The Beheading of John the Baptist.

"It is not Lawful for You…" (Mark 6:14-30).

Everything indicates that we are fast becoming an "anything goes" generation. A student newspaper in one of our large colleges stated recently that sexual freedom is similar to freedom of religion and of speech, that is, a matter of individuality subject only to private standards of conduct. Every man must decide for himself what is right and what is wrong!

A much-married Hollywood actress said some time ago, "All right, all right! I had a baby outside of marriage. It’s not the first time it happened to a woman. But if two people love each other and are happy, is not that what counts?" And when a Hollywood actress makes a statement on a matter of morals, quite a number of people accept it as Gospel truth, the very word of inspiration.

This morality — it seems — is based on what everybody is doing. Right and wrong have come to be based on a study of statistics. If everybody is doing something, then it cannot be wrong; it has to be right. So it becomes a standard. A century ago Harriet Martineau wrote that the worship of public opinion was the established religion of America. Perhaps this is true. Perhaps this is why the "new morality" has caught on so quickly. It is based not on Christ but on public opinion, not on divine law but on a study of what everybody’s doing.

Making our own Laws.

According to this "new morality" there is no real, objective standard of right and wrong. The rules are constantly changing as the statistics change or as the circumstances change. So there are millions of people today, gifted with at least average intelligence, who appear to assume that there are rules for everything except life itself. There are rules in baseball, football, tennis, basketball, and hockey. There are rules in chemistry, biology, astronomy, physics, and engineering, but there are no rules for life except what we decide on. It is as if each football player makes his own rules! As if each chemist says, "I’ll make my own laws for chemistry." The "new morality" makes life like a football game where the players have moved the goal posts around so much that no one knows for sure where they are any more.

An example of what this "new morality" leads to is found in a letter to Ann Landers. A person told of how after 15 years of marriage, two couples, one with 2 children, the other with 3, decided to switch partners. So they divorced and married each other’s partner. He went on to explain what happened to these persons, "... the other man committed suicide two years later. His widow (my ex-wife) has been remarried twice since then. My marriage went on the rocks two months later because my wife (the ex-wife of the man who committed suicide) decided it was all her fault. She drove me crazy with her self-incrimination, and we got a divorce. The last I heard she was in a mental hospital.

"I have remarried and am happy now, but I don’t feel I deserve to be happy because of what has happened to the rest of the foursome."

God’s Unchangeable Law.

This, then, is the "new morality." The Gospel lesson speaks of the old morality — God’s morality! John the Baptist had told Herod the ruler, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife." This was God’s law. John the Baptist did not compromise God’s law. He did not say, "Perhaps it would be better for you if you did not take your brother’s wife." He said in no uncertain terms, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife." St. John paid for this with his head. But he could not do otherwise. As a prophet he had to proclaim God’s unchanging law.

A British chaplain, Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, said once, "If God exists and has spoken to us, then the facts he has revealed to us are no more capable of private interpretation than the facts, say, of aerodynamics." He went on to say, "When I became a pilot I had to learn the laws of aerodynamics and went to a training school with the authority to teach me. There I expected and found teachers to give me the facts — not their own personal ideas."

On all other matters, we will readily submit to authority, but on the science of God some people rate no authority higher than their own individual conscience. So each man decides for himself what is right and what is wrong, what is law and what is not law — something they would never think of doing in science or anywhere else but religion.

There are many opinions on any matter, but there is only one truth. Sometimes people prefer to worship the 99 opinions of men, be they actors, actresses, scientists or whatever, rather than the one unchanging truth of God.

Bishop Fulton Sheen said once, "Sins do not become virtues by being widely practised. Right is still right if nobody is right, and wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong. Some have contended that sex aberrations are as common as the common cold, but nobody has so far asked us to consider the cold normal and desirable."

Times Change.

There are those who insist that since times change and customs change, the moral code should also change. It should be revised until it conforms to prevailing practices. What these reformists fail to recognize is that everything else may change but basic moral principles do not change. If we are to have a standard, it must be absolute or it is no standard at all. If God has spoken in Christ, then what He has said is eternally and absolutely true in all circumstances, for at all times and for all people. "It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife."

