Archive for the ‘Redeeming the Time’ Category

Thoughts on John 13:1-20

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Today, we as a church family are reading the first half of the Gospel according to John the Theologian. (If you are not there yet, don't worry — the main thing is to keep reading!)

This selection tells of two things: Jesus' washing of His disciples feet and His knowledge of Judas' betrayal.

The Church, reading this selection on Great and Holy Thursday, consistently links these two themes:

"When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet, then Judas the ungodly one was stricken and darkened by the love of silver…" (Troparion for Holy Thursday and Friday).

The way of Jesus Christ and the way of the world are completely different. "“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:24-28).

Our Lord is teaching this when He washes the disciples' feet: "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:14-15)."

The disciples are enlightened, but Judas is "stricken and darkened". An encounter with God does not leave us unchanged. We see this throughout St. John's Gospel, but especially here. When we meet God and see Who He Is, when He reveals Himself to us, then we either love Him or we reject Him. This is how it will be on the last day when He appears in the clouds with great glory. 

Will we love Him more than money, than our pride, than earthly glory or pleasure? It depends on the baby steps that we take now. He reveals Himself to us now in measure, a little bit here and a little bit there, just enough so that it is in our power to choose to accept Him and follow His way. And in that way, we can learn to love Him more.

So let us heed His injunction to wash one another's feet as He has shown us, that we might be stricken with the love of our Lord and God, rather than with the love of corruptible earthly things.

Christ is Risen!

“the Father is in Me, and I in Him”

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

In the second half of John 10, Jesus says:

"I and the Father are one."

"I am the Son of God."

"…the Father is in Me, and I in Him."

What do we mean when we say the Jesus is God, that He is the Only-Begotten Son of God, of one essence with the Father?

Blessed Theophylact, commenting on "the Father is in Me, and I in Him," summarizes the Church's explanation as follows:

" 'I have the same essence as the Father while remaining the Son; I differ from Him only in hypostasis (i.e. person). Likewise, the Father ever remains the Father and differs from Me only in hypostasis. He is identical to Me in essence and nature. Though we differ in hypostasis, Our hypostases are undivided and inseparable: the Father and the Son united without confusion.' It is not so with men. A human father exists separately from his son, although they are one in nature. But the divine hypostases are intermingled without confusion. We speak of "three men," for every human person is a separate entity. But the Holy Trinity is one God, not three, because of the unconfused interpenetration of the three hypostases without confusion, and their unity of counsel and will." (Blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria, Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. John, tr. Fr. Christopher Stade (St. Louis: Chrysostom Press,  2007), p. 174)

This is important.

Jesus Christ is GOD, the Creator of all that exists. He made us, He redeemed us, and in Him we have our life. He is not optional. He is not "one path up the mountain to God". Nobody can know the Father apart from Him, for the Father is in Him, and He in the Father. Let us worship Him and follow Him in everything.

The sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (John 10:1-5)

"The door" is the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Blessed Theophylact, following the interpretation of St. John Chrysostom, explains this to us.

Jesus Christ Himself, the Son and Word of God, is also "the door", as He tells us a few verses later. It is only by Him that we can enter and be saved.

He is also the Good Shepherd, who enters by "the door" of the Holy Scriptures, since they testify to Him. Indeed, the whole Bible is about Jesus Christ. Everybody else speaks of himself, and twists the Scriptures to fit his ideas.

So how is it that we can be saved, and "go in and out, and find pasture"? Through Jesus Christ.

And how is it that we will recognize Him? Because He will "call us by name," and if we will "know His voice". 

And how will we know His voice? Because we will have, throughout our lives, accustomed ourselves to hear and love His voice.

And how do we accustom ourselves to hear and love His voice? By reading the Holy Scriptures, by praying in the words of the saints, by attentively praying in the services of the Church, by frequently receiving the Holy Mysteries, and by striving to follow His directions about how to live, knowing that He will not lead us astray but will rather guide us into the good pasture.

How much do you believe in the resurrection? The Holy Seven Maccabees, Solomonia, and Eliazar

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

How much do you believe in the resurrection?

The Holy Seven Maccabees, Solomonia, and Eliazar

Commemorated Aug 1

 

 

 

The Holy Macabbees martyrs, Habim, Antonin, Guriah, Eleazar, Eusebon, Hadim (Halim) and Marcellus, their mother Solomonia and their teacher Eleazar http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/maccabees-solomonia-eliazar-aug-01.jpg



The Holy Macabbees martyrs, Habim, Antonin, Guriah, Eleazar, Eusebon, Hadim (Halim) and Marcellus, their mother Solomonia and their teacher Eleazar

 

 

The words of a virtuous woman and true mother to her sons:

 

2Ma 7:20-23  But the mother was marvellous above all, and worthy of honourable memory: for when she saw her seven sons slain within the space of one day, she bare it with a good courage, because of the hope that she had in the Lord.  (21)  Yea, she exhorted every one of them in her own language, filled with courageous spirits; and stirring up her womanish thoughts with a manly stomach, she said unto them,  (22)  I cannot tell how ye came into my womb: for I neither gave you breath nor life, neither was it I that formed the members of every one of you;  (23)  But doubtless the Creator of the world, who formed the generation of man, and found out the beginning of all things, will also of his own mercy give you breath and life again, as ye now regard not your own selves for his laws' sake.

Solomonia *believed* in the resurrection. The question all of us should ask ourselves is, would we also say these words if our children were being chopped to pieces because of our true Christian faith?  If we wonder, then we have some work to do!

We also commemorate Eliazar, the holy priest, who manfully died for the faith. Would you deny your faith in order to not be wounded in your body? Or would you *pretend* to deny it in order to escape? Eliazar was offered this option, and because of his virtue, he had great courage, and refused to even appear to deny his faith.

 2Ma 6:18-31  Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, an aged man, and of a well favoured countenance, was constrained to open his mouth, and to eat swine's flesh.  (19)  But he, choosing rather to die gloriously, than to live stained with such an abomination, spit it forth, and came of his own accord to the torment,  (20)  As it behoved them to come, that are resolute to stand out against such things, as are not lawful for love of life to be tasted.  (21)  But they that had the charge of that wicked feast, for the old acquaintance they had with the man, taking him aside, besought him to bring flesh of his own provision, such as was lawful for him to use, and make as if he did eat of the flesh taken from the sacrifice commanded by the king;  (22)  That in so doing he might be delivered from death, and for the old friendship with them find favour.  (23)  But he began to consider discreetly, and as became his age, and the excellency of his ancient years, and the honour of his gray head, whereon was come, and his most honest education from a child, or rather the holy law made and given by God: therefore he answered accordingly, and willed them straightways to send him to the grave.  (24)  For it becometh not our age, said he, in any wise to dissemble, whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, being fourscore years old and ten, were now gone to a strange religion;  (25)  And so they through mine hypocrisy, and desire to live a little time and a moment longer, should be deceived by me, and I get a stain to mine old age, and make it abominable.  (26)  For though for the present time I should be delivered from the punishment of men: yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither alive, nor dead.  (27)  Wherefore now, manfully changing this life, I will shew myself such an one as mine age requireth,  (28)  And leave a notable example to such as be young to die willingly and courageously for the honourable and holy laws. And when he had said these words, immediately he went to the torment:  (29)  They that led him changing the good will they bare him a little before into hatred, because the foresaid speeches proceeded, as they thought, from a desperate mind.  (30)  But when he was ready to die with stripes, he groaned, and said, It is manifest unto the Lord, that hath the holy knowledge, that whereas I might have been delivered from death, I now endure sore pains in body by being beaten: but in soul am well content to suffer these things, because I fear him.  (31)  And thus this man died, leaving his death for an example of a noble courage, and a memorial of virtue, not only unto young men, but unto all his nation.

 

 

 

 

 

“According to your faith be it unto you.” The two blind men teach us how to increase our faith. Matthew 9:27-35

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Gregory William, for whom I pray fervently that he will have true faith! LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: Before Jesus healed the two blind men who had cried out to him MANY times (with the rudiments of the Jesus prayer), He said to them: "According to your faith be it unto you". Remember, since we read the scripture in order to be taught something about ourselves, we MUST apply this saying to ourselves – does it fit us? If we find ourselves to be lacking in faith, or perhaps the fruit of faith – results in things that matter in our lives, then we must find a way to increase our faith. It is reasonable to ask the Lord for this, since the apostles themselves also asked him to increase their faith. Jesus commended several people concerning their faith – including the centurion Syrophenician woman of Canaan, and the woman "who was a sinner". Each adds to the picture of how we can increase our faith. We look at the example of the two blind men, with humility, recognizing that we have weak faith and need to learn from their example.

More homilies on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost are HERE

Matthew 9:27-35 27 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us. 28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. 29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. 30 And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. 31 But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country. 32 As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. 33 And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. 34 But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils. 35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-07_2012-07-22+according-to-your-faith-be-it-unto-you_matthew9-27-35.m3u

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The entire Trinity participated in the act of creation – it is right there in the bible! Psalm 32:6

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth, Who gathereth together as into a wineskin the waters of the sea, Who layeth up the abysses in storehouses. (Psalm 32:6, Boston Sept Translation)

 

Some translations have "breath of His mouth" – the Holy spirit is also known as "breath" or wind.

 

This is a Trinitarian reference. There are many more in the Scripture. The Father, Son (Word) and Spirit  (breath) are seen to be creating. since creation is an act of will, and God, being one in essence, has one will, all persons of God were equally involved in creation.

The “take home” about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. From Mark the Ascetic.

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

There is lots of complicated "stuff" regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit, and His being sent. The take home is pretty easy, no matter how difficult the theology is. He came to us and abides in us for our illumination and perfection. We cannot use reason to understand Him or the energies of the Holy Trinity, and God's relationship with Himself, but we can accept His enlightenment in one way only, as St Mark the Ascetic teaches:

"(The Holy Spirit) … gives to each person what is needful. On those who have been baptized He pours Himself out in His fulness like the sun. Each of us is illumined by Him to the extent to which we hate the passions that darken us and get rid of them. But in so far as we have a love for them and dwell on them, we remain in darkness."

St Mark the Ascetic, "On those who think they are made righteous by works: 226 Texts", # 118, The Philokalia, I:135

An irony of St Mark's teaching is that some who are in the thrall of Western pseudo-Christian teaching would consider the saint's words to be a kind of dependence on works!

I will bless the Lord at all times, Psalm 33, sung at the end of Vespers

Monday, May 7th, 2012

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: Psalm 33, as sung by our choir at the end of Vespers in the vigil service. Our choir, as usual, sounds prayerful and melodic. The "recording engineer" regrets messing with the unit suring the recording (it was just after our between services homily at vigil), and we were getting ready for matins), but you will definately get the idea.

More music from our choir is HERE


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/music/vespers_2012-05-05+i-will-bless-the-lord-at-all-times+psalm-33-sung-at-the-end-of-vespers.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/music/vespers_2012-05-05+i-will-bless-the-lord-at-all-times+psalm-33-sung-at-the-end-of-vespers.mp3

Bright Week Do’s and Dont’s, Holy Week/ Pascha pictures and video

Monday, April 16th, 2012

pascha-2012-06-holy-saturday-01

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: Some Bright week "Do's and Don'ts" that are very important to keep the Paschal joys all week. Here are a few: Do eat a steak and any food you want, every day of the week, and do not eat any tofu, but do not eat too much. Do Read the Gospel of John and the Acts, but do not read the Psalms (I explain why). Do plan on communing on Thomas Sunday, the most important Sunday of the year! Do day the Paschal hours instead of your usual prayers, and do not go back to the world too soon. Towards the end, some heartfelt thank you's for all those who helped with flowers, cleanup, preparation and our choir, which was other-worldly beautiful on Pascha night.

More homilies on the PASCHA are HERE

Short Video of Pascha Eve, including my scratchy voice, wardrobe changes, and Christ is risen in many languages, including Kikuyu!

 

 


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Mine eye is troubled with anger… exegesis from St John Chrysostom

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Today's reading (5th Saturday of Great Lent, Hebrews 9:24-28) is from Hebrews, and I sometimes read St John Chrysostom's commentaries when they apply to the readings.

As usual, St John applies morality to theology (how can they ever be separated – Oh, I remember – by making up theology, mostly by not understanding the Epistles of St Paul,  because of opposition to immoral Rome, and in so doing, tossing The Epistles of James, Peter and John , and the Holy Fathers and uninterrupted Holy Tradition of the true church), and although he is a "chewy" read, it is always worth the effort.

