Category: Article

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Advent ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Within the calendar year, there is another year:  the  great cycle of the liturgical year, revolving around the life and ministry Christ.  Each season of the liturgical year has its own particular focus, feasts, words, and colors, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus, his life, and his commission to His people to be a light to the world.

Since the 900s, Advent has marked the beginning of the church year, and is a season of great anticipation, preparation, and excitement, traditionally focusing on the Nativity of the Christ Child, when Jesus came as our Savior.  During Advent, we as Christians also direct our thoughts to His second coming as judge.

The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming,” and is celebrated during the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.

Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we  participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent  reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment of sin, and the hope of eternal life.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for holy living, arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. As the church celebrates God’s Incarnation in the physical presence of Jesus Christ, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

We celebrate with gladness the great promise of Advent, yet knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of final judgment is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment of sin. This is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge the world.

Because of the dual themes of judgment and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isaiah 9).

Historically, the primary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the “Word made flesh” and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent.

In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season.

In recent times, however, Advent has undergone a shift in emphasis, reflected in a change of colors used in many non-Catholic churches. The penitential aspect of the Season has been almost totally replaced by an emphasis on hope and anticipation.  Many Protestant churches now use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent. Royal Blue is sometimes used as a symbol of royalty. Some churches use Bright Blue to symbolize the night sky, the anticipation of the impending announcement of the King’s coming, or to symbolize the waters of Genesis 1, the beginning of a new creation. Some churches, including some Catholic churches, use bluish violet to preserve the traditional use of purple while providing a visual distinction between the purple or red violet of Lent.  However, it must be remembered that blue is not an approved liturgical color, for Advent or any other season, and it should not be the primary color in any Catholic liturgical celebration.

This does not eliminate any sense of penitence from the Season. With the focus on the Advent or Coming of Jesus, especially in anticipating His Second Advent, there remains a need for preparation for that coming. Most liturgical churches incorporate confessional prayers into the services of Advent that relate to a sense of unworthiness as we anticipate His Coming. It is appropriate even in more traditional services of worship to incorporate confessional prayers as part of the anticipation and preparation of the Season.

Even with the shift to blue for Advent in many non-Catholic churches, the vast majority of churches retain pink or rose among the Advent colors, and use it on the last Sunday of Advent. In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”), and it remains associated with Joy.

The Advent wreath is a popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year in many churches. It is a circular evergreen wreath with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. The circle of the wreath itself reminds us of God, His eternal being and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life.

The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.

The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

The light of the candles becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God’s grace to others (Isa 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise of long ago has been realized.

Christ Is King! ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: EZ 34:11-12, 15-17

Responsorial Psalm: PS 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

Reading 2: 1 COR 15:20-26, 28

Gospel: MT 25:31-46

Liturgical colour: White.

Brothers  and sisters in Christ,  may you be blessed on this Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!  This is the last Sunday of the Church year. This is the time when we focus on the final and glorious things to come!  It also means that next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent.

When we are saying that Jesus is the king, we are meaning several things. First, Jesus is our Shepherd. As our Shepherd He desires to lead us personally as a loving father would with his children. He wants to enter our lives personally, intimately and carefully. He never wants to impose Himself upon us,  rather, He is constantly offering Himself to us as our guide. The difficulty with this is that it’s very easy for us to reject this kind of kingship. As King, Jesus desires to lead every aspect of our lives and lead us in all things. He desires to become the absolute ruler and monarch of our lives and of our very hearts and souls. He wants us to come to Him for everything and to become dependent upon Him always. But He will not impose this sort of kingship upon us. Our Lord  Jesus wants us accept him freely and without reservation. Jesus will only govern our lives if we are freely willing to surrender ourselves over completely to him.. When we allow this to happen,  His Kingdom begins to become established firmly within us! And also through us in this worldly realm.

 Jesus wishes for His Kingdom to be established in our world. First and foremost this takes place when we become His sheep and thus become His instruments to help convert the world. However, as King, He also calls us to establish His Kingdom by seeing to it that His truth and law is respected within all of our society. It’s Christ’s authority as King that gives us the authority and duty as Christians to do all we can to fight worldly injustices and to bring about a respect and a love for every human person. All shall ultimately gain its authority from Christ alone since He is the one and only Universal King.

