Archive for December, 2009

Feast of St. Nicholas

Monday, December 7th, 2009

On Saturday, December 19th (December 6th on the Church Calendar), St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church will celebrate its patronal feast day. Unfortunately, our new temple will not be ready in time for this event, so the service will be held in our current facility in Dallas; God willing, the new it will be ready by February.

His Grace Peter, Bishop of Cleveland will preside over the divine services. The schedule of services is here. is below. During the Divine Liturgy, an ordination to the diaconate is planned.

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Bulgarian Church may change back to the church calendar.

Monday, December 7th, 2009

 








Bulgarian Orthodox Church Tempted to Move Christmas in Time

Bulgaria: Bulgarian Orthodox Church Tempted to Move Christmas in Time
The leaders of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church might produce a Christmas miracle by shifting the date of the holiday to January 7. Photo by BGNES

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church may decide in favor of restoring the Julian Calendar, which means that Christmas will have be celebrated on January 7 instead of December 25.

Senior bishops have made it clear that in 2009 Bulgaria might celebrate Christmas on December 25 for the last time, if the Church decides to renounce the Gregorian Calendar.

On December 20, 2009, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is going to hold a meeting to consider the plea of a group of believers and their priest from the village of Chelopechene, asking that Christmas be celebrated on January 7. The plea was filed on November 20, 2009.

The local priest Mariy Dimitrov has been serving according to the Julian Calendar for the last 20 years in his parish with the special permission of Bulgarian Patriarch Maxim.

Those who filed the plea remind that a similar case for the restoration of the Julian Calendar in 1997 attracted the support of five bishops.

Bulgaria switched to the Gregorian Calendar in 1916, and has been celebrating Christmas on December 25 since it was restored as an official holiday after the end of the communist regime.

 

source: Sofia News Agency. Article at: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=110593


 

 

 

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Parable Of The Harvest Of A Rich Man It is not about money. The Rich man made two significant mistakes. Audio Homily 2009.

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

LISTEN NOW

Other Homilies:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_1997+harvest-of-a-rich-man.html
26th Sunday after Pentecost (HTML format)
Harvest Of A Rich Man
1997

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_2003.mp3
26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
2003

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_2007-11-25+the-parable-of-the-rich-man-whose-ground-brought-forth-plentifully+an-urgent-question-we-must-answer;-what-shall-i-do_ephesians5;9-19+luke12;16-21.mp3
26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
The Parable Of The Rich Man Whose Ground Brought Forth Plentifully
An Urgent Question We Must Answer; What Shall I Do
Ephesians 5:9-19, Luke 12:16-21
2007

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_2008-12-14.mp3
26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
The Harvest of the Rich Man
Two kinds of men, and redeeming the time.
Ephesians 5:9-19, Luke 12:16-21
2008

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_2009-12-06+parable-of-the-harvest-of-a-rich-man.mp3
26th Sunday after Pentecost (mp3 format)
Parable Of The Harvest Of A Rich Man
It is not about money. The Rich man made two significant mistakes.
Luke 12:16-21, Ephesians 5:9-19,
2009

 



If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_2009-12-06+parable-of-the-harvest-of-a-rich-man.m3u

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Parable of the Harvest of the Rich Man

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Parable of the Harvest of the Rich Man

Luke 12:16-21

26th Sunday after Pentecost

 

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

 

Today we read a very short parable about the harvest of a rich man and like so much of scripture it has deep theology in very few words. It appears simple on the outside. But, truly it has much more than just the external message, which teaches that we should not only care about ourselves and be stingy and care only and think of life as the acquiring of goods.

 

Our Lord said this parable because he had just been part of or been brought into a dispute between brothers two about an inheritance. So He was trying to show how silly it is, how foolish it is to be concerned about riches.

 

So He begins His parable by saying "the ground of a certain rich man" – he doesn’t even name the man. If you notice sometimes in parables those who are great sinners don’t even have a name: such as the rich man and Lazarus, and the rich man who had this plentiful harvest. His name is blotted out of the book of the Living. It’s unimportant. Perhaps, when he dies, there would be great fanfare, and people playing bugles, and paid mourners wailing and gnashing their teeth and tearing at their hair and a huge retinue of people to bury him and maybe even those from the towns people, who say, "What a great man he was…" and everything. And yet God doesn’t know his name, the angels don’t know his name, the saints don’t know who he is.

 

This is not how we want to be referred to, as a certain person, a certain rich man, a certain sinner, a certain non-entity in the Kingdom of God. Indeed we want to be named. So this nameless, foolish man has many crops and it is a bountiful year. And he makes a great mistake. Instead of thanking God, he thinks before he’s even brought his crop in, "What shall I do?"

 

This is a question that all of us ask all the time: "What shall I do?"

 

The poor man asks, "What shall I do? I’m destitute. I have no funds. I have no food in the cupboard. Winter is coming and my children do not have shoes. What shall I do?" And the rich man, who is not rich toward God, who has all this bounty, says "What shall I do?" The one who has nothing and the one who has everything in a temporal sense, they both ask the same question. So what good is riches? What good is abundance unless we understand from Whom that abundance comes and what is the significance of that abundance and how we can use it for the Kingdom of God?

