31 January 2008

I Wish I Liked Vegetables

I'm going to admit that if I had to fend for myself food-wise, I'd be dead. I couldn't kill an animal and eat it myself, no matter how tasty it might be. I'm content to let individuals who work in slaughterhouses do that for me. For years we've been told about how humanely they do their work, and I am sure that most of them, indeed, do so.

But, as the old saying goes, there's always one. This time around, its a slaughterhouse in California (story at this link on CNN.com) that has taken some decidedly inhumane steps to get their animals to stand up for their own deaths. Oh, and these burgers are headed to a school lunch near you (and nearer to your kids).

One individual at CNN's website commented that we had better start growing soybeans if we can't treat animals better. Anoter noted that if animals were to be raised for food they deserved wide open spaces and a quick death.
In the past year, I have tried several soy-based replacements for chicken and beef, both of them tolerable (well, generally speaking - there are always exceptions), and I'll say that if someone can get them to taste a bit better, I might consider a wider switch. Unfortunately, I am not much of a fan of most vegetables and fruits...

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that it is immoral to eat meat. God gave Noah permission to do so (see Genesis 9: 1-4), Jesus did so, the apostles did so, and so have many holy men and women throughout the generations. But we have to remember something; carnivorisim is -biblically speaking- a concession to the sin-scarred nature of the world. Bad enough that we got to this point, but the least we can do is kill animals humanely so that we don't compound our sins.

30 January 2008

Saint Antony of Egypt

Today the Church commemorates Saint Antony of Egypt. He was born at Qemen-al-Auros in Upper Egypt, and was one of the earliest Egyptian desert fathers. Born to Christian parents from whom he inherited a large estate, he took personally Jesus’ message to sell all that you have, give to the poor, and follow Christ. After making arrangements to care for his sister, he gave away the remainder of his inheritance and became a hermit. Later, he became the head of a group of monks that lived in a cluster of huts and dedicated themselves to communal prayer, worship, and labor under Antony’s direction. The money they earned from their work was distributed as alms. Antony and his monks also preached and counseled those who sought them out.

Prayer of the Day
Most gracious God, you called your servant Antony to sell all that he had and to serve you in the solitude of the desert. By his example may we learn to deny ourselves and to love you before all things. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

29 January 2008

New Article: The Insufficiency of the Sign

The second installment of "When Bad Things Happen to Good Liturgy" can now be found at badliturgy.blogspot.com.

28 January 2008

Saint Ephrem of Syria

Today the Church commemorates Saint Ephrem of Syria. Ephrem was born in Nisibis at the beginning of the fourth century. He was educated at Edessa. As a disciple of Saint Jacob of Nisibis, he was ordained to the diaconate and was a lecturer in the newly-established school at Nisibis. After the fall of Nisibis, Ephrem departed from the city and began to teach in Edessa, where he lived as a "solitary" in a cell on a rock hill. After a life of good works, preaching, religious writings and ascetical exercises. Ephrem was a prolific writer and left the Church an abundance of sermons, commentaries and hymns. Because of this enormous amount of material, he was given the titles “Pillar of the Church” and “Harp of the Holy Spirit.” The body of his writing comprises a central part of the liturgical prayer life of the Antiochene Churches. After a fruitful life, he died peacefully in 373.

Prayer of the Day
Pour out on us, O Lord, that same Spirit by which your deacon Ephrem rejoiced to proclaim in sacred song the mysteries of faith; and so gladden our hearts that we, like him, may be devoted to you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

27 January 2008

Saint Palladius of Antioch

Today the Church commemorates Saint Palladius of Antioch. Palladius was hermit in the desert near Antioch, Syria. He led a simple life in a mountain cave. Because of his struggles, he received from the Lord a gift of wonder-working. Once, a merchant was found murdered by robbers near his cave. People accused him of the murder, but through fervent prayer the dead man rose up and named his murderers. Palladius died in 390, and left behind several writings.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you choose your elect out of every nation, tribe, and people, and show forth your glory in their lives. Grant that we, who today commemorate Saint Palladius of Antioch, may, like him, be found faithful to you in all that we say and do to the priase of your holy Name. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

26 January 2008

Iconography Project Update

Just a few photographs to update the iconography project I am currently working on.

