SUNDAY SCRIPTURES

Sunday Scriptures

When we pray we speak to God; when we read the Scriptures God speaks to us. When we read the Scriptures in the Liturgy God speaks to the Church. These reflections on themes in the Sunday readings help point the way to hearing God speak to our Church today.

At every Divine Liturgy there are two readings from the New Testament (Old Testament readings are often heard at Vespers). The second reading, from one of the Gospels, often is the source of the Sunday’s title (for example, the Sunday of the Blind Man) and the subject of the priest’s homily. The first reading, from an Epistle or the Acts of the Apostles, is often overlooked. These reflections may be drawn from either reading.

The references for these readings are on the Church calendar. You may enhance your hearing of God’s Word at the Liturgy by reading the Scriptural texts and the corresponding reflection before the Liturgy.

Great Fast & Holy Week

Children and the Church Today

FROM ARMENIA TO EVERY CORNER of the Middle East Palm Sunday is celebrated as a feast for children. Describing Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, St Matthew’s Gospel highlights the participation of children in the event. “When the chief priests and scribes saw the...

Mary of Egypt

AS THE GREAT FAST DRAWS TO A CLOSE we are presented with the story of St Mary of Egypt. Her Life, by St Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem, is read on the Thursday of Repentance, along with the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. On the fifth and last Sunday in the...

St. John Climacus

AT THE FOOT OF MOUNT SINAI, in the Egyptian peninsula of the same name, sits the monastery of St Catherine. It has been inhabited continuously for over 1700 years, making it one of the oldest such places in the world. Its unique climate has preserved icons and...

Veneration of the Cross

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN THE GREAT FAST is highlighted in the Byzantine Churches by the veneration of the holy cross. We adorn it with flowers, carry it in procession and prostrate ourselves before it. The Fast is preparing us to celebrate the death and resurrection of...

Sunday of Orthodoxy

AT EVERY DIVINE LITURGY during the Great Fast we read from the Holy Gospel according to Mark – except for today. Why is John 1:43-51 read on this Sunday, the Sunday of Orthodoxy? The brief answer is that both the Gospel reading and the triumph of Orthodoxy, which we...

The Prodigal Son

EACH YEAR, AS WE PREPARE to embark upon the Great Fast, we hear the Lord’s parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) read at the Divine Liturgy. Some commentators have said that the story might better be called the Parable of the Forgiving Father as he is the most...

Pharisee and the Publican

THIS WEEKEND OUR CHURCH opens the pages of the Triodion, the book containing the texts for all the services leading up to Pascha. This Lenten journey may be viewed on two levels, chronologically and spiritually. Both are important as we look ahead to our celebration...

Cheesefare Sunday

TOMORROW IS THE FIRST DAY of the Great Fast , the forty days of preparation for the observances of Great Week and Pascha. On this, the eve of the Fast, our Church always reds these words from St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep…...

Meatfare Sunday

IN THE PAST ONE HUNDRED YEARS, meat consumption in the U.S. has risen dramatically. We now consume over 270 pounds per person per year. In contrast, a person in the countries of the former Roman Empire eats an average of from 167 pounds (Greece) to 49 (Syria)...

Are You the Older Brother?

EVERY YEAR ON THIS SECOND SUNDAY of the Triodion we hear the Lord’s story which we call the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact there are three important characters in this parable, recorded in Luke 15: the Prodigal, the loving Father and the older brother. Some...

The Week of Palms: a Prelude to Salvation

THE SIXTH WEEK OF THE GREAT FAST has a two-fold designation in our liturgical books. First of all, it marks the end of this fasting season. We also fast during the Great and Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion, but that observance is not part of the Great Fast. The Great...

St. Gregory of Palamas

IN MANY PARISHES, the Great Fast means an increase in activity: added services, Lenten Dinners, missions and other programs. It is ironic that we celebrate today a saint identified with the spirituality of stillness. St Gregory Palamas’ main contribution to the life...

Prepare for the Great Fast

TOMORROW IS THE FIRST DAY of the Great Fast. As a reminder, we hear once more these words of St Paul: “You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep” (Romans 13:11). Each year the Church calls us to four fasting periods – four wake-up...

The Food of Paradise

SAY GOODBYE TO MEAT. In the fasting practice common to all Byzantine Churches Meatfare Sunday is the last day on which meat would be eaten until Pascha. This is the first step towards the fuller discipline of the Great Fast when dairy products would not be eaten as...

Repentance: the Way Home

DURING THIS PRE-FAST PERIOD and during the Great Fast itself this hymn is sung at Sunday Orthros: “Open to me the doors of repentance, O Giver of life, for my soul comes early to Your Holy Temple, bearing the temple of my body all defiled; but since You are merciful,...

Look at Me –I’m Fasting!

BEGINNING TODAY, the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the Church calls on us to start preparing for the Great Fast. And how does it tell us to ready ourselves? – by telling us not to fast! Since the beginnings of the Church Christians have fasted on Wednesdays...

“Zacchaeus, Come Down!”

PHYSICAL FITNESS IS BIG BUSINESS TODAY. People run to gyms and exercise programs, or they just run. St. Paul sees the value of keeping one’s body in shape, but puts it in a perspective of his own. “Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all...

Kolyva and the Memory of the Departed

MOST BELIEVERS KNOW that the Western Church observes a day of prayer and remembrance for the dead on November 2, All Souls Day. Few know, however that certain Slavic Byzantine Churches also observe memorial days at this time, each with a slightly different focus. The...

Holy Relics

WHEN THE AVERAGE AMERICAN SEES a skull or skeleton displayed, it is probably Halloween. When the Eastern Christian sees a skull or other bones put forth for veneration in church, it is the deification of our nature that comes to mind. It is particu-larly appropriate...

The Journey Begins

IF YOU WERE TO ASK a fitness devotee to describe Clean Week, you would hear about a seven-day nutrition and exercise program involving eating and lifestyle changes designed to “create the healthy habits you need for lifelong health and fitness.” If you were to ask a...

On Holy Ground

ONCE THE LORD JESUS entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday He was in the stronghold of the Jewish political and religious elite: the high priests and the Sanhedrin (council of elders). Chapter 21 of the Gospel of Matthew shows Him challenging them dramatically in word...

Hosanna to the Son of David!

THE THE YEAR 75 the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described the recent Jewish revolt against Roman rule and how the imperial army, led by Vespasian and his son Titus, had crushed the rebels. Vespasian was proclaimed emperor and an elaborate victory celebration was...

God’s Hidden Saints

AS THE GREAT FAST draws to a close, we are presented with the story of St Mary of Egypt. Her Life, by St Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem, is read on the Thursday of Repentance, along with the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. On the fifth and last Sunday in the...

Priest, Victim and Sacrifice

AT THE DIVINE LITURGY on the Sundays of the Great Fast we regularly read from the Epistle to the Hebrews. Perhaps the most important theme in this epistle is the priesthood of the Lord Jesus expressed in two Old Testament images: the priesthood of Melchizedek and the...

Food for the No-gods

FOR THE THIRD WEEK IN A ROW the Church, through its selection of the Scriptures read at the Divine Liturgy, warns us against a false subjectivism or individualism in the coming Fast. First, in the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, we were warned to avoid...

Wearing the Robe of Light

TOMORROW IS THE FIRST DAY of the Great Fast, the forty days of preparation for the observances of Great Week and Pascha. On this, the eve of the Fast, our Church always reads these words from St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, “Now it is high time to awake out of...

The Akathist to the Theotokos

Q – When is a Lenten service not a Lenten service? A – When it is the Akathist to the Theotokos. In Byzantine Churches of the Greek or “Southern” tradition it is customary to serve Compline with the Akathist to the Theotokos on the Friday evenings during the...

Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

“THE DISCIPLES OF JOHAN and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to [Jesus], ‘Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the...

Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

BIBLE STORIES have long been a favorite means of keeping the Word of God fresh in our minds. They appeal to all ages, from pre-schoolers to mature adults. In our age they have been retold in comic books, films and even video games. They have been rewritten in regional...

“Consecrate a Fast”

BEFORE THERE WERE FREEZERS and refrigerators, preparing for the Great Fast involved cleaning out any meat or dairy products on hand. In parts of Europe meats would be cured for consumption after Pascha. Many Greeks observe what has been called “Roasted Thursday” – the...

Behold, the Bridegroom Is Coming

WHEN DOES A DAY BEGIN? The clock says that a new day starts at 12:01 AM, which most people see as the middle of the night. For others a new day begins when the sun rises and reveille (or the alarm clock) is sounded. The Eastern Churches follow the pattern set in the...

Lazarus Saturday

THE SIXTH WEEK OF THE GREAT FAST has a two-fold designation in our liturgical books. First of all, it marks the end of this fasting season. We also fast during the Great and Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion, but that observance is not part of the Great Fast. The Great...

Forgive Others

SAD TO SAY, there are sincere believers who come to confession because they feel it is easier to repent before God than it is to apologize to people they have hurt! After all, God always forgives and the priest doesn’t try to make you feel embarrassed. On the...

The Road to Jerusalem

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the...

Veneration of the Holy Cross

The Third Sunday in the Great Fast is the twenty-first day of the forty-day fast. We are half way to our Holy Week observance of the Lord’s passion and resurrection. At this mid-point the Church directs our attention to the holy cross and to Christ’s injunction,...

The Fathers Reaffirmed

WHAT DO FASTS, METANIES, PROSTRATIONS, and standing through long church services have to do with prayer? Isn’t prayer the conversation with God we have in our hearts? Why is Eastern Christian spirituality so physical? On the First Sunday of the Fast we proclaimed the...

Why Are Icons Orthodox?

TODAY IS THE SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY, which celebrates the restoration of the Orthodox use of icons in the Byzantine Empire. But what exactly is “Orthodoxy” and what does it have to do with icons? Literally the word means “rightly proclaiming” – those who glorify God in...

Food for the Gods

SAY GOOD-BYE TO MEAT. In the fasting practice common to all Byzantine Churches Meatfare Sunday is the last day on which meat would be eaten until Pascha. This is the first step towards the fuller discipline of the Great Fast when dairy products would not be eaten as...

Looking for the Way Home

FOR THE NEXT FEW SUNDAYS Psalm 136 (LXX) is chanted before the Gospel at Orthros. Describing the plight of Jewish exiles in the seventh century BC, it begins with this verse: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.” When the...

Look at Me – I’m Fasting

BEGINNING TODAY, the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the Church calls on us to start preparing for the Great Fast. And how does it tell us to ready ourselves? – by telling us not to fast! Since the beginnings of the Church Christians have fasted on Wednesdays...

Behold Your King

CHILDREN LOVE A PARADE – they may not know – or care – what it’s about, but they know it’s great fun. They may march out of step or make music out of tune but they know that they’re involved with something special and want to be part of it in their own way. The...

Fasting From Myself

THE LAST SUNDAY BEFORE THE GREAT FAST has several descriptive names. It is called the Sunday of the Expulsion, remembering the sin of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden. It is also Cheesefare Sunday, the last day for eating dairy products....

Children and the Church Today

FROM ARMENIA TO EVERY CORNER of the Middle East Palm Sunday is celebrated as a feast for children. Describing Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, St Matthew’s Gospel highlights the participation of children in the event. “When the chief priests and scribes saw the...

Mary of Egypt

AS THE GREAT FAST DRAWS TO A CLOSE we are presented with the story of St Mary of Egypt. Her Life, by St Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem, is read on the Thursday of Repentance, along with the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. On the fifth and last Sunday in the...

St. John Climacus

AT THE FOOT OF MOUNT SINAI, in the Egyptian peninsula of the same name, sits the monastery of St Catherine. It has been inhabited continuously for over 1700 years, making it one of the oldest such places in the world. Its unique climate has preserved icons and...

Veneration of the Cross

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN THE GREAT FAST is highlighted in the Byzantine Churches by the veneration of the holy cross. We adorn it with flowers, carry it in procession and prostrate ourselves before it. The Fast is preparing us to celebrate the death and resurrection of...

Pentecostarian

The Samaritan Woman

The story of the Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman contains one of the most misunderstood and misused sayings of Christ in the Gospels. The woman raises the question: which is the proper place to worship God, in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim? Jesus responded,...

The Healing of the Paralytic

When the evangelists collected their reminiscences and put them in writing, they arranged them in ways that proclaimed their faith in Him. Their belief in Him affected the way they told His story. During the first decades after Christ’s resurrection the apostles...

The Harrowing of Hades

FROM ITS BEGINNING on Lazarus Saturday until the cracking of the last red egg of Pascha, our Great Week and Bright Week services immerse us in a wealth of images, both verbal and visual, of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. In the midst of this sensory...

Sunday of All Saints

WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT LOOK LIKE? We know from the Scriptures that the Father cannot be seen, but has manifested Himself to us in His Son. “No one has seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18)....

Feast of Pentecost

FROM TODAY TO PASCHA NEXT YEAR, practically every church service and formal prayer in our tradition will begin with the invocation, “O Heavenly King.” The presence of the Holy Spirit, whom the first Christians received on Pentecost, is called upon whenever we pray –...

The Man Born Blind

WHO IS THE BLIND MAN? This question is not about the name of the man the Lord Jesus heals of blindness in John 9 (in Christian lore he is given the name Celidonius). He is not named in the Gospel account because his name is irrelevant to the meaning of the passage....

Myrrh Bearers at the Tomb

SERVICE IN THE CHURCH TODAY can mean many things. The clergy are said to serve the Divine Liturgy and other services. They are not improvising or directing or even celebrating; their role as servers suggests that their personality take a back seat to what they serve,...

The Joyful Pentecostarion – Fifty Days of Grace

FOR MOST AMERICANS a holiday is a one-day affair – at most, a holiday weekend. In the Church, however, Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, is celebrated for a much longer period. We observe Christ’s resurrection for forty days, concluding it with the Great Feast of His Holy...

The First Ecumenical Council

ON THE SUNDAY AFTER THE ASCENSION, our Church remembers the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council which met at Nicaea in ad 325. It was convoked by the first Christian Roman emperor, St Constantine the Great, in response to an appeal by a synod of Spanish bishops....

Feast of the Ascension

“HE HAS SPOKEN BLASPHEMY! … What do you think?” the high priest asked the assembled Sanhedrin. And they answered, “He is deserving of death.” Thus the Lord Jesus was condemned (see Matthew 26:59-67). But in what had He supposedly blasphemed? The Gospel records it this...

Mid-Pentecost

ON MOST FEASTS of our Church year we display an icon which depicts the event commemorated and explains its theological meaning. This is not the case on the Feast of Mid-Pentecost which is observed this week. To be sure, the icon shows Christ preaching in the Temple...

The Confession of Thomas

THE SUNDAY AFTER PASCHA is informally called Thomas Sunday because of the Gospel read on this day, Jn 20:19-31. Many people assume this means that Thomas Sunday is the feast of St Thomas. In fact, St Thomas is remembered in the Byzantine calendar on October 6. What we...

“I AM the Life of the Dead”

NO ONE SAW JESUS RISE from the dead. The Scriptures simply say that the tomb was found to be empty early on that Sunday morning. Later the risen Christ appeared to His disciples, as we read in the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles. This is why the Byzantine rules...

The Other Paraclete

AS THE TIME FOR THE Lord’s passion neared, Jesus tried to prepare His followers for what was to happen. He warned them about His impending arrest, their flight, and about His ultimate death. He also made a promise: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you...

Who Is the Blind Man?

WHO IS THE BLIND MAN? This question is not about the name of the man the Lord Jesus heals of blindness in John 9 (in Christian lore he is given the name Celidonius). He is not named in the Gospel account because his name is irrelevant to the meaning of the passage....

Paralyzed by Sins and Thoughtless Acts

THE SCRIPTURES READ on the remaining Sundays in the Paschal season present us with some of life’s most debilitating hardships: blindness, isolation, and, today, paralysis. In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles read today we hear about the healing of a man named...

A Modern Myrrhbearer?

WHEN WE THINK about Christian ministry, it is the liturgical ministry of priests or deacons, readers or chanters that most readily comes to mind. But in the Church’s tradition, ministry has a much broader meaning. The ministry of Christians includes many forms of...

“My Lord and My God”

WHY WOULD THE APOSTLE THOMAS, who moments before had refused to accept the other apostles’ witness to Christ’s resurrection, suddenly proclaim that Jesus is “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)? This question has been discussed since the Gospel of John was written. A...

Death Could Not Hold Him

THERE ARE A NUMBER of sacred images popular in the West which are considered inappropriate or uncanonical in the East. This means that their depictions are actually misrepresentations of the one they represent. The poplar depiction of the Holy Trinity as an older man,...

The Prayers of the Saints

WHEN WE HEAR THE WORDS confess or confession we naturally think it refers to the confession of sins in the Mystery of Repentance. In this Mystery, to confess one’s sins means to publicly admit them in the presence of a priest. The term confession has a similar meaning...

Source of Living Water

IN AGRICULTURAL SOCIETIES the end of the harvest means that the workers could relax, celebrate and give thanks. In Judaism this is marked by the Feast of Sukkoth (tents or tabernacles), which celebrates God as the One who provided for the Israelites in the wilderness...

God is Wondrous in His Saints

ON THE SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST the Byzantine Churches observe the Feast of All Saints. As we read in today’s Synaxarion at Orthros: “Our most godlike Fathers decreed that we should celebrate the present feast after the descent of the All-holy Spirit, as showing in a...

Proclaiming the Resurrection

“CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!” This greeting, exchanged throughout this season by Eastern Christians, is one of the hallmarks of our paschal feast. Although it is not used in the West, the faith it expresses is at the heart of every Christian community’s...

Christ Our Passover

“WHAT’S IN A NAME?” This question, which Shakespeare put in the mouth of Juliet, has become something of a cliché ever since. Nevertheless, it is certainly a valid question when we look at our name for the Feast of Christ’s Resurrection. In AD 725 St Bede the...

We Have Received the Heavenly Spirit

“ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK we pray standing, but everyone does not know why.” This issue, raised in the fourth century by St. Basil the Great, may be just as timely today. In most Eastern Churches standing is the most appropriate posture for prayer. Sitting is...

Trampling Upon Death By Death

CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD and by His death He has trampled upon Death and has given live to those who are in the tombs. This hymn, the troparion of Pascha, is chanted repeatedly on Pascha and throughout the forty days until the feast of Christ’s ascension. Many of...

Being “One in Us”

IN MONASTIC OR RELIGIOUS CIRCLES it is common for spiritual leaders to leave their followers a “spiritual testament,” an outline of the teachings and instructions which they want uppermost in their disciples’ minds. Christ’s prayer in John 17 is a kind of spiritual...

He Shall Come Again

IN 1831 A BAPTIST PREACHER in upstate New York began to announce that the Second Coming of Christ was to take place in 1844. By that year over 100,000 people were anticipating that what William Miller had identified as the “Blessed Hope” of Titus...

“I Have Destroyed Death”

CHRIST IS RISEN! Most of us are familiar with the Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom which is appointed to be read during the celebration of Pascha. Other patristic texts on the resurrection are less well known but make for timely reading during Bright...

The Samaritan Woman

The story of the Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman contains one of the most misunderstood and misused sayings of Christ in the Gospels. The woman raises the question: which is the proper place to worship God, in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim? Jesus responded,...

The Healing of the Paralytic

When the evangelists collected their reminiscences and put them in writing, they arranged them in ways that proclaimed their faith in Him. Their belief in Him affected the way they told His story. During the first decades after Christ’s resurrection the apostles...

The Harrowing of Hades

FROM ITS BEGINNING on Lazarus Saturday until the cracking of the last red egg of Pascha, our Great Week and Bright Week services immerse us in a wealth of images, both verbal and visual, of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. In the midst of this sensory...

Sunday of All Saints

WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT LOOK LIKE? We know from the Scriptures that the Father cannot be seen, but has manifested Himself to us in His Son. “No one has seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18)....

Meditations

Praising God in the Eight Tones

Most regular worshippers in Byzantine churches have heard the terms “Octoechos” or “eight tones.” Some think that these terms refer principally to the troparia of the resurrection sung at Sunday’s Divine Liturgy. In fact, the term Octoechos refers to much more. The...

Forgiveness by Christ

THERE ARE MANY DESCRIPTIVE TITLES ascribed to Christ in Scripture and in the Tradition of the ancient Churches. He is portrayed as the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd, the Great High Priest, the Bread of life and so much more. Perhaps the most frequently heard of...

Humility and Wealth

"WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?" This question is posed by a young Jewish leader whom Jesus meets on His way to Jerusalem. At first glance it seems a reasonable inquiry, one that many people would still ask today. “Tell me what prayer to say, what shrine to...

Spreading the Good News

THE GOSPELS RECORD SEVERAL INSTANCES when the Lord Jesus called people to be His followers. At times He called people to leave their homes and livelihoods and follow Him. He called Peter and Andrew, James and John as they were busy fishing “and immediately they left...

Tithing

FROM TIME TO TIME, Christians in a number of communities, including the ancient historic Churches, are encouraged to tithe to their congregation. Tithing – the giving of 10% of one’s income – is mandatory in some groups. Mormons, for example are required to tithe and...

The Church Councils

THE BYZANTINE CHURCHES commemorate liturgically each of the seven Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium. Both Catholic and Orthodox Churches have held important councils since then, but none of those councils are celebrated with liturgical feasts in either the...

Love and Forgiveness

DOES CHRIST AS THE IMPOSSIBLE of His disciples? At times it seems so, as when He tells us to “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35). This doctrine goes against the ordinary inclinations of people...

