This week our Church commemorates the Sunday of the Paralytic.  The Gospel reading is taken from St. John 5, 1 – 15.  One thing struck me after I read this passage.  Aren’t all of us paralyzed in one way or the other?  The young man in the Gospel account was physically impaired for many years, but he never gave up on the possibility of being healed.  He waited by the pool for thirty-eight years for his deliverance.

Christ and the Paralytic
Christ and the Paralytic
Many of us who are paralyzed spiritually, emotionally or psychologically sit by the side of life.  There may be limitations to our understanding, we may not be able to move past a scar on our heart, perhaps we cannot forgive some hurt we have experienced.  Do we live our life trying to be healed or trying to ignore our malady?  The question that Christ asked the young man is very pertinent to our own circumstances or powerlessness, “Do you want to be healed?”  At first, the obvious response would be an indignant, “of course,” but many of us wear our debilitation as a badge of identity.  Not too many weeks ago, we were anointed with the sacrament Holy Unction.  While we were being anointed, the invocation reminded us that Christ is the physician of our souls and bodies. Souls and bodies, we are told that the young man needed physical healing. Nonetheless, waiting next to the pool for thirty-eight years to be healed must have left emotional scars on the young man. As we analyze all the miracles of Christ, He heals each person whom He encounters; provided that the person turns him in faith.  The healing always restores the person to wholeness.  So, it is understood that all aspects of this paralyzed man was healed.

Turning to Christ in faith is not a magic formula.  Wholeness involves the restoration of our spirit. This restoration may impart to us the capacity to recognize our paralysis, to understand its cause and to start on a path to wellness.  Its possible physical limitations remain with us to illumine our heart to overcome the deeper emotional weakness. The healing of Christ is a mystery as is the opportunity to witness His love in our life.  Our witness, like the young man’s in the temple, is the acknowledgement that God is working to transform our heart.



LazarusToday, I would like to talk about silence.  As I was growing up, my parents always referred to the Friday before the Saturday of Lazarus – as the “Silence (oi koufi)”.  I always thought this was because the Akathist had finished and there wasn’t a service that night.  Ok, there was silence.  Now, I look at this a bit more deeply.  If you remember a few years ago, there was this movement to help young people make better decisions by using the question, “What would Jesus do?”  As I recall, there were even little rubber bracelets with the letters “WWJD” on them. In this case this is the question that should be asked.  The Gospel reading of the Raising of Lazarus, (John 11, 1 – 45) begins with Jesus apparently hesitating to go to his friend’s aid.  Well, this supposed hesitation had a real purpose, for all to see the glory of God.  How was this to be accomplished?  Our Lord seemingly was blasé about Lazarus’s illness and rushing to his side.  After staying put for two days, Jesus prepared to go to Bethany informing His disciples that Lazarus was dead. As Jesus encountered Martha and Mary, they expressed thoughts that we all feel at sometime, “if only.”  They were sure that if only Jesus had been there Lazarus wouldn’t have died, but Jesus was silent and missing.  For us to truly understand Jesus’ hesitation, we need to know a bit about the Jewish teaching concerning death.  At day four, in the Jewish understanding, the soul left the body in other words the body was a cadaver, a corpse. So if Lazarus was a corpse, Jesus did not simply resuscitate him.  As Jesus called forth Lazarus and Lazarus walked out of his tomb Christ created life from dead matter.  The Creator God bestowed life on Lazarus.  Christ is God and the silence of Lazarus’ tomb was shattered. To the assembled crowd this silence was deafening.]]>

Standing By…

stavrotheotokion.  If we look at this compound word and break it down to its component parts we can recognize a couple of fairly familiar Greek words, Stavro – Greek for cross and Theoto(kos), the Mother of God.  Now, we can connect the concepts The Theotokos and the Cross.  The Stavrotheotokion is a troparion (short hymn with a theme usually sung after a verse of psalm), which is a manifestation of true human emotion.  It is a poetic expression of the pain, sorrow and astonishment of a mother beholding her Son and her God on the Cross.  These verses of theology and tenderness are heard in many of the services of the Great Lent, but reach their zenith in the services of the Holy Passion.  The Theotokos expresses the wonder of us all.  The awe, which could only be articulated by a mother who has kept a secret for many years (“and his mother kept all these things in her heart” Luke 2, 51).  The identity of her Son as the incarnate God was known the Theotokos since the Annunciation.  Now she suffers a new mystery, the inscrutability of her Son and Creator taking on death by His own free choice.  Each of these verses proclaims the truth of Christ’s condescension. [caption id="attachment_299" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="The Lament of the Virgin"]The Lament of the Virgin[/caption]

…”Woe is me beloved Child, light of my eyes!  Thou has hung the earth above the waters, how can you endure to be nailed upon the Tree between two evildoers.”  – Vespers of Tuesday in the Third Week.  

None the less, the Virgin stands by the cross, hour by hour true to her mission to intercede for the entire world.  Her pain is palpable.  Her lament is moving and yet there is true nobility in her devotion.  When all the disciples, except John the Beloved, had fled because of their fear, she and the other women stood there unafraid.  St. Romanos the Melodist has captured her grief and her consolation in a kontakion (a combination of troparia of the same structure, connect alphabetically or acrostically) used on Great and Holy Friday.  This    dialogue between the Theotokos and her Son becomes the revelation of God’s plan of salvation in poetry.  This kontakion is lyrical theology, stavrotheotokion with the voice of response by our Crucified Lord. Christ assures the Theotokos just as she witnesses his hanging on the Cross, she would receive this grace. [caption id="attachment_302" align="alignright" width="91" caption="The Theotokos at the Cross"]The Theotokos at the Cross[/caption]  “Courage, Mother because you will see me first on my coming first from the tombs.  I am coming to show you by how many toils I ransomed  Adam and how much I sweated for his sake. I shall show it to my friends by showing the marks in my hands and then you will see Eve, Mother, living as before, and you will cry out with joy:  ‘He has saved my forebears,     my Son and my God.’* *(St. Romanos the Melodist. On the Life of Christ: Kontakia. Translated by Archimandrite Ephrem Lash. Edited by Kerry Brown, The Sacred Literature Series. New York et al.: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995, p. 148).]]>

Who are the Saints?

[/caption] So, he must have had something to do with icons, but other than that who was he? Ultimately, this is the question we should ask about each saint, but more importantly we must ask how do they make a difference for us today?  At the time I began my studies Methodios was a stranger.  This is the reality of all saints unless we look at them in the light of faith.  They stand as reflections of Christ, in their time and their place.  Every one, young, old, male or female is a person who faced life with one thing in common with us today, struggle.  All of us struggle to live a life that matters, not in the great things but in the real things.  A life that matters is the path each person must travel.  So consider a saint’s life as a journey.  Look how they made the voyage.  When they came to that fork in the road to which we all come, how did they choose?  Yes, Methodios is the Patriarch who presided over the first Sunday of Orthodoxy.  He is right there in the icon!  If the people of the Church made him a saint, put him in icons and gave him a feast day; it is because he a chose a certain path.  What will be your choice?  The life of a saint may show you the “Way”. [To learn more about Patriarch Methodios link to: ]]]>

Thoughts on the Trinity and Christ in Orthodox Teaching

What do you think about when you hear the word “GOD”? Maybe, it would help if we consider some of the Church’s teachings about God. First, let’s ask the basic question “What is God?” There are certain fundamental Orthodox teachings on this question. When we try to define God, we come to Mystery. Beginning with that question: The Church says “IS” – is beyond all human understanding, language, and abilities to grasp or describe.

God is Love; whoever sought to define Him would be like a blind person trying to count the grains of sand of the sea shore. – St. John Climakos

God is a God, who out of Love, reveals Himself to his creatures and creation. Our God is a Personal God. Our God is a TRINITARIAN GOD. What does this mean? The nature of God as Trinity is explained by a Father of the Church in this way:

[caption id="attachment_145" align="alignleft" width="226" caption="Holy Trinity"]Holy Trinity[/caption] The Father is the origin of all, the Son realizes, and the Spirit fulfils. Every thing subsists by the will of the Father, comes into being though the action of the Son, and reaches its perfection through the action of the Holy Spirit… The number three therefore comes to your mind: the Lord who commands, The Word who creates, the Breath who confirms and what can it mean to confirm, if not to make perfect in holiness.

Treatise on the Holy Spirit – ST BASIL OF CAESARIA.

Think about the description of the nature of God, as we can understand him. Keep in mind; we can never understand the essence of God. Yet, all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity share the same essence (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). They are unique persons; they are distinct but never separate. They have but one will, the will of the Father. NONE of three ever acts separately and apart from the other two. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware states, “They are not three Gods but one God.” What is it about God that we experience and know? We Orthodox view what and how we experience the Trinity in this way.


God is love (1 John, 8). The Persons of the Holy Trinity relate to one and another in a bond of LOVE, a perfect outpouring of selfless communion that is continuous, constant and mysterious. This is the nature of the relationship of the life of God as Trinity. Our destiny is to share this love and to express it in our lives. When we talk about God, we mean the Holy Trinity; and when we will speak of Christ, the second person of the Trinity, we speak of the Son of God revealed and encountered in the created world. In Christ, empowered by God’s Holy Spirit and through our Baptism and Chrismation, we have the potential to partake in the nature of God as Trinity (2 Peter 1, 3).

For Orthodox, the true image of God and the true nature of man are revealed in history by one event. God has revealed Himself to us in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, Christ accomplishes this by His Incarnation in the Flesh. The Incarnation of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, reveals the image of the Father to the world and only through Him, in the Holy Spirit, can we KNOW God the Father (St. John 17, 25-26). The hymn of Christmas, by St. Romanos the Melodist, summarizes the theology of incarnation with this phrase, “A new born child; God before the Ages”.

The Incarnation is an act of GOD out of love. It is an act of God identifying with our nature and of sharing His Nature with us. The nature of God as Trinity was the topic of the first two Ecumenical Councils; the next five great Councils dealt with who is Jesus and what is His relationship to us, His creation.


Earlier we said, the Godhead is a perfect community of love shared between the THREE Persons of the Trinity. The Incarnation is also about sharing and participation. Christ shares our humanity, even to death on the cross. This act of perfect Love enables us, in Christ, through His Spirit to participate in the life of God. We are called to intimate communion, even friendship with our Lord. The entire history of Christ in the world can be summed up in one word ENCOUNTER. Through Him, in Him and with Him, we encounter the Living God. Christ assumed our human nature and our human body. He transformed them with the Glory of God and showed us the true original beauty of our created potential. He presents it to His Father, wholly transfigured, so that we might share in the Nature of God.

This is the reason why the Word of God was made flesh, and the Son of God became the Son of Man: so that we could enter into communion with the Word of God and by receiving adoption might become the Sons of God. Indeed, we should not be able to share in immortality without a close union with the Immortal.

St. Ireneaus of Lyons

In Christ, we are called to KNOW the Father. This knowledge is the prayer of Christ before his crucifixion. His Resurrection abolished the hold which death had on us since our fall. His Accession granted us an intercessor at the Throne of God. At Pentecost, He asks the Father to send His Spirit to continue His Presence among us. His Second Coming will give the righteous immortality and perfect communion with God. These words of prayer explain our relationship to God the Holy Trinity.

My hope is the Father,
My refuge is the Son,
My Protection is the Holy Spirit,
O’ Holy Trinity – Glory to You.
St Ioannicios the Great