19 February 2008

Saint Mesrob of Armenia

Today the Church commemorates Saint Mesrob of Armenia.

Mesrob was born around the year 360 and, in his studies, he became a scholar of classical languages. He became a monk in the year 395 and founded several monasteries that served to spread the Gospel in remote parts of Armenia. Mesrob gave the Armenian people a cherished gift, their alphabet, and translated the Scriptures into the new language. He also write biblical commentaries and translated the writings of other Church fathers. After a faithful life, he died peacefully in the year 440.

Prayer of the Day
Father, we give you thanks as we commemorate your servant Mesrob, who was moved to develop a common language so that the Armenian people might more fully understand the riches of your love. May we give thanks for those who, in our own day, labor to bring your word to those divided by language, so that they may come to know the good news of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

13 February 2008

Saints Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of SaintAquila and his wife Saint Priscilla (Prisca), Jewish contemporaries of St. Paul, traveled widely. Because of persecution in Rome, they went to Corinth where they met the apostle Paul, who joined them in their trade of tentmaking (Acts 18:1-3). They, in turn, joined him in his mission of proclaiming the Christian Gospel. The couple later traveled with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18), where the two of them established a home that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity.

Saint Apollos was one of their numerous Jewish pupils in the faith. An eloquent man, Apollos "spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus" (Acts 18:25). He later traveled from Corinth to the province of Achaia, where he "showed by the Scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus" (Acts 18:28).

Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos are all remembered and honored for their great missionary zeal.

Prayer of the Day
Father, you endowed Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos with a fervency of faith that served to spread the gospel wherever the found themselves. Send your Holy Spirit into your Church today, and raise up young men and women who, full of your Holy Spirit, may show forth the hope that has been given to us, proclaim a faith that is unquenchable, and live out in their actions love for you that changes the face of the earth. We make our prayer through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Morning Prayer Reading
Acts 18: 1-17

Divine Liturgy Readings
Acts 18: 24-26
Matthew 7: 24-29

Evening Prayer Reading
Acts 18: 27-29

12 February 2008

What I Like on TV Tonight... Space, Space, Space!

Tonight at 8 PM Eastern, PBS's long-running science and technology program NOVA is airing "Astrospies", a behind the scenes look at American and Soviet attempts to militarize spaceflight in the 1960's.

Tonight at 10 PM Eastern on the Science Channel, "Tank on the Moon" airs. This program explores the Soviet Lunokhod automated lunar rovers, launched to our gray neighbor in the early 1970's.

Sadly, I doubt I'll be able to see the latter program - I don't get the Science Channel here in Indy. But I'll definately tune in for "Astrospies".

10 February 2008

First Sunday of Lent (RCL) Homily

Today I celebrated Divine Liturgy and preached in a parish that uses the Revised Common Lectionary. Here are the notes from that homily.

In 1970, The Grass Roots released a song titled "Temptation Eyes". The song features a man singing about a naive, innocent woman and a man's sure and certain knowledge that he wants to have her for himself. The song repeats, several times: "Temptation eyes looking through my soul. Temptation eyes, you got to love me, Got to love me tonight."
Our music extols it, our advertising bids us to give into it, and our world considers it glorious and amazing… we seem to, as a society, covet temptation. Soap operas are built around it, our game shows play upon it, and each of us in our own ways face temptation on a daily basis. We are not strangers to temptation, nor were our first parents, Adam and Eve.

What can Adam and Eve and their temptations teach us about the four parts of temptation…
· Temptation's Root: Satan attempts to subvert Eve's relationship with God.
· Temptation's Strength: Satan plays on Eve's intellect… It's not that bad… how can it be wrong when it looks so good / feels so right
· Temptation's Impetus: Eve makes Satan's thoughts her own. He's right, it looks good!
· Temptation's Inevitable Result: Shame, fear, hiding, pain, suffering, terror, and the loss of a deep, intimate connection with God.

Each and every one of us, in turn, have inherited the lasting physical effects of sin, and the tendency to sin. Not only do we bear the mark of sin, but the purposeful, beautiful, ordered design of creation was rocked. As we hear in the Letter to the Romans, "sin and death entered the world through one man."

Just as disaster entered into the world through one man, so too, we are told, salvation and restoration enters through a man, the God-man, Jesus Christ.

