St. Elijah the Prophet

Today, July 20, we celebrate the first man on the moon, July 20, 1969. It was the Feast of St. Elijah the Prophet, who also ascended into the heavens in a fiery chariot. Who says there is not a cosmic connection!

The Holy Great Prophet Elijah was one of the most important saintly figures for the Slav Peoples. In many cases, the peasant people lived in poverty and need from day to day. Elijah gave them hope, for he supplied for the needs of the widow of Zarephath in the time of drought:

“For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” (1 Kings 17:14) The farmers depended on the weather for the health of their crops, and very often for their very lives, and it was the Great-Prophet Elijah who was able to call down rain from heaven. Moreover, he was the hope of the future, having ascended into heaven in a fiery chariot, he was awaited as the forerunner of Christ in his second coming. He is for us, a model and rule of faith in God and in Jesus, his Messiah.

ELIJAH THE MAN OF ZEAL – he called down fire from heaven to consume our lawful sacrifice and to destroy the false priests of Baal. Elijah cried out to the Lord: ““I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” 1 Kings 19:10 and 14) Therefore, the unfaithful king called Elijah “the disturber of Israel”(1 Kings 18:17) We pray that Elijah will disturb us, arouse us to faith, and strengthen our zeal for the Lord.

ELIJAH THE GIVER OF LIFE – When the widow of Zarephath lost her son, Elijah restored him to life. “Then he stretched himself out upon the child three times and he called out to the Lord: “Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.” The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah; the life breath returned to the child’s body and he lived.” (1 Kings 17:21-22)

ELIJAH THE MAN OF GOD – On Mount Horeb, Elijah stood in the presence of God. He experienced the glory of God, not in the storm or the fire or the earthquake, but in the soft, gentle breeze. (1 Kings 19:11-12) We pray that there might be enough peace in our lives that we can hear God’s voice and not drown it out with the noise of our pride and unrest.

St Athanasius of Athos

On the liturgical calendar the Church gives us a venerable father, Athanasius of Athos.   His biography is interesting and useful (and a brief one follows) as it is hoped that it would assist all of us, clergy and laity alike, in following Christ more closely in the spiritual life. You may like to recall that among the many things about life in the monastery it is a more intense living of the Gospel and the tradition of the Church.

Athanasius was born near the Black Sea in 925. He was orphaned at a young age and taken to Constantinople, where he was exposed to education, imperial bureaucracy, and monasticism. He chose the life of the monk. After four years he was allowed to live in a hermitage. His hegumen appointed him spiritual father to his two nephews, Nicephoras, who was later to become emperor, and Leo. Athanasius knew that this would lead to unpleasant political entanglements, and he managed to escape to Mt Athos. At that time, the Holy Mountain was only sparsely populated by hermits. The emperor, however, discovered his whereabouts and became Athanasius’ patron. The hermit became hegumen with a cenobium chartered as a ruling monastery.

Since the task of leader was now unavoidable, Athanasius organized the lavra, adapting the Studite Typicon to his wilderness situation. In the years that followed, three other monasteries were built on Mt Athos, and Athanasius was made archimandrite over the entire peninsula. This enraged the old hermits who had settled there in hopes of preserving Athos as a desert in the primitive sense, and who wanted the territory free from the encroachments of the imperial establishment which the lavra represented. A few even attempted to murder Athanasius. Eventually, the hermits gave up the fight and took refuge on the ragged tip of Athos, where the stone mountain meets the sea. It is here that most of the Athonite anchorites live today. Athanasius died on July 5, 1003, when a stone cupola which was being built caved in upon him.

Athanasius began an era that made Athos a wellspring of monasticism, one which has lasted over a thousand years. Today there remain twenty monasteries, with numerous sketes and hermitages: an uninterrupted tradition witnessing to the strength, vitality, and variety of Eastern monasticism.

Saint Athanasius of Athos, pray for us.


New Martyrs of Ukraine feast

Today is the feast of the New Martyrs of Ukraine

Blessed Bishop and Martyr Vasyl Velychkovsky, and companions, pray for us.

Troparion, Tone 7:
O blessed martyrs of Ukraine! * You did not tear apart the integrity of the Body of Christ, * but handed over your bodies to torment: * you did not submit to the flattery of the enemy, nor did you renounce our unity with Peter. * From your earthly homeland of Ukraine, together with the Universal Church, * receive the gracious gift of this ancient hymn: * “O holy martyrs, * you suffered gloriously and have received your crowns; * on our behalf entreat the Lord, ** to have mercy on our souls.”

(4 of those saints are former pupils of the Pontifical Greek College, Rome)

READ this article by our parishioner, John Burger…

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Pagan antiquity had festivals marking the winter and summer solstices. The Christian calendar absorbed these feasts, observing the birth of Christ in December on the shortest day, and that of John the Baptist in June on the longest day. From this day on, the sun slowly sinks from its zenith for six months, and begins its ascent again at Christmas. In the eyes of the Fathers, this solar rhythm is an expression of John’s words: “He must grow greater, while I grow smaller.”

The role of the prophet and forerunner began with John’s birth which Luke narrates with the same paradoxical circumstances of barrenness bearing fruit as Old Testament figures like Sarah, Hannah, and others. The name, John, with the dramatic details of its imposition, means The Lord has shown favor. Like other heavenly bestowed names in Scripture, it underlines his prophetic role in the history of salvation, which is to prepare for the immediate coming of the Messiah. Zachary’s canticle amplifies the meaning of his son’s name and parallels the canticle of the Theotokos.

