Friday, November 16, 2018

Byzimom's take on Advent- the Nativity Fast

"The Nativity Forty-day Fast represents the fast undertaken by Moses, who — having fasted for forty days and forty nights — received the Commandments of God, written on stone tablets. And we, fasting for forty days, will reflect upon and receive from the Virgin the living Word — not written upon stone, but born, incarnate — and we will commune of His Divine Body." - St. Symeon of Thessalonika (1381-1429 AD) 

It is clear that the fast is designed to prepare us both physically and spiritually for the coming of the Savior at Christmas.  We are asked to abstain from meat and dairy products, eggs and oil, just as we do during the Great Fast, but the rules are a bit less strict.  We may eat fish and are allowed oil and wine on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends, and on feast days such as the Presentation of the Theotokos and St. Nicholas day.  

Many of us haven't given the Nativity Fast our full attention over the years, partly because we haven't been aware it existed in certain regions.  Growing up, I didn't even realize it was a "thing"! 
Sadly, among my community here it has fallen into the category of "things the old people used to do", that is...until some of us decided to revive it.  What a wonderful tool the practice of fasting an be!  How well it aids us in growing closer to God!  If only people would try it!  That said,  I challenge those of you who are new to the idea to come along with us and take a second look at fasting with the Church this season.  Start slowly.  Add on from year to year, one step at a time, and grow in your fasting practice.  Its a good idea to begin together, as a family, building community with like-minded Christians who are striving right along with you." --- read Lynn's entire post at byzimom.com 

The Nativity Fast is here!

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: a lovely movie for tens and adults

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ah Netflix.... clicking through the shows and movies....blech...meh.... saw it....blech- and then ahh! Perhaps this selection will be worthwhile! yes- this priest's wife- raised on the British shows on PBS 30 years ago... it was satisfying- perhaps a bit predictable- but lovely!

how to be a Christian in our nit-picky, negative world: a guest post by Judie Jolma

"I recently began studies for a Masters of Theology and was surprised by my impressions after the first class. Introduction to Theology was almost entirely apologetic in nature. Instead of embarking on a study to delve deeper into an understanding of what our hearts love, it was a defense - an argument - to prove our position‘s validity for those who don’t believe. Are we insecure in our belief? Do we think that love can be inspired by arguments? (Don’t mistake these comments as relativistic slop that does not demand holiness. That is not my point.) 
There is a place for apologetics, to be sure. But when so many encyclicals are specifically drafted for this cause it colors the nature of our faith. We have somehow abandoned our first love, abandoned the way of the lover in Song of Solomon who searches for the fairest of ten thousands, whose hands drip with myrrh. And this departure has come from the shepherds (hirelings) who lead us. Do our hearts faint being love-sick for our Lord, our bridegroom? Or do we live in a passionless faith where we choose sides like a political party? 

Do our faces shine because they reflect the light of the Father - like the moon reflecting the sun? Or do we live a cold, calculating faith inspecting the correctness of our brother’s beliefs? We worry about definitions and proper form. We check the boxes, and like the Pharisees thank God that we are not like that tax collector. 

The whole church needs a course correction. We are all guilty of the sin of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. We need to abandon the notion that intimacy can be charted and measured. We need to stop running away from the negative and run toward the true, good and beautiful.

Put away these petty arguments. Pray like a lover. Reach out in the liturgy to touch the priest’s vestments and be healed of all that hurt that inspires you to fight and strive. Can’t we all see how much woundedness there is coming from each person around us? Hurting people hurt people. But only the lover sings.

Go to liturgy and sing."
---Judie Jolma 

I saw satan laughing with delight- when a priest abandons his priesthood

Is there a just man in Israel? Is there any person who will die and be told straight away by God- Well done, my good and faithful servant? Or will we all have to be purified by the cleansing fires of purgatory or perhaps sadly, go to hell forever because of our rejection of God's love and law?

Who does satan hate the most? The devil is not a creature with god-like abilities; he is merely a fallen angel. The devil must conserve resources and perhaps focus on those that especially need his 'help' to fall. We might imagine that he hates Christians the most or perhaps all of God's creation because everyone, Christian or not, is made in the image of God. May I suggest that he hates consecrated people the most and- most of all- Catholic priests.
Evil cannot destroy or even damage God. Jesus gave Himself willingly to die on the cross for us; Jesus has destroyed death forever. So, if satan cannot kill Jesus, does he just resign himself to defeat? Of course not! Evil will go for the next best person- the Catholic priest, the person who IS Christ at the altar. If satan can encourage the priest to fall, it is a great triumph for evil. It is only 'small potatoes' if a teenager forgets his baptism and fornicates, but if the priest with promises of celibacy and chastity does the same, what a triumph for hell! What a scandal! What a disappointment! Many people will lose their faith because their priest was discovered to be the worst kind of hypocrite. Perhaps it would have been better if he had never been born than to scandalize God's children...

