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Dynamis Devotional

Discussion in 'St. Athanasius Chapel and Reference Library' started by Oblio, Jun 26, 2003.

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  1. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

    +830
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    [c]Thursday, June 26, 2003
    Holy Apostles' Fast
    David of Thessalonika

    Epistle: Romans 5:10-16 Gospel: St. Matthew 8:23-34
    [/c]

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    Reconciliation: Romans 5:10-16, especially vs. 15: "But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many." Recently, major political changes in one of the countries of the "Third World" resulted in a general amnesty for all opponents of the former regime. Persons imprisoned for many years were released, and soon after being released one of the long-term prisoners was elected President of the country.
    Such a complete reversal of circumstances provides a vivid analogy for understanding the kind of reconciliation St. Paul describes in today's Epistle. However, what St. Paul reveals is the most thorough-going reverse of circumstances in all of history: the restoration of the Communion between God and mankind brought about "through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received the reconciliation" (vs. 11).

    Not that every human being on the face of the earth has accepted God's reconciliation, but, as St. John Chrysostom says, if we men will accept what God has done, "we have become friends, and there is no further need of Death....What is there then to prevent us any more from obtaining the things to come? Nothing!" Everything has changed; joy has come into the world!

    First, let us admit that sin is more than a childish tantrum. It is full-scale rebellion, enmity against God, the despising of His ways. St. Paul says that we were "enemies" of God (vs. 10). In "Eve's Lament," Johanna Manley has our first mother say, "But as soon as we listened to God's adversary and had eaten of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, we had the boldness, the audacity, the arrogance, the gracelessness to judge and blame others rather than ourselves. Confess I must that our feeble attempt to imitate God our Maker and think ourselves ready for true contemplation produced only cowardly recriminations, quarrels, enmity, entirely untempered by love and mercy." However, the Divine medicine of the Cross established a new foundation for the relationship of God and mankind: "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

    Second, notice that the Apostle emphasizes the totally untarnished, selfless, loving quality of God's reconciliation. It is a "free gift" (vs. 15). It is a "gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound[ing] to many" (vs. 15). Further, it brings justification between man and God and an end to the antagonistic relationship and the reestablishing of fellowship. Again, listen to St. John Chrysostom: "For...us who lived in so great wickedness to be saved, was a very great mark of our being exceedingly beloved by Him that saved us....For there is not anything that counts so much in the way of glory and confidence, as the being treated as friends by God, and finding a Friend in Him that loveth us....He loved us when we hated Him, and also continueth to love us." Let us rejoice with the Apostle: "And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received the reconciliation" (vs. 11).

    Finally, the Apostle contrasts our former state - the one in which we were enemies of God - with the present reconciled state of friendship brought about through our Lord Jesus Christ: "sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (vs. 12). Yes, death, that solemn, sinister monarch to whom all bow, did reign. But dearly Beloved of the Lord, recall the radiant icon of Christ the King as He harrows Hades, the slave-hold of Death: our Lord stands in triumph, the Life-Giver, in the very prison of the dead. Below Him is the figure of death chained and bound. Life Himself bestows Life upon those in the tombs. It is "the grace of God and the gift by grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ...to many" (vs. 15).

    Glory to Thee Who hast made us to pass from death to life and from earth to heaven!

    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis

    Republished with permission
     
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  2. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Friday, June 27, 2003
    Holy Apostles' Fast
    Sampson the Host of Strangers

    Epistle: Romans 5:17-6:2 Gospel: St. Matthew 9:14-17
    [/c]

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    Reigning: Romans 5:17-6:2, especially vs. 21: "so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Starting at Romans 5:14 and employing the image of "reigning," St. Paul contrasts the life in Christ with the common life of mankind apart from God. The Christian, receiving God's grace and His gift of righteousness, "will reign in life through...Jesus Christ" (vs. 17). The Gospel declares the end of the exclusive reign of sin and death over all mankind. Eternal life is now possible. This is the subject of the present passage from Romans: there is a glorious alternative to the ubiquitous reign of sin and spiritual death which disrupts all men's relationship with God, for Christ has destroyed their reign and revealed instead a reign of grace and life for all who will receive Him.
    The Apostle shows that each of these "reigns" was inaugurated by a person. The fallen Adam is both the icon and initiator of the reign of sin and death; the Lord Jesus is the icon of the new Man and the Source of the reign of grace and life. "Through one man's [Adam's] offense, judgment came to all men resulting in condemnation" (Rom. 5:18). However, "through one Man's righteous act, the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (vs. 18).

    Death came to power by Adam's disobedience (vs. 12), while, through Jesus Christ, men may now receive the "abundance of grace and...the gift of righteousness," for He enables them "to reign in life" (vs. 17). Condemnation to death in all its forms, the destiny of all men because of sin, may now be overcome through the free gift of God offered to all. God's gift results "in justification of life," by which "many will be made righteous" (vs. 19). How? The gifts of grace and righteousness come through Jesus Christ and enable men to "reign in life" (vs. 17), to live and to grow in righteousness and to attain "to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (vs. 21).

    The Apostle addresses two additional issues as he contrasts the reign of death and the reign of life in Christ: the Law and life in sin. First, he explains that the Law has an "intensifying" effect because of the presence of sin in men: "Law came in to increase the trespass" (vs. 20). Later in Romans, St. Paul returns to this issue and there reveals that when men are confronted by the commandments, because of an inclination to rebel against God, sin produces "all manner of evil desire" in them. Such is the nature of sin (Rom. 7:8).

    In today's reading the Apostle reveals that "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (vs. 20). This truth, however, raises a second issue: since the grace of God through the Lord Jesus is so abundant, giving men righteousness and opening the possibility of eternal life, some with minds still caught in sin might be tempted to ask, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" (vs. 6:1). Of course, the Apostle flatly rejects any such delusion, "Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (vs. 6:2).

    This issue may seem apparent enough to an Orthodox Christian, yet in the first two centuries of the Church's life, there was a fierce struggle against such "gnostic" thinking, as it was called. There actually were heretics who claimed a special "gnosis" or knowledge from God, and encouraged their followers to live in any manner they desired, arguing that since this world was doomed to pass away and the Law was ended by grace, what men did physically was unimportant.

    Unfortunately, there are so-called Christians promoting this idea at present. The Holy Fathers warn us that sin is stubborn, and, like the Apostle Paul, they call us "who have died to sin" (vs. 6:2) to reject every temptation to live any longer under sin. The reign of grace opens the door to begin living purely and rightly for God now. Lord, help us to do so!

    If Thou dost discern in us the way of iniquity, turn us aside and stablish us in Thy truth.

    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis
     
  3. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Saturday, June 28, 2003
    Holy Apostles' Fast
    Translation of the Relics of Cyrus and John

    Epistle: Romans 3:19-26 Gospel: St. Matthew 7:1-8
    [/c]

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    Righteousness: Romans 3:19-26, especially vs. 21: "But now the righteousness of God apart from the Law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets." Three months after the Exodus from Egypt and their release from bondage, the ancient People of God "...came to the Wilderness of Sinai...and camped there before the mountain" (Ex. 19:1,2). The Lord called Moses up to Him on the mountain and delivered to him this promise for the People: "Now therefore if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My Covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine" (Ex. 19:5). The Lord then proceeded to expound the specific terms of His Covenant, all of which are recorded in "the Book of the Covenant" (Ex. 24:7). To seal the Covenant of Israel's new relationship with God in sacrificial blood, an altar was built "at the foot of the mountain and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel" (Ex. 24:4).
    The specific commands of that Covenant were called "Torah" or "the Law." From the days of Moses to the present, the Law has formed a distinctive constitution of the People of the Old Covenant. When Israel keeps the Law, God recognizes her as His People, holy and righteous. Apostates from Israel and all other peoples of earth not blessed with the Law are known as "the Gentiles," the nations. The Jews deem these other peoples as "unrighteous," for they are outside the Covenant with God. The gift of the Law is a special sign of God's grace and favor for Jews. Membership in the covenant People is considered essential, being equivalent to "righteousness." The special "markers" or ritual practices which identify one as a member of Israel and provide surety of "righteousness" are circumcision, the food laws, and the honoring the Sabbath.

    In today's reading, St. Paul, a man raised under the Law of ancient Israel, rejects the strict definition of righteousness as defined under Israel's Law, and, instead, as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, gives righteousness a much broader definition - "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" apart from the Law (Rom. 3:22,28).

