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Commentary on Luke 20:9-18, read on the 28th Thursday after Pentecost. Parable of the Vineyard. The Corner Stone

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Commentary on Luke 20:9-18, read on the 28th Thursday after Pentecost.

Parable of the Vineyard

The Corner Stone

 

The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. (Luke 20:17-18)

 

cornerstone.gifWhen we read the Holy Scriptures, if we are to benefit, we must consider them to be words directed to us, with our eyes fixed on our Lord’s eyes as we sit at His feet. As we look into those eyes, how do we feel? Are we comforted, encouraged, ashamed? Are we aware of our incompleteness, our brokenness, as we are taught about things that we barely do? What is our Lord saying to us, as his eyes shine with wisdom and love, and yet also with such perfection and brightness that we feel the sharp sting of self condemnation and shiver in the cold of our own darkness?

 

He tells us of a stone, and we know He is speaking of Himself.

 

The corner stone is a heavy and perfectly formed stone, and upon it the whole edifice rises. It is the foundation of all other stones, and for the edifice to be strong, all these stones must also be perfectly formed, and fitted to the corner stone. We know that we are to be these stones, as He has told us "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." (Mat 3:9).

 

We are "these stones" – common, rough stones, which in being raised up to be children of Abraham (that is, sons of God), will become smooth and perfected. In our Lord’s words we are comforted, as we see in His eyes His promise.

 

Even though we are poor and sinful, we are called to be the elect, to be fitted to the corner stone, as the Apostle proclaims:

 

"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; {21} In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:" (Eph 2:20-21)

 

And the Apostle Peter agrees:

 

"Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. {7} Unto you therefore which believe he is precious" (1 Pet 2:6-8)

 

However, what is this that we then hear?

 

"Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."

 

We see in His eyes that He is beckoning us to make a choice, because this stone will do two things, depending on our response to it. We can be broken, or ground to powder. Neither of these sounds “precious” to our ears.

 

When the Jews were stoned, a large stone was thrown on them from a great height [1]. O, the agony! To be ground to powder and blown away to the winds, forgotten and blotted out of the book of life!

 

We are faced with another choice – to fall upon the stone of our own volition. And yet, to fall upon this stone means we will be broken – it will hurt! But is this not a contradiction? If we are the stones to be raised up to be sons of Abraham, and to be fitted to the corner stone, how can we be of use to the building if our stone is broken?

 

As we look into His eyes, it is clear that He understands our perplexity, and His expression tells us that there are no other choices. We, and all of mankind are faced with only two ways, each of which we may freely take. We can reject the corner stone, or embrace it. Either we will be ground to powder, or broken; the choice is ours.

 

What does this mean – to be broken? In our soul, we hear, a still small voice:

 

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psa 50:17).

 

We remember when the Good Samaritan dressed the wounds of the man by the road. Sometimes a wound must be lanced – broken, in order for the pus to be drained, so that a healing balm may be added. So now we understand! We must be broken in order for us to heal.

 

However, just as the body dreads being hurt, so does our pride resist being broken.

 

O Lord, help us to throw ourselves upon Thee, and be broken, that we would become whole! Our pride restrains us, so with trembling we beg Thee, as Thou didst do to those out in the highways and lanes, COMPEL us to fall upon Thee! We are too weak to always make this choice, but we desire to! With St John the Damascene we cry: "But whether I will it or not, save me! [2]"

 

 

Luke 20:9-18  Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-thursday-28_2008_titus1;5-21+luke20;9-18.html

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http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-thursday-28_2008_titus1;5-21+luke20;9-18.rtf

 

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[1] "On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. That is, in the original, will reduce him to dust, so that it may be scattered by the winds. There is an allusion here, doubtless, to the custom of stoning as a punishment among the Jews. A scaffold was erected, twice the height of the man to be stoned. Standing on its edge, he was violently struck off by one of the witnesses; if he died by the blow and the fall, nothing farther was done; if not, a heavy stone was thrown down on him, which at once killed him." http://www.ccel.org/ccel/barnes/ntnotes.ii.xxi.xliv.html

[2]But whether I will it or not, save me!" from the Evening prayers, Prayer of St John Damascene which is to be said while pointing to the bed.