But many still within our world do not recognize Him as the King, so what should we do about these people? Should we “impose” God’s law upon those who do not believe? The answer is both yes and no. First, there are some things we cannot impose. For example, we cannot force people to go to Mass each Sunday. This would hinder a person’s freedom to enter into this precious gift willingly. We know Jesus requires it of us for the good of our souls, but it must still be embraced freely. However, there are some things that we must “impose” upon others. The protection of the, poor and vulnerable must be “imposed.” The freedom of conscience must be written into our laws. The freedom to practice our faith openly (religious liberty) within any institution must be “imposed” also. And there are many other things which could be  listed here. What’s vital to point out is that, at the end of all time, Jesus will be returning to Earth in all His glory and He will then establish His permanent and unending Kingdom. At that time, all peoples will see God as He is. And His law will become one with our worldly law. Every knee will bend before our great King and all will know His truth.  At that time, true justice will reign and every evil will be corrected.  What a glorious day that will be!

We should reflect, today, upon our own embrace of Christ as our King.  Does He truly govern our lives in every way?  Do we allow Him to have complete control over our  lives?  When this is done freely and completely, the Kingdom of God is established in our lives.  Let Him reign so that we can be converted and, through us, others can come to know Him as Lord of all also!

Lord, You are the sovereign King of the Universe.  You are Lord of all.  Come reign in our lives and make our souls Your holy dwelling place.  Lord, come transform our world and make it a place of true peace and justice.  May Your Kingdom come!  Jesus, we ttrust in You.

Set A Reminder? ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

You can’t set a reminder in your phone, you can’t mark the date on your calendar, and you can’t ask your spouse to remind you when its going to happen. I have to have Michael remind me of things because I have my mother’s memory (or lack of it), and without fail if I forget to ask him to remind me of something, the date passes and I realize that I screwed up and missed an appointment, or some special show I wanted to watch on TV.

You won’t know the time or the day or the minute or the second, there will be no warning, CNN, FOX, or MSNBC wont have live coverage. The USA Today, or your local paper won’t have a full page add letting you know the details of the event. You say: “in this day and age how could a world event happen without planning? How come we didn’t get an invite on Facebook?” Well you did get an invite, you were warned, you were told to be prepared! Where? How? Well read Matthew 25:1-13. The Lord tells us to be prepared but only the Father knows the time.

The Gospel for today:

MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 
Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. 
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

The Gospel tells you to be prepared and bring oil with you. Have faith, trust in the Lord, and do as Jesus commanded us; Love one another as He Loved us. Simple instructions, easy as pie, can’t misunderstand these instructions.  Or can we?   Well, with everything that has been going on in the World and especially our country lately, are we really prepared for the second coming of our Lord and Savior? I don’t think so. I personally am ashamed of the state of the World and most especially the condition of the United States right now. Our homeless population is increasing every day, our prisons are overflowing, our widows and orphans are starving, children are going hungry, and our veterans are homeless and hungry. I don’t think this is what Jesus intended and I firmly believe that He is ashamed of us, His children. The parable that Jesus told warns us to be prepared. Be prepared by taking care of those who are unable to take care of themselves, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and protecting those in harms way.

From the Hebrew Bible today we read from the Book of Wisdom about the Key to Leadership:

Wisdom 6:12-16

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

Every national leader exercises authority with an eye to history. Vanity demands leaders make their mark on the world and leave a legacy. Many kings and presidents have pondered the question: how will future generations judge me?

What is the key to a favorable legacy, as well as a peaceful and profitable rule? The author of the Wisdom of Solomon had his favorite answer: wisdom! In fact, he was so enamored with the virtue that he personified it in his writing. The image of wisdom the author painted was that of a young lover, a woman who waited eagerly by the gate to a man’s house (so the virtue was easily available), yet aloof enough to only be available to those who sought her. “Lady Wisdom” was no commoner; she was “resplendent and unfading..” Like a classy lover, the virtue was intimate and reliable, a confidant in need. This was a virtue of those groomed for position and power.

The Wisdom of Solomon was written in the so-called “inter-Testamental” period (200 B.C. to 150 A.D.). Composed by a Greek-speaking Jew (most likely in Alexandria, Egypt), the book was used to instruct young Jewish males in the ways of leadership.

Like the young Jews who heard these words, we, too, should seek wisdom as our guide to leadership. The comfort it brings far outweighs gains from turf battles or displays of ego. When we act wisely, we act for the good of all, not for the self.

Look upon the leadership in your community and church. How is that leadership exercised? With wisdom? How have you exercised leadership? How wise have you been in your dealings with others?

Lord in your mercy guide us into the coming days with love and wisdom and truth. Look upon our leaders with favor and guide their paths with your loving hand. Give them the wisdom and knowledge to lead us into a greater future. Amen

Martin de Porres

Blessed Martin de Porres was born in the city of Lima, in the Viceroyalty of Peru, on December 9, 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a black former slave. He grew up in poverty; when his mother could not support him and his sister, Martin was confided to a primary school for two years, and then placed with a barber/surgeon to learn the medical arts. This caused him great joy, though he was only ten years old, for he could exercise charity to his neighbor while earning his living. Already he was spending hours of the night in prayer, a practice that increased rather than diminished as he grew older.

