All of the virtues and powers of God are attained primarily by prayer. Without prayer, there is no spiritual life. As the Russian bishop, Theophan the Recluse, has said, if you are not successful in your prayer, you will not be successful in anything, for prayer is the root of everything… (Theophan the Recluse 19th c., The Art of Prayer, Igumen Chariton, ed.)
And when you pray you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you Pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father, who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)
Prayer must be in secret. This is the first rule given by Christ. The person who prays must do so in such away that he would not be seen by men to be praying.
Marriage: The Great Mystery
According to the Eastern Fathers, the mystery of crowning or marriage was instituted in Paradise. Marriage inherits a portion of the grace of Eden. In the beginning, God set man and woman as king and priest over all creation. By the liturgy of their daily lives, the whole world offered a hymn of praise to the Creator. Christ’s presence at the marriage feast in Cana confirmed the honor of wedlock in the New Covenant and elevated it to be an icon or image of His love for the Church.
First century Corinthians were a rowdy lot. Their city was a bustling port, a gathering spot for every kind of person, idea, and perversion in the Mediterranean world. St. Paul spent 18 months there, evangelizing and building up the Church.
But people do not change overnight, and so Corinthians brought many of their ingrained habits into their new faith. Paul wrote to them repeatedly to tame their excesses. One of his complaints concerned their behavior at the Eucharist. They came to eat the One Bread but fought among themselves at the Table. And so Paul instructed them: “Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be behaving unworthily toward the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup. A person who eats and drinks without discerning the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. In fact, that is why many of you are weak and ill and some of you have died.” (1 Cor 11:27-30). Paul perceived that spiritual illness and death result from not discerning the Body in the Eucharist.
Jesus Himself fasted and taught His disciples to fast. “And when you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men, but your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
In Christ’s teaching, almsgiving goes together with fasting and prayer. This is also the teaching of Isaiah and of the Old Testament generally. When one prays and fasts, one must show love through active generosity to others.
As with fasting and prayer, the gifts of help to the poor must be done strictly in secret, so much so that one should, as it were, even hide from himself what he is giving to others, not letting one hand know what the other is doing. Every effort must be made, if the gift will be pleasing to God, to avoid all ostentation and boastfulness in its giving.
We begin preparing for the mystery of Baptism as soon as we learn that the birth of a child is imminent. Many priests like to spend time with expectant parents reflecting on the mystery of co-creation in which they are taking part. Anne Gallagher’s booklet, Blessed is the Fruit of Your Womb, available from the Office of Educational Services, reflects on this mystery as well as explains the rites of our Church associated with the birth of a child. Many priests use this book as they reflect with new parents on the blessed event.
When a couple learns that a child is on the way, they should notify the priest so he can sit with them and explain the Church’s prayers connected with childbirth: the blessing of a newborn child, usually conferred in the hospital, the naming of a child on the eighth day, usually done at home, and the churching or presentation, done the first time the child is brought to church. Call on your priest to perform these services well in advance of the time.
Holy Transfiguration parish is part of the Melkite Greek- Catholic Church which is the Church of Antioch in communion with the Church of Rome. The Church is universal and its universality is reflected in the membership of our Parish today. We reach out to all. To all we offer the Light. “Let Your Eternal Light shine upon us sinners … O Giver of Light, Glory to You!”
Diverse as we are among ourselves, those of Middle Eastern heritage as well as those of other ethnic backgrounds, we honor and cherish the traditions of those who established the parish. This is because they preserved the greater Tradition, that of the Church, to which we all cleave most closely.