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Canon Bahman Kalantari

Sermon on “Thomas and Jesus” (John 20:19-31)

                                   

In today’s Gospel passage we hear about the risen Saviour meeting with his dedicated followers.

 

Although the disciples have heard from Mary Magdalene that she has seen the risen Lord, they are still confused and afraid. On that same evening the followers gathered together behind locked doors. But in spite of all this, the fear and confusion were going to be replaced with peace and joy. 

Belief in Jesus’ resurrection and presence grows in the disciples when the victorious Jesus appears to them and with words of peace shows them his wounded hands and side. Thomas, not present at this time, also needs evident proof that Jesus is indeed active with a new quality.

 

Thomas says to the other disciples: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe”.

                         

Thomas’ so-called doubt is very famous. But, is it really fair to call this wonderful apostle, Doubting Thomas? Would anybody else act differently in Thomas’ situation?

 

For the first time in human history, a wonderful and unique leader, after strange trails and a tragic death, has come back to his followers. Who doesn’t want to witness this? And Thomas is determined to visit the risen Saviour. Thomas needs assurance. Somebody like Thomas always needs assurance.

 

We can be sure that Thomas had heard stories about some extraordinary individuals who came back to life after death. But, Jesus’ death and resurrection are completely different. And Thomas needed to become a witness for this life-changing incident. This actually displays Thomas’ strength not weakness.

 

Thomas is a very brave, intelligent, and devoted disciple. When Jesus said that he was going back to Jerusalem, the disciples were informed that the local authorities intended to kill Jesus. It was Thomas who said, “Let us go too and die with Jesus.” (John 11:16)

Thomas is one of the two apostles who went outside the Roman Empire to preach the Good News. He went to Persia and India to introduce Christianity to the peoples of these regions.

 

Many scholars have come to believe that Jesus had private conversations with Thomas; and Thomas wrote down Jesus’ mystical teachings and hidden wisdom. But, what Thomas wrote disappeared for two thousand years.

 

However, in December 1945, two Egyptian brothers found several ancient manuscripts in a large clay vessel while digging for fertilizer around limestone caves in Upper Egypt. One of these manuscripts was what we now call, the Gospel of Thomas. The book has been translated into English and includes 114 sayings of Jesus.

 

Even the discovery of this book tells us about the outstanding presence of Thomas in Jesus’ movement.

 

This is how the book, the Gospel of Thomas starts:  (Mark Mattison’s Translation):

 

These are hidden sayings that living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.

 

Then after this introduction, we have the second saying:
 

Jesus said: whoever seeks shouldn’t stop until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they’re disturbed, they’ll be amazed and reign over everything. When they have reigned, then they will rest.

 

Perhaps here, Jesus is talking about Thomas and all seekers like Thomas.

 

Now, if we put all this information together, we can conclude that Thomas is not a skeptic. He is brave, intelligent, inquisitive and dedicated, in short: he is a true seeker.

 

Thomas does not have doubts, instead he looks for assurance. Thomas wants to be sure that Jesus Christ has come back to life in a new astonishing way.

We might ask why Thomas is in such a need.  Because Thomas understands that Jesus’ unconditional love, commands, and teachings have the power to transform the world. However, the challenge lies in the absence of Jesus’ physical presence, making it difficult to fully embrace his commands and teachings.

 

But, we should never forget that the capability, preparedness, and openness  required  to love unconditionally, to have a taste of eternal life, and find the power to forgive and bringing peace, all originate from the Living God.

 

When Peter asks Jesus: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”   Jesus answers, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)

 

How can we forgive seventy-seven times, and put behind the past, the hurts, the anger, and the frustration? How can we answer these reasonable questions?

 

One way to address these questions is by acknowledging that humans cannot accomplish these tasks alone. It is the Living God who acts on our behalf. The Holy Spirit dwells within believers, empowering them to embrace a new, joy-filled, liberating life.

Humanity requires an eternal divine Savior who remains actively involved. When striving to live free from anger, fear, animosity, and despair, we depend on divine presence and intervention; we cannot achieve it alone.

 

And Thomas remembers that Jesus has told his followers that they would never be left alone. Jesus Christ started his divine mission two thousand years ago and his liberating movement continues to expand by the Spirit of God who lives within the believers and among the believers. This is Jesus’ promise!

 

Thomas needs assurance; he needs to be sure that Christ Jesus has returned and stays active in order to empower and strengthen all believers continuously. Thomas knows that the chaotic world cannot be changed without obeying Jesus’ commands, practicing his teachings, and feeling his presence.

 

Thomas needs to visit the victorious Saviour. He looks for him until he finds him. This is the beginning of a new e

Sermon on the Magi and St. Matthew

 

During Epiphany, we celebrate the Magi visiting baby Jesus. Epiphany means a big appearance or showing up. It is when Jesus was revealed to more than just his local community but to the whole world.

 

The Magi’s event has been understood in a few ways. I have talked about this before, but today I will share with you some new findings about the magi.

 

In the Gospel, the Magi asked Herod about the newborn King of the Jews, guided by a special star to worship Him.

 

First, why did the Magi come to the Holy Land? Their religious beliefs drove them to journey to the Holy Land.

 

The Magi were king-priests from Persia (Iran today) who followed Zoroastrianism. They were rulers beneath the highest King. Their belief involved a Trinitarian god: the wise lord, the wise lord's Son (Mithra), and the wise lord's daughter (Anahita).

 

Mithra, the wise lord's son, is the protector of truth and justice; he is the universal light, acts as the divine representative of the wise Lord on earth, and shields the righteous from the darkness.

 

Anahita, the wise lord's daughter, is the queen of heaven; she protects pure waters, and offers wisdom, renewal, and peacefulness to people.

 

Now, let's understand why we believe the Magi were three individuals:

 

1. One represented and served the wise lord.

2. Another represented and served the wise lord's son, Mithra.

3. The third represented and served the wise lord's daughter, Anahita.

 

 

 

According to the Magi's Holy Scriptures, there are FOUR Saviours expected at the end of each one-thousand-year period. They traveled to the Holy Land seeking the new saviour of their time, who would be the wise Lord's adopted Son.

 

Again we need to ask, why did St. Matthew write about the Magi in his Gospel?

 

First,

1. Matthew was a tax-collector and money-changer.

2. He likely had literacy in multiple languages to gather information for his job.

3. His success as a moneychanger required understanding various currencies and exchange rates.

4. To comprehend economies, living in different countries was crucial in ancient times.

 

Second,

Ambrose, a church leader in the fourth century, mentioned that Matthew, the Gospel writer, traveled to Persia and Macedonia.

 

During his time in Persia, Matthew stayed along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. This explains why a copy of Matthew's Gospel made its way to India around the same period.

 

Christian Persians believed and wrote that Matthew's Gospel was originally written in Aramaic. They converted to Christianity because they had access to this Aramaic version, which educated Persians could easily read.

 

However, historical evidence confirms that the Gospels, including Matthew's, were written in Greek.

 

But, Papias, an early church leader from the first and second centuries, noted that Matthew also wrote a Gospel in the Hebrews' own dialect, which was Aramaic.

 

Therefore, we believe that Matthew wrote his Gospel in both Aramaic and Greek. His journey to Persia aimed to continue the mission initiated by the Magi, sharing the good news with those in that region.

 

 

Another question: Did the Magi return to Persia?

 

Marco Polo, a traveler from the thirteen and fourteen centuries, wrote about the Magi in his book. He learned they were from Persia by reading local history and interviewing the people. According to his findings, the three Magi started their journey from a city called Saba, returned there from the Holy Land, and passed away. Marco discovered their graves in Saba's cemetery.

 

This is the gist of the new findings.

 

And the last question is: what is the message of Epiphany for us today? What is God's liberating message in this Gospel passage?

