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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

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    [c]Saturday, August 9, 2003
    Translation of the Relics of the Venerable Herman of Alaska

    Epistle: Romans 13:1-10 Dormition Fast Gospel: St. Matthew 12:30-37
    [/c]

    [hr]

    The Dignity of Choice: Romans 13:1-10, especially vs. 8: "Owe no one anything except to love one another...." In reading the Epistle to the Romans, one should remember that in the last portion, the Apostle Paul turns from a systematic presentation of the Gospel to issues of daily living. As he does so, he issues two commands which might appear contradictory: first he says "be not conformed to this world" (Rom. 12:2), and in today's reading, he declares, "be subject to the governing authorities" (Rom. 13:1), to which he even adds, "Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due" (vs. 7). The pious Christian, were he not to delve into the Apostle's deep intentions, might wonder: how can a servant of the Lord be subject to the authorities of this world and not conform to the world which those authorities govern? What is one to obey?
    It is given in this life plainly: we make our way by decisions, choosing one way rather than another, taking action or waiting, entering or leaving situations and circumstances, accepting or rejecting offers and opportunities. We constantly progress from moment to moment by choices. Of all God's earthly creatures, mankind alone has the dignity of choosing to give shape to life.

    Today's reading provides Christians with three "ground rules" to help in decision-making: 1) be subject to the governing authorities (vs. 1), 2) be subject for conscience sake (vs. 5), and 3) "owe no one anything except to love one another" (vs. 8). Trace St. Paul's godly logic to its conclusion and one discovers that these three rules function serially under a greater, overarching command of the Lord: "love your neighbor as yourself" (vs. 9; Lev. 19:18 and Mt. 22:39).

    Observe: there is a definite order to these three "ground rules," each successive rule possessing higher authority for one's decisions than the one preceding it. First, when faced with a decision, one can choose to obey the obvious appointed authority. Stop at a red light, pay a tax bill, or report for jury duty.

    However, let us be cautious about making decisions unthinkingly. Rather, let us be ready to modify our actions whenever prompted by conscience. We have stopped at a red light, but an ambulance signals a need to move through the intersection. Conditions, conscience, and wisdom now urge one to ignore the authority of the traffic signal. If a tax bill appears to be inaccurate or unfair, a Christian ought to appeal the bill. One should pay only what is "due" (vs. 7)

    But we continue one more step: before we decide to follow the voice of our own conscience without question, let us consider also the requirements of love, the needs of others, remembering that the human conscience, like other aspects of our nature, is in need of healing and illumination. Therefore, let us consider actions that extend respect and justice in love.

    Christ our God, as Creator of all, made us in His own image, dignified us with a great gift of freedom to choose. Still, let us note that through choice we often turn to self-seeking and disobey the truth (Rom. 2:8). Ironically, through wrong choices we lose our freedom and fall under bondage to sin (Rom. 7:19). However, by the Lord's Death and the saving power of His Resurrection, God has reconciled us to Himself (Rom. 5:10) - but only if we choose Him for healing and life. We are free to seek God's will, His freedom, and His best, for the three rules are not laws. They are light and grace, which show us how to choose within God's love. Taken in the context of the Gospel, the rules become life and "the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10).

    Direct us, O Lord our God, in all our doings with Thy most gracious favor, and further us with Thy continual help; that in all our works, begun, continued and ended in Thee, we may glorify Thy holy Name, and finally, by Thy mercy attain unto everlasting life.


    [hr]


    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
     
  2. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    <hr>

    [c]Sunday, August 10, 2003
    The Sunday after Transfiguration; Martyr Lawrence of Rome

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 Dormition Fast: Tone 7 Gospel: St. Matthew 14:14-22
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Coming Into Unity: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, especially vs. 10: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." There were quarrels in the church at Corinth. Members were choosing sides and forming cliques, thereby creating schisms among themselves. Such divisiveness in the name of a group, a leader, or a cause is contrary to the essence of the Church, for the Body of Christ shares in a Holy Communion. "The Lamb of God...is divided, yet is not disunited."
    Still, blocs have been known to develop in parishes - to oppose some person, to argue against a program, to "stop those people." Such partisan displays shame and blight our communities when they occur. What can be done to avert or end such partisanship? In pleading for unity within the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul names three conditions which must be realized: a common voice, a single spiritual consciousness, and Christ's unquestioned Lordship.

    St. Paul pleads that "all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions" (vs. 10). At the most elemental level, Orthodox communities are to strive to speak with one voice. The obvious mark of politics in the fallen world is a cacophony of opposing voices trumpeting the platitude that opposition must not be silenced by the majority. In government, corporations, and the multitude of groups and organizations, dissent is accepted as a given.

    However, when partisanship appears in the Church, who among the Faithful is not troubled? In our hearts, we expect to taste the heavenly age and the Kingdom God of peace and concord. Has not the Lord's ministry of reconciliation been committed to us (2 Cor. 5:18-20)? Has not the Lord told us to love one another (Jn. 13:34)? Who has not heard His prayer that we might "all be one" (Jn. 17:21). Beloved of the Lord, we know full well that God means us "to walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Thus, when the Apostle pleads for us to speak with one voice, he expects us to seek the healing which God desires and to end all factionalism among us.

    St. John Chrysostom understood that the Apostle meant for unity to go well beyond "concord only in words," for he says, "...there is such a thing as agreement in words...not however on all subjects, therefore he added this, 'That ye may be perfected together.'" Unity must not be formal nor outward only. Therefore the Apostle Paul pleads for us to be "perfectly joined together," not formally in words, and appearance, but "in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10). The word "mind" here is "nous" in the original, that part of us which Metropolitan Hierotheos teaches us to call the heart, "the two terms nous and heart interchange." True unity, without reservation, comes from the heart. Is this possible for sinful mankind?

    Observe the Apostle in confronting division - he is Christ-centered: "Is Christ divided?" he asks (vs. 13). Or he speaks of Baptism into Christ (vss. 13-16), and he refers to his own commission from Christ as well as the Lord's Cross and its power (vs. 17). Let us understand his solution to achieving unity. True unity comes only in Christ, not apart from Him! We were baptized into Christ to have one mind with Him (Phil. 2:5). We receive Him in Holy Communion that He might unite us to Him. Beloved, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). Being united is a gift from God. Let us weep when the "world" and "schism" appear among us, and let us plead that the power of the Cross "effect" (vs. 17) unity of heart in each one and among us.