Why do so many priests seem to be forgetting their vocations these days? Why was it that I breathed a sigh of relief when the last four priests I know that left the priesthood (Roman and Byzantine rite, all happened to be celibate priests) got 'married' in Las Vegas-style marriages? They broke solemn promises to God and scandalized lay people and got 'married' irregularly after years of service so someone could serve them their breakfast cereal? Should I be happy that they weren't abusers and that they are finally living their God-given vocation? Or was the priesthood their true vocation and they gave it up for a warm body in bed?

You may be shocked at these words. I strongly advocate for married men being able to be ordained priest in the Eastern rites. I also have respect for those celibate priests who, with dignity and respect for the priesthood, ask for laicization because they have prayerfully determined that the priesthood was not their vocation and then later get married with dignity. I'm sorry; I see no room for quicky Vegas-style 'weddings' here (yes, I know there are plenty of churches in Vegas- two Byzantine I believe. I am not down on Vegas, just Vegas-style. You know what I mean)

Why have there been so many scandals lately? I'm not going to do internet research and see if it is statisically more than earlier years. I understand that sexual scandals within the priesthood are less than other groups. I understand that financial scandals are less than other kinds of people as well. But one priest falling is equal to ten or perhaps one hundred, thousand or a million people falling (because of the 'scandal' factor). Priests are In Persona Christi. God expects more from them; I expect more from them. I will fulfill my obligations as a Catholic. I will say my prayers while I am scrubbing the floors. I will bear the pain of childbearing and childrearing which is my duty to my vocation. I will work out my salvation in fear and trembling as any Christian should. This is nothing compared to the spiritual duties of the priest. But my answer to 'why so many scandals' scares me- because I think the answer might be that these priests who fall don't really believe in Heaven or hell or final judgement. I pray that I am wrong and that these priests are able to make it right with their Creator.

I have posted before the prayer for priests from the blue 'Pieta' prayer book. It says to never talk badly about a priest- and I agree that one should never gossip about our priests. We lay people should also have mercy on our priests when it is not about sinful things. If he has a bad singing voice, never mention it to anyone. If the homily wasn't that interesting, never complain. If the religion classes are sub-par, see if you can help, but don't gossip. If he has spinach in his teeth, take him aside, but don't 'make fun' of him. All priests (celibate and married) can benefit from good clean fun with adult male parishoners especially. Don't get upset if you see a priest on a golf course. Maybe he put in a 60-hour week of service and a parishioner is providing the tee time. If you see a priest at a nice restaurant, assume that the people with him are footing the bill- not the collection basket. With all that said- priests must realize that they are risking their eternal souls when they fall into sin (as we all are).

‘Son of man, prophesy against the pastors of Israel to pastor themselves.  Should not the pastors feed the flock? You have been fed with milk, you have dressed yourselves with wool.  You have not strengthened the weak lambs, cared for those who were sick, healed those who were injured.  You have not restored those who have strayed, searched for those who were lost.  But you have governed them with violence and hardness.’ (Ezekiel 34: 2-4)

I am saying this to you and I am saving my soul.  If I will have kept silent, I won’t be in great danger, I’ll be rather in utter ruin.  But when I will have spoken, and when I will have fulfilled my duty, pay attention then to your own danger.  What, after all, do I want?  What do I desire?  What do I long for? Why am I talking?  Why am I sitting here?  Why am I even alive, except for this intention: in order that we may live together with Christ.  That’s my desire, that’s my honor, that’s my treasured possession, this is my joy, that’s my glory.   But if you will not listen to me and if I haven’t been silent, I will save my soul.  But I don’t want to be saved without you (St Augustine)---quotations found today at Fr Z's blog

.....but...no more excuses- our 'soul is our own' even if the cause has not been so honorable- from Henry V:

So, if a son that is by his father sent about
merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the
imputation of his wickedness by your rule, should be
imposed upon his father that sent him: or if a
servant, under his master's command transporting a
sum of money, be assailed by robbers and die in
many irreconciled iniquities, you may call the
business of the master the author of the servant's
damnation: but this is not so: the king is not
bound to answer the particular endings of his
soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of
his servant; for they purpose not their death, when
they purpose their services. Besides, there is no
king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to
the arbitrement of swords, can try it out with all
unspotted soldiers: some peradventure have on them
the guilt of premeditated and contrived murder;
some, of beguiling virgins with the broken seals of
perjury; some, making the wars their bulwark, that
have before gored the gentle bosom of peace with
pillage and robbery. Now, if these men have
defeated the law and outrun native punishment,
though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to
fly from God: war is his beadle, war is vengeance;
so that here men are punished for before-breach of
the king's laws in now the king's quarrel: where
they feared the death, they have borne life away;
and where they would be safe, they perish: then if
they die unprovided, no more is the king guilty of
their damnation than he was before guilty of those
impieties for the which they are now visited. Every
subject's duty is the king's; but every subject's
soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in
the wars do as every sick man in his bed, wash every
mote out of his conscience: and dying so, death
is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was
blessedly lost wherein such preparation was gained:
and in him that escapes, it were not sin to think
that, making God so free an offer, He let him
outlive that day to see His greatness and to teach
others how they should prepare.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

