Sunday Articles

Icon of Holy Pentecost
Icon of Holy Pentecost

The icon for the feast of the PENTECOST has traditional elements that teach the spiritual structure of the Christian Church. Against the background of a temple, the Apostles are depicted in a circular form, giving the impression of unity.

But if the icon is a representation of the Church, then it must have more than Apostles depicted. And this is the case. Among the twelve are a number who were not of the original Twelve. There is St. Paul and the Evangelists Luke and Mark (who hold Gospels). The Apostles bear scrolls, for they are essentially teachers of Good News.

The Acts, describing the historic Descent of the Spirit, speaks of the multitude present on that occasion. Ancient icons did, in fact, depict multitudes in the lower central position of the icon. This has been replaced by the strange symbolic figure of a king. The man is in a dark place, for the world before Christ was lacking faith; he is depicted aged, for the sin of Adam has aged him; the crown signifies sin, which ruled the world; the cloth he holds, with the twelve scrolls, signifies the Twelve Apostles who brought light to the world through their proclamation of the news of Jesus Christ.

Because Pentecost was the baptism of the Church by fire, we see rays of fire descending upon the gathered group. And so we have finally, the fulfillment of the revelation of the Holy Trinity; the Father as Creator, the Son as Savior, and now the Holy Spirit, come as Comforter and Sanctifier of the Church.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

The Ascension of Our Lord
The Ascension of Our Lord

The time had come for our Lord to bid farewell to His Apostles. For three years, Jesus had prepared them for this inevitable day. They had listened intently to His preachings. They had seen Him work miracles. They observed Him carefully as He set the perfect example of how to live a righteous life. Yes, they were nearly ready to begin the work that Christ had commissioned them to do when He said, “GO AND TEACH ALL NATIONS.”

Christ knew that this assignment was not a simple one. He was aware that these loyal men would be met with hostility and even persecution. So as He physically departed from their midst when He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives, Jesus left them with this comforting assurance: “LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS.” Jesus had promised His Apostles that He would send them the Holy Spirit, Who would give them the strength, courage and guidance necessary for them to accomplish their missionary objectives. They were called upon to put their trust in their Master one final time and return to Jerusalem until that blessed moment when the Comforter would come to them.

Angels encouraged the Apostles with these words as Christ vanished from their sight: “MEN OF GALILEE, WHY ARE YOU STANDING HERE STARING AT THE SKY? JESUS HAS GONE AWAY TO HEAVEN, AND SOME DAY, JUST AS HE WENT, HE WILL RETURN!’ That is the day we ALL wait for!

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Sunday of the Blind Man
Sunday of the Blind Man

The big question in today’s Gospel story is this: Who is blind? Is it the man born with PHYSICAL blindness or the Pharisees with their SPIRITUAL impairment? Let us examine what St. Ambrose of Milan had to say about this miracle:

“There is blindness resulting from sickness which obscures the vision and is remedied by the passage of time. There is blindness, which is caused by some fluids and this, also, when the trouble is removed, is generally cured by the skill of medicine. From this you may know that when one is cured who has been blind from birth it is not a case of skill but of POWER. The Lord gave health, and HE used no medicine, for the Lord Jesus healed those whom no one else had cured…

He spit and made clay and spread the clay over the eyes of the blind man and said to him: “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So, he went away and washed and began to see. What is the reason for this? FOR HE WHOM JESUS TOUCHES SEE MORE.

Notice at the same time His divinity and His sanctity. As the Light, He touched and shed light; as a Priest, He fulfilled in the figure of baptism the mysteries of spiritual grace. May you realize that the things within Christ are light. One who is cleansed by the means which Christ uses truly sees.”

​The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

communion
"DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME"

As faithful Christians, we come to church every Lord’s Day to worship God during the Divine Liturgy. It is an important religious service because the Eucharist is confected during it. In a sense, the Liturgy is the Lord’s own service. At the Mystical Supper on the night before He died, Jesus took bread and wine, prayed over them, blessed them, pronounced them His body and blood, and then gave them to His apostles to eat. Then He instructed His followers: “DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.”

​Early Christians did as the Lord had commanded. They met every first day of the week to worship, to pray, to hear God’s Word, to offer the bread and wine, have these consecrated by invoking the Holy Spirit and then partaking of Communion. In this way they both remembered and received Christ.

​As parents, we guide our children to confess their sins to Christ in the presence of a Priest, who pronounces God’s absolution. We teach them to partake in the sacrament of Holy Communion. The word Communion means a common union of the most intimate kind, enjoyed by Christians with God and with others in the Church. The Priest stands at the Lord’s Table, chalice of wine and plate of bread before him, and after prayer and consecration we receive these as the body and blood of Christ.

​But Communion does not end in church. We feel Christ’s presence in us, we sense His power in our wills, His peace in our lives. And others, too, seeing the joy of our souls, know we have been in the presence of God.

​The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Mid-Pentecost Icon
Mid-Pentecost Icon

The unusual icon of our bulletin is termed the “Mid-Pentecost” image. Strangely enough, the idea of observing a Mid-Pentecost day is not new in the Church. There are traces of a festival that comes midway between Resurrection and Pentecost as far back as the 5th century.

We have here a rather unique picture of Christ as the GREAT TEACHER of mankind. The Gospel for the day tells of Jesus “going up into the temple” in the midst of the feast, and teaching. And so, the icon shows a young Christ teaching a group of obviously mature and learned men, who seem somewhat surprised at the wisdom of their Mentor. The Lord is depicted with one hand in a gesture of making a point, while the other hand clutches a scroll.

Yes, the entire scene makes one think of a twelve-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem, without the Holy Virgin and Joseph. St. Luke tells of the incident: “After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of doctors, both hearing them and answering their questions.” What we have then, is a composite setting of Christ, Divine Wisdom, of deed and word, a profound teaching for every generation.

There is a need today for us to gather about the feet of Our Lord, as did Mary, the sister of Lazarus, “choosing the best part,” and listening to the instruction of the Master. Let this be our task as we await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost, coming 50 days after the Lord’s Resurrection.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

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