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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Depressing View of Human Dignity

Many images like this one regularly make the rounds on Facebook in support of the pro-life cause. The goal is to show the beauty of human life and it's generation, the sacrifice made by one human body to take care of another in the womb, but to me it's a depressing thing to look at because of everything lustful that women do with their bodies and how they have degraded themselves to objects of pleasure in order to become pregnant in the first place. Sex is the sacrifice of yourself to take care of your spouse, in a union that God uses as the environment to create new life. Sex is the pinnacle and symbol of marriage, which is the sacrifice of yourself to God to get your spouse to heaven. How can anyone degrade that to an act of pleasure and empty emotions? Yet that is what happens virtually every time the above depicted scenario is created. Such pictures are meant to show the dignity of the child, but they only remind me of the lack of dignity of the mother when this happens in real life.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Artwork for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

Today is the Second Sunday of Great Lent

In the Byzantine Rite hear the Gospel of the Healing of the Man with Palsy. (Mark 2:1‐12)

In the Latin Rite we hear the Gospel of the Transfiguration. (Matthew 17:1-9)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Remember the Dead

Today is the Second All-Souls Saturday in the Byzantine Rite. Remember the dead and their needs. Pray and do penance for the dead. In the Byzantine tradition, Great Lent is not just a time for doing penance for yourself, but for the dead also. Vichnaya Pamyat. Everlasting Memory.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Novena of Thorns for Ecce Homo

The Statue of Ecce Homo in Ponta Delgada, Portugal

Today, Ember Wednesday in Lent, is the first day of the Novena of Thorns, in honor of Ecce Homo, the original inspiration for this blog.

Here is the prayer in honor of Ecce Homo:
O good and most loving Jesus, who for love of our souls didst will to be scourged, crowned with thorns and considered a king of comedy in the Pretorium of Pilate, giving us the greatest example of humility, grant that, attracted by Thine Adorable Face, we might not have another thought that isn't to praise Thee, another desire that isn't Thy Love.

Grant, O Lord, that our lives might always be illuminated by the flares of Thy Sacred Passion, in order that, in setbacks we might fell Thy strength, in afflictions, Thy consolation, in wounds, Thy refreshment, in sadness, Thy joy, arriving thus unharmed at Thine Eternal Kingdom. Amen.

Approved and Indulgenced by the Sacred Penitentiary.

Will You Acompany The Bridegroom in His Suffering?

A bride's function is to support and help her bridegroom. Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church. How much have we supported Him in His suffering and done penance and mortification to join in and help His sacrifice for us? Christ's death and resurrection shows us that His sacrifice leads to immortality. Thus, if we join ourselves to His sacrifice and participate in it, we will find immortality as well, hence the need for so much suffering and penance in this world. Do we just watch His sacrifice like His enemies did on the first Holy Friday or do we participate in it by accepting our own sufferings and especially by the Holy Eucharist?

Listen to the Bridegroom's words: "In thy sight are all they that afflict me; my heart hath expected reproach and misery. And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none. And they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." (Ps 68:21-22) He lives a life accustomed to pain as the Holy Prophet Isaias tells us: "Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not." (Is 53:3) Do we join Him in His suffering, so that we may share in His resurrection, or do we reject God by wanting to serve Him on our own terms?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Heard You Like Icons...

In the Eastern Churches, the First Sunday of Lent is the Sunday of Orthodoxy, celebrating the condemnation of the iconoclastic heretics, who falsely claimed that the veneration of icons is equal to the worship of idols.