† The Beheading of the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

Today is kept as a strict fast day, on whatever day of the week it falls. Because the holy Forerunner's head was brought to Herod on a platter, it is a pious custom not to eat anything from a plate or platter today.
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Troparion of St. John the Baptist

The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise but the Lord's testimony is enough for thee, O Forerunner, for thou wast shown to be more wonderful than the Prophets since thou wast granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom thou didst proclaim. Then having endured great suffering for the Truth, Thou didst rejoice to bring, even to those in hell the good tidings that God Who had appeared in the flesh takes away the sin of the world and grants us the great mercy.
Kontakion of St. John the Baptist

The beheading of the glorious Forerunner was a divine dispensation that the coming of the Savior might be preached to those in hell. Lament then, Herodias, that thou didst demand a murder despising the law of God and eternal life.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Melkite Musings: The problem with Catholics

"Let me tell you a small personal story. For years my spiritual father was trying to make me understand that I had doubt in my heart, that I had fear and wasn’t showing real faith in God. Of course, being spiritually blind as a mole, I could not understand what he was saying. I mean, I was a Catholic! I went to Liturgy, prayed, went to Confession, occasionally gave a few dollars to homeless people, and got outraged about all the right things to be outraged about on social media. WHAT is my spiritual father talking about?!
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And then it happened. Crisis of faith. The biggest one I’ve had in years, probably actually the biggest I EVER had. However, even there God was waiting to open my eyes. In doubting His existence so painfully and strongly, I finally started to understand what real faith should look like… and that for years I have had almost none!"

Monday, February 26, 2018

more Magdalena: thoughts on being a Byzantine Catholic priest's daughter

How has being a Catholic Priest's kid affected/influenced your relationship with God?
Because I have never not been a priest kid it is a little difficult to say, but I think that it has brought me closer to God. I am in constant contact with faith-based things, so God is never far from my thoughts. 
A friend is the son of a minister-  they were watched regularly by the congregation, and their father was criticized for their behavior. I wonder if you also feel the same expectation? 
I would say yes. My actions reflect on my father, and my dad is well known enough in our community that there is always a chance that the person I am speaking with knows him, either through the hospital or the church. Not that I would ever misbehave… ahem…. We are very involved in my father’s ministry, so there is a pressure there to live up to him. Usually it s the old-country parishioners who would report any misbehavior and criticize, but as there are fewer and fewer of these fine people left, it hasn’t happened as much lately. 
What is the strangest thing you've learned about as a priest's kid?
Because I am a priest kid I have met very many strange people and have been in many strange situations (like the time a lady let my father know that her son was of a similar age to me and she would be happy to arrange a marriage between us. I was four at the time.) The strangest thing I have learned would have to be 
Do you feel any pressure being the child of a priest; and what have you, and the rest of your siblings done to ease whatever pressure may be felt, at times; and have you had to defend your father's vocation? 
There is pressure there, but I have felt it all my life, so it feels very normal. I can clearly see the value in what my father does so I am never ashamed of who I am. I do explain why it is ok for married men to become priests in the Byzantine tradition to help people out, but I try not to hang out with the kind of people who would attack me on this. If people are hostile about it I refer them to my dad for further explanations and then I leave. The people who are vehemently against the catholic church are difficult to handle sometimes (I usually meet with these people at my community college), and I feel like the ex-Catholics are worst of all. Usually they take the perspective that I am a naïve little girl who will wake up to the real world of science and truth, but then I enjoy flooring them in the next exam. Kindly, of course…. I don’t start religion-based arguements, but if someone else wants to discuss religion I don’t say no. I usually quote Maccabees or Tobit 😉. 
Do you have a funny story about being a priest's kid?
Sooooo many…. Many times I laugh at the blank look given by people to whom I tell I am a priest’s kid. They kind of double take and say “but you said you were Catholic…” In Romania it is always very nice because it is usual for the priests to be married. However, the priest families are VIPs, and because we are from America we are seen as very important and rich (they don’t seem to factor in the cultural difference). Whenever we went to our grandparents church in Romania people would help me with my coat, offer their seats, serve me food (I didn’t have to do the clean-up!), it was very fancy. 
Being a priest kid also puts me in weird situations. Sometimes when my dad is invited to dinner, we are invited too, but they kind of forget that there are six of us. This has resulted in a Thanksgiving spent inside the kitchen of our host, where the turkey leftovers, no mashed potatoes or stuffing, and one piece of pumpkin pie for me and my 3 siblings were our feast. People just don’t expect us. 
Would you prefer if your future husbands entered the priesthood after you are married? Why or why not?
If he did, it would mean that I would never be in a position where I would have to forsake my Byzantine traditions, something very important to me. I think hat I am pretty well-equipped to deal with being married to a priest because of my mother and other role models, so it wouldn’t be a shockingly different lifestyle. However, it is a huge commitment. Once a priest, always a priest, and never home on Sundays. There are so many difficulties, but also a huge joy in the vocation of priest family. I definitely want my husband involved in the liturgy, maybe as a deacon or even an acolyte. In other words, I am definitely open to it. 
Do Roman Catholic children with whom you are acquainted struggle with the fact that your dad is a priest?
Yes, but luckily my Catholic bubble is pretty well-educated. Most people definitely don’t hold it against me, but it does make events at my house very interesting. I was hosting a high school literature seminar not too long ago, and it was amazing to see my friends try to relate to my dad as a priest and as a normal man, and try not to call him Mr. It can get pretty funny. 
Do you have a favorite saint (Latin or Eastern)?
All the saints are inspirations to me in different ways, so it is difficult to tie it down. I think it depends on my situation. St Jude is for tests, St Anthony for everything that I lose, St. Mary Magdalene for her powerful conversion and holiness, Mother Mary for pretty much everything, and St. Irene for her virtue are just a few.  
What is your favorite feast day?
Easter is just incredible. The excitement is building up all through Lent, and it is such a beautiful Feast. I love the music, the service, the joy, and the symbolism of light. The food is also amazing, and I love how it doesn't end, just keeps on going for forty days, as well as every Sunday. It is the day when I am the most happy that I am Byzantine. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

