Tuesday, August 28, 2007

August 29:
The Holy Glorious Prophet,
Forerunner and Baptist John


O Saint John, wonderful Baptizer,

Of the Savior, you were the glorious Forerunner,

You, with your purity, touched human souls

And, as an awesome trumpet, from the Jordan resounded

From sleep and idle vices, awakening men,

When the axe was near to the root.

To you I bow, to you I pray:

Every temptation, help me to resist.

Prophet most powerful, to you I bow,

And before you kneel and before you I weep:

From your heart, grant me the strength of a lion,

From your spirit, grant me angelic whiteness.

Grant me your strength that by practice to attain

To God be submissive and to rule over myself,

To baptize by fasting, to purify by all-night vigils,

To sweeten by prayer and heavenly vision,

And to every martyrdom, walk without fear

With your courage and with a strong faith.

O Saint John, God's chosen one,

And glorious martyr for supreme justice,

You, of whom the godless armies are afraid

To my prayers, do not turn a deaf ear,

But, strengthen me by your prayers,

That as a true candle before the Lord, I stand.

- from the Prologue of Ohrid

Friday, August 24, 2007

Monastic Chorus from Valaam Monastery

Valaam is the monastery which sent the earliest Russian Orthodox missionaries to Alaska in the 1790s. This musical and visual feast is a magnificent glimpse into the life of these holy ascetics.

May Paradise consume us all!

(many thanks for the link to Fr Stephen Freeman at Glory to God for All Things)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Veneration of the Virgin Mary
in Orthodox Tradition

Reflections by Archbishop DMITRI

The Orthodox Church honors and venerates the Virgin Mary as "more honourable than the Cherubim and more glorious without compare than the Seraphim..." Her name is mentioned in every service, and her intercession before the throne of God is asked. She is given the title of "Theotokos" (Greek for "Birth-giver-of-God), as well as "Mother of God". She has a definite role in Orthodox Christianity, and can in no way be considered an instrument which, once used, was laid aside and forgotten.

Objections to the veneration of the Theotokos are based primarily on what is called "a lack of scriptural evidence to support such a practice." While it is true that the Church depends heavily on her Tradition other than Holy Scripture (Ecumenical Councils, liturgical books, and the writings of the Fathers) for details and the precise definition of the nature of the veneration of the Virgin Mary, there are several passages of the New Testament that really form the basis for our practice.

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to announce to the Virgin the birth of the Saviour: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women." (Luke 1:28) This angelic salutation forms a part of the hymn of the Church most frequently sung in her honor. Could we be wrong in repeating the words of the very messenger of God? Elizabeth, the Virgin's cousin, considered it an honor for the Mother of her Lord to visit her. "And whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43) Is there any real difference between saying "Mother of God" and "Mother of the Lord"? Surely, God is the Lord! (Psalm 118:27) In the course of her visit to Elizabeth, the Blessed Virgin spoke the words that form the principal hymn sung in her honor at the Matins service.

- From an article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Read it all here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

August 15: The Dormition of the Mother of God

The Lord Who, on Mt. Sinai, commanded by His Fifth Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12), showed by His own example how one should respect one's parent. Hanging on the Cross in agony, He remembered His mother and indicating to the Apostle John, said to her: "Woman behold your son" (St. John 19:26). After that, He said to John: "Behold your mother" (St. John 19:27). And so providing for His mother, He breathed His last. John had a home on Zion in Jerusalem in which the Theotokos settled and remained there to live out the end of her days on earth. By her prayers, gentle counsels, meekness and patience, she greatly assisted the apostles of her Son.

Primarily, she spent her entire time in Jerusalem often visiting those places which reminded her of the great events and of the great works of her Son. She especially visited Golgotha, Bethlehem and the Mount of Olives. Of her distant journeys, her visit to St. Ignatius the Theophorus [God-bearer] in Antioch is mentioned, as well as her visit to Lazarus (whom our Lord resurrected on the fourth day), the Bishop of Cyprus, her visit to the Holy Mountain [Athos] which she blessed and her stay in Ephesus with St. John the Evangelist [The Theologian] during the time of the great persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. In her old age, she often prayed to the Lord and her God on the Mount of Olives, the site of His Ascension, that He take her from this world as soon as possible. On one occasion, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed to her that within three days she will find repose. The angel gave her a palm-branch to be carried at the time of her funeral procession. She returned to her home with great joy, desiring in her heart once more to see in this life, all of the apostles of Christ.