    The Apostle of Christ asserts that the Law is for the Jews who live under it (who accept its terms as a Covenant) - for ancient Israel (vs. 19). The Law accomplishes righteousness in two ways. First, it silences all human opinion - stops every mouth (vs. 19), because, being God's Law, it is the highest of commandments for men to live by. There is no higher Law-issuing authority than God. Second, the Law indicts all men, for it perfectly details how men should live, and when actual human behavior is compared with the Law, the fact of sin in every man is evident. "No flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin" (vs. 20). "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (vs. 23).

    Having declared the ultimacy of the Law, Paul asserts a new and greater "righteousness of God apart from the Law...even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" (vss. 21,22). This is a righteousness not simply for those born and raised physically "under the Law" (vs. 19), but is "to all and on all who believe" (vs. 22). The Apostle also shows certain parallels between the New Covenant of righteousness in Christ and the Old Covenant under the Law. New Covenant righteousness, like the righteousness of the Law, is "of God" (vs. 22). It signifies a real "redemption" from slavery (vs. 24). Also, it has been sealed by a real "propitiation by His blood" (vs. 25). Best of all, it provides a way for passing over "sins that were previously committed" (vs. 25), revealing that God "is just and the Justifier" for those who have faith in Jesus (vs. 26).

    Blessed art Thou, O God, for in righteousness Thou didst give us the Law to aid us, and when the fulness of time was come, Thou didst speak unto us through Thy Son Himself.


    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis
     
  4. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Sunday, June 29, 2003
    Second Sunday after Pentecost: Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

    Epistle: 2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9 (Tone 1) Gospel: St. Matthew 4:18-23
    [/c]

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    Embracing Weaknesses: 2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9, especially vss. 8, 9: "...I pleaded with the Lord three times that [the thorn in the flesh] might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'" Beloved Brethren, we follow a Lord Who treasures men and women who will sever their ties to the world's sources of strength and cast themselves entirely on His "spiritual" might. Let us reflect on what it means to take up such a challenge from the Lord by considering the example of the Apostle Paul. He chose to embrace virtues which his opponents called weaknesses (vss. 21-23). He promoted unpopular truths (vss. 22-26). He associated himself with weak, struggling people (vss. 28-29), and he embraced a life of real, personal limitations (vs. 27,30,7-9).
    In practice, the majority of people view the virtues of gentleness, humility, forgiveness, service, love, and the refusal to dominate as noble ideals, but in action as weaknesses. Especially such virtues are rejected in the day-to-day struggle of the world by those driven to win, bent on self-aggrandizement, and set on personal advancement. The actual truth is that these evangelical virtues require enormous spiritual strength, as the lives of Christ and the Apostles demonstrate.

    True Christian virtues leave no room for the moral relativity of the secular world, a rationalization that relegates Christian virtues to second place. Take St. Paul's case: his Jewish-Christian opponents drew a subtle strength from their rabbinic tradition (vs. 22), an arrogant, self-serving, unloving, and unforgiving style of living. They argued that the Lord's ministry should be reserved for the People of Israel alone (Mt. 15:24), and they vehemently opposed recruiting Gentiles. Being whipped, beaten, and stoned was the price that St. Paul paid for welcoming Gentiles (vs. 24,25) and for clinging to the Lord's "weak" strengths to minister faithfully (vs. 23).

    In this world, to champion majority prejudices and popular programs gains support. To stand for what is despised does not gain approval. All 'successful' politicians know this well. St. Paul could not have taken a worse stance than admitting Gentiles to the Faith while not requiring them to adopt Jewish practices, for becoming Jews provided a safe haven within the dominant Greco-Roman society and culture. St. Paul's 'brand' of Christianity rejected that safety, thereby creating hostility among the majority of Jews and of Gentiles. The Apostle's honest stance was the harbinger of the Church's two-century-long rejection, a persecution that lasted until St. Constantine put a stop to the slaughter of Christians. Nevertheless, St. Paul embraced the weakness of a true but unpopular minority teaching and life, and he did so willingly (vss. 24-26).

    The Apostle served the struggling communities he planted. He did not dominate them, but unflinchingly shared both their defeats and their struggles (vs. 28). No source of strength there! His opponents, however, tried to 'use' the new communities for personal advantage. For the love of the Faithful, for you and for me, St. Paul embraced the 'weakness' of service. O Holy Apostle Paul, "plead that the Church may preserve thy good confession unto her last breath."

    Finally, let us mention St. Paul's physical ailment, his "thorn in the flesh," whatever it was. Theories range from poor eyesight, earaches, headaches, to epilepsy. Like the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Apostle asked three times that it "might be removed," but then he accepted the physical weakness as the will of the Lord (vss. 7-9). God does use our weaknesses if we will embrace them, offer them to Him, and let His power be displayed through them. The Apostle's opponents ridiculed his physical problems, pointing to them as a 'sure' sign that St. Paul was outside God's favor. Nevertheless, Christ gave His Saint special strength in the affliction.

    May I live henceforth, O Master, my great Benefactor, not unto myself but unto Thee.



    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis
     
  5. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

    +830
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    [c]Monday, June 30, 2003
    Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles

    Epistle: Romans 7:1-13 Gospel: St. Matthew 9:36-10:1
    [/c]

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    The Law and Death: Romans 7:1-13, especially vs. 4: "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another - to Him Who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God." In this passage, St. Paul reminds us that there is a relationship between the law and death. His point may be seen in a recent court case. The issue in the case was whether or not a man's absentee ballot, legally mailed in while he was alive, should count in the tally if he died before election day. Or again: a man will not be charged with a moving violation if he dies accidentally speeding away from the police. As the Apostle notes: "the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives" (vs. 1).
    Under the Law of God, that is, under His commandments having to do with right and wrong, to violate any aspect of God's commandments is to "die" to God Himself. Beloved of the Lord, please note the Apostle's point very carefully: our sins, by rejecting allegiance to God, are tantamount to death, because our sins set aside a fundamental life-relationship with Life Himself. In short, disobedience of God is the death-knell of the heart and soul. Physical death may not be immediate, yet when we disobey God's law; death in our relationship with God is instantaneous.

    As St. Anthony once said, "But most men, being foolish in soul, have renounced that divine and immortal sonship, turning toward a deadly, disastrous, and short-lived kinship with the body. Concerning themselves like animals...they separate themselves from God; and through their desires they drag down their soul from heaven to the abyss."

    The Apostle Paul's real interest in this passage is to awaken us to the life-giving Way of being "released" or "discharged" from the Law - "through the body of Christ" (vs. 4). The Apostle would unite us to Christ, see us "married to another...Who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God" (vs. 4). Only living trees bear fruit, and only living persons, those with a life-giving relationship with God through the "body of Christ," can be fruitful (Jn. 15:5).

    There are those who have tried to simplify the Christian Faith by asserting that it is nothing more than the practice of the moral law - good Christians obey God's law; bad Christians or non-Christians do not. If we reduce the Faith, over-simplifying and defining it solely as obedience to the Law, St. Paul warns from his own experience that sin will seize the opportunity as it did with him: "by the commandment, [sin] produced in me all manner of evil desire....I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (vss. 8,9).

    It is not our gracious God's good laws that bring death. God's Law simply reveals that sin "produces" death (vss. 11,13). Thus, when we receive the Christian Mystery and become united to Christ, God waits to help us so we will incline toward Him in love and not toward the satisfaction of our desires, thus separating ourselves from Him. If the whole man turns toward God, as St. Diadochos says, the love of God "reveals to the heart its presence there with a feeling which words cannot express...and...the fire of God's grace spreads even to the heart's more outward organs of perception, consciously burning up the tares in the field of the soul."

    The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (vs. 12); but even more important is having a living relationship with God. When we are alive to God, we may serve Him "in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter" of the law (vs. 6). Brethren, Christ died for our sins that we might live to God in newness of life. Let us repent and turn back to Him that we may be saved from the power of sin through the living Body of Christ.

    O Physician and Healer of my soul, O Merciful Savior, blot out all my transgressions, and grant me Thy Grace that I may avoid my evil ways in Thy saving strength, O Almighty One.

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    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis
     
  6. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

    +830
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    [c]Tuesday, July 1, 2003
    The Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian

    Epistle: Romans 7:14-8:2 Gospel: St. Matthew 10:9-15
    [/c]

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    Flesh: Romans 7:14-8:2, especially vs. 25: "I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." Our Holy Father, Theophan the Recluse, like St. Paul, knew the bitterness of divided allegiance: "If you feel sometimes such a strong upsurging of sin that resistance to it will seem impossible and the very zeal to oppose it will appear exhausted, take care, brother, not to give up the struggle, but rouse yourself and stand firm. It is a subterfuge of the enemy." Beloved, let us sing from deep in our hearts the Bridegroom Hymn: "Beware therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death and shut out from the Kingdom. But, rouse yourself crying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the power of Thy Cross have mercy upon us.'"
    The Apostle Paul, in speaking of this wrenching division within us, notes that it is our "flesh" that leads us to serve "the law of sin" against the law of God (vs. 25). With a disarming frankness, the Apostle shares his own inner agony and moral struggle: "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice....For I delight in the law of God....But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!" (vss. 19-24).

