Bright Tuesday (2019)

Christ is risen from the dead,

trampling down death by death

and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

Bright Tuesday   Luke 24:12-35

St Gregory the Great writes:

You have heard, dearly beloved, that the Lord appeared to two disciples while they were walking on the road. They were talking about him, even though they did not believe. He did not show them an appearance which they could recognize, but the Lord behaved before the eyes of their bodies in accord with what was going on inwardly before the eyes of their hearts. Within themselves they were both loving and doubting; and the Lord was present to them out. outwardly, but did not show them who he was. He manifested his presence to them as they talked about him, but hid the appearance by which they would recognize him on account of their doubts. He did indeed talk with them, reproving the hardness of their understanding and opening to them the mysteries of holy scripture concerning himself: and yet, because as an object of faith he was still a stranger to their hearts, he made a pretense of going on farther. One can make a pretence as one can make a pot. On this occasion the perfect Truth did nothing deceitful; he was only manifesting himself to them materially as they were thinking of him. It had to be shown whether those who did not as yet love him as God were at least able to love him as a stranger. Since those with whom Truth was walking couldn’t be alien to charity, they invited him, a stranger, to be their guest.

But why do I say they invited him, when it is written that they compelled him? We must surely infer from this example that strangers are not only to be invited to be guests but even forcibly persuaded. They set the table, brought food, and recognized in the breaking of the bread the God they did not know as he explained the sacred scriptures. They were not enlightened by hearing God’s commandments, but by their own actions, for it is written, It is not hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but doers of the law will be made righteous. Let anyone who wishes to understand what he has heard be quick to fulfil in action what he has already been able to understand. The Lord was not recognized when he was speaking, but he deigned to be recognized as he was being fed.”

(Forty Homilies, pp. 176-177)

Bright Monday (2019)

Bright Monday

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen!

In order to lead us up to this presence, the Son of God had first to come down to us, to take on himself “flesh and blood”, so as in it to annihilate the power of enmity which kept us from approaching God.

Since the children (of a family) share the same flesh and blood, he too shared ours, so that through death he might destroy him who held the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver all those who through fear of death, were subject to servitude all their lives long [Hebrews 2:14-15].

This beautiful text, as has been noted, is the New Testament passage most frequently quoted by the Fathers of the Church in explaining why Christ had to die. Better than any other, it sums up the victorious struggle against the powers of evil in which, as St. Paul (especially in his last Epistles), the Synoptics (especially St. Mark) and St. John all agree, is to be found the meaning of the Cross.

Yet the author of the Epistle does not go on to devote himself to this aspect. Not that it seems unimportant to him; on the contrary, it is absolutely essential to his vision, with the emphasis that he places on the blood that must be shed to cleanse from sin. But it is the other aspect of the reality that concerns him. To him, freedom from sin, from the devil and from death is not an end in itself. It is the indispensable prerequisite for mankind’s access to the divine presence. This access itself is what he has most at heart. And, we might say, if there is anything purely Paulinian in this Epistle, it is certainly this very idea. A leitmotif phrase from the Epistle to the Ephesians might serve to summarize the Epistle to the Hebrews: “Through him (Christ) we have access to the Father” [Eph 2:18]  

(Louis Bouyer, The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers, pp. 144-145)

Vespers of Pascha (2019)

Peace be with you!

Those were the first words that the risen Lord spoke to His disciples when He came into their presence in the upper room as they hid in fear for their lives (John 20:19-25).


We can imagine the strangeness of that scene and what was going through their hearts and minds.  On the one hand, He who had just been executed by crucifixion and buried, now stands in their presence and wishes them peace!  What kind of peace could they find in a world filled with terror, terrorism and torture?  On the other hand, they are seeing before them a dead man, or his ghost.  What peace can there be if the dead can walk into the room where they are hiding.  No place on earth is safe!

And again, on the one hand, Christ the person they professed as Lord and Master had been murdered, and they did nothing to protect or help Him.  In fact they all had fled from Him, and denied Him, denied they even knew Him, and abandoned Him, and one of them had in fact betrayed Him.  On the other hand, if Christ is alive, who should they fear more the people who killed Him or Christ who now is alive and can make Himself present no matter where they hide and pay them back for their failures?

