There is a great peace…

just in spending time in a church. I feel it when I step in, a sense of sanctuary from the craziness of the world, a physical reminder there are higher and more enduring realities in the world.


At times it makes no difference what is actually going on, what Liturgy is being served, or how I am part of things. Just to be there, to have my eyes completely captured only by holy things, a whole world around me where nothing profane can find root. This is a deep kind of joy.

Now there is precious little refuge to be found. The whole world is about signs and commerce and work and the endless pursuit of the next “thing”. Some who are called flee to the deserts and forests to find a place of rest but I am called to be in this world and so I need a place in the world, a place that calls me to what is higher, better, and more enduring.

It does not need to be a fancy, covered with gold and finery. Wherever people of true Faith come in humility to encounter God is already covered in the best of decoration. I have been to beautiful churches and I have been to humble ones and I can say that God is no respecter of persons as much as He is a respecter of hearts. The holiness of hearts is what makes a church a temple and such hearts transform a building into a refuge from a confusing and aggressive world.

If nothing else is to be gained the Faithful should be in their temple as often as possible simply because it is “other” than any place in the world and may be the one place, the only place in the world, where holiness and the deep peace it brings is welcome. To rest in such a place refreshes the soul and brings healing to lives numbed by the restlessness of this world.



Liturgy Today…

It was a Hierarchical Liturgy today. For those who aren’t Orthodox it means that our Bishop was at the service and because of that the service was longer, more involved, and had added dimensions. These kinds of liturgies don’t occur very often in the life of a parish simply because Orthodox Bishops, in our current state of things, are often far away from their parishes and live their lives out of their cars as they go to one parish or another. Our Bishop for Minnesota actually lives in Ohio and being hours away from a Bishop is fairly normal for American Orthodox. Because of that your Bishop might visit your parish, barring any kind of trouble, once every year or so. Still, these occasions are a special time and often there are significant preparations made for such a visit and the liturgies with a Bishop.

Some people, of course, view these visits with a certain kind of dread. A Priest and parish can sometimes be overwhelmed by the work and resources needed to make an episcopal visit a reality. There is the pressure many Priests feel to make a good impression in front of the person who literally can change your life with a phone call. Your whole routine as a parish changes when the Bishop comes and any or all of the prior items, by themselves or combined, can make the Bishop’s visit a challenge.

There is a benefit, though, to these visits that might not always be apparent. Because the liturgy is changed for at least the services where a Bishop is present, the Priests and people have to possess a kind of intentionality about the services. In normal Parish life the worship can become routine because people, over time, have settled in to an understanding of what they can, or should, do and what the celebrants are also most likely to do as well. A Bishop’s presence changes that. People can’t sleepwalk through the rubrics and they need to think about what they’re doing. It’s a teachable moment coming to a parish wearing an omophorion.

For that alone its good to have the Bishop visit. If there is no other liturgical education offered at a parish his presence will at least prompt a crash course and its amazing what people can learn when they have to.

You’re Not Worthy…

to receive the Eucharist and neither am I. In fact, I’m not worthy to pray the prayers of consecration over the bread and wine and certainly not worthy to stand in front of the altar in the first place.

That’s just a plain fact because I’m a sinner and so are you and so are we all. We know it, and God knows it better than even we do.

So if you’re waiting for some perfect moment to receive the Eucharist forget it because it will never happen. You’ll never be good enough and neither will I. There is, however, freedom in that. It’s not the freedom to live any kind of life we want but rather the freedom of knowing that the one requirement is that we are penitent, that we are in a place where we recognize our sins and struggles and come to God seeking grace, which in the Orthodox Christian context is found in many places and in a remarkably deep and profound way in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is medicine for sinners and strugglers, the humble who acknowledge their need of God and seek wholeness that can only be found in Christ. For the proud and the self-righteous it is a chalice of destruction (although that destruction is still in the hope of enlightenment and change of heart)  but for the broken and humble of heart who come seeking healing it grants life.

I am a Priest. I am a sinner. If God has not consumed me but has been gracious beyond my deserving could He not also grant grace, healing, and forgiveness, to you, even with all your struggles, in the Eucharist? Crawl on your knees if you have to but come to the chalice of life with a penitent heart and God will grant you life, forgiveness, and mercy. Leave your earthly cares behind and come taste, even though we are sinners, the presence of heaven.

