O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Give Thanks for the Blessings of the Past Year

Today is the final day of the year and we give thanks for all the blessings of the past year.

Great Doxology, said at the Moleben of Thanksgiving:

Akathist of Thanksgiving:

We Exist to Correct and Convert

We exist to correct, convert, take those separated from God by their own sins and join them to God, for union with God is the reason for which we were all created.

Today's Apostle in the Byzantine liturgical Rite:

2 Timothy 3:16-4:4
All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work. I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Because of Disorder, a Treasure of a Garden is Lost.

Sex is the participation of the flesh in the exchange of Divine Love; the most central part of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is the taking up of the flesh into the exchange that already exists in the soul, with this taking up existing for the sake of procreation, that the children of God might be "born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn 1:13); created as He wills, not as the parents will, for "He made us, and not we ourselves." (Ps 99:3)

Yet, the world attacks God and lies about sex by turning it in towards itself and having it exist for its own sake for the pleasure of the participants. At that point, all manner of sinful acts become permissible because the measuring stick of participation in Divine Love has been replaced by the measuring stick of pleasure and vain happiness.

This is an all or nothing affair.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chastity Makes Him Manly

Today we celebrate-together with the Holy Apostle James the Brother of the Lord and the Holy Prophet David the King-the Holy Joseph the Betrothed. He is the epitome of manliness-specifically because of his chastity. It takes a lot of strength, self-control, and discipline to be chaste. It requires selfishness, vanity, and a rejection of discipline to be lustful and sex-obsessed. It requires no strength to sire a child. However, it requires a lot of strength and discipline to raise a child and to, not merely have discipline, but pass on discipline to the child. This is precisely the work for which St. Joseph is known: not siring a child but only raising a child. Any idiot can father a child. It takes manliness and discipline to correctly raise a child to himself be a man and have the strength and discipline of his father.

This is a lesson that the modern world desperately needs-a problem known by single mothers as much as by anyone else for the man who was supposed to be the role-model and teacher of such manliness and strength is gone. Children need both a mother and a father because they need to learn both the virtues at which men naturally excel as well as the virtues at which women naturally excel. They need the example of both a proper gentleman and a proper lady to learn proper behavior and the proper dignity and value of each gender, which are the completely contrary and completely complimentary halves of humanity. This is why the One Parent Child needed a father-to have His humanity raised properly and to set a proper example for us on how to raise a family.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Limiting Sex to Its Purpose Dignifies It

When sex is done for its own sake as an act of the passions, it is vain and emptied of its dignity, separated from God. It becomes chaotic with all possible acts treated as permissible. It destroys self-control and thus all morality. The act designed to join you to Divine Love, then separates you from God's Love, like Holy Communion (the intimacy between Christ and His Bride) received in a state of sin, that which was meant for a blessing becomes a curse.

When sex is done as an act of Divine Love and the body's participation in the exchange of Divine Love, then it is dignified and serves its proper purpose. It becomes ordered and submitted to God's purposes for the flesh and mankind. It creates self-control, and with it, theosis. Limiting sex to its purpose (as an exchange of Divine Love) dignifies it and makes it serve as the means for the spouses to be joined to God through the Sacrament of Matrimony, making it the part of the sacrament where the three (God, husband, and wife) are the most joined together. A physical exchange symbolizing and being a part of the exchange of Divine Love that already exists in the spouses and was already strengthened by Rite of Crowning.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Surprising Chastity and Selflessness in "The Hunger Games"

I recently had the pleasure to watch "The Hunger Games" (the first movie in the series). Being a fan of gladiator-style tournaments, this movie was pretty enjoyable and fun to watch. The surprising amount of chastity in the movie made it even better. Males will be the ones most drawn to such movies, so the chaste and selfless overtones are very encouraging. St. Joseph randomly comes to mind. First, the basic idea of the series: The series of movies (and the series of novels they are based on) revolve around the "Hunger Games", a futuristic gladiator tournament that focuses on surviving in the wilderness. It is used by a powerful city to oppress its suburbs. It is contested annually by 24 youths, aged 12-18, chosen by lot, two from each of the 12 districts (one male and one female), with the last surviving competitor declared the winner. They need to deal with threats from nature as much as each other. All the carnage is on live TV for the entertainment of the Capitol, with the broadcasts in the suburbs being largely so they can watch their own children die. The propaganda of the dictatorial government plays it up as a chance for glory, when in practice it's an excuse to kill 23 children from the suburbs by lot. The winner almost always comes from one of the more well to do districts, with those districts getting preferential treatment from the dictatorship, to the point of letting them train illegally and then they volunteer to represent their district.