Saint Titus

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Titus. Titus, a Gentile, was a companion of Saint Paul. He was with Paul and Barnabas at Antioch and accompanied them to the Council of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-3). As time passed, Titus worked closely with Paul, and he is mentioned several times in Paul’s letters. Eventually, Paul consecrated him to serve as the first bishop of Gortyn in Crete. Scripture does not record his death, but according to church tradition, he died peacefully in the year 107.

Prayer of the Day
Lord God, light of the faithful and Shepherd of souls, through the ministry of the apostle Paul you called Titus to be a bishop in your Church, that he might feed the flock entrusted to him through your word and sacraments and guide them by his example. Grant that we may cling to the faith he taught and follow his example with humility and joy. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Morning Prayer Reading
Titus 2: 1-15

Divine Liturgy Readings
Titus 1: 1-16
John 15: 9-17

Evening Prayer Reading
Titus 3: 1-15

New Companion Site

In order to make my new series of essays, "When Bad Things Happen to Good Liturgy" avaliable on a stand-alone basis, I have moved it to its own site. You can now access future editions of the series at: http://badliturgy.blogspot.com.

25 January 2008

The Connection Between the Eucharist and Daily Prayer

As some of my readers (those who know me personally) may be aware, I have been working for the past three years on developing a Syriac rite Liturgy for use within the Synod of Saint Timothy in particular, and in outreach to those who have no Christian background to start with in specific. With Lent beginning in just over a week (Ash Monday, for us Syriac-rite folk, is on February 4), I just ordered a proof copy of the manuscript for the Lenten liturgy for my wife and I to use for the Liturgy of the Hours during this upcoming season.

Over and over again, I have found many ways to describe the relationship between the Divine Liturgy and the Liturgy of the Hours, but none of my attempts have been quite as successful as one I noticed recently at Liturgy, the website of Father Bosco Peters, an Anglican priest from New Zealand.

Father Peters kindly granted permission for his words to appear here, but these short quotes are simply a portion of a longer article that is found on the front page of his site. I hope you will find it as spot-on as I have if you are a liturgist, and if you are an individual who is giving consideration to making the Liturgy of the Hours (Daily Office, Divine Office, Daily Prayer, etc...) a part of your spiritual disicpline, I hope it will connect the Eucharistic heart of our Christian life with an integrated sense of continious prayer.

The word “liturgy” comes from the Greek λειτουργια (leitourgia) – public work or duty, work of the people. Liturgy is the spiritual work of all God’s people. Liturgy is structured common prayer. It can be shared, common worship precisely because it is structured.

Speaking of his site, Fr. Peters continues:

There is a focus on the Eucharist (Mass, Holy Communion) as the jewel in the crown. And also a highlighting of the Liturgy of the Hours (Daily Prayer- using the Bible as prayer) as the crown in which the jewel of the Eucharist is set. Hence, in the spirituality of this site, there is a balance of Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina (individual prayerful hearing what the Spirit is saying in the scriptures), and silent contemplative prayer. There is a balance of solitude and community. A balance of liturgy as service of God, and our call to service of others.

Powerful words... the Eucharist as the jewel of the crown the encompasses the bride of Christ - the crown of prayer. Thanks, Fr. Peters, for your outstanding contribution to the contemporary understanding of the relationship of the Church's life of prayer and worship.

