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Nativity of the Theotokos

Nativity of the TheotokosThe traditional account of the Nativity of the Theotokos is taken from the apocryphal writings which are not part of the New Testament scriptures. The traditional teaching which is celebrated in the hymns and verses of the festal liturgy is that Joachim and Anna were a pious Jewish couple who were among the small and faithful remnant - “the poor and the needy” - who were awaiting the promised messiah. The couple was old and childless. They prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, since among the Jews barrenness was a sign of God's disfavor. In answer to their prayers, and as the reward of their unwavering fidelity to God, the elderly couple was blessed with the child who was destined, because of her own personal goodness and holiness, to become the Mother of the Messiah-Christ...

  • Sep 4 2017

Pentecost: the Gift of Hearing

by: Archpriest George M. Benigsen

THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT upon the Apostles on the day of the Pentecost represents the conclusion of Christ’s salutary task and the birth of His Church in this world. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in the form of fiery tongues and endowed them with the gift of preaching which was understood and accepted by all people, all nations. Thus, the first gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly born Church was the gift of the Word. It was in God’s will for the new and good message of Christ to be understandable and, therefore, reasonable. This represented a complete confirmation of what was the very foundation of the world since the first moment of its creation...

 

  • May 31 2017

The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

If any man be devout and loveth God, Let him enjoy this
fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness...

  • Apr 15 2017

Holy Week and Pascha

Taking Down from the CrossThe Eastern Orthodox calendar consists of a sequence of feasts and fasts commemorating the Incarnation and its fulfillment in the Church. Pre-eminent among all the festivals is Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, which determines all the movable feasts for the liturgical calendar.

The week before Pascha in the Orthodox Church, called Great and Holy Week, is set apart in the ecclesiastical year, so that we might stop and change our pace, meditate upon and relive the last week in our Lord's life which opened the doors of paradise. The events are presented as a drama bringing us to identify ourselves with them and elevate us in an all-embracing movement upward to God. As we relive the annual drama, we receive its benefits and allow the events to transform us into renewed Christians. We fully participate in the services as if actually entering God's Kingdom with hearts filled with faith, minds open to revelation, and a will of concern for spiritual ascent. The scenes take place in Jerusalem. The participants are real. The events, though historical, occur in the present. The laity responds to what it sees and hears... More

Forgiveness and the Gift of Lent

by Fr. Alexander Schmemann

A Homily delivered to the community at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary

Forgiveness Sunday of 1983

As once more we are about to enter the Great Lent, I would like to remind us – myself first of all, and all of you my fathers, brothers, and sisters – of the verse that we just sang, one of the stichera, and that verse says:"Let us begin Lent, the Fast, with joy." 

Only yesterday we were commemorating Adam crying, lamenting at the gates of Paradise, and now every second line of the Triodion and the liturgical books of Great Lent will speak of repentance, acknowledging what dark and helpless lives we live, in which we sometimes are immersed. And yet, no one will prove to me that the general tonality of Great Lent is not that of a tremendous joy! Not what we call "joy" in this world – not just something entertaining, interesting, or amusing – but the deepest definition of joy, that joy of which Christ says: "no one will take away from you" (Jn. 16:22). Why joy? What is that joy?

So many people under various influences have come to think of Lent as a kind of self–inflicted inconvenience. Very often in Lent we hear these conversations: "What do you give up for Lent?" – it goes from candy to, I don’t know what. There is the idea that if we suffer enough, if we feel the hunger enough, if we try by all kinds of strong or light ascetical tools, mainly to "suffer" and be "tortured," so to speak, it would help us to "pay" for our absolution. But this is not our Orthodox faith. Lent is not a punishment. Lent is not a kind of painful medicine that helps only inasmuch as it is painful...

  • Feb 25 2017

Lenten Message of Archbishop Benjamin

Dearly beloved,

After the preparatory weeks getting us ready for Great Lent, we come to the First Sunday of the Fast. There are two themes to this Sunday. The first theme, of course, is historical: the restoration of icons for use in worship and devotion in the Church after many years of iconoclasm. The second is the theme echoed by Philip: Come and See.

These themes are related to each other...

  • Feb 24 2017

The Blessing of Water

Icon of TheophanyIn the Book of Genesis, we read that creation began when the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters. (Gen. 1:2) Throughout the Bible, water plays an important and a 'mystical role' in human existence and in man's relationship with God the Creator.

Water has the capacity to produce death, as recounted in the story of Noah and the ark (Gen. 6); or to produce life, as noted in the story of Moses' striking the rock in the desert to produce water for the parched wanderers (Numbers 20). While the waters of the Red Sea parted to allow the Hebrews to pass over in safety (and thus preserve life), the same waters came rushing upon the Pharoah and his army drowning them...

  • Feb 6 2017

Suggestions for the Nativity Fast

The Nativity Fast is a gift that reminds us to slow down and be purposeful about how we are living these days leading up to the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.

  • Pray for people: prepare a list of names, and once a week or more frequently pray the Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos, or a portion of it. Ask the Theotokos to help those people.
  • Each week as you set aside the proportion of your funds to give to the Church in thanksgiving to God and for the operation of the parish, also set aside a portion to give to the poor. Then give it.
  • Celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas (San Anselmo, Dec. 6) which spiritually ushers us—with joyful exuberance—into the Nativity season. 
  • Celebrate the Feast of St. Herman of Alaska, December 13 (here at the Cathedral).
  • Fast from meat, eggs, cheese, and all dairy. Abstaining from particular foods is really the easiest part of the fast. Much more effort is required when fasting from anger, criticism, resentments, and wandering thoughts, especially those of lust and envy and wasting time in idleness and pointless entertainments. Even more effort is required when we engage in works of mercy to the needy.
  • Attend Vigil on Saturday evening, and by doing so, prepare yourself for Communion on Sunday. Confess at least twice during the Forty Day Fast, one of those times in the week prior to Christmas.
  • Volunteer at one of the many charitable institutions in our city.
  • In the week before Christmas read the Nativity accounts from St. Matthew and St. Luke to your children.

(adapted from bulletin of St. Seraphim Church)

  • Dec 4 2016

Entrance of the Theotokos

As we celebrate the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple on November 21st, we offer a hymn of praise to her who became a living temple of God. Our merciful Lord calls each one of  us to also become a living temple of His glory, and so sets the goal of this Nativity Advent season which begins on Monday, November 15 with the Fast.  As the Troparion of  the Feast proclaims, “Today is the prelude of  God’s goodwill.” And indeed, to know that our destiny—body and soul—is to be bearers of  the Holy Trinity is news of salvation...

  • Nov 12 2016

August 6: The Transfiguration of Our Lord

In August, we will celebrate two Great Feasts of the Church: the Transfiguration of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of Our Most-holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary.  The first of these feasts commemorates the events described by the Evangelists Matthew (17:1-13) and Luke (9:28-36).  In view of his approaching death on the cross, the Lord revealed to His chosen disciples the voluntary character of His passion and death.  His bright transfiguration on Mount Tabor assured the witnesses that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is truly His Father's radiance, the Deliverer Who freely, out of His love for us, undersigned our terrible debt of sin for which He paid with His most pure blood.  And He did it freely, voluntarily, out of love...

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