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

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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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...

Pentecostarian

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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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...

Meditations

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...

The Choir of the Holy Unmercenaries

ON THE FIRST SUNDAY in November a number of Byzantine Churches keep a special remembrance (Synaxis) for All the Unmercenary Healers: those who cared for the sick or aged in the spirit of Christ, without concern for gain. These physicians and other medical workers...

“The Gospel I Received”

POOR ST PAUL! Analysts from Muhammad to Dan Brown have blamed him for corrupting Jesus' message and “turning it into” Christianity. Paul is reproached as being the first to turn Jesus from being a humble Galilean rabbi into a god. This approach became...

The Bridal Chamber of Christ

OF ALL THE SHRINES and cathedrals throughout the Christian world there is nothing to equal the Anastasis, the Church of the Resurrection, in Jerusalem, known in the West as the Holy Sepulchre. The church complex includes the hill of Calvary, the place of Christ’s...

To the Church of God at Corinth

CONTEMPORARY READERS of certain New Testament passages may be lulled into thinking that the first century was a “Golden Age” for the Church. We read, for example, that the first Christian converts in Jerusalem “… continued steadfastly in the apostles’...

Praising the Holy Maccabees

WHEN WE READ THE GOSPELS we regularly come across stories of the Lord Jesus contesting with the Pharisees about observance of the Sabbath and other precepts of the Law. What we may not know is that the Jews themselves had come close to abolishing the Law...

Radiating the Light of Christ

WE CAN SAY THAT THE GOSPELS are woven around a string of images describing rather than defining how Christ relates to us. Some of these images are drawn from the temple worship (“the Lamb of God” – John 1:29). Others are taken from the history of Israel (“the...

By Whose Spirit?

WE ARE CONTINUALLY TALKING about Christ’s merciful love. At every service in Byzantine churches we say that Christ is “gracious and the Lover of mankind.” We frequently refer to Him as the One who gives us the “Great Mercy” of union with God. When Pope Francis...

The End of Slavery to Sin

WHEN WE THINK OF SLAVERY it is the American experience which automatically comes to mind. America’s slaves were mostly Africans who were captured, bought and sold as a commodity. Slavery was permanent (you could not be freed), hereditary (the children of slaves were...

“Today my soul eats twice”

ON THE DAY BEFORE the Great Fast began we heard these words from St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “Now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on...

Shining the Light of Knowledge

IN THE SERVICES PREPARING US for the Feast of the Nativity and on the feast itself there are frequent readings from or references to the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. On the Saturday after the feast we read a passage from the Gospel of St...

Signs, Wonders and Wonder Workers

A FEW WEEKS AGO our Saturday Gospel reading from Luke 10 told how the Lord Jesus sent out His disciples to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was at hand. On the tenth Saturday of the Cycle of St Luke we continue our reading of this chapter with the disciples’ return:...

Laborers for the Harvest

OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS we will hear a sequence of narratives that follow one after another in Luke, chapters 9 through 11. Christ gathers His first twelve followers and sends them forth “to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1). In the...

When God Works in Us

POLITICIANS ARE OFTEN ACCUSED of committing doublespeak: contradicting themselves as occasion demands. St Paul seems to do the same thing in his teaching on justification. He seems to contradict himself in teaching how we are justified. On one occasion he teaches that...

Dominating or Leading from Within?

A FEW YEARS ago an Orthodox priest quipped, on being ordained a bishop, that his spiritual life had been challenged as never before. “You put me on a throne, dress me up like the Byzantine emperor, call me ‘Master’ and expect me to be humble!” When the Ottoman Turks...

The Church in Your House

St Paul wrote most of his epistles to communities rather than individuals. Often, however, he would end an epistle by extending greetings to people whom he knew in that community and from people known to them. Among the latter mentioned in 1 Corinthians are Priscilla...

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...

Scriptural Reflections

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,...

From Stone Rejected to Lord of Glory

THE CHURCH IS “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,” according to the teaching of St. Paul (Ephesians 2:20). What seems wrong with his image? In our experience a cornerstone is an ornamental piece,...

Let Down in a Basket

ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE IS THE MOST TOWERING FIGURE of the first century Church. Much of the Acts of the Apostles is devoted to telling his story and his own writings account for more than 30% of the entire New Testament. He was directly involved in Christian...

Holy Ground

THE FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE CROSS is the occasion for us to begin the reading of St. Luke’s Gospel. As we have seen, Pascha begins the reading of John and with Pentecost we start to read Matthew. At the same time we continue the cycle of Epistle...

Asking the Wrong Question

OKAY, OKAY – SO WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO to get an A in your super course, prof? … Is it too farfetched to see the young man in as an exuberant adolescent bursting upon the scene who wants to sew up this heaven...

A Table in the Wilderness

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 they relate: more than most other Gospel narratives including the resurrection....

