Wednesday, February 28, 2007

From the Triodion

O Apostles of Christ, who shine your light on earth, treasuries of the wise knowledge of our God, filling the world with riches: by your holy prayers deliver, who sing your praises, from all temptation. Guide us through the season of the Fast, watchfully guarding our lives in peace. So shall our payers be acceptable to Christ as we celebrate His Passion, and with boldness we shall offer glory to our God.

From O Lord, to You I Call,
Vespers, Thursday, Second Week of Lent

R. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones, and glory all you upright of heart.

V. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.

Prokimenon, Tone Eight, First Reading, Vespers, Thursday, Second Week of Lent.

Keeping a spiritual Fast, O brethren, let us speak no lies with our tongue nor give our brothers and sisters cause for scandal. But through repentance, let us make the lamp of our soul burn brightly, and let us cry with tears to Christ: Forgive us our trespasses in Your love for mankind.

From the Aposticha, Vespers, Thursday, Second Week of Lent

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

The Reading from the Second Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians

Brethren We are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St Matthew

The Lord said: I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

The Prokimenon and Alleluia are the same as on this day in the First Week of Lent

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

From the Triodion

You stretched out Your most pure hand on the Cross, O Christ, and thus united the ends of the earth. Therefore I cry out to You: Gather my scattered senses, dispersed by the passions; completely purify me through abstinence, and make me a sharer in you suffering.

From O Lord, to You I Call, Vespers, Wednesday, Second Week of Lent

When You were crucified in the flesh, O Lord, You crucified our fallen nature with Yourself. When Your side was pierced by the spear, You pierced the serpent that destroyed mankind. Nail my flesh with fear of You and wound my soul with Your love, that gazing on Your passion, in abstinence I may pass through the appointed time of the Fast, governing not only my mouth to the entrance of food, but also the doors of all sin. For my past transgressions, I will offer You a contrite spirit and a broken heart. Deliver me from my offences in your love for mankind!

From the Aposticha, Wednesday Vespers, Second Week of Lent

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

The Reading from the Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians

Brethren: Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if any one thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each man will have to bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St Matthew

At that time: Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decap'olis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men."

The Prokimenon and Alleluia are the same as on this day in the First Week of Lent

Monday, February 26, 2007

Trisagion Hymn

An example of the Ukrainian usage of the Byzantine Rite.

The Texts -- Where To Get Them

It strikes me that some of you might wish to know from where the texts in the "From the Triodion" posts are taken.

The Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Netwon has translated and published nearly the entire collection of liturgical "hymn books" of the Byzantine Tradition. The excerpts in these posts are taken from the three volume set, The Triodion, published by Sophia Press.

The books are excellently printed in spiral-bound format with a "chanter's size" font on good-quality paper. The costs are moderate, and I highly recommend them for anyone wishing to deepen their appreciation of the Byzantine Tradition, especially during Great Lent.

From the Triodion

Let us fast from the rage of the passions; let us delight in sincere love; let us feed the poor with bread. Nourished by the grace of God, with weeping let us quench the tears of future punishment.

From Ode 9, Canon in Tone Four, Monday, Second Week of Lent

Let us keep a spiritual Fast: let us loose every bond; let us avoid the stumbling-blocks of sin; let us forgive our brothers and sisters their trespasses, that we too may be forgiven our transgressions. Then we shall be able to cry aloud to God: Let our prayer come like incense before You, O Lord!

The prophets, apostles of Christ, and the martyrs have taught us to sing to the consubstantial Trinity. They brought light to the nations that had gone astray: the children of men have become fellow-citens with the Angels.

Do not forget your people in their poverty, O Lady; but deliver us from present harm and future trouble through your intercessions, O Theotokos*, and save your servants from the wrath of the Lord.

From the Aposticha of Tuesday, Second Week of Lent

*Theotokos (pronounced, "Thay-oh-TOH-kohs") is Greek for "Birthgiver of God".

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

The Reading from the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans

Brethren: We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me." For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St Matthew

The Lord said: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

The Prokimenon and Alleluia are the same as on this day in the First Week of Lent

Sunday, February 25, 2007

From the Triodion

Troparion of the Sunday of Orthodoxy in Tone Two

Before Your most pure Image we bow in worship, O Good Lord, begging forgiveness of our sins, O Christ God, becaure You chose of Your own free will to ascend upon the Cross in the flesh in order to deliver from the Enemy's bondage those You had created. For this reason, we cry out toyou in thanksgiving: You have filled all things with joy, O our savior, when You came to save the world!


Let us now set out with joy upoin the second week of the Fast. Like Elijah the Tishbite let us fahin for ourselves from day to day, O brethren, a fiery chariot from the four great virtues. Let us exalt our minds through freedom frm the passions. Let us arm our flesh with purity and our hands with acts of compasison. Let us make our feet beautiful with the preaching of the Gospel; and let us put the Enemy to flight and gain the victory.