At the age of 15, he asked for admission to the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima and was received first as a servant boy; as his duties grew, he was promoted to almoner. Eventually he felt the call to enter the Dominican Order, and was received as a tertiary. Years later, his piety and miraculous cures led his superiors to drop the racial limits on admission to the friars, and he was made a full Dominican. It is said that when his convent was in debt, he implored them: “I am only a poor mulatto, sell me.” Martin was deeply attached to the Blessed Sacrament, and he was praying in front of it one night when the step of the altar he was kneeling on caught fire. Throughout all the confusion and chaos that followed, he remained where he was, unaware of what was happening around him.

When he was 34, after he had been given the habit of a Coadjutor Brother, Martin was assigned to the infirmary, where he was placed in charge and would remain in service until his death at the age of sixty. His superiors saw in him the virtues necessary to exercise unfailing patience in this difficult role, and he never disappointed them. It was not long before miracles were attributed to him. Saint Martin also cared for the sick outside his convent, often bringing them healing with only a simple glass of water. He begged for alms to procure necessities the Convent could not provide, and Providence always supplied.

One day an aged beggar, covered with ulcers and almost naked, stretched out his hand, and Saint Martin, seeing the Divine Mendicant in him, took him to his own bed. One of his brethren reproved him. Saint Martin replied: “Compassion, my dear Brother, is preferable to cleanliness.”

When an epidemic struck Lima, there were in this single Convent of the Rosary sixty friars who were sick, many of them novices in a distant and locked section of the convent, separated from the professed. Saint Martin is said to have passed through the locked doors to care for them, a phenomenon which was reported in the residence more than once. The professed, too, saw him suddenly beside them without the doors having been opened. Martin continued to transport the sick to the convent until the provincial superior, alarmed by the contagion threatening the religious, forbade him to continue to do so. His sister, who lived in the country, offered her house to lodge those whom the residence of the religious could not hold. One day he found on the street a poor Indian, bleeding to death from a dagger wound, and took him to his own room until he could transport him to his sister’s hospice. The superior, when he heard of this, reprimanded his subject for disobedience. He was extremely edified by his reply: “Forgive my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.” The superior gave him liberty thereafter to follow his inspirations in the exercise of mercy.

Martin would not use any animal as food—he was a vegetarian.

In normal times, Saint Martin succeeded with his alms to feed 160 poor persons every day, and distributed a remarkable sum of money every week to the indigent. To Saint Martin the city of Lima owed a famous residence founded for orphans and abandoned children, where they were formed in piety for a creative Christian life. This lay brother had always wanted to be a missionary, but never left his native city; yet even during his lifetime he was seen elsewhere, in regions as far distant as Africa, China, Algeria and Japan. An African slave who had been in irons said he had known Martin when he came to relieve and console many like himself, telling them of heaven. When later the same slave saw him in Peru, he was very happy to meet him again and asked him if he had had a good voyage; only later did he learn that Saint Martin had never left Lima. A merchant from Lima was in Mexico and fell ill; he said aloud: “Oh, Brother Martin, if only you were here to care for me!” and immediately saw him enter his room. And again, this man did not know until later that he had never been in Mexico.

Martin was a friend of both Saint John de Massias and Saint Rose of Lima. When he died in Lima on November 3, 1639, Martin was known to the entire city. Word of his miracles had made him known as a saint throughout the region. As his body was displayed to allow the people of the city to pay their respects, each person snipped a tiny piece of his habit to keep as a relic. It is said that three habits were taken from the body. His body was then interred in the grounds of the monastery.

Pope Gregory XVI beatified Martin de Porres in 1837. Nearly one hundred and twenty-five years later, Blessed Martin was canonized in Rome by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962. His feast day is November 3. He is the Patron Saint of people of mixed race, innkeepers, barbers, public health and more besides.

In iconography, Martin de Porres is often depicted as a young mulatto friar (he was a Dominican brother, not a priest, as evidenced by the black scapular and capuce he wears, while priests of the Dominican order wear all white) with a broom, since he considered all work to be sacred no matter how menial. He is sometimes shown with a dog, a cat and a mouse eating in peace from the same dish.

All Souls Day ~ The Rev. Dcn Igor Kalinski, OPI

Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Sebastian and Peregrine in Gevgelija ~ MACEDONIA

Beloved brothers and sisters, after the melancholy of the end of august and beginning of September that I personally experience throughout my life in changing seasons, as personally I am not a fan of summertime, holidays and vacation, even if might be in summer I would of search for woods and forests and mountains, to escape the heat that I can enjoy, it’s not for me.