The main character is Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12, the most impoverished of all the districts. In the opening minutes of the movie, the filmmakers have a golden opportunity for a completely needless nude scene as Katniss takes a bath in a cheap metal tub much too small for a girl her age, but the filmmakers go blatantly out of their way to avoid showing even the slightest nudity during the scene, which is most commendable and rare in Hollywood these days. You see hardly anything beyond a foot and a shoulder. At the same time, there was a constant temptation to show a competitor relieving himself or washing during the long time they were in the wilderness and those possibilities were avoided as well.

The selflessness of Katniss is a major theme as her younger sister, much too weak to survive the Games, is chosen as the female "tribute" (competitor) from District 12 and Katniss immediately volunteers to take her sister's place, doubtlessly saving her life. This selfless attitude is continued later in the Games with the female tribute from District 11 (the second poorest district), herself too small for the Games, mutually helping Katniss survive, and Katniss accepts this girl as a younger sister, partly because she is so similar to her real sister.

The male tribute from the slums of District 12 is Peeta Mellark, who has a crush on Katniss, but she isn't interested in him at the outset. Romance does develop between them and is a main plotline, but the chastity of the relationship is what is so remarkable in this movie. The romance is not fast-developing and based on passion like sinful relationships, but rather slow-developing, with Katniss initially disinterested and hating Peeta. The content and purpose of the relationship is not to enjoy life and pursue physical or emotional pleasure like sinful relationships, but rather to support each other and keep each other alive, even to the point of each wanting to give up needed medicine to treat the wounds of the other (they end up each getting their way and treating each other's wounds). There is no intimacy between them beyond kisses (despite being secluded in the woods together for long periods of time), with those kisses being few and far between, only on the face, and only one per session. It is amazing and very laudable how chaste and virtuous their relationship is: they don't care about having a good time or being happy, they are in it to help each other and keep each other alive; their relationship develops slowly, not fast like passion based relationships; and they share very little intimacy, if it can even be called "intimacy". Combine this with the selflessness of Katniss towards her sister and her adopted sister, no perverted sexuality or erotic content or vulgar language in the movie, and the subtle fact that competitors are chosen in pairs, one male and one female, and you have an excellent movie. The fact that the weak shame the strong (in the social struggle between the districts and the Capitol) isn't bad either.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Harmless is a Threat to the Sinner in His Vice

When Christ came to lift us out of sin, which we delusionally ran after, and join us to the Divine Love-for which we were created in the first place-he didn't come as a great intimidating warrior. Divine Love doesn't force itself on anyone. God doesn't need us. He already existed before us regardless of whether we accept Him or not. The fact that we were all created for Divine Love yet, living a lie, ran off into sin is a testament to the fact that Divine Love forces Himself on no one, since God gave us the freedom to do that in the first place. When Christ (literally the "One anointed" with Divine Love, the Holy Ghost) came to bring us into His Love, He came as a harmless child, a form so benign that only the most hard-hearted would despise such a sight.

Yet, King Herod was so full of his own pride, that even though He is in the most benign and harmless form, he still commanded Christ's death, only to fail, and he was more than willing to kill thousands of equally harmless children just to get his way. Those loyal to sin continue this same behavior, so hating virtue and goodness that even though Christ came in the most benign and harmless form, they still hate Him. They in their almighty arrogance declare that God is wrong and that God must accept whatever it is that they want. Or if they don't do that, they make up their own "God" and lie about God saying that He supports their vices merely as a rhetorical tool to force people to accept their behavior. All this when the real God forces Himself on no one, thereby revealing their deceit and betraying their malice.

But should it really surprise us that King Herod would honestly kill a defenseless and harmless infant just to defend his own lifestyle? People today kill not merely other people's children, but have a professional kill their very own children just so they can continue their existing lifestyle (make no mistake abortion is about lust, not murder and until the pro-life movement realizes that it won't get anywhere) and pretend that sex is about pleasure and being happy when in fact its single purpose is procreation. They do this through abortion to the tune of 4,000 executed children per day in the United States alone. You kill a harmless and defenseless child, because you are more important and attack everyone who opposes you with every manner of rhetoric and insult when God forces Himself on no one and is the one attacked by your anti-life politics and ideology.