 

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Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16-4:4, read on the 28th Tuesday after Pentecost.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

2 Timothy 3:16-4:416 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

 

 

“All Scripture” (vs 3:16) – at the time of writing, “Scripture” was the Old Testament. The full canon of the NT was not ratified by the church until the fourth century. Certainly, however, the letters of the Apostle’s were held in special reverence and were treated like Scripture.

 

That the man of God may be perfect” (vs 3:17) – This is why I say so often that scripture is ABOUT YOU. The purpose of reading it is perfection – your perfection. To read it for any other purpose is wasteful.

 

“throughly furnished unto all good works” (vs 3:17) – We all need instructions in how to do things. Scripture contains commands – many “dos” and “do nots” but it would not be effective for salvation if this was all it contained. The attentive reading in Scripture, by the grace of God, changes a man, and makes him better. We may not understand the mechanism – in one case we may apprehend a dogma more clearly, in another, we may feel a stinging rebuke about something we have been neglecting, in another, we may feel consoled and feel the zeal to do good welling up within us because of something we have read. Whatever the mechanism, it is absolutely clear that reading Holy Scripture with attention is a primary way in which we change and become perfected.

 

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12 KJV)

 

We must read scripture with the intent of being empowered to change. This is the meaning of this verse.

 

“who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom…” (2 Timothy 4:1) This refers to the Final Judgment, when those still living and all who have died will be judged. The Apostle expounds on the this doctrine more fully here:

 

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  (14)   For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  (15)   For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  (16)   For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  (17)   Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  (18)   Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1Th 4:13-18 KJV)

 

 

Preach the word; be instant [1] in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.(2 Timothy 4:2)

 

 

The Apostle is telling his son Timothy to be ready to preach no matter what circumstances he is in.

 

“What means "in season, out of season"? That is, have not any limited season: let it always be your season, not only in peace and security, and when sitting in the Church. Whether thou be in danger, in prison, in chains, or going to your death, at that very time reprove.” (St John Chrysostom, Homily 9 on Second Timothy)

 

A pastor must remember St John’s instruction regarding exhortation, which he likens to consolation:

 

“And if you convict and rebuke, but vehemently, and do not apply exhortation, all your labor will be lost. For conviction is intolerable in itself if consolation be not mingled with it. As if incision, though salutary in itself, have not plenty of lenitives [2] to assuage the pain, the patient cannot endure cutting and hacking, so it is in this matter.” (Ibid)

 

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

 

This time is well upon us. In secular society, bad is called good and good bad. People call themselves Christians and do all manner of immoral things, and even garner praise for their actions and make laws justifying them! Even in the Orthodox church, we have some weak willed bishops who preach a watered down ecumenism, or prattle about the environment or other topics with political cachet, and are friends of “important” people who are enemies of the truth. Many people have bizarre and unchristian ideas and morals, and will not tolerate a priest correcting them.

 

 

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

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-tuesday-28_2009_2timothy3-16-4-4.html

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[1] “instant” – another rendering is “ready”

[2] “lentives” – drugs or substances used for soothing or alleviating pain or distress

 

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Avoid profane and vain babblings. Life is short. Treat each day as your last, and you will never sin.

Friday, December 11th, 2009



1 Timothy 6:17-20

Nov 27/ Dec 10   27th Thursday after Pentecost



Life is short.

Brothers and sisters, contemporary wisdom tells us that "life is short," and so we should enjoy ourselves, take up a challenge, or make a difference in the world. We should not waste the little time that we have.

 

Treat each day as your last, and you will never sin.

