Icons Show Human Face Of God

Icons Show Human Face Of God — In recent months my Sunday reflections have frequently focused on our Christian brothers and sisters of the East. Wishing as it were to embrace their rich tradition of faith in a single glance, today I would refer once again to the sense of mystery which is apparent in their icons

The East and the West vie with each other to put their art at the service of the faith.

But from the East where icons had to be defended with bloodshed in the iconoclast crisis of the eighth and ninth centuries comes a particular call to jealously preserve the religious nature of this art. It is based on the mystery of the Incarnation, in which God chose to assume a human face. Sacred art seeks to transmit something of the mystery of that face.

This is why the East firmly insists on the spiritual qualities which must characterize the artist, to whom Simeon of Thessalonica, the great defender of Tradition, addresses this important exhortation: “Teach with words, write with letters, paint with colors, in conformity with Tradition, the painting is true as is the writing of books and the grace of God is present in them because what is represented there is holy.”

By contemplating icons in the whole contest of liturgical and ecclesial life, the Christian community is called to grow in its experience of God and to become more and more a living icon of communion of life between the Three Divine Persons.

Pope John Paul II

Icons Show Human Face Of God

Icons Show Human Face Of God

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

He Will Separate Them

And he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matt 25:32)

So then people on earth are intermingled, and not only intermingled in that the righteous live side by side with the wicked but they are also indistinguishable.

Between the righteous and the wicked there is no apparent difference. Even as in wintertime you cannot tell the healthy trees apart from the withered tress but in beautiful springtime you can tell the difference, so too each person according to his faith and his works will be exposed.

The wicked will not have any leaves or show any fruit, but the righteous will be clothed with the leaves of eternal life and adorned with the fruit of glory. In this way they will be separated by the heavenly shepherd and Lord.

The earthly shepherd separates animals by their type of body, whereas Christ separates people by their type of soul. The sheep signify righteous people by reason of their gentleness, because they harm no one, and by reason of their patience, because when they are harmed by others they bear it without resistance.

He refers to sinners as goats, however, because these vices characterize goats: capriciousness toward other animals, pride and belligerence.

From a Homily, Incomplete Work on Matthew

And he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

Who Art In Heaven

Who Art In Heaven. These words I think have a very deep meaning. They remind us of the homeland we have abandoned, of the citizenship we have lost. In the parable of the young man who left his father’s house, went off the rails and was reduced to living with pigs, the Word of God shows us human wretchedness. That young man did not find his one-time happiness again until he had realized his moral degradation, had looked into his own heart and had pronounced the words of confession. These words almost agree with the Lord’s Prayer, because the prodigal son says: “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:21).

He would not confess to be a sinner against heaven if he were not convinced that the homeland he had left at the time of his going astray were not in actual fact heaven.

By this confession of his he makes himself worthy once again to stand in the presence of his father who runs towards him, embraces him and kisses him. The conclusion is this: To return to heaven there is only one route and that is to admit one’s sinfulness and seek to avoid it. To make the decision to avoid it is already to be perfecting one’s likeness to God.

St. Gregory of Nyssa from On the Lords Prayer

Who Art In Heaven

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

Athanasius And Cyril

Athanasius And Cyril — Saint Anthansius is one of the great figures of Christianity. He is call the “champion of orthodoxy” as he resolutely opposed Arianism. Five times Athanasius was called for his defense of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity.

During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years 0f relative peace — reading, writing and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic idea to which he was devoted. His dogmatic and historical writings are almost all polemic, directed against every aspect of Arianism.

Athanasius suffered many trials whe he was bishop of Alexandria. He was given the grace to remain strong against what probably seemed at times to be insurmountable opposition. He defended the true faith for his flock, regardless of the cost to himself. In today’s world, we are experiencing this same call to remain true to our faith, no matter what.

Saint Cyril’s importance for theology and Church history lies in his championing the cause of orthodoxy against the heresy of Nestorius.