Christ comes in the most benign and harmless way-a child-because He forces Himself on no one, and yet people still deny that they were created to live in Divine Love and lie to themselves, pursuing lives separated from God. Christ alone survives death-the death that is the sacrifice to cleanse us of our sins-and only by joining ourselves to Him can we survive our own deaths. He, being pre-existing God, doesn't need us, but we need Him. That is the lone reason why He came: is to remove us from our sins and unite ourselves to Him, a union that can only be complete in Heaven. He came in the most benign form to accomplish this goal and yet people still reject Him, for their lifestyles are more important than God who existed before them and the "now" is more important than their own deaths.

Let us not deceive ourselves, let us confess who we are, a people created to be with God, and let us join ourselves to Him who appears today in the most harmless and benign of forms to survive our own deaths, for He comes solely to survive His own death, that we might survive ours.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Rising of the Sun of Divine Love

The Nativity of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ according to the Flesh

In the sun hath He set His tabernacle; and He, like a bridegroom coming forth from his chamber, will rejoice like a giant to run his course. From the outermost border of heaven is His going forth, and His goal is unto the outermost part of heaven, and there shall no man hide himself from His heat.-Ps 18

Troparion, Tone 4
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshipped the stars, Were taught by a Star to adore Thee, The Sun of Righteousness, And to know Thee, the Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to Thee!
Kontakion, Tone 3
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The wise men journey with a star! Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Old Saints and Saints Yet to be Made

Today we celebrate the Holy Fathers-All Saints of the Old Testament, the patriarchs, judges, prophets and all holy men and women of the Old Testament who in their righteousness waited for their salvation on the cross to be accomplished in time so they could enter heaven. They in the past received grace from the future like the Theotokos at her All-Pure Conception in the womb of St. Anne. Christ comes to die for all through all time to make salvation available to them. But since God forces Himself on no one, sinners must reach out for that salvation and will to leave their sins, or else Christ's death-in their case-was for nothing. Pray that those who have willingly exiled themselves from Divine Love, that their will be softened that Christ's mercy be able to enter them and return them to their virginal purity. Pray to the Theotokos that they may share in her purity.

One of the stichera at Lord, I have cried at Vespers for this Sunday:

The Never-setting Sun is coming from the Virginal womb
to enlighten everyone under the sun.
Let us meet Him with pure hearts and with good works.
Let us prepare ourselves now through the Holy Spirit
to greet Him who is coming to His own people
as He Himself had willed.
He is being born in Bethlehem
so that through His compassion
He might bring back all of those
who were exiled from life in Paradise.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Greek Encyclical on Marriage

The Sacred Synod of the Church of Greece issued an encyclical in response to the so-called "Free Cohabitation Agreement" of the Greek government regarding the dignity of Marriage, its sacramental nature and salvific purpose, and attacks and offenses against that dignity. An excerpt:

"In the case of free cohabitation, we experience most deeply the theological and social alteration of the family institution. The family is no longer considered a "little church", but simply a symbiosis with one another.

The Marriage ceremony gives the impression of a very serious commitment and seems like an anachronistic event, like a meaningless act, if it ends up being simply like a folk ceremony.

It does not express anything existential nor poses eschatological or other metaphysical expectations.


The actual problem of marriage today is not so much a disruption of relations, disagreements or the cruelty of one spouse to the other, but the idolization and empowerment of the family, and the lack of progress, testimony and orientation of Marriage towards the Kingdom of God.

In this case, the family has ceased to exist for the glory of God and be the sacramental entrance into His presence.

What dissolves contemporary families so easily and makes divorce basically its natural shadow, is not a lack of respect for the family institution, but its idolization and a refusal to accept the Cross within the Marriage."

Read the rest over at Mystagogy.

Marriage is not an institution; it's a sacrament. It's not for procreation. An institution is something natural. Procreation is something natural. Marriage is something supernatural. Marriage is a sacrament. That means that it has as its purpose union with God. Sex has as its purpose union with each other in Divine Love: a perfect giving simultaneous to a perfect receiving in the flesh, the body's participation in the exchange of Divine Love that already takes place in the soul between the two spouses, as an icon of the same exchange between Christ and the Church, as an icon of the same exchange between God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Ghost is Divine Love and unites the Trinity as One, Christ and the Church as One, and spouses as one.

The purpose of sex is procreation. The environment for procreation is sex. The environment for sex is marriage. The environment for marriage is Divine Love. The purpose of marriage is union with God-the union of yourself with God via your spouse and the union of your spouse with God via yourself; the perfect giving simultaneous to a perfect receiving that constitutes Divine Love.