 

Likewise, the holy fathers tell us that each day could be our last, and that we should therefore "redeem the time, because the days are evil." Or, as one of the desert fathers said, "Treat each day as your last, and you will never sin."

 

Life is short, but what does this mean? The world tells us that we should enjoy each minute, entertaining ourselves, seeking new experiences and challenges, making the most of the time that we have, because this life is all that there is.

 

The Lord tells us, on the other hand, that the short time of this life is given to us as preparation for eternal life beyond the grave. Time spent in amusements, "experiences," and even in great accomplishments that improve our life here on earth, is ultimately a waste of our time if we are not preparing our souls for eternity.

 

Rather than experiences and worldly accomplishments, we should spend our time perfecting the Image of God — an Image of selfless, sacrificial love — in ourselves and in our lives.

 

The old man does not understand this. When the Lord told his disciples about the resurrection, they did not understand. Even after the resurrection, only few understand this truth. And so we occupy ourselves with vanities.

 

Avoid profane and vain babblings.

 

St. Paul enjoins St. Timothy to

 

"Avoid profane and vain babblings, and the oppositions of knowledge falsely so called."

 

Worldly knowledge is ultimately useless, for the world will pass away. And knowledge based on reason and logic is ultimately untrustworthy, for our fallen reason is capable of proving anything that our fallen heart and will desire to believe.

Let us heed the words of the Lord, and let the world follow its own course. Let us be, as the Apostle enjoins, "in the world but not of the world."

 

Reader Nicholas Park  2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

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For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Two important principles of Scriptural exegesis.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

Two important principles of Scriptural exegesis

Commentary on Luke 17:20-25 & Luke 17:26-37

27th Monday after Pentecost, 27th Tuesday after Pentecost

 

Who said to them: Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will the eagles also be gathered together. (Luke 17:37)

 

For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. (Matthew 24:28)

 

 To understand this thought, one must read the scripture in context. This is a fundamental principle of Scriptural interpretation, which is the SECOND most important principle.

 

The FIRST PRINCIPLE is that we must be in the church AND live according to the mind of the church. Only those in the church have the grace to fully understand, but those who do not live according to this grace are like the man who buried the talent in the ground:

 

“Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.” (Mat 25:28)

 

“Arm chair” Christians will not understand the Scriptures no matter how many “study bibles” they possess. Neither will Christians who have very little interest in Holy things, and, without honorable reasons attend church rarely (perhaps on Sunday), fast very little if at all, and live distracted lives, with little effort to learn the commandments and do them.

 

A critical and much neglected part of the ascetical Christian life which leads to understanding of the scriptures is to pray as much as possible (and when we value something we make it possible!)  at services such as Vespers, Matins and Compline, where the theology is all on display, for those with feet to stand, and ears to hear.

 

From the “first principle” flows the second, since the mind of the church, expressed by its services and the Holy Fathers, constantly uses scripture to interpret scripture.

 

The context of these difficult verses is:

 

“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:  (21)   Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.  (22)   And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.  (23)   And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.  (24)   For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.  (25)   But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.” 

 

(26)  And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.  (27 )  They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.  (28)   Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;  (29)   But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.  (30)   Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.  (31)   In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.  (32)   Remember Lot’s wife.  (33)   Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.  (34)   I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.  (35)   Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  (36)   Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  (37)   And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” (Luke 17:20-37)

 

Perhaps this is too much “context” for some, but quoting pertinent scripture is a lot like eating potato chips! This entire selection is read the 27th Monday and Tuesday after Pentecost.  

 

Jesus is talking about the His final coming, and comparing it with the general sleepiness and torpid dullness regarding spiritual things of mankind throughout the ages. This dullness will make His coming very surprising to most.