My main personal icons:

Troparion, Tone 2: We bow before Your most pure image, O kind Lord,* and beg pardon for our sins, O Christ our God.* Of Your own will You consented to ascend the Cross in the flesh to free Your handiwork from enslavement to the enemy.* In thanksgiving we cry aloud to You:* by coming to save the world, our Saviour, You filled all things with joy.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion, Tone 8: The uncircumscribed Word of the Father* became circumscribed when He took flesh of you, O Mother of God,* and when He restored the divine image to its ancient glory,* He suffused it with the beauty of God.* Therefore, confessing our salvation in deed and word,* we portray it in images.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Miracle of St. Theodore

On the First Saturday of Lent, the Byzantine Churches commemorate the miracle of St. Theodore the Recruit. St. Theodore was a soldier in Alasium in Asia Minor martyred in 306. Upon being commanded to sacrifice to idols, he loudly proclaimed himself to be a Christian exclaiming, "I am a Christian. It is Christ alone that I love. He is the King whom I serve, and to Him alone that I want to offer a sacrifice!" They left him alone, but at night he went to the pagan temple and burnt it to the ground. The governor was furious, but St. Theodore mocked him saying that it was absurd to consider God to be an inanimate piece of wood so easily reduced to ashes. Threatened with tortures he said, "Your threats do not frighten me, because the power of Christ will be my joy and gladness in torment." He was condemned to death by starvation. That night Christ appeared to him to comfort him and provide him with spiritual food. He was joined by angels in singing hymns such that the guards thought that Christians had snuck into his locked cell. Upon being offered bread and water, he refused it, saying Christ had given him heavenly food. The governor offered to make him high priest if he recanted and worshiped idols, but St. Theodore only laughed at him. He was hung upside-down and cut with hooks, but they did him no harm. He was thrown into a bonfire, but the flames leapt up around him forming a triumphal arch before he died.

In 361, when the Emperor Julian the Apostate decided to persecute the Christians at the beginning of Lent by tainting all the food with the blood of sacrifices to idols. St. Theodore appeared in a vision to Patriarch Eudoxius to warn him. The Patriarch ordered that none of the food be purchased and that the faithful are to eat only the Kollyva/Kutia, the boiled wheat grains, they had at home. Kutia is still eaten today in honor of the dead and on this Saturday in commemoration of the miracle.

St. Theodore the Recruit is also known for appearing to a widow and returning her only son captured by the Saracens and for saving those trapped in storms. Come to think of it, we could have used him last weekend here in New England...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Nights in Lent for Byzantines

In the Latin Rite, Friday nights in Lent mean Stations of the Cross. In the Byzantine Rite, Friday nights in Lent mean the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos. A quarter of it is chanted on each of the first four Fridays and the whole thing is chanted on the 5th Friday, on the eve of Akathist Saturday. An Akathist is a certain type of long hymn and there are many of them. Unqualified, "Akathist" typically refers to the Akathist to the Theotokos. The word "akathist" means "not sitting", since they are said standing. Here is the first ode (of twelve):

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Male Souls and Female Souls

I have this hypothesis, nay theory. It's too solid to be a mere hypothesis.

There must logically exist both male and female souls. Gender must logically exist in the soul and not just the body:

1) The soul is the source of life of the body, but the body is both male and female. Therefore, the soul must be male and female also.

2) Ordination pertains to the soul, not the body, yet only males may be ordained. Therefore, the soul must be male and female like the body.

3) Like ordination, a person's relationship with God, which might very well include ordination, pertains to the soul, not the body, yet men are called to serve God in a masculine manner as proper gentlemen and women in a feminine manner as proper ladies, each according to the unique dignity for which he was created. Therefore, the differentiation of sex must exist in both the soul and the body.

4) There is no reason to believe that someone looses their gender when they die, since we are still the same people after death that we were in life, yet we all loose our bodies when we die. Therefore, gender must exist in the soul also, not just the body.

I'm sure someone could compose an excellent Thomistic article about this. Of course my four proofs that gender exists in the soul and not just the body would be the responses to the objections.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Stripped Naked by Sin, Let us Clothe Ourselves in Virtue

Today is the Sunday of Cheesefare, the last day before Great Lent in the Byzantinen Rite. Lent starts tommorrow on Clean Monday. In the Latin Rite, Lent begins two days later on Ash Wednesday (which happens when Pascha is on the same day in both rites, which is the case here since we are using the Gregorian calendar.)

