Archive for February, 2009

Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs: St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom. Readings at Vespers.

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Jan 30/Feb 12 2009

Today’s readings, followed by a few pastoral & personal thoughts.

 

The “Parables” at Vespers

 Sometimes Vespers has readings appointed; they are called “parables”.  The word “parable” literally means “a placing beside or together or a comparison”. Everyone is familiar with the parables of Jesus, in which a fictional story illustrates spiritual truths. These are not the only parables; the word is also used to describe proverbs, prophetic utterances, and “dark sayings”.

 

When a parable is read in the Vespers service, we should consider that the content of the text refers in some way, whether directly or allegorically, to the service being celebrated.

 

Typically, the parables for celebrated saints are from the OT, except in the case of one of the 12 Apostles, when they are taken entirely from the NT epistles. The parables for Feasts of the Lord or Theotokos are from the OT.

 

The Old Testament is a very difficult book to understand. We who are Orthodox are helped immeasurably in this task by the church services, which are replete with references to the OT, and the right interpretation of the myriad types and prophesies contained in it. All the services interpret the meaning of the Old Testament in the light of the New.

 

Anyone who attentively and consistently worships in the Vespers and Matins services will learn the most important parts of the Old Testament. Those whose Christian worship is almost entirely confined to the Divine Liturgy will not receive the benefit of this teaching.

 

The major portion of the pedagogy of the church is  Vespers and Matins, whose content varies considerably day by day and season by season, The textual content of the Divine Liturgy, on the other hand, varies very little throughout the year.

 

One CANNOT understand the Old Testament without worshipping in the Vespers and Matins services. Also, one CANNOT understand the New Testament without understanding the Old, and one CANNOT understand anything in the scripture without living according to the message of the New Testament. With some, this sounds like circular reasoning, but for those who have heeded the call to “come and see”, all things become clear.

 

We learn the truth of the scriptures by hearing them used in the context of worship, coupled of course with our struggle to learn and follow the commandments and our personal study of the scriptures.

 

 

Commentary on the Parables for the Vespers of the 3 Hierarchs.

 

The first parable, describes the necessary character traits of the judges God appointed over His people; these same traits are also exemplified by holy hierarchs, who are also appointed to judge, that is to “rightly dividing the word of truth”[1]

 

16 And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. 17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s:”

 

The second parable also, in which God describes Himself, also describes more attributes of a holy bishop (or any Christian, of which a bishop should be the best example). The admonitions to the Jews also are fulfilled most exactly in the holy hierarchs:

 

17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. 19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.”

 

‘This parable also contains a graphic reference to our hearts:

 

“16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.”

 

This is a kind of “mini” parable in itself. We would do well to consider the metaphor literally. Just as circumcision is the cutting away of flesh, and involves blood and pain, so also flesh must be cut away which is covering the heart. This “foreskin”  covering our heart is our sins and sinful inclinations. The cutting away of these things can only be accomplished with pain and with blood. The pain occurs because the soul is attached to earthly things, and in the beginning, feels great sorrow when torn away from the earth. Blood contains the essence of our life, it permeates all parts of our body. In giving our blood we are giving our life.  

 

The admonition to “be no more stiffnecked” targets the greatest passion which keeps us from true life and holiness: pride.

 

The last parable is used very commonly in the Vespers readings, for many Saints. An interpretation of it is, as my old math textbooks used to say: “left as an exercise to the reader.” Anybody what to take a crack at it?

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 1:8-11, 15-17 8 Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them. 9 And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone: 10 The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. 11 (The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!) 15 So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. 17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.

 

Deuteronomy 10:14-2114 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. 19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. 21 He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.

 

Wisdom 3:1-9 1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. 2 In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, 3 And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. 4 For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. 5 And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. 6 As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. 7 And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. 8 They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people, and their Lord shall reign for ever. 9 They that put their trust in him shall understand the truth: and such as be faithful in love shall abide with him: for grace and mercy is to his saints, and he hath care for his elect.

 

 

Priest Seraphim 2009                                                                                                            St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-monday-23_2008_1thessalonians1;1-5+luke10;22-24.rtf

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-monday-23_2008_1thessalonians1;1-5+luke10;22-24.pdf

 

New commentaries are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Archive of: commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture 

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 



[1] “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2Timothy 2:15 

 

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Week of the Publican and Pharisee – WEDNESDAY

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

 

Today’s readings, followed by a few pastoral & personal thoughts.

 

 This week, we do not fast on any day. Most people would consider a non-fasting week to be a time to relax a little, because after all, we are not fasting; we can eat anything we want!

  

Some also erroneously feel that we are taking a “little break” before the arduous fast begins.

  

None of these ideas is correct. The church tells her children not to fast this week to underscore what truly saves a Christian. Fasting did not save the Pharisee, whom we read about just last Sunday. He fasted and tithed and prayed, but was not justified. The church services mention many times that he was not justified (made righteous, “saved” if you will) because of his pride, and the publican was saved because of his humility.

  

Some will foolishly believe that the fast free week tells us that fasting is not important, and is optional, because it did not save the Pharisee, and all we need do is be humble. Fasting, in and of itself, does not save, but we will not be saved if we do not fast.  No less a luminary than St Seraphim of Sarov has said this, and an attentive listening to the services of the church underscores this point.

  

An athlete will not improve in his sport solely by eating certain food and abstaining from others that slow him down or make him get fat, but he WILL NOT improve if his diet is not optimal. So it is with fasting. It is necessary because of our nature, and its effect is to help us become more spiritual, and focus on the things that are needful.

  

This week we are taught what not to think – that fasting in and of itself saves. When the church teaches what NOT to do, she always tells us what TO do. This week, we are focusing on watchfulness and a sober attitude about our life, and the judgment.

  

This Sunday showed that humility saves. Always present with humility is watchfulness and a sober attitude.

  

We must read this Epistle and the Gospel with a spirit of watchfulness.  

2 Peter 3:1-18 

1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: 3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark 13:24-31 24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. 28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: 29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. 30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. 31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St Mark, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – http://www.chrysostompress.org/. ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Nov 4/17 2008.                                                                                              St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-wednesday_2009_2peter3;1-18+mark13;24-31.html  

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-wednesday_2009_2peter3;1-18+mark13;24-31.pdf

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-wednesday_2009_2peter3;1-18+mark13;24-31.rtfl

 

_

 

New commentaries are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Archive of: commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture 

 

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 

 

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Week of the Publican and Pharisee – TUESDAY, The “take home” message.

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Today’s readings, followed by a few pastoral & personal thoughts.

 

Today’s readings are very complex, and hard to understand in their entirety. This should not keep us from the “take home” message.

 

When you read the scripture, you must be able to deal with the frustration of not understanding much of what you are reading. Understanding the scripture in its entirety is reserved only for the pure in heart, however, the act of prayerfully, consistently, expectantly reading the scripture will in time bring you great understanding.

 

Many do not read the Scripture because of frustration. Many things are “dark sayings”[1]  to us, and we mistakenly think that because we are not “getting it”, we are not benefiting. Secular literature, television and the Internet are easy to understand, but this is precisely because they do not speak of wisdom. These things may give us some satisfaction, since we do not labor to understand them, but they are time wasters. “Better and hour with little understanding reading the scripture, than a thousand days of worldly pursuits with understanding”[2]

 

The writings of the Fathers are filled with admonitions to read the scriptures. One of my most important pastoral goals (and the reason I write these small commentaries and reflections) is to convince and enable my flock to love the scriptures, and read them daily, and benefit from them. How am I doing?

 

What is the “take home” from The Apostle Peter’s words today?

 

This will differ according to our personality, and stage of spiritual development, however, for each of us, it is a personal message.

 

For me, as is often the case, the scripture is at once comforting and frightening. There is here a warm promise, but mixed with it a warning and a reminder of the great expectations placed upon me because I say I am a believer.

