Archive for the ‘OT:Proverbs’ Category

Great Lent, the Sixth Week, Thursday – "Buy truth, and do not sell wisdom"

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Buy truth, and do not sell wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

Great Lent, the Sixth Week, Thursday, Vespers. Proverbs 23:23 from the selection Proverbs 23:15-24:5

The wise virgins told the foolish to go and buy for yourselves, when asked to give some of their oil to the foolish.

And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. (9) But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” (Matthew 25:8-9 )

This proverb, which we read today, expresses the same idea. The oil in the lamps represents the grace of the Holy Spirit, from which all Wisdom comes. Without Wisdom, that is God, who is called Wisdom in many places in the Holy Scriptures, we cannot know truth.

We should not give away or sell the grace of God that is within us. In fact, we CANNOT sell or give it away, but we can lose it.

We have bought it – from those who sell. There is only a small amount of time that this market for truth is open to us, and then comes the time when no man can buy or sell, when the eyes no longer see and the body can no longer obey the soul. We buy through our interactions with others in this market.

No man can give the grace of God to another. It is grace which saves us, gives us wisdom, heals us. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan?

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (Luke 10:30-34 )

Those that passed by were unable to impart the healing grace of God to the one stricken by thieves. Only the Samaritan, our Lord Jesus Christ, was able to heal.

The Proverb, and the parables of the wise and foolish virgins, and of the Good Samaritan teach us the same thing about grace. We cannot sell it, or even give it, but we must buy it.

This does not imply that we can earn grace! We just recently read this:

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

The answer to this important question is: nothing, and everything. There is nothing we can use to earn grace, but we can buy it by giving ourselves.

We buy what is precious to us. How do we buy truth? WHAT IS TRUTH, Pilate asked. To buy truth, we must know what it is. It is none other than God abiding in the soul. We purchase it by following after it. This is likened by our Savior to be the way of the Cross.

… Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (25) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25 )

We cannot give money for it – what can a man give in exchange for his soul? We give ourselves. The Lord demands our heart. It is all we have to give.

In the Great Canon, the Holy Bishop Andrew of Crete, no doubt cogitating on the ideas contained in the scripture we have just discussed, instructs his soul:

Watch, my soul! Be courageous like the great Patriarchs, that you may acquire activity and awareness, and be a mind that sees God, and may reach in contemplation the innermost darkness, and be a great trader.“ (Great Canon, Ode 4, Clean Tuesday and the fifth Thursday of Great Lent)

Will we be “great traders”, and buy truth?

Great Lent, the 4th Week, Monday, Vespers – "Fair and foolish"

Monday, March 31st, 2008

A golden ring in a swine’s snout, a woman fair and foolish.

Great Lent, the Fourth Week, Vespers, Proverbs 11:22 from the selection: Prov 11:19-12:6

The Proverbs has many pithy and sometimes humorous phrases.

What a sight it would be to see a woman, beautiful in all ways, except that she has the nose of a pig, with a ring in it! I daresay it would be much easier to avoid the lust of the eyes as soon as our gaze lights upon that nose with that ring!

Perhaps you have the same humorous image I had when I read this verse. Sometimes humor can help us, and although this verse can be thought of as humorous, it speaks of a multitude of sins which we must avoid.

The “Fair (beautiful) and foolish woman (or any person)” is foolish because of their vanity. Their beauty was given by God, or perhaps they altered their image by surgery, but in any case, it was not earned. It is foolish to be proud, but even more so, to be vain about things which are trifles, or which we have no control.

It is also foolish to value external beauty, or money, or anything that is temporary.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: (20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The foolish vain person sees himself in a flattering light, but to God, and those with God’s wisdom, he appears foolish. In a like way,

A golden ring in a swine’s snout:

a man rich and foolish

a famous man and foolish

a man who is proud of his family, or ethnicity, or education, and foolish.

A pig is an unclean animal. We are unclean when we are proud of our few accomplishments, our looks, or wealth, or position, or anything we have, and do not cultivate the virtues.

Great Lent, the 3rd Week, Friday, Vespers – "A deceitful balance" – Proverbs 10:31-11:12

Friday, March 28th, 2008

A deceitful balance is an abomination before the Lord: and a just weight is his will.

Great Lent, the Third Week, Friday, Vespers – Proverbs 11:1, from the selection: Proverbs 10:31-11:12

The Proverbs are excellent texts for checking ourselves. Many of you have heard many times that we must read the scriptures with the intent of finding personal correction and guidance.

When we observe good or bad behavior, do we resemble it? When there is a rebuke, would we deserve the same? When a prayer is uttered or a promise made, would we be truth tellers or liars if we said the same thing?

Here we are told something about honesty. In old times, product was weighed on a balance, and sold by weight. An unscrupulous merchant could add weight to the side on which he weighed the product, so that a small amount would seem heavier, or he could label the weights that he added to the other side incorrectly, by overstating their weight. In either case, the result was (for instance) that a customer would think he was buying a pound, but in reality the weight would only be twelve ounces.

The way we judge things, and present ourselves to others may be considered a “balance”.

Our balance is deceitful, if we prefer one person over another because of their wealth, or position or notoriety, as the Holy Brother of the Lord tells us:

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; (3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4 KJV)

We have a deceitful balance if we speak ill of another behind their back.

Our balance is false if we are more likely to talk or listen to someone if they are pretty, or interesting.

Is not our balance deceitful, when we promise to do something, and do not do it?

Anytime that we hide dark thoughts in our hearts regarding our brethren, regardless of whether we think that we act upon them, we carry within us a deceitful balance.

Great Lent, the 3rd Week, Tuesday, Vespers – Wisdom has built a house for herself, and set up seven pillars – Proverbs 9:1-6

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Wisdom has built a house for herself, and set up seven pillars. 2. She has killed her beasts; she has mingled her wine in a bowl, and prepared her table. 3. She has sent forth her servants, calling with a loud proclamation to the feast, saying, 4. Who so is foolish, let him turn aside to me: and to them that want understanding she says, 5. Come, eat of my bread, and drink wine which I have mingled for you. 6. Leave folly, that ye may reign for ever; and seek wisdom, and improve understanding by knowledge.

Tuesday in the Third Week of Great Lent- At Vespers – Proverbs 9:1-6, from the selection Prov 8:32 – 9:11

Christ, he means, the wisdom and power of God the Father, hath builded His house, i.e., His nature in the flesh derived from the Virgin, even as he(John) hath said beforetime, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”(8) As likewise the wise prophet(9) testifies: Wisdom that was before the world, and is the source of life, the infinite “Wisdom of God, hath builded her house” by a mother who knew no man,–to wit, as He assumed the temple of the body.

And hath raised(10) her seven pillars;” that is, the fragrant grace of the all-holy Spirit, as Isaiah says: “And the seven spirits of God shall rest upon Him,”(11) But others say that the seven pillars are the seven divine orders which sustain the creation by His holy and inspired teaching; to wit, me prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, the hierarchs, the hermits, the saints, and the righteous.

And the phrase, “She hath killed her beasts,” denotes the prophets and martyrs who in every city and country are slain like sheep every day by the unbelieving, in behalf of the truth, and cry aloud, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we were counted as sheep for the slaughter.”

And again, “She hath mingled her wine” in the bowl, by which is meant, that the Saviour, uniting his Godhead, like pure wine, with the flesh in the Virgin, was born of her at once God and man without confusion of the one in the other.

“And she hath furnished her table:” that denotes the promised knowledge of the Holy Trinity; it also refers to His honoured and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper.

And again, “She hath sent forth her servants:” Wisdom, that is to say, has done so–Christ, to wit–summoning them with lofty announcement.

“Whoso is simple, Let him turn to me,” she says, alluding manifestly to the holy apostles, who traversed the whole world, and called the nations to the knowledge of Him in truth, with their lofty and divine preaching.

And again, “And to those that want understanding she said”–that is, to those who have not yet obtained the power of the Holy Ghost–“Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled for you;” by which is meant, that He gave His divine flesh and honoured blood to us, to eat and to drink it for the remission of sins.

St Hippolytus of Rome, On Proverbs

Great Lent, the 2nd week, Monday – Why are things hard? – Proverbs 3:34 – 4:26

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

The Lord resists the proud; but he gives grace to the humble.

Monday in the Second Week – At Vespers, Prov 3:34 – 4:26

With grace, everything is easy. The man fully in the Spirit, fully in the grace of God, does not consider the yoke of righteousness to be burdensome, but easily, and freely, chooses the way of life. One can be sure that if it seems hard to do the “right thing”, that is, there is a war within ourselves regarding our choice, it is because of our pride.

If we hear a harsh word and want to return it in kind, but resist, we have gained a crown, but our task was difficult because of our pride. If we pray when we do not feel like praying, and perhaps, as we struggle along, the prayer becomes lighter and easier, we can be sure that we are being visited by God’s grace, but we must remember that it was difficult in the beginning because of our pride.

Everything that is hard in the way of life, ie., the following of the commandments, is hard because of our pride.

We must go through life with sadness, and grief. Our Lord lived this way, it is the way of the cross, and we must follow Him. Our Lord felt the difficulties of life, since He is fully human, and many things are hard for the human race. He never, however, felt a war within himself as to which way to choose. He had the grace of God fully within Him, because He fully humbled Himself.

The only resistance a humble man experiences is from without. From within, he is given grace so that his choosing is free and easy for him. This is the spiritual meaning of our Lord’s promise, given only to the humble: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

There is a story from the desert fathers, where two monks were walking down a road. They met a woman of ill repute walking towards them. The younger monk covered his face in his cowl, while his spiritual father smiled, and greeted the woman as she passed. The younger monk was troubled about this, and the elder, knowing this asked him: “What is troubling you my son?” The younger monk answered: “Father, surely you know what sort of woman just passed by”. The pure elder answered: “My son, I cannot tell you whether is was a man or woman who just passed by.”

This story shows us the beginning and the end of godly struggle. The younger monk was correct to cover his face, so as not to invite the demon of lust to entice him, since this demon is so active with our sight. In time, with great effort, the younger would reach the stature of the elder, who was able without effort, freely, to encounter the woman, and have no pangs of lust trouble his soul. The Lord resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.