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.

St Maximus the Confessor

August 13 is the feast-day of St. Maximus. Because it is also the leave-taking of the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, the liturgical commemoration is transferred to Saturday. Today Maximus is considered one of the “pillars of Orthodoxy,” and Fr. John Meyendorff called him “the father of Byzantine theology.” His accomplishments are many – he was martyred because of his faithful defense of the incarnation of our Lord, that he was truly human in every way (except sin) and had a human will. He had to live many years in exile.

[Maximus] has become much more respected in recent years, I think, because his theology has much to say to the modern world. His theology of deification calls us to see the world as more than “materialism,” only what we can see or hear or touch. He teaches us that there is more to our existence, a spiritual dimension that surpasses bodily passions and concerns. Reading Maximus, however, can be very difficult. He was committed to Greek literary and rhetorical styles, appearing in long. convoluted sentences. He also used the vocabulary of Neo-Platonism, which few can understand today. Many of his works have been translated into English, and his best are the Four Centuries on Love, his Commentary on the Our Father and his work on the Liturgy, The Church’s Mystagogy. All are found in the Paulist Press series “The Classics of Western Spirituality,”: Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings,” translated by George Berthold.

Today, we pray: “Taking its abode within your heart, the thrice-brilliant light made you a chosen vessel. It has revealed heavenly things in you, O blessed saint. You made deep and complicated ideas clear to us, and you preached the eternal Trinity to everyone, O Maximus.“ (Kontakion)

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Ss. Boris and Gleb

Today, the Byzantine Church commemorates the holy protomartyrs of the Kievan-Rus’, Boris and Gleb, in baptism named Roman and David. They sit in opposition to the common approach to leadership and power among people.

When Russia’s first Christian prince, St Vladimir, died in 1015, his eldest son, Svyatopolk, attempted to consolidate his own position by eliminating his two half-brothers, Boris and Gleb. When Boris heard of his brother’s plans, he refused to defend himself and faced his death without fear or hatred. His younger brother also accepted his assassination without opposition.

Such murders were typical of the extremes of political struggle for power in a pagan society. Boris and Gleb sincerely believed that the good news of Jesus Christ, so recently preached in their own land, must change all of this. Thus, by their voluntary sacrifice to their brother’s lust for power, they bore witness to the command of Christ to love one another. The impact of their witness deeply affected the character of Russian spirituality.

These saints of the Orthodox faith were recognized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1724.                                                                                                       (NS)

St Macrina

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother, For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away, But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. Therefore your spirit, O Holy Mother Macrina, rejoices with the Angels! (Trop. 8)

The Byzantine Church commemorates today St. Macrina, recalled as “Our venerable mother, sister of saint Basil, the great.” It has been said that the family is where the seed of sanctity is planted and that saints beget saints. This is true for Macrina and her family: she is a saint among a family of saints. For us, Macrina is a certain guide to a deeper communion with the Most Holy Trinity. Holiness is possible.

Macrina was the older sister of the saints Basil and Gregory. After the early death of her husband, Macrina devoted herself to the education of her younger brothers. It was at this time, also, that she took up the monastic life, and it was due to her influence that her brothers learned the value of the spiritual life and dedication to the service of the Church.

The mother of this remarkable family, St. Emelia, guided a small community of nuns on the family estate in Pontus. Macrina succeeded her mother as the head of the monastery, and in time founded other communities for women.

She spent her last days (she died in 380) with her brother, St. Gregory, the bishop of Nyssa. The funeral oration he said over his sister is a moving testament to the love and esteem not only of a brother, but also one of many who were spiritually enriched by her example. Macrina was buried with her parents.