Amending God’s Commandments.

There are others who wish to do away with God’s laws by amending the Ten Commandments to read:

"Thou shalt not steal… ordinarily"

"Thou shalt not kill… ordinarily"

"Thou shalt not commit adultery … ordinarily"

Everything depends on the situation, they say. There are some situations in which stealing and killing and adultery are morally right. Each person decides in each situation what is right and what is wrong. Thus, man does not need the Ten Commandments any more. He doesn’t even need God. He has made himself god. And this is what has put terror in life’s face today — man wanting to be god and acting like the devil. The result is that we have more delinquency, crime and lawlessness than ever before.

These same advocates of the "new morality" insist that there are no laws but the law of love. But they never define love. They seem to forget that God’s laws are an expression of His love. Christ did not do away with the Ten Commandments. He "came not to destroy but to fulfill the law." Love is the basis for each of the Ten Commandments. I love God, so I do not worship other gods or take His name in vain. I love my neighbor, so I do not steal from him, seduce his wife or lie to him. Law expresses what love demands. The Ten Commandments are God’s way of defining in practical terms how true love is expressed. Without the Ten Commandments each individual is called upon to decide for himself what love is, like the student who killed a coed because, he said, he loved her too much!

An old proverb says, "He who will not heed the stars, shall heed the rocks." God’s laws are like the stars or the signs on our highways. They are there to help us reach our destination. They guide us. They point out danger spots. They tell us the maximum safe speed on curves. They tell us when it is safe to pass and when not. God has placed similar signs on the road of life for much the same reason. He has placed them there out of his great love and concern for us. Through them He points the way to salvation, to peace and happiness. To break God’s laws is to break ourselves. To follow them is to find the meaning and the purpose and the contentment that God has intended us to find in life.

But there are not only signs and laws. There is the law-giver Himself: the Lord Jesus. If we will take Him with us into our life, follow His guidance, obey His direction, become His willing slaves, He will lead us to the only true contentment of the soul.

The Dormition of the Theotokos.

The Simplification of Life (Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28).

"But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.’ (Luke 10:41-42).

We’re all a bit like Martha: Jesus came for dinner and Martha spent the whole time in the kitchen with the pots and the pans "anxious and troubled about many things" while her sister Mary sat in the living room listening to Jesus. "Mary has chosen the good portion which shall not be taken away from her," said Jesus. Lots of women will never forgive Jesus for his gentle chiding of Martha. But all He was saying is that we can clutter our lives unnecessarily with so many things that we lose sight of the main purpose.

Anxious about many things.

Man is a wanting animal. There is no end to the number of things he wants. Modern advertising creates in us a feverish desire for more and more things. We are made to feel that our happiness will never be complete unless we possess the very latest model and style of whatever it is we want. As Phillips Brooks said, "We are like children with our houses strewn with half-read books and half-played games and half-eaten fruit; who stand at the doorway crying out into the open world for more instead of using and appreciating what we have already." "Troubled and anxious about many things!"

A wealthy man once entertained a preacher for dinner at his club. Afterwards he took the clergyman to his home, an impressive-looking mansion, richly furnished, equipped with no less than ten bathrooms. He showed him pictures of his yacht, his beautiful country estate, his sports equipment, his stables. The preacher remarked, "You have so much!" "Ah, yes," replied the rich man, "but the trouble with having a lot of things is that you can’t control them; they control you." "Anxious and troubled about many things!"

When a visitor from Europe saw how much time and money Americans spend for entertainment he said, "What are you trying to do — entertain yourselves to death?"

"No, I’m afraid it’s just our passion for escape," replied an American friend.

"Escape? That’s a good one!" replied the European. "You have the richest, most bountiful civilization in all of history, and you have the most satisfying way of life in the world — to hear you talk of it — and yet all you want to do is escape!"

One Thing is Needful.

Troubled and anxious about so many things! And yet never finding the contentment, the peace and the satisfaction we seek! What does Jesus say to all this? He turns to Martha and says, "One thing is needful."

