Sunday Services: Orthros-8:45 a.m. Divine Liturgy-10:00 a.m. Sunday School after Distribution of Holy Communion. Holy Day Services As announced in weekly bulletins.
Ushers:. Stamati Polles & T J Hare
Epistle Reader: Alex Graham (English) & Theo Mavridoglou (Greek)
Prosphoro: Father Andrew
Orthros starts at 8:45 am
Metropoliitan Alexis will visit Holy Trinity-Saint John Church on Sunday February 14th - Mark your calendars and plan to join us.
Please Note - Our guidelines for "worshiping in person"
Please join us on Sundays for the celebration of the Orthros 8:45 am (for those who may feel uncomfortable in a "group setting" the hour between 9 and 10 may be a good time to come to church, light a candle, pray, or leave your offfering) and Divine Liturgy 10 am as we are now "open" following the guidelines of our Metropolis and of our State of Mississippi.See the guideline details below. If you cannot join us the Liturgy will be streamed "live and in color", (streaming at 10:00 am). If you cannot attend and still want to light a candle, or make an offering and watch. Please use any of the links below
Our Facebook page click on the link below:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/269685419794311/ or go to our church web page
or go to
www.holytrinitysaintjohnjackson.org and click on the link
We are grateful to those who have contributed and continue to contribute their donations through the mail or by the two secure on-line options both of which can be found on our web page.
The light a candle say a prayer link below or the Donate Button on the bottom of the home page
There will be limited access to the church proper - the door by the Church offices will be unlocked please use this one, please note that one or both of the double doors to the Church proper will remain open, so please enter quietly. We ask that when you enter or leave please wash your hands in the appropriate rest rooms or use the hand sanitizer provided by the door as you enter the Church proper. A limited number of disposable masks will be available.
Per the guidelines - all persons are asked to wear a mask or face covering in church.
The offering tray will be on the bench as you enter the nave - you may leave your offerings as you enter the Church proper.
You may proceed to the back of the church to light a candle - for now we ask that you refrain from kissing icons, priest's hand, etc. Bowing is another way to show our reverence to icons etc. etc.
Pews have been marked with a green cross so that the proper social distancing of 6 feet between people. There are 40 seats marked so there is plenty of room that allows for social distancing. Members of the same family may sit together.
Distribution of Holy Communion - row by row and stand six feet apart in line. You may remove your mask to receive Holy Communion - allow the servers to hold the Communion cloth under your chin. But please refrain from "touching the cloth" to your lips. Please understand that our Metropolis guidelines have insisted that all priests and their adult servers that help with the distribution of Holy Communion wear face masks while doing so.
Antidoron will not be offered after Holy Communion but will be available when you leave Church and will be offered in plastic zip lock baggies. As we leave the Church please follow the directions of the ushers so that we leave in an orderly fashion and still observe the six feet rule of social distancing.
Since we are asked to avoid "gatherings" of people we ask that you avoid, at least for the time being, "the temptation" to socialize as you enter or leave the Church proper and building.
We of course will continue to live stream We hope that this will unite us as we pray, will calm our souls and bring us closer to Christ. Stay well. Thoughts and prayers for all of you
Our February Birthday List: Chuck Odom-February 2nd, Demetra Papademitriou-February 5th, Noah Wood-February 6th, Jean Hare-February 9th, Chris Valsamakis February 11th, Cari Fowler-February 17th, Monique Polles-February 20th, Theo Mavridoglou-February 21st, Nicholas Mangafakis-February 22nd, Bill Nikolis-February 25th Please let us know of any errors or omissions PLEASE LET FATHER ANDREW KNOW OF ANY ADDITIONS OR CORRECTIONS
Our Holy Trinity-St. John the Theologian Prayer List:
"Remember Lord, those whom each of us calls prayerfully to mind" Chuck Odom, Nicholas & Dianna Psaris, John Botes, Christ Castanis, George V. Pinchuk, Chris Grillis, Lambryne Angelo, Callie McDole, Malissa and Pat Zouboukos have asked that we pray for their friend Bill Hardin and their friend and neighbor Bill Spence, Paula Fowler, Victoria Lepsa (Cristina Nica's mother in Romania), Tatianna Koufopoulos Quick of Phoenix Arizona, please keep Costa Glennis's daughter Wanda Parker in your prayers, Maria Costas, Alexa Zouboukos, Dot Pavlou, Jean Hare has asked that we pray for her nephew Scot Smith, Presvitera Bonnie Koufopoulos, Sherry Wheat (Theo Mavridoglou's friend's spouse), Charlie Privett (Chris Valsamkis' friend from Aberdeen MS). Please remember to pray for our Doctors, Nurses, and all those on the frontlines during these times and for all those who may be suffering or in hardships during this pandemic.