Nestorianism implied that the humanity of Christ was a mere disguise. At the Council of Ephesus (431), Cyril condemned Nestorianism and proclaimed Mary truly the “God-bearer” or “Theotokos”, the mother of the one Person who is truly God and truly human.

In the confusion that followed, Cyril was deposed and imprisoned for three months, after which was was welcomed back to Alexandria as a second Athanasius.

Lives of the saints are valuable not only for the virtue they reveal but also for the less admirable qualities that also appear.

Holiness is a gift of God to us human beings. Life is a process. We respond to God’s gift, but sometimes with a lot of zigzagging.

If Cyril had been more patient and diplomatic, the Nestorian Church might not have risen and maintained power so long.

But even saints must grow out of immaturity, narrowness and selfishness. It is because they — and we — do grow, that we are truly saints, persons who live the life of God.

Athanasius And Cyril -- Saint Anthansius is one of the great figures of Christianity.

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

Let Us Venerate Today The Baptism Of Christ

Let Us Venerate Today The Baptism Of Christ — I cannot restrain my joy; my heart is deeply moved and filled with delight. Forgetting my weakness, I long to undertake the mission of the great John the Baptist; though I am not the Forerunner, I have indeed come from the desert.

Christ receives the sacrament of enlightenment, or rather He enlightens us with His brilliance. He is baptized; let us go down into the water with Him. John is baptizing, and Jesus comes to him. Christ certainly sanctifies the man who now baptizes Him but His purpose is chiefly to bury the old Adam in the waters and, above all, to sanctify the waters of the Jordan by His baptism in them so that just as He was spirit and flesh, those who would later be baptized might be sanctified by the power of the Spirit and by water.

John refuses, Jesus insists.

“It is you who should be baptizing me!” says John.

The torch addresses the Sun, the voice speaks to the Word. Jesus comes out of the water, drawing the world with Him, as it were, and raising it up when it had hitherto been sunk in the abyss. He sees the heavens not being rent, but opening of their own accord.

The first Adam of old closed heaven to himself and us, just as he had seen the earthly paradise being closed to him, with a fiery sword barring access. The Holy Spirit bears witness. Here all is in perfect harmony for the testimony comes from heaven, just as He to whom the Spirit bears witness has come from heaven.

Let Us Venerate Today The Baptism Of Christ

St. Gregory the Theologian

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

Kill The Death That Lurks There

Let us strive to comprehend the mystery. The reason God is in the flesh is to kill the death that lurks there. As diseases are cured by medicines and assimilated by the body; and as darkness in a house is dispelled by the coming of light, so death, which held sway over human nature, is done away with by the coming of God.

And as ice formed on water covers its surface as long as night and darkness last but melts under the warmth of the sun, so death reigned until the coming of Christ, but when the grace of God our Savior appeared and the Sun of Justice rose, death was swallowed up in victory, unable to beat the presence of true life. How great is God’s goodness, how deep his love for us!

Let us join the shepherds in giving glory to God, let us dance with the angels and sing. Today a Savior has been born to us. He is Christ the Lord. The Lord is God and He has appeared to us, not as God which would have been terrifying for our weakness, but as a slave so as to free those who live in slavery.

Who could be so lacking in sensibility and so ungrateful as not to join all here present in our gladness, exultation and radiant joy?

The feast belongs to the whole of creation. Let everyone join in and be grateful. Let our voices too ring out in songs of jubilation!

Saint Basil the Great

Kill The Death That Lurks There

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

Story Of The Origin Of Jesus Christ And The Rest Of The Names

Story Of The Origin Of Jesus Christ And The Rest Of The Names — Matthew’s genealogy is extraordinarily comprehensive in his theology of the roots of Jesus’ story in the Old Testament.

But that is only one part of the story of Jesus Christ. The story has a sequence as well; and the continuing sequence is what makes the genealogy” good news” for Matthew’s audience and for us.

Human beings have been empowered to preserve, proclaim and convey the salvation brought by Jesus Christ throughout history. The God who wrote the beginnings with crooked lines also writes the sequence with crooked lines, and some of those lines are our own lives and witness.

