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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

ORTHODOX & CATHOLIC TOGETHER: MONREALE CATHEDRAL IN SICILY


...who can penetrate the ways and will of God, and why did each branch (Orthodox and Catholic) have to work out its separate way to salvation? Each accumulated its wisdom and knowledge according to the minds of different peoples; each became rich in a spirituality that goes deep into the nature of things, so that today both sides have stored great treasures, which, if joined together, may yet bring the world more peace and joy than we understand or can imagine.
(Princess Ileana of Romania: from "The Spirit of Orthodoxy) 
When I read these words in the post on "the Spirit of Orthodoxy", I immediately thought of the cathedral of Monreale, some miles out of Palermo in Sicily which is a glorious example of what happens when East and West collaborate.   Built in the second half of the 12th Century, over a hundred years after the usual date for the schism, Norman stone masons, Sicilian and Byzantine artists, worked together in harmony to give us a wonderfully coherent vision of  what the Faith is, and of a Latin-Orthodox common understanding on what a church ought to be like.

   However, about fifty years later, the breath-takingly beautiful cathedral of Amiens was built.   In the Byzantine style, the designers use icons to portray the union of heaven and earth brought about by the Incarnation and celebrated in the Mass; while,in Amiens, they used light to illustrate the same thing in a way that must have been extremely startling at the time the cathedral was built.   Advances in technology allowed them to build huge windows; and this was accompanied by a theology of light that Orthodox commentators often say the West didn't have.   The good news is the spiritual depth shown in this style: the bad news is that we now had an architectural style different from that of the Orthodox in a context where, to an ever growing extent, neither side would tolerate differences in the other.

 What was the root cause of the split that turned even legitimate differences, even ones that had caused no problems in the first centuries, into divisive evidence of heresy?  The Orthodox say it was papal power; but I believe papal power and the shape it took, and the hostility shown to it  in the East, were a consequence of something else, not a cause. 

I believe that the root cause, the cause behind all other causes, was what happened after the conversion of Constantine.   As an introduction to the problem, listen to "Constantine without Eusebius" in which the American Orthodox historian and theologian, Richard Schneider, looks at the real Constantine behind the propaganda.

The Church elevated the newly converted Emperor and his successors to a role they could not fulfil and projected onto them a sanctity they did not have.   This is what the Orthodox Information Centre says of the Byzantine emperors:
The ideology that had prevailed since Constantine (4th century) and Justinian I (6th century)—according to which there was to be only one universal Christian society, the oikoumene, led jointly by the empire and the church—was still the ideology of the Byzantine emperors. At the heart of the Christian polity of Byzantium was the Emperor, who was no ordinary ruler, but God's representative on earth. If Byzantium was an icon of the heavenly Jerusalem, then the earthly monarchy of the Emperor was an image or icon of the monarchy of God in heaven; in church people prostrated themselves before the icon of Christ, and in the palace before God's living icon - the Emperor. The labyrinthine palace, the Court with its elaborate ceremonial, the throne room where mechanical lions roared and musical birds sang: these things were designed to make clear the Emperor's status as vicegerent of God. 'By such means,' wrote the Emperor Constantine Vll Porphyrogenitus, 'we figure forth the harmonious movement of God the Creator around this universe, while the imperial power is preserved in proportion and order.'' The Emperor had a special place in the Church's worship: he could not of course celebrate the Eucharist, but he received communion within the sanctuary 'as priests do'- taking the consecrated bread in his hands and drinking from the chalice, instead of being given the sacrament in a spoon - and he also preached sermons and on certain feasts censed the altar. The vestments which Orthodox bishops now wear are the vestments once worn by the Emperor in church.
This ideal of "only one universal Christian society, the oikoumene, led jointly by the empire and the church", had little relationship to world-wide political realities and was a recipe for schism.   

Firstly, there were the "Assyrians" who belonged to the Persian Empire that was often at odds with Byzantium.  They were not invited to the ecumenical council of Ephesus because the emperor only invited bishops within the Empire, but they were expected to accept the formula of that council, Greek words, when their own language was Aramaic, the language of Christ.  On refusing to do so, they became Nestorian heretics.

Then there were those in Egypt and the part of Syria that was under the Byzantine yoke who wanted independence from Byzantium.  Theology and politics were so mixed up that they became Monophysite heretics.   After all, if the Council of Chalcedon was called and sustained by imperial authority, then why should churches that rejected that authority obey its decrees and change the language they normally used when talking about the Incarnation?   Those who accepted the definition of Chalcedon were called "Melkites" or "king's men", a political title if ever there was one.   Of course, if they had been westerners, they would have had no difficulty, because Pope St Leo and company believed the legitimacy of the council was based on papal authority derived from St Peter, even if the emperor helped the Church by summoning the bishops.   Yes, the teaching of Pope St Leo on the papacy wasn't all that different from Vatican I.

The retreat from western Europe of the Roman army happened quite early on in the Christian empire and forms the context for the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table in Britain.   While Justinian I (527 - 565) reconquered much of the Western Empire from the barbarians, and Rome itself was nominally under Byzantine authority for the next two hundred years, it was utterly beyond the resources of the Empire to fufil even the basic functions of the state.   It could neither defend the borders, nor could it keep order within them.   Western Europe descended into chaos.  The only bastion against chaos was the Roman Church.  Western Europe learned that it could not look to Byzantium for anything: the Byzantine solution to Church-State relations simply didn't work in the West. Thus the crowning of Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800, or something like it, was inevitable.  However, even that failed to unite the various Christian nations under one banner; and separate Christian countries threatened to divide the Church. The Church responded by ever growing centralisation under St Peter.

 The Orthodox could only hold on to the unrealistic myth of "one universal Christian society, the oikoumene, led jointly by the empire and the church" by calling in question the orthodoxy of western Catholicism, which they did with gusto: a recipe for schism.

I wish I could end there.   I could look across the divide and exclaim, "It was all your fault"; but that would be unfair; and we have been unfair to each other for a thousand years.   Let us look now at the damage done by the ghost of Constantine on the western, Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church did not reject the notion of a world-wide Christian society: the existence of such a society was believed in by both East and West; but  it identified this world-wide Christian society with itself: the disunity and even chaos that reigned in western civil society made it impossible to look to the emperor or any other civil authority to hold it together; though the Frankish emperors wanted to claim such authority - what emperor, given the chance, wouldn't; which is why the emperors wanted the pope to make the "filioque" a necessary part of the Creed, to catch the Byzantine emperor on the wrong foot, turn him into a heretic, and thus forfeit his position as God's representative on earth.   The Popes, however, without denying that the Church is the body of Christ centred on the Eucharist, increasingly saw the Church as the universal Christian society, held together by papal jurisdiction; and the popes became the   "image or icon of the monarchy of God in heaven".   Emperors, kings and peoples only belonged to that society by belonging to the Church and accepting the pope in this position: a recipe for schism, at least, when applied to the East.

However, it is difficult to see how the popes could have acted otherwise.   There were times when the very existence of western Christian civilisation rested on their shoulders, while raising the standards of Christian life entailed a constant intervention. The Church was one, but the states were many, even after the crowning of Charlemagne; and they were often at war with one another. Worse, each local ruler saw himself as heir to the now defunct Roman Empire and wanted to exercise control over his part of the Church.   Dioceses queued up to have their bishops appointed by Rome: anything was better than leaving the appointment to the local king or baron.     Worldly bishops and monasteries used the chaos to escape their obligations.Papal authority had to transcend these divisions.   This centralisation wasn't just the work of power-hungry popes.   Some were power hungry, but some were saints: it was the only solution for Western Christianity.   It was a battle between ordered Christian society and tribal chaos.   There was no real alternative.

In the East, Christendom was made up  of Church and State acting in harmony, which was all very well until Islam conquered Constantinople.   Without an emperor, Orthodoxy lost the ability to act in a coordinated way, and, lacking any kind of centre, it eventually divided itself up into a number of regional patriarchates, some of which act towards each other as though they were sovereign states and jostle for position and influence in the Orthodox world.   This is sometimes accompanied by a nationalism which borders on xenophobia.   It is strange that a church which quite rightly accuses Catholicism of forgetting the strong dimension of eschatology in the Mass and in Christian life in general should have so mixed up Orthodoxy and Hellenism or Orthodoxy and Pan-Slavism.   The Early Fathers, like the writer of the Letter to Diognetus, believed that, although Christians live on the earth, they are citizens of heaven; and they believed that such a strong connection between religion and nationality is a characteristic of the old pagan religions and is contradicted by Christianity.  

 Because there is no way that these "autocephalous" churches can coordinate, where there is immigration from various Orthodox countries to a place outside their canonical boundaries, there is a plethora of bishops, each  caring for his own ethnic flock, each covering the same territory. This is recognised as a weakness in America, and efforts are being made to integrate the different ethnic churches into a single American church.   Some even believe that the situation shows the need for some kind of universal primate.

There is no universal pattern of how an autocephalous church is organised because each has its own history which is reflected in the relationships between the component dioceses.   In Greece, the dioceses are held together in a rather loose way, while the Russian Orthodox Church is highly centralised.   Neither is there a universally accepted theology of primacy apart from "Orthodoxy is right and Rome is wrong."

In the West, where the Church was seen as a "universal Christian society" unified under the jurisdiction of the pope, this did not imply a denial of what we now call eucharistic ecclesiology.   Indeed, St Peter Damian, one of the main architects of the reformed papacy, had a wonderful understanding of the Church which was was centred on the Eucharist.   His concern was Church reform and the only practical way of bringing it about, through a reinforced papal authority.   

Nevertheless, since Law fascinated people at that time, and lawyers were held in as high esteem as scientists nowadays, legalistic thinking gradually transformed almost all aspects of Christian understanding, so that the purpose of the Incarnation was to allow Christ to make adequate satisfaction on the Cross to the feudal Lord in the sky.   Hell and Purgatory became two different classes of prison to which you were sent according to the gravity of   sins committed.  Other understandings of salvation were not denied, especially if they were in the Church Fathers; but they didn't speak to these generations with the same force, except in certain theologians and mystics.   The prayer life of the Church was always much wider and deeper than the explanations of theologians.

I
In this climate, the western Church lost the distinction between authority as exercised by the state, an authority backed by force, and authority in the Church which is backed by a certain kind of ecclesial love.   This love is the fruit of the Eucharist and is the concrete evidence of the Presence of the Holy Spirit.   As St Ignatius of Antioch wrote: the Roman Church presides in love.   The purpose of this presiding is to make the world-wide communion in love that springs from the Eucharist into a working force for the good of the world and for its own members.   However, without ecclesial love, it ceases to function.  Just as the Byzantine emperor lacked authority in the West because he lacked force, so papal authority and any other kind of church authority cannot function when ecclesial love is missing. 

  East and West ceased to recognise each other because they ceased to love one another.   Only lack of love made it possible to look at one another and say, "I have no need of you."   Each interpreted what it saw in the other from its own very different experience.   The Orthodox saw pride in the papal claims, while the Catholic Church saw survival.   The West saw in Orthodox rejection of papal claims, not Christian churches rejecting a power that was simply irrelevant to the very different needs of the Orthodox East, but the corrupt self-interest of the bishops and monasteries in the West who resisted the movement of very necessary reform coming out of Rome.  Neither could see the other from its own point of view.   

