Living at the Intersection of Grace, Grits and the Ancient Faith...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blessed Pope John Paul II and the Light of the East

"The echo of the Gospel - the words that do not disappoint - continues to resound with force, weakened only by our separation: Christ cries out but man finds it hard to hear his voice because we fail to speak with one accord. We listen together to the cry of those who want to hear God's entire Word. The words of the West need the words of the East, so that God's word may ever more clearly reveal its unfathomable riches. Our words will meet for ever in the heavenly Jerusalem, but we ask and wish that this meeting be anticipated in the holy Church which is still on her way towards the fullness of the Kingdom.May God shorten the time and distance. 

May Christ, the Orientale Lumen, soon, very soon, grant us to discover that in fact, despite so many centuries of distance, we were very close, because together -- perhaps without knowing it -- we were walking towards the one Lord, and thus towards one another.

May the people of the third millennium be able to enjoy this discovery, finally achieved by a word that is harmonious and thus fully credible, proclaimed by brothers and sisters who love one another and thank one another for the riches which they exchange. Thus shall we offer ourselves to God with the pure hands of reconciliation, and the people of the world will have one more well - founded reason to believe and to hope."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom (4th Century)

This is the traditional homily that is preached at all Paschal Matins services in the Byzantine tradition.
Христос воскрес! 
Воістину воскрес! 

Chrystos voskres! 

Voistynu voskres!

Χριστός ἀνέστη! 
Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Khristós Anésti! 
Alithós Anésti!

Christ is Risen!
Indeed He is Risen!

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy you all the feast of faith: Receive the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen!

About St. John Chrysostom:

St. John Chrysostom ("The Golden Tongue") was born at Antioch in about the year 347 into the family of a military-commander, spent his early years studying under the finest philosophers and rhetoricians and was ordained a deacon in the year 381 by the bishop of Antioch Saint Meletios. In 386 St. John was ordained a priest by the bishop of Antioch, Flavian.
Over time, his fame as a holy preacher grew, and in the year 397 with the demise of Archbishop Nektarios of Constantinople - successor to Sainted Gregory the Theologian - Saint John Chrysostom was summoned from Antioch for to be the new Archbishop of Constantinople.
Exiled in 404 and after a long illness because of the exile, he was transferred to Pitius in Abkhazia where he received the Holy Eucharist, and said, "Glory to God for everything!", falling asleep in the Lord on 14 September 407.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Byzantine Services for Holy Saturday and for the Feast of the Resurrection

These two videos are from one of the bright lights of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, St. Elias Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Brampton, Ontario.

The first video is footage from "Jerusalem Matins" on Holy Saturday, the Great Sabbath rest when our Lord, while His holy Body was in the tomb covered by the shoud, entered with His soul into the Bosom of Abraham, Sheol, or in Greek, Hades, the dwelling of the righteous dead to announce the Gospel and to set our ancestors free in order to bring them into the glory of heaven.

Great and Holy Saturday at St. Elias

Some of the hymns of Holy Saturday are:

Hymns from the Anoi 
"Come, let us see our Life lying in the tomb, that He may give life to those that in their tombs lie dead. Come, let us look today on the Son of Judah as He sleeps, and with the prophet let us cry aloud to Him: Thou hast lain down, Thou hast slept as a lion; who shall awaken Thee, O King? But of Thine own free will do Thou rise up, who willingly dost give Thyself for us. O Lord, glory to Thee."
"Today a tomb holds Him who holds the creation in the hollow of His hand; a stone covers Him who covered the heavens with glory. Life sleeps and hell trembles, and Adam is set free from his bonds. Glory to Thy dispensation, whereby Thou hast accomplished all things, granting us an eternal Sabbath, Thy most holy Resurrection from the dead." 

The great Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote a wonderful description of Great and Holy Saturday in his homily here... Great and Holy Saturday Homily
In it, he also describes the icon of Holy Saturday, Christ's Descent into Hades, where we see Him victorious over death and grabbing the wrists of Adam and Eve to raise them (and the other righteous dead) to glory.

While this icon is often referred to as the Icon of Pascha (Resurrection) in truth there is no liturgical icon of the great mystery of Christ's rising from the tomb, save for that miraculous icon "not made by human hands," which is His burial shroud known today as the Shroud of Turin

The second video 
provides images and sounds of the many beautiful celebrations of Pascha, the Feast of Christ's Resurrection, with periodic acclamations of the Paschal Greeting exchanged by Eastern Christians: 

Христос воскрес! Воістину воскрес! 
Chrystos voskres! Voistynu voskres! 
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Our liturgy reflects the great joy of Christ's Pascha, His Resurrection from the Dead, after so long a period of fasting and penance and the solemnity of Great and Holy Week. After services, traditional Pascha Baskets are blessed, filled with wonderful meats and cheeses and breads since in the Paschal period, our mourning and fasting has been turned to joy and feasting in the New Creation brought about by Christ!

