01 June 2014

Birthday Candles

It is traditional to make a wish and blow out candles on your birthday, but you’re not supposed to tell anyone your wish. This year I lit six candles; however, I didn’t blow them out and I didn’t make a wish, but made a prayer intention.

This year my birthday falls on a Sunday, which is nice because I was born on a Sunday, but the Sunday this year is of particular significance to me. Today is the Seventh Sunday of Pascha (Easter) for both Catholics and Orthodox, which in the East commemorates the Fathers of the Council of Nicea (325). This was the first of the three ecumenical councils in which there was complete unity between East and West. This unity being ruptured after the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon (451), and further ruptured after the Great Schism of 1054. This disunity in the Church weighs heavy on my heart.

After celebrating the Mass for the Feast of the Visitation, in which three men were ordained to the diaconate, I spent the afternoon praying in the Roman Catholic Cathedral, St. Joseph’s Basilica. Just before I left, around an hour and a half before the first Sunday Mass (5:00 pm vigil Mass), I lit two candles for my prayer intention, one on each side of the sanctuary. I then drove to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, St. Josaphat Cathedral, and lit two more candles for the same intention, one on each side of the sanctuary, just before Great Vespers, which was followed by the first Sunday Divine Liturgy (again, the 5:00 pm vigil). This morning, I drove to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, St. Barbara Cathedral, and just before the only Sunday Divine Liturgy, I lit two more candles for the same intention, one on each side of the sanctuary.

The Gospel Reading for the Seventh Sunday of Holy Pascha, Fathers of the Council of Nicea, is a particularly important one for me: John 17:1–13. In this reading, Jesus prays to the Father, and in this prayer, He asks something very important for His Church, “Holy Father, protect them in Your Name that You have given Me, so that they may be one, as We are One.” This was my prayer intention on my birthday. I hope that someday I can light three candles in these three cathedrals in thanksgiving instead of lighting six in petition. I hope that someday we may freely share not only the antidoron as an expression of Christian fellowship and love, but Holy Eucharist in full Christian Communion.

Соединение веры и причастие Святаго Духа испросивше, сами себе и друг друга и весь живот наш Христу Богу предадим. Аминь.

Addendum:

I lit three more candles today. I went to the 7:00 pm Divine Liturgy with my wife this evening at her parish, St. Basil the Great (I believe that’s the last Eucharistic Liturgy in Edmonton today), and I lit two more candles before the Liturgy for the same intention, one on each side of the sanctuary. However, I also lit a third candle in thanksgiving for the unity within my marriage. I see the unity within my marriage as hope for unity between East and West.






Birthday greetings from the Bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate in Canada