O Lord, to You I call, Vespers, Monday, Second Week of Lent

Come, let us cleanse ourselves by almgiving and acts of mercy to the poor, not sounding a trumpet or making a show of our charity. let not our left hand know what our right hand is doing; let not vainglory scatter the fruit of our almsgiving; but in secret let us call upon Him who knows all secrets: Our Father, forgive us our trespasses, for You love mankind.

From the Aposticha, Vespers, Monday, Second Week of Great Lent

The Synodikon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

The Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.)

The Synodikon is the official statement of the Council. On the first Sunday of Great Lent we celebrate the triumph of orthodoxy with a procession with Icons, concluding with the solemn proclamation of the Council.

As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught,
as the Church has received as the teachers have dogmatized,
as the Universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth,
as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved,
as Wisdom has presented, as Christ Awarded,
thus we declare, thus we assert,
thus we preach
Christ our true God,
and honor His Saints
in words, in writings, in thoughts,
in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons;
on the one hand
worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord;
and on the other hand
honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all
and accordingly offering them veneration.

This is the Faith of the Apostles,
this is the Faith of the Fathers,
this is the Faith of the Orthodox,
this is the Faith which has established the Universe.

First Sunday of Lent - Sunday of Orthodoxy



Let us, O faithful, praise and worship the Word, co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, born of the Virgin for our salvation; for He was please to be lifted in the flesh upon the Cross and to endure death and to raise the dead by His glorious Resurrection.


Before your most pure Image, we bow in worship, O Good One, begging forgiveness of our stumblings, Christ God: because You chose of your own Free Will to ascend upon the Cross in the flesh in order to deliver from the enemy’s yoke those You had created. For this reason, we cry out to You in thanksgiving: You our Saviour have filled all things with joy when You came to save the world.


Triumphant leader, to you belongs our praise of victory, and since you saved us from adversity we offer you our thanks: We are your people, O Mother of God. So, as you have that invincible power, continue to deliver us from danger, that we may cry out to you: Hail O Virgin and Bride ever pure.


R. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, God of our fathers, and worthy of praise;
and Thy Name is glorified for ever.

V. For Thou art just in all that thou hast done to us,
and all Thy works are true and Thy ways right,
and all Thy judgments are truth.


BRETHREN: By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated — of whom the world was not worthy —- wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called on his name.
They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;
they kept his Testimonies, and the statutes that He gave them.


AT THAT TIME: Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.’


In you, O Woman full of Grace, all creation exults, the hierarchy of angels together with the race of men: in you, sanctified Temple, spiritual Paradise, Glory of virgins of whom God took flesh — from whom our God who exists before the world, became a child! For He has made your womb His Throne, making it more spacious than the Heavens. In you, O Woman full of Grace, all creation exults: glory to you!


The Lord has sent redemption to His people:
He has established His covenant forever. Alleluia.

*The Troparion of the Resurrection is selected based on the cycle of eight tones and the particular number of Sundays after Pentecost. Thus, while this year the Troparion in the Fifth Tone is proper for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, next year the Troparion in the Fourth Tone will be used, and in the following year it will be the Troparion in the First Tone. Therefore, to prevent potential confusion for future readers of this blog, I will not include the Troparion of the Resurrection in this Lenten series after this post.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

From the Triodion

O Master, infinite in Your divine nature, You condescended in these latter days to become incarnate and finite: for in assuming our body, You accepted all its properties. Wherefore, we represent Your likeness and embrace it with the Model of mind. We go up to Your love, and, following the divine tradition set by the Apostles, we draw from it the grace of healing.

The grace of truth has shone forth and the predictions of old have been clearly fulfilled: for, behold, the Church has put on the incarnate likeness of Christ, the new world of icons transcending adornment. As the tabernacle of the Covenant held the presence of God, so do the icons show forth the presence of the One we worship and revere. By venerating them, we never go astray. It is a glory for us to kneel in true worship of the incarnate Christ: O believers, let us then embrace His icon and cry out: O God, save Your people and bless your inheritance.

From Lord, to You I Call, Great Vespers, First Sunday of Great Lent

We have renounced the darkness of impiety and have been illumined by the light of knowledge. With psalms of acclamation, let us sing. May our praise and thanksgiving rise to God. With reverence, let us fall prostrate before the holy icons of Christ, the Mother of God and all the saints, rejecting the impiety of those who deny the True Faith. For as holy Basil says: The honor shown the icon passes to the prototype it represents. As the prayers of Your all-pure Mother and at the intercession of all the Saints, we entreat You, O Christ, to grant us great mercy!

From the Aposticha, Great Vespers of the First Sunday of Great Lent

O Lord, by exposing Your bodily image for veneration, we proclaim the great mystery of Your saving Economy. O Christ, You have manifested yourself to our eyes, not by a pure appearance, as the Manicheans wrongfully believe, but in the reality of the flesh, whose nature leads us to love you.

