Sunday of the myrrh-bearers

Two weeks ago we celebrated Pascha, the holy resurrection from the dead of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Why do the myrrh-bearers factor into our theological formation?

Recall that Jesus encounters myrrh twice: at the beginning and the end of his life. The gifts of the Wise Men were of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Myrrh is an aromatic oil that was used in burial to cover the stench of death. In the Middle East the oder of death is unforgettable in the heat. This practical gift, while thoughtful, also had a deeper, mystical meaning for Jesus and for us who follow him: the wise men foretold that the death of Jesus would be his glory, as we see especially in the Gospel of John. Theologians will say “It was his glory because his death on the Cross was the revealing manifestation of God’s infinite love for his creation. By death Jesus showed forth the victory of love, “trampling upon death by death and granting life to those in the graves” (DP).

One of the troparia sung today is dedicated Joseph of Arimathea, a secret follower of Jesus who becomes a caretaker of the mortal remains by taking the body off the cross, wrapping it in pure linen, anointing the body with spices (myrrh) and laying the Lord in a new tomb. Joseph’s mercy is remarkable because he brings us into deeper focus as to who Jesus was and who he is to become: The Christ —the Messiah (the Anointed One).

First Joseph and now the women. The anxiety of getting the body Jesus attended to fast due to political concerns meant that Jesus burial process was completed by Joseph. The women’s intentions were interrupted by an angel saying that on the third day, Sunday, “He is not here, he is risen.” The Myrrh-bearers have their mission changed from anointing to announcing the resurrection.

Thomas Sunday

Today is the eighth day of the celebration of the eighth day. Pascha! The Resurrection of our Lord! The Feast of Feasts!

Today we hear the Gospel reading of the Apostle Thomas coming to the Risen Lord and realizes in truth who Jesus is: the Messiah.

Today also marks the institution of the Lord of the Mystery (sacrament) of Reconciliation –the confession and forgiveness of sin. Just as the Lord institutes the Mystery of the Eucharist on what we call Great and Holy Thursday, the Church teaches that today is a commemoration of this divine act of Mercy: forgiveness of sins. Together we say with St. Thomas, My Lord and my God.

Christ is risen. Truly he is risen!

What is Pentecost?

Pentecost is the fiftieth day, “the last and greatest day of the feast.” In the New Testament, this story is told only in the Acts of the Holy Apostles (Acts 2:1-12). On this day, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in the form , “as of fire” and they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3). From this event, some observations can be made:

– This fulfills the promise made by the risen Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, “And[behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

– This was in the upper room, where the risen Lord came to the disciples through locked doors.

– There were twelve apostles, Matthias having been elected to replace the traitor Judas, as “a witness to [Jesus’] resurrection (Acts 1:22).”

– There were about one-hundred and twenty people present. Perhaps this was a symbolic number, for ten people were needed for a prayer group, hence, twelve apostles plus ten people for each apostle. The Spirit comes upon this gathering of communities.

– “As of fire,” the fire indicates the light of faith and the warmth of love.

– By the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles are transformed from frightened followers to fearless witnesses. To be a Christian means to be a witness to life, to the Resurrection, this can be done only by the grace of God.

– Bystanders from every nation heard the apostles in their own language. The scripture does not tell us that the apostles spoke simultaneously in a variety of languages, but that the listeners heard them in their own language. What we appropriate, then, is the witness of the apostles to the resurrection and faith in Jesus. This is the wellspring of our faith, which we profess always in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

Pentecost 2023

“Christ our God, praised be thee. Whom thou hast made the fishers of all ways and sent down the Holy Spirit. You captured the world through her. Lover of humanity, glory be to thee” (Pentecost troparion).

Divine Liturgy is at 9:00 a.m. (in English) and 10:30 a.m. (in Ukrainian).

Let us pray these words: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30).

Mid-Pentecost

Mid-Pentecost, however, is more than a mathematical indicator of a passage of time. It is really the revelation and manifestation of the reality that Pascha and Pentecost are truly on feast, “God with us.” Our Lord promised his apostle in the Last Discourse, “I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you … when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming” (John 16:7.13).

And again, our Lord promised, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And again, our Lord taught, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:39).

Mid-Pentecost is the celebration of a new reality, that the Lord has not left us orphans, that God is now closer to us than ever before. It is a eucharistic feast of the presence of God. All of this is God’s wisdom, and so the icon is of our Lord teaching in the Temple as a young boy, revealing the wisdom of God to the elders. We sing in joy today: “The midpoint of the feast has arrived; the days which begin with the Resurrection of the Savior and are fulfilled in the divine Feast of Pentecost.

Truly it unites both feasts and draws from their double brightness, giving honor to the ascension of the Lord, which prefigures our glory.”

Green for Pentecost

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).

READ:

Byzantine Catholics and the Feast Of Pentecost: “Your good Spirit shall lead me into the land of righteousness. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

 

Ascension of the Lord, 2022

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.”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Ascension of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ

Today, is the 40th day from the feast of Easter: the Church commemorates the Ascension of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ to the Father’s right hand.

This brief podcast by Father Volodymyr leads us a little deeper into this mystery of our Faith. This young priest serves in the Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

 

Enter the Lord’s joy

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.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.