During this Lenten season, each of us will meditate repeatedly, I am sure, on the passion, death, and burial of the Lord. Which of us can forget the rites of Good Friday when we solemnly join our minds and hearts to that burial procession that formed at the summit of Calvary nearly two millennia ago?

Yet Christ does not only teach us that through his death, we find life. Today, on this first Sunday within the Lenten season, we are shown an example of how to live.
Each day, we face temptations and lures that would seek to draw us away from our relationship with God. Some of them are innocuous, others are blatantly obvious. All of them, however, fall into one of three categories:
· We give worldly necessities the value and weight of eternal necessities (stones to bread)
· We give worldly circumstances and challenges the value and weight of eternal life (throw yourself from the parapet)
· We give worldly glory and fame the value and weight of the glory of God we are called to share. (Worship Satan and Inherit the Kingdoms of the Earth)

Each of us face daily temptations… one look at my waistline can tell you that much… but how we choose to face temptations defines us and the depth of our relationship with God.

Adam and Eve Response: Embrace temptation.
Jesus’s response: Meet temptation with the powerful word and an insistent spirit.

09 February 2008

Anglican Bishop Challenges Beliefs on Heaven

I suppose that most wouldn't be shocked if I stated that the Church of England's Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, has called into question the traditional view of the afterlife that Christians have adhered to for the better part of the last few hundred years. I know I wasn't. What did shock me was just how ancient his take on what happens to us after death is. This week, Time magazine ran an article outlining his views of the New Testament, and how it deals with the question of our life after death.

It is definately worth a read. You can the online edition at this link.

Saint Maron of Mount Lebanon

Today the Church commemorations Saint Maron of Mount Lebanon.
All that is known about Maron, the spiritual father and protector of the movement that came to bear his name comes from Theodoret, the bishop of Cyr. In approximately 444, Theodoret undertook the project of writing a religious history. Theodoret never knew Maron personally, but he spoke with many disciples of his. He described Maron as "the one who has planted for God the garden which flourishes now in the region of Cyr."

He felt that Maron was a man born not for this world, but for heaven. In his description of the beginning of Maron's life, Theodoret assests that Maron had "already increased the number of saints in heaven."

According to history, Maron was never satisfied with the ordinary practices of asceticism, but was "always seeking for new ways to accumulate all the treasures of wisdom." Maron was the spiritual leader not only of the hermits who lived near him, but of all the Christian faithful in the area. He used to counsel them, heal their bodily and spiritual ills. All of these apostolic endeavors manifested wisdom and holiness of the hermit Maron.
His date of death us unknown, but is generally placed between the years 407 and 423.
Prayer of the Day
Lord, you appointed your priest, Maron, as a spiritual father and shepherd to a portion of your flock. You supported him with your grace and led him in your truth. Grant that we, co celebrate his memory today, may hold fast to the faith he confessed. To you, O Lord, be glory forever. Amen.

08 February 2008

Since I'm in a "Railing on the Government" Mood Today

I have said on many occassions that those who think we have freedom of speech in the United States need to take their heads out of the sand and get a clue.

In Berkeley, California, the local Peace and Justice Commission brought a resolution before the City Council that condemned the U.S. Marine recruiting station (and the country in general) for "launching illegal, immoral and unprovoked wars of aggression and the Bush administration launched the most recent of those wars in Iraq and is threatening the possibility of war in Iran."

So here these (insert your judgement statement here) people have elected to make their voice heard. Freedom of speech reigns! Yay! Oh, but wait... of course someone has to get ticked. In this case a group of Republican lawmakers, led by Senators David Vitter (R-Louisiana) and Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) have introduced the Sepmer Fi Act of 2008, threatening to take away somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000,000 in federal funds for things like school lunches and education from the city and give to the Marine Corps.

Are you kidding me? These people, no matter what you think of them and their view, are exercising their supposed right to free speech, and you wind up punishing the kids by depriving their lunch and educational programs of money. Now that's despicable.

Heck, even the Marines don't seem to have an issue with it. The spokesperson for the recruiting station basically said that they fight to support their right to free speech. If they aren't hopping mad, then why are Senators Vitter and DeMint so mad? I am sure, in part, it is because they see this as a slap in the face to the men and women of the military (and, to an extent, it is)... but mostly, given the tone of their rhetoric, it looks to me like this is just a way to get some face time on national TV.