 

 He gives two historical examples – “Noah” and “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

 

These examples show that people were living their lives “just as any other day”, when cataclysmic things happened suddenly and unexpectedly under their very noses. They missed these things because they were spiritually sleepy, not serious, and unaware.  This describes the overwhelming majority of how the world will meet the Second Coming and the Final Judgment, and we had best not be too arrogant to consider ourselves to not share in any similarity with this group walking on the “broad way [1]

 

These references also describe the moral state of mankind at the end:

 

“… He indicates that when the Antichrist comes shameful pleasures will be commonplace among the people, and they will become lewd sensualists, abandoning themselves to unlawful pleasures” [2]

 

In our day, when shameful sexual immorality is being codified into law, abortion is widespread, and many other aspects of society show little or no respect for the dignity, holiness and purpose of human life, these words appear to be being fulfilled. We must have eyes to see, and be able to discern the times. We are in dark times, because there are now Christians in name who practice wanton immorality and justify it (abortion, homosexuality and more). If we are honest with ourselves (and a Christian must be!) we must even acknowledge that there is a breakdown and immorality among our Orthodox clergy, including some bishops, even if, it appears, that our beloved church is a bit “behind the curve” in innovative immorality among Christian leaders.

 

Christian! We must be able to see the sky in the morning and determine that it is red! [3] We must do something about this sky, and no matter what we do, we must start with personal morality and holiness. We do not need to have endless questions about

 

when the kingdom of God should come” (Luke 17:20),

 

because the Lord teaches that

 

“The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

 

 

Let us not think of the Kingdom of God “coming” to us, as we are to become such that the kingdom is in us. This means that the Kingdom of God is personal holiness and knowledge of God because of experience; this will not come about “by observation”, but by “violence” [4] and effort.

 

Our Lord goes on to give several hypothetical examples:

 

“(34)   I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.  (35)   Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  (36)   Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.)”

 

All of these examples serve to show us how most people do not have “ears to hear and eyes to see [5]”, because they are not spiritual. They live earthly lives, and are unable to see spiritual things. Does this describe anything in us?

 

The disciples are confused by our Lord’s examples and ask Him:

 

“(37)   … Where, Lord? “

 

And our difficult verse is His answer:

 

(37) …And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

 

 

In order to understand the Lord’s answer, we must reason that it must have something to do with the spiritual condition of men at the Second Coming, since this is the context of the question.

 

Our Lord’s answer to “where”, as are so many of his answers, has multiple levels. One the most immediate level; He is describing the event of the Second Coming.

 

The Fathers understand the “carcase” (body) to represent our Lord Jesus Christ and the eagles to be the Saints, who naturally would be “gathered together” near Christ.

 

At the Second Coming, Jesus will come in power and glory, escorted by the whole angelic host, and the Saints:

 

“Another sign He adds of His coming, "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." The eagles denote the company of the Angels, Martyrs, and Saints”. [6]

 

On a deeper level, referring our Lord referring to Himself as a carcase (dead body) alludes to His passion and death. It must be that in order to be present at His second coming, when He is very much alive, we must also participate in His death.

 

We can also look at this place where the Eagles are gathered, to denote a condition, which is the participation in Christ’s death and resurrection by faith, that is by living as he taught us to live. Eagles are majestic creatures who soar high in the air; this denotes their spiritual condition; they are not encumbered by things below, but focus on high, spiritual things.

 

The preceding examples are in couplets, where one is saved and the other is not. The external circumstances were the same – two are grinding, and in a field but the internal life of each was different. Therefore, nothing external in our life will save us, but only what we become internally.  

 

So this gathering will occur at a point in time (or, rather at the end of time), but it also must be occurring now, in each of our lives. St Paul is describing the same idea when he exclaims that

 

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1Corintians 2:2)

 

The image of the carcase reminds us that we also must die:

 

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Rom 6:6)

 

In this whole conversation about the judgment, our Lord directs his disciples away from idle questions as to where and when, and gets to the heart of the matter.

 

For each one of us, what we do now is all that matters regarding the judgment. Anything else is idle speculation. If we are to be gathered with the Eagles when our Lord comes again, we must live according to His death and resurrection.

