Why do the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches celebrate the assumption of Mary? It turns out, it’s because of Easter.
But Easter has to do with Jesus, and this feast day is about Mary, right? As with all celebrations of the Saints, of course, it’s Jesus who shines through them to receive the highest and ultimate praise. When we depict the Saints in our iconography, they have a halo around their heads; that halo is the light of Christ shining out of them. They have surrendered their old life, the mere life of bios—biological life—in exchange for zoe, the divine life that is God himself, united to human nature in Jesus Christ, and shared now with all his brothers and sisters, if they will receive it. Those who shine through with that light most brilliantly, who have evidenced to the Church that their lives are full of the Christ-life, we call Saints.
And so a feast day for a Saint is never really just about that Saint. It’s always about Christ who that Saint conforms to. There are some Christians who think of the Kingdom of heaven as a zero sum game, where any praise a Saint gets is praise that God isn’t getting. But that’s not how the Kingdom works at all. Christ glories in his Saints, and his Saints glory in him. Christ’s glory is not diminished when we celebrate those who belong to him; just the opposite—his glory increases. And so let’s look to Mary, and see how she increases her Son’s glory.Continue reading →
The annual cycle of seasons — of solstices and equinoxes, of agricultural death and rebirth, of the changing raiment of the trees, and of the migrations of animals — is an inescapable feature of existing on the planet Earth. Even at the equator where the Earth’s tilt makes astronomical changes like solar solstices or changing constellations not as noticeable, there are still yearly cycles of rainy and dry seasons brought about by shifting global weather patterns. From the dawn of humanity to the present, it’s safe to say that all human life is profoundly shaped by the repeating time-scale of the Year. Continue reading →
Christ delivering Adam, Eve, and other righteous souls in prison (1 Pet. 3:19, 4:6).
The most famous sermon ever preached in Christian history has to be the one given by St. Peter to the multitude on Pentecost, as recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The second most famous sermon, however, must be one given three hundred years later by St. John Chrysostom on Pascha (Easter) morning at the great midnight vigil. But St. John’s sermon has the distinction of enjoying an ongoing career as a living homily still preached every Easter in hundreds, probably thousands, of churches across the world at their midnight vigils. The words of the homily are timeless and universal, and they magnificently describe the truth of Easter: Continue reading →
After observing Lent, and especially the last days of Holy Week, it’s absolutely amazing how exciting the arrival of Easter is. At The Advent, we had a service every night of Holy Week, including a vigil at 11:30 Saturday night in order to celebrate the Resurrection literally first thing in the morning. By the time of our vigil, the mounting anticipation was intense. I was weary from fasting and annoyed at my own shortcomings that the fast had revealed. The powerful Good Friday service the day before had forced me to experience our Lord’s death in new ways. The fact that Saturday itself is part of Holy Week — the fact that I had to observe it too, to think about Jesus’ cold body lying in the dark on a slab, me hiding uncomfortably with the scattered disciples — made me want to jump ahead to the resurrection I knew about from history. The emotions that kept bubbling up didn’t match my circumstances, like when a sad dream affects the tone of the next day. Continue reading →
This is the most paramount time in the liturgical calendar. The season of Lent has led us to Holy Week. Holy Week has overlapped our time with Jesus’ last week of ministry in Jerusalem, bringing us to the night he broke bread, washed feet, and was betrayed, and finally to Friday, the day he was murdered. In order to make present the day, events, and sorrow of Jesus’ execution, Trinity held a Good Friday service with somber songs and scripture readings yesterday. The focal scripture was from the book St. John wrote. His account shows us not only specific events in a place and a time, but also the fulfillment of a story that began…in the beginning. Continue reading →