 

The world is full of evil. So much is difficult to understand, and demoralizing. What really matters about our place in the world? There will be an end to evil, and no matter what happens, the believer will be protected. Also, we need not worry about what will happen to the evil; it is a monstrous distraction to concern ourselves with them.  This my soul understand and rejoices in because of the words of the Apostle:

 

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished”

 

 

Everything will work out, things will be okay, if we cleave to God. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

 

This is basically what the Apostle is saying. Do we show by our actions, pursuits, priorities and thoughts that we believe him?

 

We also learn from St Peter how to confront evil: with humility. We ourselves can stand against evil in an evil way!

 

11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.

 

This is very reminiscent of the actions of Archangel Michael, who confronted the one who is the most evil:

 

“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” (Jude 1:9)

 

And lastly, after a long listing of  the sins of the ungodly, the holy Apostle warns us, lest we foolishly consider ourselves immune to these things:

 

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”

 

Which one of us can read the words before this and not feel some twitch in our conscience? May God preserve us and help us!

 

There is much more of benefit in the Epistle, and even more in the Gospel. Read it today and see! Please comment if you think something might be of benefit to others.

 

 

 

2 Peter 2:9-22  9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: 10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. 11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. 12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

 

Mark 13:14-23 14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: 15 And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: 16 And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. 17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. 19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. 20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. 21 And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: 22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

 

 

Bibliography

The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St Mark, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – http://www.chrysostompress.org/. ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

 

Priest Seraphim 2009.                                                                                              St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-tuesday_2009_2peter2;9-22+mark13;14-23.html

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-tuesday_2009_2peter2;9-22+mark13;14-23.rtf

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-tuesday_2009_2peter2;9-22+mark13;14-23.pdf

 

New commentaries are posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Archive of: commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture 

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 



[1] “My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.  (4)  I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.”  Psa 49:3-4 KJV . the only way to understand the “dark sayings” of scripture is through gaining wisdom.

[2] Cf. “For better is one day in Thy courts than thousands elsewhere. I have chosen rather to be an outcast in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of sinners.” (Psalm 84:10 Sept, Boston)

 

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Publican and Pharisee 2009. Two kinds of people.

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

LISTEN NOW

Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.



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Zacchaeus Sunday 2009. A “before” and “begining” story, to be continued…

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

LISTEN NOW

Lots more about the Sunday of Zacchaeus:

 

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-01_1999+sunday-of-zacchaeus_1tim;4-9-15+luke19;1-10.doc
1st Sunday before Great Lent (Word DOC format)
Sunday Of Zacchaeus
1 Tim:4-9-15, Luke 19:1-10
1999

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-01_2001+sunday-of-zacchaeus.html
1st Sunday before Great Lent (HTML format)
Sunday Of Zacchaeus
2001

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-01_2002+zacchaeus-sunday.doc
1st Sunday before Great Lent (Word DOC format)
Zacchaeus Sunday
2002

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-01_2007-01-21+sunday-of-zaccheaus.mp3
1st Sunday before Great Lent (mp3 format)
Sunday Of Zaccheaus
2007

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-01_2008-02-10+sunday-of-zaccheaus+encouragement.mp3
1st Sunday before Great Lent (mp3 format)
Sunday Of Zaccheaus
Encouragement
2008

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-01_2009-02-01+sunday-of-zacchaeus.mp3
1st Sunday before Great Lent (mp3 format)
Sunday Of Zacchaeus
A "before" and "begining" story, to be continued…
Luke 19:1-10
2009

 

Luke 19:1-10 1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.



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Zacchaeus Sunday – push past the press

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-01_2002+zacchaeus-sunday.doc

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.[1]

 

 

Brothers and sisters, today is Zacchaeus Sunday; it one of the five Sundays that precedes Great Lent and helps us prepare for the Great Fast. 

 

 

 

Zacchaeus was a publican and very rich.  This meant that he was very corrupt because the way publicans became rich was by extorting more money than the Romans actually taxed.  They were Jews, but they extorted their own people for their own personal gain. 

 

 

 

Zacchaeus had heard about Christ; everybody had heard about Christ.  He was the “happening” thing at that time and He was an event wherever He went.  People came out of curiosity, as well because they believed or wanted to be healed. 

 

 

 

As Christ is coming into town, passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus hears about His arrival.  And something in Zacchaeus’ soul, although he probably didn’t even understand it at that time, desired to see Christ.  Perhaps he had some hope he could change and amend his life, even though he had been so far away from God for so long because he had been so corrupt; hurt so many; lied, stolen.  Probably he contributed to people’s death by extorting money from poor widows and such.  But he wanted to see Christ, but he was small, short, and the crowd was large and he wouldn’t be able to see Christ.  So, being a clever man, he ran ahead and climbed into a tree so he could see Christ. 

 

 

Now what do we understand from this?  The Scripture is a historical record, but it is also a mystical teaching.  This historical event teaches spiritual truths, and teaches us how to live.  Now, I have also told you that you should read the Scriptures to see how they apply to you, both the good and the bad.  When you see a sinner in the Scriptures, beg the Lord to forgive you of your sins.  When you see someone righteous, confessing in the Scriptures, beg the Lord that you would have the strength to do the same.  When you see Zacchaeus, beg the Lord that you would be freed of any avarice, any grabbing on to money, any greed, any dishonesty, any lack of compassion … all these things that Zacchaeus had in abundance, like shall we say, a legion of sins

[2]

 

 

Also, when you see Zacchaeus, notice how he climbed up into a tree.  Even though he was hindered from seeing Christ, he didn’t give up.  The press is the crowd of people who were keeping him from seeing because he was short.  I ask you look at the spiritual meaning of what the press is — it is our sins, our passions, our worldly concerns, our false priorities.  And also the press is our shame.  It is important to understand this.  Many of us understand about our sins and desire not to sin anymore, but this press of shame often keeps us from seeing God because what God wants you to do when you sin is to run to Him, and the “press” is a formidable obstacle between us and the arms of our Father.

 

 

 

Our Lord uses the image of a child to teach us what our disposition should be after we sin.  A child who has been in a normal family with parents that love him when he sins and his parents scold him or spank him, what does he do?  He cries big tears and then he hugs his parent and says, “I’m sorry” immediately.  This is how we should be when we sin so we can see Christ again because sin makes our eyes grow dim.  We are not able to see Christ when we sin. 

 

 

 

We should be like Zacchaeus; when we sin we should push pass the press.  And the press indeed is often our own shame; our own incredulity about our sins.  Why are you surprised when you sin?  I have said this to some of you in confession, probably almost everybody.  Why be surprised when you sin?  Why be offended when you sin?  Your sinning shouldn’t offend you.  Your sinning offends God.  When you sin, push past that pride that the devil puts in your way and struggle to repent of that sin so that you will restore full communion with God in your soul. 

 

 

 

Brothers and sisters, the press is just not entanglements in the world.  We create our own press.  The press could be depression; this press could be despondency; this press could be our shame.  Or it could be other sins: laziness, wrong priorities, anything that keeps us from Christ …all these things are the press. 

 

 

 

You must find a way around the press.  If you do not have the strength to push past it, then find a way to be over it like Zacchaeus was.  And how did he find his way to be able to see Christ?  By rising up, by going into the tree.  Always, the only way that we can accomplish anything is by having our eyes on Christ, by thinking of things above and not earthly.  So if there is something that you cannot conquer, something that grieves you, something that saddens you, then you must climb the tree, you must make the effort to pray and as part of your praying to be struggling to follow the Commandments. 

 

 

 

Now Zacchaeus didn’t know these things.  All he wanted to do was see Christ.  Now Christ saw that there was a good heart buried under all that corruption in Zacchaeus.  So when He passed by him, He said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thine house.” 

 

 

 

Now this occurs with us, too, brothers and sisters.  When our Lord sees that we have pushed past the press, even if it is only a small amount, even if we are still in the middle of the crowd, but struggling to get out, even if we haven’t made it to the tree, much less been able to climb it with exalted thoughts and prayer, the Lord sees this and says, “Make haste, make haste.  I will abide with you.”  Make haste means: “consider My living inside you, My Grace that I give you to be the most critical and important thing in your entire life.  Run to it!  Order your life according to it!”  Make haste today.  Today salvation comes to our house, and every day because the

Kingdom of God is within us. 

 

 

God is very close, very near brothers and sisters.  And He is constantly telling us, “Make haste!  Come down!  Be with Me.  Learn of Me.  I am meek and lowly.  My yoke is easy.  Learn of Me.  I am sweet; a sweetness that you cannot experience in anything else.  I am joy, a joy which you cannot obtain from anything earthly.  I am incorruptible and I will make you who are corrupted perfect.”  The Lord says this often, brothers and sisters. 

 

 

 

Do you hear Him say, “Make haste”?  Do you hear Him say, “Today I will abide in your house”, that is, your soul?  Do you hear this?  A Christian should hear this.  Everyday you should be trying to prepare your house; make it a little bit cleaner.  A little bit more straightened up, so that the Lord would abide in it as an honored guest. 

 

 

 

Now Zacchaeus had not repented of any of his sins before the Lord said, “Come down.”, but the Lord knew he would.  The Lord accepts us because of our potential brothers and sisters.   We can become perfected; He knows how to accomplish it.  The only thing He asks of us is that we make haste; the only thing He asks of us is that we make an effort.  That we struggle, that we try, that when obstacles are in our lives, we find ways around them by His grace and with His help and with our effort. 

 

 

 

They go and have dinner at Zacchaeus’ house.  Zacchaeus is full of joy because here was a Rabbi, a great teacher, who accepted him.  No one else accepted him because he had defrauded so many people.  And he felt joy.  There must have been such a feeling in his heart at the time of joy and expectation and that maybe he could change now.  Maybe he could put off this burden that had been dragging his conscience down for so many years. 

 

 

 

But there are people in the crowd, at the dinner, that are saying that he is a sinner and they are murmuring about it.  The Lord hears this and so does Zacchaeus.  So he pledges to the Lord, “Behold, the half of my goods I give to poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold.”  If you work out the math, basically Zacchaeus has just impoverished himself.  A person who has been accustomed to silk pillows and the finest of foods and an abundance of wine and probably to wealthy courtesans to give him his every whim and wish, suddenly is going to make himself poor for the sake of Christ.  This is repentance, brothers and sisters, this is contrition. 

 

 

 

The Lord requires this of us; requires that we give up what we were so that we can become what we should be.  Jesus waits for Zacchaeus to say this (of course He knew he was going to say it), and when He hears it says, “This day is salvation come to this house.”  Now what is salvation, brothers and sisters?  In the West, salvation is thought of in such a miniscule fashion.  There is such poverty in the minds of people when they consider what salvation is!  Most people think that salvation is that when you die, you go to heaven.  Salvation is, “Well, you have sins and Jesus Christ pays the penalty of your sins and you go to heaven.” 

 

 

 

May it never be that we have such a small view! Salvation is restoration, brothers and sisters.  Salvation is completion.  Salvation is being made perfect.  Salvation is being able to cast off everything that hurts, everything that is heavy, and to be able to see Christ as He is, to be able to know the true nature of things.  Salvation is when a soul changes.  And Zacchaeus was changing. 

 

 

 

Brothers and sisters, do you hear the Lord telling you to make haste?  Do you hear the Lord saying salvation has come to your house?  Do you hear the Lord telling you about His sweetness?  About his perfection? About His love for you?  Do you hear these things?  Perhaps you don’t hear these things.  You should hear them everyday.  If you don’t hear, this is because you have sins that are holding you down. 

 

 

 

Push past the press, brothers and sisters.  The whole world is going to go away.  It is going to be recreated.  Everything will be made new.  Will you be new?  If you have not become new, if you have not changed, then you will be like that old piece of cloth…it can’t be put on a new wineskin

[3].  Brothers and sisters, be like Zacchaeus.  Press past the crowd; find a way to see Christ.  And when Christ speaks to you, make haste and come down and do everything in your power so that He may abide in your house and never leave.  May God help you in all things.  Amen.



[1] This homily was preached at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas, on Zacchaeus Sunday, 2002

[2] Cf. Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30

[3] [Mat 9:17]  Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

 

 

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