of Christ, we try to live as isolated individuals, continuing the division from one another that has beset humanity since Adam and Eve.
It might be possible to follow the guidance of a teacher in isolation from others, on our own terms, according to whatever private interpretations seem right to us. But it is impossible to embrace the fullness of life in our Risen and Ascended Lord in isolation or as though our faith means whatever we want it to mean. We can interpret the words of a merely human teacher however we want, but the One Who has conquered death and ascended into heaven requires something different. The point is not to make Him in our image, to water Him down into someone Whom we can accept and understand on our own terms. Instead, the point is to fall before Him in worship, to accept in humility the great blessing of the resurrected, ascended life which He gives us, and to live faithfully in the unity of the Church as we grow in Him.
Let us celebrate the Ascension, then, by embracing the great dignity that is ours in the God-Man Who has gone up to heaven. Let us pay close attention to our thoughts, words, and deeds, and stop doing what is beneath us as those whose are called to the glory of the Kingdom. Let us make of our life in the Church an icon of the Holy Trinity, a Communion of love and holiness.
Yes, we really can live this way because we are not simply following the teachings of a human being; instead, we are participating even now in the eternal life of the One Who has conquered death, the tomb, and hades, and taken our humanity into heaven. If Jesus Christ can do that, we may put no limits on what He can do with our lives, our families, our marriages, our friendships, our relationships with other people, or anything else. For the Lord has ascended into heaven, and He will take us with Him if we will only embrace—with humility and repentance– the great glory that He has brought to us as those created in His image and likeness.
This is not a message for a few select souls, but good news for the entire world, for you and for me, no matter how we have fallen short of fulfilling God’s purposes in our lives. We are all called to ascend in Jesus Christ to a life of holiness and to the blessedness of the Kingdom of Heaven. The only question is whether we will answer that call. ... See MoreSee Less
On Wednesday of the sixth week of Pascha, we celebrate the Leavetaking of the Feast. While most Feasts have their Leavetaking on the eighth day, Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, has its Leavetaking on the thirty-ninth day. The fortieth day is the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension, which marks the end of the Lord’s physical presence on earth. He does not abandon us, however. He has promised to be with us always, even until the end of the age (Mt 20:28). As we sing in the Kontakion for Ascension, “Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love Thee, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you.”
Even though today is a Wednesday, fish, wine, and oil are permitted. ... See MoreSee Less
Emperor Constantine with his Mother Helen(Source: OCA)
The Church calls Saint Constantine (306-337) “the Equal of the Apostles,” and historians call him “the Great.” He was the son of the Caesar Constantius Chlorus (305-306), who governed the lands of Gaul and Britain. His mother was Saint Helen, a Christian of humble birth.
At this time the immense Roman Empire was divided into Western and Eastern halves, governed by two independent emperors and their corulers called “Caesars.” Constantius Chlorus was Caesar in the Western Roman Empire. Saint Constantine was born in 274, possibly at Nish in Serbia. In 294, Constantius divorced Helen in order to further his political ambition by marrying a woman of noble rank. After he became emperor, Constantine showed his mother great honour and respect, granting her the imperial title “Augusta.”
Constantine, the future ruler of all the whole Roman Empire, was raised to respect Christianity. His father did not persecute Christians in the lands he governed. This was at a time when Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire by the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and his corulers Maximian Galerius (305-311) in the East, and the emperor Maximian Hercules (284-305) in the West.
After the death of Constantius Chlorus in 306, Constantine was acclaimed by the army at York as emperor of Gaul and Britain. The first act of the new emperor was to grant the freedom to practice Christianity in the lands subject to him. The pagan Maximian Galerius in the East and the fierce tyrant Maxentius in the West hated Constantine and they plotted to overthrow and kill him, but Constantine bested them in a series of battles, defeating his opponents with the help of God. He prayed to God to give him a sign which would inspire his army to fight valiantly, and the Lord showed him a radiant Sign of the Cross in the heavens with the inscription “In this Sign, conquer.”
After Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which guaranteed religious tolerance for Christians. Saint Helen, who was a Christian, may have influenced him in this decision. In 323, when he became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire, he extended the provisions of the Edict of Milan to the Eastern half of the Empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians could finally practice their faith without fear.
Renouncing paganism, the Emperor did not let his capital remain in ancient Rome, the former centre of the pagan realm. He transferred his capital to the East, to the city of Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople, the city of Constantine (May 11). Constantine was deeply convinced that only Christianity could unify the immense Roman Empire with its diverse peoples. He supported the Church in every way. He recalled Christian confessors from banishment, he built churches, and he showed concern for the clergy.
The emperor deeply revered the victory-bearing Sign of the Cross of the Lord, and also wanted to find the actual Cross upon which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. For this purpose he sent his own mother, the holy Empress Helen, to Jerusalem, granting her both power and money. Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem and Saint Helen began the search, and through the will of God, the Life-Creating Cross was miraculously discovered in 326. (The account of the finding of the Cross of the Lord is found under the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14). The Orthodox Church commemorates the Uncovering of the Precious Cross and the Precious Nails by the Holy Empress Helen on March 6.
While in Palestine, the holy empress did much of benefit for the Church. She ordered that all places connected with the earthly life of the Lord and His All-Pure Mother, should be freed of all traces of paganism, and she commanded that churches should be built at these places.
The emperor Constantine ordered a magnificent church in honour of Christ’s Resurrection to be built over His tomb. Saint Helen gave the Life-Creating Cross to the Patriarch for safe-keeping, and took part of the Cross with her for the emperor. After distributing generous alms at Jerusalem and feeding the needy (at times she even served them herself), the holy Empress Helen returned to Constantinople, where she died in the year 327.
Because of her great services to the Church and her efforts in finding the Life-Creating Cross, the empress Helen is called “the Equal of the Apostles.”
The peaceful state of the Christian Church was disturbed by quarrels, dissensions and heresies which had appeared within the Church. Already at the beginning of Saint Constantine’s reign the heresies of the Donatists and the Novatians had arisen in the West. They demanded a second baptism for those who lapsed during the persecutions against Christians. These heresies, repudiated by two local Church councils, were finally condemned at the Council of Milan in 316.
Particularly ruinous for the Church was the rise of the Arian heresy in the East, which denied the Divine Nature of the Son of God, and taught that Jesus Christ was a mere creature. By order of the emperor, the First Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Nicea in 325.
318 bishops attended this Council. Among its participants were confessor-bishops from the period of the persecutions and many other luminaries of the Church, among whom was Saint Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. (The account about the Council is found under May 29). The emperor was present at the sessions of the Council. The heresy of Arius was condemned and a Symbol of Faith (Creed) composed, in which was included the term “consubstantial with the Father,” at the insistence of the Emperor, confirming the truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ, Who assumed human nature for the redemption of all the human race.
After the Council of Nicea, Saint Constantine continued with his active role in the welfare of the Church. He accepted holy Baptism on his deathbed, having prepared for it all his whole life. Saint Constantine died on the day of Pentecost in the year 337 and was buried in the church of the Holy Apostles, in a crypt he had prepared for himself. ... See MoreSee Less
Dear all! A new documentary on the life of Elder Joseph the Hesychast has done really great in the annual London Greek Film Festival. It has been nominated in three categories, including best documentary.
The film features award winning actor and musician, Jonathan Jackson, who is a convert to Orthodox Christianity.
Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos was responsible for producing and supervising the shooting of the film on Mount Athos and in other places associated with the Elder’s life.
The documentary can only be seen from 21-22 May between 9am – 9 pm Greek time.
No password is required to access the link.
#ElderJosephtheHesychast #LondonFilmFestival #shortfilm #mountathos #athonitemonk #Emmyawards #OrthodoxChristianity #Vatopedi #JonathonJackson #LGFF2020 ... See MoreSee Less
"So often when we say 'I love you' we say it with a huge 'I' and a small 'you'. We use love as a conjunction instead of it being a verb implying action. It's no good just gazing out into open space hoping to see the Lord; instead we have to look closely at our neighbour, someone whom God has willed into existence, someone whom God has died for. Everyone we meet has a right to exist, because he has value in himself, and we are not used to this. The acceptance of otherness is a danger to us, it threatens us. To recognise the other's right to be himself might mean recognising his right to kill me. But if we set a limit to this right to exist, it's no right at all. Love is difficult. Christ was crucified because he taught a kind of love which is a terror for men, a love which demands total surrender: it spells death."
