Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Schedule of Services for Great Lent & Pascha 2011










APRIL 17 PALM SUNDAY Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m. with blessing of Palms




APRIL 20 GREAT & HOLY WEDNESDAY Holy Unction Service at 7:00 p.m.

holy and Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
The reading of the twelve Passion Gospels at 7:00 p.m.

Royal Hours at 10:00 a.m.
Vespers at 3:30 p.m. ( Taking Down from the Cross)
Matins ( Lamentations of the shroud and the procession) at 4:30 p.m.

Procession around the church & Matins of Christ's Resurrection at 11:45 p.m.



JUNE 2 ASCENSION OF OUR LORD Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.


JUNE 12 PENTECOST Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.

Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week-Great and Holy Saturday

The “Great and Holy Sabbath” is the day which connects Great Friday, the commemoration of the Cross with the day of His Resurrection. To many the real nature and the meaning of this “connection,” the very necessity of this “middle day” remains obscure. For a good majority of Church goers, the “important” days of Holy Week are Friday and Sunday, the Cross and the Resurrection. The Church proclaims that Christ has “trampled death by death.” It means even before the Resurrection , an event takes place, in which the sorrow is not simply replaced by joy, but is itself transformed into joy. Great Saturday is precisely this day of transformation, the day when victory grows from inside defeat, when before the Resurrection; we are given to contemplate the death of death itself.
The death of Christ is the ultimate proof of His love for the will of God, of His obedience to His Father. It is an act of pure obedience, of full trust in the Father’s will; and for the Church it is precisely this obedience to the end, this perfect humility of the Son that constitutes the foundation, the beginning of His victory. The Father desires the this death, the Son accepts it, revealing an unconditional faith in the perfection of the Father’s will.
But why does the Father desire this death? Why is it necessary? He desires the salvation of man, i.e. that the destruction of death shall not be an act of His power, (“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently “give me more than twelve legions of angels?” Matthew 26:53), not a violence, be it even a saving one, but an act of that love, freedom and free dedication to God, for which He created man. For any other salvation would have been in opposition to the nature of man, and therefore not a real salvation. It was essential that death were not only destroyed by God, but overcome and trampled down in human nature itself, by man and through man. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” (I Corinthians 15:21).
For death is, above all, a lack of life, a destruction of life that has cut itself from its only source. And because Christ’s death is a movement of love towards God, an act of obedience and trust, of faith and perfection— it is an act of life (Father! Into Thy hands I commend my spirit” LUKE 23:46) which destroys death itself.
Such is the meaning of Christ’s descent into Hades of His death becoming His victory. And the light of this victory now illumines our vigil before the Grave.
“O Life, how liest Thou dead? How dwellest Thou in a tomb. Albeit Thou didst unbind the power of death and raised the dead from Hades, O Christ the Life, Thou hast been placed in a Tomb. By Thy death Thou hast abolished death, bringing forth life to the world. O what joy! O what abounding delight, wherewith Thou didst fill those who are in Hades, when Thou didst rise as a light in its dark abyss...”
Life enters the Kingdom of death. The Divine Light shines in its terrible darkness. It shines to all who are there, because Christ is the life of all, the only source of life. Therefore He also dies for all, for whatever happens to His life— happens in Life itself. This descent into Hades is the encounter of the Life of all with the death of all:
“Thou hast come down to earth to save Adam, and having not found him on earth, Thou hast descended, searching him, even into Hades...”
Sorrow and joy are fighting each other and now joy is about to win. The duel between Life and Death comes to its end. And, for the first time, the song of victory and triumph resounds:
“The company of the Angels was amazed, when they beheld thee numbered among the dead, yet, Thyself, O Savior, destroying the power of death, and with Thee raising up Adam and releasing all men from hell...” “Wherefore, O Woman disciples, do ye mingle sweet-smelling spices with your tears of pity? The radiant Angel within the sepulcher cried unto the Myrrh-bearing women: Behold the grave, and understand; for the Savior is from the tomb...”
Sabbath, the seventh day, achieves and completes the history of salvation, its last act being the over-coming of death. But after the Sabbath comes the first day of a new creation, of a new life born from the grave.
At the very end of Matins, the ultimate meaning of the “middle day” is made manifest. Christ arose again from the dead, His resurrection we will celebrate. However, this celebration commemorates a unique event of the past, and anticipates a mystery of the future. It is already His Resurrection, but not yet ours. We will have to die, to accept the dying, the separation, the destruction. Our reality is in this world, in this “age,” is the reality of Great and Holy Saturday; this day is the real image of our human condition.
But this life between the Resurrection of Christ and the day of the common resurrection, is not precisely the life in the Great Saturday? Is not expectation the basic and essential category of Christian experience? We wait in love, hope and faith. And this waiting for “the resurrection and the life of the world to come,” this life which is “hidden with Christ in God” (COLOSSIANS 3:3-4), this growth of expectation in love, in certitude; all this is our own “Great Saturday.” Little by little everything in this world becomes transparent to the light that comes from there, the “image of this world” passeth by and this indestructible life with Christ becomes our supreme and ultimate value.
Every year, on Great and Holy Saturday, after this morning service, we wait for the fullness of Paschal joy. We know that they are approaching— and yet, how slow is this approach, how long is this day! But is not the wonderful quiet of Great Saturday the symbol of our very life in this world? Are we not always in this “middle day,” waiting for the Pascha of Christ, preparing ourselves for the day without evening of His Kingdom?

A Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week-Great and Holy Friday

From the light of Holy Thursday we enter into the darkness of Friday, the day of Christ’s Passion, Death and Burial. It is the day of Sin, the day of Evil, the day on which the Church invites us to realize their awful reality and power in “this world.” For Sin and Evil have not disappeared, but, on the contrary, still constitute the basic law of the world and of our life. On what side, with whom would we have been, had we lived in Jerusalem under Pilate? This is the question addressed to us in every word of Holy Friday Services. It is, indeed, the day of this world, its real and not symbolic condemnation and the real and not the ritual, judgment on our life... It is the revelation of the true nature of the world, which preferred then and still prefers, darkness to light, evil to good, death to life. Having condemned Christ to death, “this world” has condemned itself to death and inasmuch as we accept its spirit, its sin, its betrayal of God— we are also condemned... Such is the first and dreadfully realistic meaning of Great Friday; a condemnation to death.
But this day of Evil, of its ultimate manifestation and triumph, is also the day of Redemption. The death of Christ is revealed to us as the saving death for us and for our salvation.
It is a saving Death because it is the full, perfect and supreme Sacrifice. Christ gives His Death to His Father and He gives His Death to us. To His Father because, as we shall see, there is no other way to destroy death, to save men from it and it is the will of the Father that men be saved from death. To us because in very truth Christ died instead of us. Death is the natural fruit of sin, an immanent punishment. Man chose to be alienated from God, but having no life in himself, he dies. Yet there is no sin and, therefore, no death in Christ. He accepts to die only by love for us. He wants to assume and to share our human condition to the end. He accepts the punishment of our nature, as He assumed the whole burden of human predicament. He dies because He has truly identified Himself with us, has indeed taken upon Himself the tragedy of man’s life. And because His dying is love, compassion and co-suffering, in His death the very nature of death is changed. From punishment it becomes the radiant act of love and forgiveness, the end of alienation and solitude. Condemnation is transformed into forgiveness.
And finally, His death is a saving death because it destroys the very source of death: evil. By accepting it in love, by giving Himself to His murderers and permitting their apparent victory, Christ reveals that, in reality, this victory is the total and decisive defeat of Evil. To be victorious Evil must annihilate the Good, must prove itself to be the ultimate truth about life, discredit the Good and, in one word, show its own superiority. But throughout the whole Passion it is Christ and He alone who triumphs. The Evil can do nothing against Him, for it cannot make Christ accept Evil as truth. Hypocrisy is revealed as Hypocrisy, Murder as Murder, Fear as Fear, and as Christ slowly moves towards the Cross and the End, as the human tragedy reaches its climax, His triumph, His victory over the Evil, His glorification become more and more obvious. And at each step this victory is acknowledged, confessed, proclaimed— by the wife of Pilate, by Joseph, by the crucified thief, by the centurion. And He dies on the Cross having accepted the ultimate horror of death: absolute solitude ( My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me!?), nothing remains but to confess that “truly This was the Son of God!...” And, thus, it is this Death, this Love, this obedience, this fullness of Life that destroy what made the universal destiny. “And the graves were opened...” (Matthew 27:52). Already the rays of resurrection appear.
Such is the double mystery of Holy Friday and its services reveal it and make us participate in it. On the one hand there is the constant emphasis on the Passion of Christ as the sin of all sins, the crime of all crimes. Throughout Matins during which the twelve Passion readings make us follow step by step the sufferings of Christ, at the Hours (which replace the Divine Liturgy: for the interdiction to celebrate the Eucharist on this day means the sacrament of Christ’s presence does not belong to “this world” of sin and darkness, but it is the sacrament of the “world to come”) and finally at Vespers, the services of Christ’s burial, the hymns and readings are full of solemn accusations of those who willingly and freely decided to kill Christ, justifying their practical considerations and their professional obedience.
But, on the other hand, the sacrifice of love which prepares the final victory is also present from the very beginning. From the first Gospel reading (John 13: 31) which begins with the solemn announcement of Christ: “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God has glorified Himself in Him.”
“When Thou, the Redeemer of all, Hast been laid for all in the new tomb. Hades, the respecter of none, saw Thee and crouched in fear. The bars broke, the gates were shattered, the graves were opened, the dead arose. Then Adam, thankfully rejoicing, cries out to Thee Glory to Thy Humiliation, O Merciful Master.”
And when, at the end of Vespers, we place in the center of the Church the image of Christ in the tomb, when this long day comes to its end, we know that we are at the end of the long history of salvation and redemption. The Seventh Day, the day of rest, the blessed Sabbath, comes with it— the revelation of the Life-giving Tomb.

A Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week-Great and Holy Thursday

Two events shape the liturgy of the Great and Holy Thursday: the Last Supper of Christ with His disciples and the betrayal of Judas. The meaning of both is love. The Last Supper is the ultimate revelation of God’s redeeming love for man, of love as the very essence of salvation. And the betrayal of Judas reveals that sin, death and self-destruction are also due to love, but to deviated and distorted love, love directed at that which does not deserve love. To understand the meaning of the Last Supper we must see it as the very end of the great moment of Divine Love which began with the creation of the world and is now consummated in the death and resurrection of Christ.
God is Love (1 John 4:8). And the first gift of Love was Life. The meaning, the content of life was communion. To be alive man was to eat and to drink, to partake of the world. The world was thus Divine love made food, made Body of man. And being alive i.e. partaking of the world, man was to be in communion with God, to have God as the meaning, the content and the end of his life. Man received his food from God and making it his body and his life, he offered the whole world to God, transformed it into life in God and with God. The love of God gave life to man, the love of man for God transformed this new life into communion with God. This was the paradise. Life in it was, indeed, eucharistic. Through man and his love for God the whole creation was to be sanctified and transformed into one all-embracing sacrament of Divine presence and man was the priest of this sacrament.
But in sin man lost this eucharistic life. He lost it because he ceased to see the world as means of Communion with God and his life as Eucharist, as adoration and thanksgiving... He loved himself and the world for their sake; he made himself the content and the end of his life. He thought that his hunger and thirst, i.e. his dependence on his life on the world— can be satisfied by the world as such, by food as such. And thus putting his love in them, man deviated his love form the only object of all love, of all hunger, of all desires. And he died. For death is the inescapable “decomposition” of life cut from its only source and content.
Man thought to find life in the world and in food, but he found death. His life became communion with death, from instead of transforming the world by faith, love and adoration into communion with God, he submitted himself entirely to the world, he ceased to be its priest and became its slave. And by his sin the whole world was made a cemetery, where people condemned to death partook of death and “sat in the region and shadow of death” (Matthew 4:16)
But if man betrayed, God remained faithful to man. He did not “turn Himself away forever from his creature whom He had made, neither did He forget the works of His hands, but He had visited him in diverse manners, through the tender compassion of His mercy” (LITURGY OF ST. BASIL). A new Divine work began, that of redemption and salvation.
And it was fulfilled with Christ, the Son of God, Who in order to restore man to his pristine beauty and to restore life as communion with God, became Man, took upon Himself our nature, with its thirst and hunger, with its desire for and love of, life. And in Him life was revealed, given, accepted and fulfilled as total and perfect Eucharist, as total and perfect communion with God. He rejects the basic human temptation: to live “by bread alone,” He revealed that God and His kingdom are the real food, the real life of man. And this perfect eucharistic Life, filled with God, and, therefore Divine and immortal, He gave to all those who would believe in Him, i.e. find in Him the meaning and content of their lives. Such is the wonderful meaning of the Last Supper.
He offered Himself as the true food of man, because the Life revealed in Him is the true Life. The Last Supper is the restoration of the paradise of bliss, of Life as Eucharist and Communion with God.
But this hour of ultimate love is also that of the ultimate betrayal. Judas leaves the light of the Upper Room and goes out into darkness. “And it was night” (John 13:30). Why does he leave? Because he loves answer the Gospel, and his fateful love is stressed again and again in the hymns of Holy Thursday. It does not matter indeed, that he loves the “silver”. Money stands for all the deviated and distorted love which leads man into betraying God. It is, indeed, love stolen from God and Judas, therefore, is the Thief. When he does not love God and in God man still love and desires, for he was created to love and love is his nature but it then a dark and self-destroying passion and death is at its end. And each Holy Thursday, the same decisive question is addressed to each one of us: do I respond to Christ’s love and accept it as my life; do I follow Judas into the darkness of night?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week-Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday-The End