 

Please note, that a fanciful and very false idea has been formed by those outside the church regarding these verses – the so-called “rapture”. The idea is this – there will actually be a time when people are suddenly, inexplicably raptured into heaven, no matter what they are doing at the time, then a great tribulation on earth will endure, with the earth populated exclusively with “unbelievers”. There is nothing in Holy Tradition that supports this idea, which has been the basis of many profitable books and movies. The grievous error that these commentators have made is that they did not understand that the Lord was primarily describing the attributes of the soul that would be saved, and not actual events with  His references to women grinding, two men in a field, etc.

 

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-tuesday-27_2009+wheresoever-the-carcase-is-there-will-the-eagles-be-gathered-together+principles-of-scriptural-exegesis_luke17-20-25,luke17-26-37.html

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[1] “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:  (14)  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat 7:13-14)

[2] Blessed Theofylact, Commentary on St Luke (Luke 17:26-30), Chrysostom Press

[3] Mathew 16:2-3 KJV  He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  (3)  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

[4] Mat 11:12 KJV  “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This is the Christian meaning of this verse.

[5] “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:  (15)  For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  (16)  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Mat 13:14-16)

[6] St John Chrysostom, quoted in the Catena Aura, commentary on Matthew 24:28

 

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Parable of the unrighteous steward. Mammon of unrighteousness

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Parable of the unrighteous steward

Mammon of unrighteousness

Commentary on Luke 16:1-9

26th Thursday after Pentecost

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Does not this describe our condition?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-thursday-26_2009+parable-of-the-unrighteous-steward+mammon-of-unrighteousness_luke16-1-9.html

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Children’s liturgy and children’s sermon 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Children’s liturgy and children’s sermon

1 Thessalonians 5:1-8

Nov 7/ 20 2009 24th Friday after Pentecost[U1] 

2009-10-15-childrens-liturgy-choir-6.jpg

The sermon in the Children’s liturgy contained something for all children of God – we are children of the light – it is really THAT simple.

 

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

 

This is from yesterdays reading, which was read in the so-called “Children’s liturgy” this week.

 

Twice a month, on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays, I serve a “children’s liturgy”. This is really nothing more than a liturgy that many of the parish children attend, with a sermon especially for them, on their level. Also, the children are encouraged to sing as much as they are able, and they do sing, like angels. Eventually, God willing, the children will become the entire choir for these liturgies and read the epistle.

 

I have a fervent desire also that eventually our children’s liturgies will become a weekly affair, and part of a homeschooling curriculum. I envision the church as providing significant resources to homeschooling parents, in an organized, but unofficial way (we probably will not an official school, with all the red tape and state interference that this would entail.) I believe that as a pastor I must try to equip our youth as best as I can, and it is my strong opinion that homeschooling is preferred unless there are extenuating circumstances. I believe the church must help equip parents to home school their kids. This is one the of the greatest reasons why I want our parish to grow.

 

The children’s liturgy is one of the highlights of my life, not ALL of it mind you, because children can sometimes be, well … children, but in general I am filled with great hope during these liturgies. Hearing the children sing, generally on key, but usually with a little … improvisation … always warms my soul. I cannot think of a more important 2 hours during the week.

 

2009-10-15-childrens-liturgy-homily-3.jpg One of our “traditions” is the children’s sermon. I sit on a little stool,, and talk to the children. I usually talk about the Gospel of Epistle we just read, and try to put it in terns they can understand. They all gather around in a semi-circle, and are very interactive!

 

Here was the simple message yesterday: “You are children of the light”. I went on to ask them if they would rather be in light or darkness, and told them that light means holiness and darkness is sin. They made the connection that when you sin you are in darkness, and wondered how you get back to the light. Don’t tell me that you cannot talk about theology with children!  Of course, the answer is to repent, and ask forgiveness. In their case it may be that they must apologize to a sibling, or tell their mommy they are sorry.

