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Life Chain to Commemorate Lives of Unborn Children

Life Chain Sunday will be held Sunday, October 1, 2017, in State College, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Attendees are asked to gather at 1:45 p.m. at 900 West College Ave. to receive the proper signs and instructions on where to stand on West College Avenue.

This is the only public event that Citizens Concerned for Human Life (CCHL) of Centre County does every year to commemorate the lives of the millions of unborn that have been lost to abortion. Holy Trinity has partnered with CCHL for several years now in participating in this silent witness in the community.

For more information, please contact Susan Rogacs of CCHL. Please pray that no other abortion centers open in the Centre Region.

Register Online for Sunday School

Sunday School begins on September 10. We look forward to sharing the teachings and Tradition of the Church to build a firm foundation for our students to lead a life in God’s image. Sunday School supplements and reinforces the work of our parents in the Christian formation of their children. Many thanks to our staff of dedicated teachers for their ministry each week throughout the year!

Holy Trinity has five classrooms for students in Kindergarten through the twelfth grade. Please enroll your child by completing the online form below. Submit one form for each child, please.

Sunday School 2017-2018

Online Registration Form
(Please submit a separate form for each child you wish to enroll.)

Ladies: Plan to Attend a Discussion and Input Session this September 17

The Women’s Ministry will conduct an informational session after liturgy on Sunday September 17 at noon. Grab a coffee and a bite to eat, and come to the conference room in Trinity House. In addition to previewing this year’s study, we will brainstorm potent-ial activities that might be of spiritual benefit to us and the parish. Especially, what can we do to provide help and comfort to particular sub-groups of women: older women, young mothers, single parents, etc.? The goal is to not only leave the meeting having determined the best meeting times and dates for the study but also have a set of action plans for the new ideas and events.

As for the study, we plan to spend the year examining The Theology of Illness by Jean-Claude Larchet, a small but dense text exploring how Orthodox Christians find healing despite living in a fallen and broken world, subject to all of the suffering and evil that comes upon us as a result of sin. The goal of the study is not to seek a single cure for what ails us but to learn to live with what besets us. Moreover, we want to do it in a way that opens ourselves to all types of healing, impacting not only our lives but also the lives of those around us.

To allow as many women as possible to participate, we plan to meet in the daytime of one week, and then in the evening of the next week; with both sessions covering the same material. Finding the times that accommodate the most people is part of the September 17 meeting agenda.

In addition to the biweekly study, a dedicated section of the parish website will be established where we can post supplemental materials and links. There will also be a forum where we can further discuss the text. Sessions will continue into the Spring and will conclude with a Saturday day retreat similar to last year.

One Day at a Time This Year

by Dn. Mark Oleynik

Dn. Mark teaches Vacation Bible School participants about the Hours (1st, 3rd, 6th, and 9th) that can be prayed to sanctify the day.

Do you make a checklist of all the things you want accomplish each day? Have you ever noticed that by the end of the day the list seems to be longer than when you started? You’re not alone—overdoing is a social epidemic from which people of all ages can suffer. It seems to me that “do not overdo” may be a healthy commandment which could be added to deal with our modern lifestyle.

Because we want to do so many things so quickly, much of our worry is due to our mistaken view of things. We look too far ahead. The magnitude of life daunts us. We add tomorrow’s task to today’s and then of course the burden becomes too heavy. If we think about it, we truly never have anything to do on any given day but just the bit of God’s will for that day. But what part of daily lives do we dedicate to do God’s will? 

Related: Register online for Sunday School.

Starting with the understanding that we must take care of our families, perform the work that our employer expects, eat, take care of our home, and so forth, we are reminded that the “heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:32). These take up the abundance of the day and fill it with activity. But we also must consider the sin of omission in our daily lives. In Matthew 25, we read that at the Judgement Seat of Christ we will need to account for those things which we did not do. It is not the big things we may have done (and for which we have sought forgiveness) but rather the little things we did not do that leads to our peril.

These could be the calls or visits of help we did not make, the words of cheer we did not speak, the letters we did not write, or the hungry we did not feed—all lost opportunities to do His will due to our inactivity.