The Giver of All Good Gifts

How many TV channels can you access – 300, 400, more? How many do you actually use? How fast can your car travel – 150 mph? How fast do you actually drive? Does your Smartphone have more apps than you’ll ever use? Manufacturers design their products based on the...

The Sacrifice of the Cross

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF PASSAGES that we find in one of the Gospels but not in the others. The raising of Lazarus, for example, is recorded only in John. The birth of John the Baptist, certain of the Lord’s parables, such as the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ washing of the...

Gazing on the Image of His Face

MANY AMERICANS ARE FAMILIAR with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, miraculously imprinted on the cape (tilma) of a Nahuatl Aztec in sixteenth-century Mexico. Such an image is called “not made with hands,” meaning that its origin is spiritual or even divine. The...

Giving Their Lives in Service

THRIVING WORSHIPPING COMMUNITIES OFTEN “give birth” to small groups who devote themselves to one type of service or another: choirs, altar guilds, transport providers, food pantry coordinators and the like. Usually these groups are task-oriented: they remain lay...

Lives of Consecrated Service

IN MOST TIMES AND PLACES other than our own, traveling was not a recreational pursuit. It was a venturing into the unknown: Were the roads safe from kidnappers, from wild animals, from any danger? Will people receive us or rob us? There were serious reasons why our...

Another Lazarus at Your Gate

BEFORE JESUS BEGAN HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY, He prayed and fasted for forty days (see Matthew 4:1-11). The Church’s ascetics look to His experience as the model for their spiritual life. They devote themselves to prayer throughout the night and fasting every day. But even...

Wonderworking Ascetics

WE ARE AT THE END of the Fast of the Apostles and many who have observed this Fast will be happy that it is over. We prefer feasts to fasts and look forward to any fast-free days observed during the year. There are some, however, who make every day a fast day. They...

Into the Wilderness

IN THE CHRISTIAN EAST, the fasting seasons are always periods in which the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are observed in a heightened way. The particular rules for augmenting the services and for fasting vary from one Local Church to another (eg Greek,...

Confronting Sin and Sinners

SOME CHRISTIANS TODAY seem to believe that Jesus never judged anyone. They feel that He welcomed everyone, without calling them to turn from their sin. This “live and let live” attitude hardly describes the Jesus we see depicted in the Gospels. Rather, these...

Pursuing Godliness

PERHAPS IT WAS AN ATHLETIC ENTHUSIAST who deleted from our liturgical books the verse which introduces today’s passage from the First Epistle to Timothy. It reads as follows: “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having...

Putting on the New Man

CHAPTER THREE OF ST PAUL'S EPISTLE to the Colossians begins with this enigmatic statement: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). The questions it raises are obvious: when did we die, and how is our life hidden with Christ?...

Commending One’s Whole Life to Christ

WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE? This question is posed by a young Jewish leader whom Jesus meets on His way to Jerusalem. At first glance it seems a reasonable inquiry, one that many people would still ask today. “Tell me what prayer to say, what shrine to...

For His Name’s Sake

AS WE HAVE SEEN, the Lord prophesied the destruction of the Jewish temple and of Jerusalem itself. The Scriptures record other prophecies from the Lord Jesus’ teachings. These sayings sometimes speak of His disciples’ personal futures. Thus at the Last Supper Jesus...

Abolishing the Wall of Separation

THE FIRST MAJOR ISSUE confronted by the apostolic Church concerned the Torah, and particularly its law on separation from the Gentiles. Beginning with the call of Abraham, God had set apart a people to serve Him as priests and prophets. This people – named Israel,...

Expiation for the World

THE GREAT FEASTS OF THE CHURCH are each celebrations of an aspect of the mystery of Christ: Of these feasts Pascha is considered “the Feast of Feasts,” the center of our Church life, the mystery of Christ’s resurrection. While Pascha is celebrated with feasting, the...

Those Who Fought the Good Fight

OVER THE YEARS words often change their meaning due to the influence of other languages or new developments in the culture. For centuries the English word “meat” referred to all kinds of solid food. Beginning in the fourteenth century it began to take on the modern...

The Kingdom of God Is Proclaimed

IN THE YEAR AD75, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described the recent Jewish revolt against Roman rule and how the imperial army, led by Vespasian and his son Titus, had crushed the rebels. Vespasian was proclaimed emperor and an elaborate victory celebration...

The Great High Priest

THE NEW TESTAMENT DEPICTS the mystery of Christ in terms of the rituals of sacrifice in the Jerusalem temple. It describes Christ’s sacrifice based on the manner in which animals were sacrificed there. First, the animal was killed, usually by the donor, in the outer...

Restoring Our Likeness to God

WE HAVE COMPLETED THE FIRST WEEK of the Great Fast. Hopefully, we have met the goals which have set for ourselves: the degree of fasting and almsgiving appropriate to our station in life, or the participation in the services which our schedule of responsibilities...

Unwavering Faith

THE MIDDLE EAST TODAY is an ethnic and religious jumble: Mediterranean and European Jews rub shoulders with Eastern and Western Christians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims and innumerable other variations on each of these themes. This is not merely a present-day phenomenon....

The Fruit of Spiritual Love

IN SEPTEMBER, 2013 the Free Syrian Army backed up by [al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat] al-Nusra forces, attacked the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula, some forty miles from Damascus. Christian properties including churches were looted and destroyed. Twelve nuns from the...

Are We Ashamed of Christ?

THE SCRIPTURES ENCOURAGE us to boast in the cross, glorifying the saving work of Christ who gave up His life on it. During this feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Church also reminds us of Christ’s warning to those who may be ashamed of Him and of what He has...

Boasting in the Holy Cross

BOASTING IS NOT SOMETHING we expect to find promoted in religious writing. We see it s very definitely something of this world, of egos and the very worldly habit of stroking them. Yet in both Old and New Testaments, believers are encouraged to specific kinds of...

God’s Glory in Christ’s Face

THROUGHOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT we read that light is somehow an apt description of God. Thus in St Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians we read: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the...

Imitating the Father of Compassion

THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENCES between the three world religions originating in the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). One thing which they all share is the emphasis on God as Compassionate. In the biblical story of Moses, for example, God reveals Himself to...

Holding up the Church in Prayer

THOSE WHO LIVE IN TEMPERATE CLIMATES enjoy a regular alternation of the four seasons, each with its own proper joys and hardships. In our Church we also enjoy a regular alternation of “seasons,” moving from times of feasting to periods of fasting. In our feasts we...

Imperial Power in the Service of Christ

SEVERAL SAINTS on the Byzantine calendar are described as Equals to the Apostles. Some, such as St Mary Magdalene and the first woman martyr St Takla, were among the earliest witnesses to the Resurrection. Others, were among those who first brought the Gospel to areas...

The Son of David

THERE ARE TWO ICONS put forth for veneration this Sunday in those Byzantine churches which follow the Gregorian calendar. Because it is March 25, we are celebrating the Great Feast of the Annunciation. Because it is Palm Sunday, we are commemorating Christ’s entry...

Christ, Our Eternal Hope

THE NEW TESTAMENT DEPICTS the mystery of Christ in terms of the rituals of sacrifice in the Jerusalem temple. It describes Christ’s sacrifice based on the manner in which animals were sacrificed there. First, the animal was killed, usually by the donor, in the outer...

The Sacrifice of the Cross

WHEN THE ISRAELITES LEFT EGYPT under Moses, the Bible says that they “plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:35), taking with them articles of silver and gold and precious fabrics. They also took with them something which would be at the center of their society for over...

We Shall See Him as He Is

WE HAVE COMPLETED THE FIRST WEEK of the Great Fast. Hopefully, we have met the goals which have set for ourselves: the degree of fasting and almsgiving appropriate to our station in life, or the participation in the services which our schedule of respon-sibilities...

Glorify God in Your Body

MANY PEOPLE TODAY EQUATE "SPIRITUALITY" with one’s personal inner life. Spiritual seekers are advised to “listen to their heart” to find peace and clarity, often without any reference to God – or at least to the God revealed in the Scriptures – or to a community such...

The Forerunner and His Message

WHO IS THE GREATEST SAINT after the Theotokos? Recent sentiment in the West looks to her spouse, St Joseph, as the foremost representative of holiness. For the Eastern Churches, however, “the Lord’s witness is enough” (troparion of St John). The liturgy here refers to...

The Island of Saints

WHEN PEOPLE THINK of Byzantine Churches today, Constantinople (Byzantium) comes to mind as do the “Ancient Patriarchates” (Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem} which adopted this rite later in their history. The largest Byzantine Churches today are the Slavic Churches...

Teaching Compassion by Example

PATRIARCHS IN BOTH EAST AND WEST regularly take the name of one of their predecessors. As a result, they are generally identified as the second, third or tenth of that name in that see. The Greek Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria, John V, is an exception to that rule....

“You Should Do as I Have Done to You”

ONE OF THE FIRST CONTROVERSIES in which the Apostolic Church engaged concerned the continuing importance of the old Law, and in particular the need to be circumcised. Many Jewish believers or converts to Judaism wrestled with this question: did one need to be...

“I have been crucified with Christ”

WHAT MAKES A PERSON RIGHTEOUS before God? It is a question that religious people continually ask of themselves and their spiritual leaders. Sometimes the answers they receive seem to come from “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Thus over-zealous people of all...

“I planted, Apollos watered”

PORT CITIES HAVE LONG BEEN vital to commerce, both in the ancient world and up to our own day. Founded in c. 700 bc, Corinth was the principal port connecting the Greek mainland, the Peloponnesian peninsula and Italy. It was especially important in St Paul’s day as...

Praising God in the Eight Tones

Most regular worshippers in Byzantine churches have heard the terms “Octoechos” or “eight tones.” Some think that these terms refer principally to the troparia of the resurrection sung at Sunday’s Divine Liturgy. In fact, the term Octoechos refers to much more. The...

Forgiveness by Christ

THERE ARE MANY DESCRIPTIVE TITLES ascribed to Christ in Scripture and in the Tradition of the ancient Churches. He is portrayed as the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd, the Great High Priest, the Bread of life and so much more. Perhaps the most frequently heard of...

Humility and Wealth

"WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?" This question is posed by a young Jewish leader whom Jesus meets on His way to Jerusalem. At first glance it seems a reasonable inquiry, one that many people would still ask today. “Tell me what prayer to say, what shrine to...

Spreading the Good News

THE GOSPELS RECORD SEVERAL INSTANCES when the Lord Jesus called people to be His followers. At times He called people to leave their homes and livelihoods and follow Him. He called Peter and Andrew, James and John as they were busy fishing “and immediately they left...

Scriptural Reflections

The Good Samaritan

WHEN PEOPLE READ THE SCRIPTURES they can often easily grasp the basic meaning of the passage. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, for instance, Christ is clearly exalting the compassion of the Samaritan over the lack of concern on the part of the priest and Levite....

Healing of Bleeding Woman

WE LIVE IN A SPEED-DRIVEN AGE. We look for faster ways to accomplish every task: in the office, in the kitchen, in the classroom. In our economy, speed is a source of competitive advantage. In the workplace, higher speed means greater efficiency. Today, “to build a...

Lazarus and the Rich Man

WOULD WE BE AFFECTED if someone rose from the dead? We would probably say “Yes,” but the Lord says “No.” What does He know that we don’t? Throughout the centuries, and even today, many people have what might be called mystical experiences. They see visions and dream...

Story of a Royal Wedding

THE GOSPEL PARABLE READ at today’s Divine Liturgy is actually two stories with two different, if complementary, points. The first concerns those invited to the banquet and those who finally came. The second is the issue of the so-called “wedding garment.” The Gospel...

The Rich Young Man

THE THREE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS – Matthew, Mark and Luke – all record Christ’s meeting with a rich young man who sought His guidance. The young man (Luke calls him a “ruler”) seeks to know what to do to have eternal life. Christ responds by telling him to keep the...

The Messianic Banquet

THE MIRACULOUS FEEDING OF 5000 with five loaves and two fish is reported in each of the four Gospels. In both the earliest and latest Gospels, there is an unusual unanimity in the details which they relate: more than most other Gospel narratives, including the...

Eating Bread in the Kingdom of God

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE is considered one of the three “synoptic Gospels,” along with Matthew and Mark. They cover much the same ground, in contrast to John’s Gospel which reports actions and teachings not found elsewhere. There are, however, two important...

The Promise of My Father

IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, as we have seen, the Lord Jesus is shown fulfilling Old Testament prophecies. The expressed aim of this Gospel is to proclaim what has been fulfilled. Jesus is also depicted as prophesying Himself: He foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and...

Christ’s Prophecy Fulfilled

THE OVERRIDING THEME OF THE GOSPEL of Luke, as we have seen, is that the Lord Jesus fulfills the prophecies written about the Messiah in the Old Testament. Luke emphasizes this teaching in his telling of the risen Christ’s appearance to His disciples. In Luke 24 the...

The Heart of the Gospel

WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING to accept in Christianity? Is it the doctrine of the Trinity? The idea that God became man? Or that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ? While these teachings may meet with obstacles in our minds, the hardest thing for us to accept...

The Hidden Messiah

THE NINTH CHAPTER of St Matthew’s Gospel records several miracles in succession: the healing of a paralytic, of the ruler’s daughter, of a woman with a flow of blood, two blind men and a mute man. Only in the case of the two blind men do we find that the Lord Jesus...

Coming from East and West

BY THE TIME CHRIST BEGAN His public ministry, Rome had been ruling the Holy Land for almost 100 years, through a succession of local governors and administrators. The ruler of Galilee at the time was the tetrarch Herod Antipas, whom the locals called “King Herod.” The...

The Leprous Nature Of Man

CHRIST'S ENCOUNTER WITH THE TEN LEPERS offers several points on which we can reflect. We see that Christ heals, that He heals foreigners as well as Israelites, and that the only one who glorifies God is that foreigner, a Samaritan. Christ’s response to the Samaritan,...

What is the Armor of God?

PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW the world news reports in the media have become familiar with the Arabic word jihad describing certain radical movements in Islam. What the news reports don’t mention is that jihad, or struggle, is also a fundamental dynamic in Christian...

Tale of the Rich Man and Lazarus

THERE SEEM TO BE MORE QUESTIONS than answers in the Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus. We are told that, when the beggar died, he was carried to Abraham’s bosom. We are not told why. We are also told that, when the rich man died, he was “in torment in Hades”...