Saints and Sinners…

Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, “You are a saint,” the other, “You won’t be saved.” Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins.

– St. Silouan the Athonite

Via the OCA Bulgarian Diocese Facebook Page

Sin and Forgiveness…

When St. Amphilochios was asked how to avoid despair over reoccurring sin, he answered with the following account:

“A certain brother, overcome by the passion of immorality, sinned every day. However, each time, with tears and prayers, he would fall before Christ and receive forgiveness from Him. And as soon as he had repented, the next day, being misled again by shameful habit, he would fall to sin again.

After having sinned, he would go to the Church, prostrate himself before the Icon of our Lord Jesus Christ and tearfully confess: “Lord, have mercy upon me and takeaway from me this fearful temptation, for it troubles me fiercely and wounds me with the bitter taste of pleasure. O my Master, cleanse my person once more, that my heart might be sweetened and thankful. My Lord, on my word, I will no longer commit this sin.”

And though his lips had just whispered these words, no sooner would he leave the Church than he would fall once again to sin. This happened not for one or two or even three years, but for more than ten years.

One day when all that we have described again occurred, the brother, having fallen to sin, rushed to the Church, lamenting, groaning, and crying with anguish, to invoke the mercy of God, that He might have compassion on him and take him from the sin of immorality.

No sooner had he called on God, the lover of man, than the Devil, that destroyer of our souls, seeing that he could gain nothing, since whatever he accomplished by sin, the brother undid by his repentance, became infuriated and appeared visibly before the brother. Facing the Icon of Christ, the Devil said to our compassionate Savior: “What will become of the two of us, Jesus Christ? Your sympathy for this sinner defeats me and takes the ground I have gained, since you keep accepting this dissolute man and prodigal who daily mocks you and scorns your authority. Indeed, why is it that you do not burn him up, but, rather, tolerate and put up with him? To this fellow here, even though an immoral man and a prodigal, you calmly show your sympathy, just because he throws himself down in front of your Icon. In what way can you be called a just Judge, then? The Devil said all of this, poisoned with great bitterness, while there poured forth from his nostrils a black flame.

Having said these things, he fell silent and a voice from the sanctuary answered him, “O, all-cunning and ruinous Dragon, are you yet not satisfied with   and destructive desire to gobble up the world? Now you have even the nerve to try to do away with this man here, who has come with contrition to entreat the mercy of my compassion to devour him, too? Can you offer up enough sins that, by them, you can tilt the balance of justice against the precious blood which I shed on the Cross for this man? Behold my murder and death, which I endured for the forgiveness of his sins.

“You, when he turns again to sin, do not turn him away, but receive him with joy, neither chastising him nor preventing him from committing sin, out of the hope that you might win him over; but should I, who [taught my disciples] to forgive sins seven times seventy (Matthew 18:22), not show him mercy and compassion? Indeed, simply because he flees to me, I will not turn him away until I have won him over. I neither turn away nor reject anyone, even if he should fall many times a day and many times return to me; such a person will not leave my Temple saddened, for I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repent. Look at this man who a few moments ago repented, having returned from sin and having fallen at my feet with a sincere resolution to abandon sin, has thereby conquered you.”

While [all of] this was being said, the repentant brother had thrown himself before the Icon of the Savior. With his face to the ground and lamenting, he surrendered his spirit to the Lord. From this incident, my brothers, let us learn of the limitless compassion of God and of His love of man, that we might never again be disheartened by our sins, but rather look after our salvation with zeal.”

Via the Facebook Page of Fr. Thaddeus Hardenbrook

Ancient Christian Voices on the Eucharist…

Via this Facebook Page…

“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread, and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your Sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your Sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a Sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my Name is the wonder of nations.’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]”- Didache 14, c. A.D. 70


“Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single Altar of Sacrifice — even as there is also but one Bishop, with his Clergy and my own fellow servitors, the Deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God.”- St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Philadelphians 4, c. A.D. 107

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God… They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior, Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the Gift of God are perishing in their disputes.”- St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1, A.D. 107

“We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made Incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that Incarnated Jesus.”- St. Justin the Martyr, First Apology 66, A.D. 151

“God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [minor prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my Name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles.’ [Mal. 1:10–11] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer Sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist.”- St. Justin the Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 41, c. A.D. 155