The dead Christ’s appearance in their midst is a shocking sight, startling them right out of their despair, out of their failures, out of their fears – into a whole new set of fears!   And yes, at first they saw Him not as the risen Lord but as a dead man appearing to them!  This was probably a worse shock and fear then the people they hoped to keep outside of the locked room where they were hiding.


And today, we the disciples of Christ find ourselves still threatened, still worried that people might want to kill us, and we see in Sri Lanka, Egypt, Pakistan and other places in the world our brothers and sisters in Christ are murdered because they are Christ’s disciples.

And we hear Christ’s words as He stands in our midst: “Peace be with you!

And we too wonder what kind of peace can a dead man, even a resurrected one grant us?  He doesn’t seem able to protect His followers for they have been martyred throughout history.  Fear takes hold of our hearts.

40675919665_f02e9a6c7d_nChrist did not choose His Twelve Disciples because He knew they would be perfect in their faith or in following Him or in doing all the right things.  In fact, the Gospels tell us He knew who He chose and how they would betray Him, deny Him and flee from Him in His hour of need.  Yet He still chose them.  He still came into their midst and wished them Peace.  It is His desire to save us all and unite us to our God, despite our sins and failings and fears.

He comes to us knowing our fears, faults, failures and foibles.  He grants us His peace.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”   (John 14:27)

How can we live without fear in this world?

Christ has chosen us to be His disciples.  He still relies on us, trusts us to accomplish His work on earth and promises that we will see greater things than even the Apostles themselves witnessed (John 1:50).

Christ says to us:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.  If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”  (John 15:16-18)

And then He went on to say:

I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStrive to find the peace of Christ in your hearts,  Pray for the gift of the peace of Christ so that all fear will be driven from your life and that you might have good cheer despite the threats of the world and the courage to continue to do good and to do the godly thing even in the face of threats.

May the peace of God be with you.  May the God of peace be with you.

Christ is risen!

Holy Pascha (2019)

Pascha Sunday

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)


… 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.  (Acts 1:2-3)

While singing “Christ is risen!” can fill us with joy, the full implications of the resurrection may escape us.  Archimandrite Amilianos brings to our attention an important detail from the Acts of the Apostles:  Jesus’ resurrection means not only that he is alive, but that He is living – He has life in Himself that can never be taken away.

But it was precisely then, after the passion, that He presented Himself alive. (Acts 1:3)

If you look at this verse closely, you’ll see that Luke does not simply say that Christ presented himself “alive,” as if to say that He was merely “seen to have been alive,” or “appeared to be alive,” like everyone else. The sense is rather that He presented Himself “living.” Of course Christ is alive, and “there was never a time when he was not alive.” But here Christ’s assumption of life, His taking up of life, is an absolutely voluntary act, for no one takes My life from Me, He says, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again; this charge I received from My Father (Jn. 10.18).


After the passion, He presented Himself living. The life of Christ is the life given to Him by the Father after the passion. After the resurrection, therefore, the life in Christ that the apostles experienced was not simply the same life they had come to know during the days of His earthly ministry. Neither was the resurrected body of Christ simply the same body they had known, and which His enemies had slain and buried. It was a resurrected body, raised in glory, raised in power (cf. 1 Cor 15.42-45). The body that Christ assumed in His love for mankind had formerly been subject to the laws of corruption, to the laws of nature. But now those laws are of no consequence for Him. That was how He was able to enter into the upper room while the doors were closed (Jn 20.19, 26). That was a sovereign activity by which Christ, after the passion, presents Himself as living, as true and eternal life itself (cf. Jn 11.25).


Whoever is able to accept suffering, whoever is able to die the death granted to Him by the Father, is able to participate in the true, eternal life of Christ. If he cannot, or will not do this, then his life is a living death, for whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will preserve it (Lk 17.33).

After the passion, He presented himself living.

(The Way of the Spirit, pp. 162-163)

Jesus is able to present Himself as living precisely because He is Life (John 11:25, 14:6).

Pascha: Journey from Earth to Heaven

For from death to life and from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us as we sing the song of victory: Christ is risen from the dead! (Hymn of Pascha)


Great Lent is a spiritual journey.  At the beginning of Lent, we began reading the Book of Genesis.  We were expelled with Eve and Adam from Paradise and sent into this world in which we live.  We migrated into Egypt with Joseph, and then God called us out of that great civilization into the desolate desert.  Now at Pascha we travel from earth to heaven. Our sojourn has thus taken us from Paradise to this world, to the desert, to Hades and 47449541621_ef2bff53d1_qthen back to the world and now to heaven itself.   A journey from the earth to the moon is nothing compared to what we undertake every Lent! And that journey to the moon costs millions of dollars to get two people to the moon, while our spiritual journey was free and there is no limit to the number of people who can make the journey.

