Sun Jun 16, 2013
Sermon on the Feast of Pentecost
by St. John Chrysostom
Let us spiritually extol the grace of the Holy Spirit in spiritual hymns, since spiritual grace has on this day shown upon us from heaven. Though our words are too weak to express adequately the greatness of this grace, we shall praise its power and activity to the extent of our abilities; for the Holy Spirit probes all things, even the depths of divinity.
We are celebrating the day of Pentecost, the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, the day of the hope of perfection, the end of expectation, the longing for salvation, the fulfillment of prayer and the image of patience. Today the Spirit Who acted to scatter the nations in the time of Heber has formed tongues of fire among the Apostles. His action of old led to the confusion of the nations, in order to restrain the will of man from its brazenness and consequent chastisement; on this occasion, however, amidst fiery tongues, the deeds wrought by the activity of the Holy Spirit served to preserve us as recipients of preaching, in fulfillment of the will of God.
In the beginning the Spirit of God moved over the water, and later, in the time of Christ, the same Holy Spirit of God rested upon him . Then He moved, and now He rested, as being one in essence, equal in honor, ever-existent and unoriginate together with the Father and the Son.
He Who by the flight of a dove over the waters of the Flood heralded fair weather to Noah, the same Holy Spirit, by the sight of a dove at the waters of the Jordan, showed the world the Sonship of Him Who was baptized. Moreover, the Lord had a terrifying answer for those who dared to utter blasphemy against the Holy Spirit:
“Whoever speaks blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
David, declaring his desire for this Holy Spirit, prayed to God, saying: “Cast me not away from Thy presence, O Lord; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”
As is well known, where He is absent, every sort of corruption sets in. Thus, the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit entered into him, wherefore David said,
“Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”
This same Holy Spirit sanctified the prophets, instructed the apostles and empowered the martyrs. This same Holy Spirit consecrated Isaiah, taught Ezekiel and revealed the resurrection of the dead. As he says,
“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord.”
This same Holy Spirit chose Jeremiah from his mother’s womb, and raised up Daniel to deliver Susanna. As it is written,
“God raised up by the Holy Spirit a young youth, whose name was Daniel.”
David so loved the presence of this same Holy Spirit that he prayed to God, saving,
“Thy Holy Spirit shall lead me in the land of uprightness.”
This same Holy Spirit of God came to dwell in the holy Virgin Mary, embracing her with the communion of the Divine Word at the good pleasure of the Father, and making her the Theotokos. Elizabeth, being filled with this same Holy Spirit, understood that the Lord had come to her by means of the Virgin; wherefore she said,
“And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Zachariah, the father of John, was filled with the same Holy Spirit, whereby he declared that the son born to him would be the prophet and forerunner of the King Who was to come. John himself was also filled with the same Holy Spirit; the eyes of his intellect were given light, and he beheld the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit hovering over Him Who was being baptized, Him Who baptized with the Spirit and fire.
By the action of the same Holy Spirit, the Lord Himself, when He was giving His Apostles His teaching in detail and strengthening their minds for the time of His Passion, said to them:
“If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.”
Moreover, revealing to them the Spirit’s consubstantial power, He said:
“When the Holy Spirit is come, Which proceedeth from the Father, He will guide you into all truth.”
The holy Apostles waited expectantly for the coming of the power of this same Holy Spirit; they waited together to be clothed with power from on high, according to the commandment of the Lord, Who had said:
“Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high; for, behold, I shall send the promise of My Father upon you.”
And, as it is written, “when the day of Pentecost was fully come, all the holy Apostles were assembled with one accord in one place, and the Paraclete was sent to them under the appearance of tongues of fire.”
Having received the abundant promise of the Father and the Holy Spirit, they were strengthened, and they manifested Him Who was sent to them, His grace and His power. The martyr and protodeacon Stephen, filled with the same Holy Spirit, Whom he received by the laying-on of hands of the Apostles, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Being full of the Holy Spirit, he saw the doors of heaven opened and the Only-begotten Son and Word of God standing in the flesh at the right hand of the power of God. Filled with this same Holy Spirit, Paul became the preacher of divine mysteries. As Ananias said to him:
“The Lord, even the Savior, hath sent me to thee, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
And Paul afterwards said with assurance:
“And I think also that I have the Spirit of God.”
The same Holy Spirit came to Cornelius and those that were to be baptized with him, and each of them spoke in his own tongue and magnified God. This same Holy Spirit came upon the Ethiopian eunuch after he went down into the water [of baptism], and he was filled with joy, and he went on his way rejoicing.
This is the same Holy Spirit Who preached by the prophets, Who gave understanding to the apostles, Who spoke to men. He was given to them by the Lord, and all their adversaries were not able to gainsay or resist Him. For, as the Lord said,
“It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father Which speaketh in you.”
This Holy Spirit also ordains priests, consecrates churches, purifies altars, perfects sacrifices and cleanses people of their sins. This Holy Spirit abides with the godly, refines the righteous and guides kings. This same Holy Spirit preserved the soul of Simeon, lengthening the time of his life and reversing the rules of death, until the day when he beheld Him Who is the Redeemer of life and death; for it had been promised unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
It was the same Holy Spirit Who gave strength to Elijah, and Whose power Elisha desired when he asked of Elijah:
“Let there be, I pray thee, a double portion of thy spirit upon me.”