“He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my Body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his Blood. He taught the new Sacrifice of the New Covenant, of which Malachi, one of the twelve [minor] prophets, had signified beforehand: ‘You do not do my will, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my Name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure Sacrifice; for great is my name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty.’ [Mal. 1:10–11] By these words he makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place Sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one, for his Name is glorified among the Gentiles.”- St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against All Heresies 4:17:5, c. A.D. 185


“‘And she [Wisdom] has furnished her Table’ [Prov. 9:2]… refers to his [Christ’s] honored and undefiled Body and Blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine Table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable Table of the spiritual divine Supper [i.e., the Last Supper].”- St. Hippolytus of Rome, Commentary on Proverbs, c. A.D. 215

“You are accustomed to take part in the Divine Mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated Gift perish… how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His Body?”– Origen, Homilies on Exodus 13:3, c. A.D. 230

“As the [Lord’s] prayer proceeds, we ask and say: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ This can be understood both spiritually, and simply, because either understanding is of profit in divine usefulness for salvation. For Christ is the bread of life and the bread here is of all, but is ours. And as we say ‘Our Father,’ because he is the Father of those who understand and believe, so too we say ‘our Bread,’ because Christ is the Bread of those of us who attain to His Body. Moreover, we ask that this bread be given daily, lest we, who are in Christ and receive the Eucharist daily as food of salvation, with the intervention of some more grievous sin, while we are shut off and as non-communicants [i.e. are excommunicated] are kept from the Heavenly Bread, be separated from the Body of Christ as he himself declares, saying: ‘I am the Bread of Life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my Bread he shall live forever. Moreover, the Bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ Since then he says that, ‘if anyone eats of his Bread, he lives forever,’ as it is manifest that they live who attain to his Body and receive the Eucharist by right of communion, so on the other hand we must fear and pray lest anyone, while he is cut off and separated from the Body of Christ, remain apart from salvation, as he himself threatens, saying: ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his Blood, you shall not have life in you.’ And so we petition that our Bread, that is Christ, be given us daily, so that we, who abide and live in Christ, may not withdraw from his sanctification and Body.”- St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Lord’s Prayer, c. A.D. 250

“Let all mortal flesh be silent, and stand with fear and trembling, and meditate nothing earthly within itself:—

For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God, comes forward to be Sacrificed, and to be given for Food to the faithful; and the bands of angels go before Him with every power and dominion, the many-eyed cherubim, and the six-winged seraphim, covering their faces, and crying aloud the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”- Divine Liturgy of St. James, c. A.D. 275


“After having spoken thus [at the Last Supper], the Lord rose up from the place where he had made the Passover and had given his Body as food and his Blood as drink, and he went with his disciples to the place where he was to be arrested. But he ate of his own Body and drank of his own Blood, while he was pondering on the dead. With his own hands the Lord presented his own Body to be eaten, and before he was crucified he gave his Blood as drink.”- St. Aphraahat the Sage, Treatises 12:6, A.D. 340

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Hosts, heaven and earth is full of your glory. Heaven is full, and full is the earth with your magnificent glory, Lord of Virtues. Full also is this Sacrifice, with your strength and your communion; for to you we offer this living Sacrifice, this unbloody oblation… To you we offer this bread, the likeness of the Body of the only-begotten. This bread is the likeness of his holy Body because the Lord Jesus Christ, on the night on which he was betrayed, took bread and broke and gave to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat, this is my Body, which is being broken for you, unto the remission of sins.’ On this account too do we offer the bread, to bring ourselves into the likeness of his death; and we pray: Reconcile us all, O God of truth, and be gracious to us.’ And just as this bread was scattered over the mountains and when collected was made one, so too gather your Holy Church from every nation and every country and every city and village and house and make it one living Catholic Church.

We offer also the cup, the likeness of his Blood, because the Lord Jesus Christ took the cup after he had eaten, and he said to his disciples, ‘Take, drink, this is the New Covenant, which is my Blood which is being poured out for you unto the remission of sins.’ For this reason too we offer the chalice, to benefit ourselves by the likeness of his Blood. O God of truth, may your holy Logos come upon this bread, that the bread may become the Body of the Logos, and on this cup, that the cup may become the Blood of the Truth. And make all who communicate receive the remedy of life, to cure every illness and to strengthen every progress and virtue; not unto condemnation, O God of truth, nor unto disgrace and reproach!”- St. Serapion of Thmuis, Prayer of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, c. A.D. 350