The Church as Darkness and Light

IN HIS PREACHING OF CHRIST to the Gentiles St Paul was challenging the heart of Jewish practice in his day: the necessity of observing the Law. What was required, he taught, was faith in Christ. In writing to the Galatians, St Paul mentioned an objection which he...

Parabale of the Sower

PERHAPS THE EASIEST GOSPEL PARABLE to understand is the parable of the sower, found in each of the synoptic Gospels. The fact that the Lord Jesus Himself explains the parable certainly explains why this is so; still, it is up to us, the Church, to apply this parable...

The Marriage of the Lamb

PEOPLE USUALLY THING of the Holy Mysteries according to the ways they have experienced them in churches which they have attended. Western Christians, for example, who are used to seeing a few drops of water poured on a baby’s head in baptism, may be astounded to see a...

“The Lamp of the Body Is the Eye”

WHENEVER WE WANT TO DISTRACT an infant or a pet, we place bright colors or movement before their eyes. Their eyes focus on what they see before them and distract them from whatever potential disaster we envision. We aren’t much different; we, too, can be easily...

The One Thing You Need

“WHO, ME?” – We can easily imagine the consternation of the rich young man when he heard the Lord tell him: “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22). This...

Touching the Fringe of His Garment

IT IS COMMON IN MANY EASTERN CHURCHES to see people touching or kissing the priest’s vestment as he passes in procession. In this way, they express their veneration for Christ in the Gospel book, the Holy Gifts or other sacred object he is carrying. They are doing...

Those Who Saw the Risen Lord

IN TODAY'S READING St Paul articulates what he calls “the Gospel,” the heart of the Christian message “in which you stand, by which also you are saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2). That Gospel is the message of Christ’s resurrection: both that He rose (the historical...

Fathering a Local Church

WHEN THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH was divided over whose leadership to follow, St Paul asserted his unique role of authority in that Church. It was Paul who had first brought the message of the Gospel to Corinth. In Acts 18 we read how Paul had come from Athens and began...

In Your Light We See Light

“I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD” (John 8:12). These familiar words of the Lord Jesus reflect one of the most popular images in the Scriptures, but what do they mean? How is Jesus the light of the world? The rest of this verse (pardon the expression) ‘sheds light’ on what...

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

IN MATTHEW'S GOSPEL three important moments take place on a mountain: what we call the “Sermon on the Mount”(Matthew 5-7), the Holy Transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1-9), and the eschatological discourse in which the Lord speaks to the signs of His coming...

“Does Anyone Envy the Leper?”

ONE OF THE MOST FEARED DISEASES in the world for centuries was leprosy. Those infected might develop inflammations of the nerves, the respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. Ulcerating sores and numbness would result. When sufferers could no longer feel pain, then repeated...

“You Are All One in Christ Jesus”

“ALL OF YOU who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, alleluia.” This verse, sung at baptisms in Byzantine churches, is taken from the passage read at today’s Divine Liturgy (Galatians 3:23-4:5). The newly baptized is processed around the baptistery and...

No Longer “Afar Off”

WE CONTINUE READING the Epistle to the Ephesians today, moving on to chapter two. Here St Paul reflects on the new reality in God's plan for the salvation of the world, the Church. The People of God is now more than the people of Israel -- Jews and Gentiles have been...

Enthroned in the Heavenly Realm

THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS is one of the most beautiful in the New Testament. It was probably written at the end of St. Paul's life or compiled from his writings shortly after his death. Although it is addressed (in most manuscripts) to the Church in Ephesus, it...

Stories That Tell a Story

THE CULTURE OF WESTERN EUROPE which we have inherited is based on the ideas and methods of Greek philosophy. We use abstractions, logic and the devices of classical thought to express ourselves. That sort of thinking was alien to the Semites of the ancient Middle...

The Church in the Apostle’s Eyes

ON THIS, THE SIXTH SUNDAY after Pentecost we read how Christ healed a paralyzed man (Matthew 9:27-35). We also hear St Paul’s prescription for healing a paralyzed church: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them” (Romans...

“Has God Rejected His People?”

WHO WERE THE ROMAN CHRISTIANS to whom St Paul wrote his epistle? We know that the first believers in Jesus were Jews, even in the foreign cities where they had settled. For hundreds of years there had been Jews living in the commercial centers of the Roman Empire. The...

Undoing the Fall

THE PASSAGE FROM ST PAUL’s Epistle to the Romans read at this Sunday’s Liturgy raises a number of questions with which Christians have been wrestling for centuries. We read in verse 6 that “Christ died for the ungodly” and in verse 8 that “Christ died for us.”...

Fishers of Men

ON THE FIRST Sunday that occurs during the Apostles’ Fast our Church regularly reminds us of the call of the leaders of these apostles by the Lord. The Gospel passage read at the Divine Liturgy is Matthew 4:18-23, the call of the fishermen. Mark and Luke also...

Sanctifying the Universe

IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN Jesus is depicted as offering this prayer for His disciples shortly before His arrest. “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are... Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is...

That Those Who Do Not See May See

THE GOSPEL OF John, which our Church reads at the Divine Liturgy during the paschal season, focuses significantly on water. Near its beginning we read of the Lord Jesus telling Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he...

Mystery of the Pool at Bethesda

CHRISTIANS HAVE BEEN STUDYING the Gospels since before they were written. Think about it. During the first decades after Christ’s resurrection the apostles reflected on their time with Christ and how to proclaim Him to all nations. Their belief in Him...

Made Perfect with Us

AT EVERY DIVINE LITURGY on the weekends of the Great Fast portions of the Epistle to the Hebrews are read. Usually these readings follow the order of the epistle itself. On this first Sunday, however, the reading we hear is from chapter 11, chosen for a particular...

Living in God’s Kingdom

CHAPTER THREE OF ST PAUL’S EPISTLE to the Colossians begins with this enigmatic statement: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). The questions it raises are obvious: when did we die and how is our life hidden with Christ? Baptism...

What Was Hidden Is Revealed

MOST OF THE LORD JESUS’ public life was spent among farmers, fishermen, shepherds and tradespeople. Little wonder, then, that the imagery in His parables is drawn from their experience. The image in today’s reading would have been familiar to all. Everyone was...

Jesus and the Sabbath Rest

MANY OF THE GOSPEL PASSAGES chosen for Saturday Liturgies recount the Lord Jesus’ activity on the Sabbath. Often these narratives describe the conflict Jesus had, particularly with the Pharisees, over His behavior which they felt desecrated the Sabbath. Observant Jews...

Three Saturday Gospels of Luke

IN MOST OF OUR PARISHES the Divine Liturgy is served only on Sunday and some feast days. In some parishes the Liturgy is also served every Saturday. Is this because some people are available on Saturdays or is there another reason? We know from the New Testament that...

Who is David’s Son?

IN OUR SCHOOL DAYS we all were subjected to “trick questions,” designed to fool us into giving an incorrect answer. Is this the kind of question which the “expert in the Law” described in Matthew’s Gospel asked Jesus to “test Him”? Was he trying to trick Jesus with...

Infants Harvested Like Wheat

ALL THE HISTORIC CHURCHES – Greek, Latin and Syriac – include in their liturgical observance of Christ’s nativity (although on different days) a remembrance of the cruel slaughter of the Holy Innocents, the young boys of Bethlehem and the surrounding area slain on the...

Put on the New Man

“WHAT HAS BEEN IS WHAT SHALL BE, and what has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10) – according to the third century BC author of Ecclesiastes. Modern observers of our society, on the other hand, point to the...