A God who did not hesitate to use the scheming as well as the noble, the impure as well as the pure, men to whom the world hearkened and women upon whom the world frowned– this God continues to work through the same melange.

If it was a challenge to recognize in the last part of Matthew’s genealogy that totally unknown people were part of the story of Jesus Christ, it may be a greater challenge to recognized that the unknown characters of today are an essential part of the sequence.

The proclamation of that genealogy in the Advent liturgy is designed to give us hope about our destiny and our importance.

By stressing the all-powerful grace of God, the genealogy presents the greatest challenge to those who will accept only an idealized Jesus Christ whose story they would write only with straight lines and whose portrait they would paint in pastel colors.

If we look at the whole story and the total picture, the Gospels teach us that Jesus’ ministry was not thus; the history of the church teaches us that the sequence as not thus. God’s grace can even work with people like us.

Father Raymond E. Brown, S.S.

Story Of The Origin Of Jesus Christ And The Rest Of The Names

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

The Great Feast

The Great Feast — This familiar parable is read in the Church each year just two Sundays before the feast of our Lord’s Nativity. In it we are reminded of the great care with which God prepared the way of His incarnation. All of the Law and the Prophets look forward to this moment, the moment wen the God-man Jesus Christ comes into the world.

He is, in fact, the fulfillment of the law and the Prophets — the goal towards which they were all aiming. The whole world was prepared by them for this great event.

As the parable tells us, the King — that is God — has prepared a great feast for us and has invited us to come and enter into that joy that He has prepared for us.

Today we begin in earnest to move toward the feast in the birth of our Incarnate Savior Jesus Christ.

Today we are called to see the great preparation that has gone into this event, to marvel at the great love and care of God for us that He would labor so long and with such great care for us.

Today we look back at the whole of the history of the people of God and see that it is the history of God’s preparation all leading to the moment when He would take flesh, become incarnate and enter the world as a child.

We have been given an invitation to come and join the feast, to abandon the world and enter the Kingdom of God, to leave our own life and receive instead the Life of Christ.

We have been invited – chosen by God. Well we accept the invitation and choose Him?

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

The Great Feast

Cleansing And Gratitude

Cleansing And Gratitude — Once, as Jesus was passing through Samaria on His way to Jerusalem, 10 lepers met Him.

They stood far off and cried “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Jesus saw them and said: “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

So in this case, He did not touch them. Instead, He tested their faith to see whether they would obey and go to the priests to get a certificate of healing even before they had been healed.

They obeyed and were healed.

And one of them returned and with a loud voice glorified God and fell at His feet giving Him thanks. He was a Samaritan. And Jesus said: “Were there not 10 cleaned? Where are the nine? Were there not any found to give glory to God except this foreigner?”

And Jesus said to him: “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

The Samaritans accepted Christ as the Messiah and became Christians, while the Jews rejected Him.

The Fathers of the Church see a lesson in this for us. The 10 lepers signify mankind. We are all leprous, but only one in 10 give thanks to God for the salvation He has brought to us. In the same way, only some of the seed sown by God — in the Parable of the Sower — brings forth good fruit.

We can all be cleansed by Him, but if we do not return to Him in gratitude and to glorify Him, we cannot be saved.

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.

Cleansing And Gratitude

Cleansing And Gratitude

The Legendary Saint Nicholas

The Legendary Saint Nicholas — The absence of “hard facts” of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints as the devotion to Saint Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western churches honor him, and it is claimed that after the Theotokos, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet, historically we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.

As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for him — an admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.

Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s fest which is Dec. 6.

In the English-speaking countries, Saint Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Claus — further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.

The critical eye of modern history makes us take a deeper look at the legends surrounding Saint Nicholas. But perhaps we can use the lesson taught by his legendary charity, look deeper at our approach to material goods in the Christmas season and seek ways to extend our sharing to those in real need.

The Legendary Saint Nicholas

The Legendary Saint Nicholas

Courtesy of Holy Myrrh Bearers Church, 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081. Services are 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m., Sundays.