“After the disciples had eaten the new and holy Bread, and when they understood by faith that they had eaten of Christ’s Body, Christ went on to explain and to give them the whole Sacrament. He took and mixed a cup of wine. The he blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy, declaring that it was his own Blood, which was about to be poured out… Christ commanded them to drink, and he explained to them that the cup which they were drinking was his own Blood: ‘This is truly my Blood, which is shed for all of you. Take, all of you, drink of this, because it is a New Covenant in my Blood. As you have seen me do, do you also in my memory. Whenever you are gathered together in my Name in Churches everywhere, do what I have done, in memory of me. Eat my Body, and drink my Blood, a Covenant new and old.”- St. Ephraim the Syrian, Homilies 4:6, c. A.D. 350

“Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He may make the bread the Body of Christ, and the wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Spirit has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.

Then, after the spiritual Sacrifice, the bloodless Service, is completed, over that Sacrifice of propitiation we entreat God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world; for kings; for soldiers and allies; for the sick; for the afflicted; and, in a word, for all who stand in need of succour we all pray and offer this Sacrifice… After this ye hear the chanter inviting you with a sacred melody to the communion of the Holy Mysteries, and saying, ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.’ Trust not the judgment to your bodily palate, no, but to faith unfaltering; for they who taste are bidden to taste, not bread and wine, but the antitypical Body and Blood of Christ.”- St. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem, c. A.D. 350

“When we speak of the reality of Christ’s [human] nature being in us, we would be speaking foolishly and impiously — had we not learned it from him. For he himself says: ‘My flesh is truly food, and my Blood is truly drink. He that eats my flesh and drinks my Blood will remain in me and I in him.’ As to the reality of his flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord himself and by our own Faith, it is truly flesh and it is truly Blood. And these Elements bring it about, when taken and consumed, that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Is this not true? Let those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God be free to find these things untrue. But he himself is in us through the flesh and we are in him, while that which we are with him [i.e. his human nature] is in God.”- St. Hilary of Poiters, The Trinity 8:14, c. A.D. 350

“To communicate each day and to partake of the holy Body and Blood of Christ is good and beneficial; for he says quite plainly: ‘He that eats my flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life.’ Who can doubt that to share continually in Life is the same thing as having Life abundantly? We ourselves communicate four times each week… and on other days if there is a commemoration of any Saint.”- St. Basil the Great, Letter to a Patrician Lady Caesaria, c. A.D. 360

“The tongue of a Priest meditating on the Lord raises the sick. Do, then, the greater thing by celebrating the Liturgy, and loose the great mass of my sins when you lay hold of the Sacrifice of the resurrection. Most reverend friend, cease not to pray and plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when in an unbloody cutting you cut the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for a sword.”- St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Letter to Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, c. A.D. 370

“You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the Table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the Body and the cup the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ… When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His Body.”- St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Sermon to the Newly Baptized, A.D. 373

“We see that the Savior took in his hands, as it is in the Gospel, when he was reclining at the Supper; and he took this, and giving thanks, he said: ‘This is really Me.’ And he gave to his disciples and said: ‘This is really Me.’ And we see that it is not equal nor similar [to his physical appearance], not to the Incarnate Image, not to the invisible Divinity, not to the outline of his limbs. For it [the Eucharistic Element] is round of shape, and devoid of feeling. As to its power, he means to say even of its grace, ‘This is really Me’; and none disbelieves his word. For anyone who does not believe the truth in what He says is deprived of grace and of Savior.”- St. Epiphanius of Salamis, The Man Well-Anchored 57, c. A.D. 380

“Having learnt these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to the taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ: and that of this David sung of old, saying, ‘And bread strengthens man’s heart, to make his face to shine with oil’ (Ps 103:15), strengthen your heart by partaking thereof as spiritual, and make the face of your soul to shine.”- St. Ambrose of Milan, On the Mysteries 4:22, c. A.D. 380

“‘My flesh is meat indeed, and my Blood is drink’ (Jn 6:56). You hear him speak of his flesh and of his Blood, you perceive the Sacred Pledges [Eucharistic Elements] (conveying to us the merits and power) of the Lord’s death, and you dishonor his Divinity? Hear his own words: ‘A spirit has not flesh and bones’ (Lk 24:39). Now we, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the flesh and the Blood, ‘do show the Lord’s Death’ (1 Cor 11:26).”- St. Ambrose of Milan, On the Christian Faith 4:125, c. A.D. 380

“The Lord Jesus himself proclaims: ‘This is my Body.’ (Matthew 26:26) Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of; after the consecration the Body is signified. He himself speaks of his Blood. Before the consecration it has another name; after it is called Blood. And you say, ‘Amen,’ that is, ‘It is true.’ Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.”- St. Ambrose of Milan, On the Mysteries 9:54, c. A.D. 380

“We saw the Prince of Priests coming to us; we saw and heard him offering his Blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being Priests, and we offer the Sacrifice on behalf of the people. Even if we are of but little merit, still, in the Sacrifice, we are honorable. Even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the Sacrifice, nevertheless it is he himself that is offered in Sacrifice here on earth when the Body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer himself he is made visible in us [Priests], he whose word makes holy the Sacrifice that is offered.”- St. Ambrose of Milan, Commentaries on the Twelve Psalms of David 38:25, c. A.D. 380

“The bread again is at first common bread; but when the Mystery sanctifies it, it is called and actually becomes the Body of Christ.”– St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ, c. A.D. 383

“Rightly, then, do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was once, by implication, bread, but has been consecrated by the inhabitation of the Word that tabernacled in the flesh. Therefore, from the same cause as that by which the bread that was transformed in that Body was changed to a Divine potency, a similar result takes place now. For as in that case, too, the grace of the Word used to make holy the Body, the substance of which came of the bread, and in a manner was itself bread, so also in this case the bread, as says the Apostle, ‘is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer;’ not that it advances by the process of eating to the stage of passing into the Body of the Word, but it is at once changed into the Body by means of the Word, as the Word itself said, ‘This is My Body.'”- St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism 37, c. A.D. 383

“When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the Altar, and the Priest bent over that Sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious Blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?”- St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood 3:4:177, c. A.D. 387

“Christ is present. The One [Christ] who prepared that [Passover] Table is the very One who now prepares this [Altar] Table. For it is not a man who makes the sacrificial gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he that was crucified for us, Christ himself. The Priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and the grace is of God. ‘This is my Body,’ he says. This statement transforms the gifts.- St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Treachery of Judas 1:6, c. A.D. 390

“What then? Do we not offer [the Sacrifice] daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of his death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this Sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This Sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one Sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the Sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one Body. And just as he is one Body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one Sacrifice.”- St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Letter to the Hebrews 17:3, c. A.D. 399


“Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these Clergy who, in succession from the Apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ, and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians…”- St. Jerome, Letter to Heliodorus, c. A.D. 400

“After the type had been fulfilled by the Passover celebration and he had eaten the flesh of the lamb with his Apostles, he takes bread which strengthens the heart of man, and goes on to the true Sacrament of the Passover, so that just as Melchisedech, the priest of the Most High God, in prefiguring him, made bread and wine an offering [sacrifice], he too makes himself manifest in the reality of his own Body and Blood.”- St. Jerome, Commentaries on Matthew 4:26, c. A.D. 400

“When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my Body,’ but, ‘This is my Body.’ In the same way, when he gave the cup of his Blood he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my Blood,’ but, ‘This is my Blood’; for he wanted us to look upon the [Eucharistic Elements] after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit not according to their nature, but receive them as they are, the Body and Blood of our Lord. We ought… not regard [the Elements] merely as bread and cup, but as the Body and Blood of the Lord, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit.”- St. Theodore of Mopsuestia, Catechetical Homilies 5:1, A.D. 405

“Christ was carried in His own hands when, referring to his own Body, he said, ‘This is my Body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that Body in his hands.”- St. Augustine, Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10, A.D. 405

“I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table… That bread which you see on the Altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ… What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your Faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice is the Blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction.”- St. Augustine, Sermons 227, 272, A.D. 411

“But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the salvific Sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the Sacrifice itself; and the Sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death.”- St. Augustine, Sermons 172:2, c. A.D. 411

“We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the unbloody Sacrifice in the Churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his holy flesh and the precious blood of Christ the Savior of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a Divine indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the Life according to his Nature as God, and when he became united to his flesh, he made it also to be Life-giving [i.e., through it we partake of the Divine Nature].”- Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, Session 1, Letter of Cyril to Nestorius, A.D. 431