The Gospel reading for the Pascha midnight service, perhaps surprisingly, is not one of the Resurrection accounts, but rather from Chapter 1 of John which takes us back to the beginning of time, to the beginning of creation, to the Big Bang.   This Gospel reading helps us understand the resurrection of Christ as a universal event – not something that happened at a moment 2000 years ago, but one which brings us to eternity.

8062392074_5e6935bb48_nIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

We thus travel every Great Lent the breadth and depth of time and space!  Nothing is left untouched by Christ, not even death’s kingdom. Christ, the one in whom life dwells, brings life not only to Hades, but in baptism, He comes to dwell in each of us.  As St Paul says:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.   (Galatians 2:20)

We have the Word not only dwelling in our midst but also within each of us.  As we prayed each time we celebrated the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts during Lent:   

may we be united to Your Christ Himself, our true God, Who has said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him,” that by Your Word, O Lord, dwelling within us and sojourning among us, we may become a temple of Your all-holy and adorable Spirit …


Throughout our long Lenten sojourn which has taken us from the beginning of time to its end (and just in 6 weeks!), Christ has sojourned with us – at every moment and in every place Christ is with us always and in all ways.

Our Lenten sojourn has accomplished what God intended from the beginning:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Christ is risen!

Wishing you a joyous celebration of the resurrection of Christ.  

Holy Saturday (2019)

26430278807_d989b54226Holy Saturday: Victory Over Hell

Holy Saturday is the Great and Holy Sabbath on which God rested from His work (Genesis 2:2-3).  God rested before the Eighth Day began – the new day of the new creation. It is a day of anticipation and vigilance for believers as we wait for what we know God does: rise from the dead.  Our faith is not in an uncertain and unknown future which may or may not happen, but in what we know and proclaim: Christ is risen! In Christ God became human, humbling Himself to raise us up to heaven.

“And His whole life was an ongoing self-abasement, an unending self-emptying, from the moment of His conception until his death and burial and beyond. In the extreme humility of His descent God did not stop at the clouds. Neither did His journey end on earth. He went all the way to hell. In His extreme humility, He descends to the extremity of man’s damnation, and stretches forth His hands to those sitting in the darkness and the shadow of death (cf. Lk. 1:79). In stretching forth His hands, He embraces all: those who loved Him, and those who hated Him; those who stood by Him throughout His life, and those who denied Him. He extends His open hands to all, so that anyone who wants can take hold of Him, and He will pull them out of Hell. Lower than this, there is no place for man or God to go.

In light of God’s descent, everything has changed. When the highest entered the lowest, when God entered the realm of hell, everything there was turned upside down. The Devil was defeated. Death yielded to life. Darkness was swallowed up by light. Fallen man ascended into heaven. In union with Christ, human nature now sits on the throne of God, being filled with the Holy Spirit. God has descended, and reduced himself for our sake, while redeemed humanity has become a great mass, exalted, so high as to surpass heaven itself. In his sermon on humility, St. Basil says that “from a state of nothingness, man has expanded into the heavens’” And all of this can be ours, if only we humble ourselves.” (Archimandrite Amilianos, The Way of the Spirit, pp. 310-311)


“Commenting on the psalms used in the paschal vigil, Gregory [of Nyssa] brings out the manner in which the incarnation is also rightly seen as a war, in which Christ emerges as the Victor who brings benefits of peace to his followers:
Let us imitate the prophetic hills and mountains and leap for joy (Ps. 113:4). Come let us rejoice in the Lord who destroyed the power of the Enemy and for our sake set up his standard of the cross over the very corpse of the foe. Let us raise a cry of victory, for cheers are fitting shouts of triumph raised by victors over the vanquished. And since the enemy line has collapsed, and the very one who commanded the evil army of demons has gone, has vanished, and has been brought to nothing, then let us join in saying: “The Lord is a great God” (Ps. 94:3) and “a great king over all the earth” (Ps 64:12) and has gathered us into his spiritual choir in Christ Jesus Our Lord, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”  (John A. McGuckin, Seeing the Glory, pp. 230-231)

Holy Friday (2019)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHoly Friday: The Crucifixion (Matthew 27)

“The explanation given in the Gospel account is simple if we only listen to it closely, reflect on it, accustom ourselves to it: they reject Christ, they hate Christ, they crucify Christ, not because of some one thing, not because of those fabricated misdemeanours for which He is falsely and slanderously denounced to Pilate. Pilate himself rejects these lies and slanders, even while condemning Christ to a humiliating and terrible death. No, this is not some misunderstanding, this is not some kind of accident. Christ is crucified because His goodness, His love, the blinding light that pours from Him, is something the people cannot stand. They cannot bear it because it exposes the evil they live by, which they conceal even from themselves. This is the horror of the fallen world, that evil not only has dominion, but poses as something good, always hiding behind the mask of good. Evil guarantees its domination of the world by parading itself as good! Now in our own day as well, it is always in the name of good, of freedom, of concern for mankind that people are enslaved and murdered, deceived, lied to, slandered and destroyed. Every evil screams only one message: “I am good!” And not only does it scream, but it demands that the people cry out tirelessly in response: “You are good, you are freedom, you are happiness!”


Yes, the crowds followed Christ as long as He helped, healed, worked miracles. And it was these same crowds that discarded Him and shouted, “Crucify Him!” They knew, with all of evil’s terrifying intuition, that in this perfect man, in this perfect love, they were exposed. They knew that through His own love, His own perfection, Christ was demanding from them a life which they did not want to lead – a love, a truth, a perfection they could not stand. And this witness had to be silenced, exterminated.


It is only here- and this is the entire meaning, all the depth, of the cross and crucifixion – in this apparent triumph of evil, where in reality good is triumphant. For the victory of good begins precisely here, with the exposure of evil as evil. The high priest knows he is lying. Pilate knows he is condemning to death a man who is totally innocent. And hour after hour, step by step, within that terrible triumph of evil, the light of victory begins to burn more and more brightly. The victory can be heard in the repentance of the crucified criminal, in the words of the centurion who led the execution: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mt. 57:54). The man dying on the cross has completed His testimony.  And through it, from within – no, not yet on the outside – evil is destroyed, for it was exposed, and is now eternally exposed as evil. I repeat, the cross begins that victory which is fulfilled in the death and resurrection of the Crucified One.

Christ “suffered…” says the Symbol of faith. Why this repetition, since surely the word “crucified” can be understood to include suffering? The answer to this question needs to be put as follows: in saying “crucified,” we are primarily speaking about those who crucified Christ, we are speaking about evil, about that visible triumph and victory of evil expressed by the Cross and crucifixion; and by exposing evil as evil, Christ’s crucifixion strips evil of all its masks and begins its destruction. But when we say “and suffered,” we are speaking about Christ, we are focusing our inner, spiritual sight on the Crucified One and not on the crucifiers. If Christ did not suffer on the Cross – as was taught by certain false teachers condemned by the Church – if He did not go through physical and emotional suffering, then absolutely everything about our faith in Christ as Savior of the world would be completely different. This is because we would be removing from our faith that which is most essential: faith in the saving nature of this voluntary suffering itself, in which Christ gives Himself up to the most terrible, most incomprehensible, most inescapable law of “this world,” the law of suffering.”    (Alexander Schmemann, Celebration of Faith, p. 80, 81, 82)

Holy Thursday (2019)

On Holy Thursday we commemorate the the institution of the Mystical Supper of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23-32,  Matthew 26:2-27:2).  Now in and through the Eucharist we are able to personally participate in the incarnation of God and to experience our salvation.  We the Christians become the Body of Christ continuing the incarnation throughout time. The Mystical Supper is instituted as part of Christ’s own diaconal service to us all for He first washes the feet of His disciples to give us the example of what salvation is and means.  Salvation is God’s love incarnate not in Christ alone but in and through the Body of Christ. Salvation is not merely that we cease sinning but that we become united to God. We all participate in this salvation and are to incarnate this love in our life and our world.

In sum, the Gospel of John understands the Eucharist not as a mere “cultic” and “sacramental” act, but primarily as a diaconal act and an alternative way of life with apparent social implications. For in those days, the washing of a disciple’s feet was more than an ultimate act of humble services and kenotic diakonia; it was an act of radical social behavior, in fact, a rite of inversion of roles within the society. To this should be added Jesus’ admonition to his disciples and through them to his Church: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). The diaconal implication of the Johannine understanding of the Eucharist becomes quite evident.

It is almost an assured result of modern biblical and liturgical scholarship that the Eucharist was “lived” in the early Christian community as a foretaste of the coming kingdom of God. It was experienced as a proleptic manifestation, within the tragic realties of history, of an authentic life of communion, unity, justice and equality, entailing no practical differentiation (soteriological and beyond) between men and women. (Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, Sacred Text and Interpretation, p. 156)

Following the footwashing and the Supper, Christ and the disciples sang a hymn together – believed to be Psalm 118.  

Psalm 118, which is one of the most beautiful psalms in the entire Psalter. It is also one of the most simple….  It goes without saying that all the psalms are important to us. Yet Psalm 118 is especially important, since according to tradition it was the psalm sung by the Lord with His disciples at the Mystical Supper (cf. Mt. 26:30), moments before He handed Himself over for the life of the world. It is, then, a preeminently Eucharistic psalm, a psalm of thanksgiving.”  (Archimandrite Aimilianos, Psalms and the Life of Faith, p. 300)

Christ prepares Himself and His disciples for the betrayal, arrest and crucifixion by singing a hymn of Thanksgiving with them.  So for us every Divine Liturgy is Eucharistic – a thanksgiving to God for all that God has done and is doing for us and with us. On the very night Jesus is arrested He gives thanks to God as we commemorate every time we serve the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom:

For when He had come and had fulfilled all the plan of salvation for us, in the night in which He was given up – or rather, in which He gave Himself up for the life of the world – He took bread in His holy, pure, and blameless hands; and when He had given thanks and blessed it, and hallowed it, and broken it, He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles, saying:Take! Eat! This is My Body which is broken for you, for the remission of sins.


And likewise, after supper, He took the cup, saying:  “Drink of it all of you! This is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.


Do this in remembrance of Me! Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting at the right hand, and the Second and glorious Coming.

Holy Wednesday (2019)

Holy Wednesday: The Sorrowful Woman (Matthew 26:6-16)

As we move through Holy Week, we realize that all the events that happen, all that Christ does, is because of us and for us.  He is going to suffer torture and execution because of our sins.  He is going to suffer torture and execution for us, to free us from the burden of our sins.   Our response is not meant to be inflicting suffering on ourselves, or feeling shame and guilt, or even focusing on His suffering as wondrous as that is.  Our response is to be that of the woman who washes His feet – we are to be moved with tears of joy that the burden of our sins is taken away and we are to wash the feet of the our fellow Christians, even the least of the brothers and sisters of Christ.  Doing that would certainly mean we had a good Lent.

33237467784_4acf78e180“This image of interior cleansing through the water of humility is mirrored in the encounter between Christ and fallen woman recorded in Luke’s Gospel, in which she approaches Christ from behind as he is dining with the Pharisee and washes his feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair (Lk. 7:36ff.). St. Ambrose sees an icon of the Church and the relationship of its members to Christ in this encounter:

The Church, then, both washes the feet of Christ and wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with oil, and pours ointment upon them, because not only does she care for the wounded and cherish the weary, but also sprinkles them with the sweet odor of grace…Christ died once, and was buried once, and nevertheless He wills that ointment should daily be poured on His feet. What, then, are those feet of Christ on which we pour ointment? The feet of Christ are they of whom He Himself says: “What ye have done to one of the least of these ye have done to Me” [Mt. 25:40]. These feet that woman in the Gospel refreshes, these feet she bedews with her tears; when sin is forgiven to the lowliest, guilt is washed away, and pardon granted. These feet he kisses, who loves even the lowest of the holy people…in these the Lord Jesus Himself declares that He is honored.

37138541772_ccdc56f9f5_nThe unnamed woman of St. Luke’s Gospel, in all her brokenness and sorrow, already has learned the lesson Christ is teaching his disciples. Her humble repentance, driven by great love, has brought her to the feet of Christ. Like St. Peter, she does not hold back. Her tears of repentance, flowing as living water (Jn. 7:38), wash the feet of One who needs not cleansing but who nonetheless welcomes her with joy.”  (Daniel B. Hinshaw, Touch and the Healing of the World, p. 78)