Sunday March 30, 2014

Everything is possible to a man who trusts

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These are the words spoken by Christ to the father of the possessed boy in the miracle story that we proclaim for today’s Gospel reading. Trust is essential if we are to have a relationship with God. Why? Because we cannot see Him or hear Him.

Many persons have an issue with trust in God because of their experiences with other humans and disappointments they have experienced in life. I think that this is highlighted in today’s Gospel. The father had taken his son to one of the disciples and asked for a cure. The disciple was unable to cure the boy. So the father, even when he approached Jesus, doubted that Jesus could provide a cure. He is quoted as having said to Jesus: If out of the kindness of your heart you can do anything to help us, please do!  To this Jesus is quoted as having said: If you can? Everything is possible to a man who trusts.

It would seem, since trust in God is so greatly influenced by our ability to trust in others, that the first thing we must do is learn how to trust others. This requires being open to others and always presuming positive intentionality on the part of others. If, however, you find that their intentions are not positive, simply attribute it to their limited understanding of life and don’t allow the experience to destroy your ability to trust others. In order to trust God, we have to feel that we have the ability to trust.

Another important thing to do, in order to begin to truly trust God, is to be sure that, when we ask for something from God, we also add: O Lord, although I ask this of you, I know that you will provide me with whatever You know is best for me. This is another way to simply say, as Jesus did, Not my will but thy will be done.

What usually happens is that we want something from God and, when we don’t receive what we want, we feel we can’t trust Him. The reality is that He does know what is best for us and, frequently, that is why we are not rescued from the challenges of life. When He knows that we need to be rescued from the troubles of life in order to grow, He will rescue us.

As you might immediately guess, to learn how to trust God requires that we learn how to trust others and, usually, to change the way we think. Typically people find that the greatest challenges they have had to face in life have been the most rewarding experiences. Time allows us to see the benefits of life’s problems.

This is something to think about! When we feel we cannot trust others and that our ability to even trust God is limited, it is because we are possessed by a negative spirit that can be called disappointment. Disappointment results, typically, when we don’t get our way and things don’t turn out the way we want! Think about it.

Getting to Know Something About Our Greek Catholic Faith – 20140330

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) is the largest Eastern Particular Church in the Catholic union of churches. The Primate of the Church holds the office of Archbishop-Major of Kyiv-Halych and All Rus, although the bishops and faithful of the church have acclaimed him a Patriarch and have requested the Patriarch of Rome to recognize his position.

The Christianity that UGCC embraces was first accepted by the Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great in 988. After the Great Schism of 1054, it was in union with Constantinople. Then, after the union of Brest-Litovsk in 1595, it entered again into union with the Patriarch of Rome.

In 1917, the area known as Rus became, temporarily, independent and known as Ukraine. Many people from this area had already immigrated to the United States and established churches. They were known as Russins. At the time of the brief independence of Ukraine, many    immigrants began calling themselves Ukrainians. Some objected and split the American Greek-Catholic Church into two separate entities: the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and the American Byzantine-Catholic Church, also known as Ruthenians (a name given to the church from the Latin Church). In the U.S. there are approximately an equal number of bishops, priests and faithful in the two Churches. The Byzantine-Catholic Church is the only American sui juris (self-governing) Church. The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and other U.S. Eastern Catholic Churches have Synods in their original countries.

The UGCC is now a world-wide Church and has some 40 hierarchs in over a dozen countries on four continents. It has three metropolitans outside Ukraine. They are in the U.S., Canada and Poland.

While within Ukraine itself the UGCC is a minority faith, being a distant second to the majority of three separate Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, it is the second largest religious organization in Ukraine in terms of number of religious communities. In terms of number of faithful, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church ranks third in allegiance among the population of Ukraine.

Currently the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is predominate in three western oblasts of Ukraine, including about half the population of Lviv. It is, however, the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the U.S. The U.S.  Province is composed of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia and the Eparchies of Chicago, Parma and Stamford.

Learning About the Practices of Our Religion – 20140330

In the previous issue of this article, I began sharing with you the Clementine Liturgy which has been preserved in the Apostolic Constitutions. It is the Liturgy that predates that of Basil the Great and John Chrysostom.

The anaphora (the central portion of the Liturgy when the consecration of the bread and wine take place) of the Clementine Liturgy is of great length and could hardly have been composed,      scholars believe, for actual parish use. This is perhaps why the Liturgy of Basil the Great has much longer priestly prayers.

The Clementine Liturgy begins with an extended thanksgiving to God for his own being, and for the creation which he brought into being through his only-begotten Son. A detailed description of the natural order based on Genesis 1 and 2 is followed by an equally detailed account of God’s work in redemption up to the collapse of the walls of Jericho. Here the thanksgiving breaks off to conclude with a mention of all the hosts of heaven, leading into the Holy, Holy, Holy. We see in the anaphora of Basil’s Liturgy, this same detailed account of the coming of Christ, His ministry and the impact His ministry has had on mankind and creation.

In Clementine’s liturgy, this prayer continues with praise for God’s holiness and that of His Son, and with a thanksgiving for the work of the incarnate Christ as far as His ascension. It then moves on to the formal commemoration of the passion and the offering of the gifts:

Wherefore we, having in remembrance the things which He for our sakes endured, give thanks to You, O God Almighty, not such as are due but such as we can, and fulfill His injunction.

 Then an account of the Last Supper follows. Then,

Therefore having in remembrance His passion and death and resurrection and His return into heaven, and His future second advent in which He shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and to give to every man according to His works, we offer unto You our King and our God, according to His injunction, this bread and this cup, giving thanks unto You through Him that You have counted us worthy to stand before You and to sacrifice unto You.

At the conclusion of this prayer, God is asked to look graciously on the gifts lying before Him and to be well pleased with them. For this part of the prayer the   compiler of the Apostolic Constitutions drew upon the early third-century Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome. You see the seeds of the Liturgies that we currently use, albeit, they have been simplified. We remember what our God has done for us out of love.

Called To Holiness — 20140330

As I shared in the last issue of the article, the first step in the process of becoming holy is to recognize your own personal uniqueness. In recognizing this uniqueness you recognize that God has called you into existence for the express purpose of completing His creation at this present time. It means that you realize that God created you as you are. Your unique weaknesses and strengths are ordered so that you might spiritually grow in His image and likeness.

The second step in this process is to develop a true desire to grow in God’s image and likeness. You have to want, with all that is within you, to develop into the person that God intended you to become through your experience as a human here on earth. The desire has to be strong enough that you actually give first priority to your spiritual development and hold nothing else as more important.

This, I know, is not always easy. Living in this world can be challenging, distracting and confusing. We, as human beings, can be easily distracted from the essential goal of life, namely, becoming who God intended when He created us. We can only become the person God intended if we desire to become holy. This means, of course, that we believe that there is a meaning and purpose to life. We do not just randomly come into existence and then, when the time comes, just disappear into nothingness. While I know that some people do believe this, I refuse to believe this because, as I look at creation, I see purpose, design and intelligence at work. I find it difficult to believe, when I look at creation, that creation came into existence as a random accident or event.

So if there is an intelligence behind creation, I believe that this intelligence has also infused into creation a true meaning and purpose. I believe that intelligence is the Person I call our Triune God. I also believe that the Person Jesus is God Himself in human form Who came into His creation to model how to live in order to derive the most out of this earthly experience – to learn how to come to a full understanding that I have been created in His image and likeness, which I know has been a gift and which assures me that I am immortal.

Each of us has a choice what we believe. I, for one, believe God has a plan and I desire to live by His plan.

The Spirituality of the Christian East – 20140330

Theophan suggests some guiding principles that he believes are indispensable for the Christian life. These principles, he states, “define how to acquire the saving desire for communion with God” and to be able to “remain in communion with Him”. In other words, we must learn how to “begin to live the Christian life” and after we have learned how to do this, to “perfect” ourselves in this life.

These principles must, according to Theophan, bring a person into God’s presence. They must be practical enough to help a person to grow in the faith. In essence, a person is not truly born a Christian but must learn how to be a Christian. While the seed of Christ falls on the soil of a heart that is already beating, the experiences a child receives from his parents, family and friends contributes either to the growth of this seed or to its demise. That is why it is essential that we, who truly believe in the message of Christianity, share our faith with our children.

Theophan believed that there are three stages which, according to their characteristics, are present as we grow in the faith:

(1) Turning to God, which is conversion;

(2) Purification; and

(3) Sanctification.

In the first stage a man turns from darkness to light, from the reign of the world to the reign of God. In the second, he cleanses the dwelling-chamber of his heart from every impurity, in order to receive Christ the Lord, who is coming to him. In the third, the Lord comes, makes His home in the heart of a man and shares life with him. This third stage is the goal of life.

To show the way to salvation means that we must describe all these things and define the rules which govern their operation. Full guidance in this matter takes a man on the crossroads of sin, leads him through the fiery way of cleansing, and raises him up to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

A Look at the New Testament – St. Paul – 20140330

The next Pauline letter that must be considered when we read the New Testament (NT) in chronological order, is his first letter to the Corinthians. It is the second longest of Paul’s letters Paul’s longest letter was to the Romans.

If you are attempting to read the NT in the order in which the books were written, you must read the books in this order

1 Thessalonians
Galatians
1 Corinthians

According to ACTS, Paul created a community in southern Greece in the city of Corinth around the year 50. It was a major city since it was a seaport and also the capital of Achaia, a Roman Province. This province also included Athens, now the capital of Greece. During the time of Paul Corinth was the most important city in Greece and had a Jewish enclave.

Though there was a Jewish synagogue there, the city was almost completely Gentile, cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic. According to ACTS, Paul spend 18 months in Corinth on his first visit (50 to 51 CE). When he wrote this letter a few years later he was already in Ephesus in Asia Minor. This was not really his first letter to the community. He refers to a previous letter and to a letter he had received from them. Those letters are not extant and this letter labeled as the “first” was written probably two years after Paul left the community. He learned that divisions and conflicts had developed in the community and therefore wrote to the community to urge unity. Much of the letter addresses the conflicts that he was told existed in the community. The mood of these conflicts, however, is not nearly as intense as in Galatians or in Paul’s future second letter to the Corinthians.

The first letter informs us that the community of Corinth was divided into factions that resulted from the mentors who had come to Corinth after Paul. Paul clearly reminds them that there is only one teacher, Christ and they must belong to Him and not to any one mentor.

Paul also discovered that the community was divided over spiritual gifts. The question that was raised was whether those with these gifts were superior to those without these gifts. Paul eloquently states that the most central gifts of the Spirit are faith, hope and love and that the greatest gift is love. (This is one of the most frequently used texts for the Epistle reading during the Sacrament of Matrimony). Paul tells the community that there is no hierarchy, no superiority, to be built on the more ecstatic spiritual gifts and that the main thing is that love should prevail within the community. Paul sees these three virtues (faith, hope and love) as signs of a mature, Christian community.

Learning Our Faith from the Church Fathers – 20140330

In this article I have been attempting to share the difference between Eastern and Western Spiritual Theology, always asserting that one is not right and the other wrong but that are different. I feel that each theological approach has certain people to which it appeals. Catholicism embraces both since it has, within its union of Churches, both theologies.

It must be asserted that human Theosis, even though real, is a relative rather than an absolute transformation. “There is a real and genuine union of the believer with God, but it is not a literal fusion or confusion in which the integrity of human nature is compromised.” Eastern Spiritual Theology consistently and apodictically asserts that humans do not participate in the actual essence or nature of God. So even when deified, human nature is not destroyed or  diminished. This is much in concert with our belief about the incarnation of God in the Person of Jesus. His divinity and humanity did not become confused and remained separate. Jesus is truly God and truly man (a mystery). Likewise, the ultimate union between God and man, made possible by Theosis, does not result in destruction of our humanity.

