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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

What is Peace?


Хт\ос Родивсz! Славїм Иого!
Христос Раждається! Славіте Його!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Cristo Nasceu! Glorifica-lo!

Peace is having all your passions and emotions under control and at rest. That is peace. It is this peace of which Christ is prince and this is what He came to bring us. He came to free us from the yoke of sin, from the passions and emotions sin gives us, so we call Him Savior. He did so that, free from the dictatorship of the passions, we might be at peace and live in God, so we call Him Prince of Peace. Peace is not everyone being in accord with each other about the passions and sins they all have; peace is having your passions controlled and at rest. This is freedom. Giving in and obeying the passions is slavery and pleasure is the lie the passions use to control you; not letting you see the trap until after you are addicted. Christ is the Light that dispels these lies. He is the truth that silences the darkness. He is the one who brings peace. He is the Light-giver. He promises to free us from passions, the only thing stopping Him is that people won't let Him. So let us rejoice that we have been shown the Light on this glorious night of Christ's Nativity and pray for those who still need to find peace from passions and are still in the darkness.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why do We Fast? To Gain Self-Control Over Our Passions.

For the value of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works! Is it said by what kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you see in enemy, be reconciled to him! If you see a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If you see a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.
- St. John Chrysostom

Monday, October 27, 2014

All-Consuming and Immortal Divine Love


The Christian couple gives thanks to the Lord for the grace they have received to live in Divine Love, showing that love to each other and seeing it through each other, that through their union and mutual self-sacrifice they might get to Heaven, that the children who are fruits of their union might also get to Heaven, and that others may see them, and through them as icons of Christ and His Bride the Church, see the love of Christ the Bridegroom, who came with great mercy to sacrifice Himself on the Cross to bring His Beloved-and through Her all men-back to Himself, for Divine Love, the Holy Ghost, knows not death and-far from being overcome by the world's evil-instead destroys the world's evil, selfish, and pleasure-serving designs, restoring the sinners It consumes to purity so they can have life in Christ and live in Divine Love forever.

The Iconostas of St. Peter's Basilica and the Saint's Tomb

The Italian blog "Traditio Liturgica" has studied the original St. Peter's Basilica and consequently produced images of it's interior and exterior as it appeared when it was more than the crypt it is today. The original St. Peter's Basilica was built by St. Constantine the Great over the tomb of St. Peter, which was in a common cemetery and covered by a large 1st Century monument built by the Christians of Rome. In the 16th and 17th Centuries, the Basilica was torn down to a single story's height to serve as the crypt level of the new (and current) Basilica which was then built on top of it. St. Peter's Square was vastly expanded in the process from the size of the small Constantinian square to the square that exists today.

Period image of the original Basilica complex

Recreation of the Basilica Complex

Overhead shot of the square with the Basilica's facade

Wide-shot of the interior
The icon of Christ on the apse wall used to be flanked by Sts. Peter and Paul.

Close-up of the whole altar. 
Notice the iconostas that existed before the Latins came to become more liturgically divergent from the rest of the Church. In the Early Church, the Iconostas was a colonnade with curtains drawn across the length of the collonade (the curtains are missing in this image). Icons then stood in the spaces between the columns. This evolved from the original practice of a single massive curtain separating the Altar and the Nave (which is still observed in the Antiochean Tradition). This "colonnade" Iconostas then developed into the solid wall of today in the East, whereas the Latins maintained the colonnade until the Renaissance when it was shortened to the Altar Rails of today.

Overhead of the Altar

Interior of the Altar.
The altar has a nearly identical layout to the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople. Here is the interior of the Ahia Sophia for comparison.

Interior of the Altar.
You'll notice the Holy Table itself faces geographical east, even though the building doesn't (it faces west). This is an ancient custom of the city of Rome: at the consecration all would face geographical east, even if that resulted in some or even all of the congregation turning their backs to the altar.

Overview of the transepts, complete with secondary altars, each with an Iconostas. On the side of the High Altar one can see the door leading down to another altar over St. Peter's Tomb.

Far wall of one transept. The door leads into the ambulatory, with more secondary altars.

Looking over the Holy Door through the nave.

Directly under the High Altar is this altar one floor down.
This altar is immediately and directly over St. Peter's tomb. Above the bones of St. Peter is a monument to his memory, built in a pagan style as to not appear suspicious to the authorities at the time. Back to back with that monument is this Altar (which faces geographical east), which predates the Basilica and was preserved (together with the monument) due to it's popularity. Therefore, as to not destroy these structures, the main Altar was raised one floor above the nave. This chapel was later converted into the current-day Clementine Chapel and the wall in the middle at the bottom the two staircases in the altar was converted to the current Confessio. The floor of the nave became the floor of the current crypt level (the grottoes) and the floor of the current basilica was built somewhat above the level of the floor inside the altar of the old basilica.

Friday, October 17, 2014

What is Holy Communion and Who Exactly Can Receive It?

The Holy Eucharist is the carnal intimacy between Christ and His Bride the Church. It is the exchange of Divine Love between Christ and His Beloved. He gives Himself to Her and becomes a part of Her and filled with Him She becomes a part of Him. In their carnal union, Christ and the Church become One Flesh. It is the antithesis of sin and as such the Devil hates it. It is the one thing in the world that is the most opposed to him and everything he stands for. Sin is merely separation from God; following your own will instead of His. Hence, sin and the Eucharist are irreconcilable. One cannot be in Christ and sin at the same time. To attempt to do so is hypocrisy, but being sinful when approaching for Communion is more than that, it actually impedes the exchange of Divine Love. How can you participate in the back and forth exchange of Divine Love with Christ if you do not have Divine Love within you?