These Saints lived during the years of Diocletian. Saint Cyrus was from Alexandria, and Saint John was from Edessa of Mesopotamia. Because of the persecution of that time, Cyrus fled to the Gulf of Arabia, where there was a small community of monks. John, who was a soldier, heard of Cyrus' fame and came to join him. Henceforth, they passed their life working every virtue, and healing every illness and disease freely by the grace of Christ; hence their title of "Unmercenaries." They heard that a certain woman, named Athanasia, had been apprehended together with her three daughters, Theodora, Theoctiste, and Eudoxia, and taken to the tribunal for their confession of the Faith. Fearing lest the tender young maidens be terrified by the torments and renounce Christ, they went to strengthen them in their contest in martyrdom; therefore they too were seized. After Cyrus and John and those sacred women had been greatly tormented, all were beheaded in the year 292. Their tomb became a renowned shrine in Egypt, and a place of universal pilgrimage. It was found in the area of the modern day resort near Alexandria named Abu Kyr.
When the most pure Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary's forty days of purification had been fulfilled, she took her first-born Son to Jerusalem on this, the fortieth day after His birth, that she might present Him in the temple according to the Law of Moses, which teaches that every first-born male child be dedicated to God, and also that she might offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons, as required by the Law (Luke 2:22-24; Exod. 13:2; Lev. 12:6-8). On this same day, a just and devout man, the greatly aged Symeon, was also present in the temple, being guided by the Holy Spirit. For a long time, this man had been awaiting the salvation of God, and he had been informed by divine revelation that he would not die until he beheld the Lord's Christ. Thus, when he beheld Him at that time and took Him up into his aged arms, he gave glory to God, singing: "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Master. . ." And he confessed that he would close his eyes joyfully, since he had seen the Light of revelation for the nations and the Glory of Israel (Luke 2:25-32). From ancient times, the Holy Church has retained this tradition of the churching of the mother and new-born child on the fortieth day and of the reading of prayers of purification.
The Apodosis of the Feast of the Meeting in the Temple is usually on the 9th of February. This, however, may vary if the Feast falls within the period of the Triodion. Should this occur, the Typicon should be consulted for specific information concerning the Apodosis of the Feast.
Yesterday we celebrated the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple; today we honor the righteous Elder Symeon and Prophetess Anna, who prophesied concerning Him by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and were the first in Jerusalem to receive Him as the Messiah.
The Saints were from Spetses, and were brothers*** and worked as importers. It was a chaotic time because the Greek revolution had been declared in 1821.
[***Note: some accounts hold that only Sts. John and Stamatios were blood brothers, and that St. Nicholas was only a friend and co-worker.]
The three brothers along with a group of another four people traveled the Aegean with their load of olive oil. Because of bad weather their boat was stranded on Asia Minor across from Chios, in the area of Tsesme. They went out where they met a Christian to whom they revealed their situation and they gave him money to buy them food and whatever they needed for the return of their small boat. He, however, as another Judas, betrayed them to the aga of the area, and after a short time the aga's men appeared. They killed two from their group as they tried to flee, another two fell into the sea, and the three brothers were seized and led to the pasha of Chios. He, after questioning them, ordered the two younger brothers, Stamatios (18) and John (22), to be locked in the darkest prison on the castle, the oldest, Nicholas, would be taken out of the castle and be beheaded.
Along the whole road they were incentivising Nicholas to convert to islam and to save his life. That blessed one responded to them: “Will I begin a new life? No, I was born a Christian and a Christian I will die, I don't deny my faith.”
And he was beheaded.
The pasha hoped to be able to get the two younger brothers to convert. He ordered two trusted men, one from Chios and one from Lazo, evil and very cunning, to go to the prison to try to get them to convert, enticing them with a lot of money.
These men tried many different methods for a week, sometimes with promises and sometimes with threats, but it did not have any effect. Finally they went to the pasha and sought permission to torture them, as their words were not having any effect, and with great courage the Saints disputed with them. The pasha, having thought for a while, told them, “these heathen are stubborn, it's easier to cut off their heads that defiance. Tomorrow they'll finally get the point.”
The Saints, locked in the prison, understood through divine revelation, that the good fight was coming to an end, called for paper and ink secretly. They wrote their confessions, and sent them with a woman named Fragisa, whose husband was also in prison and who was free to visit him, to the Bishop of Chios, and sought him to commune them. The Bishop advised them through this woman to remain steadfast in their faith, to prepare with prayer, and to not be dismayed at all before death, because Paradise was remaining for them, where they will rejoice eternally with the other martyrs.
The blessed youth heard the teachings of the Bishop from the woman's mouth, and thanked the Lord with tears, and remained in vigil all night, chanting paraklesis services to the Theotokos, to grant them strength to not be dismayed by death.
Towards dawn they slept a little, and after waking up they said to the other Christians: “O brothers, today we complete the journey of our life. We ask you to pray for the Lord to strengthen us.”
When it was day, the Bishop, through the same woman (because the priest or other Christian were unable to enter the prison), sent to them Holy Communion and with tears communed the Spotless Mysteries. They gave their fellow prisoners whatever money they had and whatever clothes of theirs that they didn't need. With this woman they send their thanks to the Bishop and some money for charity and for them to chant services for them after their death.
They were taken out of the prison with their arms bound behind them, and they were brought below the sarai. They were questioned one last time if they would convert. The Saints with a great voice responded: “We were born Christians and we will die Christians. We will never deny Christ, even if you cut us into pieces. Whatever you have to do, do it an hour sooner, don't waste your time. We will not deny our faith.”
So they were ordered to be executed.
The executioners bound them and led them outside the castle, playing with their swords in front of them to scare them. In that instant, John was dismayed and changed his mind. Seeing this, Stamatios the younger brother told him: “What happened to you, brother? Don't you remember our decision to not betray our faith? Entreat our Panagia to give you strength.” With such words, he gave strength to John.
When they reached the Vounaki valley outside of the castle, across from the execution site below the Lower Fountain, they were asked one final time if they would deny their faith. With a great voice the two of them responded and in fact said three times:
“Christian bretheren, we are Christians and we will die for Christ. We will not change our faith. Remember us O Lord in Your Kingdom.”
They beheaded them immediately. Their holy relics remained there scorned at the place of their martyrdom.
After three days the Turks convinced some Christians to take them by boat and throw them in the sea. After fours days the sea cast them back out. Thus the Chistians with great joy and reverence buried them
Saint Nicholas, Enlightener of Japan, was born Ivan Dimitrievich Kasatkin on August 1, 1836 in the village of Berezovsk, Belsk district, Smolensk diocese, where his father served as deacon. At the age of five he lost his mother. He completed the Belsk religious school, and afterwards the Smolensk Theological Seminary. In 1857 Ivan Kasatkin entered the Saint Peterburg Theological Academy. On June 24, 1860, in the academy temple of the Twelve Apostles, Bishop Nectarius tonsured him with the name Nicholas.
On June 29, the Feast of the foremost Apostles Peter and Paul, the monk Nicholas was ordained deacon. The next day, on the altar feast of the academy church, he was ordained to the holy priesthood. Later, at his request, Father Nicholas was assigned to Japan as head of the consular church in the city of Hakodate.
At first, the preaching of the Gospel in Japan seemed completely impossible. In Father Nicholas’s own words: “the Japanese of the time looked upon foreigners as beasts, and on Christianity as a villainous sect, to which only villains and sorcerers could belong.” He spent eight years in studying the country, the language, manners and customs of the people among whom he would preach.
In 1868, the flock of Father Nicholas numbered about twenty Japanese. At the end of 1869 Hieromonk Nicholas reported in person to the Synod in Peterburg about his work. A decision was made, on January 14, 1870, to form a special Russian Spiritual Mission for preaching the Word of God among the pagan Japanese. Father Nicholas was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed as head of this Mission.
Returning to Japan after two years in Russia, he transferred some of the responsibility for the Hakodate flock to Hieromonk Anatolius, and began his missionary work in Tokyo. In 1871 there was a persecution of Christians in Hakodate. Many were arrested (among them, the first Japanese Orthodox priest Paul Sawabe). Only in 1873 did the persecution abate somewhat, and the free preaching of Christianity became possible.
In this year Archimandrite Nicholas began the construction of a stone building in Tokyo which housed a church, a school for fifty men, and later a religious school, which became a seminary in 1878.