With the official start of autumn, and the changing nature colors into golden red, give me such inner peace, in reflection through the jump of one novena to another, like in the end of September with the Little Flower St Theresa of Infant Jesus, Christ the King Sunday, to the very end of October, and in the steps of 1st November, when the nature is more dramatically changed, that what gives anxiety and pain in the summertime for those like me that have severe suffering, is a joyful grace from God, giving me days, giving me weeks, and more and more months, hopefully years too, to keep my mind into practice of good deeds, and having humble and meek heart, grateful for giving me another day to repent, a time for going back in order to fulfill my seven offices per day from the breviary, God gives strength and joy.

Beginning of this month, the month of my birthday, so in any liturgical season and aspect, we all of us are included as parts of the same body, and get in touch through the same Spirit, to have our own connection that give us growing in spiritual life, which is not easy, and is not  need a time for been moody, Jesus overcome all of this, he is doing the same within us.

Yesterday, we solemnly celebrated All Saints Day, wow what a beautiful day for reminding us, or uniting our favorite saints, that we collect as cards in our breviary, in our prayer corners in every catholic and orthodox devoted people and families, me personally I celebrate as my defenders those that are commemorated on my birthday date, and those that have impact and motivated and inspired me into my spiritual life and vocation.

In the eastern rite tradition, usually is the Sunday after Pentecost, Sunday of all saints, many various and liturgical churches, as orthodox, Episcopalian, Anglican, old catholic, roman etc. preserved in different dates, but the one and unified thing is that we all cry and petition and pray to them, to pray for us to God and to intercede for us. And now many brave heroic saints and martyrs  that proclaimed the gospel or stand firm to the death for Jesus are still unknow today, but not for God, who will not let any bone, any hair, any piece of human body to be forgotten or vanish, cos the death of His holy name and been sacrificed for his sake will never be forgotten. Church tradition in many various occasions as we read have miraculously and by vision or dream have appeared the relics of many saints, as we read daily for example in the Ohrid’s Prologue in those biographies and stories about the saints. Many are not officially canonized but are saints worshiping God in heaven.

We are all called to be saints, as every saint have a past and every sinner have a future. I know many that are gone now  from us, fell asleep, such as father Philip Gerboc, OFMI, sister Victoria Williams OFMI, sister Dollie Wilkinson OPI, sister Maria Blagodatna of Jesus and many how strived to live consecrated life, in human body, and been a good example in time of distress a comfort, and true friends and family that are all deeply missed. So today we cherish all those that are gone from us, reminding us that we will soon go to the same path as them, and in God is no difference from alive in earth and alive in heaven, for him are alive. Many from our deceased family members, brothers, friends, sisters, colleges, enemies, it’s time for us to reconcile us, to repent, to forgive them, and to pray for them, to offer masses for them, rosaries, good acts of charity for the soul of the departed, cos they can’t do nothing for themselves, but we can pray for them, and make charity acts, and they will pray for us to God as well.

The Saturdays is also a good time for us to say the office of dead for them, offer holy rosary, give food to the homeless, an act of charity, light candle, bring fresh flowers, and celebrate their lives, through reflection, praying for the souls and for the families that grieve, because they died in hope for resurrection and everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord, amen.

What Are You Wearing??? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints (also called All Saints Day).

All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Day, or Hallowmas is solemnly celebrated on 1 November by many Western Liturgical Churches to honor, literally, all the saints, known and unknown; those individuals who have attained Heaven; all the holy men and women who have lived their lives for God and for his church, who now have attained Beatific vision and their reward of Heaven.

 In early Christian history it was usual to solemnize the anniversary of a Martyr’s death for the Lord at the place of their martyrdom. Frequently there were multiple martyrs who would’ve suffered and died on the same day which led to multiple commemorations on the same day. Eventually, the numbers of martyrs became so great that it was impossible for a separate day to be assigned to each individually, but the church feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a feast day to commemorate them all on the same day.

The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to the month of May in the year 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  In the 730’s Pope Gregory III moved the Feast of All Saints to 1 November when he founded an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”

From our Readings today, we hear of the vision of St. John from the Book of Revelation:

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice: 

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might

be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Who are these nameless saints?  Their anonymity teaches us that sainthood is not reached through great achievements or rare acts of bravery.  Sainthood comes from simply loving God and doing our best to live our lives in a way consistent with Jesus’ commandment.  I would dare say that none of the saints actually set out to be saints.  They simply loved God and lived their lives to follow Him. 

