Monthly Archives: April 2015

Meditation for Palm Sunday

Icon Palm SundayIt’s easy to be a Christian and to love God when things are going well with us. On a warm, spring day we might spontaneously say ‘thank you’ to God for what He has done for us. As the English poet Robert Browning wrote: “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world”. Of course when things start to go wrong we instinctively turn to God in prayer. If we or a loved one gets sick, if we lose a job, if we have family or work problems, we ask God for help. This can comfort us for a while, but then sometimes it seems that God is not answering our prayers. Then we might become bitter, hate God or even lose faith in Him.
In a sense we are like the crowds in Jerusalem during Jesus’ last week. On Palm Sunday Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph. The crowds cry “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (Jn 12:13). They are ready for Jesus to drive the Romans out of Jerusalem and inaugurate the Messianic kingdom.
Jesus Christ cleanses the Temple, the crowds expect some earthshaking event is going to happen. But then Jesus preaches and teaches as usual. He is not driving the Romans out and bringing in the kingdom. The crowds are disappointed and begin to turn against Him. Then Jesus is arrested, tried, beaten and mocked. The crowds know that this is not supposed to happen to the Messiah. When Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor or Palestine says to the crowd “Behold the man” (Jn 19:5). The crowds replied “…. Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.” (Jn 19:6-7) The crowds have turned against Jesus because He did not do what they expected Him to do, what they thought He should do.
At times we are like the crowds in Jerusalem. We love Jesus when things are going well with us, but when He seems to not answer our prayers we can turn against Him. But prayers are not magic and Christ does not promise us heaven on earth. He Himself was tortured, beaten and killed. That means Christ knows what it means to suffer, to (literally) bear the cross.
As we accompany Christ through His last days during Holy Week, the scripture reading and the prayer tell us about His suffering. This means we are bearing our own crosses, as terrible as they are sometimes, and Jesus is with us, helping us to bear our cross. He promises us resurrection, of course, at the end of time, but through prayer to our Lord, our reading of scripture and veneration of icons, and above all in receiving Holy Communion, even in the midst of our suffering, we have a foretaste of the coming resurrection.

Tone 1 Troparion
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion,Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God.Like the children with the palms of victory,we cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!
Tone 4 Troparion
When we were buried with Thee in baptism, O Christ God, we were made worthy of eternal life by Thy Resurrection.  Now we praise Thee and sing: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!
Tone 6 Kontakion
Sitting on Thy throne in Heaven, carried on a foal on earth, O Christ God, accept the praise of angels and the songs of children, who sing: Blessed is He Who comes to recall Adam!

Fr. John

Saints from One Age to Another

joseph-patriarchApril 3 is the feast day of Saint Nicetas the Confessor. He was born in the 8th century in Bithynia (Asia Minor) to a family of dedicated Christians.
His parents were devoted to one another. Nicetas’ mother died when he was only a few days old. After that his father decided to enter a monastery, leaving his son to be raised by his grandmother. So even though his father was alive, Nicetas didn’t have the chance to grow up with him at home.
One of the readings for this day is Genesis 49: 33 to 50: 26. These verses tell part of the story of Joseph, the favorite son of his father Jacob. Joseph also was deprived of the chance to be with his father. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery, and he wouldn’t see Jacob again for many years. The absence of their fathers is one of several parallels between Nicetas and Joseph.
Nicetas’ grandmother saw to it that he finished school, but after that he was determined to become a monk. He went to the monastery at Midikion, and spent the next years in prayer and spiritual effort. He made close friends and became an example of holiness to the other monks. Their admiration was so great that when their abbot Nicephorus died, Nicetas was the unanimous choice to be his successor.
Joseph’s circumstances were very different from those in which Nicetas lived. But he too gained the respectful admiration of the people around him by being honorable and taking his work seriously. He was bought by an Egyptian named Potiphar, who recognized his ability and “put him in charge of all that he had.”
Joseph refused the efforts of Potiphar’s wife “day after day” to seduce him, refusing to betray his master and to “do this great wickedness, and sin against God.” The result was that she made false accusations against him, and he was put in jail. But even there, he was so admired that the keeper committed all the prisoners to his care.
Saint Nicetas was also unjustly imprisoned, and persecuted for refusing to betray his faith. He would not support the iconoclasts or the corrupt patriarch appointed by the emperor. In prison, like Joseph he encouraged and kept up the spirits of other prisoners.
God gave Saint Nicetas wonderful gifts. He healed physical and mental illnesses, and delivered people from danger through his prayers. When he died, people received healing by touching his body.

 nicetasmedikion Troparion – Tone 4
You were a firm pillar
and an undaunted guardian
of sacred tradition, O Nicetas;
you were adorned with holy dispassion and became an illustrious confessor of the Faith.
Accept the prayers of those who cry to you, interceding for them with Christ our God.

Joseph was not a miracle worker. But he was given the gift of forgiveness, and the gift of vision to see God’s plan for Israel’s future. Reunited with his brothers, Joseph told them that though they had meant to do evil to him, God “meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Saint Nicetas and Saint Joseph show us, through their similar experiences, that God continues to unfold His plan down through the centuries. Now we are the ones who can use His gifts to carry it forward for those people still to come.

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