Sunday Articles

Parable of the Mustard Seed
Parable of the Mustard Seed

In the fertile region surrounding the Sea of Galilee, the mustard plant was a familiar form of vegetation. Properly nourished, its seeds, which were widely used for seasoning and medicinal purposes, would commonly grow into a sturdy tree that normally measured about fifteen feet in height.

The imagery of great abundance rising from humble beginnings was not lost on our Lord, as evidenced by His famous Parable of the Mustard Seed. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed, is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs and becomes a tree.” (Matt 13:31-32)

This parable is not meant to provide us with a glimpse of heaven, but rather its purpose to explain the process of growth involved with spreading the word of God so that we may, one day, be part of God’s heavenly kingdom. Christ’s ministry began in a small way, with poor, uneducated fishermen serving as His messengers. In no time at all, they spread the Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. The work of the Lord often involves seemingly insignificant people and circumstances, but the possibilities for growth are endless because of God’s power. Many in Christ’s time fully expected God’s kingdom to be revealed immediately. Church Fathers remind us, however, that all the glory that awaits us will take time to grow and mature through adversity. Still, when the kingdom of Heaven is fully formed, it will be more wonderful and bountiful than we can imagine!

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Most Holy Theotokos
Most Holy Theotokos

There is hardly a Christian home in the land the doesn’t have an icon of a favorite saint in its confines. Often a lamp is burned, and daily prayers are said before it. Certainly, icons of Christ predominate, as well as those of the Holy Virgin Mary, Patron Saints and other favorites abound as well.

Saints are honored as heroes of the Faith. They serve as examples of virtue and perseverance. They intercede before the throne of God. Some of the first items ever printed, after the Scriptures, are stories of the Lives of the Saints. They form a remarkable group: men and women, young and old, rich and poor, people of every station and walk of life.

An interesting study was published many years ago about the lives of more than 3,000 saints of the Church. It was conducted by a noted scholar, Pitirim Sorokin of Harvard University, himself a faithful Christian. He found that, as a whole, saints lived much longer than others. This was true even though many of them had been martyred at a younger age!

The scientist attributed this longevity to the fact that Christian love dominated their lives. Besides their love of others, the saints were aware of Christ’s love of them. This combination of love served to keep them healthy in mind, in spirit and in body for years on end. Medical researchers in our day are discovering the need for spiritual well-being to maintain bodily health, to ward off disease and to encourage quick recovery if illness strikes.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
The Transfiguration of Our Lord

One day Jesus gathered his Apostles and asked them a vital question: “Whom do you say I am?” Before He was to suffer and die, Our Lord wanted them to be certain of His identity as Son of God and Son of Man. Peter responded saying, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.”

Later, Jesus took three of His apostles, Peter, James and John up the height of the mountain. There they were to witness a sight never before beheld in the eyes of man: Jesus appeared in all the magnificence of His Divinity, at least to the extent that frail humanity could bear.

The remarkable event is called THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD. Now there was no question as to the identity of the Lord: He was God and Man. The three apostles became “eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone as brightly as the sun, and His clothing became white as light. The viewers fell to the ground in awe, with Peter exclaiming “Master, it’s good for us to be here.”

At that moment a cloud came over them, and the voice of God the Father proclaiming: “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him.” Moses and Elias appeared with Christ, and shortly thereafter the apostles only saw Jesus. The icon on our bulletin today vividly portrays this scene.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Saints Boris and Gleb
Saints Boris and Gleb

Today’s bulletin features two brothers named SAINTS BORIS AND GLEB, who became the first saints to be canonized in Kievan Christianity. In doing so, they embraced the ideal of NON-RESISTANCE. They were also called “Passion-Bearers” by the Church.

Kiev was the cradle for the bringing of the Gospel to Slav peoples beginning in the ninth century. With the conversion of St. Vladimir, a new era began for the Church as well as the State. Churches, schools and monasteries were established, and Christian ideals entered the life stream of the once pagan people.

But Vladimir died in the year 1015, and immediately there was disorder among the various principalities ruled by his sons. One of the sons, Sviatopolk, took matters into his own hands. Fearing the popularity and potential competition of the younger Boris and Gleb, Sviatopolk had each of them murdered by his emissaries. The two brothers offered no resistance, choosing to die as Jesus did.

Strictly speaking, they were not martyrs for the Christian faith, but martyrs in keeping of the commands of Christ. The fame and esteem of the two lay believers spread far and wide. They became the first miracle-workers and heavenly patrons of this Christian land. The idea of suffering and pain to be borne in Christ is deeply ingrained in the Slavic soul.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Saints Mary Magdalene and Markella
Saints Mary Magdalene and Markella

It should not strike us as unusual to find an icon bearing two great women of Christian faith – St. Mary Magdalene and St. Markella. They lived in vastly different times and lands: Mary of Magdala was a contemporary of Jesus Himself and lived in the Holy Land, while Markella of the Greek Island of Chios lived in the 16th century. But they were one in their devotion to Jesus Christ, in their dedication and loyalty to the Christian faith.

The Church has honored Mary Magdalene with the title “Equal to the Apostles,” a rare honor recognizing her great faith and long service to the Lord. She was at the Cross when Jesus died, she was at the tomb of His Resurrection, and, in fact, spoke to the Risen Lord. She was one of the distinguished Myrrh-Bearing Women who ministered to the needs of Christ. It is said that Mary fell asleep in Christ at Ephesus, when she had gone with John the Beloved Apostle.

As for Markella, a young maiden of great spiritual and physical beauty, she suffered greatly at the hands of her agnostic father. But she persevered in faith, and finally died a martyr’s death. She is termed Martyr and Virgin in the Church Calendar. A fresh spring water is said to have gushed forth from the rocks where she died, and the place has been a favored spot for pilgrimage and prayer ever since.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

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