    Grant, O Lord, that with one mouth and one heart we may glorify and praise Thine all-honorable and majestic name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


    [hr]


    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
     
  3. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [hr]
    [c]Monday, August 11, 2003
    The Miracle of Spyridon the Wonderworker on Kerkyra

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 11:31-12:6 Dormition Fast Gospel: St. Matthew 18:1-11
    [/c]

    [hr]

    The Body of Christ I ~ Uniting The Faithful: 1 Corinthians 11:31-12:6, especially vs. 6: "...it is the same God Who works all in all." In the Apostle Paul's introduction to First Corinthians, he plainly states his primary purpose in writing the letter - that there be unity within the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1:10). In the reading for today from the Epistle, he returns to this overall concern now much further along in the letter. Hence, while St. Paul still emphasizes this basic theme, he does so here by addressing two divisive issues: church members' carelessness at the Lord's Supper (vss. 11:31-34) and their ignorance concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit (vss. 12:1-6).
    To awaken the Corinthians to a deeper, more profound unity, the Apostle repeatedly appeals to them as "we" (cf. vss. 31-34), and he calls them "brethren" (vss. 11:33; 12:1) - as ever, signaling their unity as a family. But at the same time, he is teaching that unity is a gift from God, by showing seven ways in which God acts to achieve true unity. As St. Paul does this, he emphasizes the fact that, in relation to each of God's acts, there is a necessary response for cooperating with the Lord's gift of unity. And let us note that the Lord uses these responses as much today as He did in the first century, to up-build communion within His Church.

    First, the Apostle reminds us that "if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged" by God (1 Cor. 11:31). Why? Because, when we judge ourselves honestly - with God's help - we naturally confess our sins, and God then faithfully forgives (1 Jn. 1:9). Then, we are not judged by Him. In addition, the net effect of such self-examination and self-judgment benefits our relations with our fellow Christians, breaking down barriers between us and unifying us.

    Second, when we consider the judgment of God, we naturally are reminded that He also chastens. We ought, therefore, to rejoice at trials as gifts of love from the Lord assuring us that we will "not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor.11:32). "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Heb. 12:6). St. Isaac the Syrian notes that "a man who for God's sake humbles himself, and thinks meanly of himself, is glorified by God." And by God's grace, the humble are drawn into communion with their fellow Christians.

    Third, the Apostle reminds us that apart from our Baptism we still would be slaves of dumb idols (1 Cor.12:2), but, by the working of God the Holy Spirit, we are able to "say that Jesus is Lord" (vs. 3). Idolatry divides us, but in Christ Jesus we are united and made one.

    A fourth way God accomplishes unity is by bestowing gifts upon each one. Look over the Church and you will see the rich diversity of gifts (vs. 4). Some are pastors and teachers, some are gifted preachers, some are able at evangelism (Eph. 4:11), some can exhort others when they need direction, others have the means to give liberally, others manage well, some are merciful and others cheerful (Rom.12:8). These abilities - truly gifts from God - make the Body whole.

    Fifth, God works for unity by bestowing a variety of ministries (vs. 5). Priests have particular gifts to lead congregations in worship as a single Body. Our Bishops oversee the work of many pastors and parishes to assure unity among them and with Christ. Imagine the entire Body, and you will see the rich, seamless tapestry of God's work spread across all the world.

    Sixth, as we glimpse the vision of the tapestry of the Church with its amazing variety of activities (vs. 6), we behold our good God managing the whole Body of Christ with loving care, drawing us together in cords of love and welding us into an effective instrument of His will.

    Finally, let us be reminded that although God works through individuals, it is for the Body as a whole that He works on behalf of all (vs. 6) and for the profit of all (vs. 7).

    May I ever live not unto myself, but unto Thee, our Master and our Benefactor.

    [hr]

    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
     
  4. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [c]Tuesday, August 12, 2003
    Martyrs Photios and Anikytos of Nicomedia

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 Dormition Fast Gospel: St. Matthew 18:18-22; 19:1-2, 13-15
    [/c]

    [hr]

    The Body of Christ II: Caring Is Essential: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, especially vs. 25: "that there should be no schism in the body, but...the members should have the same care for one another." The organic life of the Church as a single, unified community was absolutely essential in St. Paul's experience and concern. While addressing the interdependence of membership in the Church earlier in the Epistle (1 Cor. 11:31-12:8), he did not use the term, "the Body of Christ." In this present passage, as he reaches the heart of his exhortation - concerned care for one another - he turns directly to the reality of the Body of Christ to make his point very clear.
    To awaken us to the importance of mutual care and respect, the Apostle uses an analogy based on the human body, "...the body is one," yet it "has many members" (vs. 12). To give his point its true depth, he immediately shifts to the Christian community, "so also is Christ" (vs. 12). Because St. Paul is reasoning on the basis of analogy, one might naturally expect him to say, "so also is the Church," but rather, from the very beginning of his appeal, he directly refers to the Church as the Body of Christ.

    This sort of language was possible for St. Paul, because he was not speaking from mere example, analogy, or illustration. Rather, he was teaching from an experienced reality of membership in Christ. Metropolitan John Zizioulas follows the same thought when he says, "...it is possible to envisage a type of Christology in which Christ...cannot be conceived in Himself as an individual. When we make the assertion that He is the truth...we mean His relationship with His body, the Church, ourselves.... we mean a Person and not an individual; we mean a relational reality....Here the Holy Spirit is not One Who aids us in bridging the distance between Christ and ourselves, but He is the Person of the Trinity Who actually realizes in history that which we call Christ...Christ does not exist first as truth and then as communion; He is both at once." What we say about Christ and what we say about the Church vanishes for us in the Holy Spirit.

    The experience of the Lord in this way, as a living, literal Communion in the Person of Christ Jesus, is no longer known sequentially in time, first as One Who exists and then as many members, but He is known as One and many at the same time. From this experience, which was well known to St. Paul, comes his assertion that "...in fact the body is not one member but many" (vs. 14). The Apostle makes no distinction whatsoever between a physical human body and the Body of Christ. Notice that the saying applies equally to either one. Therefore, as he continues to speak about "the foot" or "the hand" or "the eye," the Christian knows perfectly well he is speaking about different members of the Church and not merely parts of an illustrative human body. The point is very clear. All members are vitally important - "vitally" in the sense of life-bearing. When we start to think of and to treat persons who are members of the Church as individuals, apart from the "relational reality" of the Body of Christ, we dismember the Body and kill life in the Church. This is what St. Paul is asserting so strongly in today's reading.

    Mutual caring is critical, necessary (vs. 22), and needful (vs. 21), and every member of the Body, when seen in this light, deserves honor (vs. 23), no matter how "unpresentable" they may strike the limited, corrupted, tribunal of human opinion (vs. 23). Such is God's view of the matter (vs. 24); and there had better not be any schism in Christ's Body which the Holy Spirit has composed! Of course all "the members should have the same care for one another," otherwise "where would the body be" (vs. 19)? Suffering or honor - every issue for one affects all (vs. 26).

    O Holy Spirit Who hath been poured out on all flesh, beginning with the Apostles, extend the grace of Thy Communion to us believers that we may share in the mysteries they proclaimed.