Revelation goes on to remind us that giving our lives over to God will not protect us or insulate us from hardship.  Living in, for, with, and through God, however, will make sure that we can and will endure whatever “great distress” comes our way.  In this passage of Revelation, John is speaking specifically of those who have given their lives for their faith.  Christians throughout the Middle East are being martyred by forces opposed to Christianity, but in reality, it is very unlikely that any of us will be called upon to sacrifice our lives for our faith. 

Our challenge, then, is to live for Christ, rather than to die for Christ.  Jesus does ask to lay down our lives for Him. Peter said to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for Your sake,” and he meant it (John 13:37). Has the Lord ever asked you, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” (John 13:38). It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God. We are not made for the bright-shining moments of life, but we have to walk in the light of them in our everyday ways.  For thirty-three years Jesus laid down His life to do the will of His Father. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

If we are true followers of Jesus, we must deliberately and carefully lay down our lives for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is, for great is our reward.  Salvation is easy for us, however, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in our lives is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.” And Jesus says to us, “…I have called you friends….” Remain faithful to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.  We are called to remain faithful, despite the reasons the world gives us to not, despite the “great distresses” in our lives.

Who are these dressed in white robes?  It is my prayer to be counted among them.  What about you?

Sts Simon and Jude~ The Very Rev Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: EPH 2:19-22

Responsorial Psalm: PS 19:2-3, 4-5

Gospel: LK 6:12-16

Liturgical colour: Red.

Today dear brothers  and sisters, we come together  to celebrate the feast of Sts Simon and Jude,  They are two of the Apostles. Simon is also known as Simon the Zealot, who belonged to the group of the Zealots, who were a very puritanical and extremist group opposed to the Roman rule in Judea at the time of Jesus,  he was a type of freedom fighter, who was turned from his former path with the Zealots, and instead joined Jesus and became His follower. St. Jude was also known as Judas Thaddeus, who is a different person from Judas Iscariot the traitor.  St. Jude is particularly  widely known for being the patron saint of hopeless cases.

 St. Jude  unlike St Judas with which his name is sometimes confused, remained faithful to the Lord, and he continued to preach the Good News together  with St. Simon,  with whom he was often closely associated, and this is the reason why we celebrate their feast days together.

Both St. Simon and St. Jude travelled together,  they preached, spreading the faith in the region of Judea, Syria, and also in Egypt and Libya, as well as to many other regions where they preached the Good News of our Lord  and Saviour Jesus, the hope of salvation for all the people living in those places who have yet to witness the light of Christ. And through their hard work and ministry, they planted the seeds of the Faith and the Church, which would eventually grow and bring many souls to salvation in God.

Both Sts  Simon and  Jude went through many trials and difficulties in their lives. They were met with acceptance and also with rejection, by the people and from the communities to whom they were sent. Yet they both persevered, and like St. Paul the Apostle, they never gave up in the face of their difficulties, and through their good and hard work, they gained many souls to the mercy of God, and brought them towards salvation. Indeed, these two, among the other ten Apostles, were the crucial and important pillars of Faith and salvation.

It was told that Simon and  Jude were both  martyred in the region of Syria during a persecution of the Faithful, and were beheaded with an axe, a symbol often associated to them. But even in death, they continued to bring goodness and good works and wonders to the faithful, even in death they  managed to continue to lay down the seeds of faith to the newly faithful, spreading the Good News ever further and greater to the ends of the earth.

And we know that St. Jude was particularly famous because he is the patron saint of the cases of hopelessness and where hope is dim. People ask for his intercession to help in those cases that seem to be impossible and where the outcome is likely to be unfavourable. However, my dear brothers and sisters, we have to be careful lest we think that they are like gods or those who can fulfill our wishes and needs at our whim.

These Apostles, St. Jude and St. Simon, as well as the other Apostles are the twelve central pillars of the faith, and besides the Lord’s own Blessed Mother Mary, they stand the closest to the throne of God, their Lord and Master. They were men once, but they have been tested through fire and through many trials, they faced all the difficulties and the challenges of the world, suffering even martyrdom for the sake of the Lord.

Sts Simon and Jude therefore are role models whose examples we can use within our lives, they show us a reflection of what we can also achieve if we are to follow in their paths and walk in their footsteps. They represent the fulfillment of God’s promise. Remember that Jesus said to them at one time, how they would sit upon twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel? This is the same promise which God has also given to each and every one of us. We will all sit among the righteous and the just, but only if we remain faithful to the Lord, resisting all temptations of life and  of the flesh.