In 1874, Bishop Paul of Kamchatka arrived in Tokyo to ordain as priests several Japanese candidates recommended by Archimandrite Nicholas. At the Tokyo Mission, there were four schools: for catechists, for women, for church servers, and a seminary. At Hakodate there were two separate schools for boys and girls.
In the second half of 1877, the Mission began regular publication of the journal “Church Herald.” By the year 1878 there already 4115 Christians in Japan, and there were a number of Christian communities. Church services and classes in Japanese, the publication of religious and moral books permitted the Mission to attain such results in a short time. Archimandrite Nicholas petitioned the Holy Synod in December of 1878 to provide a bishop for Japan.
Archimandrite Nicholas was consecrated bishop on March 30, 1880 in the Trinity Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Returning to Japan, he resumed his apostolic work with increased fervor. He completed construction on the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Tokyo, he translated the service books, and compiled a special Orthodox theological dictionary in the Japanese language.
Great hardship befell the saint and his flock at the time of the Russo-Japanese War. For his ascetic labor during these difficult years, he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop.
In 1911, half a century had passed since the young hieromonk Nicholas had first set foot on Japanese soil. At that time there were 33,017 Christians in 266 communities of the Japanese Orthodox Church, including 1 Archbishop, 1 bishop, 35 priests, 6 deacons, 14 singing instructors, and 116 catechists.
On February 3, 1912, Archbishop Nicholas departed peacefully to the Lord at the age of seventy-six. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church glorified him on April 10, 1970, since the saint had long been honored in Japan as a righteous man, and a prayerful intercessor before the Lord.
Saint Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov, was born in the seventeenth century at the beginning of the decade of the thirties in Podolsk governance. He was descended from a noble family, the Polonitsky-Uglitskys. His parents were the priest Nikita and Maria. The saint was taught Christian piety in his parents’ home, and this piety remained with him throughout his life.
From childhood he was distinguished by a fervent love for God and zeal for the Church. The innate abilities of the youth came to light in the Kiev Brotherhood school at Kiev’s Theophany monastery. The school was flourishing at the end of the 1640s, when its rectors were Archimandrite Innocent (Gizel), and Igumen Lazar (Baranovich), who later became Archbishop of Chernigov. Among its instructors were: Hieromonk Epiphanius (Slavinetsky), Hieromonk Arsenius (Satanovsky), Bishop Theodosius (Baevsky) of Belorus, Igumen Theodosius (Saphonovich) and Meletius Dzik. These were the enlightened men of those days. The comrades of Saint Theodosius at the school would become future outstanding pastors: Simeon Polotsky, Joannicius Golyatovsky, Anthony Radivillovsky, Barlaam Yasninsky. The Kiev Brotherhood Theophany school was the chief center in the struggle of Orthodoxy against the assaults of Catholic clergy, particularly the Jesuits.
Saint Theodosius grew to spiritual maturity near the relics of Saints Anthony and Theodosius and other God-pleasers of the Kiev Caves, and he tried to imitate their holy life as much as he could. He devoted all his free time to prayer, meditation on God, and the reading of Holy Scripture.
It might be surmised that the saint did not finish the full course of studies, since the school ceased its activity for several years following the devastation of Podolia by the Poles. All his life the saint had a deep regard for the Kiev Brotherhood monastery where he was educated. In the Synodikon of the Kiev-Vydubitsk monastery is the following comment about Saint Theodosius: “He was a man of fine intellect, and generous to the Kiev Brotherhood monastery.”
Upon receiving his education, the future hierarch received monastic tonsure at the Kiev Caves Lavra with the name Theodosius, in honor of Saint Theodosius of the Caves (May 3).
Metropolitan Dionysius (Balaban) of Kiev made him archdeacon of Kiev’s cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) , and then appointed him steward of the episcopal household. Soon he left Kiev and went to the distant Krupitsky monastery near Baturino (in the Chernigov diocese), which was famed for its strict monastic life. There he was ordained to the holy priesthood, but remained there only a short time.
In 1662, Saint Theodosius was appointed Igumen of the Korsun monastery in Kiev diocese, and in the year 1664 he was made head of the ancient Kiev-Vydubitsky monastery. This monastery had fallen into the hands of the Uniates and Poles at the beginning of the seventeenth century and was in complete ruin. Thanks to the energy and initiative of Saint Theodosius, the Vydubitsky Mikhailovsk monastery was quickly restored.