Some, seeking to commit the sin of sacrilege with the Divine Eucharist, make excuse with excuses in sins saying that we are all sinners and thus if some can receive, all can receive. No! This is a lie. We are not all sinners. Those who have gone to Confession are not sinners. They are holy. They will remain that way until they sin again. Those who have sinned are sinners and will remain that way until they go to confession. Sinfulness is a temporary condition. It lasts only until you go to confession. After Confession you are not a sinner, but holy and will remain in that condition until you sin again. There is a reason why we hear at Divine Liturgy "Holy Things for the holy". Communion is for the holy and it is Confession that restores you to holiness after falling into sinfulness.

The Eucharist is the exchange of Divine Love between Christ and His Beloved and Confession restores you to Divine Love after being in sin. Hence, Communion is for the holy and Confession is for the sinful. Those two mysteries have mutually exclusive demographics. They are not the same and neither are the people for whom those mysteries exist. Why is this distinction between the holy and the sinful so black and white and so important? Because those who die while holy go to Heaven and those who die while sinful go to Hell. "But what about purgatory?", some say in a whiny voice. Purgatory (which is a lake of fire) is just a way for us to try and explain the post-mortem purification for those who are holy, but haven't yet reached the perfection of holiness. (While purgatory is a much newer way of explaining post-mortem purification than the Toll-Booths, it does make much more sense, at least to me.) Post-mortem purification is no more permanent than this life, so that's no cop-out. Regardless of everything, in the end, everyone will be either among the sheep or the goats; everyone will be in either Heaven or Hell.

Some, also seeking to make excuse with excuses in sin, say that none of us are worthy, hence, if some can receive, all can receive. No! What do we chant for a man when he is ordained? AXIOS! Axios means "worthy" or "he is worthy". Similarly, the troparion of Christ the Bridegroom ascribes the vigilant soul as worthy and the slothful soul as unworthy. Not all are unworthy. God does not commit sacrilege with His own gifts. People on earth might want to commit sacrilege with God's gifts, and do so in many ways, but God does not. When He gives Divine Grace to someone in any of the mysteries, it is because that person has proved himself worthy. Those baptized have proved themselves worthy by professing faith in the Church. Those absolved in Confession have proved themselves worthy by repenting of their sins (as opposed to being unrepentant). Those receiving Communion have proved themselves worthy by going to Confession and remaining pure afterwards.

We do not exist for the mysteries, the mysteries exist for us. They exist to strengthen us in different ways, each according to different conditions a person might be in, whether it be purification for the sinful in confession, strength for the holy in Communion, and so on. If the mysteries exist for us, then we are worthy of them. God calls all men to salvation through the mysteries of the Church. There are no other means of salvation, since in the holy mysteries, there is all help for all people, each according to his own kind. The only problem that can arise then is if someone in one condition tries to grab the mystery designed for another person. In their pride they delude themselves with a fake union that does not exist, since they are not properly disposed for that mystery and it is not for them. Each mystery is for a different specific purpose. The sin of lust, more than any other, impedes the mysteries, not only because it is the most common sin by far, but also because it is a direct parody of the exchange of Divine Love in Holy Matrimony, committing sacrilege against the flesh, which is designed for that exchange.

Sin is separation from God and Holy Communion is union with God. Not only is it hypocritical to try and have both, it is downright delusional. Holy Communion is not a tool for people to manipulate to support their sins. It is God Himself. Holy Communion is the expression of Divine Love between Christ and those who are already in His Love. Baptism and Confession are what Christ established for those outside His Love. Christ came to convert us from our sins and join us to Himself. He did not come to support the lives we were already living. If that was so, then His coming would have been for nothing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

"Why I Come to Church"


The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia produced the above video of members of the faithful answering the titular question "Why I Come to Church".

As one girl said in the video, we go to Church because we are looking for answers. If we already knew everything and were already perfect, we wouldn't need Church. The Church is a hospital for sinners and nothing more. The Church's only mission is to convert all nations. We exist to help people out of sinful and Godless lives and into the love with which God loved them before He created them. We neither condemn nor condone; we convert. That is all for which we were established.

Why do I go to Church? Because that is where I can encounter Divine Love, far more clearly than anywhere else. It's not like contemplating nature, where we can see a mere fingerprint or footprint of God; mere evidence of Himself that He left behind. The Holy Eucharist truly is God and He truly is there in the Church. We are there to be intimate with God. The Holy Eucharist is the Carnal Intimacy between Christ and His Bride the Church. We are there to help each other to attain that union with God. We are there to escape this world and go to Heaven. God wants to love mankind, but most people in the world run away from Him into the empty pleasures of the world. That is the problem we exist to solve: to bring people out of the world and into the Divine Love for which they were created by God.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Bridegroom Waiting for His Bride


Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today we worship the Holy Bridegroom who sacrificed Himself on the Cross for His Bride, the Church, that all men might be saved through Her. He alone is Our Savior for He is the Creator of all men and the End for which all men were created and He sacrificed Himself to free us from the sins into which we had run away that through Him and His Church we all might live in the Divine Love for which we were created.

We belong to Him by right because He created us to live in Him. We ran away into sin, casting ourselves into death and vanity by our own stubborn will and selfishness. But since He has power over the living and the dead and Himself survives death, we, through participation in His Cross, find freedom from sinful passions that we may live in the Divine Love for which we were created. We participate in His Cross by accepting the suffering in our daily lives and giving ourselves to Him in the Sacraments, above all in the Eucharist, which is the Carnal Intimacy between Christ and His Bride. In the Eucharist we receive the Flesh and Blood of Christ who gave Himself on the Cross to be with us, that filled with Him, we might become a part of Him and dwell with Him in Heaven, having left all worldy passions and sins behind, being rendered pure again by His Blood. This is why we celebrate the Cross. We lament because Our Beloved is dead and rejoice because His surviving death raises us out of our sinful passions and back to our original purity in Him.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Finding Sanctity in Simple Housework