This Holy Spirit enlightens souls and sanctifies bodies. It was the same Holy Spirit Who descended upon the Apostles and filled them with divine wisdom. Having received His gifts, they were all filled with the knowledge of God; not only were they given divine knowledge, but also spiritual gifts.
Simon Magus, being a stranger to the Holy Spirit, fell to his perdition. As Peter said to Simon: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast desired to purchase the priceless grace of the Holy Spirit with money.”
Therefore, beloved, let us strive to keep our bodies uncorrupted; for one who has acquired a new body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit, has become a true victor over the devil. What the Spirit of God has said, may it be done unto me.
Moreover, Joseph, strengthened by this same Holy Spirit, desired not that his body be defiled by the vile deeds of this life; for he knew that the Spirit does not abide in a body that has commerce with sin; therefore, he attained a royal rank. This Spirit enlightened Bezaleel, so that he fashioned the tabernacle with all beauty and skill. Joshua the son of Nun, possessing the same Spirit, became a faithful heir to Moses and obtained the inheritance of the Promised Land for his people. As God said to Moses:
“Take to thyself Joshua the son of Nun, a man who has the Spirit of God in him.”
This is the Spirit of Whom the Lord, when He breathed upon His disciples after His Resurrection from the dead on the third day, said:
“Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”
And again, it is the same Spirit Who has vouchsafed to give eternal life to the faithful after the general resurrection from the dead. As it is written:
“Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”
Many are the gifts of the Holy Spirit; many and all-powerful are His gifts.
As it says in a certain place: By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth. And Isaiah says:
“The Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness.”
And Paul adds,
“The Spirit of adoption and of grace.”
He Who is equally ever-existent, and equally unoriginate, and Who shares the throne and the honor of God, His Son and Word, called this Spirit the Spirit Who is our Comforter. David calls Him the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit is sent by holiness; the governing Spirit, since He has dominion over all, because all things came from Him and are kept in existence by Him; and the good Spirit, since salvation and all kinds of goodness are from Him.
And what does Isaiah call Him? The Spirit of God, because He proceeds from God the Father; thus does God Himself speak of the Spirit of God as proceeding, in the words, Which proceedeth from the Father. Isaiah further calls Him the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, because all wisdom and good understanding have been given through Him; and the Spirit of counsel and strength, because He is able to bring to pass that which is desired; and also the Spirit of knowledge and godliness. Ezekiel, a man of the spirit, says:
“And I will give you a new heart and a new Spirit.”
He is one in essence, one in principle and one in counsel with the Father and the Son. Wouldst thou believe? Listen to what the Scriptures say of Him:
“When He prepared the heaven, I was present with Him.”
The prophet further says:
“The Lord, and His Spirit hath sent me.”
Lest anyone think, from what was said, that this new Spirit would come from any creatures living or yet to come, or from any other person, He says:
“And I will put My Spirit in you;” inasmuch as He said, “A new Spirit.”
In the Acts of the holy Apostles, this was expressed in commandments:
“The Holy Spirit said, ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’” And again, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us;” even as it had been said, “I will put My Spirit in you.”
Would you demonstrate that this was indeed His coming, as was foretold in parables, and that it was His grace acting upon the holy Apostles? Will you believe what was said? Listen to St. John the Evangelist, who says:
“The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Paul called this Spirit the Spirit of adoption and the Spirit of grace, inasmuch as in the waters of the baptismal font men are born again of water and the Spirit, and we receive the adoption of sons. In the same way, the Lord said to Nicodemus:
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Thus, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of sonship and the Spirit of grace; for grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, for those who have been born by the power of God.
Moreover, the Spirit is called the Comforter, because He is also our advocate with the Father. And not only is He with the Father, but He is always with us also as a gift.
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever,” comforting your hearts and making them steadfast in divine patience and trust in Christ. Whereas the holy Apostles received this testament after Christ’s holy Rising from the dead, and were sent forth to teach and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and whereas we have already been vouchsafed this true washing by the Holy Spirit, let us strive to keep our souls and our bodies undefiled as we glorify the Most holy and consubstantial Trinity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
 comments (55 views)
Excerpt from Homily I on Pentecost
by St. John Chrysostom
Earth has become heaven for us today, not that the stars have descended to earth, but the apostles have ascended above the heavens, as the grace of the Spirit is poured forth. He made the world heaven, not by changing nature, but through correcting the choice. He found a publican, and prepared him to be an evangelist. He found a blasphemer, and made him an apostle. He found a thief, and brought him to Paradise. He found a harlot, and made her more chaste than a virgin. He found magi, and made them into evangelists. He cast out evil, and brought in virtue, which was provided for by the grace of God. Earth has become heaven. How is it, therefore, that I behold the apostles like stars? Stars in heaven, apostles above heaven. Think on things above, therefore, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God. Stars from sensible fire, apostles from spiritual fire. Stars appear at night, but hide during the day; the apostles, however, night and day shine with their rays. Stars do not appear when the sun is shining; the apostles, however, at the shining of the Sun of righteousness, shine with their own lamps as a result. The stars will fall like leaves at the resurrection [at the Second Coming of Christ]; the apostles will be seized by the clouds in the resurrection. Among the stars there are some dimmer, others brighter; with the apostles, however, none is dimmer, but all are bright.
