Archive for April, 2008

Christ is risen indeed!

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shall speak clearly. (Isaiah 35:5-6a) . . . . “for you who fear my name the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings, You shall go forth leaping as little calves released from their bonds.” (Malachi 3:20)

Today is Pascha, the Feast of feasts, in which we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, as well as our own, for in Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection. As He arose with a transformed body which could both eat fish and enter through closed doors, we will one day rise with bodies free of disabilities and limitations. Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee! Quotations from The Orthodox Study Bible: http://www.orthodoxstudybible.com/

Today is the Day of Resurrection! Let us shine with the Feast! Let us embrace one another. Let us say, brethren! And because of the Resurrection, let us forgive all things to those who hate us, and in this wise, exclaim: Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. (Doxastikon from the Paschal Orthros)

the message of the cross

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called , both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For you see your calling, brethren that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption- that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
(from 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2, epistle reading for Great Vespers of Holy Friday, from The Orthodox Study Bible http://www.orthodoxstudybible.com/ ) Icon from http://southern-orthodoxy.blogspot.com/2006/04/orthodox-holy-week.html )

And also a word from St. John of Krondstadt’s My Life in Christ, page 340:
O how bitter were my sins to Thee, Christ, my God and my Saviour, when Thou wast buffeted, scourged, spit upon; when Thy head was pierced with thorns and Thou was nailed to the cross for my sake; when Thou hungest on the cross, in unspeakable torments, to save me from the most bitter, unspeakable torments of hell! But I ought to call to mind more frequently this Thy self-exhaustion, these Thy sufferings, in order not to commit sin, and to zealously fulfill all virtue in order to love Thee with all my heart, to fulfil Thy saving commandments. Meanwhile, I often forget this awful sacrifice, offered for me by the Only Begotten, unoriginate, co-eternal Son of the Heavenly Father. Grant unto me then, Lord, a pure heart and unchangeable repentance, leading to salvation; grant that I may find favor in Thy sight during the remainder of my life!

the Lord’s Supper

. . . Jesus said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.'” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover. 
When it was evening, Jesus sat at table with the twelve disciples.  . . .  (St. Matthew 26:18-20) (excerpt from the Gospel reading for Vesperal Divine Liturgy on Holy Thursday) 

As Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you” (or “in your midst.”) (St. Luke 17:21) The Lord directed the continuation of this Most Blessed Meal by saying “Do this in remembrance of Me.” We feed upon His Body and Blood when, with proper and reverent preparation, we partake of the Holy Eucharist. It is the Mystery of mysteries, the culmination of all the others- He in us and we in Him!

This central act of offering, thanksgiving, and worship is alluded to throughout the Holy Scriptures, especially in the account of the feeding of the 5000 in the Gospel of St. John. And the Lord’s Supper as well as the Eucharist relate to how we live our daily lives- eating together being the most obvious. The Lord gave this command in regard to our feasts:

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (St. Luke 14:13-14)

St. John Chrysostom’s first sermon on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians sets forth a choice; would you rather take part in a rich banquet on fine dinnerware with dignitaries, or share a simple meal with poor, the blind, the lame, and the maimed? Access the sermon here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf113.iv.iv.i.html    (pp. 260-263) St. John Chrysostom, as you might imagine, chooses the latter option, and argues for it.

And also to be remembered is that following the Supper, our Lord Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Jean Vanier (L’Arche) gave a good word 10 years ago on the implications of this wondrous act of humble service in relation to our interactions with poor people and those with disabilities (whom Mr. Vanier has devoted his life to serving): http://www.wfn.org/1998/08/msg00112.html 

reprint from April 2007 with revisions

Behold, the Bridegroom

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom he shall find awake. But he whom he shall find neglectful is verily unworthy. Behold, therefore, my soul, beware, lest thou fallest into deep slumber, and the door of the kingdom be closed against thee, and thou be delivered to death. But be thou wakeful, crying Holy! Holy! Holy! art Thou, O God. . . .

Holy Wednesday

I behold Thy bridal chamber richly adorned, O my Saviour; but I have no wedding garment to worthily enter. Make radiant the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me. . . .

Come, ye believers, let us work diligently for the Master; for he distributes wealth unto his servants. Let each of us according to our ability, increase the gifts of grace twofold. (Tuesday) . . .