    Take care, however, to understand what the Apostle means by "the flesh" as he describes the struggle against sin. St. John Chrysostom, in reviewing the Apostle's words on this point, is quick to refute any gnostic ideas that the existence of evil in man is caused by our physical flesh: "On this text, those who find fault with the flesh, and contend it was no part of God's creation, attack us. What are we to say then? Just what we did before, when discussing the Law: that as there [St. Paul] makes sin answerable for everything, so here it is also. He does not say that the flesh worketh it, but just the contrary, 'it is not I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me'" (vs. 17).

    Do we not know that sin begins its work in the soul and heart - above all in the "nous" (Rom. 1:28), the spiritual center or "eye of the heart" (Dt. 15:9)? Too often in our translations of St. Paul, the "nous" is called "the mind," which only confuses the spiritual center of our being with our rational or cognitive faculties. The Apostle's point is that our entire interior life - soul and spirit - is where the battle with sin rages. The interior fight is prior to any act of the flesh.

    Sin begins its work from the inside, starting with our inner life, and only secondarily does it manifest itself through our physical acts, through the flesh. The Bridegroom Hymn reveals this interior starting point: "Beware, my soul, rouse yourself." Hence St. John Chrysostom says, "...the flesh is not so great as the soul, and is inferior to it, yet not contrary, or opposed to it, or evil, but it is beneath the soul, as a harp beneath the harper."

    So, in place of "flesh," think of "orientation." Listen to St. Paul: "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin" (vs. 14, NAS). When the orientation of the heart and soul is away from God, the desires of the body, of the flesh, become central. St. Paul infers that we ignore God because our inner orientation is set on physical desires, on the "flesh," rather than on pleasing God. It is of this being-oriented-to-the-flesh that St. Paul says, "For I know that in me (in my orientation to physical desires) nothing good dwells..." (vs. 18).

    Our physical wants, desires, and passions, inflamed by sin, war against us as Christians. St. Paul asks, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (vs. 24). His answer is: "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (vs. 8:2). To this St. Peter adds: "My heart rejoices...my flesh also shall rest in hope" (Acts 2:26).

    "Help us, O Savior, to put away the filth of the passions and strive for a steadfast heart."

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    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis

    Republished with permission
     
  7. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Wednesday, July 2, 2003
    Placing of the Honorable Robe of the Theotokos in Blachernae

    Epistle: Romans 8:2-13 Gospel: St. Matthew 10:16-22
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    The Indwelling Spirit: Romans 8:2-13, especially vs. 9: "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you." In the prayer of St. Simeon the Translator, we implore God's grace to establish us in a walk worthy of the Holy Gifts lately received in Holy Communion. Today's reading from Romans describes how "those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1) may attain such a walk - through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
    The Holy Spirit frees us "from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2) as He passes "through all [our] body parts" into the reins of our hearts, enabling us "not to walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (vs. 4). The Spirit keeps us "from every soul-corrupting deed and word" as we hold firmly to Him within us and we keep our minds set "on the things of the Spirit" (vs. 5); for He hallows our thoughts. Further, the Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies to fulfill the Law (vs. 11) and to "put to death the deeds of the body" (vs. 13) as He reveals us as His dwelling place "and in no wise the dwelling-place of sin."

    The Apostle does us great service by reminding us that it is the Spirit Who imparts the freedom "from the law of sin and death" (vs. 2), which our Savior won for us. The Saint makes clear that we must embrace the gift of the Spirit bestowed on us in the Holy Mysteries of Christ in order to actualize our freedom. As St. Ambrose of Milan said: "the Lord Jesus first led captivity captive, that our affections being set free, He might pour forth the gift of divine grace." It is when we embrace the "gift of divine grace" that the Spirit of God Himself establishes our liberation from the compulsion to sin, but we must surrender to Him the reins of our hearts.

    Since God has given us His Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 4:8) to free our hearts to serve Him and fulfill "the righteous requirement of the law" (Rom. 8:4), we are no longer under compulsion to sin. We may actually "walk...according to the Spirit" (vs. 4). We may say 'No' to sin and "not walk according to the flesh"(vs. 4) as its slaves. To do what is pleasing to God is a wondrous gift of the Spirit, if we will but receive it and use it rightly in our living. As St. Makarios the Great says of God's grace: "Its aim is to cleanse the soul, and so enabling it to recover its original nature and to contemplate the glory of the true light with clear, unimpeded eyes."

    How is it that the Spirit indwelling us sets us free from sin and enables us to do the will of God? When we choose repeatedly to be "in the Spirit" (vs. 9), to return to Him for cleansing, He sets our minds on "the things of the Spirit" (vs. 5), and we are able to live according to His light. Indeed, He sets our minds upon "life and peace" (vs. 6). He establishes Christ in us, and quickens our bodies which are dead because of sin. Truly, He is the Spirit of Life (vs. 10).

    Listen to St. Paul: "But if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He Who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit Who dwells in you" (vs. 11). However, the indwelling Spirit never forces. Instead, He yearns to give life to our bodies, as St. Simeon the Translator shows us in his prayer after Holy Communion: "O my Creator...pass through all my body parts, into all my joints...burn Thou the thorns of my transgressions...hallow Thou my thoughts.... enlighten as one my five senses....keep me from every soul corrupting deed and word...that every evil deed and every passion may flee."

    "By the Spirit [we may] put to death the deeds of the body, [and] live" (vs. 13). The heart, being fixed on the things of God, cleaves to the Spirit of God as the sole hope for life, perseveres in prayer, and chooses to crucify with Christ the desires of the flesh.

    From my secret sins cleanse me, and from those of others spare Thy servant. If they have not dominion over me, then blameless shall I be, and...cleansed from great sin. Ps.18:12,13 LXX

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis

    Republished with permission
     
  8. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

    +830
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    [c]Thursday, July 3, 2003
    Martyrs Hyacinth and Theodota of Caesarea

    Epistle: Romans 8:22-27 Gospel: St. Matthew 10:23-31
    [/c]

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    The Spirit's Help: Romans 8:22-27, especially vs. 26: "...the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses." All of the great Orthodox teachers of prayer strongly urge the Faithful to keep at the struggle of learning to pray as, for example, Archimandrite Sophrony reflects: "At times prayer seems over-slow in bringing results, and life is so short. Instinctively we cry, 'Make haste unto me.'" But God does not always respond at once. Like fruit on a tree, our souls are left to the heat of the sun, to the cold or scorching wind, to die of thirst or be drowned in the rain.
    Furthermore, prayer is not the only difficulty of the Christian life. There are maddening struggles to keep the Lord's commandments, to overcome the passions, to acquire virtues, to love as we ought. Even when we make some tiny moral gain, the fiend of pride invariably sidles up and steals away the victory. How well we understand St. Paul's cry, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:24)! But today's reading teaches vital information about the help of the Holy Spirit. These verses stand among many passages in Scripture having special consolation and giving great encouragement for the floundering Christian who groans "within...eagerly waiting for the adoption..." (Rom. 8:23).

    Notice first what the Apostle tells us: "we...have the firstfruits of the Spirit" (vs. 23). "Firstfruits" is a concept which originally appeared in the Old Covenant, in God's commandments related to tithing (Ex. 13:1-16; Lev 23:9-14). Firstlings of flocks and firstfruits of vineyards, orchards, or fields were brought to the Aaronic Priests and offered to the Lord in recognition that "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (Ps. 23:1 LXX). What then does the Apostle mean by saying that Christians have the "firstfruits of the Spirit"? Recall that the Lord Jesus spoke of the activity of the Kingdom of God as a "harvest" among men (Mt. 9:37,38). Hence, when we chose to unite "ourselves unto Christ," we became part of God's harvest.

    With the harvest image in mind, follow the Apostle's meaning: when we bowed down before Christ as our King and our God, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit within ourselves. The Spirit then began His intensive work within us, and this He continues through all our being - heart, soul and body. Ultimately, if we embrace His efforts, that which He is doing will achieve a total transformation of our being. For the present, we "know" within ourselves the first, tiny increments of that eternal, complete renewal. These tiny little achievements of the Spirit are His "firstfruits," bits of His work substantiating our hope and enabling us to wait eagerly for His complete adoption - the redemption of our body wrought by perseverance (vss. 23-25).