The Apostles as well as the many Disciples, were once also diverse in their occupations just as we are, and they were people of the world, and yet they chose to follow God and become His loyal servants, to be the ones to help Him to accomplish much good work in this world. They did have the choice to follow the Lord or to follow their own hearts’ desire as indeed we all do, but chose the only path to righteousness  and salvation, that only accepting and following our Lord Jesus can give.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reflect on our own lives and actions. We are all sinners and unworthy of the Lord’s love and mercy. And yet, He offered them to us freely and tenderly nonetheless, giving them through the ultimate act of love, His suffering and death on the cross. We have the choice to continue in our ways of sin, following the wicked paths of the world, or to embrace the mercy and love offered by God.

The Apostles, and especially the ones we celebrate today, St. Simon and St. Jude are good models in our life. They themselves were not perfect, and they also were sinners, and yet they were willing to allow the Lord to come into their lives and to transform them, that they would no longer live in sin but became the tools of the Lord in bringing good into this world, and in that, they were justified in their faith.

Let us therefore use this opportunity to begin to follow our Lord Jesus ever close within our lives and emulate the examples of His holy Apostles, St Simon and St. Jude whose joint feast we celebrate today. Let us all also become faithful disciples of our Lord, building ever stronger the foundations of our Church, the Church of God, for our salvation and for the salvation of all souls. Leave our old lives of sin and darkness and exchange it for the lives in the light of God. God bless us all. Amen.

For All The Saints! ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints (also called All Saints Day).

All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Day, or Hallowmas is solemnly celebrated on 1 November by many Western Liturgical Churches to honor, literally, all the saints, known and unknown; those individuals who have attained Heaven; all the holy men and women who have lived their lives for God and for his church, who now have attained Beatific vision and their reward of Heaven.

In early Christian history it was usual to solemnize the anniversary of a Martyr’s death for the Lord at the place of their martyrdom. Frequently there were multiple martyrs who would’ve suffered and died on the same day which led to multiple commemorations on the same day. Eventually, the numbers of martyrs became so great that it was impossible for a separate day to be assigned to each individually, but the church feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a feast day to commemorate them all on the same day.

The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to the month of May in the year 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  In the 730’s Pope Gregory III moved the Feast of All Saints to 1 November when he founded an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”

From our Readings today, we hear of the vision of St. John from the Book of Revelation:

After this, I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Who are these nameless saints?  Their anonymity teaches us that sainthood is not reached through great achievements or rare acts of bravery.  Sainthood comes from simply loving God and doing our best to live our lives in a way consistent with Jesus’ commandment.  I would dare say that none of the saints actually set out to be saints.  They simply loved God and lived their lives to follow Him.

Revelation goes on to remind us that giving our lives over to God will not protect us or insulate us from hardship.  Living in, for, with, and through God, however, will make sure that we can and will endure whatever “great distress” comes our way.  In this passage of Revelation, John is speaking specifically of those who have given their lives for their faith.  Christians throughout the Middle East are being martyred by forces opposed to Christianity, but in reality, it is very unlikely that any of us will be called upon to sacrifice our lives for our faith.

Our challenge, then, is to live for Christ, rather than to die for Christ.  Jesus does ask to lay down our lives for Him. Peter said to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for Your sake,” and he meant it (John 13:37). Has the Lord ever asked you, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” (John 13:38). It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God. We are not made for the bright-shining moments of life, but we have to walk in the light of them in our everyday ways.  For thirty-three years Jesus laid down His life to do the will of His Father. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

If we are true followers of Jesus, we must deliberately and carefully lay down our lives for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is, for great is our reward.  Salvation is easy for us, however, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in our lives is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.” And Jesus says to us, “…I have called you friends….” Remain faithful to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.  We are called to remain faithful, despite the reasons the world gives us to not, despite the “great distresses” in our lives.

Who are these dressed in white robes?  It is my prayer to be counted among them.  What about you?

 

Our Lady of the Rosary ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Liturgical colour: White.

Reading 1: JON 1:1–2:1-2, 11

Responsorial Psalm: JONAH 2:3, 4, 5, 8

Holy Gospel Reading: LK 10:25-37

Today, we come together as the Church to honour The Blessed Virgin Mary in her Title as Our Lady of The Rosary. May I extend my wishes of a blessed Feast of Our Lady of The Rosary to you all!

Let me begin by going through the beginning of the History of The Rosary:

On October 7th, in the year of1571 a fleet of ships assembled by the combined forces of Naples, Sardinia, Venice, the Papacy, Genoa, Savoy and the Knights Hospitallers fought an intense battle with the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. The battle took place in the Gulf of Patras located in western Greece.  Though outnumbered by the Ottoman forces, the so-called “Holy League” possessed of superior firepower would win the day. This victory would severely curtail attempts by the Ottoman Empire to control the Mediterranean, causing a seismic shift in international relations from East to West. In some respects, and I do not want this claim to be overstated, the world that we know came into being with this victory. This event is known to history as the “Battle of Lepanto.”

Pope Pius V, whose treasury bankrolled part of this military endeavour, ordered the churches of Rome to be opened for prayer both day and night, to encourage faithful to petition the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the recitation of the Rosary. When word reached the Pope Pius of the victory of the Holy League, he added a new feast day to the Roman Liturgical Calendar- October 7th would henceforth be the feast of Our Lady of Victory. Pope Pius’ successor, Gregory XIII would change the name of this day to the feast of the Holy Rosary.

It  was not until the fifteen century that the Rosary was divided into three Chaplets of 50 Hail Mary’s each and that the mysteries were added to each Chaplet. By the sixteen century, the fifteen mysteries had become accepted by all as the proper way of reciting the Rosary. During that period of time, the second half of the Hail Mary was added and the “Glory be to the Father” was used to close each decade of the Rosary. In 1569, Pope Pius V officially approved the Rosary as it is known today.

Four years later, he established the Feast of the Rosary in thanksgiving to Our Lady to commemorate the naval victory of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. On that same day, the first Sunday of October, while the members of the Rosary confraternity made their procession in Rome, Don John of Austria defeated the Turkish fleet.

Following the request of the Dominican Order, in 1573, Pope Gregory XIII allowed this feast to be observed in all the Churches that possessed an altar dedicated to the Holy Rosary. In 1671, Pope Clement X extended the observance of this feast to the whole of Spain. Afterward, in recognition of the victory over the Turks by Prince Eugene on August 6, 1716, at Peterwardein in Hungary, Pope Clement XI commanded that the Feast of the Rosary be celebrated throughout the world.

Now let’s discuss The purpose of The Rosary:

The purpose of the rosary is to help us to meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—on his birth, his life, his death, and his resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus’ Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glory Bes remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.

The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.

Let us pray:

To Our Lady of the Rosary

O Blessed Virgin Mary, grant that the recitation of thy Rosary may be for us each day, in the midst of our manifold duties, a bond of unity in our actions, a tribute of filial piety, a sweet refreshment, an encouragement to walk joyfully along the path of duty. Grant, above all, O Virgin Mary, that the study of thy fifteen mysteries may form in our souls, little by little, a luminous atmosphere, pure, strengthening, and fragrant, which may penetrate our understanding, our will, our heart, our memory, our imagination, our whole being. So shall we acquire the habit of praying while we work, without the aid of formal prayers, by interior acts of admiration and of supplication, or by aspirations of love. I ask this of thee, O Queen of the Holy Rosary, through Saint Dominic, thy son of predilection, the renowned preacher of thy mysteries, and the faithful imitator of thy virtues. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Believe in Angels? ~ Fr. Shawn Gisewhite, OPI

 

Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels.  Every so often there’s a story in the news about how many Americans believe in angels.  Usually it’s presented in somewhat alarmist language…”more Americans believe in angels than in evolution, poll suggests!” Or “7 things Americans think are more plausible than man-made global warming! #1 Angels!”  A 2011 poll conducted by the Associated Press says 77% of Americans believe angels are real.  To me, how they ask the question is important. Years ago, I was one of those polled while touring the campus at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary, and they asked, “Do you believe in angels?” and I thought “do you mean, do I believe in little adorable, chubby-cheeked Raphaelite cherubs with rainbow wings?”  No, not really.  Do I believe that there are things in the universe beyond my powers of comprehension who are active in doing God’s will? Then, yes. Without a doubt! When I asked for this clarification the poll taker looked at their clipboard and said, “it just says, do you believe in angels?” Well, then. “yes.”

A lot of Americans may believe in angels, but I don’t know how many of us give them much thought. Angels are one of those ubiquitous pop-culture things that show up in lots of places but I, for one, don’t spend an awful lot of time thinking about them.  When I volunteered to write today’s sermon, I decided that I should do some research on angels, so I did what any self-respecting Generation-”Y”er would do…I went and re-watched the movie Dogma.  Yup, you heard right!

That’s the Kevin Smith movie starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as a pair of angels who have been banished from heaven and sent not to hell, but to Wisconsin. They think they’ve discovered a loophole in Catholic Dogma that will allow them back into heaven and the movie is the wackiness that ensues as they try to enact their plan.
I enjoyed seeing it again, but I’m not sure it told me all that much about angels.
At least the angels in Dogma are somewhat closer to biblical angels than Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or Michael Landon on “Highway to Heaven,” or Roma Downey and Della Reese on “Touched by an Angel.”

At least for me, it’s hard to reconcile the “I’m just sent to help people out,” angles of those shows with the fearsome, world-ending appearance of the angels in our readings. TV angels are really pleasant, angels in scripture are really scary!  Our ancestors thought much more systematically about angels. A lot of what we think we know about angels comes from a Syrian monk writing around the 5th century of the common era known as Dionysius the Areopagite. He’s the one who gives us the nine orders, or choirs, of angels.

