Archive for the ‘Epistle:Hebrews’ Category

Receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved…

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Today’s reading from St. Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews[1] is a beautiful exposition of how we, as disciples of Christ, should live our lives. Why is the reading read on this particular day, the day on which we celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection of Lazarus? I think that the key is in the first words of the appointed selection: "we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved…." Truly, our kingdom cannot be moved, since our King is the "Vanquisher of death," as we sing in the troparion for the day:

In confirming the common resurrection, O Christ God,

Thou didst raise up Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion,

Wherefore, we also, like the children,

bearing the symbols of victory,

cry to The, the Vanquisher of death,

Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!

Our Lord rose the dead on three occasions during his earthly ministry [2]. On one ocassion, he rose the daughter of Jairus, who had only recently died and who still lay on her sickbed in her parents’ home [3]. On another ocassion, he rose the son of the widow of Nain, who was already being carried to burial [4]. Finally, he raises his friend Lazarus, who has already lain in the tomb for four days – long enough for his body to begin to decay [5]. This latter incident is the subject of today’s celebration. We remember it now because it took place shortly before the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But it is significant to remember this event now for another reason as well; it shows us clearly that Christ is the victor over death, and thereby foreshadows Christ’s own resurrection, which we will celebrate in just over a week.

Christ, having conquered death, "the last enemy to be destroyed" [6], is truly the master of all. We, then, being his followers and disciples, can have nothing to fear from anybody, so long as we remain true to Him. It is in this way that His words, "Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?,"[7] acquire their power, for He is truly able to provide all things. Even if we should be given over to death for following Him, He has the power to raise us from the dead.

We, then, can confidently and without being worried by "what-ifs", give ourselves entirely to living in the manner that God has directed, having as our only goal the perfection of His image in our souls. Setting aside our worries, we can "have grace, that we may serve God acceptably." We can zealously pursue brotherly love, hospitality, charity toward those in bonds, purity of body and soul, contentment and submission.

[1] Hebrews 12:28-13:8: 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire. 1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. 4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. 5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. 7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

[2] Archbishop Andrie of Rockland NY, of blessed memory, points this out in a sermon for the day, which is available here:

http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/sermons_archbishop_andrei.htm

http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/russian/sermons_archbishop_andrey.htm

[3] Luke 8:40-56

[4] Luke 7:11-16

[5] John 11:1-45

[6] 1 Cor 15:26

[7] Matthew 6:31

 

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1st Sunday of Great Lent – Triumph Of Orthodoxy -Can Anything Good Come Out Of Nazareth – Hebrews 11:24-26,32-12:2, John 1:43-51

Monday, March 17th, 2008

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John 1:43-51 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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35th Friday after Pentecost – Hebrews 11:8, 11-16 – Which country are we mindful of?

Friday, January 25th, 2008

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

This is saying that we can always go back to sinful ways, if we retain any attachment to them. What countries are we still “mindful” of?

The Apostle speaks delicately when he states “they might have had opportunity to have returned”. The truth is, if we retain attachment to earthly things, we will always be “returning” in some way to these things, as a dog returns to its own vomit.

Who knows how far we will go? Do we? Could it not be possible that with repetition in the indulgence of our passions, we will embark upon an actual trip back to this “country” and do not come back? ABSOLUTELY! In this context, returning to the “country” that we should have left completely means our perdition. In the meanwhile, as our lives hang in the balance, we “play with fire”, and are “double minded” and therefore unstable in all our ways. How many times can we indulge ourselves without becoming completely lost? How much should we gamble concerning this?

Human nature quickly tunes out warnings. Punishments, or threats of danger do little to dissuade us for very long. There is a principle in action here: A PERSON WILL DO WHAT HE WANTS TO DO. Look at your life and see if this is true. Why do you pray very little? Is is not because you are “mindful of another country” – something you value above prayer, such as leisure, or entertainments, or any of a million other things that we do instead of prayer? Our habits, deeply ingrained because of our indulgence in them, are very difficult to uproot, and will certainly not be uprooted by being reminded of punishments. We must change what we want if we are to become holy.

We see the true motivator to righteousness in this selection: to desire a “BETTER COUNTRY, THAT IS AN HEAVENLY.” We must daily, hourly, minute by minute,cultivate deep desire to become heavenly, holy – because only those with a clean wedding garment will dine in the Master’s city.

How do we keep this blessed hope within us?

It is hard work. We remember that which we repeat. We repeat that which we value.

We must meditate upon the scriptures with great desire and longing. This must be a daily occurrence. How can we do that which we do not know? We must be people of the scriptures. When we hear the beginning of a phrase, our heart should feel the warmth of holiness as our mind completes it. Do you know the scriptures this well? I am not talking about rote memorization here. We remember that which is important to us. If holiness is important, then we will remember things regarding holiness, and feel pleasure when these things are brought to our recollection

My hope is that these small homilies that I write or speak will spark a desire in you to delve deeply in the scriptures. Be like a miner, with a pick and pail, looking for golden nuggets, and hold unto these as a precious treasure. The only way to maintain the truths taught in scripture is to live according to them, so in order to “maintain our face towards Jerusalem” we must cultivate the virtues.

What is it that you need to do today? I do not speak of your itinerary – do this, do that, go here, then go there. Your task today is to live like a Christian, and you cannot do this without thinking like one! Let us take as our example Abraham, and Sarah, and Moses, and all the rest who cultivated their love for God by their actions and maintained their steadfast belief that there was something better for them – a heavenly city.

Partial Scriptural bibliography: Hebrews 11:8, 11-16 ; 2 Pet 2:22 ; Luke 9:51 ; James 1:8 ; Luke 15:11-32

Epistle for this day: Hebrews 11:8, 11-16 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.


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35th Thursday – "For ye have need of patience"

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

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This is a homily, first to myself, spoken concerning the following scripture, which is appointed for the 35th Thursday after Pentecost:

Hebrews 10:35-11:7 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

May God help us to live in a way worthy of this Holy Scripture! May we always remember and live as “them that believe to the saving of the soul!”.

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