Archive for May, 2009

4th Sun of Pascha. The Paralytic. Another important question.

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

LISTEN NOW

John 5:1-15 1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole



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The Paralytic “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk!”

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-04_2000+the-paralytic.html

 

4th Sunday of Pascha

John 5:1-5

In the name of the Father, and the Son and the holy Spirit Amen.

Today we see a man who is healed … twice. The man’s healing was completed in stages, as it is for us also. And we Orthodox Christians must recognize how God heals us, and how that obligates us. As Christians we fall far short of the mark. We are very poor at giving thanks to God, we are very poor at remembering His mercies. We are very poor at changing our priorities, at arranging our schedules. And because of this, we too often fall far short of receiving the SECOND healing.

The paralytic could not walk, his legs were not strong. He hoped to be healed, and so he waited, lying on his bed, by the sheep’s pool. And he waited a long time. Thirty eight years is taken by the Fathers to be an indication of a lifetime – maybe not a lifetime now but very near an average lifetime then. And this lifetime indicates everything that is wrong with a man – all sins, all infirmities, all incompleteness, everything that is lacking in us. Any man who has any honesty in his heart knows that he is incomplete, and longs to be changed.

For the paralytic, the first healing was of his legs, so that he could be able to stand. For us, this first healing is bringing us into the church.

Now the second healing is when the man was enlightened by Christ. Our Lord saw him in the temple (which was a good place for him to be, and the reason why he received the second healing), and He conveyed to the man Who he was. And Jesus told the man something very important: "Thou art made whole – sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee". In other words, now that you have been made whole, and I have forgiven your sins, live according to the commandments!

I want you to understand the true nature of this second healing. In the story, it is mentioned once, but we know that our ascent to wholeness and perfection occurs during our whole life. We will not receive this second healing in full measure without us forcing our will to struggle to follow the commandments. This is why the place where Christ found the man is so significant. He was in the temple, praying, giving thanks. God provides the grace, but we must supply the effort.

We Orthodox Christians are very poor at remembering these things that the Lord says, such as "sin no more". God’s mercy is linked very strongly to our responsibility to think to act, to breath as Christians. We are very poor at fulfilling this responsibility. It is very strange that the time of the worst church attendance is after Pascha. This is the time when people often tell me in confession that they have hardly said their prayers. Satan steals away the grace from us, like the birds steal the seed away from the ground by the wayside, because it has not taken root.

This story really is present at this time of the year not for this message that I am trying to give you now, but instead to further focus us on how the resurrection changes and enlightens a man. We will see this again and again during this post Paschal period, how God enlightens and how the resurrection is applied to our life. We will see it in the paralytic, and the blind man, and the Samaritan woman. But we also must see a sidebar to these healings and these enlightenments that we will look at, even if only briefly, on a Sunday. We are obligated.

Every year I wrestle, and I think I lose the wrestling match each year, but my pastoral conscience compels me to emphasize the Lord’s words given to the paralytic after his first healing, which we do not take enough heed of: "Take up your bed and walk!"

You must look in the mirror and judge yourself, am I living as a Christian? Am I fasting with care, am I coming to church when I can, or only when it is convenient to me? Am I saying my prayers or am I just making the sign of the cross as I bolt out the door into my car, in order to immediately turn on the radio and immerse myself into the secular minutia of the day? Am I struggling against my passions? Is this struggle my chief aim of my day?

We are obligated brothers and sisters. And this obligation is not a rule God requires that is enforced with an iron fist. God wants to give you every blessing, and I as a minister of the gospel am charged with making everything possible available to you, that I as a mortal who has been given the responsibility and the ability to deal with the immortal, can do. But you must TAKE it! You must grab it! You must pray. You must fast. You must come to the services. You must take up your bed and walk.

Perhaps I will win this wrestling match some year, and only speak of the joy of Pascha and the enlightenment that God gives. But so far I have lost, because my heart is heavy this time if year. Take up your bed and walk!

You have been healed, you have been put in the waters of baptism, and emerged a new creature. That is what the troubling of the waters in this story means. This theology is a lot more important than the movie of the week you know. We should know these things. The troubling of the water indicates baptism, but only man was healed a year, when the Archangel Michael went down into the water. You should know the angel’s identity from the evening vigil service. Archangel Michael troubles the water. This is not mentioned in the scriptures, but our Holy tradition knows this. One man only was healed! But Christ can heal the whole man, and He can heal everybody.

This is exciting news. But when the God-man says "Take up your bed and walk", He does just tell you to do it. He gives you the ability to do it! Who are we, to languish in inconstancy, and laziness, and in falling headlong in to the narcotic stream of life, when we have been directed by our Savior to work, and He has given us all things to fulfill his command. When we remain unchanged, we are not recognizing the mercy of God. And you will miss the grace. It streams by you, and you do not catch any of it, or only catch a small amount, because the grace of God which He bestows is retained only by the active, who are, carrying their beds, that is struggling in the Christina life. And still have all of your sins, and all of your passions and all of your problems, and the grace of God is right there for you to use!

We have the oasis only within a few steps and we are thirsting to death. A heavily laden table full of sweet meats is nearby, and we are hungry! Pick up your bed and walk! You still have time in this blessed period between now and Pentecost, when God wants to revel in a very significant extreme way, His enlightenment. We must to be here to listen. Not just "here" in this building, but in our prayers, in our reading, in all these things that are necessary for our souls. Not for my sake, for your sake.

I pray that next year I will win this wrestling match, and I will speak to you about what I really want to talk about – exciting news. But this kind of news can only be shared by people that are of the same mind striving together. Let’s be of the same mind, about the living of the Christian life. Struggle with me. I am not a very good struggler, and I need a lot of help and support. Let’s struggle together. Make up your mind you are going to fast better, that you will say your prayers in the morning , and not just a minutes worth. If you always have a habit of listening to Paul Harvey at 12 noon, and always remember that, then you can remember 5 minutes of prayer in the morning, or fifteen. Lets start with five. And five at night. And read something holy each day.

If you do this you will expand! God will fill you with knowledge And some of the problems that have been assailing you will start to be washed away. The process if agonizingly slow for most Christians ands they see very little progress, because they have not added enough EFFORT to God’s grace! So may we take up our bed and walk. Some of us can run, some of us can fly like eagles. Some of us can only crawl. I can only crawl, but if that is the case for you as well, then let’s crawl together.

May God help us to take up our bed and walk, to struggle with all the things in the Christian life for our benefit. God has much to give us, and we don’t see it, even though it is right here! Do you realize the angels are present right now? They are right here, among us, but do we see them? No, because our eyes have scales on them. We do not see what God wants to give us. This is a tragedy – that we don’t see the angels, that we do not feel the fullness of what is happening right now.

May God enlighten us! It will be as little bit at a time, small steps. He is not asking you to pray in the air tomorrow . He is asking you to respond to his grace, like a flower responds to the sun and grows towards it. The flower never turns away from the sun, and yet the Christian does. Let us not be like the world. Let us focus our lives on what matters, the salvation of our souls, so that we can see what God wants to show us. There is exciting news, incredible news concerning what God has in store for those who struggle. May God bless you and help you. Amen.

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3rd Friday of Pascha

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Scripture is blunt.

Slogans.

Jesus wept.

Even right brains can get things done!

 

Scripture can be very blunt. It can say more with less words than any literature I can think of.  Some of my favorite verses are very short and blunt. For some reason, the blunt verses really penetrate into me, and become a powerful lesson. This happens with repetition; one cannot read the same verse too many times! I think they become “slogans” in my heart. A slogan  is something very short and powerful – it captures the essence and energy of something. It is easy to remember, and contains emotional “oomph”.  

 

For me, the words Jesus spoke (in today’s reading) bluntly, to the Jews are a slogan:

 

Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

 

This is not a statement of the obvious  – it is a spiritual truth to apply to  … everything.

 

Now, I understand that not everybody thinks of this verse as I do, and that’s ok. I am not speaking about dogma here. We should not only understand the intended meaning of scripture, but also feel its power. We are all different, and different verses affect people differently.

 

For instance:

 

Jesus wept.

 

To me, this is a marvelous expression of our Lord’s humanity. I also immediately think of why He  was weeping. It was not because Lazarus was dead! It was because of the unbelief and hard-heartedness of the people surrounding Him. These two words make me feel his burden in a way that no hymn about the crucifixion can.

 

Also, I weep too, because of many setbacks and difficulties in the life of a pastor. I can see that Jesus did it too – He was really sad about stuff. I get sad too, but the similarity with our Lord ends there – sometimes my sadness incapacitates me. Our Lord was sad, he wept, he felt alone and abandoned, but in the midst of it all, He always did the will of His Father perfectly. “Jesus wept” tells me that my humanity need not get in the way of doing the right thing always, and that feelings can be overcome because  Christ overcame them. This is powerful stuff, and all in two words!

