Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple

feast-of-the-entrance-of-the-theotokos“The most pure Temple of the Savior; / the precious Chamber and Virgin; / the sacred Treasure of the glory of God, / is led today into the house of the Lord. / She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, / therefore, the angels of God praise her: / ‘Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.’” (Kontakion-Hymn of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple)

Today we have two great feasts celebrated in our churches: According to the so-called New Calendar, it is the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, and on the Older Calendar it is the feast of the Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Powers.

So let me reflect on both. Let me reflect on the visible “temple” of the Lord, the Mother of God, entering another visible temple, in Jerusalem, as “the angels of God praise Her.” Both She, and all visible “temples” of today, like us, and our church-buildings, have received the capacity to unite the visible and invisible created worlds, in the Coming of Her heretofore invisible Son in the flesh. We unite with the invisible creation in praise, as we “mystically represent” or “mystically become icons of” (μυστικῶς εἰκονίζοντες) the cherubim at every Divine Liturgy.

But amazingly, we also receive an honor that exceeds theirs, by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ as they do not. So today let me be humbled by the unique honor I am given in God’s one, created world, with the help of His invisible and visible servants. And let me follow His Most-Pure Mother into the Holy of Holies, into a Communion that even the angels are not given.

Sister Vassa Larin

Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska

josaphata-hordashevskaToday, November 20, is the feast day of Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska. Let us be united in prayer for Blessed Josaphata’s canonization.

Lord God, we praise and thank you for having called your servant, Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska, to uplift the hearts of the people in Ukraine, through evangelization,  education and care of those in need. As Co-Foundress, she was the first to live the charism of a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate. Her virtuous life and evangelical witness encouraged her Sisters to go beyond the borders, bringing the Gospel message to all people. May our prayers for her canonization be for your greater glory and the spiritual good of souls. Grant us the graces for which we humbly pray, through her intercession. Amen.

27th Sunday after Pentecost

gathering-the-harvest-bortoloniMeditation by Very Rev. Dr. David Petras
Ephesians 6:10-17; Luke 12:16-21

“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God. (Luke 12:20-21)” This is a message of “good news” that Jesus, our Lord and God, shares with us often. In the gospel of St. Matthew, he tells us, “But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. (Matthew 6:20)” And: “Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.(Matthew 6:28)” This is certainly a timely message for this Thanksgiving week, when we express gratitude to God for all the blessings we have received. Sometimes we think only of the material goods we own. I always remember one of my parishioners in the day I was active in a parish, he always gleefully said, “Here comes Turkey Day,” forgetting that it is the day of returning gratitude to God. We should also give thanks for our family, our friends and our neighbors, without whom we would have no human life. But even more than this, we give thanks for God’s gifts, for the “heavenly bread” of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and for the gifts of the Spirit, many of which are mentioned in today’s Epistle: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the gift of the Spirit himself. Yes, we give thanks in the midst of “the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12)” But it is God who will bring us to salvation, and for this is our eucharistia, our thanksgiving.

St. Josaphat

st-josaphatSt. Josaphat (1580-1623) was born to a devout religious family of Ruthenian ancestry in what is now Ukraine, and was baptized in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He devoted his virginity to the Virgin Mary and grew in his reverence for ancient liturgy. During a revival of Eastern Catholic monastic life he became a monk in the Order of St. Basil, and was ordained to Holy Orders in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1609. He was noted for his life of asceticism, holiness, and virtue which led to his appointment as Archbishop of Polotsk in what is today Belarus. During his lifetime there was much sociopolitical and ecclesiastical rivalry between the Catholics and Orthodox and the Latin and Byzantine rites, especially in the wake of the 1596 Union of Brest which saw the Ruthenian Church break with Orthodox and place itself under the authority of the Holy See. St. Josaphat was passionate about working for the reunification with Rome and won many heretics and schismatics back to communion with the Holy See. However, he was also strongly opposed to the Latinization of his people. This combination of views drew ire from both Catholic and Orthodox clergy. His diocese was contested by the Orthodox, and a rival Orthodox bishop was set up to oppose him, causing riots. During one uprising Josaphat tried to calm the tensions and work for reunification and peace, but his enemies plotted to kill him. A mob of Orthodox Christians entered Josaphat’s home, stabbed and axed his body and threw it into a river. His body was seen glowing in the water and was recovered, and after his martyrdom many miracles were attributed to his intercession. Josaphat’s sacrifice became a blessing as regret and sorrow over his death converted many hearts toward reunification with Rome. In 1867 Josaphat became the first saint of the Eastern Church to be formally canonized by Rome. His feast day is November 12.

26th Sunday after Pentecost

good-samaritanMeditation by the Very Rev. Dr. David M. Petras
Ephesians 5:9-19; Luke 10:25-37

This gospel must be read very carefully. Jesus tells a story to make a point. It is just a story, it didn’t happen. However, we get the point. The scholar of the law knew the basic message of faith. We must love God and we must love our neighbor as ourselves. Then he asked a question to justify himself. He saw a loophole in Jesus’ teaching. Yes, love your neighbor, but who is your neighbor? That is the problem. Jesus then tells a story in which those you would expect naturally to give help to the beaten man, the priest and the levite (in early Christianity, another name for deacon, one who gives service) pass the poor man without a thought. Who gives help? It is the “other,” the heretics to the Jews, the hated Samaritan. He, the “other,” shows mercy. Whether this story happened or not is irrelevant. Jesus tells us that our neighbor may be someone we do not expect. Therefore, we cannot “justify ourselves” by prejudice and racism, by hating the other. This gospel preaches itself. When I was a young priest, the “other” in our church were blacks and Jews. Today they are immigrants and Moslems. And we, like the “scholar of the law,” are still racists. Racism is the ugly face of our church today. It blocks us from being “true-believing Christians.” The scholar got the point, but he still couldn’t say the hated word, “Samaritan,” but only “the one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus responds “Go and do likewise,” that is, do not hate the other, but always show mercy and care for the other. God’s word is clear, but do we have eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear? “Awake, O sleeper and rise from the dead (the death of the sin of racism), and Christ will give you light. (Ephesians 5:14)”