"Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." Joel 2:28 (quoted by Peter following the Descent of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:17)
Hear Bishop Kurt's message (here) for the Sunday of All Saints provided by God With Us Online and how the Holy Spirit at Pentecost prepares us to be Saints.
Today the Virgin is present in the Church And with the choirs of saints, Invisibly prays to God for us.
The angels worship with the hierarchs,
The apostles rejoice with the prophets;
Because the Theotokos prays for us to the eternal God.
Origin of Icon
On Sunday, October 1 of the year 911, St. Andrew the Fool for Christ and his disciple Epiphanius had a vision in the Church of the Blachernae in Constantinople. The Mother of God escorted by St. John the Forerunner and St. John the Beloved Disciple entered into the Church. She stopped at the ambo where she knelt and prayed fervently. She then proceeded to the altar where she prayed again, then removed her veil and spread it out as a sign of protection of the City.
Description of this Pokrov Icon
This exquisite antique icon is in the Heritage Center of the Eparchy of Passaic. The Mother of God is in the center of the icon with her veil spread out as a symbol of her motherly protection of the city, and her arms raised in the “orans” posture, the prayer posture of the early Christians. Above her is Jesus Christ blessing with his right hand and holding a book in his left hand.
Starting from the center of the icon and moving outwards to our left, in the middle row, St. Michael the Archangel is closest to the Theotokos, then St. John the Forerunner (the Baptizer), then St. Peter the Apostle, St. Paul the Apostle. Above St. Michael is St. Uriel the Archangel, and next to him is St. Basil the Great, then St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom (not the usual portrayal of him).
Starting from the center of the icon and moving outwards to our right, in the middle row are St. Gabriel the Archangel, St. John the Theologian (the Evangelist and Beloved Disciple), St. James the Apostle, and the Holy Prophet Elijah. Above St. Gabriel is St. Barachiel the Archangel, then the Monks St. Zosimus, St. Savvaty, and St. Sergei.
On the bottom row, St. Romanos the Melodist is in the center of the icon. Moving outwards to our left, the one closest to St. Romanos is the Patriarch St. Gennadius, then Emperor Leo the Wise and his wife Zoë.
Moving in the other direction from the center next to St. Romanos is St. Andrew the Fool for Christ pointing to the Theotokos for the benefit of St. Epiphanios his disciple. Finally, in the lower corner of the icon is the Mother of God appearing to St. Romanos while he was asleep, bringing him healing and his vocation as a songwriter.
The Year of Our Lord 2022
Bishop Kurt Burnette
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
My dear friends,
This year at Christmas, a major part of our brothers and sisters in the Byzantine Catholic Church, or as we are called in Europe, the Greek Catholic Church, are living in a country at war with enemy missiles and war jets and the new horror--deadly drones flying overhead. Under these skies, they are taking time, as we are, to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. We call Him the Prince of Peace because the most high God Himself, speaking through his prophet Isaiah told us, He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
On Christmas Day, one hundred and fifty eight years ago, war was raging here in the United States. Henry Longfellow was seated by the bed of his severely wounded son Charles, and did not know if his son would live. Hearing the bells from the churches, Longfellow wrote his painful poem asking, how can we sing “Peace on earth, good will to men!”, and how can we call Jesus “The Prince of Peace”? After all, the United States was almost entirely Christian, many of the settlers came expressly to practice their Christian faith without interference. Yet in a war entirely of their own making, six hundred thousand Americans died at the hands of each other. Longfellow writes, “and in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men!’” Yet he says in the last verse that in the persistent peal of the bells, more loud and deep, he heard the words, “God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men!”
A century and a half later, the Christmas bells draw us back to our churches, where we renew our Faith and our Hope by the grace of almighty God. We come together, and in the singing, surrounded by beautiful icons—windows into heaven, our prayers for peace rise up with the incense to the throne of God. We confess our own sins and ask for mercy, and ask God to touch the hearts of others who are most in need of His mercy.
We renew our Faith that tells us these truths: we are each made in the image and likeness of God. We each share by our very creation in God’s beauty, in His justice, in His power to create, in His power to love, and in His power to forgive. God is the master of history, not the men who seem powerful in this world. And at the end, God will judge the living and the dead, each one according to his or her works. The Last Word belongs to God.
We renew our Hope because Jesus Christ conquered death and conquered sin and evil. Our Christian Hope is about the present and the future. Speaking again through His prophet Isaiah, God says, though your sins are as scarlet, I will make you as white as snow. Jesus said, I go ahead of you to prepare a place for you; my Father’s house has many mansions. At every Divine Liturgy, we profess openly our Hope: I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. So be it.
Finally, as we are drawn to church by the bells of Christmas, we ask God to renew our Charity, our Christian Love. As God loved us, even in our sins, He took on our flesh and was born of a woman. We ask for the grace to love each other, sinners as we are, and even pray for our enemies as Jesus taught us. The Prince of Peace told us, if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Even the nonbelievers do that. I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
See! Your King comes to you, humble and welcoming. Just as the angels in the sky invited the shepherds in the field to come worship the new born King in his humble state, we hear the church bells and hasten to our churches to adore the new born child in his mother’s arms. The flesh and blood that He took from His mother, He gives to us in our Holy Communion this Christmas Day.
My prayer for each of you, my dear friends, is this: that you find Christ in your heart and make him your King in the throne of your soul. That He give to you this Christmas a renewed Faith in His particular love for you. That He renew your Hope in His plan for you and renew your Hope in your heavenly reward. And that He reignite in your heart the Divine Love which conquers hate and darkness. May your New Year be a year of light, joy, and peace—peace in your heart, peace in your family, peace with your friends, and peace in the world.
Come to us, oh Prince of Peace!