Friday, November 30, 2007

November 30: Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called

Andrew, the son of Jonah and brother of Peter, was born in Bethsaida and was a fisherman by trade. At first he was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but when St. John pointed to the Lord Jesus, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36), Andrew left his first teacher and followed Christ. Then, Andrew brought his brother Peter to the Lord. Following the descent of the Holy Spirit, it fell by lot to the first apostle of Christ, St. Andrew, to preach the Gospel in Byzantium and Thrace, then in the lands along the Danube and in Russia around the Black Sea, and finally in Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, where he suffered. In Byzantium, he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop; in Kiev, he planted a Cross on a high place and prophesied a bright Christian future for the Russian people; throughout Thrace, Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, he converted multitudes of people to the Faith and ordained bishops and priests for them. In the city of Patras, he performed many miracles in the name of Christ, and won many over to the Lord. Among the new faithful were the brother and wife of the Proconsul Aegeates. Angered at this, Aegeates subjected St. Andrew to torture and then crucified him. While the apostle of Christ was still alive on the cross, he gave beneficial instructions to the Christians who had gathered around. The people wanted to take him down from the cross but he refused to let them. Then the apostle prayed to God and an extraordinary light encompassed him. This brilliant illumination lasted for half an hour, and when it disappeared, the apostle gave up his holy soul to God. Thus, the First-called Apostle, the first of the Twelve Great Apostles to know the Lord and follow Him, finished his earthly course. St. Andrew suffered for his Lord in the year 62. His relics were taken to Constantinople; his head was later taken to Rome, and one hand was taken to Moscow.

- from the Prologue of Ohrid

Friday, November 23, 2007

Don't forget...

Vespers on Saturday, November 24 at 5:00 PM

Adult Catechism on Sunday, November 25 at 9:15 AM

Typika on Sunday, November 25 at 10:00 AM

Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is full of power.
Thy right arm controls the whole course of human life.
We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen.
For eternal life, for the heavenly joys
of the Kingdom which is to be.

Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise,
both now and in the time to come.
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.
- Kontakion 1 from the Akathist Hymn, "Glory God for All Things"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

November 21:
Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple

Our modern world… has become monotonous and feastless. Even our secular holidays are unable to hide this settling ash of sadness and hopelessness, for the essence of celebration is this breaking in, this experience of being caught up into a different reality, into a world of spiritual beauty and light. If, however, this reality does not exist, if fundamentally there is nothing to celebrate, then no manner of artificial uplift will be capable of creating a feast.

Here we have the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. Its subject is very simple: a little girl is brought by her parents to the temple in Jerusalem. There is nothing particularly remarkable about this, since at that time it was a generally accepted custom and many parents brought their children to the temple as a sign of bringing them into contact with God, of giving their lives ultimate purpose and meaning, of illumining them from within through the light of higher experience.

But on this occasion, as the service for the day recounts, they lead the child to the “Holy of Holies,” to the place where no one except the priests are allowed to go, the mystical inner sanctum of the temple. The girl’s name is Mary. She is the future mother of Jesus Christ, the one through whom, as Christians believe, God himself came into the world to join the human race, to share its life and reveal its divine content. Are these just fairy tales? Or is something given to us and disclosed here, something directly related to our life, which perhaps cannot be expressed in everyday human speech?

Here was this magnificent, massive, solemn temple, the glory of Jerusalem. And for centuries it was only there, behind these heavy walls, that a person could come into contact with God. Now, however, the priest takes Mary by the hand, leads her into the most sacred part of the Temple and we sing that “The most pure Temple of the Savior is led into the temple of the Lord.” Later in the Gospels Christ said, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” but as the Evangelist added, “he spoke of the temple of His Body” (John 2:19, 21).

The meaning of all these events, words and recollections is simple: From now on man himself becomes the temple. No stone temple, no altar, but man—his soul, body, and life—is the sacred and divine heart of the world, its “holy of holies.” One temple, Mary—living and human—is led into a temple made of stone, and from within brings to completion its significance and meaning.

- from Father Alexander Schmemann’s Celebration of Faith, Vol. 3 – The Virgin Mary, pages 26-27

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nativity Fast, Patronal Feast, and more...

The Nativity Fast, our six-week preparation for the celebration of Christmas, began November 15. It is customary for Orthodox Christians to increase our devotion to the ascetical disciplines of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and works of mercy in an effort to deepen our openess to God's mercy and grace during this holy season.

On Thursday, November 15, we began the fast with a work of mercy - hosting LouFEAT's latest workshop on teaching children with Autism. Around 30 parents and educators participated in this day-long event.