From the Praises of Orthros, First Sunday of Great Lent

Learn Your Faith

Fr John is one of the best evangelists around. I hear he's intending to 'retire' and return to parish ministry. While I can understand his probable reasons for this, it seems a shame for such a powerful voice for Christianity to recede from the larger arena. Thanks be to God for the gift of modern technology.

And since, I'm adding You Tube multimedia, here are beautiful images as an excellent Byzantine Choir chants the Great Doxology.

Indeed, may our Fast contribute to the Unity of the Faith!

Flattered by the Reference

I am flattered that Shawn Tribe over at New Liturgical Movement gave a rather generous quotation to your rambling host. His topic is of the Archeparchy of Stamford's one volume Byzantine Rite Divine Office book, which I discussed at some length in one of my posts on the Divine Praises in the Byzantine Tradition (check the series out here, here and here).

For those who would like a handy reference tool for the Byzantine cycle, check out Father Peter Boutros's Cyber Typicon. Father Peter has set up a small program that allows you to follow the daily cycle with a high degree of accuracy. It is an ongoing project, and here and there there are a few things which betray errors or differences from the Official Typicon of the Melkite Church. In addition, as it is ongoing it currently lacks many of the features he hopes to include in the future. It is nicely done, has a small foot-print, and is quite handy.

Equally handy is a little program called the Menologion (Book of Days, usually containing lives of the saints for each calendar day of the year). This program can be downloaded at Byzantine dot Net. It provides the Troparia and Kontakion of the day, allowing for both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. I is offered by an Orthodox parish dedicated to St John Maximovich, and is refreshingly free of polemics on the usual issues. The St John sight includes new editions and supplements that make the Menologion even more useful.

Thanks, Shawn; I'm very happy that you've found my Byzantine Ramblings helpful. (As you can see, it inspired me to ramble a bit longer on the topic!)

I pray that our Lord and our Lady bless you and your readers with a spiritually uplifting and rewarding Lent.

Saturday of the First Week of Lent


R. Let the righteous rejoice in the LORD, and take refuge in him!
Let all the upright in heart glory!

V. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my life from dread of the enemy.

A Reading from the Second Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians

Brethren: It is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke," we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.


The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

They are planted in the house of the LORD,
they flourish in the courts of our God.

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Mark

At that time: He was going through the grainfields one sabbath; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" And he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath." Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come here." And he said to them, "Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.


For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered for ever.

He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

Friday, February 23, 2007

From the Triodion

Come, O Faithful, and let us do the work of God while it is light. Let us walk honestly as in the day. Let us cast away every unjust accusation against our neighbor, not placing any stumbling block that he wall on his way. Let us lay aside the pleasures of the flesh and increase the spiritual gifts of our souls. Let us give bread to those in need, and let us draw near to Christ, crying out in repentance: O our God, have mercy on us!

From the Aposticha of Vespers of Saturday
(Friday Evening) First Week of Lent

I shall open my mouth, and it will be filled with the Spirit; and I shall sing a hymn to the Queen and Mother; and I shall celebrate with splendor and sing with joy of her wonders.

Ode One , Hiermos, Canon of the Akathist Hymn

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Prayer of St Eprhaim

Lord forgive those who love us and those who hate us.

I am sorry that I have neglected until now to submit the most sublime prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian. Here it is according the approved text of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton.

O Lord, Master of my life,
grant that I may not be infected
with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness,
with the sprit of ambition and vain talking.

Grant instead to me Your servant
the spirit of purity and humlity,
the spirit of patience and neighborly love.

O Lord and King,
bestow upon me the grace of being aware of my sins
and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren.

It is customary to make a deep bow (touching the floor with your right hand, if possible) and making the sign of the cross after each petition.

From the Triodion

If we desire to partake of the Passover of God that comes not from Egypt but from Sion, let us through repentance put away the leaven of sin. Let us gird our loins through mortification of sensual pleasure; let us make our feet beautiful with shoes that keep us from straying into evil paths; and let us take as our support the staff of Faith. let us not imitate the enemies of the Master's Cross, whose god is their belly. But let us follow the Savior of our souls, who by fasting showed us how to gain the victory over the Devil.

Aposticha of Vespers Friday (Thursday Evening)
The First Week of Lent

O Trinity beyond all being, worshipped in Unity, take from me the heavy yoke of sin; and in Your compassion, grant me tears of repentance.

Sinking in the depths of wickedness, O Mary, you lifted up your hands to the merciful God. As He did for Peter, He stretched out His hand to you in His loving-kindness, helping you towards conversion.

O Compassionate Lord, I know that I have sinned and have violated the vessel of my flesh; But accept me in repentance and call me back to understanding. Let me not be the plunder and food of the Enemy: O savior, take pity on me.

Selections from the Canon of Compline
Friday of the First Week of Lent

Through heedlessness, I have fallen into the heavy sleep of sin. But, my Christ, who for my sake fell asleep on the Cross, awaken me, that the night of death may not come upon me.

Canon of Orthros
Friday of the First Week of Lent

With great gladness, let us receive the proclamation of the Fast: for if Adam, our forefather had fasted, we would not have suffered banishment from Paradise. the fruit that brought death upon me was pleasant to the eyes and good for food. Then let us not be taken prisoner by our eyes; let not our tongue delight in costly foods, for once they have been eaten, they are worthless. Let us shun all greed: then we shall not become slaves to the passions which follow an excess of food and drink. let us sign ourselves with the Blood of Him who for our sakes willingly was led to death, and the destroying angel will not touch us. Then we may eat of the Holy Passover of Christ for the salvation of our souls.

Aposticha of Orthros
First Friday of Lent

Friday of the First Week of Lent


R. Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

V. The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

A Reading from the First Epistle of St Paul to Timothy

My son, Timothy: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.


Remember Thy congregation, which Thou hast gotten of old,
which Thou hast redeemed to be the tribe of Thy heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where Thou hast dwelt.

God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John

The Lord said: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.


God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

Thou hast put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thursday of the First Week of Great Lent


R. Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

V. The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

A Reading from the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans

Brethren: I appeal to you by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.


Let the heavens praise thy wonders, O LORD,
Thy faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!

God is feared in the council of the holy ones,
great and terrible above all that are round about Him

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew

The Lord said: Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!


Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

From the Triodion

Elijah, glorified by fasting, ascended in the divine chariot of his virtues; he was carried to the heights of heaven in glory. Strive as he did, my humble soul: fast and throw off all evil, malice, envy and corrupting luxury, so that you may be delivered from the eternal pain of death and cry out to Christ: O Lord, glory to You!

From the Stichera on Lord, to You I call
Vespers of Thursday (Wednesday Evening)

While fasting with the body, brethren, let us also fast in spirit. Let us loosen every bond of iniquity. Let us undo the knots of every contract made by violence. Let us tear up all unjust agreements. Let us give bread to the hungry and welcome to our homes the poor who have no roof to cover them, that we may receive great mercy from Christ our God.

Aposticha, Vespers of Thursday

The First Week of Lent

Him Whom They Have Pierced

Byzantine Catholics began Lent two days ago with Clean Monday (see previous posts), and today Roman Catholics commence their Lenten journey with Ash Wednesday. (As a quick reminder, the methods of accounting the days differ and the degree of fasting and abstinence on Sundays varies, in addition to Byzantine Christians accounting Holy Week as its own fast.)

Pope Benedict released his annual Message for Lent yesterday. Through his emphasis on Divine Love (recall his first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est) and deft quoting of the Fathers, his message embraces both the Eastern and Western views on the Fast. Both the Encyclical and the Lenten Message are worth reading, especially for those seeking material for spiritual reflection during the Fast.

A couple of excerpts from the Message for Lent 2007 follow:

It is in the mystery of the Cross that the overwhelming power of the heavenly Father’s mercy is revealed in all of its fullness. In order to win back the love of His creature, He accepted to pay a very high price: the blood of His only begotten Son. Death, which for the first Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam. One could very well assert, therefore, together with Saint Maximus the Confessor, that Christ “died, if one could say so, divinely, because He died freely” (Ambigua, 91, 1956). On the Cross, God’s eros for us is made manifest. Eros is indeed – as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it – that force “that does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved” (De divinis nominibus, IV, 13: PG 3, 712). Is there more “mad eros” (N. Cabasilas, Vita in Cristo, 648) than that which led the Son of God to make Himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own the consequences of our offences?

“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.” Let us look with trust at the pierced side of Jesus from which flow “blood and water” (Jn 19:34)! The Fathers of the Church considered these elements as symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Through the water of Baptism, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the intimacy of Trinitarian love. In the Lenten journey, memorial of our Baptism, we are exhorted to come out of ourselves in order to open ourselves, in trustful abandonment, to the merciful embrace of the Father (cf. Saint John Chrysostom, Catecheses, 3,14ff). Blood, symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd, flows into us especially in the Eucharistic mystery: “The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation … we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving” (Encyclical Deus caritas est, 13). Let us live Lent then, as a “Eucharistic” time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed.

To all our Roman brothers and sisters who are joining us today in the great Lenten voyage to Pascha we say: Welcome aboard! Let us walk this path in peace together.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

From the Triodion

Let us keep the Fast not only by refraining from food, but by becoming strangers to all the bodily passions. Thus we who are enslaved to the tyranny of the flesh may become worthy to partake of the Lamb, the Son of God, slain by His own will for the sake of the world, and that we spiritually may celebrate the feast of the Savior's Resurrection from the dead. Thus we shall be raised on high in the glory of the virtues; and through our righteous actions, we shall give joy to the Lord who loves mankind.

From the Aposticha of Vespers of Wednesday
(Tuesday Evening)
of the First Week of Great Lent

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent


R. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

V. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

A Reading from the Second Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians

Brethren: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.


Arise, O LORD, and go to Thy resting place, Thou and the Ark of thy might.

The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which He will not turn back:
"One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.”