“Dearly beloved, utter this confession with all your heart and reject the wicked lies of heretics, that your fasting and almsgiving may not be polluted by any contagion with error: for then is our offering of the Sacrifice clean and our Gifts of mercy holy, when those who perform them understand that which they do. For when the Lord says, ‘unless ye have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, and drunk His Blood, ye will not have life in you,’ [Jn 6:53] you ought so to be partakers at the Holy Table, as to have no doubt whatever concerning the reality of Christ’s Body and Blood. For that is taken in the mouth which is believed in Faith, and it is vain for them to respond ‘Amen’ who dispute that which is taken.”- Pope St. Leo the Great, Sermons 91:3, c. A.D. 440


“Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the only-begotten God the Word himself become flesh offered himself in an odor of sweetness as a Sacrifice and Victim to God on our behalf; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, in the time of the Old Testament animals were sacrificed by the patriarchs and prophets and priests; and to whom now, I mean in the time of the New Testament, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom he has one Godhead, the Holy Catholic Church does not cease in faith and love to offer throughout all the lands of the world a Sacrifice of bread and wine… In those former sacrifices what would be given us in the future was signified figuratively; but in this Sacrifice which has now been given us, it is shown plainly. In those former sacrifices it was fore-announced that the Son of God would be killed for the impious; but in the present it is announced that he has been killed for the impious.”- St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, The Rule of Faith 62, c. A.D. 524

“The spiritual building up of the Body of Christ is achieved through love. As Saint Peter says: ‘Like living stones you are built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ [1 Peter 2:5] And there can be no more effective way to pray for this spiritual growth than for the Church, itself Christ’s Body, to make the offering of his Body and Blood in the Sacramental form of bread and wine. ‘For the cup we drink is a participation in the blood of Christ, and the bread we break is a participation in the body of Christ. Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, since we all share the same bread.’ [1 Corinthians 10:16-17] And so we pray that, by the same grace which made the Church Christ’s Body, all its members may remain firm in the unity of that Body through the enduring bond of love… God makes the Church itself a sacrifice pleasing in his sight by preserving within it the love which his Holy Spirit has poured out. Thus the grace of that spiritual love is always available to us, enabling us continually to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to him forever.”- St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Letter to Monimus, c. A.D. 524


“I, for my part, do verily believe, that the reason why, by God’s Providence, this thing falleth out thus apparently to them that be living, and think nothing thereof, is that all may know how, if their sins be not irremissible, that they may after death obtain pardon and absolution for them, by the oblation of the Holy Sacrifice. But yet we have here to note, that the Holy Sacrifice doth profit those kind of persons after their death, who in their life time obtained that such good works as were by their friends done for them might be available to their souls, after they were out of this world.

And here also we have diligently to consider, that it is far more secure and safe that every man should do that for himself whiles he is yet alive, which he desireth that others should do for him after his death. For far more blessed it is, to depart free out of this world, than being in prison to seek for release: and therefore reason teacheth us, that we should with our whole soul contemn this present world, at least because we see that it is now gone and past: and to offer unto God the daily sacrifice of tears, and the daily Sacrifice of his Body and Blood. For this Sacrifice doth especially save our souls from everlasting damnation, which in mystery doth renew unto us the death of the Son of God: who although being risen from death, doth not now die any more, nor death shall not any further prevail against him: yet living in himself immortally, and without all corruption, he is again Sacrificed for us in this mystery of the holy oblation: for there his Body is received, there his flesh is distributed for the salvation of the people: there his Blood is not now shed betwixt the hands of infidels, but poured into the mouths of the faithful. Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of Sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always re-present the Passion of the only Son of God: for what right-believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the Sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens be opened, and the quires of angels are present in that Mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible?

But necessary it is that, when we do these things, we should also, by contrition of heart, sacrifice ourselves unto almighty God: for when we celebrate the Mystery of our Lord’s Passion, we ought to imitate what we then do: for then shall it truly be a Sacrifice for us unto God, if we offer ourselves also to him in sacrifice.”- Pope St. Gregory the Great, Dialogues 4:57-59, c. A.D. 600


“He washes us from our sins daily in his Blood, when the memory of his blessed Passion is repeated at the Altar, when the creature of the bread and wine is transferred into the Sacrament of his flesh and Blood by the ineffable sanctification of his Spirit: and thus his Body and Blood is poured out and killed, not by the hands of infidels unto their destruction, but is assumed by the mouth of the faithful unto their salvation.”- St. Bede the Venerable, Homilies 1:14, c. A.D. 710

