Season of the Glorious Birth of Our Lord


Annunciation to Zachariah - Icon Overview and Description
Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013
Death and life are in the power of the tongue
As we begin the Season of the Glorious Birth of Our Lord there is a powerful lesson about the words we speak in Luke’s Gospel about the visit of the Angel Gabriel to the priest Zachariah.
  The Angel Gabriel proclaimed good news to Zachariah, telling the priest that his prayers had been answered and that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a child. This child, John the Baptist, would be filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother’s womb and would return many sons of Israel back to God.
  But instead of rejoicing Zachariah doubted, saying, “How can this be? I am an old man and my wife is barren.” Because of his doubt, Zachariah was made mute until the words spoken by the Angel were fulfilled.
  Words are powerful and that is the reason Zachariah’s mouth was sealed. Instead of telling his family and friends about the glorious miracle about to take place, Zechariah would have been saying, “This angel came to me, and said Elizabeth would bear a son, but that is impossible because we are too old.” If Zachariah declared those words of doubt he would have missed the miracle God wanted to bestow upon him. 
  How powerful are words? God made the world by speaking words. Jesus tells us that if we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains by our words. “You are snared by the utterance of your lips (words),” proclaims Proverbs 6:2.  St. Paul writes in Ephesians, “Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)
   By speaking words of doubt or defeat we stop the miracles that God wants to place in our lives. We also tear down others by what comes out of our mouths. So next time you want to speak defeat or gossip, remember words are powerful. Stop, and speak words of belief, victory and love, and be prepared to see miracles happen in your life.
--  By Eliza Marie Somers


Annunciation to the Virgin Mary -- Icon Overview and Description
Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013
  What is holding back your blessings?
When the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, some of the first words from the Archangel were, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

  Just as the Virgin Mary was a bit perplexed by Angel Gabriel’s greeting, are you perplexed by what the Lord has in store for your life? Are you afraid of the favor in which God wants to bestow on you? Are you afraid of failure or even success? What is holding you back from achieving God’s will in your life?
   Don’t let those voices in your head stop you from God’s graces. “I will never be good enough,” you say. “You don’t know my past.” “I’m not strong enough.”
   God has a whole storehouse of blessings for you just waiting to be tapped. “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus said. (John 10:10). Don’t let Satan steal what God wants to do in your life.
   But we have to do our part. First we have to accept God’s graces into our lives. We don’t have to do anything except to open our arms and accept the gift of grace. “If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17) Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have right standing with God and an abundance of grace. This is a gift; all we have to do is accept it.
   And we have to show our faith, because faith without action/works is dead. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” (James 2:17-19). It’s time to release our faith, and by putting it in action we release God’s favor.  “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” – Mal 3:10
    So what is holding you back? Stop making excuses, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” the Angel Gabriel said. (Luke 1:37) -- By Eliza Marie Somers

Visitation of the Virgin to Elizabeth - Icon Overview and Description
Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013

God pours out His Holy Spirit to help us maintain control
In today’s Gospel of Luke, the Blessed Virgin visits her cousin Elizabeth, and even in the womb, God’s goodness and mercy in the form of the Holy Spirit pour out upon Elizabeth and her child, John the Baptist, who leapt for joy in the womb when hearing Mary’s voice.

  All three were filled with the Holy Spirit as Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” and Mary answered, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
  What is interesting is that the Virgin Mary makes the distinction between her soul and her spirit. But what exactly is the difference between the two? 
  We are made of flesh, and our souls and spirits live and breathe in the flesh. The soul is the “animation” of the body – our personality, our emotions, our movements. The spirit is God’s essence in our soul – our higher selves, our reflection of the God – our conscience (the knowledge of right and wrong) might be another name for the spirit.
  While the flesh is focused on worldly things, we must call upon our spirit to drive the soul to control the carnal desires, passions and appetites of the flesh. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control (Gal 5:23), so don’t hesitate to call upon the Holy Spirit’s help when we are driven by the flesh to: “ idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:20-21).
  Along with calling upon the Holy Spirit, we, too, should ask the Lord to pour out his goodness and mercy so that our souls may magnify the Lord and our spirits may be filled with joy in the knowledge of God’s salvation. — By Eliza Marie Somers
 
Birth of John the Baptist - Icon Overview and Description
The Immaculate Conception
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013
God awaits to fulfill promises in our lives
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, we see Zechariah’s mouth open and his tongue free after he wrote “John” on a tablet when asked what name to give his new son.

  Immediately after Zachariah’s mouth was open, he praised the Lord, blessing and giving thanks to God.
  Just as Zachariah, we too should praise God with blessings and thanksgivings when we awake in the morning before anything else can exit our mouths. Remember Zachariah’s mouth was sealed when he questioned God’s messenger, the Angel Gabriel, who proclaimed the good news of Elizabeth’s birth of John the Baptist. So before negative thoughts of that big math test that awaits or the commute in the snow enter our minds, we should stop and contemplate Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”
  Further in the Gospel of Luke, Zachariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesize about the Lord’s promise of deliverance to the Jewish people.
  “Thus He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all of our days.” Luke 1:72-76.
  “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79. 
Like the people of God in the Old Testament, and through our faith, we too share with the Jewish people the legacy of being called, the heirs of God’s promise of salvation. We believe that this promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. God the Father promises to shine a light on our path to guide us in peace. St. Ephrem the Syro (+373) said that “this is the light of the just and the joy of upright.” St. Ephrem proclaims that Jesus Christ Our Lord, begotten of the Father, is the Light.
 So when you are in a place of darkness, why be anxious? God promises to watch over us and to grant mercy and grace in the time of need.   – By Eliza Marie Somers
 
Revelation to Joseph
Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013
“He made him overseer of his house, and all that he had put in his hand.” Genesis 39:4
 
We see in this icon, which dramatizes a single event, two personages: Joseph laying in a disturbed sleep of doubt; and the angel, reaching down to him out of heaven, with a message of hope and faith. The black color symbolizes the profound inner conflict and spiritual darkness, which is also an expression of human pain. Into the depths of the human’s need and confusion come the rays of divine light, which fills the hearts with hope, comfort and healing carried by a message from God.

— “The Maronite Icons According to the Maronite Liturgical Year and The Feasts of the Saints”
 


Genealogy Sunday
Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013
“Rain down, you heavens, from above and let the skies pour down righteousness.” Isaiah 45:8
 
In this Icon, the genealogy of Our Lord is represented as the tree of Jesse, out of which grows the Messianic branch (Is 11:1). At the lower part of the tree is depicted Adam, the first man created in the image of God; at the top of the tree is Christ, the Perfect second Adam, born to redeem and save lost mankind. Between Adam and Christ are portrayed the most significant in human line of genealogy. The branches and leaves represent the 14 generations from Abraham to Christ. We also see, in the top of the icon, the portray of the Holy Trinity, God the Father is depicted by a Divine Hand reaching down into human history. In the center, at the top of the tree is Christ the incarnate Son of God. At the top right is represented the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove. 
— “The Maronite Icons According to the Maronite Liturgical Year and The Feasts of the Saints”
 
The Glorious Birth of Our Lord
Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013

Felicitations to the Virgin Mary
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013

Sunday after Christmas
Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013

The Circumcision of Jesus
New Year's Day
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014

The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple
Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014

Feast of the Glorious Epiphany
Monday, Jan. 6, 2014






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