It was made worse by the enmity between the two empires.   The Western Empire adopted as a weapon the "Filioque" clause, thus turning an awkward difference with which the two sides had managed to live over the centuries into a bone of contention.   Succesive popes resisted pressure to put the "filioque" in the Creed, but eventually gave in when schism seemed certain and when he wanted help from the emperor.   It was a thoroughly bad move; not a sign of papal strength but of papal weakness, and I believe that the "filioque" will have to be removed in any reunion, not for doctrinal reasons but for liturgical ones.  In the Creed we celebrate our common faith.   "Filioque" cannot be translated into Greek without distorting its meaning: it must go.

  • What are the signs that we may have begun the long way back to reunion?   There is the new context in which we live.   We no longer live in two totally different kinds of society which cause us to become more and more different: the world has become a much smaller place, and people are sharing their lives across the globe.
  • In this world we have a common enemy, secularism, which is becoming less and less tolerant all the time.  Patriarch Kiril of Moscow has suggested that we leave our doctrinal differences to one side and concentrate on combining to bear witness to Christian Truth in a secular world and to work together in the re-evangelisation of Europe.   Pope Benedict XVI was in agreement, and cooperation has already started. Only a little time back, Catholic and Orthodox joined together in Paris to do a campaign of street evangelisation to mark the Year of Faith.  By cooperating together we will learn to trust and love each other; and by loving each other we will be eventually able to say the Creed together with one mind, as the Divine Liturgy tells us.   How terrible would it be if the theologians were to come to an agreement before we come to love one another: such an agreement would only lead to more divisions.  It has happened before.
  • We now have an agreed model of the Church to form the context for our discussions on our agreements and differences.   Both sides accept a eucharistic ecclesiology, an understanding of the Church based on a common understanding of the Eucharist, not in abstract, but as a concrete assembly.   There is complete agreement on the Eucharist, and this agreement forms the basis for any future agreement on the nature of te Church.   However, I know from the internet, that many Orthodox are either unaware of this agreement, or think it is more Orthodox to repeat the arguments from the past as though they still have validity.  The good news is that they don't: scholarship has left such arguments like those over the epiclesis versus the words of institution far behind.
  • We often now use the same words and mean the same thing.   Thanks to the friendship between the exiled Russian theologians in Paris and their Catholic counterparts before and during Vatican II, Orthodox concepts like theosis and synergy have entered the mainstream of Catholic theology, and an exchange of ideas is becoming more and more common.
Let us now turn our attention to a wonderful monument to past East - West cooperation.   May it inspire us to support more cooperation in the future. Here is an article from 2006 which contains the description of a visit to Monreale by the great liturgist Fr Romano Guardini. 

ROMA, April 12, 2006 – In Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome, Benedict XVI is celebrating his first Holy Week as pope. Meanwhile, in another ancient and grandiose basilica, that of Monreale in Sicily, the Paschal rites find a “guide” very close to him in point of view: Romano Guardini, the German theologian from whom the young Joseph Ratzinger learned the most in the area of liturgy. 

Guardini visited the basilica of Monreale in 1929, and told the story in his “Voyage in Sicily.” 


The present archbishop of Monreale, Cataldo Naro, took up the original German version of Guardini’s account, translated it, and provided it for the faithful within a pastoral letter with the title “Let Us Love Our Church.” It is like a guide for today’s liturgical celebrations. 

In the text, the great German theologian wrote of all his amazement at the beauty of the Monreale basilica and the splendor of its mosaics. 

But above all, he wrote of how impressed he was with the faithful who attended the rites, and their “living-in-the-gaze,” with the “compenetration” of these people and the figures in the mosaics, which draw life and movement from the assembly. 

“It seemed to him,” archbishop Naro notes in his pastoral letter, “that those people celebrated the liturgy in an exemplary way: through vision.” 

The basilica of Monreale, a masterpiece of twelfth century Norman art, has its walls completely covered with gold-enameled mosaics depicting the stories of the Old and New Testaments, angels and saints, prophets and apostles, bishops and kings, and the Christ “Pantocrator,” ruler of all, who from the apse enfolds the Christian people in his light, his gaze, his power. 

Here follows a translation of Guardini’s account of his visit to Monreale, excerpted from his “Reise nach Sizilien [Voyage in Sicily]”. 

The German original is in Romano Guardini, “Spiegel und Gleichnis. Bilder und Gedanken [Mirror and Parable: Images and Thoughts]”, Grünewald-Schöningh, Mainz-Paderbon, 1990, pp. 158-161. 


“Then it became clear to me what the foundation of real liturgical piety is...” 

by Romano Guardini 


Today I saw something grandiose: Monreale. I am full of gratitude for its existence. The day was rainy. When we arrived there – it was Holy Thursday – the solemn Mass had proceeded beyond the consecration. For the blessing of the holy oils, the archbishop was seated beneath the triumphal arch of the choir. The ample space was crowded. Everywhere people were sitting in their places, silently watching. 

What should I say about the splendor of this place? At first, the visitor’s glance sees a basilica of harmonious proportions. Then it perceives a movement within its structure, which is enriched with something new, a desire for transcendence that moves through it to the point of passing beyond it; but all of this culminates in that splendid luminosity. 

So, a brief historical moment. It did not last long, but was supplanted by something else entirely. But this moment, although brief, was of an ineffable beauty. 

There was gold all over the walls. Figures rose above figures, in all of the vaults and in all of the arches. They stood out from the golden background as though from a star-studded sky. Everywhere radiant colors were swimming in the gold. 

Yet the light was attenuated. The gold slept, and all the colors slept. They could be seen there, waiting. And what their splendor would be like if it shone forth! Only here and there did a border gleam, and an aura of muted light trailed along the blue mantle of the figure of Christ in the apse. 

When they brought the holy oils to the sanctuary, and the procession, accompanied by the insistent melody of an ancient hymn, wound through that throng of figures, the basilica sprang back to life. 

Its forms began to move. Responding to the solemn procession and the movement of vestments and colors along the walls and through the arches, the spaces began to move. The spaces came forward to meet the listening ear and the eye rapt in contemplation. 

The crowd sat and watched. The women were wearing veils. The colors of their garments and shawls were waiting for the sun to make them shine again. The men’s faces were distinguished and handsome. Almost no one was reading. All were living in the gaze, all engaged in contemplation. 

Then it it became clear to me what the foundation of real liturgical piety is: the capacity to find the “sacred” within the image and its dynamism. 

* * *

Monreale, Holy Saturday. When we arrived, the sacred ceremony had come to the blessing of the Paschal candle. Immediately afterward, the deacon solemnly advanced along the principal nave, bearing the Lumen Christi. 

The Exultet was sung in front of the main altar. The bishop was seated to the right of the altar, on an elevated throne made of stone, where he sat listening. After the Exultet came the readings from the prophets, and I rediscovered the sublime significance of those mosaic images. 
St Thomas of Canterbury
Then there was the blessing of the baptismal water in the middle of the church. All the assistants were seated around the font, with the bishop in the center and the people standing around them. The babies were brought forward – one could see the emotion and pride in their parents – and the bishop baptized them. 

Everything was so familiar. The people’s conduct was simultaneously detached and devout, and when anyone spoke to another person standing nearby, it was not a disturbance. And so the sacred ceremony continued on its way. It moved through almost every part of that great church: now it took place in the choir, now in the nave, now under the triumphal arch. The spaciousness and majesty of the place embraced every movement and every figure, commingling them and uniting them together. 

Every now and then a ray of sunlight pierced through the vault, and a golden smile spread across the space above. And anywhere a subdued color lay in wait on a vestment or veil, it was reawakened by the gold that spread to every corner, revealed in its true power and caught up in an harmonious and intricate design that filled the heart with happiness. 

The most beautiful thing was the people. The women with their veils, the men with their cloaks around their shoulders. Everywhere could be seen distinguished faces and a serene bearing. Almost no one was reading, almost no one stooped over in private prayer. Everyone was watching. 

The sacred ceremony lasted for more than four hours, but the participation was always lively. There are different means of prayerful participation. One is realized by listening, speaking, gesturing. But the other takes place through watching. The first way is a good one, and we northern Europeans know no other. But we have lost something that was still there at Monreale: the capacity for living-in-the-gaze, for resting in the act of seeing, for welcoming the sacred in the form and event, by contemplating them. 

I was about to leave, when suddenly I found all of those eyes turned toward me. Almost frightened, I looked away, as if I were embarrassed at peering into those eyes that had been gazing upon the altar. 

by Isaac Scott Cairns (please click)


THE LATEST ON THE SHROUD OF TURIN
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FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD
parts nine and ten
out of fourteen
on a book on the sacraments
with the same name by Fr A. Schmemann

Monday, 29 April 2013

THE SPELL OF POPE FRANCIS by Sandro Magister

His popularity is to a large extent due to the artfulness with which he speaks. Everything is forgiven him, even when he says things that if said by others would be hammered with criticism. But the first protests are beginning to appear.

ROME, April 29, 2013 – A stir has been made, in the media by the critical remark that Pope Francis reserved for the IOR, the Institute for Works of Religion, the controversial Vatican “bank,” in the homily for his morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae on Wednesday, April 24:

"When the Church wants to throw its weight around and sets up organizations, and sets up offices and becomes a bit bureaucratic, the Church loses its principal substance and runs the risk of turning itself into an NGO. And the Church is not an NGO. It is a love story. . . But there are those guys at the IOR. . . Excuse me, eh?. . . Everything is necessary, the offices are necessary. . . okay, fine! But they are necessary up to a certain point: as an aid to this love story. But when the organization takes the top spot, love steps down and the Church, poor thing, becomes an NGO. And this is not the way.”

Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio delivers these morning homilies completely off-the-cuff. And the passage reproduced above is the literal transcription provided a few hours afterward by Vatican Radio.

But that same day, in reporting on the same homily in another way, "L'Osservatore Romano" left out the aside: “But there are those guys at the IOR. . . Excuse me, eh?”

This disparity between the radio and the newspaper of the Holy See is an indication of the uncertainty that still reigns at the Vatican on what kind of media treatment to give the weekday homilies of the pope, the ones that he delivers at the 7 a.m. Mass, in the chapel of the residence where he is living.

To these Masses are admitted a selection of the public, different each morning. And among those present on April 24 a fair number were employees of the IOR.

These homilies of the pope are recorded in their entirety. But they do not undergo the procedure for his official discourses, when it comes to the parts improvised off-the-cuff.

That is, they are not transcribed from the audio recording, cleaned up in thought and expression, then submitted to the pope and finally made public in the approved text.

The complete texts of the weekday homilies of pope Bergoglio remain secret. Only two partial summaries of it are provided, by Vatican Radio and by "L'Osservatore Romano," redacted independently of one another and therefore with a greater or lesser extent of word-for-word citations.

It is not known whether this practice - aimed both at safeguarding the pope's freedom of speech and at defending it from the risks of improvisation - will be maintained or modified.

The fact is that what becomes known of these semipublic homilies is by now an important part of the oratory typical of Pope Francis.

*

It is a concise, simple, conversational oratory, tethered to words or images of immediate communicative impact.

For example:

- the image of “God spray,” used by Pope Francis on April 18 to warn against the idea of an impersonal God “that is a bit everywhere but one does not know what it may be”;

- or the image of “babysitter Church,” used on April 17 to stigmatize a Church that only “takes care of children to put them to sleep,” instead of acting as a mother with her children;

- or the formula “satellite Christians,” used on April 22 to brand those Christians who allow their conduct to be dictated by “common sense” and by “worldly prudence,” instead of by Jesus. 

Stefania Falasca, an old friend of Bergoglio - who telephoned her on the evening of his election - asked him after one morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae: "Father, but how do these expressions come to you?”

“A simple smile was his reply.” In Falasca's judgment, the use of such expressions on the part of the pope “in literary terms is called 'pastiche,' which is precisely the juxtaposition of words of different levels or different registers with expressive effect. The 'pastiche' style is today a typical feature of communication on the web and of postmodern language. This is therefore a matter of linguistic associations unprecedented in the history of the Petrine magisterium.”

In an April 23 editorial in the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, "Avvenire," Falasca compared the oratory of Pope Francis to the "sermo humilis" theorized by St. Augustine.

Pope Bergoglio is also introducing this style into his official homilies and discourses. For example, in the homily for the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday, in St. Peter's Basilica, he made a very striking exhortation to the pastors of the Church, bishops and priests, to take on “the odor of the sheep.”

Another typical feature of his preaching is interacting with the crowd, getting it to respond in chorus. He did so for the first time and repeatedly at the “Regina Coeli" of Sunday, April 21, for example when he said: “Thank you very much for the greeting, but you should also greet Jesus. Yell 'Jesus' loud!" And the cry of "Jesus" in fact went up from St. Peter's Square.

*

The popularity of Pope Francis is due to a large extent this style of preaching and to the easy, widespread success of the concepts on which he insists the most - mercy, forgiveness, the poor, the “peripheries” - seen reflected in his actions and in his own person.

It is a popularity that acts as a screen for the other more inconvenient things that he does not neglect to say - for example, his frequent references to the devil - and that if said by others would unleash criticism, while for him they are forgiven.

In effect, the media have so far covered up with indulgent silence not only the references of the current pope to the devil, but also a whole series of other pronouncements on points of doctrine as controversial as they are essential.

On April 12, for example, speaking to the pontifical biblical commission, Pope Francis reiterated that “the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures cannot be solely an individual scholarly effort, but must always be compared with, inserted within, and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church.” And therefore “this entails the insufficiency of any interpretation that is subjective or simply limited to an analysis incapable of accommodating within itself that overarching sense which over the course of the centuries has constituted the tradition of the whole people of God.”

This salvo of the pope against the forms of exegesis prevalent also in the Catholic camp went practically unnoticed, amid the general silence of the media.

On April 19, in his morning homily, he lashed out against the “great ideologists” who want to interpret Jesus in a purely human vein. He called them “intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness. And of beauty we will not speak, because they do not understand anything.”

In this case as well, silence.

On April 22, in another morning homily, he said forcefully that Jesus is “the only gate” for entering into the Kingdom of God and “all the other paths are deceptive, they are not true, they are false.”

With this he therefore reiterated that indispensable truth of the Catholic faith which recognizes in Jesus Christ the only savior of all. But when in August of 2000 John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger published precisely on this the declaration “Dominus Iesus," they were bitterly contested from inside and outside of the Church. While now that Pope Francis has said the same thing, everybody quiet.

On April 23, the feast of St. George, in the homily of the Mass with the cardinals in the Pauline Chapel, he said that “the Christian identity is a belonging to the Church, because to find Jesus outside of the Church is not possible.” 

And this time as well, silence. And yet the thesis according to which “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus," which he has reaffirmed, is almost always a herald of polemics. . .

*

This benevolence of the media toward Pope Francis is one of the features that characterize the beginning of this pontificate.

The gentleness with which he is able to speak even the most uncomfortable truths facilitates this benevolence. But it is easy to predict that sooner or later it will cool down and give way to a reappearance of criticism.

The first warning came after pope Bergoglio, on April 15, confirmed the strict approach of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith in dealing with the case of the sisters of the United States represented by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The protests that were immediately raised by these sisters and by the “liberal” currents of Catholicism, not only American, resounded as the beginning of the breaking of a spell.


HIS HOMILY ON APRIL 28th

For a community open 
to the values of the Holy Spirit

There are those who face suffering while keeping alive the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit – as for example we see with  persecuted Christians in many parts of the world – and there are those who instead “use money to buy favour” and to plea bargain with, or they use “slander to deface or to seek the help of worldly powers”. Some even go so far as to mock those who seek to live out their own suffering in Christian joy. This was subject matter of Pope Francis' homily Saturday morning, 27 April, at mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Among the concelebrants were Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, and Bishop  Dražen Kutleša of  Poreč and  Pula, Croatia. Participating in the mass were, among others, staff of the Vatican Post Office and a group of volunteers of the paediatric dispensary Santa Marta in Vaticano.

About those who persecute in the way mentioned above, the Holy Father, noting the lack of love in their communities, wondered whether these people “have perhaps  forgotten their mothers' caresses  when they were little. These communities do not know how to caress; they know duty, productivity, how to withdraw into apparent observation. Jesus said to them: 'You are like a tomb, a beautiful, white tomb but nothing more'. 

Let us think  today of the Church, so beautiful. This Church that goes forward. Let us think of the many brothers who suffer for this freedom of the Holy Spirit and suffer persecution, now, in many places. But these brothers, in suffering, are full of joy and of the Holy Spirit. These brothers, these open communities, missionaries, pray to Jesus because they know that what he said is true and what we have heard now: 'Whatever  you ask of me in my name I will do'. Jesus is the prayer

Closed communities pray to the powers of the earth to help them. And that is not a good path. Let us look to Jesus who send us to evangelize, to proclaim his name with joy, filled with joy. Let's have no fear of the joy of the Holy Spirit. And never, never let us involve ourselves in things that, in the long run, bring us to become closed in ourselves. In this closedness, there is neither the fruit nor the freedom of the Holy Spirit”.

April 28, 2013




FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD
A Commentary on a book by Fr Alexander Schmemann with the same title.
(Orth)


Sunday, 28 April 2013

SUNDAY, APRIL 28th: ORTHODOX PALM SUNDAY; LATIN 5th SUNDAY OF EASTER

ORTHODOX PALM SUNDAY

The week following the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt is called Palm or Branch Week. At the Tuesday services of this week the Church recalls that Jesus’ friend Lazarus has died and that the Lord is going to raise him from the dead (Jn 11). As the days continue toward Saturday, the Church, in its hymns and verses, continues to follow Christ towards Bethany to the tomb of Lazarus. On Friday evening, the eve of the celebration of the Resurrection of Lazarus, the “great and saving forty days” of Great Lent are formally brought to an end:

Having accomplished the forty days for the benefit of our souls, we pray to Thee, O Lover of Man, that we may see the holy week of Thy passion, that in it we may glorify Thy greatness and Thine unspeakable plan of salvation for our sake. ...(Vesper Hymn)



Lazarus Saturday is a paschal celebration. It is the only time in the entire Church Year that the resurrectional service of Sunday is celebrated on another day. At the liturgy of Lazarus Saturday, the Church glorifies Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life” who, by raising Lazarus, has confirmed the universal resurrection of mankind even before his own suffering and death.

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the branches of victory, we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! (Troparion).

Christ —the Joy, the Truth and the Light of All, the Life of the world and its Resurrection—has appeared in his goodness to those on earth. He has become the Image of our Resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all (Kontakion).

At the Divine Liturgy of Lazarus Saturday the baptismal verse from Galatians: As many as have been baptizedl into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3:27) replaces the Thrice-holy Hymn thus indicating the resurrectional character of the celebration, and the fact that Lazarus Saturday was once among the few great baptismal days in the Orthodox Church Year. Because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, Christ was hailed by the masses as the long-expected Messiah-King of Israel. Thus, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, he entered Jenrsalem, the City of the King, riding on the colt of an ass (Zech 9:9; Jn 12:12). The crowds greeted him with brancfies in their hands and called out to him with shouts of praise: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! The Son of David! The King of Israel! Because of this glorification by the people, the priests and scribes were finally driven “to destroy him, to put him to death” (Lk 19:47; Jn 11:53, 12:10).



The feast of Christ’s triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, is one of the twelve major feasts of the Church. The services of this Sunday follow directly from those of Lazarus Saturday. The church building continues to be Vested in resurrectional splendor, filled with hymns which continually repeat the Hosanna offered to Christ as the Messiah-King who comes in the name of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

The main troparion of Palm Sunday is the same one sung on Lazarus Saturday. It is sung at all of the services, and is used at the Divine Liturgy as the third antiphon which follows the other special psalm verses which are sung as the liturgical antiphons in the place of those normally used. The second troparion of the feast, as well as the kontakion and the other verses and hymns, all continue to glorilfy Christ s triumphal manifestation “six days before the Passover” when he will give himself at the Supper and on the Cross for the life of the world.

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together. Let us all take up Thy cross and say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! (First Verse of Vespers).

hen we were buried with Thee in baptism, O Christ God, we were made worthy of eternal life by Thy resurrection. Now we praise Thee and sing: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! (Second Troparion).

Sitting on Thy throne in heaven, and carried on a foal on earth, O Christ God, accept the praise of angels and the songs of children who sing: BIessed is he who comes to recall Adam! (Kontakion).

At the vigil of the feast of Palm Sunday the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah-King are read together with the Cospel accounts of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. At Matins branches are blessed which the people carry throughout the celebration as the sign of their own glorification of Jesus as Saviour and King. These branches are usually palms, or, in the Slavic churches, pussy willows which came to be customary because of their availability and their early blossoming in the springtime.

As the people carry their branches and sing their songs to the Lord on Palm Sunday, they are judged together with the Jerusalem crowd. For it was the very same voices which cried Hosanna to Christ, which, a few days later, cried Crucify him! Thus in the liturgy of the Church the lives of men continue to be judged as they hail Christ with the “branches of victory” and enter together with him into the days of his “voluntary passion.”




LATIN CATHOLIC 5th SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
Probing a Mystery of the Fourth Gospel 
(6936) Saturday Book Pick: 'Eucharist and Covenant in John’s Last Supper Account' by JOSEPH PRONECHEN 07/21/2012 

 In the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke specifically treat the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Of their combined 46 verses on the Last Supper, 10 are specifically about the institution of the Eucharist. Scholars over the centuries have wondered why John the Evangelist never mentions the institution of the Eucharist, even though his Last Supper account totals five chapters and seven verses. He spends much of Chapter 6 previewing the Eucharist.

 But John does treat it, explains Msgr. Anthony La Femina in his book Eucharist and Covenant in John’s Last Supper Account. The book is the culmination of Msgr. La Femina’s 35 years of research and prayer to unravel what has left people puzzled for so long.