“Just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the Altar and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Christ, and are not two but one and the same.”- St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4:13, c. A.D. 730

“The bread and the wine are not merely the figures of the Body and Blood of Christ (God forbid!) but the deified Body of the Lord itself, for the Lord has said: ‘This is my Body,’ not, ‘This is a figure of my Body’; and ‘my Blood,’ not, ‘A figure of my Blood.’”- St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4:13, c. A.D. 730

On the Virgin Mary…

The Place of the Holy Virgin in our Lives

The Holy Virgin is a stumbling block for many protestants looking into Orthodoxy. The idea that this woman described in the Gospels in such humble terms could be called Mother of God seems unbiblical to them. She was never called Mother of God in the Bible, they say, so why would she be given such an exalted title? She was, they think, simply the mother of Jesus.

From the earliest of times the Church has seen fit to call her exalted among women, even more exalted than the heavenly hosts. Her role in the history of salvation has been seen as pivotal from the time of the very first century for her humility and obedience before God made her the New Eve. Whereby death entered the world through the disobedience of the first mother, Eve, the Holy Virgin became the New Eve the moment she answered, “be it done according to Thy word”, agreeing to be the Mother of Christ.

The very first icon was painted depicting Mary holding the child Jesus by none other than the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke. The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was painted on a board from the table at which the Savior ate together with His All-Pure Mother and Righteous Joseph. The Mother of God, upon seeing this image, exclaimed, “Henceforth, all generations shall call Me blessed. The grace of both My Son and Me shall be with this icon.” She was thus recognized by the Church for her pivotal role with the title Theotokos, which means God-bearer.

The Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. To call her only the mother of Jesus was seen as heretical because to do so would be to suggest that Jesus was simply a man, apart from being God at the same time. The balance of being both God and Man was thus preserved by the Church from the earliest of times.

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to announce to the Virgin the birth of the Saviour: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1:28) This angelic salutation forms a part of the hymn of the Church most frequently sung in her honor, in imitation of the words of this angelic messenger of God. Elizabeth, the Virgin’s cousin, considered it an honor for the Mother of her Lord to visit her. “And whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) There is no difference between saying “Mother of God” and “Mother of the Lord”. Surely, God is the Lord! (Psalm 118:27) During her visit to Elizabeth, the Blessed Virgin spoke the words that form the principal hymn sung in her honor at the Matins service. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1: 47-48)

Elizabeth, having been “filled with the Holy Spirit”, cried out: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1:41, 42) This honor given the Theotokos by her cousin is exactly what all generations of the Church do when they call her blessed. When Jesus beheld His mother and His disciple John standing by the cross, He entrusted him with her care, but He also established a new spiritual relationship between them in saying to the disciple: “Behold thy Mother!” (John 19:27) In making this declaration our Lord made His Mother the Mother of all Christians!

With love in Christ,

Abbot Tryphon

From the Ecumenical Patriarch…

Patriarchal Encyclical for Christmas

By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church:
Grace, mercy, and peace from the Savior Christ, born in Bethlehem

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
(Isaiah 9.5)

Many centuries ago, the Prophet foresaw and announced with enthusiasm and joy the birth of the child Jesus from the ever-Virgin Mary. Naturally, even then, there was no period of census by Augustus Caesar, no place to stay for the safety of the Holy Virgin who was carrying a child by the Holy Spirit. So the holy Joseph as her betrothed and protector was obliged to lead her to a cave, a manger with animals, “in order to give birth to a child.”

Heaven and earth received them, offering thanks to their Creator: “The angels offered the hymn; the heavens a star; the wise men gifts; the shepherds a miracle; the earth a cave; the desert a manger; and we the Mother Virgin.” The shepherds were keeping watch over their flock, protecting them throughout the night, while the angels were witnessing the Mystery in ecstasy, singing hymns to God. (From Vespers of the Nativity)

The sweetness of the Holy Night of Christmas once again embraces the world. And in the midst of human trial and pain, of unending crises, of passion and enmity, of concern and despair, it presents the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word as a genuine and timely solution. For He descended as dew in a field of cotton inside the womb of the ever-Virgin Mary in order to give rise to righteousness and much peace. (See Ps. 71.7)

In the silence and peace of that sacred night of Christmas, Jesus Christ – being without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, immaterial, ever existing and the same – enters the drama of history bearing flesh, being insignificant, simple, poor and unknown. At the same time, he comes as a “wonderful, counselor, almighty, prince of peace, everlasting father.” (Is. 9.6) Indeed, he comes as a human being, born of a Virgin Mother, to solve the complexity of sin and grant resolution to the impasse of life’s anxiety through His grace and mercy, while providing destiny, value, content, as well as an exemplary ethos and model for the human adventure.

