"You watched over humankind in many ways through the depth of Your love:... "You worked mighty signs through Your saints who were pleasing to You in every age. You spoke through the mouths of Your servants, the prophets, promising the salvation to come; You gave humankind the Law to aid them, You set angels over them as their guardians." ANAPHORA

New Vision ~ Living the Gift

   Our baptism brings an amazing familiarity with God. We are made sharers in God's own life, members of His family. Every time we address God as "Our Father," we acknowledge that our entire life depends on God.
   Living in the awareness of our dependence is the basis of living in faith. Our lives are constant revelations of the love and wonders of God toward us.
   The comic section of the Sunday newspaper often contains great wisdom. In the "Family Circus" the little girl explains to her baby brother that: "Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a GIFT. That's why it's called the present."
   Have we really opened the GIFT that is today? Do we merely move along throughout our days as if on a moving walkway leaving the years behind? Faith is a present because it is a presence. God Is with Us!
   Our lives consist of many "little" things: little events, tasks, encounters and surprises. Although we often see spectacular happenings on TV, our own lives seem mostly hum-drum. But, is there really such a thing as an "ordinary" life or do we just lack the vision to see the mystery hidden in the ordinary?
   Living in faith gifts us with the vision to see that the divine is present in the human. Faith sees something hopeful happening in our daily encounters. Faith opens up aspects of love shining through our hidden behavior. Faith reveals divine gifts: treasures waiting to be discovered in the mundane.
   God Is with Us remains the heart of faith. God loves and liberates us now, just as He did at the Exodus and throughout the history of the Chosen People. All God did then, He is willing to do now for all of us who, like Moses, are walking the journey of faith. God is the One who is present ~ God is our treasure.
   The history of the Chosen People, summarized beautifully in our Liturgy of St. Basil, is a continuing saga of learning that God is with them:
   "You watched over humankind in many ways through the depth of Your love:... You worked mighty signs through Your saints who were pleasing to You in every age. You spoke through the mouths of Your servants, the prophets, promising the salvation to come; You gave humankind the Law to aid them, You set angels over them as their guardians" (Anaphora).
   The experience of Israel also shows God's presence found in the midst of our daily living. God is meeting us in our history, in the fabric of our lives. We do not need to escape time and history in order to experience God. God is with us where we are. Our history is a theophany ~ a manifestation of God's presence.
   The feast of Theophany celebrates the manifestation of the Holy Trinity as Christ is immersed in the Jordan River. Inviting Christ to be immersed in the ebb and flow of my life allows the Father who creates, the Son who redeems, and the Holy Spirit who sanctifies, to be manifested anew.
   Living in faith allows all the baptized ~ special, fragile, unique creations ~ to know deep within, that because of faith, love is stronger than pain. Love has more power that death. And most of all... God loves. All that you know of loving shows you God ~ the greatest gift of faith.

Why? Why? Why?
by Sister Helena Paskevich, SSMI

   Several years ago I visited a young woman in a Philadelphia hospital. Her brother, Father Ted, and I are good friends. I was meeting Father Ted's only sister, Sophie, for the first time. I felt, however, that we had been friends forever since Father Ted spoke so often to each of us about the other. I am a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate and Father Ted and I were Theology students together. During coffee break, Father Ted told me about his sister's hospitalization and asked me to visit.
   The circumstances were very difficult. This young mother of three small children, the oldest just turned seven, was dying from a cause no one could pinpoint. Sudden weight loss and chronic fatigue led Sophie to seek medical advise. After months of tests and procedures that furthered the damage to her small, frail body; there was no apparent reason why her vital organs were not functioning properly. Everything within her was slowly shutting down without any discernible reason.
   The afternoon that I arrived, the doctors had just finished cutting the bottoms of her feet in order to inject some dye that they would view as it traveled throughout her body. Sophie's chief concern was for her husband and their children. Her physical pain was extreme as I tried my best to comfort her. I will never forget what she said to me: "Sister, I can't ask God why He is sending me this suffering. I can't ask Him why I'm dying at this young age. I can't ask that now, because I never asked God "why" when He blessed me with good parents, a wonderful brother, a good husband, three beautiful, healthy children. I can't ask "why me" now, when I experience this cross." Amid all the suffering, the peace in Sophie was tangible and pervasive.
   As I left the hospital room, I suddenly realized that God was present and acting powerfully in all our lives. When do I question God? Do I feel that I have a "right" to a trouble-free existence and God should fulfill my "happy-ever-after" demands? Am I truly grateful for the blessings I enjoy? Do I blame my blessings on God? Do I credit God only with that which is painful and difficult in my life?
   That evening I came up close to the front of the church and prayed before the icon of Christ, the Lover of Humankind, on the icon screen. My heart was filled with so many questions for Sophie and her family, for Father Ted and for me. I asked for the grace of peace and an understanding heart.
   Slowly in the presence of the compassionate, loving Christ, I realized that the hand of Christ was raised gently in a blessing. A blessing for me, and for my friends. Jesus wants to truly be Lover of all of us. I was gifted with faith, a grace I didn't directly ask for because I didn't realize my need. This gift of faith, a new vision through the eyes of Christ, brought me peace and understanding. The blessing of Christ opened my eyes to see that all God does, is done in love. Everything joy, pain, health, suffering, comes to us at the hands of a loving, caring God who desires always to bless us.
   Living in faith took on a new meaning for me that evening as I prayed before the icon. God is truly with us; guiding us, forming us so that our lives may reflect His love.
   At this writing, some 15 years later, I am happy to report that as mysteriously as whatever it was that ravaged Sophie's body appeared; it just as mysteriously disappeared. Today Sohie enjoys good health as she prepares for the birth of her first grandchild.

"I Believe..." Living Our Faith

   Faith is indeed a precious gift of God to us, His creatures. When we willingly accept it and acknowledge it, we find ourselves in contact with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. we experience an encounter that will lead us to a commitment to proclaim what great and wonderful works the Blessed Trinity has revealed to us for our salvation. These truths are beautifully expressed in a profession of faith called a creed which gives us the essentials of our Christian belief.
   The creed that we recite in the Divine Liturgy is called the Nicene Creed. It came into existence in the early centuries of the Church as a result of the theological disputes about the relationship of the Son, Jesus Christ with His heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit. The Creed, though it is Trinitarian in nature, centers on and particularly professes our faith in the salvific acts of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By reciting it, we, faithful Christians, make a commitment to be in Christ. There is no more exemplary dedication of oneself to the redeeming Christ than the martyrs who went to their cruel deaths, or languished and suffered in prisons or concentrations camps, professing their faith.
   Let me tell you a true story about a group of recent confessors and the Creed. During the communist regime, a group of Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate were arrested and deported in high summer from Ukraine to a prison camp, somewhere in Siberia. They arrived in a camp recently built, but not as yet completed for winter living. They were ordered to finish the inside of the building to protect themselves from the harsh Siberian winter. They stuffed all the openings with mud and moss.
   While the Sisters worked, they prayed aloud their community prayers, the rosary, and other prayers. The supervising guard ordered them to stop their praying. When he was not in sight they continued. Again and again, he shouted his orders to stop. But when he left, they prayed again.
   Frustrated by the Sisters' continued prayer, the guard decided to make an example of them by displaying to the entire camp the consequence of disobedience. The guard ordered everyone in the camp, about 15,000 prisoners to gather in the main courtyard.
   At the appointed time the guard ordered the Sisters to stand at the far end of the courtyard. He gave them one last chance. The Sisters had to agree to stop praying, renounce their vows and reject the Church before he finished the cigarette he was smoking. That, or he would order vicious attack dogs to kill them.
   As the guard ceremoniously stamped out his cigarette, he ordered the dogs to attack. The dogs charged in the direction of the Sisters who had fallen on their knees and began to recite the Creed, professing their faith in the Holy Trinity.
   When the dogs came within a short distance of the Sisters, they stopped, and fell down on their fours, and began to whine. The crowd witnessing this began to cheer and took up the recitation of the Creed. The guard humiliated, went back to his quarters, losing face before the prisoners. Thereafter he never again forbade the Sisters from living their faith.
   Like the good Sisters, we, too, should pray the Creed, determined to be faithful to our salvific Lord. We likewise ought to affirm the words found in the Liturgy litanies: "Through the prayers of the Mother of God, let us commend ourselves and our whole life to Christ our God." This is truly the beginning of living our faith.

Grandma's Lap
   Anna grew up in a small village. Her father always lead the Blessing before Meals in her family. Each evening the Blessing would end with these words: "Come, O God, be our guest and bless what You have provided."
   Anna couldn't understand why her daddy invited God to be their guest every night, but God never showed up! Anna questioned her daddy one evening and was told that she was to wait, as God would never refuse their invitation.
   Anna pondered this situation and her daddy's response all during the next day. Immediately after the prayer that evening, Anna asked: "If we expect God to come and have dinner with us, why don't we set a place for Him at the table?" Her father reflected for a moment; then to satisfy Anna, promptly set another place at the table.
   Just then a knock came at the door. When they opened the door, a strong wind swept through the house. After it died down, standing at the door was a poor, homeless, hungry, little child shivering in the cold.
   Anna thought for a moment and said to her family, "I guess God couldn't come tonight, so He sent this poor child to take His place."
   The empty place at the table was filled.

A Training Program For Christians
   Do all you can to come to know God. Learn how he wants his followers to live.

   Participate in the Divine Liturgy. Listen carefully to God's Word. Receive the Eucharist and ask Christ to make you strong for your life. Seek forgiveness often. Ask Christ to heal you and help you to grow strong.

   Pray to God living within you. Listen to God speaking to you through the Holy Scriptures, the Church, your family and friends, and within the center of your very being. Ask for the grace to do whatever the Holy Spirit asks.

   Obey the commandments. Be ready to tell others that you follow Christ. Try every day to be more Christ-like. Show God's love and care to all you meet. Be kind and loving to others even when it is difficult. Try to help people who are poor, sick, and lonely. Be concerned about suffering people all over the world. Try to be a peacemaker.

Friendship With God

   Friendship means a lot to me. In fact, the beauty and delight of my life are the friendships I have shared through the years. I believe that human friendships are reflections of the friendship between God and people.
   I shudder to think where I would be without the kind advice, counsel and sometimes just casual conversation of loving friends. At times when I need to discern properly my next steps in the adventure of life, a friend may say something simple like: "How will this change your life a year from now, or five, or ten?" Such reflection causes me to place many things in proper perspective.
   Often I have tried to analyze what makes a friend. I think the first thing that sets friends apart from a group is the fact that they are positive people, builder-uppers rather than knocker-downers. For example, when I tell a friend about some ill-advised thing I've done, I usually don't want agreement; I want consolation. I already know I've made a mistake and I don't need to be reminded that "if only you had listened." Rather I need a friend who will lend me a shoulder to cry on and remind me of the times I was a smashing success.
   Friends usually don't compete. In fact, they enjoy each other's successes as much as their own. Oh, there may be hard-fought tennis matches, or long discussions about exactly who bakes the best apple pie. But this sort of competition is for the fun of competing - not to prove one person better than the other.
   Friends stick around when your life goes haywire. We all have times when our health is poor or our work is difficult, when everything we touch falls apart. These are the times when the telephone doesn't ring, when people stop calling - unless you have friends. A friends calls simply to be with you, for you, regardless if the news will be good or bad. A friend cares about you - and not just the good times you share. Actually it is being able to share the bad times that causes a true friendship to deepen and grow.
   Another quality of a true friend is unquenchable optimism. Friends share their vision so that in our darkest moments we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They lighten our burden so that we can have faith to believe that everything is going to be - if not wonderful - at least all right once more.
   The best quality of friendship it seems to me, is the ability to make another person feel that they have the possibility to be better: a wiser, holier, more creative individual. In other words, friends are able to make you feel better about yourself because they are with us and for us.
   Prayer brings us into friendship with God. God is for us and with us. Have we spoken with God ~ heart to heart lately?

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