Sunday Articles

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

St. Veronica Encounters The Lord
St. Veronica Encounters The Lord

In Church History, it is often difficult to distinguish between fact and legend. In the early years of Christianity, stories abounded concerning the spiritual exploits of saintly men and women, often making them out to be larger than life. Nevertheless, the embellishments associated with them do nothing to diminish the sincerity of their commitment to Christ.

ST. VERONICA certainly falls into that category. The Church has adhered to the pious tradition that she was, in fact, the woman with the issue of blood who touched the hem of the garment of our Lord as He was passing by (Matthew 9:20). After her divine healing, St. Veronica had such a deep devotion to Christ that it is said the she erected a statue of Him and placed it in front of her home as a token of gratitude.

The name “Veronica” comes from the Latin word “vere” (true) and the Greek word “eikon” (image). It is little wonder then that the story developed about St. Veronica stepping out of the crowd that fateful Good Friday and wiping the perspiring Face of the Lord with her veil – an act of kindness that left an imprint of the suffering Messiah upon it.

Through the years, several traditions have surfaced concerning “Veronica’s Veil.” Veronica is said to have married a Christian convert named Zacchalos, who joined her in extensive missionary efforts. The veil was their constant companion. One such adventure brought them to the court of the Emperor Tiberius, who was grievously ill. Miraculously, when the Emperor was shown the veil he was instantly cured of his disease. Little else can be factually verified about her life.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Saint Sisoes the Great
Saint Sisoes the Great

Icons, the sacred images of our faith, are not meant to be realistic portraits of people or events. Instead, they are referred to as “windows into heaven,” which allow us to catch a glimpse of the material world in a spiritual light. For the iconographer, the ultimate message of his work is far more importantly than even its historical accuracy.

Such is the case with the icon on this morning’s Church Bulletin. ST. SISOES THE GREAT is depicted here. This 4th century saint lived a monastic life in the deserts of Egypt for over sixty years. He was described as being a “fountain of living wisdom,” and people from all walks of life would journey great distances to receive both his advice and blessing. When asked once about the method for acquiring humility, he responded with these profound words: “WHEN YOU LEARN TO REGARD EVERYONE AS BETTER THAN YOU. YOU, YOU WILL HAVE ACQUIRED HUMILITY.”

Our icon shows Sisoes staring into the open casket of Alexander the Great. While the possibility of this actually occurring is highly unlikely, the iconographer makes a powerful point with this frightening scene. Alexander the Great was the mightiest conqueror of his time and a symbol of glory for the ancient Greeks. But the pleasures of the flesh, as evidenced by the ruler’s decaying bones, are only temporary in nature. The GLORY OF THE SPIRIT, as seen in the towering figure of Sisoes, is EVERLASTING. Who then, really deserves to have the term “great” associated with his name?

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

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