By seeing that these apostles are brighter than the stars, and lights of the world, as we said, we see that this is not just when they lived, but ever after they have died. For the grace of the saints is not cut short by death, nor is it lessened by one's end, nor is it dissolved in the earth, but bears witness to the reality. They were fishermen, and died fishermen. They worked with their nets, and the multitude that were saved by them bear witness. They were workers in the vineyard, and they left it, and the vine brought forth its leaves, and made fruit. For they were vine-workers, and fishermen, and pillars, and physicians, and soldiers, and teachers. They are pillars, for they held up the floor of the faith. They are harbors, for they drove back the waves of impiety. They are guides, for they lead the world from earth to heaven. They are shepherds, for they drove back the wolves, and saved the cattle. They were vine-workers, for they uprooted the thorns, and sowed the seeds of piety. They are physicians, for they cured our wounds. And that you might learn that these words are not folly, I offer all that Paul has done. Do you wish to see him as a planter? “I planted, Apollos watered”. (1 Corinthians 3:6) Do you wish to see a builder? “As a wise architect, I laid a foundation.” (1 Corinthians 3:10) Do you wish to see him as a wrestler? “Therefore I fight, not as one beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:26) Do you wish to see him as an athlete? “For we are not fighting against blood and flesh.” (Ephesians 6:12) Do you wish to see him as a traveler? “Proceeding from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum did I preach the Gospel of God. (Romans 15:19) We were girded with the breastplate of the faith. Do you wish to see him as a struggler? “I fought the good fight.” (2 Timothy 4:7) Do you wish to see him as one who gains a crown? “Therefore is laid for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:8) In all things, he truly made himself an imitator of his Master. And his Master, in essence, planned all things thus.
Why is this so? For our salvation. “Become a vine, and there was made a root. I am the vine, you are the branches. (John 15:5) You wished to walk, and I became for you the road. (John 14:6) You may enter and exit through me, and find pasture. Become a sheep, for I became the shepherd for you. I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. (John 10:9-11) Become a sinner, and I become for you the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) Do you wish to eat? I become a table for you. Do you wish to drink? I become a cup for you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. (John 6:56) Do you wish to be clothed? I become a garment for you. All those who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27) Do you desire a bride born to you? I become your Bridegroom. He who has the bride, is the bridegroom. You desired, and I became man for you." For the pure virgin was betrothed to a man, while Christ stood by. The harlot was, and became a virgin. O new and strange things! From outside marriage virginity is dissolved, but spiritually the harlot received, and was made more chaste than a virgin. Study, O heretic, how the harlot is a virgin. I am unable to explain it, but I hold to the faith. All this has been worked by the grace of the Spirit. The grace was poured out, and appeared to them divided as tongues as of fire...
Greatly sought after therefore is the Church of Christ, not made safe with walls, but with walls of the faith. Through the Church the heaven is made to stand, and the sea is poured forth, and the air is extended, and the earth is founded, paradise is planted, the law is given, the prophets were sent forth, miracles are worked, the abyss is rent and afflicted, the rocks are separated, and again come together, manna is granted, and they plan to prepare a table. Through the Church the prophets, through the Church the apostles. And what more can I say? Through the Church the only-begotten Son of God became man, as Paul said: “He Who did not spare His own Son.” (Romans 8:32) The Son is not spared, that the Church might be spared. The blood of the Son is poured forth through the Church. It is watered through this blood. Therefore, it is impossible for the plants to wither, but to give forth leaves. It does not depend upon the needs of the seasons, nor is it a servant of the times, in summer bringing forth leaves, and in winter being naked. It does not have need of seasons, but it is planted by the Spirit...
