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...

Prepare for the Great Fast

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

The Food of Paradise

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

Repentance: the Way Home

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

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 Leprous Nature Of Man

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

Sunday-After-Theophany

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

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...

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 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...

The Gospels of St Luke

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

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...

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...

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...

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....

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 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...

Mediator of a New Covenant

IF YOU HAVE EVER BEEN A PARTY to an important contract, such as a real estate transfer, whether you know it or not, you have entered into a covenant – a formal, solemn and binding agreement between parties concerning serious matters, such as borders, property,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 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...

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....

St Demetrios and the Gift of Myrrh

NOTHING WAS WRITTEN IN HIS OWN TIME about one of the more popular saints in the Byzantine Churches, the Great Martyr Demetrios. The oldest written life of this saint dates to the ninth century, some 700 years after his lifetime! Earlier witnesses to this saint include...

Restoring the Tradition

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

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...

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...

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...

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...

“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...

Mary Magdalene (July 22)

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

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...

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...

“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...

Saul Becomes Paul (June 29)

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

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...

St. James (October 23)

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

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

The Virgin Has Conceived

WITH THE FIRST SCENT of cooler weather in the air, merchants begin marketing potential Christmas gifts. As the holiday nears, the shopping frenzy intensifies with music, parties and decorations all telling us “Hurry up and buy something.” Our Church, on the other...

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...

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...

“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...

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...

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’...