Rich men have turned poor and gone hungry; but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good things (Psalms 33 from Septuagint)

(from the Bridegroom Matins & the Pre-Sanctified Liturgies of Holy Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday)

Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his high position; and let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. (James 1:9-10)

O Bridegroom, brilliant in Thy beauty above all mankind, who didst call us to the spiritual banquet of Thy chamber, cast away from me the likeness of the rags of iniquity, by participation in Thy Passion and adorn me with the robe of Thy beauty, and distinguish me as a brilliant guest in Thy kingdom, for Thou only art compassionate. (Tuesday Matins, from the Aposticha)

From the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese website- Begin Holy Week with a holy act http://www.antiochian.org/node/17595 Also see, Passion Week: An Explanation (note the Bridegroom Orthros Services Mon.-Wed.) http://www.antiochian.org/1175027131

Perfect Praise

1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5 “ Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘ Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’
14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them,
Yes. Have you never read,

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise’?
(St. Matthew 21:1-16)

The Orthodox Christian Gospel reading for Palm Sunday stops at verse 11. But it is extended here for consideration of this divine truth,

that just as the poor widow, in giving her two mites, (which are roughly equivalent to pennies) gave more than all those who simply gave out of their abundance, (their “overflow,” so to speak) the praises of those who are the more simple among us, whether children or not, who are not eloquent, intelligent, prominent, or influential – as well as those whose voices would not make them candidates for a choir- are treasured by our Lord in a way that conventional human reckonings do not fathom. The Lord sees the heart.

Subdeacon Gregory Kattouf

On June 11, 2006 His Grace Bishop Thomas made his annual arch-pastoral visit to St. George Orthodox Church in Altoona, Pennsylvania to celebrate the Feast of Holy Pentecost. . . .

On the Sunday of Pentecost Saidna (Bishop Thomas) gave an encouraging sermon that challenged us all aspire to holy living.

His Grace also elevated Greg Kattouf to the sub-diaconate and was honored along with Sub-deacon Greg at a banquet following the Divine Liturgy and Kneeling Prayers.

Sub-Deacon Greg Kattouf has long been a faithful servant of God at the Holy Altar and is an example to us all of holy living and we are grateful to the bishop for honoring him by making him a sub-deacon. http://www.antiochian.org/1154568651

Having written many times of universal human disability as well as the multiple intelligences we also have all been graced with by our loving Lord, here is a man who exemplifies this, having been counted worthy and able to serve in the most holy place of Orthodox Christian worship. In our worship this place is symbolic [in the “Present” (rather than absent) sense] of heaven itself. Sub-deacon Gregory has Down Syndrome, as well as many abilities, including the ability to perform the holy and joyous tasks of a “servant of the Light” (one of the duties of Sub-deacons is to light the candles in the Altar). Surely there are many other things he is and does for the glory of God and the good of his neighbor. Those who know him are most welcome to illuminate the rest of us by means of writing a supplemental Comment to this Post.

From right to left: Deacon Gregory Roeber; Sub-deacon Gregory Kattouf, Fr. Stephen Lourie, His Grace Bishop Thomas
And for more pictures from Sub-deacon Gregory’s Orthodox Christian Parish Church (including one of Subdeacon Gregory serving and another of him and his mother) on the day of their Parish Priest’s elevation to archpriest, click on http://stgeoaltoona.homestead.com/Events.html

Keystone Services in Russia

Keystone Human Services, a residential provider for people with disabilities based in Harrisburg, PA, has been exploring, developing, and applying its know-how in Russia for a few years now. From the website of the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr in-the-Fields:

On Bright Friday, May 6, 2005, Archimandrite Zacchaeus, Dean of St. Catherine the Great Martyr Church welcomed Mr. Charles Hooker, First Vice President and CEO of Archimandrite Zacchaeus with members of Keystone Human Services at St Catherine the Great Martyr ChurchKeystone Human Services to the parish. Accompanying Mr. Hooker were several members of the Board of Directors of Keystone Human Services. The purpose of the visit was to become better acquainted with Russia, its people and culture, and to become aware of the conditions and methods of social care provided in Russia for the most vulnerable – children and adults with disabilities, orphans, low-income and at-risk families. The idea is to see how Keystone’s 35 year experience of providing comprehensive system of services to children and families could be helpful in Russia – to see how the proven models of family care could be adapted here and how Keystone can share expertise with Russian colleagues in the following areas: mental retardation, autism, mental illness, early intervention, physical disability, speech therapy, physical therapy, early childhood development, parent training and residential treatment.

As stated in the Mission Statement of Keystone Human Services, “Keystone Human Services International is the newest of the Keystone Human Services agencies. KHSI reflects our enduring commitment to improving the lives of children and families and our vision of working to build a better and safer world.”

It is hoped that Keystone and St. Catherine the Great Martyr Church will be able to cooperate in various social outreach to aid the community in the future.

from Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr in-the-Fields, May 6, 2005: http://www.st-catherine.ru/index.php?lang=eng&sitepartid=9&id=76&level=0&PHPSESSID= (photo also from this site)

Two and a half years later we find Maria Kalitina, a staff member of Keystone at the Church again, along with a group of children from Beslan, Russia who survived a terrorist attack there in September 2004: http://www.st-catherine.ru/index.php?lang=eng&sitepartid=9&id=899&level=0&PHPSESSID=a19c093f411f

And here are two more accounts from Keystone concerning their work in Russia:

Promoting the Best Care at the Best Source- the Home, by Maria Dolbunova, General Director, Keystone Foundation for Children and Families: http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/keystoneNews/ngoSpotlight.php

and the website of Keystone Services International: http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/international.php

May God raise up more such collaborative efforts!


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