 

So he says, "I have no room in my barns so I’m going to tear down perfectly good barns and I’m going to build greater barns." And then he makes an even bigger error and that’s an error that we make often so you should take note of it. He says, "My soul, soul that has much goods laid up for many years take thine ease. Eat, drink, and be merry." He speaks to his soul. What does the soul need of food? What does the soul need of raiment? What does the soul need of great barns? The soul is incorporeal. The soul communicates with God. It doesn’t need food. He speaks to his soul and mistakes it for his body. This, indeed, is a great error and this is what happens in our life. People define life in terms of the pleasure that they have, or in terms of the comfort that they have, or the security that they have. It is always about taking care of their bodies. Or more than taking care of their bodies, sometimes giving their body pleasure that is illicit and unclean. But, it’s always about their bodies.

 

This rich man makes the mistake that is very typical of those who do not have their eye on God and don’t understand what the purpose of their life is all about. His soul and his body to him, he doesn’t understand what his soul is. His soul is the body as far as he is concerned. Everything is the here and now, everything is the next dinner, the next dance, the next bit of entertainment. That is for him what his soul is. And we will see later in only a moment what this really means. The implications of not understanding about your soul and your body and the purpose in your life are tremendous and terrible.

 

So God says unto him, "Thou fool. This very night thy soul shall be required of thee." A more proper way to put it is: "This very night, they shall require thy soul." "They" are the demons. They will take the soul and cast it where it belongs: in the pit of hell. God doesn’t refer to the death of a righteous man in this way. The angels take the soul which is light and ascends to God. It is not "required", that is, against the will of a man. It is natural. In this case, the rich man, his soul is required. It is torn away because everything that he had in this life was temporal, was false, and was fleeting. And when he died, he had nothing. No good works, no good thoughts. Nothing. And so his soul clung to his body. His soul became fleshly in the words of Blessed Theophylact. And so his soul was town away for him.

 

I tell you, there will be no greater pain experienced by any man than when a fleshly soul is torn away from a corrupt body at the time of death. Nothing can compare: no torture, no torment. It is a moment of great tragedy that a man who has so much provided to him would have not understood it for all of his years.

 

There are other things in this parable that are important to understand. Perhaps, more side issues. One is that when he says, "I’m going to pull down my barns and build greater." He had barns that he could’ve put his foodstuffs into: the bellies of the poor. If a man has more than another, he is obligated to give to one who needs.

 

The bellies of the poor are storehouses, abundant storehouses, infinite storehouses. And the wonder of these storehouses is that when food is put into them, it does not perish. It endures forever and every single cup of water that is given to one of these store houses, the bellies of the poor, will be remembered according to the words of our Savior, in the last day. So, this food does not perish. Where as normally, we eat food, it goes into the belly, and it goes out, and as the Lord says "into the drop." It becomes waste in a matter of hours. But not food that is given to the poor. Not abundance that God gives to us that we distribute to others.

 

But you have to understand this is not just a moral teaching saying we should give to others. There is depth here as far as why we give to others. It’s all God’s anyway.

 

That’s another mistake the rich man made when he said, "Thou hast many goods…"

 

Oh, rich man, thou hast no goods! Everything is of God’s. And God has given some of it to you. He has given you an abundance in order so that you could give unto others. So we must understand everything is of God’s. But much more critical, if we are truly to be benevolent people, is that we must understand "What is the purpose of our life?" The rich man definitely didn’t understand. He called his body his soul. He didn’t understand at all. In the end of the parable, the Lord said, "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God."

 

The purpose of our life is to become rich towards God. Our Lord wishes us to have everything in abundance. And in the second , there was speaking of, "All of His goods will be given to the good man of the house that watches and waits and will be seen to be so doing when his Lord comes" So there’s a perfect tie in with the two gospels. All of the Lord’s goods will be given, but they are not silver and gold and food and dancing, and merriment. By the way, Blessed Theophylact, says that when the rich man says "take thine eat, drink, and be merry" this word "merry" is a euphemism. When people are indulged in great excess of drinking and eating, merriment is something that you wouldn’t want to see. That would be unclean and immoral. All manner of fornication, and all manner even of murders, and all kinds of infidelities and all that sort of thing. That’s the merriment for a person who’s glutting himself on pleasure.

 

The purpose of our life is to know God. God gives us things so that we can know Him. God sometimes gives us abundance so that we can know Him. Everything is of God. Therefore, we are only His stewards. We are His servants. We must have that attitude about ourselves. And then we must understand what is really treasure?

 

God has given us many things of a physical nature and we can enjoy them. We can certainly enjoy the taste of fine and succulent food on the days when it is allowed and it is totally lawful thing to do this. And all of the other things God has given. But, we must understand where our treasure is. Our treasure is in being rich towards God, in having full faith in Him. And then He will bestow His goods to us. We can’t even imagine what those goods really are. We can only speak of them in a poor way. Language can’t communicate what God wants to give us. He will give it to a man who is open to Him, who is rich toward Him. Who hears of the commandments and says, "I wish to do this."

 

Even if a man can not do a certain commandment or can not in every way change his life, in his heart, if he is a Christian, he says, "I want to change. I want to direct my life according to that which is true, that which is perfect, that which is holy." Then a man, not matter what state he’s in, is rich toward God. This is the purpose of our life: to know God, to become like Him in moral attributes, to become pure and holy. And this rich man, this nameless, wanton sinner, did not understand that. He did not understand anything of what God had given him and what the purpose of his life is.

 

So here we have before us, brothers and sisters, a bad example. We must learn from bad examples as much as we learn from good examples. This is an example of how not to live, how not to think. We should not live according to the flesh. We should not aquaint the flesh with our life.

 

There are necessities of the flesh and we take care of those. There are pleasures of the flesh and when they are lawful, may it be blessed. But if we ever acquaint any pleasure of the flesh with our life, we have ceased to be a Christian. No longer are we a Christian if we think of the flesh as our life. May God help you.

 

May God enlighten you. There is much depth here. I can’t begin to plum the depths of it because I don’t have the purity to see it all or the eloquence to express it all. But, there is depth here. There is in this parable a teaching trying to teach you how to live, what kind of attitude to have. That’s the depth of it. May God help you and enlighten you to live according to God, to be rich toward God. Amen.

 

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

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Mailing Address

Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

Email

seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page

http://www.orthodox.net

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_1997+harvest-of-a-rich-man.html

& http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-26_1997+harvest-of-a-rich-man.doc

 

New sermons, commentaries, etc  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

 

To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.

 

Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any edifying reason. We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the URL of the text, to any electronic mailing list, church bulletin, web page or blog.

 

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DISCOURSE ON THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF OUR MOST PURE LADY THE THEOTOKOS INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica

Friday, December 4th, 2009
November 21

 

Entry of the Theotokos, from St John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington DC - http://www.stjohndc.org/icons/209.htm

If a tree is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit (Mt. 7:17; Lk. 6:44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself, She who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above?

 

Therefore, the coeternal and identical Image of goodness, Preeternal, transcending all being, He Who is the preexisting and good Word of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image, that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven.

 

For this purpose, He had to assume a flesh that was both new and ours, that He might refashion us from out of ourselves. Now He finds a Handmaiden perfectly suited to these needs, the supplier of Her own unsullied nature, the Ever-Virgin now hymned by us, and Whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate. God predestined Her before the ages for the salvation and reclaiming of our kind. She was chosen, not just from the crowd, but from the ranks of the chosen of all ages, renowned for piety and understanding, and for their God-pleasing words and deeds.

 

In the beginning, there was one who rose up against us: the author of evil, the serpent, who dragged us into the abyss. Many reasons impelled him to rise up against us, and there are many ways by which he enslaved our nature: envy, rivalry, hatred, injustice, treachery, slyness, etc. In addition to all this, he also has within him the power of bringing death, which he himself engendered, being the first to fall away from true life.

 

The author of evil was jealous of Adam, when he saw him being led from earth to Heaven, from which he was justly cast down. Filled with envy, he pounced upon Adam with a terrible ferocity, and even wished to clothe him with the garb of death. Envy is not only the begetter of hatred, but also of murder, which this truly man-hating serpent brought about in us. For he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruin of that which was created in the image and likeness of God.

 

Since he was not bold enough to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit. This truly terrible and malicious plotter pretended to be a friend and useful adviser by assuming the physical form of a serpent, and stealthily took their position. By his God-opposing advice, he instills in man his own death-bearing power, like a venomous poison.

 

If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the divine commandment, then he would have shown himself the vanquisher of his enemy, and withstood his deathly attack. But since he voluntarily gave in to sin, he was defeated and was made a sinner. Since he is the root of our race, he has produced us as death-bearing shoots. So, it was necessary for us, if he were to fight back against his defeat and to claim victory, to rid himself of the death-bearing venomous poison in his soul and body, and to absorb life, eternal and indestructible life.

It was necessary for us to have a new root for our race, a new Adam, not just one Who would be sinless and invincible, but one Who also would be able to forgive sins and set free from punishment those subject to it. And not only would He have life in Himself, but also the capacity to restore to life, so that He could grant to those who cleave to Him and are related to Him by race both life and the forgiveness of their sins, restoring to life not only those who came after Him, but also those who already had died before Him. Therefore, St. Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, exclaims, "the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).

 

Except for God, there is no one who is without sin, or life-creating, or able to remit sin. Therefore, the new Adam must be not only Man, but also God. He is at the same time life, wisdom, truth, love, and mercy, and every other good thing, so that He might renew the old Adam and restore him to life through mercy, wisdom and righteousness. These are the opposites of the things which the author of evil used to bring about our aging and death.

 

As the slayer of mankind raised himself against us with envy and hatred, so the Source of life was lifted up [on the Cross] because of His immeasurable goodness and love for mankind. He intensely desired the salvation of His creature, i.e., that His creature would be restored by Himself. In contrast to this, the author of evil wanted to bring God’s creature to ruin, and thereby put mankind under his own power, and tyrannically to afflict us. And just as he achieved the conquest and the fall of mankind by means of injustice and cunning, by deceit and his trickery, so has the Liberator brought about the defeat of the author of evil, and the restoration of His own creature with truth, justice and wisdom.

 

It was a deed of perfect justice that our nature, which was voluntarily enslaved and struck down, should again enter the struggle for victory and cast off its voluntary enslavement. Therefore, God deigned to receive our nature from us, hypostatically uniting with it in a marvelous way.

 

But it was impossible to unite that Most High Nature, Whose purity is incomprehensible for human reason, to a sinful nature before it had been purified. Therefore, for the conception and birth of the Bestower of purity, a perfectly spotless and Most Pure Virgin was required.

 

Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation.

 

He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Coeternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8), immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity, He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, "practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips" (Is. 53: 9). He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50/51: 5). Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.

 

God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin.

 

She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to Her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word" (Lk. 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.

 

Turn your attention then, to where this choice began. From the sons of Adam God chose the wondrous Seth, who showed himself a living heaven through his becoming behavior, and through the beauty of his virtues. That is why he was chosen, and from whom the Virgin would blossom as the divinely fitting chariot of God. She was needed to give birth and to summon the earth-born to heavenly sonship. For this reason also all the lineage of Seth were called "sons of God," because from this lineage a son of man would be born the Son of God. The name Seth signifies a rising or resurrection, or more specifically, it signifies the Lord, Who promises and gives immortal life to all who believe in Him.

 

And how precisely exact is this parallel! Seth was born of Eve, as she herself said, in place of Abel, whom Cain killed through jealousy (Gen. 4:25); and Christ, the Son of the Virgin, was born for us in place of Adam, whom the author of evil also killed through jealousy. But Seth did not resurrect Abel, since he was only a foretype of the resurrection. But our Lord Jesus Christ resurrected Adam, since He is the very Life and the Resurrection of the earth-born, for whose sake the descendents of Seth are granted divine adoption through hope, and are called the children of God. It was because of this hope that they were called sons of God, as is evident from the one who was first called so, the successor in the choice. This was Enos, the son of Seth, who as Moses wrote, first hoped to call on the Name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26).

 

In this manner, the choice of the future Mother of God, beginning with the very sons of Adam and proceeding through all the generations of time, through the Providence of God, passes to the Prophet-king David and the successors of his kingdom and lineage.

 

When the chosen time had come, then from the house and posterity of David, Joachim and Anna are chosen by God. Though they were childless, they were by their virtuous life and good disposition the finest of all those descended from the line of David. And when in prayer they besought God to deliver them from their childlessness, and promised to dedicate their child to God from its infancy. By God Himself, the Mother of God was proclaimed and given to them as a child, so that from such virtuous parents the all-virtuous child would be raised. So in this manner, chastity joined with prayer came to fruition by producing the Mother of virginity, giving birth in the flesh to Him Who was born of God the Father before the ages.

 

Now, when Righteous Joachim and Anna saw that they had been granted their wish, and that the divine promise to them was realized in fact, then they on their part, as true lovers of God, hastened to fulfill their vow given to God as soon as the child had been weaned from milk. They have now led this truly sanctified child of God, now the Mother of God, this Virgin into the Temple of God.

 

And She, being filled with Divine gifts even at such a tender age,  She, rather than others, determined what was being done over Her. In Her manner She showed that She was not so much presented into the Temple, but that She Herself entered into the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love. She considered it desirable and fitting that she should enter into the Temple and dwell in the Holy of Holies.

 

Therefore, the High Priest, seeing that this child, more than anyone else, had divine grace within Her, wished to set Her within the Holy of Holies. He convinced everyone present to welcome this, since God had advanced it and approved it. Through His angel, God assisted the Virgin and sent Her mystical food, with which She was strengthened in nature, while in body She was brought to maturity and was made purer and more exalted than the angels, having the Heavenly spirits as servants. She was led into the Holy of Holies not just once, but was accepted by God to dwell there with Him during Her youth, so that through Her, the Heavenly Abodes might be opened and given for an eternal habitation to those who believe in Her miraculous birthgiving.

 

So it is, and this is why She, from the beginning of time, was chosen from among the chosen. She Who is manifest as the Holy of Holies, Who has a body even purer than the spirits purified by virtue, is capable of receiving … the Hypostatic Word of the Unoriginate Father. Today the Ever-Virgin Mary, like a Treasure of God, is stored in the Holy of Holies, so that in due time, (as it later came to pass) She would serve for the enrichment of, and an ornament for, all the world. Therefore, Christ God also glorifies His Mother, both before birth, and also after birth.

 

We who understand the salvation begun for our sake through the Most Holy Virgin, give Her thanks and praise according to our ability.

 

And truly, if the grateful woman (of whom the Gospel tells us), after hearing the saving words of the Lord, blessed and thanked His Mother, raising her voice above the din of the crowd and saying to Christ, "Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps Thou hast sucked" (Lk. 11:27), then we who have the words of eternal life written out for us, and not only the words, but also the miracles and the Passion, and the raising of our nature from death, and its ascent from earth to Heaven, and the promise of immortal life and unfailing salvation, then how shall we not unceasingly hymn and bless the Mother of the Author of our Salvation and the Giver of Life, celebrating Her conception and birth, and now Her Entry into the Holy of Holies?

Now, brethren, let us remove ourselves from earthly to celestial things.

Let us change our path from the flesh to the spirit.

Let us change our desire from temporal things to those that endure.

Let us scorn fleshly delights, which serve as allurements for the soul and soon pass away.

Let us desire spiritual gifts, which remain undiminished.

Let us turn our reason and our attention from earthly concerns and raise them to the inaccessable places of Heaven, to the Holy of Holies, where the Mother of God now resides.

 

Therefore, in such manner our songs and prayers to Her will gain entry, and thus through her mediation, we shall be heirs of the everlasting blessings to come, through the grace and love for mankind of Him Who was born of Her for our sake, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory, honor and worship, together with His Unoriginate Father and His Coeternal and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

 

 

 

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Mailing Address

Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

Email

seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page

http://www.orthodox.net

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_+entry-of-the-theotokos+by-saint-gregory-palamas.html

& http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-theotokos_+entry-of-the-theotokos+by-saint-gregory-palamas.doc

 

New sermons, commentaries, etc  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

 

To receive regular mailings of sermons, and scriptural and services commentary and other things throughout the church year, read our blog “Redeeming the Time” (http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime). You may also subscribe to the RSS Feed or receive its postings by email.

 

Our parish Email list ( http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church) also has all the latest postings from our website and blog; everyone is welcome to join.

 

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Parable of the unrighteous steward. Mammon of unrighteousness

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Parable of the unrighteous steward

Mammon of unrighteousness

Commentary on Luke 16:1-9

26th Thursday after Pentecost

 

Part of the indescribable delicacy of Scriptures is when unrighteous people, actions or things are used to describe righteousness or teach how to become righteous. This always reminds me of man’s complex nature.

 

The simple meaning of the parable is that we must not be stingy, and must distribute our wealth to the poor, and as is always the case I our Lord’s discourse, there is also something deeper here, which should make our zeal to be generous even greater.

 

We are capable of  stupendous acts of holiness and also fiendish evil. Both possibilities exist and even flourish in the same man! God is simple – He is only good, but we are complex – we are good and bad. Salvation is to become simple – only good –  but as we grow to this perfection, we must use imperfect and even evil things to achieve our goal. We must turn our evil into good. I think this is why there are so many examples of the “mammon of unrighteousness” being used to holy purpose.

 

Dostoevsky, especially, among Christian authors seems to have understood this dichotomy, how man is good and evil, but even the evil can be turned into good. His crowning achievement in this regard is Sophia, the prostitute, in “Crime and Punishment”.  

 

Today we have before us a lazy indolent man, the unjust steward. He had wasted his Lord’s goods, and was soon to be cast out. Being a lazy man, he had not learned any other trade, and he was too soft to dig (work hard) and too proud to beg.

 

Does not this describe our condition?

 

We are lazy and indolent – if we say this in our prayers we had best believe it, because it is true. We have wasted our Lord’s goods, the oil of the holy Spirit given to the 10 virgins, the talents given to the servants, the vineyard given to the husbandmen.

 

What are we to do? We must be like the steward, and act as he put it, “quickly”. This is an urgent matter! We must find every opportunity to turn our evil into good.

 

The Lord praised the steward, not because of his indolence, or incompetence, but because of his repentance, which is symbolized by his crafty use of his Lord’s money. There is not only delicious irony in his actions, but also a lesson.

 

We have no excuses. So we are sinners; this does not excuse us from doing everything we can to do good, to become good. We are stewards of all that God has given us. We own nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

     1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. (Luke 16:1-9)

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009[U1] .     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

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Parable of the one hundred sheep Parable of the lost silver coin

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Parable of the one hundred sheep

 

Parable of the lost silver coin

 

Commentary on Luke 15:1-10

26th Wednesday after Pentecost

10 Things [1]

 

1. ”Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,” (Luke 15:1-3)

 

These parables were directed to the Pharisees and scribes who murmured against him. [2]

 

Note that the Lord did not rebuke these proud and judgmental men directly, as direct accusations and correction to proud men rarely work. Rather, He humbly directs these parables to them, to teach them to not be vexed over the salvation of sinners [3], and us how to sometimes approach proud sinners, recalcitrant in their sins because of their blinding pride and judgment of others.

 

2. 4. What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

 

The “man” is Jesus Christ, Who in His incarnation, (went) after that which is lost”.

 

An hundred is a perfect number, consisting of 10 decades. This number represents all of God’s rational creatures, angels and men, as St Cyril of Jerusalem and other fathers teach:

 

“He says there are a hundred sheep, bringing to a perfect sum the number of rational creatures subject to Him. For the number hundred is perfect, being composed of ten decades. But out of these one has wandered, namely, the race of man which inhabits earth.” [4]

 

Some say that the hundred sheep are mankind, and the one who has gone astray is a sinner, whom The God-man has come to save, but “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” [5], whereas, the angels in heaven will evermore remain righteous [6].

 

The ”ninety and nine in the wilderness” are the angels whom the Lord Jesus Christ left in heaven when he came down from heaven (became incarnate). [7]

 

The “wilderness”, removed from worldly tumult and steeped in stillness and peace, signifies heaven” [8].

3. 5. And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

 

This is a beautiful reference to the incarnation. By becoming man, Jesus Christ bore our infirmities in His nature, and made our nature capable of overcoming them.

 

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15)

 

“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (Mat 8:17)

 

The image of carrying the fallen nature upon His shoulder is also similar to when the Good Samaritan treated the (nature of) man, by the side of the road:

 

 “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (Luke 10:33-34)

 

4. 6. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

 

“He placed the sheep upon his shoulders, for taking man’s nature upon Him he bore our sins. But having found the sheep, he returns home; for our Shepherd having restored man, returns to his heavenly kingdom.” [9]

 

The “friends and neighbors” are the angels. [10]

 

5. 7. I say to you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

 

Although the primary meaning of the hundred sheep is the combination of angels and men (all of God’s rational creatures), it is very useful to consider for a moment if this number represented all of mankind, both the righteous, and sinners. Of course, this is an absurdity, because there are few that are righteous, and more who follow the broad way, so the numbers would in actuality be reversed, and besides this, no man is righteous without repentance and God’s grace helping him. Nonetheless, let’s think of the 99 as the supposed “righteous”, or better, those who “are righteous in their own sight”, such as the Pharisee in the parable. [11]

 

St Gregory, in the Catena Aurea, meditates on this very thing:

 

“But he allows there is more joy in heaven over the converted sinner, than over the just who remain steadfast; for the latter for the most part, not feeling themselves oppressed by the weight of their sins, stand indeed in the way of righteousness, but still do not anxiously sigh after the heavenly country, frequently being slow to perform good works, from their confidence in themselves that they have committed no grievous sins.”

 

“But, on the other hand, sometimes those who remember certain iniquities that they have committed, being pricked to the heart, from their very grief grow inflamed towards the love of God; and because they consider they have wandered from God, make up for their former losses by the succeeding gains.”

  

“Greater then is the joy in heaven, just as the leader in battle loves that soldier more who having turned from flight, bravely pursues the enemy, than him who never turned his back and never did a brave act. So the husbandman rather loves that land which after bearing thorns yields abundant fruit, than that which never had thorns, and never gave him a plentiful crop.” [12]

 

This should encourage all sinners, that is all of us, who must struggle to attain righteousness. Remember also the one who came at the eleventh hour; he received the same reward as those who had been righteous through the heat of the day (for more of their life).[13]

6. 8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

 

Here, the God-man refers to himself as a woman.

 

A silver coin has an image on it; this represents the image of God that is in man[14].

The woman seek (s) diligently” for the lost coin, whose image has become sullied by the dirt of sin – this is again, a representation of the purpose of the incarnation of the God-man – “to seek out and save that which is lost”

 

The number ten here also represents the angels and men, as there are nine ranks of angels, and mankind completes the decade[15].

 

There is profound theology in the symbolism of the candle and the searching of the house. It describes the process of salvation, a difficult one for man, because it disturbs our conscience. Listen to St Gregory:

 

“The women lighted a candle because the wisdom of God appeared in man. For the candle is a light in an earthen vessel, but the light in an earthen vessel is the Godhead in the flesh. “

 

“But the candle being lit, it follows, and disturbs the house. Because verily no sooner had his Divinity shone forth through the flesh, than all our consciences were appalled. Which word of disturbance differs not from that which is read in other manuscripts, sweeps, because the corrupt mind if it be not first overthrown through fear, is not cleansed from its habitual faults. But when the house is broken up, the piece of silver is found, for it follows, And seeks diligently till she find it; for truly when the conscience of man is disturbed, the likeness of the Creator is restored in man.”[16]

 

 

From St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texaswww.orthodox.net

 

This document is at http://www.orthodox.net/10things/parable-of-the-one-hundred-sheep+parable-of-the-lost-silver-coin+commentary-on-luke-15-1-10+26th-tuesday-after-pentecost.html

& http://www.orthodox.net/10things/parable-of-the-one-hundred-sheep+parable-of-the-lost-silver-coin+commentary-on-luke-15-1-10+26th-tuesday-after-pentecost.doc

 

 

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Archive of “10 things”: http://www.orthodox.net/10things

 

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] This document is a list of ten (more or less, there are 3 things I am not good at: organizing and counting!) things about a particular topic. More “Ten Things” topics may be found at http://www.orthodox.net/10things. They are also posted to the blog of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas, called “Redeeming the Time”http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime. Look under the category “10things”. Use anything you wish, but please indicate authorship, with the URL.

[2] Blessed Theofylact, Commentary on St Luke, Chrysostom Press. Get these commentaries if you can.

[3] Ibid

[4] From the Catena Aurea, commentary on this passage. This can be found online at http://www.ccel.org/ and also in the recommended software for PCs, “eSword” (http://www.e-sword.net). The quotation is taken from the latter.

[5] Rom 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

[6] Of course, there are fallen angels, whom we also call demons, who once were in heaven but rebelled against God. We do not understand all the ways of the angelic host, but we do understand that angelic rebellion or obedience to God was a permanent act, that angels, because of their nature, will not change. Man, of course, is a changeable creature, and may repent of his sins or choose to sin, and therefore change his relationship to God at any time.

[7] Catena Aurea, St Gregory.

[8] Blessed Theofylact, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Chrysostom Press. Get these four commentaries!

[9] St Gregory, Catena Aurea

[10] Ibid, Blessed Theofylact., and also St Gregory, Catena Aurea

[11] The Parable of the Publican and Pharisee, read on one of the Sundays before Great Lent: “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:” (Luke 18:9)

[12] Ibid, St Gregory, Catena Aurea

[13] “And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. (10) But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. (11) And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, (12) Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. (13) But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? (14) Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.” (Matthew 20:9-14)

[14] St John Chrysostom, quoted in the Catena Aurea: “But now is added a second parable, in which the race of man is compared to a piece of silver which was lost, by which he shows that we were made according to the royal likeness and image, that is to say, of the most high God”

[15] St Gregory, Catena Aurea

[16] Ibid, St Gregory.

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A Pastoral Commentary on the Psalms – Psalm 44

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Psalm 44

A Messianic Psalm: The Beloved One is Jesus Christ

The Daughter Who is all glorious within is the Theotokos

 

 [1]

 

Psalm 44 (Septuagint) is a Messianic Psalm [2], and is one of the few Psalms that describes the Theotokos.

 

Blessed Augustine has an interesting note about the heading of this Psalm, which is addressed to the “Sons of Kore”:

 

“Now Korah is equivalent to the word baldness; and we find in the Gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified in "the place of a skull." It is clear then that this Psalm is sung to the "sons of His ‘Passion.”” [3]

 

This Psalm definitely describes the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whom the heading calls the “Beloved one”, and also the Theotokos, called the “Queen”, and “daughter”.

 

It is good to know these things, and other symbols in this Psalm which is indeed a deep well, but it is better to apply the verses in it for moral change.

 

We venerate the Theotokos because we are in awe of her personal holiness, which was not by fiat[4] from God, but her personal choice of submission to God. The world has never known, nor will ever know, a mortal with such submission to God’s Holy will.

 

When we read about the Theotokos, our heart should be as one of the previous Psalms expresses,

 

“Like the “hart (which) pantenth after the fountains of water” (Psalm 41:1)[5]

 

When we read about holiness, we should be filled with desire to emulate it. Nobody became holy by reading about holiness or even being around it, without desiring to BE holy. The people of the Gergesenes were with Christ in the midst, and they rejected Him. The Saints through the ages lived amidst turbulence and sin, with very few recognizing their holiness or desiring to emulate them.

 

This has been true at all times; in our time, Patriarch Pavle, who recently reposed, was respected for his sanctity, even among Moslems and atheists, and yet, there have been no mass conversions to true Christianity among the Moslems in Kosovo, nor have the Serbian people emulated the holiness of their beloved Patriarch; Serbian churches are not full except on a few feast days, and the morality of Serbia is not unlike the rest of Europe, which is in captivity to the ways of the world.

 

1. My heart hath poured forth a good word; I speak of my works to the king; my tongue is the pen of a swiftly writing scribe. 2. Comely art Thou in beauty more than the sons of men; grace hath been poured forth on Thy lips, wherefore God hath blessed Thee for ever

The “King” is the God-man, Jesus Christ; the grace that poured forth from His lips was transmitted to His Apostles, and throughout the whole world.

 

3. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, in Thy comeliness and Thy beauty. And bend Thy bow, and proceed prosperously, and be king, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall guide Thee wondrously.

 

This verse is said by the priest when he puts on his “nabredrinic”, which is a rectangular cloth vestment that hangs from his left shoulder, diagonally across his body, resting on his right side.

 

Of course, it also refers to the God-man, Jesus Christ.

 

A sword is a tool of action; it is useless if it remains in its scabbard. Here we see the kind of action that is favored by God – “truth and meekness and righteousness”. In another place, the “Mighty One”, preaching to His disciples, told them that the kingdom of heaven is being won by violence, and these two thoughts are completely compatible. The Christian must do violence to his passions, uprooting them, because they all with one accord resist “truth and meekness and righteousness”.

 

When the priest puts on his “sword”, he is preparing to do battle with his passions and pray with attention in front of the altar during the awesome liturgy.

 

We all must carry a sword – being ready at all times to do battle against our passions. Every time we act according to truth, we strike a blow with our sword.  

 

6. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness more than Thy fellows.

 

The “oil of gladness” is the Holy Spirit, which Jesus Christ was anointed with [6].

 

The Christian is also anointed with the “oil of gladness”, but not everyone is anointed to the same measure. The God-man, more than any other man, loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore, His anointing with the Holy Spirit is above all His “fellows” – all of mankind.

 

The “oil of gladness” gives “gladness’. We see that this gladness is directly proportional to how much we love righteousness.

 

A basic truth of the Christian life is that “to feel good we must do good”.

 

When we suffer from sadness, let us be careful to evaluate why. Many times this will be because we are not righteous. The gladness that the lover of righteousness possesses transcends any situation.

 

“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.  (2)  In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery:  (3)   And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.  (4)   And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.” (Wisdom 3:1-4 DRB)

 

8 . At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colours. 9 . Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; and forget thine own people and thy father’s house. 10 . And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty, for He Himself is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him.

 

This is about the Theotokos.

 

12. All the glory of the daughter of the King is within, with gold-fringed garments is she arrayed, adorned in varied colours.

 

And this also. All holiness is like this – it is “within”, hidden away from those who do not have eyes to see. Only those who love righteousness truly know the righteous.

 

16. I shall commemorate thy name in every generation and generation. 17. Therefore shall peoples give praise unto thee for ever, and unto the ages of ages

 

Verse 16 is used in the prokeimenon about the Theotokos. Only the Orthodox recognize the holiness of the Theotokos; the Latins take away from her virtue by the error of the so called “immaculate conception” and Protestants by and large ignore her virtue. Only the Orthodox understand her holiness and fulfill the prophesy of this psalm and that of the Theotokos herself:

 

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)

 

 

 

 

C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents\0000 SERAPHIM\new_advent\fathers\1801045.htm

 

 

 

For the End: Concerning Those Verses That Are to be Alternated, for Instruction to the Sons of Kore. An Ode Concerning the Beloved One, 44.

1. My heart hath poured forth a good word; I speak of my works to the king; my tongue is the pen of a swiftly writing scribe. 2. Comely art Thou in beauty more than the sons of men; grace hath been poured forth on Thy lips, wherefore God hath blessed Thee for ever. 3. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, in Thy comeliness and Thy beauty. And bend Thy bow, and proceed prosperously, and be king, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall guide Thee wondrously. 4. Thine arrows are sharp, O Mighty One, (under Thee shall peoples fall) sharp in the heart of the enemies of the king. 5. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. 6. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness more than Thy fellows. 7. Myrrh and stacte and cassia exhale from Thy garments, from the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad, they the daughters of kings in Thine honour. 8 . At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colours. 9 . Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; and forget thine own people and thy father’s house. 10 . And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty, for He Himself is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him. 11. And Him shall the daughters of Tyre worship with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance. 12. All the glory of the daughter of the King is within, with gold-fringed garments is she arrayed, adorned in varied colours. 13. The virgins that follow after her shall be brought unto the King, those near her shall be brought unto Thee. 14. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing, they shall be brought into the temple of the King. 15. In the stead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee; thou shalt make them princes over all the earth. 16. I shall commemorate thy name in every generation and generation. 17. Therefore shall peoples give praise unto thee for ever, and unto the ages of ages

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009[U1] .     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.


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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] This Pastoral Commentary is a work in progress, and is not intended to be a complete exposition.  The focus is on whatever will  inspire and equip the faithful (including the pastor!), and not necessarily about the theological nuances of each verse commented on. We must read the Psalms to be inspired and helped, and different verses will touch different people in different ways.

[2] There are many “Messianic Psalms”, which refer to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Remember that Holy David was not only a King, but also a prophet!

[3] Blessed Augustine, “Exposition on Psalm 44”, New Advent

[4] The Heresy proclaimed by Rome, known as the “immaculate conception”, actually demeans the holiness of the Theotokos and makes her something other than human (and therefore, Jesus Christ, Who was borne of her without human male seed, would also be something other than human, and not perfectly God AND “PERFECTLY MAN”, that is, NOT the Savior of mankind). This heresy states that the Theotokos was born without “original sin”, making her unique among all human beings. Of course “original sin” as taught by Rome is a false doctrine also.  Human beings are not borne already guilty of sin, but weakness and the propensity to sin.

[5] All Psalm quotations from the “The Psalter According to the Seventy” © 1974, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, unless otherwise indicated.

[6] Matthew 3:16 KJV  And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

 

Luke 4:18-19 KJV  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,  (19)  To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

 


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