Category Archives: Adult Spiritual Education

The Nativity of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary: The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born at a time when people had reached such a degree of moral decay that it seemed altogether impossible to restore them. People often said that God must come into the world to restore faith and not permit the ruin of mankind. The Son of God chose to take on human nature for the salvation of mankind, and chose as His Mother the All-Pure Virgin Mary, who alone was worthy to give birth to the Source of purity and holiness. The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since St Anna was barren. Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God’s mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Sts Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple. Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Sts Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless. St Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. St Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God’s mercy on her family. The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious couple had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World. The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but also the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, so the Church sings in its festal hymns: “the East Gate... bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls” (2nd Stikhera on “Lord, I Have Cried”, Tone 6). The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great and comforting promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. This event has brought to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and everlasting life. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with filial devotion. https://oca.org/saints/lives/2016/09/08/102541-the-nativity-of-our-most-holy-lady-the-mother-of-god-and-ever-vi

THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

Transfiguration[1] In the third year of His preaching, the Lord Jesus often spoke to His disciples of His approaching passion but at the same time of His glory following His suffering on the Cross. So that His impending passion would not totally weaken His disciples and that no one would fall away from Him, He, the All-wise, wanted to partially show them His divine glory before His passion. For that reason, He took Peter, James and John with Him and, with them, went out at night to Mt. Tabor and there was transfigured before them: "And His face shone as the sun and His garments became white as snow" (St. Matthew 17:2). There appeared along side Him, Moses and Elijah, the great Old Testament prophets. And, seeing this, His disciples were amazed. Peter said: "Lord, it is good for us to be here: if You will, let us make here three tabernacles; one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (St. Matthew 17:4). While Peter still spoke, Moses and Elijah departed and a bright cloud overshadowed the Lord and His disciples and there came a voice from the cloud saying: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear Him" (St. Matthew 17:5). Hearing the voice, the disciples fell to the ground on their faces as though dead and remained that way, lying in fear, until the Lord came near to them and said: "Arise and be not afraid" (St. Matthew 17:7). Why did the Lord take only three disciples on Tabor and not all? Because Judas was not worthy to behold the divine glory of the Teacher, Whom he will betray and the Lord did not want to leave him [Judas] alone at the foot of the mountain so that the betrayer would not, by that, justify his betrayal. Why was our Lord transfigured on a mountain and not in a valley? So as to teach us two virtues: love of labor and godly-thoughts. For, climbing to the heights required labor and height represents the heights of our thoughts, i.e., godly-thoughts. Why was our Lord transfigured at night? Because, the night rather than the day is more suitable for prayer and godly-thoughts and because the night, by its darkness, conceals all the beauty of the earth and reveals the beauty of the starry heavens. Why did Moses and Elijah appear? In order to destroy the error of the Jews, as though Christ is one of the prophets; Elijah or Jeremiah or some other that is why He appears as a King above the prophets and that is why Moses and Elijah appear as His servants. Until then, our Lord manifested His divine power many times to the disciples but, on Mt. Tabor, He manifested His divine nature. This vision of His Divinity and the hearing of the heavenly witness about Him as the Son of God, should serve the disciples in the days of the Lord's passion, in strengthening of an unwavering faith in Him and His final victory. http://98.131.104.126/prolog/August6.htm