Why, therefore, do temptations that approach the Church not hinder her? Is it not that her power might be shown? If none warred against her, some could say: “If she were warred against, she would be defeated.” Because of this she is left to be warred against, that she might not be deserted of battles and be ascribed victory. And the gates of hades, as He said, will not prevail of her, will not overtake her. (Matthew 16:18) They will fight her, but will not conquer her. The Church is battered by storms, but does not drown. She faces storms, but does not sink. She receives arrows, but does not receive wounds. She receives machinations, but does not catch fire. What therefore can I call the Church? One word transformed the fisherman, and made him as unquenchable fire. How many tyrants wished to conquer and make this word disappear, but were unable? For she is founded upon a rock. Think of how many tyrants, kings, rulers, drawn swords, teeth of beasts, dangerous deaths, cauldrons, furnaces [the Church endured]. And though the devil emptied his quiver, the Church was not hurt. Why? Because the Gates of hades will not overtake her. How many rulers fought the Church? Where are those who fought her? They have become silent and forgotten. The Church blossoms. Where is Claudius? Where is Augustus? Where is Nero? Where is Tiberius? Their names are small. And none of these is commemorated. Because they fought the Church, their memory is lost. The Church, however, shines brighter than the sun. Wherever she proceeds, to the Indians, to the Africans, to the Britains, to the world, you find “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1), and a virtuous life. Before this, however, cities were filled with impiety, and now the desert is filled with piety. Before this princesses danced, as the daughter of Herodias danced for Herod. Today, handmaidens do not shame themselves through doing this. Before this, mothers would dissolve their marriage at the throw of a dice. Today, virginity is worked ascetically. Before this, the fathers of the Goths shed blood; today they desire to shed their blood for the faith. Before this were the impious idiots. Today, pious kings and people. The king to be receives a crown, and receives a cross, in a timeless age, arrayed with the signs of wisdom, while inside the church one's kingdom is not recognized. Outside are spears, and inside are mysteries. Outside are shields, and inside mystagogies, Theodosios is the son, and the father is Theodosios. Above these, however, we thank God, to Whom belong the glory and the kingdom unto the ages of ages. Amen.
 comments (7 views)
Fri Jun 07, 2013
Why Didn’t the Holy Spirit Come Right After the Ascension?
by St. John Chrysostom (From Homily 1 of Acts of the Apostles)
But why did the Holy Spirit come to them, not while Christ was present, nor even immediately after his departure, but, whereas Christ ascended on the fortieth day, the Spirit descended “when the day of Pentecost,” that is, the fiftieth, “was fully come?”(Acts 2:1) And how was it, if the Spirit had not yet come, that He said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit?” (John 20:22) In order to render them capable and meet for the reception of Him. For if Daniel fainted at the sight of an Angel (Dan. 8:17), much more would these when about to receive so great a grace. Either this then is to be said, or else that Christ spoke of what was to come, as if it came already; as when He said, “Tread ye upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the devil.” (Luke 10:19) But why had the Holy Spirit not yet come? It was fit that they should first be brought to have a longing desire for that event, and so receive the grace. For this reason Christ Himself departed, and then the Spirit descended. For had He Himself been there, they would not have expected the Spirit so earnestly as they did. On this account neither did He come immediately after Christ’s Ascension, but after eight or nine days. It is the same with us also; for our desires towards God are then most raised, when we stand in need. Accordingly, John chose that time to send his disciples to Christ when they were likely to feel their need of Jesus, during his own imprisonment. Besides, it was fit that our nature should be seen in heaven, and that the reconciliation should be perfected, and then the Spirit should come, and the joy should be unalloyed. For, if the Spirit being already come, Christ had then departed, and the Spirit remained; the consolation would not have been so great as it was. For in fact they clung to Him, and could not bear to part with Him; wherefore also to comfort them He said, “It is expedient for you that I go away.” (John 16:7) On this account He also waits during those intermediate days, that they might first despond for awhile, and be made, as I said, to feel their need of Him, and then reap a full and unalloyed delight. But if the Spirit were inferior to the Son, the consolation would not have been adequate; and how could He have said, “It is expedient for you?” For this reason the greater matters of teaching were reserved for the Spirit, that the disciples might not imagine Him inferior.
 comments (96 views)
Mon Jun 03, 2013
Reflections on the Priesthood
1) “I know my own soul, how feeble and puny it is. I know the magnitude of this ministry, and the great difficulty of the work. For, more stormy billows vex the soul of the priest than the gales which disturb the sea.” [St. John Chrysostom]
2) “Hell is paved with priests’ skulls.” [St. John Chrysostom]
3) “If there were no tribulation, there would be no rest; if there were no winter, there would be no summer.” [St. John Chrysostom]
 comments (50 views)
Mon May 27, 2013
The Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople
Held in Constantinople in 381. Under Emperor Theodosius the Great. 150 Bishops were present.
The Macedonian Controversy
Macedonius, somewhat like Arius, was misinterpreting Church's teaching on the Holy Spirit. He taught that the Holy Spirit was not a person ("hypostasis"), but simply a power ("dynamic") of God. Therefore the Spirit was inferior to the Father and the Son. The Council condemned Macedonius' teaching and defined the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Council decreed that there was one God in three persons ("hypostases"): Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The holy fathers of the Council added five articles to the Creed. They read as follows:
"And (We believe) in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father: who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified: who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."
Defenders of Orthodoxy
1. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian (329-390)
He was a scholar who studied in Athens with St. Basil the Great; became Patriarch of Constantinople (379); presided at the Second Ecumenical Council; a poet and profound thinker. He wrote many poems, hymns essays, and sermons.
2. St. Gregory of Nyssa (331-396)
Younger brother of St. Basil the Great. He was a theologian who delved deeply into the truths of the Faith.