    [hr]

    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
     
  5. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [hr]
    [c]Wednesday, August 13, 2003
    Maximos the Confessor

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13:4-13:5 Dormition Fast Gospel: St. Matthew 20:1-16
    [/c]

    [hr]

    The Body of Christ III ~ Pursues Love: 1 Corinthians 13:4-13:5, especially vss. 13:13, 14:1: "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love...." As the Apostle places love before us, he names it as the greatest among the virtues, the one that endures forever. Then, in the next breath, he commands us to "pursue love" (vs. 14:1).
    What is this "love" we are to pursue? "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:8). Does the Apostle's command to pursue love differ from the commandment to "love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Dt. 6:5)? Not at all. However, the Apostle knows love Incarnate in human flesh and so do all who have "united themselves unto Christ." Incarnate Love challenges us by saying, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (Jn. 14:15). Furthermore, what The Apostle commands is from the Lord, and is to be obeyed out of love for "Him Who first loved us" (1 Jn. 4:19). So then, let us attend to what the Great Apostle says about love in today's lesson, for these are the "Ten Commandments of Love" springing from God Himself. Hence, as we learn from Love Himself how to love, let us love Him before all else.

    Observe as you read that St. Paul provides us with descriptions of love rather than with explicit commandments to love. Hence he says, "Love suffers long" (1 Cor. 13:4). Elsewhere, however, he will turn this description into a command: "Put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved...long suffering" (Col. 3:12). We are not to be like the unforgiving servant who was extended the long-suffering indulgence of his lord, but could not share it in-kind (Mt. 18:23-34).

    "Love...is kind" (1 Cor.13:4). In other words, "[Add] to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you... [fruitful] ...in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 P. 1:7-8). Be a child of the Most High, for "He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful" (Lk. 6:35-36).

    "Love does not envy" (1 Cor.13:4). The original word translated as "envy" is the root of our word "jealousy." We are not to be like Joseph's brothers (Gen. 37:8,18-20). We are not to indulge our desires against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17-21). Rather we are to do good to all.

    The Apostle next describes love through a series of negative statements all of which are rooted in self-preoccupation. One cannot love in the Christian sense of the word and vaunt or be arrogant or rude or care only for his own needs and wants. Like the Forerunner John, love practices self-abasement. "I am not worthy to unloose" the latchet of His shoes (Lk. 3:16), "I need to be baptized" of Him (Mt. 3:14). Let us bow down and worship the Holy Lord Jesus!

    "Love is not provoked" (1 Cor. 13:5). When one is angry it is because of belief that one's "rights" have been violated, but if one is a servant of the Lord Jesus, then all rights belong to Him. We have surrendered ourselves to Him: "I bow down before the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit." If I am struck on the right cheek, I will "turn the other to him also" (Mt. 5:39).

    "Love thinks no evil" (vs. 5). We are not to keep score. If you "bring your gift...and there remember that your brother has something against you....first be reconciled." (Mt. 5:23, 24). We are to rejoice in the truth and "not rejoice in iniquity" (1 Cor. 13:6). Since the Lord is the Truth (Jn. 14:6), our joy is in following and emulating His way of being and speaking.

    Let us bear whatever befalls us as from the Lord's own hand, believing in Love Himself in all circumstances. Thus, we shall be able to endure (1 Cor. 13:7). Let us pursue Love Who calls us to follow Him, for we know this Lover Who has loved us always and still pursues us.

    Love has not failed. Let us not fail Him (vs. 8)!

    I have no life, no light, no joy, no strength and no love except in Thee, O Lover of all.

    [hr]

    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
     
  6. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [hr]
    [c]Thursday, August 14, 2003
    The Holy Prophet Micah

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 14:6-19 Dormition Fast Gospel: St. Matthew 20:17-28
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Body of Christ IV ~ Speaking In Tongues: 1 Corinthians 14:6-19, especially vs. 19: "yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue." The phenomenon of speaking in tongues appeared among Christians during the earliest days, being reported in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 10:46; 19:6) as well as here in First Corinthians. But soon after, tongue-speaking was known among the Montanists, a sect of heretical Christian in Phrygia that flourished from the 2nd to the 9th century.
    Further, the phenomenon has not been limited to Christians, for both Plato, among the pagan Greeks, and Virgil, among the ancient Latins, tell of tongue-speaking in various pagan rites. During the Middle Ages in Europe, tongues was practiced by the mendicant friars and later by early Quakers and Methodists. The practice enjoyed such a revival during the 19th and 20th centuries among some Evangelical Protestant congregations, that whole denominations formed, distinguished principally by tongue speaking. In the twentieth century, tongues even spread among many "mainline" western Churches, including Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

    The Apostle Paul himself spoke in tongues, considering it a gift from God for which he gave thanks (1 Cor. 14:18). However, in today's reading, as St. Paul speaks about this practice, we can discern his cautions concerning tongue speaking.

    A reading through the passage immediately discloses the Apostle's point of view, that this vocal gift from the Holy Spirit (vss. 12,18) ought to be a matter of private prayer and avoided in public, corporate worship (vss. 6,9,19). His reasoning is quite straightforward: there are "many kinds of languages in the world" (vs. 10), and if one does "not know the meaning of the language" he is made a foreigner simply because he cannot understand what he hears (vs. 11).

    But observe also: the present passage rejects the opinion of those who relegate speaking in tongues to merely psychological causes. Such opinions disregard St. Paul's manifest assumption that tongues can be a gift of the Holy Spirit (vss. 12,18). However, while God the Holy Spirit may give tongues, He also will give the "discernment of spirits" (1 Cor. 12:10). Note also, evidence from comparative religions suggests that not all speaking in tongues is of God. Some does indeed come from demonic sources and from darkened or immature human psyches.

    As an Apostle, St. Paul was one sent by the Lord Jesus, a man under necessity to preach the Gospel and at grave spiritual risk for refusing to do so (1 Cor. 9:16). Today's passage clearly shows the unceasing urgency in him to communicate the good news. Hence, St. Paul was deeply concerned for understanding among his hearers, a concern that included occasions when he prayed with other people, especially in worship with those new to the Faith (vss. 6,9,11,16).

    Continually planting churches in communities where the Christian message never had been heard, St. Paul bore a responsibility for these congregations he brought into existence - as in the case of the church at Corinth. The present passage reveals his concern for such congregations - that they develop as communities wherein their members would grow in spiritual knowledge - again, that primary concern for edification (vss. 12,19) and the insistence that tongues should remain a matter of private devotions, so as not to confuse congregations.

    Following the Apostle's concern that prayer, hymns, and blessings should be understood (vss. 15,16), the Orthodox Church in its worship continues to resist the introduction of tongues into corporate worship, fearing it might confuse the understanding of the Faithful.

    Light is the Father; and Light the Son; Light is the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles through which the whole universe was illuminated to worship the Holy Trinity.


