Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Theodore of Canterbury Orthodox Mission, Toronto!

Christ is Risen!

In spite of “social distancing” and “self isolation”, Christ is Risen! … and we are called to be risen with Him! I am reminded of the plight of the Russian Christians during the Soviet era. Deprived of their churches, persecuted and martyred, they kept the Faith. Compared with them, we are very spoiled! Since our own “ecumenical movement” which has brought three formerly separate Orthodox jurisdictions together, we now have seven parishes in Toronto! The question I ask is: when our churches are open with everything they offer at our fingertips, do we take advantage of it?

We have done so well with the “social distancing” and “self isolation” that we are beginning to see a curve and flattening of the number of cases of this disease. It would be a shame to lose everything we have gained by opening our churches too soon. Hopefully this deprivation of church services will make us appreciate all that we have when we are able to reopen!

In Our Risen Lord Jesus,

Fr. David +

Holy Communion was taken to four persons during the past week. Four family members received Holy Communion on last Sunday at our house chapel: “Russian Royal Martyrs”

Holy Baptism will be administered on Saturday, May 9 at St. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene.
“Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more lest a worse thing come unto thee!” (John 5:14)

Today’s gospel of the paralytic reveals how, Our Lord, who usually forgives sins first and then heals, felt such compassion for the paralytic that He reversed the usual order and healed the man… then later forgave his sins. “Sin no more lest a worse thing come unto thee!”

Our Lord reverses the order, when, even before Pentecost, He breathed on His disciples and said: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose sins ye shall forgive…” (John 20:22). After His bestowal of peace; Jesus bestows the power to forgive sins. Our Lord could not wait for Pentecost to impart the forgiveness of sins: He could not wait to heal the paralytic..later forgiving his sins.

St. John Chrysostom says that Our Lord who had already appeared to the Myrrhbearers on Easter morning, came again at the end of the day so that the men would not feel left out. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were among them. On the previous Friday they had removed the Lord’s body from the cross and wound it with “othonia” and one hundred pounds of spices. The English word for “othonia” is “swaddling bands” and it is first used in St. Luke 2:7. “She brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in “othonia” and laid him in a manger.” Myrrh was brought to Him at this time also, and the “othonia” of the manger was a prefigurement of what was to come.

After the “othonia” soaked in myrrh and one hundred pounds of spices dries, it becomes like a shell or cocoon. This is why we do not accept the so called “Shroud of Turin”. The Shroud of Turin shows the face of a man clearly imprinted on one huge sheet of cloth, whereas the Gospel of John clearly says that: “…the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.” (John 20:7). If anything, Orthodox are Bible believing Christians! The true Orthodox icon of the Resurrection shows the “othonia” or swaddling bands as a shell or cocoon, left behind in the tomb. However, I have a copy of an ancient Russian icon which shows Joseph and Nicodemus taking the body of Jesus down from the cross and wrapping it in a large sheet of cloth… in all fairness to those who believe in the “Shroud of Turin”.

The empty tomb is not the basis of our faith, but the living presence of the Lord Jesus who walked and talked and even ate with His disciples. Are we willing followers of St. Joseph of Arimathea? Or are we still “secret” disciples of the Lord, afraid to do or say anything that would reveal that we are Orthodox Christians? Are we afraid to make the Sign of the Cross in public for example… even AFTER Pentecost?

After Pentecost, all the disciples save those who stood beneath the cross of Jesus; all those who “forsook him and fled”; gladly gave their lives for their faith in the Risen Lord.

Let us too, boldly proclaim:

“Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ;
Let us worship the holy Lord Jesus the only sinless One;
We venerate Thy Cross and we glorify Thy Holy Resurrection;
For through the Cross joy hath come into the whole world!”

Fr. David