Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Ephesians 6:10-17; Luke 17:12-19

In today’s Epistle, St. Paul tells us, “draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil ….take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The true weapon of the Christian is not the metal sword, but the sword of the word.” Hebrews tells us, “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12).”

Christians do not meet violence with violence, but when persecuted, follow the Lord’s teaching, “Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. (Luke 21:14-15)” Jesus is the Word of God, and his word is powerful indeed, and so the true power Christians comes when we speak in the truth of our Lord. Our human words may not seem that powerful, but words spoken in Christ can transform our lives. This power does not come from us, but from God, therefore, as St. Paul again says, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me, (Galatians 2:20)” and yesterday’s epistle says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)” All this has meaning in this Christmas season. We give gifts to one another, and parents instruct their children, say “Thank you,” to those who give you gifts. The words “thank you” are more powerful than the material gifts, for they form bonds of love. As Christians, we, too, say words of “thanks” that bind us in love to God, “the giver of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17, Ambon Prayer).”

In this church, we utter words of thanksgiving, as we offer our Liturgy, a “sacrifice of praise.” That is why we call the Liturgy the Eucharist, the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” And on Christmas, we offer words to the new-born child, “Christ is born! Glorify him.” We must not only say words with our mouth, “for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)” But Jesus has to lament today that only one in ten cured return to give thanks. The gospel tells us that we must give thanks to God, who alone brought us into being and who alone can give us salvation. Jesus tells us today that this is difficult, because it requires humility and an open heart. Thus only one of the ten lepers gives thanks, and the least expected, the foreigner.

Prophet of Zephaniah

Today, the Byzantine and the Latin Churches liturgically recalls the Prophet of Zephaniah. In Hebrew, the name means “Yahweh has concealed.” Zephania is known in biblical study as the ninth of twelve minor prophets (taken in literary order). The Latin Church remembers the Prophet as the one who inspired the hymn, Dies irae. The Prophet gave his message to Jerusalem to be united in their worship and faith in the true God otherwise face God’s judgement, “the Day of the Lord.”

The Prophecy of Zephaniah begins with great wrath – not for the faint-hearted! “I will completely sweep away all things from the face of the land …. Near is the great day of the Lord, near and very swiftly coming. The sound of the day of the Lord! Piercing – there a warrior shrieks! A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick black clouds, A day of trumpet blasts and battle cries against fortified cities, against lofty battlements. (Zephaniah 1:1.14-16) But there is hope in his prophecy, hope for the humble who seek Jesus in the cave of Bethlehem, “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:3)”

Zephaniah foretells that there will always be a faithful remnant, But I will leave as a remnant in your midst, a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord. (Zephaniah 3:12) The remnant will be those who follow Jesus in all sincerity, “They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue. (Zephaniah 3:13)” These are the humble shepherds, the rich Magi, who come to seek the Lord, and those who repent to hear the voice of the forerunner. For their sake, Christmas is a feast of joy: Shout for joy, daughter Zion! sing joyfully, Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, daughter Jerusalem! (Zephaniah 3:14) We sing “God is with us! on that day, and so Zephaniah confirms, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior (3:17)”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Mary visits Elizabeth

On the Fourth Sunday [that is, today] before Christmas, the Syrian Church remembers the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. In the Byzantine Church, there is no feast of the Visitation, though this gospel is the common gospel for Matins of Feasts of the Theotokos.

We see here the first appearance of the Forerunner John, then a six month infant in the womb of Elizabeth, and “when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb. (Luke 1:41)” John and Jesus are closely connected in the Feast of Light: Christmas together with the Theophany, the baptism of Jesus by John. The two: John and Jesus are to be closely connected in the preaching of the Gospel, with quite different styles, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works. (Matthew 11:18-19″ Christmas is in the first place, the birth of Wisdom, and the coming of Christ would be “destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted. (the prophecy of Simeon, Luke 2:34)”

The Theotokos, a prophetess in her own right, today foretells what this means, “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)” If we have ears, we must hear this prophecy, Christmas is not a time for arrogance and power and riches, because these are about to be overthrown. There is no future in them. It is a time for humility, for earthly weakness and for poverty. We do not often see Christmas in this perspective, but it is here that the gospel and faith in Christ leads us.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras
Icon by Christine Uveges of Eikona Studios