Why do we leave so many things undone in our lives? Partly through sheer thoughtlessness, no doubt. Many omit the good deed not through want of heart but through want of thought. And yet it is just that very thoughtlessness which God calls for us to account. However, even more critical may be the emphasis we put on this life. We magnify the insignificants, pour out our energy on things which perish, and ignore the realities that alone count in the eternal scale. We spend our days “working our list” but not working God’s will—the things which call for our most constant care and deepest thought. 

As we begin this ecclesiastical New Year, let’s make our resolution to “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Put the emphasis in your daily life on His service and glory and leave nothing undone which the Lord commanded.

Happy New Year!

EXTRA SCOOPS

  • New School Year. Sunday School begins on September 10. We look forward to sharing the teachings and Tradition of the Church to build a firm foundation for our students to lead a life in God’s image. Sunday School supplements and reinforces the work of our parents in the Christian formation of their children. Many thanks to our staff of dedicated teachers for their ministry each week throughout the year. (NOTE: Registration will be conducted online this year. You are asked to enroll your child early for planning purposes.)
  • Sunday School Picnic. Our annual picnic is planned for September 17,
    4:30 p.m., at Circleville Park. All families are encouraged to join in fellowship (and s’mores!). 
  • “Youth Equipped to Serve” Mission Trip. For the middle/high school students, there is a YES (Youth Equipped to Serve) mission trip planned in Pittsburgh this September 29-October 1. Please mark your calendars, as the number of participants may be limited. More details will be provided via the bulletin and website once registration opens.

VBS 2017 Daily News: Friday

EXTRA! BREAKING NEWS! EXTRA!
We Can All Live in an Orthodox World!

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Today, the VBS students continued their exploration of what it means to live in an Orthodox world by focusing on the necessity of building a strong prayer life. This was emphasized with the introduction of the Hours services that are celebrated throughout each day.

Spokespersons for the VBS stated that each day throughout the week the students discussed and learned about what it means to live in an Orthodox world. The focus was not on the fact that the whole world is not Orthodox but rather that through the wisdom of the Church we have be given a discipline to conduct our lives as much as God has provided and made us capable of doing so.

To be sure, none of what started to happen this week can be accomplished overnight. There is no “instant” formula for teaching children about God. Patience and, above all, consistency are essential in attaining the desired results.

True Orthodoxy is reflected in a way of life which is practiced in the home on a regular basis. To have children live one way at home and then suddenly to expect them to act differently in the church is an unrealistic approach.

There is no reason to be afraid to set high standards for our children. When we have high expectations, children not only gain self-esteem by meeting those expectations, but they come to love and respect those who set them.

Just as we must breathe to live, and we breathe all the time, we should pray all the
time. Every time we breathe we can remember God. The Matins service says, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.” Let it be so for us and our children.

To Be Like Mary

Today the students learned that we are strive to be like the Virgin Mary—the Theotokos —and ask her to pray for us. She “held heaven” in her body and in her soul. She loved God and kept His commandments. We can be like her if we put only good things into our hearts and souls. We should put all the good things of the Church into our “cup”, our minds and hearts. (Ask you favorite VBS kid about the today’s “cup” lesson.)

The Christian Difference

The Christian is dlfferent because he is “in Christ”. He walks with Christ every day. St. Peter wrote about the Christians saying,

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous life.”

FPO — For Parents Only

Many thanks to the parents who encouraged their children’s participation in this year’s VBS. Our prayer for you is that you may guide your children through prayer and lead them by your example each moment of your daily life. Special thanks to the teachers. kitchen helpers. teens, and all the helping hands. Have a great summer!

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2017 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2017 Daily News: Thursday

Every Hour and Every Day It’s Time to Pray!
Students Learn to Offer Prayers Unceasingly

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Today, the VBS students continued their exploration of what it means to live in an Orthodox world by focusing on the necessity of building a strong prayer life. This was emphasized with the introduction of the Hours services that are celebrated throughout each day.

The daily Hours services correspond to the Old Testament services beginning each of the four “watches” of the day. in New Testament times, these services have been enhanced through their association with various events in the life of our Savior and of the Church.