Today we celebrate the feast of St. Euphrosynos the Cook. He was the cook of a monastery in the 9th century that was mocked and looked down upon by the other monks as an incompetent fool. He prepared food for the brethren daily while enduring their abuse without retaliation or complaint as a sacrifice and thereby attained great humility and sanctity. A certain priest of that same monastery fervently and unceasingly implored God to show him the treasures that God has prepared for those that love Him. God granted him his request and in a dream showed the priest the Heavenly Garden of Paradise. The priest was awed and left speechless at the ineffable beauty of Heaven. He was shocked to see the Monk Euphrosynos walking casually through the Garden. He asked Monk Euphrosynos how was it that he was there. He replied that by the mercy and grace of God he was able to attain a place in Paradise. The priest then humbly asked the monk for some of Heaven's treasures. St. Euphrosynos picked three apples from a tree and wrapped them in the priest's handkerchief. Just then, the simandron was sounded to awaken the monks and call them to the chapel for Matins. The priest realized that it was all a dream. He looked over at his handkerchief and saw that it still contained the three apples, with an ineffable fragrance that filled the room.

In the chapel, the priest, with a frustrated tone, asked Monk Euphrosynos where he had been. He replied that he was in the place where they just met. The priest asked even more solemnly to tell what had happened. He told the priest that God granted him his request to see what God prepared for those who love Him and that he gave the priest three apples that the priest is now hiding in his cell. After Matins, the priest told the brethren of the dream and that he found the apples still in his handkerchief upon waking when the simandron was sounded. He took the brethren to his cell where they too were mystified by the ineffable fragrance of the apples. They went to seek their brother Euphrosynos, amazed by his sanctity and wanting to venerate him and seek his spiritual advice, but he was nowhere to be found. Knowing that he had access to Paradise, they figured that he couldn't be anywhere else. He was never seen again.

St. John Damascene on Fidelity to the Church

"Listen to me, people of all nations, men, women, and children, all of you who bear the Christian name: If any one preach to you something contrary to what the Holy Catholic Church has received from the holy apostles and fathers and councils, and has kept down to the present day, do not heed him. Do not receive the serpent’s counsel, as Eve did, to whom it was death. If an angel or an emperor teaches you anything contrary to what you have received, shut your ears."
- St. John of Damascus, Apologia of St. John Damascene Against Those Who Decry Holy Images

(Source)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why We Need Confession

You can't pour wine into a bottle if the lid is closed. You can't pour wine into a bottle if the bottle is filled with sand and filth. Even if it is only a very small amount of sand and filth in the bottle, it still pollutes the wine, rendering it undrinkable. It is good for nothing but to be poured out on the ground. We are the bottles and the wine is Divine Love. Repentance is the realization that it is not about us and that we need to empty ourselves of everything to receive Divine Love, that we may be completely filled with Him. It is following in the footsteps of the apostles, who left everything to follow the Master; not following the would-be followers who made excuse and wanted to follow Christ while simultaneously doing another work. Let the dead bury the dead. It's not about us; it's about leaving this world to be joined to Divine Love.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Chants for the Theotokos, for Her Dormition

As we celebrate the Queen of Heaven ascending to the Cherubim Throne:

A sessional hymn for the feast, in Spanish:


And from the Latin Rite, Palestrina's motet, based on the Alleluia for the Mass of the feast:


Deathless Queen, Free Us from Death!


The Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Today we celebrate the "Pascha of the Theotokos", her greatest feast and the end of her earthly life. Today the apostles were miraculously transported to Jerusalem to bid farewell to her. Today she was taken up to Heaven without suffering death, for since she is the Immacuate One and is free from the effects of the sin of Adam, she was not subject to either death or labor pains.

Today, O Theotokos, thine entrance in Heaven as its Queen, greater than the cherubim and more honorable than the seraphim, confounds heretics that deny thy purity, that thou wast ever-virgin and free from the sorrowful inheritance we have received from Adam, for God willed that thou wouldst bear the New Adam. Intercede for us now and bring the sinner back to the sight of the Face thou beholdest now again and restore her purity as thou art ever-pure and all-blameless.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Glory to Thee Who hast showed us the Light!


Today the Fire of Divine Love reveals Himself on Tabor in the small Pascha. Today the Bridegroom reveals His Majesty and shames His enemies. Today the sins of those living in darkness are exposed at the revelation of the Omnipotent Light. Those who have obeyed the Divine King and have fashioned themselves into His Image radiate with His Light and those who follow their own designs and the beliefs and passions of men in their superficial analysis of the created world are exposed as false by the Almighty Light who judges all!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Leader is One Who Suffers for Those Under Him

Via Rorate, which has been so excellent in standing up for their Oriental Catholic and Oriental Orthodox brethren in the Middle East during this latest Muhammadan persecution, comes this statement from His Beatitude, Louis Raphael, Patriarch of Babylon and All Mesopotamia, Primate of the Chaldean Catholic Church, regarding the current persecution:


I’ll start my speech by the Word of Christ as His Word is the source of strength and salvation of us, the poor of this lost world: "There is no need to be afraid, little flock" (Luke 12:32).

Our present pain is associated with our Christianity and with the mystery of our Passover (i.e., Easter). Our suffering if joined to the suffering of our Savior Jesus, "Man of Sorrows", will turn out to be a blessing and salvation to us and to others. And the current challenges are faced with more faith, hope and prayer and solidarity and wisdom. Be brave in front of what you are facing, do not be afraid, you have deep roots in Iraq, do not give up for frustration and despair, confident that "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword" (Matthew 26:52) and evil does not last! You are the small mustard seed, the Lord will not let you fall. He is with you today, tomorrow and after tomorrow and forever.

We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices. I repeat, do not be afraid; stay strong as you are with your faith and your hope and love. We thank God for your safety, as no matter what, your life has no price.