dyslexic days: the real world bumps into our homeschool demi-paradise

This was a few days ago- Daughter 8 1/2, smiling in triumph because she successfully completed her work on a short vowel 'U' book. 
In glorious Finland, she might be just one year behind the majority. In the United States, she is two years behind the 'standards.' She has an IEP (finally- it took 2 years) which entitles her to 3 hours of tutoring per week, and we are meeting another tutor for an additional 2 hours per week. She dabbles in nessy.com (love it!) every day as her only screen time. We read aloud (finishing up the original Pinocchio) and listen to audio books in the van (finishing up Anne of Green Gables).  And we work on sing spell read write  together (just like her siblings- just a year or two later). She was premature, she is left-handed and she has dyslexia going on. 

Today, her smile was wiped from her face when she was repeatedly accused of "lying"  and being a "liar" when she told someone that she couldn't read something that most 3rd graders can read. Now, she is taking a nap to gird herself for literature and choir with our homeschool group. And I am blogging, wondering how to get her spark back.
her home for the first 5 weeks...sometimes I still see her as this little, so forgive me for my mama bear-ness- actually- don't forgive me 

Monday, February 19, 2018

meet Magdalena: scholar, crafter, Byzantine Catholic priest's daughter

How does your faith inform your day-to-day life?
Being Catholic is the most important thing about me, and being a priest kid only emphasizes this. I am always ready to have a theological discussion, and I am usually singing a byzantine chant under my breath. I try not to flaunt my faith, but it seems to leak out pretty quickly… If I am smiling and daydreaming, it is probably about Divine Liturgy in the Hagia Sophia! Ahem…. So yes, my faith is important…. You were saying? 
What is your greatest challenge in practicing your faith?
There are so many challenges… I try to keep God before me at all times, but there is a definite need for a growth in virtue. Judgmental thoughts are an issue for me, but I am really trying to work on my mercy for others. 
Favorite Bible verse?
It depends on my mood, but I love the simple petition, “Remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy Kingdom,” from the good thief during the crucifixion. It reminds me of what I am constantly asking God and my need for His mercy. It is so simple and trusting, it brings tears to my eyes. 
Favorite spiritual writing besides the Bible?
I love me some Lewis! His essays on the evil of subjectivity and the essay “Men without Chests” are so amazing. I love Perelandra, it is my favorite interpretation of the Creation Story. I also really like Chesterton. 
Favorite saint and why?
I am close to St Mary Magdalene obviously, but I also turn to Saint Jude quite often (the SAT in particular, if you must know. Thanks again buddy 😊) St Anthony has helped me out so many times that it would be the height of indecency for me not to mention him. And, of course, my lovely Mother Mary is one of the most important influences on my life. 
What is your ministry in the church?
Everything….. Pretty much as long as it is not on the altar I had something to do with it. Of course I help arrange the altar. And make the bread. Most importantly though I am a cantor, the welcoming committee, and a catechist. 
Favorite movie, book, music, and why?
The Lord of the Rings will always hold a special place in my heart, both books and movies, because of the magic, wisdom, knowledge, and virtue inside. I also love Austen and Jane Eyre. I really like fantasy books, books with magic and mystery in them. For me, books are a good way to escape real life for a little, and I love the immersive qualities of a book about a magic land. Classics are generally really great as well, I feel better connected to the characters than I do in a lot of modern fiction. 
Hobbies? 
I started to crochet when I was 11, and it still captivates me today, though I am happy to say that my more recent projects have been a tad more professional than my first hat (I wonder why my mother never wears it?). More recent hobbies are peg doll painting, which is really fun. I recently finished a knight and his lady for my friend, and they look rather dashing, if I do say so myself. Other than that, I love dancing and singing and I never lose an opportunity to do either, despite the embarrassment it might cause my companions. 
If you had $20 and an hour, what would you do?
I must confess, I do like window shopping, but that would not necessarily use up my $20. If you put me in a used bookstore, however, I would be one happy person. Up in Oregon there is a store called the Book Bin, the perfect place to spend time and money. 
Thanks for sharing, Magdalena!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

memento mori - remember we are dust and to dust we shall return

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the altar fasts when we fast: The Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts

What is the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts in the Eastern Churches? Why do the Eastern Churches refrain from a Divine Liturgy (Mass) during the weekdays of Great Lent? 
"The Eastern Churches will not have a full Eucharistic service on major fasting days. There is no consecration on these days. Some will say - the altar fasts with us. During the Great Fast this applies to all weekdays. In order to have a communion service during the week, extra bread is consecrated during the Sunday Divine Liturgy. These pre-sanctified gifts are set aside for use during the week. The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is therefore a fasting event. The tone of the chant changes to one which is more somber; the pacing slows down a bit; the readings are mostly Old Testament. In the Divine Liturgy, we are raised up to heaven and stand in the presence of the Divine. In the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, we prostrate ourselves with Adam at the gates of Paradise, so close that we can taste what we are not worthy to receive." Father Brian Norrell 

Pray with St Ephrem this Great Fast

O LORD, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking.
Grant instead to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and of humility, the spirit of patience and neighborly love.
O Lord and King, grant me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren. For you are blessed, now and ever, and forever. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings, You have power over life and death. You know what is secret and hidden, and neither our thoughts nor our feelings are concealed from You. Cure me of duplicity; I have done evil before You. Now my life declines from day to day and my sins increase.
O Lord, God of souls and bodies, You know the extreme frailty of my soul and my flesh. Grant me strength in my weakness, O Lord, and sustain me in my misery. Give me a grateful soul that I may never cease to recall Your benefits, O Lord most bountiful.
Be not mindful of my many sins, but forgive me all my misdeeds. O Lord, disdain not my prayer -the prayer of a wretched sinner; sustain me with Your grace until the end, that it may protect me as in the past. It is Your grace which has taught me wisdom; blessed are they who follow her ways, for they shall receive the crown of glory. In spite of my unworthiness, I praise You and I glorify You, O Lord, for Your mercy to me is without limit. You have been my help and my protection. May the name of Your majesty be praised forever. To you, our God, be glory. Amen.

give alms to our Byzantine Catholic monks this Great Lent & Pascha

Christ is a light for Angels, Angels are a light for monks, and monks are a light for all lay people.” St John Climicus in his The Ladder of Divine Ascent 

Holy Resurrection Monastery (hrmonline.org)
300 S. 2nd Ave.   PO Box 276
St. Nazianz, WI 54232

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Are Byzantine Catholics Bible Christians?

we sing, pray, and read Holy Scripture in the Divine Liturgy

Opening Doxology [“Blessed is the Kingdom...] Mark: 11:10; Luke: 22:29-30, Matthew: 28:19; Revelation: 7:12.

The Great Litany – Philippians: 4:6-7; Psalm 51:1 Luke: 18:13; John: 14:27; 1 Timothy: 2:1-2; 
1 Hebrews: 13:7; Psalm 109:26; Luke: 1:42.

The First Antiphon – [“Bless the Lord, O my soul”]. Selected verses from Psalm 103.

The Second Antiphon – [“Praise the Lord, O my soul”]. Psalm 103.

The Hymn to Christ Incarnate – [“Only- begotten Son...,”]. John: 1:1, 3:16, 17:5, 19:18; Luke: 1:35; Hebrews: 2:14; Matthew: 8:25.

The Third Antiphon – [The Beatitudes] Matthew: 5:3-12.

The Little Entrance – [“Come let us worship..,] Psalm 95:1-6; Revelation: 7:11-12.

The Trisagion – [“Holy God, Holy Mighty...,”] Isaiah: 6:1-5; Revelation: 8:8.

Prokeimenon – Psalms 12:7,1; 28:9,1; 29:11,1; 33:22,1; 47:6,1; 76:11,1; 104:24,1; 118:14,18.

The Epistle – readings change daily, from the Epistles or Acts of the Apostles.

The Allelulia – Psalms 113:1; 135:1; 146:1; Revelation: 19: 1-6.

The Gospel – readings change daily. The Sermon – 1 Timothy: 4:13.

The Cherubic Hymn – [“Let us who mystically..”] Colossians: 3:12; Pslam 24; Revelations: 19:1-6.

The Great Entrance – Psalm 43:4; Matthew: 5: 23-24; Hebrews: 5:1.

The Peace – [“Peace be unto all...”]. John: 20: 9,21,26. 1 John 4:7; 1 Peter: 3:8; Philippians:2-2.

The Eucharistic Canon – [“Let us stand aright”] Leviticus: 3:1; Hebrews: 13:14-15; Hosea: 6:6; Psalm 49:19; Matthew: 9:13; Corinthians: 13:14; 2 Timothy: 4:22; Lamentations: 3:41.

The Eucharistic Prayer – [“Holy, Holy, Holy...” through the Consecration]. Isaiah: 6:3; Mark: 11:10; Matthew: 21:9; Corinthians: 11:23-24; Matthew: 26:26-28; John: 6:51; Luke: 22:20; Mark: 14: 23-24; Corinthians: 29: 14, 16; Romans: 21:1.

Hymn to the Theotokos – [“It is truly right...”]. Luke: 1:28, 42, 48.

The Concluding Eucharistic Prayers – 2 Maccabees: 12:44-45; 1 Timothy: 2:2; 2 Timothy: 2:15; Romans: 15:6; Titus: 2:13; Revelations:22:21

The Litany before the Lord’s Prayer - Ephesians: 5:2; Philippians: 4:18; 1 Peter: 3:15; Corinthians: 5:10; Ephesians: 4:13; Philippians: 2:1.

The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew: 6:9-13; Corinthians 29:11.

The Elevation of the Holy Gifts – [“Holy things are for the Holy.”] Leviticus: 11:44; Philippians: 2:10-11.

The Communion Hymn – [“Praise the Lord...”] Psalm 148:1.

The Eucharist – 1 Corinthians: 11:27-29; Matthew: 16:16; 1 Timothy: 1:15; Mark: 14:45; Luke: 23:42- 43; Isaiah: 6:7; 1 Timothy: 1:14; James: 4:8; Psalm 118: 26-27; Psalm: 34:8; 1 Peter: 1:19; John: 6: 32-35, 48-58; Psalm 116:13; Psalm 28:0.

Hymns after Holy Communion – [“We have received the true Light..”]. John: 1:9; Rev.: 3-14; Psalm 71:8; Chronicles: 16:9; Ephesians: 3:9.

Litany after Communion – Judges 18:6; Colossians: 3:17; Mark: 11:9.

Prayer behind the Ambo – [“O Lord, who blesses those who...”]. Genesis 12:3; Psalm 28:9, Psalm 26.8; Psalm 138:81, 1 Timothy: 2:2; James: 1:17.

“Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore!” Psalm 113:2.

“The blessing of the Lord…”. Psalm 129:8; 2 Corinthians 13:14.

The Dismisal – 1 Timothy: 1:1.

—Compiled by V. Rev. John J. Matusiak St. Joseph Russian Orthodox Church, OCA, Wheaton, IL

Monday, February 5, 2018

meet Rachelle: meme maker, cat lover, scholar, Melkite Catholic

How long have you been a practicing Catholic?
I am a cradle Catholic, baptized in the Melkite Catholic Church. I was raised in Lebanon, a country with a large Catholic population. While I practiced some aspects of the faith throughout my life, I consider myself to have truly reverted to the Catholic Church around 5 years ago. Due to poor catechesis, I didn’t know much of my faith before that!
Care to share your conversion/reversion story?
Talk about the work of the Holy Spirit! A few years ago, I met a family on facebook who attended the Traditional Latin Mass in the United States. They encouraged me to attend one near me in Montreal. I first found the Society of Saint Pius X, and fell in love immediately with the reverence and beauty I experienced (though now that I know better, my attitude towards the Society is that of the Church). A year later I found a Fraternity of Saint Peter parish to which I transferred. Through the influence of the wonderful people there, as well as the holiness and charity of the priests, my whole life started to change. I fell in love with Beauty, with Love Himself. When one truly encounters Divine Love, all else becomes a detail, a means to acquire the fullness of that Love, but also to be transformed and lost into it… or Him! Again, through facebook, I started encountering the Byzantine Churches and their traditions. With all the persecutions going on in the Middle East, I decided that I should perhaps re-explore my original Church, the Melkite Church, rather than turn my back on what others have shed their blood for. This newfound interest turned to love when I spent 6 months in Lebanon after my BA, during which I attended the church within the Melkite Patriarchal Complex. God indeed works in mysterious ways, and He doesn’t always take shortcuts. I had to leave Lebanon and the Melkite Church, go through the Latin SSPX in Canada, then the FSSP, to finally return to the Melkite Church in Lebanon. Here I have found the fullness of the faith rooted in tradition and the Church Fathers.  

How does your faith inform your day-to-day life?
I’d like to quote one of my favorite poems for that, written by one of the nuns of Christ the Bridegroom Ruthenian Catholic monastery:
“I need not even think of where Your love is.
When I cry, it is in Gethsemane.
When I laugh, it is in Cana.
There is no part of my life outside of our love.”

What is your greatest challenge in practicing your faith?
The constant temptation to compromise and be unfaithful to the One we call Lover of Mankind. The West is very hostile to Catholicism, the Middle East full with brutal persecution, and every part of the life in the faith is constantly questioned. In fact, even back in Lebanon, Cultural Catholicism questions and mocks Living Catholicism, and these two are very different things. I think, however, the sacrifice that so many of our brothers and sisters have done and still do is a witness and an encouragement to persevere. In that sense, they literally die for the faith so that we may learn to live in and for it. We all fantasize about dying on that Libyan beach with the Copts, in some illusion of glory with “Even Unto Death” by Audrey Assad playing in the background. However, let us first learn to be faithful in the little sacrifices. In all those little chances of martyrdom, I have apostatized and denied Christ a thousand times. 