You can read more about the story at this link... if you really want to.

Those Lying, Cheating Politicians Have Done It Again (Updated)

Just when you thought that President Bush and the good folks in Congress were trying to help you out...

You've all heard about the tax rebate checks we are supposed to get, right? Let's take a moment to check something out here... according to dictionary.com, the principal definition of the word rebate is: "a return of part of the original payment for some service or merchandise."

Did you catch that? A return of the original payment.

Thus, we should be getting back money we have already paid in income taxes, right? Wrong.

Instead, we are getting an advance, which is defined (in this context) as: "to supply or pay in expectation of reimbursement". Yea, that's right... just like at any payday loan shop, you will be paying it back. Don't believe me? CNN has a wonderful article on it right now (click here to read the article).

Do you want to know the worst part of this? President Bush and Congress did their very best to bamboozle the American public. Not one wisp of the fact that these were to be advances that had to be paid back next year ever entered into the public discussion (at least not that I heard) until after the bill had passed and was sent to the president.

President Bush wants me to spend the money that I'll be getting. Fat chance. My money is going into a savings account.

And people wonder why I think politicians fall in to two categories, less evil and more evil...

And no, to all my readers who will again beseech me to vote... why vote when this is the best you can get.
Update: CNN has posted a follow-up article (link) which states that we won't have to pay back anything we get, even if it exceeds the refund we will get next year. It would have been nice if that had been specified in the original article, but all this means is that a lot of people won't be getting refunds next year. So, friends, you are still paying for it on the backside, just not as harshly as it initially looked from the earlier article. I suppose we can breathe a small sigh of relief... right?

07 February 2008

Go Atlantis! (Updated)

Today marks the first launch attempt for STS-122 aboard the shuttle Atlantis. Launch is scheduled for 2:45 PM Eastern Time today. Weather is currently the only factor that the launch team is concerned with, as previously pesky sensors have been behaving themselves today. You can follow the mission over at nasaspaceflight.com. Thanks to Chris Bergin and the team there for the image of the orbiter at the pad in this post.
Godspeed, Atlantis!
Update: 3:30 PM EST - Atlantis is safely on orbit in what may be the cleanest launch since the program returned to flight.

06 February 2008

Entering Into Lent

Editor's Note: While Monday was the 'ash day' for those of us in the Syriac tradition, today is Ash Wednesday for most Christians in the west. In that spirit, I am sharing some reflections on the meaning of Lent, regardless of the day on which you begin/began your Lent.

As we enter into the season of Lent, we gather together to mark ourselves with Ashes as a sign of our repentance. This sign, an ancient one to be sure, has a special significance and importance in the context of Judeo-Christian history… but the sign’s value is empty if it remains only a sign.

To be marked with ashes today means that we recognize and admit to all people we encounter that we are sinners… that we have fallen short of the high mark of our calling, and that we need the grace of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to reach toward the hope of our calling.

During the season of Lent, we are called to discipline our bodies, to reign in our desires and our wants. We are called to simplify our lives and focus more intently on Christ. Lent isn’t about getting ashes on your head today and kissing a crucifix on Good Friday. Lent isn’t about fish on Friday and Stations of the Cross. Lent is about the transformation of one’s life, seeking to emulate more and more the example of the Savior in our daily walk.

If this isn’t our goal, then there is no point in following Lenten discipline, nor is there a point in receiving the mark of ashes upon our foreheads. In fact, to do so would be a lie… a sign of “I want the world to think I want to be better, but I am more than happy to be just what I am now.”

This viewpoint is often borne out of a static, unchanging view of salvation. “I was baptized, thus I am saved.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Salvation is a constant, evolving journey. The Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and even those Protestant Churches that flowed from the Wesleyan tradition have a saying: “I was saved, I am being saved, I will be saved.” This expression lays it out… we are in the midst of our journey, and each day is an experience of the salvation of our God. Lent is a time when we are called to enter more consciously into this experience, to reach out more intently and to receive more fully the lavish gifts of the Spirit that God has poured out upon us through Christ.

This is what Lent is all about.