The Conversion of Saint Paul

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, a remembrance of how a man of Tarsus named Saul, a former persecutor of the early Christian church, was led by God’s grace to become one of its chief preachers. The risen Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and called him to proclaim the Gospel.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world through the preaching of your servant Saint Paul. May we, who celebrate his wonderful conversion, follow him in bearing witness to your truth. We make our prayer through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Psalm of the Day
Psalm 67

Morning Prayer Reading
Galatians 1:11-24

Divine Liturgy Readings
Acts 9: 1-31 or Acts 26: 9-21
Matthew 10: 16-22

Evening Prayer Reading
2 Timothy 4: 1-8

24 January 2008

When Bad Things Happen to Good Liturgy

Essay 1: The Tragedy of Tacky Liturgy

The liturgical services of the Christian Church are, perhaps, the most instructive rituals in any religious tradition on earth. They are filled with symbols, words, and actions that teach with every look, breath, and motion. Christian liturgy assists us (in cooperation with the absolutely necessary grace of the Holy Spirit) in breaking down our own wills bit by bit and conforming ourselves to the heart and mind of God. Given this awesome ability that is inherent in the Christian liturgy, it is overwhelmingly depressing and disheartening to see that there are Christian assemblies today who accept a liturgy that fails to engage the senses and the heart of the worshipper because the liturgy itself has been overshadowed by the dismissive way in which it is executed. It is the ultimate tragedy of tacky liturgy.

Tacky liturgy is detrimental to both the spiritual and catechetical aspects of worship, leading the faithful down a path that is ultimately unfulfilling and disheartening. It is no wonder that non-liturgical churches are springing up, growing to roster thousands of members seemingly overnight, while liturgical churches are languishing in many areas. They are, at times rightly, accused of being dead or dying, and of offering nothing new and satisfying to the spiritual diet of Christians. At the same time, more and more people are finding themselves drawn to ritualistic non-Christian traditions as well. While many of these individuals may not find themselves drawn to Christianity to start with, some of them have certainly turned away from the faith because of their need for an inherently liturgical order to their worship (and, perhaps, to their lives).

Today, tacky liturgy is most frequently noticed in the Western Church. Let’s face it, since the Liturgical Renewal that accompanied Vatican II, the conciliar decrees that governed the reform have been used as the justification for so many idiotic practices that some people have elected to flee from contemporary liturgy, preferring to ensconce themselves in the traditions they find reverent and comforting. No matter how reverent and comforting these traditions may be, they do not optimally teach the faith as it was handed down to the Fathers of the Church if for no other reason than the fact that the ritual expression of the faith takes the form of a weapon that is used against other Christians.

All this being said about the Western Church, the East has its own fair share of tacky liturgy. The average westerner may not notice it, but its there, and when its tacky it is so distracting (at least to me) so as to render my worship experience nearly useless. To see faded out lithographs in place of genuine icons in a Byzantine Church, or unbuttoned albs (sticharion) in a Syriac Church are every bit as distracting and tacky as substituting a rousing chorus of “Kumbaya” in place of the Sanctus in the Western rite.

It is up to those tasked with leading worship, the bishops, presbyters, deacons, deaconesses, lectors, servers, cantors… and yes, every member of the Christian assembly… to do something about the shortcomings of our worship practices, regardless of our ritual tradition.

In the weeks and months to come, I hope to share with you some practical and sensible thoughts for you to reflect on in your quest for a deeper and more reverent experience that transcends the ordinary and brings the people of God to an extraordinary liturgical encounter with Jesus Christ.

Saint Timothy

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Timothy. Timothy was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor. He was converted to Christ around the year 52 by the Apostle Paul. When the Paul and Barnabas first visited the cities of Lycaonia, Paul healed one crippled from birth. Many of the inhabitants of Lystra then believed in Christ, and among them was the future Timothy, his mother Eunice and grandmother Loida (Lois) (Acts 14:6-12; 2 Tim. 1:5).

The seed of faith, planted in the soul of Timothy by Paul, brought forth abundant fruit. He became Paul's disciple, and later his constant companion and co-worker in the preaching of the Gospel. Paul loved Timothy and in his Epistles called him his beloved son, remembering his devotion and fidelity with gratitude.

He wrote to Timothy: “You have followed my teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, and patience” (2 Tim. 3:10-11). Paul appointed Timothy as Bishop of Ephesus, where the saint remained for fifteen years. Finally, when Paul was in prison and awaiting martyrdom, summoned his faithful friend, Timothy, for a last farewell (2 Tim. 4:9).

