The Holy Pre-Eminent Apostles Peter and Paul

Gods’ love, mercy and compassion shine forth most clearly in the feast of these two apostles. Peter was enthusiastic in his faith in Christ, “Peter said to him, ‘Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all the disciples spoke likewise. (Matthew 26:35)” When the trial came, however, Peter did deny Christ three times, and all the apostles, except one, ran out of fear. Yet Peter wept for his weakness, and his weakness turned to strength, though not of his own human power, but by the grace of God. For when he confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Lord told him: “Simon Peter said … ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father,’ (Matthew 16:16-17) and it was on this rock of faith that the Church was established.

Likewise, Saul closed his eyes to the truth, and persecuted Christians. But even as he was seeking Christians to persecute, the grace of God transformed his life, “On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:3-6). It is the great Apostle Paul who later tells us: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is Christian faith: in weakness there is strength, in foolishness there is wisdom, in death, there is life.

This the world does not understand. Today, as we honor these pre-eminent apostles, we, too, pray, “O God of mercy, love and compassion, give me the gift of your Spirit for strength in faith and hope and love, and that I may also show love, forgiveness and compassion to my neighbor.”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

St John the Theologian

[Today] On May 8, we celebrate one of the two feasts of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John, the brother of James. The other is on September 26, the day of his falling asleep. The fourth Gospel is attributed to John, and we can truly call it a “theo-logical,” for it witnesses most clearly to the mystery of the Incarnation, of the Word of God taking flesh in the womb of the Holy Theotokos for our salvation. It is the most sublime Gospel, and it gave John the title “Theologian.” 

The Byzantine Church have this gospel a certain priority, and it is read in the most joyful and glorious time of the year, from Pascha to Pentecost. This Gospel is the very essence of the apostolic witness, through which we come to faith in Christ, as indeed John foretold, when the risen Jesus says to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,” (John 20:29) because we have all heard of the divinity of the Lord through the witness of the apostles. Some try to discredit Christian faith by pointing out that John’s Gospel was the last to be written, that the first Gospel, Mark, does not mention the divinity of Jesus, and that faith in the Incarnation is then a later Christian development. They do this by trying to fit the Gospels into a linear line, from the earliest to the latest, and it is easy to fall for this. 

However, the development of the Gospels in not linear, but they arise from different communities, and each has a vision of Christ. Indeed, does not St. Mathew’s Gospel proclaim the truth of the Trinity, where the risen Jesus proclaims, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). And – yes – there are many other witnesses to Jesus’ divinity in the epistles and apostolic writings. The letter to the Hebrews says, “[Jesus] who is the refulgence of [the Father’s] glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word” (Hebrews 1:3). Rejoice, therefore, in this holy season in the glory of the risen Christ so beautifully proclaimed by John. It is John who tells us, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).

St Anthony the Great

St. Anthony the Great, also called St. Anthony the Abbot (though he was a hermit) and St. Anthony of Egypt is commemorated on January 17. He is identified as the founder of desert monasticism, though the story of his life, particularly how he met St. Paul of Thebes, who preceded him into the desert, is a study of the search for Christian perfection. This story tells how he heard the gospel about the rich young man, to whom Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21). When Anthony heard this gospel, he immediately divested himself of all his possessions and went into the desert to seek Christian perfection. This is really the calling of all Christians, as Jesus commanded, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:47). For this we are baptized, that we might seek Godly perfection. St. Anthony imitated Christ when he heard this gospel, and just as Jesus went out into the desert after his baptism by John, in order to foil the wiles of Satan, so, too, does Anthony go to the desert to conquer the evil passions exploited by the temptation of the devil.

The monastic calling is an intensification of our baptismal calling, the renunciation of all worldly concerns to find perfection in the grace of Christ. Therefore, in Eastern theology, consecration as a monastic (monk or nun) has been deemed a sacramental mystery, not a separate mystery, but as part of the mystery of repentance.

In a similar way, Holy Orders and Marriage are also considered sacramental mysteries, because they confirm the baptismal calling in a particular vocation of life. St. Anthony, then, is a model for our life in Christ through baptism, which is called enlightenment, the perfection of the wisdom that leads us to life. We pray, then, to our Holy Father Anthony, “Having clearly received immortality and eternal life, pray for my darkened soul to be enlightened by the light of grace, so that I may worthily praise you; for you bear the Three-fold Light, O Father Anthony! (Matins, Ode 1)” “O Anthony, father of fathers, you have been shown to be a light for those who share your way of life, having taught the pious to tread the paths of light; and you emit the flame and fire of lightning, consuming hordes of the demons. (Matins, Hymn of Light)”

St Theodosius

On the weekly liturgical calendar for this week you may have noticed that today’s saints is Theodosius, the Venerable Father and founder of monastic life lived in community.

He was known to heal the sick and being “extremely compassionate.”

Today, we need his witness and guidance in the manner in which we live our Christian life with others (family, friends, fellow parishioners, coworkers, and our enemies).

He died on this date in AD 529.

Here is a 2 minute video on St Theodosius introducing his life.

Blessed Hryhoriy Khomyshyn

Blessed Hryhoriy Khomyshyn was the Eparchial Bishop of Stanislaviv (modern day eparchy of Ivano-Frankivsk), Ukraine. Arrested for his faith twice by the Soviet secret police; deported to NKVD prison in Kiev, Ukraine. The Bishop died in prison and considered a martyr.

During the 1930s, Khomyshyn was responsible for organizing the Ukrainian Catholic People’s Party, which briefly held seats in the Sejm and Senate. He is noted as being one of only a handful of members of the Catholic hierarchy in interwar Poland to publicly oppose anti-Semitism; his tolerance towards Galician Jews.

Khomyshyn was first arrested in 1939 by the NKVD. A critic of the Soviet system, having called the occupying forces “fierce beasts animated by the devil,” he was arrested again in April 1945, and was then deported to Kiev. In prison, he was tortured and advised to renounce the Union of Brest, which he refused to do.

He died in the Lukyanivska Prison hospital (Kiev) on 17 January 1947. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 27 June 2001, as one of Mykolai Charnets’kyi and the 24 companion martyrs.

Blessed Hryhoriy Khomyshyn pray for us, our parish, and Greek Catholic Church.

St Sabbas the Sanctified

St. Sabbas lived from 439-532. His connection with the Feast of Christmas is that, like Christ, he was dedicated to God from the beginning of his life, imitating him from his birth Therefore, he was called “the sanctified one.” He entered the monastery at the age of eight. He was the founder of the St. Sabbas monastery in the area of Bethlehem, close to the place of our Lord’s birth. It was the Typicon (the Rule of Life for a monastery) of this monastery that became the model for the Byzantine order of the Divine Office.
 
On the feast of St. Sabbas, the irmosi of the second Canon of Christmas are sung: “Reverent silence would run no risk; but love compels us, O Virgin, to a more difficult task: to weave well-wrought hymns of devotion. O Mother, give us the strength to do what we intend.” (Irmos, Ode 9)
“Jesus called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. (Matthew 18:2-5)”
 
Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

The Holy First-Called Apostle Andrew

The feast of St. Andrew is the beginning of a new relationship of God with his people. He is the first-called, the first follower of Christ particularly as Rabbi, as Messiah and Savior. What does it mean to be Christian? It means to follow Christ without hesitation and without selfishness. This feast is truly a reflection of Christmas. Jesus is the first-born of the Father, the first-born of all creation, the new Adam, the re-Creator of the human race. Andrew is the first-called, but he is simply the forerunner of all who choose Christ, in a world that is hostile to Christ and his renewal. On this feast, we also begin the singing of Christmas stichera. At Psalm 140 of Vespers, we see that Bethlehem is filled with the fire of the Godhead, “Isaiah, dance for joy: receive the word of God. Prophesy to the Virgin Mary that the bush burning with fire will not be consumed by the radiance of our God.” At the Apostichera, we question the righteous Joseph, “Tell us, O Joseph: How is it that you bring the Maiden which you received from the Temple to Bethlehem pregnant?”
 
Through divine intervention, the sending of an angel, he sees through to the holiness of his wife. The stichera at Vespers tells us that the Light that never sets has come into the world in the town of Bethlehem, and is worshiped by the angels, the shepherds and the Magi, a theme to be repeated frequently in the Christmas feast. For us to recognize Christ, we must follow the first-called Andrew, whose first question was, “‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” [Jesus] said to them, “Come, and you will see.” This is Christ who was to say later, ““Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head. (Luke 9:58)” We have no comfortable place in this world. On Christmas, we “come and see” the Word of God in poverty, in a cave, rejected and persecuted by the world.
 
Meditation by Archpriest David Petras
Icon of St. Andrew by Father Elias Rafay

St Philip the Apostle

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls Phillip, who immediately follows him. He then brings his friend Nathaniel to Jesus, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth. (John 1:45)” This is the feast to begin our Christmas preparation. Phillip leads us to the one true Messiah, the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. The child “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phillipians 2:6-8) It was not until he was to be arrested and executed, that Phillip understood the totality of the mystery he discovered. At the Last Supper, Phillip asked Jesus, “Master, show us the Father,” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Phillip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Every Christmas journey, we should become a more faithful follower of Jesus, especially in these days.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

St. Michael the Archangel Feast Day

On November 8, the Church has the feast day for St. Michael the Archangel and all holy angels. For the parishioners of this parish, it is “a holy day of obligation.”

The Divine Liturgy will be offered at 9:00 a.m. (in Ukrainian) AND 7:00 p.m. (in English).

Join us in the worship of God and bring a friend!

Remembering Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky

Remembering Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky, OSBM, today.

The Servant of God Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky (29 July 1865 – 1 November 1944) the long-serving, courageous and holy leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. As we have heard before, and bears repeating again today, Yale Professor Yaroslav Pelikan said, “Arguably, Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky was the most influential figure… in the entire history of the Ukrainian Church in the twentieth century.”

Of note, the parish KofC council is name for Sheptytsky; likewise a noteworthy theological institute in Toronto is also name for him: The Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies.

For more information read this wiki article.