May your Lent this year be a time of transformation and renewal, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To our holy, triune God be all praise and honor, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Patriarch Jacob

Editor's Note: Because Lent has begun, today is not kept with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, only a Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. Today is not kept as a feast, thus Lenten fasting guidelines still hold primacy.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Patriarch Jacob.

Jacob, the third of the three Hebrew patriarchs, was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, whose name means “deceiver," was renamed “Israel,“ which means “he strives with God“ (Gen. 25:26; 32:28). His family life was filled with trouble, caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph (March 31). Much of his adult life was spent grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land. Prior to Jacob's death during the blessing of his sons, God gave the promise that the Messiah would come through the line of Jacob's fourth son, Judah (Genesis 49).

Prayer of the Day
Lord Jesus, you are the hope of the patriarchs and prophets. Grant that we may be encouraged by the life and witness of the Patriarch Jacob, finding in his life those things that draw us close to you. To you, your Father, and your living Holy Spirit be glory and honor, now, always, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Morning Prayer Reading
Genesis 25: 19-34

Divine Liturgy Readings
Genesis 27:1 - 28:22 (Short Form, 28: 10-22)
John 2: 43b-51

Evening Prayer Reading
Genesis 49:29 - 50:13

05 February 2008

The Martyrs of Japan

Today the Church commemorates the Martyrs of Japan.

The Christian faith was first introduced into Japan in the sixteenth century by Jesuit and later by Franciscan missionaries. By the end of that century, there were probably about 300,000 baptized believers in Japan.

Unfortunately, this promising beginning met reverses, brought about by rivalries between different groups of missionaries and political intrigues by the Spanish and Portuguese governments, along with power politics among factions in the Japanese government itself. The result was a suppression of Christians.

The first victims were six Franciscan friars and twenty of their converts, who were executed at Nagasaki on 5 February 1597. (They were tied to crosses, the crosses were raised to an upright position, and they were then quickly stabbed to death by a soldier with a javelin.) After a short interval of relative tolerance, many other Christians were arrested, imprisoned for life, or tortured and killed; and the Church was totally driven underground by 1630. However, when Japan was re-opened to Western contacts 250 years later, it was found that a community of Japanese Christians had survived underground, without clergy, without Scriptures, with only very sketchy instructions in the doctrines of the faith, but with a firm commitment to Jesus as Lord.

Prayer of the Day
O God our Father, source of strength to all your saints, you brought the holy martyrs of Japan through the suffering of the cross to the joys of eternal life. Grant that we, being encouraged by their example, may hold fast the faith we profess, even to death itself. 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.

04 February 2008

Update - TrekMovie.com

Beginning this Wednesday, my current book review series at TrekMovie.com will be morphing (excuse the science fiction terminology) into a regular column, "Library Computer".

In addition to reviewing new Star Trek books, the column will feature author interviews by myself and others, together with the occassional commentary.

"Library Computer" debuts this Wednesday with a recap of the 2007 Star Trek fiction and a preview of what to expect in 2008.

Saint Agatha of Sicily

Editor's Note: Because today is Ash Monday, Saint Agatha is mentioned in the intercessions and may be mentioned at the Liturgy of the Hours, but any further celebration of her feast day is not kept this year.

Today the Church commemorates Saint Agatha of Sicily.

Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha lived a life consecrated to God. When the Emperor Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha's sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus' advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured. Imprisoned further, then rolled on live coals, she was near death when an earthquake stuck. In the destruction, the magistrate's friend was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, we praise you as we commeorate the courage of your holy martyr Agatha. Fill us with the Holy Spirit that, like her, we may remain faithful in all times of trouble and pain, seeking instead the glory that comes to us through our relationship with your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. To you, O God, be glory forever. Amen.

03 February 2008

One Season Ends... Another Begins

Well, football season officially ended just a few minutes ago with the New York Giants ending the New England Patriots quest for perfection with a three point victory at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Tom Brady and the Patriots came up short on their closing drive, giving the game to New York. As a Patriots fan, it was a dissapointing way to end an otherwise stellar season. But, that's football... and that's 'why they play the games.'