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom ... See MoreSee Less
HOMILY FOR THE SUNDAY OF THE SAMARITAN WOMAN IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCHBy: Fr. Philip LeMasters
Acts 11:19-30; John 4:5-42
Christ is Risen!
There is a lot of truth in the saying that familiarity breeds contempt. It is possible for even the best things in life to become so familiar that we become blind to their true importance. We can do that even with our celebration of the Saviour’s victory over death, as though the Paschal season were simply about singing joyful hymns and enjoying rich food. It is certainly possible to reduce any dimension of the life of Church to a mere cultural observance that we assume is only for some people, usually those we think are like us in some particular way. Both today’s gospel and epistle readings challenge us, however, to consider how the good news of the resurrection impacts the world in a way that is so unfamiliar as to be unsettling, and which challenges our assumptions about who God’s people are.
The Samaritan woman certainly took nothing for granted about Jesus Christ. The Jews viewed the Samaritans as heretics who had intermarried with Gentiles, and they had nothing to do with them; as well, men did not strike up conversations with women in public in that time and place. So when the Lord asked her for a drink of water and engaged her in an extended theological discussion, she was completely surprised. He knew the details of her broken personal history and obviously related to her very differently than had the men in her community. This encounter made such an impression that “she left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” She did something quite shocking herself in that moment, proclaiming to her fellow Samaritans that this Jewish rabbi was the Messiah. “Many Samaritans from that city believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He said to me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His words. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.’”
A Samaritan woman with an immoral lifestyle became the Great Martyr Photini, an unlikely evangelist whose testimony led many in her village to belief in Christ. Her transformation occurred because she received by faith the living water of which the Saviour spoke, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Here is a foreshadowing of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, for she is empowered from the depths of her soul to participate in the healing of the human person that our Risen Lord has brought to the world. As we chanted at Great Vespers last night about Photini after her encounter with Christ, “that chaste woman hastened at once to the city and said to the crowds: Come and see Christ the Lord, the Saviour of our souls.” Yes, she was truly restored to the dignity of a beloved child of God in the divine image and likeness.
Remember that in the chapter of John’s gospel right before the Lord’s conversation with Photini, He spoke with the Pharisee Nicodemus, an expert in the Jewish law. At that point, Nicodemus could not understand even the most basic points of the Lord’s teaching. How shocking, then, that a Samaritan woman with a notorious past came to faith so quickly and even preached to others. Through her witness, the Lord Himself spent two days in a Samaritan village, which must have been the last thing that anyone expected the Jewish Messiah to do. His salvation does not operate according to the conventional categories of this world, but transcends and subverts them. How odd: Great religious teachers miss the point, while disgraced women from despised communities become glorious saints.
Our reading from Acts describes the foundation of the first Gentile church in Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians. It took a good bit of debate and discernment for the Church to determine how to respond to Gentiles who wanted to become Christians, for the origins of the faith are so clearly in Judaism. At the council held by the apostles in Acts 15: 8-9, St. Peter said of the Gentile Christians, “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” That, of course, is a very good description of what the Lord had done with St. Photini. The letter to the Gentile Christians from that council did not require them to become circumcised or convert to Judaism, but “to abstain from food sacrificed to idols…and from sexual immorality.” (Acts 15:20) It is not surprising that the Jewish Christian leaders of the Church made a point of reminding Gentile converts to distance themselves from forms of spiritual and moral corruption so common in their culture.
The inclusion of Samaritans like Photini and Gentiles like the original Antiochian believers provides a powerful sign that the resurrection of Christ is not about business as usual in a world where people divide up according to all kinds of human characteristics. When we do that, we define ourselves over against enemies, real and imagined, and tend to think that all the evil and wickedness are on the side of those we oppose. Among the many dangers of such ways of thinking is that we easily become the self-righteous judges of others and inflame our own passions to the point that we see neither ourselves nor our neighbours clearly. A Jew of the first century would typically have viewed Photini as a terrible sinner who did the wretched kinds of things expected of Samaritans. The apostles could have easily put up almost insurmountable roadblocks to keep the Gentiles at arm’s length. That the Church developed very differently is an indication that it is not simply another human institution of a world enslaved to the fear of death, but truly the Body of our Risen Lord in Whom “strangers and foreigners” become “fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God” by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 2:19) As St. Paul taught, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) He offers living water to all people who come to Him in humble faith as did St. Photini, the Samaritan woman.
Like her, we all encounter Christ as people with a history of personal brokenness in thought, word, and deed. We may doubt, however, whether the Saviour’s victory over death, the wages of sin, may truly become active in us. The Church highlights the example of so many notorious sinners who have become great saints by receiving the Lord’s mercy through repentance. Perhaps we have heard their stories so many times that we take them for granted and assume that, after their conversion, they were no longer troubled by temptations, doubts, and sorrow for their failings. That would be an unrealistic assumption, of course. Remember that St. Mary of Egypt spent her first seventeen years in the desert in fierce struggle with passions for all that she had left behind. She said of this period, “Darkness after darkness, misery after misery stood about me, a sinner.” If we are genuinely embracing the new life our Risen Lord, we will face battles in our own souls as we turn away from the darkness of the tomb and toward the brilliant light of His kingdom.
As the eyes of our souls gain the focus to behold His radiant glory more fully, the darkness within us will become all the more apparent. We will then be like Photini when the Saviour mentioned her history with men. Instead of shutting down in shame or making excuses, she simply said, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet” as she continued to open herself to the healing mercy of the Lord through faith. If we truly believe that Christ has conquered death, the wages of sin, then we must become as courageous as she was in offering even the most painfully broken dimensions of lives to the Saviour for healing. Like her, let us do so with the confident hope of those who know that something worth living and dying for has come into the world, for Christ is Risen! ... See MoreSee Less
St. Brendan the Navigatorby Bridget Haggerty (edited)
Also known as Brandan and Borodon, Brendan was born about 484 A.D. near Tralee in County Kerry. He was ordained by Bishop Erc and sailed around northwest Europe spreading the Christian faith and founding monasteries — the largest at Clonfert, County Galway. Legend says that the community had at least three thousand monks — their rule dictated to Brendan by an angel. He died at the age of 93 and he was buried at the monastery in 577 A.D.
Brendan and his brothers figure prominently in Brendan's Voyage, a tale of monks travelling the high seas of the Atlantic, evangelizing to the islands, and possibly reaching the Americas in the 6th century.
Maps of Columbus’ time often included an island called St. Brendan’s Isle that was placed in the western Atlantic ocean. Map makers of the time had no idea of its exact position but did believe it existed somewhere west of Europe. It was mentioned in a Latin text dating from the ninth century called Navigatio Santi Brendani Abatis (Voyage of Saint Brendan the Abbot). It described the voyage as having taken place in the sixth century. Several copies of this text have survived in monasteries throughout Europe. It was an important part of folklore in medieval Europe and may have influenced Columbus
The account of Brendan’s voyage contained a detailed description of the construction of his boat which was not unlike the currachs still made in Ireland today. Sceptics could not accept that such a fragile vessel could possibly sail in the open sea. Several passages in the legend also seemed incredible—they were “raised up on the back of sea monsters”, they “passed by crystals that rose up to the sky”, and they were “pelted with flaming, foul-smelling rocks by the inhabitants of a large island on their route”.
Brendan and his companions finally arrived at the beautiful land they called “Promised Land of the Saints.” They explored until they came to a great river that divided the land. The journey of Brendan and his fellow monks took seven years. The return trip was probably the longest part of the odyssey.
In 1976, Tim Severin, a British navigation scholar, embarked from Brandon Creek on the Dingle Peninsula in a currach that he constructed using the details described by Brendan. His goal was to determine if the voyage of Brendan and his fellow monks was possible. Severin and his team tanned ox-hides with oak bark, stretched them across the wood frame, sewed them with leather thread and smeared the hides with animal fat which would impart water resistance.
Examination of nautical charts led Severin to believe that Brendan’s route would be governed by the prevailing winds that would take him across the northernmost part of the Atlantic. This would take him close to Iceland and Greenland with a probable landfall at Newfoundland (St. Brendan’s Isle).
Severin and his crew were surprised at how friendly the whales were that they encountered. The whales swam around and even under their boat. The whales could have been even friendlier in Brendan’s time, before motorized ships would make them leery of man. So friendly, that perhaps they may have lifted the monk’s boat in a playful gesture!
After stopping at the Hebrides islands, Severin proceeded to the Danish Faroe Islands. At the island of Mykines, they encountered thousands of seabirds. Brendan called this island “The Paradise of Birds.” He referred to the larger island as the “Island of Sheep.” The word Faroe itself means Island of Sheep. There is also a Brandon Creek on the main island of the Faroes that the local people believe was an embarkation point for Brendan and his crew.
Severin’s route then carried them to Iceland where they wintered, as did Brendan. The volcanoes on the island have been active for many centuries and might well have been erupting when the monks stayed there. This could have accounted for the “pelting with flaming, foul smelling rocks”, referred to in the ninth century text.
The monks had never seen icebergs before, so their description of them as “towering crystals” would make sense. Severin’s boat was punctured by floating ice off the coast of Canada. They were able to make a repair with a piece of leather sewn over the hole. They landed on the island of Newfoundland on June 26, 1977. This might well have been Brendan’s “Land promised to the Saints” referred to in the Navigatio.
Severin’s journey did not prove that Brendan and his monks landed on North America. However, it did prove that a leather currach as described in the Navigatio could have made such a voyage as mapped out in the text. There is also no doubt that the Irish were frequent seafarers of the North Atlantic sea currents 900 years before the voyage of Columbus.
More conclusive evidence of Irish exploration of North America has come to light in West Virginia. There, stone carvings have been discovered that have been dated between 500 and 1000 A.D. Analysis by archaeologist Dr. Robert Pyle and a leading language expert Dr. Barry Fell, indicate that they are written in Old Irish using the Ogham alphabet.
According to Dr. Fell, the “West Virginia Ogham texts are the oldest Ogham inscriptions from anywhere in the world. They exhibit the grammar and vocabulary of Old Irish in a manner previously unknown in such early rock-cut inscriptions in any Celtic language.”
Dr. Fell goes on to speculate that, “It seems possible that the scribes that cut the West Virginia inscriptions may have been Irish missionaries in the wake of Brendan’s voyage, for these inscriptions are Christian. The early Christian symbols of piety, such as the various Chi-Rho monograms (Name of Christ) and the Dextra Dei (Right Hand of God) appear at the sites, together with the Ogham texts.”
The lack of any written account of this exploration could be explained by the explorers not being able to return to their homeland. If they indeed did reach what is now West Virginia, it would be extremely doubtful that they could manage to return to Ireland from an embarkation point that far south. The design of their currach required favourable winds and currents in the right direction in order to navigate. Severin discovered that it was extremely difficult to tack as other sailing ships were able to do. Perhaps that is the reason that it took Brendan seven years for his journey.
The evidence would indicate that a fantastic voyage across the Atlantic did take place and the stone carvings in West Virginia certainly prove the presence of Irish Christians at just about the right time in history.
St. Brendan's Feast Day is May 16th. He is the patron saint of boatmen, mariners, sailors, travellers, and whales. ... See MoreSee Less
Midfeast of Pentecost
Troparion — Tone 8
In the middle of the Feast, O Saviour, fill my thirsting soul with the waters of godliness, as You did cry to all: If anyone thirst let him come to me and drink! O Christ God, Fountain of our life, glory to You!
Kontakion — Tone 4
Christ God, the Creator and Master of all, cried to all in the midst of the Feast of the law: Come and draw the water of immortality! We fall before You and faithfully cry: Grant us Your bounties, for You are the Fountain of our life! ... See MoreSee Less
Healed to Rise Up and Walk: Homily for the Sunday of the Paralytic in the Orthodox ChurchBy: Fr. Philip LeMasters
Acts 9:32-42; John 5:1-15
Christ is Risen!
We do not like to be dragged down or held back by problems that we cannot solve. Whether it is our own health, a broken relationship with others, or a complex set of circumstances over which we have little control, it is very frustrating to know our weakness before seemingly insurmountable challenges.
That is surely how the invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed felt as they waited for the chance to be healed by being the first to reach the pool of water troubled by the angel. Due to their illnesses, many must have despaired over ever being healed. The man who had been paralyzed for 38 years was one of those, for there was no one to help him move toward the water. Here we have an image of humanity before the coming of Christ. The Jews had a Temple in which animals were sacrificed, and the pool provided water for washing lambs before they were offered to God. This scene occurs at the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which commemorated Moses receiving the Law, which was given by angels.
Fallen humanity, however, remained spiritually weak and sick. They lacked the strength to fulfil God’s requirements, and certainly could not conquer death, the wages of sin for all those who have fallen short of the glory of God. The sacrificial system of the Temple foreshadowed the great Self-Offering of our Lord on the Cross, but did not heal anyone from the ravages of spiritual corruption or raise anyone from the grave. It was a great blessing for the Jews to have the Law, but surely also a tremendous frustration not to have the strength to obey it fully. Only Christ Himself fulfilled the Law, which is why He can call and empower us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)
In contrast, the paralyzed man represents all who lack the power to move themselves to complete healing, to find the fulfilment of our common human calling to become like God in holiness. Notice that he did not call out to Christ to help him; instead, the Lord reached out to him, asking “Do you want to be healed?” That may seem like a strange question, for presumably anyone waiting by a pool for healing after 38 years of illness would want to be made well. But think for a moment about how we have all learned to adapt to our favourite sins, how we have become comfortable with whatever forms of corruption have become second nature to us over the years. By virtue of coming to Church, we are apparently religious people, but that does not mean that we truly want to be healed. For to be healed means obeying the Lord’s command to this fellow: “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” It requires making the effort to rise up in obedience, to be transformed personally in how we live each day, and to grow in holiness.
It would not have sufficed for that man to have remained on his bed and have warm feelings about how Christ had healed him. Just as anyone who lies motionless for a long time will become weak and unable to rise up and walk on his own power, the same will be true of us spiritually if we try to rest content with simply believing ideas about God or having positive emotions about Him. If we are not gaining strength by actually serving Him faithfully, we will become paralyzed and unable to cooperate with our Lord’s gracious healing energies. Any spiritual health that we claim in that state will be a figment of our imagination.
The good news is that the Lord does not simply provide us with a set of rules to follow or services to perform. He makes us participants in Himself by grace. He unites us to Himself, raising us up with Him from slavery to sin and death to the great dignity of those who share in His eternal life. The Saviour makes us members of His own Body, the Church. He is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride. He makes us radiant in holiness, like an iron left in the fire of the divine glory. That is how He heals us such that we have the strength to obey His command to get up from our bed of corruption and move forward in a blessed life of holiness.
Though we may not yet have the eyes to see it, this healing and strengthening of our humanity happens to this day through our life in the Church. In our reading from Acts, St. Peter heals a paralyzed man and commands him to get up. He even raises a woman from death. Peter did not do this by his own power or authority, but because the Lord was working through him. He said to the paralyzed man, “Jesus Christ heals you…” Throughout Acts, we read of how the Lord works through His Body, the Church, to enable people to participate personally in the new life of the resurrection that He shares with us by grace.
That is not, however, a life of merely having our names on a church membership roll or of calling ourselves Orthodox Christians. If our faithfulness extends only that far, we will become as weak as a person who remains immobile in bed and refuses to stand up and walk. We must not be like those poor souls waiting by the pool for someone else to move them into the healing water. On His own gracious initiative, Jesus Christ has given each of us the strength to overcome the paralysis of sin through His resurrection. He does not simply give us commands; He gives us Himself. And our life in His Body, the Church is truly our participation in Him.
We receive His healing of our souls when we humbly repent of our sins in Confession. We are nourished for the life of the Kingdom by His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. When we offer our time, energy, and resources to support the ministries of the Church, we rise up from selfishness to participate in the abundant generosity of the Lord. When we stop thinking of ourselves as isolated individuals and instead as members of a Body with a common life in Christ, we will be able to love and serve one another in ways that will open us to His strength personally and collectively in powerful ways.
In the joy of the resurrection, we must learn to see that embracing our life together in Christ is an essential dimension of obeying His command to “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” He calls each of us to turn away from the paralyzing weakness of selfishness and laziness that would make whatever sins we have become comfortable with appear more important than serving Him in His Body, the Church, where the glory and power of the resurrection are fully present.
Think about that for a moment. Pascha is not an isolated event that happened long ago, but an entrance into the new day of the Kingdom of Heaven which is fully open to us in the worship and common life of this parish. The Saviour calls each of us, weakened and held back by the corruptions of sin, to get up and move forward in the blessed life for which He made us in His image and likeness. That is why He died and rose again, to raise us up with Him for a life of holiness, to restore us to the ancient dignity of Paradise. May this season of Pascha be our entrance as a parish into the joy of the Kingdom. That will happen when we rise up, from whatever corruptions are holding us back, to a life of obedience in serving Him and one another in His Body, the Church. That is the only way to answer the question that He asks each of us today and every day: “Do you want to be healed?”
Christ is Risen! ... See MoreSee Less
Troparion — Tone 2
The angel came to the myrrhbearing women at the tomb and said: Myrrh is meet for the dead; but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption! So proclaim: The Lord is risen, granting the world great mercy!
Kontakion — Tone 2
You commanded the myrrhbearers to rejoice, O Christ! By Your Resurrection, You stopped the lamentation of Eve, the first mother! You commanded them to preach to Your apostles: The Saviour is Risen from the tomb! ... See MoreSee Less
FEAST OF THE MYRRH-BEARING WOMEN, ST JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA AND ST NICODEMUSBy Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
We keep today the feast of a number of the followers of Christ of whom we think seldom, because they are mentioned very little in the Scriptures. And each of them could be a lesson for us.
St. Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man who listened to Christ with an open mind and did not commit himself. Neither did Nicodemus; but Nicodemus was a learned man, part of the Sanhedrin. He had been listening to Christ, he had been asking questions from Him, he wanted to understand, he wanted to be sure. But neither of them had committed themselves to follow Christ, to declare themselves as His disciples.
And yet, when Christ in the eyes of everyone was defeated, when victory had come to His enemies, when He was dead, about to be buried, their faithfulness to Him who had taught them words of life came to the fore. And they joined the Mother of God to bring down the body of Christ and to bury him. Daringly they went to Pontius Pilate and asked for this body so that they could bury Him with veneration. In the course of His life they had been listening to Him with a hesitant yet open mind. When death came their faithfulness sprang to the fore. And seeing the pain of the Mother of God and St. John the apostle there was no doubt left in them; they must declare themselves, because they could not accept that He should be rejected through defeat after having been their teacher, their guide and their friend.
And then there is another group of people, the myrrh-bearing women, a group of women who had been following Christ and supporting Him and His disciples in their need. When Christ was crucified all the apostles fled, with the exception of St. John and with the exception of these women. It was not an intellectual conviction that held them as disciples of Christ. It was something which perhaps could be defined in the words of the pilgrims to Emmaus: 'was not our heart burning within us when He was speaking to us on the way'. All the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, from the peace of the land to the tragedy of Jerusalem, all this time they had been listening and their hearts had come to life - not with personal love but with a deep sense of life eternal. These are the words which also St. Peter had said earlier, when most people who surrounded them had left, and Christ turned to his disciples and said: are you also going to go? And Peter said: where should we go? You have the words of eternal life. And these words were not simply syllogisms, or proofs, or ways of conveying things. When he spoke it was life eternal that was awoken in them - the door into eternal life that came to life. And they knew that these words were true because there was new life in them. And so was it also for these women.
So today we keep the feast of people who proved faithful, the ones who in their frailty had not fled, and the ones who in the face of defeat and tragedy had suddenly become disciples and faithful. Let us remember them, not only seeing their glory as we have done today in the service, but also asking ourselves: do we belong, to any extent, to the example given by one or another of them? Can we say that in the face of the defeat of Christ we would come out and say: I am one of His disciples, although in the time when there was no danger around I kept out, hesitant, unsure, asking myself questions, indeed asking Him questions? Is any one of us Joseph of Arimathea, is any one Nicodemus, and can we say that we are like these myrrh-bearing women, whom neither the needs nor the defeat nor the death of Christ had been able to alienate from Him?
None of us is any of it to the full; but let us learn from them and try to grow into that faithfulness which they have shown; the ones throughout the life of Christ, and the other ones in the face of His defeat. Amen.
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ... See MoreSee Less
Fr Augustine will hold a Radonitsa Panikhida service in his isolation tonight. Please send us names so they can be included in the prayers.
"O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down death and overthrown the Devil, and given life to Thy world, do Thou, the same Lord, give rest to the souls of Thy departed servants in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away. Pardon every transgression which they have committed, whether by word or deed or thought. For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind; because there is no man who lives yet does not sin, for Thou only art without sin, Thy righteousness is to all eternity, and Thy word is truth.
For Thou are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Thy servants who have fallen asleep, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever unto ages of ages. Amen."
We hope you're all keeping well! ... See MoreSee Less
Radonitsa“On this day, the Tuesday of St. Thomas week, according to the order instituted by our Holy Fathers, we call to remembrance, in Paschal joy, all those who have died from the beginning of the ages in faith and in the hope of resurrection and life eternal. “Having previously celebrated the radiant feast of Christ’s glorious Resurrection, the faithful commemorate the dead today with the pious intent to share the great joy of this Pascha feast with those who have departed this life in the hope of their own resurrection. This is the same blessed joy with which the dead heard our Lord announce His victory over death when He descended into Hades, thus leading forth by the hand the righteous souls of the Old Covenant into Paradise. This is the same unhoped-for joy the Holy Myrrhbearing Women experienced when discovering the empty tomb and the undisturbed grave clothes. In addition, this is the same bright joy the Holy Apostles encountered in the Upper Room where Christ appeared though the doors were closed.
In short, this feast is a kindred joy, to celebrate the luminous Resurrection with our Orthodox forefathers who have fallen asleep. “There is evidence of the commemoration of the dead today in the writings of the Church Fathers. St. John Chrysostom mentions the commemoration of the dead performed on Tuesday of St. Thomas week in his “Homily on the Cemetery and the Cross.” “Today, the faithful departed are remembered in Divine Liturgies, ‘koliva’ is prepared and blessed in the churches in memory of those who have fallen asleep, and the Orthodox graves in cemeteries are blessed by the priests and visited by the faithful. On this day alms are given to the poor. Furthermore, it should be noted that due to the great spiritual joy this jubilant commemoration bears, it is called in the Slavonic tongue, ‘Radonitsa,’ or Day of Rejoicing.”
The special traditions and prayers for the departed
While there are a number of variations depending on place and time, in general prayers for the departed are offered immediately upon the death of an Orthodox Christian: There is a special Rite for the Parting of the Soul from the Body which may be celebrated at the moment of death. During the period of time between the actual death and burial: Special services for the departed, variously known as the “Panikhida,” “Parastas,” “Pomen,” “Mnemosyno,” etc. are celebrated as the time of the Funeral Service approaches. In some traditions the Divine Liturgy is also celebrated on the morning of burial, in which case the Funeral Service is often celebrated the preceding night. A brief “Panikhida,” sometimes called a “Litiya,” is celebrated at the burial site, followed the prayers for the “sealing” of the grave. On the third, ninth, and fortieth days after death: Again a “Panikhida” is generally celebrated on these days. A “Panikhida” may, of course, be celebrated at any other convenient time as well.
The observance of a 40-day “official” period of mourning after the death of a loved one is a very ancient and somewhat widely-practiced one. For example, members of the Jewish faith retain a similar period of mourning known as “Shiva.” During this mourning period the family receives visitors in their home, with whom they “sit Shiva” in honour of the newly-departed. On the sixth month anniversary of death and the annual anniversary of death: A “Panikhida” is usually celebrated at these times. Many Orthodox Christians offer a “Panikhida” every year on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, celebrating in a certain sense their “birthday” into life eternal. At any other appropriate time: A “Panikhida” may be celebrated at any time as requested by the family. For example, many people celebrate such services on special days associated with the life of the departed, such as the anniversary of his or her birth, wedding anniversary, etc. It is also customary to celebrate such services in conjunction with the dedication of the cross placed on the departed person’s grave, together with special prayers of blessing.
On Church-appointed “Memorial Saturdays”: There are five Saturdays during the course of the year dedicated to the departed. On these Saturdays it is customary to celebrate the Divine Liturgy followed by a “Panikhida” for all the faithful departed. On the Second Tuesday after Holy Pascha [Easter]: This day, known since early times as the “Day of Rejoicing,” is a traditional time to visit the graves of loved ones, request that their graves be blessed, and offer prayers and services for their repose. In many places today, this celebration occurs on the Sunday after Holy Pascha [Saint Thomas Sunday]. In some places it occurs in conjunction with Memorial Day observances.
In our daily prayers: In the Evening Prayers which Orthodox Christians recite each day there are special commemorations for the departed. At every Divine Liturgy: There are petitions in the Litany which follows the Gospel and Homily in which the departed are remembered. In many parishes it is possible to add the names of the departed to a special list for commemoration at that time. In some parishes an additional “Litany for the Departed” is on occasion added to the Liturgy. Finally, in the preparation of the eucharistic bread, which occurs before the public portion of the Divine Liturgy, the priest takes particles of bread, each commemorating one of the faithful departed, and places them on the diskos, or special plate, on which the bread which will later become the Body of Christ is placed. As the priest removes each particle he mentions the name of a specific departed individual, generally from lists of names submitted before the beginning of the Liturgy by the faithful.
Again, there are slight variations in how Orthodox Christians in various places and at various times have offered prayers for the dead, but in general, that which is described above is universal in all Orthodox churches. And there are other customs which for some Orthodox Christians surround the commemorations noted above. For example, some Orthodox Christians prepare a special dish of boiled wheat and honey [other ingredients are often added], significant of new life, and bring it to the church in conjunction with the celebration of a “Panikhida.” ... See MoreSee Less
We are a more blessed than the Apostles: A Homily for Thomas SundayBy: Hieromonk Ignaty (Shestakov), translated by Jesse Dominick
Christ is Risen!
We heard in the Gospel reading today about what assurance one of the twelve apostles—the apostle Thomas—received.
The Lord appeared to the disciples after His Resurrection. When He appeared, He showed them His hands and feet as proof of His Resurrection, and did so more than once. But the apostle Thomas, who was not present with them, expressed some doubt, and responded to the words of the disciples about how they had seen the Lord, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe (Jn. 20:25).
Eight days later the merciful Lord again appeared to the disciples, gathered in one house behind closed doors, and said to Thomas: Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing (Jn. 20:27). The apostle Thomas’ doubt has become to some extent proverbial, has grown wings, and become common knowledge, and often causes us modern Christians to even condemn the apostle Thomas. We wonder, how could he have doubted? In reality, even in the Gospels we see that there is nothing surprising in this. The apostle Thomas was not alone in his doubt.
If we look closely at the Gospel events after Christ’s Resurrection, we see with what doubt the apostles often responded to what was happening. They did not believe Mary Magdalene (cf. Mk. 16:9-11), and they did not believe Luke and Cleopas, when the Lord appeared to them on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk. 24:1316), but they constantly doubted. Therefore, to confirm them in faith, the Lord gave confirmation of His human nature, by eating before them and showing them His wounds.
But what fruit the apostle Thomas’ doubt brought the Church! The Lord again proved that He is the true God, and that He is risen from the dead. And the Church even lauds this unbelief of Thomas in its hymns today, thanks to which we are strengthened in faith. Faith only asserts itself by this unbelief.
And the apostles, having often betrayed Christ, having feared just like normal people, and having experienced doubts, proved this faith with their whole lives and their apostolic ministries. They were stronger than the rulers of this world, stronger than the laws, stronger than pagan teachings, and stronger than the Pharisees with their ancient traditions; and they feared nothing, preaching the Gospel to all ends of the universe. They gave their lives for Christ, and like their Teacher, they also proved that life is mightier than death, and that the Lord is more important for us all than the temporary fulfilment of our passions. The apostles belonged to the family of those who saw Christ and believed.
Returning then to today’s Gospel reading, the Savior’s words, addressed to the apostle Thomas and the other disciples, acquire a particular importance for us. After the Lord showed Thomas His wounds, he said, My Lord and my God! (Jn. 20:28). This is the witness he brought. And Jesus answered, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29).
This firstly refers to the following generations of Christians, to the disciples of the apostles, the disciples of those disciples, and to us all. We have not seen Christ, come into the world in the flesh, and therefore we are worthy of such blessedness—having not seen Him, we believe. The fathers of the Church say that this bliss is a pledge of great blessings for us, perhaps greater than the holy apostles were accounted worthy of, but on condition that we, like the apostles, full of this blessedness, must give our entire lives to Christ, and serve His Gospel evangelism. This is the condition for felicity. Such a great gift the Lord gives us: We are more blessed in this world than the apostles.
There is another kind of people, who saw Christ and heard the Gospel message, but remained unbelieving. First among these was the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who understood Who it was that stood before them, Who came into this world. These were people of the Scripture, perfectly knowing the prophecies, but they did not receive Christ. And we, Christians, knowing the Gospel, often find ourselves in their place. Sometimes our knowledge as if further removes us from Christ.
It is especially important for people who have studied theology. How often, as historical examples tell us, people who have seemingly reached the heights of mental knowledge of God, having studied everything, having read everything, become terrible cynics and lead others into yet greater destruction.
May it not be so with us, dear brothers and sisters; may we be along with the apostles simple, faithful, sincere, and, of course, to the best of our ability, students and preachers of the risen Christ; may we be bearers of the good news of the all-conquering Gospel truth.
Christ is Risen! ... See MoreSee Less
Thomas SundayBy Fr. Thomas Hopko
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
The Sunday after Easter, called the Second Sunday, is thus the eighth day of the paschal celebration, the last day of Bright Week. It is therefore called the Antipascha, and it was only on this day in the early church that the newly-baptized Christians removed their robes and entered once again into the life of this world.
In the Church services the stress is on the Apostle Thomas' vision of Christ and the significance of the day comes to us in the words of the gospel: Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (John 20:27-29) We have not seen Christ with our physical eyes nor touched his risen body with our physical hands, yet in the Holy Spirit we have seen and touched and tasted the Word of Life (I John 1:1-4), and so we believe.
At each of the daily services until Ascension Day we sing the Easter Troparion. At each of the Sunday services beginning with Antipascha, we sing the Easter canon and hymns, and repeat the celebration of the "first day of the week" on which Christ rose from the dead. At all of the liturgies the epistle readings are taken from the Book of Acts telling us of the first Christians who lived in communion with the Risen Lord. All of the gospel readings are taken from the Gospel of St. John, considered by many to be a gospel written particularly for those who are newly-baptized into the new life of the Kingdom of God through death and new birth in Christ, in the name of the Holy Trinity. The reason for this opinion is that all of the "signs", as the miracles in St. John's Gospel are called, deal with sacramental themes involving water, wine and bread. Thus, each of the Sundays after Thomas Sunday with the exception of the third, is dedicated to the memory of one of these "signs". ... See MoreSee Less
Here's a Celtic hymn for the lighting of the Paschal candles.
Fiery Creator of fire,
Light Giver of light,
Life and Author of life,
Salvation and Bestower of salvation,
in case the lamps should abandon,
The joys of this night,
You who do not desire our death,
Give life to our breast.
To those wandering from Egypt,
You bestow the double grace,
you show the veil of cloud,
And give nocturnal light.
With a pillar of cloud in the day,
you protect the people as they go,
with a pillar of fire by evening,
You dispel the night with light.
You call out to your servant from the flame,
You do not spurn the bush of thorns,
And though You are consuming fire,
You do not burn what You illumine.
Now it is time that the cloudy bee-bread,
should be consumed, all impurity boiled away,
And the waxen flesh should shine,
with the glow of the Holy Spirit.
You store now in the recesses of the comb,
The sweet food of the divine honey,
and purifying the inmost cells of the heart,
You have filled them with Your Word;
That the swarm of the new brood,
chosen by Your mouth and spirit,
May leave their burdens and win heaven,
on wings now free from care. ... See MoreSee Less
"Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and for evermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised!
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
upon the heavens and the earth?" ... See MoreSee Less
Christ is Risen! Bright Week or Renewal Week, is the first week following the Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which is celebrated each year at Pascha. It ends the following Sunday, the Sunday of St. Thomas. For Orthodox Christians Bright Week begins a period of celebration that continues for fifty days until Pentecost.
The entire week is considered to be one continuous day and the main reason why fasting is completely prohibited to all Orthodox during the week.
This celebration includes the practice of the faithful joyously greeting each other with the salutation of Christ is risen, followed by the response indeed He is risen or truly He is risen, as the whole of creation is renewed by Our Lord and Saviour.
The services of Bright Week are done with the Royal Doors fully open. This unblocked view of the altar symbolizes the open door of Christ's empty tomb as well as the rent veil of the Jewish Temple, which was torn apart at the moment Christ died. ... See MoreSee Less
Christ is risen!
Hristos a înviat!
Christ est ressuscité!
Kristus er oppstanden!
Christus is verrezen!
Tha Crìosd air èiridh!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5LYSxsmH0M&list=OLAK5uy_n0f9G_aKwJ3E7TSG3cC7HIdsnf3kX3VuI&index=13 ... See MoreSee Less
EASTER SERMONBy: St. John Chrysostom
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; He gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one He gives, and upon the other He bestows gifts. And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen. ... See MoreSee Less
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20) ... See MoreSee Less
"The Noble Joseph, when he had taken down Your most pure Body from the tree, wrapped it in fine linen, and anointed it with spices, and placed it in a new tomb" ... See MoreSee Less
PRAYER AT THE HOLY SHROUD
O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, we thank You and we praise You as our Saviour and Benefactor, since You helped us, Your unworthy servants, to pass through this holy and divine season of Lent; to attain to the resurrection of Your friend, Lazarus, who remained in his grave for four days; to reach to Your triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey and, following the example of the Jewish children, to welcome You with palm branches and cries, "Hosanna in the 'highest!"; to behold Your most holy and salutary Passion; to venerate Your divine Crucifixion and burial according to the flesh in the hope of arriving at Your most glorious and divine resurrection.
And now, in all humility, we prostrate ourselves and sincerely implore You for Your servants, who came under this roof of Your holy temple: Receive their confession and their repentance as You received the Publican's sighing and, for the sake of Your holy resurrection on the third day, forgive them all their voluntary and involuntary sins, cleanse them as You did the repentant adulteress, and receive them as You have received Peter, who, after having denied You, bitterly repented.
Place Your fear in their hearts, that they may honour You and love You with their whole heart and walk according to Your holy will. Grant them to partake, without condemnation, of Your most pure Body and of Your most precious Blood that they may be worthy to take part in Your heavenly kingdom with all the Saints.
For You are a God of mercy and salvation, and we render glory to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen. ... See MoreSee Less
God loves us more than we can comprehendOn Thursday of Holy Week four events are commemorated: the washing of the disciples' feet, the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas.
The homily below is a reminder about the importance of the Eucharist and what an amazing Gift it is.
By: Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. I Corinthians 11:23-26 (From the Epistle of the Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Thursday Morning) Holy Thursday
On Holy Thursday, we commemorate the Institution of the Eucharist. The Lord took two very ordinary things, bread and wine, and “consecrated” them to be His Body and Blood. And then He gave these two ordinary things, now “extra-ordinary”, to His Disciples, to partake of them.
In our church, we celebrate the Eucharist often. We bring the same “ordinary” gifts, bread and wine, and offer them in the service. There is nothing extraordinary about bread and wine. They can be purchased in any store. They can be made in any home. They are rather ordinary substances. But when they are brought into the church, prayed over and “consecrated,” these ordinary substances become “extraordinary.” Because they are touched by THE Holy Spirit, they become “extraordinary,” they become “holy”. Holy means “set apart”. So they become “Holy,” in the sense that they are no longer mere bread and wine, but they are THE Body and THE Blood of Jesus Christ. When we receive these “extraordinary” Gifts, we become “extraordinary” by association. Just like when you are dirty and take a shower and use a cleaning agent, soap, you become clean. So, when we touch what is extraordinary and Holy, we become extraordinary and holy. The challenge comes after we receive what is “extraordinary.” Do we leave church and act “extraordinary” and “holy” or do we revert back to being “ordinary.”
We receive Communion for many reasons. First, it is a commandment—“Take eat.” “Drink of this all of you.” “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Second, it allows God to come into us, and it affords us the opportunity to touch the Divine God.
There is a third reason which we often forget. We receive Communion in order to REMEMBER what Christ did for us. In celebrating the Liturgy, we not only partake of Christ, but we get a refresher course in what it means to be a Christian. We remember that Christ died for our sins. We remember that He was Resurrected from the dead. We remember His teachings. We remember that He came from God and returned to God, and that we can follow the same path.
In bringing ordinary gifts and making them extraordinary, we remember that WE can become extraordinary through partaking of Holy Communion. We remember that we cannot be content being ordinary because we have witnessed and partaken of the extraordinary. In receiving Communion, we remember that the Gifts are Holy, they are set apart, and in receiving the Gifts, we are to become Holy and set apart, set apart for God and His purposes for our lives.
In receiving Communion we are sustained in our lives until we meet the Lord, because we have Him in our minds, our hearts and our lives, with regularity. This is why Saint Paul intentionally chooses the word “often”, to encourage us to receive Communion on a frequent basis, so that there isn’t sufficient time to forget Christ and what He did for us.
We tell our spouses and our children often that we love them. Is that because if they don’t hear it every day that they might doubt that we love them? I suppose if they only heard it once a year, they might. But we tell people we love them often because hearing that you are loved is a great source of encouragement. It is always a positive thing.
In the Eucharist, we are reminded that God loves us, so much that He died for us. He loves us so much that He is preparing a heavenly kingdom for us. He loves us so much that He has given us a pathway to follow to get us from here to there.
In receiving the Eucharist, we tell God that we love Him. We tell Him that we want to be extraordinary and holy. So the Eucharist is not just some ritual where we bring ordinary gifts and a “show” is performed over them. The Eucharist is an opportunity to partake of the extraordinary to remind us that we are extraordinary. It is the opportunity to stand in the presence of the Divine God in this life in preparation for living with Him in the next. It is an opportunity to partake of what is holy to remind us to be holy. And it is an opportunity to remember all that God did and still does for us, so that we can go forth and live for Him.
Do this in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this Bread and drink this Cup, you proclaim my death, and you confess my resurrection. Therefore, Master, we also, remembering His saving passion and life giving cross, His three; day burial and resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven, and enthronement at Your right hand, God and Father, and His glorious and awesome second coming. (From the Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. Basil, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Allow the Eucharist to help transform you from ordinary to extraordinary each time you receive! ... See MoreSee Less
"Do this in memory of me"
The "Last Supper" is one of the most memorable scenes of any of the Gospels' Passion narratives. Yet none of the Gospels has made such an extensive presentation of that Last Supper as John did. It spans five chapters and includes the washing of the feet and a long dialog, with questions and answers, between the master and his disciples, not unlike the traditional questions asked during a Passover meal for Jews. It also concludes with the longest prayer ever said by Jesus (chapter 17).
John gives such importance to the Last Supper that we expect Jesus to take the bread, give thanks, break it, give it to his disciples, and say: "Do this in memory of me." But this doesn't happen at all. Instead, John tells us that Jesus "took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet..." This sounds different!
Jesus puts himself in the position of a servant towards his disciples, thus setting an example for them to imitate (verse 15). Such instruction given by Jesus is the Johannine equivalent of the "Do this in memory of me" we find in the Synoptics. We then have here the institution of fraternal love and service as a true sacrament of Christ. In other words, deeds of love and service and celebrating the Eucharist are not opposed to one another, both are done "in memory" of Jesus. Both Eucharist and fraternal love are true sacraments of Christ. Far from conflicting, they call for each other.
Lord Jesus, you set an example for us. Help us to honour your memory both in prayer and in service to those in need. ... See MoreSee Less
The service of the Holy Passion of our Lord Jesus ChristGreat and Holy Thursday evening
(The service of the HOLY PASSION of our Lord Jesus Christ. The service is Matins of Friday morning sung by anticipation Thursday evening.)
Good Friday (the Orthros of Friday morning sung by anticipation now Thursday evening) celebrates the holy, saving and awesome Passion of Christ. To take away our sins, Christ willingly endured the spittings, scourgings, buffetings, scorn, mocking and the purple robe; the reed, sponge, vinegar, nails, spear and, above all, the Cross and Death. The confession from the cross of the penitent thief, crucified with Christ, is celebrated. This service is long, but its content is dramatic and deeply moving for the devout Christian. Participation in the prayers and the historical sequence of the events, as related in the Gospels and hymns, provides a vivid foundation for the great events yet to come. Following are the references of the "Twelve Gospel" readings of this service:
We would encourage everyone to read these Gospels at home.
1. St. John 13:31 - 18,1
2. St. John 18:1-29
3. St. Matthew 26:57-75
4. St. John 18:28 - 19:16
5. St. Matthew 27:3-32
6. St. Mark 15:16-32
7. St. Matthew 27:33-54
8. St. Luke 23:32-49
9. St. John 19:25-37
10. St. Mark 15:43-47
11. St. John 19:38-42
12. St. Matthew 27:62-66
These readings relate the last instructions of Christ to His disciples, the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, the dramatic prayer of Christ and His new commandment. The day should be devoted to reading the "Gospel of the Testament" of Christ which He left for all men. The Church services during Holy Week re-enact the events of this Gospel.
After the reading of the fifth Gospel comes the procession with the Crucifix around the church, while the priest chants the 15th antiphon: "Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, 0 Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection".
During the Procession, the faithful Christian kneels and prays for his spiritual welfare, imitating the thief on the Cross who confessed his faith and devotion to Christ. He then approaches and reverently kisses the Crucifix. ... See MoreSee Less
The Service of Holy UnctionIntroduction
On the afternoon or evening of Great and Holy Wednesday, the Sacrament or Mystery of Holy Unction is conducted in Orthodox parishes. The Sacrament of Holy Unction is offered for the healing of soul and body and for forgiveness of sins. At the conclusion of the service of the Sacrament, the body is anointed with oil, and the grace of God, which heals infirmities of soul and body, is called down upon each person. The Sacrament is performed by a gathering of priests, ideally seven in number, however, it can be performed by a lesser number and even by a single priest.
When one is ill and in pain, this can very often be a time of life when one feels alone and isolated. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Holy Unction as it is also known, reminds us that when we are in pain, either physical, emotional, or spiritual, Christ is present with us through the ministry of His Church. He is among us to offer strength to meet the challenges of life, and even the approach of death.
As with Chrismation, oil is also used in this Sacrament as a sign of God's presence, strength, and forgiveness. After the reading of seven Epistle lessons, seven Gospel lessons and the offering of seven prayers, which are all devoted to healing, the priest anoints the body with the Holy Oil. Orthodoxy does not view this Sacrament as available only to those who are near death. It is offered to all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit.
Christ came to the world to "bear our infirmities." One of the signs of His divine Messiahship was to heal the sick. The power of healing remains in the Church since Christ himself remains in the Church through the Holy Spirit.
The Sacrament of the Unction of the sick is the Church's specific prayer for healing. If the faith of the believers is strong enough, and if it is the will of God, there is every reason to believe that the Lord can heal those who are diseased.
The biblical basis for the Sacrament is found in James 5:14-16:
Is any among you sick, let him call for the presbyters of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
In ancient Christian literature one may find indirect testimonies of the Mystery of Unction in Saint Irenaeus of Lyons and in Origen. Later there are clear testimonies of it in Saints Basil the Great and John Chrysostom, who have left prayers for the healing of the infirm which entered later into the rite of Unction; and likewise in Saint Cyril of Alexandria. In the fifth century, Pope Innocent I answered a series of questions concerning the Mystery of Unction, indicating in his answers that a) it should be performed "upon believers who are sick"; b) it may be performed also by a bishop, since one should not see in the words of the Apostle, let him call for the presbyters, any prohibition for a bishop to participate in the sacred action; c) this anointment may not be performed "on those undergoing ecclesiastical penance,' because it is a "Mystery,' and to those who are forbidden the other Mysteries, how can one allow only one?
The express purpose of the Sacrament of Holy Unction is healing and forgiveness. Since it is not always the will of God that there should be physical healing, the prayer of Christ that God's will be done always remains as the proper context of the Sacrament. In addition, it is the clear intention of the Sacrament that through the anointing of the sick body the sufferings of the person should be sanctified and united to the sufferings of Christ. In this way, the wounds of the flesh are consecrated, and strength is given that the suffering of the diseased person may not be unto the death of his soul, but for eternal salvation in the resurrection and life of the Kingdom of God.
It is indeed the case that death inevitably comes. All must die, even those who in this life are given a reprieve through healing in order to have more time on the earth. Thus, the healing of the sick is not itself a final goal, but is merely "instrumental" in that it is given by God as a sign of his mercy and as a grace for the further opportunity of man to live for him and for others in the life of this world.
In the case where a person is obviously in the final moments of his earthly life, the Church has special prayers for the "separation of soul and body." Thus, it is clear that the Sacrament of Holy Unction is for the sick-both the physically and mentally sick-and is not reserved for the moment of death. The Sacrament of Unction is not the "last rites" as is sometimes thought; the ritual of the anointing itself in no way indicates that it should be administered merely in "extreme" cases. Holy Unction is the Sacrament of the spiritual, physical, and mental healing of a sick person whatever the nature or the gravity of the illness may be.
Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Sacrament of Holy unction
The Sacrament itself calls for seven priests, seven readings from the Epistles and Gospels, seven prayers and seven anointings with oil specifically blessed during the service. Although it is not always possible to perform the sacrament in this way, the normal procedure is still to gather together as many priests and people as possible.
At the end of the service the priest anoints the faithful as he makes the sign of the cross on the forehead and top and palms of the hands saying, "For the healing of soul and body."
Order of the Service
1 Introductory Prayers and Psalms 143 & 51
2 In these Psalms we confess our sinfulness before God and ask Him to cleanse us and make a "new and right spirit within us" (Psalm 51:10).
4 In this series of verses that are read or sung, we ask God to show mercy upon us and cleanse our souls, to drive away all evil powers, to grant salvation to those who are sick or suffering, and to grant us the healing of our souls and bodies. At the end of several sets of verses, we ask God to renew our lives so that we may bless, thank and glorify Him forever.
5 Short Prayers or Troparia to the Saints
6 We ask for the intercessions of the saints - especially those who have helped the sick and suffering, and to those who have been martyred for the glory of God. We also ask the Theotokos to intercede for us for the salvation of our souls.
7 Epistle and Gospel Lessons and Prayers
8 There are seven sets of Epistle and Gospel readings and prayers.
9 a. James 5:10-16; Luke: 10:25-37
10 b. Romans 15:1-7; Luke 19:1-10
11 c. 1 Corinthians 12:27-31;13:1-8; Matthew 10:1, 5-8
12 d. 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1; Matthew 8:14-23
13 e. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11; Matthew 25:1-13
14 f. Galatians 5:22-6:2; Matthew 15:21-28
15 g. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-23; Matthew 9:9-13
16 Each of the seven prayers asks for the remission of the our sins, for the healing of our souls and bodies and for life everlasting.
Hymns and Prayers of the Sacrament of Holy Unction
Exapostelarion of the Sacrament
In mercy, O Good One, cast Thine eyes upon the petitions of us who today are come together in Thy Holy Temple, to anoint Thy sick servants with Thine oil divine.
Troparion (Tone Four)
Thou who alone art a speedy help, O Christ, manifest Thy speedy visitation from on high upon Thy sick servants; deliver them from their infirmities, and cruel pain; and raise them up again to sing praises unto Thee, and without ceasing, to glorify Thee; through the prayers of the Birth-Giver of God, O Thou who alone lovest mankind.
Since you have a fountain of healings, O holy Unmercenaries, you dispense cures to all in need, for you have been granted very great gifts from the ever-flowing wellspring of Christ our Saviour. The Lord says to you who emulate the zeal of the Apostles, "Behold, I have given you authority over unclean spirits, so that you might drive them out and cure every disease and illness." Having truly lived according to His commandments, freely you received and therefore freely you give, healing the ailments of our souls and our bodies.
Look down, most pure Virgin upon the supplications of your servants, and crush the assaults of our enemies, delivering us from all affliction. You are the only sure and secure anchor that we have, and you are our protection. Never permit us who call upon you, our Lady, to be put to shame. Hasten to fulfill the entreaties of those who in faith cry to you: Rejoice, O Lady, helper of all, the joy and protection, and the salvation of our souls.
Prayer of the Oil
O Lord who, in thy mercies and bounties, healest the disorders of our souls and bodies, do Thou, the same Master, sanctify this Oil, that it may be effectual for those who shall be anointed therewith, unto healing, and unto relief from every passion, every malady of the flesh and of the spirit, and every ill; and that therein may be glorified Thy most Holy Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. ... See MoreSee Less
Service of Holy Unction.
Typically this service would have been held today, on Wednesday of Holy Week. It is a healing service with 7 Epistles, 7 Gospels, and 7 Prayers.
I will celebrate this service in my isolation, tonight at 7.00 pm so that the prayers can be heard by our Lord and your names remembered specially in this time of Covid-19. Please send names and they will be included in the service tonight.
The Holy Oil will be kept for future use and when things return to normal and we are allowed to return to our Church we will hold the Service of Holy Unction again with you all present so that all of us can be anointed with Holy Oil.
Fr Augustine ... See MoreSee Less
Holy Week in the Orthodox ChurchHoly Week in a sense begins with the entry of Christ to Jerusalem. This entry full of glory, boisterous, noisy and which is all of it built on a misunderstanding. The people of Jerusalem meet Christ as a conqueror partly because they have heard that He has raised Lazarus from the dead and partly because they expect that now has come the time when He will become the Ruler of Israel, the God-given leader Who will free the country from the occupying forces, from the pagans that have conquered it and taken possession of a land which is God’s own land, have taken possession of Zion, the city of peace, dedicated to God and dedicated by God for His people. Christ knows that He is received as a glorious King because of this tragic misunderstanding and He knows also that the moment the people will have understood that He is not the Messiah they wish for, they turn against Him. And this is what we see in all the days to come: a crowd still under the spell of Christ but now fearful, hesitant, unable to protect Him except by its massive presence, but a crowd in which no-one will lift his voice to proclaim that the slander which is spread around against Him or later the condemnation which is spoken about Him is untrue. If one voice had been lifted in defence of Christ His condemnation could not have gone through without further judgement.
Some of you may remember the story of Daniel the prophet and Susanna: how she was condemned on false accusation and while she was taken to her doom the boy Daniel, a child of seven lifted up his voice and said: ‘I am free from the blood of this woman’. And all proceedings were suspended and she was found not guilty. Not one voice in this vast crowd that filled Jerusalem, that had come for the Passover from all the surrounding country and from countries far away not one voice was lifted because He had betrayed the expectation of the people and they no longer felt He was their leader, their Lord and their Guide.
In the first days Christ speaks. He speaks in the Temple in the presence of whoever wishes to hear Him: the priests are there and the Scribes, and the Pharisees, and the people, and His disciples, and His Mother and day after day He presents them with decisive final confrontations with their own conscience. I have taken down a few of the points because the readings are long and complex but they all centre round, each of them rather centres round one theme.
On the Monday the story of the fig tree, of the two sons who were both asked by their father to go and do his will of whom one said: ‘Yes, father’, and went not, and the other one said: ‘No’ and then repented. Here we are confronted with a first accusation of Christ against us and against those who surrounded Him in those days. Like the fig tree we are covered with leaves, like the fig tree we bear no fruit. We wear a mask, we pretend, we live a lie. Like the son full of good will we say: ‘Yes’ to all the commandments of God, we respond to all the promptings of our conscience, we are ready to do everything until the moment of doing comes and then we don’t do it. And it is the one that said: ‘No’, that thinks better and acts, again a lie, a person who is what he is not.
And then turning to Himself Christ proclaims the parable of the workers of the vineyard who murdered the son and the Gospel ends with a warning that the Lord is going to His death. It is because we lead a life which is a lie that murder, death must come upon the Son of God.
On Tuesday – apocalyptic visions: a warning that false prophets will come who will claim to be Christ. Again the same theme of the lie that kills and that those who will be faithful to Him will be persecuted, — those who will have chosen to be true and real against all the lie and beguilement of the world. And at the end of this apocalyptic vision Christ gives us, reminds us of the two commandments: love of God and love of the neighbour. And in the context of the persecution, perhaps, this commandment of love comes with particular force because on the one hand the commandment of love on the lips of Christ and indeed in the life and example of Christ means that we must love with all our life, but also if necessary with all our death, because greater love no-one has except him who lays down his life for his neighbour.
But why persecution? Because those who are of Christ, those who are of the Kingdom, those who have accepted the command of love and of reality will have to make a choice.
On Wednesday we are confronted with a series of questions which the Sadducees, the Pharisees, others ask of Christ. They are all aimed at forcing Him to give an answer that may later be used to doom Him.
… and their question is untrue. They know that the way in which they put it is destined to entrap Christ and lead Him to die. Hypocrisy is the sign here. And I what to bring forth, bring to your attention the first question which is asked because it applies to us very directly. He is asked whether He was prepared to pay the tax which every Jew was to pay to Caesar. And He asks for a coin, shows it to those who try to ensnare Him: ‘Whose image, whose inscription is on this coin?’ And looking at it they see the profile of the reigning Emperor and his name. And Christ says: ‘Render onto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s’. Now, in the course of centuries these words have been underlined in many ways but what the direct and immediate meaning of these words is this: ‘Everything which bears the imprint of Caesar is his, everything that bears the imprint of the world belongs to the world. But what is the imprint and the name which is written on each of you?’ We are created in the image of God, we are like an icon. As a coin was marked by the profile of the Emperor in power so is each of us in the image of the living God. And when we ask ourselves what do we owe to Caesar and to God, the answer is that everything which is ours can be claimed from us, but we belong to no-one but God. And this is the point at which as we can see from the Book of Revelation that irremediable, inevitable and murderous encounter occurs between anti-Christ and those who are Christ’s own people, God’s own people, prepared to let go of everything because nothing is theirs and refusing to allow themselves to be owned by anyone but the living God Whose image they are, Whose imprint is on their face and Whose name is written in their hearts and indeed is part of their appellation: Are we not called Christ’s own people when we say that we are Christians?
And so again against this background of lie that will lead to the murder of the Son of God all the conflict between false prophecy and false ideals with the real choice and the persecution that ensues, against the background of this hypocrisy which brings out the fact that we belong to none but God on Thursday morning we hear a call: ‘Be ready’, – in the succession of readings from St. Mathew’s 24 and 25 chapter concerning the Judgement. You know these passages, I will only bring out what they speak about. This generation is like the generation in the time of Noah, they live forgetful of all responsibility, forgetful of judgement, carried away by their emotions and their passions, their greed and their fears, careless and irresponsible. The second parable is that of the servant who was left in charge of the household when his master went. The master will tarry, he is now the master, his is answerable to no-one, he can live according to the devices of his own heart, he begins to be a tyrant to others and to indulge in all his whims. ‘Beware, – says Christ, – the master will return at the hour which the servant does not expect him and then he will have to answer’.
And then the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins, those that were found not ready, those who allowed themselves to slumber. How many people spent all their times in a condition of slumber, asleep, inebriated, living in a world of dream, while the world of reality is coming dreadf