    Meanwhile, as the Apostle reveals, "the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses" (vs. 26) - moral, emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical - for God will have our total renewal. St. Paul also understands that we have a part to play in the ultimate outcome, in our ultimate restoration.

    The Spirit of God is present to help us. The primary means He employs for our growth, along with worship and the Holy Mysteries, is prayer. The trouble is "we do not know what we should pray for as we ought" (vs. 26). We are too weak as a result of sin to have the right goals in prayer, much less to have the right approach and methods "as we ought" (vs. 26).

    Nevertheless, the Spirit Himself "makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered" (vs. 26). Hence, as God the Father searches our hearts, and knows the mind of the Spirit with Whom He is One, He hears our prayer despite our limitations, for the Spirit "makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (vs. 27). The voice of the Spirit reaches the Father clearly despite the constant spiritual "static" which we generate in our fallen state.

    O Christ, show me as the abode of Thy Spirit only, and in nowise the abode of sin.


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  9. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Friday, July 4, 2003
    Andrew, Author of the Great Canon; Andrew Rublev, Iconographer

    Epistle: Romans 9:6-19 Gospel: St. Matthew 10:32-36; 11:1
    [/c]

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    The True Israel: Romans 9:6-19 (include vss. 20-33), especially vs. 8: "...those who are children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as the seed." In chapters 9-11 of Romans, St. Paul addresses one of the most thorny and perplexing issues faced by the early Church: 'Why did the ancient People of God, Israel, not accept Jesus as the Messiah, since the Lord God had promised them an Anointed One?'
    Already, by the middle decades of the first century, St. Paul, as an ethnic Jew and a devout Rabbi, knew well that the majority of "Israel after the flesh" (vs. 5 and Acts 22, 23) were rejecting Jesus as the Christ. While he was troubled by this reluctance of the majority of the Jews to accept Jesus as Lord (Rom. 9:1-5), he was bringing a flood of Gentile converts into the Church, knowing the truth of Christ in his own life. Let us learn what God revealed to the Apostle concerning this quirk of history - that God's People rejected their Messiah. (Note: we start this series on a Friday, shall leave it for two days, and then return to the question early next week)

    St. Paul begins his consideration of the seemingly strange rejection of the Messiah Jesus by the ancient People of God, Israel, with a series of assertions concerning God and His nature. The Apostle's declarations closely follow the ancient promises which God made to Abraham in establishing His everlasting covenant with the Patriarch and with Abraham's descendants after him through all generations. The overall scope of the promises is stated in Gen. 17:7 LXX, but St. Paul focuses on God's promise that the covenant would extend only through the Patriarch's son by Sarah: "for in Isaac shall your seed be called" (Rom. 9:7 and Gen. 21:12 LXX).

    From these promises, the Apostle draws three conclusions. First, the promises were not made to Abraham's physical children but to those for whom God intended His promises. These "children of the promise"(Rom. 9:8) were not to be Abraham's physical descendants, but those whom God "counted as seed" (vs. 8). God always is the primary Actor.

    In verses 6 and 7, St. Paul holds up another conclusion: one can never say that God's word is ineffectual simply because the majority of Israel "after the flesh," Abraham's undoubted physical seed, did not accept the Messiah Jesus and His Kingdom. Notice at this point how the Apostle asserts that God is by nature true to His word, something he had said earlier: "let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written" (Rom. 3:4 and Ps. 50:6 LXX).

    His third conclusion is a declaration that the failure of the majority of physical Israel to accept the Messiah Jesus may not be cited to suggest that God is unrighteous (Rom. 9:14), for human effort and human will are of no effect in the face of God's intentions (vs. 16). Events occur in life according to the mercy of God, whether or not they appear merciful (vss. 17-24). The acceptance of Christ by the Gentiles in place of ethnic Israel fulfills God's prophecy to Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved who was not beloved; and it will come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' there they shall be called sons of the living God" (Hos. 1:10 and Rom. 9:25,26). Despite these truths, the issue of Why God permitted Israel's rejection remains. At last, the Apostle speaks to this directly.

    Only a remnant of physical Israel was destined to be saved (vs. 27), because physical Israel pursued righteousness on the basis of a faulty theology, "...not by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law" (vss. 31,32). But all who "have attained to righteousness" have done so by "the righteousness of faith" (vs. 30). It is as the Lord Jesus said, "...he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed...in the Son of God" (Jn. 3:18).

    Save us, O Son of God, Who art risen from the dead, save us who sing unto Thee.



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  10. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Saturday, July 5, 2003
    The Martyrs, Elizabeth Romanov and Barbara the Monastic

    Epistle: Romans 3:28-4:3 Gospel: St. Matthew 7:24-8:4
    [/c]

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    Christian Faith: Romans 3:28-4:3 (include vss. 3:21-27), especially vs. 31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law." Frederica Mathews-Greene, an Orthodox columnist, author, and Khouriya (Presbytera), was once confronted on a talk show with the popular, vague cliche: "all religious beliefs are equally valid, all are fundamentally the same." To this modern, relativist view of "faith," she made a straightforward and Orthodox Christian response: "Many faiths, not just ours, hold quite specific doctrines, and stand at firm disagreement with each other."
    In today's reading, St. Paul reveals precisely why Mathews-Greene objected so bluntly to this modernist platitude that merges all types of religious faith into a single, superficial, religious pluralism. Observe the Apostle's certainty in the Faith he proclaims: 1) this faith centers on Jesus (vs. 26). 2) Faith in Christ aims to bring those who will affirm the Lord Jesus into a shared, right relationship with God, something which trust solely in the Mosaic Law alone can never achieve (vss. 27,28). 3) Christian Faith places the Mosaic Law on a new and true foundation (vs. 31).

    First, the Apostle teaches a "content specific" Faith that points to the Lord Jesus exclusively as the One Who is worthy of all devotion, worship and commitment (vs. 26). Of course, there is more to Orthodox Christianity than "faith in Jesus," than some vague, general belief about the Person of the Lord. Orthodox Christians unequivocally recognize the universal presence of sin in all men (vs. 23). This ready recognition of the ubiquity of sin further enables the Orthodox to have faith in Jesus' death as a redemptive act of God's grace, by which the Faithful are freed from sin and death (vs. 24). Also, to assure that the Lord's death not be taken as an isolated event, the Apostle links faith to the redemption which the Lord's death achieved, presenting Christ's Passion as a propitiatory sacrifice achieved by His blood (vs. 25).

    The Apostle specifically holds up the redemptive death of the Lord as the Archetype of all sacrifices for sins provided under the Mosaic Law, these being foreshadows through which God, in His forbearance, passed "over the sins that were previously committed" under that Law (vs. 25). St. Paul draws out this specific connection to show that faith in the death of the Lord is faith in the righteousness of God Who justifies "the one who has faith in Jesus" (vs. 26).

    Second, Christian faith is reliance upon "the law of faith" for relationship with God (vs. 27). The "law of faith" states that "...a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (vs. 28). Justification is understood as an act which sets right a relationship. The propitiatory sacrifice of Christ has set aright the relationship between mankind and God. Faith affirms this.

    St. Paul repeatedly connects God's justifying action in the Lord Jesus' death to faith in order to emphasize that each Christian must accept the Lord's death as a gift for himself. Observe: to accept the Lord's death does away with trust in one's own good deeds, since God has accomplished our justification. God calls upon all men to respond in faith to Him, to trust Him, to love Him, and to serve Him. Anyone may do this, be he Jew or Gentile (vss. 29,30).

    In conclusion, St. Paul rejects the idea that "the law of faith" does away with God's Law in the Old Covenant. Rather, Christian Faith "establishes the law" (vs. 31). How? As we express our praise and thanksgiving in response to God's redemption, we delight from our hearts to do His law. It is in our living that Christians truly rejoice in what God has done for us in Christ Jesus, and set the Mosaic Law on its correct faith-foundation, for we do not trust in our own works. To trust in what God has done turns the Law into a vehicle for loving God and all men.

    The way of Thy commandments have I run, when Thou didst enlarge my heart. (Ps. 118:32 LXX)

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    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis

    Republished with permission
     
  11. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

    +830
    Eastern Orthodox
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    [c]Sunday, July 6, 2003
    The Venerable Sisoes the Great of Egypt

    Epistle: Romans 5:1-10 (Tone 2) Gospel: St. Matthew 6:22-33
    [/c]

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    Justification: Romans 5:1-10, especially vss. 8, 9: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." There is an indissoluble bond between God's gracious justification and our urgent human need to receive that justification with a faith that trusts, loves, and serves God. Justification is another way of speaking of God's great work, the great Mystery of our Redemption. The ineffable, justifying God has abolished the might of death, bestowing incorruptibility on the dead, and making it possible for us to cry out, "Wherefore, O Lord, Giver of life, glory to Thee!"
    In today's reading, St. Paul elaborates his teaching on justification by describing in detail what God has achieved for mankind. Like a heavenly gemologist, St. Paul takes out his greatest prize and turns it this way and that to reveal one brilliant facet after another. He discloses at least eight wondrous ramifications of God's justifying action in Christ.

    1) "...having been justified by faith, we have peace with God..." (vs. 1). By His Cross and Resurrection, Christ ended the need to resist God. The Lord's pronunciation of "Peace be with you" to His disciples bears all the riches packed in the Hebrew word "Shalom" (Jn. 20:19,21) - healing, restoration, contentedness, well-being, and the end of all disturbance and opposition. Being justified, we have peace. Wherefore, to the God of Peace let us cry, "Glory to Thee!"

    2) We stand in an utterly new relationship with God our Savior and Lord, a new mode of existence. Yes, even we "have access by faith into this grace in which we stand" (vs. 2). Let us understand! In the core of our being, we are not in disgrace but in grace, not unforgiven but forgiven, not lost but found, not at enmity but at peace with God. He has justified, and we have access to His grace so that we can be forgiven, healed, and made alive. Praise Thy God, O Zion!

    3) Standing in this new relationship, we may "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (vs. 2). By justifying us, God established the possibility that we may draw upon His grace: "Though I should walk in the midst of affliction, Thou shalt quicken me; against the wrath of mine enemies hast Thou stretched forth Thy hands, and Thy right hand hath saved me" (Ps. 137:7 LXX). Yes, we may "glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope" (Rom. 5:3,4), and our "hope does not disappoint" (vs. 5)!

    4) Let us look into the depths of our heart. What do we see? Cease looking only at the fear, the failure, the sin, and the recrimination. We are justified! "...the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (vs. 5). O Thou Lover of mankind, glory to Thee!

    5) More wondrous yet, the life-giving Spirit does not stand aside and say, 'I love you.' We are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The Spirit dwells within us working with us to make us pure and undefiled - O heavenly King, take up Thine abode in us and save us!

    6) "...having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (vs. 9). "So let sinners perish from before the face of God but let the righteous rejoice." O Jesus our Lord Who has justified us, save us from all tribulation, wrath, danger and necessity!

    7) Do you now understand that to be justified means: "we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (vs. 10)? The Lord Jesus' death is peace, rejoicing, hope, the love of God, the gift of the Spirit and salvation from wrath. With all that I am, O Lord, I cry, glory to Thee!

    8) Justified, "we shall be saved by His life" (vs. 10). Eternal life is extended to us.

    O Christ, Thou hast verily made us a true promise, that Thou shalt be with us to the end of time; a promise to which we believers hold, an anchor for our hopes, as we sing rejoicing.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This meditation provided by DYNAMIS. For questions and subscription information contact [email protected] or DYNAMIS, St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 7515 E 13th St. N, Wichita KS 67206-1223 or go their website: www.trisagion.com/dynamis

    Republished with permission
     
  12. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

    +830
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    [c]Monday, July 7, 2003
    The Great-Martyr Kyriaki of Nicomedia

    Epistle: Romans 9:18-33 Gospel: St. Matthew 11:2-15
    [/c]

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    The Rock: Romans 9:18-33, especially vs. 33: "As it is written: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." We began last Friday to follow St. Paul in addressing the issue: 'Why did not the ancient People of God, Israel, accept the Messiah Whom God had sent to them, especially since God Himself had promised the Anointed One?' The truth is, the majority of ancient Israel, from the century the Messiah appeared and for two thousand years since, have stumbled on the Lord Jesus, finding Him to be a "rock of offense" (vs. 33).
    The Holy Prophet Moses foresaw the stumbling of Israel and warned them long before Christ came in the flesh: "Take heed to thyself that...thou shouldest be exalted in heart and forget the Lord thy God, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt...Who brought thee through that great and terrible wilderness....Who brought thee a fountain of water out of the flinty rock (Dt. 8:11,14,15 LXX). To this warning he added: "Thou hast forsaken God that begot thee, and forgotten God Who feeds thee. And the Lord saw, and was jealous; and was provoked...and said, 'I will turn away My face from them, and will show what shall happen to them in the last days; for it is a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faith'" (Dt. 32:18,19,20 LXX).

    The core of the problem lay in faith. The majority of ancient Israel who saw and heard the Lord Jesus in the first century reacted to Him as "sons in whom is no faith" (Dt. 32:20), no trust. As Theodoret of Cyrus says, "For they came up against the Cross of the Lord and they fell; they were crushed underfoot and taken by the enemies gathered together in the city as if trapped in a great net"- exactly the point of the Apostle Paul: "Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone" (Rom. 9:31,32).

    Let us heed this history: the Lord Jesus always will be a cause of offense to anyone who believes that he can achieve his own salvation, whether by obtaining it from God through fulfilling certain works, thereby "earning" salvation from God - which is a delusion, or by obtaining it apart from God, as the secularists assert. They believe that by their own efforts in this world they can save themselves - at least in this present life. Repeated examples of the failure of the secular solutions lie in the dust of history for all who will examine the evidence. All solutions - every deliverance and achievement ends - for new events overturn all men's works. But not in Christ!

    Beloved of the Lord, we have come to Christ Jesus our Lord and God and Savior "as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious" (1 Pet. 2:4). Isaiah foresaw that God would "lay for the foundations of Zion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious stone for its foundation" (Is. 28:16 LXX). The Apostles declare - and the Church still affirms - He was born of the Virgin, suffered on the Cross, and trampled down death by death.

    The Church still declares: "We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block....but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:23,24). Let us be attentive to the Apostle's words. Referring to the Rock of offense, he says, "Whoever believes on Him...." St. Paul here speaks of a person, of Christ Who is the Rock. Furthermore, the Lord is not just a rock of offense. Even more, He is "a precious cornerstone," and "whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame" (Rom. 9:33). There will be no shame before God for the Faithful, no disgrace before the great Throne of Judgment.

    Thou art our God, the God Who showeth mercy and saveth; and unto Thee do we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.


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  13. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

    +830
    Eastern Orthodox
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    [c]Tuesday, July 8, 2003
    Great-Martyr Prokopios of Caesarea in Palestine

    Epistle: Romans 10:11-11:2 Gospel: St. Matthew 11:16-20
    [/c]

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    The Chosen People: Romans 10:11-11:2, especially vs. 11:2: "God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says...?" With today's reading, we continue to follow St. Paul as he addresses the perplexing question: "Why did not the majority of ancient Israel accept Jesus as the Messiah of God, especially since it was to them that God gave the promises of the Anointed One and of His Kingdom?"
    In today's reading, St. Paul examines three possible explanations for Israel's non-response: 1) They never heard the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah (vs. 10:18). 2) They did not understand their own Tradition (vs. 10:19). 3) God has cast away His People (vs. 11:1). The Apostle firmly rejects all three of these possibilities and carefully documents his reasons.

    Before considering these faulty explanations, the Apostle lays a reasoned theological foundation concerning God's ways with men. Let all believers pay careful attention to St. Paul at this point. He teaches that God's "modus operandi" with all human beings follows a basic pattern and order: first, "proclamation," then "believing response," followed by "calling on God" (vs. 14).

    To those who question what God will do at the Last Judgment with those who never heard the Gospel, the Apostle appears to say that those who "have not heard" will not be held to the same standard of judgment (vs. 14) as will any who have had God's message presented to them.

    In verses 15 and 16, St. Paul asserts that Israel did hear, for their prophets brought "glad tidings of good things" all through the centuries (vs. 15). However, they have had an ongoing problem with believing in what the Prophets have proclaimed (vs. 16). Hence, as with everyone who has heard the Gospel, they are "on notice" - God's high standard applies to them. Given the current spread of mass communication, the Prophet David's words are more true today than they were even in the first century when St. Paul quoted them: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth..." (Rom. 10:18 and Ps.18:4 LXX). Neither the People of ancient Israel nor any Church members can say they have not heard the Gospel. Indeed they did, and so have we (vs. 18).

    What then is the problem? Could it possibly be that Israel failed to understand their own heritage? The question is pertinent for contemporary Orthodox Christians, for often we see non-Orthodox who grasp the essence of the Faith better than we. There are many "outside" the visible Church who struggle to live God-honoring lives in gratitude for salvation in Christ. These good people believe in the "glad tidings," though not having all the riches that are available to us in the Orthodox spiritual heritage. Let us rejoice at the piety of others who sometimes put us to shame!

    Brethren, God provides us with a full proclamation of the Gospel. The message is imbedded in every aspect of Holy Tradition, the Liturgical texts and the holy icons. Of course, there is more than one way to "hear." The Lord Himself spoke "to [ancient Israel] in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand" (Mt. 13:13). Further, the Lord identified the reason: "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed" (Mt. 13:15). The possibility of resistance to the truth always exists. May the Lord save us from hearing and then turning away in unbelief.

    Let no one delay with the Lord until a "better" time. "Now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). In the first century, ancient Israel had all the advantages, as St. John notes: "we have heard ...we have seen with our eyes...we have looked upon, and our hands have handled...the Word of life" (1 Jn. 1:1). Brethren, as the Lord comes to us in the Holy Mysteries, through the icons, and in the teachings of the Fathers, let us not be "disobedient and contrary" (Rm. 10:21)

    O Lord, raise up me, a paralytic...resurrect me deadened by sin! (St. Ephraim the Syrian)


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  14. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Wednesday, July 9, 2003
    Hieromartyr Pankratios, Bishop of Taormina in Sicily

    Epistle: Romans 11:2-12 Gospel: St. Matthew 11:20-26
    [/c]

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    Remnant: Romans 11:2-12, especially vs. 11: "...But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles." In his Epistles, St. Paul consistently rejects the theological proposal that God has finally cast away His ancient covenant People (vs. 11:1). In the present reading, the Apostle asserts a doctrine which may be called "remnant theology." Relying on the idea of a remnant, he repudiates any proposal that God may have rejected physical Israel.
    Note that the theory of Divine rejection misses the obvious fact that St. Paul was part of Israel, one of the remnant chosen by God who formed the core of what was the earliest Church. In this present passage, the Apostle reviews the history of several remnants of God's People, stressing, in each case, the Lord's faithfulness toward His People. Further, St. Paul argues, despite the failure of the majority of physical Israel to accept Jesus as the Christ, the existence of a believing remnant of Israel - the nascent Church, including Paul - clearly reveals the grace of God, not only for Israel but also for all nations, despite physical Israel's blindness.

    During the history of Israel, a theological realization developed that God would save a remnant no matter how disastrous conditions became for the People as a whole. Remnants thereby became closely associated with the judgment of God. For example, through the Prophet Ezekiel, God warned of a forthcoming judgment on Jerusalem and Judah because of their evil ways. The prospect of a remnant was linked to Divine retribution: "Thus saith the Lord, and if I even send upon Jerusalem My four sore judgments, sword, and famine, and evil beasts, and pestilence, to destroy from out of it man and beast; yet, behold, there shall be men left in it, the escaped thereof, who shall lead forth of it sons and daughters" (Ezek. 14:21,22 LXX).

    The Prophets realized that God would form a glorious remnant at the conclusion of all history: "And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel...even all that are appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, for the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning" (Is. 4:2-4 LXX).

    The tradition of remnants from Israel enabled the Apostle Paul to see that a saved minority existed in his day (Rom. 11:5). Thus he could point to himself as tangible evidence that God had not "cast away His people" (vs.1). The Apostle also refers to the example of Elijah who at one time "appeared" to be "a remnant of one" in his era. God, however, corrected the Prophet's assumptions: "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (vs. 4). Likewise, St. Paul also was not alone - all of the Apostles were Jews.

    As is classic in the Church's teaching, St. Paul bases his theology of remnants on the nature and character of God. The present passage is a hymn of praise for God's act of pure grace in selecting a remnant for His purposes (vs. 5). Not very subtly, the Apostle further suggests that dependency on "works" lay behind the stubborn refusal of Israel to accept the riches of salvation (see vss. 6,7,12). Hence, while physical Israel stumbled, still the nation had not taken an absolute fall away from God as His chosen people (vs. 11).

    God is still faithfully keeping His promise to bless all nations through the People of Israel (Gen. 12:3 LXX). This is the marvel which St. Paul saw: the initial fall of Israel was bringing "riches for the world...riches for the Gentiles"- for the other tribes and nations of the earth (Rom. 11:12). In addition, the results God would achieve through Israel's failure would in time arouse them to jealousy as they saw "salvation...come to the Gentiles" (vs. 11). Then they would return.

    Thou, O gracious God, hast spoken salvation by the mouths of Thy servants the Prophets.

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  15. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Thursday, July 10, 2003
    Hieromartyr Joseph the Damascene and Companions

    Epistle: Romans 11:13-24 Gospel: St. Matthew 11:27-30
    [/c]

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    Gentiles: Romans 11:13-24, especially vs. 13: "I speak to you Gentiles...." Yesterday we examined St. Paul's teaching concerning Israel's rejection of the Lord Jesus, especially his point that their rejection was bringing "riches for the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:12). So then, the question is: who are these Gentiles to whom salvation has come because physical Israel rejected the true Messiah? The short answer is: 'They are peoples of all nations on the earth other than the Jews.'
    Traditional Hebrew ethnography begins in the 10th chapter of Genesis, an overview of the descendants of Noah's sons, Japheth, Ham, and Shem. Genesis 10 focuses principally on one family, the descendants of Shem (the Semites), up to and through the generations to Abram (Gen. 11:10-26) "the friend of God" (2 Chron. 20:7; Jas. 2:23). Israel, Abram's grandson, fathered twelve sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes who formed the nation of Israel (Gen. 46:8-27).

    The geographic area described in Genesis 10 reached from the Caucasus mountains in the north to Ethiopia in the south, from the Aegean Sea in the west to the highlands of Iran in the east. In broad strokes, Japheth's sons are the peoples known historically as the Medes, the Cypriots, the Scythians, and the Ionians (largely Indo-European peoples). The Hamitic peoples include the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and the Canaanites - peoples around the Red Sea. The Semitic peoples include the Arabs, the Arameans, and the Assyrians.

    In Genesis 10, the term "nation," or "goy" in Hebrew, appears five times - with the plural being "goyim." In Greek, and therefore throughout the Septuagint (LXX), these words were translated as "ethnos" in the singular and "ethne" in the plural. These Greek words are the root of such English words as "ethnic" and "ethnography." When the Old and New Testaments were translated into Latin, "gens" and "gentis" were used. Hence, Latin gave English the root for "Gentiles," a way of referring to the nations of the earth. Among the Jews, "Gentiles," "goyim," refers to all peoples not belonging to the Covenant People - and therefore not chosen by God.

    Israelite history is marked by that nation's struggle to maintain separation from all other 'ethnic' groups. The original purpose of the effort to be distinct was to avoid the temptations posed by the idolatrous worship and immoral practices of other nations (1 K. 14:24), for, when these were adopted, they brought about God's judgment and painful historical consequences.

    After King Solomon's reign, the nation of Israel divided into two small kingdoms (1 K. 12). The ten tribes of the northern kingdom eventually were conquered by the Assyrians, then assimilated and lost with only traces of them among the Samaritan people. The Babylonians later conquered the small southern kingdom of Judah, but before the Jews became assimilated, the Persians conquered the Babylonians, and they aided the return of the Jewish exiles to Judah.

    Afterwards, efforts to maintain Jewish separation intensified, forming a hard, exclusivist attitude toward the "goyim," the "gentiles." The Roman historian Tacitus said of the Jews: "they regard the rest of mankind with all the hatred of enemies." Contrary to this exclusivism, the Prophets promised that the Messiah would come "as a light to the Gentiles" (Is. 42:6).

    In today's reading, St. Paul likens Israel to an olive tree, with branches broken off (the majority of physical Israel), and with wild olive branches (the Gentiles) being grafted in (Rom. 11:6-19). Thereby the Apostle warns all of us in the Church, Jew and Gentile alike, to "consider the goodness and the severity of God" and realize that we too can be "cut off" unless we continue to strive seriously to express our gratitude for God's grace and goodness (vss. 20-24).

    Let us extol all the Patriarchs, Abraham the friend of God, Isaac born after the promise, Jacob with the twelve heads of the tribes, asking forgiveness of Christ, glorified in His saints.

