4th Sunday of Pascha of the Paralytic
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is risen! Truly he is risen! The Pascal Canon declares “This is the chosen and holy day, the first of Sabbaths, King and Lord of days, the Feasts of feasts, Holy Day of holy days on this day we bless Christ forever more.”
And on this Sunday of the never-ending day of the resurrection we remember a man who seemed to possess never-ending suffering. The paralytic in today’s Gospel had been by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years. Yet he does not waver in his desire and perseverance to be healed, even when as he confesses that he has no man to help him into the healing pool. The question put to him by the Lord is quite striking and may even sound offensive to some of us, “Do you want to be healed?”
This is a picture of a book that my father found when he was digging through old books. Once I saw it, I began reading immediately because I love comics. The details in the book about the resurrection of Christ are both simple to copy and complicated enough to be interesting. One picture displays Jesus Christ shining 20 times brighter than the sun and breaking the gates of Hades by destroying the power of death. The author Michael Elgamal creates art by transforming ancient icons into fun kids’ pictures. Here are some of my drawings of his illustrations: Continue reading
It always comes as a bit of a shock that morphs quickly into mild panic when we hear, Let us set out with joy upon the season of the fast and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our soul and cleanse our flesh; as we fast from food let us abstain also from every passion. (From Lord I Have Cried verses, Sunday of Forgiveness)
I think to myself, “Great Lent is already here? I barely just finished my Christmas ham, and my taxes aren’t done.” Lent seems at first like the last and most recent thing on a very long to-do list, another obligation in a never-ending stream of necessary tasks. Continue reading
Sunday, April 30/May 13, 2018
Sunday of the Blind Man
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
American Mother’s Day
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen! On this sixth and last Sunday of Pascha, let us take stock of all that we have witnessed in this season of the Resurrection. We are presented in this morning’s Gospel with a most awesome miracle, the healing of a man blind from birth, and we are invited to behold the resurrected Christ in one last and final image, as the Light of the World. These past six Sundays have been a banquet for the senses: In the second (first after Pascha), the disciple Thomas touched His living side; in the third, the myrrh bearing women heard the message of the angel; in the fourth, the paralytic felt the ability to walk again; and last Sunday (the fifth), a woman from Samaria tasted water that satisfied her thirst forever. On this sixth and final week, a man born blind sees Him Who is the Light of the World and he receives from him enlightenment of both body and soul. Through all of these wonderful proofs of his resurrection, our Lord has turned frightened fishermen into apostles, sinful women into bold evangelists, and blind and lame people into those who could see and walk. Continue reading
Sunday, April 2/15, 2018
Sunday of St. Thomas
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is risen! St. John the Beloved begins his first epistle, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (I John 1:1) And this morning’s Gospel also from St. John confirms this verifying faith through the testimony of another apostle, Thomas. Many identify him as doubting Thomas, a rather unfortunate label which casts a negative light upon his hesitancy to at first fully believe. But the Church in the Divine Services for today’s feast clearly proclaims Thomas’s unbelief or hesitancy to believe as good. So what is it about Thomas’s unbelieving belief that we can and should emulate? Continue reading
Christ is Risen! In this great season of the resurrection, I would like to post one of my all time favorite resurrection poems by John Updike entitled Seven Stanzas at Easter. In it, the poet delivers this one liner punch to those who would claim to be Christian, and yet not hold to the belief that Christ is raised from the dead, bones and all: Let us not mock God with metaphor (i.e., Either he rose in fact, or He did not). May He who rose from the dead, Christ our True God, give strength to those who still doubt and wonder at the mystery of our Faith. Truly He is risen!
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall. Continue reading
Great & Holy Saturday, 2017
Eve of Pascha, The Resurrection of Christ
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:11)
“If there were only one book left in the Bible, only one chapter, yea only one verse, it would have to come from Romans chapter 6.” I was used to hearing such hyperboles from our pastor and teacher growing up, so when he made this particular declaration, it did not make much of an impression on me at the time. I mean, if I had to lay my bets on the most seminal verse in Scripture, I might have chosen something about love like the ever-popular football verse, John 3:16. But this spiritual father of mine was closer to the truth than I realized. For the next time I heard his declaration ringing in my ears was the first time I heard that chapter situated in the very heart of the church year. Continue reading
A good and godly spiritual father of mine passed this morning. The thoughts and good wishes of so many of his spiritual children have been flooding the internet already, and I wish to add my remembrances to the growing chorus.
My parents and I met Pastor James M. Riccitelli at a moment of deep spiritual crisis, when the church that we had been attending gave my parents an ultimatum that drove them out of the fellowship. It was unfortunately not a new experience for us. I was in college at the time, and by then, my family and I had been a part of not less than 10 different churches. But this loss felt different than the others. I remember that I had a key to this church because I had become a member of her, not merely adhering to my parent’s wishes. When it was clear that we were not going to be able to go back, I looked with weariness toward the next fellowship of believers in Christ. What would they be like? Would we be welcome with all our brokenness and failed dreams?
Christ is risen! Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Христос Воскресе! !المسيح قام! حقا قام
Truly, Truly, He is risen!
When our Lord rose from the dead and the Holy Spirit descended upon the polyglotted people gathered at Pentecost, the truth was proclaimed in every language available. In fact, in the latter feast, each heard the Gospel proclaimed in his/her own native tongue. Though of all the world’s languages, some have been set aside for particularly holy purposes, this does not preclude preaching the good news in them all. It is for this evangelical reason that the Church has ordained a service on the day of Pascha called Agape (Love) Vespers.
April 23, 2016
23rd Anniversary of my Reception into the Orthodox Church by Chrismation
Giving us before Thy passion an assurance of the general Resurrection, Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead O Christ Our God. Therefore, we like the children carry tokens of victory and cry to Thee the conqueror of death, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord. (Troparia of Lazarus Saturday)
As a youth, I was often in need of assurance. Movements of my soul toward God were quickly followed by moments of intense doubt: “Did the Creator of the universe really perform a work in me or was it simply something I ate?” Assurance of genuine salvation then came by frequently answering a call to the altar, kneeling in a bare church, and praying somehow that this time salvation would really sink in deep. While this was a great beginning, I sensed there was more to my relationship with Christ. And when I discovered the Church’s sacramental life, I also found the key to unlocking my much needed assurance. Continue reading