Sunday, February 25, 2007

The First Sunday of Great Lent:
The Sunday of Orthodoxy

In the Orthodox tradition the icon is not merely an adornment in the church building or an object to be used in worship: people pray before it, they kiss it and treat it as a sacred object.

In spite of the existence of icons from distant antiquity there have at various times been tendencies opposed to the veneration of icons. In the seventh and eighth centuries these tendencies culminated in the iconoclast heresy that was condemned at the Seventh Ecumenical Council. The perennial accusation of the iconoclasts against the venerators of icons was that of idolatry. The basic argument was the Old Testament prohibition to depicting God: ‘You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God’ (Ex.20:4-5). It is obvious, however, that the words quoted are directed at the idols of pagan peoples who worshipped them.

The New Testament is the revelation of God Who became man and Who could be seen by people. That which is invisible cannot be depicted in images, while that which is visible can be depicted as it is no longer the product of fantasy, but a reality. St John of Damascus presents us with the notion that the Old Testament prohibition of depicting the invisible God points towards the possibility of depicting Him when He becomes visible: ‘It is obvious that when you contemplate God becoming man, then you may depict Him clothed in human form. When the invisible One becomes visible to flesh, you may then draw His likeness... Use every kind of drawing, word, or colour’.

The iconoclast heresy of the eighth century was a continuation of the Christological heresies discussed at earlier Ecumenical Councils. The defense of icons became a defense of the belief in the Incarnation of Christ, for iconoclasm was one of the ways of denying the reality of this Incarnation. For the Orthodox, the icon is not an idol substituting the invisible God, but a symbol and sign of His presence in the Church. The Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council concurred with St Basil the Great in saying that ‘the honour rendered to the image goes over to the Prototype’. The Council insisted that, in bowing down to the icon, the Christian does not worship wood and colours, but the one depicted on wood — Christ, the Holy Virgin, the saints. There is therefore nothing in common between idolatry and the veneration of icons. The icon is not something standing before the human person as a sole and self-sufficient object for worship. It is not even something placed between the person and God. To use the expression of Fr Paul Florensky, the icon is a window onto the other world: through the icon the human person comes into direct contact with the spiritual world and those who live there.

excerpted from Bishop HILARION Alfeyev's online catechism

Monday, February 12, 2007

Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!

With great joy and a generous pre-Lenten feast, we were delighted to welcome Father Ted Pisarchuk to Baton Rouge for services on February 10-11, 2007. A congregation of sixteen, composed of both familiar faces and several visitors, received gracious words of encouragement and blessing from our diocesan missions and evangelism director.

Father Ted preached on the appointed Gospel passage in which our Lord Jesus Christ describes the Last Judgment of the nations as the separation of the sheep (those who showed love and compassion) from the goats (those who failed to do so). Describing the Christian life as a continuing, disciplined effort to trade our "goat's horns" in exchange for "lamb's wool," Father Ted exhorted us to share the Orthodox Faith both in word and deed with a hungry and hurting world.

The congregation was treated to an additional surprise upon their arrival at the mission. Thanks to a generous Christmas gift, a large three-bar Orthodox Cross has been installed on our roof-facade and new signs are now prominently displayed in our front windows. This will provide us with much-needed visibility to passers-by on O'Neal Lane and Hewwood Avenue.

Glory to God for all things! Glory to Jesus Christ forever!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Welcoming Father Ted Pisarchuk:
February 10-11
Sunday of the Last Judgment
Meatfare Sunday

Our visiting priest for this coming weekend will be our diocesan Missions and Evangelism Coordinator, Fr Ted Pisarchuk.

It's been almost a year since Fr Ted's last visit, so we look forward to sharing the good news of all that is going on in our congregational life.

Remember to join us for Great Vespers at 5:00 PM Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy at 10:00 AM Sunday morning. And be sure to browse the new titles in the book shop!

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Meeting of our Lord in the Temple
Today the Church commemorates an important event in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:22-40). Forty days after His birth the God-Infant was taken to the Jerusalem Temple, the center of the nation's religious life. According to the Law of Moses (Lev. 12:2-8), a woman who gave birth to a male child was forbidden to enter the Temple of God for forty days. At the end of this time the mother came to the Temple with the child, to offer a young lamb or pigeon to the Lord as a purification sacrifice. The Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, had no need of purification, since she had given birth to the Source of purity and sanctity without defilement. However, she humbly fulfilled the requirements of the Law.

At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he should behold the promised Messiah. By inspiration from above, St Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and St Joseph had brought the Infant Jesus to fulfill the Law.

The God-Receiver Simeon took the divine Child in his arms, and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32). St Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).

At the Temple was the 84-year-old widow Anna the Prophetess, daughter of Phanuel (February 3), "who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. She arrived just when St Simeon met the diving Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:37-38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: "This Child has established Heaven and earth."

Before Christ was born, righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous people of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet the Savior in the Temple.

The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons on the Feast by the holy bishops Methodius of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilocius of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated so splendidly until the sixth century.

In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverence from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.

The above is excerpted from the Menologion at

For more on the Feast, see Fr Stephen Freeman's meditation over on Glory to God for All Things.