BEHEADING OF THE FORERUNNER, ST JOHN THE BAPTIST, Mark 6: 14-30
The memory of the righteous is praised, says King Solomon (Proverbs 10:7 LXX); but the Lord’s testimony suffices the righteous one we remember today. What testimony? Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). What honour can our praises add to one who boasts such an eminent witness? How can the life that today is crowned with a glorious death be fittingly honoured? The life of St. John the Baptist towers so far above the life of ordinary, mortal men as to rival that of the angels. Indeed, the Prophet Malachi calls him such when he speaks of him, saying, Behold, I send my messenger—that is, αγγελος, angel—before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee(Malachi 3:1, Mark 1:2).
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that we are totally self-sufficient and able to live exactly as we please with no serious consequences. Self-reliance, independence, and freedom certainly have their places, but they also have their limits and must be kept in proper perspective. We must develop these qualities in light of who we are before God, if we are to flourish as His beloved sons and daughters. Continue reading
Panagia tou Harou is the name of the unique icon which depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified Christ, rather than the Christ child, hence its name (haros in Greek means “death”). This icon is found in the church of St. John the Theologian, Leipsoi (Greece). The annual commemoration of the icon takes place on August 23 when the island of Leipsoi fills with pilgrims from all over the Dodecanese, to witness the procession of the icon around the entire island and see the annual blossoming of the dead bouquet of lilies on the icon.
In the 1940s, a lady was praying to the “Panagia tou Harou” icon. Her prayers were answered, and in gratitude placed a simple bouquet of lilies on the icon. These lilies withered but remained on the icon. In the following year, at the leave-taking of the feast of the Dormition (August 23), these lilies blossomed again and gave off a fragrance. Since then, this miracle occurs annually on the day of the feast.
THE FALLING ASLEEP OF THE THEOTOKOS
This great feast honours the Virgin Mary through whom the mystery of the Incarnation took place. As our Lord’s Mother, we seek her intercession to her Son for our every need. She listens, comforts, and prays for us. This is evident by the many miracles that are performed by her; the countless number of churches that are built in her honour. Continue reading
Today we celebrate a great and joyous solemnity: the falling asleep of the Mother of God in Jerusalem, and her bodily translation into glory.
“The Whole Mystery of the Economy”
The readings from Genesis, Ezekiel, and Proverbs present us with a series of images, all with reference to the Theotokos. She is the ladder ascending from earth to heaven, beheld by the patriarch Jacob in a vision (Gen. 28:12). She is Bethel, God’s house, and the gate of heaven (Gen. 28:17). She is the east gate of the Temple sanctuary, which remains shut – virginal: no man enters, “for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it,” as Ezekial prophesies (Ez. 44:2). She is wisdom, or the house of wisdom, of which king Solomon speaks (Prov. 9:1) Continue reading
At the end of his life, in exile on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John had a vision. “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Rev. 12:1). Most commentators take this image from the book of Apocalypse to be referring to the Church, or the remnant Israel. Some, however, see here an image of Mary, especially as she is the daughter of Zion, and she typifies the Church. Some even see an image of her bodily assumption. Continue reading
The earliest known prayer to the Theotokos (Greek, Θεοτοκος, meaning “Bearer of God”) is a prayer found on a fragment of papyrus dating back to approximately AD 250. In 1917, the John Rylands Library (1) in Manchester, England, acquired a large panel of Egyptian papyrus. The prayer is located on the fragment recorded as reference number Greek Papyrus 470. The prayer appears to be from a Coptic Christmas liturgy or vespers written in Koine Greek although the fragment in question may be a private copy of the prayer. centuries before the Nestorian heresy. Continue reading
It has never been hard to find people who view Jesus Christ in many different ways. Some use His name as a curse word or otherwise mock Him. Some make Him in their own image as an advocate of whatever agenda they prize most in life. Some view Him as a teacher or prophet to be admired, but not as the Son of God to be worshiped. Today’s gospel reading presents Him in a radically different way as One Who restores sight to blind beggars and the ability to speak to a man who had been possessed by a demon. Christ is not simply a miracle worker, of course, but the Saviour of the world Who, as St. Paul wrote, has welcomed us for the glory of God. Continue reading
And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles; one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased, Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. And Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” And when they had lifted up their eves, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
“You were transfigured on Mt. Tabor showing the exchange mortal humans will make with your glory at your second and fearful coming O Saviour! (Matins)