Prophet Obadiah

We know nothing certain about the life of the Prophet Obadiah. The Synaxarion [the lives of saints] identifies him with the servant of King Ahaz, who left to become a follower of Elijah, but that is not possible, since Obadiah’s prophecy was against Edom, pointing to a time after the exile. He is one of several prophets commemorated in the Phillip’s Fast, and verse 21 can be related to the coming of Jesus into the world: “And deliverers will ascend Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingship shall be the Lord’s. (Obadiah 21)”

When our Lord was born, he was given the name “Jesus,” our Savior or “Deliverer.” The Greek text, however, is “men saved.” Certainly the wicked Herod thought him a king to rival him, and so persecuted the innocents of Bethlehem. Obadiah tells us that the Lord alone is our true king, who told Pilate at his trial, ““My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here. (John 18:36)”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost 2017

Healing upon Healing
Galatians 6:11-18; Luke 8:41-56

Many people are squeamish at the sight of blood, some even faint away. This is because of fear – we know that loss of blood can lead to loss of life. The blood flowing in our veins is life. In this Sunday’s Gospel, the Lord encounters a woman who has had a hemorrhage for twelve years – life is slowly seeping away from her. But death cannot remain in the presence of Christ, and merely by secretly touching his garment, she is healed by his power. Today’s Gospel contains this healing within a healing, a raising form the dead. Our Lord is on his way to raise the twelve-year old daughter of Jairus, where he redefines death as sleep, ““Do not weep any longer, for she is not dead, but sleeping. (Luke 8:52)” See that for God, time is without meaning, for the woman with the hemorrhage, twelve years seems an eternity, but for the little girl, twelve years is much too short. For the Jews at the time of Jesus, blood signified life. When animals were sacrificed, the blood was poured out as a libation, for the life belongs to God. While our Lord stopped the flow of the blood for the woman, and gave life to the little girl, he instead shed his own blood for the life of the world and died on the Cross to bring us all resurrection. He invites us to share in his blood, “Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.’ (Mark 14:23-24)”

What would seem to be a curse, the shedding of blood unto death, becomes a blessing for the life of the world. Jesus once asked his disciples, James and John, “Can you drink the cup that I drink ? (Mark 10:38)” This is interpreted that we too must share in suffering for others as did the Lord, but it is also a blessing, for we drink the cup of our Lord’s blood in Holy Communion “for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.” In the Epistle, St. Paul, who asks us to be imitators of Christ as he is (1 Corinthians 11:1), tells us, “But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world….. I bear the marks of Jesus on my body (Galatians 11:14.17)”

Soter Stephen Ortynsky presented by Father Ivan Kaszcak

Father Ivan Kaszcak, PhD, presenting on Soter Stephen Ortynsky (1866-1916), first bishop of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the USA beginning when he received jurisdiction on 3 January 1913.

The lecture was sponsored by American Russian Citizens Club of Shelton, The Lemko Association of the U.S.A., and The New England Chapter of the Carpato-Rusyn which took place at the American Russian Citizens’ Club, Shelton, CT.

A Basilian monk, Ortynsky was ordained bishop on 12 May 1907, in St George’s, Lviv. His cathedral in Philadelphia at the time of his ministry was the former St James Episcopal Church; now a new cathedral has been built where the bishop is in repose, under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Ortynsky was the only Eastern Catholic bishop in the Western world at the time.

Father Ivan is a priest of the Stamford Eparchy and pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Church in Kerhonkson, NY. He has made it his mission to teach and publish on historical matters of the Ukrainian Church in the USA.

Father Ivan gave great information but he also reminded us of the importance of one’s humanity. A terrific presentation!!!!

On the 7th Ecumenical Council

[be sure to watch the video linked below]

Why is the Seventh Ecumenical Council important to Christians? Is the consideration of the Council relevant to us today? This council was held in Nicaea, Asia Minor in AD 787 under the presidency of Empress Irene and history tells us that 367 bishops were present. It is also called Second Council of Nicaea.

The Iconoclast Controversy: The very heated debated centered around the use of icons in the Church and the controversy between the iconoclasts and iconophiles. The Iconoclasts (“icon-smashers”), started by the Emperor Leo III, were suspicious of religious art especially sacred art that depicted Trinity, saints, biblical acts, and humans; they demanded that the Church rid itself of such art and that it be destroyed or broken (as the term “iconoclast” implies). Philosophically, the Iconoclasts were very likely influenced by the Jewish and Muslim thinking that prohibits the creation and use of sacred images. For them, the fear was idolatry —the worship of things over the worship of God. And we ought to avoid wrong and false worship.