God’s blessing be upon you.
Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako
[Chaldean Catholic Church]
July 20, 2014


Rorate is also the site that started the practice of displaying an Arabic letter "N" (which has since gone viral) in support of Christians in the Middle East. "N" stands for "Nasara", meaning "Nazarenes", which is what the Muhammadans call Christians. It is used to mark Christian-owned properties in the Middle East so they can be targeted for terrorism and execution, much like the Nazi practice of labeling Jewish-owned properties (and eventually the Jews themselves) with Stars of David. That same page has an interview with His Beatitude, Ignace Joseph III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Primate of the Syrian Catholic Church, on the current crisis.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Burning Fire of Divine Love


Send down the Flames of Thy Love, O Master, to burn the sinfulness of our flesh and restore our bodies to purity, as temples reserved for Thy Divine Love in Thine Infinite Majesty.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Day of the Theotokos

On July 2nd we celebrate the Desposition of the Robe of the Theotokos at Blachernae. The Latins on this day celebrate the Visitation of the Theotokos to her kinswoman Elisabeth. Truly July 2nd is a day the Theotokos has reserved to herself!


Thou, O All-Pure one, art the model of virgins, undefiled by any sin! Thou didst protect thy life undefiled and reserved thyself for the Divine Master, to be in the deepest intimacies with Divine Love, the Holy Ghost thy Spouse, and so for this reason all generations bless thee! Make now the sinner who did not heed this same call of purity for intimacy with Divine Love to be made pure and whole again and have her gate shut, O Closed Gate, that she may fulfill her purpose of living in Thy Son's Divine Love for which she was created!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Bearer of Divine Love


Today appears the voice of the Word, the best man of the Bridegroom, the candle bearing the Flame of the Holy Ghost. He comes crying out with fire in his voice proclaiming the Love of Christ the Bridegroom that sinners might repent and return to the Bridegroom. He rejects the passions of the flesh to make the flesh serve Divine Love that the world might be returned to the Bridegroom and repose in His Love.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Truth and Divine Love with His Saints


As we saw last Sunday when the fullness of the Undivided Trinity was revealed at Pentecost, the life of the Trinity is the exchange of Divine Love. It is a life of perfect eros and perfect agape; a perfect desire for your beloved and a perfect giving of yourself to your beloved. It is a two-motion act like the beating of a heart; each person perfectly giving himself to the other and perfectly receiving the other.

This is the life of God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Ghost is the Divine Love that binds them together in one Being. The Holy Ghost is the love that binds Father and Son, Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride the Church, and an earthly bridegroom and bride. Everyone is called to participate in the marriage between Christ and His Bride. Only some are called to marriage. Marriage is a reproductive participation in the exchange of Divine Love. Divine Love is the Holy Ghost. Everything else called "marriage" is a lie and a false idol.

Just to participate in the exchange of Divine Love, you must be free from sin and completely reserved for Divine Love. To have any sin is hypocrisy for one who wishes to live in Divine Love. You must be completely reserved for Divine Love. As St. Paul tells the Corinthians, sinners "eat and drink judgement on themselves" (1 Cor 11:29) when they dry to participate in the Divine Life without removing their sins from them. The saints are those who already removed sin from themselves and reserved themselves for Divine Love. They have entered into Divine Love in the union of Christ and His Bride. Despite having sinned, they have washed themselves clean in the Blood of the Lamb and returned themselves to purity; returned to keeping vigil with the wise virgins for the Bridegroom. Let us imitate them and implore their aid for this is the only path to salvation, for there is only one God.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Today We Worship the Fire of Divine Love


Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Love, the feast of the Divine Fire that comes from Heaven, the Divine Fire that burns the sins of the sinner and removes them from existence, no longer marring her past. Today we feast the Divine Fire that warms the hearts of the faithful, weary from fighting against the sinfulness of the world. Today we celebrate the manifestation of the fullness of the Life-giving Trinity, for the Holy Ghost is the Divine Love that unites the Father and the Son and He also joins Christ the Bridegroom with His Bride the Church and also bridegroom and bride and as the Life-giver gives them children. Divine Love enables with speech those who give themselves to Him to proclaim the Truth of Divine Love and expose the lies of Cosmos, who seeks the ruin of souls, for the Divine Fire comes to us today as a Champion to illumine the world through His servants.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pope Pius XII's Advice to Couples

Dear Newlyweds is an anthology of Pope Pius XII’s addresses at his audiences with newly married couples. In these audiences, he regularly addresses the couples as “Dear newlyweds” and gives them advice on some aspect of married life. His Holiness was not concerned with the couples’ worldly pursuits, but of building up a family that works for the salvation of it’s members.

Each address is short, several minutes long, each speaking on a different aspect of marriage, which is the sacrifice of yourself to save your spouse, a reality around which His Holiness’s messages revolve. The addresses are taken from throughout his reign and are arranged, not by date, but by topic, which allows for easier reading. That lets the reader make organized progress through different aspects of marriage and makes it easier to find a particular topic.

This is a great book for couples, as they can read only one or several addresses at a time as opposed to reading a long treatise. This book is great for all couples, from dating couples aspiring to marriage to couples married for many years, since the addresses speak on the different attitudes and works needed for a successful marriage, a success which is not something measured in terms of earthly affairs. Success in marriage is found in responding to God’s Love, which manifests Itself to the couple through each other, through a sacrifice of self to bring each other to Heaven. That sacrifice, that love, is the environment in which God wills to create new life-lives that are entrusted to the couple for them to teach those children to love God the same way that God loved the couple. This reality about marriage is exactly what the Church teaches and exactly what Pope Pius instills in couples in these messages.

This book is available here from Aquinas & More Catholic Goods.

