Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Prodigal SonThe parable read today is usually called “the parable of the Prodigal Son,” who is at the center of the story. It might also be called “the parable of the Merciful Father,” who welcomes back his son, embracing him, restoring him to his position, declaring a joyous celebration without even seeming to hear or listen to his son’s confession or protestation. It might also be called “the parable of the Petulant Son,” who is grumpy and peeved at the father’s merciful loving kindness because he thinks that he himself is so much better than his brother. As we prepare for the Great Fast, do we see a pattern developing? The pharisee thought he was much better than the tax-collector, the older son thought he was so much better than his prodigal brother, but God overflows in love for all his creatures. Perhaps the real main purpose of the Great Fast is to turn from pride to humility, to begin to see others through the eyes of God, to overflow in love for others. Truly, what does it mean to be a Christian?

The return of the prodigal Son was marked by a great banquet given by the Merciful Father. We are all invited to that banquet, celebrated at every Divine Liturgy, where the food is not the “fattened calf” but the body and blood of our Lord, the only-begotten Son of the Father. How do we approach this banquet, in the humility of the son who acknowledges his unworthiness or in the pride of the older son, who objects to the presence of his weaker brother? The answer is what it means to be a Christian.

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“Receive me now, Lord, as you once received the Prodigal. Open to me your fatherly arms, and in thanksgiving I will sing of your glory and goodness” (Sunday of the Prodigal Son Canon, Ode 1, troparion 3)  

The parable of the Prodigal Son is also commemorated on the Second Sunday of the Great Fast, in the Canon of Matins, because the origin of the Triodion is from Palestine, where this Gospel was read on the Second Sunday.

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

Pharisee and PublicanThis Sunday’s Gospel begins our preparation for the Great Fast. It seems to turn the whole purpose of the Fast on its head. The Pharisee boasts of “fasting twice a week,” and “giving tithes of all I possess,” and thanks God that he is not like other men. But Jesus says he is not justified. Our Lord does not speak of how these two men lived their lives outside the temple. He does not speak explicitly of whether the tax collector repented, though Zaccheus did repent to receive the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. But our Lord focuses on one reality only: what do we believe in our heart. I had a friend who said that if he didn’t fast during Lent, he would not feel himself worthy of Communion on Pascha. But to win salvation for ourselves is not the purpose of the Fast – we fast only to come to an understanding that we cannot save ourselves by our own merits.

The tax collector understood this and was saved. The Pharisee was proud and missed God’s grace. Certainly our Lord does not consider fasting and tithing “bad behavior,” but to take pride in them is ignorance. In every Communion and in the whole great fast, we must pray in the depths of our hearts and minds as the Liturgy does: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner! O God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me! O God, forgive me for I have sinned without number!”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Zacchaeus Sunday

ZacchaeusMeditation on Sunday’s Scripture readings 1 Timothy 4:9-16; Luke 19:1-10

Though there is no special office for this Sunday, it is commonly seen as the beginning of our preparation for the Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection. Today we must be Zacchaeus. When Jesus came to Jericho, “Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.” Today is where we start our search for God, who is coming to take away the sin of the world. Today we must be filled with the desire to see God, as was Zacchaeus. Today we must acknowledge our sins, for Jesus is coming to St. Stephens in Phoenix, today he is coming into our homes, more exactly, into the home of our heart. What a contrast between Zacchaeus and the Blind Man of last week’s gospel, who could not see and begged Jesus for sight. Zacchaeus could see and yet climbs the sycamore tree to get the best possible view.