    [hr]

    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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    [hr]
    [c]Friday, August 15, 2003
    The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos

    Epistle: Philippians 2:5-11 Fish, Wine & Oil Gospel: St. Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28
    [/c]

    [hr]

    The Mind of Christ: Philippians 2:5-11, especially vs. 5: "Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus." [ASV] The famous charge by Saint Herman of Alaska directs us to the starting point from which to gain the mind of Christ: "let us make a vow, at least that from this day, this hour, this very minute, we should try to love God above all else and carry out His teachings." Let each one determine within his mind, heart, and will to say, "Yes!" to the command of St. Paul. Also, let us acknowledge that at present we do not have the mind of the Lord. Further, to truly possess His consciousness would be the most worthwhile attainment we could hope to achieve, and, in Christ, this possibility lies before us. Desire must precede all else; and nothing will so fan a flickering interest into a flaming thirst for the mind of Christ as love for God.
    The bidding of St. Herman is worthy of the best within us. Furthermore, on this day we are reminded that the finest example of one endowed with the mind of Christ is Saint Mary the Theotokos. For this reason, on the Feast of her Dormition, the Church gives us an Epistle reading which contains the Apostle Paul's counsel to spur us on to attain to the mind of Christ.

    First, like our Lord (Phil. 2:7), the Virgin Mary accepted the words of the angel, conceived and bore a child through the Holy Spirit while remaining a virgin and risking the loss of esteem with Joseph and her reputation before all men. The Faithful are ever reminded of this "shadow" cast over her by the icon of the Nativity, for, in one corner of the scene, Joseph, her betrothed, sits pondering the insinuations being presented to him by the evil one. To gain the mind of Christ is to accept willingly the scorn of those who see anything contrary to nature as superstition.

    Second, the Theotokos "humbled" herself (vs. 8), for with great meekness of spirit before God, she accepted the unique role of a servant that is inherent in true motherhood. She served as a throne for her Royal son, as an entry door by which He might enter and share human life, and as a table for holding Him, the Bread of Life. She nursed and raised the Incarnate One to manhood. We, too, are called to serve humbly in His Kingdom for His glory, to serve the One Who came "not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many" (Mt. 20:28).

    Third, to become the Mother of God, the Virgin chose freely and without hesitation to accede to the will of God obediently (Phil. 2:8), dying to any of her own wants and desires in this earthly life. To gain the mind of Christ, we, too, must follow her as the Lord taught us and 'take up our cross and follow Him' (Mt. 16:24).

    Fourth, observe how God "highly exalted" the Virgin Maid who, in like mind with her Son, humbly set aside all worldly reputation and obediently served her God and King (Phil. 2:9). As she herself sang, "For He...hath exalted the humble and meek" (Lk. 1:52). To have the mind of Christ, we must, as the Lord Jesus pointed out to His disciples James and John, give up our fantasies of being honored to sit on thrones at His left and right in His kingdom (Mk. 10:40).

    Fifth, notice that God gave her a name above all names (Phil. 2:9). We use the expression Theotokos frequently; but think of the import of that title, the "One Who Gave Birth To God." Beloved of the Lord, think of the name we bear: what could be greater than to be called Christian? Sixth, we, the Faithful upon earth, in our Liturgies bow the knee to the Mother of Light with the Bodiless Powers (Phil. 2:10) as we magnify her in song, exactly what Christ had in mind.

    And Seventh, in confessing Jesus as Lord (Phil. 2:11), we, the Faithful, also call Mary blessed and cry out to her, "O Theotokos, since thou departest to the heavenly abodes of thy Son, thou shalt ever save thine inheritance." Let us seek her prayers that we may attain Christ's mind!

    O Theotokos, glorified one, after death thou art still alive and dost deliver thine heritage.

    [hr]

    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[/QUOTE]
     
  8. Oblio

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    [hr]
    [c]Sunday, August 17, 2003
    The Sunday after the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 (Tone 8) Gospel: St. Matthew 14:22-34
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Edification: 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, especially vs. 17: "If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are." [RSV] One can name many influences that affect the quality of education in a Christian community: commitment to the Lord; training; the efforts of those who manage and teach; the spiritual predisposition of supervisors, instructors, and learners; the curriculum and its goals, methods, and materials; the quality of the community's worship and devotional life; and the earnestness that the membership assigns to edification. May St. Paul's construction analogy (vss. 9-17) provoke each of us to assess himself personally with respect to his own "edifying [in] the Body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12). After all, every member of our many Orthodox communities is learning, being built up, and receiving nurture - or is stagnating, losing spiritual ground, and withering in the Faith.
    At minimum, each adult ought to have a plan and program for growing in his life in Christ. No one should leave his growth to the clergy or the parish leaders. Regular personal prayer, Bible reading, and study of the Fathers, with input from good Orthodox materials, must be ongoing and pursued energetically. There are only a given number of hours in a day. Consider what you are doing for your upbuilding. Each of us may be sure that the public media are not concerned about Christian growth. So, if they are the only source of your education, you are losing ground.

    St. Paul says "...no other foundation can anyone lay than...Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11). Parish and personal upbuilding have to start with tangible, real commitment to our God and Savior. Furthermore, the Apostles teach us to move on from "the elementary principles of Christ...to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God...of Baptism, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment" (Heb. 6:1-2). Therefore, if these fundamentals are not well-established for you and for your community, then there is a need to go back to the basics of Orthodoxy. St. Paul is adamant - there can be "no other foundation" (1 Cor. 3:11). Let us avoid borrowing from or drawing upon the "wisdom" of other religions, or spiritual practices - especially not from secular philosophies.

    The educational materials and experiences one uses for upbuilding self and other Christians, and their quality are vitally important. The Apostle gives us fair warning: "each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test each one's work" (1 Cor. 3:13). First, then, let us put prayer, worship, and Holy Scripture at the center of our curriculum, together with the Fathers, and the liturgical texts.

    God's judgment works now in personal life and history; no one has to wait solely for the Day of Judgment. One sees in persons and Church communities the results of poor educational choices. They are revealed in boredom, self-reliance, moral laxity, casualness in worship, and, saddest of all, immorality and apostasy. Remember: God is speaking to us now.

    Edification in the Faith is meant to nurture all aspects of a Christian life: spiritual reasoning, growth in relationship with God, emotional life, decisions, creativity, ethics, relationships, marriage, family, child-raising, work, community activity - everything. The measure most important to St. Paul is the Spirit's presence. As he asked the Corinthians, so also he asks us: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God" (vs. 16)? Either the Spirit is inhabiting and leading us, or He has withdrawn from our defilement (vs. 17). Let us labor toward upbuilding of the People of God and our personal growth in holiness, becoming worthy temples for the Spirit (vs. 16), so that God is truly honored, worshiped, and glorified among us and in each one of us.

    Grant us grace to be temperate, diligent, devout and charitable in love and fear of Thee.



