Holy Prophet Micah

Micah is the final prophet whose memory we celebrate in the Feast of Light. However, in many of his prophecies, he speaks out of darkness. He was an ancient prophet, of whom Jeremiah says: ““Micah of Moresheth used to prophesy in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and he said to all the people of Judah: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Zion shall be plowed as a field, Jerusalem, a heap of ruins, and the temple mount, a forest ridge” (Jeremiah 26:18). Micah laments, in words that could be repeated in our own times: “The faithful have vanished from the earth, no mortal is just! They all lie in wait to shed blood, each one ensnares the other” (7:2). Yet for all that, he most clearly foretells the coming of the Prince of Peace.

Jesus is to come from the most humble town in Judah, “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathaha least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (5,1), and the Hymn of Light for the Vigil of Theophany informs us, “In Bethlehem you were born in the flesh from a virgin, now you hasten to the Jordan to purify all the sins of those born on the earth, leading those in darkness to the light.” Micah tells us the Lord will come as both judge and man of peace, “He shall judge between many peoples and set terms for strong and distant nations; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (3,3). He will be our shepherd and the guarantor of peace, “He shall take his place as shepherd by the strength of the Lord, by the majestic name of the Lord, his God; And they shall dwell securely, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth: he shall be peace” (5:3-4).

Holy Prophet Micah, pray that we, as Christians, can be followers of Jesus and a people of peace.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

St. Basil the Great

A blessed new year to all of you! Christ is born! Happy 2019!!!

On January 1, in addition to Circumcision of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, we remember one of the great Fathers of the Church, St. Basil the Great. He is known as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs; Basil’s life and writings inspire the work we do in the Church. Pray for the Parish through the intercession of St. Basil, that God may bless our work in 2019.

From a biography by St. Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ohrid:

St Basil was born in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, in about 330. While still unbaptised, he spent fifteen years in Athens studying philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy and other contemporary secular disciplines. Among his fellow-students were Gregory the Theologian and Julian, later the apostate emperor. When already of mature years, he was in the Jordan together with his former tutor Ebulios. He was Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia for nearly ten years, and died at the age of fifty.

A great champion of Orthodoxy, a great torch of moral purity and zeal for the Faith, a great theological mind, a great builder and pillar of the Church of God, Basil fully deserved his title “the Great”. In the Office for his Feast, he is referred to as a bee of the Church of Christ, bringing honey to the faithful but stinging those in heresy. Many of the writings of this Father of the Church have survived – theological, apologetic, on asceticism and on the Canons. There is also the Liturgy that bears his name. This Liturgy is celebrated ten times in the year: on January lst, on the Eves of Christmas and the Theophany, on every Sunday in the Great Fast with the exception of Palm Sunday, and on the Thursday and Saturday in Great Week.

St Basil departed this life peacefully on January l, 379, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ.

St Ambrose

St. Ambrose was the greatest Archbishop of Milan, at a time when it was the center of the Empire. He was elected bishop when he was still a catechumen and proved to be most competent—in administration as well as theology, and was a holy and sincere Christian. He had been a governor before and knew how “to talk to power.” When the Emperor Theodosius had 7,000 Thessalonians slaughtered over the assassination of their governor, he excommunicated him for his horrendous crime – and made it stick, bringing Theodosius to repentance.

As a theologian, he wrote about the incarnation of the Son of God: “And the Word was with God . This that he said is to be understood thus: The Word was just as was the Father; since He was together with the Father, He was also in the Father, and He was always with the Father. […] It is of the Word to be with the Father; it is of the Father to be with the Word, for we read that the Word was with God. So if, according to your opinion, there was a time when He was not, then, according to your opinion, He too was not in the beginning with whom was the Word. For through the Word I hear, through the Word I understand that God was. For, if I shall believe that the Word was eternal, which I do believe, I cannot doubt about the eternity of the Father, whose Son is eternal” (The Sacrament of the Incarnation of our Lord (III, 15-18, from the Vatican web site).

And again, Ambrose says, “He lay in the crib, that you might stand at the altar. He came to earth, that you might come to the stars” (Exposition of Luke 2.41).

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

St Nicholas Day

Blessed feast day of St. Nicholas!

 

Thy just works have shown Thee to thy flock as an example of faith, an image of meekness and a teacher of abstinence. By humility Thou didst achieve exaltation, and by meekness, riches. O Father Bishop Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.

(Troparion for St. Nicholas)

The Holy Prophet Habakkuk

Today is the feast of the Holy Prophet Habakkuk. As you know, the Byzantine Church pays more attention, liturgically speaking, to the Old Testament prophets.

The fourth Ode of the Canon of Matins is the Hymn of Habakkuk. The Irmosi of the Canon often describe Habakkuk as standing at a guard post (watchtower): “I will stand at my guard post, and station myself upon the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what answer he will give to my complaint. (Habakkuk 2:1) Thus, at Paschal Matins, we sing, “Let Habakkuk, speaking in behalf of God, stand with us at the divine watch; let him show us the brilliant Angel who proclaims: “Today, salvation comes to the world; for Christ, being Almighty, is risen.” What Habakkuk saw at his guard post was a vision of the coming of Christ. “God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and his praise filled the earth; his splendor spread like the light.” Teman is the East, the sunrise from on high in the Christmas Troparion, “those who worshiped the stars have learned from a star to worship you, the Sun of Justice, and to know you, the Dawn from on high.” In the Greek Septuagint, Mount Paran becomes the “dark, shady mountain,” and was seen as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ from Mary.