 

This was a simple sermon, for children, and it was well received. There was a lot more to it than I am recounting, because there are always a few tangents that are suggested by the audience, and I think a pastor giving a sermon to children breaks the lawyer’s number one rule: always know the answer you will be given to every question!

After the liturgy, I kept thinking about this simple sermon. This concept is not only for little children, but the big ones too – all children of God. Is we remembered that we are “children of light” at all times, we would be protected from sin. It really IS that simple.

 

How we identify ourselves – our self-concept – is critical to our success. How many times do we sin because we have forgotten who we are? We are like the man who looks into a mirror, then goes away and forgets what he looks like. [1]

 

It is a powerful and simple idea – “I am a child of light – I will not do this or think that because it is darkness and not light”  The scripture is full of short powerful phrases that can keep us from sin if we are attentive. Another one is “You were bought with a price”. Perhaps we may not sin for no other reason than gratitude when we remember this.

 

It is critical that we remember what our purpose is. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. [2] We are children of light. Let’s remember this at all times.

 

By the way, this is a simple but not easy concept. After the sermons, during the rest of the liturgy, the children bickered more than usual. Sigh.

 

 

     1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

 

 

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

 

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[1] James 1:23-24 KJV  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  (24)  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

 

[2] Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,

 


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I count all things but loss. The knowledge of Christ Jesus. That I may win Christ. Philippians 3:8

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I count all things but loss

The knowledge of Christ Jesus

That I may win Christ

Philippians 3:8

Biblical Exegesis

It is always about You!

 Oct 10/23 2009 20th Friday after Pentecost

 

Today’s reading from Philippians is too good to miss. If one only had this passage and the Gospels it would be enough. Let’s do a little exegetical study of a small portion of the mellifluous words in this passage.

 

Remember what exegesis is – to glean what the writer intended the passage to mean.  These are not mere facts! This cannot be done without reading the text in an intensely personal way. One must consider these words to be written to him, and the moral admonitions to be fully binding, even if all specific circumstances do not apply to our particular lives.

 

The meaning of the text is only the beginning for us. We then must apply this meaning to our own lives. Perhaps there is something we should do, or be not doing, or perhaps in understanding the text, as if the scales fall from our eyes, we tremble because we are so far from perfection. Merely understanding what we should do or not do is not enough. We must also glean from the text encouragement and method, and allow our soul to be changed by mediation on the extreme beauty that is Jesus Christ. We must look carefully for instructions about how we should think, and what our attitudes and priorities should be, because as a man thinks, so he does.

 

Learn to read the scripture with the expectation and firm conviction that something is going to change in you for the better, right here, right now.

 

This passage is a deep well. Let’s put our toes in. It is important to understand the meaning of the scripture, but its application is as varied as the people who read it. Therefore, what “hits” me may not “hit” you, however, if you can read this passage without being touched to your very marrow [1], you will not have understood it in any meaningful way.

 

3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

 

There is a lot here. I am far from perfection. I know the Saints were those who embodied this attitude (and more than an attitude – it is a state of being – of being totally IN Christ). This is my goal – to count ALL things but loss except for the knowledge of Christ. Our Lord has also taught this:

 

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37)

 

St Paul is merely rephrasing our Lord’s admonition. “Mother and Father” and “son and daughter” are “all things”. Taking St Paul’s assertion and combining it with our Lord’s words we have an equally true statement:

 

He that loveth ANYTHING more than me is not worthy of me.

 

What does the Apostle value above ALL THINGS? It is the KNOWLEDGE of Christ Jesus. He is referring here to experiential knowledge – that which is gained by toil and fasting and prayer and repentance. He is describing THEOSIS, when a man becomes like Christ, by emulation and grace. It is impossible to have the “knowledge of Christ” without become like Christ. Our religion is one of emulation. We imitate the God-man Jesus Christ to the extent we are able, and His grace is sufficient for us if we truly count all things as loss except Him.