    [hr]

    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
     
  9. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [hr]
    [c]Monday, August 18, 2003
    The Repose of the Venerable John of Rila

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Gospel: St. Matthew 21:18-22
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Resurrection I ~ A Stunning Hope: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, especially vs. 15: "...we have testified of God that He raised up Christ...." How many around us today, exalted by technology, ride jubilantly upon a wave of products and devices - like surfers who have caught the proverbial "big one"! Of course, surfers know that waves move inexorably toward shore. The exhilarating moment ends at the beach - a boundary that cannot be passed. There are limits in the physical realm upon which technology depends, and there is a finale when the "big one" crashes on the shore.
    We may draw a corollary from St. Paul: since we have a hope not in this life only but in Christ Who is eternal, we are of all men the most blessed (vs. 19). We do not depend for our faith and hope upon that which may be concluded from repeated tests in the physical realm, but upon an unrepeatable event of this world that provides a stunning hope in God Who is unseen. Christ is preached: He is risen from the dead (vs. 12).

    Resurrection is the Apostolic proclamation, an announcement more than a message, and one that is truly on the order of incalculable declaration. Christ is risen! This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith which the Church celebrates with great joy. Resurrection bridges the present world to the great spiritual Kingdom of God that is beyond physical measurement. The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus connects the two realms forever, for as is said in the Orthros on the Feast of the Ascension, "our fallen nature hath been honored by sitting with the Father."

    Resurrection is the restoration of spirit and soul to a transformed physical body, an act of God superseding the "normal" expectations of the natural world (1 Cor. 15:52). Resurrection must not be confused with immortality of the soul - life apart from the body, nor is it reincarnation into another body, nor is it revivification of this mortal body that decays and changes. God will restore body, soul, and spirit to that which He intended at the Creation - that is Resurrection. Christ took on our flesh, trampled down death by death, and will bestow Resurrection upon us.

    St. Paul's assertion is pertinent: "...if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen" (vs. 13). Most who deny the Resurrection accept the fact that Jesus was a man, but, observe: His Resurrection reflects back on His humanity, disclosing Incarnation, revealing that in Christ, God became man. If He took to Himself all that we are by nature, it was the Divine gateway for entering into Hades in order to triumph over death. Earlier the Apostle told the Corinthians, "...I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2); and the present assertion now complements the Apostle's earlier remark.

    Materialist scoffers find the proclamation of the Apostles to be empty, pious delusion (vss. 14,15). Saint Paul says that to agree with them empties the Faith of its content (vs. 14), makes the Apostles liars, and throws away all hope for ourselves and all men. Instead of a stunning hope, we would face the drear prospect of a terminating physical existence (vs. 15-17).

    Christ is risen! This is the testimony of faithful men, honest witnesses, observers who saw His death and "looked upon, and...handled...the Word of life" (1 Jn. 1:1) before His execution and after His Resurrection. Therefore, we have an ineffable hope of stunning impact. "The dead shall arise, some to everlasting life, and some to reproach and everlasting shame" (Dan. 12:2 LXX). Sins are forgiven (1 Cor. 15:17). Our loved ones "who have fallen asleep in Christ" (vs. 18) are, as Dionysios the Areopagite says, "in comfort and unshaken hopes, as [they] attain the goal of the divine contests." Let us reject the common pursuit of momentary satisfaction (vs. 19).

    The body with all its senses shall, in its perfection, enter into Paradise. Deem us worthy, that in Thy Kingdom we should have an inheritance. (St. Ephraim the Syrian, Hymn on Paradise.)


    [hr]

    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
     
  10. Oblio

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    [hr]
    [c]Tuesday, August 19, 2003
    Andrew the General (Stratelates)

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15:29-38 Gospel: St. Matthew 21:23-27
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Resurrection II ~ Preparation: 1 Corinthians 15:29-38, especially vs. 34: "Awake to righteousness, and do not sin, for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak to your shame." In verse Nineteen of Chapter Fifteen of First Corinthians, St. Paul fixes attention on the implications of the Resurrection for this present life. Resurrection enables the Faithful to resist the common reason for living: indulgence of the passions. The Lord's Resurrection, by opening the potential of a renewed, transformed body for those who are united to Christ, encourages risk-taking for higher goals, the use of this life to achieve virtue and to know God.
    The Apostle uses the example of his own life to refute the opinion of anyone who would say "that there is no resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:12). He asks pointedly, "And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour?" (1 Cor. 15:30). He amplifies his point in today's reading by reference to an event well-known to the Corinthians, which he describes as fighting "with beasts at Ephesus" (vs. 32). While his remark probably was not about an actual event of literal combat with beasts in the arena such as later martyrs experienced, we know that he had vicious opponents to his ministry (2 Cor. 11:23-26), and many occasions on which he did "die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31).

    Here is his point: why would one go through daily jeopardy and take constant risks to comfort, life and limb if this present, temporary existence in a mortal body is the sole source of meaning for human life? Better would be the alternative: "eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (vs. 32); that is, indulge the passions of the body! St. John of Damascus reveals the results of chasing madly after satisfaction of the passions: "The roots or primary causes of all these passions are love of sensual pleasure, love of praise, and love of material wealth. Every evil has its origin in these." While the world certainly promotes these, we have a better and uncommonly powerful reason to resist the flood of ads, appeals, examples, and suggestions to pursue the passions: Christ is risen!

    There are higher goals to which our Lord, God and Savior calls us. His Apostle Paul invites us to break off companionship with sensuality, praise, and wealth by quoting from Menander, "Evil company corrupts good habits" (vs. 33). The facts are that these evils and prolonged pleasurable association with those who indulge them will surely corrupt the good habits formed by the Spirit of God. Better to "Awake to righteousness and...not sin" (vs. 34), to develop God-pleasing virtues. Metropolitan Hierotheos names some of the virtues that are essential for transformation: "The pursuit of a life of love...unceasing prayer...calling on the Name of God...Yoking the powers of the soul with the virtues...subordination to a spiritual father...self control...frugality...watchfulness...the words of God: application to them....mourning, repentance and confession...the voluntary sufferings of asceticism or through involuntary trials."

    Finally, as the Apostle suggests, the greatest potential which the Resurrection creates is the opportunity to know God. Striving for "knowledge of God" (vs. 34) creates that necessary, fertile, spiritual environment in which our present body, like a seed when planted, will come alive to Him, for "God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body" (vs. 38). The Apostle is not speaking of an "automatic" process, but growth in Christ. We have a part in preparing the seed of our body. The Native Americans knew that there were seeds of certain valuable plants that would not sprout unless they passed through fire, and for this reason, the people deliberately burned off tracts of land to germinate these seeds. As the Apostle states: "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). Let us strive to know Him, to brave the searing flames of drawing close to Him, so that He may prepare us for "a body as He pleases" (1 Cor. 15:38).

    Enlighten the eyes of my heart unto love unfeigned and unto growth in Thy divine grace.

