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Beheading of St. John the Baptist

August 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The preaching of John the Baptist was of short duration. Having prepared people to receive the Saviour, he ended his life with a martyr’s death. Soon after the baptism of the Lord, John was put in prison by the Galilean King Herod. This Galilean King, Herod Antipas, was the son of Herod the Great, who slaughtered the fourteen thousand Bethlehem infants.

John upbraided King Herod because he had married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, even though his brother was still alive. Herodias became embittered against for this and wanted Herod to kill him. But Herod would not agree to this because he considered John to be a great prophet and feared the people. However, to appease her, he put John in prison. Herodias was not satisfied with this, especially as Herod himself listened with pleasure to the admonitions of John and often acted on his words.

About a year passed after the Forerunner’s imprisonment, when Herod celebrating his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers, and officers, and a thousand leading men of Galilee. Salome, the daughter of Herodias and stepdaughter of Herod, also came to this banquet. She danced for Herod, which pleased him and his guests.

Herod said to her, “Ask me for whatever you wish,” and he swore he would have given her even half of his kingdom.

She went and asked her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

Herodias answered, “The head of John the Baptist.”

Salome with haste returned to Herod and said, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Herod was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests, he did not want to break his word to her, and sent a soldier to the prison to cut off the head of John. The soldier fulfilled the order of the king, brought the head of John the Baptist on a platter and gave it to Salome, and Salome gave it to her mother Herodias.

When his disciples heard of the death of John the Baptist, they came, and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The day of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist is commemorated by the Holy Orthodox Church on the 29th of August (11 September NS) and is called the Beheading of John the Baptist. A strict fast is prescribed on this day in order to remind us of the strict life of St. John the Baptist for which he was blessed by God and to avoid the excesses of Herod which led to such a terrible sin. The Holy Church teaches that St. John the Forerunner is the greatest of all saints after the Mother of God.

Note: See the Gospels of St Mathew 14:1-12; St Mark 6:14-29; and St. Luke 9, 7-9.

Source


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Categories: Orthodox Feasts

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

August 14, 2010 Leave a comment

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Categories: Orthodox Feasts

Pentecost. Trinity Sunday. Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.

May 23, 2010 Leave a comment

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

(Acts 2:1-11)

Troparion

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 Lover of mankind, glory be to Thee.

Sunday of Pentecost


The Vespers Prayers

After the Proemial psalm, the Great Litany and the singing of “Lord, I have cried” the following prayers are read. The priest and the whole congregation kneel.

Prayer 1

O pure and blameless Lord, Who art without beginning, invisible and incomprehensible, unchangeable, immeasurable, and unbounded, Who art without evil and alone immortal, who dwellest in the unapproachable light, Maker of heaven and earth and the seas and all that was created therein, Who grantest to all their petitions before asking, to Thee we pray and of Thee we ask, O philanthropic Master, the Father of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the ever-virgin Mary, the noble Theotokos; Who first didst teach by word, and then gave testimony in deed while bearing the saving Passion, teaching us Thine unworthy, sinful, and miserable servants, to offer Thee our supplications with bent head and knee, for our sins and human ignorance.

Wherefore, O most merciful and philanthropic Lord, hear us on whatever day we call upon Thee, and especially on this day of Pentecost, whereon, after our Lord Jesus Christ had ascended into heaven and sat on Thy right hand, O God and Father, He sent down the Holy Spirit to his Disciples, the holy Apostles, Who alighted on each of them and filled them all with His inexhaustible and divine grace; and they did speak in strange tongues, prophesying Thy great deeds. Hear us who beseech Thee, and remember us, wretched and condemned. Deliver us from the (sinful) captivity of our souls by Thy loving intercession. Accept us, who kneel down before Thee and cry out: we have sinned. From birth, from the womb of our mother – we are Thine, O Lord – Thou art our God. But as our life passes in vanity, we have therefore been stripped of thine aid, and have become silent. Yet do we trust in Thy compassion and cry unto Thee. Remember not the sins of our youth and ignorance; cleanse us of our secret sins. Reject us not in our old age, and forsake us not when our strength fails. Before we return to the earth, prepare us to return to Thee. Measure our lawlessness with a measure of Thy generosity, and erect against our many transgressions a bottomless abyss of these generosities.

