Do you confess Christ?

Source: Do you confess Christ?

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Alleluia! A fasting season is upon us!

This evening, we begin one of the minor fasts, the Fast of the Apostles.  This fast takes us from the feast of All Saints (the Sunday after Pentacost) to the eve of the feast of the prime apostles, Peter and Paul (June 29th).  This fast is not as strict as the great fast, but serves to remind and refocus us after the joys of the Pentacost season.  Our father among the saints, John Chrysostom says:

(Fasting) lodged with us for forty days, we gave it a warm welcome and sent it on its way.  So now that we are on the point of laying a spiritual table, let us recall it and all the good things that came to us from it….Just as our loved ones fill us with deep satisfaction not only when they are present but also when they come to mind, so too the fast days, the assemblies, the time spent together and all the other good things we gained from it give joy to us on recalling them…(Homily 1 on Hannah)

So with joy we recall the Fast, and we begin it anew.  In our liturgy, we celebrate it it.  Many of the upcoming days are “days of Alleluia”, days when “Alleluia” is sung with greater frequency.  On more ordinary days, if the saint is not Doxology rank or above, we replace the Vespers prokeimenon with “Alleluia”, and the same with “The Lord is God” at Orthros.  We again say the Prayer of Saint Ephrem.  This helps refocus us our our own spiritual life.  For us Byzantines, we “Praise God” more strongly in the ordinariness of life.  By contrast, the use of “Alleluia” diminishes the greater the celebration (with Pascha using the word at only one point the entire day).

Now we “Praise God” for the gift of this fasting season, of the gift of the Church at Pentacost, and of our apostles, martyrs,   hierarchs, priests, monastics, spiritual Fathers and Mothers, who have gone before us.  I think, this season placed between All Saints and Sts. Peter and Paul helps up to focus on our relationship with the Church, and gives us a moment to fast and pray for our brothers and sisters all over the world, those who have fallen away and are cut off from a life in Christ, as well as our numerous brethren who suffer persecution and even death for proclaiming the name of Christ throughout the earth.

Let us praise the Name of God glorifying the unoriginate Father, the only-begotten Son, and life-giving Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The Voice of Thunder

This evening, thunderstorms rolled through the area.  A nice rain fell, and we give thanks to God for that.

Also this evening, we begin the commemoration of another kind of thunder, a Son of Thunder, whose voice has rolled through the ages and all over the world: “In the beginning was the Word…”  On the 8th of May, we remember the Holy, Glorious, Illustrious Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian.  Though he was a son of thunder, he was also a bringer of light.  His Gospel is filled with an abundance of light.  This evening we sang: You give light to all people to lead them to the knowledge of God (3rd Sticheron at Psalm 140).  In a world of darkness, adrift from the knowledge of God, alight came, and St John bore witness to that Light.  That Light is the Truth, and shows us the way to knowledge, knowledge of God, or Creator.

This Light shows us the way, and is also the Way.  And this Way leads us to God, and reveals what is of God.  This evenings readings from the First Universal Epistle of John tells us this much.  If we are of God, we will keep his commandments.  And there are but two: believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another.  Every spirit from God will acknowledge Christ, and every spirit that does not is an antichrist.  Also, we can say that every spirit (or person) who loves is of God, and every spirit that does not is an antichrist.

Our world if full of darkness and hate.  St John calls to us to love one another, and carry the light of Christ throughout the world.  In this we will uncover the darkness, and the antichrists of our age, and be little lights, reflecting the Light, and carry the Spirit into the world, and conquer it.  In faith in Jesus and in love, God dwells in us, and gives us his very Spirit, a Spirit that can vanquish the darkness, and crush hate, and draw others who will listen to the voice of the Father.

To Him is all glory, honor and worship, with his only-begotten Son, and his all-holy and live giving Spirit, now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

He Who Sings Well Prays Twice

St Augustine, on the psalms, I think

Tonight we had a wonderful reader’s vespers with friends and fellow Greek Catholics.  They are quite musically inclined, and the hymns thundered.  As the psalmist says, it is good and pleasant it is when brethren gather in unity (cf Ps 133).  It gives us hope for our group, and if we can pray like that, we will be able to draw others into the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and deepen and grow in our faith and life in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God the Father.

May our prayers ascend to the Risen Christ, and and through his victory over Death, bring us to everlasting life.

Christ is Risen!

Well, I broke down in tears during the Paschal Aposticha.  Here are the two verses that impacted me most:

Let us joyfully embrace one another. O Passover, save us from sorrow; for today Christ has shown forth from the tomb as from a bridal chamber and filled the women with joy by saying:  Announce the good news to my disciples.

This is the Resurrection day.  Let us be enlightened by this Feast, and let us embrace one another.  Let us call Brethren even those who hate us, and in the Resurrection forgive everything and let us sing:  Christ is risen from dead ! By death he trampled Death, and to those in the tombs, He bestowed life.

I got so choked up, I could barely croak the hymns out.  The Resurrection Matins is the pinnacle of the year for me.  The Byzantine Catholic Church, and all Greek Catholic Churches, for that matter, are Churches of resurrection.  We are unwanted, called aberrations, and an offense to others  We are a scandal, a stumbling block to larger Churches, to the larger religious world in which we find ourselves struggling to make and keep our identity .  But so was Christ. Christ is a scandal to the wisdom of the Greek, and to the Jewish religious world from which Christianity came.  Christ was beaten, cursed, afflicted, tortured, and buried, guarded by the authorities lest He make a come back.

Yet He did come back.  He did return.  The powers of this world were no match for Him, for he is the strongman who robbed Hades of its treasures.  He burst the iron bars locking the doors, and the bronze gates crumpled before Him.  And He took our father, Adam, and our mother, Eve by the hand, and lead them to Paradise, with all the righteous Fathers and Mothers who went before Him in this world, and lay the road for all humanity to be save.

So it is with our Church.  Our Churches were beaten, tortured, killed, and buried by the authorities, whether in the Communist era in Eastern Europe, or today in the Middle East and Africa, where all Christians, despite confessional lines, have their blood mixed up the ground.  Christ will descend to raise us as He did our Father Adam.  It will not be a violent victory, or a militant victory, for these victories do not guarantee peace.  It is a victory by embracing each other.  It is a victory that calls brethren-brothers and sisters-everyone, even those who hate us, do not want us, find us offensive, who torture and kill us.  It is a victory of forgiveness.  It is a victory where we all sing the risen Christ!.