Monday, April 12, 2010

Thomas Sunday

FeastofThomasYesterday, the Eastern Church had the same reading as the Latin Church: John 20:19-31.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

I have posted a couple of times how beautiful and insightful I find the various short hymns, generally called stichera, that are sung at various times during the Liturgy. However, more are sung at the various prayers of the Divine Office. I thought I would once again share some of these for your personal meditation. The following stichera are taken from vespers of last Saturday night for Thomas Sunday.

Even though the doors were closed, You came to your disciples O Christ, and Thomas, called the Twin, was not with them. Therefore, he did not believe what they told him. You did not deem him unworthy for his lack of faith, but in your goodness, You confirmed his faith by showing him your pure side and the wounds in your hands and feet. He touched them, and when he saw You, he confessed You to be neither an abstract God nor merely human; and he cried out: My Lord and my God, glory to you!

On the eighth day the Savior came to the doubting disciples. He granted them peace and said to Thomas: O Apostle, come and touch my hands which are pierced by nails. How wonderful is this doubt of Thomas! It brought the hearts of believers to the knowledge of God. Therefore, he cried out with fear: My Lord and my God, glory to You!

After your Resurrection, O Lord, You appeared in the midst of your disciples and granted them peace as they gathered together behind closed doors. And Thomas was convinced after seeing your hands and side; therefore, he confessed that You are Lord and God, and Savior of those who place their trust in You. O Lover of Mankind, glory to You!

Although the doors were closed, Jesus appeared to his disciples. He took away their fear and granted them peace. Then He called Thomas and said to him: Why did you doubt my Resurrection from the dead? Place your hand in my side; see my hands and feet. Through your lack of faith everyone will come to know of my passion and my Resurrection, and they will cry out with you: My Lord and my God, glory to you!

Manifesting the brightness of your divinity, You appeared even though the doors were closed, O Lord. Standing in the midst of your disciples, You uncovered your side and showed them the wounds of your hands and feet, delivering them from the sadness that had overcome them. You spoke to them clearly and said: As you see, my friends, I have assumed flesh; I am not pure spirit. You spoke to the disciple who had doubted and asked him to touch your wounds, saying: Explore my wounds and doubt no longer. The disciple touched You with his hand and discovered both your divinity and humanity; filled with fear, he cried out in faith: My Lord and my God, glory to You!

O marvelous wonder! The lack of faith gave birth to a certainty of faith; for Thomas said: Unless I see, I will not believe! Therefore, when he touched your side, he acknowledged that You were the Incarnate Son of God, and he knew that You truly suffered in the flesh; and thus he proclaimed your resurrection from the dead, saying: My Lord and my God, glory to You!

O marvelous wonder! For grass has touched the fire and was not burned. Thomas placed his hand into the fiery side of the Savior, and he was not consumed by touching Him. Truly, his soul was changed from doubt to faith, and he exclaimed from the depth of his spirit: You are my Master and my God who arose from the dead. O Lord, glory to You!

O marvelous wonder! John leaned on the bosom of the Word, and Thomas was made worthy to touch his side. The first discovered the depth of theology, and the other was privileged to announce the plan of salvation; for he clearly revealed the mystery of his Resurrection, saying: My Lord and my God, glory to You!

How great us your infinite compassion, O Lover of Mankind, for because of your long-suffering You were struck by your enemies; You were touched by an apostle and deeply pierced by those who denied You. How did You become incarnate? How were You crucified, O Sinless One? Teach us to cry out as Thomas: My L ord and my God, glory to You!

I pray O Lord that my doubt would be turned to faith as was Thomas’. Lord, I believe – help my unbelief. In your goodness, enter into my heart even though the door is closed. There, O Lord, show me your hands and your feet that I might fall to the ground as did Thomas and proclaim you my Lord and my God…

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Χριστός ἀνέστη!! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!!

Deb, the three youngest kids, and I went to Bratislava, Slovakia on Great and Holy Thursday. We attended, with many from the ITI, the Chrism Divine Liturgy at the Ruthenian Byzantine Cathedral. The cathedral was very small. I am not sure it could hold a hundred people. It seemed to be a converted Latin Rite church.

At the Liturgy itself, the bishop consecrates the Holy Myron (Holy Chrism), consecrates new Antimensia, and washes the feet of priests.

The Antimension (Church Slavonic: Antimens) is similar to the Western corporal, though it serves a function similar to an altar stone. It is a piece of silk or linen which has an icon of the Deposition from the Cross depicted on it, and relics of a martyr sewn into it. Unlike the Western corporal, the Antimension is not removed from the Holy Table after the Eucharist is over, but is kept in the center of the Holy Table, covered by the Gospel Book. (from Wikipedia)

Here are some pictures of the Liturgy.


Here Bishop Peter Rusnák blesses the congregation with a trikerion in his left hand and a dikerion in the right. He blesses with both hands because he, as a bishop, has the fullness of Holy Orders. The candles represent the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity and Two Natures of Christ, respectively.



The Bishop is preparing to wash the feet of twelve of his priests. I nearly got the entire iconostasis into the picture. There is one more rank higher than is visible. You can see the large icons of Mary (on the left of the picture) and Jesus (obscured by the cross). You can see three doors. The main door (called the Royal Door; in the center) can only used during particular times in the Liturgy and then only by a bishop, priest, or deacon. The doors (closed) next to the icons of Jesus and Mary are called deacon doors. There are two more icons at that level. The one on the far left (as you look at the picture) is of St. Nicholas. I do not know what the icon is on the far right. The next row up has the Last Supper in the center and the twelve events from Christ’s life on either side. The next row up has Jesus in the center with Mary and John the Baptist (the Forerunner) worshipping Christ. The others are prophets, patriarchs, and apostles. 



The bishop washing and kissing the feet of one of his priests.



This is a bishop that was martyred under the communists in the 1970s. I believe his name is Bishop Vasil Hopko.


Here is another martyr-bishop from under the communists. His name is Bishop Paul P, Gojdich, O.S.B.M.

I was not aware that in every communist country, I believe, the Greek Catholic Church was outlawed. Many, many Eastern Catholics were martyred under the brutal conditions of prisons or labor camps.

Holy Martyrs of the Eastern Catholic Church, pray for us!!