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Holy Apostle and Evangelist St. John the Theologian + September 26

Troparion to St. John the Evangelist, Tone 2

O Apostle John, speaker of divinity, the beloved of Christ God, hasten and deliver thy people powerless in argument; for He on Whose bosom thou didst lean accepteth thee as an intercessor. Beseech Him, therefore, to disperse the cloud of the stubborn nations, asking for us safety and the Great Mercy.

Kontakion to St. John the Evangelist, Tone 2

Who can tell of thy mighty works, O virgin Saint John? For thou pourest forth miracles, and art a source of healings, and thou dost intercede for our souls, as the Theologian and the friend of Christ.

The Conception of St. John the Baptist + September 23

John the Forerunner, the fruit of prayer, hath budded from a barren womb today. Rejoice, O wilderness, and dance for joy, O mankind! Behold, the preacher of repentance beginneth to take flesh in his mother’s womb. Come, as we rejoice over his glorious conception, O ye feast-lovers, let us form a choir, crying: O thou greatest of them that are born of women, cease not to intercede for us who with faith honor thy divine conception, that we may find forgiveness of sins and Great Mercy.

--Doxasticon from Great Vespers, Tone 6

Rejoice, O barren one, who had not given birth; for behold thou hast conceived clearly the one who is the dawn of the Sun Who was about to illuminate the whole universe, blighted with sightlessness. Shout in joy, O Zacharias, crying in favour, Verily, the one to be born is a Prophet of the High.

--Troparion, Tone 4

Feast of the Elevation of the Cross + September 14

Let all the trees of the wood, planted from the beginning of time, rejoice; for their nature hath been sanctified by the stretching of Christ on the Tree. Wherefore, now, we worship Him, lifted up, and magnify Him.

+ Orthros of the Feast, Tone 8

By the mere planting of thy Cross, O Christ, the foundation of death did shake; for him whom Hades did swallow eagerly, it delivered up with trembling; for verily, thou didst reveal to us thy salvation, O holy One. Wherefore, do we glorify thee, O Son of God. Have mercy upon us.

+ Orthros of the Feast, Tone 6

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross. Two events connected to the Honorable Cross of our Lord are commemorated this day: first, the finding of the Cross by the Empress Helena in the Holy Land; and second, the return of the Cross from Persia to Jerusalem in the year 628.

Historical background of the Feast

The Beheading of St. John the Baptist + August 29

The memory of the righteous is celebrated with songs of praise, but the Lord’s testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner. Thou wast shown indeed to be the most honorable of the prophets, for in the waters thou didst baptize Him Who had been proclaimed. After suffering with joy in behalf of the truth, thou didst proclaim even to those in Hades the God Who appeared in the flesh, Who takest away the sin of the world, and granteth us the Great Mercy.

—Troparion of the Feast, Tone 2

Listen as Fr. Thomas Hopko discusses the Prophet, Forerunner and Baptizer, John on Ancient Faith Radio: Part 1, Part 2

Read the Patriarchate of Antioch's reflection, Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos + August 15

Shudder, O ye heavens! and, O earth, give ear unto these words: God descended once before for our sake; He descends again today for His Mother.
--from The Lamentations at the Bier of the Mother of God, Tone 5

O thou most Holy Virgin, who knew not wedlock, the heavens rejoice in thy glorious falling asleep, the hosts of angels are glad, and the whole earth crieth out in joy, singing to thee the funeral song, O Mother of the Lord of all, thou who hast delivered human kind from its ancestral condemnation.
--Orthros of the Feast, Tone 4

The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos: an introduction by Archpriest Ayman Kfouf
Worshipping the Virgin Mary? An Orthodox Understanding, by Christopher Holwey
Teachings and traditions for the Feast of the Dormition
St. John of Damascus on the Dormition
A Description of the Theotokos by St. Maximus the Confessor
Tender Love and the Dormition: Frederica Mathewes-Green on Ancient Faith Radio
Mary, Our Cause of Rejoicing, by His Grace Bishop Basil

Dormition Fast Begins on August 1st

The Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, was “blessed amongst women,” and she was chosen “to bear the Savior of our souls.” Orthodox Christians consider her to be the Queen of all the saints and angels.

Knowing that she is eternally present at the throne of God interceding for mankind, we pray for her love, guidance, and protection. Every year the Orthodox Church sets aside the first fourteen days of August in honor of the Virgin Mary. This fast period is climaxed on August 15th, when the Church gathers to celebrate the Great Feast of the Dormition (Falling-Asleep) of the Theotokos.

Apostles' Fast Begins

From the second Monday after Pentecost until the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29, Orthodox Christians celebrate the Apostles' Fast. This year, the fast commences on Monday, June 4, 2018.

First-enthroned of the apostles, teachers of the universe: Entreat the Master of all to grant peace to the world, and to our souls great mercy!
+Troparion, Tone 4

To learn more about the Orthodox approach to fasting, visit the Feasts and Fasts page of Our Discover Orthodox Christianity section.

RESOURCES

·"The Fast and the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul" by Bishop Thomas and Peter Schweitzer
·"Fast of the Holy Apostles" by Archpriest Ayman Kfouf
·Akathist to Ss. Peter and Paul
·A reflection about the two saints from The Word

St. Philip's Prayer Discipline

St. Philip's Prayer Discipline exists to provide a daily balance rule of prayer for those who wish to deepen their spiritual life and to learn to pray as the faithful have done for generations and generations. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip gave his blessing years ago for this Discipline to be created. Over the years, a large number of faithful have joined. They come from many jurisdictions and from far-flung places. Many of those who have become members have preserved and still continue to participate.

Prayer is a human need and all need to seek out the Creator and develop a regular "dialogue" with Him. And, as both, it needs to be developed and honed. The Fathers were well aware of this and that is why they created the role of the spiritual Father, who would train and guide his spiritual children. The goal of this is simple: to teach us to pray diligently and effectively so as to enhance our spiritual lives and to fortify us, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to persevere unto our life's end.

Becoming a member of the Prayer Discipline is very simple. After your own serious reflection and prayer; and, if you are already under the guidance of a spiritual Father, with his blessing, contact the Director, Subdeacon Adam Roberts, at the address provided below.

Mid-Pentecost

In the midst of this Feast, O Savior, give Thou my thirsty soul to drink of the waters of true worship; for Thou didst call out to all, saying: Whosoever is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Wherefore, O Christ our God, Fountain of life, glory to Thee. (Apolytikion of the Feast, Tone 8)

On the Wednesday of the Paralytic, we celebrate the Feast of Mid-Pentecost.

Standing in the midst of the teachers, Christ the Messiah teacheth at Mid-Feast.

Mid-Pentecost is the midpoint of the fifty days between the Feasts of Pascha and Pentecost. In the Divine Liturgy Gospel passage, we read that “in the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the Temple, and taught” (John 7:14).

Feast of the Holy Great-Martyr George

Blessed Feast Day to our many St. George parishes!

As the deliverer of captives and the protector of the poor, as the physician of the feeble and combatant of kings, holy champion and great martyr George, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.
+ Troparion of St. George, Tone 4

Thou wast cultivated by God and didst become a most wonderful cultivator of piety, and didst harvest for thyself the sheaves of virtue, for having sown in tears thou didst reap in joy and having withstood to death thou art garnered for Christ. By thy intercessions, O Saint, thou dost obtain for us all remission of our sins.
+ Kontakion of St. George, Tone 4

Read the life of St. George

Access liturgical resources for the Feast of St. George

(If April 23 falls on or before Great and Holy Pascha, the Feast of St. George is translated to Bright Monday.)

Mother of God of the "Life-Giving Spring"

Mother of God of the Life-Giving Spring by Vasiliki Oldziey of St. Elias Church, Austin, TXMother of God of the Life-Giving Spring by Vasiliki Oldziey of St. Elias Church, Austin, TXThe Feast of the Life-giving Spring which is kept on the Friday of Bright Week has its origins in the 5th century.  It is the feast that commemorates the consecration of the Church of the Life-giving Spring outside of Constantinople.

The very large and beautiful church named in honor of the Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring was built about the middle of the fifth century by the Emperor Leo the Great (457-474 AD), outside of Constantinople.  Emperor Leo was a pious man (he is commemorated on January 20th) and before he became Emperor, he had encountered a blind man, who being tormented with thirst asked him to help him find water. 

The Pascha Homily of St. John Chrysostom

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in no wise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

Great and Holy Saturday

Epitaphion

Today hell groans and cries aloud: "My power has been destroyed. I accepted a mortal man as one of the dead; yet I cannot keep Him prisoner, and with Him I shall lose all those over whom I ruled. I held in my power the dead from all the ages; but see, He is raising them all." Glory to Thy Cross, O Lord, and to Thy Resurrection.

Read about Great and Holy Saturday, "The Forgotten Feast", and visit our Pascha pages.

Kontakion on the Raising of St. Lazarus

by St. Romanos the Melodist

O Christ, Thou who knowest all things,
Thou hast asked to learn where the tomb of Lazarus is,
And arriving there, Thou hast raised him up on the fourth day,
O All-powerful One,
Taking pity, Merciful One,
On the tears of Mary and Martha.

The Master, checking the lamentations of Mary and Martha,
Immediately stilled them when He raised up their brother.
It was possible, then, to see marvel of marvels,
How the lifeless suddenly was seen to be alive.

Fourth Sunday in Lent: St. John of the Ladder

Let us honor John, that pride of ascetics, that angel on earth, that man of God in heaven, that adornment of the world, and that bliss of virtues and good deeds; for, planted in the house of God, he flourished with justice; and, like a cedar tree in the wilderness, he caused the flock of Christ to grow, those sheep endowed with speech, in righteousness and justice.

-Vespers of the Feast

On the fourth Sunday in Lent we commemorate St. John, the great seventh-Century ascetic and author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. As we continue the Lenten fast, we recall St. John's account of the labors necessary to approach God, and we take comfort in the Lord's words: "he who endures to the end will be saved" (Mt 24:13).

Read the life of St. John of the Ladder
Listen to Fr. Thomas Hopko on St. John of the Ladder

Third Sunday in Lent: Adoration of the Holy Cross

Rejoice, O life-bearing Cross, O bright paradise of the Church, O Tree of incorruption, thou who didst bring forth for us the enjoyment of glory everlasting, through whom the hosts of devils are driven out, the ranks of angels rejoice together, and the congregations of believers celebrate, O unconquerable weapon and impregnable foundation, the triumph of kings and the pride of Priests, grant us to apprehend the Passion of Christ and his Resurrection.

+Vespers of the Feast

"We also adore the likeness of the honorable and life giving Cross, even though it is made of another material. We do not honor the material, but the likeness as a symbol of Christ. We preach Christ crucified. Therefore, the sign of Christ in the Cross is to be adored, for wherever the sign may be, there He will be too. If the form of the cross should happen to be destroyed however, the material from which the cross was composed is not to be adored, even if it was of gold or precious stones. We honor the material as a sign of Christ, for wherever the sign is, Christ is there. We also trace this sign upon our bodies and thereby bless ourselves. Thus we adore everything that has reference to God, although it is to Him that we direct the worship." 

+Metropolitan JOSEPH

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + February 22, 2017

Joel 2:12-16
Joel 3:12-21

Joel 2:12-16 (NKJV)
"Now, therefore," says the LORD, turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room."

On the Wings of Divine Love: Antiochian Seminarians Visit the Holy Mountain

Mount Athos — a place where heaven bows down and touches the earth. It is where the veil between this world and the next is thin and translucent. Its soil bears the footprints of countless ascetics and has been watered by the tears of our most beloved saints. Since biblical times, it has been a land that flourishes under the mantle of the Mother of God. It is her garden, where she waters the souls of all those who flock to her, raising them past the Mountain's peak and into heavenly abodes. For well over fifteen hundred years, Mount Athos has been a place of pilgrimage and spiritual retreat.

Last year, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph blessed the Antiochian seminarians to make a pilgrimage to Mount Athos as part of our seminarian education. Under the pastoral care and supervision of His Grace Bishop Nicholas, we boarded flights to Greece and before we knew it we were sailing along the Athonite coastline, gazing at the small hermitages and castle-like monasteries that dot the rugged terrain. As the boat's gate opened and we stepped foot on the Mother of God's garden, we could hardly believe where we were.

Meatfare Sunday (Sunday of the Last Judgment)

The trumpets shall blow, and the graves shall be empty, and all mankind shall rise trembling. They who have done good shall rejoice with joy, expecting their reward; and those who have done evil shall tremble greatly, moaning and shaking, as they are sent to suffering, separated from the elect. Wherefore, O Lord of glory, be compassionate toward us, and make us worthy to be of those who love thee; for thou art good.

- from Vespers, Tone 6

For those observing the Lenten Fast, Meatfare Sunday is the last day on which meat and poultry are eaten before Pascha.

To learn more about the season of pre-Lenten preparation, please visit our Great Lent section.

Catechesis by St. Theodore the Studite on Meatfare Sunday

Read more about Meatfare Sunday, in an excerpt from Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann.

Listen to Fr. Thomas Hopko's reflections on the Sunday of the Last Judgment on Ancient Faith Radio.

Visit our full section on Great Lent.

The Torch Newsletter Winter 2016-17 Now Available

The Winter 2016-17 edition of The Torch, the official publication of the Midwest Antiochian Women, is now available online. Click here to download (PDF).

March 1, 2017 + That Faults Can Be Overcome in Three Ways

by St. John Cassian

Abbot Chæremon's statement that faults can be overcome in three ways. Then the blessed CHÆREMON: There are, said he, three things which enable men to control their faults; viz., either the fear of hell or of laws even now imposed; or the hope and desire of the kingdom of heaven; or a liking for goodness itself and the love of virtue. For then we read that the fear of evil loathes contamination: "The fear of the Lord hateth evil." Hope also shuts out the assaults of all faults: for "all who hope in Him shall not fail." Love also fears no destruction from sins, for "love never faileth;" and again: "love covers a multitude of sins." And therefore the blessed Apostle confines the whole sum of salvation in the attainment of those three virtues, saying "Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three." For faith is what makes us shun the stains of sin from fear of future judgment and punishment; hope is what withdraws our mind from present things, and despises all bodily pleasures from its expectation of heavenly rewards; love is what inflames us with keenness of heart for the love of Christ and the fruit of spiritual goodness, and makes us hate with a perfect hatred whatever is opposed to these.

February 22, 2017 + What Constitutes Our End and Perfect Bliss

by St. John Cassian

For then will be perfectly fulfilled in our case that prayer of our Saviour in which He prayed for His disciples to the Father saying "that the love wherewith Thou lovedst Me may be in them and they in us;" and again: "that they all may be one as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us," when that perfect love of God, wherewith "He first loved us" has passed into the feelings of our heart as well, by the fulfilment of this prayer of the Lord which we believe cannot possibly be ineffectual. And this will come to pass when God shall be all our love, and every desire and wish and effort, every thought of ours, and all our life and words and breath, and that unity which already exists between the Father and the Son, and the Son and the Father, has been shed abroad in our hearts and minds, so that as He loves us with a pure and unfeigned and indissoluble love, so we also may be joined to Him by a lasting and inseparable affection, since we are so united to Him that whatever we breathe or think, or speak is God, since, as I say, we attain to that end of which we spoke before, which the same Lord in His prayer hopes may be fulfilled in us: "that they all may be one as we are one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they also may be made perfect in one;" and again: "Father, those whom Thou hast given Me, I will that where I am, they may also be with Me."

Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + February 15, 2017

I John 3:21-4:6
Mark 14:43-15:1

I John 3:21-4:6 (NKJV)
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

When I disobey in ignorance thy fatherly glory, I wasted in iniquities the riches that thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, I have sinned before thee, O compassionate Father, receive me repentant, and make me as one of thy hired servants.

- Kontakion, Tone 3

I have been entrusted with a verdant and faultless region, but I planted evil in its soil and reaped its cares with the scythe of laziness. And I gathered my deeds into sheaves but placed them not on the threshing-floor of repentance. Wherefore, I ask thee, O divine Husbandman, to winnow the straw of my deeds with the breeze of thy compassionate love; and fill my soul with the wheat of forgiveness. Store me in thy heavenly garners and save me.

- from Vespers, Tone 1

February 8, 2017 + On Avoiding Church Services

St. Barsanuphius of Optina (1845-1913)

St. John Climacus was asked if there are reliable signs by which it's possible to know whether a soul is drawing near to God or moving away from Him. After all, regarding ordinary things there are clear signs as to whether they're good or not. When, for instance, cabbage, meat or fish begins to rot, it's easy to notice it, since the rotting object begins to give off a foul odor, the color and taste change, and its external appearance witnesses to its deterioration. Well, and what about the soul? After all, it's bodiless and can't give off a bad smell or change its appearance. To this question the Holy Father replies, "A sure sign of the deadening of the soul is the avoidance of church services."

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