The First Hour commemorates the bringing of Christ before Pilate, which took place in the early morning hours. The Third Hour commemorates Pilates’s judgment of Christ and His mocking and scourging, and it is also the same hour when the Holy Spirit upon the disciples (Acts 2:3-15). The Sixth Hour remembers Christ’s voluntary Passion and His Crucifixion on Golgotha. Finally, the Ninth Hour commemorates Christ’s death on the Cross and its significance for our salvation.

The Hours all follow the same structure, but within this arrangement each contains different psalms and prayers which relate to the event commemorated in that Hour and which evoke correspondingly different feelings in the heart of the reader or listener.

Christians are to pray to God not just on Sunday mornings, but constantly, sanctifying time by offering prayer throughout the day.

On Having a Prayer Rule

“Yes, it is good to have a prayer rule on account of our weakness so that on the one hand we do not give in to laziness, and on the other hand we restrain our enthusiasm to its proper measure. The greatest practitioners of prayer kept a prayer rule. They would always begin with established prayers, and if during the course of these a prayer started on its own, they would put aside the others and pray that prayer. If this is what the great practitioners of prayer did, all the more reason for us to do so. Without established prayers, we would not know how to pray at all.”

— St. Theophan

What’s the Buzz?

This is not Buzzfeed, but it is still a buzz. Here are a few comments from this year’s VBS students:

  • “I’ve never been to Matins but now I want to go.”
  • “The food is terrific!”
  • “I Ieamed that Jesus is our light.”
  • “Fr. Arseny prayed for other people who did not like him.”

FPO — For Parents Only

  • Ask your child what time should we pray.
  • Tomorrow is our last day of VBS.

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2017 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2017 Daily News: Wednesday

Our Light at Night is Jesus
Students Attend Vespers to Start Their VBS Day

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Having come to the setting of the sun, the students reached the midpoint of VBS. Today the students continued their examination of what it means to live in an Orthodox world with the study of Jesus being our light in darkness. The focus was on the reality that through Christ the captivity of the soul has come to an end—the darkness is dispersed by the Light of Christ.

A highlight of the day was the attendance of the students at Vespers. In the Orthodox Church the liturgical day begins in the evening with the setting of the sun. This practice follows the Biblical account of
creation: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Gen. 1:5).

The Vespers service in the Church begins with the chanting of the evening psalm: “…the sun knows it’s time for setting, Thou makest darkness and it is night…” (Psalm 104:19-20). This psalm, which glorifies God’s creation of the world, is man’s very first act of worship, for man first of all meets God as Creator.

The service of Vespers takes us through creation, sin, and salvation in Christ. It leads us to the meditation of God’s word and the glorification of his love for men. It instructs us and allows us to praise God for the particular events or persons whose memory is celebrated and made present to us in the Church. It prepares us for the sleep of the night and the dawn of the new day to
come. On the evening before the Divine Liturgy, it begins our movement into the most perfect communion with God in the sacramental mysteries.

A True Hero—The Life of Fr. Arseny Recalled

A real hero for Christ, Fr. Arseny, lived not so long ago in Communist Russia. Today the students learned how prison guards called him names, hit him, and would not let him wear his priest’s clothing. But prison leaders could not stop him from praying and he prayed for those who held him captive because he knew that they were very sad because they did not have the light of Christ in them. However, through his witness he was able to lead others to Christ even in the most dire and dark circumstances. Truly, the Light of Christ has shown forth in Fr. Arseny.

It’s a Group Thing

This year’s VBS students have been grouped by some of the names of the liturgical services being studied throughout the week. Ask your favorite VBS student their group and when their service is celebrated.

FPO — For Parents Only

  • Our dinners are especially kid friendly. Please encourage them to eat all their fruits and vegetables!

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2017 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2017 Daily News: Tuesday

Rise and Shine!
Students Sing Early Morning Praises

STATE COLLEGE, PA — What a beautiful morning! The second day of Holy Trinity’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) was action packed with learning from the start. The students have really started to get in the groove of understanding how each part of the day has special meaning in the Church and to them.

