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.

Christ is born

nativityMeditation by Very Rev. Dr. David Petras

Christmas is a feast of unity. It is, first and foremost, unity between God and humanity. The Word of God takes the human nature so that the image and likeness of God in us might be restored. Walls are broken, and the first sticheron, the first words, of Christmas are, “Come, let us rejoice in the Lord; let us proclaim the present mystery by which the partition has been broken and the flaming sword withheld.” What God does vertically, he expects us to do horizontally, and so at his birth the poor (the shepherds) and the rich (the Magi) are called to adore. His own people (the shepherds, the Jews) and the outsiders (the Magi, the Gentiles) are called together. Just as God becomes one with us, we become one with God, and with each other, and the last words of Jesus to his disciples before his arrest are a prayer for the people, “the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23)” The result of this will be peace on earth, as proclaimed by the angels in heaven and foretold by the prophet Isaiah, “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall graze, together their young shall lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9, the Fourth Reading of the Vespers of Christmas)” This unity is needed in a world shaken by conflict, by hatred of the other, by racism. It is sad that Christians cannot be united among themselves.

Cardinal Koch, on his visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2015, said, “The world today has great need of reconciliation, particularly in light of so much blood which has been shed in recent terrorist attacks. May we accompany the victims with our prayers, and renew our commitment to lasting peace by promoting dialogue between religious traditions, for “indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict” (Common Declaration, Jerusalem 2014).”

Christ comes among His own

communionMeditation by Very Rev. Dr. David Petras

“Behold, Christ comes among his own. We are made his through grace and holy virtues. (Troparion, Ode 6, Canon of December 22)” “You wishes to bear the robe of a slave in order to snatch me from slavery to evil, O Word coeternal to the Father. (Troparion, Ode 3, Canon of December 23)

St. Gregory the Theologian begins his homily for the Feast of Lights by saying, “Christ is on earth, let us welcome him.” His loving-kindness is to turn us from sin to virtue, but only through the power of his grace. Sin is a spiritual death, in Jesus, the living God, who comes into physical life today, frees us from sin and makes us God-like. His coming into human nature is compared to slavery, and we must welcome him as slaves. This is really what we are saying when we receive Holy Communion, when we welcome Christ into our bodies, making them temples of the Spirit: “The servant (that is, the slave) of God receives the Holy Body and Precious Blood.” We become God’s own, but it must be according to his will. Do we not pray, “Thy will be done, (now) on earth as it is in heaven.” How do we receive Christmas, however, is it on our terms or on God’s terms. It is clear what motive is life-bearing, but this is not done to keep us in slavery, for in his last discourse in the Gospel of John, he calls us friends (John 15:15), and so we are able to sing, if we are willing, “I sing of your love: glory to your work of salvation.” (Troparion, Ode 3, Canon of December 23)

Christmas Divine Liturgy

nativityDivine Liturgy on Sunday, December 25th, Christmas Day
The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
There is only 1 Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day at 10:30 a.m., in English and Ukrainian.
At 9:30 a. m. there is a “God with Us” service.

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

Sunday before Christmas

holy-ancestorsMeditation by the Very Rev. Dr. David Petras

As we move toward Christmas, the Sunday before the great feast of the Lord’s Incarnation is day when we read the gospel giving us the genealogy of Jesus.

The Gospel this Sunday presents us with an abundance of names, all those who were the ancestors of Christ. By this we see that on this feast, the Son and Word of God becomes a part of the human family and a part of human history. In this Gospel Jesus is also given a name, the final verse tells us that the child will be known as Jesus – Savior. In verse 22, though, he is given the name “Immanuel,” “God with us.” This gives us the theological meaning of the feast, the incarnation signifies our deification. We all have names, but for the ancients, names had meanings, they did not simply give us an identification tag, but told us something of who we were. In that sense, we do not name ourselves, but we are given a name, we are all “called by name” by God, and so we enter into the ancestry of Jesus. The names are the forefathers of Jesus, but also the foremothers are mentioned: Tamar, who bore a son by trickery of Judah; Ruth, the grandmother of David, who left her people to follow Naomi; the unnamed wife of David, Bathsheba, who David married by arranging for the death of Uriah. We see, then, that even trough questionable and evil actions, as well as by faithfulness, Jesus becomes “the son given to us.” The greatest of the woman in his genealogy is, of course, Mary, his mother, who by her obedience cancelled the curse of Eve, and united God with humanity in her womb. Today, we celebrate the Son of Abraham, according to the Law, and the Son of David, the everlasting King, to whom even David bowed, and even the Son of exile, for we are all citizens of the spiritual, not the earthly, Jerusalem. Today we must be named as a follower of Christ.