Dormition Blessing of Flowers and Herbs 2019

Father Paul Luniw served the Divine Liturgy and blessed flowers and herbs for the Dormition Feast. Father Stepan did similarly at the morning Liturgy.

“While she lived on this earth,, Mary could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, “within” all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment.” Benedict XVI

Dormition Liturgies 2019

On Thursday, August 15, the Dormition of our most Holy Lady and the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, a holy of LOVE, the Divine Liturgy will be served at:

~The 10am Liturgy in Ukrainian will be served by Fr. Stepan Yanovsky

~The 7pm Liturgy in English will be served by Fr. Paul Luniw

At both Liturgies Father will bless herbs and flowers in honor of the Dormition.

Join us in worship of God.

The Dormition Fast

“Father,” someone once asked their priest, “I have a difficult time observing the Dormition Fast. What should I do?”

“Well,” the priest responded, “just keep the first week, and then keep second week, that should be enough.”

Is this acting a bit smart?

But there is much truth here. As we know, the Dormition Fast is just two weeks total. It’s an intense and necessary two weeks as the Church gathers together at the death bed of Mary, the ever-Virgin Mother of God.

Church teaches us that is the the gesture of those whom we love is near death: we ought to stop in our tracks and gather at their bedside. Today, we find ourselves at a nursing home, CT Hospice or even the hospital.

The Apostles and those –except Thomas– with them had been scattered across the world spreading the Gospel were miraculously gathered together at the bedside of the Church’s mother to bid her farewell from this life.

This is good spiritual advice: “We ought to keep this fast as carefully and attentively as possible because we love God’s Mother. She helps us, she loves us, and with the boldness of a mother she intercedes on our behalf to her Son and our God. It is not that Christ does not know our needs, but, because that is what a loving mother does!”

Are convinced to keep the Dormition Fast? Here are a few tips:

Go to Church. Run to Church. We will be open for business. Holy Feast of our Lord’s Transfiguration always falls in the midst of the fast.

Pray. Yes, pray. That you come to Church you will surely be praying, but, consider intensifying your daily devotions. Look in your prayer books for special prayers that you can add to God’s Mother during this season. Maybe even keep it up after the 14 days!

Fast. We got the whole way to #3 without even mentioning food. Do your best to abstain from meat and dairy as you are able. The Church provides strict directives as they always do, but, work together as a family to come up with a plan. At the least, do more than you have done in the past. Have questions or concerns, ask Father Iura.

Read. Pick up for meditation the Bible; read a few paragraphs of the Catechism, “Christ Our Pascha”, read a biography of a saint: Metropolitan Sheptytsky, St. Nectarios, St. Mary of Paris; read a spiritual book like, “How to Be a Sinner” by Peter Bouteneff; read an account of the Virgin Mary’s passing and bodily assumption to heaven: “The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God” by Saint John Maximovitch. It is short only 70 pages.

The Virgin Mary in St Ephrem’s theology

The month of May is traditionally known on as the Month of Mary. The Church holds Mary in the highest esteem; she is venerated but not worshipped by Catholics and Orthodox. A Syrian Father, St Ephrem, –the Harp of the Holy Spirit– the fourth century hymnographer, theologian and deacon as something to offer about the Mother of God.

“As lightning illu­mi­na­tes what is hid­den, so also Christ puri­fies what is hid­den in the nature of things. He puri­fied the Vir­gin also and then was born, so as to show that where Christ is, there is mani­fest purity in all its power. He puri­fied the Vir­gin, having pre­pa­red Her by the Holy Spi­rit… having been born, He left Her vir­gin. I do not say that Mary became immor­tal, but that being illu­mi­na­ted by grace, She was not dis­tur­bed by sin­ful desi­res”

“Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity… alone made in thy entirety the home of all the graces of the Most Holy Spirit, and hence exceeding beyond all compare even the angelic virtues in purity and sanctity of soul and body… my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all inviolate spotless robe of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment… flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate.”

“There is in you, Lord, no stain, nor any spot in your mother.”

“You Jesus and your mother are the only ones who are beautiful in all aspects. Because in you, O Lord, there is no deformation, and in your mother, there is no stain.”

“The two women were pure and simple, Mary and Eve. One of them, however, became the cause of our death and the other, the cause of our life.”

St. Ephrem the Syrian

Liturgy for the Annunciation TODAY

Today is the feast of the Annunciation of Mary, the Mother of God. It is a Holy Day of Obligation
 
The Divine Liturgy for today:
 
Monday, March 25, Annunciation of the Theotokos
 
8:45 a.m. Litija and Blessing of Bread
9:00 a.m. God’s blessing and health for children, grandchildren requested by Stephanie Tsitaridis
~Myrovann
 
AND
 
7:00 p.m. For the People of the parish
~Anointing

The Feast of the Annunciation

Today the Church celebrates summit of our salvation.

The Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary that she would be the Theotokos almost always falls during the Great Fast. (*) According to the liturgical norms, it is celebrated on whatever day it falls, and the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, even on Good Friday. (**) The meaning of the Annunciation, however, is in conformity with the meaning of the Great Fast. The Great Fast is a journey from the sin of Adam and Eve to the Resurrection of our Lord. It is a passage from human pride to fidelity to God’s plan of salvation. The sin of Eve, which became the fundamental sin of the whole human race was to choose one’s own plan for salvation over God’s. It’s result, though, was death. Jesus in the resurrection, takes the power of death and twists it into life, as St. Paul said, “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Jesus was able to do this because he became a human being in the womb of Mary, who replaced Eve’s disobedience with obedience to God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)” Thus, God “condescended” (that is, he came down to be with us) so that the plan of God could be lifted up. “Though he was in the form of God, [Christ] 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” (Philippians 2:6-8). Therefore, the Annunciation is a part of Pascha, as Melito of Sardis explained in his Paschal Homily: “And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.”

When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death” (65-66). We sing, “Today is the summit of our salvation.” (Troparion)

The Maternity of Holy Anna

The conception of the all-holy virgin Mary in the womb of Anna is celebrated on December 9 in the Byzantine tradition, for a natural reason, that the Eastern ancients thought a girl was in the womb one day less than a boy. However, in the Ruthenian Church in America [and the Ukrainian Church], the feast is now celebrated together with the Roman Church on December 8, nine months before her birth on September 8, because she is the patron of the United States.

It is clear that this is a preparation for the birth of Christ on Christmas, for the first sticheron of the feast begins: “The barren Anna leaped for joy when she gave birth to Mary the Virgin who in turn will give birth in the flesh to God the Word.” Mary, the daughter of Anna and Joachim by way of natural birth is to be the temple of the Word of God incarnate for our sake and for our salvation.

The Eastern and Western Churches put the accent on different aspects of the feast. In the East, we celebrate the miracle of God taking away the barrenness of Anna’s womb. The Protoevangelium of James portrays the sadness of Joachim and Anna. Joachim lamented, “I have searched whether I am the only one who has not begotten offspring in Israel, and I have found of all the righteous that they had raised up offspring in Israel.” Anna wept, “I will bewail my widowhood, and bewail my childlessness.” (1,3 and 2,1) Two angels came, one to Joachim and another to Anna with a divine message that they would bear a child, even in their old age. When God takes away an emptiness, he fills us more than our faith can grasp, and they gave birth not only a child, but to the new Ark of God’s covenant with us.

The Western Church, on the other hand, puts the accent on Mary’s purity from all sin from her conception, defined by Pope Bl. Pius IX in 1848 as the Immaculate Conception. The theology behind this is that the incarnation of the sinless Word of God must come from a sinless temple, the womb of Mary which was never touched by sin, even from her conception.