These three days, which the Church call Great and Holy have within the liturgical development of the Holy Week a very definite purpose. They remind us of the eschatological meaning of Pascha. So often the Holy Week is considered one of the “beautiful traditions” or “customs” of our calendar. We admire the beauty of its services, the pageantry of its rite and, last but not least, we like the fuss about the paschal table... And then, when all this is done we resume our normal life. But do we understand that when the world rejected its Savior, when “Jesus began to be sorrowful and very heavy... and His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death,” when He died on the Cross, “normal life” came to its end and is no longer possible. For there were “normal” people who shouted “Crucify Him!” who spat at Him and nailed Him to the Cross. And they hated and killed Him precisely because He was troubling their normal life. It was indeed a perfectly “normal” world which preferred darkness and death to light and life... By the death of Jesus “normal” world, “normal” life were irrevocably condemned. Or rather they revealed their true and abnormal nature, their inability to receive the Light, the terrible power of evil in them. “Now is the judgment of this world” (John 12:31). The Pascha of Jesus signified its end to “this world” and it has been at its end ever since. “the fashion of this world is passing away...” (1 Cor. 7: 31).
Pascha means passover, passage. The feast of Passover was for the Jews the annual commemoration of their whole history as salvation, and of salvation as passage from slavery of Egypt into freedom, from exile into the Promised Land. And Christ was the fulfillment of pascha. He performed the ultimate passage: from death to life, from the “old world” into the new world, into the new time of the kingdom. And He opened the possibility of this passage to us.
And thus Easter is not an annual commemoration— solemn and beautiful— of a past event. It is this Event, given to us, as always being efficient, always revealing our world, our time, our life as being at the End, and announcing the Beginning of the new life... And the function of the three days of Holy Week is precisely to challenge us with this ultimate meaning of Pascha and to prepare for the understanding and acceptance of it.
I. This eschatological— and it means ultimate, decisive, final, — challenge is revealed, first in the common troparion of these days:
“Behold the Bridegroom cometh forward in the midst of the night and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching… But unworthy He whom He shall find careless Beware then my soul, lest thou be weighed down by sleep, Lest thou be given over to death And be shut out from the Kingdom; But awake, crying Holy, Holy , Holy art thou, O God Through the Mother of God, have mercy upon us all.”