Todays’ session was focused on the morning services of Matins. Learning points throughout the day emphasized what morning mean to them as Christians. They also discussed the early rising myrrhbearing women who went to the tomb of Jesus. Remembering and praying to God—what a great way to start the day!

Worship—A Full Body Experience

Being a part of the Orthodox Church means we worship not only with our minds
and hearts but also with our whole bodies. When we use our bodies to pray it helps us to “wake up” to God, just like getting out of bed helps us to wake up in the morning. When we use our bodies to pray, it reminds us that our bodies are made for God and that He made our bodies.

Today, the students learned the proper way to make the sign of the cross (see more info below), the different types of kneeling and prostrations, and other physical ways (such as smell and taste) we worship and experience God’s presence. Don’t forget to work with your child so they don’t forget these good habits.

The Sign of the Cross

The sign of the Cross is made with the right hand. The thumb and the next two fingers of the right hand are joined together at their tips to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The other two fingers are pressed down to the palm of the hand, signifying the two natures of Christ, both divine and human.

The movement involves touching the forehead, the upper abdomen, the right shoulder, and then the left shoulder, and praying: “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The act is accompanied by an inclination of the head and body.

We mark ourselves with the sign to indicate our acceptance and concurrence with words, prayers, or actions especially in worship. We can make the sign of the Cross whenever we wish, both when we are in Church and when we are elsewhere.

FPO — For Parents Only

  • Question for you to discuss with your child before VBS tomorrow:  Does your child cross himself/herself before lunch at school?
  • Vespers begins @ 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2017 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2017 Daily News: Monday

Holy Trinity’s VBS Opens for the Summer
Students Learn That Our Lives Are to Revolve Around Prayer

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Today during the opening session of the Vacation Bible School (VBS) being conducted at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, the students were introduced to the VBS theme of Living in an Orthodox World. This year’s VBS will utilize music to educate and instill a desire for prayer and the liturgical services of the Holy Orthodox Church. Various non-liturgical music will be taught which contain many prayers, hymns, and melodies from the services. This music is a “bridge” for the children to cross over from secular experience to the liturgical worship of the Church.

An essential part of the week will be the participation of the children in the liturgical services about which they will be learning. Some key objectives of the VBS include:

  • Communicate that the Church’s most important task is to worship God—the Holy Trinity.
  • Encourage an active role (of prayer) in the Church services.
  • Teach that our lives should revolve around the prayer life of the Church community.
  • Teach and encourage an Orthodox vision of structured personal prayer life.

Students Learn About the Great Litany

As an introduction to a personal prayer life the students learned how to pray not only for themselves but the whole world—God’s creation! This was accomplished by discussing each of the petitions of the Great Litany which is the opening litany for many of our Church services.

Lord, Have Mercy—Again and Again!

Why do we ask for mercy? St. Symeon of Thessalonica answers:

“This intercession is appropriate, since we should not ask for anything but mercy, as we have neither boldness nor access to offer anything as our own, nor to request anything as such So, as sinners and condemned through sin we cannot, nor dare, say anything to our loving Master, except ‘have mercy.'”

Likewise, Paul tells us,

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” — Hebrews 4:16

FPO — For Parents Only

  • Question for you to discuss with your child before VBS tomorrow: How is the Great Litany like a ladder?
  • On Wednesday, there will be Vespers at 5:00 p.m. Please try to bring your children early so that we can pray together. Dinner and VBS will follow immediately.
  • Please be prompt in picking up your child each day at 8:00 p.m. Don’t be late!

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2017 Vacation Bible School homepage.

From Pascha to Pentecost

by Mary Lanser

Hear my cry O God, listen to my prayer from the ends of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to a rock that is higher than I for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” (Psalm 60:1-3)

“Lead me to a rock that is higher than I”—What an odd little petition. To paraphrase: Get me out of here, O Lord! Lead me to a cave in the mountains so that I may stand on the ledge and listen for Your voice. Set me on a rock in the middle of a rushing river swollen by floodwaters tumbling fast and dangerous, or on a startling desert-stone formation to take my feet up away from burning sands. What are we to make of this?

