Holy Unction Archive

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A Message From Fr. Lou – I see Your Bridal Chamber

I see Your Bridal Chamber

 

“I see Your Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment that I may enter in; O Giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul and save me.”

Exaposteilarion of the Orthros Service of the Bridegroom

Holy Monday – Holy Wednesday

 

               We have now passed the mid-point of our annual Great Lenten journey. Holy Week is just around the corner. The Exaposteilarion hymn above highlights a central theme of the first days of our Lord’s week of Passion. Our Lord is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are His bride. The iconographic image utilized in this service portrays our Lord, the Bridegroom “decked out” not in fine linens and clothing usually associated with a wedding feast. Rather, He is clothed in the “purple of mockery”, with a crown of thorns serving to begin the flow of the blood He spilled for His “bride”. It is an Icon of Extreme Humility. It is within this Humility that our Suitor approaches us. His Love is an agape of self-sacrifice radically different than that of typical relationships. To be worthy of His bridal chamber, our love must be a reflection of His. The “vesture of our soul” is made radiant by His Grace in forgiveness. Unworthy though we be, He loves and forgives us. Forgiveness then of others, provides us with the proper “wedding garment”. Please read the following written by Fr. Thomas Hopko, from his book, The Lenten Spring:

“Love between sinners is essentially expressed in forgiveness.  There is no other way. It cannot be otherwise. Forgiveness is the singular expression of love in this fallen world. If, therefore, we desire to be loved and forgiven by God – and even more, if we know that as a matter fact we are so loved and forgiven – then we must love and forgive each other. The Lenten Season exists for this purpose; to express the Love of God for one another through mutual forgiveness. This is the teaching of Jesus Himself.” (pg. 36)

It is in the context of the Love lived out in forgiveness that our Lenten Journey annually begins with Great Vespers on Clean Monday eve and a “kiss of forgiveness”. As we, then near the end of Great Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, let us do our very best to live this love out as a reflection of Christ’s great Agape Love in forgiveness, by forgiving one another. Examine your conscious and let go of grudges, hurts and pains caused by others. Seek forgiveness from wrongs intentional or otherwise that you may have caused. Participate in the Holy Sacrament of Repentance (Confession) whereby in humility you acknowledge your imperfections and seek forgiveness. It is then that the original beauty of God’s Grace in our lives is revealed…It is then that we may be properly adorned to enter into His Bridal Chamber of Grace and Love. Have a blessed conclusion of Great Lent, Holy Week and remembrance of our Lord’s Passion and salvific crucifixion and a glorious celebration of His Life Giving Resurrection.

With our Lord’s Blessings,
Fr. Lou

 

 

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RETURN – It’s the Soul purpose of Great Lent

A MESSAGE FROM FATHER LOU RETURN – It’s the Soul purpose of Great Lent

That incredible time of Great Lent is nearing again this year with Clean Monday on March 18. In fact Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians began Lent on February 13, with an early Easter, March 31. Our Pascha this year will be celebrat- ed on May 5. So, just what is the purpose of Great Lent? It’s “soul” purpose is returning to God. It is a return to the original beauty in which we were created – a beauty of union in harmo- ny with God and then with one another. The consequences of the Ancestral Sin were the fall of humankind, a distortion of that original beauty, with a focus on the self and the material realm first – rather than God and the spiritual realm. It is a sep- aration first from God and in turn from one another. This sepa- ration from the “Life-Giver,” consequentially brings about death. The ultimate death, however, is not physical, it is spiritu- al. If not healed, this separation brings about the destruction of our soul.

And so it is that God, in God’s great mercy and love offers healing for our souls. First, through the “Word” – the Holy Scriptures, the prophets and the law and then the Word, Him- self enters into the world to reclaim our fallen race, by becom- ing one of us, taking our sins upon His shoulders, dying upon the cross – destroying the power of death and the evil one – and resurrecting – reclaiming the original beauty of the human race. And finally, by sending the Holy Spirit into the Church – the Body of believers to complete and live out this reclamation project of Return and re-union.

Great Lent is that annual re-telling of the story of our human condition and invitation to re-connect with God and our fellow humans. Of course, the yeoman’s portion of the work has been accomplished by our Merciful and Loving God, yet our free-will response, is a necessary component to our souls’ salvation. The central themes to our free-will response to God’s invitation are:

  •   A desire to be with God. This desire is predicated upon

    humility and an attitude of gratitude, a realization that our very life and all the good that entails are gifts from God. We are not self-sufficient. We need God to live;

  •   A resolve – a choice to return to the One who gives us life. This return requires a change of focus and direction from our self and the material realm, primarily to God and the

spiritual realm. This is against our fallen human tendency. This is repentance. It is understood in our Orthodox life as a life long journey often entailing hard work;

 Re-union with God. Sharing with Him in the joy of Pascha through which His Life-giving Resurrection is enlivened in us not only at the end of our life but in the midst of it.

The three legged stool of the Great Lenten journey is Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Prayer nourishes our desire and helps us re-connect with the Life-Giver, our Loving Lord. Fasting assists us in the turning primarily away from our selfish focus and to God. It involves struggle and commitment, perhaps a war. It is waged first in the physical realm because it is precisely there that we are too focused. The result of that over focus is a sick soul. Healing comes through re-focusing, returning to God. And finally, Almsgiving helps us to re-direct our focus to our fellow human beings. By loving “the least of God’s brothers and sis- ters,” we love him. (MT. 25:39-41)

Our Lenten Pilgrimage draws near. Let’s use the beauti- ful tools offered at this time of year to Return to our Loving Lord, dying more to our self-focus and living more in the Life-giving Presence, death on the Cross and Glorious and Life Giving Vic- tory in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Have a blessed Great Lent with our Lord’s Grace and blessings,

Fr. Lou

Listed on the following pages are Great Lenten opportu- nities for prayer, scriptural and spiritual readings, repentance and confession, retreats, charity and acts of kindness.

THE LENTEN PRAYER OF ST. EPHRAIM

(Said daily in Great Lent)

Lord and Master of my life, de- liver me from the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and gossip. (Prostration)

Rather, grant the spirit of wis- dom, humility, patience, and love to me your servant. (Prostration)

Yes, Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not to judge others. For you are

blessed to the age of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

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Holy Unction

by Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald

When one is ill and in pain, this can very often be a time of life when one feels alone and isolated. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Holy Unction as it is also known, remind us that when we are in pain, either physical, emotional, or spiritual, Christ is present with us through the ministry of his Church. He is among us to offer strength to meet the challenges of life, and even the approach of death.

As with Chrismation, oil is also used in this Sacrament as a sign of God’s presence, strength, and forgiveness. After the reading of seven epistle lessons, seven gospel lessons and the offering of seven prayers, which are all devoted to healing, the priest anoints the body with the Holy Oil. Orthodoxy does not view this Sacrament as available only to those who are near death. It is offered to all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit. The Church celebrates the Sacrament for all its members during Holy week on Holy Wednesday.