    [hr]

    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

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    [hr]
    [c]Wednesday, August 20, 2003
    The Holy Prophet Samuel

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 16:4-12 Gospel: St. Matthew 21:28-32
    [/c]

    [hr]

    The Presence of the Lord: 1 Corinthians 16: 4-12, especially vs. 7: "For I do not wish to see you now in the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits." Father Arseny was a Russian priest, prisoner, and spiritual father to many in a special Soviet camp for incorrigibles. Inmates were deliberately sent to such camps to die. There is and account of a fist and knife fight in the prison barracks which he miraculously stopped in God's name. In the quiet after the clash, one of the prisoners, who earlier had threatened to kill Father Arseny, said to him, "Forgive me, Father Arseny. I doubted your God. I see now that He exists. It even scares me. A great power is given to one who believes in Him. Even I am frightened. Forgive me for making fun of you."
    Beloved, how sad it is that so often our dull and blinded sight hinders us from seeing the Lord present in the myriad relationships, activities, and places through which we pass every day. Not so the Apostle Paul, however. In today's reading, which is a personal closure written at the end of his First Corinthian Epistle, the Apostle discloses some of the ways in which he saw and knew God in the everyday events of his incessantly itinerant life.

    The first evidence of St. Paul's sensitivity to the presence of God appears in his restraint in speaking about the future. "...if it is fitting that I go," he says tentatively. He is referring to a forthcoming journey to be taken by those who would bear relief offerings to the Christians in Jerusalem (vs. 4). With similar caution, he mentions that "it may be that I will remain or even spend the winter with you" (vs. 6). In expressing his hope of staying a while with the Corinthians, he says, "if the Lord permits" (vs. 7). Concerning the travel of others, he says, "And if Timothy comes..." (vs. 10). The cumulative effect of these remarks demonstrates both an openness to change on his part and a hesitancy to be absolute in his planning. It is not that he does not think of the future, nor consider what would be best, nor have his own desires. Rather, he evinces that special caution expected of one whose life and activities were not in his own hands.

    On the face of it, the Apostle's hesitancy is surprising, given his obvious position of authority in the Church. Notice how forthright he is with them: "For I do not wish to see you now on the way" (vs. 7). Also, he does not hesitate to issue orders: "...see that [Timothy] may be with you without fear," and "let no one despise him" (vss. 10,11). He commands freely: "send him on his journey in peace." Of course, the factor that holds St. Paul back, and that keeps him fluid in relation to his future, is his keen awareness of the presence of the Lord.

    The Lord intervenes actively in the Apostle's plans, which can be seen plainly in an "aside" at verse 7: "if the Lord permits." The remark reveals that God is in charge of his life and makes his plans. It discloses that St. Paul submitted all his decisions to the will of the Lord. Such "divine management" is possible only as one has become responsive to God's presence in his life.

    When St. Paul says he will "tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost" (vs. 8), he explains the reason: "For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries" (vs. 9). A man who is sensitive to the presence of God in life sees all the opportunities and the opposition that meet him as being within God's design. To use the words of Metropolitan Philaret's prayer: "In unforeseen events let me not forget that all are sent by Thee."

    Let us set aside the world's belief that we should be in charge of life, and let us embrace the Apostle's mode of admitting that every detail in life is known to God, permitted by Him, and utilized for the advancement of His Kingdom. When we accept the truth that God's will governs all things, we know the joy of having Him guide our thoughts and feelings in all we do and say.

    Guided always by Thy will, may we ascribe glory unto Thee, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


    [hr]

    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

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    [hr]
    [c]Thursday, August 21, 2003
    The Holy Apostle Thaddeus of the Seventy

    Epistle: 2 Corinthians 1:1-7 Gospel: St. Matthew 21:43-45
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Comfort: 2 Corinthians 1:1-7, especially vss. 3, 4: "...the Father of mercies and God of all comfort...comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted." [RSV] The Apostle Paul repeats the word 'comfort' ten times in the seven verses of today's reading. In these verses, he employs 'paraklesis' or 'comfort' to describe the nature of God, to connect comfort with suffering - especially the Lord Jesus' sufferings, and to encourage the giving of comfort among the Faithful. Let us read closely that we may receive comfort ourselves and provide it to others.
    The Apostle uses 'comfort' to describe God. He is "the Father of mercies," a God Who is "the source of all comfort" and "comforts us in all our afflictions" (vss. 3,4). The nature of God the Father is to comfort, and comfort applies also to God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to God the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus reveals this in His last discourse: "...I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (Jn. 14:15-17). In speaking of 'another' Comforter at this point, the Lord likewise identifies Himself as a Divine Comforter, One Who will be followed in turn by 'another' Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

    What is this comfort that the God of all mercies gives? "I will come to you....ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I Am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you" (Jn.14:18-20). "I will come to you;" He comforts by being present to us. This assertion is unqualified. Therefore, "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from [His] love" (Rom. 8:38-39).

    Even in our sufferings and tribulations, He will be present to and for us. As St. John Chrysostom has us notice, our God is not One "'Who suffereth us not to come into affliction,' but, 'Who comforteth in affliction,'" Who addresses all affliction by trampling down death by death. He is with us through death and through all else that befalls in life: "ye shall live." The comforting presence of the Holy Trinity is mediated through the Holy Spirit Who illumines our hearts and minds to 'know' - to experience - a bond with Him in suffering, a true comfort.

    Observe in today's Epistle reading that the Apostle Paul stresses the connection between comfort and sufferings. As St. John has indicated (above), so St. Paul asserts that comfort comes from God - especially in affliction (2 Cor. 1:4). Christ our God Who has suffered as man understands our sufferings, for He has suffered as we do, as a mortal man. This co-suffering is most important, for it is the great assurance to us that our sufferings are not meaningless.

    We are united to the Lord Jesus, bonded to Him. Therefore, when we suffer for Him, "the sufferings of Christ abound in us" (vs. 5). As a result, "our comfort also abounds through Christ" (vs. 5). Herewith, the Apostle lays down the foundation of the special place occupied by the martyrs and confessors of the Church. Their sufferings are for "our comfort and salvation" (vs. 6), and since we are united to them in Christ, their sufferings equip us to cope with suffering so that we also are enabled to endure "the same sufferings which [they] suffer" (vs. 6). How is this done? Principally we partake in Christ's suffering through ascetic discipline, worship, prayer, witnessing, and by doing all these things in a deliberate, Spirit-led, steadfast way so that we may also "partake of the comfort" that comes from Him (vs. 7).

    O Merciful God, may we walk in the way of the Cross to find Thy comfort, life and peace.