Midnight is the moment when the old day comes to its end and a new day begins. It is thus a symbol of the time in which we live as Christians. For on the one hand, the Church is still in this world, sharing in its weakness and tragedies, Yet, on the other hand, her true being is not of this world, for She is the Bride of Christ and her mission is to announce and to reveal the coming of the Kingdom and of the new day. Her new life is a perpetual watching and expectation, a vigil pointed at the dawn of this new day... But how strong is attachment to the “old world”, to the world with its passions and sins. We know how deeply we still belong to “this world.” We have seen the light, we know Christ, we have heard about the peace and joy of the new life in Him, and yet the world holds us in its slavery. This weakness, this constant betrayal of Christ, this incapacity to give the totality of our love to the only true object of love are wonderfully expressed in the exapostilarion of these three days:
“I See thy Bridal hall adorned, O my Savior And I have no wedding garment that I may enter therein, O Giver of life, make radiant the vesture of my soul And save me.”
II. The same theme develops further in the Gospel readings of these days. First of all, the entire text of the four Gospel (up to JOHN 13, 31) is read at the Hours (1, 3, 6 and 9th). This recapitulation shows that the Cross is the climax of the whole life and ministry of Jesus, the Key to their proper understanding. Everything in the Gospel leads to this ultimate hour of Jesus and everything is to be understood in its light. Then, each service has its special Gospel lesson:
On Monday:
At Matins: Matthew 21, 18-43 — the story of the fig tree the symbol of the world created to bear spiritual fruits and failing in its response to God.
At the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts: Matthew 24, 3-35: the great eschatological discourse of Jesus. The signs and announcement of the End. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away...”
On Tuesday:
At Matins: Matthew 22, 1-23, 39. Condemnation of Pharisees, i.e. of the blind and hypocritical religion, of those they think they are leaders of man and the light of the world, but who in fact “shut up the kingdom of heaven to men.”
At the Presanctified Liturgy: Matthew 24, 36-26, 2. The End again and the parables of the End: the ten wise virgins who had enough oil in their lamps and the ten foolish ones who were not admitted to the bridal banquet; the parable of ten talents “... Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” And finally the Last Judgment.
On Wednesday:
At Matins: John 12, 17-50: The rejection of Christ, the growing conflict, the ultimate warning: “Now is the judgment of the world... He that rejects my words has one that judges him, the word that I have spoken; the same will judge him in the last days.”
At the Presanctified Liturgy: Matthew 26, 6-16. The woman who poured the precious ointment on Jesus, the image of love and repentance which alone unite us with Christ.
III. The Gospel lessons are explained and elaborated in the hymnology of these days. One warning, one exhortation runs through all of them: the end and the judgment are approaching, let us prepare for them:
IV. Throughout the whole Lent the two books of the Old Testament read at Vespers were Genesis and Proverbs.
With the beginning of Holy Week they are replaced by Exodus and Job. Exodus the story of Israel's liberation from Egyptian slavery, of their Passover. It prepares for the understanding of Christ's exodus to His Father, the fulfillment of the whole history of salvation. Job, the Sufferer, is the Old Testament icon of Christ. This reading announces the great mystery of Christ’s sufferings, obedience and sacrifice.

“When the Lord was going to His voluntary Passion He said to His Apostles on the way: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, And the Son of Man shall be delivered up as it was written of Him. Come, therefore, and let us accompany Him, that we may live with Him, And that we may hear Him say to us: I go now, not to the earthly Jerusalem to suffer, But unto my Father and Your Father, and my God and your God, And I will gather you up into the heavenly Jerusalem, Into the Kingdom of Heaven...”

“Behold, O my soul, the Master has confined to thee a talent, Receive it with fear; Lent to Him who gave; distribute to the poor And acquire for thyself thy Lord as thy Friend; That when He shall come in glory, Thou mayest stand at His right hand And hear His blessed voice: Enter, my servant, into the joy of thy Lord.”

A Liturgical Explanation of Holy Week-Palm Sunday

The Saturday of Lazarus from the liturgical point of view is the pre-feast of Palm Sunday — the Entrance of Our lord into Jerusalem. Both feasts have a common theme: triumph and victory. Saturday reveals the Enemy, which is Death; Palm Sunday announces the meaning of victory as the triumph of the Kingdom of God, as the acceptance by the world as the only King, Jesus Christ. In the life of Jesus the solemn entrance in the Holy City was the only visible triumph. Up to that day He consistently rejected all attempts to glorify Him. But six days before the Passover, He not only accepted to be glorified, He Himself provoked and arranged this glorification. By doing what the prophet Zacharias announced: “behold, Thy King cometh unto thee... lowly and riding an ass...” (ZECHARIUS 9:9). He made it clear that He wanted to be acclaimed as the Messiah, the King and the Redeemer of Israel. And the Gospel narratives stress all these messianic features: the Palms and Hosanna, the acclamation of Jesus as the Son of David and the King of Israel. The history of Israel is now coming to its end; such is the meaning of this event. For the purpose of that history was to announce and to prepare for the kingdom of God, the advent of the Messiah. And now it is fulfilled. For the King enters His Holy City and in Him all prophecies, all expectations find their fulfillment. He inaugurates His Kingdom.
First it is our confession of Christ as our King and Lord. We forget so often that the Kingdom of God has already been inaugurated and that on the day of our baptism we were made citizens of it, have promised to put our loyalty to it above all other loyalties. We must always remember that for a few hours Christ was indeed King on earth, in this world of ours. For a few hours only and in one city. But as in Lazarus we have recognized the image of each man, in this one city we acknowledge the mystical center of the world and indeed of the whole creation. For such is the Biblical meaning of Jerusalem. Therefore, the Kingdom inaugurated in Jerusalem is an universal Kingdom embracing in its perspective all men and the totality of creation.
And when the most solemn moment of our Liturgical celebration we receive from the priest a palm branch, we renew our oath to our King, we confess His Kingdom as the ultimate meaning and content of our life.
The branches in our hands signify our willingness to follow Him on this sacrificial way, our acceptance of sacrifice and self-denial as the only royal way to the Kingdom.
And finally these branches, this celebration, proclaim our faith in the final victory of Christ. His Kingdom is yet hidden and the world ignores it. It lives it as if the decisive event had not taken place, as if God had not died on the Cross and Man in Him was not risen from the dead. But we, Christians, believe in the coming of the Kingdom in which God will be all in all and Christ the only King.
In our Liturgical celebrations we remember events of the past. But the whole meaning and power of the Liturgy is that it transforms remembrance into reality. On Palm Sunday this reality is our own involvement in, our responsibility to, the Kingdom of God. Christ does not enter into Jerusalem anymore; He did it once for all. And He does not need and “symbols”, for He did not die on the Cross that we may eternally “symbolize” His life. He wants from us a real acceptance of the Kingdom which He brought to us...
And if we are not ready to stand by the solemn oath, which we renew every year on Palm Sunday, if we do not mean to make the Kingdom of God the measure of our whole life, meaningless is our whole life, meaningless is our commemoration and in vain the branches we take home form the church.

A Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week-Lazarus Saturday

“Having fulfilled the Forty Days... we ask to see the Holy Week of Thy passion.” With these words sung at Vespers of Palm Friday, Lent comes to its end and we enter the annual commemoration of Christ’s sufferings, death and resurrection. It begins on Saturday of Lazarus. The double feast of Lazarus’ Resurrection and the Entrance of the Lord to Jerusalem is described in liturgical texts as the “beginning of the Cross” and is to be understood, therefore, within the context of the Holy Week. The common troparion of these days explicitly affirms that “by raising Lazarus from the dead Christ confirmed the truth of general resurrection.”
It is a Sunday, i.e. a Resurrection service on a Saturday, a day usually devoted to the liturgical commemoration of the dead and the joy which permeates these services stresses one central theme: the forthcoming victory of Christ over Hades. Hades is the Biblical term for Death in its universal power, for that inescapable darkness and destruction that swallow all life and poison with its shadow the whole world. But now — with Lazarus’ resurrection — “death begins to tremble.” For there begins the decisive duel between Life and Death and it gives us the key to the entire liturgical mystery of Pascha.
Let us first of all understand that Lazarus, the friend of Jesus personifies the whole mankind and also each man, and Bethany, the home of Lazarus the Man, is the symbol of the whole world as home of man. For each was created friend of God and called to the Divine friendship: the knowledge of God, the communion with Him, sharing of life with Him. “In Him was life and Life was the light of men” (John 1:4). And yet his friend, whom God loves, whom in love He has created, i.e. called to life, is destroyed and annihilated by a power that God has not created: death. God encounters in
His own world a power which destroys His work and annihilates His design. The world is but lamentation and sorrow, tears and death. How is it possible? How did this happen? These are the questions implied in St. John’s slow and detailed narrative of Jesus’ coming to the grave of His friend. And once there, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Jesus weeps because He contemplates the triumph of death and destruction in the world created by God. “It stinketh” say the Jews trying to prevent Jesus from approaching the corpse and this awful warning applies to the whole world, to all life. God is Life and the Giver of Life. He called man into the Divine reality of Life and behold “it stinketh”... The world was created to reflect and proclaim the glory of God and “it stinketh”. At the grave of Lazarus God encounters Death, the reality of anti-life, of destruction and despair. He meets His Enemy, who has taken away from Him His world and become its prince. And we who follow Jesus as He approaches the grave, we enter with Him into that hour of His, which He announced so often as the climax and the fulfillment of his whole work. The cross, its necessity and universal meaning are announced in the shortest verse of the Gospel: “and Jesus wept”... We understand now that it is because He wept, i.e. loved His friend Lazarus that Jesus had the power of calling Him back to life. The power of Resurrection is not Divine “power in itself,” but power of love, or rather love as power. God is love and Love is Life, Love creates Life... It is Love that weeps at the grave and it is Love that restores life. This is the meaning of the Divine tears of Jesus. In them love is at work again — recreating, redeeming, restoring the darkened life of man: “Lazarus, come forth!...” And this is why Lazarus Saturday is the beginning of both: the Cross, as the supreme sacrifice of love, the Resurrection, as the ultimate triumph of love.

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with palms of victory, we cry out to Thee: O Vanquisher of death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!

“Christ — the Joy, Truth, Light and Life of all And the resurrection of the world, In Him love appeared to those on earth And was the image of Resurrection, Granting to all Divine forgiveness

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Galveston Orthodox Community: Lent and its meaning for 21st century Christians

Galveston Orthodox Community: Lent and its meaning for 21st century Christians
Click on the above link titled Lent for 21st century Christians to listen to the programme.
John David Powell is proud to be a Lone Star Award-winning journalist and author with 5 decades of news and broadcating experience. He is currently a host on blogtalkradio.com

On a archived programme dated March 08, 2011 John graciously interviewed me on his programme titled: Lent and its meaning for 21st century Christians

On today's big blogtcast, Fr. Serge Veselinovich of Sts. Constantine and Helen Serbian Orthodox Church in Galveston, Texas, the oldest Orthodox parish in the state. He’ll be here to talk about Lent and what it means to 21st century Christians.

Orthodox Christians, who go by a different calendar, started Great Lent on Monday of this week, but the entire Christian world will celebrate Easter on the same day, April 24.Non-Orthodox Christians who observe Lent and Easter, because some Christian denominations do not, begin Lent tomorrow, making today Mardis Gras, or Fat Tuesday.

Of course, that means an opportunity to spend the two weeks or so leading up to Wednesday as a period of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, with some booze and beads thrown in for good measure.

I was coming home from church two Sundays ago and saw a vehicle stopped alongside the road with a young lady outside, bending over. I asked if everything was OK, and she looked up and said, “Yeah, just too much Mardis Gras partying last night.” Indeed.Booze is big in the Big Easy and the rest of Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission that put out a news release this week to let people know that Mardi Gras is a deadly time on the Pelican State highways.