He came to Earth to Bring us to Heaven

From the Canon at Matins during the Pre-feast of the Nativity:

"You, the Word without beginning and one in nature with the Father, were laid in a manger of irrational beasts and freed from unreason us who celebrate devoutly the Forefeast of your Nativity."

God became man to make man God. He came to us in the Flesh in Bethlehem to join us in the Flesh to Him in the Eucharist. He came not to reassure us, or support us in what we were doing of our own accord, but to convert us from where we were. Seeing us living lives of sin and hating sin, He came to convert us and liberate us from the tyranny of sin, for were created for the sole purpose of being with Him and He came to show us this, our true origins and purpose, and to bring us to Himself, out of the falsehood and deception of sin.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Peace of Monasticism

The other day I saw this documentary on a Men's Monastery in Abkhazia (which might or might not be a part of Georgia depending on who you ask). It is an excellent depiction of the mind-clearing peace and serenity of a Christian Monastery. Simple work designed to empty the mind so that one is more free to focus on God. A beauty that does not need words:

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Feast of Pure Love

Feast of the Maternity of St. Anne
(While this feast is traditionally celebrated on December 8th in the Latin Church, it is traditionally celebrated on December 9th in the Byzantine Churches.)

Today we feast the holy patrons of marriage, that most holy marriage and most pure union that produced the Theotokos. How pure must they be and how supreme as role models must they be if they produced and raised the Most Pure Theotokos, whose All-Pure Conception we hymn today? Why O Cosmos do you seek the flesh on it's own in your foolishness and ignorance? Seek first the soul and the exchange of Divine Love within and the flesh will be taken up into that exchange of Divine Love for the procreation of children. Seek not first the flesh with its pleasures and its emotions for therein is found only delusion. Christ God created the flesh to serve Him and outside of His Divine Love one's view of the flesh is distorted and He comes in short order with great mercy for He is the lover of mankind.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wonderworker, Teacher, and Defender of the Faith

Our Father among the Saints, Nicholas, Archbishop, Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia
A wonderworker who saved lives and raised the dead. A puncher of heretics who was loyal to God above anyone on earth. A man who by giving his inheritance to the poor teaches us to worry about spiritual needs instead of material needs. Patron Saint of the Byzantine Churches.

Troparion, Tone 4
The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, a model of meekness, and a teacher of temperance. Therefore thou hast won the heights by humility, riches by poverty. Holy Father Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion, Tone 3
You revealed yourself, O saint, in Myra as a priest, For you fulfilled the Gospel of Christ By giving up your soul for your people, And saving the innocent from death. Therefore you are blessed as one become wise in the grace of God.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Love is Found in Suffering, Not Comfort.

Today's Gospel for the Twentieth-ninth Tuesday after Pentecost:
Luke 21:12-18
"At that time, the Lord said, But before all these things, they will lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, dragging you before kings and governors, for my name' s sake. And it shall happen unto you for a testimony. Lay it up therefore into your hearts, not to meditate before how you shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay. And you shall be betrayed by your parents and brethren, and kinsmen and friends; and some of you they will put to death. And you shall be hated by all men for my name' s sake. But a hair of your head shall not perish."

Christ never said, "Following Me will make you comfortable and I will make it so that you are happy and that you and the people around you will never be uncomfortable or offended." No...He said the exact opposite: "Take up your cross and follow Me...they will lay their hands upon you, and persecute you...Blessed are they that suffer persecution...Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake" There's your "feel-good" Beatitudes. Christ only promised us suffering, penance, and being persecuted for the Faith. Sanctity is found in suffering for the faith. Suffering is what joins us to God because it was on the cross through suffering that Christ revealed Himself and His Love to us. It is suffering that joins us to Christ because is it suffering that Christ uses to reveal His Love. If you love someone, you will suffer for them. If you don't, you won't. It's as simple as that. Christ never revealed Himself or His Love by making people comfortable and making sure they were never offended. Love isn't found in comfort (that would be lust); it is found in suffering.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hymn of Thanksgiving

Personally, I would have Thanksgiving Day moved up two weeks so it wouldn't ever fall in the Nativity Fast (historically Thanksgiving was celebrated locally on all sorts of days throughout October and November before the practice was standardized as a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln and the very first Thanksgiving was on September 8, 1565 by Spanish settlers (Catholics, mind you, not Protestant extremists) in Florida; not to mention that putting Thanksgiving on a Friday would put a big dent in the materialism of Black Friday), but as it is, today we give thanks to God for all things (the Akathist by that name would be most appropriate today). If there is one part of American culture that isn't sinful and that actually should be spread to all nations, this is it (the day of thanksgiving part, not the eating like a pig part).

My choice for Thanksgiving today is the Moleben of Thanksgiving, which has as it's apex the Great Doxology, the beautiful hymn to God's glory we chant daily at Matins. St. Hilary, Bishop of Portiers, imported the Great Doxology to the Latin Church where only the first third of it was inserted into the Mass as the "Gloria". So here is a nice setting for the Great Doxology in Church Slavonic:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at St. Peter's Basilica

H. B. Svyatoslav, Patriarch of Kyiv, served a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the High Altar of St. Peter's Basilica (use of that altar by any one other than the Pope of Rome of course requires his permission) on the Feast of the Holy Heiromartyr Josaphat (on the Julian Calendar) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the transfer of his relics to the Vatican Basilica. He is buried at the altar named for him in the upper church, which is the altar that normally hosts this Divine Liturgy each year. While nearly every Eastern Catholic Church is represented each year, the Liturgy is always served by a bishop from the UGCC, as that is the Church of which St. Josaphat was a member. A nearly-plenary Synod of the UGCC was present on this occasion, as was Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. A Plenary Assembly of the Congregation of Eastern Churches recently took place, coinciding with this feast and anniversary.

From UGCC News:

From RISU:

Patriarch Svyatoslav made reference to this icon, St. Josaphat's favorite:

Богородицi Жировицкий
Theotokos of Zhyrovyts
«Нехай Пречиста Діва Марія, прославлена в Жировицькій іконі, яку так любив Йосафат і яка століттями вшановується тут, у Римі, неустанно молиться разом із ним за нашу Церкву перед престолом Всевишнього» - Patriarch Svyatoslav

"May the Virgin Mary, celebrated in Zhyrovytskiy icon that Jehoshaphat loved and revered for centuries that here in Rome, tirelessly prayed with him at our church before the throne of the Most High" (Google's translation, not mine)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Temple of the Lord Enters the Temple

November 21st
The Entrance into the Temple of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

Today the Temple of the Lord enters into the Temple, The Perfect Dwelling-Place of God in the flesh enters into the Dwelling-Place of God in stone. Let us pray to her and hymn her that we too might be Temples of the Lord in the flesh in the Divine Mystery of the Eucharist, the union of Christ and His Bride in the flesh.

Troparion, tone 4: Today is the prelude of God's good-will and the prophecy of the salvation of men. The Virgin appears openly in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all. So let us cry to her with loud voices: Rejoice, thou who art the fulfillment of the Creator's providence.

Konlakion, tone 4: The most pure Temple of the Saviour, the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasury of the glory of God, today enters into the house of the Lord, bringing with her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit. And the Angels of God sing of her: This is the heavenly tabernacle.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Best Time to Fast...

Today we begin the Philip Fast in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity. There is no better time to fast than during secular christmas because the whole point of fasting is to develop self-control over your passions.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Respecting the Family and "Social Orphans"

Recently, Patriarch Svyatoslav spoke on the necessity of respecting the family and the problem of social orphans:

""Unless the institution of family is supported on social, national level, we will always have a problem of social orphans. Because social orphans are not just in the families of immigrants, but also in the families of successful businessmen who are not engaged in raising their children. A single government program, even the best social service cannot replace a father and mother." - said the head of the church.

Patriarch Sviatoslav said that from the point of view of a Christian a family is an institution established by the Creator as fruitful and indissoluble unity of man and woman. According to his words, only such a family can give proper education to children. "If we do not cherish the institution of the family, we will always face the phenomenon of social orphans" - said he."

Read the rest there.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Burning Sun of Divine Love

O Thou who didst trample death by death, whose burning Divine Love is inescapable and did shine on us to call us to Thyself, shine forth from the grave in which Thou hast been placed by the sins of the sinner and restore her purity for Thou O Life canst not be bound by death and Thou O Love canst not be bound by sin. Thou dost trample all to raise Thy beloved to Thyself. Thou hast proceeded forth from Thy bridal chamber, O Bridegroom, and hast rejoiced as a giant to run the way and there is none that can hide himself from Thy heat: not in Heaven, for Thou dwellest there, nor in Hades, for Thou didst trample Thine enemies there, and Thou hast shone the brilliance of Thy Divine Love to us to call us to Thyself, that our whole minds, and our whole bodies, and our whole souls may participate in the exchange of Thy Divine Love in which Thou dost exist with the Father and the Holy, Immortal, and Life-creating Spirit. Destroy now, O Trampler of Death, all that separates us from Thy Divine Love, for impurity cannot survive in Thy presence, that we may perfectly participate in the exchange of Thy Divine Love for Thou comest with great mercy for our souls!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Being Pastoral and Tolerating Sin

