Category Archives: Sundays, Feast Days, Other Days
The third Sunday of Great Lent Orthodox Christians venerate the precious and life-giving cross. It is the same hand cross that the congregation comes forward to kiss at the end of every service as the priest says, “The blessing of the Lord and His Mercy come upon you.” But on this Sunday the priest lifts the cross over his head and processes to the middle of the church as the choir and the people sing, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: Have mercy on us.” When the priest reaches the doors into the altar area he lifts the cross up and sings out, “Wisdom! Let us attend!” Immediately the choir and the people begin singing the apolytikion of the cross:
O Lord, save thy people, and bless thine inheritance. Granting to thy people victory over all their adversaries; and by the power of thy cross, preserve thy community.
Here is the theological one-two punch:
It is at this point that that entire congregation sings three times and makes three prostrations:
We adore thy cross, O Master, and thy holy resurrection we glorify.
The choir then chants:
Come, ye faithful, let us adore the life-giving wood, on which Christ the King of glory, stretched out his hands of his own will. To the ancient blessedness he raised us up, whom the enemy had before despoiled through pleasure, making us exiles far from God. Come, ye faithful, let us adore the wood, through which we have been made worthy to crush the heads of invisible enemies. Come, all ye kindred of the nations, let us honor in hymns the cross of the Lord. Rejoice, O cross, complete redemption of fallen Adam. With thee as their boast our faithful kings laid low by thy might the people of Ishmael. We Christians kiss thee now with fear and, glorifying God who was nailed upon thee, we cry: O Lord, who on the cross was crucified, have mercy on us, for thou art good and lovest mankind.
When I kissed the cross my cheeks brushed the flowers that surround it. I thought immediately of the kids in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe who brushed the fur coats in the wardrobe as they past from this earth to the kingdom of Narnia. The Cross is the Wardrobe. It is the ladder from earth to heaven.
As once more we are about to enter the Great Lent, I would like to remind us – myself first of all, and all of you my fathers, brothers, and sisters – of the verse that we just sang, one of the stichera, and that verse says: “Let us begin Lent, the Fast, with joy.”
Only yesterday we were commemorating Adam crying, lamenting at the gates of Paradise, and now every second line of the Triodion and the liturgical books of Great Lent will speak of repentance, acknowledging what dark and helpless lives we live, in which we sometimes are immersed. And yet, no one will prove to me that the general tonality of Great Lent is not that of a tremendous joy! Not what we call “joy” in this world – not just something entertaining, interesting, or amusing – but the deepest definition of joy, that joy of which Christ says: “no one will take away from you” (Jn. 16:22). Why joy? What is that joy?
So many people under various influences have come to think of Lent as a kind of self–inflicted inconvenience. Very often in Lent we hear these conversations: “What do you give up for Lent?” – it goes from candy to, I don’t know what. There is the idea that if we suffer enough, if we feel the hunger enough, if we try by all kinds of strong or light ascetical tools, mainly to “suffer” and be “tortured,” so to speak, it would help us to “pay” for our absolution. But this is not our Orthodox faith. Lent is not a punishment. Lent is not a kind of painful medicine that helps only inasmuch as it is painful.
by St. John Maximovitch and originally blogged by Fr. John Peck at the Preacher’s Institute
Our father among the saints John Maximovitch, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco – The Wonderworker (d. 1966), was a diocesan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) who served widely from China to France to the United States. Countless miracles have been attributed to this holy bishop, both during his lifetime and since his repose. He guided souls in many places across the globe during his earthly sojourn. My son John is named for him.
Today the nature of the waters is sanctified. Today the Son of God is baptized in the waters of the Jordan, having no need Himself of cleansing, but in order to cleanse the sinful human race from defilement.
Now the heavens open and the voice of God the Father is heard: This is My beloved Son. The Holy Spirit descends upon the Savior of the world, Who stands in the Jordan, thereby confirming that this indeed is He Who is the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Trinity is clearly made manifest and is revealed to mankind.