Timothy ended his life as a martyr. The pagans of Ephesus celebrated a festival in honor of their idols, and carried them through the city, accompanied by impious ceremonies and songs. Zealous for the glory of God, Timothy attempted to halt the procession and reason with the spiritually blind idol-worshipping people, by preaching the true faith in Christ. The pagans angrily fell upon the bishop, they beat him, dragged him along the ground, and finally, they stoned him. Timothy's martyrdom occurred in the year 93.

Prayer of the Day
Heavenly Father, you sent the apostle Paul to preach the gospel, and gave him Timothy as a companion in the faith who witnessed to Christ by both his life and his death. Grant that our fellowship with him and with one another in the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Morning Prayer Reading
Acts 16: 1-5

Divine Liturgy Readings
2 Timothy 1: 1-14
John 10: 11-16

Evening Prayer Reading
2 Timothy 3: 10-17

23 January 2008

Saint Anastasius of Persia

Today the Church commemorates Saint Anastasius of Persia. Originally named Magundat, today’s saint was a soldier in the army of Chosroes when that monarch carried what he believed to be the relics of the Cross from Jerusalem to Persia. Anastasius asked about Jesus, and having heard the Gospel he became a Christian, left the army, and returned to Jerusalem to become a monk. He changed his name to Anastasius when he took his monastic vows. After seven years of the monastic observance, he felt moved to leave the monastery and share the Gospel.

Reproaching his countrymen for their magic and fire-worship, both of which he had once practised, he was taken prisoner, cruelly tortured to make him deny Christ, and finally carried down near the Euphrates, to a place called Barsaloe, where he was tortured again. At the same time, the king promised him great rewards if he would deny his faith. Finally, seeing his unwillingness to recant, the King martyred Anastasius and seventy others in the year 628.

Prayer of the Day
God our redeemer, your Church was strengthened by the blood of the holy martyr Anastasius. Bind us, in life and death, to Christ's sacrifice so that that our lives, broken and offered with his, may carry his death and proclaim his resurrection in the world. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

22 January 2008

Saint Vincent of Saragossa

Today the Church commemorates Saint Vincent of Saragossa. Vincent was born at Huesca but lived in Saragossa (in modern-day Spain). Vincent served as the deacon of Saint Valerius, the bishop of Saragossa. He was imprisoned in Valencia for his faith, and tortured. Though he was offered release if he would throw a copy of the Scriptures into a fire, Vincent refused. Vincent was brought to trial along with his bishop. Because Valerius had a speech impediment, Vincent spoke for both, but his outspoken fearless manner so angered the governor that Vincent was tortured and martyred, though his aged bishop was only exiled. He died in the year 304.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, today we commemorate your holy deacon Vincent. By your grace he remained steadfast in his faith and was not terrified by threats nor overcome by torments. Strengthen us to endure all adversity with invincible and steadfast faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

21 January 2008

Saint Agnes of Rome

Today the Church commemorates Saint Agnes of Rome. Like Saint Prisca, Agnes was little more than thirteen years old. She had chosen a life of service to Christ as a virgin, despite the Roman emperor Diocletian’s ruling that had outlawed all Christian activity. The details of her martyrdom are unclear, but she gave witness to her faith and was put to death, most likely by the sword, sometime between 291 and 304.

Prayer of the Day
Eternal God, shepherd of your sheep, whose child Agnes was strengthened to bear witness in her living and her dying to the true love of her redeemer: grant us the power to understand, with all your saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love that surpasses knowledge, even Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

20 January 2008

Saint Fabian of Rome

Today the Church commemorates Saint Fabian. He was Bishop of Rome for 14 years. He organized the city of Rome into parishes and appointed scribes to record the lives of the martyrs for posterity. When the Emperor Decius began a persecution of Christians, probably the first one to be waged simultaneously in all parts of the Empire, Fabian was one of the first to be put to death, setting a courageous example for others. His tombstone, with the inscription dimly visible, can still be seen at Rome.