The Good Samaritan

WHEN PEOPLE READ THE SCRIPTURES they can often easily grasp the basic meaning of the passage. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, for instance, Christ is clearly exalting the compassion of the Samaritan over the lack of concern on the part of the priest and Levite....

Healing of Bleeding Woman

WE LIVE IN A SPEED-DRIVEN AGE. We look for faster ways to accomplish every task: in the office, in the kitchen, in the classroom. In our economy, speed is a source of competitive advantage. In the workplace, higher speed means greater efficiency. Today, “to build a...

Lazarus and the Rich Man

WOULD WE BE AFFECTED if someone rose from the dead? We would probably say “Yes,” but the Lord says “No.” What does He know that we don’t? Throughout the centuries, and even today, many people have what might be called mystical experiences. They see visions and dream...

Story of a Royal Wedding

THE GOSPEL PARABLE READ at today’s Divine Liturgy is actually two stories with two different, if complementary, points. The first concerns those invited to the banquet and those who finally came. The second is the issue of the so-called “wedding garment.” The Gospel...

Feast Days

January

St. Anthony the Great (January 17)

THE LORD JESUS SAID to the rich young ruler, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22). This young man declined, but others through the centuries have left all...

Sunday After Theophany

WHAT DO WE CELEBRATE on January 6? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Just look at the icon: it’s Jesus’ baptism! Actually, neither the icon nor the feast celebrates the fact that the Lord Jesus was baptized. Rather, we remember what happened at His baptism and what it...

“Fire Immersed in Water”

WE FREQUENTLY HEAR ABOUT the Fathers of the Church, those hierarchs and teachers who have made a lasting impression on the Church’s understanding of the Gospel. These texts offer us ample material on which to reflect despite, or perhaps because of, their antiquity. On...

The Date of Theophany

WHAT'S WITH THE ARMENIANS? Every other Church – whether on the Julian or Gregorian Calendar – celebrates Christ’s Nativity on December 25 and His Theophany on January 6. The Armenian Church celebrates both feasts together on the same day, January 6. So what’s with...

Sunday-After-Theophany

THE LORD JESUS' PUBLIC MINISTRY begins, as it were, where John the Forerunner left off. He travels through Galilee, the Gospels assert, preaching like John, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). “News of Him went out throughout the surrounding...

February

Feast of the Encounter (February 2)

EASTERN CHRISTIANS LOVE TO THINK in terms of forty days. The Great Fast and its echo, the forty days between the feasts of the Transfiguration and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the churching of an infant forty days after birth and the memorial service forty-days...

Finding the Head of St. John the Baptist (February 24)

THE PRINCIPAL FEASTS in our liturgical year commemorate some event in the life of Christ or of the Theotokos. A second category of feasts honors the memory of saints, often on the day of their repose. A third category of feasts recalls significant events in...

March

Feast of the Annunciation

ST LUKE'S GOSPEL is the basis of the Great Feast of the Annunciation which our Church celebrates on March 25. In its first chapter this Scripture describes the appearance of the angel Gabriel – one of the few angels actually named in Scripture – to the Virgin Mary....

St. Benedict (March 14)

MEMBERS OF MANY RELIGIOUS GROUPS in the West have become concerned about the number of people divorcing themselves from the religions of their parents or grandparents. Some join other communities but most cease to identify with any religion at all. They identify...

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (March 11)

Our liturgical life has been developed and enriched by a host of saints: men and women who have become our teachers in the spiritual life through the prayers and hymns which they composed. Not least among them is St Sophronios, seventh century Patriarch of Jerusalem...

St. Innocent of Alaska (March 31)

ON THE NINTH SATURDAY after the Holy Cross we read from the ninth chapter of St Luke’s Gospel. The Gospel portrays the Lord Jesus’ ministry as growing: He is more widely known and more people were seeking Him out. “Now it happened as they journeyed on the...

Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9)

Until fairly recently it was popular in Christian circles to identify oneself as a “soldier of Christ.” There was biblical precedent for the image. St Paul, for instance, told Timothy that he “…must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3)....

April

St. Mark the Evangelist (April 25)

SINCE THE SECOND CENTURY Christians have been accustomed to identify the second of our four Gospels by the name of its author, Mark the Evangelist. The Gospel itself, however, never identifies its author by name or gives us any clue to the author’s identity. What,...

St. George the Great Martyr (April 23)

“LARGER THAN LIFE” is a fitting description for this saint who has become the patron of so many nations and peoples. George the Great-Martyr and Trophybearer (c.280-303) was born to a prominent Greek Christian family in Palestine. His father was a military official...

May

Sts. Constantine & Helen (May 21)

THE CHURCH HAS USED MANY TERMS to describe the saints. Some of these are common to all the historic Churches, such as apostles or martyrs. The Eastern Churches also speak of some saints as “Equal to the Apostles,” believers who were responsible for bringing the Gospel...

John- Apostle, Evangelist, Theologian (May 8)

IN THE BYZANTINE Churches the Gospel according to John in read daily at the Divine Liturgy from Pascha to Pentecost. John has been called the most fully Paschal Gospel in the New Testament because the themes which it highlights are especially apropos of the mysteries...

Isaiah the Prophet (May 9)

OF ALL THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS quoted in the New Testament, the most frequently cited is Isaiah, who is remembered on our Church’s calendar on May 9. Isaiah’s prophecies are referenced 66 times in the New Testament; only the Psalms are more frequently quoted....

June

The Apostles Fast

“AFTER THE LONG FEAST OF PENTECOST, fasting is especially necessary to purify our thoughts and render us worthy to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit ... Therefore, the salutary custom was established of fasting after the joyful days during which we celebrated the...

Let Us Honor the Holy Apostles

THE FAST OF THE APOSTLES, which we have just completed, leads up to two festivals in our Church: the Feast of the Prime Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul (June 29) and the Synaxis of the Apostles (June 30). On this second day we assemble for another gathering (synaxis)...

Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24)

OUR CHURCH CALENDAR remembers many events in Christian history: martyrdoms, ecumenical councils, miracles, and even earthquakes. There are only three births celebrated, however: that of the Theotokos (September 8), the Nativity of Christ Himself (December 25), and the...

Saul Becomes Paul (June 29)

IN EVERY AGE there are people who have made dramatic turn-arounds in their life, going from one religion – or no religion – to another. These conversions often lead to a person making a significant contribution to the religious life of their age. One convert who has...

Feast of the Visition of the Theotokos (June 23)

Two of the most frequently used prayers in our tradition are taken from the same Gospel narrative: the visit of the Holy Virgin to her older cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist (cf., ). Both the Angelic...

July

St. Elijah the Prophet (July 20)

THE SCRIPTURES ARE FILLED with writings of the prophets, particularly the fifteen books named after the most celebrated Hebrew prophets. Nevertheless, the one most revered as “the pillar of the prophets and their leader” (aposticha) seems to have written nothing,...

The First Six Ecumenical Councils

ON THREE SUNDAYS EACH YEAR Byzantine Churches commemorate the fathers of the seven great councils of the first millennium. The first ecumenical council (Nicaea I) is remembered on the Sunday after the Feast of the Ascension and the seventh (Nicaea II) on the Sunday...