The All Consuming Love of God

Everyone will spend eternity in God’s presence According to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, heaven and hell are not about location, but about relationship. God is everywhere, and He did not create a heaven for some, and a hell for others. If we love God, His fire will be a comforting warmth, but if we choose not to have a relationship with Him, His fire will be as hell fire. We choose how we will experience the presence of God in the afterlife, and since God can not be absent from anywhere, those who have chosen to ignore Him, will, nevertheless, be in His presence for all of eternity. Saint Gregory, tells us that Paradise and Hell do not exist from God’s point of view, but from man’s point of view. It is all about man’s choice and condition. According to him, heaven and hell are not two different locations. They are simply two different experiences of the same place. Everyone will spend eternity in God’s presence, but how we experience the Divine Presence will depend upon the condition of our soul. Those who have been transformed by the action and work of the Holy Spirit, will experience God as light and bliss. Those who have rejected God’s love will experience it as pain and suffering. For the unbeliever and the unrepentant, their sins will not allow them to enjoy the Presence of God. Upon Christ’s Second Coming, everyone who has ever lived will see Him in His uncreated light, forever. For “those who worked good deeds in their lifetime will go towards the resurrection of life, while those who worked evil in their lifetime will go towards the resurrection of judgment (John.5:29)”. All will be separated at the moment of the final judgement, with the good experiencing paradise as exceedingly good, and radiant, while those who have rejected His love, and whose lives ended without repentance, will look upon Christ as hell, the “all-consuming fire” spoken of in Hebrews 12:29. It is from Christ’s Second Coming that the river of fire will flow forth. For the saints this river of fire will be a golden light, encompassing them as an eternal joy. Whereas, for the demons and the unrepentant, it will be as a burning hell fire. For this is the very reason we read in Luke 2:34, that Christ is “as the fall and the resurrection of many”. “Paradise and hell are not two different places.  (This version is an idolatrous concept.) They signify two different situations (ways), which originate from the same uncreated source, and are perceived by man as two, different experiences (Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlochos).” For those who reject the healing that has been offered, Christ will be their hell, their separation from the eternal bliss.  For the saints, Christ will be their resurrection into eternal life. This is why Saint John of the Ladder wrote that the uncreated light of Christ is “an all-consuming fire and an illuminating light”. This is why we say heaven and hell are not about location, they are about relationship. Heaven and Hell are within the same realm, which is in the presence of God. “When in the furnace of the blazing flame, Thy holy and faithful Youths proved to be as in a cool, refreshing dew, then did they mystically portray from before that Thou wast to come from a Virgin whom Thy brightness would not burn. As for Thy coming the second time in Thy dread glory as our God, the wondrous Prophet and righteous man, great Daniel, clearly hath foretold, when he cried out and said: I beheld until the thrones were set in place, and the Judge sat for judgment; and then rushed forth the river of that fire, from the which may we be saved by their entreaties, O our Master Christ” (to the melody “Paradise of Eden”) Love in Christ, Abbot Tryphon https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/2016/07/consuming-love-god/

Greatmartyr and Healer Panteleimon

PanteleimonThe Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon was born in the city of Nicomedia into the family of the illustrious pagan Eustorgius, and he was named Pantoleon. His mother St Euboula (March 30) was a Christian. She wanted to raise her son in the Christian Faith, but she died when the future martyr was just a young child. His father sent Pantoleon to a pagan school, after which the young man studied medicine at Nicomedia under the renowned physician Euphrosynus. Pantoleon came to the attention of the emperor Maximian (284-305), who wished to appoint him as royal physician when he finished his schooling. The hieromartyrs Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates, survivors of the massacre of 20,000 Christians in 303 (December 28), were living secretly in Nicomedia at that time. St Hermolaus saw Pantoleon time and again when he came to the house where they were hiding. Once, the priest invited the youth to the house and spoke about the Christian Faith. After this Pantoleon visited St Hermolaus every day. One day the saint found a dead child on the street. He had been bitten by a great snake, which was still beside the child’s body. Pantoleon began to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ to revive the dead child and to destroy the venomous reptile. He firmly resolved that if his prayer were fulfilled, he would become a follower of Christ and receive Baptism. The child rose up alive, and the snake died before Pantoleon’s eyes. After this miracle, Pantoleon was baptized by St Hermolaus with the name Panteleimon (meaning “all-merciful”). Speaking with Eustorgius, St Panteleimon prepared him to accept Christianity. When the father saw how his son healed a blind man by invoking Jesus Christ, he then believed in Christ and was baptized by St Hermolaus together with the man whose sight was restored. After the death of his father, St Panteleimon dedicated his life to the suffering, the sick, the unfortunate and the needy. He treated all those who turned to him without charge, healing them in the name of Jesus Christ. He visited those held captive in prison. These were usually Christians, and he healed them of their wounds. In a short time, reports of the charitable physician spread throughout the city. Forsaking the other doctors, the inhabitants began to turn only to St Panteleimon. The envious doctors told the emperor that St Panteleimon was healing Christian prisoners. Maximian urged the saint to refute the charge by offering sacrifice to idols. St Panteleimon confessed himself a Christian, and suggested that a sick person, for whom the doctors held out no hope, should be brought before the emperor. Then the doctors could invoke their gods, and Panteleimon would pray to his God to heal the man. A man paralyzed for many years was brought in, and pagan priests who knew the art of medicine invoked their gods without success. Then, before the very eyes of the emperor, the saint healed the paralytic by calling on the name of Jesus Christ. The ferocious Maximian executed the healed man, and gave St Panteleimon over to fierce torture. The Lord appeared to the saint and strengthened him before his sufferings. They suspended the Great Martyr Panteleimon from a tree and scraped him with iron hooks, burned him with fire and then stretched him on the rack, threw him into a cauldron of boiling tar, and cast him into the sea with a stone around his neck. Throughout these tortures the martyr remained unhurt, and denounced the emperor. At this time the priests Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates were brought before the court of the pagans. All three confessed their faith in the Savior and were beheaded (July 26). By order of the emperor they brought the Great Martyr Panteleimon to the circus to be devoured by wild beasts. The animals, however, came up to him and licked his feet. The spectators began to shout, “Great is the God of the Christians!” The enraged Maximian ordered the soldiers to stab with the sword anyone who glorified Christ, and to cut off the head of the Great Martyr Panteleimon. They led the saint to the place of execution and tied him to an olive tree. While the martyr prayed, one of the soldiers struck him with a sword, but the sword became soft like wax and inflicted no wound. The saint completed his prayer, and a Voice was heard from Heaven, calling the passion-bearer by his new name and summoning him to the heavenly Kingdom. Hearing the Voice, the soldiers fell down on their knees before the holy martyr and begged forgiveness. They refused to continue with the execution, but St Panteleimon told them to fulfill the emperor’s command, because otherwise they would have no share with him in the future life. The soldiers tearfully took their leave of the saint with a kiss. When the saint was beheaded, the olive tree to which the saint was tied became covered with fruit. Many who were present at the execution believed in Christ. The saint’s body was thrown into a fire, but remained unharmed, and was buried by Christians . St Panteleimon’s servants Laurence, Bassos and Probus witnessed his execution and heard the Voice from Heaven. They recorded the life, the sufferings and death of the saint. Portions of the holy relics of the Great Martyr Panteleimon were distributed throughout all the Christian world. His venerable head is now located at the Russian monastery of St Panteleimon on Mt. Athos. The veneration of the holy martyr in the Russian Orthodox Church was already known in the twelfth century. Prince Izyaslav (in Baptism, Panteleimon), the son of St Mstislav the Great, had an image of St Panteleimon on his helmet. Through the intercession of the saint he remained alive during a battle in the year 1151. On the Feast of the Great Martyr Panteleimon, Russian forces won two naval victories over the Swedes (in 1714 near Hanhauze and in 1720 near Grenham). St Panteleimon is venerated in the Orthodox Church as a mighty saint, and the protector of soldiers. This aspect of his veneration is derived from his first name Pantoleon, which means “a lion in everything”. His second name, Panteleimon, given him at Baptism, which means “all-merciful”, is manifest in the veneration of the martyr as a healer. The connection between these two aspects of the saint is readily apparent in that soldiers, receiving wounds more frequently than others, are more in need of a physician-healer. Christians waging spiritual warfare also have recourse to this saint, asking him to heal their spiritual wounds. The holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon is invoked in the Mystery of Anointing the Sick, at the Blessing of Water, and in the Prayers for the Sick. The Feast of the holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon is the patronal Feast of the Russian monastery on Athos. The forefeast starts eight days before the Feast. Each day after Vespers, Moliebens are sung with Canons in each of the eight tones. Thus, each day has its own particular Canon. The second day of the Feast is the monastery feastday. On this day a general Panikhida is served after Vespers in memory of the founders and benefactors of the monastery, and kollyva (kutia: wheat or rice boiled with honey) is blessed and distributed. The verses of the Ninth Ode of the Canon of the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon from the manuscript of the Athonite service are reprinted in the “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate” insert into lives values (0, 1975, No.3, pp. 45-47). http://oca.org/saints/lives/2016/07/27/102099-greatmartyr-and-healer-panteleimon

Sunday of the Synaxis of the Carpatho-Rus Saints

Lights From the Carpathians

 The Holy Spirit provides every gift:  He inspires prophecy and perfects the priesthood; He grants wisdom to the illiterate, makes simple fishermen become wise theologians, and establishes perfect order in the assembly of the Church. Therefore, O Comforter, equal in nature and majesty with the Father and the Son,O Lord, glory to You!

