Category Archives: church

Voices and the small heaven.

I will not be able to commemorate the Feast of Theophany in the usual way this year,
but I want to remember the importance of the event and the celebration,
with the help of St. Nikolai.
Happy Feast!

Most of the Prologue of Ohrid for this day:

THE EPIPHANY [THEOPHANY] OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

When our Lord reached thirty years from His physical birth, He began His teaching and salvific work. He Himself signified this “beginning of the beginning” by His baptism in the Jordan river. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says, “The beginning of the world – water; the beginning of the Good News – Jordan.” At the time of the baptism of the Lord in water, that mystery was declared to the world: that mystery which was prophesied in the Old Testament; the mystery about which in ancient Egypt and India was only fabled; i.e., the mystery of the Divine Holy Trinity.

The Father was revealed to the sense of hearing; the Spirit was revealed to the sense of sight, and in addition to these, the Son was revealed to the sense of touch. The Father uttered His witness about the Son, the Son was baptized in the water, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovered above the water. When John the Baptist witnessed and said about Christ, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.”

(St. John 1:29) And when John immersed and baptized the Lord in the Jordan, the mission of Christ in the world and the path of our salvation was shown. That is to say: The Lord took upon Himself the sins of mankind and died under them [immersion] and became alive again [the coming out of the water]; and we must die as the old sinful man and become alive again as cleansed, renewed and regenerated. This is the Savior and this is the path of salvation.

The Feast of the Epiphany [Theophany in Greek] is also called the Feast of Illumination. For us, the event in the Jordan river illuminates, by manifesting to us God as Trinity, consubstantial and undivided. That is one way. And the second: every one of us through baptism in water is illumined by this, that we become adopted by the Father of Lights through the merits of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit.

HYMN OF PRAISE

THE HOLY TRINITY
O, Holy Lord, holy in creating,
All that You create by Your Word, by Your Spirit You consecrate.
O, Mighty Lord, mighty in suffering,
For the world You walk to Your death; for the world, You resurrect.
Immortal Lord, in voice, we praise You;
Father, Son, Holy Spirit – God, have mercy on us!
The Father, Who appeared over Jordan as a Voice,
The Spirit, Who as a White Dove hovered,
The Son, Who by the Prophet John was baptized,
Three rays of light, one light shown,
The Trinity manifested, we praise You in voice:
Father, Son, Holy Spirit – God, have mercy on us!

REFLECTION

Blessed Clement c. 150 – c. 215

At one time, the fables of the heretics plagued the Church of God and now the Church is plagued by the fables of the apostates from God. By perseverance in the Faith, by diligence in prayer, by confession of the Faith and even martyrdom for the Faith, the Church remained undefeated until now. Only by these methods will these neo-plagues be defeated. The Church of God, the Vessel of Divine Truth will triumph in the end, “The enemies are ruined completely forever” (Psalm 9:7).

Blessed Clement of Alexandria said about heretics who left the Church, “He who has fallen into heresy travels through an arid desert, abandoning the One True God. Alienated from God, he seeks water in dry places, he gathers barren fruit with his hands and enters into an uninhabited and thirsty land.” This also can be said today about the many hypothecators and theoreticians who are led by their imaginations and not by the truth of God.

HOMILY

About the mystery of [Heavenly] Divine Trinity:

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit and the water and the blood: and these three are together”(I John 5: 7-8).

When we read Holy Scripture, we should be alert to keep an eye on every word. To the rapid reader, for example, this distinction which the Evangelist draws between the Heavenly Trinity and the earthly trinity will not become apparent. Concerning the Heavenly Trinity, he says, “And these three are one;” and concerning the earthly trinity, he says, “And these three are together.”

There is an enormous difference between “being one” and “being together.” The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are One, whereas the spirit, water and blood are only together and are not one. Even enemies could be together as one, but are not one. All the people on earth are together, but they are not one.

Water and blood constitute the body and the spirit is the spirit. “For the flesh has desires against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). However, they are not one, but they are still together. When man dies the union is broken apart and ceases to exist. Blood and water go to one side and the spirit goes to another side. Whereas the [Heavenly] Divine Trinity in the heavens not only are they together but they are also one.

There is also another trinity in the inner heaven of man which should be, not only a unity, but a oneness so that man could be blessed in this world and in the other world. That is the union of the mind, heart and will. As long as these three are only in togetherness, man will be at war with himself and with the Heavenly Trinity.

However, when these three become one, so that neither one rules and that neither one is enslaved, then man becomes filled with “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), man’s every word, every explanation, every fear and every sorrow. Then the small heaven in man begins to resemble that great heaven of God, and the “image and likeness of God” becomes apparent in man.

O Triune God, help us to resemble, at least, those who resemble You.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

When I looked up, I saw — much beauty.

I heard an unusually big sound of wings between me and the creek this morning, and looked up to see a pair of Bald Eagles!! I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this bird before ever, and were they actually right here a few steps from my own house?

Yes, they were. They were leaving the branches of a tree as I walked by, and flew low through the creek bed a little farther, lit again briefly, and then lifted up into the blue sky above me where I got a movie with my phone, of them circling around me and the treetops. They are not too high and small in the movie to recognize their markings and confirm who they are. I can’t get over my astonishment, but I don’t mind it hanging on to me longer….

Also down by the creek many of the trees have colonies of mistletoe like this. One day I counted several dozen “decorated” trees, and when I went back in the evening the light was perfect for documenting the clumps that I normally don’t pay attention to.

Much prettier sights are also to be seen looking up:

I heard a lovely choral Christmas concert performed in our church last week. Beforehand all the electric lights were turned on, and looking up there one could see the dome brightly even though it was night! For the winter liturgical services we still only use candles, even at night, so it was different to get this view:

I have started cleaning up the garden in preparation for the dormant season. The sunflowers are still blooming, but I don’t want to wait until a frost hits to try to stuff them all in the bin, so I am filling it with sunflowers weekly. These Delta Sunflowers are the best! The birds adore them, too — Every time I go out the front door, a dozen are under the thicket, where a million seeds must have fallen by now and are still dropping.

 I brought in the last bouquet:

In the back garden, Christmas is more obviously on the way!

St. Justinian’s Hymn

I always look forward to the time in during Divine Liturgy when we sing St. Justinian’s Hymn. I don’t have to wait long, as it comes only a few minutes into the service.  Nov 14 is the day we commemorate St. Justinian (along with St Gregory Palamas, St. Justinian’s wife St. Theodora, and the Apostle Philip), so I thought it a good day to share this hymn with you.Justinian contemp mosaic

St. Justinian reigned as Byzantine emperor for nearly forty years during the sixth century. He was responsible for the construction of the glorious Hagia Sophia, and though he may not have written the ancient hymn affirming the Incarnation, he did command that it be sung every Sunday.

I love the way our choir sings this part of the Liturgy, and I always try to sing along. I found two examples on YouTube that most resemble the way I know it:

here and here.

The words are simple but so fundamental to our faith:

Only begotten Son and Word of God,
Thou Who art immortal
And didst deign for our salvation
to become incarnate
of the Holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary,
without change becoming man,
and who was crucified O Christ God,
trampling down death by death;
Thou who art one of the Holy Trinity,
glorified together with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
save us.

You might be interested in this series on the Divine Liturgy in which Fr. Thomas Hopko gives a lecture about the theology of “Only-Begotten Son.”

And finally, an icon of the Incarnation: