Welcome to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church!
We are located at 1301 Newport Avenue in Northampton, Pennsylvania.
Our church follows the Julian (Old) Calendar. All Orthodox Christians are welcome and encouraged to participate in the Blessed Sacraments of Repentance and Eucharist.
(Click on the <Icons> page to view AVM church Icons and church pictures)
DAILY LITURGICAL CALENDAR, SCRIPTURE READINGS AND MENAION
Thursday, 11 (29 Jan) February
Translation of the relics of Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer
(107). St. Lawrence, recluse of the Kyiv Caves and bishop of Turov (1194).
Jas. 4, 7 – 5, 9 Mk. 11, 27-33
Friday, 12 (30 Jan.) February Fast Day: Fish
Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs: St. Basil the Great, St.
Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom.
St. Zeno the Faster of the Kyiv Caves (XIV cent.).
1 Pet. 1, 1-2, 10-12; 2, 6-10 Mk. 12, 1-12
10:00 a.m. Hierarchical Divine Liturgy
(Chapel of The Three Holy Hierarchs @ St. Sophia Seminary)
Saturday, 13 (31 Jan.) February
Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cyrus and John (311) and with them Martyrs Athanasia and her daughters Theoctiste, Theodota, and Eudoxia (311).
1 Thess. 5, 14-23 Lk. 17, 3-10
5:00 p.m. Great Vespers
Sunday, 14 (1st) February
37th Sunday after Pentecost. Tone 4
8:30 a.m. Third & Sixth Hours
Holy Mystery of Repentance
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy
38th Week after Pentecost.
Monday, 15 (2nd) February
THE MEETING OF OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST. (CANDLEMASS)
Heb. 7, 7-17 Lk. 2, 22-40
8:30 a.m. Third & Sixth Hours
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy
Blessing of candles
Tuesday, 16 (3rd) February
Holy and Righteous Symeon the God-receiver and Anna the Prophetess (I cent.). Prophet Azarias (X cent. B.C.).
1 Pet. 3, 10-20 Mk. 12, 18-27
Wednesday, 17 (4th) February Fast Day
Ven. Isidore of Pelusium, monk (436-440).
1 Pet. 4, 1-11 Mk. 12, 28-37
Thursday, 18 (5th) February
Holy Martyr Agatha (251).
St. Theodosius, archbishop of Chernihiv (1696).
1 Pet. 4, 12 – 5, 5 Mk. 12, 38-44
Friday, 19 (6th) February Fast Day
Ven. Bucolus, bishop of Smyrna (c. 100).
Virgin-martyr Dorothea, and with her Martyrs Christina & Callista, sisters, and Theophilus, at Caesaraea in Cappadocia (288-300).
2 Pet. 1, 1-10 Mk. 13, 1-8
Saturday, 20 (7th) February
Ven. Parthenius, bishop of Lampsacus on the Hellespont (IV cent.).
2 Tim. 2, 11-19 Lk. 18, 2-8
5:00 p.m. Great Vespers
Sunday, 21 (8th) February
Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Tone 5
8:30 a.m. Third & Sixth Hours
Holy Mystery of Repentance
9:00 a.m. Divine Liturgy
Baptism of Christ
Troparion of the Forefeast (Tone 4): Once, the River Jordan was turned back by the mantle of Elisha when Elijah was borne aloft, and the waters were parted on either side, and the path which before was wet became dry for him, as a true image of baptism, whereby we pass through the flow of life. Christ hath appeared in the Jordan to sanctify the waters.
Kontakion of the Forefeast (Tone 2 “Seeking the highest…”): O Christ, Who in Thy compassion and infinite mercy takest away the multitude of all our transgressions, Thou comest as a man to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan, clothing me in the raiment of the ancient glory of which I was cruelly stripped bare.
Kontakion of the Forefeast (Tone 4 “Thou hast appeared today…”): In the streams of the Jordan the Lord crieth out to John today:/ Fear not to baptize Me,// for I have come to save Adam the first-created!
See Sermon on the Baptism of Christ: http://ukrainianorthodoxchurchusa.org/news_160119_1.html
See slideshow from the Great Blessing of Water at the end of the Divine Liturgy today (1/19/2016) at http://avmocnpa.orthodoxws.com/public/sv/gallery.php?ssid=55
This observance commemorates Christ's baptism by John the Forerunner in the River Jordan, and the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry. The Feast of Theophany is the culmination of the Christmas Season. In mystic commemoration of this event, the Great Blessing of Water is performed on this day, and the holy water so blessed is used by the local priest to bless the homes of the faithful.
The feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ the Holy Trinity appeared clearly to mankind for the first time—the Father's voice is heard from Heaven, the Son of God is incarnate and standing physically in the Jordan, and the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove.
This feast is also sometimes referred to as Epiphany by English-speaking Orthodox Christians, but that name more properly refers to the Western Christian feast falling on that same day and commemorating the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus. The term epiphany does appear in some of the service texts for this feast, however.
Originally, there was just one Christian feast of the shining forth of God to the world in the human form of Jesus of Nazareth. It included the celebration of Christ's birth, the adoration of the wise men, and all of the childhood events of Christ such as his circumcision and presentation to the temple as well as his baptism by John in the Jordan. There seems to be little doubt that this feast, like Pascha and Pentecost, was understood as the fulfillment of a previous Jewish festival, in this case the Feast of Lights.
Celebration of the feast
The Baptism of Christ (Menologion of Basil II, 10th-11th c.)
The services of Theophany are arranged similarly to those of the Nativity. (Historically the Christmas services were established later.)
The Royal Hours are read and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is served with Vespers on the eve of the feast. The Vigil is made up of Great Compline and Matins. On the morning of the feast, the Divine Liturgy is served.
The Liturgy of the feast begins with psalms of glorification and praise instead of the three normal Antiphons. And the baptismal line from Galatians 3:27 replaces the Thrice-Holy.
For as many as been baptized into Christ have put on Christ: Alleluia.
The Gospel readings of all the services tell of the Lord's baptism by John in the Jordan River. The epistle reading of the Divine Liturgy tells of the consequences of the Lord's appearing which is the divine epiphany.
Since the main feature of the feast is the blessing of water. It is prescribed to follow both the Divine Liturgy of the eve of the feast and the Divine Liturgy of the day itself. But most local parishes do it only once when most of the parishioners can be present. The blessing verifies that mankind, and all of creation, were created to be filled with the sanctifying presence of God.
In connection with the feast, it is traditional for the priest to visit all the homes of the faithful for their annual house blessing using the water that has been blessed at the Theophany services.
The Holy Nativity Fast
Every year with great joy our Orthodox Church prepares Her faithful for the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Holy Hierarch of Christ’s Church, St. John Chrysostom, says: ”The day of the Nativity of Christ is the most important of all the feasts, because it is the mother of all feasts. If there was no Nativity, there would be no Resurrection”. In accordance with the typicon of the church, the Nativity of Christ is preceded by a forty-day fast, known among our people as “Pylypiwka” (“St. Philip’s Fast”). Thus the church typicon regards the Nativity of Christ as a second Pascha, and as the faithful prepare themselves for Pascha by prayer and fasting, so the Nativity Fast is for us Christians a time of preparation for the coming of our Saviour into the world. St. Simeon of Thessalonica writes: “This 40-day fast is similar to the fast of Moses, who fasted 40 days and nights and received the tablets with God’s Commandments. We fast 40 days and receive the living Word of God, incarnated from the Virgin, and we commune of His Body”.
The Holy Nativity Fast in our Orthodox Church begins on the 28th of November, on the day after the commemoration of the Holy Apostle Philip, and so has the name “Pylypiwka” (“Philip’s Fast”). Venerable Anastasius of Sinai in his writings says that the Nativity Fast is of apostolic origin, and relates the following tradition about the Holy Apostle Philip: “The Holy Apostle Philip, before his martyric death, asked God to punish his tormentors. Because of this it was revealed to him that he himself, as punishment for this request, would not be able to enter paradise until forty days had passed following his death. And so St. Philip entreated the other apostles to fast on his behalf for forty days, and the apostles instructed all the faithful to fast for forty days”. The Nativity Fast for us Christians and for all the faithful of the Church of Christ is a symbol of the prayer and fasting of the old-testament patriarchs and prophets, who with great longing awaited the advent on earth of the Messiah Christ.
The Nativity Fast has at its foundation deep spiritual meaning, because it prepares us Christians for the appearance of God on earth. And in general fasting, as means of spiritual perfection, was known to humanity from the time of the first people who lived on earth. The prohibition to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the earthly paradise of Eden – this was a spiritual foreshadowing of our Christian fasting, where, by means of the taming of the flesh, a person may attain their own spiritual perfection. The Fast is a promise of spiritual growth for a Christian. We can say with confidence that mankind always obtained benefit from fasting and from the most ancient times had consciousness of the fact that a pure fast brings a person great physical and spiritual benefit. In accordance with the teaching of the Church, bodily fasting should absolutely be accompanied by spiritual fasting. Let us remember that the time of the Nativity Fast which we are now entering is a time of spiritual warfare for each one of us, in which both the soul and the body participate. The soul takes part by way of more zealous prayer, sincere repentance, and the true fulfilment of the Christian virtues. There can be no spiritual fast without the mortification of the flesh. St. Basil the Great writes: “As much as you deprive the flesh, this is how much you add luster and spiritual health to your soul. For it is not by the increase of physical strength in our bodies, but through the endurance of the soul and patience in difficult circumstances that we gain strength against the unseen enemies”. As well, a true fast strengthens our health, constrains the flesh, cleanses our soul, and leads us to God. Fasting gives us spiritual wings, by means of which we Christians are victorious over satan’s wiles and spiritually rise up to the heavens. The Lord speaks to us through fasting, He teaches us humility and holiness. May Love to our Lord, Jesus Christ, be an inspiring power, so that this yearwe might in a proper way observe this Nativity Fast and prepare our souls and hearts to worthily greet the feast of the Nativity of Christ.
With Archpastoral Blessings,
YURIJ, Metropolitan Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
ANTONY, Metropolitan Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora
IOAN, Archbishop Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora
JEREMIAH, Archbishop Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of Brazil and South America
ILARION, Bishop Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
ANDRIY, Bishop Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
DANIEL, Bishop Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Many Americans have expressed dismay over the phenomenon of "Christmas Creep", where decorations and carols begin to appear earlier and earlier every year (especially in stores). This doesn't happen in traditional Ukrainian culture, where the season has very definite start and end date. And unlike the American tradition, the celebratory season starts on Christmas Day! See link below:
COUNCIL OF BISHOPS OF THE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA. Our Prayers are with the People of FRANCE
Dearly beloved clergy and faithful entrusted to our pastoral care:
CHRIST IS AMONG US!
As terrorists continue their evil and barbaric attacks in France, we are once again forced to witness the resulting death on our television screens. It is difficult to believe that once again the actions of evil people force us to relive the moments of the terrorist attack upon our own people in the United States of America, with the loss in 2001 of nearly 3,000 human beings in the World Trade Center attack.
We address you in the faith, love and hope that we share in our Lord Jesus Christ. As we gather in our places of worship on this Sunday. The dreadful acts of terrorism and the tremendous destruction have shocked the entire world and burdened every heart with pain and sorrow as this tragedy in France is unveiled in before our eyes.
As we now pause to remember the lost lives of so many innocent victims, let us also remember the great acts of self-sacrifice, heroism, and compassion that will never be forgotten, as so many offered their lives for the safety and well being of others.
We call upon the leaders of all nations to stand strong in their common efforts to put a decisive end to this evil, which endures in so many countries around the world: France and other European nations, the Middle East and Ukraine.
We direct our clergy in the parishes of the Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA to conduct a memorial service at the end of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday - 15 November - and to join with others throughout our nation and the world in making this solemn day of remembrance. We offer prayers for the eternal memory and repose of the innocent victims of the barbaric attacks and for those who heroically fell while attempting to help and save lives. We shall also offer prayers for the families who lost loved ones during these attacks.
We offer the following prayer as a guide for your personal prayer:
"Lord God, Lover of bless the Republic of France and our United States of America and all their people people on this difficult day and forgive those who hate and wrong us. Do good to those who do good and grant all our people safety, health, salvation and eternal life. Visit those who suffer from the terrorist activity around the world, specially in France, and heal them. Guide those in armed forces, in fire, police and rescue services and in government. Upon those who have asked us, unworthy though we are, to pray for them, have mercy.
Remember the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have fallen asleep in the Lord under the most horrific of circumstances and grant them rest where the light of Your Countenance shines shines upon them in a place where there is no more pain, nor sorrow, nor suffering. May their memory be eternal before Your Throne.
Remember us, O Lord, your humble, sinful and unworthy servants and enlighten our minds with the light of Your Knowledge and guide us in the way of your Commandments, through the prayers of our Most-Pure Lady, the Birth-Giver of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, and of all Your Saints, for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen."
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each of you as we pass through these moments of prayerful reflection. You are in our continued prayers.
+ ANTONY, Metropolitan
+ DANIEL, Bishop
"Protection of the Mother of God" by Fr. Myron Oryhon
, Allentown, PA
"O Mother of God, sheltered by Thy coming /
we faithful people today keep feast in joy, /
and looking at Thy most pure image, /
moved to the depths of our hearts, we say: /
Protect us with Thy precious Veil /
and deliver us from every ill, /
by entreating Christ, Thy Son and our God, /
to save our souls."
(Tropar in tone 4 - Protection of the Mother of God)
Early one morning, two sisters were getting ready for school, as one sister walked out of her room with one pillow on her back and one pillow on her chest. Her sister asked, “why do you have pillows on you?” “Well,” she said, “the pillow on my chest is to protect from all the boys that will break my heart. And the pillow on my back is to protect me from all the friends that will stab me in the back."
We all have, at one time or another, felt like that sister who needed protection from the hurts and pains of our earthly life. The same was for the residents of Constantinople in the early tenth century (c. 911 A.D.), as they were under siege from pre-Christian Slavs. Threatened, overwhelmed and full of fear, the inhabitants of Constantinople turned to prayer. The people were able to assemble in the Church of the Mother of God at Vlakherna (Blachernae) where a relic; of the veil of the Virgin Mary was kept for veneration. During the all-night vigil service, Righteous Andrew fool-for-Christ, saw a vision of the Mother of God carrying her veil which she stretched out over the city and all the people. It was beneath her protection that all could come for refuge. Accounts vary as to how the siege ended, however the faithful believed that the Lord, through the prayers of His Most Holy Mother, had preserved their city from certain destruction.
One might say, "nice story, Father, but what meaning does it have for me 1100 years later?" This feast reminds us that, like the Orthodox faithful who have come before us, we are to remember and cherish the good things that have been done for us. The Divine Liturgy is a wonderful example of how we are to work together in the corporate nature of prayer. Praying not only with those who are standing next to us but with the countless millions who who have returned to the earth from which they were taken.
The universe is made up of two parts, spiritual and physical, and we stand at the edge of these two worlds. The Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God shows us the union of these two worlds. The miracle of this feast is that it was witnessed by the faithful and it was made visible to the human eye. It is a reminder to us that the Mother of God and all the saints are so close to us that they pray together with us in our churches.
We must remember that if we are to witness this vision we must shake off our blindness that comes from the darkness from within. If we have a revulsion against things, it is so often from the way in which we are centered on ourselves and can not look with serenity, with a purity of heart. Ultimately, we see not only with our physical eyes which convey to us impressions, but with a heart that can see God only when it is pure. We see not only God in His mysterious being, but God in His presence through grace and beauty and blessings such as the miracle of the Protection of the Mother of God. Saint Isaac the Syrian says, "that a person who has got a clear eye and a pure heart does no longer see the darkness in the world because this darkness is superseded by the shining of the divine grace at work and resting on all things, however dark they may appear".
The Holy Orthodox Spiritual Mothers and Fathers tell us plainly that the saints see everything as holy. They say that only the sinful see the sins of others. What strange statements. How counter-intuitive! But what this means is that the holy see the deepest realities. With their enlightened senses they look with compassion on everything and see things as they really are, such as the sojourner who was delighted with all things. If we are not yet able to see like that, to the essential heart of things, then we know we are far from where we want to be.
Let us be vigilant to see with purity, to interpret with purity of heart and to act with love. Then we shall be able to see freely the divine light shining on the world and in the world. In this manner we can better love, serve, and be part of the world which God given us.
All of us are capable of ascending the heights of holiness. This is God's promise for everyone, His help is assured, whether or not we succeed, depends entirely on us. Amen.
On May 31st the Holy Orthodox Church celebrates Trinity Sunday also known as Pentecost in which the Church remembers the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles as heard in Acts 2:1-4 “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” This feast day is called Pentecost because the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and it is called Holy Trinity Day because from this day the action of the Holy Trinity was revealed to the world and people learned to venerate and glorify the three Persons of the one God, the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
Pentecost also marks the beginning of the priesthood of grace. To perform sacraments and to preach Christianity the apostles through the Holy Spirit established through the laying on of hands the holy orders of Bishops, presbyters and deacons. "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task."But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them (Acts 6:3-6). Also, Bishop Clement of Rome in his first Epistle addressed to the Christians in Corinth writes “So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe” (1 Clem 42:4).
In the Gospel reading for this feast day we hear Christ describing the Holy Spirit as “living water”. “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-38). This description of the Holy Spirit as “living water” and the prefiguring of Pentecost is also evident during the fifth week after Pascha when Christ speaks with the Samaritan women, also known as St. Photini. During the conversation Christ tells her "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.", "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:10,13-14).
For us today we should not commemorate the feast day of Pentecost as just an event that happened long ago, but we should remind ourselves that the “living water” is an every day integral part of our faith, spiritual relationship and means of communication with Jesus Christ. This living water (the Holy Spirit) was given to each of us during our baptism when the priest chrismated and anointed us with holy chrism, saying “"The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit". The question we must ask ourselves today is whether or not this “living water” has run dry in our lives? Has the river that flows out of our heart that Christ’s speaks of still flowing? Or is our body “which is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinth. 6:19) still a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life? The Holy Spirit makes the soul constantly active in doing good, and is always ready for spiritual ascents assisting us on our road toward Christ and salvation as long as we do our part in feeding and nourishing our soul with prayer, acts of charity, remembering to love and forgive one another, confessing our sins and partaking of the Blood and Body of our Lord on a regular basis. By doing this and more the grace of the Holy Spirit grows more and more and the “living water” in time begins to gush forth like a fountain springing up into everlasting life within each of us. The more the Holy Spirit grows within us the more we grow towards Christ and the more we desire to be with Christ. Our lives become more peaceful, our relationships become more stable and our spiritual eyes are opened giving us the insight into what is really important for us in our lives. With this understanding God's grace enables us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
When we make Christ the center of our lives instead of this materialistic, self-centered world “the living water” (the Holy Spirit) will always be with us, guiding us, and protecting us in every step of our way as we try to navigate down this difficult road we call “life”. The problem today is that we have become part-time Christians; an atmosphere of great indifference exists in our Christian lives, towards God and His Church. This leads to indifference to one another, and eventually this leads to indifference in our spiritual lives. St. Paisio’s of the Holy Mountain states “Indifference towards God leads to indifference towards everything else; it leads to disintegration.” Ultimately, this indifference leads to the disintegration of our soul and relationship with Christ. The question we must ask ourselves is do we take the opportunity to seek and drink of the “living water” that Christ provides us? The answer is no. Nowadays, we turn to God when it is convenient for us, we don’t take the time to truly learn about the Son of the living God, we don’t make an effort to make Christ the center and everyday part of our lives, if we did “the living water” would be graciously poured upon us daily, but instead we end up choosing to be “part-time Christians”. More and more it seems that we want to live by our own Gospel and not by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By doing this the Holy Spirit instead of being an active part of our soul and life with Christ retreats and departs our lives. Instead, we should make it a priority and actively seek out the Holy Spirit within our lives. As St. Seraphim of Sarov famously stated “the true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God”.
Therefore, on this Holy feast day of Pentecost let us not be indifferent to our spiritual life, but let each and everyone of us examine the temple of our body and see whether the Holy Spirit of God truly dwells with in us. Let us on this holy feast day of Pentecost reconfirm and strengthen our efforts in our spiritual life and make a firm commitment to be an active part of Christ's body which is His Holy Church here on earth and by participating in its full liturgical and sacramental life by attending the divine services such as the Divine Liturgy, Vespers and Vigil on a regular basis, frequently participating in the holy sacraments of holy confession and holy communion. May we also strengthen our pray life by praying more regularly and may we also strengthen our fast rule and learn to love and forgive one another more. By being participants to this we become full time Christians. As a result we can then be assured that the river of “living water” will always flow ever so strongly from our hearts leading us always on a path towards Christ and eventual eternal life in His Kingdom.
Fr. Victor Wronskyj
Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Mission
Read about the ministry of a deacon in the Orthodox Church: http://goodguyswearblack.org/2015/05/05/the-ministry-of-the-deacon-in-the-orthodox-church/
See our church pictures of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Pascha here at http://uocofusa.org/news_150415_1.html
See pictures taken during Holy Week at http://holyassumption.org/public/sv/gallery.php?ssid=33
“Lent after Lent” and “Life after Pascha”
Fr. Steven Kostoff
April 23, 2014
Christ is risen!
Recently, I posed a question to the faithful of our parish: Is there life after Pascha? Another question has formed in my mind this morning: Is there Lent after Lent? Before proceeding any further, I need to offer two points of clarification: 1.) I apologize if I just happened to unsettle anyone with the frightening prospect of another immediate lenten period, and 2.) I am not a “lent freak!” My purpose in asking “Is there Lent after Lent?” is meant to pose a challenge. Is there anything spiritually fruitful that we began to do – or anything spiritually unfruitful that we ceased to do – during Great Lent that we can carry over with us into the paschal season and beyond? Are we able to establish some genuine consistency in our ecclesial lives? Surely this is one of the most important elements in nurturing a holistic approach to our Faith. If I am not mistaken, a real temptation that exists once Great Lent is over is to return to “life as usual,” as if Great Lent is at best a pious interlude during which we act more “religiously” and at worst a period of specific rules that are meant to be more-or-less mechanically observed out of a sense of obligation. This undermines the whole reality of repentance at its core, and drives us back into the dubious practice of the religious compartmentalization of our lives. Great Lent is over – now what?
I am not even sure just how healthy it is to assess and analyze our Lenten efforts. Great Lent is a “school of repentance,” but this does not mean that we are to grade ourselves upon its completion. However, there are a number of things we can ask ourselves.
• Did I practice prayer, charity and fasting in a more responsible, regular, and consistent manner?
• Did I make a point of reading the Scriptures with the same care and consistency?
• Did I participate in the liturgical services with greater regularity?
• Did I watch over my language and gestures, or my words and actions, on an over-all basis with greater vigilance?
• Did I make a breakthrough in overcoming any specific “passions” or other manifestations of sinful living?
• Did I work on establishing any broken relationships?
• Did I simply give more of myself to Christ?
• Did I come to love Christ even more as I prostrated myself in faith before His life-giving Cross and tomb?
Then why not continue? Not to continue is to somehow fail to actualize in our lives the renewal and restoration of our human nature that definitively occurred through the Cross and Resurrection. Appropriating the fruits of Christ’s redemptive Death and life-giving Resurrection is essential for our self-designation as Christians.
In other words, can we carry the “spirit” of Lent (and some of its practices) with us outside of Lent? In this way, we are no longer “keeping Lent” but simply practicing our Faith with the vigilance it requires. We still must fast (on the appropriate days), pray and give alms. We still need to nourish ourselves with the Holy Scriptures. We must continue to wage “warfare against the passions” that are always threatening to engulf us. We need to deepen our love for Christ so that is surpasses any other commitment based on love in our lives. Or, have we doomed ourselves to being intense in the practice of our Faith for a short, predetermined length of time, and then pay “lip service” to, or offer token observance of, the Christian life until next year? In a rather unfortunate twist, Great Lent can work against us when we reduce it to such a limited purpose. Great Lent is the designated time of year meant to get us “back on track” so as to live more consciously Christian lives because certain circumstances and our weaknesses often work against us. It is the “example” rather than the “exception” if properly understood. In other areas of life, do we simply abandon good practices – in matters of health, let us say – because a designated period of testing or observing these good practices has come to an end?
