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

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....

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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…...

Pentecostarian

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...

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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...

Meditations

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...

Fulfilled in Your Hearing

WHAT LANGUAGE WAS SPOKEN by the first Christians? On one level, we can say it was Aramaic or Hebrew with a sprinkling of Greek. On another level – the level of spiritual thought – we must say that the first Christians spoke the language of the Torah, what Christians...

“Expel by Your awesome name”

IN EASTERN ICONS, such as the traditional representation of the Gergasene demoniacs, demons are often portrayed as little winged black men. In the medieval art of the West the horned, bat-winged and fork-tailed red giant was the most popular representation of the...

“O Lord, save Your people”

THE YEAR 1938 SAW AN ESCALATION of warlike activities in Nazi Germany. In March Hitler invaded Austria and began to move against Czechoslovakia. Attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses increased and thousands of German Jews were arrested. The response of one...

The Apostolic Tradition

WHEN CHRIST SENT THE HOLY SPIRIT upon the Apostles and their followers on the first Pentecost, He gave them the divine help to fulfill the command He had given them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). As we read in the Gospels, they...

“To Caesar You Shall Go”

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, which our Church reads publicly from Pascha to Pentecost, climaxes with the trial of St Paul and his journey to Rome where he would ultimately be beheaded. The story of his conflict with the Jewish leadership, his arrest and the various...

“Brethren who are of the Gentiles”

WHEN THE LORD JESUS was passing through the region of Tyre and Sidon a Canaanite woman begged Him to heal her daughter. “But He answered and said, ‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Matthew 15:24). Although He went to areas where...

Orders of Widows and Deaconesses

OUR SOCIETY IS VERY DIFFERENT from the first-century world in which the Church began. Older people relied on their families to care for them; there were no social programs to assist them. Widowed women were required to rely on their sons or other male relative for...

In the Fullness of Time

ON THIS SUNDAY, April 23, our Church observes two feasts. The first, in the Paschal cycle, is Thomas Sunday, the remembrance of the risen Lord’s appearance to Thomas. The second, from the monthly calendar, is the Feast of the Great Martyr George. When two such...

Continue in What You Have Learned

ONE OF THE PRINCIPAL CITIES in Asia Minor, Ephesus was an important commercial hub in the ancient world. A Jewish colony had prospered there long before St Paul preached there in the first century ad. The community he established was significant enough for him to...

How to Be a Bishop

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...

“In thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light.”

IN 1868 REV PHILIPS BROOKS, rector of an Episcopal church in Philadelphia, wrote “O Little Town of Bethlehem” for his Sunday School. He had visited the Holy Land a few years earlier and he wanted to share something of that trip with his young parishioners....

Theotokos – She Who Bore God

CHURCHES AND INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIANS of many traditions are displaying Nativity scenes this season. All of them will include an image of the Virgin Mary, although there are serious differences in how these Christians view her. The historic Churches, Eastern and Western,...

Icons in the Bible

FROM TIME TO TIME Eastern Christians are reproached for venerating icons because “icons are not in the Bible.” St John of Damascus, whose treatises on icons were instrumental in defeating iconoclasm, taught that the Church’s icons are “in the Bible” because...

Enough vs. Abundance

DAY AFTER DAY Christians say the Lord’s Prayer, asking God to “give us this day our daily bread,” that is, to provide us with what we need for today. The rich man in Christ’s parable (Luke 12:16-22) clearly has a different perspective. He is not just concerned...

Priesthood in God’s Plan

THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF PRIESTS in the world. Most Eastern religions (e.g. Hindu, Shinto or Buddhist religions) have priests, generally for the performance of their temple rituals. What is the Christian priesthood and is it different from these examples or from the...

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...

Scriptural Reflections

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...

Challenge of the Sabbath

MODERN MEDICINE HAS FOUND treatments for a number of diseases that had plagued mankind for centuries. Some have even been eradicated, at least in the developed world. This is not the case with scoliosis (curvature of the spine), such as afflicted the woman in St...

“Depart from Me, O Lord.”

ST. LUKE'S GOSPEL an interesting insight into the character of St Peter. We read there that, meeting the disciples - who had spent a fruitless night fishing - the Lord Jesus encouraged them to throw their nets in again. “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all...

The First Athenian to Believe

WHEN WE READ the Acts of the Apostles we may feel that the apostles had success after success. That wasn’t always the case. St Paul had the following experience in Athens, the intellectual capital of the Greek world, recorded in Acts 17:16-34. He was waiting for Silas...

He Who Descended

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...

Feasting with the Forefathers

The liturgical preparation for the feast of Christ’s Nativity begins today with the Sunday of the Forefathers, which commemorates all those whose lives set the stage for the coming of the Messiah. Next week we observe the Sunday of the Ancestors of Christ,...

Christ Calls a Demoniac

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...

The Sower of All that is Good

AS A RULE, JESUS DID NOT EXPLAIN His parables in detail. He left His hearers to interpret their meaning for themselves. The parable of the sower (Luke 8:5-15) is an exception. The Lord assigns a meaning to each item in it: the seed is the word of God, it...

The True Glory of God

THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST was manifested to Moses on Sinai in great power. The prophet Elias, trusting in the Almighty One, called down fire from heaven to consume his offerings. The leaders of Israel, seeking to glorify this God of power and might, built one temple...

Taking Up 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...

Are You Invited?

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 of...

Who is able to walk on the sea?

The story of Christ coming to His disciples in the midst of the sea is found in all the Gospels except for Luke. The version in Matthew, however, is the only one containing the disciples’ confession: “Truly You are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:33). John describes the...

The Hope of Glory

RECENTLY THE WEBSITE “Ship of Fools” reported the following list of support group meetings for the week at a Lutheran church in Ohio: Mon – Alcoholics Anonymous Tues – Abused Spouses Wed – Eating Disorders Thu – Say No to Drugs Fri – Teen Suicide Watch Sat – Soup...

The Gospel is Proclaimed

One feature of the Paschal season in Byzantine Churches is the reading of the Acts of the Apostles. Every day, beginning with Pascha itself, this story of the early Church is read at the Divine Liturgy. While the text of Acts itself begins with Christ’s ascension, our...

God With Us, Deifying Us

OUR NATURE HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED in Christ… our nature is being transformed in Christ… our nature will be transformed in Christ. At first glance this may seem like a grammar exercise about verbs. In fact it is a summary of theology: exploring the magnitude of the...

Singing a New Song

“SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG: His praise in the assembly of saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King” (Psalm 149:1-2). This psalm is heard at every Orthros service throughout the year. We may know the words by heart,...

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...

Feast Days

January

The Lord Manifested in the Jordan

“THE HOLY DAY OF THE LIGHTS to which we have come, and which we are celebrating today, has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ, the True Light that lightens everyone who comes into the world, and effects my purification…” These words, which begin St Gregory the...

A Trinity of Hierarchs (January 30)

THE FIRST HALF OF JANUARY is centered on the celebration of the Great Feast of the Theophany (January 6). It begins with a fore-feast (January 2-5) and continues with an after-feast (January 7-13). But January also marks the commemoration of several great Church...

Glory to Your Kingdom! (Sunday After Theophany)

THE LORD JESUS BEGAN His public ministry with the same message that St John the Baptist had proclaimed before Him, namely that the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of heaven” was at hand. What did their hearers understand by this announcement and what should we take...

St. Lucian of Antioch (January 7)

MOST CHRISTIANS KNOW that the books of the New Testament -- the Gospels, the Epistles and the rest -- were written in the first century ad. Some know that these books were compiled as the New Testament sometime in the next three centuries. Few know that the...

Holy Martyrs Cyrus and John (January 31)

IT IS NOT OFTEN that the Byzantine, Coptic and Roman Churches commemorate saints on the same day. This is particularly true in the case of saints like the holy martyrs Cyrus and John, who are remembered on January 31. They were not Apostles who brought the Gospel to...

February

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March

The Day God Took Flesh (March 25)

ARCHBISHOP JOSEPH RAYA of blessed memory tells how, as a student, he visited his village priest during school breaks. On one visit he noted the Gospel book in the priest’s icon corner opened to the story of the Annunciation (Luke...

April

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May

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June

Holy Apostle Jude (June 19)

ARE THERE TROUBLEMAKERS in your parish? In every congregation of Christians we can expect to find a few saints, a few sinners, and a lot of people who are a bit of both. Unfortunately one can often find people who join a church or become active in its organizations...

St. Peter the Apostle (June 29)

MOST OF THE EPISTLES found in the New Testament are attributed to St. Paul. In addition there are three Epistles of St John, one each of James and Jude, and two of St Peter. Since these are not read at a Sunday Divine Liturgy, we may be less familiar with them. They...

When Saints Argue (June 29)

THE FAST OF THE APOSTLES which follows the feast of Pentecost concludes with two special commemorations: on June 29 we remember the glorious leaders of the apostles, Peter and Paul; on the next day we observe a synaxis (assembly) for all Twelve. The feast of Saints...

St. Justin Martyr (June 1)

IN MUCH OF THE WORLD TODAY multi-cultural communities abound. There are cities whose residents trace their lineage to every part of the globe, where a host of languages, religions, foods and music abound. At the same time we know that there are also more homogeneous...

July

St. Panteleimon (July 27)

FEW CHRISTIANS HAVE NOT HEARD of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. After living in India for twenty years, teaching in a (middle class) girls high school, she received what she termed “a call within a call” to devote the rest of her life to caring for the sick poor while...

August

The Repose of the Theotokos (August 15)

IN BYZANTINE CHURCHERS the first Great Feast in the liturgical calendar is the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 8). The feast of her Holy Dormition (August 15), coming at the end of the Church year, brings this cycle to a close. Like a musical masterwork, our...

