Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Feast of the Ascension

Hey, guys, it's kinda crowded up here!

In Which Padre Mickey Rambles On And On About The Ascension

Ascension Day is an interesting event to celebrate, and I will admit that this is a feast which carries some complications for a scientific minded, late twentieth-early twenty-first century North American like myself. We have a different understanding of the universe than did the original audience of the story of the Ascension. Many people in that part of the world believed in what we call a three tiered universe: there was the underworld, then our world, then the heavens. They believed that the ground separated the underworld and this world, and that something similar to a large curtain separated this world from the heavens. This curtain had little holes in it, and God’s glory shone through those holes, and that is what we call the stars. In a three tiered universe, certain beings were capable of moving between the three worlds. Greek mythology was full of stories of heroes who visited the underworld, and in our Nicene Creed we say that Jesus "descended into hell." The Church also teaches that he "ascended into heaven." The story of the Ascension appears in the three synoptic gospels, and in the second part of Luke’s work, the Acts of the Apostles. In John’s gospel the Ascension happens of the day of Resurrection and apparently there were no witnesses to the event. Now, when you read Luke’s two versions of this event, and the versions in the other gospels, for that matter, one is led to believe that Jesus floated up in the sky until he got to heaven. In a three tiered universe such a thing is possible, as one simply passes through that curtain which separates the two worlds and one will be at the Throne of the Father in no time. We, however, live in a different time; most of us remember the trips to the moon made by the astronauts of the 1970’s. We live in a time in which the sky is filled with satellites which make it possible for us to communicate with the other side of the planet in seconds. We live in a time when we have seen photographs of the planet taken from outer space. We live in the time of the James Webb Telescope which has enabled us to see far across "the vast expanse of interstellar space." This knowledge of the universe, and this perspective of the universe, makes it difficult for many of us to think of Jesus as floating up to heaven; I imagine him rising up and up and up and up past the moon, past the asteroid belt, past Jupiter and the large planets, past our solar system (just like Voyager I and Voyager  II), past the galaxies; I guess he would just keep rising and rising forever!!! But fortunately, that is not what Ascension Day is about. If the Ascension is not about Jesus floating up to heaven, what is it about? It has to do with several theological points, it has to do with the theology of the Holy Trinity. The Ascension is the moment when Jesus, the Son, the Redeemer, the Second Person of the Trinity, came into the presence of the Father, the Creator, the First Person of the Trinity. This is the moment when the Son came into the presence of the Father because he had accomplished the task given to him by the Creator. The theology of the Ascension has been an important part of Jesus’ story from the very beginning of the Church. It has always been an important part of the Christology of the Church. The theology of the Ascension has been an important aspect of Christology from the earliest days of the Church for several reasons. The first reason is that the Ascension represents the culmination of the earthly mission of Jesus. His death and resurrection could not have their full effect until Jesus ascended to the presence of the Father, to whom he presented his finished work of atonement. We teach that Jesus had two natures, that he was fully human and fully divine, and it was at this moment that the humanity of Jesus was taken up to God and glorified. This aspect of the Ascension, this aspect of the Resurrection, was very important to the early Christians, and St. Paul speaks of it several times in his letters to the Christians around the Mediterranean. The Ascension is also important because it tells us that the earthly body of Jesus is no longer present within time and space. The earthly body of Jesus now belongs to the Son of God in eternity, that is why the stories have him floating up into the heavens, so that there was no question of Jesus’ body being left behind, otherwise people might say that he wasn’t resurrected, he was revived somehow and then died later. Some people actually do make such a claim; there is a tomb in Japan and a tomb in Pakistan which are supposed to hold the body of Jesus.

The Resurrected and Ascended Jesus is not present to us in the way he was present to the disciples. We now seek the presence of Jesus within our gathering, because he told us that when two or three are gathered in his name, he is in our midst. We now seek his presence in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, where he is present in the sharing of the bread and wine. We now seek his presence in the faces of the poor, in the faces of those we meet and in the faces of those we love. The Ascension is a theological event, not what we would consider an historical event.

Another important aspect of the Ascension is that the Son had to come into the presence of the Father so that the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, could be sent to us. Jesus promised that after he ascended to the Father, he would send the Comforter, the Advocate, but the Holy Spirit could not come to do its work among us until the Son had ascended to the Father. And because the Holy Spirit has come among us, we are now able to do what Jesus has commanded us to do. The Holy Spirit helps us to love one another as Christ loves us, to love the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind, and to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit the prisoner and welcome the stranger. So instead of celebrating Jesus floating up to heaven, let us prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

The Feast of the Resurrection

Happy Easter!