He was particularly concerned with the order of church services. He formed an excellent choir, which was famed not only in Little Russia, but also in Moscow. Saint Theodosius sent his singers to Moscow in 1685 to instruct their choirs in Kievan chant.
As a strict ascetic himself, Saint Theodosius was concerned with the spiritual growth of his monks. He founded a small skete on the island of Mikhailovschina, not far from the monastery, for brethren wishing to live in solitude. He appointed the hieromonk Job (Opalinsky), one of the most zealous monks of his monastery, to organize and administer the skete.
Saint Theodosius had to live through some quite difficult days, enduring many sorrows. He and other Igumens were accused by Bishop Methodius of Mstislav and Orshansk of betraying Russia in a supposed correspondence with the enemies of Russia.
On September 20, 1668 Saint Theodosius explained the matter. On November 17, 1668 the lie was exposed, and Saint Theodosius together with the other Igumens were vindicated. Archbishop Lazar (Baranovich) esteemed the high spiritual qualities of Saint Theodosius and befriended him. He called him “a sheep of the flock of Christ, teaching by humility,” and he prophetically expressed the wish that the name of Saint Theodosius might be inscribed in Heaven.
When Archbishop Lazar became locum tenens of Kiev’s Metropolitan See in 1689, he appointed Saint Theodosius as his vicar in Kiev, while he remained at Chernigov. In his capacity as vicar of the locum tenens of the Kiev Metropolitan See, Saint Theodosius had an active role in many churchly events. In 1685 he participated with the right of a decisive vote in the election of Bishop Gideon (Chetverinsky) as Metropolitan of Kiev, and he was sent to Moscow with news of this event with Igumen Jerome (Dubin) of Pereyaslavl . In Moscow, both representatives were received with honor and esteem. Indeed, the result of this delegation was the reuniting of the Kiev Metropolitan See with the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1688 Saint Theodosius was appointed archimandrite of Chernigov’s Eletsy monastery, replacing the deceased Archimandrite Joannicius (Golyatovsky). In appointing Saint Theodosius, Archbishop Lazar told him to spare no effort in placing the Eletsy monastery in good order. This monastery had not yet been set aright after the expulsion of the Jesuits and Dominicans, and it was in great disorder.
Through the efforts of Saint Theodosius, in his two or three years as igumen, the monastery’s revenues and properties increased, the church of the Dormition was repaired, and the Elets Icon (February 5) was enshrined there.
In his new position, the saint also assisted Archbishop Lazar in many important matters. He participated in drafting a conciliar reply to Patriarch Joachim of Moscow in response to his questions about the attitude of the Kiev Metropolitan See to the Council of Florence, and its judgment on the question of the transformation of the Holy Gifts as accepted by this Florentine Council. When the Patriarch proved to be unsatisfied by these answers, the Baturino Igumen Saint Demetrius (the future Metropolitan of Rostov) was sent to him at the beginning of 1689. Saint Theodosius journeyed with him as the representative of Archbishop Lazar. He was entrusted with the delivery of a letter to the Patriarch, and to clear up the misunderstandings.
Because of his poor health, Archbishop Lazar wished to see Saint Theodosius consecrated to the episcopate, seeing in the saint a worthy successor to himself. On September 11, 1692 the election of Saint Theodosius as Archbishop of Chernigov was confirmed, and he was consecrated in the Dormition cathdral of the Moscow Kremlin two days later.
Little information regarding Saint Theodosius’s administration of the Chernigov diocese has been preserved. The saint worked incessantly to raise the level of true Christian piety in his flock. He also focused on maintaining old monasteries, and founding new communities.
At the very beginning of his episcopate, the the Pecheniksk women’s monastery was established with his blessing, and he himself consecrated the monastery church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
In 1694, a skete was founded near Liubech. The same year, at the Domnitsky men’s monastery, the saint consecrated a temple in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. In the summer of 1695, he consecrated a majestic temple in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos, on the summit of Boldino Hill, near the ancient monastery of Saint Elias. Under Saint Theodosius there was a special enthusiasm for and strengthening of monasticism in the Chernigov diocese.
The saint also devoted much attention to the clergy, and he tried to choose worthy candidates for the priesthood. He also encouraged the pastoral education of the Chernigov clergy. He invited learned monks from Kiev, among whom was Saint John (Maximovitch), the future Metropolitan of Tobolsk (June 10), and also a helper and successor of Saint Theodosius in organizing the Chernigov clergy school.
Strict uprightness in regard to clergy and flock, deep compassion, concern and Christian love of peace were distinguishing features in the activity of Saint Theodosius. Not only did the Orthodox turn to him for help and advice, but even persons of other confessions.
Saint Theodosius did not remain with his Chernigov flock very long. Sensing the approach of death, he summoned the administrator of the Briansk Svensk monastery, Saint John (Maximovitch), and appointed him Archimandrite of the Chernigov Elets monastery.
Saint Theodosius died on February 5, 1696, and was buried in Chernigov’s Saints Boris and Gleb cathedral church, in a special crypt near the right cleros. His successor Saint John (Maximovitch), who was healed of a grievous illness by Saint Theodosius, later placed a stone plaque over his grave with a poetic inscription in gratitude for the saint’s help. The special grace which Saint Theodosius attained is shown by his ascetic life and his assistance to all who turn to him in prayer.
As for the thrice-blessed Photius, the great and most resplendent Father and teacher of the Church, the Confessor of the Faith and Equal to the Apostles, he lived during the years of the emperors Michael (the son of Theophilus), Basil the Macedonian, and Leo his son. He was the son of pious parents, Sergius and Irene, who suffered for the Faith under the Iconoclast Emperor Theophilus; he was also a nephew of Saint Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople (see Feb. 25). He was born in Constantinople, where he excelled in the foremost imperial ministries, while ever practicing a virtuous and godly life. An upright and honorable man of singular learning and erudition, he was raised to the apostolic, ecumenical, and patriarchal throne of Constantinople in the year 857.
The many struggles that this thrice-blessed one undertook for the Orthodox Faith against the Manichaeans, the Iconoclasts, and other heretics, and the attacks and assaults that he endured from Nicholas I, the haughty and ambitious Pope of Rome, and the great persecutions and distresses he suffered, are beyond number. Contending against the Latin error of the filioque, that is, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, he demonstrated clearly with his Mystagogy on the Holy Spirit how the filioque destroys the unity and equality of the Trinity. He has left us many theological writings, panegyric homilies, and epistles, including one to Boris, the Sovereign of Bulgaria, in which he set forth for him the history and teachings of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Having tended the Church of Christ in holiness and in an evangelical manner, and with fervent zeal having rooted out all the tares of every alien teaching, he departed to the Lord in the Monastery of the Armenians on February 6, 891.
First Orthros Gospel
The Reading is from Matthew 28:16-20
At that time, the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Amen."
Prokeimenon. First Tone. Psalm 32.22,1.
Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us.
Verse: Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous.
The reading is from St. Paul's First Letter to Timothy 4:9-15.
Timothy, my son, the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and suffer reproach, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.
15th Sunday of Luke
The Reading is from Luke 19:1-10
At that time, Jesus was passing through Jericho. And there was a man named Zacchaios; he was a chief collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaios, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zacchaios stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."
I suspect that one of the reasons some do not take the Christian faith seriously today is that those who profess to be Christians do not always live out their faith with integrity. For example, many people who identify themselves as followers of Christ in our society give more time, energy, and attention to their favorite athletic teams, politicians, pastimes, entertainment, and self-centered desires of whatever kind than to living faithfully in how they treat other people. When Christians appear to live in ways that are no more virtuous than those of people without any religious faith at all, it is no wonder that some have little interest in or respect for our faith.
That is precisely why we all have a lot to learn from Zacchaeus, whose life was changed so profoundly by his encounter with Jesus Christ. No one would have had any illusions about what kind of person Zacchaeus was before the Lord entered His home. He was a traitor to his fellow Jews because he collected taxes for the Romans, who were occupying his country. He was a chief tax collector and quite wealthy because he took even more than was required from his own people. He lived in luxury from what he stole in the name of a hated foreign power. Though his way of life was about as far from God’s requirements as one could get, Zacchaeus wanted to see the Lord as He passed by. A short little man, he had to climb a sycamore tree in order to be above the crowd and get a decent view. There were probably some people in the crowd that day who would have liked to see him fall out of the tree and break his neck.