3. St. John Chrysostom (345-407)
John was born and educated in Antioch (Syria). He became Patriarch of Constantinople in 398. He is known for his eloquent and straight-forward sermons (Chrysostomos: "the golden-mouthed"); was responsible for the revision of the Divine Liturgy. He died in exile.
 comments (123 views)
Tue May 21, 2013
First Prayer of the Orthros said by the Priest during the reading of the Six Psalms
“We give thanks unto you, O Lord our God, who has raised us up from our beds, and has put into our mouths the word of praise that we may worship and call upon your holy name. We pray, by your compassion which you have always exercised in our life, send forth now also your aid upon those who stand before the presence of your holy glory, and await the rich mercy which is from you. And grant that they always with fear and love may adore, praise, and hymn you, and worship your indescribable goodness. For to you belong all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
 comments (90 views)
Wed May 15, 2013
Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women
[ From the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America http://www.goarch.org/chapel/saints_view?contentid=1067&PCode=2PS&D=S&date=5/19/2013 ]
About the beginning of His thirty-second year, when the Lord Jesus was going throughout Galilee, preaching and working miracles, many women who had received of His beneficence left their own homeland and from then on followed after Him. They ministered unto Him out of their own possessions, even until His crucifixion and entombment; and afterwards, neither losing faith in Him after His death, nor fearing the wrath of the Jewish rulers, they came to the sepulchre, bearing the myrrh-oils they had prepared to annoint His body. It is because of the myrrh-oils, that these God-loving women brought to the tomb of Jesus that they are called the Myrrh-bearers. Of those whose names are known are the following: first of all, the most holy Virgin Mary, who in Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 is called "the mother of James and Joses" (these are the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage, and she was therefore their step-mother); Mary Magdalene (celebrated July 22); Mary, the wife of Clopas; Joanna, wife of Chouza, a steward of Herod Antipas; Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus; and Susanna. As for the names of the rest of them, the evangelists have kept silence (Matt 27:55-56; 28:1-10. Mark 15:40-41. Luke 8:1-3; 23:55-24:11, 22-24. John 19:25; 20:11-18. Acts 1:14).
Together with them we celebrate also the secret disciples of the Saviour, Joseph and Nicodemus. Of these, Nicodemus was probably a Jerusalemite, a prominent leader among the Jews and of the order of the Pharisees, learned in the Law and instructed in the Holy Scriptures. He had believed in Christ when, at the beginning of our Saviour's preaching of salvation, he came to Him by night. Furthermore, he brought some one hundred pounds of myrrh-oils and an aromatic mixture of aloes and spices out of reverence and love for the divine Teacher (John 19:39). Joseph, who was from the city of Arimathea, was a wealthy and noble man, and one of the counsellors who were in Jerusalem. He went boldly unto Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and together with Nicodemus he gave Him burial. Since time did not permit the preparation of another tomb, he placed the Lord's body in his own tomb which was hewn out of rock, as the Evangelist says (Matt. 27:60).
 comments (887 views)
Mon May 06, 2013
Saint John Chrysostom on the Truth of the Resurrection
Seest thou how they labour for the truth against their will? For they themselves came to Pilate, themselves asked, themselves sealed, setting the watch, so as to be accusers, and refuters one of another. And indeed when should they have stolen Him? on the Sabbath? And how? for it was not lawful so much as to go out. And even if they transgressed the law, how should they have dared, who were so timid, to come forth? And how could they also have been able to persuade the multitude? By saying what? By doing what? And from what sort of zeal could they have stood in behalf of the dead? expecting what recompense? what requital? Seeing Him yet alive and merely seized, they had fled; and after His death were they likely to speak boldly in His behalf, unless He had risen again? And how should these things be reasonable? For that they were neither willing nor able to feign a resurrection that did not take place, is plain from hence. He discoursed to them of a resurrection, and continually said, as indeed these very men have stated, "After three days I rise again." If therefore He rose not again, it is quite clear that these men (having been deceived and made enemies to an entire nation for His sake, and come to be without home and without city) would have abhorred Him, and would not have been willing to invest Him with such glory; as having been deceived, and having fallen into the utmost dangers on His account. For that they would not even have been able, unless the resurrection had been true, to feign it, this does not so much as need reasoning. For in what were they confident? In the shrewdness of their reasonings? Nay of all men they were the most unlearned. But in the abundance of their possessions? Nay, they neither had staff nor shoes. But in the distinction of their race? Nay, they were mean, and of mean ancestors. But in the greatness of their country? Nay, they were of obscure places. But in their own numbers? Nay, they were not more than eleven, and they were scattered abroad. But in their Master's promises? What kind of promises? For if He were not risen again, neither would those be likely to be trusted by them. And how should they endure a frantic people. For if the chief of them endured not the speech of a woman, keeping the door, and if all the rest too, on seeing Him bound, were scattered abroad, how should they have thought to run to the ends of the earth, and plant a feigned tale of a resurrection? For if he stood not a woman's threat, and they not so much the sight of bonds, how were they able to stand against kings, and rulers, and nations, where were swords, and gridirons, and furnaces, and ten thousand deaths by day, unless they had the benefit of the power and grace of Him who rose again? Such miracles and so many were done, and none of these things did the Jews regard, but crucified Him Who had done them, and were they likely to believe these men at their mere word about a resurrection? These things are not, they are not so, but the might of Him Who rose again brought them to pass.
 comments (279 views)
Mon Apr 22, 2013
Palm Sunday: The Feast of the Entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem
On the Sunday before the Feast of Great and Holy Pascha and at the beginning of Holy Week, the Orthodox Church celebrates one of its most joyous feasts of the year. Palm Sunday is the commemoration of the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem following His glorious miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. Having anticipated His arrival and having heard of the miracle, the people when out to meet the Lord and welcomed Him with displays of honor and shouts of praise. On this day, we receive and worship Christ in this same manner, acknowledging Him as our King and Lord.