2009 was the deadliest holiday in Louisiana with 22 people killed and more than 1,000injured in highway accidents. Last year, in 2010, alcohol played a role in 68 percent of the Mardis Gras traffic deaths, which is way more than the annual state average of 48 percent.

To be honest, I’ve never been to any big Mardi Gras celebration, including in New Orleans when we lived in Louisiana, or in Galveston, which is just down the road from the world blogcast headquarters of ShadeyHill Ranch. Frankly, if you really want to gorge yourself on the fleshly feasts of this festival, just jet down to Rio, my friend, and see how the big boys, and girls, Samba the nights away for Carnival.

Here’s a look at Rio’s Carnival numbers, courtesy Yahoo News.

The folks there claim their’s is the world’s largest celebration leading up to Lent, making it, in my opinion, the contender for the world championship of irony. That’s because Lent is a time of introspection, prayer, rededication, self-sacrifice, all leading up to the observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For some reason, I have a hard time seeing the Last Supper being the last meal of Mardi Gras. I mean, who at that table is going to look at one of the female disciples and offer some beads for a peek?

Anyway, those four days of Carnival will see 700 – 750 thousand tourists. US dollars changing hands will total 525 million. 70 thousand drunk and rowdy souls will cram into the Sambadrome to see the absolutely incredible floats and costumes from the thirty samba schools taking part.

This year, though, was deadly. On Monday, Feb. 28, 16 people died when a 7,000 volt power line fell onto a float in the small town of 5,000. Earlier in the month, a young woman died when she fell off of a float during a practice run in Rio. And a fire in the Samba City complex on Feb. 7 destroyed eight months of preparation and did millions of dollars in damage.

Then, there’s Haiti, site of that devastating and deadly earthquake last year that killed about 800 thousand people. As you know, large parts of that country have not recovered.Even so, some Haitians are partying like, well, it’s 1999.

Over in Great Britain, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales says Catholics need to get right with themselves and with God, and Lent is the perfect time to do it. So, he’s suggesting Catholics self-sacrifice by giving up meat on Fridays, or at least give up something they like to eat.

We’ll ask Fr Serge about that.

But, before we get to him, we have one last bit of news to share with you today. If you live in East Texas, or some other parts of the US, don’t be too shocked to see a RV caravan drive through your town and the folks in the caravan warning that the end of the world is coming on May 21. They were in San Antonio a few days ago, heading toward Louisiana and Arkansas. So fair warning to our kinfolk up that way.

The London Daily Mail story says this latest group of end-timers say believers in Jesus Christ will go to Heaven on May 21 while the rest of humanity will face 153 days of horror and turmoil before the world comes to screeching halt on Oct. 21.

The ten Christians from California are known as Project Caravan, and call themselves ambassadors. These folks seem to believe what they preach. They’ve sold all their possessions, left their homes, and some have left their spouses and families, which seems about right, considering they won’t need any of that when the world ends.According to the Church's website, there are two proofs that May 21,is the judgment day.Taking literally 2 Peter 3:8, which says a day for God is like a thousand human years, these folks figure that seven 'days' equals 7,000 human years from the time of the flood, thereby making this the year of the apocalypse.

Their second so-called proof comes by working forward from what they reckon as the exact date of the crucifixion: April 1, 33 AD, but of course, that doesn’t take into account new historical information placing the birth of Jesus around 4 BC, and his death 33 years later at 27 AD. So, I guess we missed the end of the world as we know it.I guess it should be pointed out that the leader of this group, 89-year-old Harold Camping, predicted in the last century that Sept. 4, 1994, was the date for the lights to go out. He says he made a mistake then, but he’s got it all figured out now.

Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers Service

Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers
Sunday March 13, 2011
5:00 P.M.

Homily will be given by
The Very Rev. Thomas Hopko, Th. D.
Dean Emeritus; St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological School, Crestwood, N.Y.

Sponsored by:
The Orthodox Clergy Association of Greater Houston

Hosted by:
St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church
1100 Eldridge Pkwy. Houston, TX 77077