 

Sometimes, like the Magi, we await a significant change or event, longing for renewal. Our Heavenly Father understands this and sends signs:

 

These signs can lead us to the new and amazing things that bring about significant change in our lives. It could be a rainbow (like in Noah's case), a lamb (like in Abraham's case), a ladder (like in Jacob's case), or a star (as with the Magi).

 

When we see the star, do we perceive it as a distant beauty or recognize it as a sign?  Having faith means accepting the star as a sign of God's activity, not just a beautiful sight.

 

 

Let us pray:  

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, during this Epiphany season, we long to come to you, honour you as our King, worship you, and walk in your footsteps. Guide us with faith and happiness, much like the Magi on their spiritual quest. Empower us through the Holy Spirit's work to establish your Kingdom here on earth. In Abba’s presence we pray. Amen.

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How to make the Anglican Rosary

Anglican Prayer Beads

A Form of Contemplative Prayer

Anglican Prayer Beads are a relatively new form of prayer, blending the Orthodox Jesus Prayer Rope and the Roman Catholic Rosary. The thirty-three bead design was created by the Rev. Lynn Bauman in the mid-1980s, through the prayerful exploration and discovery of a contemplative prayer group.

The use of the rosary or prayer beads helps to bring us into contemplative of meditative prayer—really thinking about and being mindful of praying, of being in the presence of God—by use of mind, body, and spirit. The touching of the fingers on each successive bead is an aid in keeping our mind from wandering, and the rhythm of the prayers leads us more readily into stillness.

Anglican Prayer Beads.

Symbolism of the Beads
The configuration of the Anglican Prayer Beads relate contemplative prayer using the Rosary to many levels of traditional Christian symbolism. Contemplative prayer is enriched by these symbols whose purpose is always to focus and concentrate attention, allowing the one who prays to move more swiftly into the Presence of God.

The prayer beads are made up of twenty-eight beads divided into four groups of seven called weeks. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the number seven represents spiritual perfection and completion. Between each week is a single bead, called a cruciform bead as the four beads form a cross. The invitatory bead between the cross and the wheel of beads brings the total to thirty-three, the number of years in Jesus’ earthly life.

Praying with the beads


To begin, hold the Cross and say the prayer you have assigned to it, then move to the Invitatory Bead. Then enter the circle of the prayer with the first Cruciform Bead, moving to the right,

go through the first set of seven beads to the next Cruciform bead, continuing around the circle, 

saying the prayers for each bead.

It is suggested that you pray around the circle of the beads three times (which signifies the Trinity)

in an unhurried pace, allowing the repetition to become a sort of lullaby of love and praise that enables your mind to rest and your heart to become quiet and still.

Praying through the beads three times and adding the crucifix at the beginning or the end, brings the total to one hundred, which is the total of the Orthodox Rosary. A period of silence should follow the prayer, for a time of reflection and listening. Listening is an important part of all prayer.

Begin praying the Anglican Prayer Beads by selecting the prayers you wish to use for the cross and each bead. Practice them until it is clear which prayer goes with which bead, and as far as possible commit the prayers to memory.

Find a quiet spot and allow your body and mind to become restful and still. After a time of silence, begin praying the prayer beads at an unhurried, intentional pace. Complete the circle of the beads three times.

When you have completed the round of the prayer beads, you should end with a period of silence. This silence allows you to center your being in an extended period of silence. It also invites reflection and listening after you have invoked the Name and Presence of God.

Closing your Prayers
The following ending can be used with any of the prayers in this booklet. After three circuits around the prayer beads, you may finish as follows:

Last time through:

Invitatory Bead
The Lord’s Prayer

The Cross
I bless the Lord.

Or, in a group setting:
Let us bless the Lord
Thanks be to God.


Prayers
You may mix and match or put together your own.

 

Bless the Lord

The Cross 

Blessed be the one, holy, and living God.
Glory to God for ever and ever. Amen.

The Invitatory
O God make speed to save me (us),
O Lord make haste to help me (us),
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Cruciforms
Behold now, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord. You that stand in the house of the Lord, lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord.

The Weeks
I lift up my eyes to the hills;
From where is my help to come?
My help comes from the Lord,
The maker of heaven and earth.


Trisagion and Jesus Prayer

The Cross
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Invitatory
O God make speed to save me (us),
O Lord make haste to help me (us),
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Cruciforms
Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon me (us).

The Weeks
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy on me, a sinner.

Or, in a group setting:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy upon us.

*Trisagion means "thrice Holy"


Agnus Dei Prayer

The Cross
The Lord’s Prayer

The Invitatory
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."—Psalm 19:14

The Cruciforms
Oh, Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world
have mercy upon us,
Oh, Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world
have mercy upon us,
Oh, Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world
give us Thy Peace.

The Weeks
Almighty and merciful Lord,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
bless us and keep us.
Amen.

*Agnus Dei means "Lamb of God"


Julian of Norwich Prayer

The Cross
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Invitatory
O God make speed to save me (us),
O Lord make haste to help me (us),
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Cruciforms
God of your goodness, give me yourself,
For you are enough to me.
And I can ask for nothing less that is to your glory.
And if I ask for anything less, I shall still be in want, for only in you have I all.

The Weeks
All shall be well, and all shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well.

Or

In His love He has done His works, and in His love He has made all things beneficial to us.

This prayer was created by Sister Brigit-Carol, S.D.
www.solitariesofdekoven.org

 

A Celtic Prayer

The Cross
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Invitatory
O God make speed to save me (us),
O Lord make haste to help me (us),
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Cruciforms
Be the eye of God dwelling with me,
The foot of Christ in guidance with me,
The shower of the Spirit pouring on me,
Richly and generously

The Weeks
Pray each phrase on a separate bead.
I bow before the Father who made me,
I bow before the Son who saved me,
I bow before the Spirit who guides me,
In love and adoration.
I praise the Name of the one on high.
I bow before thee Sacred Three,
The ever One, the Trinity.

This prayer was created by Sister Brigit-Carol, S.D.
www.solitariesofdekoven.org

 

Come Lord Jesus Prayer

The Cross
"Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."—Revelation 7:12

The invitatory
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble."—Psalm 46:1

The Cruciforms
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s Holy Name."—Psalm 103:1

The Weeks
"Come Lord Jesus, draw us to yourself."—John 12:32

 

 

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

The Cross


I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.

The Invitatory
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

The Cruciforms
I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

The Weeks
1. I bind this day to me for ever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
2. his baptism in Jordan river;
3. his death on cross for my salvation;
4. his bursting from the spicèd tomb;
5. his riding up the heavenly way;
6. his coming at the day of doom:
7. I bind unto myself today.

1. I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim;
2. the sweet "Well done" in judgment hour;
3. the service of the seraphim;
4. confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
5. the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
6. all good deeds done unto the Lord,
7. and purity of virgin souls.

1. I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heaven,
2. the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
3. the whiteness of the moon at even,
4. the flashing of the lightning free,
5. the whirling of the wind’s tempestuous shocks,
6. the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
7. around the old eternal rocks.

1. I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,
2. his eye to watch, his might to stay,
3. his ear to hearken, to my need;
4. the wisdom of my God to teach,
5. his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
6. the word of God to give me speech,
7. his heavenly host to be my guard.

Words: attributed to St. Patrick (372-466)
translated by Cecil Frances Alexander, 1889
Adapted for use with Anglican Prayer Beads by Laura Kelly Campbell


An Evening Prayer

The Cross
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Invitatory
Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim
Your praise.


The Cruciforms
Guide us waking, O Lord,
and guard us sleeping;
that awake we may watch
with Christ, and asleep
we may rest in peace.


The Weeks
Jesus, lamb of God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, give us your peace.

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