With this night being ended, its time to turn our attention to preparing for Pascha. Lent begins tomorrow (for those of us in the Syriac rite) with Ash Monday. Football cannot compare to the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ... not even a Super Bowl win can come close. Let us now enter into Lent with a certainty of purpose, focusing on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

During this Lenten season, fasting and abstinence from meats are some traditional means of marking the season, but instead of giving things up, perhaps you might consider taking something up... perhaps reviving your daily prayer life, spending more time reading Sacred Scripture, or volunteering time with the homeless, the sick, or the hungry.

Whatever way you choose to mark the Lenten Season, do so with the recognition that what you do you are doing in the power of the Holy Spirit to make your relationship with Christ more intimate, and remember that by making self sacrifices, we find ourselves conformed more and more to the heart of Jesus.

May your Lenten observance be blessed.

And, to my fellow Pats fans... there's always next season.

Saint Blaise of Sebaste

Editor's Note: Today is Transfiguration Sunday. As a result, today's commemorated saint, Blaise of Sebaste, is simply recounted in the Intercessions at the Liturgy.
Today the Church commemorates Saint Blaise of Sebaste. He was a bishop in Armenia, and died in a persecution under Licinius (who was Emperor of the East at the time that Constantine became Emperor of the West, and who continued to persecute Christians for some time after Constantine had stopped that practice in the West) in the year 314. According to one story, when Blaise was being led to the arena to be executed, he saw among the bystanders lining the streets a boy who had been eating his lunch and was choking on a bone. Blaise darted past his guards, ran to the boy, administered first aid, and saved his life. He then returned quietly to his guards and was led to his death.
Prayer of the Day
Father, hear the prayers of your people and unite them with those of your holy martyr Blaise. Strengthen us with your Spirit, bless us with peace during our lives on earth, and bring us at the last day to eternal life. 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.

02 February 2008

Saint Cornelius

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Cornelius. Cornelius, was a Roman centurion, and a God-fearing man. One day, as he was praying, an angel appeared to him and told him to send a messenger to Joppa and ask Peter to come and preach to him. Peter, meanwhile, was given a vision that disposed him to go with the messenger. When Peter had preached to Cornelius and his family and friends, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on the first Christians at Pentecost, and they began to speak in other tongues. Thus, there was ample evidence to convince Jewish Christians who hesitated to believe that it was the will of God that Gentiles should be brought into the Church.

Cornelius was the first Gentile converted to Christianity, along with his household, and Luke, recording this event, clearly regards it as an event of the utmost importance in the history of the early Church, the beginning of the Church's decision to admit Gentiles to full and equal fellowship with Jewish Christians. Cornelius lived in Caesarea, the political capital of Judea under Herod and the Romans. Although he is not mentioned again in Scripture, we know from Church history that Cornelius left the military service and followed the apostles. Saint Peter ordained him a Bishop over the city of Caesarea of Palestine. He went there and proclaimed the Name of Christ. The date and manner of his death is unknown, though Eastern tradition accounts him as a martyr.

Prayer of the Day
O God, your Spirit called Cornelius the Centurion to be the first Christian among the Gentiles. Grant to your Church such a ready will to go where you send and to do what you command, that under your guidance it may welcome all who turn to you in love and faith, and proclaim the Gospel to all nations. 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.

Acts 11: 1-18
Psalm 67
Luke 13: 22-29

01 February 2008

Saint Brigid of Kildare

Today the Church commemorates Saint Brigid of Kildare.

Brigid was born to a pagan chieftain and one of his Christian slaves. Named Brigid, perhaps to obtain the blessings of the goddess, she eventually became a priestess of Brid at a pagan sanctuary. There, she and her companions maintained a ritual fire in honor of Brid. While the events of Brigid's conversion are unknown, she and her companions all accepted the Christian faith. They also formed first religious community of Christian women in Ireland. Brigid converted the pagan sanctuary to a Christian shrine and transformed the ritual fire to one in honor of Christ.

Brigid was especially renowned for her kindness and love, manifested in her lavish almsgiving and in the miracles God poured out upon those in need when she would pray for them. The Book of Armagh, an ancient Irish chronicle, calls Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid “the pillars of the Irish” and says that through them both, “Christ performed many miracles.” She died peacefully in the year 525.

Prayer of the Day
Everliving God, we rejoice today in the fellowship of your blessed servant Brigid, and we give you thanks for her life of devoted service. Inspire us with life and light, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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

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