The biblical story of Palm Sunday is recorded in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; and John 12:12-18). Five days before the Passover, Jesus came from Bethany to Jerusalem. Having sent two of His disciples to bring Him a colt of a donkey, Jesus sat upon it and entered the city.
People had gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover and were looking for Jesus, both because of His great works and teaching and because they had heard of the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus. When they heard that Christ was entering the city, they went out to meet Him with palm branches, laying their garments on the ground before Him, and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”
At the outset of His public ministry Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God and announced that the powers of the age to come were already active in the present age (Luke 7:18-22). His words and mighty works were performed "to produce repentance as the response to His call, a call to an inward change of mind and heart which would result in concrete changes in one's life, a call to follow Him and accept His messianic destiny. The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is a messianic event, through which His divine authority was declared.
Palm Sunday summons us to behold our king: the Word of God made flesh. We are called to behold Him not simply as the One who came to us once riding on a colt, but as the One who is always present in His Church, coming ceaselessly to us in power and glory at every Eucharist, in every prayer and sacrament, and in every act of love, kindness and mercy. He comes to free us from all our fears and insecurities, "to take solemn possession of our soul, and to be enthroned in our heart," as someone has said. He comes not only to deliver us from our deaths by His death and Resurrection, but also to make us capable of attaining the most perfect fellowship or union with Him. He is the King, who liberates us from the darkness of sin and the bondage of death. Palm Sunday summons us to behold our King: the vanquisher of death and the giver of life.
Palm Sunday summons us to accept both the rule and the kingdom of God as the goal and content of our Christian life. We draw our identity from Christ and His kingdom. The kingdom is Christ - His indescribable power, boundless mercy and incomprehensible abundance given freely to man. The kingdom does not lie at some point or place in the distant future. In the words of the Scripture, the kingdom of God is not only at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17), it is within us (Luke 17:21). The kingdom is a present reality as well as a future realization (Matthew 6:10). Theophan the Recluse wrote the following words about the inward rule of Christ the King:
“The Kingdom of God is within us when God reigns in us, when the soul in its depths confesses God as its Master, and is obedient to Him in all its powers. Then God acts within it as master ‘both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13). This reign begins as soon as we resolve to serve God in our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Then the Christian hands over to God his consciousness and freedom, which comprises the essential substance of our human life, and God accepts the sacrifice; and in this way the alliance of man with God and God with man is achieved, and the covenant with God, which was severed by the Fall and continues to be severed by our willful sins, is re-established.”
The kingdom of God is the life of the Holy Trinity in the world. It is the kingdom of holiness, goodness, truth, beauty, love, peace and joy. These qualities are not works of the human spirit. They proceed from the life of God and reveal God. Christ Himself is the kingdom. He is the God-Man, Who brought God down to earth (John 1:1,14). “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11). He was reviled and hated.
Palm Sunday summons us to behold our king - the Suffering Servant. We cannot understand Jesus' kingship apart from the Passion. Filled with infinite love for the Father and the Holy Spirit, and for creation, in His inexpressible humility Jesus accepted the infinite abasement of the Cross. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; He was wounded for our transgressions and made Himself an offering for sin (Isaiah 53). His glorification, which was accomplished by the resurrection and the ascension, was achieved through the Cross.
In the fleeting moments of exuberance that marked Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the world received its King, the king who was on His way to death. His Passion, however, was no morbid desire for martyrdom. Jesus' purpose was to accomplish the mission for which the Father sent Him.
“The Son and Word of the Father, like Him without beginning and eternal, has come today to the city of Jerusalem, seated on a dumb beast, on a foal. From fear the cherubim dare not gaze upon Him; yet the children honor Him with palms and branches, and mystically they sing a hymn of praise: ‘Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to the Son of David, who has come to save from error all mankind.’” (A hymn of the Light.)
“With our souls cleansed and in spirit carrying branches, with faith let us sing Christ's praises like the children, crying with a loud voice to the Master: Blessed art Thou, O Savior, who hast come into the world to save Adam from the ancient curse; and in Thy love for mankind Thou hast been pleased to become spiritually the new Adam. O Word, who hast ordered all things for our good, glory to Thee.” (A Sessional hymn of the Orthros)
Orthodox Christian Celebration of Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, which is preceded by the Matins service. A Great Vespers is conducted on Saturday evening according to the order prescribed in the Triodion. Scripture readings for Palm Sunday are: At the Vespers: Genesis 49:1,8-12; Zephaniah 3:14-19; Zechariah 9:9-15. At the Orthros (Matins): Matthew 21:1-17. At the Divine Liturgy: Philippians 4:4-9; John 12:1-18.