Pascha Services at St. Elias

I pray that all of you have a blessed Great and Holy Saturday as well as a blessed and holy Pascha...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Great And Holy Friday in the Byzantine Tradition


On Great and Holy Friday the Orthodox Church commemorates the death of Christ on the Cross. This is the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins. This commemoration begins on Thursday evening with the Matins of Holy Friday and concludes with a Vespers on Friday afternoon that observes the unnailing of Christ from the Cross and the placement of His body in the tomb.

Commemoration Of Great And Holy Friday

Icon of the Extreme Humility provided by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA.
On this day we commemorate the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross.
The day of Christ's death is the day of sin. The sin which polluted God's creation from the breaking dawn of time reached its frightful climax on the hill of Golgotha. There, sin and evil, destruction and death came into their own. Ungodly men had Him nailed to the Cross, in order to destroy Him. However, His death condemned irrevocably the fallen world by revealing its true and abnormal nature.
In Christ, who is the New Adam, there is no sin. And, therefore, there is no death. He accepted death because He assumed the whole tragedy of our life. He chose to pour His life into death, in order to destroy it; and in order to break the hold of evil. His death is the final and ultimate revelation of His perfect obedience and love. He suffered for us the excruciating pain of absolute solitude and alienation - "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!" (Mark 15:34). Then, He accepted the ultimate horror of death with the agonizing cry, "It is finished" (John 19:30). His cry was at one and the same time an indication that He was in control of His death and that His work of redemption was accomplished, finished, fulfilled. How strange! While our death is radical unfulfillment, His is total fulfillment.
The day of Christ's death has become our true birthday. "Within the mystery of Christ dead and resurrected, death acquires positive value. Even if physical, biological death still appears to reign, it is no longer the final stage in a long destructive process. It has become the indispensable doorway, as well as the sure sign of our ultimate Pascha, our passage from death to life, rather than from life to death.
From the beginning the Church observed an annual commemoration of the decisive and crucial three days of sacred history, i.e., Great Friday, Great Saturday and Pascha. Great Friday and Saturday have been observed as days of deep sorrow and strict fast from Christian antiquity.
Great Friday and Saturday direct our attention to the trial, crucifixion, death and burial of Christ. We are placed within the awesome mystery of the extreme humility of our suffering God. Therefore, these days are at once days of deep gloom as well as watchful expectation. The Author of life is at work transforming death into life: "Come, let us see our Life lying in the tomb, that he may give life to those that in their tombs lie dead" (Sticheron of Great Saturday Orthros).
Liturgically, the profound and awesome event of the death and burial of God in the flesh is marked by a particular kind of silence, i.e. by the absence of a eucharistic celebration. Great Friday and Great Saturday are the only two days of the year when no eucharistic assembly is held. However, before the twelfth century it was the custom to celebrate the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts on Great Friday.
The divine services of Great Friday with the richness of their ample Scripture lessons, superb hymnography and vivid liturgical actions bring the passion of Christ and its cosmic significance into sharp focus. The hymns of the services on this day help us to see how the Church understands and celebrates the awesome mystery of Christ's passion and death.

Icons Of The Commemoration Of Great And Holy Friday

Christ is depicted nailed to the Cross. The wound on His right side pours out both blood and water.
The mount where Christ was crucified was known as Golgotha, or the "place of the skull". A skull can be seen below the Cross.
On Great and Holy Friday, Orthodox churches display the icon known as the "Axra Tapeinosis - The Extreme Humility." This icon depicts the crucified dead body of Christ upright in the Tomb with the Cross in the background. It combines the two awesome events of Great Friday - the crucifixion and burial of Christ.
On the left-hand side of the icon are depicted Mary, the Mother of God (front) and Mary Magdalene (right).On the right-hand side of the icon are depicted Saint John and Saint Longinus, the Centurion.
The Church also has an icon of the Crucifixion of Christ. He is shown nailed to the Cross. His right side is pierced and from the wound flows blood and water. At the foot of the Cross is a skull. (Golgotha, the Mount of the Crucifixion, means "the place of the skull.") Tradition related that the Cross of Christ stood directly over the grave of our Forefather Adam. On the top bar of the Cross is the inscription "I.N.B.I.", the initials for the Greek words meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." To the left of Christ, the Theotokos and St. Mary Magdalene are often pictured as well; the youthful St. John the Beloved Disciple and St. Longinus the Centurion (Mark 15:39) are shown to the right if they are depicted.
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the Mother of God, John the beloved disciple, and Joseph of Arimathea are shown preparing Christ's body for the tomb. Icon of the Epitaphios Thrinos provided by Athanasios Clark and used with permission.
Another icon that depicts the events of Holy Friday is known as the Epitaphios Thrinos. In this icon, Christ has been taken off of the Cross, and His body is being prepared for burial. Shown around the body and mourning His death are His mother, the Theotokos and Virgin Mary, John the beloved disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, and Mary Magdelene.
In addition to these icons, Orthodox churches process with and display a large wooden Crucifix with an image of Christ attached. At the Vespers on Friday, the image of Christ is removed from the Cross and wrapped in a white cloth. Another icon, one that depicts the body of Christ removed from the Cross, appears on the Epitaphios that is carried and placed in the Tomb during this service.