Friday, November 16, was our Patronal Feastday commemorating the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. We were privileged to have Father Matthew Jackson and a number of friends from Christ the Saviour Church in McComb join us for Divine Liturgy.

We were also delighted to have Father Matthew return on Sunday afternoon, November 18, for our first "Third Sunday at 3:00PM" service of Typika with Holy Communion. We shared a festive coffee hour following the service.

Because of all of the mission work going on in our Diocese, it is becoming increasingly difficult to schedule priests for a Sunday morning Liturgy. In conversation with our mission director, Father Ted Pisarchuk, Father Matthew has agreed to come on the third Sunday afternoon of each month to serve the Sacramental Mystery of Holy Communion from the Presanctified Gifts.

Many Years to Father Matthew on his Name Day! And to our Mission Church!

Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, pray to God for us, for you are the sure helper and intercessor for our souls!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Important Schedule Changes...

Friday, November 16
Patronal Feastday Commemorating
Saint Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist

Divine Liturgy 10:00 AM
Father Matthew Jackson, Celebrant

Sunday, November 18
Typika with Holy Communion 3:00 PM
Followed by a Festive Coffee Hour
(within the parameters of the Nativity Fast)
Father Matthew Jackson, Celebrant
No Morning Catechism or Services this Day

Monday, November 05, 2007

November 8: Synaxis of the Archangel Michael
and the Other Bodiless Powers

The Synaxis of the Chief of the Heavenly Hosts, Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers: Archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel was established at the beginning of the fourth century at the Council of Laodicea, which met several years before the First Ecumenical Council. The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration.

A Feastday was established in November, the ninth month after March (with which the year began in ancient times) since there are Nine Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was chosen for the Synaxis of all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven since the Day of the Dread Last Judgment is called the Eighth Day by the holy Fathers. After the end of this age (characterized by its seven days of Creation) will come the Eighth Day, and then "the Son of Man shall come in His Glory and all the holy Angels with Him" (Mt. 25:31). (from the Menologion at

In his Catechism, Bishop HILARION writes,

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen.1:1). Traditionally these verses of the Bible are understood as pointing to the two worlds created by God — one invisible, spiritual and intelligible, and the other visible and material. We have already said that there are no abstract concepts in biblical language and spiritual realities are often expressed by the word ‘heaven’. Christ speaks of the Kingdom of heaven, and in the Lord’s prayer we say, ‘Our Father Who art in heaven... Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt.6:9-10). It is obvious that reference is not being made to visible material sky. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual, not a material, Kingdom in which God abides, for by nature He is Spirit. And when we read that He ‘created the heavens’, this means the spiritual world and its inhabitants, the angels.

God created the angelic world before the visible universe. The angels are incorporeal spirits who possess reason and free will. St John of Damascus speaks of them being ‘ever in motion, free, incorporeal, ministering to God’, of their rational, intelligent and free nature. He calls the angels ‘secondary spiritual lights, who receive their brightness from the first Light which is without beginning’. Located in direct proximity to God, they are sustained by His light and convey this light to us.

Angels are actively engaged in the unceasing praise of God. Isaiah describes his vision of God around whom the seraphim stand and proclaim: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’ (Is.6:1-3). Yet the angels are also heralds sent by God to people (the Greek word aggelos means ‘messenger’, ‘herald’): they take a vital and active part in the life of every person. Thus the archangel announces to Mary that she will bear a Son called Jesus; angels come and minister to Jesus in the wilderness; an angel supports Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Christ Himself indicates that every person has his own guardian angel (cf. Matt.18:10) who is his companion, helper and protector.

According to the traditional teaching of the Church, not all angels are equal in dignity and closeness to God: various hierarchies exist among them. In the treatise The Celestial Hierarchy, attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, the author counts three angelic hierarchies, each of which is divided into three ranks. The first and highest contains the seraphim, cherubim, thrones; the second, dominions, powers, authorities; the third, principalities, archangels, angels.

In is celestial hierarchy the upper ranks are illumined by the Divine light and partake of the mysteries of the Godhead directly from the Maker, while the lower ranks receive illumination only by devolution through the higher ranks. According to Dionysius, the angelic hierarchy finds its continuation and reflection in the ecclesiastical hierarchy of sacraments, clergy and the faithful. Thus, the ecclesiastical hierarchy partakes of the Divine mystery through the mediation of the celestial hierarchy. Biblical tradition speaks of the number of angels in general terms: there are a ‘thousand thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand’. The angels certainly outnumber human beings. St Gregory of Nyssa sees in the image of the lost sheep the entire human race, while he takes the ninety-nine sheep who stayed in the hills to be the angels.