Prayer of the Day

Gracious God, in your providence you called your servant Fabian to the office of Bishop, and guided him to strengthen the Church at Rome so that it could stand fast in the day of persecution. Grant that those whom you call to any ministry in the Church may be obedient to your call in all humility, be enabled to carry out their tasks with diligence and faithfulness, and be willing, like him, to give their lives for the glory of your name. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

19 January 2008

Saint Prisca of Rome

Today the Church commemorates Saint Prisca, also known as Priscilla, of Rome.
Prisca was of a noble family and at thirteen years of age she was brought before the emperor, Claudius, under the accusation of practicing Christianity. By his command she was taken to the temple of Apollo to sacrifice there, and when she refused, was buffeted and sent to prison. She was released from prison, but when she still held steadfastly to the faith, they flogged her, poured boiling tallow upon her, and sent her back a second time. She was at last thrown to a lion in the amphitheater, but it quietly lay down at her feet. She was starved for three days in a slaves' prison house, and then tortured upon the rack. Pieces of flesh were next torn from her body with iron hooks, and she was thrown on a burning pile. She marvelously still remained alive, and was accordingly beheaded outside the city.
Prayer of the Day
Gracious God, you filled your handmaid Prisca with grace to suffer and die while boldly confessing her faith. Grant that we may follow her example so that we may be found ready when the Bridegroom returns to bring us with him to the marriage feast. We make our prayer through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

18 January 2008

Star Trek is coming...

The new J.J. Abrams monster-flick "Cloverfield" debuts today in theaters. I am not a monster-movie fan (ok, I watched a few Godzilla flicks when I was a kid), but I am a Star Trek fan, and today the teaser for the upcoming Star Trek film debuted with "Cloverfield".

Fortunately, I didn't have to go to the theater to see it, and neither do you...

The Confession of Saint Peter

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter, a remembrance that, by God’s grace, Peter was lead to acknowledge Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This confession, the rock of the Christian faith, is the rock upon which the Church is built.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, who inspired your apostle Saint Peter to confess Jesus as Christ and Son of the living God: build up your Church upon this rock, that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth and follow one Lord, your Son our Savior Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Acts 4: 8-13
Psalm 18
Matthew 16: 13-19

17 January 2008

Saint Macarius of Egypt

Today the Church commemorates Saint Macarius of Egypt. Macarius was born in Upper Egypt around the year 300. At a young age, Macarius was forced to get married against his will. Thus, he pretended to be sick and ask for his parents' permission to go to the wilderness to relax. At his return, he found that his wife had died, and shortly after, his parents departed as well. Macarius subsequently distributed all his money among the poor and needy. Seeing his virtues, the people of his village brought him to the bishop of Ashmoun who ordained him as a presbyter.

A while later, a pregnant woman accused him of having defiled her. Macarius did not attempt to defend himself, and accepted the accusation in silence. However, when the woman's delivery drew near, her labor became exceedingly difficult. She did not manage to give birth until she confessed Macarius' innocence. A multitude of people then came asking for his forgiveness, but he fled to the Nitrian Desert to escape all mundane glory.

While at the desert, he visited Anthony the Great and learned from him the laws and rules of monasticism. For a brief period of time, Macarius was banished to an island in the Nile by the Emperor Valens, along with Saint Macarius of Alexandria, during a dispute over the doctrine of the Nicene Creed. When he returned to the Scetic Desert at the age of forty, he presided over its monastic community for the rest of his life.

Prayer of the Day

Gracious God, your grace kindled the fire of your love within Saint Macarius of Egypt, allowing him to become a bright light for your Church. Fill us with the same spirit of discipline and love, and allow us to walk before you always as children of light. We make our prayer through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

15 January 2008

Saint Paul of Thebes

Today the Church commemorates Saint Paul of Thebes. While his existence is certain, much of what we know about his life is legendary. Saint Paul is considered the first Christian hermit. He was born in Egypt in the third century A.D.