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  16. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Friday, July 11, 2003
    Olga (Helena), Princess of Kiev

    Epistle: Romans 11:25-36 Gospel: St. Matthew 12:1-8
    [/c]

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    Mercy: Romans 11:25-36, especially vs. 32: "For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all." Today, we conclude the series of readings in chapters 9-11, in which the Apostle Paul considers the question: 'Why did not ancient Israel accept God's Messiah and His Kingdom since it was to them that God gave the promise of the Anointed One and His reign on earth?' St. Paul's answer divides into two parts: 1) that "their fall is riches for the world" (Rom. 11:12), and 2) that when "the fulness of the Gentiles has come in...all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:25,26). His teaching is a declaration of the mercy of God Whose judgments are unsearchable "...and [Whose] ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33).
    May each of us consider God's mercy in his own life. Beloved, whether one is Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor, young or old - as the opening quote above declares - God's mercy is "for all" (vs. 32). Mercy is a Divine mystery for us all (vs. 25). Mercy is the Savior known in the Church, the One Who turns His beloved away from ungodliness (vs. 26) and takes away our sins (vs. 27). Mercy is God's gift which He is offering now, which we are free to seek or to reject, and His offer of mercy is irrevocable (vs. 29).

    Observe: the Apostle calls the mercy of God a "mystery" (vs. 25). Why does he use this term? Primarily because mercy flows from the nature of God Himself. Note the Apostle's quote from the Prophet: "Who has known the mind of the Lord?" (vs. 34 from Is. 40:13). Further, he observes for himself, "How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (vs. 33). In his other letters, the Apostle Paul speaks of the mystery of God. In these, he declares that the mystery was "hidden from ages...but now has been revealed to His saints" (Col. 1:26). Who hid the mystery and Who revealed it? God, of course. In these three chapters from Romans, the Apostle firmly establishes that God planned the salvation of all men, for the Lord "has committed...all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all" (Rom. 11:32).

    Without being told, we know that the Savior mentioned in vs. 26 is our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Still, let us reflect on the implication of St. Paul's quote from Is. 59:20,21 - that the Lord as Deliverer "will come out of Zion" (vs. 26). Does this mean that He will come physically to the Temple Mount in the City of Jerusalem?

    The Church has never understood the coming of the Savior in this way. The Zion referred to is the Church, God's People whom we exhort in the ninth ode of Paschal Canon: "Rejoice and exult now, O Zion." We are exhorting ourselves as the Church, as the Body of Christ, for by the mercy of God we are members of the People of God. In the Body of Christ, we receive the Body of Christ so that we may become the Body of Christ. What greater mercy can we imagine!

    What does Christ our God and Savior accomplish through His Church? Truly, He comes to us and turns us away from ungodliness! In the Church, the Scriptures are read and preached. In His Liturgy He comes to us. In our churches He reveals Himself in the icons. In the Church His Mysteries are received. There He encourages us to "complete the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance." In Him we have peace with God, for, if we confess our sins, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn.1:9).

    God has acted irrevocably, once and for all, on behalf of all, having taken our humanity on Himself forever, having died once for us and having broken the ultimate power of death. Now death has no more dominion over Him nor over any of us who are united to Him. Such is the Great Mercy which our God is bestowing upon us! To Him "be glory forever. Amen" (vs. 36).

    Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, even as we have put our hope in Thee.


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  17. Oblio

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    My apologies for neglecting these the past few days, I was ill for a day and then got busy posting, work, home etc. after recovery.

    I am going to try to post these just prior to when I serve reader service Vespers at home in the evening (EDT) at the start of the day in question.

    - Oblio


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    [c]Wednesday, July 16, 2003
    Hieromartyr Athenogenes, Bishop of Herakleopolis

    Epistle: Romans 15:7-16 Gospel: St. Matthew 12:38-45
    [/c]

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    Applying the Truth III ~ Glorifying God: Romans 15:7-16, especially vs. 7: "Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." Our Lord aims at our sanctification in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries. We prepare and respond to His actions at the Holy Table by offering Him praise and thanksgiving in "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19). And further, strengthened by the Mysteries, we strive, day by day, to live "to the glory of God" (Rom. 15:7). In today's reading from Romans, St. Paul teaches us four ways to glorify God: 1) receive one another (vs. 7), 2) praise and laud God (vs. 11), 3) keep our hope in Him abundant (vs. 13), and 4) admonish one another (vs. 14). Notice: in urging these four acts upon us, the Apostle makes no artificial division between the liturgical actions of praise for God. which keep our hope abundant, and our daily efforts to receive and admonish one another.
    What is it to "receive" one another? What is the Apostle urging upon us? The original meaning of the verb has the sense of "taking into fellowship, associating with, welcoming warmly, or treating kindly." The model for this, as St. Paul makes very clear, is the Lord Jesus Himself. We are to welcome one another in the same manner as Christ has associated Himself with us. He took our flesh to Himself not temporarily, but irrevocably, permanently, in order to associate with us. He did not hesitate to enter our fallen, vicious state of existence, humbling Himself for us, giving Himself for us in love, calling us "friends," and dying for us in order to welcome us to Himself. In verse 8, the Apostle uses the word "diakonon," "servant," to describe the manner in which Christ receives us. Recall that the major concern which the Apostle addresses in Romans arose from issues generated by the "hybrid" nature of the earliest Christian communities, a meld of Jews and Gentiles into one People. These fellowships were neither easy nor comfortable blends for any of the members. Today, some Orthodox congregations are homogenous socially and culturally. Other communities are quite diverse. And even in congregations where language and culture are shared, there are personality differences. Fallen human nature makes real demands on us when it comes to "receiving one another." God's promises are at stake, however. He wills for His Church to be marked by unity, fellowship, and genuine caring among all members.

    Our problem is that the Church is not necessarily a compatible group. It is the Body of Christ, a worshiping community committed to the praise of God (vs. 11). However, it is urgent that our care for one another be the context of our praise. For worship to be worthy in the eyes of God, before we offer our "gift before the altar...first [we must] be reconciled to [our] brother, and then [we may] come and offer [our] gift" (Mt.5:24). Would we glorify God? Let us laud and praise Him Who has called us into Communion by nurturing those who are His People.

    The Lord our God is glorified in His people when our hope in Him is unbounded (vss. 12,13). In fact, St. Paul calls the Lord, "the God of hope" (vs. 13), for our gracious God and Savior acted decisively, with ineffable compassion for us, having never reneged on His promises nor wavered in His nature. It is right for us to call Him "our God and our Hope," for He brings joy and peace "by the power of the Holy Spirit" (vs. 13) to all His Faithful ones.

    Finally, the efforts required to be a faithful people demand that we not approach Christian Faith as an isolated enterprise. We are a family, bound to one another in love. It is appropriate to admonish one another (vs. 14). Correction, warning, and calling each other back are ways to show that we care. When others run into difficulty, go astray, or flounder, and we make the effort to express our concern, to be present for them, in this God resoundingly is glorified.

    Let us love one another, that with one accord we may confess, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


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  18. Oblio

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    [c]Thursday, July 17, 2003
    The Great Martyr Marina (Margaret) of Antioch in Pisidia

    Epistle: Romans 15:17-29 Gospel: St. Matthew 12:46-13:3
    [/c]

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    Applying the Truth IV ~ Christ Jesus: Romans 15:17-29, especially vs. 17: "I can therefore glory in Christ Jesus concerning the work for God in which I am engaged" (WNT). God accomplishes amazing things through His People. When we personally experience Him at work in the midst of a project or effort we are carrying out in His Name, His presence and activity are at once humbling, thrilling, and exhilarating. Such a personal experience dominates the present passage from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. In these few lines, the Apostle refers over and over to the presence and activity of Christ Jesus in and through the very "work for God in which [he was] engaged" (vs. 17). By sharing his own experience, he provides us with insights and words for describing our own experience of Christ Jesus at work in our lives.
    "Glory" is not a word we commonly use in speaking of the work for God in which we may be engaged. St. Paul uses "kauchesin" in this sentence (vs. 17), which had a dual meaning, one positive and the other negative. Positively, kauchesin referred to legitimate pride in accomplishments. Negatively, it referred to boasting about achievements. What is the Apostle's point?

    Throughout the passage the Apostle is referring to his ministry and its accomplishments. The aim of the work was "to make the Gentiles obedient" to the Gospel of Christ (vs. 18). He describes what he did in carrying out the work - "mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God" (vs. 19). Also, he mentions what was accomplished - the foundation of the Church throughout the Anatolian peninsula, present day Turkey, and the southern Balkans, which was Illyricum in Roman times (vs. 19). As the Apostle indicates, when he worked there, the Name of Christ Jesus had never even been spoken (vs. 20) to any of the peoples in those regions. The point which the Apostle emphasizes in all this is that the accomplishments were all of God's doing, so that any pride of achievement unstintingly belonged wholly to God (vss. 17-19).

