Sunday, December 27, 2015

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

On the Fourth Day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
4 Calling Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Four Calling Birds represent the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.   Each book has its own voice defining Jesus.  Here’s the beginning of each:

John -The Eternal Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[a] it.

Matthew - The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.

Mark - John the Baptist Prepares the Way

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets:[a]

“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.”[b]
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’”[c]

John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

Luke - Dedication to Theophilus anf John’s Birth

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us,it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

John’s Birth Announced to Zacharias

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.


Today we remember Simon the Myrrhbearer, Founder of Simonopetra, Monastery of Mount Athos.  In his honor, I’d like to share one of my favorite hymn, Agne Parthene,  


Saturday, December 26, 2015

On the Third Day of Christmas

On the Third Day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:

3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Are the 3 French Hens: Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues?   Or are they the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit? 

If we go with the virtues, then we should take a look at the traditional Christmas Carol, Good King Wenceslas, The King was a wonderful example of charity. 
 “Therefore, Christian men, be sure wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing." 

In the carol, we hear mention of the Feast of Stephen.  Saint Stephen is remembered on December 27, in the beginning of our Twelve Days. Did you know we also remember Joseph the Betrothed on the Sunday after Christmas?  It’s a moveable feast-day, not having a specific date, but always the Sunday after Christmas.  It might seem like he’s been neglected to have a moveable feast, but to the contrary.  The Sunday before Christmas we remember Christ’s Genealogy and the Sunday after Christmas we remember Joseph. 

According to the Synaxarion:

On December 27 we commemorate the holy Apostle, Proto-Martyr, and Archdeacon Stephen, one of the Seven Deacons.

On this day we also commemorate our devout father Theodore the Inscribed, brother of Theophanes the Poet.

On this day we also commemorate our devout father Theodore, Archbishop of Constantinople

On this day we also commemorate the holy Hieromartyr Maurice, and the seventy martyrs with him.

We also commemorate the holy and righteous Ancestors of God: Joseph the Betrothed of our Lady the Holy Theotokos and Virgin Mary; James (or Iakovos) the Brother of the Lord; and David the Prophet and king.

By the intercessions of Your saints, O God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen 

On the Second Day of Christmas

On the Second Day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:

2 Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Are the 2 Turtle Doves the Old and New Testaments or the two natures of Christ: God and Man?  


Did you know that today was the Synaxis of the Theotokos? A Synaxis is a “piggy back” feast for supporting figures of the day before.  Christ was born on the 25th and we remember His mother on the 26th.   

According to the Synaxarion:

On December 26 is the Synaxis in honor of our All-holy Lady Theotokos. On this day we also commemorate our father among the saints Efthymios the Confessor, Bishop of Sardis.

On this day we also commemorate our devout father Constantine who was of Jewish origin.

We also commemorate our devout father Evarestos.

We also commemorate the holy New Hieromartyr Constantine the Russian, who contested in Constantinople in the year 1743.

By their holy intercessions, O God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.   

Friday, December 25, 2015

On the First Day of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Gospel according to Matthew 2:1-12
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'”
Wish you and your a blessed Nativity.
Christ is born!  Glorify Him!
Apolytikion of HOLY NATIVITY in the Fourth Tone
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined the light of knowledge upon the world; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.
Kontakion of HOLY NATIVITY in the Third Tone
Today, the Virgin bears Him who is transcendent, and the earth presents the cave to Him who is beyond reach. Angels, along with shepherds glorify Him. The Magi make their way to Him by a star. For a new child has been born for us, the God before all ages.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christians Naturally Forgive

Another year has passed and I can't believe the situation in the Middle East is still a mess, and by "situation," I mean the slaughtering and targeting of Christians by terrorists. 
And the saddest part it, it's nothing new.  This past Sunday, in the Epistle for the day we read in St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews:
Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
I never thought history would repeat itself but it has.  Yet, in the midst of it all there is a little girl, Myriam, who has stolen my heart as a true example of Christ's teachings. 
You might remember Myriam from this lovely video by SAT-7 KIDS, a popular children's show in the Middle East. They found her in a refugee camp in Irbil last year at Christmas and asked a few questions.   What was so fantastic about this little girl is her love and desire to forgive the terrorists who evicted her and thousands others from their homes.

Recently, aired a follow-up interview  with a sweet girl named Myriam.  Her message: forgiveness. She told ABC News “20/20 co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas,  “Jesus said ‘forgive each other, love each other the way I love you...’”
It is hard to imagine how I’d respond if someone threw me out of my home and threatened my life for being a Christian.  I am embarrassed to admit that forgiveness wouldn’t be the first words rolling off my tongue. I would be angry, terrified, offended…   None of these are loving or trusting attributes.
But Myriam is from Qaraqosh.  It’s a city near Mosul, where as you might remember from August of 2014, ISIS had already swept through.  In an article titled  Iraq Christians flee as Islamic State takes Qaraqosh,  I read “…hundreds of Christian families fled Mosul after the Islamist rebels gave them an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be executed.”
Mosul was, and I repeat “was,” one of the oldest Christian villages in the world.  They were Christian since Christ was on earth.  I imagine there are nuances to how they lived in a Christ-like manner that was deeply imbedded into their culture, things they would have taken for granted.
I am intrigued by this as a Yankee living in the Deep South.  I see many cultural nuances that are prominent in this part of the country.  One is impeccable manners.  The South is fuelled by etiquette and you don’t have anything if you ain't got good manners.  A reply of “Yes, Ma’am.” or “Thank you, sir.” is ingrained into children the moment they can talk.
I imagine similar nuances of Christianity were in Mosul, where Christianity was a part of life for thousands of years.
So for sweet Myriam to want forgiveness above revenge is no surprise.  It’s a perfect witness to the truest understanding of Christ’s teachings.

If you would like to help the refugees from Qaraqosh, Mosel, and around the world, you can contribute to IOCC
You can help the victims of poverty and conflicts around the world by making a financial gift to the IOCC International Emergency Response Fund which will provide immediate relief, as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need. To make a gift, please visit or call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297.
IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has delivered $534 million in relief and development programs to families and communities in more than 50 countries. IOCC is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 140 churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy, and a member of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.–based secular and faith-based organizations working to improve the lives of the world's most poor and vulnerable populations. To learn more about IOCC, visit

Saturday, December 19, 2015

God's Plan vs. God's Will

It's official!   I will be speaking at the annual Metropolis of Chicago Women's Retreat

Friday, January 15th - Saturday, January 16th, 2016 

The retreat will begin Friday evening and continue through Saturday, 4 p.m.

Please join us! 

"God's Plan vs. God's Will"
There is a fine balance in our relationship with God which teeters between our will
and God’s will, and the pivot point is love.  With the perfect gift of free will, we have
to find that balance where God’s will and our own align us into His plan.  The retreat
will look at this relationship and discuss its nuances.


Mary Knew

There are hundreds of Christmas songs and hymns.   They come in all different shapes and sizes and they range from fun to reverence.  You may have heard of a song titled, “Mary, Did You Know?”  It’s about the amazing things Jesus did and questions if Mary knew after giving birth that her son would:  walk on water, bring the dead to life, give blind men sight, heal the lame…  “Did you know your baby boy was Lord of all creation?”
When I first heard it, I thought it was odd that there would be a song about the Panagia from a perspective that she was truly surprised by Christ.  Tradition teaches that the Virgin Mary was raised in the Temple and that the Angels kept her company.  I imagine there were a few things she did know and that after a virgin birth, she was no longer surprised by much. You might say, she had “seen it all.”
Speaking of Mary, did you know that the day after Christmas we celebrate the Synaxis of the Virgin Mary?
Father Alexander Schmemann, in the Services of Christmas (1981) wrote about the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos…
“… Combining the hymns of the Nativity with those celebrating the Mother of God, the Church points to Mary as the one through whom the Incarnation was made possible. His humanity—concretely and historically—is the humanity He received from Mary. His body is, first of all, her body. His life is her life. This feast, the assembly in honor of the Theotokos, is probably the most ancient feast of Mary in the Christian tradition, the very beginning of her veneration by the Church.
Here are the lyrics to the hymn for her feast:
Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos
He, who was begotten of the Father before the morning star, without a mother, becomes incarnate of you today, without a father. Wherefore, a star announces the good news to the Magi. Angels with shepherds praise your immaculate birth-giving, O Full of Grace.
Furthermore, did you know that on the islands in Greece, the Marys, Marias, Panayiotis and Petes all celebrate on the Synaxis of the Virgin Mary, December 26, as opposed to the more commonly observed date of her Dormition?
May the Virgin Mary embolden us when we are asked to do the impossible.

Great Tools to Destress this Christmas


“ Never again!”
Two words I think of often this time of year.
Never again!  Forget the mall. I am shopping online next year!
Never again!  Did we need all these cookies?
Never again!  Next year we are staying home and relaxing!
Never again!  Why did I wait so long to clean the house?
If you have found yourself saying “never again” this Christmas season, stop right now, pour yourself a cup of cocoa or tea, find a quiet place and watch this webinar, Potholes on the Way to Bethlehem: Navigating the Stress of the Nativity Season, by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Center for Family Life.
Addressing the physical, mental and spiritual demands of experiencing Christmas, Fr. Alex Goussetis, Pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lancaster, PA, and George Stavros, PhD, MDiv, Executive Director of the Danielson Institute and Clinical Associate Professor of Pastoral Psychology at Boston University, along with Melissa Tsongranis, Associate Director of the Center for Family Care offer tangible advice and wisdom to encourage the most frantic elf.
Following their advice and example, you are sure to be refreshed and experience peace this Christmas.