    [hr]

    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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    [hr]

    [c]Friday, August 22, 2003
    The Martyr Agathonikos of Nicomedia and Companions

    Epistle: 2 Corinthians 1:12-20 Gospel: St. Matthew 22:23-33
    [/c]

    [hr]


    Christian Living: 2 Corinthians 1:12-20, especially vs. 12: "...we have conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you." First Corinthians was a letter of guidance from St. Paul to a troubled congregation. Second Corinthians has quite a different tenor, for the Apostle was seeking to resolve a troubled relationship between himself and that same community. Readers of the Second Epistle find the great Apostle repeatedly defending his manner of life, his personal integrity, and his Apostolic authority. For this reason, Second Corinthians becomes an excellent source for studying the foundations and assumptions upon which one should build a Christian way of living. So, for instance, one will find in today's passage the true source for living as a Christian and the authentic measure of Christian living.
    The King James translation of the first phrase of verse 12 reads, "For our rejoicing is this...." Rejoicing is not what one finds in many current English translations: "For our boast [or boasting] is this...." The Greek original supports the meaning, "an act of rejoicing" rather than in a moment of "boasting." Why is St. Paul rejoicing? It is "the day of the Lord Jesus" (vs. 14). The Lord's return serves as his reference point for living, a hope he shares with the Corinthians.

    Observe the significance of having the great Day of the Lord as a reference point which sets and corrects the whole movement and course of one's life. A focus on the Lord's return teaches that for which the Divine Liturgy also pleads: "a good defense before the dread Judgment Seat of Christ." That Day and our appearance before the Lord are sure and certain, and a practicing disciple has cause to rejoice - as the Apostle did for himself and for the Corinthians.

    The Apostle rejoices personally at the approaching Day of the Lord because his conscience assures him that he is conducting his life in "simplicity and godly sincerity." When he united himself to Christ, he repudiated a myriad of false reference points urged on him by the purveyors of "fleshly wisdom." What a difference this single point makes. One knows towards what he is striving! Actually, we may look upon the Day of the Lord as a blessing, for we have in hand a very clear map for guiding us to that day. We know what pleases the Lord Jesus: "being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10).

    One may object that pleasing the Lord is not so simple and that it requires strength and resources beyond human capacity. That is true. However, notice what St. Paul says: "Our rejoicing is...by the grace of God" (vs. 12). The Apostle depends upon the grace of God. He reveals the true source of rejoicing for anyone who lives, using the Day of the Lord Jesus as his reference point. What source of strength and renewal can match "the grace of God" as a basis for daily choices, for taking action, or for developing plans?

    It is one thing to know where one is headed in life. It is another matter to have the resources for reaching the goal. Beloved of the Lord, we have both. Further, as the Apostle suggests, we also have the means to measure our progress along the way until the Day of the Lord. St. Paul asks rhetorically: "when I was planning...did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh?" (vs. 17). Note his negative answer: the Christian acts "soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3). Let us not plan, choose, nor live according to the flesh, but according to illumination from the Holy Spirit, for there is "no condemnation to them which...walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1). At all times to "walk after the Spirit" provides the greatest ground for rejoicing and living.

    Let all them be glad that hope in Thee; they shall ever rejoice, for Thou shalt dwell among them.

    [hr]

    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
     
  14. Oblio

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    [hr]
    [c]
    Saturday, August 23, 2003
    Hieromartyr Irenaios, Bishop of Lyons

    Epistle: Romans 15:30-33 Gospel: St. Matthew 17:24-18:4
    [/c]
    [hr]


    Appeal For Prayer: Romans 15:30-33, especially vs. 30: "Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me." St. Paul's appeal for the prayers of the Christians in Rome was deeply earnest. He was not just 'asking' for prayer as a pious formality. The man was about to undertake a venture that would put him at high risk for death and for the unraveling of his whole life's work. He had an aching need for spiritual support. He was 'imploring' his brethren in Rome through that love which the Holy Spirit prompts among the Faithful. Do not our clergy regularly appeal to us to "pray to the Lord?" And they do so with a like earnestness, whether or not all of us realize the import of their bidding. May God illumine us through this passage today so that hereafter we shall pray fervently to Him for "ourselves and each other all our life."
    Hear the Apostle: "...strive together with me...that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe" (vs. 31). St. Paul felt himself "bound in the Spirit" to go to Jerusalem, "not knowing the things that will happen to me there except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me" (Acts 20:22,23). For ten years, since the sudden death of the Jewish king, Herod Agrippa, in the Spring of 44 AD, the Romans had placed Judea under one incompetent Governor after another. As a result, the country was boiling toward a revolt that would come in 66 AD. Assassination of moderates and opponents had become commonplace, and St. Paul rightly understood that he was a likely target (Acts 23:12-13).

    Only let us not relegate the Apostle's appeal to the shelves of interesting history. Rather, let us take heed each time the clergy bid us to pray for "deliverance from all tribulation, wrath, danger, and necessity," that "through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit" (Rom. 15:30), we ought to respond to the deep earnestness they are conveying to us in these words. Let us "strive together" with the Body of Christ "in prayers to God" (vs. 30). Right now we have brethren in churches throughout the world who are in imminent danger of violent death.

    When St. Paul wrote asking, "that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints" (vs. 31), he was referring to a great sum of money he was taking to Judea for the relief of the poor and famine-plagued members of the churches there. He had just stated that he was "going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints" (Rom. 15:25), with donations from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia (Rom. 15:26). Understand, he was taking Gentile money to Jewish Christians at a time when the larger Jewish community had determined not to accept any foreign or Gentile aid for the Temple - out of intense nationalist loyalty to pure Judaism.

    Many first-century Jewish Christians firmly opposed the Apostle's entire ministry to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:4,5). If the gifts he was bringing from Gentile churches were to be rejected, the entire world Christian community might fragment into separate, opposing factions, destroying everything St. Paul had labored for throughout his ministry.

    In the present-day Church, with many who call themselves Christians already separated by schisms and heresies, the same dangers face us. Why do you think the Lord Himself prayed that "we all may be one" (Jn. 17:21)? Beloved of the Lord, let us respond earnestly when we are bidden to pray "for the good estate of the holy churches of God, and for the union of all men."

    As St. Paul desired to come to the Roman Christians by the will of God to "be refreshed together" (Rom. 15:32), so let us pray with heartfelt longing "for the peace from above" that all our brethren in our congregations and around the world may be refreshed in the Lord!

    Lord, we pray for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation and visitation for all Thy servants.
    [hr]

    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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    [c]Sunday, August 24, 2003
    Hieromartyr Eutychios, Disciple of John the Theologian

    Epistle: 1 Corinthians 4:9-16 (Tone 1) Gospel: St. Matthew 17:14-23
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Imitation: 1 Corinthians 4:9-16, especially vs. 16: "Therefore I urge you, imitate me." St. John Chrysostom observed that the Apostle once urged another congregation: "Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children" (Eph. 5:1), whereas to those in Corinth he had only said, "imitate me." St. John concluded that "in this place, since his discourse was addressed to weak persons," he offers himself "as a more subtle way of bringing them to imitate Christ."
    Look closely at what the Apostle means by imitating himself, and it will be clear that the Lord Jesus was St. Paul's model. As St. John Chrysostom noted: "he who copies the perfect impression of the seal copies the original model." St. Paul holds up his self-portrait, revealing a "spectacle to the world" - one who endures material poverty and is free from anger. Although the Apostle is speaking of himself, yet the portrait fits the Lord Jesus perfectly, exactly.