Favorite Bible verse?
“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not awaken Love until He so desires.” -Song of Songs 8:4. 

I think this verse speaks deeply to the dark night of faith in which we all pass. When we are faltering under the burden of some physical, mental or spiritual pain, we often immediately ask for relief, for some consolation, for some proof that God is with us. Like the Apostles, we choose to awaken the Master when He seems to sleep during the storm. This verse however talks of a soul that chooses to let Him sleep and to take the path of complete, naked and soul-wrenching trust in His mercy. Let Him awaken when He wishes to. Let Him choose when to fill the soul with Uncreated Light, when to allow the action of Grace to finally be perceptible! It is my favorite verse precisely because the virtue of faithfulness is one of, if not THE greatest, of my spiritual struggles.

Favorite spiritual writing besides the Bible?
This is a very difficult choice to make. However, the following quote is particularly beautiful, especially in Arabic. It basically speaks of the encounter with Christ that happens once the darkness is lifted and His face is revealed to us. It is a soul that is not able to bear the glory of God, and like Elijah covers itself before the “gentle whisper” in which God’s presence is revealed: 

“Hold back, my dear Jesus, the waves of Thy grace, for I am melting like wax.” –Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Favorite saint and why?
Right now Saint Maryam of Jesus Crucified (Melkite Carmelite mystic and stigmatist). I’m a fanatical fan of all things Carmelite and all things Melkite, so she’s the union of both. I just finished reading her biography, but she has been very visibly working in my life for the past year. On her feast day she obtained a great grace for me. It is a textbook case of a saint choosing you. She also chose my goddaughter who is named after her. 

However, I think St. Therese of Lisieux will always have a special place in my heart. What a living school of the knowledge of God she is! No wonder the Church glorified her with the title of Doctor. 

What is your ministry in the church?
I work with the youth at the Melkite Cathedral. 

Favorite movie, book, music, and why?
Books:
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns, also Khaled Hosseini 

>> His writing style is very similar to Tolkien’s, whose work I also admire. Hosseini speaks of very difficult topics and life experiences like abusive marriages, the Taliban’s rule, the jealousy of a sister, the absence of a father, etc… However, he writes so beautifully in style and content that his work always gently wounds the heart. Even the sorrows he speaks of are breathtakingly approached. The depth of human misery he embraces in his works seems often misunderstood by Western authors. He understands pain, he expresses pain very well, and in the end shows you the beauty and dignity of human life even through such sufferings. 

Story of a Soul, by St. Therese of Lisieux

>>Does this really need an explanation? I can’t tell which is the truer case: that St. Therese’s simplicity hides the heights of spiritual knowledge she reached, or that her unrivaled holiness hides the raw realism of her worldview? Without leaving her Carmel, and most probably due to that Carmelite vocation, she encountered the magnificence of the Living Fire and Uncreated Light in the perceived “insignificance” of a “boring and wasted” life. 

Movies: 
Everything based on anything by Tolkien: His work is magic. 

Passion of the Christ, especially the “Mary Goes to Jesus” scene: Again, the topic of realistic yet unfathomable holiness is beautifully portrayed. Mary’s humanity is so perfectly depicted in Her running to pick a young Jesus. I have witnessed these very same hands pick me up time and time again. What breaks my heart the most though is the gaze that happens between Christ and Mary. They both, more than anyone else to have walked the Earth, truly saw the beauty of the person at whom they were gazing. Christ knew the extent of Our Lady’s immaculate soul, and Mary was so perfectly united with Her God and Son. At the end of the scene Christ tells Her, like a child proudly showing his work to his mother, “Behold, Mother! I make all things new.” He then rises and embraces the Cross with such love on His face. It is almost unclear in this scene who was carrying whom. Did Mary lift up Christ, or did He lift Her?  

All the 20 film versions of “Story of a Soul”: because it is the movie of one of the most groundbreaking spiritual writings.

Music: a bit of everything, as long as isn’t sinful. 
What languages are you fluent in? What language do you pray in outside of Church?
English, French and Arabic. I mostly use English for memorized or read prayers such as from the Byzantine Horologion (Book of the Hours). However, when I’m praying with my own words, I usually use Arabic. I try to include what little Greek I know as much as I can, because it is such a beautiful language of the Melkite Church.
  
Hobby? 
Writing, reading, playing the piano, going to the movies, driving alone on beautiful roads with some good music. 

If you had $20 and an hour, what would you do?
Go horseback riding at night far away from civilization. I’d love to have a chance to go away in solitude, and I’ve always loved sitting alone and looking up to the stars. As for the horses, they’re just magnificent creatures.  

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Christian marriage isn't all ladyfinger cookies & honey.... (a re-post)

Today is just a day in late January; I thought I would re-post this 'oldie but goodie' for my Wednesday marriage series (has anyone noticed how organized I am this year-hahaha)...

It is just a Monday in October, nowhere near our wedding anniversary. Simcha Fisher reposted a reflection on her wedding and marriage over here, and I just had to respond with our own story. 
my parents' Roman-rite parish- our wedding was Byzantine-rite, however- courtesy of our bishop, a future bishop-then-priest and a third priest and us cantoring...
We were as poor as church mice. No- really. When the travelling priest asked my future husband to buy toilet paper for the church mission where he was bunking, he bought the paper and lived on eggs and peanut butter for a few days. We bought gas with change, but not even quarters.  He was in the states for almost 9 months with just a 'religious volunteer' visa (his Master's degree program didn't have enough credit hours per semester to qualify for a student visa with a right to work), so by the time we were married, we were really poor. The bride's maids' dresses above were just $25 at JC Penny! The photographer was a friend from church. The calla lilies- not really my favorite flowers, but now they have to be- were in season and free in various neighbor's yards (my son just read the text above, shocked that we were poor when we got married- "but mom- look at your dress- it is such a rich, beautiful fabric!" Poverty is very, very relative, son- and grandma and grandpa bought the dress!).
Because of visa and money probems, none of my husband's family from Romania was there. There would be a Romanian couple to sing "Dance, Isaiah," but we would be missing so many of the traditions important to a Romanian family. I was determined to find the ladyfinger cookies to dip in my father-in-law's honey, a symbol of life being sweet in a holy marriage.
I did not get my hair done. My fingernails were unbuffed and bare. My make up was basically mascara and lipstick (ladies- you know that is nothing for a wedding!). I was nervous, knowing that I would have to cantor the wedding with my becoming-husband because our planned-for cantor decided to convert to Orthodoxy the week before. But I had one mission- to find those ladyfingers.
And after a few stores, in the hours before our wedding, found them I did. After a long, all-sung wedding ceremony and potifical Divine Liturgy on Pentecost Sunday, we shared the ladyfingers with honey and the common cup. And life is sweet, even when we are running around, distracted by the mundane. Marriage is about giving your all to the spouse, and we attempt to do that even in our sinfullness. I could have-should have bought the ladyfingers earlier, but I didn't because my future-husband got it into his head the day before that this was a tradtiion that he wanted to uphold. He didn't know that Ameria is a ladyfinger-cookie-limited-place. But we make it work, then and now, even through the limitations. 


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

how a combat medic uses the Jesus prayer to stay close to God in traumatic circumstances

"I thought I would share some thoughts on the Jesus prayer as for many of us in the East it is the bedrock of our devotional lives. This is only how I use the devotion currently after nearly 20 years of trial and error. Not that there's a wrong way to say a prayer.

In the mornings as I'm waking up, I begin the regular beginnings from "Heavenly King" till the "Our Father" with the blessing of layman "through the prayers of our holy fathers, oh Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us."
I'm a medic currently in a combat zone, so depending on the chaos level of the day, I grab a prayer rope and say the long form of the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner." For about ten breaths. Each breath is about six seconds in coupled with the prayer and six seconds out coupled with the prayer. So that's about twenty times saying the prayer in a "focused" manner. I was a volunteer in a PTSD clinic years ago and this is an adaptation of that. 

At this point someone is usually "encouraging" me to get breakfast before the cook throws it out. As I go through the day I'll continue to say the prayer. As I dress I put on my prayer rope. (I have one I keep on me everywhere that I don't get wet that was given to me by a local on the first day I responded to an incident where four women were kidnapped and two killed and two men killed by a group of terrorists in a supply raid. So I often walk around with one rope on each wrist.) Throughout the day I will see the prayer ropes and be reminded to pray.
At some point in the day, I'll either go for a walk or find a corner where I'll use the rope and "breath match prayers" for a full loop. My ropes are 200 knots so this takes some time, about 20 minutes. I'll then do a loop not worried about breathing. This is followed by "most holy Theotokos, strengthen my weakness" for a loop. At night I'll tie a few dozen knots as I say the prayer as well. Then some short prayers before bed.

The purpose of the breathing is to help with the regulation of the emotional sections of the brain. Further, this creates a psychological anchor similar to what a hypnotist would use. As something unpleasant comes up, a deep breath "starts the prayer" and serves to calm the mind and control the stress hormones including adrenaline. 

It's important to set this anchor free of "negative" emotions. Don't allow the brain to wander into things that anger or frustrate or depress. Nor is it a good idea to allow "positive thoughts" to interfere with the prayer. I'm looking for God not casting a spell. 

I hope this helps those of you coming from the West to understand why we in the East have so few other "short" devotions. This is really the bedrock of our personal devotions. Everything else takes time. Paraklesis, hours, psalms, gospel and epistle reading... The only other "short" devotion I have is Bible memory work, chip by chip memorizing the epistles and Gospels." 

Thank you,  "Iubitor al lui Dumnezeu, " for sharing this snapshot from your prayer life! 
I recommend the book below written by an anonymous believer who used the Jesus prayer to remain close to God 
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