Maximos the Confessor states that: All that God is, except for an identity in essence, one becomes when one is deified by grace. This, of course, is difficult to understand without study and faith. We don’t become God but realize a union with God that builds on the fact that we share His divine life. We believe that human life is, in a mysterious way, a sharing in divine life. We believe this even though we may not fully understand it. We accept this truth because of our faith. (This is, of course, one of the reasons that some people cannot accept Christianity because they cannot accept these truth by faith).

Eastern Spiritual Theology highlights, by its rich vocabulary, various facets of the meaning of deification. It uses such terms as transformation, participation, union, adoption and partaking to name just a few. All of these words are difficult to totally define.

It is important to note that deification will only be realized in its fullness in the age to come, in the life that exists after our earthly existence is completed. This deifying union, however, has to be fulfilled ever more and more during this present lifetime. This lifetime lays the foundation for total deification in the age to come. It is for this reason that Eastern theologians do not shy away from speaking of divine-human synergy, the cooperation of the person with God.  Men and women are saved by God’s grace or help, but not without their total devotion and voluntary willingness and desire to be transformed.

2014 Great and Holy Week Schedule

Palm or Flowery Weekend

Sunday April 13th  – Divine Liturgy 10:00 AM

Great and Holy Week

Great and Holy Tuesday – April 15th
7:00 PM — Presanctified Liturgy & Communal Penance

Great and Holy Thursday – April 17th
7:00 PM — Vesperal Liturgy & Holy Anointing

Great and Good Friday – April 18th Day of Strict Fast & Abstinence
5:00 PM — Vespers & Burial Service
Vigil at the Grave Begins

Great and Holy Saturday – April 19th Day of Abstinence from Meat Products
Confessions  1 – 3 PM
Vigil at Grave ends at 6 PM

EASTER

    The Great Day – Easter – April 20th

8:00 AM — Resurrection Matins & Divine Liturgy

Blessing of Food Immediately after Service

In Memoriam

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I would ask you to join with me in asking Almighty God
to grant eternal repose to our sister who passed during this past week:

Helen Grudzinsky

We pray for her repose and may her memory be eternal!

Eternal Memory!
Вічная пам’ять!

 

Sunday March 23, 2014

We bow to Your Cross, O Master and we praise your third-day resurrection

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As we complete the third week of the Great Fast, the Church calls us to   venerate an image of the Cross. It signals that we are at the mid-point of the Great Fast. Our attention is now directed toward the most profound lesson that God has taught us through His Son, Jesus: How we embrace the challenges of life is absolutely critical if we are to truly become spiritual people and learn what life is meant to teach us.

The Church presents the Cross for our veneration so that we might make, as we venerate it, a personal commitment to embrace the cross that life has given us in a manner similar to how Jesus embraced His Cross. As we venerate the Cross this weekend, let us ask Almighty God to give us the strength and courage to imitate Jesus.

Consider what we know about how Jesus carried His Cross. The way He endured the Cross truly summarizes all of His teaching. It reveals to us, in a profound manner, His teaching in actual practice. We understand that He (1) embraced it without complaint; (2) thought about others even in His agony; (3) treated those mourning for Him with love; and (4) forgave those who tortured Him and expressed hatred for Him. To the very last moment of His human life He truly lived what He preached. He lived those four basic rules which, I am sure, all of my readers recall: (1) He did unto others as He would have them do unto Him; (2) He unconditionally loved   others as Himself; (3) He unconditionally forgive others; and (4) He judged no one for His crucifixion. Again, He lived His beliefs fully, placing absolutely no conditions on His loving response to others. Jesus presents us with a real example of how to live this human life.

As we venerate the Cross today, we are called, to honestly challenge ourselves to assess our level of belief. Do we truly believe in the teachings of Jesus? Do we understand that He is God’s revelation about how to be a proper human being, made in His own image and unto His likeness? Have we set a goal for ourselves to do all within our power to live like Jesus lived? Are we prepared to embrace the challenges of life in the same manner as Jesus did? Are we resolved to carry, as Jesus did, the cross that life presents us.

To live this way we need faith and a desire to be God’s child. It is a way that offers hope and the fullness of life!