The Holy Anna, Mother of the Theotokos

Today we liturgically recall the Dormition of Saint Anna, Mother of the Most Holy God-bearer Theotokos –the grandmother of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“And gazing towards the heaven, she saw a sparrow’s nest in the laurel, and made a lamentation in herself, saying: Alas! Who begot me? And what womb produced me? Because I have become a curse in the presence of the sons of Israel, and I have been reproached, and they have driven me in derision out of the temple of the Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. …. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world” (Protoevangelium of James, 3,4).

The story of Anna giving birth is found only in the apocryphal work, the Protoevangelium of St. James. The story, though, is the great tradition of Abraham and Sarah, where their childlessness was taken away in old age. This is true also of Zachary and Elizabeth – for those who were barren, Hod bestows an abundance of blessings, the giving of birth to people who are most important for our salvation.

St. Paul comments on this in today’s epistle, “For it is written: ‘Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children; break forth and shout, you who were not in labor; for more numerous are the children of the deserted one than of her who has a husband’” (Galatians 4:27). This is truly the hallmark of God’s saving action. Those who seem abandoned are those whom God blesses the most. Therefore, the greatest sin we can commit is despair, thinking that God cannot save us. Peter denied Christ, Judas betrayed Christ, but Peter wept in hope and Judas wallowed in despair. Today’s feast tells us that God never abandons those who put their faith in him.

Blessed is Anna, who became the grandmother of God!

St Mary Magdalen

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalen

St. Mary Magdalen, Equal to the Apostles, Apostle to the Apostles, pray unto God for us! Happy feast to all our friends who have the name Mary, Maria, Magdalen!

Troparion — Tone 1

By keeping His commandments and laws, holy Mary Magdalene, / you followed Christ, Who for our sake was born of the Virgin, / and in celebrating your most holy memory today, / we receive forgiveness of sins by your prayers.

Kontakion — Tone 4

Podoben: “Today the Virgin…” / Standing before the Cross of the Savior, / suffering with the Mother of the Lord, / the most glorious Mary Magdalene / offered praise with tears. / She cried out: “What is this strange wonder? / He Who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer. / Glory to Your power, O Lord.”

Kontakion — Tone 3

Standing before the Cross of the Savior, / Suffering with the Mother of the Lord, / The most glorious Mary Magdalene offered praise with tears. / She cried out: What is this strange wonder? / He who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer: / Glory, O Lord to Your power!

Icon by Fr. Zinon

The Holy and Great Prophet Elijah

Today the Byzantine Church honors the memory of The Holy Great Prophet Elijah.

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 John the Theologian

[Today] On May 8, we celebrate one of the two feasts of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John, the brother of James. The other is on September 26, the day of his falling asleep. The fourth Gospel is attributed to John, and we can truly call it a “theo-logical,” for it witnesses most clearly to the mystery of the Incarnation, of the Word of God taking flesh in the womb of the Holy Theotokos for our salvation. It is the most sublime Gospel, and it gave John the title “Theologian.” 

The Byzantine Church have this gospel a certain priority, and it is read in the most joyful and glorious time of the year, from Pascha to Pentecost. This Gospel is the very essence of the apostolic witness, through which we come to faith in Christ, as indeed John foretold, when the risen Jesus says to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,” (John 20:29) because we have all heard of the divinity of the Lord through the witness of the apostles. Some try to discredit Christian faith by pointing out that John’s Gospel was the last to be written, that the first Gospel, Mark, does not mention the divinity of Jesus, and that faith in the Incarnation is then a later Christian development. They do this by trying to fit the Gospels into a linear line, from the earliest to the latest, and it is easy to fall for this. 

However, the development of the Gospels in not linear, but they arise from different communities, and each has a vision of Christ. Indeed, does not St. Mathew’s Gospel proclaim the truth of the Trinity, where the risen Jesus proclaims, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). And – yes – there are many other witnesses to Jesus’ divinity in the epistles and apostolic writings. The letter to the Hebrews says, “[Jesus] who is the refulgence of [the Father’s] glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word” (Hebrews 1:3). Rejoice, therefore, in this holy season in the glory of the risen Christ so beautifully proclaimed by John. It is John who tells us, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).