The Lord assumed and sanctified all of human nature. The pre-eternal God condescended to become for us an embryo and be borne inside the womb of the Theotokos. In so doing, He both honored human life from its earliest stage and taught us respect toward humankind from its earliest conception. The Creator of all accepted to be born as an infant and be nurtured by a Virgin. In so doing, He honored both virginity and motherhood, spiritual and natural. This is why St. Gregory the Theologian exhorts: “O women, be as virgins, so that you may become mothers of Christ.” (Homily XXXVIII on Epiphany, PG36.313A)

So the Lord appointed the marriage of male and female in the blessed family. The institution of Christian family constitutes the cell of life and an incubator for the spiritual and physical health and development of children. Therefore, the manifold support of the institution of the family comprises the obligation of the Church and responsibility of leadership in every country.

In order for a child to be raised in a healthy and natural way, there needs to be a family where man and woman live in harmony as one body, one flesh, and one soul, submitting to one another.

We are certain that all spiritual and ecclesiastical, much like the vigilant shepherds of old, but also the leaders of our world, know and accept this divine truth and reality, which we once again proclaim from the Ecumenical Patriarchate during this Christmas period. We must all encourage the creation and function of natural families, which can produce citizens that are spiritually healthy and joyful, filled with sentiments of security, based on the feeling of safety provided by a strong and protective father as well as a nurturing and loving mother. We need families where God might find rest. We invite and urge the entire plenitude of our holy Orthodox Church to live in a manner that is worthy of their calling and do everything that is possible to support the institution of marriage.

Brothers and sisters, “the night is far gone; the day is at hand.” (Rom. 6.12) The shepherds are already headed toward Bethlehem in order to proclaim the miracle. They are inviting us to follow them “like other star-gazing wise men filled with joy” (From the Christmas Troparion of the 4th Ode), bringing “worthy gifts” “such as fine gold to the King of ages, incense to the God of all, and myrrh to the immortal that lay dead for three days.” (Anatolios, Vesperal Hymn at Christmas) That is to say, the gifts of love and our faith, which test us as Christians, especially as Orthodox Christians, in the ethos and tradition of the family, the Fathers, and the Church, which has always practiced the Orthodox way through the centuries and to this day holds together our blessed society, whose cell for sacred life and growth is the family.

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in Christ, 2013 years have passed since the birth of Christ in the flesh. 2013 years have passed and, like then, Christ continues to be persecuted in the person of the weak by Herod and all kinds of contemporary Herods. 2013 years have passed and Jesus is persecuted in the person of Christians in Syria and elsewhere. 2013 years have passed and Christ still flees like a refuge not only in Egypt, but also in the Lebanon, Europe, America and elsewhere, seeking security in an insecure world. 2013 years have passed and the child Jesus remains imprisoned with the two hierarchs in Syria, Paul (Yazigi) and Youhanna (Ibrahim), as well as the Orthodox nuns and many other known and unknown Christians. 2013 years have passed and Christ is crucified with those who are tortured and killed in order not to betray their faith in Him. 2013 years have passed and Jesus is daily put to death in the person of thousands of embryos, whose parents prevent from being born. 2013 years have passed and Christ is mocked and ridiculed in the person of unfortunate children, who experience the crisis of the family, destitution and poverty.

It is this human pain, sorrow and affliction that our Lord came and once more comes to assume during this Christmas season. After all, He said: “As you have done to one of these, the least of my brothers and sisters,” you have done to me.” (Matt. 25.40-41) It is for these that He was born of a Virgin, for these that He became human, for these that He suffered, was crucified and arose from the dead. That is to say: for all of us. Thus, let each of us lift up our personal cross in order to find grace and mercy when we seek His assistance. Then, the born Emmanuel, our Savior and Lord, will “be with us.” Amen.

Christmas 2013
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God

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