Of Demons and Pigs

JUST WHAT IS IT ABOUT PORK? Any contact with it is prohibited in the Torah. There we read: “Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying, “These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the...

Signs of the Messiah

THE GOSPELS PRESENT A PICTURE of the world in which Christ lived which is not always understood. While they focus on His interaction with the leaders of Israel, the Gospels also show us how many other groups and peoples He encountered. Official Judaism, centered on...

The One Who Gives Life to the World

“THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT” () is the name given to the first of the five Discourses of Jesus in Mathew’s Gospel. The term – from its introductory phrase, “Seeing the multitudes He went up on a mountain” (Matthew 5:1)...

Our Radiant Light

THE BAPTISM OF CATECHUMENS ON PASCHA was one of the most widespread practices of the early Church. Speaking of baptism, St. Paul had written, “We were buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the...

On the Mountain or in Jerusalem?

ARGUMENTS ABOUT RELIGION are a favorite Middle Eastern pastime. Some are simply talk for talk’s sake: my faith is the oldest, the truest or the best. Sometimes these disagreements have become causes for acrimonious divisions between believers as the number of Jewish,...

A Priest Like Melchizedek

WHEN THE RISEN CHRIST APPEARED to His disciples He reminded them “…that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). When we think of the Old Testament prophecies we naturally look to...

You Will See Angels

WE ARE ALL FAMILIAR WITH THE IMAGE of the eight-ounce glass containing four ounces of liquid. Is it half full or half empty? The way we see it reveals more about the viewers than about the glass. The Church numbers the Sundays during the Great Fast in successive...

The Son of Man Will Come

“I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE; no one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). The incarnate Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only one through whom we have access to God, to live the divine life in this world and in the age to come. Many...

Seeking What Is Above

“BLESSED IS HE WHO HAS COME AND WILL COME in the name of the Lord.” This verse from the Syriac liturgies sums up the entire Church’s approach to the feasts of the Nativity of Christ and His Theophany at the Jordan. Both feasts celebrate the coming of Christ hidden in...

Striving for Parish Unity

EVERY CALLING HAS A CODE of conduct – written or unwritten – which sets out the principles for functioning ethically in that vocation. Some professional standards set limits to govern the practitioner’s exercise of his or her craft while others outline directions or...

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...

Feast Days

January

Repentance and the Baptism of John (Sunday before Theophany)

ST MARK’S GOSPEL BEGINS its story of the Lord Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River. Its first verses introduce us to the figure of St John the Baptist whom it proclaims to be the fulfillment of two prophecies. The first prophecy is “Behold, I send My messenger...

St. Gregory the Theologian (January 25)

DID YOU MAKE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS today? Or say a prayer to the Holy Trinity? Eastern Christians and most Western ones as well did so. Few recognize, however, that we have St Gregory the Theologian to thank for expressing with such clarity the Church’s teaching on...

Sts. Anthanasius & Cyril of Alexandria (January 18)

ON JANUARY 18 the Byzantine Churches remember two monumental archbishops of Alexandria, Athanasius the Great and Cyril I. These hierarchs lived in the fourth and fifth centuries respectively, at a time when the administrative structures as well as the fundamental...

Circumcising the Sins of Men (January 1)

OUR CELEBRATION OF CHRIST’S NATIVITY draws to a close today with the Feast of His Circumcision. Many primitive cultures have traditions of marking the body in some way to distinguish the recipient as a member of the tribe, a warrior, or a member of the ruling class....

From Bethlehem to the Jordan

WHILE OUR SECULAR, COMMERCIAL culture all but sees December 26 as the end of the Christmas season, for the Church the festive season is just beginning. We continue to observe the fabled “12 days of Christmas” – one day just isn’t enough to commemorate the presence of...

February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September

Our Salvation Proclaimed in Time

FOR MANY CHRISTIANS THE GOSPEL can be summarized in the passage read on this Sunday: “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In it we see God’s character (love)...

October

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November

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December

Feast of the Nativity (December 25)

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...

The Fathers before Christ

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, when we...

Conception of St. Anne (December 9)

THE CHURCHES OF EAST AND WEST generally commemorate the saints on the day of their death, their “heavenly birthday,” as some describe it. In addition the Church remembers three conceptions: those of Christ (the Annunciation, March 25), of His Mother (December 9), and...

Come to Quench the Thirst of Adam

MANY OF US, it’s fair to say, learned the alphabet as children by singing the Alphabet Song. Some of us learned the notes of the major musical scale by singing “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music. The principle is an obvious one: we learn through singing. The principle...

St. Saba the Sanctified (December 5)

A DESERT IS ONE of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Torrid by day and frigid by night, it offers none of the comforts with which we surround ourselves. And yet, it is a desert – the Judean desert, to be precise – to which St Saba the Sanctified (Dec. 5)...