TOUCHING THE WOUNDS OF CHRIST

Kontakion of Thomas Sunday: ”With his searching hand (Τῇ φιλοπράγμονι δεξιᾷ / Любопытною десницею),* Thomas explored Your life-giving side, O Christ God.* For when You entered while the doors were shut,* he called out to You with the rest of the Apostles:* You are my Lord and my God!" Ikos: “Who stopped the hand of the disciple from being melted when he approached the fiery side of the Saviour? Who gave him such boldness, to be able to touch this blazing door? Surely it was the One who was touched, for if He had not given this power to a hand made of clay, how could it have touched the wounds which shook both heaven and earth? And Thomas received the grace to touch Christ and shout out to Hi

PASSING FROM DEATH TO LIFE, DAILY

”Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment/condemnation (εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται), but has passed (μεταβέβηκεν) from death to life.” (Jn 5: 24) Here is the choice my Lord places before me: 1. I can “come into judgment/condemnation,” which means sitting in my own “debt” or death-bringing guilt, without embracing God’s mercy and God’s way forward, or 2. I can “hear” His word and embrace faith, moving forward through the ups and downs, on the life-bringing way of the cross, in humble forgiveness of myself and others. Thus I can “pass from death to life,” walking through things in the light and lightness of God’

WITNESSING TO THE LIGHT

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” (Jn 1: 6-9) Was St. John the Baptist the “only” one “sent from God,” in order to “bear witness of the Light”? No. All of us, having received the power of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, are “sent” to “bear witness of the Light,” of our Lord Jesus Christ. We would miss the point of receiving God’s power, or grace, if we were just to keep it to ourselves. It is given to us that we may pass it on; it is also m

STAY & WAIT

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 1: 1-5) Now that Easter Sunday and Bright Week have passed, we tend to go back to “bu

"HE IS NOT HERE"

“Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Gal

DAILY TRANSITION

“It is the day of resurrection! Let us be radiant, O people! Pascha! The Lord's Pascha! For Christ our God has brought us from death to life, and from earth unto heaven, as we sing the song of victory!” (Paschal Canon, Irmos-hymn of Ode 1) Transitions can be hard. And yet I am invited, on “the day of the resurrection,” to join the Lord’s Great Transition, – the Lord’s “Pascha” or “Passover” from death to life, and from earth to heaven. This “day” is every day in the life of anyone who believes in the risen Lord; “This is the day which the Lord has made” (Ps 117/118: 24), also this Thursday of Bright Week, on which I am, once again, invited to join “the Lord’s Pascha” and to transition from a

DON'T SEEK THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD

“The godly women hastened to You with myrrh, O Christ. The one whom they had sought with tears, as a dead man, they worshipped as the living God! And they proclaimed the mystical pascha to Your disciples.” (Paschal Canon, Troparion of Ode 7) The women hastened to the Tomb that Sunday morning, looking for “a dead man.” But the One they found, the One revealed to them, was “the living God.” Hence the “mystical pascha” (i.e., “passover” or “transition”) that they proclaimed to the disciples was not only the Lord’s transition from death to life, but their own, the women’s, transition from merely-human dedication to “a dead man” to faith in “the living God.” Because their beloved Teacher was “mor

HE KNOWS MY NAME

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus sa

UPON THOSE IN THE TOMBS

“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” (Paschal Troparion-hymn) Christ is risen! – as most of you have probably heard. I for one have heard the news many times, throughout the years, in previous celebrations of this beautiful Feast of Feasts, Pascha. And I’ve “heard” it in different ways, at different points in my life. Let me truly “hear” the news of our Lord’s rising from “the dead” this Easter Sunday, that I may once again choose to “rise” in Him, and to receive wholeheartedly the life He is “bestowing,” yet not forcing, upon me. As I “rise” to the occasion of celebrating the Lord’s resurrection at this unusual time of t

THE PACKED "SILENCE" OF HOLY SATURDAY

“He who shut in the depths is beheld dead, / Wrapped in fine linen and spices. / The Immortal One is laid in a tomb as a mortal man. / The women have come to anoint Him with myrrh, / Weeping bitterly and crying: / ‘This is the most blessed Sabbath / On which Christ has fallen asleep. He will rise on the third day!’” (Byzantine Kontakion-hymn of Holy Saturday) Today, on this “most blessed Saturday,” Christ “sleeps” in the Tomb, while those who buried Him “rest,” according to the commandment.” (Lk 23: 56) But the silence of Holy Saturday is packed with invisible, life-giving activity, as the Maker of all things visible “and invisible” is busy at work, “shutting in the depths.” What does that m

HE WAS LED LIKE A SHEEP

“He has no form nor comeliness; and we saw him, but he had no form nor beauty. But his form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men; he was a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness, so that his face was turned away: he was dishonoured, and not esteemed. He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement/teaching of our peace (παιδεία εἰρήνης ἡμῶν) was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. All we as sheep (ὡς πρόβατα) have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the

HOLY THURSDAY

“When he (Judas) had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” (Jn 13: 31-35) There is so much to contemplate, on this Holy and Great Thursday, the day of the Lord’s Mystical Supper, at which He establishes

JUDAS, ANTISEMITISM & "US"

“In envy the priests and scribes cunningly gathered a council against You, Saviour, moving Judas to betrayal. He shamelessly went forth and spoke against You, saying to a transgressing people: What will you give me if I deliver Him into your hands? From his condemnation save our souls, O Lord!” (Kathisma-Hymn, Matins of Holy & Great Tuesday) What is the point of our Church’s hymnography this week, when it bemoans the sins of the “bad guys” in the story of Christ’s passion, – the “Orthodox” Jewish religious establishment of that time, the priests and scribes, and Judas, one of the twelve (and also Jewish) disciples? Is it our point to shake an antisemitic finger at Jews, or to place responsib

THE PARABLE OF THE 10 VIRGINS

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to thos

JESUS CURSES A TREE

“The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?’ And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he

TAKE AWAY THE STONE!

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you hear me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and f

WORKING FROM HOME & SELF-DISCIPLINE

“A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin. The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” (Prov 21: 4-5) Throughout our Lenten journey, for almost six weeks now, we have had a reading at weekday-Vespers from the most “practical” book of the Bible, Proverbs. These readings, (including the one quoted above, which was read this Tuesday), offer me practical, “how to” bits of ancient wisdom, on wise and healthy living. We have these readings specifically during Lent, because Lent is, among other things, a time of both physical and spiritual renewal; of healthy work-habits, eating-habits, praying-habits, resting-

LET US ALSO GO!

“…Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” (Jn 11: 11-16) The above-quoted conversation happens “today” (in liturgical time), and two days after Jesus was informed that His friend, Lazarus, had fallen ill back in

BEING SPOUSE-LESS OR ALONE

“Rejoice, O un-wedded (without-a-bridegoom) Bride! / Χαίρε, Νύμφη Α-νύμφευτε. / Радуйся, Невесто не-невестная.” (Refrain, Akathist-Hymn of the Theotokos) In this Akathist-Hymn, we praise the Theotokos not only for who/what she “is“ and “has,“ but also for what she is “not,“ i.e.,“wedded,“ and what she does “not“ have, which is a spouse or bridegroom. Hence we praise her as “Α-νύμφευτε,” or one “without a bridegroom” (without a “νυμφίος“). Is this cause for celebration, the fact that the Most-Holy Theotokos had “no bridegroom,” in the usual sense, in her specific vocation, of bringing our Lord into the world? Yes, apparently so, as this particular fact is praised repeatedly, in the refrain of

THIS ILLNESS IS NOT UNTO DEATH

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go into Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking t

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