    In the Apostle's experience, Christ Jesus infused his words and deeds, "to make the Gentiles obedient" (vs. 18). St. Paul was in such awe of what Christ God had achieved that he would "not dare to speak" of any of the outcomes as his attainments. He would only say that they were what the Lord Jesus "accomplished through me" (vs. 18). Christ Jesus is seen as the sole source of what was achieved. Yes, the Apostle was the announcer who spoke the Name that had never been heard, but it was Christ Jesus Who opened their eyes and enabled them to understand (vs. 21). Thus, by Christ's work, the peoples whom the Saint met became obedient to the Gospel.

    As the passage progresses, St. Paul directs attention to his plan to visit the new Christians in Rome, something he had long desired to do (vs. 23). However, his work for Christ Jesus had kept him from this desire (vs. 22); but now he could see that he probably would be able to make the journey after delivering an offering "for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem"(vs. 26). Here he makes a beautiful comment aside about the exchange of spiritual benefits for material goods. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit which began in Jerusalem at Pentecost allowed the Gentiles, the pagan peoples among whom he had labored, to become "partakers of [the] spiritual things" of the Saints in Jerusalem (vss. 26-27). Now, in a turn-about, they were sending material relief for their necessities.

    Returning to his earlier point about God providing all blessings, the Apostle assures the Roman Christians that Christ Jesus will likewise shower them with "the fullness of the blessing of [His] gospel" (vs. 29) when St. Paul comes. Again, Christ Jesus will be the One giving the blessing. Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise Him in the heights. To Thee, O God, is due our song. (drawn from Psalm 150).



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  19. Oblio

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    [c]Friday, July 18, 2003
    The Martyr Emilianos of Silistria in Bulgaria

    Epistle: Romans 16:1-16 Gospel: St. Matthew 13:4-9
    [/c]

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    Applying the Truth V ~ True Life: Romans 16:1-16, especially vs. 7: "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me." The Lord Jesus says plainly, "...whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it" (Mt. 16:25). Christos Yanaras comments on the distinctiveness of this Christian attitude toward life when he says, "In contrast with every other code of ethics, the Church does not seek to safeguard the individual, either in isolation or collectively; she does not aim at individual security, either transient or eternal. She asks man to reject his individuality, to 'lose' his soul. For this loss is the salvation of man, the existential realization of true life, of personal distinctiveness and freedom."
    In his greetings to the households of the Roman Church (vss. 1-16), the Apostle Paul helps us examine some facets of the process of "losing one's soul," and he reveals how we may attain true life. The little digressions the Apostle makes as he greets his beloved fellow Christians provide important insights into what it means to 'lose' one's soul and 'to find [life]' (Mt. 16:25).

    Eight times in these closing verses, St. Paul uses phrases such as "in Christ Jesus," "in Christ," or "in the Lord" (Rom. 15:3,7-13). These favorite phrases refer one to his share in the Person and mission of the Lord Jesus Himself. The high esteem the Apostle places on being "in Christ," couples with other expressions such as "worthy of the saints" (vs. 2), "who are of note among the apostles" (vs. 7), "beloved" (vs. 8), or "labored much." These phrases disclose a synergy of divine power and grace at work through human commitment and endeavor.

    The Apostle presents us with the basic elements that constitute what must be true of our hearts and behavior before we can speak of being "in Christ." Among these we must include repentance (in the sense of an active reordering of one's aims and actions in life), asceticism (the practical mastery of desires and comforts and fasting), repudiation of consumerism, active prayer and worship, and labor on behalf of others. As we reflect on St. Paul's asides in these greetings and what they disclose in terms of earnest dedication, hard work, and disregard for self, the luminous meaning of being "in Christ" shines out brilliantly and often it may shame us.

    In the Apostle's remarks concerning Phoebe (vss. 1-2), a deaconess from the church in Cenchreae, he reveals the high value which he placed on the servant role as a means for attaining the fulness of life in Christ. In the early Church, deaconesses were blessed to attend female Catechumens in preparation for and during Baptism. Also they visited prisoners and the sick.

    St. Paul tells us further about Phoebe that she was a "protectress" or "patroness" of the Church, implying that she was a woman of position and social standing, capable of extending significant material aid to "many," and who, in actual practice, probably assisted the Apostle himself (vs. 2). His remarks reveal this same servant behavior was manifest in Priscilla and Aquila (vss. 3-5), Mary (vs. 6), Tryphaena, Tryphosa and Persis (vs. 12).

    Finally, the import of the Lord's comments about 'losing one's life' as the way to find life stands out vividly as St. Paul greets those who were more than ready to assume risks on behalf of others. No doubt the risks included privation, discomfort, and even loss of life to foster the well-being of other Christians. Priscilla and Aquila "risked their own necks" for his life (vs. 4). Andronicus and Junia were his "fellow prisoners" (vs. 7), presumably in Ephesus. The entire picture St. Paul provides is one of people quite willing to reject personal comfort and to lose even their lives to attain true Life. The grace so to live still is offered to all of us who are in Christ.

    May I live henceforth not unto myself, but unto Thee, O good Master and Benefactor.

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  20. Oblio

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    [c]Saturday, July 19, 2003
    Uncovering of the Relics of the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov

    Epistle: Romans 8:14-21 Gospel: St. Matthew 9:9-13
    [/c]

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    Applying the Truth VI ~ Led by the Spirit: Romans 8:14-21, especially vs. 14: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." St. John Chrysostom illumines these words from today's reading with this warning: "If you are not willing to be 'led by the Spirit' afterwards [following Baptism], you lose the dignity bestowed upon you and the preeminence of your adoption. This is why [St. Paul] does not say, 'As many as have received the Spirit.'"
    Both the Apostle and St. John Chrysostom express the Orthodox way: allowing the Holy Spirit to lead. The Faithful develop the habit of consistently over-riding their own will as the Spirit reveals God's will. Only when the habit of following the Spirit is firmly established, does it become possible to say, "[We] are led by the Spirit of God, [we] are sons of God" (vs. 14).

    Those who seriously undertake the Faith know that following the lead of the Spirit is easier said than done, for protests well up within us: 'How do I know if what I am seeing, thinking, and feeling truly is the will of the Holy Spirit and not my will, my desires, or my ideas?' In today's reading, the Apostle suggests three tests for determining when the Spirit is leading.

    Observe what the Apostle says: "...you did not receive the spirit of bondage again" (vs. 15). To experience bondage, coercion, or compulsion before a decision or action is a telltale sign of the need to be cautious. Such promptings may not be of the Holy Spirit.

    Feelings of duress and pressure typically are signs of other spirits (1 Jn. 4:1), of the pressure of the passions (Ps. 37:7 LXX), of spiritual immaturity and confusion (Heb. 5:11-14), of sin and the darkening of the heart (Rom. 1:21). Distinguishing between one's feelings and thoughts and the guidance of the Spirit is the fruit of regular prayer, long practice in discernment, and the counsel of a good confessor, spiritual advisor, and wise pastor. The Scriptures and the Holy Fathers prepare our hearts to hear the Spirit, yet He will not lead when we rush to the Bible, grasp at some verse under pressure, or thumb through the writings of the Fathers for a "word."

    Beloved of the Lord, let us develop regular habits of reading and meditating on the great treasures of Holy Tradition until we have steeped ourselves in the mind of Christ. If St. Paul himself can say, "the love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14), how can we be filled with sure and unqualified confidence that we are clearly distinguishing between the prompting of the Spirit and the urging of our own desires and cravings? Let us grow in relationship with the Holy Spirit until He enables us to attain quiet confidence. Then we may hope to respond correctly to His restraints on our impulses. Thus, we will know if a caution is from God or from other sources.

    St. Paul mentions a second sign which ought to place us 'on alert' - namely fears (vs. 15). What we have said above about bondage applies also to emotional fears. Growth in the Spirit produces godly fear and joy in the heart which can enable us to reject fears generated by other spirits, prompted by the cautions of those who do not know the Lord, or aroused by faithlessness. Building mature faith by prayer, fasting, spiritual reading, the receiving of the Holy Gifts, and regular worship are tried and true ways of acquiring a confident discernment that can calmly tell whether a fear is from God or from sources other than God.

    Finally, the Apostle reveals another way by which we can know surely that we are children of God: "if indeed we suffer with [Christ]" (vs. 17). Resonance between our spirit and the Holy Spirit will lead us to choose and embrace suffering for the Lord's sake, however it may come upon us. When we take on disciplines that make us uncomfortable and so suffer in the struggle to draw close to God, we shall reach the capacity to be led unfailingly by the Spirit of God as sons of God.

    Cleanse my soul. Sanctify my mind. Enlighten my five senses. Establish me in Thy fear.

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