Reminder – Pentecost is this Sunday (new calendar): Byzantines, remember to wear the green. The tradition of wearing green on Pentecost is mostly a Slavic tradition, but it is one that we all can embrace because of green being a symbol of new life in the Holy Trinity.
Our celebration of Pentecost –the coming of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus before He ascended to the Father– is a constant reminder of our own ” baptism by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1 :5)
St. John Chrysostom (d . 407) admonished the faithful of his time not to celebrate the feast superficially, only adorning their homes with garlands (flowers), but rather spiritually adorning their souls with virtues in order to be more able to receive abundant fruits of the Holy Spirit (II Homily on Pentecost).
The Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Ascension will be served on May 26, at 9:00 a.m. (in English & Ukrainian)
The ascension is our hope for deification. The Word of God came among us and took on our human nature in all it fullness, except for sin, and in the ascension takes this human nature to glory at the right hand of the Father. Yet for all this, the Lord did not leave us, as he says, “ And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)” We receive his risen body and blood in Communion, he speaks to us through the Holy Gospel, and he sanctifies us with the power of his Holy Spirit. God cannot leave us, for as our Creator, he loves us and brings us to perfection. From this day, therefore, we greet one another, “Christ is among us.” “He is and will be.”
Traditionally this homily of the great bishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom is read at the Easter Vigil. In fact, the Church asks that the priest make this homily his own in the sense that the theology St. John speaks is the authentic, orthodox teaching of the Church. The experience of the saint of the resurrection becomes the received experience of the faithful. It is offered here now, two weeks following Holy Pascha, for us to reflect upon and to verify for ourselves the truth found in the homily. Christ is risen!
LET ALL PIOUS MEN and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late, for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and is generous to the other; he repays the deed and praises the effort.
The following reflection is written by Deacon Nicholas Denysenko, PhD. Deacon Nicholas is a professor of theology and holder of the Jochum Chair at Valparaiso University (IN). He is a greater thinker and preacher. Here is a key for our reflection at Easter (Pascha).
Of all the religious observances that belong to the people, Orthodox Easter is among the greatest. People spend hours on their feet, kneading, baking, preparing foods, both savory and sweet. They perfect their grooming, wearing their finest clothes for the occasion.
For many, Orthodox Easter is pure joy. Laughing, sharing stories, playing games, and hanging out with your loved ones. Breathing the fresh air together, lighting candles, and singing. It is joy for one simple reason: God has made all things well. God has opened the doors to us and said, come home. God has set a table with the finest foods, has appointed musicians to play the loveliest music.
The mystery of the incarnation is not simply a historical commemoration. It is entering into the reality of God sharing our bodiliness. For in Jesus, God becomes a human being that we might share in his divinity. This is the deeper meaning of Christ’s birth — a process that is continued through his life, ministry, passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Ultimately Jesus brings the whole of creation with him when he ascends to the Father. He ‘ascends’ so that he can be universally present — indeed omnipresent — through the very matter that seemingly hides his presence.
Today, May 6, in the Byzantine Church following the Gregorian calendar, it is the feast of half-Pentecost (half of the Pascal Time). Now is the time to think about what gift of the Holy Spirit you are going to ask for (there are 7).
Let’s attend to the Gospel text of today (John 7: 14-30):
verse: 14: We were already in the middle of the week of the feast when Jesus went up to the Temple; and there he was teaching.
verse 15: The Jews were astonished and said, “How is he educated without studying?”
verse 16: Jesus answered them, ” My teaching is not from me, but from Him who sent me.
verse 17: Does anyone want to do the will of God, he will know if this teaching comes from God, or if I speak on my own initiative.”
“The tomb being sealed (Ἐσφραγισμένου τοῦ μνήματος / Запечатану гробу), as Life, You shone forth, O Christ God; / And the doors being shut (καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων / и дверем заключенным), You came before the disciples, O Resurrection of all, / Renewing in us, through them, an upright spirit, // By the greatness of Your mercy!” (Troparion-hymn of Thomas Sunday)
One week after His resurrection, when Thomas was with the rest of the disciples, “Jesus came, the doors being shut (τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων), and stood in their midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (Jn 20: 26) – Just as He did one week earlier (Jn 20: 19), despite their preceding lack of faith and fears, which had “shut the doors” not only of their house, but of their hearts and minds.
For if you change from inhumanity to alms giving, you have stretched forth the hand that was withered. If you withdraw from theaters and go to the church, you have cured the lame foot. If you draw back your eyes from a harlot, and a beauty not your own, you have opened them when they were blind. If instead of satanical songs, you have learned spiritual psalms, being dumb, you have spoken. These are the greatest miracles, these the wonderful signs…