What a contrast between Zacchaeus and the rich young man of two Sundays ago. The rich young man could not let even one penny of his riches escape his grasp, but Zacchaeus says, “Half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” Today, Jesus tells us, “Salvation has come to this home.” It is already Pascha, if we turn to our Lord in his mercy, if we seek him with the zeal of Zacchaeus. Today St. Paul’s promise is fulfilled, “We have set our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)” Today we must be among those who believe.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

36th Sunday after Pentecost

Healing of the blind man1 Timothy 1:15-17; Luke 18:35-43 (Readings of the 31st Sunday after Pentecost)

We must learn how to read Scripture. It is not lessons of the past, but the reality of God’s presence among us today, in the here and now. One of the most frequent ways that Jesus steps into our lives is by his works of healing. In Matthew 11:5 Jesus tells us, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” Today we hear this good news, today the blind see. Jesus often gave sight to the blind, telling them, “Your faith has saved you.” This is what he says to the blind man of Jericho. He cannot see who Jesus is, but when those around him say, “Jesus is passing by,” he immediately shouts as loud as he can, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” For Jesus, though he is the Word of God, has become one of us, of the family of David. We might think that the gospel is about physical sight, but it is more than that, it is why faith is necessary.

All of us, whether physically blind or spiritually blind, need Jesus who said, “I am the light of the world.” This is why we call baptism “enlightenment.” This is why we must confess that Jesus came to save sinners, “of whom we are the first.” We can say this sincerely, because we know the power of sin in our own hearts, and not in the hearts of others. We will say this today here in this church as we approach Holy Communion, as we approach the light and life of the world today: you are Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first.” We say this not to crush ourselves down, but as St. Paul tells us to today’s Epistle, but that we might be “mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.” Only in faith, then, do we see the true “light and life.”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

35th Sunday after Pentecost

young manColossians 3:12-16; Luke 18:18-27 (Readings of the 30th Sunday after Pentecost)

We have just celebrated the great feast of our Lord’s baptism. By being baptized ourselves, we have become Christians, “God’s chosen ones,” as St. Paul reminds us in this Sunday’s Epistle, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:12-14)” To be a Christian means to choose life, not necessarily the life we want, but the life God has opened for us. The rich young man could not accept this choice. He refused to give his riches to the poor, he selfishly kept his riches for himself. He refused to be among God’s chosen ones, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, the give shelter to the homeless, cloth the naked, to visit those who are sick or in prison.

St. Anthony the Great heard this gospel, and transformed Christian life, creating an army of those who chose Christian perfection; St. Francis of Assisi heard this gospel, and transformed the Church, re-orienting it on the path of love for the poor, in its constant need for reformation. Today this same choice lies before us, and while we may not transform the world, we can find salvation and we can spread “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” among those in our lives.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Divine Liturgy this week

GLORY TO JESUS CHRIST * SLAVA ISUSU XRYSTU!

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Sun., January 15, 2017     35th Sunday after Pentecost
10:30 a.m.     Pro Populo * Za Parafin

Epistle: Col. 3:12-16
Gospel: Mt. 18:18-27 Tone 2

Mon., January 16, 2017     Veneration of the Chains of Peter
8:00 a.m.     no intention for the Liturgy

Tue., January 17, 2017     Our Venerable Father Anthony the Great
9:00 a.m.     +Halyna Choma (40 days, Pan.), requested by the Family

Wed., January 18, 2017     Our Venerable Father Athanasius & Cyril
8:00 a.m.     no intention for the Liturgy

Thu., January 19, 2017     Our Venerable Father Macarius
8:00 a.m.     no intention for the Liturgy

Fri., January 20, 2017     Our Venerable Father Euthemius the Great
8:00 a.m.     no intention for the Liturgy

Sat., January 21, 2017     Our Venerable Father Maximus
8:00 a.m.     no intention for the Liturgy

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Sun., January 22, 2017     36th Sunday after Pentecost
9:00 a.m.     +Nicholas Muryn, requested by Mary and Michael Muryn
10:30 a.m.     Pro Populo * Za Parafin

Epistle: 1 Tim. 1:15-17
Gospel: Lk. 18:35-43 Tone 3

Sunday after Theophany

christ-the-light-detailWhen we began the Feasts of Light on the second Sunday before Christmas, the first words of Scripture were: “When Christ our life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4). Today, the last words from Scripture for this feast are: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned. (Matthew 12:16)” St. Paul in his epistle writes about Jesus descending and ascending: “He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things (Ephesians 4:10)”

