Great Blessing of Water on Theophany

Father Iura prayed the prayers for the Great Blessing of Water on Theophany (Jan. 6, 2019) with Father Stepan concelebrating.

“The voice of the Lord upon the waters cries aloud saying, “Come you all, and receive the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of the fear of God, from Christ who is made manifest. Today the nature of the waters is sanctified, and the stream of its own waters, seeing the Master being baptized.”

The Holy Theophany is yet another feast of the Nativity and the beginning of the ministry of the Lord with his baptism in the Jordan.

Striking is the theology used in the prayers that through the waters we are given the grace of redemption, … that Satan be swiftly crushed beneath our feet and that every counsel that is directed against us by the Evil One may be made of no effect, … that we may be enlightened by the light of knowledge and godliness through the descent of the Holy Spirit, … that the blessed water be an instrument of a remission of sins, for the healing of soul and body and for every purpose that is expedient… and be a fountain springing us into eternal life.

The Seventh Ecumenical Council

On this Sunday, we also remember the Nicea II Council in 787, which defined that we can make images (icons) of our Lord and the saints, and venerate them. This council was held in the midst of the iconoclastic (the “image breaking”) controversy, the first phase from 726-787, and the second phase from 814-842. It draws attention to how important images are for us. I know of few homes that do not have a picture, today usually a photograph but sometimes a portrait or drawing, of those we love.

If we love Christ first with our whole heart and mind and soul, the image helps us to focus that love. We know these images are only paper or wood and ink or paint, but through the eyes of our body they make the person present in spirit. Yet some people hate images. There is a danger of idolatry, and the council did dialogue with those people who had that fear of idol-worship, and so defined clearly how images are to be venerated: “For the more they are contemplated, the more they move to fervent memory of their prototypes. Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and reverent adoration, not, however, the veritable worship which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being alone — for the honor accorded to the image passes over to its prototype, and whoever adores the image adores in it the reality of what is there represented.” This is the Christian faith. We cannot make images of the divine nature, but the mystery of the incarnation, in which the Word of God became truly a human being, the two natures united in one person, allows us to make images of Jesus, who was like us in every way except sin. This leads us to a deeper mystery, that we are created in the image of God, and that “all of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)” And the glory and the wisdom of the Lord is his emptying, his love, his cross and his resurrection.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Sunday of the First Ecumenical Council

On this Sunday, we commemorate the First Ecumenical Council held in the year 325. This Council defined our faith in Christ, that he was truly God, who had been born of the Virgin Mary as a human being, therefore uniting God and us. The proclamation of faith that they composed is now read at every Divine Liturgy. It was completed in its present form at the Council of Constantinople in 381, with a fuller definition of the nature of the Holy Spirit. When the Creed is about to be read, the deacon intones, “Let us love one another, that with one mind we may profess: (we then recite the Creed).” In our faith, we profess the love of God for us, because he has come to be with us, and has sent the Spirit of truth in our hearts, to “ … guide you to all truth. (John 16:13)” The truth is this: that Jesus the Messiah is truly the Son of God, that he is our Redeemer, and that he has ascended into glory, but has not left us orphans, sending his Spirit into our hearts and minds and souls. Jesus told us, “I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6)” If this is indeed the truth, then, as the deacon in the Liturgy says, we must profess it “in one mind.” We conclude the prayer of the Anaphora by saying, “Grant that with one voice and one heart we may glorify and praise your most honored and magnificent name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Today’s Gospel tells us that this is exactly how we are united to God, and become “partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4): “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. (John 17:11)” There is no unity more perfect than the unity of the Trinity, and in our life of faith, we share in that unity. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been those who have erred either by saying that Jesus is not perfect man or by saying that he is not perfect God. We too often let our own self-righteousness dominate the transcendent truth of the faith. However, the deacon says one thing even more profound – this unity must proceed from love, for he says, “Let us love one another that we may profess … “ The world today seems to thrive on a rhetoric of hate rather than love, and the false ideas of the world can easily infect the Church. The feast today is directly opposed to hatred, it tells us that we can achieve the unity that God desires only through love, for “God is love. (1 John 4:8)”

Eastern Catholic Bible Conference 2016 recap

The video from the Eastern Catholic Bible Conference in November 2016.

More information can be found here: http://wordoflifeinstitute.com

The next conference will be in Phoenix, Arizona, May 19, 20, 2017. The theme for the conference is: “The Book of Beginnings: Reading Genesis in the Eastern Christian Tradition.”