Sometimes the images that we conjure when we call upon God to rescue us in a hurry are amusing. We are like a child with its arms raised begging to be picked up so to see what’s going on in a moment of confusion, or to be rescued from some overwhelming contact with the world at ground level, or simply to seek a restful moment on a strong shoulder. Sometimes we only need a moment to catch our breath. Other times we long for and seek something more enduring.

Luke opens the Book of Acts telling us about the post-Resurrection Christ on earth: “To them (the Apostles) He presented himself living, after His passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking of the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) The language of the Christ presenting Himself “living” to the Apostles after his Resurrection indicates that after His Passion our Lord was exercising the agency of His divinity here on earth, making manifest the Incarnation in a way that the world had never experienced before. This was indeed the same Christ who was presented to us by his holy virgin mother at his Nativity, and the same Christ presented to us in his robe of royal purple and crown of thorns by Pontius Pilate as he said to the crowd: “Behold the man!”

The Risen Christ was and remains the Son of the Living God, second person of the Holy Trinity, but there had been profound changes at the time of His Resurrection. Here in the time between the Resurrect-ion and Pentecost the Apostles met Jesus the Christ who had been raised in power and in glory and whose body was no longer subject in any way to the corrupt-ion, weakness, and mortality of fallen human nature. He was truly and fully the New Adam, and in this glorified and corporeal emblem of eternal life, He demonstrated to the Apostles, and to all of us, what we can also anticipate if we are, as the Son was, willing to accept gracefully the death that is granted to us by the Father, so that we may have life eternal.

Jesus not only speaks of the Kingdom, but He, “living,” presents it to us voluntarily and bodily. There is no separating the Kingdom from God, for they are one as the soul and body are one and we are made in the flesh to be seerers and partakers of the Kingdom which He presents to us in the flesh. During the time between the Resurrection and Pentecost, the time for His teaching us has passed, and has been replaced by the time for showing us how to be and become one with the Kingdom in body, mind and spirit. As the great apostle Paul says:

“Therefore my brethren you also have become dead to the law through the Body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the code of the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what held us captive, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”  (Romans 7:4-6)

*    *    *

While we wait for the day of the Holy Spirit, we encounter a number of important liturgical moments.

Icon for Thomas Sunday (courtesy oca.org)

The first is the Sunday of Thomas where we are reminded again of Christ’s passion and death. Looking back now we realize that the Christ of our salvation is known to be true by the stripes and wounds of his passion and crucifixion. Christ Transfigured is truly Christ Crucified and Resurrected. The Risen Christ breathed the Holy Spirit into the Apostles on Thomas Sunday. This is a foretelling of what is to come and why it is necessary. Pentecost comes to present, to us individually and intimately, the living power and promise of the Cross.

The next is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women. Though we read from the Gospel of Mark on that day, it is in the Gospel of John (chapter 20), where we read that “Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Why are you weeping?”

Icon for the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women (courtesy oca.org)

This is a striking image and message for it harkens back to the Mosaic covenant of which the Risen Christ is the fulfillment. In Exodus 25, we read: “And you shall put the mercy seat atop the ark and in the ark you shall put the covenant that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the covenant, I will speak with you of all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.” And Christ presented himself, living, to the Apostles and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God.

The next three Sundays take us back to key moments in the life of Jesus, for us and for the season. The first Sunday in this grouping gives us the story of the miraculous healing of the paralytic, the next is the story of the Samaritan woman and the third is the Sunday of the story of the man born blind. The one element that draws all of these stories together into a resurrectional theme is water. The Sheep’s Pool for the Sunday of the Paralytic. Jacob’s Well for the Sunday of the Samaritan Women, and the Pool of Siloam for the Sunday of the Man Born Blind. As we wait for Pentecost these three Sundays remind us that through the Power of the Holy Spirit we all partake of the living water that comes down from heaven.