Mary Magdalene (July 22)

WHEN WE THINK OF THE PEOPLE who appear in the Gospels we think first of all of Christ and His Mother, then perhaps of John the Forerunner and the apostles. But there is another figure who is more prominent both in the Gospels and in the life of the Church than even...

St. Christina of Tyre (July 24)

AMONG THE MANY MARTYRS commemorated in the Byzantine Churches, some are given the added designation Great (or Megalo-) Martyr. What makes one martyr “great” in contrast to the others? In general the term “Great Martyr” refers to the leading martyrs who...

Sts. Vladimir & Olga (July 15)

WHEN TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY AMERICANS think of the Vikings, they may picture seafarers from Scandinavia sailing to Iceland and Greenland or raiding the coasts of England and Ireland. We rarely think of their inland cousins, whose rule extended into what is Russia today...

August

The Forerunner in Hades (August 29)

The Gospels depict St John the Baptist as the “forerunner” or herald announcing the imminent coming of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Mark, for example, we read, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy...

The Dormition of the Theotokos (August 15)

An increasing number of Byzantine churches are observing the Feast of the Dormition by conducting the Burial Service of the Theotokos. This observance comes to us from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the traditional site of her death and burial. On the morning of...

Transfiguration (August 6)

Towards the end of Jesus’ public ministry He began preparing His disciples for His approaching death and resurrection of Lyons, and Clement of Alexandria all taught that Christ had descended into Hades. We find the . In Matthew 16 this scene concludes with the...

Seeing the Light of God

"I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD" (John 8:12). These familiar words of the Lord Jesus reflect one of the most popular images in the Scriptures, but what do they mean? How is Jesus the Light of the world? The rest of this verse sheds light on what is meant here. “I am the...

The Fast of the Theotokos

SUMMER, IN OUR WORLD AT LEAST, is traditionally a time for sun and fun: cookouts, the beach, pool parties and the like. Yet in the midst of summer – in the week which has been compared to the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning – we are called...

September

We Glory in Your Cross

MANY OF THE FEASTS we celebrate each year have a special rite connected with them. The Great Sanctification of Water on the Theophany, the hajme service on Pascha and the veneration of icons on the Sunday of Orthodoxy are perhaps the best-known examples of these...

The Lucan Cycle

AFTER CELEBRATING THE EXULTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS, our Church begins to read St Luke’s Gospel at the Divine Liturgy. This “continuous reading” begins with Luke 3:19-22, telling of the baptism of Christ and the arrest of John the Forerunner. These events mark the...

The Barren One Becomes a Mother

SEPTEMBER 1 MARKS THE BEGINNING of the Byzantine Church Year. An important part of this annual cycle of feasts and fasts is the sequence of the Twelve Great Feasts which, together with the “Feast of Feasts,” Pascha, commemorates the major events in the life of Christ....

The Byzantine Calendar

IN THE MODERN AGE, the world has come to accept one civil calendar which originated in Western Europe centuries ago. Before that, there were many calendars in use in the West, not to mention those employed in Asia and Africa. Many of us are aware that some groups...

The Gospels of St Luke

IN THE BYZANTINES CHURCHES all four Gospels are read at the Divine Liturgy in the course of the year. St John’s Gospel is read from Pascha to Pentecost. On the day after Pentecost we begin reading the Gospel of St Matthew. Selections from this Gospel are read every...

October

Restoring the Tradition

THE SECOND COUNCIL OF NICEAEA – the seventh ecumenical council – which we remember every October is chiefly known for formally recognizing the use of icons as a consequence of the Incarnation. If the Word of God could take on human nature He could be depicted in...

Protection of the Theotokos (October 1)

IN 1917 THE JOHN RYLANDS UNIVERSITY LIBRARY in Manchester, England acquired a third-century papyrus fragment of great historic interest. It contained the earliest known copy of a hymn to the Theotokos. The verse, still used in the liturgies of all the historic...

St. James (October 23)

THE GOSPELS ARE UNANIMOUS in telling us that, out of His twelve chief disciples, the Lord Jesus had a special relationship with Peter, James and John. Along with Andrew, Peter’s brother, they were the first called of the twelve. After calling Peter and Andrew to...

St. Luke the Evangelist (October 18)

AFTER THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS (September 14) we begin the Cycle of St Luke. Selections from his Gospel are appointed to be read every day at the Divine Liturgy. About one month later, on October 18, we keep the remembrance of St Luke himself. Aside...

St Demetrius the Great Martyr (October 26)

“GREAT ARE THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS of faith!” This exclamation is heard several times each year as we remember the exploits of spiritual giants like the three young Hebrews who survived the fiery furnace in Babylon (Dan :) or the Great-martyr Theodore the Recruit who...

November

Entrance of the Theotokos (November 21)

IT'S PROBABLY SAFE TO SAY that most people would prefer to read a story than an academic treatise. Both forms might be conveying the same point, but a narrative is likely to be more compelling – and more memorable – than a dissertation. The Entrance of the Theotokos...

The Prelude to the Benevolence of God (November 21)

IT IS PROBABLY SAFE TO SAY that most people would prefer to read a story than an academic treatise. Both forms might be conveying the same point, but a narrative is likely to be more compelling – and more memorable – than a dissertation. The Entrance of the Theotokos...

The Bodiless Powers of Heaven (November 8)

A FEW YEARS AGO, a Greek pilot had this harrowing experience. In mid-air his plane experienced system failure. The instruments disengaged, the engines cut out and there was nowhere to go but down. Suddenly the pilot saw the holy archangel Michael appear beneath the...

St. Gregory the Wonderworker (November 17)

It is not unusual that some new believers in every church community increase in their faith while others fall away. This was, after all, the point of the Lord’s parable about the sower and his seed (cf., ). This may...

St. Philip and St. Matthew (November 14 and 16)

THERE IS VERY LITTLE INFORMATION in the New Testament about any of the apostles apart from the chief apostles, Peter and Paul. The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles tell us a good deal about St Peter. The bulk of Acts concerns the story of St Paul whose epistles...

December

St. Stephen the First Martyr (December 27)

EVERY YEAR, DEC 27 is observed as the feast of the Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen. This year, Dec 27 falls on the Sunday after the Nativity, the memorial of David, Joseph, and James, relatives of the Lord Jesus. St Stephen has an unusually large portion of the...

Sunday Before Nativity

THE LITURGICAL PREPARATION for the feast of Christ’s Nativity intensifies today with the Sunday of the Genealogy, which commemorates those who were Christ’s physical ancestors. The Sunday of the Genealogy accelerates the countdown to the feast of Christ’s Nativity....

Sunday of the Forefathers (Second Sunday Before Nativity)

BEGINNING STUDENTS OF JOURNALISM or other disciplines involving research are taught the importance of the “Five Ws” in compiling information. Fact-finders must be able to answer the following questions on any subject they are investigating: Who (was involved)?...

St. Nicholas (December 6)

A WORLD-WIDE SYMBOL OF GIFT-GIVING and love, St. Nicholas (270-343) is more revered by the Church as a Wonderworker, both in life and in death. The earliest written source on the life of St. Nicholas we have comes from the early to mid-ninth century, almost 500 years...

Sunday After Nativity

IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY EUROPE devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph as “the holy family” became popular. It originated in New France (French territories now in Canada and the U.S.), then spread to Western Europe. It was promoted to give the newly-emerging middle class a...