Jesus

namesofjesus1Today we celebrate the Incarnation of the Word, the birth of our divine Lord, Savior and Good Shepherd, Jesus the Christ. The Holy Name Jesus (Yashua, or some variation) in Hebrew means “God saves”: his name truly reflects his profound identity!

Honor the Lord’s holy name by not using it vain.

Savor Christmas’ reality

spanish-nativity-of-the-lord-iconWe can catch a glimpse of the Spirit of Christmas as we savor the fellowship enjoyed by our families whose members gather from far and wide to be together for our Christmas Eve Holy Supper. And yet, such fellowship is but a shadow of that divine fellowship enjoyed by all mankind as a result of the Birth of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. “To all who did accept Him He gave power to become Children of God” (Jn. 1:12) indicates a radical change which this divine fellowship entails: God became human so that human beings might become like unto God.

Therefore, the celebration of Christmas ought to raise certain questions for each one of us. How is my personal life affected? How does the Christmas Event relate to our society with all its challenges? If we travel mentally around the world, what do we see? Violence of all sorts, physical and sexual abuse, violation of the rights of the unborn and defenseless, unconcern for the poor and migrant, abandonment of children and the elderly, the unjust aggressions suffered by Ukraine, the horrific massacres in the Middle East and Africa, are a fraction of our society’s illness which should cause us to wonder if the story of Christmas will ever succeed in getting across to all people its principal message. That message is simply that the salvation of each of us must be through love and in love. This fantastic message of Christmas is, for very many, the greatest secret still yet to be fathomed: God’s love for all has been revealed in the Word made flesh!

The US Ukrainian Catholic Bishops
Christmas Letter 2016, excerpts

“Christ the Merciful”, new book by Br Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette

christ-the-mercifulBrother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette explores the absolute centrality of Christ in the prayer life of any Christian. The end result is a comprehensive confession of his faith and testimony to the many “names of Christ” that cross through historical, monastic, and mystical traditions. Keeping true to the hope for a unified Church, Christ the Merciful incorporates both Western and Eastern Orthodox sources.

Chapters situating Christ in context of his life in Palestine, his role as a son, friend, and family member, and his place in the living history of the church all help to create a full, well-rounded portrait of his divine and human lives. By viewing Christ through these various facets, the book helps readers enrich their relationship to the mystery of God, adding contour to their spiritual journey.

Brother Victor-Antoine makes difficult concepts clear in a straightforward manner, informed by years of Benedictine monastic practice.

Richly grounded in Scripture, in the Fathers of the Church, in both Eastern and Western traditions and, above all, in the fruit of his own prayer, Brother d’Avila-Latourrette’s meditations on the many names of Jesus offers us the opportunity to meet Christ anew every day. Just like Andrew and John, or Philip, Zacchaeus, Bartimeus or the centurion, Jesus’ entry point into each of our lives is unique. He has called each of us by name, and with the help from Brother Victor-Antoine, we are reminded of how much we long to hear Jesus and need to hear him speaking to us in all aspects of our life and faith.
 
— Father Tim S. Hickey, contributor to Magnificat, priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, former editor of Columbia magazine (Knights of Columbus).

7th Ecumenical Council

7th-ecumenical-councilMeditation by Very Rev. Dr. David Petras

On this Sunday, we also remember the Nicea II Council in 787, which defined that we can make images (icons) of our Lord and the saints, and venerate them. This council was held in the midst of the iconoclastic (the “image breaking”) controversy, the first phase from 726-787, and the second phase from 814-842. It draws attention to how important images are for us. I know of few homes that do not have a picture, today usually a photograph but sometimes a portrait or drawing, of those we love. If we love Christ first with our whole heart and mind and soul, the image helps us to focus that love. We know these images are only paper or wood and ink or paint, but through the eyes of our body they make the person present in spirit. Yet some people hate images. There is a danger of idolatry, and the council did dialogue with those people who had that fear of idol-worship, and so defined clearly how images are to be venerated: “For the more they are contemplated, the more they move to fervent memory of their prototypes. Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and reverent adoration, not, however, the veritable worship which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being alone — for the honor accorded to the image passes over to its prototype, and whoever adores the image adores in it the reality of what is there represented.” This is the Christian faith. We cannot make images of the divine nature, but the mystery of the incarnation, in which the Word of God became truly a human being, the two natures united in one person, allows us to make images of Jesus, who was like us in every way except sin. This leads us to a deeper mystery, that we are created in the image of God, and that “all of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)” And the glory and the wisdom of the Lord is his emptying, his love, his cross and his resurrection.

More on the subject can be found here.