The Christmas Irmos explicitly recognizes this: “O Christ, the rod from Jesse’s root and its flower, you blossomed from the virgin; praiseworthy one, from the overshadowed shady mountain. You came in the flesh from her who knew not man.” What was the result of Christ’s coming, Habakkuk foretells, “He stood and shook the earth; he looked and made the nations tremble. Ancient mountains were shattered, the age-old hills bowed low, age-old orbits collapsed.” The “orbits” were the established journeys of the stars, and indeed, at Christ’s birth, a new star appeared, leading the Magi to Bethlehem.

Habakkuk tells us that our lives will be shaken by the coming of Christ. We must follow the star, for by taking human nature and by rising from the dead, Christ has brought us life.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

St John Chrysostom

Today is the feast of Our Holy Father, Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, whose Divine Liturgy we pray most often. He is one of the most famous saints of both the Greek and the Latin Churches and one of the four great Doctors of the East. He is called “Golden-Tongued” because of his eloquence.

Saint John Chrysostom, pray for us.

Image: Mosaic of Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Sophia, Istanbul.

St. Josaphat

Today is the feast of St. Josaphat

One biographer writes:

St. Josaphat (1580-1623) was born to a devout religious family of Ruthenian ancestry in what is now Ukraine, and was baptized in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He devoted his virginity to the Virgin Mary and grew in his reverence for ancient liturgy. During a revival of Eastern Catholic monastic life he became a monk in the Order of St. Basil, and was ordained to Holy Orders in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1609. He was noted for his life of asceticism, holiness, and virtue which led to his appointment as Archbishop of Polotsk in what is today Belarus. During his lifetime there was much sociopolitical and ecclesiastical rivalry between the Catholics and Orthodox, especially in the wake of the 1596 Union of Brest which saw the Ruthenian rite break with Orthodoxy and come under the authority of the Holy See. St. Josaphat was passionate about working for the reunification with Rome and won many heretics and schismatics back to communion with Rome. However, he was also strongly opposed to the Latinization of his people. This combination of views drew ire from both Catholic and Orthodox clergy. His diocese was contested by the Orthodox, and a rival Orthodox bishop was set up to oppose him, causing riots. During one uprising Josaphat tried to calm the tensions and work for reunification and peace, but his enemies plotted to kill him. A mob of Orthodox Christians entered Josaphat’s home, stabbed and axed his body and threw it into a river. His body was seen glowing in the water and was recovered. After his martyrdom many miracles were attributed to his intercession. Josaphat’s sacrifice became a blessing as regret and sorrow over his death converted many hearts toward reunification with the Catholic Church. In 1867 Josaphat became the first saint of the Eastern Church to be formally canonized by Rome.

The Holy Apostle James, Son of Alphaeus

The Byzantine Church discerns three apostles named James: James the Greater, the son of Zebedee; James, the Brother of the Lord and first bishop of Jerusalem; and James, the son of Alphaeus. We celebrate the feast of the latter today. He is the James about which we know the least. The only mention of him was in the lists of the Twelve Apostles. Some speculate that he was the James mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:7, “After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,” but commentators even doubt that was this James, also called “James the Lesser.” However, it does point to the mission of the apostles, which was to proclaim the risen Lord, a message which has resounded throughout the ages to this very day.

For in today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about his apostles, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Luke 10:16). The apostles, who ran when Jesus was led to crucifixion, nevertheless were courageous in preaching his gospel, and paid a great price, “God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute” (1 Corinthians 4:9-10).

St. Paul said we must imitate the apostles, for we, too, must be willing to become “fools” for the sake of the resurrection, but the promise is great, as Jesus said, ““I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will” (Luke 10:21).

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Falling Asleep of the Beloved Apostle, John the Evangelist and Theologian

Today, September 26 is the Feast of the Falling Asleep of the Beloved Apostle, John the Evangelist and Theologian

The gospel of John is considered the foundational gospel in the Eastern Church, and John is honored with the title of “Theologian,” for he explained well who Jesus, the Son of God, was. It is from his gospel that we know “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5). He also showed us that love is the basis of our theology.

It was said that in his old age, John would simply preach constantly, “Children, love one another.” In the epistle for this feast, 1 John 4:12-19, we read, “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us …. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”

Saint John preached the Gospel in Jerusalem and Samaria, and was banished to the isle of Patmos. In old age, he returned to Ephesus where he made a home for the Theotokos. An ancient church marked the place until its destruction in World War I.

Tradition holds that John died during the reign of Trajan, a full century after the birth of Jesus.

The Dismissal for today’s Liturgy:

May Christ our true God, have mercy on us and save us, through the prayers of his most holy Mother, of the holy, glorious and praiseworthy apostle and evangelist, the pure and beloved friend and disciple of Christ, John the Theologian, whose venerable falling-asleep we joyfully celebrate today, and through the prayers of all the saints, for Christ is good and loves us all.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras
slightly edited.

St. John Chrysostom fell asleep in the Lord

Today, the Church remembers that on September 14, 407, St. John Chrysostom fell asleep in the Lord.

We pray his Divine Liturgy for much of the liturgical year and read his sermons.

The image is of St. John Chrysostom from Haghia Sophia in Constantinople, a mosaic from the 11th century.