St Anthony the Great

St. Anthony the Great, also called St. Anthony the Abbot (though he was a hermit) and St. Anthony of Egypt is commemorated on January 17. He is identified as the founder of desert monasticism, though the story of his life, particularly how he met St. Paul of Thebes, who preceded him into the desert, is a study of the search for Christian perfection. This story tells how he heard the gospel about the rich young man, to whom Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21). When Anthony heard this gospel, he immediately divested himself of all his possessions and went into the desert to seek Christian perfection. This is really the calling of all Christians, as Jesus commanded, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:47). For this we are baptized, that we might seek Godly perfection. St. Anthony imitated Christ when he heard this gospel, and just as Jesus went out into the desert after his baptism by John, in order to foil the wiles of Satan, so, too, does Anthony go to the desert to conquer the evil passions exploited by the temptation of the devil.

The monastic calling is an intensification of our baptismal calling, the renunciation of all worldly concerns to find perfection in the grace of Christ. Therefore, in Eastern theology, consecration as a monastic (monk or nun) has been deemed a sacramental mystery, not a separate mystery, but as part of the mystery of repentance.

In a similar way, Holy Orders and Marriage are also considered sacramental mysteries, because they confirm the baptismal calling in a particular vocation of life. St. Anthony, then, is a model for our life in Christ through baptism, which is called enlightenment, the perfection of the wisdom that leads us to life. We pray, then, to our Holy Father Anthony, “Having clearly received immortality and eternal life, pray for my darkened soul to be enlightened by the light of grace, so that I may worthily praise you; for you bear the Three-fold Light, O Father Anthony! (Matins, Ode 1)” “O Anthony, father of fathers, you have been shown to be a light for those who share your way of life, having taught the pious to tread the paths of light; and you emit the flame and fire of lightning, consuming hordes of the demons. (Matins, Hymn of Light)”

St Philip the Apostle

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls Phillip, who immediately follows him. He then brings his friend Nathaniel to Jesus, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth. (John 1:45)” This is the feast to begin our Christmas preparation. Phillip leads us to the one true Messiah, the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. The child “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phillipians 2:6-8) It was not until he was to be arrested and executed, that Phillip understood the totality of the mystery he discovered. At the Last Supper, Phillip asked Jesus, “Master, show us the Father,” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Phillip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Every Christmas journey, we should become a more faithful follower of Jesus, especially in these days.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Remembering Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky

Remembering Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky, OSBM, today.

The Servant of God Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky (29 July 1865 – 1 November 1944) the long-serving, courageous and holy leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. As we have heard before, and bears repeating again today, Yale Professor Yaroslav Pelikan said, “Arguably, Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky was the most influential figure… in the entire history of the Ukrainian Church in the twentieth century.”

Of note, the parish KofC council is name for Sheptytsky; likewise a noteworthy theological institute in Toronto is also name for him: The Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies.

For more information read this wiki article.

St Luke

St Luke, convert, evangelist, physician, artist
 
Let us pray: “O holy apostle, Luke, entreat our merciful God to grant our souls the remission of sins.”
Historically we know that Luke was a physician by profession, schooled in Tarsus, which ranked with Athens and Alexandria as a center of learning. Greek by birth and he is regarded as an artist. Tradition preserves an account of an icon which Luke painted of the Theotokos during her lifetime. Pious belief traces to this prototype several icons, such as the Vladimir Mother of God, some icons on Athos, and one in Rome.
 
St Luke is the author of the third Gospel. His Gospel relates to us Jesus’ life and message in a manner that reflects the a concern for women, a strong compassion for the poor and outcast, and a spirit both joyful and urbane. You can speculate that these qualities were present in his own life as a physician and follower of Christ. When you study the works of St Paul you connect that Paul and Luke were close friends and traveling companions on several missionary journeys throughout the Gentile territory. Luke preserved an account of these travels in the Acts of the Apostles.

St Moses of Skete

On our liturgical calendar today, the Church remembers a saint many have not heard of, Moses of Skete in Egypt, sometimes called “Moses the black” or “Moses the Ethiopian.”

A biographer writes,

Moses must have been from Ethiopia or the Sudan, which would explain his surname. Before his conversion he lived as an outlaw in the Nitrian wilderness. The sayings about Moses in the Apothegmata stand out for their warmth and compassion, and even gentle humor.

In Skete, Moses was a disciple of Abba Isidore, and, like him, was made a priest for the monks of Skete. He was teased about being black, even on the day of his ordination, when he was robed in white, but Moses always had an answer that reflected wisdom rather than resentment.

The fathers were able to reform his character, but much of the personality of the old outlaw enlivens his stories, such as when he overcame four thieves who tried to rob his cell. He tied them up and carried them to the church. Dumping them on the ground, he asked the startled brothers, “I am not allowed to harm anyone; so, what is to be done with these?” (NS)

May St. Moses of Skete, intercede for us before God.