Orthodox Celebration Of Great And Holy Friday

The commemorations of Holy Friday begin with the Matins service of the day which is conducted on Thursday evening. The service is a very unique Matins service with twelve Gospel readings that begin with Christ's discourse at the Last Supper and end with the account of His burial: John 13:31-18:1, John 18:1-29, Matthew 26:57-75, John 18:28 - 19:16, Matthew 27:3-32, Mark 15:16-32, Matthew 27:33-54, Luke 23:32-49, John 19:38-42, Mark 15:43-47, John 19:38-42, Matthew 27:62-66
These readings relate the last instructions of Christ to His disciples, the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, the dramatic prayer of Christ and His new commandment. After the reading of the fifth Gospel comes the procession with the Crucifix around the church, while the priest chants the Fifteenth Antiphon:
"Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection."
Photo courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas' book "Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey"
During the Procession, Orthodox Christians kneel and venerate the Cross and pray for their spiritual well-being, imitating the thief on the Cross who confessed his faith and devotion to Christ. The faithful then approach and reverently kiss the Crucifix which has been placed at the front of the church.
Photos courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas' book "Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey"
On Friday morning, the services of the Royal Hours are observed. These services are primarily readings of prayers, hymns, and passages from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels. The Scripture readings for these services are: First Hour: Zechariah 11:10-13, Galatians 6:14-18, Matthew 27:1-56; Third Hour: Isaiah 50:4-11, Romans 5:6-10, Mark 15:6-41; Sixth Hour: Isaiah 52:13-54:1, Hebrews 2:11-18; Luke 23:32-49; Ninth Hour: Jeremiah 11:18-23,12:1-5,9-11,14-15, Hebrews 10:19-31, John 18:28-19:37.
Photo courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas' book "Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey"
The Vespers of Friday afternoon are a continuation of the Royal Hours. During this service, the removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated with a sense of mourning. Once more, excerpts from the Old Testament are read together with hymns, and again the entire story is related, followed by the removal of Christ from the Cross and the wrapping of His body with a white sheet as did Joseph of Arimathea.
Photo courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas' book "Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey"
As the priest reads the Gospel, "and taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in a white cloth," he removes the Body of Christ from the Cross, wraps it in a white cloth and takes it to the altar. The priest then chants a mourning hymn: "When Joseph of Arimathea took Thee, the life of all, down from the Tree dead, he buried Thee with myrrh and fine linen . . . rejoicing. Glory to Thy humiliation, O Master, who clothest Thyself with light as it were with a garment." The priest then carries the cloth on which the Body of Christ is painted or embroidered around the church before placing it inside the Sepulcher, a carved bier which symbolizes the Tomb of Christ. We are reminded that during Christ's entombment He descends into Hades to free the dead of the ages before His Resurrection.
The Scripture readings for the Vespers are: Exodus 33:11-23; Job 42:12-17; Isaiah 52:13-54:1; I Corinthians 1:18-2:2; and from the Gospels Matthew 27:1-38; Luke 23:39-43; Matthew 27:39-54; John 19:31-37; and Matthew 27:55-61.
Photos courtesy of John Thomas and used with permission. Experience more of Holy Week in pictures through John Thomas' book "Sacred Light: Following the Paschal Journey"

Hymns And Prayers For Great And Holy Friday

Fifteenth Antiphon of the Matins (Plagal of the Second Tone)
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross. He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery. He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ. Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection. Listen »
Ninth Hour
When the transgressors nailed Thee, O Lord of glory, to the Cross, Thou hast cried aloud to them: 'How have I grieved you? Or wherein have I angered you? Before me, who delivered you from tribulation? And how do ye now repay me? Ye have given me evil for good: in return for the pillar of fire, ye have nailed me to the Cross; in return for the cloud, ye have dug a grave for me. Instead of manna, ye have given me gall; instead of water, ye have given me vinegar to drink. Henceforth I shall call the Gentiles, and they shall glorify me with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Sticheron of Vespers
A dread and marvelous mystery we see come to pass this day. He whom none may touch is seized; He who looses Adam from the curse is bound. He who tries the hearts and inner thoughts of man is unjustly brought to trial. He who closed the abyss is shut in prison. He before whom the powers of heaven stand with trembling, stands before Pilate; the Creator is struck by the hand of His creature. He who comes to judge the living and the dead is condemned to the Cross; the Destroyer of hell is enclosed in a tomb. O Thou who dost endure all these things in Thy tender love, who hast saved all men from the curse, O long-suffering Lord, glory to Thee.
Apostichon of Vespers
In the flesh Thou wast of Thine own will enclosed within the tomb, yet in Thy divine nature Thou dost remain Uncircumscribed and limitless. Thou hast shut up the treasury of hell, O Christ, and emptied all his palaces. Thou hast honored this Sabbath with Thy divine blessing, with Thy glory and Thy radiance.