The waters of the Jordan are sanctified, and together with them all the waters of creation, the very nature of water. Water is given power to cleanse not only the body, but also man’s whole soul, and to regenerate the whole man unto a new life through Baptism.
Through water all of nature is cleansed, for out of water the world was made, and moisture penetrates everywhere, giving life to everything else in nature. Without moisture neither animals nor plants can live; moisture penetrates into rocks, into every place in the world.
The waters are sanctified and through them the whole world, in preparation for renewal and regeneration for God’s eternal Kingdom which is to come.
Every year on this day the glory of God is revealed, renewing and confirming what was accomplished at Christ’s Baptism. Again the heavens are opened; again the Holy Spirit descends. We do not see this with our bodily eyes, but we sense its power. At the rite of blessing, the waters which are thereby sanctified are transformed; the become incorruptible and retain their freshness for many years.
Everyone can see this- both believers and unbelievers, both the wise and the ignorant.
Whence do the water acquire this property?
It is the action of the Holy Spirit.
Those who with faith drink these waters and anoint themselves with them receive relief and healing from spiritual and bodily infirmities. Homes are sanctified by these waters, the power of demons is expelled, God’s blessing is brought down upon all that is sprinkled with these waters. Through the sanctifying of the waters God’s blessing is again imparted to the whole world, cleansing it from the sins we have committed and guarding it from the machinations of the devil.
Today the Holy Spirit, descending up on the waters when the Cross of Christ is immersed into them, descends up on all of nature. Only in man He cannot enter without his will.
Let us open our hearts and souls to receive Him and with faith cry from the depths of our souls:
“Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works, and there is no word which sufficeth to hymn Thy wonders.”
We have come to end of the 12 days of Christmas. Most of the homes have had their Christmas lights down since the weekend. We went the distance! We have attempted to push the Christmas envelope the full 12 days. And here we are at the next season of the year. I am not fully ready to let go of saying, “Christ is born!” but it is time to pack the Christmas decorations up and move on to celebrate the Lord’s baptism and what it means for us. For the Church, Jesus’ Baptism is not celebrated simply as a historical event without lasting effect. The Baptism of Christ is a Theophany. A day when we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit revealed. It is also a day in which both the divinity and humanity of Jesus is revealed to us. When Christ, who is without sin, was Baptized by John in the Jordan it was not He who was changed. His Baptism purified the waters!The Orthodoxy Church believes that in our Baptism we put on Christ. We are buried with Christ in His death and raised up with Him in His glorious Resurrection. We are baptized for the remission of sins and raised up to new life.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1: 9-15
When Thou, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ, our God, Who hast revealed Thyself and has enlightened the world, glory to Thee! – Troparia for Theophany
Thank you for reading and commenting on Scholé in 2010. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. Scholé takes off the 12 days of Christmas but, God-willing, it will return on Theophany, January 6, 2011.
Homily for the Nativity of Christ by St. John Chrysostom
“I behold a new and wondrous mystery!
My ears resound to the shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but loudly chanting a heavenly hymn!
The angels sing!
The archangels blend their voices in harmony!
The cherubim resound their joyful praise!
The Seraphim exalt His glory!
All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead herein… on earth and man in heaven. He who is above now, for our salvation, dwells here below; and we, who were lowly, are exalted by divine mercy!
Today Bethlehem resembles heaven, hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices and, in place of the sun, witnessing the rising of the Sun of Justice!
Ask not how this is accomplished, for where God wills, the order of nature is overturned. For He willed He had the powers He descended. He saved. All things move in obedience to God.