I wrote this review of Dear Newlyweds for the free Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore. I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Omnipotent King's Victory Over the Sinner


Today Thou revealest Thyself, not only as man, but as both God and man and dost rise up to the Divine Throne from which Thou wast never separated, more glorious than Holy Elias of old on his chariot of fire. Send down now the Fire of the Divine Holy Ghost to likewise raise up the sinner to Thy Divine Throne, consuming her sins and thereby rendering her original purity as never having been separated from her, O Divine King with infinite power and great mercy over all!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Glory to Christ Jesus Who Tramples Sin!

On this Sunday we go back to this blog's origins in the Latin Church, for it is on this day, the Sunday before Ascension Thursday, that the Feast of Ecce Homo (the Western variant of the Nymphios) is celebrated at the shrine of the same in Ponta Delgada, Portugal. I of course have more info, including pictures and video, linked in the sidebar as well as here.


The Bridegroom who beholds all comes at midnight to work justice: what He will establish will be established forever and what He will destroy will be destroyed forever, for He is the Victor that sacrificed Himself for His Bride and is therefore deserving of all glory and honor.

That is the whole essence of the devotion: to glorify Christ because He offered that sacrifice for His Bride the Church. The entire history of the statue and the devotion it sparked centers around glorifying Christ for His sacrifice. He offered the sacrifice of Himself to bring His Bride to Heaven and that sacrifice is the very essence of Divine Love: to sacrifice yourself to bring your beloved to Heaven. It is for that sacrifice that we laud Him.  It is that sacrifice of Divine Love that deserves glory and honor above everything else in the world. Suffering is dignified and precious because it is the expression of Divine Love. Christ made the perfect expression of Divine Love in His Passion, so today we praise Our Victorious King in all His Glory and Majesty for His sacrifice offered for us, His Bride.

Monday, May 19, 2014

We Must Keep Ourselves Pure

It doesn't matter to what extent is the flow of Divine Love impeded, it matters that the flow of Divine Love is impeded in the first place. Even the smallest sin keeps a soul out of heaven and she must be purified before she can enter. The Bridegroom wants to be with His beloved. It doesn't matter how much sin is interrupting them, only that sin is interrupting them. Any sin, whether it be easily forgivable or not, is evil.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

In Denial

From today's Gospel:

Then Jesus said to those Jews, who believed him: If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou: you shall be free? Jesus answered them: Amen, amen I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.
-Jn 8:31-34

"We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man." Right, because Egypt meant nothing. And let's just conveniently forget Babylon while we're at it. Those who are addicted to sin speak the same way, with the same elitist attitude. Just because they have access to sin, they fancy themselves as free because of that, in complete denial that the sin in fact controls them and that they have a rather limited view of the situation. To make the state of denial even more obvious, it is exactly sinners to whom Christ compares the Jews who are in denial of their own history and of their own elitism.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Honorable Sacrifice of Motherhood


Motherhood is a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice that changes over time: first pregnancy and childbearing, then raising an infant, then a toddler, then an older child, than a teenager, then the child moves out. Motherhood is a constantly changing sacrifice. Motherhood is honorable simply because it is a sacrifice. Sacrifice is a good thing. A sacrifice is a blessing from God because it is a means for joining ourselves to His sacrifice on the cross. To those whom He favors, God bestows a cross to carry.

The selflessness of sacrifice makes it honorable. We are all called to sacrifice, and each of us in a different way. There are many gifts in one Spirit as the Apostle says. Today, we celebrate the sacrifice of motherhood. There are many women who refuse to offer sacrifice and be a mother when called upon by God. That is one of several things that makes divorce so sinful: each parent puts their own sex lives and who they want to have sex with ahead of their children. That is what makes abortion so sinful. Beyond the fact that it's murder (which is the least of what's wrong with it), it is a refusal to sacrifice and live the sacrifice of a mother. Contraception is the refusal to live the sacrifice of a mother and is sinful for the same reason (they are both anti-reproductive and that is what makes them sinful, abortion being murder is just gravy on top). All these sins are a refusal to sacrifice; a refusal to offer the sacrifice of a mother when called upon by God. They are all forms of the "me before sacrifice" mentality and that philosophy is indeed the root of all evil and all sin in the Church and in the whole world.

The selfishness of such women only serves to make the honorable women that dutifully offer the sacrifice of motherhood to appear all the more honorable. Today we salute the women who had the courage, strength, selflessness, decency, and discipline to accept God's will when they were found with child, imitating their leader the Theotokos, and live the sacrifice of motherhood faithfully every day.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

God's Love is Itself a Condemnation of Sin

The fact that God loves a sinner at all is itself a condemnation of her sin. Far from God's love for a sinner being God supporting the sins that make her happy or God accepting her together with her sins, if God loves her, that's the same as saying that He wants her out of her sin and with Him. God's Love is itself a condemnation of sin. Heaven is being wholly swallowed up by Divine Love. Those who go to Hell then, are those who close themselves off to Divine Love and won't let it possess them. They have found pleasure in their own desires and passions and reject Divine Love for that reason. Divine Love simply doesn't give them that same happiness, which isn't surprising, because it was never supposed to in the first place. Divine Love makes Himself present to help us overcome our passions and desires, build self-control, and live in Him in this life, that we might do likewise in the next. Worldly pleasures and passions are destructive of the end of eternal salvation, because that is the entire reason why the Devil promotes them with demonic passion in the first place.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John the Theologian and at Vespers last night we heard from his first epistle:
"You are of God, little children, and have overcome him. Because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore of the world they speak, and the world heareth them.  We are of God. He that knoweth God, heareth us. He that is not of God, heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." (1 Jn 4:4-6)

Divine Love is in us. Self-serving passions are in worldly people. On one hand, what we possess is greater, so we will eventually defeat them. They are "playing from behind" because their master and their power is the inferior one. But at the same time, the two sides are mutually exclusive and will always be fighting one another, no matter how much they try to justify themselves by making up origins in God for their message.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Showing the Truth of Marriage


Today, in addition to St. Theodosius, Father of Ukrainian Monasticism, we also celebrate the great patron saints of marriage, Sts. Timothy and Maura. They were crucified together on the same cross in 304. They lasted an astounding 9 days before they died, the normal length for lasting on the cross being 2 days. This is what marriage is for. The only actual purpose of marriage is to give yourself to get the other to heaven. That is the sacrifice in which marriage consists. Sts. Timothy and Maura strengthened and each other on the cross, encouraging each other on the hard and narrow path to heaven, thus showing us the truth of marriage. It's not about happiness; it's about sacrifice to get each other to heaven. Everything else is passing and empty pleasure.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Fire of Divine Love Burns Even Though Extinguished!

The Fire of Divine Love burns even though extinguished! His enemies die like dew before the sun!

The church illumined by nothing except the rising sun early Pacha morning.


As Christ has Already Risen, so Shall Sinners Rise With Him


ХТОС ВОСКРЕСЕ! ВОИСТИНУ ВОСКРЕСЕ!
ΧΡΙΣΤΟϚ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΙΘΩϚ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
CHRISTVS SVRREXIT! VERE SVRREXIT!

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Cristo Ressuscitou! Em Verdade Ressuscitou!
Христос Воскрес! Воістину Воскрес!
Christus ist auferstanden! Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden!
Cristo è risorto! È veramente risorto!
¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡En verdad ha resucitado!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Devil Boasts Heavily of Her Sins, But Today We Wait at the Tomb for the Victor


Today the Devil, in desperation, boasts heavily of the sins of the sinner, bragging of what she has done and what the world has done to her in the pleasures of its selfishness and pride. But Cosmos shall be overthrown by He who waits in the tomb and the worldly ones who built her up a false life put to shame and exposed for their trickery and deceit. The Divine Bridegroom has gone down into Hades to raise her from the dead. The Divine Fire of the Holy Ghost comes down to purify her and illumine the world. Let us worship the Divine Fire from on high that cleanses the sinner! Glory to Thy Longsuffering, O Lord! O Bridegroom, Glory to Thee!


Friday, April 18, 2014

How Can I Mourn the Lord When He Descends Into Hades to Raise Up the Sinner?


How can I mourn the death of the Lord when it is this very night that the Bridegroom descends into Hades to raise up from it the sinner? Let us bow in worship of the Divine Fire that this night descends to purify the sinner. She destroyed herself by sin, but just as the bones beheld by Ezekiel had pure flesh restored unto them and lived again as men who never died, so too in the same way shall her flesh be made pure of her sins and her life restored to her as one who never sinned. All glory and praise to the Divine Fire that burns the sinner clean! Let her arise asking, "Where have they taken my beloved?" Let the sinners arise as the myrrh-bearers asking, "Where has he been taken?" O Bridegroom in Thy great mercy, Glory to Thee!

"Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and with Thy governing Spirit establish me. I shall teach transgressors Thy ways, and the ungodly shall turn back unto Thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; my tongue shall rejoice in Thy righteousness. O Lord, Thou shalt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise."

What Good Does It If We Mourn the Bridegroom, But Not Join Him In His Sacrifice?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Byzantine Washing of the Feet


Here is the Washing of the Feet at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kyiv served by Patriarch Svyatoslav earlier today.

The Washing of the Feet in the Byzantine Churches is performed only at Hierarchal Liturgies, be it at a cathedral with the bishop or a monastery with the abbot. For reasons that are pretty obvious on the face of it, you must be a priest to get your foot washed, since the 12 Apostles were priests. After the Ambon Prayer at the end of Divine Liturgy, the deacon chants the Gospel of the Washing of the Feet and the bishop and 12 priests perform the actions as the deacon chants them. The verse stating that Christ washed the feet of the apostles is repeated 12 times. The final priest fulfills the role of St. Peter. The bishop chants the words of Christ and that priest chants the words of Peter. Since they are both ordained, there is nothing wrong with them saying lines of the Gospel reading. Then the bishop re-vests and says the blessing and dismissal as usual. In parish practice, Vespers of the Mystical Supper and Divine Liturgy of St. Basil on Holy Thursday evening simply proceed without the Foot-Washing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tropar of the Bridegroom in Greek and Slavonic

This is the Holiest Week of the year and the Highest Feast Days of the year where we celebrate Christ the Bridegroom and His sacrifice for us, His Bride.

Ιδού, ο Νυμφίος έρχεται εν τω μέσω της νυκτός, και μακάριος ο δούλος, ον ευρήσει γρηγορούντα. Ανάξιος δε πάλιν ον ευρήσει ραθυμούντα. Βλέπε ουν, ψυχή μου, μη τω ύπνω κατενεχθείς, ίνα μη τω θανάτω παραδοθείς και της βασιλείας έξω κλεισθείς. Αλλά ανάνηψον κράζουσα· Άγιος, Άγιος, Άγιος ει ο Θεός ημών, διά της Θεοτόκου ελέησον ημάς.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Reciprocating the Love of the Bridegroom



On the first three days of Holy Week we celebrate the patronal feast of this blog. Let us watch for Christ calls us to live in the love He has for us, not to live in what makes us happy, but to reciprocate the same love He has shown for us on Calvary. We do not know when He will render accounts for us, so we must ask ourselves, "Have we been a faithful Bride to Him? Have we loved Him with the love with which He loves us?"

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pussy Willow Sunday


Great Feast of the Entry of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ into Jerusalem

Blessing of Pussy Willows at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Kyiv:


Troparia and Kontakion
Troparion, Tone 1:
Assuring us before Your Passion of the general resurrection,* You raised Lazarus from the dead, O Christ God:* and so, like the children we also carry signs of victory* and cry to You, the conqueror of death:* Hosanna in the highest!* Blessed is He who comes* in the name of the Lord.

Glory…

Troparion, Tone 4:
Buried with You through Baptism, O Christ our God,* we have been granted immortal life by Your resurrection,* and we sing Your praises, crying out:* Hosanna in the highest!* Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

Now…

Kontakion, Tone 6:
Mounted on the throne in heaven, O Christ God,* and on a colt here on earth,* You accepted the praise of the angels,* and the hymn of the children who cried to You:* Blessed are You who have come to call Adam back.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why the World is Exactly 7,522 Years Old

On Facebook, I recently came across a very interesting and theologically sound argument. It says that many Christians, who call themselves faithful, believe that the universe must logically have taken billions of years to form with the "Big Bang", and "evolution", etc.-just as a result of straightforward scientific observation. Now, these same people will just as readily believe that the miracle of the water into wine at Cana is still true regardless of what science ever thinks of it, because that wine was created by God, in a complete and total self-contradiction.

In only one instant, Christ turned water into a wine of such quality that it would have required decades to mature to that quality and also generations of soil-tilling and vine-pruning before that to even produce grapes of a sufficient quality for such a wine. All that God performed in a single instant. Not a length of time that "seemed like" an instant, but an instant. In only one instant God created a perfectly matured wine that required a vineyard perfected over countless generations and further decades of maturation. If God can create such a wine in such a manner, than He can create in an instant an entire universe that should take billions of years to form...or He can go slowly and take six days instead of an instant.

By one miracle at Cana, Christ undermines all science regarding the origins of the universe and the origins of humanity and proves such scientific findings to be mere superficial observations of researchers. How many times in the hymns of our Byzantine services do we praise the words of uneducated apostles for silencing the eloquence of orators and educated philosophers?

We humans do not have monkey brains, we have dirt clod brains and whoever thinks we have monkey brains really does have a dirt clod brain.

PS: How do we get the 7,522 year old age? The Julian Calendar uses Anno Mundi (AM) with September 1st chosen to represent the beginning of the year and of the whole calendar (as opposed to the Gregorian Calendar which uses BC & AD and begins on January 1st). Thus, on the Julian Calendar, the first day of creation was Sunday, September 1st, AM 1 and today's date is Friday, March 29th, AM 7522, with today's Gregorian date being Friday, April 11th, AD 2014.

Glory to God who shames orators.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just What We Needed

Last night was Matins of the Great Canon. Just when we are tired from fasting and starting to get hungry, Holy Mother Church gives us the life of St. Mary of Egypt and her strict fasting of a satchel of food for 17 years.


And while it looks tedious, there's nothing more exhilarating and satisfying than completing the great spiritual (and physical) workout of the Great Canon (both videos in Ukrainian in Lviv from the UGCC):



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

FOR GOD IS WITH US


Great Feast of the Evangelization of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

"And he brought me back to the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary, which looked towards the east: and it was shut. And the Lord said to me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut For the prince. The prince himself shall sit in it, to eat bread before the Lord: he shall enter in by the way of the porch of the gate, and shall go out by the same way."-Ez 44:1-3

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Veneration of the Cross


Third Sunday of the Great Fast, on which we celebrate The Adoration of the Precious and Life-giving Cross.
When venerating the cross this week, we sing thrice with prostrations:

Krestu Tvoyemu poklanyayemsya Vladiko,i svyatoye voskreseniye Tvoye slavim (thrice).

We venerate Thy Cross, O Master; and we glorify Thy holy Resurrection (thrice).



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Together Even in Death


March 19-Sts. Chrysanthos and Daria
A virtuous couple are companions in life. Wherever the man goes, the woman goes with him; wherever the woman goes, the man goes with her. They exist to strengthen each other in Divine Love on the path to Heaven, since each one has as his only objective the salvation of the other. They strengthen each other in the practice of the faith even to the point of strengthening each other on the path to their martyrdom together.

Sts. Chrysanthius and Daria were a married couple that were martyred by being buried alive together in the yer 284 at Rome. Their relics were discovered by St. Damascus I, Pope of Rome a century later and transferred to the Church of the Holy Apostles Philip and James in the Lateran in the 9th Century by Stephen VI, Pope of Rome.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hearing of Such Miracles Does My Heart Good.


Via Mystagogy, a boy recently had his severed fingers restored by the intercession of St. Luke of Simferopol:

"More specifically, the child was a pianist from an early age when he was ten years old, and two fingers on his right hand were cut off. Doctors said they could do nothing for the child and that he would never be able to play the piano again. His parents learned about Saint Luke and the miracles he does and immediately took the child to Simferopol.

"There at his grave they pleaded to Saint Luke to make their child well and so the miracle took place. After a few days the fingers of the child were restored."
 
Read the rest there.

Friday, March 7, 2014

From Friday to Friday


Throughout Great Lent we read Genesis at Vespers, going from man's initial perfection in paradise, to the fall into sin, through man's progression into deeper and deeper sin, until we arrive at the end to the Savior on the cross, liberating man from his vices.

Tonight at Presanctified Liturgy we hear the passage of the Sin of Adam. On the first Friday of the Great Fast, we hear of the fall, on Holy Friday we behold Christ on the cross. We start the Fast with the first Adam and finish with the New Adam. By eating we became sinful, by fasting at the foot of the cross we become purified. This is our journey. We do not fast for the sake of fasting (that would be only a diet), we fast to be joined to Him who survived His own death that we might survive ours.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why We Rejoice When We Fast

Today at the Sixth Hour we heard:
"And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord: if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool. If you be willing, and will hearken to me, you shall eat the good things of the land."-Isaias 1:18-19

We fast to gain self control over our passions. While we lament our passions, we rejoice in our fasting, since by it we conquer the passions.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

By Fasting We Return to Paradise


Forgiveness Sunday
Today we commemorate the Casting of Adam and Eve from Paradise and tomorrow we begin the Great Fast. By eating we were casting out of Paradise. By fasting we return to Paradise. In the Garden only plants were used for food and clothing since animals were given to Adam and Eve for food and clothing only after their sin. In fasting we return to not using meat and animal products. By a tree the stygian serpent conquered and at the end of our fast, he is conquered by a Tree.

