Today we read the Gospel passage of the healing of the paralyzed man at the Sheep Pool (John Chapter 5).
The three Gospel readings of this and the next two Sundays make reference to water - the healing at the Sheep Pool, the Samaritan woman at the well, the washing of the blind man's eyes at the Pool of Siloam.
Therefore, a theme of these three Sundays of Pascha is mystagogy - that is an understanding of the faith through the participation in the sacramental Mysteries.
By this we mean that those who have been newly enlightened in the Mysteries of Initiation at the Paschal Vigil become more fully aware of what has happened to them by having received Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation), and Holy Communion.
I think it is also a time for all of us, most of us baptized as infants and many of us baptized ages ago, to renew our understanding of the faith through the celebration of the sacramental Mysteries. We know that the Great Fast was a time of preparation for catechumens who would soon be baptized.
That is one reason we read from Genesis and Proverbs for forty days. Even those of us who were not in preparation were renewed by these lessons. Our learning never stops, our growing in the faith and our deepening relationship with God will go on forever. We can point to ah-ha moments in our own faith journey, I hope, that have occurred and continue to enlighten us.
I had one recently.
I know you have heard me and other preachers and teachers talk about and write about Image and Likeness. This theme or idea begins with the creation of man and woman in Genesis and is woven throughout Holy Scriptures and our liturgical prayers. So how did I miss this?
In the Prayer of the Thrice-Holy Hymn (right before "Holy God...") at every Divine Liturgy, the priest prays (usually quietly):
Holy God, dwelling in Your heavenly sanctuary, praised by the Seraphim with the thrice-holy hymn,
glorified by the Cherubim, and adored by all the heavenly powers, You brought all things from non-existence into being.
You created us in Your own IMAGE AND LIKENESS and adorned us with all Your gifts,
giving wisdom and understanding to those who ask, not despising those who sin, but establishing repentance for their salvation.
Every Divine Liturgy I pray those words and only recently did I actually see them. How much are we missing? How much have we learned and forgotten? How much more is there for us to grasp?
On Wednesday we will celebrate Mid-Pentecost. It is the twenty-fifth day of Pascha, halfway to Pentecost. As we make our way quickly through these fifty days, and as the world around us is quickly turning trees and lawns bright shades of green, let us also be renewed and turned into living vines, turning green just in time for Pentecost.
This weekend we also remember, with the rest of the world, the Armenian Genocide of one hundred years ago. Armenia was the first nation on earth to officially accept Christianity, talk about witnessing to the faith. Many people today still witness to the faith with their lives. Let us pray for the victims of that dark history, as well as for those who continue to suffer today.
Your martyrs, O Lord our God, in their struggles, received an incorruptible crown from You.
With Your strength, they brought down the tyrants and broke the cowardly valor of demons.
Through their prayers, O Christ our God, save our souls. - Troparion of Martyrs
The above reflection was provided by a Byzantine Catholic priest who serves the people of Pennsylvania.