Look down from the height of Thy holiness upon Thy people who stand and await from Thee abundant mercy. Visit us with Thy goodness and deliver us from the force of Satan and preserve our life with Thy holy and solemn laws. Commit Thy people unto a faithful guardian angel. Gather us all unto Thy kingdom. Forgive those who put their trust in Thee, relinquish us and them from sin. Purify us by the operation of Thy Holy Spirit and remove from us the wiles of the adversary.

Additional prayer: Blessed art Thou, Lord, Almighty Master, who illuminest the day with the light of the sun and the night with the glow of the moon, Who hast made us worthy to pass the course of the day and draw near to the onset of the night; hear our petitions and those of all Thy people. Forgive us all our sins, both voluntary and involuntary, and accept our evening supplications and send down the multitude of Thy mercies and compassions upon Thy people. Protect us with Thy holy angels. Arm us with the weapons of Thy truth. Envelop us with Thy righteousness. Preserve us by Thy power, and deliver us from every oppression and from every conspiracy of the cunning one. Grant us that this evening and the approaching night and all the days of our life may be perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless, without doubt and vain imaginings, by the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and all the saints who have done Thy will from the beginning of time.

Prayer 2

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who residest with us in this life, and Who gavest mankind the world, and in Thine inalienable rule dost give to the true the gift of the Holy Spirit, this blessing Thou hast sent down more fully to Thy pupils and Apostles and dispensed into their mouths the fire of tongues, so that through them all mankind would receive knowledge of God and be enlightened by the light of the Spirit, being emancipated from seduction as from darkness and by their supernatural action learning to believe in the Son of God and to praise Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit as one Godhead, Power and Authority.

Wherefore, O Splendor of the Father, the Likeness of his Essence, His immutable and unchangeable Nature, Thou art the fountain of salvation and grace. Open my lips, sinner that I am, and teach me how and for what I should pray; for Thou dost know the multitude of my sins, but Thine unbounded compassion doth overcome the enormity thereof. Behold, I come and stand before Thee in fear and dismay, casting my soul’s despair into the depth of Thy mercy. Ordain my life, O Thou Who rulest the whole creation with ineffable wisdom. O tranquil Haven to those who are caught in the rages of winter, make known to me the way in which I should walk. Grant to my thoughts the spirit of Thy wisdom, and bestow upon my ignorance the spirit of Thy understanding. Overshadow mine acts with the spirit of Thy fear; a just spirit renew Thou within me, and by Thy Sovereign Spirit strengthen Thou mine unstable mind, that I may be worthy each day to do Thy commandments, being guided by Thy righteous Spirit into that which is profitable, ever mindful of Thy glorified (second) Coming, when we shall all be obliged to give an answer for our deeds. Let me not be led astray by the corrupting pleasures of this world, but strengthen me to delight in the treasures to come. For Thou, O Master, didst say, “Whatever ye ask in My Name ye shall receive” from God the Father co-eternal with Thee.

Therefore, I a sinner, implore Thy goodness on the day of the descent of Thy Holy Spirit. Grant Thou my request for salvation: yea, good Lord, Who grantest all riches and benevolence; for Thou art He, the merciful and pitying, Who givest us more than we ask, Who hast become a Partaker with us in the flesh without sin. Thou art He Who, for his love for mankind, dost have compassion for those who bend the knee to Thee, having become an offering for our sins. Grant, Lord, Thy compassion to Thy people, and incline Thine ear to us from Thy Holy heaven; sanctify us by the saving might of Thy right hand. Cover us with the shelter of Thy wings and turn not away from the product of Thy hands. Against Thee only do we sin, yet Thee only do we serve. We know not how to bow to a strange god, nor how to reach out to a different god. Pardon our iniquities, O Master, and accepting our requests on bended knee, extend to us all a helping hand, and accept the prayers of all as fragrant incense acceptable to Thy most righteous Kingdom.

Additional prayer: Lord, Lord, Thou Who hast delivered us from every arrow (obstacle) that comes by day, save us from everything that walketh in darkness, and accept the lifting up of our hands as an evening offering. Consider us worthy to pass the night blamelessly and experience no evil. Deliver us from Satan. Free us from all confusion and fear. Grant our souls rapture, and our thoughts concern over our accountability at Thy just and terrible judgment. Transfix our flesh with Thy fear, and mitigate our members who are on earth, that in the tranquillity of sleep we may be enlightened by the meditation of Thy precepts. Drive from us every evil fancy and lasciviousness. Elevate us during our prayers, strengthened in faith and enriched by Thy commandments.

Prayer 3

O Christ our God, the ever-flowing Spring, life-giving, illuminating, creative Power, co-eternal with the Father, Who didst divinely achieve the deed of saving mankind, and didst tear apart the indestructible bonds of death, break asunder the bolts of Hades, and tread down the multitude of evil spirits, offering Thyself as a blameless Sacrifice and offering us Thy pure, spotless and sinless body: Who, by this fearsome, inscrutable divine service didst grant us life everlasting, O Thou Who didst descend into Hades, and demolish the eternal bars, revealing an ascent to those who were in the lower abode; Who with the lure of divine wisdom didst entice the dragon, the head of subtle evil and with Thy boundless power bound him in abysmal hell, in inextinguishable fire, and extreme darkness.

O Great Wisdom of the despairing! Overcomer of misfortunes – eminent helper, Who came and lit the way for those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; Thou art the Lord of everlasting glory, the beloved Son of the Most High Father, eternal Light of eternal Light, Thou Sun of truth! Hear Thou us who beseech thee, and lay to rest the souls of Thy servants, of those who have died heretofore, and those of our fathers and brothers and other kinsmen in flesh and all others through faith, for whom we now celebrate this memorial; for Thou hast power over all, and in Thy hands Thou holdest all the boundaries of the earth.

O Almighty Master, God of our fathers, Lord of mercy and Creator of all the races of men, the living and the dead, and of all nature, animate and inanimate, Who appeared and resided here on earth and again departed into the other world, Who settest the years for the living and appointest the time for the dead, Who bringest down to Hades and raisest to bliss; who bindest with weakness and loosest with power; Who arrangest the present as is meet and Who directest the future towards usefulness, Who consolest with the hope of resurrection those who feel the sting of death 3/4 Thou art the Master of all, our God and our Savior, O Hope of all the boundaries of the earth and of those who are away on the seas, O Thou who on this last and great day of salvation, the day of the Feast of Pentecost, hast revealed to us the mystery of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial and co-eternal, indivisible and immiscible, Who didst send down the Holy and life-giving Spirit in the form of tongues of fire on His holy Apostles, revealing them as proclaimers of our godfearing faith, making of them true confessors and preachers of the word of God, Who makest us worthy that our propitiatory prayers, of this all-perfect day of salvation, be acceptable for those who are imprisoned in Hades, and Who grantest those imprisoned therein a great hope in receiving from Thee consolation and relief of their confining grief.

Hear us, disconsolate and wretched, who beseech Thee, and give rest unto the souls who have formerly departed, and make them to repose in a resplendent place, a place of verdure and coolness, where there are no ills nor sorrow nor sighs. And array their souls in the tabernacles of the righteous, and make them worthy of peace and repose; for it is not the dead who praise Thee, O Lord, nor do those who are in Hades venture to offer unto Thee confession, but we, the living, do bless Thee and supplicate Thee, O Lord, and offer unto Thee prayers of purification and sacrifices for their souls’ sake.

Additional prayer: O great eternal God, holy and loving toward mankind, Who dost make us worthy to stand at this hour before Thine unapproachable glory, praising and glorifying Thy wonders, forgive us, unworthy sinners, and grant us grace that from a humble and contrite heart we may offer Thee the thrice-holy glorification and gratitude for Thy great gifts which Thou didst grant and dost still steadfastly grant unto us. Remember, Lord, our weakness and destroy us not in our iniquities; but in accordance with our humility show unto us Thy great mercy, that being delivered from the darkness of sin, we may walk in the day of truth, equipped with the armor of light, and freed from all the evil attacks of the wicked one, glorifying Thee in all things, O only true God and Lover of mankind.

For in truth, O Master and Creator of all, Thine is the great and original Mystery; the temporary death of Thy creatures, and their restoration thereafter unto eternal repose. In all things we acknowledge Thy favor, at our entrance into this world and at our going out therefrom, O Thou Who by Thy unfailing promises didst hold out to us the hope of everlasting life, resurrection, and incorruptible life, which shall be ours to enjoy at Thy Second Coming; for Thou, Lord Christ, art the fountain of our resurrection, the mankind-loving and incorruptible judge of the deceased and those worthy of reward. Thou hast assumed, with utmost condescension, our flesh and blood, and through Thine undying love for us, didst not dismiss Thy suffering, willingly submitting to torture; so that, having been tempted, Thou, as promised, became the helper to those who are tempted, elevating us to Thy dispassion.

Wherefore, O Master, accept our prayers and supplications, and grant repose to our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, blood relatives, and kinsfolk, and all those who have gone to their final rest with the hope of resurrection and life everlasting. Inscribe their names in the Book of Life; in the bosoms of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; in the land of the living, the Kingdom of Heaven, in the paradise of delight, leading all into Thy Holy dwelling places by Thy radiant angels, and raise their bodies on the day that Thou hast appointed, according to Thine unfailing Holy promises; for there is no death, O Lord, to Thy departing servants who cast off their bodies and come unto Thee, O God, but a transition from sorrowful things to pleasant and benign, to repose and joy. And if they have sinned (in any respect) against Thee, forgive them, and be Thou compassionate unto them and us; for there is none without stain before Thee, even though his life be but a day, save Thou alone, Jesus Christ our God, Who didst appear on earth without sin, and because of Thee we all trust to attain mercy and the remission of sins.

Therefore, O God, through Thy grace and love of mankind, weaken, remit and forgive our sins and theirs; overlook both our voluntary and involuntary offenses, which we have committed either willfully or through ignorance, openly or in secret whether by word, deed, or thought and all our wrathful dealings which we have committed during our lifetime. As for those who have preceded us, grant them emancipation and repose. To those of us who are here, bless us, and give us and all Thy people a blessed and peaceful end to life. At Thy fearsome and dreadful coming open to us Thy fathomless love of mankind, making us worthy of Thy Kingdom.

Additional prayer: O Thou most exalted God, Who alone dost possess immortality, Who dwellest in the unapproachable light, Who in wisdom didst bring into being all creation, who didst separate between the light and the darkness, setting the sun to rule the day, and the moon and stars to rule the night, Who on this day didst vouchsafe us sinners as worthy through confession to present ourselves before Thy countenance and to offer to Thee our evening prayers.

Additional prayer: O philanthropic God, set our prayers like incense before Thee, and receive them as a sweet fragrance. Grant that this evening and the approaching night may be peaceful and serene for us. Clothe us with the armor of light, and deliver us from nightly fears and from everything that walketh in darkness. Vouchsafe that the slumber which Thou didst grant us for rest from our weakness be also free from every satanic vision. Yea, O Master, Who providest good things for all, grant that in our lodgings, amid the night, we may with fervor recall Thy most Holy Name. Grant that being enlightened by the teachings of Thy commandments, we in spiritual joy would rise up to glorify Thy goodness, offering for Thy compassion petitions and supplications for our sins and those of all people, for which Thou, through the intercession of the Holy Theotokos, visitest upon us with mercy!

Choir: Amen!

Categories: Orthodox Feasts

The Holy Myrrhbearers

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark [§ 69]. At that time:

15 43Joseph, a noble counselor, who was from Arimathea, and who himself also was waiting for the kingdom of God, came; and having become bold, he went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus for himself. 44And Pilate wondered if He were already dead; and having summoned the centurion, he questioned him if He died not long ago. 45And having come to know it from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46And he bought a linen cloth, and took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the sepulcher. 47And Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Joses were beholding where He was laid.

