Thursday, 3 May 2018 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast day of two of Christ’s great Apostles, counted among the Twelve. St. Philip was the Apostle renowned for his great intellect and wisdom even prior to being called by the Lord, and he was the one credited in the Acts of the Apostles for the baptism of the Ethiopian official. Meanwhile, St. James the Apostle, the one known as St. James the Lesser or St. James son of Alpheus, was relatively little mentioned in the Scriptures, but was credited with many evangelisation work in various places.

In today’s first reading, St. Paul, another Apostle spoke a testimony of his faith in the Lord, telling the faithful in the city of Corinth about how the Apostles were the beginning and the foundation of the Church, as they witnessed the events surrounding the life of Jesus, His ministry, His marvellous works and miracles, His suffering and Passion, His crucifixion and death, and then, His glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven.

In the Gospel today, the Lord also spoke to His disciples and the Twelve Apostles, about Himself, and the truth about Himself, as the Messiah and the Son of God, the One promised to all of mankind by God ever since the beginning of time. But at that time, as St. Philip uttered to the Lord, “Show us the Father”, the disciples were still unable to comprehend all the things that the Lord had shown them, despite all the deeds and miracles He had done before them.

The Lord taught them and opened their eyes, and later on, after His resurrection, He sent them the Holy Spirit, Who descended on them and dwelled in them, giving them the strength and the courage to go on with their appointed mission, preaching the Good News of the Gospel to the people all over the world. They carried on God’s truth upon the people living in ignorance and darkness, and despite the challenges they faced, they remained strong and faithful.

But as we have seen, the Apostles were not strong people at the start, and neither were they very firm in their faith. They were once also ignorant, and many of them were called by the Lord from the most undesirable of origins, at least according to the standards of the time. Some of them were uneducated fishermen of the lake of Galilee, while others were murderers and rebels, and one was a tax collector.

Yet, it was not mankind who decided what one would become, as man often looked only at the superficial matters and not at the heart and the mind. But God looked inside the heart and the mind, and He saw in the Apostles, a heart with the capacity for faith, for hope and for love. It was all these qualities which eventually allowed them to be open to God working His power and wonders through them.

Now, all of us have to realise that each and every one of us as Christians must also walk in the same path as those Apostles had walked. They dedicated their whole lives to the Lord, caring for the needs of the Church and all the faithful. All of us are also called to this same mission, as the works of the Apostles are still ongoing and not yet completed. There are still more people out there who have not yet heard of the Word of God and the Good News of His salvation.

And how do we carry on our lives from now on then? It is not by going to the streets and preach openly about God. Rather, we must be thoroughly transformed in our lives, just as the Apostles had been, in all of our words, actions and deeds, so that, others may see us and believe in God through us. We are all called to be active disciples of the Lord, living out our faith through our daily actions.

Let us all draw ever closer to the Lord, and be ever more faithful, day after day, inspired by the courage and the faith of the Apostles. Let us all seek to love the Lord ever more devoutly, and find our way to bring greater glory of God through all we do in our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 3 May 2018 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 14 : 6-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you know Me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know Him, and you have seen Him.”

Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever sees Me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

“All that I say to you, I do not say of Myself. The Father Who dwells in Me is doing His own work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do. Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in Me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father.”

“Everything you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon My Name, I will do.”

Thursday, 3 May 2018 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Thursday, 3 May 2018 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-8

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me.

(Repost) Athanasian Creed : A Profession of the True Christian Faith

(Originally posted on 2 May 2014)

The Athanasian Creed by St. Athanasius of Alexandria, the courageous and zealous defender of the faith against the heretics who refused to see the truth in Christ, that He is fully divine and man, united in one person of Jesus Christ, who as the Son is equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit as the Most Holy Trinity, One God but Three Divine Persons.

 

Text of the Athanasian Creed:

 

Quicumque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem: Quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternum peribit.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

 

Fides autem catholica haec est: ut unum Deum in Trinitate, et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur. Neque confundentes personas, neque substantiam separantes.

And the Catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.

 

Alia est enim persona Patris alia Filii, alia Spiritus Sancti: Sed Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti una est divinitas, aequalis gloria, coeterna maiestas. Qualis Pater, talis Filius, talis et Spiritus Sanctus.

For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost.

 

Increatus Pater, increatus Filius, increatus et Spiritus Sanctus. Immensus Pater, immensus Filius, immensus et Spiritus Sanctus. Aeternus Pater, aeternus Filius, aeternus et Spiritus Sanctus.

The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal.

 

Et tamen non tres aeterni, sed unus aeternus. Sicut non tres increati, nec tres immensi, sed unus increatus, et unus immensus.

And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite.

 

Similiter omnipotens Pater, omnipotens Filius, omnipotens et Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres omnipotentes, sed unus omnipotens.

So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty.

 

Ita Deus Pater, Deus Filius, Deus et Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres dii, sed unus est Deus. Ita Dominus Pater, Dominus Filius, Dominus et Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres Domini, sed unus est Dominus.

So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord.

 

Quia, sicut singillatim unamquamque personam Deum ac Dominum confiteri christiana veritate compellimur: Ita tres Deos aut tres Dominos dicere catholica religione prohibemur.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.

 

Pater a nullo est factus: nec creatus, nec genitus. Filius a Patre solo est: non factus, nec creatus, sed genitus. Spiritus Sanctus a Patre et Filio: non factus, nec creatus, nec genitus, sed procedens.

The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding.

 

Unus ergo Pater, non tres Patres: unus Filius, non tres Filii: unus Spiritus Sanctus, non tres Spiritus Sancti. Et in hac Trinitate nihil prius aut posterius, nihil maius aut minus: Sed totae tres personae coaeternae sibi sunt et coaequales.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal.

 

Ita, ut per omnia, sicut iam supra dictum est, et unitas in Trinitate, et Trinitas in unitate veneranda sit. Qui vult ergo salvus esse, ita de Trinitate sentiat.

So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

 

Sed necessarium est ad aeternam salutem, ut incarnationem quoque Domini nostri Iesu Christi fideliter credat. Est ergo fides recta ut credamus et confiteamur, quia Dominus noster Iesus Christus, Dei Filius, Deus pariter et homo est.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

 

Deus est ex substantia Patris ante saecula genitus: et homo est ex substantia matris in saeculo natus. Perfectus Deus, perfectus homo: ex anima rationali et humana carne subsistens. Aequalis Patri secundum divinitatem: minor Patre secundum humanitatem.

God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood.

 

Qui licet Deus sit et homo, non duo tamen, sed unus est Christus. Unus autem non conversione divinitatis in carnem, sed assumptione humanitatis in Deum. Unus omnino, non confusione substantiae, sed unitate personae.

Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person.

 

Nam sicut anima rationalis et caro unus est homo: ita Deus et homo unus est Christus. Qui passus est pro salute nostra: descendit ad inferos: tertia die resurrexit a mortuis.

For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead.

 

Ascendit ad in caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis. Inde venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos. Ad cujus adventum omnes homines resurgere habent cum corporibus suis; Et reddituri sunt de factis propriis rationem. Et qui bona egerunt, ibunt in vitam aeternam: qui vero mala, in ignem aeternum.

He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

 

Haec est fides catholica, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediderit, salvus esse non poterit.

This is the Catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the dispute that arose within the Church during its earliest days, when things came to head between the more conservative Jewish Christians, especially those who used to belong to the Pharisee group, and the more open-minded Christians led by the Apostle St. Paul, who wanted to reach out more vigorously to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people.

The more conservative faction demanded that all the laws and observances in the Jewish custom and tradition must be fulfilled and obeyed by all Christians, even for the Gentiles and all the non-Jewish people such as the Greeks and the Romans who did not practice many of the traditional customs of the Jews, such as circumcision and the rituals for washing and cleansing as mentioned in the Gospels and in the Old Testament.

In order to be able to appreciate better why was such a matter very important and crucial for the early Church, and why there was such a controversy and division among the faithful, we have to understand the history and the context of the cultures present at that time, which happened during the height of the Roman Empire. If we read the history prior to the time of Jesus, there had been similar controversy during the time of the Maccabeans, when the Jewish people revolted against the tyranny of the Greek rulers of the Seleucid Empire.

At that time, the Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to enforce a common culture and practice throughout his empire, and forcing the entire Jewish population to follow the customs and practices of the Greeks, such as their worship of the Greek pagan gods and idols, establishing their temples on the cities of the Jews, the sacrilege committed on the sacred places of God, including the Temple in Jerusalem, and the outlawing of circumcision, which the Greeks saw as an aberration.

Similarly, the Jews saw the customs of the Greeks as abominations, their naked actions and competitions in the gymnasiums, their clothings and their culture, their drunken revelry and many more, on top of their pagan beliefs and worship. This is compounded by the fact that the Jewish people held strongly to the belief that they were God’s chosen people, and therefore, they were superior to the pagans.

At the time of Jesus, the aftereffects of the Maccabean rebellion was still fresh in the minds of the people, when those who rejected the Greek culture and customs managed to free themselves from the shackles of tyranny of the Greeks. They became more careful and very protective of their cultures and traditions, which some identified with their independence and sovereignty as the Jewish nation.

That was why such a great trouble and conflict arose over the issues of these traditions and customs, especially because many of the Jews refused to admit that there could be a better way than following and obeying fanatically those customs and traditions, to a fault. That was when the Lord Jesus came in their midst, and reminded them of their excesses and unreasonable attachment to the laws and customs.

Why so? That is because many of those traditions and customs have been made over hundreds of years of history, in order to satisfy men’s needs and desires, rather than truly following and obeying God’s Law. As a result, enforcing those customs on the non-Jewish people became in fact, a great obstacle for those people to accept the Christian faith. I have just mentioned how the Greeks and also the Romans, whose culture was very similar to the former, abhorred certain practices of the Jews such as circumcision.

Should the Church fathers insisted that the Gentiles must follow those practices and customs, it would have made it very difficult for the people of the non-Jewish origin to follow the Christian faith, as it would have subjected them to lots of cultural stigma and difficulties, from among their own people. Instead, the Apostles, beginning with St. Paul, eventually decided that most importantly, all Christians, regardless of their origins, must believe in the basic tenets of the faith, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, and there is no other God save Him alone, and all other teachings preserved by the Church and passed on to us.

In today’s Gospel, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples about the importance of all of His faithful ones to remain united with Him, and to cling to Him, as the only source of truth. For indeed, He is the True Vine as He mentioned in the Gospel passage today. And all of us ought to be linked to Him, as one big family, as one Church, members of the same Vine, all linked to the Lord through the branches of the Vine, that is the Church.

We spoke of this unity present in the Church, because all of us are part of this unity with God. We all believe in the same faith, which our priests and bishops have received from their predecessors, and ultimately originating from the Church fathers themselves, the Apostles and disciples of Our Lord. The Apostles and the disciples of the Lord have decided what it means for us to be true Christians, by the regulations and rules they have agreed together, to be observed by all the members of the Church, no longer bound by the old laws of the Jews, but by the new Law of Christ.

However, throughout time, this unity was to be tested in various occasions, and many had failed to preserve this unity and many have faltered in trying to remain true to their faith in God. There were those who denied the truth found in the Church, or worse still, perverted those truth to attain their own selfish desires and agenda. They were the heretics who tried to snatch the souls of the faithful, down the wrong path, because they refused to listen to God’s truth or obey His words.

But there were equally many of those who wanted to protect the truth and to preserve the truth in the Church, and they strove against the heretics preaching their heresies and false ways, standing up for their true, orthodox faith in God. St. Athanasius the Great was one of them, a great defender of the faith and a faithful servant of God. St. Athanasius was the Patriarch of Alexandria who stood up for his faith against those who adhered to the heresy of Arianism.

The heresy of Arianism at that time was so serious that many among the faithful, and especially among the priests and bishops subscribed to that heresy. Having been made popular by the preacher Arius, it stated that the Lord Jesus was not co-equal or co-eternal with the Father, but merely a created being. This was a great heresy, as the Church and the Scriptures had firmly established that God exists in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Who existed since before the beginning of time and equal with one another, indivisibly bound by perfect love.

St. Athanasius firmly stood his ground against the heresiarch Arius, opposing his views and openly went against his teachings, and encouraged the faithful to stand up against his false teachings and preachings. However, there were many of those who had been swayed by the charismatic Arius, and many bishops and priests who supported his heresy. St. Athanasius had to endure challenges and difficulties, even going up against Emperors and powerful fellow bishops, as he was exiled from his See of Alexandria due to such opposition.

Nonetheless, St. Athanasius did not give up or shrink away due to all of these opposition against him. He continued to campaign and work zealously against the false teachings of the heretics, and his firm views and orthodox faith can be seen this very day in the version of the Creed which the holy saint himself composed, the Athanasian Creed, a much more comprehensive version of the Nicene Creed, specifically crafted to condemn the false teachings of heretics.

Many souls have been saved because of the works of this holy saint, and because of all that he has done, he has preserved the unity of many of the faithful with the True Vine, that is Christ. The devil knows that if he is to be successful in getting the souls of the faithful, he must strike at those who work hard to preserve the unity of the Church. That was why he was so persistent on his attacks against St. Athanasius, as well as the many other devoted servants of God, working tirelessly to keep the faithful from the ravenous fangs of the devil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, having heard of the developments of our faith and how we have come together as one Church, no longer divided by customs or racial identity, but as one people together before God, let us all realise of the obligations that we have, to serve the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. This is what we need to do, that is to walk in the footsteps of the Apostles and the saints, particularly remembering the hard work of St. Athanasius the Great, our holy predecessor.

Let us all therefore do our best, working together as part of one united Church, that we may be exemplary in all of our actions, words and deeds, carrying out our lives filled with God’s love and grace. Let us all do our best, in everything we do, so that we may inspire many more people, even those who are still living in sin and away from God, as the reflections of God’s light in this world, that they too, may turn towards the Lord because of us, and be saved. May the Lord be with us all, and may through the intercession of St. Athanasius, our good works in Him will bring greater glory to God and His Name. Amen.