 

Of course, that’s just how I feel. The dogma in this verse is that Jesus is truly God, and truly man, but I already know that in my mind. The simple words “Jesus wept” make this dogma and their implication, that is, its application to my life, penetrate a little bit more into my heart.

 

So too, does our Lord’s words to the Jews about manna penetrate into my heart. He was setting up the comparison of manna to Himself. Manna was a “type”, or foreshadowing of the true “bread from heaven”, our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The emotional impact of the verse says much more to me. It sets up a comparison of the way of life with everything else.

 

I struggle to put the feelings into words, because they are powerful. Basically, these words are an answer to every temptation: “I can do this thing, but it is dead.” If only I had this thought at all times! 

 

Perhaps there are verses that truly touch you, and motivate you. Such “slogans” are especially prevalent in the Psalms. Read the scripture often, and try to feel it as well as know it. It will become a great comfort to you.

 

 

I am happy today, because my poor little overworked right dominant brain actually got all the Pascha letters mailed to the parish. The printing was donated, and the postage too. My parishioners may get them on Saturday or at least Monday. This is a small, and very late “victory”, but I take ‘em when I get ‘em. I will snail mail the Paschal letter to whoever sends me their postal address, unless I get an overwhelming number of addresses (if I do, you will see pigs flying) . Send your postal address to seraphim@orthodox.net

 

John 6:48-54 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-05-08.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-05-08.doc

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Pascha videos

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Courtesy of Nat, here are some Pascha videos. We will put them on the website when we figure out a place to put them! At the present time, we are in the midst of redesigning the site, and will have a place for video links.

 

Holy Saturday: YouTube, Yahoo, MySpace, Metacafe, DailyMotion, Blip.tv and Veoh

 

Pascha, part 1: YouTube, Yahoo, Metacafe, DailyMotion, Blip.tv and Veoh

 

Pascha, part 2: YouTube, Yahoo, MySpace, Metacafe, DailyMotion, Blip.tv and Veoh

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Friday of Thomas Week 2009. The pleasure of little things. Rutabagas. A recipe.

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

 

Ok, a little late, but I started this journal entry over a week ago, and its contents are still timely.

 

The pleasure of little things.

Pascha season fasting rules.

Difference in services in the Paschal season.

Repetition is necessary.   

The safe way to saut? with Olive oil.

Rutabagas are great.

A recipe that has no name.

 

As I was eating one of my creations and enjoying it with relish tonight, realized that the dish was so good because of the onions and garlic that I had browned in a mixture of olive oil with a little water.[1]

 

Adding oil to the pot is a little thing, but it can give so much pleasure during certain seasons.

 

During “Paschal-tide”, which is the period from Pascha till the day before Ascension, all fasting days are lessened; on Wednesday and Friday, we fast from the usual stuff, but can have wine and oil. This is not the usual case; during the rest of the year, all Wednesday and Friday fasting days are so-called “strict fast” days.

 

Most fast days we do not eat animal products, which include any kind of  mammal, reptile or avian flesh you can mention, and anything they produce, such as milk, or eggs. This prohibition also includes fish, but we have always considered “shell fish” to not be fish (they do not have scales) so they can be eaten any day (but no lobster with butter or fried shrimp!). If it is a “strict fast” day, we also refrain from oil and wine (basically all alcoholic beverages, but some will drink beer on any day)

 

It was such a pleasure to have olive oil in my food today precisely because it is Friday, and this is a rare occurrence in the year. We can benefit from fasting and also not fasting, but only if we fast. The old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is very true.

 

The temperate person actually finds more enjoyment out of less. The indulgent man is never satisfied. In many ways, our entire struggle against ALL sin is summed up by: “Do not indulge yourself! Learn to be satisfied with less!”, therefore, fasting is a particularly useful “tool” to teach the soul to avoid ALL sin.

 

If a person does not fast, or rarely fasts, or often does not fast when a “temptation” occurs (such as a business meal, or a meal out of the house), then their “normal” is to not have any extended period when they do not eat something. It is not a “new” thing for such a person to have olive oil; this is just “business as usual”, or “SOP” (standard operating procedure”).

 

The Paschal season is full of little treats that the observant person notices and takes great pleasure in. These things can only be noticed if we know what the “normal” is.  If a person does not fast, or has not attended matins and vespers many times, these little treats would not be understood; they could not be savored as the delicious morsels that they are. Even Divine Liturgy, which a person may be more familiar with, has subtle changes that are not fully understood and enjoyed unless a person has attended the liturgy and prayed attentively MANY times.  

 

We human’s miss a lot; we are constantly distracted; we are constantly thinking about and valuing ephemeral and useless things. This is why we understand so little spiritually and why constant attendance at the services is so important. We come, and sit at the Lord’s feet, and pay attention as best we can, and even if it is five minutes in a two and a half hour vigil, we have “redeemed the time” well.

As a pastor and a person, I try very hard to be a “glass half full” kind of guy.  A vigil spent with little attention is not stellar spiritual work on our part, but those five minutes are precious and will help us save our souls (and they were the most important minutes of the entire day!). Besides, maybe next time, we will pay attention for SIX minutes!

 

Over the course of time, the outstanding beauty and intricacy of our theology seeps into our souls and softens them, and we begin to understand and to be the things we are listening to.  This process takes years; it never really ends, and it gets sweeter and gives us more peace as we change from carnal to spiritual persons.

 

Commonly, people who love the services and attend them often notice the ebb and flow of the church year. Every period just “feels different”. There are great and small differences in the services, and over time, one begins to savor them., much as a mother savors the last, subtle “baby things” her youngest child does as they leave infancy and grow into being a young child.

 

Maybe another time I will go over the “all” major and minor changes in the services during the Paschal period. There are a lot of them. One was already mentioned: we fast less strictly on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Of course, we sing “Christ is risen” a lot, and usually three times. For instance, “Christ is risen” (3 times) replaces “O Heavenly King” in all prayers. Anybody care to reckon why?

 

One of my favorite changes is that the dismissal given by the priest for any service always begins: “May He Who rose from the dead, Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ…”  Usually, on various days, we start the dismissal without mentioning the resurrection, which is reserved for Saturdays and Sundays only, but the Pascha period is like one big Sunday.  There is a special commemoration for most days, but I am poor at details, so I like the simple privilege of mentioning the resurrection every time.

 

There are especially a lot of differences in Bright Week services (the first week after Pascha), and sometime I will go over them.

 

 

 

 

Now, what we have all been waiting for, the recipe for my creation. Anytime I create a recipe, one must use the term “recipe” loosely. I sort of throw things together usually in a big saut? pan.

 

“The recipe with no name”

 

The principle flavor in this recipe is a great Indian flavoring sauce:”Patak’s GARAM MASALA Curry Paste, with Ginger and cinnamon (Hot)”.  You can get Patak’s sauces and pastes at most groceries, but Indian store will have a zillion of them you cannot find elsewhere.

 

It consists of just about any veggies you want, as long as you include lots or garlic and onions, and black beans, or some other protein source, like shrimp or scallops.  

 

Ingredients

 

Onion, as much as you want, but at least a large onion, diced. Let it sit for 15 minutes before saut?ing it, because it allows really beneficial sulfur containing phytonutrients to form. They stop forming as soon at heat is applied.

 

Garlic, several cloves, diced (NOT pressed through a garlic press). I used 6 cloves.

 

Rutabaga, at least half of a large one, diced. This is an awesome vegetable, with a taste like a potato and turnip at the same time.  It takes on flavors real well in dishes, just like potatoes. You could also add or substitute any of these: potato, turnip, sweet potato, but do try the rutabaga sometime!

 

Fresh Jalape?o’s diced. Get rid of the seeds if you don’t want it to be too hot. I used two fat ones.

 

Anise bulb, diced. I had it, so I used it. Tastes like licorice.

 

Fresh spinach, a big handful (from my garden), cut into reasonable pieces. You could also use collards, but they need to cook about 2 minutes longer than the spinach.

 

Cilantro, lots, diced (again from the garden, I’m bragging now).

 

Black beans, 1-2 cans, drained.

 

Diced tomatoes, with the juice, 1 can or fresh if you have them.

 

Directions.

 

All cooking is done with the cover on the pan except the browning of the garlic.

 

Saut? the onion with medium heat in a TBS (or more, during Pascha, oil does not have calories) of Olive oil and some water until the onions are soft and brown. Add water as needed.

 

Move the onions to one side of the pan, put a bit of olive oil on the other side, and brown the garlic. Keep turning it over and over until it just gets brown. This takes only a minute or two. Do NOT use a metal utensil if you are using a Teflon pan, unless you want to get in a lot of trouble!

 

Mix the garlic and onions together. Add Indian sauce, rutabaga, jalape?os and diced tomatoes, mix real well, and simmer until the rutabaga is soft, but not mushy.  This is the time to put in long cooking vegetables, such as the ones I used, or carrots)

 

Add black beans and anise and cook for a couple of minutes, then the spinach, and cilantro, and cook on high for a couple minutes more.

 

If at anytime the mixture seems too dry, just add a little but of water.

 

I saut?ed some scallops in Olive oil and added them in later, my wife does not like scallops; she just ate it without scallops. I always make a lot, and this kind of dish gets more flavorful and hotter with age, so it does not go to waste.

 

This dish can also easily be made without oil. I just saut? in water, and skip the browning of the garlic.

You really do not need to use oil for saut?ing on fast days. Try it, and you will see.

 

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-05-01.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-05-01.html

 

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

 

Archive of Journal Entries: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

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] I usually saut? with oil by adding water and keep adding it, so the mixture never gets hotter than boiling water. When olive oil or any oil is cooked at high temperatures, it breaks down into toxic free radical containing compounds and some of the beneficial compounds are lost as well.

 

 

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3rd Week of Pascha – Tuesday. The Bread from Heaven, JOHN 6:27-33

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

3rd Week of Pascha – Tuesday

The Bread from Heaven, JOHN 6:27-33

There is no temporary, only eternal.

Manna foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ, and the Eucharist.

 

John 6:27-33 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

 

 

Jesus came and did temporal things (he ate, he slept, and all the other temporary and ever changing activities of human existence), but ALL things He did pointed to the eternal. The Jews clearly did not understand this, as they were more amazed and excited about His feeding the multitudes than with His grace filled teaching and example.

 

He instructed the Jews with a gentle rebuke, knowing that in their hearts they saw Him as a provider as they conquered the Romans, by telling them (and us):

 

27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life

 

The context of this statement teaches us much. It was uttered shortly after He fed the multitudes, with perishable food. The multitudes saw this miracle with carnal eyes; they did not understand its spiritual meaning. So do we see the temporal tings of life with carnal eyes, and do not perceive their spiritual meaning. In everything, whether it is mundane or exceptional, we must be laboring for the meat which does not perish; EVERYTHING we do should be about the kingdom.

 

Which one of us can hear our Lord’s words and feel completely at peace, knowing that we are following them to the letter?

 

The Jews who heard our Lord evidently were touched in some way by His rebuke and with weak faith (as we shall see), but nonetheless, with at least some desire asked him:

 

28 … What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

 

 

They appeared to desire to have his miracle working power, which was uppermost in their minds, due to the recent miracle. They appeared to want to gain something for themselves, using God’s power.

 

The epistle for today also presents someone who wanted God’s power for his own desires: Simon the sorcerer. He became a Christian, but in name only, as his ambition caused him to seek to pay the apostles to acquire power. It is from him that we get the term “simony”, and it is a great sin whose genesis is from not understanding all things as spiritual.

 

The answer is simple, but as is usual in Jesus’ answers, with a depth of meaning that can only be understood with experience:

 

29 … This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

 

Jesus’ entire ministry makes it clear that His idea of “belief” is to follow the way of life that he set forth by example. Belief is not intellectual assent, but wholehearted dedication to what is in the heart. The Jews did not understand this, and to this day, “multitudes” of people claiming to have belief in God, or even be Christians pursue lives opposed to God.

 

The Jews, still not understanding, and still thinking of food for their flesh answered Jesus:

 

31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

 

This is a reference to the Psalms:

 

They asked, and the quail came, and he satisfied them with the bread of heaven. (Psa 104:40, Sept)

 

23 Yet he commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,  24 and rained upon them manna to eat, and gave them the bread of heaven. 25 Man ate angels’ bread; he sent them provision to the full. (Psa 77:23-25 Sept)

 

Jesus then teaches the Jews and us the true meaning of the miracle, and of the manna, which fed the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness. The manna was a foreshadowing of His coming, as the “bread from heaven”.

 

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

 

Just as the Jews ate manna, we eat the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Types and foreshadowings are limited in nature; they cannot adequately describe the thing they point to. Manna fed the Jews for a day, and any that was hoarded for the next day became filled with worms and stank. Our Lord feeds us for our lifetime, and nothing that is of him will ever corrupt.

 

This selection further demonstrates the carnal faith of the Jews, which St John compared with the good faith of the Samaritans in yesterday’s reading. What is it that we understand in a carnal way like the Jews? Do we fully understand the manna we receive?

 

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.  (52)  The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  (53)  Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  (54)  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  (55)  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  (56)  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.  (57)  As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.  (58)  This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever(59)  These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.  (60)  Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?  (John 6:51-60)

 

 

Bibliography

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

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pascha-tuesday-03_2009-05-05.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pascha-tuesday-03_2009-05-05.html

 

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3rd Week of Pascha – MONDAY. The Healing of the Nobleman’s Son, JOHN 4:46-54

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Hw does one glean deep and subtle meanings from scripture?

The superior faith of the Samaritans

Signs and Wonders

The Nobleman compared to the Centurion

 

The meaning in Scripture is often very subtle, and not immediately obvious on the surface. Today’s reading is especially subtle in one of its important messages.

 

Blessed Theophylact comments that St John made a point to remind us about the miracle in Cana (a ciy of the Jews) to underscore the superiority of the faith of the Samaritans, as he had just finished recounting the story of the woman at the well, and how the Samaritans gladly received Jesus and believed in Him even though He did not do any miracles in their presence:

 

So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.  (41)  And many more believed because of his own word;  (42)  And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. (John 4:40-42)

 

The superiority of the Samaritan’s faith to that of the haughty Jews (who hated the Samaritans and considered them to be unclean heretics and inferiors) is further emphasized by our Lord’s rebuke, spoken to a Jew (for the nobleman was certainly a Jew in good standing among his people):

 

48. Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

 

The nobleman’s weak faith  also shows a marked contrast with that of the Samaritans:

 

49. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

 

He could not believe that Jesus could heal without seeing his son, and blessed Theophylact further tells us that he was very afraid that his son would die, and that Christ would be unable to raise him. He only believed Jesus power to heal after he heard from his servants, who met him as he went back to his home:

 

51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

 

Of course, it is wonderful that the man’s weak faith was made strong by the incident, and his entire household believed.

 

At the end of this incident, St John again stresses the weak faith of the Jews, by again mentioning that Jesus had done two miracles among the Jews. The Samaritans had believed with no miracles, and the Jews needed two miracles, and only a few believed.

 

54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.

 

 

There is nothing in the Gospel which explicitly exalts the faith of the Samaritans over that of the Jews, but in several ways, the Gospel makes this point strongly, although subtly.

 

How does one glean such deep meanings from the Scripture? There are several ways; we must do them all.

 

We must be students of the Scriptures; it must be familiar to us because of long time association with its content. In other words, we must read it, a LOT.

 

We also must be “doer’s of the law and not hearers only” – no amount of reading the scripture divorced from trying to follow it will give us understanding in things that matter.

 

Of course, anybody who reads and studies something enough will know much about it, but the knowledge that saves is only available to those who read and attempt to follow the scripture! 

 

We also must be liturgical people. Our services explain the hidden points of the scriptures every day. A person who reads the scriptures for understanding and neglects frequent, attentive worship in as many services as possible is like a man who studies physics but does not understand algebra. The services explain everything, either explicitly, or by framing and shaping our minds in a way which make us able to understand the Scriptures.

 

It is also very helpful the read the Holy Fathers, but without the first three, above, reading the Fathers is an endeavor that can only lead to deficient knowledge and boasting.

 

 

A few other things about this scripture selection.

 

A “sign” is something that does not contradict the usual laws of nature, such as healing the sick. A “wonder” is a miracle that appears the contradict the usual laws of nature, such as making the blind see, or raising the dead.

 

This healing is similar to the healing of the Centurion’s servant (Mat 8:5-13), but it is not the same. Blessed Theophylact goes to some pains to explain this. The differences are many. The nobleman was a Jew; the centurion, although a man of faith, was an officially pagan Roman soldier. The nobleman’s son was ill with a fever, the centurion’s servant with paralysis. The location of the healings was different: the centurion encountered Christ after he had come off the mountain following His transfiguration and entered Capernaum, and the nobleman saw Christ after He left Samaria and entered Cana. The most important difference, of course, is that the centurion had stronger faith, which the Lord praised:

 

 

The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.  (9)  For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.  (10)  When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Mat 8:8-10)

 

 

 

JOHN 4:46-54  46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.

 

 

Bibliography

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

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pascha-monday-03_2009-05-04.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pascha-monday-03_2009-05-04.html

 

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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Myrhhbearing Women 2009. Act on what you know and you will know more, do what you can do, and you will be able to do more. Audio Homily

Monday, May 4th, 2009

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Mark 15:43-16:8 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. 47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. 1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.



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