BREAKING OPEN

“This Child is destined to be the Downfall and the Rise of many in Israel, a Sign that will be opposed — and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword.” —Luke 2:34-35

When hurt, we naturally close ourselves off to the one who hurt us and even to other people as further protection. When Mary, Jesus’ mother, was hurt, she did just the opposite, opening herself up to others even more (e.g. Acts 1:14). Therefore, we picture her with her immaculate heart exposed. In fact, when Mary’s heart was pierced with the sword of sorrow, she not only opened her heart but the hearts of others also, so that “the thoughts of many hearts” were laid bare (Lk 2:35).
Mary could do this because she was immaculate, without sin. We also, by repenting of sin, can react to hurt with great openness rather than with the natural reactions of closing up due to unforgiveness, resentment, hatred, anger, manipulation, or fear. A broken heart plus a repentant heart equals an open heart. A broken heart plus a sinful heart equals a hardened, closed heart. A heart broken by hurts is not the end but the beginning of a process. Both the greatest and worst people in the world became what they are because of suffering broken hearts. Our repentance makes the difference between breaking open or closing up.

Prayer: Father, thank You for what You can do with a broken heart.
Promise: “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when perfected, He became the Source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” —Heb 5:8-9
Praise: Mary, Jesus’ mother, was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and “began to express [herself] in foreign tongues” (Acts 1:14; 2:4).

“WHEN I BEHOLD THE WONDROUS CROSS…”

“He humbled Himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross!” —Philippians 2:8

We sing: “When I behold the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.” At the cross, our values change, and we get in touch with reality. At the cross, we humble ourselves. Through the cross, Jesus’ name was exalted above every other name (Phil 2:9), and we who believe in the crucified and glorified Jesus share in His exaltation. Those who humble themselves at the cross will be exalted (Mt 23:12).
We sing: “At the cross, at the cross, there’s a precious fountain.” When we behold the wondrous cross, we receive the living waters of the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:1-2). We are bathed in healing (see Nm 21:9), faith, and eternal life (Jn 3:14-15).
We sing: “Lift high the cross! The love of Christ proclaim.” We must know nothing and say nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). We must boast of nothing but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which we have been crucified to the world and the world to us (Gal 6:14).
Each day of the rest of your life, prayerfully look at an image of Jesus on the cross. Let the crucified Jesus speak to your heart. “Behold the wondrous cross.”

Prayer: Father, let me “bear the brand marks of Jesus in my body” (Gal 6:17).
Promise: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life.” —Jn 3:16
Praise: “We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.”

“ONE BREAD, ONE BODY”

“Because the loaf of bread is one, we, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” —1 Corinthians 10:17

The title of these booklets is taken from the above Scripture. Because we share in the one bread of Holy Communion, we are one body. If we are one as Jesus and the Father are one, then the world will believe that the Father sent the Son (Jn 17:21), God’s plan of salvation will be fulfilled, and God’s kingdom will have come “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our unity is absolutely essential. Jesus came to break down the barriers and make the two into one (Eph 2:14). In one Spirit, all of us have been baptized into one body (1 Cor 12:13). It is not only “good” and “pleasant, where brethren dwell at one” (Ps 133:1), it’s an absolute necessity. For example, it is not just “good” for your hands to be connected to the other parts of your body; it is a “must.”
Because unity is a necessity, partaking of the one bread, that is, Communion, is a necessity. This booklet is written to motivate us to receive Holy Communion daily. If done in the right spirit, this is among the most important acts of faith we can make in the Christian life.

Prayer: Jesus, at this moment, may hundreds decide to receive Holy Communion daily.
Promise: “Each man speaks from his heart’s abundance. Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not put into practice what I teach you?” —Lk 6:45-46
Praise: St. John preached the Truth even to a heretic patriarch and empress. He was exiled twice for his public stand for holiness.

For me, life means Christ, and death is gain

A sermon by St John Chrysostom

The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.
Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbour. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!
If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web. Indeed, unless you, my brothers, had detained me, I would have left this very day. For I always say “Lord, your will be done”; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.
Yet where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For though my body die, my soul will live and be mindful of my people.
You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, my sons, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun’s light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.