On this Sunday, in addition to the Divine Liturgy, the Church observes the Blessing and Distribution of the Palms. A basket containing the woven palm crosses is placed on a table in front of the icon of the Lord, which is on the Iconostasion. The prayer for the blessing of the Palms is found in the Ieratikon or the Euxologion. According to the rubrics of the Typikon, this prayer is read at the Orthros just before the Psalms of Praise (Ainoi). The palms are then distributed to the faithful. In many places today, the prayer is said at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, before the apolysis. The text of the prayer, however, indicates clearly that it is less a prayer for the blessing of the palms, even though that is its title, and more a blessing upon those, who in imitation of the New Testament event hold palms in their hands as symbols of Christ's victory and as signs of a virtuous Christian life. It appears then, that it would be more correct to have the faithful hold the palms in their hands during the course of the Divine Liturgy when the Church celebrates both the presence and the coming of the Lord in the mystery of the Eucharist.
Hymns and Prayers of Palm Sunday
Apolytikion: First Tone
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion, You did confirm the universal
resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!
Apolytikion: Fourth Tone
As by baptism we were burried with Thee, O Christ our God, so by Thy Resurrection we were deemed worthy of immortal life; and praising Thee, we cry: Hosanna in the highest; blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Kontakion: Plagal of the Second Tone
Sitting on Your throne in heaven, carried on a foal on earth, O Christ God. Accept the praise of angels and songs of children who sing: Blessed is He that comes to recall Adam.
 comments (375 views)
Tue Apr 16, 2013
Panagia Ierosolymitissa (The Icon of the Virgin Mary of Jerusalem)
Panagia Ierosolymitissa (Gr. Éåñïóïëõìßôéóóá - Most Holy Lady of Jerusalem) is a very popular icon of the Theotokos because it overlooks the empty tomb of the Most Holy Theotokos at the Sepulcher of the Mother of God in Gethsemane—blessing the numerous pilgrims visiting the Holy Land of Jerusalem. The underground tomb of the Virgin Mary is situated in the Kidron Valley, on the foothills of the Mount of Olives, where the Savior often prayed with His disciples. It is attributed to the Theotokos since it is believed that the Apostles gathered at this location and buried the most-pure body of the Mother of God. Her icon remains there as an endless spring of blessings for all the Christians, celebrated (or venerated) by the name "Panagia Ierosolimitissa."
Since 1757 AD, the entire site belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. It is shared with the Armenian Apostolic Church and various other Churches have minor rights attributed to this site, such as the Coptic Church, the Syriac Church and others.
History of the Icon
According to Holy Tradition this miraculous icon was painted through the revelation of the Holy Theotokos to a nun named Tatiana from the Holy Monastery of St. Mary Magdalene, around 1870 AD. The story narrated is as follows:
In 1870, there lived a monastic iconographer called Tatiana. One night, a lady appeared to her in a vision saying, "Sister Tatiana, I have come so that you can paint me." Tatiana replied, "Let it be, Blessed Sister; however, I am an iconographer and not a painter." The lady replied, "... well then, you should paint me using your iconographic style." Sister Tatiana was furious with the boldness of this lady's response and said, "I do not have any plank of wood to use." The lady then gave her the plank of wood the sister would need and told her to "paint." In obedience to her guest, the sister started her iconography. Sister Tatiana glanced at her guest, and she noticed the guest's appearance transfigure in front of her. The lady's mantle started to turn into gold and her face was glowing intensely. This change in the appearance of the lady worried Tatiana but the lady spoke to her, saying: "O Blessed Tatiana, you are the only person, after the Apostles and the Evangelist Luke, to have this opportunity to write an icon of me again." Sister Tatiana then realized that she was in the presence of our Holy Mother the Theotokos. In shock she awoke from her vision. She immediately went and informed her Mother Superior of the vision in detail. The abbess did not believe in the story but told her to go to sleep and the following day she could paint an icon of the Panagia with her blessing. Tatiana returned to her cell and before entering she noticed a bright light shining through the door. She hastened to the abbess, once again, to bring her to her cell to witness this light and understand that she was not lying about the visions. Together they returned to Tatiana's cell. Inside, they could smell a beautiful and heavenly fragrance and the light was so bright that only then did they realize that the aroma and the light were coming from an icon of the Virgin Mary. The mysterious and miraculous appearance of the icon had the sisters in shock but our Holy Mother the Theotokos appeared once more to Tatiana and said, "Now take me from here down to my home in Gethsemane of Jerusalem." This is what the abbess and the sister did.
In iconography, this is termed "acheiropoieto" (Gr. an image not painted by hands) and is now located exactly where the Panagia wanted it to be, in her "home," her final resting place at her holy tomb in Gethsemane. The name "Ierosolymitissa" has since been adopted since it means the Most Holy Lady from Jerusalem and is extremely miraculous.
In January of 2000, the icon was flown from Gethsemane to the Metropolitan area of Kitiou to celebrate 2000 years since the birth of Christ. This formal procession occurred in the afternoon at the Metropolitan church of the Sotiros.