Mark 16:1-8

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo'me, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; --it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

Saturday, April 08, 2023

The Great Vigil of Easter

The Great Vigil of Easter
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
This sermon was written by St. John Chrysostom, the Patriarch or Arch-bishop of Constantinople in the fifth century. He gave this sermon at Hagia Sophia, the great cathedral of Constantinople at the Easter Vigil in the year 400. This is the sermon I would have given tonight (in español) at the Great Vigil of Easter if I were still in active ministry.

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever.
Amen!

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Holy Saturday


O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 27:57-66
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, "After three days I will rise again.'
Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, "He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first."
Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.


Friday, April 07, 2023

Good Friday Viernes Santo Stations of the Cross Vía Crucis


FIRST STATION
Jesus is condemned to death


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. And they all condemned him and said, "He deserves to die." When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. Then he handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.

V. God did not spare his own Son:
R. But delivered him up for us all.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



SEGUNDA ESTACIÓN
Jesús toma su cruz


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Jesús salió, cargando su cruz, al lugar llamado de la Calavera, y en hebreo, Gólgota. Y aunque era Hijo, por lo que padeció aprendió obediencia. Como cordero fue llevado al matadero; y como oveja delante de sus trasquiladores, enmudeció, y no abrió su boca. El Cordero que fue inmolado es digno de tomar el poder, las riquezas, la sabiduría, la fortaleza, la honra, la gloria, la alabanza.

V. El Señor cargó en él el pecado de todos:
R. Por las transgresiones de mi pueblo fue muerto.

Oremos:

Dios todopoderoso, cuyo amado Hijo sufrió voluntariamente la agonía y el oprobio de la cruz por nuestra redención: Danos valor para tomar nuestra cruz y seguirle; quien vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



THIRD STATION
Jesus falls the first time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped; but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and was born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name. Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, and kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is the Lord our God.

V. Surely he has borne our griefs:
R. And carried our sorrows.

Let us pray:

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



CUARTA ESTACIÓN
Jesús encuentra a su afligida madre


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

¿A quién te haré semejante, hija de Jerusalén? ¿A quién te compararé para consolarte, oh virgen hija de Sión? Porque grande como el mar es tu quebrantamiento. Bienaventurados los que lloran, porque ellos recibirán consolación. El Señor será tu luz eterna, y tus días de duelo terminarán.

V. Una espada traspasará tu misma alma:
R. Y llenará tu corazón de amargo dolor.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que quisiste que en la pasión de tu Hijo una espada de aflicción traspasara el alma de la bendita Virgen María, su madre: Concede misericordiosamente que tu Iglesia, habiendo participado con ella en su pasión, sea hecha digna de participar en el gozo de su resurrección; quien vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



FIFTH STATION
The Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

As they led Jesus away, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross to carry it behind Jesus. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

V. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me:
R. Cannot be my disciple.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



SEXTA ESTACIÓN
Una mujer enjuga el rostro de Jesús


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Lo hemos visto sin belleza ni esplendor, su aspecto no era nada atrayente; fue despreciado y rebajado. Era un hombre lleno de dolor, acostumbrado al sufrimiento. Lo despreciamos como a alguien que no merece ser visto, no lo tuvimos en cuenta y sin embargo él estaba cansado con nuestros sufrimientos, estaba soportando nuestros propios dolores. Mas él fue herido por nuestras rebeliones, molido por nuestros pecados; el castigo de nuestra paz cayó sobre él, y por su llaga hemos sido sanados.

V. Restáuranos, oh Señor Dios de los ejércitos:
R. Muestra la luz de tu rostro, y seremos salvos.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que antes de la pasión de tu unigénito Hijo, revelaste su gloria en el monte santo: Concede que, al contemplar por fe la luz de su rostro, seamos fortalecidos para llevar nuestra cruz y ser transformados a su imagen de gloria en gloria; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



SEVENTH STATION
Jesus falls a second time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. For the transgression of my people was he stricken.

V. But as for me, I am a worm and no man:
R. Scorned by all and despised by the people.

Let us pray:

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



OCTAVA ESTACIÓN
Jesús encuentra a las mujeres de Jerusalén


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Y seguía a Jesús gran multitud del pueblo, entre ellos mujeres que lloraban y se lamentaban por él. Pero Jesús, vuelto hacia ellas, les dijo: "Hijas de Jerusalén, no lloren por mí, sino lloren por ustedes mismas y por sus hijos".