16 1And the sabbath having passed, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of Iakovos, and Salome bought aromatic spices, that they might come and anoint Him.2And very early in the morning on the first day of the week they came to the sepulcher, after the sun rose. 3And they were saying among themselves, “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher for us?” 4And they looked up and saw that the stone had been rolled away, for it was exceedingly great. 5And after they entered into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed in a white robe, and they were amazed. 6And he saith to them, “Cease being amazed. Ye are seeking Jesus the Nazarene Who hath been crucified. He was raised, He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. 7“But go and say to His disciples, and to Peter, that He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, even as He told you.” 8And they went out and fled from the sepulcher. And trembling and ecstasy held them fast, and to no one did they say anything, for they were afraid.

Troparion, tone II:

Standing before the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb, the angel cried: “Myrrh is meet for the dead, yet Christ hath shown Himself to be a stranger to corruption! But cry aloud: The Lord hath risen, granting the world great mercy!”

Kontakion, tone II:

Thou didst command the myrrh-bearers to rejoice, and didst console the lamentation of our first mother, Eve, by Thy resurrection, O Christ God; and didst command Thine apostles to preach: The Savior hath risen from the tomb!


+++


On the second Sunday after the Resurrection, the Church celebrates the first witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection — the women who came to anoint His body with fragrant oils, the “Myrrhbearers” — and the men who buried Him, St. Joseph of Arimathea & St. Nicodemus.

Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday — the day before the Sabbath (Saturday) and the day before the Old Testament Passover feast. When He died, it was imperative that He be buried before the Sabbath, because it was against the Law to work on the Sabbath. SS. Joseph & Nicodemus took His Body down from the cross, hastily anointed the Lord with aloe and myrrh, and wrapped Him is a sheer strip of linen. They placed Him the newly-completed tomb — dug out of solid rock! — that was intended for the wealthy St. Joseph when he died, and sealed the tomb with a massive stone.

While St. Peter and the other male disciples slept, the women disciples of the Lord bought more expensive, fragrant oils and myrrh. They went to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath-day ended — in the middle of the night — to anoint His body properly. As they walked, they discussed how they could even get into the tomb, sealed by the huge stone that was too big for them to move.

When they arrived, the tomb was open, and He was gone! They made several trips back and forth to Jerusalem, telling the disciples the good news, leading them back to the tomb, and searching for His Body to confirm the Resurrection the angels proclaimed.

The faithful women who visited the tomb of Jesus Christ on the morning of the Resurrection included:

Mary Magdalene, from whom the Lord cast out seven devils — she was the first witness to the Resurrection
the Theotokos, referred to as “Mary the mother of Joses” (Joses was one of the sons of St. Joseph the Bethrothed by his first wife; Mary was his step-mother)
Joanna, the wife of Chouza, the steward/administrator of King Herod Antipas
Salome, a daughter of St. Joseph the Betrothed by his first wife, who was also the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the Apostles James and John

After the Resurrection, St. Mary Magdalene went to Rome. Tradition teaches that when Mary first met the Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar, she held a plain egg in her hand and greeted him with the words, “Christ is risen!” Tiberius exclaimed: “How can someone rise from the dead? This is hard to believe. It is just as likely that Christ rose from the dead as it is that the egg you are holding will turn red.” Even as he spoke, the egg turned a brilliant red! She then preached the good news of Jesus Christ to the emperor and the imperial household.

Mary Magdalene told Tiberius all that Pontius Pilate and the leaders of the Jews had done to the Savior. Her testimony was enough to condemn them to death.

St. Mary Magdalene left Rome for the city of Ephesus, where she died and was buried by the Bishop there, the Apostle John (the Theologian)! Emperor Leo the Wise later moved her relics to Constantinople.

Paraphrased from the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Penetcostarion, pp. 184-187.

The Third Sunday Of Great Lent – Sunday of the Precious Cross

March 7, 2010 Leave a comment

The Lord said, ―”If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel‘s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” And Jesus said to them, ―”Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power.”

( Mark 8:34—9:1)

Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (Tropar, Tone 1)

O Lord, save your people, and bless your inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries; and by virtue of Your Cross, preserve your habitation.


Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (Tropar, Tone 1)

Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden; it has been mysteriously quenched by the wood of the Cross! The sting of death and the victory of hell have been vanquished; for You, O my Savior, have come and cried to those in hell: “Enter again into paradise.”
Homily on the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross
Fr. Anthony Perkins

Do you see the irony?

This is the feast celebrating the Precious Cross. We wear crosses. We put them in our houses. We adorn our temples with them (inside and out; on our doors and the very top of our cupolas). We trace its image over our bodies throughout the day. Have you ever realized how that looks?

An instrument of torture and humiliation, perfected by pagans, has become the sign of our faith. A degrading and wicked instrument of death is, according to the Hymns of Church, the “unconquerable trophy of the true faith, door to paradise, succor of the faithful, and rampart set about the Church” (Vespers stichera).

This is something that should wake us from our slumber. This is something so jolting – but so fundamentally true – that it should force us to see things not through the eyes of the fallen world, but through the eyes of “true seeing”. Christ brought sight to the blind during his earthly ministry. Through contemplation of the Cross, He will bring spiritual sight, true sight, to all of us (and in seeing, we will follow Him through the Cross, to Paradise).

The Cross is anathema to the world – it does not understand the Passion. It does not understand sacrifice. It only understands and seeks the comfort and pleasure of today and the foreseeable (and finite) future. The world sees through the fallen eyes of Adam. Adam hoped to find pleasure in the beautiful fruit of the Tree, but found only bitterness (a beautiful tree brought Him only bitterness). The true-seeing man seeks true pleasure today and forever, and finds it in the Cross (a horrific Cross brings him everlasting joy). The promises of worldly pleasure are empty, but the promise of the Cross is already being fulfilled.

Yes, there is great irony in the Cross, but it is only because the Truth is so out of synch with the millennia of lies that we have told in our falleness. It is the one piece of Order and Truth in a world of chaos.

  • In the chaos of infantry battles, the king would plant his banner so that his scattered troops would rally around him. It was a single point of stability in the chaos of battle. Rallying to it and around it was the only hope of survival for the individual soldier and for the force at large. The Cross is planted in this world so that we might rally to it. We are not meant to struggle alone, but together (working 

    together, not individual bravery or skill, is the key to military success). And not just around any cause, but around the True King’s banner: the Cross.

  • The taste of Fruit of the Tree was sweet, brought illness; the taste of the Cross is bitter, but brings healing to all. While this is jarring, it accords with our experience. Medicine is bitter (or it used to be); shots hurt. Treatment can be long and excruciating. More so because it does not always work.

But know this: the medical treatment of the Cross can be difficult, but it’s success is sure. The Cross brings healing to all. Through the Cross, Christ took on the sins of the world – through His Cross, we are healed of all our diseases and infirmities and made worthy to grow in unity with Him and one another. He is the Great Physician, and the love of the Cross is the medicine of salvation.

“Come, Adam and Eve, our first father and mother, who fell from the choir on high… when of old with bitter pleasure ye tasted from the tree in Paradise. See, the Tree of the Cross, revered by all, draws near! 

Run with haste and embrace it joyfully, and cry to it with faith: O precious Cross, though art our succor; partaking of thy fruit, we have gained incorruption; we are restored once more to Eden, and we have received great mercy.” (Vespers stichera).

Do not be ashamed of Our Lord. Do not be ashamed of His Cross. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross and follow Him. Follow Him to eternal health and everlasting joy. This is the way of Christ. This is the way to victory.