The Lenten Triodion. translated by Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware (South Canaan, PA: St. TikhonÕs Seminary Press, 1994), pp. 61-62, 565-622.
Calivas, Alkiviadis C. Great Week and Pascha in the Greek Orthodox Church (Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 1992), pp. 63-76.
Farley, Donna. Seasons of Grace: Reflections on the Orthodox Church Year (Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 2002), pp. 137-140.
Wybrew, Hugh. Orthodox Lent, Holy Week and Easter: Liturgical Texts with Commentary (Crestwood, NY: St. VladimirÕs Seminary Press, 1997), pp. 105-108.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"How Much Do I Love?" by The Servant of God, Catherine Doherty

Let us face it frankly: how much love do we have? Love for God, and love for man?
How many of us really carry a basin and a pitcher filled with the water of our love and gird ourselves with a towel so as to wash the feet of our neighbor? The calloused, tired, dirty, clean, young, old feet of our neighbor?
Somehow Holy Thursday should remain with us always.
It is true that it was only once that Our Lord knelt down in the dust or stone floor and washed the feet of his Apostles.
But as he did so He said, Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you (Jn 13: 12-15).
In so many words he told all of us that we must serve unto the washing of feet, which means today a sort of total involvement in the other person, in his or her loneliness, his or her seeking, his or her need.
Yes, let us face it frankly: how much love do we have?
It isn’t too hard to love a distant God and even pray to him in cool ancient cathedrals, modern lovely chapels, and even in poustinias, but at all times we must not forget that the Lord spoke constantly of prayer and service.
"I have come to serve," he said. He might as well have said, "I have come to love," which is what he really meant. Do we?
It is, of course, good to work to alleviate human misery and need by banding together in committees, forums and what-have-you. But love is essentially something that goes from person to person. It is personalized, one to one, for then comes the true involvement in the other.
Then comes the understanding, the discernment that belongs to prayer, and the incarnation of that discernment that belongs to service. Together they form the love that Christ talked so constantly about in his Gospel, this Gospel that should be lived without compromise.
Is it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why King David was a Southerner

Some may not realize this, but King David was a Southerner at heart. Here are the Top Ten Reasons we can claim King David as our own:

Top 10 Reasons Why King David was a Southerner

  1. He was born in the South. (Bethlehem was in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.)
  2. He was an avid outdoorsman.
  3. He came from a big family that owned a ranch.
  4. He frequently played a stringed instrument in public, to the delight of some and to the consternation of others.
  5. He was known to write his own tunes and lyrics from time to time.
  6. He knew how to use a weapon with deadly accuracy.
  7. He was in constant trouble with the law in his youth.
  8. He gave his sons names from the Old Testament.
  9. He left his home improvement project to his son to complete after his death.
  10. He lived to a ripe old age after a lifetime of fighting and died peacefully in his bed surrounded by his family.

Southern Byzantine Architecture

Here is a link to an great interview by Frederica Mathewes-Green of Andrew Gould, of Andrew Gould Design  New World Byzantine ( Andrew integrates aspects of  Southern American heritage with his Byzantine Orthodox faith.

Here are some images from Holy Ascension OCA in Charleston, SC, an Andrew Gould/New World Byzantine project:

Because we are all gonna rise someday...

Welcome to my blog, "Southern Byzantine."

I'll be attempting to blog here occasionally about faith, family, missions and life here in the Southland. You are welcome to read and comment - so long as Southern manners are observed. 

This week is Holy Week - the week we honor Christ's saving passion, death and glorious Resurrection. It is worth recalling that all of us will "rise again," and the last enemy - death - will be defeated. We will be restored to Paradise in an inheritance of eternal communion with God which our ancestors forfeited, but which our Lord in His mercy and love for mankind has reclaimed for us. Let us pray that we might persevere to the end along the path to resurrected glory through the Holy and Life-giving Cross of Jesus Christ. 

"We were expelled of old, O Lord, from the Garden of Eden, for wrongly eating from the tree. But, O my God and Savior, You once again have restored us through Your Cross and Your Passion. Thereby, O Master, fortify and enable us purely to finish Lent and to worship Your holy resurrection, Pascha our saving Passover, by the prayers of Your Mother."

- From the Exapostelarion of Matins (Tone 2) for the Feast of the Prodigal Son