- Vespers of Pentecost

AllSaintsCarpathoRus224[1]

Many modern advertisers promote their products by showing a before/after picture of a person who used their cleaning product, diet pills, etc.  The point of the commercial or ad is to show results, that is, proof that the product “works”.  The two Sundays after Pentecost are a meditation and a celebration of the impact of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women throughout history.  It is in the lives of holy men and women – the Saints – that we see the fruit of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the reason why He was sent:  for the sanctification and enlightenment of the faithful.  The first Sunday after Pentecost is known as the Sunday of All Saints in which we honor all the known and unknown holy men and women throughout history who were sanctified by the descent Holy Spirit.  The second Sunday after Pentecost is another Sunday of All Saints but more focused:  it honors the holy men and women of a certain nation or region such as All Saints of Russia, All Saints of Mount Athos.  In 2005, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of blessed memory established within our Diocese the commemoration of All Saints of Carpatho-Rus on the second Sunday after Pentecost.  The descent of the Holy Spirit has produced many fruits of holiness and virtue among the people of Carpatho-Russia, even within our own time until the present day.  Along with the holy men and women of more ancient times such as Sts. Cyril and Methodius and St. Moses Uhryn there many modern examples of the work of the Holy Spirit: St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre  was one of the original Greek Catholic priests to arrive in America to minister to the Carpatho-Russian immigrants in the late 19th century.  Finding rejection and ignorance from the Roman Catholic bishops, he embraced the Orthodox Faith in 1891 and began a ministry of freeing the Carpatho-Russians from the domination of Rome.  He suffered lies, slander and violence as he ministered in the steel and mining towns of the United States.  He presented himself to the Lord from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1909. St. Maxym Sandovich served as a missionary priest among the Carpatho-Russians after his ordination in 1911.  After less than a year of ministry, he was arrested by the Catholic Austro-Hungarian authorities spending two years in prison.  Released in 1914, he continued his priestly ministry only to be arrested again within a few months.  This time Father Maxym was dragged before a firing squad, his priestly cross ripped from around his neck and he received the crown of a martyr on August 6, 1914. St. Gorazd Pavlik  Bishop of the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia who worked tirelessly to build up the Orthodox Faith in that nation and among the Carpatho-Russians.  When the German Nazi governor Heydrich was assassinated in 1942 the assassins fled to the Orthodox Cathedral in Prague.  Attempting to end the violence, Bishop Gorazd went to the Nazis and offered himself in exchange for the safety of his priests and his people.  Bishop Gorazd was arrested, tortured and executed by a Nazi firing squad on September 4, 1942. St. Alexis Kabalyuk of Khust, Apostle of Carpatho-Russia  Missionary among the Carpatho-Russian Greek Catholics who desired to return to the Orthodox Faith eventually leading over 14,000 people into Orthodoxy.  For his efforts, the Hungarian authorities arrested Father Alexis and sentenced him to four a half years in prison.  When Tsar Nicholas II heard of the priest’s sufferings, he awarded him a gold pectoral cross for his confession of the Faith.  Upon his release at the end of World War I, Father Alexis helped to establish the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox church.  He presented himself to the Lord peacefully in 1947 and was glorified as a saint in 2001. St. Job Kundria of Ugolka  St. Job was a monk, abbot of the monastery in Mukachevo and later exiled by the Communist authorities to the remote village church in Malaya Ugolka.  Here in the village church, Father Job faithfully served for 23 years, becoming known as a starets or elder as people flocked to him for advice and guidance.  He was known to be clairvoyant and the worker of miracles.  He died peacefully in 1985 and was glorified as a saint in 2007

Holy Saints of Carpatho-Rus, pray to God for us!

Along with these saints who have been officially recognized by the Church, there are many individuals whose light from the Holy Spirit burned brightly in the Carpathians but who have not yet been numbered among the Saints: Other Righteous Lights Joachim Vakarov  This Carpatho-Russian peasant was arrested by the Hungarian authorities in 1904 when he and his fellow villagers of Iza returned to the Orthodox Faith.  Sentenced to fourteen months in prison his land, home and livestock were auctioned to pay fines.  After his release from prison, he and his family were destitute.  Joachim was arrested again and this time tortured to death.  Since no Orthodox priest could legally minister in Carpatho-Russia, the villagers conducted his funeral. Abbess Nina  Born with the name Juliana Prokop she embraced a life of prayer and fasting at a young age.  In 1914 she and her companions were arrested, taken out in the middle of winter, stripped, drenched with water and beaten.  She was arrested again in 1918 and this time beaten almost to the point of death, remaining unconscious for three days.   Despite the torture, Juliana refused to renounced Orthodoxy or her monastic life.  She later becoming the abbess and founder of the Convent of Lipcha and Abbess of the Convent of St. Nicholas in Mukachevo where she lies buried. Father Theophan Sabov  was the administrator of the Mukachovo-Presov Diocese, arrested by the Communists and executed by them in 1945. Father Vasily Pronin  A spiritual son of St. John Maximovitch while living in Serbia, he was a priest-monk who labored in various parishes in Carpatho-Rus.  Clairvoyant elder and Spiritual Father of the Convent of St. Nicholas in Mukachevo.  A highly educated and cultivated man who spoke 14 languages he was described as a pastor who “loved everyone, forgave everyone and warms the hearts of all with his spiritual father’s love.  He died peacefully in 1997, having predicted the day of his death.  He was buried in the cemetery at the Convent of St. Nicholas but his body has since been placed in a shrine inside the church where healings are said to occur.

 Righteous men and women of Carpatho Rus:   Vicnaja jemu pamjat!    Eternal memory!

 To this list of righteous men and women of Carpatho-Rus, can we hope and pray that one day the name of His Eminence, Metropolitan Orestes Chornock can be added?  Confessor of the Faith?  He suffered much in his return to Orthodoxy:  court cases, slander, lies, deprivation.  Apostle?  He led at least 30,000 people in their embrace of the Orthodox Faith.  May his memory be eternal!   Vicnaja jemu pamjat!

- Father Edward Pehanich

http://www.acrod.org/readingroom/saints/carpathian-saints

Synaxis of All Saints

The Sunday following Pentecost is dedicated to All Saints, both those who are known to us, and those who are known only to God. There have been saints at all times, and they have come from every corner of the earth. They were Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, Monastics, and Righteous, yet all were perfected by the same Holy Spirit. The Descent of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to rise above our fallen state and to attain sainthood, thereby fulfilling God’s directive to “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16, etc.). Therefore, it is fitting to commemorate All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost. http://oca.org/saints/lives/2016/06/26/48-synaxis-of-all-saints

HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH PROCEEDS IN THE SPIRIT OF UNITY, DESPITE ABSENCES

KOLYMBARI (Chania, Crete), Greece – The work of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened June 20, 2016, the Feast of the Holy Spirit, at the Orthodox Academy of Crete after almost a thousand years and despite the decision of four Churches not to participate. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presides over the Council. The following nine Primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches and their respective honorable delegations are participating: His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of Romania, His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and all Greece, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland, His Beatitude Archbishop Rastislav of Czech Lands and Slovakia. Absent from the Council are their Beatitudes, Patriarch John of Antioch, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Patriarch Neophyte of Bulgaria and Patriarch Ilia of Georgia, Primates of their respective autocephalous churches. In his introductory address to the Council, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed his regret and pain for the absences of the sister Churches of Antioch, Russia, Bulgaria and Georgia, “an unpleasant surprise on the twelfth hour,” as he said. The Ecumenical Patriarch also said that even though they had sent the lists of their delegations and had fully participated in all the phases of preparation and therefore had every opportunity to put forth for discussion all the issues before they had agreed and signed, they are now using these issues as an excuse for their abstention. “This unprecedented attitude, he said, we are having trouble understanding.” His All-Holiness noted that “by striking at our unity we are striking ourselves.” He emphasized that none of us, none of our Churches can exist in isolation from the rest of the Orthodox Churches. We, Orthodox Christians, are not and should not behave as a federation of Churches. We are one Church, one body and we should resolve all our possible differences in the Synod. This is what we have received from our holy tradition and to that we should adhere to, said the Ecumenical Patriarch. Speaking about the question of how the abstentions might affect the work of the Holy and Great Council, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said, that in the long history of the Church, there were instances of intended or unintended absences of some members in convened local or ecumenical synods, but that did not at all impede the convening of those councils. The decision to convene the Holy and Great Council was Pan-Orthodox, said His All-Holiness, and it can and will go on with its work. The Primates of the Local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches in their turn, addressed greetings to the Council, unanimously expressing their joy and support for being present at this historic event. They reaffirmed their commitment to work together in unity to address the questions facing the Church in the contemporary world and to deepen co-operation in the future. His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus acknowledged the need for regular councils bringing together Hierarchs from around the world in order to develop a common response to pressing issues, including bio-ethical and environmental dilemmas. Addressing the mission of the Church in the world, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania underlined the need for repentance, while His Beatitude Archbishop Rastislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia underscored the fact that, in spite of their ethnic differences, Orthodox Christians are one people. Sunday of Pentecost The date of June 19 was the date of the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea in 325 AD. This fact was noted by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, as on June 19, 2016 the Holy and Great Council of 2016 AD commenced with the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy concelebration of the Holy Feast of Pentecost - calling all in unity. His All-Holiness posed the question at some point: coincidence or divine providence? His All-Holiness Bartholomew presided over a resplendent patriarchal concelebration of Pentecost with the Primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches. His Excellency the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos along with many other dignitaries and officials were in prayerful attendance. “A joyful day has now dawned,” said the Ecumenical Patriarch, at the opening of his Homily and said that today is a day of unity, as we are all united in the faith and the sacraments of our Church, adding, “The unity of the Orthodox Church and its faithful represents our mission. Our ecclesial unity does not take on the form of a federation, nor does it stem from the congregating around some mere human. It proceeds from and is made complete by our common faith, which is synonymous with salvation, with eternal life.” After the end of the Divine Liturgy and the Vespers of the Holy Spirit, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Primates of the Local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches and the President of Hellenic Republic, Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, attended a reception at the offices of the Archdiocese of Crete, hosted by His Eminence Archbishop Eirinaios of Crete. Official Luncheon by the President of Greece Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew offered a toast on behalf of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, at a luncheon hosted in their honor by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos. His All-Holiness thanked the beloved people of Greece for their prayerful presence and support to the work of the Holy and Great Council, promising that Orthodoxy shall fulfill her historic duty and responsibility. “Orthodoxy constitutes a real and permanent place of peaceful coexistence and stability in the modern – torn – world, a true source of peace for all the peoples. The word of the Orthodox Church is essential, because it proclaims the necessity of charity, love, and unity of mankind, as well as, the necessity of peaceful cooperation between the peoples of the earth, regardless of the religious faith of each,” said His All-Holiness. President Pavlopoulos, welcomed the convening of the Holy and Great Council in Crete, making references to the First Ecumenical Council, and the value of the Synodical System, “as the irreplaceable guarantee of the unity of the Orthodox Church.” He also said that the mission of the Holy and Great Council acquires universal dimensions, “since Christianity, with Orthodoxy as its epicenter, is called to defend besides everything else, the principles and values of European culture and western civilization in general, with emphasis on those of peace, democracy, freedom and justice.” An open and honest discussion In the ensuing days since its opening the Holy and Great Council considers and continues to discuss the six Pre-Conciliar Documents in the agenda: The Mission of the Orthodox Church in today’s World, the Orthodox Diaspora, Autonomy and the means by which it is proclaimed, the importance of Fasting and its observance today, Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World and the Sacrament of Marriage and its impediments. Extensive discussion on the pre-conciliar texts was held and various suggestions and clarifications were proposed by the Primates and individual Hierarchs of the local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches. “It is an experience of absolute freedom of expression of views and opinions without limits or hindrances of any kind. It is an honest and open discussion on very difficult and complex issues”, said His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America about the work of the Synod. His Eminence also underlined the importance of the manner in which Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presides at the Synod, saying it is “an exquisite, attentive and elegant way, which fosters an atmosphere of freedom and unity.” The Council will continue meeting through June 25, concluding with the Divine Liturgy on June 26. http://www.goarch.org/news/hgcouncil2-06242016