Beginning with the Seraphim…those closest to God, the ones with six wings, two covering their feet, two covering their face, and two to fly with.

Next are the Cherubim…NOT the chubby little children that Raphael painted.  These are the winged creatures with flaming swords guarding the entrance to Paradise, and represented on the top of the Ark of the Covenant. They are sometimes represented with the front quarters of a lion, and the hind quarters of a bull, the head of a man, and the wings of an eagle. Or with four-faces those of a bull, an eagle, a lion, and a human.

Then continuing down the ranks come the Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, and finally Archangels.  This is where we find Michael, also Raphael, Gabriel, and sometime Uriel.  At the very end, plain old angels.
It’s all quite dizzying!

Michael is one of the few named angels in scripture, and as such has attracted much devotion from a very early date. In Jewish midrash, Michael is the one who is said to have prevented the sacrifice of Isaac, saves the three young men from the fiery furnace, and the one who wrestles with Jacob. In Christian tradition, Michael is regarded as both a warrior—defeating Satan in the battle in heaven—and a healer—the earliest sanctuary dedicated to St. Michael was associated with a healing well.

Often feast days are associated with at least quasi-historical dates…often the presumed date of the saint’s death, but since angels and archangels don’t die, the association of Sept 29th with the feast of Michaelmas came from the 5th century dedication of a St. Michael’s basilica near Rome.  In medieval England, Michalemas marked the end of the “husbandman’s year” when the harvest was done and accounts were settled, and hiring for the next year took place.

The fact that it takes place around the fall equinox is (I think) significant. Because in addition to angels, another thing we post-modern folks don’t think an awful lot about is the calendar. Oh sure, we are tied to our calendars but mostly to make sure that we are where we’re supposed to be when we’re supposed to be there. But our liturgical or church calendar does much more than simply mark time…it sanctifies it.

In the English Church the Feast of the Archangels would have been celebrated last night at a service called Evensong.  Evensong is perhaps one of the most ancient of all prayerful actions.  Our ancestors understood the necessity of marking the times of the day, the week, and the year. Those “thin-spaces” where time and eternity, earth and space, breath and Spirit flow into and out of one another.  Morning Prayer at dawn. Evening Prayer at dusk. The two great hinges of every day.  Weekly Sabbaths establishing times of work and rest.  And yearly festivals not merely marking time but actually (re)creating and sanctifying the rhythm of existence—the rhythm of being.  Michaelmas is almost an autumnal mirror of Pentecost.

In the northern hemisphere, the Triduum—the great three days of Holy Week—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday mark the dying—the pause in the tomb and the resurrection of our Lord, who becomes the first fruits of the new and unending life.
From that single seed the Holy Spirit—in the burst of Pentecost—is poured out on us to effect our transformation and the renewal of the whole earth—in this season of growth and greenness—bringing all creation closer to God’s realm.

Then as the season of growth turns to the abundance of fall and harvest our focus is increasingly drawn to the fullness of the Eschaton—the edge of time—the horizon of existence. As the sun lowers in the sky, our eyes are drawn to the horizon. As the days shorten and shadows lengthen Michaelmas directs our attention to the horizon and beyond to the heavenly host—to those who are always above and beyond us—angels.
As we move toward the fall Triduum—All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints, and All Souls day—the church continues to direct us to the culmination of all things—to those who have gone before—and then the coming of Christ just before Advent. The culmination of all things, dominions, princedoms, powers, virtues, archangels, angel choirs—all things find their reason and their rest in Christ.

You see, I do believe in angels, but more in the sense that there really are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

So for me, this year, this celebration of the feast of St. Michael and All Angels is a gift from the church in her wisdom—a reminder to keep my eyes and heart focused on these things that really are above me and beyond my ability to grasp or understand.  As the earth turns, once again, her northern face away from the sun, and we prepare again to enter the time of darkening days and cooler nights, it’s helpful to think of the heavenly hosts, the powers that I still don’t and never will totally understand—but knowing that they are working and praying and guarding and guiding and enacting God’s will…and allowing and inviting us to experience God’s grace in our own lives is somehow enough.

The 8th century scholar and monk Alcuin wrote a sequence litany for Michael and the other archangels that ends like this:

Hear us, Michael,
Greatest angel,
Come down a little
From thy high seat,
To bring us the strength of God,
And the lightening of His mercy.

And do thou, Gabriel,
Lay low our foes,
And thou, Raphael,
Heal our sick,
Purge our disease, ease thou our pain,
And give us to share
In the joys of the blessed.
Amen.