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.

The Holy Apostle James, Son of Alphaeus

The Byzantine Church discerns three apostles named James: James the Greater, the son of Zebedee; James, the Brother of the Lord and first bishop of Jerusalem; and James, the son of Alphaeus. We celebrate the feast of the latter today. He is the James about which we know the least. The only mention of him was in the lists of the Twelve Apostles. Some speculate that he was the James mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:7, “After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,” but commentators even doubt that was this James, also called “James the Lesser.” However, it does point to the mission of the apostles, which was to proclaim the risen Lord, a message which has resounded throughout the ages to this very day.

For in today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about his apostles, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Luke 10:16). The apostles, who ran when Jesus was led to crucifixion, nevertheless were courageous in preaching his gospel, and paid a great price, “God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute” (1 Corinthians 4:9-10).

St. Paul said we must imitate the apostles, for we, too, must be willing to become “fools” for the sake of the resurrection, but the promise is great, as Jesus said, ““I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will” (Luke 10:21).

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Falling Asleep of the Beloved Apostle, John the Evangelist and Theologian

Today, September 26 is the Feast of the Falling Asleep of the Beloved Apostle, John the Evangelist and Theologian

The gospel of John is considered the foundational gospel in the Eastern Church, and John is honored with the title of “Theologian,” for he explained well who Jesus, the Son of God, was. It is from his gospel that we know “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 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 1:1-5). He also showed us that love is the basis of our theology.

It was said that in his old age, John would simply preach constantly, “Children, love one another.” In the epistle for this feast, 1 John 4:12-19, we read, “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us …. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”

Saint John preached the Gospel in Jerusalem and Samaria, and was banished to the isle of Patmos. In old age, he returned to Ephesus where he made a home for the Theotokos. An ancient church marked the place until its destruction in World War I.

Tradition holds that John died during the reign of Trajan, a full century after the birth of Jesus.

The Dismissal for today’s Liturgy:

May Christ our true God, have mercy on us and save us, through the prayers of his most holy Mother, of the holy, glorious and praiseworthy apostle and evangelist, the pure and beloved friend and disciple of Christ, John the Theologian, whose venerable falling-asleep we joyfully celebrate today, and through the prayers of all the saints, for Christ is good and loves us all.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras
slightly edited.

St. John Chrysostom fell asleep in the Lord

Today, the Church remembers that on September 14, 407, St. John Chrysostom fell asleep in the Lord.

We pray his Divine Liturgy for much of the liturgical year and read his sermons.

The image is of St. John Chrysostom from Haghia Sophia in Constantinople, a mosaic from the 11th century.

Martyrdom of St John the Baptist

Today is the feast of the beheading of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist.

Sacred Scripture reveals that John the Baptist was a cousin of Our Lord whose mission was to preach repentance to Israel in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The famous rebuke of King Herod for his unlawful marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, landed John in prison and on the wrong end of Herodias’ admiration. Concluding Salome’s dance for the King’s birthday he promised to give her whatever she asked for, even up to half his kingdom. Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod ordered the execution. We honor St. John the Baptist as the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets.

The Kondakion (in the Byzantine Liturgy) reads:

The beheading of the forerunner was indeed a dreadful crime, somehow fitting into the plan of God, for John thereby became the herald of the savior’s visit to those in hades. As for you, Herodias, cry your eyes out, bewail your deed, for you preferred murder to the law of God, rejecting eternal, everlasting life, for a false and passing one.