He calls on us to simplify life, to withdraw from the distractions in order to concentrate on the one thing that is important. When Henry David Thoreau explained why he left the world and retreated to Walden Pond, he said, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear ... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life ... (I wanted) to reduce life to its lowest (simplest) terms!"

Thoreau went on to say that he did not want the cow to milk him; he wanted to milk the cow. He believed that a man is rich not because of the number of things he has but because of the number of things he can do without.

Every airline ticket counter is equipped with scales. The scales are there to weigh the baggage each passenger takes along. Each passenger’s baggage is not allowed to exceed a certain limit. If a passenger exceeds this, he must pay extra. Wise passengers go over their baggage frequently and take out gear that contributes to excess weight. Jesus tells us to get rid of the excess baggage that causes us to be "troubled and anxious." Simplify life. Reduce it, He says, to the "one thing that is needful."

What is the "one thing needful"?

As we read the epistles of St. Paul we see that he uses one phrase over and over again: "One thing! One thing!" he keeps saying. "That I may know Christ. ..." Everything else is refuse. "This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward ... in Christ Jesus." Nothing but Christ has value. Nothing but Christ will endure forever. He is the great treasure, the "pearl of great price." "In Him reside all treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He is "the way, the truth and the life." To believe in Him is to have life eternal, forgiveness, peace, joy, purpose, meaning.

One Dominant Purpose.

The secret of simplicity is to have Christ as the one dominant purpose in life. "Purity of heart is to will one thing," said Kierkegaard. To will Christ and His plan for our lives above all else — this is the one thing needful. To lay aside all excuses and rationalizations, to be singlemindedly for Christ and to follow Him — this is the one thing needful. To love the Lord Jesus with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourself — this is the one thing needful. "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to finish His work" — this is the one thing needful.

When we make Christ our controlling principle, our one dominant purpose, He becomes like a traffic policeman who stands on duty at the intersection and directs traffic. He controls the instincts, the fears, the anxieties within us. When we deny Christ, then the instincts and the drives come to the surface uncontrolled and wreak havoc. When Christ is the controlling principle in our lives, all anxiety and fears are held in control. There are not many selves but one self — the Christ-controlled self. There is an order, a unity, a purpose, a peace, a simplicity in life that only He can give.

"Mary has chosen the good portion which shall not be taken away from her." When a person chooses "the one thing needful," Christ, he chooses the "portion that shall not be taken away from him." A good question to ask ourselves about the many things we strive for in life is, "How long will they last?" Physical beauty? How long will it last? Money? How long does it last? Pleasure? How long will it last?" "Do not labor for the food that perishes," said Jesus, "but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you ..." (John 6:27). He who chooses Christ as his one dominant goal in life is no longer "troubled and anxious about many things." He has removed the distractions. He has simplified life. He has chosen the "one thing that is needful… the good portion which shall never be taken away from him." "The world passes away and the lust of it but he who does the will of God abides forever."

Святкуємо велике свято: Успіня ПДМ. Побожні перекази та праведні автори стверджують, що апостоли, коли прибули до місця поховання Богородиці, не знайшли її тіла. А прибули вони вдруге тому, що апостол Тома спізнився, не був на похороні, але дуже бажав побачити тіло Богородиці. А те, що апостол Тома спізнився, означає, що він проповідував слово Боже дуже далеко від цього місця, де померла Пресвята Богородиця. І, коли не знайшли її тіла, тоді почали переконливо говорити про те, що тіло Марії забрали ангели Божі на небо. Тіло її було святе й непорочне, вона ніколи не вчинила нічого такого, що не подобалося б Господу Богу. Усе, що думала, говорила чи виконувала Пресвята Марія, все було на честь та славу Бога. Відносно свята Успіня Пречистої Діви Марії, то найповажніші свідоцтва твердять, що це свято започаткували і святкували святі Апостоли. Про це свято згадує Папа Римський, святий Дамазій, з IV століття і св. Григорій, Папа. На сході у Церкві, швидше, як на заході можна віднайти ці вшанування. А це було таким урочистим святом, що його спочатку святкували три дні. У східній церкві приготування до свята Успіня започаткувалося двотижневим постом і про це згадує св. Анатазій Синаїт, що ця практика походить з апостольських часів (див. Успіня ПДМ в книгах «Життя святих»).

Відносно таємниці Успіня признаємо, що Пречиста Діва Марія не тільки з душею, але й з тілом вступила на небо. Це - знак, що після Господа Бога вона посідає владу дану їй Господом у небі та в світі. Що відноситься до свята Успіня та забирання тіла Матері Божої в небо це те, що Ісус Христос власною силою в тілі вознісся до неба, а Пречисту Діву Марію, Бог забрав своєю могутністю. Мати Божа померла так, як інші люди, але Бог воскресив її і відразу забрав з тілом у вічність. Про смерть Марії ми говоримо, як про її сон, бо вона з великим спокоєм та надією відійшла до вічності. Можемо твердити з багатьма побожними авторами, що Пресвята Богородиця:

а) Збережена від усякого гріха, також первородного, не повинна була умирати, але, коли помер Божий Син, так і вона померла.

б) Вона прийшла на світ тоді, як уже панував первородний гріх, а слова св. Письма голосять, що «постановлено людям раз померти» і сам Господь Бог не хотів її від цього зберегти. Бо смерть зустріла її не як покарання, а як доведення того, що закон смерті строго виконується на всіх.

в) Вона у всьому уподібнювалася до Спасителя, свого Сина.

г) Мати Божа - посередниця потрібних ласк, духовних дарів, а, особливо в годину смерті. Вона спокійно перемагала спокуси, подібно, допомагає й нам у хвилину смерті відбивати напасті диявола.

д) Смерть - закон природи людини, тіло старіється і повинно вмерти, воно - матерія, підлягаюча змінам. Святий Августин стверджує, що Ісус Христос все одно був би помер, тільки природною смертю, коли б довго жив на землі. Марія померла без жодного терпіння відносно тіла і відносно душі. Пресвята Богородиця ніколи не терпіла жодної хвороби, бо мала найдосконаліше тіло, але відчувала моральне терпіння, терпіла голод і холод, але не хвороби.

В Утрені на свято Богородиці оспівуємо її перехід до вічності такою піснею: «Твоя смерть, Пречиста, була переходом до життя вічного і кращого; переселена була ти, Чиста, щоб у радості бачити Сина твого і Господа» (Утр., Успіня, ірмос піс. 4).

Про 120-річного пророка Мойсея св. Письмо говорить, що він не відчував недуги і недомагань, а зовсім здоровий пішов на гору, щоб віддати Богу душу. Так пишеться про св. Івана Євангеліста, що, будучи поважного віку при доброму здоров'ї, ліг у гробі і помер. І багато інших людей померли не від хвороб, але маючи цілковите здоров'я та силу, бо така воля Бога.

З чого й чому померла Пресвята Богородиця? Мудрець пригадує: «Кожне тіло старіється, як і одежа, бо від віку присуджено: смертю помреш» (Сир 14,17). Тіло Божої Матері не старілося, а вона померла з любові до Бога, з туги за Богом, за Своїм Сином. Письменники по-різному судять про вік смерті Діви Марії. Святий Антоній говорить, що вона померла у віці 60 років, св. Анзельм - 80, св. Євсевій - 63, а св. Бароній - 72 роки і це, здається, найточніше. Пресвята Марія померла в Єрусалимі. Вона проживала там, де відбувалася Тайна Вечеря. Відносно тверджень письменників, - вона померла 12 серпня. І Богородиця знала виразно про об'явлену їй смерть (див. І. Я. Луцик «Ілюстроване життя святих» 15 серпня). По-різному святі письменники висвітлюють присутність апостолів під час похорону Марії. Одні говорять, що вони просто зібралися, інші, що збір апостолів, це чудо, в котрому вони в мить були зібрані. Богослови і старовинні джерела погоджуються з тим, що Пречиста Діва Марія приймала Напуття перед смертю, але не сповідалася, бо була безгрішна. Можливо, лише з покори прийняла Оливопомазання, бо за нею не числилися жодні провини.

Не потрібно великого переконання, що усі перенесемося у свій час до вічності. Потрібно старатися про те, щоб наш перехід відбувся у примиренні з Богом, щоб на душі на тяжів жодний гріх. Для того потрібно щодня готуватися і часто перепрошувати Господа у тайні святої Сповіді за свої гріхи. Часто стараймося повторяти поза сповіддю: Господи, прости мої гріхи, за котрі з великою любов'ю перепрошую тебе. Тому автор псалмів пригадує: «Просвіти мої очі, щоб не заснути смертю, щоб не сказав мій ворог: Я його подужав!» (Пс 13,5). Ми повинні перемогти ворога-диявола любов'ю до Господа та взивати до його Небесної Матері про поміч, щоб чинити справедливість. Бо «справедливість від смерті рятує» (Прип 10,2). Господь Бог бажає нашого спасіння, інакше, чому б Син Божий приходив у людському тілі на землю та терпів страшні муки і ганебну смерть?! Святе Писання навчає нас: «Бо Бог не створив смерть, ані не радіє з погибелі живучих» (Мудр 1,13). І це - велика правда, що Господь бажає спасіння кожної людини (пор. 1Тм 2,4). Таку можливість, спастися, ми з вами теж маємо, її потрібно тільки прийняти у своє життя. А прийняти з вірою, щоб направляти наше життя на бездоганну дорогу.

Молімося до Богородиці, нашої найкращої Матері, котра розуміє нас ліпше від рідної матері, щоб ми простували дорогою правди та любові до Бога й ближнього. Тільки цілковите віддання себе у руки Бога, приведе нас до спасіння! А найкраще це чинити через Марію, бо нам, як нашу матір, Син Божий доручив її, коли помирав на хресті (пор. Ів 19,27). Молімося зі св. Альфонсом, Учителем Церкви: «О Маріє, мати прекрасної любові, випроси мені більше любові й вчини, щоб я не жалів себе з любові до Бога, котрий з любові до мене винищив себе» (св. А. Ліґуорі «Про муки Господа Ісуса», Розважання XI на Страсний вівторок).

† Ігор (Возьняк)

Архиєпископ Львівський УГКЦ


We have a copy of the Miraculous Icon of the Holy Mother of God, which was written at our request, in memory of Kay and Bill Zambrick. This Icon is in the church now for you to see. It will soon be sent to the Monastery at Univ for blessing by the monks. Where the original of the miraculous Icon is venerated. After its blessing, it will be returned to our parish to serve our spiritual needs for healing.

На замoвлення в память Василя i Катерини Замбрик була написана
кoпiя Чудoтвoрнoï Унiвськoï Ікoни Бoжoï Матерi. Пiсля пoказу в нашiй
церквi ця Ікoна буде переслана дo Унiвськoгo Чoлoвiчoгo Мoнастиря
для благoслoвення i oсвячення цiєï Ікoни i пiсля oсвячення буде
пoвернена дo нашoï парафiï.

The Monastery of Univ was established in the 13th century. In 1549 this monastery was ransacked and burned by the Mongoles. But the Holy Mother of God chose this place for a reason. She appeared in a dream to a nobleman, Alexander Lahodovskyi who suffered extreme pain in his legs. She advised him to find a healing spring and to wash his legs in it. He came to the ruins of the monastery, where the spring was located, and there, under the ashes of the burned monastery, he found the icon of the Holy Mother of God untouched by the fire. There is a belief that the icon was crowned by Archimandrite Anastasiy Sheptysky between 1715 and 1746. In 1050, the monastery was closedd by the Soviet goverment, but the icon was hidden in the attic of the local parish church. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the monastery was reopened and became a holy site for pilgrims, who come here twice a year, on the third Sunday of May and again on the feast of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, to receive blessings and healing at her intersession. With the agreement of the monks of this monastery, our icon will participate in the pilgrimage from Lviv to Univ in August this year. It will be carried in procession through the villages and towns, a two or three day walk from Lviv to Univ. When the pilgrims and our icon reach the monastery, they will be received by the monks of the monastery, where Patriarch Sviatoslav in the presence of the monks and pilgrims, will bless it during the Divine Services. There is a possibility that our icon will be brought back to our parish by one of
the monks of the monastery.