Sunday Articles

Christ Enthroned
Christ Enthroned

We recently celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of mankind on the moon. It certainly brought a renewed interest in the creation and order of the universe. Sophisticated instrumentation is being utilized to fathom the mysteries of “the beginning.” Scientists have been studying the origin of the universe for ages, and theologians have often spoken and written about it.

One of the great hierarchs of the Church in the 4th century, St. Basil the Great, devoted a series of sermons to the theme of Creation. These discourses have come down to us in a book called “Six Days.” He begins the first homily: “It is right that anyone beginning to narrate the formation of the world should begin with the good order of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined, but which drew its origin from God.”

“What ear is worthy to hear such a tale? How earnestly the soul should prepare itself to receive such high lessons? How pure it should be from carnal affections, how unclouded by worldly disquietudes, how active and ardent in its researches, how eager to find in its surroundings an idea of God which may be worthy of Him!”

St. Basil ends his sermon on the first day of creation by offering a benediction: “May the Father of the true light, Who has adorned day with celestial light, Who has made the fire to shine which illuminates us during the night, Who reserves for us in the peace of a future age a spiritual and everlasting light, keep you from stumbling, and grant that you may walk honestly as in the day…”

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

St. Kyriakos
St. Kyriakos

The Church honors many saints who, despite their attempts to flee the world and live in relative obscurity, attained notoriety throughout the ages. One such saint is the Venerable KYRIAKOS THE HERMIT. Kyriakos was born in Corinth in 448 A.D. There were several bishops in his family, and it was assumed that Kyriakos would also rise quickly through the ranks of the clergy and would, one day, ascend to the lofty level of the episcopacy.

Kyriakos, however, saw his life in a different light. He took a literal interpretation of Christ’s words – “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself…” – and totally embraced the monastic way of life. Living among the ascetic communities on the rugged wilderness surrounding Jerusalem, Kyriakos was content to spend his time in prayer and fasting. It is said that he ate once a day, partaking only of vegetables. To deepen his contemplative nature, the venerable hermit went through a period of self-imposed silence that lasted 10 years!

At the age of 40, Kyriakos was ordained to the priesthood. It was only after his superiors promised this would not disturb his desired lifestyle that he accepted ordination. Some 30 years later, Kyriakos left the monastery in which he was dwelling for the isolation of the desert region of Natufa. Still, he was never completely alone. Word of his holiness spread, and many pious pilgrims visited Kyriakos ion the desert seeking his wise counsel.

A few years before his death, this amazing monastic came “back to civilization” and settled in the community of St. Chariton. Finally, Kyriakos fell asleep in the Lord in 557 A.D.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

St. Sophia and her daughters
St. Sophia and her daughters

With our faith, we must be FULLY dedicated to our Savior. Today we remember a 2nd century Christian family who was put to the test! ST. SOPHIA and her three daughters – Faith, Hope and Love (Charity) – were devoted followers of Jesus Christ. When her husband died, Sophia and her family moved from their small village in the city of Rome, hoping to escape persecution initiated by the Emperor Hadrian. St. Sophia and her young daughters were arrested with many other Christians as they sought to secretly worship the Lord.

This saintly Christian family was placed on trial before a Roman magistrate. The magistrate assured Sophia that they could all go free. All she had to do was deny Christ and promise to raise her children as pagans! What choice would Sophia make? Did she really love the Lord more than her very children? A refusal on her part to accept the conditions set down by the magistrate would assuredly cause the death of them all.

Amazingly, the three children assisted their mother in this moral dilemma, insisting that they would rather join her in death and be reunited in the Kingdom of God than to deny their Christian beliefs! The furious magistrate ordered the girls to be tortured and murdered before the very eyes of their mother, who was finally put to death herself as she prayed over the bodies of her children. Family ties can be strong, and one can only wonder how we would react if we were forced to declare our true loyalties.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

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

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