It is unfortunate that this dogma has become a bone of contention between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Both believe in the ancestral sin, but in different ways, so that for the Orthodox the main curse of the sin of Adam and Eve is death, while for the Catholics, it is original sin. May we seek unity and not division. Most Orthodox theologians do believe that the “ancestral sin” has infected the human race, but might disagree about the way it does this. In our dialogue, we must seek a mutual understanding, perhaps in the words of Orthodox theologians who saw a “pre-purification” in Mary. “And in every way [the Lord] became a man, save sin, for he had been conceived from a virgin, after she had been pre-purified with respect to soul and body through the Holy Spirit” (Gregory the Theologian, Homily 38 on the Theophany) or St. John Damascene, who wrote, “O all-blessed loins of Joachim, from which the all-pure seed was sown. O epic womb, in which the all-holy infant was born, after she was formed, and a little later increased by nutriments from Anne. Her (Anne’s) belly conceived in itself an ensouled heaven, wider than the wide space of heaven.” (Both quotes from Christian Kappes’ book, The Immaculate Conception, 21 and 60)

Conception of the Theotokos by holy Anna

On Saturday, December 8, at 9:00 a.m., we will celebrate the Conception of the Theotokos by holy Anna. The Divine Liturgy will be served in both English and Ukrainian. It is a holy day of love; the feast has the rank of Sunday.

This of Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, honors her title as the patroness of the USA. In these times, we need the maternal protection of Mary as she is the consummate intercessor for us before the Throne of Grace.

In places the feast is also called the Maternity of St. Anne or in the Latin Church the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Kondakion sung in the Liturgy reads:

Today is the conception of the mother of our salvation, for she begins her life in a fruitless womb. Anna rejoices over this with Joachim, and the thought of his liberation fills Adam with joy. We, too, salute her conception today and cry out to her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

Entrance of the Theotokos

“Seeing the entrance of the pure one, angels marveled in wonder how the Virgin could enter the holy of holies.” (Refrain to Irmos 9, on the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple)

“Entrances” are a big deal in our liturgical tradition, (e.g., the Small Entrance and Great Entrance at Divine Liturgy), surrounded by great solemnity. Why? Because they are “transitional” moments; that is to say, they signify the most crucial and challenging aspect of life in general, and life in Christ more specifically – transitions. We “enter” any given day, for example, transitioning from nighttime not instantly, but by going through our morning “ritual” (getting out of bed, washing up, praying, making coffee, getting dressed, exercising, etc.). We also “enter” into communion with Christ, again and again, not instantly, but step by step, preparing ourselves with the help of traditional prayers and customs.

The feast we’re celebrating today on the Older Calendar focuses on “entrance,” the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. Similar to the entrances mentioned above, Her “entrance” into “the holy of holies” involves both preparation and transition. She is to be prepared, in the temple, for the pivotal moment in Salvation History, the descent upon Her of the Holy Spirit and conception, in Him, of God the Word. There is so much more to say on this topic, on how daunting and even potentially terrifying this “transition” was, for the three-year-old Mary from Nazareth, but this reflection is already too long.

So I’ll just say, let our Lady’s courageous “entrance” today be an inspiration and encouragement for all my entrances and other transitions. Let me not fear them but walk through them, by the protection and guidance of the Blessed among Women. Amen!

Meditation by Sr. Vassa Larin

(Please note, you can get these reflections daily via EMAIL, simply by typing in your email-address at our website: www.coffeewithsistervassa.com)

Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. And her parents went down marveling, and praising the Lord God, because the child had not turned back. And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there, and she received food from the hand of an angel.”

(Proto-Evangelium of James, chapter 7 and beginning of chapter 8)

One monastic commentator on today’s feast writes:

“A Jerusalem church in honor of the Mother of God was dedicated on this date in the sixth century. A century later, St Andrew of Crete mentions a yearly feast commemorating the entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.

“The details of the feast are drawn from the apocrypha, such as the Gospel of James, since canonical scripture has no account of the early life of Mary. The setting of the feast is in the temple rebuilt by Zerubabel,, which no longer contained the Ark of the Covenant. In the feast-day icon, the priest and prophet, Zecharaiah, father of John the Baptist, escorts the Virgin into the Holy of Holies. The Theotokos is thus received as the Living Ark, for in the fullness of time, God himself will come to dwell in her.

“The feast, then, is another step in the preparation for the birth of Christ. What began as a legend has been used by the Church for centuries to emphasize the dedication of God’s Mother to service in the Lord’s house, to foretell to all the coming of Christ.