Zacchaeus certainly knew what people thought of him. So just imagine how shocked everyone must have been when the Messiah of Israel called out to this wicked man: “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Then that little tax-collector quickly went home and got ready to welcome Christ. He received Him joyfully, but others grumbled about what was happening. How could any righteous Jew, let alone the Messiah, become a guest in the home of a notorious traitor and criminal? Christ would be defiled by going into the home of such a person and presumably eating with him. He would appear to endorse theft, greed, and even the oppression of the Romans. That would be a terrible scandal that would call into question the integrity of His ministry.
In that very stressful moment, just when the crowd was seething in anger at Christ and at Zacchaeus, the tax-collector did the unthinkable: He repented of his own free will. Yes, before Christ said or did anything else, Zacchaeus repented. He accepted the truth about himself, that he was a criminal exploiter of the needy. To make things right, he gave half of what he owned to the poor and restored four-fold what he had stolen from others. In that moment, this despised and miserable man began to turn his life around. And Jesus Christ accepted the sincere repentance of this sinner, proclaiming that salvation had come to this son of Abraham, for He came to seek and to save the lost.
If we ever wanted a sign of the difference that it should make in the life of a human being to encounter Christ, this is it. Though it may be hard to see, Zacchaeus’ story is the story of us all. The Savior has appeared in our world, born and baptized for our salvation. He enters not only our world and our humanity in general, but wants to commune personally with everyone created in His image and likeness, even though we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) As He says elsewhere, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20) He comes to fulfill the purposes for which He created food and fellowship to begin with, namely, to share Himself with us, to make us participants in His eternal, blessed, and holy life that conquers all forms of human corruption and even death itself. That is His intention for each and every human being.
Even as our lives are about far more than emotion, the life which Christ shares with us is not simply about how we feel. Even as our lives are about far more than the few hours a week we spend at church, the life which Christ shares with us is not simply about what we do in time set aside for prayer. He comes to bring salvation, to bring healing and fulfillment, to every dimension of the lives of His sons and daughters. That is why the Savior became fully one of us so that we could participate fully in the life of God by grace.
Notice that Zacchaeus did not repent by saying that he had a certain kind of religious experience or would change his habits about what he did one day a week. No, he took some very practical and visible steps that required him to sacrifice what he loved most, his money and comfort. He did what justice required for the victims of his crimes and then some, returning four times as much as he had taken. And he gave half of what he had to the poor, regardless of whether he had stolen from them personally. In response to the Savior’s overwhelming mercy toward him, Zacchaeus showed that same abundant grace toward others. He not only received the Lord into his house, but into his life–from the depths of his soul to how he made his living and treated other people on a daily basis.
Could the same be said of you and me? We commune with Christ in the Eucharist in every Divine Liturgy. We personally take His Body and Blood such that He dwells in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. We dine at His heavenly banquet and receive Him into our bodies, souls, and spirits “for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.” If we think for one moment that communing with Christ is simply an ancient religious ritual or something that has merely an emotional or invisible significance, then we must think again. For to be united intimately with Christ, to be nourished by Him for the healing of our souls, must impact every dimension of who we are in this world. Salvation is not an escape from life as we know it, but its complete fulfillment. Salvation must come to our houses just as tangibly as it did to Zacchaeus’s. For through faith in Christ, we are also “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29)
One way of applying these lessons to our lives is to ask in what ways we need to open ourselves to fuller communion with Christ, to a deeper and healthier relationship with Him. Since how we treat our neighbors is also how we treat the Lord, we should ask with whom we need to make things right according to justice and then do even more for them. (Matt. 25:33ff.) If we have denied our spouses, children, and other family members the fullness of our love, we must make up for that also. We should consider what we have taken by selfishness from our neighbors, whether money, time, attention, or something else, and give it back in abundance. Like Zacchaeus, we should look for opportunities to help the poor as much as possible, regardless of whether their poverty is one of friendship, encouragement, or the resources necessary to buy food, clothing, and shelter.
We need to prayerfully consider what change is in order in our lives because of Jesus Christ’s gracious entrance in our souls. Zacchaeus is such a wonderful example of a sinner who received the Lord and became a shining beacon of holiness. He did so by deep, genuine, personal repentance that went to the heart of who he was before God and changed how he related to other people in practical ways. If we will follow his example, then we will be in intimate communion with Christ each day of our lives, always celebrating the liturgy of offering ourselves to Him in every thought, word, and deed. We will become a channel of blessing to others, and even skeptics will notice that salvation has come to our house. And then they may be so curious about what has happened that they will even climb a sycamore tree in order to get a better view.