Pascha of the Theotokos
In honor of the "Pascha of the Theotokos" (another name for the Dormition), an ancient tradition has taken hold in Jerusalem, repeating the procession of the cross with the shroud of the Theotokos, which bears a two-sided icon with a silver oklad (covering frame). This shroud is kept throughout the year in Gethsemane directly across from the Church of the Resurrection of Christ. And only during the Dormition period does this miracle-working shroud pass into a special canopy at the Sepulcher of the Mother of God. Believers venerate it as they pass through the canopy on their knees.
 comments (197 views)
Tue Apr 09, 2013
Vesting of the Orthodox Christian Clergy for the Divine and Sacred Liturgy
Before the "Orthros" or Matins (morning prayer), the Priest prepares himself for the Divine Liturgy by special prayers recited outside the Iconostasion (Altar Screen) before the Royal Doors. After paying his respects by kissing the Holy Icons of the Iconostasion, he enters the Sanctuary through the North Door saying:
"I will enter Thy House, and in Thy fear, I will worship toward Thy Holy Temple."
Having entered the Sanctuary, the Priest wears his Vestments. The Liturgical vestments come from the days of the first priests in the old testament. The purpose of vestments were "for glory and for beauty (Ex 28:2 & 40), to enable the leaders for "ministering in the holy place (Ex 35:19, 39:1, 41), "that they may serve Me as priests" (Ex 28:4, 41). Decorating our vestments comes from Old Testament time as well where the garments were bejeweled and made of beautifully colored "fine linen" skillfully worked" and embroidered with needlework (Ex 28:6, 36, 39). with bells of gold (Ex 28:33), and with a plate of gold engraved "Holy is the Lord" (Ex 28:36). They also prefigure our deification(2 Peter 1:4) where we "put off this lowly body and shine brighter than the sun as revealed in Christ's divine light at the Transfiguration" (Philippians 2:20-21).
For each of the five (5) pieces he recites a special prayer as follows:
The Sticharion is the inner garment, reaching to the floor. It signifies the purity of heart, that should be inseparable from the Priestly Office. It states Christ's purity and illumination as well as the purity and brightness of the Holy Angels. Worn as the undermost vestment by bishops and priests, it is usually made from a simple white or gold fabric. It is worn as an outer vestment by deacons and subdeacons when it is usually more decorated. It is open down the sides but held shut with baubles or buttons. Some jurisdictions still call the sticharion which the deacon wears a dalmatikon in accordance with the terminology the universal Church used at the time of its introduction in the fourth century. It is also worn as the outer garment by acolytes. It usually has a cross embroidered or appliquéd to the center of the back, between the shoulder blades.
"My soul shall exalt in the Lord, for He has endued me with the robe of salvation, and with the garment of joy has He clothed me. He has set a crown on my head like a bridegroom, and like a bride He has adorned me with comeliness." (Isaiah Chapter 61, Verse 10)
The Epitrachelion (stole: meaning "on the neck") signifies the outpouring of Grace from Above on the Priest. It also symbolizes the Cross carried by our Lord upon His shoulders. A church service cannot be celebrated without it. It denotes the balance, weight and responsibility that priests have for all our souls. The tassels that hang at the lower part of the Stole represent our souls that hang on the Spiritual Fathers neck.
"Blessed is God, Who pours His grace on His Priests, like the balm on the head, that ran down the beard, even Aaron's beard, down to the skirts of his garment." (Psalm 133, Verse 2)
3. ZONE (Belt):
The Zoni is worn over the Sticharion and Epitrachelion.This girding shows a Priest's readiness for service and the strength he receives from the Holy Spirit to succeed in his mission.
"Blessed is God Who girds me with strength, and makes my way perfect." (Psalm 133, Verse 2)
4. EPIMANIKA (2 Pieces - Cuffs):
The Epimanika symbolize God's creative hands and His omnipotence. The cords which tie them represent the rope with which the Lord was tied.
(Wearing first Epimanika - right cuff)
"Thy right hand, O Lord, is glorified in strength. Thy right hand, O Lord, hast shattered the enemy, and through the multitude of Thy glory Thou hast crushed Thine adversaries." (Exodus Chapter 15, Verses 6-7)
(Wearing second Epimanika - left cuff)
"Thy hands have made me and molded me; given me understanding, and I will learn Thy Commandments." (Psalm 119, Verse 73)
5. PHELONION (Chasuble - The outer vestment in form of cape):
The Phelonion signifies the crimson Robe, with which the soldier clothed our Lord Jesus to mock Him while he was in the Praetorium..
"Let Thy Priest be clothed with righteousness; and let Thy Saints shout for joy, always, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen." (Psalm 132, Verse 9)
Preparing to wear each of these parts of his Vestments, the Priest blesses them with the sign of the cross and kisses them. He then washes his hands to signify his cleanliness, reciting:
"I will wash my hands among the innocent, and so will I go round Thine Altar, O Lord." (Psalm 26, Verse 6)
Vested and completing the Proskomide, the Priest is prepared to begin the Divine Liturgy.
 comments (334 views)