The Lord fulfilled her wish and all of the apostles, borne by angels in the clouds, gathered at the same time at the home of John on Zion. With great rejoicing, she saw the holy apostles, encouraged them, counseled them and comforted them. Following that, she peacefully gave up her soul to God without any pain or physical illness. The apostles took the coffin with her body from which an aromatic fragrance emitted and, in the company of many Christians, bore it to the Garden of Gethsemane to the sepulchre of [her parents], Saints Joachim and Anna. By God's Providence, they were concealed from the evil Jews by a cloud. Anthony, a Jewish priest, grabbed the coffin with his hands with the intention of overturning it but, at that moment, an angel of God severed both his hands. He then cried out to the apostles for help and was healed since declaring his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Thomas was absent, again according to God's Providence, in order that a new and all-glorious mystery of the Holy Theotokos would again be revealed. On the third day, Thomas arrived and desired to venerate [kiss] the body of the Holy All-pure one. But when the apostles opened the sepulchre, they found only the winding sheet and the body was not in the tomb.

That evening, the Theotokos appeared to the apostles surrounded by a myriad of angels and said to them: "Rejoice, I will be with you always". It is not exactly known how old the Theotokos was at the time of her Falling Asleep but the overwhelming opinion is that she was over sixty years of age.


Thus spoke the Lord Most High

From your heart, Virgin pure,

Living water, to flow,

That, those who thirst, drink Christ -

Life-bearing Source,

We are all boastful of you!

So that the thirsty, drink Christ:

By Him, the bitter to be sweetened,

By Him, the blind to be washed

And by Him, the sorrowful, to heal their grief

Life-bearing Source

We are all boastful of you!

Beverage, from eternity arrived,

The arid time, the brook filled,

And again, toward the heavens raised;

The world exhausted, became refreshed-

Life-bearing source,

We are all boastful of you!

O All-pure One, glory to You,

O Mother of God, glory to You!

For us, to the Living Christ, You gave birth

The living water of grace -

Life-bearing source

We are all boastful of you!

- From the Prologue of Ochrid

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Are You Looking for the Church...

...that teaches the historic Christian Tradition, entire and undistorted?

...that worships in Beauty and in Truth?

...that never compromises the commands of Jesus Christ, but always has mercy on those who fall and struggle?

Come and see!

Make plans now to join us for Great Vespers on Saturday evening, August 11, at 5:00 PM and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, August 12, at 10:00 AM.

Our visiting priest, Fr Nikolay Miletkov, is a native of Bulgaria and a graduate of St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He is presently serving as assisting priest at St John of the Ladder Orthodox Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

Visitors are always welcome - join us as we pray!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

August 6: The Transfiguration of our Lord

We've just learned that Father Matthew Jackson and our friends at Christ the Saviour Church in McComb, Mississippi will be celebrating their Patronal Feastday this coming week. Vigil will be Saturday evening, August 5 at 6:00 PM and Divine Liturgy will be be Monday morning at 9:00 AM. For directions to the Church, see their website.

The Transfiguration of Christ is one of the central events recorded in the gospels. Immediately after the Lord was recognized by his apostles as "the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God," he told them that "he must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things … and be killed and on the third day be raised" (Mt 16). The announcement of Christ's approaching passion and death was met with indignation by the disciples. And then, after rebuking them, the Lord took Peter, James, and John "up to a high mountain" -- by tradition Mount Tabor -- and was "transfigured before them." (Mt 17:1-92, see also Mk 9:1-9; Lk 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18).

The Jewish Festival of Booths was a feast of the dwelling of God with men, and the transfiguration of Christ reveals how this dwelling takes place in and through the Messiah, the Son of God in human flesh. There is little doubt that Christ's transfiguration took place at the time of the Festival of Booths, and that the celebration of the event in the Christian Church became the New Testamental fulfillment of the Old Testamental feast in a way similar to the feasts of Passover and Pentecost

In the Transfiguration, the apostles see the glory of the Kingdom of God present in majesty in the person of Christ They see that in him, indeed, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell," that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 1:19, 2:9). They see this before the crucifixion so that in the resurrection they might know who it is who has suffered for them, and what it is that this one, who is God, has prepared for those who love him.