V. Los que sembraron con lágrimas:
R. Con regocijo segarán.

Oremos:

Enseña a tu Iglesia, oh Señor, a llorar por los pecados de que es culpable, y a arrepentirse y olvidarlos; para que, por medio de tu gracia indulgente, el resultado de nuestras iniquidades no recaiga sobre nuestros hijos ni los hijos de nuestros hijos; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



NINTH STATION
Jesus falls a third time


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. He has besieged me and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes. "Remember, O Lord, my affliction and bitterness, the wormwood and the gall!"

V. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter:
R. And like a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth.

Let us pray:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DÉCIMA ESTACIÓN
Jesús es despojado de sus vestiduras


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando llegaron a un lugar llamado Gólgota, que significa de la Calavera, le dieron a beber vinagre mezclado con hiel; pero después de haberlo probado, no quiso beberlo. Y repartieron entre sí sus vestiduras, echando suertes. Esto fue para que se cumpliese la Escritura, que dice: "Repartieron entre sí mis vestiduras, y sobre mi ropa echaron suertes".

V. Hiel me dieron a comer:
V. Y cuando tuve sed me dieron a beber vinagre.

Oremos:

Señor Dios, cuyo bendito Hijo nuestro Salvador entregó su cuerpo a los azotes y su rostro al esputo: Otórganos tu gracia para soportar gozosamente los sufrimientos de esta vida temporal, confiados en la gloria que ha de ser revelada; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



ELEVENTH STATION
Jesus is nailed to the Cross


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him; and with him they crucified two criminals, one on the right, the other on the left, and Jesus between them. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, "He was numbered with the transgressors."

V. They pierce my hands and my feet:
R. They stare and gloat over me.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DUODÉCIMA ESTACIÓN
Jesús muere en la cruz


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando vio Jesús a su madre, y al discípulo a quien él amaba, que estaba presente, dijo a su madre: "Mujer, he ahí tu hijo". Después dijo al discípulo: "He ahí tu madre". Cuando Jesús hubo tomado el vinagre, dijo: "Consumado es". Y entonces clamando a gran voz dijo: "Padre, en tus manos encomiendo mi espíritu". Y habiendo inclinado la cabeza, entregó el espíritu.

V. Por nosotros Cristo se hizo obediente hasta la muerte:
R. Y muerte de cruz.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, que por nuestra redención entregaste a tu unigénito Hijo a muerte de cruz, y por su resurrección gloriosa nos libraste del poder de nuestro enemigo: Concédenos morir diariamente al pecado, de tal manera que vivamos siempre con él, en el gozo de su resurrección; quien vive y reina ahora y por siempre. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.



THIRTEENTH STATION
The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother


We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

All you who pass by, behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people. "Do not call me Naomi (which means Pleasant), call me Mara (which means Bitter); for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me."

V. Her tears run down her cheeks:
R. And she has none to comfort her.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies' sake. Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.



DÉCIMACUARTA ESTACIÓN
Jesús es puesto en la tumba


Te adoramos, oh Cristo, y te bendecimos:
Que por tu santa cruz has redimido al mundo.

Cuando llegó la noche, vino un hombre rico de Arimatea, llamado José, quien también era un discípulo de Jesús. Este fue a Pilato y pidió el cuerpo de Jesús. Entonces Pilato mandó que se le diese. Y tomando José el cuerpo, lo envolvió en una sábana limpia, y lo puso en su sepulcro nuevo, que había labrado en la peña; y rodó una gran piedra a la entrada del sepulcro.

V. No me abandonarás en el sepulcro:
R. Ni permitirás que tu Santo vea corrupción.

Oremos:

Oh Dios, tu bendito Hijo fue puesto en la tumba en un huerto, y descansó en el día del sábado: Concede que nosotros, los que hemos sido sepultados con él en las aguas del bautismo, encontremos nuestro perfecto descanso en su eterno y glorioso reino; donde él vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Santo Dios,
Santo Poderoso,
Santo Inmortal,
Ten piedad de nosotros.


Oh Salvador del mundo, que por tu cruz y preciosa sangre nos has redimido:
Sálvanos y ayúdanos, humildemente te suplicamos, oh Señor.

Oremos:

Te damos gracias, Padre celestial, porque nos has librado del dominio del pecado y de la muerte y nos has traído al reino de tu Hijo; y te rogamos que, así como por su muerte nos ha hecho volver a la vida, por su amor nos exalte a los gozos eternos; quien vive y reina contigo, en la unidad del Espíritu Santo, un solo Dios, ahora y por siempre. Amén.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


John 13:1-5
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.



Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Feast of Cyril and Methodius, Missionaries


Today is St. Valentine's Day, but no one is really sure who this St. Valentine was. He may have been a Roman priest martyred during the reign of the Emperor Claudius in the mid third century, or he may have been the bishop of Terni, who was taken to Rome and martyred and whose remains were returned to Terni. The feast of St. Valentinus was once on the Roman calendar but he was dropped quite a while back, and now his day is more of a "Hallmark Holiday" a holiday for selling greeting cards, flowers, and chocolates.

Today is also the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, two very important saints. Cyril and Methodius were brothers and lived in Thessalonica, a town where Christians were gathering very early in the history of the Church. Methodius was born around the year 815 and his brother Constantine was born around the year 826. Constantine studied philosophy and later became a monk, taking on the name of Cyril. As a philosophy student, Cyril also studied languages and was well-versed in Hebrew, Arabic, and even the Samaritan dialect. In the year 860, Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople selected Cyril and Methodius as the first missionaries to the Slavs. He chose them not only because Cyril was good with languages, but because as children both brothers spent a lot of time around the Slavs who lived in Thessalonica; they learned the Slavic language and were fluent in that language. They were the natural choice to be missionaries to the Slavs. Their first missionary trip in 860 was to the Khazars who lived north of the Caucasus region, but it was unsuccessful and the Khazars actually ended up accepting Judaism instead of Christianity. In the year 863, Rostislav, prince of Moravia (which is the area we now call the Czech Republic), requested Christian missionaries be sent. He had one requirement: that the missionaries be able to preach to the people in their own language and must do services in Slavonic, which meant that they needed Bibles and service books in Slavonic. So, before they even left for Moravia, the brothers started translating the Bible into Slavonic. There was not actual Slavonic alphabet so they had to invent one with which they would write their translations of the Bible and prayer books. The alphabet invented by St. Cyril is called Glagolithic and his followers invented another alphabet called Cyrillic which is the alphabet used in Russia and the former Eastern Block nations to this day. They translated the Bible into the dialect they had learned as boys, a Macedonian dialect of slavonic spoken around Thessalonica, an this language is now called Church Slavonic, and it is the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Slavonic Orthodox Churches. This is very important, because the Slavs were one of the few peoples who heard the gospel read in their own language instead of Greek or Latin, the major languages of the Church at that time. The Roman church always insisted that everything be done in Latin, but the Eastern church felt that it was important that services and readings be done in the vernacular of the people, the same concept which is accepted in the Anglican Communion. Cyril and Methodius ran into some trouble in Moravia and in Bulgaria; the Church in the West had sent German missionaries and they did not like the Greek Orthodox monks working in their area. The brothers were doing services in the language of the people while the Germans did everything in Latin; the brothers recited the Nicene Creed in its Eastern form without the filioque. In order to end German interference with the mission, Cyril asked for the protection of the Pope as he really didn't get involved in the East-West arguments and the Church was still united at that time; Cyril just wanted to continue working in Slavonic. The brothers traveled to Rome in 868 to speak to Pope Hadrian II, and he received them favorably and gave full support to their mission, allowing them to work in Slavonic, and even approved their translations of the Bible and service books. Unfortunately, Cyril died in Rome in 869, and when Methodius returned to Moravia, the Germans ignored the Pope's decision and obstructed him in every way; they even put Methodius in prison for a year!
When Methodius died in the year 885, the Germans ran his followers out of the country and even sold some of them into slavery (fine Christian people!). The Slavonic church lasted there for another two hundred years but then vanished; it seemed as if the mission of Cyril and Methodius had failed. but while their mission died in Moravia their translations moved in to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia, and Church Slavonic is the liturgical language of those areas. The Church grew and spread throughout that area and even lasted through fifty years of Communist oppression.

Some of the issues that Cyril and Methodius dealt with are still important today. The issue of language is a very important issue here. I think that what saints Cyril and Methodius taught us is that it is important that people hear the gospel and worship in the language with which they are familiar, whether that language be English, Español, or Slavonic. When people hear the gospel in their own language the church takes root and grows. Cyril knew that it was important that the peoples of the Caucasus hear the Word in their own words and he was willing to go to those who spoke Latin to get the support he needed, because he knew that the Church is large enough to include everybody, whether they speak Español, English, Nippon-go, Hungarian, Greek or Slavonic, God hears us no matter what language we speak. What is important is that we remember that we are One Body, we are united as one body in Christ. One of the oldest Eucharistic prayers we have is in the Didache and it says "as this grain was once scattered over the hills and was brought together as one loaf of bread, so may your Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom." Let us take the example of saints Cyril and Methodius to heart realizing that the Church is One Body in Christ.

Almighty and everlasting God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I See You!

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