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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

 “…And Mary said to the angel, ‘How shall this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ 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.” (Lk 1: 34-38)

     The “mystery” or “sacrament” of the Virgin Birth, that is, of the Most Holy Virgin’s “vocation,” raises an understandable, human question: “How shall this be…?” It is similar to the question(s) raised by Nicode...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

 “Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Be...

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

     “Seeing the entrance of the pure one, angels marveled in wonder how the Virgin could enter the holy of holies.” (Refrain to Irmos 9, on the feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple)

     “Entrances” are a big deal in our liturgical tradition, (e.g., the Small Entrance and Great Entrance at Divine Liturgy), surrounded by great solemnity. Why? Because they are “transitional” moments; that is to say, they signify the most crucial and challenging aspect of life in general, and life in Christ more specifically – transitions. We “enter” any given day, for example, transitioning from nighttime not instantly, but by going through our morning “ritual” (getting out of bed, washing up, praying, making coffee, getting dressed, exercising, etc.). We also “enter” into communion with...

Saturday, April 13, 2019

     “Rejoice, O un-wedded (without-a-bridegoom) Bride! / Χαίρε, Νύμφη Α-νύμφευτε. / Радуйся, Невесто не-невестная.” (Refrain, Akathist-Hymn of the Theotokos)

     In the Akathist-Hymn to the Theotokos, celebrated on this 5th Saturday of Lent, 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 the A...

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

   “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more (ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν, яко не суть, because they were not).” (Mt 2: 16-18)

     The Mother of God was spared, at this moment anyway, of the weeping that went on in Bethlehem, over children that “were no more.” She was to weep over her Child three decades later, when she saw Him die on a Cross, upon which He breathed His la...

Monday, December 31, 2018

   “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son.’” (Mt 2: 13-15)

     I also know some people, in my today, who have been uprooted from their homes and their homelands, like the family of Syrian refugees that came over to Coffee-HQ for a Christmas-dinner just a few days ago. And I know another family, an American one in the United States, about to lose its home of many...

Sunday, December 23, 2018

     ”Rejoice, Bethlehem! Prepare yourself, O Ephratha! / The Lamb is on her way to give birth to the Chief Shepherd she carries in her womb. / The God-bearing forefathers will rejoice, beholding Him, / and with the shepherds, they will glorify the Virgin nursing Him.” (Kontakion-Hymn, Forefeast of the Nativity)

     We don’t often think of the Most Holy Virgin Mary as of “The Lamb” (that is led to the slaughter). Because Isaiah was talking about her Son, when he prophesied, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Is 53: 7)

     But this “lamb-likeness” the Theotokos shares with her Son. She is “being led” in “silence,” before...

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

   

     “Blessed are the blameless in the Way, who walk in the law of the Lord.” (Ps 118/119: 1, Septuagint-translation)

     Is it pointless for us to “bless” and praise “the blameless” (οἱ ἄμωμοι, непорочнии), for example, the Theotokos, whose Entry into the Temple is celebrated today on the “New” Calendar; or the archangels and angels, whose feast is celebrated today on the Older Calendar,– if we ourselves are not “blameless”? No, of course not. Because by celebrating the “blameless” in the law of the Lord, we are reminded of the kind of “celebrity” that is truly praise-worthy in God’s eyes, and are inspired to desire it for ourselves. This is particularly counter-cultural in our day, when so much press is wasted on, and “lip-service” paid to, celebrities both famous...

Friday, September 21, 2018

     “Your Nativity, O Virgin Theotokos, / Has proclaimed joy to the whole universe! / The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, / Has shone from You! / Having annulled the curse (λύσας τὴν κατάραν), / He bestowed blessing. / Having destroyed death (καταργήσας τὸν θάνατον), He has granted us eternal Life.” (Troparion-hymn of the feast of The Nativity of the Theotokos)

     The birth of a baby-girl to an elderly and heretofore childless, Jewish couple, Joachim and Anna, over 2,000 years ago in a small village called Nazareth, did “proclaim” joy “to the whole universe.” But at the time it happened, few people heard about it. Nor did those few who did hear about it, at that time, understand what a universe-changing, death-destroying “joy” and “blessing” the birth of this little...

Saturday, September 8, 2018

       “By Your Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin, / Joachim and Anna are freed from the reproach of childlessness (ὀνειδισμοῦ ἀτεκνίας); / Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death. / And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: / The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our life!” (Kontakion-hymn of the Nativity of the Theotokos)

     As those of us on the “New” Calendar celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos this Saturday, our attention is drawn to the whole topic of the “reproach of childlessness,” endured for decades by the Holy Virgin’s parents, Joachim and Anna. They were liberated from this “shame,” just as we were freed from the “guilt” of sin, by the birth of the Birth-Giver of God, the “only” ch...

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