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 (
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?
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. 

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.
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.  
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