Sunday of Orthodoxy. St. John of Kronstadt- On the Joy of Being Orthodox

February 21, 2010 1 comment

“As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ has awarded: thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ our true God, and honor His Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the one hand worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all, and accordingly offering them veneration.
(Loudly) This is the Faith of the Apostles; this is the Faith of the Fathers; this is the Faith of the Orthodox; this is the Faith which has established the universe!”  (Synodicon: The Affirmation of the Orthodoxy Faith)

“Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (Jn.1: 47)

Our Lord Jesus Christ said this of a certain Nathanael, an Israelite who dwelt in the Galilean town of Cana, when the latter, on the advice of his friend Philip, went to meet Jesus Christ to be assured whether He was the Messiah promised to Israel. Philip said to Nathanael, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” But Nathanael said to him, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip then said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to Him, “Whence knowest Thou me?” Jesus answered him, saying, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee,” i.e., I knew all your thoughts, your faith, your hope for the Messiah, your future ministry. The Lord Who knows the hearts of men apparently touched the very heartstrings of Nathanael, his inmost thoughts, desires, aspirations, showing His divine omniscience plainly to him. Thus was Nathanael brought to faith in Christ, and he cried out, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel!,” and became His disciple.

Why is it that during the Great Fast, on the day called the “Sunday of Orthodoxy,” it is this particular Gospel which is prescribed to be read? Because the Lord’s words to Nathanael reveal the character of the true, or Orthodox, Christian and, in general, the character of the true Church of Christ. “Behold, an Israelite indeed,” the Lord said of Nathanael, “in whom is no guile,” i.e., behold a man who rightly, directly, firmly thinks, reasons, believes, hopes, speaks and acts, since Nathanael directly, immediately believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and never wavered in his faith and hope, never changed his mind concerning His divine Person. Should not the true Christian be like him; should not the divinely instituted society of Orthodox Christians also be such; should not the Orthodox Church be such, and is it not such?

What high praise did He Who searches the hearts and reins render unto Nathanael in the words: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” What high praise there is for that Christian of whom the Lord says, “Behold a Christian indeed, in whom is no guile!,” and for that Church of which the Lord will say, “Behold a Church indeed, in which is no guile, or vain human inventions, i.e., which is wholly true in all its doctrines, mysteries, divine services, directives, and its entire organization.

And just such men were our holy favorites of God; such has the whole Orthodox Church been from the beginning up to now, as is borne witness by an impartial history of the Church and by God Himself through the divers signs and wonders wrought in the Church. It is, as the Apostle says, “the pillar and ground of Truth,” it is “a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”

To preserve the Orthodox Faith rivers of the blood of the apostles, the prophets and the martyrs were poured forth; and many tortures were borne by the venerable fathers and other champions of the Faith. But what about us, the children of the Orthodox Church? Are we preserving this precious inheritance, the Orthodox Faith; are we following its teachings, commandments, canons, rules, counsel? Do we love to offer service to God? Are we renewed thereby, are we hallowed each and every day, are we setting ourselves aright, are we attaining the perfection which the saints have reached? Are we becoming perfect in love for God and our neighbors; do we cherish our Faith; do we regard the mercy of God as the greatest thing, and that we have the good fortune to belong to the Orthodox Church is the first and greatest happiness in our life? What answer would we give to these questions if we were to respond according to our conscience?

To our shame, we must admit that in many Orthodox Christians the Orthodox Faith is not only absent in their heart, but it is also not on their tongue; among them it has vanished entirely, or has been turned into total indifference with regard to any religion whatever–Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, Mohammendan, or pagan. We hear that one may please God in every religion, i.e., that every religion is supposedly pleasing to God, and that falsehood and truth, righteousness and unrighteousness are matters about which God does not care.

This is what ignorance of their own Faith, ignorance of the spirit and history of their Church, estrangement from its life and divine services, has brought many to–an eclipse of any understanding of Orthodoxy, heterodoxy and other religions! The annals of modern events relate that somewhere in Russia a certain headmaster, during the examination of his students, referred to the story of the sacrifice of Isaac as stupid. This is darkness, chaos, pernicious ignorance! The Christian, as a member of the Church, must know his own Faith and strive to live according to that Faith, to achieve salvation by means of that Faith, because the enemies of our salvation never sleep; they seek our destruction every hour and every day. The Orthodox Christian must not dismiss his Faith as a concern merely of certain people, or as a disposable toy appropriate only for children, or something fit only, as it were, for the uneducated common folk.