Pastors of souls need to look each of their people in the eye and say: "God shows Himself to me through you and I want you two to be together." There is no tolerance for sin. Sin is adultery against God. Sin is separation from God-that is the single most basic definition of sin. This attitude is the essence of being pastoral, of shepherding souls.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bridegroom Carries Bride with Broken Ankle

From Jacksons' Orthodox Mission to Guatemala via Byzantine, Texas comes this story of a bridegroom who carried his bride with a broken ankle in the procession at their wedding:

Anny fractured her ankle a week before the wedding so she was in a cast. The priest told her to stay seated and that Ben should walk around the table by himself, but Ben had a different idea. He carried her three times.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bring Shame Upon Them

O Sovereign Theotokos, glory of Christians, silence the blasphemy of the impious and bring shame upon those who will not venerate your sacred icon, O all-holy one.
-from the Apostiha at Orthros this morning

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Holy Penitent Pelagia

St. Nonnus praying to God for St. Pelagia's conversion.

Today we celebrate the Holy Penitent Pelagia of Antioch. I wrote of her life here.

Troparion, Tone 8: The divine image was faithfully preserved in thee, O Mother, for taking the cross thou didst follow Christ. By thy deeds thou hast taught us to see beyond flesh, which passes, and care for the soul, a thing immortal. And so, O Venerable Mother Pelagia, thy spirit rejoices with the angels.

Kontakion, Tone 2: For the love of the Lord, O Venerable Mother, thou didst scorn the desire for rest and enlightened thy soul through fasting, for thou hast mightily conquered the beasts. Through thy prayers thwart the rage of fiends.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

St. Thomas the Doubter

Today we celebrate the Holy and Glorious Apostle Thomas the Doubter and the 20th Sunday after Pentecost.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Either Produce The Body or Worship The Risen Lord

I love these antiphons. They make me laugh every time they come up at Sunday Matins every eight weeks:

Matins, At the Praises, Tone 2:
Let the Jews tell how the soldiers lost the King they were guarding. * Why then did the stone not guard the Rock of Life? * Let them either produce the body or worship the risen Lord, * exclaiming together with us: * 'Glory to the multitude of Thy mercies: * O Saviour, glory be to Thee!'.

In truth, O wicked ones, * by sealing the tomb you have granted us a greater wonder; * for the guards having complete knowledge of what took place were compelled by you to say * "while we slept the Disciples came and stole him". * And who would steal a corpse, especially one that is naked? * But He hath arisen by His own authority as God, * leaving behind His grave-clothes in the tomb. * Come, O ye Jews, * see that He did not burst the seals, * the One who hath trampled on death * and granteth mankind life without end * and His great mercy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Model Bishop During Elections

How Patriarch Svyatoslav is handling elections in Ukraine (from the UGCC news site; my emphases and comments):

It was informed on September 4th by Father and Head of the UGCC His Beatitude Sviatoslav during a web conference on the site of Religious Information Service of Ukraine.

"To protect our pastors from the use in the election campaign, we are preparing a separate instruction. Hopefully at the end of this year at the Synod we will have the first reading of this document. The discussion will take place, and it will be put over to every priest as a certain rule of conduct, failure of which will be subject to disciplinary consequences, "- said the Arch-priest.

He reminded that due to the fact of irregularities priests’ responsibilities during the previous elections in the Church it was created the commission that conducted the research regarding each fact. The head of the commission was Bishop Igor (Voznyak ), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Lviv .

«There was a clear and sharp conversation with each of those priests. Some evidence has not been confirmed, some confirmed. Strict disciplinary measures were taken to the fault of each priest. Someone got oral warning, and someone - a written reprimand. [This is what's supposed to happen when priests act in regards to the government in a way that opposes Church Teaching.]  The results of this checking may have been unknown to the wider public, because it probably was an inside analysis, organized by our Church. The purpose of this action was not to punish anyone, even if it is also useful, but understand how aggressively and in what way our priests have been used for campaigning, "- remarked the Head of the Church.

He noted that the methods with which the pastors were used "were very treacherous." According to the Arch-priest’s words, there were cases that even His Beatitude Lyubomyr was not aware that he was used for political campaigning. Someone stood next to him, took a picture and then printed in campaign materials as a fact of support by His Beatitude Lyubomyr. [I wonder if Card. Dolan is reading this. Just a random thought.] "It is the immoral use and instrumentalization of a blind person," - His Beatitude Sviatoslav supposes.

So, he says, the Church wanted to understand how to counteract this in the future to prevent such things.

Information Department of the UGCC

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Cross, Churchbells, and Victory

Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Holy, Precious, and Life-Creating Cross

We venerate the cross by prostrating and chanting the following:
Krestu Tvoyemu poklanyayemsya Vladiko,
i svyatoye voskreseniye Tvoye slavim.

We bow before Thy Cross, O Master,
and glorify Thy holy resurrection.

Troparion, Tone 1:
Save Thy people O Lord and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victory to Thy faithful people over their enemies, and by the power of Thy Cross do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.

Kontakion, Tone 4:
O Thou Who wast lifted up willingly on the Cross, bestow Thy mercies upon the new community named after Thee, O Christ God. Gladden with Thy power Thy faithful people, granting them victory over enemies; may they have as Thy help the weapon of peace, the invincible trophy.

...and something else, which I originally posted here:

Did you know that the Tropar of the Holy Cross is chanted in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture? The piece is about Napoleon's (failed) invasion of Russia. It was composed to mark the anniversary of that victory by Russia. Let's pick up the overture at the 11:30 mark below. First we have Napoleon's invasion of Russia marked by the French National Anthem and 5 cannon shots. Then at 12:15, we have descending violins marking Napoleon's forces being annihilated by the Russian winter. Then at 12:55 we have the bells of the Cathedral of the Holy Savior in Moscow (Moscow's main cathedral; the piece was specifically written for this cathedral so that it could debut in this cathedral with the cathedral's bells serving as themselves in the piece) calling all of Russia to prayer while the Tropar of the Holy Cross is chanted (the text of the chant makes it obvious why the Russians chose to chant it at such a time). At 13:59 we have Russia's counter represented by the Russian Imperial Anthem with over twice the cannon shots (11!). In celebration of the merciless rout, at 14:31, we have the same cathedral bells ringing in thanksgiving. And you thought the 1812 Overture had nothing to do with the faith...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy Birthday!

September 8th
The Nativity of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos, and Ever-Virgin Mary.

Troparion, tone 4:
Thy birth, O Mother of God, has brought joy to all the world; for from thee arose the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, Who, having dissolved the curse, has given His blessing, and having abolished death, has granted us life eternal.

Kontakion, tone 4:
Joakim and Anna were freed from the reproach of childlessness and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death, O Immaculate One, by thy holy nativity. And thy people, redeemed from the guilt of sin, celebrate thy birth by crying to thee: The barren woman gives birth to the Mother of God and the nurse of our life.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bless Those Who Persecute You...

It does not require any virtue to be kind to those who are kind to you. It does require virtue to be kind to those who hate you.

We rejoice when we are persecuted for our persecutors increase the intensity and value of our self-sacrifice to God. Being hated by the world for our faith is a sign that we are faithful to God and it is also a participation in the Passion of Christ. But woe to those who persecute us, for the punishment will be severe for those who persecute the faithful of God. Therefore, we must simultaneously bless those who persecute us and pray for their conversion.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Divine Love is So Massive...

Divine Love is so massive, that being able to see it for only an instant is worth loosing an entire lifetime of pleasure and happiness.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Standing Up to the Government When the Government Sins

Feast of the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John

Troparion, Tone 2
The memory of the righteous is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord’s testimony is sufficient for you, O Forerunner. You were shown in truth to be the most honorable of the prophets, for you were deemed worthy to baptize in the streams of the Jordan Him whom they foretold. Therefore, having suffered for the truth with joy, you proclaimed to those in hell God who appeared in the flesh, who takes away the sin of the world, and grants us great mercy.

Kontakion, Tone 5
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner, became an act of divine dispensation, for he preached to those in hell the coming of the Savior. Let Herodias lament, for she entreated lawless murder, loving not the law of God, nor eternal life, but that which is false and temporal.

Readings at Divine Liturgy:
Epistle: Acts §33 [13:25-33].
Gospel: Mark §24 [6:14-29].

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Major Liturgical Eye Candy!!! - Consecration of the Patriarchal Cathedral in Kyiv

This morning in Kyiv, His Beatitude Svyatoslav, Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus, consecrated the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ. There's a lot packed into that statement, as we'll see.

