Transfiguration (August 6)

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

The Samaritan Woman

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

The Healing of the Paralytic

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

Praising God in the Eight Tones

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

The Harrowing of Hades

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

Mary of Egypt

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

St. John Climacus

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

Forgiveness by Christ

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

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...

Sunday After Theophany

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

Sunday Before Nativity

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

St. Nicholas (December 6)

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

Humility and Wealth

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

The Good Samaritan

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

Lazarus and the Rich Man

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

Spreading the Good News

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

Tithing

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

The Church Councils

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

Love and Forgiveness

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

The Giver of All Good Gifts

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

The Sacrifice of the Cross

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

We Glory in Your Cross

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

Story of a Royal Wedding

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

The Rich Young Man

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

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...

Seeing the Light of God

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

The Fast of the Theotokos

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

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...

Giving Their Lives in Service

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

Lives of Consecrated Service

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

Another Lazarus at Your Gate

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

Wonderworking Ascetics

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

Into the Wilderness

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

The Apostles Fast

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

Sunday of All Saints

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

Feast of Pentecost

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

The Man Born Blind

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

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...

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,...

Feast of the Annunciation

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

Cheesefare Sunday

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

Meatfare Sunday

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

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?...

“Fire Immersed in Water”

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

The Date of Theophany

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

Sunday After Nativity

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

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...

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....

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,...

The Lucan Cycle

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

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...

The Byzantine Calendar

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

The 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 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...

Let Us Honor the Holy Apostles

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

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 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...

Sts. Constantine & Helen (May 21)

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

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...

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...

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...