Holy Ascension

Ascension174[1] The Lord Jesus passed forty days on earth after His Resurrection from the dead, appearing continually in various places to His disciples, with whom He also spoke, ate, and drank, thereby further demonstrating His Resurrection. On this Thursday, the fortieth day after Pascha, He appeared again in Jerusalem. After He had first spoken to the disciples about many things, He gave them His last commandment, that is, that they go forth and proclaim His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. But He also commanded them that for the present, they were not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait there together until they receive power from on high, when the Holy Spirit would come upon them. Saying these things, He led them to the Mount of Olives, and raising His hands, He blessed them; and saying again the words of the Father's blessing, He was parted from them and taken up. Immediately a cloud of light, a proof of His majesty, received Him. Sitting thereon as though on a royal chariot, He was taken up into Heaven, and after a short time was concealed from the sight of the disciples, who remained where they were with their eyes fixed on Him. At this point, two Angels in the form of men in white raiment appeared to them and said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, Who is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven" (Acts 1:11). These words, in a complete and concise manner, declare what is taught in the Symbol of Faith concerning the Son and Word of God. Therefore, having so fulfilled all His dispensation for us, our Lord Jesus Christ ascended in glory into Heaven, and sat at the right hand of God the Father. As for His sacred disciples, they returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem, rejoicing because Christ had promised to send them the Holy Spirit. It should be noted that the Mount of Olives is a Sabbath's day journey from Jerusalem, that is , the distance a Jew was permitted to walk on the day of the Sabbath. Ecumenius writes, "A Sabbath day's journey is one mile in length, as Clement says in his fifth Stromatis; it is two thousand cubits, as the Interpretation of the Acts states." They draw this conclusion from the fact that, while they were in the wilderness, the Israelites of old kept within this distance from the Holy Tabernacle, whither they walked on the Sabbath day to worship God. http://www.goarch.org/chapel/saints_view?contentid=943&type=saints&date=6/9/2016&D=TH

Antipascha: St Thomas Sunday

thomassunday[1]Some icons depicting this event are inscribed “The Doubting Thomas.” This is incorrect. In Greek, the inscription reads, “The Touching of Thomas.” The Slavonic inscription is, “The Belief of Thomas.” When St Thomas touched the Life-giving side of the Lord, he no longer had any doubts. This day is also known as “Antipascha.” This does not mean “opposed to Pascha,” but “in place of Pascha.” Beginning with this first Sunday after Pascha, the Church dedicates every Sunday of the year to the Lord’s Resurrection. Sunday is called “Resurrection” in Russian, and “the Lord’s Day” in Greek. http://oca.org/saints/lives/2016/05/08/34-antipascha-st-thomas-sunday  

Orthodox Celebration of Holy Saturday

40619.p[1]The Liturgy held on the morning of Holy and Great Saturday is that of Saint Basil the Great. It begins with Vespers. After the entrance, the evening hymn 'O Gentle Light' is chanted as usual. Then the Old Testament readings are recited. They tell of the most striking events and prophecies of the salvation of mankind by the death of the Son of God. The account of creation in Genesis is the first reading. The sixth reading is the story of Israel's crossing of the Red Sea and Moses' song of victory - over Pharaoh, with its refrain: 'For gloriously is He glorified'. The last reading is about the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, and their song of praise with its repeated refrain: 'O praise ye the Lord and supremely exalt Him unto the ages.' In the ancient church the catechumens were baptized during the time of these readings. The Epistle which follows speaks of how, through the death of Christ, we too shall rise to a new life. After the Epistle, the choir chants, like a call to the sleeping Christ: 'Arise, O Lord, Judge the earth, for Thou shalt have an inheritance among all the nations... The deacon carries out the Book of the Gospels, and reads the first message of the resurrection from Saint Matthew. Because the Vespers portion of the service belongs to the next day (Pascha) the burial hymns of Saturday are mingled with those of the resurrection, so that this service is already full of the coming Paschal joy. After the reading of the Epistle, the priest follows the custom of tossing of laurel, saying: "Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth: for Thou shall take all heathen to Thine inheritance". The Cherubic hymn of this day is: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand with fear and trembling...", a thoughtful hymn of adoration and exaltation. The Divine Liturgy ends with the Communion Hymn: "So the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and He is risen to save us". Hymns of Holy Saturday Resurrectional Apolytikia When he took down Your immaculate Body from the Cross, the honorable Joseph wrapped it in a clean linen shroud with spices and laid it for burial in a new tomb. When You descended unto death, O Lord who yourself are immortal Life, then did You mortify Hades by the lightning flash of Your Divinity. Also when You raised the dead from the netherworld, all the Powers of the heavens were crying out: O Giver of life, Christ our God, glory be to You. The Angel standing at the sepulcher cried out and said to the ointment-bearing women: The ointments are appropriate for mortal men, but Christ has been shown to be a stranger to decay. Prokeimenon Arise, O God; judge the earth, for You shall inherit all the Gentiles. - See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/holy_saturday/learn/#sthash.PAKiF0uE.dpuf