Have you heard of the Miracle of the Holy Fire? It is an awesome, miraculous act of God that has taken place at the same time, in the same manner, in the same place, every single year since the first century. It takes place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth, where our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ was buried and rose from the dead. The miracle happens every year on Orthodox Easter, the day of Christ’s Resurrection that was anciently observed by all Christians, and remains the day observed by Orthodox Christians today.
Christianity is not a subjective religion. It is not about “sincerely held beliefs.” It is about facts. We do not merely “believe,” we know! The Apostle Peter writes, “For we do not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Pet. 1:16).
Our Lord did not just leave a book for us to read and try to figure out, He established a Church and promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against it. In other words, He promised that the Church He built would exist until He returns, and that it would remain Orthodox (correct) in Faith throughout time. Jesus is the head of the Church, the Church is His Body, and the Holy Spirit dwells in it, leading it into all truth. The Church is a miracle of God. It is a Divine Institution and a living organism. It has no earthly head, but no one has ever been able to destroy it from without: not the pagan Romans, not the God-hating communists, and not militant Islam; and no heresy has ever been able to destroy it from within or splinter it. Sure, Christians and clergy can fall away into heresy and schism like Arius did, but the Orthodox Catholic Church always remains visibly one and united in Faith and Order under its only head: Jesus Christ. It is “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). The Orthodox Christian Faith, by its very nature, cannot change (Jude 3) and has not changed over the centuries. It is forever the same. The Orthodox Church is not a denomination, it is the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Christ, and we have Christ’s own promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against it.
At the time of the Great Schism in AD 1054, the English Church, ecclesia anglicana, remained a faithful local Orthodox Church. This led to the Norman Invasion and conquest in 1066. Orthodox England was conquered, all but one of the native British bishops were uncanonically replaced by Normans, and the Church was forced to submit to Rome by force of arms. In 1534, the English Reformation began with the goal of restoring the Faith and Order of the “Undivided” Church. That mission was advanced by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century and the Oxford Movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. Anglicanism could take us to the door of the Church, but we had to walk through that door. After almost a thousand years of separation, traditional Anglicans are being restored to visible unity with the Orthodox Catholic Church from which our fathers were torn away against their will by the Norman Conquest. In recent years Anglicans made up the second largest group of converts to the Orthodox Church. Today they may well be the largest group. The Western Church is being rebuilt before our eyes, and we have a part in it. There are now Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and on the continent of Europe, and our numbers are growing. This is a miracle of God for those who have eyes to see it.
God is not distant from us. He is with us, and in us, and is at work all around us. He loves us. Life is filled with the miraculous, if only we have the eyes to see it. Sadly, no one is as blind as he who will not see. The Miracle of the Holy Fire is an objective miracle that, as I have said, has taken place at the same time every year since the first century, in the holiest place on earth, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The Miracle of the Holy Fire is an objective sign of Christ’s loving presence with His Church in this world.
Bishop George of Mayfield who visited our parish last May has sent me a wonderful article about this ancient and on-going miracle. The article includes amazing video. I am forwarding it on to you. Please read the article and view the video. I promise you that It will bless and encourage you. Feel free to share it with others. Here is the Link:
We were created to know, love and serve God in this life and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. God calls us into union with Himself. Union with God is the goal of the Christian life. We are not called merely to be servants of God, as wonderful as that would be, but to be His sons and daughters — to become by grace what our Lord Jesus Christ is by nature. This is what theologians call theosis. Union with God is a very personal relationship. Building and maintaining any relationship takes time, effort and sacrifice. Each of us needs to ask ourselves how much time, effort and personal sacrifice am I putting into building and maintaining my relationship with God through Christ? Building a close personal relationship with someone means saying things like, I love you, I want to spend time with you, I want to talk with you and walk with you, I am sorry that I hurt or offended you, and I want to be with you forever. But we must do more than say these things in words, we must say them with our very lives.
We are now in Holy Week. Have you made a spiritually profitable use of Lent? The Prophet Isaiah writes, “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And he will have mercy on him; And to our God, For he will abundantly pardon” (Is. 55:6-7).
Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 8th, is Spy Wednesday on the Western Orthodox Kalendar. Judas professed to be a disciple of Christ and was even in fellowship with the disciples, but he was not among the faithful. While professing to be a follower of Christ, he betrayed Him by his actions. Later, the Apostle Peter would deny even knowing Jesus out of fear. The difference is that Judas despaired in the end and was lost, while St. Peter repented and was restored, never to doubt or deny Christ again. The way of repentance is the way of restoration, healing, union with God, and life. Lent is a season of repentance and a time for growing in union with God.
If you have made a spiritually profitable use of Lent, don’t stop now — press on. If you have not made a very profitable use of Lent, there is still time. Holy Week is the holiest week of the year. You can still heed the call to repentance and to serious discipleship. Let us all accompany Christ in His passion during Holy Week that we might rejoice in His Victory over death and hell on Holy Pascha.
Confessions will be heard on Spy Wednesday, April 8th, from 11:15 to 11:45 AM, and by appointment; and the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at 12:10 PM.
Maundy Thursday, April 9th, is a very, very important day for us. It is on this day that we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist by our Blessed Lord on the night in which He was betrayed. Services are at 6:30 PM. Come, and mystically gather together with the apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, and take part in the institution of the Holy Eucharist and receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion as if from our Lord’s own hands. Then, leave the Upper Room and cross over into the Garden of Gethsemane with our Lord and the apostles and obey His call to watch and pray by praying Vespers. Finally, be there when Judas and the soldiers appear and take Him away as represented in the Stripping of the Altar and the removal of the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle.
On Good Friday, April 10th, Matins and the Liturgy of the Word (Ante-Communion) will be prayed at 10:00 AM at a bare altar with an empty tabernacle, without the sanctuary light, candles or burning lampadas. Come and accompany Jesus during His mockery of a trial before Pilate. Hear the same crowd who cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David” on Palm Sunday now cry out “Crucify Him,” and remember just how easy it is to worship God with our lips while our hearts can be far from Him. Accompany our Lord along the way of sorrows and up Mount Calvary. As Christ was determined to lay down His life for us, let us be determined to live for Him.
Good Friday evening we will gather back in the church at 6:30 PM for Vespers as our Lord is buried in a borrowed tomb. Christ died for us while we were, and are, yet sinners. It is a sad day, but we know that the story does not end there. It is Good Friday, but we know that Easter Sunday is coming! More about Easter Even and Holy Pascha (Easter) later...
Please follow the link and read the article about the Miracle of the Holy Fire, watch the Video, and do all you can to arrange your schedule to attend as many Holy Week Services as possible. They are all different. Holy Week is the week that changed the world forever, and this week can be a week that changes your life. Be sure to invite family and friends to join you in accompanying our Lord Jesus Christ through this holiest of weeks, culminating in His glorious Resurrection on Holy Pascha. On Easter Sunday, April 12th, we will celebrate a Solemn Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you there. Jesus Christ is the Truth Revealed. Orthodox Christianity is the Truth Lived. Let’s live it!