Icon for the Sunday of the Paralytic (courtesy oca.org)

The Sunday of the Paralytic signals Jesus’ resurrectional power over the body, over flesh. for the paralytic had been ill for decades and in all that time there was no one to help him in his disreputable state. Even such deep-seated and resolute weakness can be restored in faith. This story also draws our attention back to the mercy seat by making clear the relationship between sin and physical illness. Jesus says to the man, “See, you are well! Sin no more , that nothing worse befall you.” (John 5:14)

The story also demonstrates that some of us will be healed indirectly by the powers of heaven, and others will receive direct healing by the power of the risen Christ. Therefore we see that some are healed by the angel disturbing the water in the pool and others are healed by Christ directly so that when the power of the Holy Spirit comes into the world at Pentecost, we are strengthened in knowledge and in power to be one body in Christ. to love and heal one another in Christ, Jesus and know that his healing power is still active in this world.

Icon for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman (courtesy oca.org)

Now before we advance to the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman there is another crucial moment in our waiting for Pentecost. As there is a Sunday of mid-Lent, with its focus on the Cross, there is also a mid-Pentecost, falling on Wednesday, which has as its focus the pouring out of the Holy Spirit as we experience the pouring out of the Living Water that is Christ, Jesus. The reading for that day comes again from the Gospel of John (7:10-24) and tells of Jesus when he went into the Temple to teach in the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles is significant because it celebrates the forty years that Moses and the Hebrew people spent in the desert. The Feast of Booths/Tabernacles is directly associated with the Passover and Hebrew Pentecost which is the Feast of the Law and is celebrated, traditionally, fifty days after Passover and marks the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. There is also a direct reference in the reading to the fact that the Temple priests seek to kill Jesus for healing the paralytic on the Sabbath. Jesus reminds them that circumcision is a part of Mosaic law, and circumcisions are performed on the Sabbath. He asks then why it is that the law would allow the act of circumcision on the Sabbath, and yet punish an act of healing for the whole body on that same day. And so we are once again reminded of the suffering and sacrifice of the Cross to heal and restore the consequences of the disobedience and ingratitude of mankind. In addition to the reference to the Law in this feast, there is yet another liturgical connection made between the Sunday of the Paralytic and the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman by associating the water from the rock struck by Moses that is celebrated during the Feast of Tabernacles, and the living water that comes down from heaven and it is reflected in the Tropar and Kontak of the feast:

Having come to the middle of the Feast, refresh my thirsty soul with streams of piety; for Thou, O Saviour, didst cry to all: Let him who thirsts come to Me and drink. O Christ our God, Source of Life, glory to Thee.  — Troparion, Tone 8

When the Feast of the law was half over, O Lord and Creator of all, Thou didst say to the bystanders, O Christ our God: Come and draw the water of immortality. Therefore we fall down before Thee and cry with faith: Grant us Thy bounties, for Thou art the Source of our Life.  — Kontakion, Tone 4

The Sunday of the Samaritan Woman is noteworthy for a number of reasons. For example, Jesus was passing through Samaria on his way to Galilee, actually to avoid a confrontation with the Pharisees in Judea who were noticing that Jesus seemed to have more followers than John the Baptist. When we arrive at Jacob’s Well—tying the new covenant back to the old—Jesus asks a Samaritan woman to give him something to drink. This is not the only place where Jesus indicates that He wants us to offer Him small, mundane kindnesses as a gesture of our regard for Him and our love. Sometimes He requests material things and sometimes he asks that we give something of our internal or spiritual selves, even if it is only refraining from some small habit of sin. He asks this of us so that we may increase the room in our hearts for Him.

Then we have a most obvious reminder that Moses brought forth water from a rock, and it quenched a temporary thirst, but Jesus comes to offer us the Water of Life because so we will never thirst again. The water that He offers becomes a wellspring within us, which we can share with others, as long as we give to Him those bits of ourselves that make room in our hearts for Him. Pentecost brings with it the Power of the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength, the means, and the place—the Church—to be filled with the water coming down from heaven.

Icon for the Sunday of the Blind Man (courtesy oca.org)

The following Sunday is the Sunday of the Man Born Blind, and here we add Light to the thematic theological symbol of Water. We are brought face to face, once more, with the Risen Light of the World, fully alive, still teaching, and illuminating the Apostles concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. A kontakion from the canon, enforces this fact:  “With eyes that are spiritually blind I come to you, O Christ and like the man who was blind since birth, I cry out to you with repentance: You are a shining Light to those who are in darkness.” This vivid association between water and light cannot help but to remind us of the power of our Baptism in water and the Spirit.