Today He Who Is, is born ! And He Who Is becomes what He was not! For when He was God, He became man-while not relinquishing the Godhead that is His…
And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him angels, nor archangels, nor thrones, nor dominions, nor powers, nor principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His incarnation has He ceased being God. And behold kings have come, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven; Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of childbirth into joy; Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin…
- Infants, that they may adore Him who became a little child, so that out of the mouths of infants He might perfect praise;
- Children, to the Child who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod; Men, to Him who became man that He might heal the miseries of His servants;
- Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd who was laid down His life for His sheep;
- Priests, to Him who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek;
- Servants, to Him who took upon Himself the form of a servant, that He might bless our stewardship with the reward of freedom (Philippians 2:7);
- Fishermen, to the Fisher of humanity;
- Publicans, to Him who from among them named a chosen evangelist;
- Sinful women, to Him who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant woman;
- And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
Since, therefore, all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice! I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival! But I take my part, not plucking the harp nor with the music of the pipes nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ!
For this is all my hope!
This is my life!
This is my salvation!
This is my pipe, my harp!
And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels and shepherds, sing:
“Glory to God in the Highest! and on earth peace to men of good will! “
by JOSHUA BECKER from Becoming Minimalist
I am often struck by the imagery and themes of Christmas. Among them, rings peace and reconciliation.
According to the Biblical account of Christmas, the first announcement of the baby’s birth was made by angels to shepherds outside of Bethlehem. And it went like this…
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
The Christmas season is to be a celebration of peace, goodwill, and reconciliation. Yet, for many families, thoughts of peace rarely accompany the holiday season. Instead, the exact opposite is all too common. Years of bitterness, resentment, and depression have been piled on top of misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misbehavior. And family peace was lost years ago… and is yet to be reclaimed.
Family relationships can cause conflict, turmoil, and stress at any time, but the tensions are often heightened during the holidays – that is what makes the Christmas season so difficult for many. Family misunderstandings and conflicts naturally intensify when you are thrown together for several days… or if you are separated because of them. It is time to get over our differences. And instead, to offer goodwill and reclaim peace in our family relationships.
This Christmas, give the gift of overdue peace.
1. Determine to be responsible for your attitude, not other’s. True, you can’t control the attitude of others, but you are the only one responsible for yours. Take an active stand against the attitudes of bitterness and rejection in your family. Because if we know anything about resentment, we know that it will swallow everyone in its path until someone takes a stand against it.
2. Embrace humility. Long-running family strife is rarely caused by one individual. It may have started with an inappropriate word, misdeed, or misunderstanding, but its unresolution is the fault of many. Embrace humility and forgiveness even if you are not the author of the conflict. If you are harboring resentment towards another human being because of past hurts, choose to forgive and move on. The harm was their fault. But allowing it to weigh down your life today is yours.
3. Accept disagreement and put it behind you. It is foolish and prideful to assume that everyone is going to agree with you. Whether your family disagreements center on worldview, religion, parenting styles, or sports’ teams, your ability to love others despite them is central to interpersonal relationships. Healthy families don’t reject their members who think differently – they become stronger because of them. This Christmas, seek to listen and hear rather than judge and lecture.
4. Take the first step. Make the bold decision to be the first in your family to offer peace and reconciliation. This step is often as simple as a phone call. Try this for a lead-in, “Hey, I’m just calling to wish you a Merry Christmas. I know we’ve had disagreements in the past, but I just want you to know that I love you very much and I hope we can put them behind us…” And while one phone call may not heal years of deep personal pain and rejection, it is often the first step that never gets taken.
This post will be read nearly 20,000 times in these coming days leading up to Christmas. And while it’s unreasonable to assume that that many families will find peace because of it, it is reasonable to assume that maybe one family, somewhere, will be brought together and find peace again because of it – and that thought alone makes it worth it.
After all, maybe (just maybe), it will be your family… or maybe even mine.
Night before last my wife and I finally found ourselves sitting down at 10 p.m. Things have been hectic. We are living a list of things to get done. Bah! We did make time a couple of days ago for a game of Monopoly with the kids. And, yes, my 2nd grader won… again. Even that wasn’t as merry as it could have been given all the shushing, and stop doing thats. In an effort to chill out, I turned on the TV and stumbled on a new-to-us version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, excellent! Even more excellent is that the dialogue is straight from the novel. After an hour it was time for bed and we had to turn it off. We never got past the first of the three spirits.