Paul’s father died while he was a young man, leaving him and his brother an inheritance. Paul’s feelings were hurt when his older brother took his share of the inheritance, so they decided to take the matter to court. On their way, they saw a funeral procession. Paul asked one of the mourners about the dead man. Paul was told that he was one of the noble and rich people of the city, and that he left his riches and his wealth behind, and that they were taking him to bury him with only his garment.

St. Paul sighed in his heart and said to himself, “What do I have to do then with all the money of this temporal world which I shall leave naked?” He looked to his brother and said to him, “My brother, let us return, for I shall not ask you for anything, not even for what is mine.”

On their way back, Paul left his brother and went on his way until he came out of the city. Paul found a place to stop and prayed for three days, asking for guidance in living a life that was pleasing to God. Paul then went to the eastern inner wilderness of Egypt where he remained for the next seventy years. He wore a tunic made of palm tree fiber, ate and drank off the land, and received half a loaf of bread each day from the Lord.

After many years of solitude, the Lord moved Saint Anthony of Egypt to visit Saint Paul in the desert. The two hermits spent some time in the company of each other. After a while Anthony departed. On his way home he saw two angels carrying off Paul’s soul. He turned back and found the lifeless body of the hermit, burying him there under the watchful gaze of a pair of lions.

Prayer of the Day
Gracious God, you led Saint Paul of Thebes into the desert that he might put aside all worldly cares and focus on a life of holiness. Through the example of his life of solitude, prayer and penance, grant that we, who are striving to develop in ourselves the spirit of prayer and service, may come ever closer to you in love. We make our prayer through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

13 January 2008

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Today the Church commemorates Saint Hilary of Poitiers. Born in the year 315, he lived and ministered during the midst of the Arian controversy. Hilary was exiled from his bishopric at Poitiers because of his staunch opposition to the Arian teaching that Jesus Christ was not equally God, together with the Father and the Spirit. His exile, which began in 357, lasted three years, during which time he wrote several essays, including “On the Trinity”. Finally the Emperor was forced to send him back to Gaul because he was causing such difficulties for the Arians in the East. After a life of faithful service in defense of the orthodox Christian faith, Hilary died in the year 367.

(Editor's Note: Because the commemoration of St. Hilary falls on a Sunday, its observance is transferred to Monday, January 14 in 2008.)

Prayer of the Day
Lord God, you raised up your servant Hilary to be a champion of the true Christain faith. May we always hold fast to the faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having you for our Father, and may abide in your Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. To you, O Lord, be glory forever. Amen.

12 January 2008

Saint Tatiana of Rome

Today the Church commemorates Saint Tatiana of Rome. Tatiana was a Christian martyr in 3rd century Rome during the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus. She was a deaconess of the early church.

She was the daughter of a Roman civil servant who was secretly Christian, and raised his daughter in the faith. Tatiana was captured by a Roman Jurist and exposed as a Christian. She underwent significant torture before she was beheaded sometime between 225 and 230.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, the faith of the deaconess Tatiana of Rome was not dispelled by threats nor overcome by torments: Strengthen us to endure all adversity with invincible and steadfast faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

10 January 2008

Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Today the Church commemorates Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Gregory was the younger brother of Saint Basil of Caesarea and a good friend of Saint Gregory Nazianzus. Despite reservations, he consented to become bishop of Nyssa in 372. (Nyssa is in modern day Turkey, in a region then called Cappadocia.) He was present at a local council in Antioch and at the First Council of Constantinople. At both councils, he defended the faith against the Arian heresy. Gregory made two major contributions to theology. The first is his doctrine of the Trinity, the second is his spiritual theology, which posited God as infinite and salvation as potentially universal. After a long and faithful life, he died sometime after the year 394.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of persons. Give us grace that, like Saint Gregory of Nyssa, we may continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith, and constant in our worship of you. To you, o God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be glory and honor, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

04 January 2008

Seventy Holy Disciples

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Seventy Holy Disciples. The Seventy are those whom the Lord chose in addition to the Twelve Apostles, sending them forth unto the work of preaching. With the passage of time, others were added to their number by the Apostles, who, with the accompaniment and assistance of the Seventy, were preaching the Gospel of Christ in various lands. Although their number eventually exceeded seventy, they were all nonetheless referred to as "of the Seventy" out of reverence for the number of Disciples which the Lord chose. The evangelist Luke describes the calling and the sending forth of the initial Seventy in the tenth chapter of his Gospel.