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Mark
(Mark 11:22-26, Mat 7:7-8)

The Lord said: "Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.


I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent


R. Let the righteous rejoice in the LORD, and take refuge in him!
Let all the upright in heart glory!

V. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my life from dread of the enemy.

A Reading from the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans

Brethren: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.


Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew

The Lord said: Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.


For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered for ever.

He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

Monday of the First Week of Lent


R. Thou makest the winds thy messengers, fire and flame thy ministers.

V. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, thou art very great!
Thou art clothed with honor and majesty.

A Reading from the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians

Brethren: Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile." So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's.


Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke

The Lord said: “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” Then He said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written. Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." And He told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."


Thou makest the winds thy messengers, fire and flame thy ministers.

The Great Fast -- The Acceptable Time

As we set out on the course of the Fast, let us hasten to tame our flesh through abstinence. With prayer and tears, let us seek the Lord our Savior. In order that He may forget our evil deeds, let us say to Him: We have sinned against You, O Christ our King! Save us as You saved the people of Nineveh of old. In Your compassion, grant us a share in Your heavenly Kingdom!
(from the stichera on Lord, I Call, Vespers of Clean Monday)

With this hymn the Byzantine Tradition formally announces the beginning of the Great Fast (Lent, in the Roman Tradition). For Byzantine Christians, Lent begins on Clean Monday. The Fast continues from Clean Monday through the Friday before Palm Sunday. (More will be coming on the accounting of Great Lent and Holy Week in an upcoming post.)

Sundays are technically not part of Lent, thus the Sunday Vespers Service, considered the first service for Monday, is the beginning of the Fast. It marks the change from the more relaxed and joyful celebration of the Resurrection to the more reflective time of fasting, prayer and repentance.

The actual moment that marks the beginning of the Fast is the singing of the Lenten Prokimenon, which occurs about two thirds of the way into the service. It reflects the somber mood of the season.

R. Turn not Your face away from Your servant, for I am in distress. Hear me speedily. Listen to my soul and deliver me.

V. I am poor and in pain, O God! Let Your power save me.

V. Let the poor see and rejoice.

V. Seek the Lord, and your souls shall find life.

With the chanting of these verses in the eighth tone, vestments are changed from bright to dark colors, the mood of the service becomes contemplative and solemn, and we become aware that we are entering a special season having a particular purpose.

The theme of this special season is first defined in the Aposticha.

O Lord, the light of Your grace has risen and shines upon our souls. Behold, now is the acceptable time: the season of repentance is here. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, that we may pass through the Great Fast as through a great sea, and reach the goal of the third-day Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and the Savior of our Souls!

The Fast is the season of repentance, the acceptable time. It is a season in which we are invited to turn back ("repent") to the Lord. Fasting and abstinence are not merely vehicles in that process. The reason for fasting is clear: We fast and abstain from various foods to make ourselves poor before God that in identifying with the hungry in the world we also come to recognize our own dependence on God. Fasting incarnates our spiritual commitment and reveals to us the beneficence of God.

The words of the Psalmist become our own:

You provide and they gather up;
You open Your hand and they are full.

You send forth Your breath and they live:
You renew the face of the Earth!
(Psalm 103)

By recognizing our spiritual impotence, we come to perceive the reality of God’s great mercy in granting us salvation. The sacrifice of our Lord on the Cross is revealed to be an unprompted act of Divine Love.

There is no room for human conceit and posturing. Our Lord challenges us: Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life. (Luke 21.34) We cannot rest on the fantasy that we are so good and wonderful as to command and deserve the grace of God. St Paul warns, Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. (I Cor. 3.18f) We must confront the reality of our own complete dependence on God.

The Great Fast is a time for reassessment in the clear light of the Gospel. It provides us an opportunity to see our lives in proper perspective and to prioritize what is truly important. We find lasting hope in our Lord's assurance that by your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21.18f) Thus, we have confidence that if we sincerely attempt to make the Lenten journey our destination will be not only the Cross, but the glorious Resurrection!

Have a joyous Great Lent!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare)



The women disciples of the Lord, having learned from the angel the joyful announcement of the resurrection, and having rejected the ancestral sentence proudly told the Apostles: Death is despoiled; Christ God is risen bestowing to the world great mercy.

O You who guide men towards wisdom and give them intelligence and understanding, Instructor of the Ignorant and Helper of the Poor: strengthen and enlighten my heart, O Lord! O Word of God, grant that I may speak, for behold I will not keep my lips from crying out to You: “O Compassionate One, have mercy on me who have fallen!”



R: Sing praise to our God, sing praise!
Sing praise to our King, sing praise! (All repeat)

V: All you peoples, clap your hands!
Shout to God with cries of gladness.


BRETHREN: Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.


In You O Lord I have hoped, let me never be put to shame.
In your justice save me and deliver me.
Lend me your ear and hasten my deliverance.

Be for me a protecting God, a sheltering house to save me.