Here are some photos from the website of the UGCC as well as stills from the Zhyve.tv broadcast:

The first part of the dedication, the procession with the relics three times around the church to be dedicated, was done before the start of this broadcast. The broadcast started when they had just entered the Cathedral. The second part, the sealing of the relics in the Holy Table, is normally done at this time, but that was done later after the consecration of the Holy Table.

The third part, the consecration of the Holy Table, is also called the Baptism of the Holy Table, since it consists of washing the Holy Table with soap and water, then rose water and wine, and finally it is anointed with Holy Myron (Chrism). From here on out, most actions are accompanied by the chanting of various psalms with various prayers chanted in between.

The Holy Table is Blessed:

Then the (long) prayers of dedication were said, which are done kneeling:

For the washings, the bishop(s) put on white linen tunics, which after the ceremony are cut up and distributed to the faithful. With 20,000 people present at a Cathedral that holds several thousand, I wonder how many got a piece. There were many big screens outside so everyone could see.

The second washing:

Anointing with Holy Myron:

It was at this time that the relics were sealed in the Holy Table, one set in the middle and one set in each corner. Each is dipped in Holy Myron before being placed in the Holy Table:

Here is a close-up of two sets in paper envelopes at their preparation a few days ago:

The relics, all martyrs, include the Holy Apostles Peter, Paul and Andrew the First-Called, Popes Clement and Martin of Rome, who both died in Ukraine, the Holy Heiromartyr Josaphat, and two of the Blessed Ukrainian New-Martyrs, Mykola Charnetsky and Josaphat Kotsylovsky. Interesting how one Josaphat is named after the other.

Sealing the round relic-stones with wax mastic (His Beatitude sealed each of the relics and one bishop scraped the extra off each tomb):

Next the Holy Table is vested (with the vestments blessed and incensed). The bottom cloth protects the upper, precious cloth from the Myron on the surface of the Holy Table.

Then the Throne and Table of Preparation got blessed:

As His Beatitude was returning from the Table of Preparation, I spotted my local bishop, Bishop Paul Chomnycky, Eparch of Stamford (he's the one facing the camera):

The Fourth and Final part is the consecration of the Temple itself. A full incensation of the altar and iconostas is performed, except by the bishop instead of by the deacon, who normally does it. The bishop makes several laps of the church on the inside, first incensing it, then blessing it, then anointing the doorposts and columns with Myron. Here, one lap was performed with Patriarch Svyatoslav (preceded by the deacon) incensing, followed by two metropolitans, one blessing and the other anointing.

Lastly, the lights of the temple are lit, the process started by the bishop. Divine Liturgy follows, served in the normal way, except that the opening blessing ("Blessed is the Kingdom...") is not given by a priest, as is normal for a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy, but by the bishop himself.

The Gospel, with a nice shot of the Holy Table:

A nice wide shot of the Altar (with its incomplete iconostas) during the Gospel. You can see the finished marble floor, with much of it obstructed by an army of priests:

The Great Entrance:

Conclusion of the Great Entrance with a shot of the Patriarchal Throne at the back:

"The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." Note how the Trikeri and Dikeri were decorated with flowers for the occasion:

"Let us lift up our hearts."

During the preface. You can see one of two tables with chalices for Communion that were set up outside the Altar (all the bread however, was on the Holy Table itself):

With this many priests, the words of Consecration sounded as if the whole church was chanting them:

"Thine own, of Thine own, we offer to Thee, on behalf of all and for all."

Note that Patriarch Svyatoslav, who is a great lover and promoter of tradition in his own Rite, has a properly cut Lamb with commemorations on the discos. Due to the *huge* number of faithful, he did use pre-cuts however, but they were on separate discoi, all of them on the Holy Table near the main discos.


Incensation of the Divine Mysteries at the Commemoration of the Theotokos:

You remember that army of priests? and that there were 20,000 people at a Cathedral that holds only several thousand? and all the many chalices? Well, time for many of those priests to grab a chalice and a spoon, and get to work doing what they were ordained to do. Inside:

and outside. Each priest here is accompanied by a blue and white umbrella. We now get some good shots of the completed outside:

All the white inside? It *all* needs to be covered with icons. The inside decor is the part of construction that's still left. Structurally, the cathedral was finished a year or two ago and the floor installed about two weeks ago. Here, Patriarch Svyatoslav blesses the faithful with the Divine Mysteries:

Here he chants the dismissal. In the top corner of the photo you can see the artophor (ark/tabernacle). This one looks like a huge chalice:

Hopefully, I got everything. The whole dedication took a good hour and a half and the Divine Liturgy after that two hours.

Update: Added a couple more photos.