After the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord, and after Pentecost, on which all the Apostles and men and women disciples of Christ, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary (some 120 in number), were gathered in the upper chamber, they received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and went forth throughout the ends of the world, everywhere preaching and teaching the Gospel of Christ, and leading to the true Faith the peoples who were sunk in the darkness of impiety and idolatry.

Prayer of the Day
Lord God, you called the Seventy Holy Disciples and sent them to carry the good news, strengthened for combat and armed to give you witness. They travelled through nations in your name and called them to the truth. Their preaching called us to salvation. May we keep their teaching in our hearts, remember their precepts in our conscience, and give witness like them in our lives, and we will praise you, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Psalm 1
Romans 10: 9-15
Luke 10: 1-18

03 January 2008

Update 1: Iconography Project for Early 2008

NOTE: You may click on all the images in this post for a higher resolution view.

Well, its been a few days, and I have finished prepping my icon's surface and have completed the outline of the image.

As noted in my previous post, this is an icon of Coptic Origin with some influence from the Rabulla school of Iconograpy. My medium for this project is acrylics.

The base of the icon took several coats and cures of 'Heaven Blue' paint.

This afternoon, I completed the outline of the figure of Christ.

You will note that the nimbus (halo) is not fully present, as that will be the final addition to the icon. There are also some mis-strokes with my outline pencil that will disappear when the icon is completed. Since this image will depict Christ reaching his hands out to all on earth who seek him, I will later add grass and other backgrounds. When completed, I will gold leaf the outside border in the blue area and will use the same procedure with the nimbus.

Saint Sabinus and his Companions

Today the Church commemorates Saint Sabinus and his Companions. Sabinus was a bishop who, together with his deacons, resisted the edict of sacrifice during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian in the year 304.

Diocletian's order required all Christians to sacrifice to the gods or be put to death, with their estates seized for the state. The local governor, Venustian, mocked Sabinus's faith, accusing him of leading the people to the worship of a dead man. When Sabinus said that Christ rose on the third day, Venustian invited him to do the same thing. He had Sabinus's hands cut off. The deacons were in great fear, but Sabinus encouraged them to hold to their faith, and they died after being torn apart by iron hooks. In prison after the martyrdom of his deacons, he was tended by a woman named Serena. He healed a man born blind in prison. Venustian heard of the cure and sought a cure for his own eyes from Sabinus. Sabinus healed the governor and converted him to Christianity. Venustian then sheltered Sabinus. Maximianus Herculius, hearing of this, ordered the tribune Lucius to address the matter. Lucius had Venustian, his wife, and his two sons beheaded at Assisi, and he had Sabinus beaten to death at Spoleto.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, through your grace and power Saint Sabinus and his Companions triumphed over suffering and were faithful unto death. Strengthen us with your grace, that we may endure reproach and persecution and faithfully bear witness to the name of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

02 January 2008

Because it was just too funny not to share...

Talk about your pointless diversions... I came across a website, "The Advertising Slogan Generator" through the blog of author David Mack. It's a boatload of fun. I do like the slogan on this site (taken from Psalm 19), but if I was in the market for a new one...

Behold the Power of Stellarcross.

Enter a word for your own slogan:

Generated by the Advertising Slogan Generator, for all your slogan needs. Get more StellarCross slogans.

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus

Today the Church commemorates Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. Gregory was born around 330. He went to school in Athens, and later returned home to assist his father, a bishop, in his struggles against Arianism.