THE LORD SAID: If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sunday of the Last Judgement (Meatfare)



Let all in heaven rejoice and all on earth be glad, for the Lord has exerted power with His arm, by death He has trampled upon death, and has become the firstborn from the dead. He has delivered us from the bosom of Hades and has granted to the world great mercy.


O God, when You shall come down upon earth in your Glory, every creature shall tremble before You. A river of fire shall flow before your Judgment-Seat, the books shall be opened and all secrets revealed. On that day, O Just Judge, deliver me from eternal fire and make me worthy to stand at your right!



V. My strength and my courage is the Lord
and He has been my Savior.

R. The Lord has chastised me through his Teaching,
yet He has not delivered me to death.


BRETHREN: Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol's temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall. Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

The Lord shall hear you on the day of distress;
the Name of the God of Jacob shall defend you.

O Lord, save your king and listen to us
on whatever day we call upon You.


THE LORD SPOKE THIS PARABLE: When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He will place the sheep at His right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at His right hand, “Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see Thee hungry and feed Thee, or thirsty and give Thee drink? And when did we see Thee a stranger and welcome Thee, or naked and clothe Thee? And when did we see Thee sick or in prison and visit Thee?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Then He will say to those at His left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'‘ Then they also will answer, “Lord, when did we see Thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to Thee?” Then He will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Into Great Silence finally to be released in USA

The Catholic News Agency reports that the film Into Great Silence will finally be released in the US. The reviews of this film raise expectations that it may prove a significant and thought-provoking glimpse into a spirituality with historic roots common to both Western and Eastern Christianity, and which may well challenge viewers to reconsider their overly busy and distracted lives.

What follows are the first couple of paragraphs of the CNA story. To read the entire article, click on the title below.

Renowned documentary on monastic life makes US debut
Film offers glimpse into the lives of Carthusian Monks

New York, Feb 7, 2007 / 11:53 am (CNA).- A feature-length documentary on monastic life, which has had unexpected success on the big screen in Europe and Canada, will be released in theatres across the United States this month.

“Into Great Silence” is a nearly three-hour film, by German director Philip Groning, on life inside the Grande Chartreuse — the great, historic Carthusian monastery in the French Alps.

The film was released in France on Dec. 20, and had 18,500 viewers in its first week. According to La Croix, more than 120,000 moviegoers saw the film in a very limited number of French theatres.

“Into Great Silence” is described as a “very strict, next-to-silent meditation on monastic life in a very pure form.” The documentary does not include any interviews, commentaries or music, except for the monks’ chanting. The narrative relies on rhythm, on sound and movement.

See you at the theatre (and don't forget to turn off your cellular phone)!

Pope Benedict XVI on True Sanctity

“Sanctity does not consist in never having made mistakes or sinned. Sanctity grows in the capacity for conversion and penance, of willingness to start again and, above all, in the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness."

Public Audience, 31 January 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

Inconsistent Liberalism and Political Correctness

The London Times recently featured a column by William Rees-Mogg on a UK law requiring adoption agencies to permit homosexual couples to adopt children and the opposition to consider an exemption for agencies of the Catholic Church.

Mr Rees-Mogg argues that the politicians who would deny allowing the exemption are inconsistent their party’s historic core beliefs. Referring to one of the politicians opposed to the exemption, he comments, “Mr Cameron understands that he is attacking multiculturalism. He does not seem to understand that multiculturalism is the basis of liberalism.”

“If liberalism has a core of meaning,” Mr Rees-Mogg goes on to note, “it is that different people, different groups, different churches, different religions, have a right to hold different views. Society has the overriding right to protect itself against anarchy and terrorism, but so far as possible society should leave people free to make their own judgments and decide on their own actions.” Therefore, in regards to the adoption debate, “All voluntary agencies could and should have been left to make their own rules for adoptions. The State could decide the rules for state agencies.” He goes on to argue that the “view that there should be no exceptions in law to allow for differences in religious beliefs is neither liberal, nor workable. It is illiberal because liberty depends on pluralism and therefore has to accept multiculturalism.”

What is interesting is that the “illiberal” British policies, which Mr Rees-Mogg notes are explicitly aimed against multiculturalism, are ultimately water from the same stream as American policies that claim to protect multiculturalism. The denunciation of what many consider to be traditional American customs and values is a product of the very same principles that ground the British politicians’ attacks on multiculturalism.

In the United States, the promotion of multiculturalism as a central right and goal for social progress has evolved into what may be called the "doctrine" of political correctness. In theory, political correctness has the protection of diversity as its equitable goal, yet the very diversity it champions is diminished by the intolerance it shows to certain opinions, individuals, groups, institutions and beliefs. It enforces an artificial pseudo-diversity in which anything but the relativity of truth is cast as ignorant, barbaric and intolerant.