Christmas and Theophany, are called feasts of light. They celebrate the coming into the world of Light: Jesus our Lord. Being God, he descended to live among us (his birth, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke) and to take our sins upon his shoulders (baptism, the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke) to lift us into light and glory. It is the feast of beginnings, and a model for our lives, which on this earth are all just beginnings, in which we descend (living life and laying it down in death), and ascend (in love of God and neighbor to divine glory). This feast is our beginning, as we now turn to the fulfillment of Jesus’ glory in his crucifixion and resurrection into life and glory. The Gospel tells us to make a good beginning: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Divine Liturgy this week

GLORY TO JESUS CHRIST * SLAVA ISUSU XRYSTU!

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Sun., January 8, 2017      Sunday after Theophany
9:00 a.m.    + Mychajlo Kuchnij, requested by Jaroslaw Paluha
10:30 a.m.    PRO POPULO*ZA PARAFI|N

Epistle: Ephesians 4:7-13
Gospel: Matthew 8:11-21, Tone 1

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Mon.  January 9, 2017      Holy Martyr Polyeuctus
8:00 a.m.    no intention for the Liturgy

Tue. , January 10, 2017      Father Gregory, Venerable Dometian
8:00 a.m.    +Halyna Choma (40 days, Pan.), requested by the Family

Wed., January 11, 2017      Venerable Father Theodosius
8:00 a.m.    no intention for the Liturgy

Thu.  January 12, 2017      Holy Martyr Tatiana
8:00 a.m.    no intention for the Liturgy

Fri.,  January 13, 2017      Holy Martyrs Hermylus & Stratonicus
8:00 a.m.    no intention for the Liturgy

Sat., January 14, 2017      Our Venerable Fathers massacred in Sinai
8:00 a.m.    no intention for the Liturgy

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Sun., January 15, 2017      35th Sunday after Pentecost
ONLY ONE (1) Divine Liturgy today –in English and Ukrainian
10:30 a.m.    PRO POPULO*ZA PARAFI|N

Epistle: Colossians 3:12-16
Gospel: Luke 18:18-27, Tone 2

Divine Liturgy for Theophany Jan. 6

theophanyDivine Liturgy for Theophany of Our Lord, Friday, January 6
 
9:15 a.m. Great Compline
10:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy with the Great Sanctification of Water; immediately following the Liturgy there will be an Anointing.
 
7:00 p.m. Divine Liturgy
Theophany is a Holy Day of Obligation.

Circumcision of the Lord

circumscion-of-the-lordToday, the Byzantine Church keeps two feasts: the Circumcision of the Lord, the 8th day since Christmas (new calendar) and Saint Basil (see the blog post below).

“I will keep my love for him always, with him my covenant will last” (Psalm 88:29)
Having taken the human nature in his birth, our Lord fulfills the covenant God made with his people by circumcision on the eighth day. The covenant between God and his people is therefore perfected by God himself becoming both God who initiates the covenant and man who submits to God’s will. This is confirmed in the second part of today’s Gospel: Jesus goes to the Temple to fulfill the will of the Father by his teaching. When Mary and Joseph find him, he fulfills the Law, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. (Luke 2:51)”

Jesus taught, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)” St. Paul teaches that he restored the spirit of the Law, “for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)”

For Christians, baptism replaces circumcision as the entry into the covenant. At baptism, we submit to the law of Christ: “Do you renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his angels and all his service, and all his pride?” “I do renounce him.” “Do you commit yourself to Christ?” “Yes, I commit myself to Him.”

By his death on the Cross, our Lord established a new covenant, and fulfills the will of the Father, “Not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)” He tells us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven .. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The feast of Christmas and Circumcision celebrates the birth of the Lord according to the flesh and his birth among his people by circumcision. It foreshadows and sheds light on our birth according to the flesh and our rebirth in Christ in baptism.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras