27 December 2010

God Intervenes

God continually intervenes through people in His love and concern for the welfare of all peoples. Yet, there are those who choose to allow pride and selfishness to overtake their hearts. They diminish the light of Jesus in the world. Reflect on how you yourself reveal the light of Jesus Christ in your life. Can you say of yourself that you are a hopeful person? Do you reflect God’s love in your words and actions with others? Or, do you allow selfishness and pride to dominate your choices in life? Do you radiate God’s love or do you diminish it?

Choosing to love God and to share the light of Jesus Christ will bring you to a closer journey with Jesus in your earthly life and in eternity. Allow yourself to be the bright light of Jesus’ love and care in the word around you and with the people you were given to love and to nurture in Jesus’ name. You will come to share in the blessedness of our Blessed Mother who will intercede for your needs with Her Son, Jesus. You will then truly celebrate Christmas!

From the Christmas Pastoral of the Hierarchs of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA

+Stefan Soroka
Metropolitan-Archbishop of Philadelphia

+Richard Seminack
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago

+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM
Eparch of Stamford

+John Bura
Apostolic Administrator
of St. Josaphat in Parma

26 December 2010

Christ Brings Liberation

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.

~Pope Benedict XVI, "Thought for the Day" on BBC, Christmas Eve 2010

24 December 2010

The Cave of Your Soul

To celebrate in a Christian way the Nativity of our Lord, we have to ask Jesus to come into the cave of our soul to transform it, by His presence, into Heaven. "If anyone is in Christ," said Paul, "there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new." (2 Cor. 5:17). And he said to the Romans: "Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." (12:13)

Then we will be born again with the Divine Infant; then we will be restored to the true image of God; and then we will have on this earth some of the days of Heaven.

+Archbishop CYRIL (Bustros) Melkite Eparch of Newton

15 December 2010

Personal Ordinariates

I've always described myself as a Charismatic Byzantine Anglo-Catholic--that is, someone who embraces the whole Church in communion with Rome.

I'm so excited about the invitation given by the Holy Father to welcome Anglicans into the Church. My experience with Anglo-Catholics is that they are often more traditional than your average Roman Catholic parish.

We must continue to pray for the Bishops, Priests, and communities that will be making great sacrifices to re-establish communion with Rome. We must pray for everyone involved with establishing the Ordinariates.

Thank you Bishop Peter Elliott, Episcopal Delegate in Australia, for publishing these prayers for the Personal Ordinariates:

Eternal father, we place before you the project of forming the Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. We thank you for this initiative of Pope Benedict XVI, and we ask that, through the Holy Spirit, the Ordinariates may become: families of charity, peace and the service of the poor, centres for Christian unity and reconciliation, communities that welcome and evangelize, teaching the Faith in all its fullness, celebrating the liturgy and sacraments with prayerful reverence and maintaining a distinctive patrimony of Christian faith and culture.

Drawing on that heritage we pray:
Go before us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works, begun, continued and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life; though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

V/ Our Lady of Walsingham.

R/ Pray for us as we claim your motherly care.

V/ Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus.

R/ Pray for us as we place this work under your patronage.

V/ Blessed John Henry Newman

R/ Pray that Christ’s Heart may speak unto our hearts.

\V/ Saints and Martyrs of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

R/ Pray for us and accompany us on our pilgrim way.

14 December 2010

Know How to Be Silent

“It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.” ~St. John of the Cross

Having read many books and lived through some wild experiences, I enjoy sharing what I've learned. I always have something to add to any discussion. But it might not always be wise to throw my two bits into the pot.

What I've found lately is that many discussions can lead to a feeling of superiority when I know more than others. Then there's humiliation when someone knows more than me. Sometimes I just get frustrated that the other person won't listen or just doesn't seem to get what I'm saying. In general, the result is usually some form of pride or anxiety.

Then there's the tendency to criticize others based on things they say or do. And if I don't criticize I might feel superior to them or more enlightened. This is especially common when talking with someone who is not following Christ. Evangelism changes from an act of love into an act of judgment.

What if I just shut up? What if I concentrate more on my own sin, hypocrisy, and failure? Maybe I should focus on working out my own salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Acquire inner peace and thousands around you will find salvation." ~St. Seraphim of Sarov

10 December 2010

Open to the Holy Spirit

"Mary tells us that we are all called to open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit in order to achieve, as our ultimate destiny, the immaculate state, fully and definitively free from evil".
~ Pope Benedict XVI, Feast of the Immaculate Conception 2010

22 May 2010

Mary on Pentecost

One of my favorite titles for Mary is "Spouse of the Holy Spirit". At the Annunciation the Blessed Mother had an intimate encounter with the Spirit of God. I'm sure that relationship continued throughout her life.

On the day of Pentecost I'm sure she was the first to recognize the sound of that rushing wind. I imagine the disciples turning to her, "Is this the Paraclete our Lord promised?" then the flame appeared and she spoke in tongues.

Yes, Mary was a tongue-talking Charismatic!

Rejoice, O Queen, glory of mothers and virgins. No tongue, however sweet or fluent is eloquent enough to praise you worthily. Every mind is overawed by your child bearing. Therefore with one voice we glorify you.
~Pentecost hymn to the Theotokos

11 April 2010

St. Thomas & Divine Mercy

The Sunday after Pascha for Eastern Catholics and Orthodox is called Thomas Sunday and recalls the incredulity (unbelief) of the apostle when he heard that Jesus rose from the dead. Then Jesus appeared and St. Thomas thrust his hand into the wounds, convincing him of the resurrection.

For Roman Catholics today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Based on revelations given to St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun, the devotion called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy was established in the Church. Her diaries are a spiritual masterpiece and reveal conversations she had with our Lord.

The icon of Divine Mercy show two rays (the water and the blood) beaming from the side of Christ. "O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You"

Hannah Whitall Smith (what, he's quoting a Quaker!) said that to "grow in grace" the soul must be planted in the very heart of divine love, "enveloped by it, steeped in it. ' (The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life, 1875)

Now, I don't think Mrs. Smith had the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in front of her, but I sure did when I read what she said. St. Thomas planted his hand literally into the heart of Divine Love! And the two rays coming from the side of Christ in the Divine Mercy image are like vines growing from Christ's Heart--vines that we are grafted on to.

See how it all ties together?

St. Thomas shows us how a true mystic acts when he became a little child and stuck his hand in the wounds of Christ. St. Faustina, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, John Wesley, Smith Wigglesworth--any of these "mystics" were simply obedient children who did what God told them. They were rooted in the Heart of Jesus, nourished by the blood and water that poured from His side.
My prayer is that we can all do the same. Plant yourself in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and grow!

03 April 2010

Lent & Holy Week recalled

What a glorious Lent and Holy Week I had. I took full advantage of East & West sharing the season.

Started out Lent with the all night vigil for the first Sunday of Lent. Went to the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts at Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic parish. Attended a Lenten mission at a Roman parish in Ypsi that featured speakers from renewal Ministries. Went to Gorzkie Zale at St. Florian's Catholic church in Hamtramk.

Holy Week started out at my old Orthodox parish in Sylvania, Ohio for Bridegroom Matins. Holy Unction was at St. Joseph Melkite parish in lansing, MI. Holy Thursday at my home parish, Christ the King in Ann Arbor. On Holy Friday went to Greektown in Detroit for Lamentations at the tomb of Christ and the procession with the Epitaphios through the streets.

In 2011 East & West will again be celebrating at the same time. I suggest that Western Christians supplement their Lenten & Holy Week observances with some Eastern services. If you are Roman Catholic you can receive the Sacraments in any Eastern Catholic parish (Mewlkite, Ukrainian or Byzantine Greek Catholic).

28 March 2010

Triumphant Entry

"The (willow) branch beats you, not I beat you, Pascha is one week from today!"

This is how Ukrainians and other Slavs greet each other after the Divine Liturgy on Palm Sunday. They do this while tapping each other with blessed willow branches that represent the branches used to welcome our Lord during His entrance into Jerusalem the week before his Passion.

Palm Sunday Troparion
(Tone 1) O Christ God, when You raised Lazarus from the dead, before the time of your passion, you confirmed the future resurrection of all. We too, like the children of old, carry before You the symbols of your triumph and victory and cry out to You, the Conqueror of Death: "Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"

26 March 2010

Easter Novena Begins

Here we are nine days before Pascha! That means it's time to start your Novena for the Resurrection in preparation.

Here's a short novena prayer:
O Divine Saviour, who rose from the dead on that first glorious Easter morn, grant that I may rise from my sins and so live as to see You, glorious and immortal, in heaven. Lord, I am nothing, but, although nothing, I adore You.
(Mention request then conclude with 3 Aves, Our Father, and Gloria Patri)

This Resurrectional Stichera
from the Eastern Catholic & Orthodox tradition could also be used:

Your resurrection, 0 Christ our Savior, is praised with songs by the Angels in heaven, make us worthy to praise You also here on earth and to glorify You with a pure heart. (Tone 6)

14 March 2010

Fourth Sunday in Lent

"Ascend, ascend, Brethren."

Today in the Eastern Catholic tradition we are reminded of the "Soul-saving and Heavenward Ladder" described by St. John Climacus in the seventh century.

The ladder reminds us that union with God -- theosis, or sanctification -- is a process. No one can climb the ladder in one stride, St. John reminds us, the virtues lead from one to the other. Since the work was originally written for monastics it should be read carefully under spiritual direction.

Meanwhile, over in Rome....

Today's Collect:

Father of peace, we are joyful in your Word, your Son Jesus Christ, who reconciles us to you. Let us hasten to our Easter with the eagerness of faith and love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Many Roman priests wear rose vestments today. The fourth Sunday of Lent is traditionally called "Laetare Sunday", a day of hope and rejoicing that Easter is almost here.

06 March 2010

Third Sunday of Lent

We're halfway to Pascha (Easter)!

For Byzantine Catholics today is dedicated to the "Adoration of the Holy Cross". The Cross is the center of our faith, so here it is at the center of our Lenten journey.

This is a good time to review your spiritual progress (or lack of it). Have you been fasting, praying, and giving to the poor? Have you been controlling the passions?

Have you even observed Lent? It's not too late to start. Lay down your life at the foot of the Holy Cross. The season of sacrifice continues.

"Hail! life-giving Cross, the fair Paradise of the Church, Tree of incorruption that brings us the enjoyment of eternal glory: through you the hosts of demons have been driven back; and the hierarchies of angels rejoice with one accord, as the congregations of the faithful keep the feast. You are an invincible weapon, an unbroken stronghold; your are the victory of kings and the glory of priests. Grant us now to draw near to the Passion of Christ and to His Resurrection." ~From Great Vespers

The following Troparion and Kontakion are sung in the Byzantine Catholic Church today:

Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritence. Grant victory to Your Church over evil, and protect Your people by Your cross.

No longer does the flaming sword guard the gates of Eden, for the tree of the Cross has come to quench it wondrously. The sting of death and the victory of Hades have been driven out.

27 February 2010

Second Sunday of Lent

Byzantine Catholics commemorate Gregory Palamas on the second Sunday of Lent, following the Eastern Orthodox custom. Before the 14th century the day was dedicated to Apostolic Father St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

Palamas opposed union with Rome and called the Pope a heretic, yet, Pope John Paul the Great called Gregory a saint, so who am I to argue?

Palamas made a distinction between the "Essence" of God and the "Energies" of God. He taught that the unknowable God can be experienced through His energies present in the Sacraments and other mystical experiences . The eastern council of Blachernae declared this teaching as dogma in 1351.

Since more scholastic types considered God unknowable, they questioned the mystical experiences of the hesychast monks who saw visions of the "Uncreated Light" while reciting the Jesus Prayer. The Essence of God may be unknowable, Gregory argued, but men can experience God through His Energies.

You would think that the emphasis on sanctification through the power of God would result in Orthodox becoming Charismatics. Instead, priests who experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit get "disciplined". Maybe it is because Orthodox limit access to God's energy to the Sacraments and staring at your belly button saying the Jesus Prayer. Despite his defense of experiencing the Divine Energies, Palamas did consider emotionalism and enthusiasm as lower forms of prayer.

In my opinion, Gregory's distinction hinders personal experience with God. St. Paul didn't say "seek divine energy", he said, "Be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). He said, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit which dwells in you." (Romans 8:11) It is the person of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me, not some energy force. Finally, I don't think the Apostles were navel gazing in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.

The teaching of St. Gregory Palamas has some flaws, but it tries to show that we can personally experience God. It also reveals "God" as both a noun and a verb. So today, don't just seek after "Divine Energy" or a vision of the "Uncreated Light of Mt. Tabor"--seek a deeper life in the Holy Spirit.

17 February 2010

Dies Cinerum

"Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris." (Gen. 3:19)

In the books both in the Old Law and in the New the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.

~Ælfric (Anglo-Saxon, 10th c.)

A few years ago I went to Mass at Noon during my lunch hour. I went back to my job at the car dealership repair department with ashes on my forehead. All day mechanics kept telling me "you got grease on your head". It gave me an opportunity to tell them that Lent was starting and this opened the door to talk to them about the Lord.

Last year I was at the library and noticed someone else with ashes and we said hello. It's nice to recognize fellow travellers.

23 January 2010

Axios! Patriarch Irinej of Serbia

I wrote a post back in November about the death of Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle and the Serbian selection process.

The Serbian Synod has selected a new Patriarch, IRINEJ. According to The Times of Malta, he is "...considered a moderate and has signalled his openness to improving relations with the Roman Catholic Church that have been strained for years. In a recent interview he said Pope Benedict XVI would be welcome to visit, something that would once have been unthinkable in Serbia."

The Pope might be welcome to visit Serbia in 2013, during ceremonies to mark the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, when Roman emperor Constantine established religious tolerance for Christianity in the Roman empire.

Patriarch IRINEJ is also in favor of replacing the Julian calendar with the Gregorian. This move, while promoting Church unity may lead to schism in the Serbian church, so I'm sure they will proceed with caution.

Pray for the continued warming of relations between East and West!

06 January 2010


Why then is this day called Theophany? Because Christ made Himself known to all -- not then when He was born -- but then when He was baptised. Until this time He was not known to the people. And that the people did not know Him, Who He was, listen about this to John the Baptist, who says: "Amidst you standeth, Him Whom ye know not of" (Jn.1:26). And is it surprising that others did not know Him, when even the Baptist did not know Him until that day? "And I -- said he -- knew Him not: but He that did send me to baptise with water, about This One did tell unto me: over Him that shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him, This One it is Who baptiseth in the Holy Spirit" (Jn. 1:33).

~St. John Chrysostom, "
Discourse On the Day of the Baptism of Christ"