PS: So much is fasting a return to Paradise, that we are allowed grapes and olives, but not wine or olive oil.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Note About "Equality"

When you have an array of possibilities that you can belong to, such as different races or nationalities or what have you, and belonging to any of them doesn't put you at any advantage in terms of salvation compared to belonging to any other, and there are no moral implications to the fact of which one you belong to, then they are all equal. All races are not equal because of some feel-good filth about being nice to each other. That's garbage. Specifically what makes all races equal is the fact that membership in any one gives no advantage in terms of salvation and the fact of which race you belong to has no moral implications. That's what actually makes all races equal. The very same applies to all nationalities and both genders. Belonging to any gives no advantage in terms of salvation.

Now, each race and nationality has its own culture and identity which cannot be diluted and no one can be forced to accept the culture of another because each race and nationality has its own unique individual dignity that cannot be trampled on because of another race or nationality. That means that not only is White Supremacy evil, but so is Black Supremacy. Equal means equal. That also condemns Russian Supremacy in Eastern Europe, which is not only alive today, but continues back clean through Soviet times and all the way back to Imperial Russia. Racism and nationalism are both still very real problems in Europe. We are all, by our human natures, called to each reciprocate Christ's love for each of us. He is the one we laud as the "Lover of mankind". This is what unites us. Racism and nationalism divide us and thus impede Christianity and that is specifically why such ideologies are wrong.

Similarly, each gender also has its own unique individual dignity, yet both are still simultaneously equal according to what we said earlier. Promoting either gender acting like the other destroys that gender's dignity. Each gender has it's own role to play and the fact that they have contrasting strengths and weaknesses is specifically designed to make them complimentary, not rivals or to destroy their own identity and dignity by acting like each other. This is more of a "ying and yang" situation than races and nationalities, but with equality simultaneous to individual identity and dignity in the same way.

However, the array of possibilities that is radically different from the ones we have seen here is that of sexualities. It took me a while to get to this point, but astute readers still saw it coming from my opening sentence. While what race, nationality, or gender you belong to has no moral implication and none of the options present any advantage over any other, what sexuality you practice most certainly does (for that matter, this part applies equally well to what religion you practice). There are moral implications to what sexuality you practice and human sexuality does bring you closer to God, using what God gave you for the purpose for which He created those things, and deviant sexualities, be it lustful heterosexuality, sodomy, bestiality, whatever (it's all lust in the end), separate you from God, refusing to use what He gave you according to His plan for you and instead following your own plan following your own happiness. That does separate you from God. Being Black or Ukrainian or whatever doesn't mean you are separating yourself from God by being that way. Such realities about yourself do not impede or accelerate your salvation and that's what makes them all equal. Rejecting the plan for which God created you in favor of your own emotional and physical pleasures is self-imposed separation from God. When people live that way, it's just sad. When they respond to admonishment (which is a work of mercy, btw) by hating you and calling you names like "bigot" just because you don't agree with their personal emotional pleasures, it's even more sad. You can't help but feel sorry for the arrogant and selfish people in the latter category. It's a real shame... ...and when you realize that God created all of them to be saints...that reality is just depressing.

If this counts as "hate", then you desperately need a new definition of "hate".

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Unity in Ukraine and Liturgical Eye Candy!

Слава Україні! Героям Слава! Вічна пам'ять Героям України!

This weekend has been a unique mixture of mourning and jubilation after the Maidan Revolution.

Patriarch Svyatoslav, currently in Rome, served a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy at the Basilica of Santa Sofia earlier today for the Sunday of the Last Judgement. Afterwards, he served a memorial service for the fallen heroes of the victorious Maidan Revolution, and spoke about the situation back home in Ukraine.

His Beatitude spoke about the aid the UGCC and the UOC's gave to the Maidan Revolution, namely the protestors injured by their own government, when they went to hospitals for treatment, were being promptly arrested and taken to the police station upon being released from the hospital. So what the Churches did was to open their church buildings as makeshift hospitals in an underground network, so the wounded could be rushed to a nearby church and treated and operated on by nurses and doctors sympathetic to the cause.

He went on to say that the Ukrainian Churches tried to serve as intermediaries between the people and the gov't to try and prevent bloodshed by the gov't. Now they are trying to preserve the unity of the country and "overcome the hatred" of the Russian sympathizers for a peaceful, free, and united Ukraine. The message of the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox bishops is much needed to relieve those tensions that still exist. Authoritarian hatred is never the answer and is contrary to the very purpose of Christians: to convert the nations. Man-made ideologies and nationalist supremacy is only destructive of that end, the end of uniting mankind under the Cross. Sadly nationalism has done much to divide Orthodoxy, not just juridically, but mentally as well.

So often in Byzantine antiphons do we laud Christ as the "Lover of mankind" and mankind is called to reciprocate that love back to Him. We are each called to love God by our nature and that reality is what unites us. We can't let ourselves be divided along nationalistic or idealistic lines. We cannot be so superficial as to let man-made secular beliefs separate us from Christ. On this Sunday of the Last Judgement, we must remember that Christ alone survives death and only by joining ourselves to Him can we ever hope to survive our own deaths. What did we hear this morning in today's Gospel (Matthew 25:31-46)? That love of neighbor leads to salvation and not loving neighbor leads to damnation. This is the passage for which St. Andrew the First Called created our beloved three-barred cross: to explain this passage, that those on the right go up and those on the left go down, signified by the bent foot-rest on the cross. He preached that sermon on a hill in the middle of nowhere, prophesying that a great city would one day be built there. That city would be Kyiv of all cities!

I share this partly because of his positive and needed message and partly because Santa Sofia is just so beautiful: