Archive for February, 2010

Healing of the Paralytic. 2nd Sunday of Great Lent. Questions.

Friday, February 26th, 2010

A few pertinent questions and answers from a longer set about the healing of the paralytic at the sheep's pool.

 


QUESTION 1

 

 

In the scriptures, physical afflictions like paralysis, blindness, and leprosy often indicate or point to an even more serious problem. What is it?


Physical afflictions are often an indicator or reminder of the more serious affliction that besets all men – sins, and the passions which are the major cause of them. Our passions are like blindness or paralysis, because they impair our ability to live a righteous life, and cause us to miss the knowledge of God, as a blind man cannot see and a paralyzed man cannot go where he wants. This connection between the passions and sin and physical afflictions is well known in the mind of the church. This is not to say that sin always CAUSES physical afflictions. This is possible, however, in every case, afflictions are a reminder of our primary affliction and need for God.

Our Lord makes the connection between sin and afflictions repeatedly. In many cases, He forgave a man's sins before he healed him of his physical infirmity, to affect a complete healing and regeneration of the man. In other cases, he healed someone of their physical infirmity first, then later enlightened them concerning Himself (such as in the case of the man born without eyes), or reminded them about sin, which is their major affliction. One could say, and reclaim a highly charged word, that he is a "holistic" healer. The whole concept of healing and well being is profoundly different in the mind of the church than anywhere else. Physical infirmity is recognized as sometimes grievous, and sometimes as a great blessing, but healing from any infirmity is tied closely with the entire healing of soul and body that all Christians should seek.

As of old Thou didst raise up the paralytic, O Lord God, / by Thy God-like care and might, / raise up my soul which is palsied / by diverse sins and transgressions / and by unseemly deeds and acts, / that, saved I may also cry out: / O Compassionate Redeemer, O Christ God, // glory to Thy dominion and might. (Kontakion for the Sunday of the Paralytic, Tone 3)

Let us site some examples of how Christ ties physical healing to the entire spiritual healing of a man.

  • Healing from sins, then physical infirmity:

    "And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. … {6} But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. (Matthew 9:2,6, also recounted in Mark and Luke)

  • Healing from physical infirmity, then enlightenment:

    "And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. {12} And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off.. {14} And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. {15} And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, {16} And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. {17} And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? {18} There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. {19} And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole." (Luke 17: 11,14-19)

    "{1} And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. … {6} … He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, {7} And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. …{35} Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? {36} He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? {37} And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. {38} And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. (John 9:1-38, parts)

    "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 … {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? … {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… {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". (John 5:1-15, parts)


  QUESTION 2

According to the scriptures, the witness of the fathers, and the overall mind of the church, what are at least two causes or reasons for physical infirmities?


 

It is clear that physical infirmities are sometimes because of a man's sins. The story of the healing of the paralytic shows this truth, as Jesus warns the man about his sins when He finds him in the temple. Some sins directly cause infirmity, such as smoking or alcohol abuse, or promiscuity. Sometimes sins cause physical infirmity in a less direct way, and the Fathers understand these afflictions to be a call to repentance of the erring man.

In some cases, however, there is no sin in a man's life, but the affliction is present for his edification and enlightenment, and sometimes to show the glory of God, whether the man is eventually healed, as was the case in the man born blind, or bears up under his infirmity with courage, patience and thanksgiving, as was the case in Lazarus, who lay at the gate of the rich man.

" A FEARFUL thing is sin, fearful, and the ruin of the soul, and the mischief oftentimes through its excess has overflowed and attacked men's bodies also. For since for the most part when the soul is diseased we feel no pain, but if the body receive though but a little hurt, we use every exertion to free it from its infirmity, because we are sensible of the infirmity, therefore God oftentimes punisheth the body for the transgressions of the soul, so that by means of the scourging of the inferior part, the better part also may receive some healing." (ST John Chrysostom, Homily 38 on John)

"'What then,' saith one, 'do all diseases proceed from sin?' Not all, but most of them; and some proceed from different kinds of loose living, since gluttony, intemperance, and sloth, produce such like sufferings. Ibid.

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The Healing of the Paralytic – Mark 2:1-12 What is the “press”? How do we get past it?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

2nd Sunday Of Great  Lent. 2002

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

 

Today, brothers and sisters, on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent — the day on which we celebrate and commemorate St. Gregory Palamas — we have before us a man who is paralyzed, and who has friends that care for him and bring him to the Lord to be healed.

 

Now, as in all scripture, we should be careful. Read the scriptures slowly and carefully. See what the Lord says to you, see where you fit into this scripture, see where you have vices — or perhaps where by the grace of God, God has helped you in some thing and you have some virtue — not of your own worth, but because God has helped you. This is how we should read the scriptures.

 

This is not just history, and something that happened a long time ago; this story is given for our edification. The Lord healed many thousands of people, and we don’t have very many records of His healings. So there must be something important about the way this man was healed for us to take note of.

 

He comes to Capernaum, and He is very popular in these days; this is still in the – shall we say, the honeymoon period; all the common people Him. The scribes and the Pharisees didn’t like Him, but they couldn’t move against Him, and even some of them were somewhat taken by Him because of all the buzz that was around Him. Everyone was saying, “Can you believe what’s happening? Everyone is being healed, and this man is speaking with such authority…” At the beginning of His ministry, there were many who loved Him and wanted to throng about Him (who would later leave Him, and even be accessories to His being slandered and murdered), and this is the case today. There are so many about Him that people can’t even fit in the house where He is preaching. They are all about, outside the door, and He preached to them.

 

There is a man who is paralyzed, and he has asked his friends to help him. He has four that will take him on his bed, and want to bring him to Christ. Because of the press (the crowd of people), he couldn’t get to Jesus.

 

What is this press, brothers and sisters?

 

This "press" is often mentioned in other healings; this press is the obstacles that we encounter in our Christian life. We encounter great obstacles. Now in the case of this man who was paralyzed, he wouldn’t have the strength to press through a group of people on his own, and even with help it would be immensely difficult; how can you carry a stretcher  through a huge crowd of people? It is not possible.

 

So what did they do? They overcame the press by climbing onto the roof.

 

A roof is high above all things. The scripture uses this analogy just as it uses mountains sometimes, to say that this is how we should be in our Christian life.  We should look up — we should be thinking of spiritual things, not of carnal things, not of just daily things — and we should elevate our mind — to contemplate pure things, and things that God wishes us to know. These people got up on the roof. So of course it was a practical act to get up on the roof, so that they could break the roof tiles and let him down, and it was rather ingenious actually. But it is also an indication of how we should be, brothers and sisters.

 

You know, we encounter the press, and we stop in our tracks. Let’s face it: this society is a very difficult one for a Christian to live in, because there is such coldness, and it infects all of us. There is such materialism, there is such hardheartedness, there is such wishy-washy-ness as far as what to believe. And even among the Orthodox, there is this sort-of mixing of the world with holiness — and, of course, what becomes of hot and cold? It becomes lukewarm. And the Lord hates lukewarm.

 

The whole world is lukewarm. And we live in this difficulty. This is the press. It’s quite hard for us to live in this world.

 

In fact, I was reading something from Fr. Anatoly the younger, who was a martyr, one of the last Optina elders.  I can’t quote it well, but basically the inference, the gist is of what he was writing is that Christians in the last age won’t do great miracles, and their faith won’t even be that great, and their purity won’t be that great.  But, because they have endured in a time which is the worst of all times, God will give them a crown for even being Christian during this time. Indeed, because it is a difficult time. It is a time of unbelief, it is a time of lukewarm-ness, and we are surrounded by it, and we are infected by it.

 

So it is difficult for us to get past the press. And why should we get past the press? Because we’re paralyzed too. We have spiritual paralysis. We have spiritual blindness. If any man can look inside himself with any amount of honesty at all, he sees that he is really broken inside, incomplete. There are terrible sadnesses that happen in our life. There are terrible things that we just can’t cope with completely.

 

And I say, if any person thinks that life is easy, and that things are really okay, than I say that you should really be afraid, because God is far from you. According to the fathers, if we’re not tempted, then we’re not being saved. Because we ARE incomplete, and we are weak creatures.

 

Oh yes, we have the image of God within us, and God has promised that He will be with us until the end, that He will complete the good work which has begun in us. But in the meanwhile, as we are approaching that goal, there is so much about us that is so pitiable. And we must get past the press if we are truly to get any kind of relief. You know, the press makes a lot of noise, and there is a lot of distraction, and this very well describes the Christian life today.

 

So how do we get past the press? Get up on the roof.

 

Not just get up on the roof, but there must be labor involved in the Christian life, brothers and sisters. You know that one of my pet phrases, or pet ideas, is that the greatest heresy of all time is that the Christian life can be fought without labor, that salvation can be gathered and garnered without labor. This is the great heresy of our age — it has been around now for quite some time — that we can actually be saved without labor. Oh no, it takes great labor on our part to be saved; it takes effort for us to push by the press; it takes effort for us to get on the roof, to elevate our minds to things above, not to things below, not to carnal things, not to just day-to-day living.

 

I think day-to-day living is like a narcotic in our day; it is easy to lose track of holy things, to say “I haven’t read scripture for so long, I forget my prayers, I have the wrong ideas, the wrong motivations,” and to just sort of flow through life. We must fight through these things, get on the roof, have our minds elevated and break through the roof tiles — which is effort. There is great effort involved in breaking through a roof.

 

So then, after these men had broken through the roof, they let the man down. What a spectacle that must have been. This man was not afraid to make his disability known to all. There must have been some people who thought that this was really craziness, and who might have laughed. But he was unafraid, because he wanted to be healed.

 

So when the Lord saw him, because of his efforts, He said “My son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Well the man came because he was palsied — he couldn’t walk — and the Lord said “Thy sins be forgiven.” He did this for a reason.

 

Of course, what is the source of all of our ills? Our sins!

 

So the Lord heals that which is the man’s most pressing need first. And of course, he knew that the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the hypocrites, would think in their minds, “How can this man forgive sins? This is blasphemy,” and they would chalk it up in their notebooks and think, “We’re going to get this man.”

 

The Lord then said something quite interesting, something you should take note of. It seems sort of obvious in one way, but there is a very deep meaning in another. “Which is easier to say: ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee,’ or ‘Take up thy bed and walk?’”

 

Well, it’s easy to say “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” or something that you can’t see internally, but if you say “Take up thy bed and walk” — well, the man had better get up, or else Jesus would be exposed as a charlatan. Well, that’s rather obvious, but there is a deep meaning here, brothers and sisters. Not an obvious meaning; you have to think a little bit.

 

The Lord raised the man up from his bed – “Take up thy bed and walk, and go unto thy house.” The reason he did this is to show that He, indeed, has power: He can raise the palsied man, He can give the man without eyes sight, he can cause the deaf to hear, he can raise the dead. These are tangible things that we see. The Lord did this because of our weakness.

 

We cannot see our sins being forgiven. It’s not something that you can have evidence of. Sometimes there is evidence of the Lord healing a man in terms of, let’s say if a man is an alcoholic and he is able to no longer have the demon of drunkenness, or some other such thing, but for the most part, when our sins are forgiven, the Lord knows, and we know, but it is not an obvious thing. That’s why the Lord said “Which is easier to say: ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee,’ or ‘Take up thy bed and walk?’” He was trying to show us “I can do both.” Yes, I can say “thy sins be forgiven,” and it is not an obvious thing, but I can also raise up the palsied man.

 

There is another meaning as well. The man’s sins were forgiven AND his body was made whole. Jesus Christ’s resurrection affects the whole man. Every aspect of our personality is affected by the resurrection. This is why a Christian should not feel defeated by anything in his life — because the resurrection applies to everything. Now this is not to have some sort of Pollyanna view of the world and think that because we’re Christians we’ll be rich, famous, athletic and handsome. That might not be the case.

 

But Jesus Christ is interested in anything that goes on in our life. We must bring all the difficulties of our life to him. We as Christians don’t do this very much; we suffer with our worries, our concerns, and I know many of you and I know that your concerns are not frivolous ones, they are not worldly concerns; they are spiritual things. But you must believe in the resurrection, and the one who truly believes applies the resurrection, with all of its implications, to himself, and his life’s circumstances.

 

If Jesus Christ can raise up the palsied man, certainly all the other things that He says must be true — not just that He can raise the dead at the end of the age; He’s going to make you alive now. The kingdom of God is within you. Now, not later. This is the meaning of having the man be healed both of his sins and of his palsy, of his bodily ailments.

 

Now how do we attain this healing, brothers and sisters? By effort. There is no substitute whatsoever for effort.

 

If a Christian does not struggle, does not strive, does not point himself to Jerusalem and not look back, does not try to ascend, as it were, to the roof, and labor, then he will not be changed. Or, perhaps, he’ll bear fruit, but very little.

 

May God grant that we would labor, past all of the difficulties in our lives, past all of the frustrations, all of the distractions, all of our sinfulness, all of our bad habits that are so difficult to change, all that press, all that crowd — that we labor past all that, and set our minds on things above, on holiness, on the purpose of our life, which is intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ.

 

And this intimate knowledge is only possible if we become like Him. We must become like Him to know Him.

 

This is why we must labor, brothers and sisters. Not because there are the Ten Commandments, the Law and all the rest; this is not the reason we must labor.

 

The reason we must labor is that Jesus Christ wants us to know Him, intimately, He wants us to be healed of every single palsied condition, of every blindness, of every black spot in our souls, of every imperfection, so that we can gaze upon Him, not through a glass, darkly, but face to face – and not in shame, but in indescribably joy.

 

This is how He wants us to know Him. And the only way to know Him is to become like Him. This is why we labor for virtue.

 

May God help us to labor, and for the rest of this Lent also to struggle so that when we come to the Pascha, the Lord would touch us in a very special, unique way that we can’t even imagine and understand, and strengthen us. May God help you.

 

 

 

 

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

 

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[1] This sermon was transcribed from one given on the Second Sunday of Great Lent, 2002, at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox church, Dallas, Texas

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The Invisible Amalek. Typology of the Cross. 2nd Week of Great Lent – FRIDAY Matins

Thursday, February 25th, 2010


“Stretching out Thine hands upon the cross, O Lord, Thou hast killed the invisible Amalek and rescued thy people: therefore we sing the praises of Thy power.” Great Lent, the Second Week, Friday Matins, Ode V of the Canon

 

How wonderful the matins canon is! Any canon, but especially, it seems, those during Great Lent, interprets the Old Testament in the light of the New. There is a profound mix of history, typology and theology in our services, and the soul is thrilled to hear divine truths expressed in varied ways, with examples from the Old and New testaments.

 

Only in the light of our Lord's passion can we understand the actions of Moses when his people fought the king Amalek:

 

Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. (9) And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand. (10) So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. (11) And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. (12) But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; And his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. (13) And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. (Exodus 17:8-13 )

 

Amalek was a pagan king. He could not be defeated until Moses, foreshadowing our Lord's passion, held up his arms in a cross.

 

In the canon, we have a mystical interpretation of Amalek. He represents sin, just as Babylon or Egypt. We all have an invisible Amalek within us, that is, the passions. Just as Moses held out his arms to defeat the king Amalek, our Lord held out his arms on the cross to defeat our Amalek.

 

Rise and make war against the passions of the flesh, as Joshua did against Amalek, and ever conquer the Gibeonites – illusive thoughts. (Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete, Ode 6, referencing Exodus 17:8; Joshua 8:21)

 

Now as we venerate thy cross, which Moses once prefigured with his outstretched arms, we put to flight the invisible Amalek, O Christ our master, and so we gain salvation! (Matins Canon Ode 6 for the 3rd Sunday of Great Lent)

 

Let us take note that if the Israelites had not fought bravely, it would not have mattered how Moses held his hands. In the same way, if we do not live according to the way of the cross, our Lord's accomplishment is null and void for us.

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-friday_2009+the-invisible-amalek.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-friday_2009+the-invisible-amalek.html

 

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

 

Daily Lenten Meditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

 

Compendium of materials about Great Lent:

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The Holy Eucharist and hearing the voice of God – Isaiah 6:1-12

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

2nd Week of Great Lent – Thursday. The Sixth Hour

And it came to pass in the year in which king Ozias died, [that] I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, and the house was full of his glory. 2. And seraphs stood round about him: each one had six wings: and with two they covered [their] face, and with two they covered [their] feet, and with two they flew. 3. And one cried to the other, and they said, Holy, holy, holy [is the] Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4. And the lintel shook at the voice they uttered, and the house was filled with smoke.5. And I said, Woe is me, for I am pricked to the heart; for being a man, and having unclean lips, and I have seen with mine eyes the King, the Lord of hosts. 6. And there was sent to me one of the seraphs, and he had in his hand, a coal, which he had taken off the altar with the tongs: 7 . and he touched my mouth, and said, Behold, this has touched thy lips, and will take away thine iniquities, and will purge off thy sins. Isaiah 6:1-7

 


Most people have heard or read this passage from Isaiah and understand that it refers to the Holy Mysteries. It is a prophesy of what was to come – after the incarnation of the God-man Jesus Christ, we would be fed with the bread which came down from heaven – the holy Eucharist.

 

The priest repeats some of these words when he communes every person:

 

“Behold this hath touched thy lips, and taketh away all thine iniquities and purgeth all thy sins”

 

As in all of Holy Scripture, true understanding is in the details. Those who have “ears to hear” listen closely, and perceive all shades of meaning. Those who do not have such ears are those whom the Lord orders Isaiah to give the message:

 

"Go, and say to this people. 9. Ye shall hear indeed, but ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive. 10. For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” Isaiah 6:9-10

 

There is a stark contrast presented here. Isaiah is healed by the holy coal which touches his lips because of his faith. See how he thinks of himself:

 

“And I said, Woe is me, for I am pricked to the heart; for being a man, and having unclean lips, and I have seen with mine eyes the King, the Lord of hosts.”

 

Such a man God will heal. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”, and the greatest grace is given by the Holy Eucharist.

 

How can we know the holy prophet was truly humble? After all, words are easy to say.

 

We must not receive the grace of God in vain. The partaking of communion must initiate ACTION in us. The voice of God will also be present for us. Isaiah not only has words, he has actions. Will we hear God as Isaiah did?

 

“And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people? And I said, behold, I am [here], send me.” Isaiah 6:8


Why do we live such mediocre lives? Why do we confess the same sins over and over? Why is there so little change in our lives? Let us look at ourselves carefully: are we hearing the voice of God? Are we saying to God as Isaiah: “I am here, send me?”

 

There are two ways of living – one leads to life and one leads to death. There are two ways of communing the Holy Mysteries. Isaiah shows us one, and the people he preaches to shows us the other. May we live in such a way that every time we commune, not just the priest, but the Lord says to us:

 

Behold, this has touched thy lips, and will take away thine iniquities, and will purge off thy sins.

 

———-

Is 6:1-12 And it came to pass in the year in which king Ozias died, [that] I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, and the house was full of his glory. 2. And seraphs stood round about him: each one had six wings: and with two they covered [their] face, and with two they covered [their] feet, and with two they flew. 3. And one cried to the other, and they said, Holy, holy, holy [is the] Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 . And the lintel shook at the voice they uttered, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 . And I said, Woe is me, for I am pricked to the heart; for being a man, and having unclean lips, and I have seen with mine eyes the King, the Lord of hosts. 6. And there was sent to me one of the seraphs, and he had in his hand, a coal, which he had taken off the altar with the tongs: 7. and he touched my mouth, and said, Behold, this has touched thy lips, and will take away thine iniquities, and will purge off thy sins. 8. And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people? And I said, behold, I am [here], send me. And he said, Go, and say to this people. 9 . Ye shall hear indeed, but ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive. 10. For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. 11 . And I said, How long O Lord? And he said, Until cities be deserted by reason of their not being inhabited, and the houses by reason of there being no men, and the land shall be left desolate. 12. And after this God shall remove the men far off, and they that are left upon the land shall be multiplied. (Great Lent, the Second week, Thursday, At the Sixth Hour)

 

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-thursday_2009+sixth-hour+the-holy-eucharist-and-hearing-the-voice-of-god.html

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-thursday_2009+sixth-hour+the-holy-eucharist-and-hearing-the-voice-of-god.doc

 

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

 

Daily LentenMeditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

 

Compendium of materials about Great Lent:

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

 

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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The Good and Bad example of Lamech

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

2nd Week of Great Lent – Wednesday Vespers

And Lamech said … I have slain a man to the wounding of myself, and a stripling to my own bruising. Sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for Cain: but for Lamech seventy times sevenfold. (Great Lent, the Second Week, Wednesday, Vespers: Genesis 4:23-24, from the selection: Genesis 4:16-26)

 

What are we to glean from this first recorded instance of Hebrew poetry?

 

Lamech was a descendant of Cain. One of his two wives, Zillah,

 

"… bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron" Gen 4:22

 

Therefore, Lamech had available to him metal swords, which would give him a distinct advantage over his enemies.

 

To his wives, he confesses to two murders, of a “man” and a “young man” (stripling), and laments his sin, and predicts that his punishment would be greater than Cain's (whereas Cain's punishment would be “seven times”, Lamech's would be “seventy seven times” (some interpret this number as 70*7 = 490))

 

Why the greater punishment? Is it because of two murders and not one? No. It is because Lamech did not learn from the example of his father. St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom make this very clear:

 

“Cain had not learned to murder from another, and had never seen a murderer undergoing punishment. But I, who had before my eyes Cain groaning and trembling, and the mightiness of the wrath of God, was not made wiser by the example before me. Therefore I deserve to suffer four hundred and ninety punishments. “(St Basil the Great, 365 letters, Letter CLXXXVII (187))

 

Cain was punished, but Lamech, who committed a murder after him, did not suffer near so great a punishment. And yet this was a murder, and that was a murder, and that so much the worse, because even by the example he had not become the better. (St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans, Homily XXXI, Romans XVI:5)

 

We have before us a terrible example! Lamech was senseless to the lesson of his father before him.

 

What examples might we be senseless to?

 

We have the example of the church, the writings of the Holy Fathers, the sublime services, and sacred writ to guide us; all of this in addition to the moment by moment guidance of the Holy Spirit abiding within us.

 

We are without excuse, with “no cloak for our sin” if we are too busy, or too lazy, or tired, or too this, or too that to learn how to live the righteous way of life.

 

Lamech's sin accuses us today! Are we also guilty of some sin due to our negligence? Is there some sin of which the Lord asks us:

 

“Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me?” (John 14:9)

 

There is more yet to learn from the murderer Lamech. Some of his example is to be emulated! Hear John Chrysostom again:

 

“… since the one [Lamech] neither killed his brother after exhortation, nor needed an accuser, nor shrunk from answering when God questioned him, but even without any accuser both pleaded again himself, and condemned himself more severely, he obtained pardon. (St John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans, Homily XXXI, Romans XVI:5 [comments added])

 

Lamech felt the great weight of his sin, and accused himself of his crime, unlike his father Cain, who only confessed when confronted by God. In this way he resembles, David, who was guilty of the double sin of murder and adultery, and begged God to forgive him in the fiftieth psalm.

 

Let us act in the same way. Let us confess our sins freely and obtain pardon. Let us learn from Lamech's good and bad example, and take the self-recriminations of St Andrew of Crete to heart:

 

Whom do you resemble, O most sinful soul? Surely the first Cain and that wicked Lamech. For you have stoned your body with evil deeds, and you have murdered your mind with irrational appetites. Great Canon, Wed of first week, Ode 2:8

 

"I have killed a man to the wounding of myself," said Lamech, "and a young man to my own hurt," he cried out wailing. But you, my soul, do not tremble, while polluting the flesh and defiling the mind. Great Canon, Thu of first week. Ode 2:1

 

O how I have emulated that old murderer Lamech! By my pleasure-loving cravings I have killed my soul as the man, my mind as the young man, and my body as my brother, like Cain the murderer. Great Canon, Thu of first week, Ode 2:3

 

There is one more marvelous truth to be gleaned from Lamech's confession. Our Lord alludes to this truth when He answers Peter who had asked: “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (Mat 18:21)

 

I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. [or “77”,] (Mat 18:22 [comments added])

 

Herein is a marvelous mystery! The Lord teaches to forgive ALWAYS by specifying a large number, but this is a special number. St Basil explains:

 

“The sin of Lamech requires for its cure not a Flood, but Him Who Himself takes away the sin of the world. Count the generations from Adam to the coming of Christ, and you will find, according to the genealogy of Luke, that the Lord was born in the seventy-seventh. St Basil the Great, 365 letters, Letter CLXXXVII (187)

 

Only Christ, the Good Samaritan, is the one who alone can tend to the wounds of mankind!

 

Let us cleave to Him, confess our sins, and obtain pardon!

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-wednesday_2009+vespers+the-good-and-bad-example-of-lamech.html

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-wednesday_2009+vespers+the-good-and-bad-example-of-lamech.doc

 

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Evil Jealousy and false pretence. Cain kills Abel.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010


2nd Week of Great Lent – TUESDAY Vespers

Genesis 4:8-15

 

Ghent Altarpiece-Cain and Abel, Jan van Eyck (1432), from wikepedia.<br />
             http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/ghent-altarpiece-cain-murdering-abel.jpg

“And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go out into the plain; and it came to pass that when they were in the plain Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.” Tuesday in the Second Week of Great Lent – At Vespers,

 

Today the scripture gives us an account of the first murder in human history. Cain murdered his brother Abel because of jealousy:

 

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: (5) But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” (Gen 4:4-5)

 

How stealthily jealousy operates! Cain merely suggests that they take a walk into the field, all the time hiding in the darkness of his heart his plans.

 

How powerful our secrets are! If we look at ourselves carefully we would understand how they control us. Our secret feelings, or likes and dislikes, our irritations about and judgment of others are our cruel taskmasters. They are like Cain, making seemingly innocent suggestions to us, and leading us cunningly into sin.

 

Cain lied to his brother; a jealous man always is also a liar. His lie was not in words, but in intent. We lie to our brothers. Our lie is not in words, but in our thoughts, seemingly private musings, which we forget that God sees.

 

In the old law, it was forbidden to kill; in the new law, we understand the real meaning behind this rudimentary prohibition: we are not even to think evilly of our brother. We are not to be angry with him, or jealous, or clutch to our breasts, like some greedy miser holds coins, our carefully cultivated feelings of having been treated unfairly or slighted in some way.

 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mat 5:21-22)

 

We must not be like Cain, but let us keep watch over our thoughts. His sin began with his secret thoughts. A Christian considers his thoughts to be as significant as his words; after all, the Lord knows both equally well. The model for how a Christian is to think and speak, with honesty, and no hidden agenda is summed up by our Lord:

 

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Mat 5:37)

 

In other words, do not do things because of pretense! Recognize that there are hidden motivations in the dark recesses of your soul; it is not enough to merely feel that you are sincere, you must actively examine yourself to ensure that you are sincere.

 

Jealously is a common hidden motivation for the things we do, say, think and feel, but there are many more hidden motivators, such as: avarice, lust, laziness, and of course, the dark passion that enervates all of these: pride.

 

How do we escape, from so many traps? How are we to be, as St Andrew suggests:

 

“Winged with action, resolve and contemplation, (and) save your life like a gazelle from the noose.” (Great Canon, Ode 6)

 

Examination of conscience is the first and foremost action we must take.

 

We must also firmly resolve to take another, much more difficult action. We must do good to others even when we do not want to. There are two great difficulties in this podvig of a true Christian.

 

At the outset, we must force ourselves to do something we do not want to do. This can be bitter and difficult for the soul, but with practice, we will feel great peace and sweetness.

 

The second great difficulty is more subtle, but very powerful. The Evil one gets our ear, and tells us that is we are doing some good for someone we do not like, that we are being hypocrites. No! We are hypocrites if we call God our Father, and do not behave as His son or daughter!

 

In doing good to others even when we are not so inclined, and even when we harbor bitter feelings, if we do so to force ourselves to follow the commandments, then we are not hypocrites. We are like the son who said to his father that he would not go into the field to labor, but afterward repented and went.

 

“A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.  (29)   He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.  (30)   And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.  (31)   Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first.” (Mat 21:28-31)

 

We learn to be good by doing good. Let us examine ourselves to be sure that everything we do is really good, and has no false motivations.

 

 

Gen 4:8-15

 

8. And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go out into the plain; and it came to pass that when they were in the plain Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him. 9. And the Lord God said to Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not, am I my brother's keeper? 10. And the Lord said, what hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood cries to me out of the ground. 11. And now thou art cursed from the earth which has opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. 12. When thou tillest the earth, then it shall not continue to give its strength to thee: thou shalt be groaning and trembling on the earth. 13. And Cain said to the Lord God, My crime is too great for me to be forgiven. 14. If thou castest me out this day from the face of the earth, and I shall be hidden from thy presence, and I shall be groaning and trembling upon the earth, then it will be that any one that finds me shall slay me. 15. And the Lord God said to him, Not so, any one that slays Cain shall suffer seven-fold vengeance; and the Lord God set a mark upon Cain that no one that found him might slay him.

 

 

Bibliography

 

“Search the Scriptures” is a podcast on "Ancient Faith Radio". It is a series of lectures by Presvytera and Dr. Jeannie Constantinou. She covers this text at: http://audio.ancientfaith.com/searchthescriptures/sts_2009-02-21.mp3

 

 

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

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-tuesday_2009+vespers+evil-jealousy-and-false-pretence.html

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/great-lent-week-02-tuesday_2009+vespers+evil-jealousy-and-false-pretence.doc

 

New material throughout the year is posted on ourBLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Daily LentenMeditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

Compendium of materials about Great Lent::

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

 

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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St. John of the Ladder on Corporate Prayer

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

It is possible for all to pray with a congregation;

for many it is more suitable to pray with a single kindred spirit;

solitary prayer is for the very few.

(from the Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus, Step 19:5)

 

Is St. John saying here that we should not pray by ourselves? Certainly not, for this would contradict the entire consensus of the Fathers of the Church regarding prayer, and even the words of Holy Scripture, which enjoin us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17)!

St. John himself, in another place, calls prayer "the queen of the virtues," who "cries with a loud voice and says to us: Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Step 28:2).

No, St. John wishes to emphasize how difficult it is to pray alone, and how much easier it is to pray together. The context makes this clear, since Step 19 as a whole is about corporate prayer, with others.

St. John says that prayer is "the converse and union of man with God" (Step 28:1). So this is not just a matter of repeating the prayers in the prayer book. Prayer is a conversation with God, a lifting up of our mind and heart to Him. And how difficult this is!

How hard it is to say our prayers morning and evening, alone in front of our icons – and yet we feel that our prayer at home, feeble as it is, is sufficient. How much stronger our prayer is when two or three of us are gathered together, and Christ in our midst (Matt 18:20).

We are not saved as individuals, for it is our selfishness in pursuing our own individual agendas that separates us from God. We are saved by being united to His Body, by entering once again into union and communion with Him — and at the same time with each other. And the essence of this union is prayer. When we pray together, our prayers are stronger, supported by our mutual effort and by God's grace.

And so it is possible for all to pray when we gather together in Church, for our union with one another in the labor of prayer facilitates our union with God. So let us gather in Church and pray, as often as we are able!

In addition to this, it is suitable to pray with our loved ones — our spouse, our children — at home. It has been truly said that "the family that prays together stays together." Prayer is the tie that binds us to each other and to God. And this prayer is also easier than that solitary prayer.

So while continuing to labor in our personal prayers, let us not neglect to come together in prayer as often as possible both in church and with our families at home. As St. John assures us, this time spent in prayer together will be more fruitful (for all but the very few) than the time spent laboring in prayer alone.

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HAITIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST TO SPEAK AT ST. SOPHIA GREEK ORTHODOX AND ST JOHN RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CATHEDRALS IN WASHINGTON, DC

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

An email from Fr Victor Patapov, executive director of the Fund for Assistance.


 

 

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

             On Friday, March 5, 2010 at 8:00 PM at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC, Fr. Gregoire Legouté of Port-au-Prince and his wife Rose will give eyewitness accounts of the hardships Orthodox Christians in Haiti are facing as a result of the violent earthquake that devastated their poor Caribbean nation.

            The Orthodox Mission in Haiti consists of 5 parishes and 2 chapels with about 2,000 Orthodox Christians lead by two priests Fr. Jean Chenier-Dumais, and Fr. Gregoire Legouté. Both priests survived the earthquake and are doing all they can to rebuild the Mission.

            There is no social support system in Haiti, so all social work is done by the Church. The Church communities use rented buildings so they have no church home of their own and the priests were forced to travel many miles in a car they shared in order to visit their parishioners. This car was destroyed in the earthquake. The Mission was struggling before the devastating earthquake and now has found itself in a situation worse beyond imagining.

            Even before the earthquake Fr. Gregoire in a recent interview declared, "We lack everything in Haiti. We don’t have liturgical books, sacramental vessels, land to build a church, or money for our schools."

            The needs of our Orthodox brothers and sisters in Haiti are now greater than ever.

            To learn more Fr. Gregoire and his wife will speak again at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on March 7th at 9:30 AM after Sunday English liturgy.

            You are cordially invited to both events, to hear about the struggles of our fellow Orthodox Christians at the frontlines of our Church. 

 


 

 

 

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Triumph Of Orthodoxy. Pleasures Of Sin For A Season. Audio homily 2010.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

What is the triumph of Orthodoxy? A short synopsis of the historical background, then discussion of what this triumph is for the individual. It involves "faith", understanding that the pleasures of sin are for a season, and believing that a good thing CAN come out of Nazareth.

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Hebrews 11:24-26, 32-12:224 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

John 1:43-51 43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.


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The First and most deadly sin of Cain. 2nd Monday of Great Lent.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

2nd Week of Great Lent – MONDAY, SIXTH HOUR. Gen 3:21 – 4:7

1. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and brought forth Cain and said I have gained a man through God. 2. And she again bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3. And it was so after some time that Cain brought of the fruits of the earth a sacrifice to the Lord. 4. And Abel also brought of the firstborn of his sheep and of his fatlings and God looked upon Abel and his gifts, 5. But Cain and his sacrifices he regarded not, and Cain was exceedingly sorrowful and his countenance fell. 6. And the Lord God said to Cain, Why art thou become very sorrowful and why is thy countenance fallen? 7. Hast thou not sinned if thou hast brought it rightly, but not rightly divided it? Be still, to thee shall be his submission, and thou shalt rule over him.”(From Gen 3:21 – 4:7, read in the Sixth Hour, the 2nd Monday of Great Lent).

 

What was the worst sin of Cain? Do not say “murder”! Cain became a murderer because of his previous sins, and the single greatest sin a man can commit, which eventually led him to murder his brother Abel. Cain’s terrible fall should make us tremble with fear, as he trembled till the end of his days, because the beginning of it was so ordinary, and such a common sin.

 

Cain and his brother Abel both offered sacrifices to God. This was before the institution of sacrifice as the Jews would later know it; the brothers made their sacrifices purely because, as St John Chrysostom tells us, their consciences told them to do so. Inherent in man is a longing to be with God, to communicate, to beseech. Without any formal laws the conscience of the brothers led them to offer something of their labors to God.

 

In this, both brothers were correct; their idea was a righteous one. However, God accepted Abel’s sacrifice,

 

But Cain and his sacrifices he regarded not”.

 

This is not because, as some wrongly believe, that Cain offered produce, and Abel a more “perfect” sacrifice of animal flesh. St John strongly disabuses us of this notion. There was nothing wrong with the type of sacrifice either brother offered.

 

If the type of sacrifice of Cain was good in God’s eyes, then why did He reject it? There can only be one reason. When Cain became angry, the Lord explained the matter to him carefully:

 

“Why art thou become very sorrowful and why is thy countenance fallen? 7. Hast thou not sinned if thou hast brought it rightly, but not rightly divided it?” [1]

 

 

Cain offered a good thing to God, but he did not choose it carefully, as Abel did.

 

3. … Cain brought of the fruits of the earth a sacrifice to the Lord. 4. And Abel also brought of the firstborn of his sheep and of his fatlings.”

 

Abel picked the best of his flock (the ”firstborn”) to offer to God, while Cain only haphazardly chose some produce to bring.  

 

In anything we do, we have two choices that must be made. Everything we do must be evaluated using these two criteria: It must be the right thing to do, and we must do it in the right way.

 

Cain’s first sin is all too common in our life. We may indeed sin in this way more than in anything else.

 

We sin this sin of Cain when we add to our good works, thoughts and sayings a mix of pride, self-interest and self-absorption.

 

It is good to offer our prayers, but do we pray with attention and care?

 

Are our prayers the “first fruits” of our day, of do they happen according to our convenience?

 

It is good to come to the church to worship, but do we come late, or rarely, or stand inattentively, finding pretexts to leave the service frequently?

 

It is good to make our confession during Lent, but if we do not confess other times because of laziness, then we sin this sin of Cain.

 

So many times, daily, hourly, we do things without care, without attention, with false or ambiguous motives.

 

Perhaps one would protest that these things are “small” sins. Small sins are like small lion cubs. They inevitable get larger and uncontrollable unless great effort is taken to control them when they are small.

 

When Cain’s countenance fell, after the Lord counseled him, and even assured him that he, being the older brother, still had preeminence:

 

“Be still, to thee shall be his submission, and thou shalt rule over him.”

 

Clearly, Cain was jealous. The Lord assured him that his place in the family was not being changed. His way of living, his attitude was being questioned. Cain had an opportunity to repent, and change, but, he soon thereafter took his brother out into a field on some pretext and murdered him. Murder was the child of inattention, followed by stubborn unrepentance.

 

Perhaps another would protest that “mere” inattention in spiritual things can not lead to murder. This is a perilous position to take, because the Holy Scripture here and in many places clearly contradicts such a view.

 

The inattentive man is capable of ANY fall. The attentive man will repent when his sin is found out, and his repentance will save him from more and worse sins.

 

 

Bibliography

 

“Search the Scriptures” is a podcast on "Ancient Faith Radio". It is a series of lectures by Presvytera and Dr. Jeannie Constantinou. She covers this text at: http://audio.ancientfaith.com/searchthescriptures/sts_2009-02-21.mp3

 

 

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

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/ great-lent-week-02-monday_2009+sixth-hour+the-first-sin-of-cain.html

http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent/ great-lent-week-02-monday_2009+sixth-hour+the-first-sin-of-cain.doc

 

New material throughout the year is posted on our BLOG: http://www/.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Daily Lenten Meditations on the service texts and scripture readings: http://www.orthodox.net/dailylent

Compendium of materials about Great Lent::

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent

 

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] All scripture is from the Septuagint (the “Brenton” translation). This is the authoritative text for Orthodox Christians. In some cases, it differs markedly from the Hebrew Masoretic text. Most English bibles are based on this text, such as the King James, Revised Standard, etc. The KJV version contains: “And the LO.RD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen?  (7)  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” Gen 4:6-7 KJV.

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