"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

Sunday 28 April 2013



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.”

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.

By Msgr. Anthony La Femina
New Hope Publications, 2011
171 pages, $19.95
To order: NewHope-Ky.org
(270) 325-3061

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