 

St Paul uses a powerful term: he states that he (has) suffered the loss of all things …

that I may win Christ.

 

This brings to mind the athlete (a favorite subject for the Apostle), who strives above all others to win the contest and is victorious. Our modern view of Christianity is very passive, but Christianity is aggressive! Nobody wins in sport by being passive. We must go about our life “with loins girded” because we are in a battle to the death. Can you see the Apostle’s urgency?  This begs the question: where is our urgency? If we are not as urgent, there must be an attitude/priority problem in our life – we must be valuing something above Christ! What is it?

 

“… the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Mat 11:12)

 

 

Please read the rest of the passage, below.

 

     Philippians 3:8-19 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

 

 

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

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-10-23_i-count-all-things-but-loss+the-knowledge-of-christ-jesus+that-i-may-win-christ+philippians-3-8+biblical-exegesis+it-is-always-about-you.html

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[1] Heb 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

 

 

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

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Hw does one glean deep and subtle meanings from scripture?

The superior faith of the Samaritans

Signs and Wonders

The Nobleman compared to the Centurion

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

A few other things about this scripture selection.

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

Bibliography

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

 

 

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

 

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

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Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs: St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom. Readings at Vespers.

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Jan 30/Feb 12 2009

Today’s readings, followed by a few pastoral & personal thoughts.

 

The “Parables” at Vespers

 Sometimes Vespers has readings appointed; they are called “parables”.  The word “parable” literally means “a placing beside or together or a comparison”. Everyone is familiar with the parables of Jesus, in which a fictional story illustrates spiritual truths. These are not the only parables; the word is also used to describe proverbs, prophetic utterances, and “dark sayings”.

 

When a parable is read in the Vespers service, we should consider that the content of the text refers in some way, whether directly or allegorically, to the service being celebrated.

 

Typically, the parables for celebrated saints are from the OT, except in the case of one of the 12 Apostles, when they are taken entirely from the NT epistles. The parables for Feasts of the Lord or Theotokos are from the OT.

 

The Old Testament is a very difficult book to understand. We who are Orthodox are helped immeasurably in this task by the church services, which are replete with references to the OT, and the right interpretation of the myriad types and prophesies contained in it. All the services interpret the meaning of the Old Testament in the light of the New.

 

Anyone who attentively and consistently worships in the Vespers and Matins services will learn the most important parts of the Old Testament. Those whose Christian worship is almost entirely confined to the Divine Liturgy will not receive the benefit of this teaching.

 

The major portion of the pedagogy of the church is  Vespers and Matins, whose content varies considerably day by day and season by season, The textual content of the Divine Liturgy, on the other hand, varies very little throughout the year.

 

One CANNOT understand the Old Testament without worshipping in the Vespers and Matins services. Also, one CANNOT understand the New Testament without understanding the Old, and one CANNOT understand anything in the scripture without living according to the message of the New Testament. With some, this sounds like circular reasoning, but for those who have heeded the call to “come and see”, all things become clear.

 

We learn the truth of the scriptures by hearing them used in the context of worship, coupled of course with our struggle to learn and follow the commandments and our personal study of the scriptures.

 

 

Commentary on the Parables for the Vespers of the 3 Hierarchs.

 

The first parable, describes the necessary character traits of the judges God appointed over His people; these same traits are also exemplified by holy hierarchs, who are also appointed to judge, that is to “rightly dividing the word of truth”[1]

 

16 And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. 17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s:”

 

The second parable also, in which God describes Himself, also describes more attributes of a holy bishop (or any Christian, of which a bishop should be the best example). The admonitions to the Jews also are fulfilled most exactly in the holy hierarchs:

 

17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. 19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.”

 

‘This parable also contains a graphic reference to our hearts:

 

“16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.”

 

This is a kind of “mini” parable in itself. We would do well to consider the metaphor literally. Just as circumcision is the cutting away of flesh, and involves blood and pain, so also flesh must be cut away which is covering the heart. This “foreskin”  covering our heart is our sins and sinful inclinations. The cutting away of these things can only be accomplished with pain and with blood. The pain occurs because the soul is attached to earthly things, and in the beginning, feels great sorrow when torn away from the earth. Blood contains the essence of our life, it permeates all parts of our body. In giving our blood we are giving our life.  

 

The admonition to “be no more stiffnecked” targets the greatest passion which keeps us from true life and holiness: pride.

 

The last parable is used very commonly in the Vespers readings, for many Saints. An interpretation of it is, as my old math textbooks used to say: “left as an exercise to the reader.” Anybody what to take a crack at it?

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 1:8-11, 15-17 8 Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them. 9 And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone: 10 The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. 11 (The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!) 15 So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. 17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.

 

Deuteronomy 10:14-2114 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. 19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. 21 He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.

 

Wisdom 3:1-9 1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. 2 In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, 3 And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. 4 For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. 5 And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. 6 As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. 7 And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. 8 They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people, and their Lord shall reign for ever. 9 They that put their trust in him shall understand the truth: and such as be faithful in love shall abide with him: for grace and mercy is to his saints, and he hath care for his elect.

 

 

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

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-monday-23_2008_1thessalonians1;1-5+luke10;22-24.rtf

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pentecost-monday-23_2008_1thessalonians1;1-5+luke10;22-24.pdf

 

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

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[1] “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2Timothy 2:15 

 

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Week of the Publican and Pharisee – WEDNESDAY

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

 

Today’s readings, followed by a few pastoral & personal thoughts.

 

 This week, we do not fast on any day. Most people would consider a non-fasting week to be a time to relax a little, because after all, we are not fasting; we can eat anything we want!

  

Some also erroneously feel that we are taking a “little break” before the arduous fast begins.

  

None of these ideas is correct. The church tells her children not to fast this week to underscore what truly saves a Christian. Fasting did not save the Pharisee, whom we read about just last Sunday. He fasted and tithed and prayed, but was not justified. The church services mention many times that he was not justified (made righteous, “saved” if you will) because of his pride, and the publican was saved because of his humility.

  

Some will foolishly believe that the fast free week tells us that fasting is not important, and is optional, because it did not save the Pharisee, and all we need do is be humble. Fasting, in and of itself, does not save, but we will not be saved if we do not fast.  No less a luminary than St Seraphim of Sarov has said this, and an attentive listening to the services of the church underscores this point.

  

An athlete will not improve in his sport solely by eating certain food and abstaining from others that slow him down or make him get fat, but he WILL NOT improve if his diet is not optimal. So it is with fasting. It is necessary because of our nature, and its effect is to help us become more spiritual, and focus on the things that are needful.

  

This week we are taught what not to think – that fasting in and of itself saves. When the church teaches what NOT to do, she always tells us what TO do. This week, we are focusing on watchfulness and a sober attitude about our life, and the judgment.

  

This Sunday showed that humility saves. Always present with humility is watchfulness and a sober attitude.

  

We must read this Epistle and the Gospel with a spirit of watchfulness.  

2 Peter 3:1-18 

1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: 3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark 13:24-31 24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. 28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: 29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. 30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. 31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priest Seraphim Nov 4/17 2008.                                                                                              St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-wednesday_2009_2peter3;1-18+mark13;24-31.html  

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-wednesday_2009_2peter3;1-18+mark13;24-31.pdf

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/great-lent-week-before-great-lent-03-wednesday_2009_2peter3;1-18+mark13;24-31.rtfl

 

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

 

Archive of: commentaries: http://www.orthodox.net/scripture 

 

Archive of homilies: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

 

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL were the text was found. We would love to hear from you with comments!

 

 

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