The Homily that covers the verses in today's reading also goes beyond them a bit, and St John refers parenthetically to the Psalm verse (6:5). Here is is in a little context:

I am wearied with my groaning; I shall wash my bed every night; I shall water my couch with tears.  (7)  Mine eye is troubled because of my wrath; I am worn out because of all my enemies. ( Psa 6:5-6  (not 6:6-7) Brenton Sept)

Here is is in the "Boston Psalter" that we use in church:

"I have toiled in my groaning; every night I will wash my bed, with tears will I water my couch. 6 Through wrath is mine eye become troubled, I have grown old among all mine enemies" ("Boston" Psalter 6:5-6)

Here is St John's commentary (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf114.v.xxi.html), with a little context:

This eye we have it in our own power to create, and to make it quick sighted and beautiful. For when we direct it, not to the smoke nor to the dust (for such are all human things), but to the delicate breeze, to the light air, to things heavenly and high, and full of much calmness and purity, and of much delight, we shall speedily restore it, and shall invigorate it, as it luxuriates in such contemplation. Hast thou seen covetousness and great wealth? do not thou lift up thine eye thereto. The thing is mire, it is smoke, an evil vapor, darkness, and great distress and suffocating cares. Hast thou seen a man cultivating righteousness, content with his own, and having abundant space for recreation, having anxieties, not fixing his thoughts on things here?

 

Set [thine eye] there, and lift [it] up on high; and thou wilt make it far the most beautiful, and more splendid, feasting it not with the flowers of the earth, but with those of virtue, with temperance, moderation, and all the rest.

 

For nothing so troubles the eye as an evil conscience (“Mine eye,” it is said, “was troubled by reason of anger”— Ps. vi. 6 ); nothing so darkens it. Set it free from this injury, and thou wilt make it vigorous and strong, ever nourished with good hopes

 


 

St  John shows us that the "wrath (also translated anger, grief) in the Psalm is that of the soul being aware of its sins – such awareness in an unrepentant and unrepentant person causes an "evil conscience".

 

The Holy David is in the process of repenting in this Psalm, and this process involves tears, and wrath directed against himself, and toil. 

 

Remember, the Scripture is always about you! How does your repentance stand up to this Scriptural example? I tremble when making the comparison.

 

There are a few commentaries on the Psalms by St John available. He says about verse 5 here:

"Let us, therefore, when we sin, consider if we are worthy of mercy, if we did anything to have mercy shown us, if we repented, if we proved better people, if we turned over a new leaf. In other words, salvation of the penitent is salvation that comes from Divine mercy" (St John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Psalms)

I have found that many who cannot except Orthodoxy because of indoctrination by "Reformed" theology do not understand how to lament over sins, try to do better, and at the same time know that salvation comes solely from the mercy of God, and not because of anything we do (but it will not come if we do not try to "do!"). They mistake our "eye being troubled with anger" with some sort of lack of faith in the mercy of God, and dependence on works.

No! They do not understand the fear of God, and that the man who has been saved has only one greatest grief – that he will do anything to disappoint his savior.

Here is another pearl from St John, that makes it clear that remembrance of sins disturbs the eye of the soul:

"Do you see a contrite spirit? Having mentioned repentance, he refers again to the passions, the tumult of the mind, the fear arising from God's ire. He refers at this point, note, to the eye of the soul, that penetrating and rational vision, which the knowledge of one's sins is in the habit of disturbing." 

And, check this, St John describes the heart of true repentance, misunderstood by many who carry a bible:

"Since you see, he kept his faults before his eyes in every circumstance, he also considered God's ire, living in fear and without grief like the multitude, but in conflict and trembling. Such disturbance is the mother of tranquility, such fear is the basis of contentment. The person so disturbed drives out every temptation; not to have the soul in such a condition means undergoing stormy billows. Just as a ship without ballast is at the mercy of the force of the wild blasts and quickly founders, so too a soul living without grief is subject to countless passions"

Thank God for our services, all throughout the year, but especially during the forty (plus) days, which teach us how to repent!

 


 

When you read St John's commentaries, I recommend the ccel.org website. Get a free account, and when logged in, you can make permanent hi-lights and notes. It can be a little confusing to get around, and a whole lot of the site is not up to Orthodox Christian standards, but it is a great resource.