Meditation by the New Skete Monastery

Blessed Josaphata Hordashewska 100th anniversary

The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church have designated April 7, 2019 – April 7, 2020 as a special Jubilee Year marking the 100th Anniversary of the passing into eternal life of Blessed Josaphata Hordashewska, the co-foundress of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.

The official opening of the Jubilee Year for Blessed Josaphata will take place on Sunday, April 7, in Lviv.

For more information, visit the website of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.

Blessed Vitaliy Bayrak

It was on this date in 1907, that Father Vitaliy Bayrak was born. He was a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Basilian priest.

Having entered the monastic life and making his profession of vows, Bayrak was ordained a priest in the Monastery of Zhovkva on August 13, 1933. His abbot assigned him to do parish work and gave him several jobs in the monastery. In July 1941 he was elected and blessed as Abbot of the Monastery in Drohobych, to replace Fr. Yakym Senkivskyy who had been martyred by the Bolsheviks.

Father Bayrak was arrested by the NKVD on November 13,1945 and was sentenced to 8 years hard labor. He was beaten to death by a Communist camp guard on April 21,1946.

Father Bayrak was Beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II on June 27,2001. It is 112 years ago today since his birth. Depending on the liturgical calendar Blessed Vitaliy’s feast day could be 21 April or 16 May.

Blessed Vitaliy Bayrak, pray for us.

St Maximus the Confessor

Father John Meyendorff called St. Maximus the Confessor the “Father of Byzantine Theology.” Though he lived long after the Council of Chalcedon, he perhaps drew out the full importance of its confession that Jesus, the Son of God was one in essence with the Father, and yet also united in essence with us in his human nature. Here we see what the gospel stories of Christ’s birth and baptism are truly revealing to us. We call the incarnation, the assumption of the Word of God of human nature, a mystery. This is because we cannot wrap our human minds around this theological reality. To form mental concepts, which we might call “ideologies” are dangerous because they skew the reality. Before Maximus, some theologians put so much emphasis on Christ’s humanity that his divinity was compromised (for example, Arianism or Nestorianism).

On the other hand, some put so much weight on his divinity that Jesus ended up as simply God “rattling around” in a human vessel. These tensions still exist today as theological thinkers try to grasp what cannot be grasped and end up with an “incredible” (in the true sense of the word) Christ. St. Maximus taught that the Son of God was a full human being, with a created human soul, human mind and human will. This has practical consequences. If indeed the Word of God is incarnate in a human body and soul, mind and will, with a human genealogy (Mary was of the House of David) and a human history. If indeed he has interacted with us in word and sight (as a human being, we can make an image, “icon” of his appearance), then all that we are and have as human beings enters into a relationship with God that transforms us into sharers of the divine nature.

And so St. Maximus teaches us: “God made us so that we might become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4) and sharers in His eternity, and so that we might come to be like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2) through deification by grace …. Christianity is an entirely new way of being human.”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Saints Athanasius and Cyril

Our Holy Fathers Athanasius and Cyril, Archbishops of Alexandria are honored by the Church today.

Our Holy Father Athanasius (whose name means “Resurrection”) was the architect of the Council of Nicea. He was a pillar of the truth of Christ, showing that Jesus is the Word of God, that “all things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:3-5)” In this way, he teaches us what really happens in our baptism, we are deified, so that by sharing in the death of Christ through baptism, we share also in his glory and resurrection. St. Athanasius, therefore, explained clearly and simply what is found in Scripture: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God” (De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.)

We should not make a fundamental mistake about deification, that, because of our faulty ideas about God’s omnipotence and omniscience, we should become proud and over-bearing, as if this were to imitate God. Instead, God revealed humility in becoming a human being, and he displayed infinite love in laying down his life for our sakes. The true God-like person, then, would be humble, patient, compassionate and loving. That is what it truly means to be a baptized Christian, an authentic follower of Christ.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

St Ambrose

St. Ambrose was the greatest Archbishop of Milan, at a time when it was the center of the Empire. He was elected bishop when he was still a catechumen and proved to be most competent—in administration as well as theology, and was a holy and sincere Christian. He had been a governor before and knew how “to talk to power.” When the Emperor Theodosius had 7,000 Thessalonians slaughtered over the assassination of their governor, he excommunicated him for his horrendous crime – and made it stick, bringing Theodosius to repentance.

As a theologian, he wrote about the incarnation of the Son of God: “And the Word was with God . This that he said is to be understood thus: The Word was just as was the Father; since He was together with the Father, He was also in the Father, and He was always with the Father. […] It is of the Word to be with the Father; it is of the Father to be with the Word, for we read that the Word was with God. So if, according to your opinion, there was a time when He was not, then, according to your opinion, He too was not in the beginning with whom was the Word. For through the Word I hear, through the Word I understand that God was. For, if I shall believe that the Word was eternal, which I do believe, I cannot doubt about the eternity of the Father, whose Son is eternal” (The Sacrament of the Incarnation of our Lord (III, 15-18, from the Vatican web site).

And again, Ambrose says, “He lay in the crib, that you might stand at the altar. He came to earth, that you might come to the stars” (Exposition of Luke 2.41).

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

St John Chrysostom

Today is the feast of Our Holy Father, Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, whose Divine Liturgy we pray most often. He is one of the most famous saints of both the Greek and the Latin Churches and one of the four great Doctors of the East. He is called “Golden-Tongued” because of his eloquence.

Saint John Chrysostom, pray for us.

Image: Mosaic of Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Sophia, Istanbul.