It would not be out of place to remind those who think thus of the venerable antiquity of our Faith, which is contemporary with the beginning of the human race, and of its direct origin with God and that men of high birth, vocation, position and gender lived and attained salvation in this Faith–glorious kings and wise philosophers, law-givers and the greatest orators, nobles and simple folk, rich and poor, men and women, the beauty and glory of the human race. To the glory of the Orthodox Faith one ought also to say that no other religion than the Orthodox Faith is capable of bringing man to moral perfection or holiness and the pleasing of God, as is shown by the history of the Church and the incorrupt, wonder-working remains of the holy favorites of God and the miraculous feats of the saints of the Orthodox Church, whereby they became perfectly pleasing unto God, becoming clairvoyant and working wonders even during their lifetime. Thus must it be for the sane mind: only a perfect Faith with all its divine powers, with the full spiritual armor of God, is able to bring one to perfection, against the passion-fraught flesh, the world and the devil.

And if now many even Orthodox Christians live badly, their manner of life, even if truly ungodly, cannot in the least, of course, be held against the Orthodox Faith, which is unshakable in its principles of Truth and holiness, in accordance with the promise of the Savior Himself and the testimony of history. Such people, although they have departed from us, were not ours in essence, but only in name…

Yea, my brethren, only the Orthodox Faith purifies and sanctifies human nature which has been defiled by sin…Do you wish to be assured of this? Read the history of the lives of the saints, the history of the Church, and you will see this for yourselves. You will see wolves transformed into lambs, fornicators into angelic righteous men and women, misers into paragons of charity, lovers of pleasure into ascetics; you will see people of power and earthly grandeur and luxury in humble monastic garb…These were true Christians indeed; these were angels in the flesh, citizens of heaven while still on earth… This is what our Orthodox Faith can do with those who sincerely hold to it and follow its direction!

But why does it not produce such a salvific change within us? Because of disbelief and lack of faith, flippancy, depravity and unrepentance of heart, because of the passions which have intensified and gained dominion over us, because we have withdrawn from the Church, and because many are not in the least imbued with the spirit and life of the Church, and many are only weakly, only formally, insincerely, attached to it. Because all the modern lusts have been engendered within us

...For us to be genuine Orthodox Christians, we must first of all have living, constant fellowship with the Orthodox Church, i.e., participation in its prayers, teachings, mysteries, we must earnestly study our Faith and become imbued with it, live in its spirit, be guided by its rules, commandments, precepts; and most important, we must restore within us by true and profound repentance the image of the true Orthodox Christian, according to the image of the saints, ancient and recent, according to the model of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who says: “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (Jn. 13: 15), that the Lord may also say to us, as He once said of Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”

Amen.

Categories: Homilies, Orthodox Feasts

THE EPIPHANY [THEOPHANY] OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

January 6, 2010 1 comment

When our Lord reached thirty years from His physical birth, He began His teaching and salvific work. He Himself signified this “beginning of the beginning” by His baptism in the Jordan river. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says, ” The beginning of the world – water; the beginning of the Good News – Jordan.” At the time of the baptism of the Lord in water, that mystery was declared to the world: that mystery which was prophesied in the Old Testament; the mystery about which in ancient Egypt and India was only fabled; i.e., the mystery of the Divine Holy Trinity.

The Father was revealed to the sense of hearing; the Spirit was revealed to the sense of sight, and in addition to these, the Son was revealed to the sense of touch. The Father uttered His witness about the Son, the Son was baptized in the water, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovered above the water.

When John the Baptist witnessed and said about Christ, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world” (St. John 1:29), and when John immersed and baptized the Lord in the Jordan, the mission of Christ in the world and the path of our salvation was shown. That is to say: The Lord took upon Himself the sins of mankind and died under them [immersion] and became alive again [the coming out of the water]; and we must die as the old sinful man and become alive again as cleansed, renewed and regenerated. This is the Savior and this is the path of salvation. The Feast of the Epiphany [Theophany in Greek] is also called the Feast of Illumination.

For us, the event in the Jordan river illuminates, by manifesting to us God as Trinity, consubstantial and undivided. That is one way. And, the second: everyone of us through baptism in water is illumined by this, that we become adopted by the Father of Lights through the merits of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Categories: Orthodox Feasts