The controversy over images spilled over into matters concerning what it means to say (1) that Jesus is the “image of the Father,” the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity,” and that we are redeemed. we are “persons”; and (2) that man and woman are persons (not mere individuals). Curiously, we are still fighting many of these issues in 2017.

The Church’s response: The people who love icons (“iconophilles”) believed that icons served to preserve the doctrinal teachings of the Church; they considered icons to be man’s dynamic way of expressing the divine through art and beauty. Iconophilles remind us that idolatry is wrong, and false. The veneration of icons is not false worship but images are not the problem. There is a difference between worship and veneration. We worship God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) the creator of all things. We venerate (give honor to) the Cross, the saints, the Bible because these things and people are connected to Jesus Christ.

The Iconoclast controversy was a form of Monophysitism: distrust and downgrading of the human side of the Son of God.

Saint John of Damascus taught in his First Treatise on the Divine Images: “I do not worship matter, I worship the fashioner of matter, who became matter for my sake and accepted to dwell in matter and through matter worked my salvation, and I will not cease from reverencing matter, through which my salvation was worked.”

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Corinthians 6:1-10; Luke 5:1-11

On this Sunday, we begin to read the Gospel of St. Luke, which will be the Word of God proclaimed to us in the Church Year from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross to the coming Great Fast. It is fitting that this Sunday’s Gospel tells us what is involved in being a Christian. We all want to be called after Christ, but do we truly grasp what this will mean. One certain meaning of the Christian faith is that it is unexpected, that it brings great blessing out of the desert of the world: “After Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.’ Simon said in reply, ‘Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. (Luke 5:4-6)” This is the power of faith, which was again reaffirmed after Jesus’ resurrection: “When it was already dawn, [the risen] Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you caught anything to eat?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ So he said to them, ‘Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.’ So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. (John 21:4-6)”

The risen Christ is with us, filling all corners of our life. St. Paul in today’s epistle, expresses this Christian paradox very forcefully, “We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful; as unrecognized and yet acknowledged; as dying and behold we live; as chastised and yet not put to death; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things. (2 Corinthians 6:8-10)” St. Paul warns that the true believer must suffer “afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts, (2 Corinthians 6:4-5), but that “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)” St. Peter is reduced to humility at the miraculous catch of fish and begs, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. (Luke 5:8)” Jesus does not accept this, just as he did not accept Peter’s refusal to have his feet washed at the Last Supper, ““Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me. (John 13:8)” Instead, he makes him a fisher of men. Beloved in Christ, Jesus will also not accept our refusal to follow him, to love God with our whole heart and mind and soul, to love our neighbor as ourselves, as St. Paul exhorts us, “Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)

The Lucan Jump

We make the Lucan jump today. That is, we move from reading the Gospel of Matthew to the Gospel of Luke.

We gain another view of our Salvation; we see Jesus and unfolding of God’s Kingdom.

St Luke, pray for us.

2016 Eastern Catholic Bible Conference

“A Holy Nation The Church in God’s Plan of Salvation”

St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral – Munhall, PA
November 4 – 5th, 2016, Friday 6:30 – 9pm and Saturday 8:30am-4:30pm ($30 per participant – See link to register below!)

The Church as God’s Holy People is at the heart of His unfolding plan of salvation that is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. The Bible relates how this plan for a universal covenant kingdom and a temple made of living stones for all the nations unfolds through particular stages in the history of God’s People.

Talks Include:
– Are Eastern Catholics “Bible Christians”?
– Reading the Bible in the Heart of the Church
– The Seven Ages of the Kingdom in the Bible
– Biblical Images of the Church
– Sacred Reading: How to Pray the Scriptures
– The Bible and the Domestic Church
– The Bible and the New Evangelization

Snacks and light lunch included!


Recommended Accommodations:

Hampton Inn
301 West Waterfront Dr.
West Homestead, PA 15120.
Rooms start at $124 for a King and $144 for 2 Queens.

Courtyard Marriott
401 West Waterfront Dr.
West Homestead, PA 15120.
Rooms start at $132 for a King or 2 Queens.