In fact, when viewed objectively from the perspective of its accomplishments, political correctness does not have diversity as its goal; it endorses weakening traditional values, silencing of the Church and refuting any belief that proposes the existence of objective truths. Political correctness seeks to transform society and establish a culture based on hedonism and narcissistic irrationality. In essence, political correctness seeks to devalue the Western intellectual tradition and place it on a less than an equal level with other traditions, or presumed traditions, that are contrasted to oppose or refute it.

In the politically correct ethic, a spirit of mistrust, animosity and loathing must greet any act or argument that is put forward in support of Western culture or traditionally Western, and especially Christian values. The attack is typically couched in terms of the necessity of being fair and equitable regarding a position or situation that is in principle opposed to traditional values.

This is not to say that everyone, or even a large minority, of those who espouse political correctness have a conscious desire to devalue or replace Western culture. On the contrary, an appeal to fairness and equity is fundamental to Western society; it is consonant with Christian belief in the basic dignity of each human being understood as a child of God. But intellectually cut off from Western values and Christian principles, political correctness has imbibed too much of the mystical irrationalism of the Far East and flirted too oten with the socialism of the twentieth century.

In its essence political correctness is unconsciously propelled by a relativism that can only lead to materialistic utilitarianism. Reason has no place in the simplistic universe of political correctness and all truth is ultimately contextual. Facts must bend to fit ideal, and principles must bend to follow imposed solutions. Thus it is categorically incompatible with Christianity.

Christianity’s claim to Truth, and the basic values it upholds arising from that claim, are essentially inconsistent with an ethic that denies the objective reality of truth. It is the Christian understanding of Faith and reason working together that relativism and its child political correctness cannot abide. Mr Rees-Mogg gives evidence to this in his column and is to be commended for his candor in speaking about it with alacrity.

Thanks to Catholic World News for the reference.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Divine Office Prayer Books: The Divine Praises: What They Are and How to Keep Them (part three)

The discussion of the Divine Office in the Byzantine Tradition naturally leads to the question of where we, in the English speaking world, can find the volumes necessary to pray the Hours. For Byzantine Catholics, I am familiar with only two basic options. Both have benefits and drawbacks. One is more complete than the other but unwieldy, the other is handy but needing a reworking for ease of use.

For handiness, the Ukrainian Church wins hand down. The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford published a one volume edition of the Divine Office in 2003. This book is a step forward from earlier attempts at an English language one volume Byzantine Divine Office, such as the monumental Byzantine Daily Worship by Archbishop Raya and Barn de Vinck, originally published in 1969.

My deacon and I have started using this volume to fulfill our obligations to pray the offices on a daily basis. I recommend it, with qualifications. At 1373 pages, it contains a sufficient number of selections from the Ochtoechos, the Menaia, the Triodion and Pentecostarion to allow keeping the offices, with the convenience of all being contained in one fairly handy and handsome volume. The text is of a comfortable font and size. Rubrics are in red and each page features a nice red border. Six coloured ribbons allow one to mark the necessary pages to pray the offices.

There are drawbacks and shortcomings, however. These do not disqualify the volume, but should be considered by anyone pondering whether to spend $100 plus shipping.

The first shortcoming is the arrangement of the material. The common texts of the services are placed at the beginning of the book. As these pages get used most frequently, wear on them is inevitable. Placing them at the beginning of the volume immediately leads to a weakening of the spine. A better option would have been to follow the custom of the Roman Hours (proven through experience) and locate this section somewhere in the middle of the volume. While this may seem counter-intuitive, a service book so arranged is much easier to use.

Mirroring this shortcoming, the volume places the Troparia, Kontakia, Theotokia and other common hymns just before the calendar at the very end of the volume. This typically leads to several ribbons marking the Troparia, Theotokia and calendar, all bunched together. At the cost of a few extra pages, the Troparia, Kontakia and Hypacoe could have been distributed appropriately in the Ochtoechos section, leaving the Theotokia and common Troparia to share a single ribbon. The calendar might have been better placed just before the Menaia section.

The layout of the services themselves could benefit from a slight revision. A highlighter aids clarity in keeping Vespers and Orthros (Matins in this edition) as the order of the service printed is that of Sundays and Feast Days. That said, the only real complaint here is that the ending of the services requires that one refer back to the conclusion of Vespers. These 'variations on a theme' might have been printed on the fly leaves, similar to a popular French language edition of the Roman Hours. Not being very familiar with the Ukrainian usage, I'm not sure whether what appears to be several 'mis-locations' are errors or simply a different practice than that with which I am familiar.

An almost to-be-expected shortcoming is the presence of a considerable number of misprints, typos, if you will. Given the size of the project it is understandable that this would happen.

As to the texts used in this volume, the Psalms are from the Grail Psalter (second edition, I think; with jarringly silly "inclusive language"). The Scripture passages are seemingly taken from the New American Bible (don't get me started). The text of the services themselves would seem to be the approved English version used by the Ukrainian Archeparchy. Personally, I don't have a problem with this, although it is not the text familiar to Melkite Catholics.

Not perfect by any means; but as I said at the outset, worth a recommendation, if only a qualified one.