    To imitate is to "follow or endeavor to follow a model or example." In theater productions imitation is used for learning a part. It involves knowing one's cues and the right lines and actions. Further, imitation means becoming emotionally and behaviorally enrolled in the "persona" of the character, including inner feelings as well as outward demeanor. St. Paul actually refers to the theater when speaking of his own life: "We have been made a spectacle to the world" (vs. 9), for, in the original, the word "spectacle" literally means "theater."

    The character which the Apostle prompts the Corinthians to play or imitate is a foolish person, one who is weak, powerless, and dishonored. The Sadducees thought of Christ as a country bumpkin, a foolish and impotent teacher, until they challenged him. The 'problem' they used to test Him was mocking and highly facetious: a woman married seven times, to seven brothers one after another (Mt. 22:23-33). The tale was meant to denigrate Jesus as a teacher and to belittle the idea of resurrection, which they "knew" was 'foolish superstition.'

    St. Matthew observes that when the Lord Jesus answered them, they were "silenced" (Mt. 22:34). Today, Christian belief, and the practice of the Faith are regarded as foolish, weak, and lacking in honor. However, by imitating Christ, when we learn our lines faithfully, we may expect to be treated as fools, and yet we shall see the wise of this world silenced by our imitating Christ.

    To imitate the Apostolic practice of the Faith means shifting energy away from the pursuit of material goods and applying persistent effort in the acquisition of the riches of the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus personally lived in this plain, godly manner. Further, He warned constantly about the spiritually dulling effects of riches and of feasting sumptuously (Lk. 16:19-26).

    St. Paul, imitating the Lord, fully exemplified the expression 'living from hand to mouth.' He worked with his hands at a trade in order to earn his own keep, never taking from the congregations he established or from the people he visited (1 Cor. 4:12). His personal clothing was "poor," and he had no home to call his own (vs. 11). Let us heed the Apostolic invitation to redirect our energies toward heavenly treasures rather than toward acquiring material goods.

    Finally, St. Paul asks us to imitate him in being free from anger. St. John of the Ladder noted that, "Freedom from anger is an insatiable appetite for dishonor...an immovable state of soul which remains unaffected whether in evil report or in good report, in dishonor or in praise." In this he matches the Apostle's "Being reviled, we bless, being persecuted, we endure..." (vss. 12,13), and perfectly describes the humiliated Christ enduring arrogance, "wishing to suffer and to save us, since [He is] the Lover of mankind." Such are the models we are called to imitate.

    O Holy Lord Jesus, grant us grace to take joyfully the sufferings of this present life in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed in those who have sought to imitate Thee.

    [hr]

    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
     
  16. Oblio

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    [c]Monday, August 25, 2003
    The Apostles Titos of the Seventy and Bartholomew

    Epistle: 2 Corinthians 2:4-15 Gospel: St. Matthew 23:13-22
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Pastoral Reflections I ~ Penitential Discipline: 2 Corinthians 2:4-15, especially vs. 6: "This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient...." The weekday readings through this week, except for the Day of the Forerunner's Beheading, are taken from the first major section of Second Corinthians. They contains a series of pastoral reflections by the Apostle on various facets of his relationship with the Corinthian congregation. The readings provide valuable insights into the real life, burdens, and compensations not only of St. Paul, but of all our pastors. In the reading assigned for today, St. Paul discusses the restoration of a penitent to Communion. He provides the basic guidelines for penitential discipline, its purposes, as well as its place in the larger setting of the Gospel.
    St. John Chrysostom, in his comments on this passage, calls attention to the pastoral spirit of St. Paul: "What more tenderly affectioned than this man's spirit is? for he showeth himself to have been not less pained than they who had sinned, but even much more." Let us learn from this that loving affection is the one true foundation upon which all penitential action is meant to be taken in the Church. See how the Apostle reveals loving affection as a pastor. The action of excommunicating an offender caused St. Paul "affliction and anguish of heart" (vs. 4). Further, since other members of the congregation were concerned about the man's exclusion, the Apostle wanted them to know that he cared not only for the offender, but for them all.

    The Orthodox pastor acts in love for the entire Body and for each individual person. Like the Apostle Paul, pastors care for both the flock and the strays. Briefly, a pastor may "leave the ninety and nine, and [go] into the mountains, and [seek] that which is gone astray" (Mt. 18:12), yet as a good shepherd, like our Master, he "putteth forth his own sheep, [and] goeth before them" as a whole flock (Jn. 10:4). Such loving affection stems from the love a pastor himself knows and receives from God: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

    The foundation of loving affection in Christ prepares all Christians to affirm penitential discipline within the Church. The true pastor metes out discipline to evoke sorrow in order to produce correction of life and to effect restoration within the Body of Christ. That purpose surely was demonstrated by St. Paul in this case in the Corinthian community. The inflicted punishment was "sufficient" for the particular penitent (2 Cor. 2:6). The man was sorrowing (vs. 7), and correction was in evidence. Forgiveness by all, comfort, and demonstrated love definitely were meant to follow (vss. 7,8), all of which St. Paul advanced.

    Good pastors in disciplining penitents and communities seek these manifestations of the Gospel: forgiveness, comfort, and healing of relationships. In this case, the Apostle had written an earlier letter to the entire congregation to see whether they were "obedient in all things" (vs. 9), but now it was time to move on and to forgive. They should do so, for the Apostle had "forgiven" for their sakes "in the presence of Christ" (vs. 10), and the restoration was official.

    Having extended his forgiveness under the Lord's authority, St. Paul finally comments about the necessity for loving affection on the part of all "lest Satan should take advantage of us" (vs. 11). The Apostle sets penitential discipline within the larger context of the Gospel message. Sin and death are the goals of the Devil and his minions - as of old. However, let all rejoice when discipline in the Church achieves restoration, for then, with the Lord, we shall behold "Satan as lightning fall from heaven" and see God's love defeat "the power of the enemy" (Lk. 10:18,19).

    O Lord, grant us all an image of repentance, forgiveness, and deliverance from the enemy.

    [hr]

    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
     
  17. Oblio

    Oblio Creed or Chaos

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    [hr]
    [c]Tuesday, August 26, 2003
    Martyrs Adrian and Natalia of Nicomedia

    Epistle: 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:3 Gospel: St. Matthew 23:23-28
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Pastoral Reflections II ~ The Pastoral Relationship: 2 Corinthians 2:14-3:3, especially vss. 3:1, 2: "...Or do we need...epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, and known and read by all men." Anyone who has participated very long in the Church knows that there can be great variety in the character and quality of the relationships between pastors and congregations. In today's reading, as the Apostle Paul reflects on his own pastoral relationship with the church in Corinth, he provides us rich teaching concerning the basis for a pastoral relationship, different ways that the relationships of pastors and congregations are experienced, and what lends true authority to a pastor.
    First, St. