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8orthodox0108Nativity is just around the corner.  I cannot believe it is almost here.   It seems like it has been forever in coming.  At the same time the last month has just flown by.  In the busyness of everything I have been trying to take time to reflect on just what is happening.

For some time now I have really been meditating on the incarnation.  A deep reality has set in that honestly words fail.  Words can only describe this great mystery.  The iconography of the Theotokos has been a big part of this unfolding.  The reality of God in flesh is so beautiful .  Not only did God embrace humanity it was elevated.  We are of one flesh.  one spirit, and through faith and the sacraments one nature.

The Nativity of our Lord takes up real time.  It is a real event that really happened.  The birth of Jesus to his and our blessed mother Mary.  This was a timeless event.  Not just a map pin on the timeline of history.  What happened in the natural is equally timely and yet timeless.  The reality of God coming to humanity has always been.  His mercy and grace fill all time.  We can see this in sacred scripture.

The Nativity of our Lord takes up future time.  I am reminded of the words from the Eucharistic cannon “Christ has died Christ has risen Christ will come again”.  Yes Christ will come again.  Like the 10 virgins waiting for the bridegroom.  Nativity is a reminder that Christ will come again.  It is in the Nativity we wait, hope, and prepare.  So I will say it again Christ will come again!

The Nativity of our Lord takes up present time.  We know not time when Jesus returns.  We heard these words from his mouth.  St. Paul also believed Christ would return during his lifetime.  Most of the Early saints did.  Throughout history people have thought the return of Christ was imminent.  Rightfully we all need to live as if Christ could return at any time.  The reality is that we will most likely be reunited with Christ through our natural death.

We are called to pray, fast, and give alms.  We are to live like every moment counts.  We are to live like there is no tomorrow.  The truth is we do not know what tomorrow will bring.  We are to rest and take comfort in the promises left to us by our Lord.  Have faith dear ones.  Keep up the good fight of faith.  Enjoy the Nativity liturgies.  Mostly try to be present in the moment.  Be it at church or at home.

 

Have a blessed Nativity!

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It’s been a few weeks since I have blogged on Thoughts after twilight.  I have been working on a new blog.  In that blog I am writing about life and my faith journey.  In many Eastern Orthodox churches they just celebrated the feat of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers.

I decided to read up on this feast.  I have to say it opened my eyes to how God interacts with his natural creation.  More thoughts on that later.  As I am still meditating on what I read.

Added to this blog post is something the Orthodox Church of America wrote up on this feast.  I found it interesting, and thought I would share it with you all.

Pax

Br. John-Paul

 

Synaxis (Feast)  of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers

Commemorated on November 8

The Synaxis of the Chief of the Heavenly Hosts, Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers: Archangels Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Jeremiel was established at the beginning of the fourth century at the Council of Laodicea, which met several years before the First Ecumenical Council. The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration.

A Feastday was established in November, the ninth month after March (with which the year began in ancient times) since there are Nine Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was chosen for the Synaxis of all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven since the Day of the Dread Last Judgment is called the Eighth Day by the holy Fathers. After the end of this age (characterized by its seven days of Creation) will come the Eighth Day, and then “the Son of Man shall come in His Glory and all the holy Angels with Him” (Mt. 25:31).

The Angelic Ranks are divided into three Hierarchies: highest, middle, and lowest.

The Highest Hierarchy includes: the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.

The six-winged SERAPHIM (Flaming, Fiery) (Is 6:12) stand closest of all to the Most Holy Trinity. They blaze with love for God and kindle such love in others.

The many-eyed CHERUBIM (outpouring of wisdom, enlightenment) (Gen 3:24) stand before the Lord after the Seraphim. They are radiant with the light of knowledge of God, and knowledge of the mysteries of God. Through them wisdom is poured forth, and people’s minds are enlightened so they may know God and behold His glory.

The THRONES (Col 1:16) stand after the Cherubim, mysteriously and incomprehensibly bearing God through the grace given them for their service. They are ministers of God’s justice, giving to tribunals, kings, etc. the capacity for righteous judgment.

The Middle Angelic Hierarchy consists of three Ranks: Dominions, Powers, and Authorities:

DOMINIONS (Col 1:16) hold dominion over the angels subject to them. They instruct the earthly authorities, established by God, to rule wisely, and to govern their lands well. The Dominions teach us to subdue sinful impulses, to subject the flesh to the spirit, to master our will, and to conquer temptation.

POWERS (1 Pet 3:22) fulfill the will of God without hesitation. They work great miracles and give the grace of wonderworking and clairvoyance to saints pleasing to God. The Powers assist people in fulfilling obediences. They also encourage them to be patient, and give them spiritual strength and fortitude.

AUTHORITIES (1 Pet 3:22, Col 1:16) have authority over the devil. They protect people from demonic temptations, and prevent demons from harming people as they would wish. They also uphold ascetics and guard them, helping people in the struggle with evil thoughts.

The Lowest Hierarchy includes the three Ranks: Principalities, Archangels, and Angels:

PRINIPALITIES (Col 1:16) have command over the lower angels, instructing them in the fulfilling of God’s commands. They watch over the world and protect lands, nations and peoples. Principalities instruct people to render proper honor to those in authority, as befits their station. They teach those in authority to use their position, not for personal glory and gain, but to honor God, and to spread word of Him, for the benefit of those under them.

ARCHANGELS (1 Thess 4:16) are messengers of great and wondrous tidings. They reveal prophecies and the mysteries of the faith. They enlighten people to know and understand the will of God, they spread faith in God among the people, illuminating their minds with the light of the Holy Gospel.

ANGELS (1 Pet 3:22) are in the lowest rank of the heavenly hierarchy, and closest to people. They reveal the lesser mysteries of God and His intentions, guiding people to virtuous and holy life. They support those who remain steadfast, and they raise up the fallen. They never abandon us and they are always prepared to help us, if we desire it.

All the Ranks of the Heavenly Powers are called angels, although each has its own name and position by virtue of their service. The Lord reveals His will to the highest ranks of the angels, and they in turn inform the others.

Over all the Nine Ranks, the Lord appointed the Holy Archangel Michael (his name in Hebrew means “who is like unto God”), the faithful servitor of God, as Chief Commander. He cast down from Heaven the arrogantly proud Lucifer and the other fallen spirits when they rebelled against God. Michael summoned the ranks of angels and cried out, “Let us attend! Let us stand aright before our Creator and do not consider doing what is displeasing unto God!”

According to Church Tradition, and in the church services to the Archangel Michael, he participated in many other Old Testament events.

During the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt he went before them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Through him the power of the Lord was made manifest, annihilating the Egyptians and Pharaoh who were in pursuit of the Israelites. The Archangel Michael defended Israel in all its misfortunes.

He appeared to Joshua Son of Navi and revealed the will of the Lord at the taking of Jericho (Josh 5:13-16). The power of the great Chief Commander of God was manifest in the annihilation of the 185 thousand soldiers of the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib (4/2 Kings 19:35); also in the smiting of the impious leader Heliodorus (2 Macc. 3: 24-26); and in the protection of the Three Holy Youths: Ananias, Azarias and Misail, thrown into the fiery furnace for their refusal to worship an idol (Dan 3:22-25).

Through the will of God, the Chief Commander Michael transported the Prophet Habbakuk (December 2) from Judea to Babylon, to give food to Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 14:33-37).

The Archangel Michael disputed with the devil over the body of the holy Prophet Moses (Jude 1:9).

The holy Archangel Michael showed his power when he miraculously saved a young man, cast into the sea by robbers with a stone about his neck on the shores of Mt Athos. This story is found in the Athonite Paterikon, and in the Life of St Neophytus of Docheiariou (November 9).

From ancient times the Archangel Michael was famed for his miracles in Rus. In the Volokolamsk Paterikon is a narrative of St Paphnutius of Borov with an account of Tatar tax-gatherers concerning the miraculous saving of Novgorod the Great: “Therefore Great Novgorod was never taken by the Hagarenes… when… for our sins the godless Hagarene emperor Batu devoured and set the Russian land aflame and came to Novgorod, and God and the Most Holy Theotokos shielded it with an appearance of Michael the Archangel, who forbade him to enter into it. He [Batu] was come to the Lithuanian city and came toward Kiev and saw the stone church, over the doors of which the great Archangel Michael had written and spoken to the prince his allotted fate, ‘By this we have forbidden you entry into Great Novgorod’.”

Intercession for Russian cities by the Most Holy Queen of Heaven always involved Her appearances with the Heavenly Hosts, under the leadership of the Archangel Michael. Grateful Rus acclaimed the Most Pure Mother of God and the Archangel Michael in church hymns. Many monasteries, cathedrals, court and merchant churches are dedicated to the Chief Commander Michael.

In old Kiev at the time of the accepting of Christianity, a cathedral of the Archangel was built, and a monastery also was named for him. Archangel cathedrals are found at Smolensk, Nizhni Novgorod, Staritsa, at Great Ustiug (beginning of the thirteenth century), and a cathedral at Sviyazhsk. In Rus there was not a city, where there was not a church or chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael.

One of the chief temples of the city of Moscow, the burial church in the Kremlin, is dedicated to him. Numerous and beautiful icons of the Chief Commander of the Heavenly Hosts are also in his Cathedral. One of these, the Icon “Blessed Soldiery,” was painted in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. The saintly soldiers, Russian princes, are depicted under the leadership of the Archangel Michael.

We invoke St Michael for protection from invasion by enemies and from civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He conquers all spiritual enemies.

Holy Scripture and Tradition give us the names of the Archangels:

Gabriel: strength (power) of God, herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.

Raphael: the healing of God, the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)

Uriel: the fire or light of God, enlightener (3 Ezdras 5:20). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.

Selaphiel: the prayer of God, impelling to prayer (3 Ezdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.

Jehudiel: the glorifying of God, encouraging exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding for the reward of efforts.

Barachiel: distributor of the blessings of God for good deeds, entreats the mercy of God for people.

Jeremiel: the raising up to God (3 Ezdras 4:36)

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Michael tramples the devil underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree branch, and in his right hand a spear with a white banner (or sometimes a fiery sword), on which is outlined a scarlet cross.

Gabriel with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.

Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).

Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand “a fiery flame.”

Selaphiel in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.

Jehudiel holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.

Barachiel is shown with a white rose on his breast.

Jeremiel holds balance-scales in his hand.

Each person has a guardian angel, and every nation also receives its own guardian angel from God (Dan. 10:13). When a church is consecrated, it also receives a guardian angel (Palladius, Dial. Ch. 10).

The Archangel Gabriel whose name means “the strength (power) of God,” is the herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Gabriel appears with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.

The Archangel Raphael, whose name means “the healing of God,” is the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).

The Archangel Uriel, whose name means” the fire or light of God” (2 Ezdras 4:1, 5:20, 10:28). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand “a fiery flame.”

The Archangel Selaphiel, whose name means “the prayer of God, impelling to prayer” (3 Ezdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Selaphiel in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.

 

The Archangel Jehudiel, whose name means “one who glorifies God,” encourages us to strive for the glory of the Lord, and intercedes for our efforts to be rewarded.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Jehudiel holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.

 

The Archangel Barachiel, whose name means “the blessing of God,” entreats the mercy of God for people.

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:

Barachiel is shown with a white rose on his breast.

 

 

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Today we celebrate the feast of the assumption of Mary. This has long been a significant day within Christ’s church. Sometime in the fifth century Byzantine Emperor Mauricius Flavius ordered this holy day to be celebrated on the 15th of August. He also had a basilica built over her tomb. This church was at some point destroyed, and then rebuilt by the crusaders in the 11th century.

What we know about the Blessed Mothers death has been handed down to us from tradition. Officially the Roman Catholic church has never said if Mary died or not. This in itself really has no effect on the celebration or belief of the assumption. It is note worthy that most in the western church do believe she died. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950), defined that Mary, “after the completion of her earthly life was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven.”

More so it is the understanding that like Enoch and Elijah, that Mary was taken up into heaven. It is important to know that the church never in history or now believed that she did this by her own power. She did not ascend like Jesus into heaven, but assumed by the power of God.

This feast like many feasts of Mary do not point to her holiness. Which she was holy. Mary’s assumption is a reminder of the promises of Jesus. That we the faithful will live in Christ forever. That death cannot hold us. We are again pointed to the cross, and to Jesus who payed the price for our sins. By his death and resurrection we are not only freed from sin, but from death.

So today is a day of celebration. A reminder of the great honor given to our Blessed Mother. A hope for us of what is to come.

It is my prayer that you all will find yourself a bit closer today to our mother Mary, and to her most precious son our Savior Jesus.

For those who are interested here is some scripture that talks about the possibility of a bodily assumption before the Second Coming. It is suggested by Matthew 27:52–53: “[T]he tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Did all these Old Testament saints die and have to be buried all over again? There is no record of that, but it is recorded by early Church writers that they were assumed into heaven, or at least into that temporary state of rest and happiness often called “paradise,” where the righteous people from the Old Testament era waited until Christ’s resurrection (cf. Luke 16:22, 23:43; Heb. 11:1–40; 1 Pet. 4:6), after which they were brought into the eternal bliss of heaven.

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What do we know about Saint Anne? It is true that Holy Scripture reports nothing on her life, that we look for her name there in vain. But we know that Saint Anne is the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Christ. That alone is a source of inexhaustible significance.

We also know–and this with great certainty–the main episodes of Saint Anne’s earthly life. These have been gathered from various apocryphal sources, some of which dating back to the very beginning of Christianity (the ProtoEvangelium of Saint James is from the year 150 A.D.).

Birth, Childhood, and Marriage of Saint Anne

In the land of Judea, fifty years before the coming of Christ, there lived a husband and wife of great virtue. Their names were Stolan and Emerentiana. They lived the lives of fervent Israelites, faithful to the prescriptions of the Law of Moses. Their most ardent prayer to God was that they would soon rejoice in the coming of the Desired of all Nations, the heavenly Messiah of Whom the Patriarchs and Prophets had spoken, and Whose coming was at hand.Soon there was born to them a daughter whom they named Anne, which means all gracious, all beautiful. The child began, from the first dawn of reason, to live her name, inspired as it was by Heaven. Docile and attentive to her parents, gentle and kind towards her playmates, at once lively and devout, it was clear that God had great plans for her.

As the charming maiden grew older, many young men sought her hand in marriage. But all these advances she refused, until she was reverently approached by a young man named Joachim. Like her, he was of the royal house of David, and also like her, he was virtuous and just. By Divine inspiration she knew that God had chosen him as her spouse.

According to the Hebrew custom, Saint Anne could only have been fourteen or fifteen years old when she was betrothed to Saint Joachim, for this was the age at which the daughters of Israel usually married. Thus it was common for a woman to be a grandmother at the age of thirty. Joachim’s young wife left her father’s home and endeavored, by her love and devotedness, to make her own home a happy one.

Trial in the Life of Saint Anne


In spite of their frequent prayers and exceptionally virtuous lives, Anne and Joachim were childless. For the Israelites, the privilege of motherhood was sharing in the blessing which the Lord bestowed on Abraham and his descendants when He promised him that the Messiah would be born to his posterity.

This, then, was a terrible trial, which weighed upon the home of Anne and Joachim for twenty long years. But their tranquil acceptance of this heavy cross and humble endurance of their shame in a spirit of patience and prayer is a wonderful testimony to their holiness and resignation to the holy will of God.

At length, in a miraculous manner, the entreaties of Anne and Joachim were heard. An Angel appeared to each of them, announcing that their holy marriage would at last bring forth a child, one blessed by God. Saint Joachim returned to his home, and Saint Anne soon knew that she was going to become a mother.

Although Holy Scripture is silent on these miraculous happenings, we are informed of them by very ancient tradition. These circumstances closely resemble what the Bible tells us of Anna, the mother of the prophet Samuel, and regarding the parents of Saint John the Baptist. But in the case of Saint Anne, it concerns an affair of even greater significance than the birth of a prophet. Saint Anne was called to be the very mother of she who is the Mother of God. Reason itself tells us that her Conception and Birth would be attended by an unprecedented flood of graces and privileges, proper to the awesome role she would play in the very life of God Himself.

Mother of Her Who Was Conceived Immaculate

Saint Anne was the inner sanctuary in which was formed the living tabernacle which was to house the Son of God made Man. The solemn definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception provides us with even greater insight into the wonderful dignity of Saint Anne.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary took place in the womb of Saint Anne, thus making it her own, just as the Incarnation of the God-Man by the power of the Holy Ghost took place within the chaste womb of Mary. Of course, the difference between the two is great, but there is a close parallel: the Immaculate Mother who was to be the Mother of God was formed of the flesh and blood of Saint Anne, as the God-Man was formed of the flesh and blood of Mary. In both cases, the Holy Ghost entered in and worked a tremendous miracle of grace.

The operation of the Holy Ghost in the womb of Saint Elizabeth was also a great miracle of grace, when Our Lady brought her chaste spouse and her Divine Son to her cousin, on the day of the Visitation. But this was a lesser miracle than that performed in the womb of Saint Anne, since Saint John the Baptist was freed from Original Sin within his mother’s womb after six months, whereas the spotless Child in the womb of Saint Anne was never tainted with the slightest sin.

At the moment of Conception, Saint Anne and Saint Joachim gave to Mary, who soon would transmit them to Jesus, the flesh and blood which they had received from their forefathers. But this flesh and this blood which they had received soiled by Original Sin, they handed on to their child without any stain. Bossuet could say: “The Conception of Mary (in which Anne and Joachim took part) is the first and original source of the Blood of Jesus, which flows in our veins through the Sacraments, and which brings the breath of life to every part of the Mystical Body of Christ–the Church.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary was Immaculate at her Conception; and in consequence, her father and mother were the ministers of God in accomplishing a work which will remain unique forever in the history of mankind.

There we see the basis for the glory of Saint Anne. To create angels and men, the Blessed Trinity, so to speak, sought no assistance from outside Itself. In accomplishing the Immaculate Conception, that same Blessed Trinity summoned to its aid the two who would be the mother and father of the Blessed Virgin. By that act, there was conferred upon them a character of singular grandeur.

We cannot speak of the Incarnate Word without at the same time mentioning her whom God chose to be His Mother. Failing to do so, as the Fathers of the Church prove, opens the door to heretical attacks upon the very Person of Christ. So too, to speak of the Immaculate Conception without mentioning Saint Anne, who so wonderfully participated in this admirable creation, would be to minimize the dignity and grandeur of the Mother of God.

The Birth of Mary

Like many of his holy ancestors, including King David himself, Saint Joachim, spouse of Saint Anne, was a shepherd. It was in the mountains of Galilee, near Nazareth, that his flocks were pastured.

The home of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne was simple. It was, as was customary in Judea, partly hollowed out of the rock which, in that part of the city of Jerusalem, rose up in the form of an amphitheater towards the city wall, partly enclosed by a wall of masonry.

Only a few hundred feet from the Holy Temple, almost in the shadow of its magnificent dome, close by the Pool of Siloe, within a white-walled dwelling, Anna, wife of Joachim, brought forth a beautiful little daughter.

The hour that now struck was the holiest and the happiest since the creation of the world. Life went on in Jerusalem as if nothing had happened. Yet, in the eyes of God, the Child whom Anne had just brought into the world changed the appearance of the universe. In this tiny infant, more pure and holy than all the choirs of angels, God already saw His Mother soon to be.

Who can ever tell the joy Saint Anne felt the day the Immaculate Virgin was born, that day blessed above all days, that day which would result in her becoming the grandmother of Christ!

The Presentation of Mary in the Temple

A few days after the blessed birth of their child, her parents gave her the name of Mary. Now the little Mary was growing beneath the shelter of Angels’ wings and under the tender care of her mother. Saint Anne carried out that service of love and devotion which the Christian artists have so often and so admirably portrayed, the Education of the holy Infant Mary. We are told that, while enlightened directly by Almighty God in all that concerned the supernatural, the child was introduced by her mother to earthly knowledge and experience.

She would learn to work, to read. As she grew older, Mary would learn the work of housekeeping; she sewed, she embroidered, she wove cloth, and sacred vestments. When Mary had reached the age of three years, her parents revealed to her their intention of taking her to the Temple, to offer her to the Lord.

It is the teaching of theologians that Mary received the full use of reason from the first moment of her life. So it was not a mere child of three years who, at the Presentation in the Temple, consecrated herself to the Eternal Father, but rather the best and most pleasing oblation yet made by any living creature to the Creator. On that blessed day, accompanied by her mother and father, this little girl of three passed through the entrance of the Temple, and then, all alone, according to tradition, climbed the fifteen steps which led to the Court of the Women. On these steps, the High Priest Zachary, who was awaiting her, took the little child in his arms, offered her to the Lord. And the young girl, with full knowledge of her action, gave herself entirely to the love and service of God.

Saint Anne, Spouse of Saint Joachim

While Saint Joachim watched his flocks or tended his vines, Saint Anne prepared the meals and saw to the care of their household.

After the birth of Mary, there was more work, but even more supernatural joy in their holy home. None of them escaped the weariness, the difficulties of life, but each of them was full of consideration for the others. Together they endured their trials, together they prayed, together they took their rest, each striving to please the others, and to please God above all things.

Each of the thousand trifles which made up Saint Anne’s daily life was more pleasing in the sight of the Lord than a whole world at work or at prayer, for Saint Anne put into these trifles which made up her life more love of God and of her neighbor than the rest of the world could ever have done.

In the eyes of the world, the life of Saint Anne was woven from a throng of ordinary actions. But God, Who searches the heart and the mind, saw with what love she fulfilled her daily tasks as wife and mother.

Patient and toilsome monotony, broken only by the great feast days–quite numerous under the Old Law–when they gathered together, or even went up to Jerusalem to assist at ancient liturgical ceremonies.

This was the patient, graceful existence Saint Anne followed all her life.

The Death of Saint Anne

Did Saint Anne know the Infant Jesus here on earth? The majority of spiritual writers defer the death of Saint Anne until after the Birth of Christ.

The great German mystic Venerable Anna Katerina Emmerich tells us, in her Revelations, that the Divine Child Jesus was eight years old, when his holy grandmother died; and that it was the Child Jesus Himself who assisted her in her last moments.

Now that Saint Anne had been able to take her Grandchild in her arms, she could at last depart in peace, going from earth to the waiting room of Heaven, into which she would enter on Ascension Day, following in the train of the Risen and Triumphant Christ.

Surrounded by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, she smiled on Death, which, in the gentle calm of the evening of incomparable life, drew near to lead her to her Eternal Reward.

A lively spirit of recollection and prayer, submission to the holy Will of God, compassion for the needs of others, voluntary self-effacement, strength of soul in the face of hardships: these are the some of the features that make up the true picture of Saint Anne, mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus.

Prayer
Almighty God, heavenly Father, who set the solitary in families: We thankfully remember before you this day Sts. Joachim and Anne. The parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we humbly entrust to your never-failing care the homes in which your people dwell;
May the prayers of Sts. Joachim and Anne help us to attain the salvation You promised to Your people, that we may be made true members of the heavenly family of your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.

Adapted from OUR LADY OF FATIMA CRUSADER BULLETIN Vol. 42, Issue No. 124

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William Wilberforce was born in 1759 and served in Parliament from 1780 to 1825. A turning point in his religious life was a tour of Europe. In the luggage of a travelling companion he saw a copy of William Law’s book, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. He asked his friend, “What is this?” and received the answer, “One of the best books ever written.” The two of them agreed to read it together on the journey, and Wilberforce embarked on a lifelong program of setting aside Sundays and an interval each morning on arising for prayer and religious reading. He considered his options, including the clergy, and was persuaded by Christian friends that his calling was to serve God through politics. He was a major supporter of programs for popular education, overseas missions, parliamentary reform, and religious liberty. He is best known, however, for his untiring commitment to the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. He introduced his first anti-slavery motion in the House of Commons in 1788, in a three-and-a-half hour oration that concluded: “Sir, when we think of eternity and the future consequence of all human conduct, what is there in this life that shall make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice and the law of God!”

The motion was defeated. Wilberforce brought it up again every year for eighteen years, until the slave trade was finally abolished on 25 March 1806. He continued the campaign against slavery itself, and the bill for the abolition of all slavery in British territories passed its crucial vote just four days before his death on 29 July 1833. A year later, on 31 July 1834, 800,000 slaves, chiefly in the British West Indies, were set free. – written by James Kiefer

Prayer

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, enkindle in your Church the never-failing gift of love, that, following the example of your servant William Wilberforce, we may have grace to defend the children of the poor, and maintain the cause of those who have no helper; for the sake of him who gave his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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On 3 June 1886, thirty-two young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. In the following months many other Christians throughout the country died by spear or fire for their faith.

These martyrdoms totally changed the dynamic of Christian growth in Uganda. Introduced by a handful of Anglican and Roman missionaries after 1877, the Christian faith had been preached only to the immediate members of the court, by order of King Mutesa. His successor, Mwanga, became increasingly angry as he realized that the first converts put loyalty to Christ above the traditional loyalty to the king. Martyrdoms began in 1885. Mwanga first forbade anyone to go near a Christian mission on pain of death, but finding himself unable to cool the ardor of the converts, resolved to wipe out Christianity.

The Namugongo martyrdoms produced a result entirely opposite to Mwanga’s intentions. The example of these martyrs, who walked to their deaths singing hymns and praying for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years the original handful of converts had multiplied many times and spread far beyond the court. The martyrs had left the indelible impression that Christianity was truly African, not simply a white man’s religion. Most of the missionary work was carried out by Africans rather than by white missionaries, and Christianity spread steadily. Uganda now has the largest percentage of professed Christians of any nation in Africa.

Several years ago I heard an African clergyman, born of pagan parents, tell of his conversion. He said:

One afternoon I was bicycling along a road and met a young man about my own age bicycling in the opposite direction. He promptly turned about and began to ride beside me and to talk. He spoke with great enthusiasm about Jesus, whom I had never heard of before, and how He had destroyed the power of death and evil by dying and rising again, and how He was God become man to reconcile man with God. I heard what my companion had to say, and before we parted I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Now, the young man who preached the Good News of Jesus Christ to me that afternoon had himself heard of Jesus for the first time that morning.

Renewed persecution of Christians in the 1970’s by the military dictatorship of Idi Amin proved the vitality of the example of the Namugongo martyrs. Among the thousands of new martyrs, both Anglican and Roman, was Janani Luwum, Archbishop of the (Anglican) Church of Uganda.

Prayer

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience, even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos (Mother of God) and Ever Virgin Mary

Today is the day the church celibates the birth of Mary the mother of Jesus. Much debate surrounds the time and origins of this feast day. Some of the most early of writings come from the 6th century by St.Romanus, the great ecclesiastical lyrist of the Greek Church. Later in time was this feast adopted into the Roman Churches calendar. Some debate still exists on the origins of choosing Sept. 8th as the actual date of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birth.

In my humble opinion it really does not matter what date is chosen. What is important is for us to take time to stop and reflect. For by the birth of Blessed Mary was the start of a series of events that would change the world forever. In her birth God began to move in, among, and around his people. I have added the traditional teachings for this great and holy feast day.

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary: The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born at a time when people had reached such a degree of moral decay that it seemed altogether impossible to restore them. People often said that God must come into the world to restore faith and not permit the ruin of mankind.

The Son of God chose to take on human nature for the salvation of mankind, and chose as His Mother the All-Pure Virgin Mary, who alone was worthy to give birth to the Source of purity and holiness.

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since St Anna was barren.

Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God’s mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Sts Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple.

Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Sts Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless.

St Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. St Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God’s mercy on her family.

The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious couple had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World.

The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but also the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, so the Church sings in its festal hymns: “the East Gate… bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls” (2nd Stikhera on “Lord, I Have Cried”, Tone 6).

The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great and comforting promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. This event has brought to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and everlasting life. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with filial devotion.

Prayer
Father of mercy, give your people help and strength from heaven. The birth of the Virgin Mary’s Son was the dawn of our salvation. May this celebration of her birthday
bring us closer to lasting peace. Grant this though our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Troparion (Tone 4) –

Your Nativity, O Virgin,
Has proclaimed joy to the whole universe!
The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,
Has shone from You, O Theotokos!
By annulling the curse,
He bestowed a blessing.
By destroying death, He has granted us eternal Life.

Kontakion (Tone 4) –

By Your Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin,
Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness;
Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death.
And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you:
The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our life!

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