The Light of Tabor (August 6)

EVERY YEAR on the Great Feast of the Transfiguration, pilgrims climb Mount Tabor to worship at one of the churches there commemorating this event. Yet none of the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration mentions where the incident took place. The Gospels simply say...

The Dormition Fast

OUR CHURCH YEAR may be said to alternate between feasts and fasts. There are two fast days in most weeks – Wednesdays and Fridays – as well as four fasting seasons (before the Nativity, Pascha, Ss. Peter and Paul and the Dormition of the Theotokos). Those who observe...

The Death and Resurrection of the Virgin

IN BYZANTINE CHURCHES the first Great Feast in the liturgical calendar is the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 8). The feast of her Holy Dormition (August 15), coming at the end of the Church year, brings this cycle to a close. Like a musical masterwork, our...

Samuel the Prophet (August 20)

THE CHURCH COMMEMORATES on its calendar holy men and women throughout the ages: from the first days of the Old Testament, from the New Testament and from the era of the Church. We honor the saints of today, rejoicing that God is still bestowing His Spirit in our own...

September

St. Techla (September 24)

FROM SEPTEMBER, 2013 TO APRIL, 2014 government and rebel forces struggled for control of the ancient Christian town of Ma’loula, Syria, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to a number of shrines and monasteries. One of them is the ancient Orthodox women’s monastery...

The Brazen Serpent High on a Pole (Sunday Before the Cross)

When people think of snakes and the Bible, the first thing they may recall is the serpent in the Book of Genesis. There this creature is described as “more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). It personifies the Tempter who...

Conception of the Forerunner (September 23)

IN THE CALENDAR USED TODAY by the Byzantine Churches the Liturgical Year begins on September 1. In earlier calendars used in some local Churches, however, the year began with the Feast of the Conception of St John the Forerunner. This feast originated in the East in...

Dormition of St. John the Theologian (September 26)

APART FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT texts themselves, there are few historically verifiable references to the lives of the holy apostles. We know most about those whose writings are found in the Scriptures: St Paul, St Peter and St John, whose dormition (peaceful repose)...

Glory to Your Precious Cross

IN MARCH, 2012 THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT sided with employers who refused to allow Christians to wear a visible cross at work. Wearing a cross is not a requirement of Christianity, the spokesman affirmed, so wearing one in public is not protected by the law. In...

October

St. Thomas the Apostle (October 6)

THE GOSPELS TELL US LITTLE about Christ’s chosen disciples other than their names. A few of them – Peter, John, and Philip – feature in the early chapters of Acts but there is little said about the others. Thomas is more prominent in John than in the other Gospels....

November

St. Andrew (November 30)

ONE OF THE MOST REVERED New Testament figures in the Christian East is the Apostle Andrew the First Called. His title comes from the first mention of him in the Gospel of John:  “The next day, John stood with two of his disciples.  And looking at Jesus as He walked,...

St. John Chrysostom (November 13)

OF ALL THE SAINTS on our Church calendar there is none – apart from the Theotokos and some biblical figures – with the name recognition of St. John Chrysostom. Since the Divine Liturgy bearing his name is our most frequently served eucharistic rite, most Byzantine...

Praise Him, All His Angels (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. Catherine the Great Martyr (November 25)

IN THE YEAR 650 THE EMPEROR JUSTINIAN sponsored the building of a monastery at Jebel Moussa on the Sinai Peninsula. It was built to enclose the Chapel of the Burning Bush ordered to be built by St. Helena, the mother of St Constantine the Great, at the site where...

December

The Geneology of Christ

RESEARCHING FAMILY HISTORY has become a favorite pastime for many Americans seeking to discover their roots. One reason for this resurgent interest is that, for many, family history was ignored for so long. Many Americans see themselves as forward-looking rather than...

History of the Israelites

THE SUNDAY OF THE FOREFATHERS intensifies our countdown to the feast of Christ’s Nativity. During the Nativity Fast, we celebrate the memorials of several Old Testament prophets – Obadiah (Nov. 19), Nahum (Dec. 1), Habbakuk (Dec. 2), Zepheniah (Dec. 3), Haggai (Dec....

Prepare for Nativity

EACH MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL may be said to have three dimensions: the past, the present and the future. To see the “past” of the Incarnation, we look to the Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment in the New Covenant. For its “present,” we look to the fruits of...

St. Barbara the Martyr and St. Nicholas

IN MANY CULTURES it is traditional to greet the winter season with festivities. The harvest is gathered and people could now spend time celebrating. In Christian cultures the festival often took on a religious flavor. Thanksgiving Day is one example of such an...

The Nativity Fast

THE AMERICAN SHOPPING SEASON is at hand. Some people will spend it jostling for bargains; others will pass the time lamenting the commercialization of Christmas. The Eastern Churches, on the other hand, encourage their faithful to prepare for this feast by fasting....