 Considering that John makes Christ’s washing the feet of the Apostles the central action, something the Synoptics don’t even mention, and remembering John is also known as “the Theologian,” Msgr. La Femina succinctly states that the footwashing is an analogical presentation of the Eucharist.

 Since John “often teaches points of revelation in his Gospel through analogy,” Msgr. La Femina reasons that John “uses the tool of analogy to convey truths about the Eucharist that are not evident in the other Last Supper accounts.” So if the footwashing is “truly an analogical figure of the Eucharist, then John is referring expressly but implicitly to the Eucharist when speaking of the foot washing.” 

For proof, the author, a canonist and theologian who for decades served on the staff of the Pontifical Council for the Family, examines the footwashing in every aspect, from its literal understanding to what he shows as a mysterious action. Msgr. La Femina goes through Biblical accounts, meanings and implications of Hebrew and Greek words and brings in scholarly works that attempt to solve the dilemma but are incomplete. But Msgr. La Femina charts and details the analogy, showing that the footwashing episode in John includes identical circumstances, attributes and effects that the Eucharist possesses in the Synoptic and Pauline accounts, including the command to repeat the action, a sign of the death of Jesus and covenantal action. 

Leaving nothing unexamined, the author deals with the physical and theological settings, the extremely consequential position of events and the sequence of wording. Msgr. La Femina also elucidates how John’s Last Supper account “reports on the nature of the Eucharistic Covenant established at the Last Supper.” He details the makeup and terms of a covenant within a defined format and shows the ancient covenant traditions all being used and fulfilled in the Last Supper account, from the Mosaic Covenant to both the Near Eastern Royal Investiture covenant and traditions and the Vassal treaty. These most important covenant forms, found in the Old Testament and recognizable to people of Jesus’ time, play a major role in John’s Last Supper account. 

The author spends several chapters to explain the covenants and all their specific and obligatory clauses in minute detail, and shows how each of the many sections relates to, finds the ultimate fulfillment in and reveals Jesus the Messiah throughout the Last Supper account. For instance, one of the obligatory clauses the Ancient Near East tradition used to make the distinction between covenant and contract was the “Divine Witness Clause.” The binding force of the covenant involved the deity as witness who was then the covenant’s guarantor and avenger. In the Last Supper account, the author finds this clause in not only the way it named the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, as the covenant witness (in such verses as John 14:16, 15:20, and 16:8), but how the disciples are also named as witnesses (John 15:27). “The Paraclete is called to witness to the Royal Investiture Covenant by which God establishes the Son of man as Messiah of the New Israel,” writes the author.

 It’s very deep going — we become familiar with obscure yet indispensible words like “suzerain” — yet a “must” in order to see what John is telling us. Even some of the words Jesus uses, the author informs us, are typical “treaty” vocabulary. Msgr. La Femina makes the connections with copious references to the actions and words of the several chapters of John’s Last Supper Account. 

A short review can’t do justice to the meticulous details or the connections made among them. Nor can a single reading. One can’t breeze through this book. The depth of thought means it will take more than one reading to grasp the insights. In several places the reader has to stop to think about and absorb a sentence or paragraph at a time. Some sections, like a long one explaining the analogy of the vine and branches, with Jesus as the true vine, are in themselves priceless: They give new insights into the continuity between th­­e Old Testament covenant with ancient Israel and the New Testament’s Christian covenant. 

In his exceptional findings, Msgr. La Femina turns a spotlight on how the position of the introduction to the Commandment of Love specifies its special relationship to the Eucharist. “Besides being apostolic, the New Commandment is also essentially Eucharistic,” he clarifies. “While this commandment supposes the Christian covenant relationship with the Father in the life and activity of his Son, it also supposes that union with Jesus’ life and activity be specifically within the Eucharistic sacrifice.” 

The book has a long foreword by Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and two icons of the Last Supper account, plus a pictorial summary of two bonus icons, all by Msgr. La Femina — another of his many talents. Overall, this is a groundbreaking work.

 Joseph Pronechen is the Register’s staff writer.

EUCHARIST AND COVENANT IN JOHN’S LAST SUPPER ACCOUNT
By Msgr. Anthony La Femina
New Hope Publications, 2011
171 pages, $19.95
To order: NewHope-Ky.org
(270) 325-3061





Friday, 26 April 2013

APRIL 23rd : OUR LADY OF MONTSERRAT: & THE ROSARY IN THE EASTERN ORTHODOX TRADITION



 On the mountain named Montserrat, near Barcelona, in the Catalonia region of Spain, a church now contains a 'miracle- working' statue of the Madonna and Child known as La Moreneta, that is: the dark little one.

Legend relates that the miraculous image was first known as La Jerosolimitana (the native of Jerusalem), since it is believed to have been carved in that city during the early days of the church.

    Another account, seemingly well-attested, indicates that the image was moved to Montserrat in 718, to avoid the danger posed by invading Saracens.  The image disappears from the historical record at this point, to reappear in a legend holding that shepherds found the lost statue under supernatural guidance in 890:

While tending their flocks that night the shepherds were amazed to see lights and to hear singing coming from the mountain.  When this was repeated, the shepherds reported the situation to their priest, who investigated.  When the priest also heard the singing and saw the mysterious lights, he informed the Bishop, and he also witnessed the phenomenon.  The statue of Our Lady was discovered in a cave and was brought out and placed in a small church that was soon erected.

    However, the statue presently kept at the Montserrat shrine [at left] appears to have been introduced in the twelfth or thirteenth century.  Its Romanesque style is consistent with this estimate.  Beyond general style, the genre of the statue is certainly that of an 'enthroned virgin', typical of the earliest icons of Mary.  


THE ROSARY OF OUR LADY
in a Russian Orthodox tradition

Praying in the Balkans

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine, an Orthodox Christian -- husband, father, and physician serving in the U.S. military in the Balkans -- shared with me his powerful experience of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary during this Great Lent. (Orthodox Pascha falls on May 5th this year. Orthodox Christians are, therefore, still in the compunctionate labours of Great Lent.) Yes, some Orthodox Christians do pray a version of the Holy Rosary of the Mother of God. One form of the Holy Rosary, promoted by none other than Saint Seraphim of Sarov, incorporates fifteen mysteries; each mystery being meditated during ten Angelic Salutations.

Father Zosima, a spiritual son of Saint Seraphim, is quoted as having said:

I forgot to give you a piece of advice vital for salvation. Say the O Hail, Mother of God and Virgin one hundred and fifty times, and this prayer will lead you on the way to salvation. This rule was given by the Mother of God herself in about the eighth century, and at one time all Christians fulfilled it. We Orthodox have forgotten about it, and St. Seraphim has reminded me of this Rule. In my hands I have a hand-written book from the cell of St. Seraphim, containing a description of the many miracles which took place through praying to the Mother of God and especially through saying one hundred and fifty times the O Hail, Mother of God and Virgin. If, being unaccustomed to it, it is difficult to master one hundred and fifty repetitions daily, say it fifty times at first. After every ten repetitions say the Our Father once and Open unto us the doors of thy loving-kindness. Whomever he spoke to about this miracle-working Rule remained grateful to him.

A Healing Prayer

Make no mistake about it: the Holy Rosary is a prayer that heals the deepest wounds and traumas. In the Rosary, the Mother of God presents us to Christ, the Physician of our souls and bodies, who touches us through the grace of His mysteries. In the Rosary, Christ, the Physician of our souls and bodies presents us to the Mother of God; He entrusts us to her maternal Heart. Certain deliverances from habitual sin, and certain healings come only through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Why? Simply because it pleases God that it should be so.

Orthodox Pascha and the Month of May

As Orthodox Christians enter into the radiant brightness of Pascha, Western Christians will be entering into Mary's month, the month of Mary. What better time to take up our beads and, with Mary, enter into the healing, illuminating, and deifying mysteries of Christ?

Some Orthodox Christians use the following form in praying the Rosary:

Opening
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Father....

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have Mercy on Us. (3x)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Meditation 1- The Birth of the Theotokos
("Let us remember the birth of the Mother of God. Let us pray for mothers, fathers, and children.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 2- The Presentation of the Theotokos
("Let us remember the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God. Let us pray for those who have lost their way and fallen away from the church.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 3- The Annunciation of the Lord's Birth
("Let us remember the Annunciation of the Blessed Mother of God-let us pray for the soothing of sorrows and the consolation of those who grieve.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 4- The Meeting of the Theotokos and St. Elizabeth
("Let us remember the meeting of the Blessed Virgin with the righteous Elizabeth. Let us pray for the reunion of the separated, for those whose dear ones or children are living away from them or missing.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 5- The Birth of the Lord
("Let us remember the Birth of Christ. Let us pray for the rebirth of souls, for new life in Christ.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 6- The Prophecy of St. Simeon
("Let us remember the Feast of the Purification of the Lord, and the words uttered by St. Simeon: Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also (Luke 2:35). Let us pray that the Mother of God will meet our souls at the hour of our death, and will contrive that we receive the Holy Sacrament with our last breath, and will lead our souls through the terrible torments.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 7- The Flight into Egypt
("Let us remember the flight of the Mother of God with the God-Child into Egypt. Let us pray that the Mother of God will help us avoid temptation in this life and deliver us from misfortunes.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 8- The Boy-Christ among the Doctors
("Let us remember the disappearance of the twelve-year old boy Jesus in Jerusalem and the sorrow of the Mother of God on this account. Let us pray, begging the Mother of God for the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 9- The Wedding of Cana
("Let us remember-the miracle performed in Cana of Galilee, when the Lord turned water into wine at the words of the Mother of God: They have no wine (John 2:3). Let us ask the Mother of God for help in our affairs and deliverance from need.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 10- The Crucifixion of the Lord
("Let us remember the Mother of God standing at the Cross of the Lord, when grief pierced through her heart like a sword. Let us pray to the Mother of God for the strengthening of our Souls and the banishment of despondency.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 11- The Resurrection of the Lord
("Let us remember the Resurrection of Christ and ask the Mother of God in prayer to resurrect our souls and give us a new courage for spiritual feats.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 12- The Ascension of the Lord into Heaven
("Let us remember the Ascension of Christ, at which the Mother of God was present. Let us pray and ask the Queen of Heaven to raise up our souls from earthly and worldly amusements and direct them to striving for higher things.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 13- Pentecost
("Let us remember the Upper Room and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the Mother of God. Let us pray: Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me (Psalm 51).")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 14- The Dormition of the Virgin Theotokos
("Let us remember the Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God, and ask for a peaceful and serene end.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Meditation 15- The Crowning of the Theotokos by the Blessed Trinity

("Let us remember the glory of the Mother of God, with which the Lord crowned her after her removal from earth to heaven. Let us pray to the Queen of Heaven not to abandon the faithful who are on earth but to defend them from every evil, covering them with her honoring and protecting veil.")

Mother of God and Virgin, hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Saviour of our souls. (10x)

Our Father...

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Closing
It is truly meet to bless you,
O Theotokos,
ever-blessed and most pure,
and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos we magnify you!


FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD (parts 5 & 6)
On the Sacraments
A Commentary on a book by Fr Alexander Schmemann with the same title


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