Today is also known as the Sunday in Commemoration of the Casting Out of Adam from Paradise. By failing to fast from the tree, humanity now needs to fast to obtain forgiveness. This Sunday reminds us why we need forgiveness (the disobedience in the garden which is continued and repeated any time any of us sin) and also how we are to fast to obtain forgiveness: in the Apostle reading (Rom 13:11-14:4) St Paul tells us to abstain from worldly pleasures that we might gain self-control over our desires and in the Gospel (Mt 6:14-21) Our Blessed Lord tells us to fast for our own benefit and not for show.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Those Who Live In Sin, Live In The Past

Before the time of the saving cross, sin ruled over all the earth. Impiety prevailed, and men reveled in the pleasures of the flesh! But since the mystery of the cross was performed and the demons' torture was smothered by the knowledge of God, the virtuous life of heaven has reigned on the earth. Therefore the fast is honored! Abstinence glistens, and prayer is strengthened! The witness of these is the present time granted to us by the crucified Christ, our God for the salvation of our souls!
-Apostiha at Matins this morning in the Byzantine Office

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Relentless Unstoppable Love

Christ the Bridegroom doesn't fear any of the sins of His Bride the Church; not the rejection, nor the mockery, nor the thorns, nor the nails or anything else, for His Love for Her absolves Her sins and His Divine Power changes Her past, removing Her sins from Her. He goes bravely and patiently to His death for it is a sacrifices that purifies His Bride and makes Her a pure virgin again. Let us take up the cross and follow Him to glory.

"Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father."-Phil 2:6-11

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dealing with Abuse the Christian Way

"He was offered because it was his own will, and he
opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the
slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his
shearer, and he shall not open his mouth." (Is. 53:7)

Let the abuse you receive be endured as a penance unto the conversion of the one abusing you. In His passion, Christ the Lover of Mankind did not retaliate against His Bride rejecting Him, nor did he "give in" and approve of those rejecting Him doing so. Rather He endured their abuse and mockery in the passion as a penance for their conversion, rendering the actions of sin self-destructive. The more He is rejected, the more suffering Christ the Bridegroom has in which to offer Himself to the Father. The greater the suffering in the sacrifice, the greater the merits of the sacrifice.

It is something best lived out by Fools for Christ. Such saints, at the base of it, provoke others into persecuting them so that they may have more suffering in which they can offer themselves to the Father. They often keep to themselves, live destitute lives, frequently pester the people they encounter, looking for more suffering in which they can offer themselves to God. They are the guys who, in a persecution, instead of fleeing or going into hiding like most Christians, run towards the persecutors flaunting their faith wanting more intense tortures to offer a more difficult sacrifice of themselves to God. The grace of Holy Foolishness is certainly given to few.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Last Judgement, Eternal Damnation, and You

In the Byzantine Rite, today is the third of four Pre-Lenten Sundays: the Sunday of Meatfare, the last day to eat meat before Pascha. It is also called the Sunday of the Last Judgement after today's Gospel. It is good to have the image of the Last Judgement going into Great Lent. It reminds us that we will each die one day and the only things we will take with us are the merits of our good works and the blame for our bad works. Today's Gospel (Mt 25:31-46) sums that up exactly. If it wasn't for final judgement, we wouldn't ever need repentance in our lives since everyone would get to Heaven. But since things don't work that way in real life, we need to repent and constantly prepare for our final judgement since we know not the day nor the hour. If we do not not repent and we remain in our sins, then God will not force Himself on us. God forces His love on no one. If we die in our sins, then we will remain in our death and sin for all eternity and will burn in Hell. Ignoring Hell because it's an "unpleasant thought" doesn't make it go away. Confession makes it go away-which leads us into next Sunday: the Sunday of Forgiveness.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Only When We See the Lord Can We Truly Die Happy

Now Thou dismiss Thy servant, O Master,* according to Thy word in peace,/ for mine eyes* have seen Thy salvation,/ which Thou hast prepared* before the face of all peoples;/ a light of revelation for the Gentiles,* and the glory of Thy people Israel.