In 379, after the death of the Arian Emperor Valens, Gregory was asked to go to Constantinople to preach there. For thirty years, the city had been controlled by Arians or pagans, and the orthodox did not even have a church there. Gregory went. He converted his own house there into a church and held services in it. There he preached the Five Theological Orations for which he is best known, a series of five sermons on the Trinity and in defense of the deity of Christ. People flocked to hear him preach, and the city was largely won over to the catholic position by his powers of persuasion. The following year, he was consecrated bishop of Constantinople. While bishop there, he presided at the First Council of Constantinople.

Having accomplished what he believed to be his mission at Constantinople, and heartily sick of ecclesiastical politics, Gregory resigned and retired to his home town of Nazianzus, where he died in 389.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons. Fill us with grace so that we, like your bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, may continue steadfast in the confession of our faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To you be glory, O God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

01 January 2008

Iconography Project 1 for Early 2008

Last year I wrote my first icon, one of Christ the Teacher. I am still finishing it off in a few respects, but it is generally complete. I attempted to write an icon of the God-bearer, but I chose too small a scale. While I will endeavor to complete it, my hands aren't quite in the shape to finish such a small icon (about 6 inches square).

So, after reviewing my first icon and determining my overall desire for my iconography, I have elected to begin my first iconography project of the new year, a different version of Christ. The image that accompanies this post is my master.

I plan to post photographs of the iconography step-by-step to share with readers the different elements that go into writing an icon.

The first step is nearly complete, so... while it will be a pretty plain (read boring) picture, the next post you will see on this topic will be of the completed background of the icon.

While I mainly employ the Coptic style of Iconography, the Syriac/Rabulla manuscripts have very vivid background colors that sometimes the Coptic icons lack. So the finished icon will be written in a hybrid Syro-Coptic style.

Icons don't just get painted overnight. In fact, while they are illumined with paints, an icon is written during times of intense prayer and reflection.

I hope to finish the background this week, and to get the outline drawn in by the end of the weekend. The next step will be to lay in underpaint for extremely dark features, followed by the main paints. I hope to have this complete before Lent begins. I then plan to do the detail work (hair, eyes, hands, feet, folds of clothing, shading, etc) during Lent, with the goal of presenting it for blessing at Pascha.

Stay tuned!

The Theophany of the Lord

Today we conclude the Solemn Octave of Christmas with the celebration of the feast of the Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The feast of the Theophany is intimately connected with the mystery of our Lord's birth. The Child who was born for us and the Son who was given to us is manifested before us to be the Son of the Most High. Christ begins his public life with his baptism by John in the Jordan River. At his baptism Christ is seen as the fulfillment of John's preaching: He is the Messiah and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Father and Holy Spirit are witnesses to Christ for he is the beloved Son of the Father and upon him the Spirit rests. Thus at the baptism of the Lord we have not only an epiphany or manifestation of Christ as God's Son, but also Theophany or manifestation of the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The feast of the Theophany reminds us not only of the baptism of Christ, but also of our own baptism. St. Ephrem in his Hymn for Theophany says: "...our blessed Lord came to be baptized with sinners and because of his glory the heavens were opened. The One who purifies all creatures, desiring to cleanse them, went into the waters and sanctified them for our baptism." It is for this reason that we bless water on this day. Originally, the mystery of baptism was celebrated on this feast and the waters blessed were those of baptism.

Today we celebrate the manifestation or epiphany of the Trinity at the baptism of Christ as well as the manifestation of the glory of God in the person of the Lord come into the world, that is to say, the manifestation of Christ, the Word of God, among us. Let us then call to mind the grace of God who has appeared for the salvation of all, and thank him for the baptism through which we have been begotten in the Spirit and through which we have put on Christ and become children of the Father.

Prayer of the Day
Father, in the waters of the Jordan River, you revealed your beloved Son in both his oneness with you and his oneness with humanity. Through the power of your Spirit, draw us ever more fully into his divine life, which cleanses us and frees us from sin and death. We make our prayer through your Incarnate Word, Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Psalm of the Day


Suggested Readings

Ephesians 2: 1-10
Matthew 3: 1-17

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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