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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

     “Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline your ear; and forget your own people and your father’s house. And the king shall greatly desire your beauty, for he himself is your Lord, and you shall worship him. And him shall the daughters of Tyre worship with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat your countenance (τὸ πρόσωπόν σου λιτανεύσουσιν, лицу твоему помолятся). All the glory of the daughter of the king is within, with goldfringed garments is she arrayed, adorned in varied colors... I shall commemorate your name in every generation and generation.“ (Ps 44: 9-12, 16, Septuagint-translation)

     Today, as those of us on the Older Calendar celebrate the great feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, our Church showers praise, gratitude and love upon “the daughter of...

Monday, August 27, 2018

     “’…But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’ And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.’” (Mk 4: 20-22)

     As those of us on the Older Calendar prepare to celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos this Tuesday, I’m thinking about the once-“hidden” virtue of Mary, a poor Jewish girl from Nazareth. She “heard the word and accepted it” quietly, in a private conversation with an Archangel, and then “bore fruit” incalculably more than “a hundredfold,” so that “all generations” ever since “bless the Fruit of her...

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

     “Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos, / Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. / For being the Mother of Life, / She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her ever-virginal womb.” (Kontakion-hymn of the Dormition of the Theotokos)

     Just as St. Peter said about the Source of Life, our risen Lord, that “it was impossible” that He should be “held” by death (Acts 2: 24), we sing in the above-quoted hymn that death “could not hold” the Mother of Life. As one with a unique role in Salvation History, the Mother of God also has a unique, personal “salvation history”: She experienced Pentecost “before” anyone else, at the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1: 35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…”), and the Holy Virgin also received the gr...

Monday, August 13, 2018

     “…And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her. In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ’Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?...” (Lk 1: 38-43)

     As those of us on the “New” Calendar prepare for the upcoming feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, and those of us on the Older Calendar prepare for the Dormition Fast, I’m...

Monday, August 28, 2017

“…for he has regarded the humility of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Lk 1: 48, The “Song” of the Theotokos, Песнь Богородицы)

Is this a “humble” statement, I mean, the part about “henceforth all generations will call me blessed”? Of course it is, because the Mother of God said it. But I think, mainly because of our misconceptions of “humility,” were anyone else to make mention of their fame, let alone anticipate their future fame, “henceforth,” in “all generations,” we would probably find such words “not humble,” at the very least.

“Humility,” however, does not mean being blind to our gifts or blessings, but rather seeing them in the proper light, and that is, as given by God, and with heartfelt gratitude to Him. In fact, taking an honest look...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!’ But he said, ‘Yes rather (Μενοῦν), blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” (Lk 11: 27-28)

Is our Lord denying the “blessedness” of His Mother, in reply to the woman in the crowd who just “blessed” the Theotokos? No. But He is drawing the attention of this woman-in-the-crowd to the kind of “blessedness” she, personally, and everyone else in the “crowd” of Christ’s followers, including us today, are called to share with the Birth-giver of God. Lest we subtly dismiss the journey of the Holy Virgin, as one irrelevant to us, made in a galaxy far, far away.

While nobody shares in the Theotokos’s unique vocation, to be “the womb that bore”...

Monday, August 14, 2017

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις), but to us who are being saved (τοῖς σῳζομένοις) it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor 1: 18-20)

Today, those of us on the Older Calendar begin the Dormition Fast, while those of us on the “New” Calendar complete it and begin to celebrate the great feast of the Mother of God’s Dormition. Regardless of where we find ourselves within the awkward reality of different church-calendars, St. Paul refers to all of “us” as those who are “being saved,” as distinct from those who “are pe...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in the town, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who is without sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake foolishness, and live, and walk in the way of understanding.’” (Prov 9: 1-6, read at Byzantine Vespers on Dormition)

This intriguing passage is read at Vespers, on the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Why this passage? Because the “house” built by “Wisdom” is traditionally seen as an image of Mary, the Most-Pure Virgin from Nazareth, who was chosen to give birth to the Bread of Life. She was “built” by generations of c...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (Jn 19: 25-27)

St. John, the beloved disciple, already had a home, and a mother, in the usual sense. She was Salome, Zebedee’s wife, who was still alive and also present at the Cross (Mk 15: 40). The young John still lived in the house of his parents. But the Lord entrusts John to His own Mother, who was poor, not in the usual sense. At the Cross the Theotokos becomes John’s mother in the spiritual sense; She is called to nurture, protect,...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos, the ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, who without corruption gave birth to God the Word, the true Theotokos, we magnify you.” (Byzantine Hymn to the Mother of God)

I am praying this somewhat-surprising hymn today, as some of us prepare for the feast of the Dormition (Assumption) of the Mother of God, and others of us on the Old(er) Calendar are just preparing to enter the two-week Dormition Fast. Do we “overdo it,” when it comes to blessing and magnifying this Woman? No, we proclaim in this hymn: “It is truly right…” Ἄξιόν ἐστιν ὡς ἀληθῶς…

Why is it “truly right” to magnify Her above and beyond even the cherubim and seraphim? Because of Her...

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