Today may be a good day to reawaken to the glorious gift of life offered to us in the Church. One week from today—on Wednesday, April 30—we will return to our usual pattern of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, as the initial glow of Pascha slowly recedes. I would suggest that this may be one of the most difficult days of fasting in the entire year. It is very hard to reestablish a discipline temporarily suspended with the paschal celebration. Yet, in many ways, we are returning to “life as usual,” even in the Church, but that is a “way of life” directed by the wisdom of the Church toward our salvation and as a witness to the world. Let us take the “best of Lent” and continue with it throughout the days of our lives.
“Lent after Lent” means that there is “Life after Pascha.”
See http://uocofusa.org/news_141124_2.html for the entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple
See pictures of His Eminence Metropolitan ANTONY and elevation of Deacon Mychail Sawarynski to rank of Protodeacon in the Holy Orthodox Church at http://avmocnpa.orthodoxws.com/pictures.html
Click on this link to see pictures of the Holy Land Pilgrimage with Bishop Daniel, Kathy Crayosky, Linda and Michael Tilson, and 20+ pilgrims!: Sacred Holy Land Pilgrimage 2014 at http://uocofusa.org/news_141112_1.html!
Five Powerful Sayings of the Fathers
1. St. John Chrysostom on Scripture
“The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should enclose them in books, but that we should engrave them upon our hearts.”
2. St. Nektarios of Aegina on Faith
“Christian religion is not a certain philosophic system, about which learned men, trained in metaphysical studies, argue and then either espouse or reject, according to the opinion each one has formed. It is faith, established in the souls of men, which ought to be spread to the many and be maintained in their consciousnesses.”
3. Elder Cleopa of Sihastria on the Cross
“Do not do anything without signing yourself with the sign of the Cross! When you depart on a journey, when you begin your work, when you go to study, when you are alone, and when you are with other people, seal yourself with the Holy Cross on your forehead, your body, your chest, your heart, your lips, your eyes, your ears. All of you should be sealed with the sign of Christ’s victory over hell. Then you will no longer be afraid of charms, evil spirits, or sorcery, because these are dissolved by the power of the Cross like wax before fire and like dust before the wind.”
4. St. John of Kronstadt on the Saints
“What does the daily invocation of the saints signify — of different ones each day, during the whole year, and during our whole life? It signifies that God’s saints — as our brethren, but perfect — live, and are near us, ever ready to help us, by the grace of God. We live together with them in the house of our Heavenly Father, only in different parts of it. We live in the earthly, they in the heavenly half; but we can converse with them, and they with us. God’s saints are near to the believing heart, and are ready in a moment to help those who call upon them with faith and love.”
5. St. Seraphim of Sarov on Christian Homes
“Neither do walls or rich furniture make a home. Millionaires in magnificent mansions may never know a home. But where there are good relationships, where love binds the family together and to God, there happiness is always to be found. For good relationships are heaven anywhere.”
Go to pictures to see Paschal service procession and food blessing.
Go to pictures to see Clergy at the Service of Orthodoxy in St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday March 9, 2014.
Read about the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ at http://www.uocofusa.org/news_131219_4.html
Read the Paschal Encyclical of the Permanent Conference of Bishops at http://ukrainianorthodoxchurchusa.org/news_130429_8.html
Matthew 25:35-36, 40
‘For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me . . . as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
See pictures tab for 1) videos of 2014 Theophany Eve Shchedryj Vechir 2) St. Nicholas program at http://avmocnpa.orthodoxws.com/pictures.html
Go to the Weekly Bulletin Tab for DAILY LITURGICAL CALENDAR, SCRIPTURE READINGS AND MENAION for the current week.