I went to bed remembering that we have a collection of Dickens that includes, A Christmas Carol. I began reading it today for the very first time. I am reading it like it holds the key to unlocking something. I am hungry to learn Scrooge’s lesson for myself. I am not Scrooge, not even by a long shot. I love Christmas. I have a heart for the poor. But, still, there is a lesson for me (and maybe you). I do not make merry, not anymore. I do not share myself, or my stuff like I could. I know how the novel ends but I am reading it hoping to emerge with heart and hands more open. And, in this way, to be more like the One I love.
What wonder should fill us! If we could cast ourselves back 2000 years… In just a couple of days the world will be different.
The world that had been for thousands of years like lost sheep has now been found, taken upon His shoulders by the Son of God become the Son of man. Our God is with us! The unbridgeable gap that sin had created between God and man was now finally bridged; God had entered into history, God Himself had become man. God had taken flesh, and all things visible, what we perceive in our blindness as dead, inert matter, could in His body recognize itself in glory. Something absolutely new had occurred, the world was no longer the same. Met. ANTHONY Bloom
I am anticipating this wonder in a new way. Thank you Charles Dickens!
St. Ignatius, otherwise known as Theophorus, which in Greek means “God-Bearer,” led the Christian Church during a critical period of her history. Pious tradition has always maintained that he was the little child that Christ held on His lap when he uttered the immortal words, “Let the children come unto me.” What is known for certain is that he grew up to be a disciple of the Apostles, St. Peter personally ordained him a Bishop, and his name is mentioned in the book of Romans.
Not much is known about St. Ignatius’ life until he began his famous last journey—on foot—to Rome, where he was thrown to the lions as portrayed in his icons. On his way to his death, many churches sent representatives to him, and fortunately for future Christians, he sent letters back to the churches. Thanks to St. Polycarp, seven of these letters survived; in them, we find some of the earliest teachings about the organization, practices, and beliefs of the Church. He emphasized the importance of loyalty and obedience to the bishop, as well as the salvific power of the Eucharist, “the flesh of Christ,” “the gift of God,” “the medicine of immortality.” On December 20, 107, during the reign of Emperor Trajan, St. Ignatius ended his life in a Roman arena, torn to bits by beasts. Rather than discouraging the fledgling faith of Christianity as the Romans had hoped, his noble death ignited and strengthened the faith of many.
In St. Ignatius’ most famous quote, he wrote to the Romans,
“I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”
After his death, the saint’s followers lovingly carried his relics back to Antioch, where they remained until 637, when they were transferred to the Church of St. Clement in Rome.
*Information from antiochian.org
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Nativity Fast runs from November 15 until after Liturgy for Nativity and traditionally entails fasting from red meat, poultry, meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine. Fish, wine and oil are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, and oil and wine are allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The fasting rules permit fish, and/or wine and oil on certain feast days that occur during the course of the fast: Evangelist Matthew (November 16), Apostle Andrew (November 30), Great-martyr Barbara (December 4), St. Nicholas (December 6), St. Spiridon and St. Herman (December 12), St. Ignatius (December 20), etc. The Nativity Fast is not as severe as Great Lent or the Dormition Fast.
As is always the case with Orthodox fasting rules, persons who are ill, the very young or elderly, and nursing mothers are exempt from fasting. Each individual is expected to confer with their confessor regarding any exemptions from the fasting rules, and should never place themselves in physical danger.
There has been some ambiguity about the restriction of fish, whether it means the allowance of invertebrate fish or all fish. Often, even on days when fish is not allowed, shellfish may be consumed. More detailed guidelines vary by jurisdiction. The Church strictly states that from the December 20 to December 24 (inclusively), no fish may be eaten.
In answer to the question on your mind… YES, in the Antiochian Orthodox Church in America there is a dispensation for Thanksgiving.