Life of St. Mary
Her Pious Parents
Joachim and Hannah, his wife, were both pious from the house of David (Luke 1:27) of the tribe of Judah. Both were regularly worshiping, and well advanced in years with no child. Archangel Gabriel appeared in a dream to Joachim, announcing that his wife will have a child who will please his heart. Hannah believed this vision when she heard it, and this vision was fulfilled by the birth of St. Mary. As a devoted virgin, she entered the temple at the age of three to live the life of ministry, devotion and worship among the other devotees at the women’s court. She lost her parents before leaving the temple at the age of 14 when the Lord chose her to be the mother of the Word incarnate. She was betrothed to St. Joseph, since it was not allowed to stay at the temple after this age.
The Lord blessed them with another daughter afterwards, and they called her Mary, like her sister who became a devotee for the temple. This Mary became the wife of Clopas or Alphaeus (John 19:25). She is also the mother of James, Joses, Judas, Simon and their sisters (Mark 6:1-3) who were called the brothers of Jesus. James and his brother Judas (Judas1:1), whose surname is Labbaeus or Thaddaeus (Luke 6:13-16; Matthew 10:3; Acts 1:13) were among Jesus’ disciples.Continue reading…
He Appeared to Peter
Denial and repentance
The Lord who knows the weakness of mankind knew that Peter, His enthusiastic and zealous disciple, would betray Him three times within a few minutes in front of a servant girl with other servants, and not in front of dangerous authorities. Thus, He warned him saying, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Lk 22:31,32). Peter, being self-confident much more than in his weakness, responded saying, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death” (Lk 22:33). He was confident in himself, in his love to God, in his steadfastness, and that he was the most steadfast among all the disciples. Therefore, he argued with the Lord when He said, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times”. But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”… and they all said likewise (Mk 14:30,31; Matt 26:34,35).
Maybe Peter thought that denying Christ is impossible for him, or may be, through humility, he may think that he could fall in other sins - but not this one, he did not believe that he could reach this level. Who could think that this great saint could deny Him? He who was praised by the Lord when he declared the divinity of Christ by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:17-19); received the authority of binding and loosing sin as one of the twelve (Matt 18:18); was considered as one of the pillars of the church (Gal 2:9); who was full of zeal and enthusiasm, who cut the ear of the high priest’s servant to defend Christ a while ago (Jn 18:10)… Could he deny Christ?! If this saint denied, shouldn’t we humble ourselves?! Shouldn’t we feel that we are not stronger than those who fell and be watchful? If there were times we didn’t fall it was because God was and is always supporting us, so we should realize that it wasn’t because of our personal power, capabilities and resistance. Let us say with the Psalmist. “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side… then they would have swallowed us alive… Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth” (Ps 124:1,2,6).Continue reading…
His Holiness Pope Kyrillos the 6th wrote to one of his spiritual sons saying:
Because it is a fact of life that a man will go through different temptations and spiritual wars, God arranged Fasting to deal with temptation and spiritual wars. As God commanded his people in the Old Testament to fast, He also commanded us in the New Testament to fast as the Lord said, “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards He was hungry” (Matt. 4:2) The faithful is a soldier in the spiritual wars, our weapon, we the Christians is prayer and fasting.
As a horse got a bridle, the body also has to overcome its lusts and pleasures. This is what the apostle says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if the Spirit leads you, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Gal. 5:16-24)Continue reading…
The appearance at the sea of Tiberias
The location: The sea of Tiberias
The sea of Tiberias is the Sea of Galilee, or the sea of Gennesaret (= The paradise of joy)... St. John called the Sea of Galilee after the city of Tiberias, which is a new city on the Sea of Galilee, as a capital of the region; it was a great, but lustful city; which Herod had built to himself when he was tetrarch of Galilee.
St. John did not mention when the disciples returned from Jerusalem to Galilee as the Lord commanded them after His resurrection... but he said "After that" to connect between the appearances of Christ in Jerusalem right after His resurrection and this appearance in Galilee.
The witnesses of the appearance
They were seven disciples... five of them were known, and were among the twelve. St. John mentioned Peter with Thomas first, and then he mentioned himself and his brother in a way that shows self-denial "the sons of Zebedee", at the end of the list after Nathanael.Continue reading…
How to Prepare a Sermon
Many of us are servants in our churches or from time to time are asked to prepare a lesson for a Sunday School class or a youth meeting or any of the many activities in our church. The question than becomes, “How can I prepare something that will benefit my audience, attract and keep their attention, and will be something that they can remember and reference later on?” To answer this question, we will look at the example of one of the most famous sermons recorded in the Bible-the sermon of St. Stephen before his martyrdom.
St. Stephen was a man of great character. He is described in the book of Acts as a man “Full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” In fact, while he was just beginning his sermon, the people who were listening to him compared his face to that of an angel. St. Stephen most likely had no time to prepare for this sermon because he was dragged into the streets for his impromptu trial, but because he was filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, his words were strong.Continue reading…