Thursday, January 31, 2008

February 2: The Meeting of our Lord
Jesus Christ in the Temple

As recorded in the Holy Gospel of Saint 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 divine 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.

Church hymnographers have adorned this Feast with their hymns: St Andrew of Crete in the seventh century; St Cosmas Bishop of Maium, St John of Damascus, and St Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople in the eighth century; and St Joseph, Archbishop of Thessalonica in the ninth century.

On this day we also commemorate the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos known as "the Softening of Evil Hearts" or "Simeon's Prophecy." The Mother of God is depicted without Her Child, with seven swords piercing her breast: three from the left side, three from the right, and one from below.

A similar icon, "Of the Seven Swords" (August 13) shows three swords on the left side and four from the right. The icon "Simeon's Prophecy" symbolizes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the righteous Elder Simeon: "a sword shall pierce through your own soul" (Luke 2:35).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 30:
Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs:
Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian,
and John Chrysostom

During the eleventh century, disputes raged in Constantinople about which of the three hierarchs was the greatest. Some preferred St Basil (January 1), others honored St Gregory the Theologian (January 25), while a third group exalted St John Chrysostom (November 13).

Dissension among Christians increased. Some called themselves Basilians, others referred to themselves as Gregorians, and others as Johnites.

By the will of God, the three hierarchs appeared to St John the Bishop of Euchaita (June 14) in the year 1084, and said that they were equal before God. "There are no divisions among us, and no opposition to one another."

They ordered that the disputes should stop, and that their common commemoration should be celebrated on a single day. Bishop John chose January 30 for their joint Feast, thus ending the controversy and restoring peace.

Troparion-Tone 1

Let us who love their words gather together
and honor with hymns the three great torch-bearers of the triune Godhead:
Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom.
These men have enlightened the world with the rays of their divine doctrines.
They are sweetly-flowing rivers of wisdom
filling all creation with springs of heavenly knowledge.
Ceaselessly they intercede for us before the Holy Trinity!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

January 29:
Translation of the Relics of the Hieromartyr Ignatius of Antioch

After the holy hieromartyr Ignatius was thrown to the lions in the year 107 on the orders of the emperor Trajan, Christians gathered up his bones and preserved them at Rome.

Later, in the year 108, the saint's relics were collected and buried outside the gate of Daphne at Antioch. A second transfer, to the city of Antioch itself, took place in the year 438. After the capture of Antioch by the Persians, the relics of the Hieromartyr Ignatius were returned to Rome and placed into the church of the holy Hieromartyr Clement in the year 540 ( in 637, according to other sources).

St Ignatius has left us seven archpastoral epistles in which he provided instructions on faith, love and good works. He also urged his flock to preserve the unity of the faith and to beware of heretics. He encouraged people to honor and obey their bishops, "we should regard the bishop as we would the Lord Himself." (To the Ephesians 6)

In his Letter to Polycarp, St Ignatius writes: "Listen to the bishop, if you want God to listen to you... let your baptism be your shield, your faith a helmet, your charity a spear, your patience, like full armor." (Compare Eph. 6:14-17 and the Wisdom of Solomon 5:17-20.)

Holy Hieromartyr Ignatius, pray unto God for us!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Remember Vespers...

... will be sung this evening, Saturday, January 26, at 5:00 PM.

Also, the newest issue of the quarterly magazine AGAIN: The Ancient Christian Faith Today has arrived, featuring articles on Orthodox Christian missionary and relief efforts around the world.

Be sure to pick one up!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Third Sunday Schedule...

Please recall that we will gather for Typika at 3:00 PM this coming Sunday afternoon, January 20.

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

Monday, January 07, 2008

January 12-13, 2008:
The Great Blessing of the Waters,
Great Vespers, & Divine Liturgy

Please join us as our celebration of Holy Theophany continues this coming weekend with Father Nikolay Miletkov.

One of the great traditions of the season is the Great Blessing of the Waters:

It is the faith of Christians that since the Son of God has taken human flesh and has been immersed in the streams of the Jordan, all matter is sanctified and made pure in him, purged of its death-dealing qualities inherited from the devil and the wickedness of men. In the Lord's epiphany all creation becomes good again, indeed "very good," the way that God himself made it and proclaimed it to be in the beginning when "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (
Gen 1:2) and when the "Breath of Life" was breathing in man and in everything that God made (Gen 1:30; 2:7).

The world and everything in it is indeed "very good" (Gen 1:31) and when it becomes polluted, corrupted and dead, God saves it once more by effecting the "new creation" in Christ, his divine Son and our Lord by the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal 6:15). This is what is celebrated on Epiphany, particularly in the Great Blessing of Water. The consecration of the waters on this feast places the entire world -- through its "prime element" of watering the perspective of the cosmic creation, sanctification, and glorification of the Kingdom of God in Christ arid the Spirit. It tells us that man and the world were indeed created and saved in order to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19), the "fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:22). It tells us that Christ, in who in "the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily," is and shall be truly "all, and in all" (Col 2:9, 3:11). It tells us as well that the "new heavens and the new earth" which God has promised through his prophets and apostles (Is 66:2; 2 Peter 3:13, Rev 21:1) are truly "with us" already now in the, mystery of Christ and his Church. - Father Thomas Hopko

Service Schedule for this Weekend

Saturday, January 12

Great Blessing of the Waters: 12 Noon

Great Vespers: 5:00 PM

Sunday, January 13

Adult Catechism: 9:15 AM

Third Hour Prayers: 9:45 AM

Divine Liturgy: 10:00 AM

All services are in English - Visitors are always welcome

"Come and See!"

Saturday, January 05, 2008

January 6:
The Theophany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Schedule for Sunday, January 6, 2008:

Adult Catechism 9:15 AM
Third Hour Prayers 9:45 AM
Festal Typika 10:00 AM

When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!

Troparion of Theophany - Tone 1

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

January 1:
Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ
Commemoration of Saint Basil the Great

On the eighth day after His Nativity, our Lord Jesus Christ was circumcised in accordance with the Old Testament Law. All male infants underwent circumcision as a sign of God's Covenant with the holy Forefather Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:10-14, Lev. 12:3).

After this ritual the Divine Infant was given the name Jesus, as the Archangel Gabriel declared on the day of the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos (Luke 1:31-33, 2:21). The Fathers of the Church explain that the Lord, the Creator of the Law, underwent circumcision in order to give people an example of how faithfully the divine ordinances ought to be fulfilled. The Lord was circumcised so that later no one would doubt that He had truly assumed human flesh, and that His Incarnation was not merely an illusion, as certain heretics (Docetists) taught.

In the New Testament, the ritual of circumcision gave way to the Mystery of Baptism, which it prefigured (Col. 2:11-12). Accounts of the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord continue in the Eastern Church right up through the fourth century. The Canon of the Feast was written by St Stephen of the St Sava Monastery (October 28 and July 13).

Also commemorated today is Saint Basil the Great, who has been described as belonging "not to the Church of Caesarea alone, nor merely to his own time, nor was he of benefit only to his own kinsmen, but rather to all lands and cities worldwide, and to all people he brought and still brings benefit, and for Christians he always was and will be a most salvific teacher."

For more on Saint Basil, click here.