For a more complete option, the Melkites win the day. The Melkite Eparchy has translated and published the entire collection of Byzantine Christian hymn books. These are printed in superb, dignified contemporary English. The existence of this important wealth of spiritual wisdom (for hymns always have the double purpose of praise and pedagogy) has contributed much to my own personal spiritual growth and appreciation of the importance of the Divine Office in the Byzantine Tradition.

These books are designed for "church use"; that is, they are primarily for the chanter to use during a public communal celebration. The chanter's stand typically has a rotating top allowing several books to be laid out so that the seasonal, daily, and weekly hymns can be quickly located for a given service. With this use in mind, the volumes of this series are nicely formatted. However, for personal or individual recitation of the offices, these books, combined either with Byzantine Daily Worship or the recent Melkite Horologion (more on this momentarily), lead to the unwieldy reality of a minimum of three books in hand for each recitation. Not very handy if you're "on the go".

A word must be said about the Horologion, published last year. This is a beautiful book. Each 'variation' of the offices is printed in full, in a clear fairly large font. Rubrics are in red and a sufficient number of ribbons allows for easy marking of pages before the celebration. It is bound in black leather with gilded edges. It is handy yet designed for church use. However, it has none of the proper hymns and depends on other volumes for a complete celebration.

That said, the real drawbacks with this volume are: a) it is already out of print (although this could be a good thing; especially if a revised second edition were planned); b) in a slavish following of Byzantine Daily Worship (itself hard to find), one of the Vespers priestly prayers is missing and the Orthros priestly prayers includes an extra prayer apparently taken from the Liturgy just before the Gospel is read; c) there are slight translation inconsistencies and examples of poor grammar.

That said, naturally, as a Melkite priest, I prefer the Melkite books. Given the slow deliberate pace of their publication history, typos and other infelicities are generally avoided. If one intends to pray the offices at home, the several volumes necessary for Orthros and Vespers is not necessarily problematic; most of the books are published in a spiral-bound format making them easy to lay out and keep 'up to date'. For the whole set, one needs about $600, with shipping; but on the other hand, individual volumes can be purchased separately, taking the sting out of the larger overall expense.

As noted with the Ukrainian book, the Melkite option also is not perfect, but also worthy of a qualified recommendation.

An ideal solution would be a multi-volume set of Divine Offices books, similar to the Roman Hours. Each volume would have the basic texts of each office in full, placed near the center of the volume. The entire Psalter would be printed in each volume, divided into the traditional Kathismata. (The first edition of the Grail Psalter with a few grammatical corrections would work nicely in this capacity.) The basic hymns of the Ochtoechos, Menaia and Triodion-Pentecostarion would be included in seasonally appropriate increments. Similarly, Scripture passages important for particular celebrations would be included as well. (The second edition of the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition would be ideal for this purpose.)

I envision that the project would require five to six volumes, similar in size to the above mentioned Ukrainian volume. It would be costly, but well worth the investment. To achieve the goal of producing such a resource, I suspect several, if not all, of the English speaking (or English-using) Eparchies would need to pool the funds necessary. This would, in turn, require some compromise on a common text for the 'ordinary' portions of the services.

The benefit would be the availability of a practical and sorely needed collection that would soon become a standard resource, not only for the clergy charged to keep the hours, but for many of the laity as well. If carefully designed and caringly produced, a treasure of spirituality would be put in the hands of all English speaking Byzantine Christians that would be in demand for generations to come.

Is such project possible?


Is it likely to become a reality?

Insha'allah! ("God willing!")

Until then, the options noted above are the best we have. (If you know of others, please let us know!)

Sunday of the Prodigal Son



When you descended to death, O Immortal Life, You put Hades to death by the splendor of Your Divinity. And when You raised the dead from below the Earth, all the heavenly Powers cried out to You: O Giver of Live, Christ our God, glory to You.


Hail, O Woman full of grace, Virgin and Mother of God: from you has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ our God, enlightening those who stand in darkness. You too, just Elder Simeon, rejoice for you carried in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, our Resurrection.


When in my wretchedness I ran away from your fatherly love, I squandered in wickedness the riches You had given me. And so now, like the Prodigal Son, I cry out to You: “I have sinned in your sight, O Merciful Father: receive me now that I repent and make me as one of your hired servants.”


O Christ our God who through your birth have sanctified the virginal womb and have now blessed the arms of Simeon, today You have come to save us. O Lord, when wars prevail, keep your people in peace and strengthen our public authorities in every good deed, for You alone are the Lover of Mankind.



R: May Your kindness, O Lord, be upon us
who have put our hope in You.

V: Exult, you just, in the Lord,
praise from the upright is fitting.


BRETHREN: "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything. "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food" — and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two shall become one flesh." But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.


God gives me redress and subdues people under me.

He has given great victories to His king
and shown His love for His Anointed,
for David and his sons forever.


THE LORD SPOKE THIS PARABLE: There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.” And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.’” And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to make merry. Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.” But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, “Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!” And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”