Again during Matins of that Sunday we hear: “You gave sight to the blind man who met you O Christ and you ordered him to wash in the pool of Siloam that he might see and announce your divinity which has appeared in the flesh for the salvation of all.”

And this brings us to reflect on yet another common element found in each of the three Sundays: the Paralytic, the Samaritan Woman, and the Man Born Blind. These three stories each bear the element of witness to the divinity of Jesus:

“Behold the anointed Messiah has appeared on earth. The Samaritan woman proclaimed to the town: It was written in the Law of old that a great prophet would come both God and man. He knew all my deeds. He uncovered everything hidden in the depths of my heart. The whole town ran and saw the truth of her words. They marvelled confirmed in faith by the sight.”  — Wednesday Vespers of the Week of the Samaritan Woman

“Jesus went up to Jerusalem to the Sheep Pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda…The Lord saw there a man with a chronic illness and He asked Him: Do you want to be healed?…I have spent my money on physicians and received no help from any one. The Physician of soul and body said to him: Take up your pallet and walk; proclaim to the whole world the greatness of my mercy and my might deeds.” — Monday Matins of the Week of the Paralytic

On these three Sundays of great miracles, we are to witness the divinity of Jesus to the world and the promise of Christ to send the Holy Spirit is to give to us, through the Church, the power to be and become disciples who will not hesitate to speak out in the assembly and give testimony to the glory of the Lord of Hosts.

Icon for Ascension (courtesy oca.org)

And finally we reach the penultimate feast, that of the Ascension and now we can return to Psalm 60 and the rock that is higher than I, as we take leave, liturgically, of the Paschal feast, and Jesus returns to the Father to be seated at the right hand. The Feast is full of references to mountain-tops.

“God who appeared on Mount Sinai and gave the Law to Moses the prophet is now raised up bodily from the Mount of Olives. Let us praise Him all together, for he is clothed in glory.” and then “O Christ, You raised up human nature which had been subjected to the corruption of the grave, and you exalted it by your Ascension into heaven where you glorify us with You.” — Matins of Ascension

So that the Rock that is higher than I is, in fact, Jesus, Lord, Redeemer, King.

It is also on the Feast of the Ascension during Matins that our attention is turned fully to what is to come: “O graciousness which surpasses understanding! O mystery which invokes wonder! The Master of the universe goes from earth to heaven and sends the Holy Spirit to his disciples to illumine their hearts and enkindle them with his grace. The Lord said to his disciples: Remain in Jerusalem and I will send you a Paraclete who is seated with the Father and with Me…”

Icon for the Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (oca.org)

Finally, the Sunday after the Ascension is called the Sunday of the Holy Fathers and commemorates the bishops who sat at the Council of Nicea. It is not the sanctity of individual bishops that is the focus of this feast but rather the fact that these bishops gave testament to the divinity of Christ. In this way the Sunday of The Holy Fathers carries forward the message of witnessing from the Sundays of the miracles and draws attention to the intimate relationships between and among Christ, ourselves, the Holy Spirit and the Church.

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The focus of the Feast’s readings from Acts is on Paul’s pastoral care of the flock and of the importance of teaching right doctrine and the importance of the Holy Spirit in securing the testimony of the Life of Christ and our lives in Christ: “…now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there…For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God, therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God which He purchased by His own blood.” (Acts 20:22-28)

In this way, we are prepared to address the various themes presented to us at Pentecost. We begin to see the need for the illumination of the Holy Spirit so that we have the power to be and become what Christ has asked of us here, to be witnesses to the Truth, and to go and make disciples. We begin to see that for us to do these things the Holy Orthodox Faith and Orthodox Church has been bequeathed to us as the sure path to salvation for ourselves and for all whose lives we manage to reach out and touch. We come to realize that as the Body of Christ, the Church here on earth is indeed the Rock that is higher than I.

Blessed journey into the Feast!

Editor’s Note: Mary Lanser is the leader of Holy Trinity’s Women’s Ministry. You can reach her at women@holytrinity-oca.org.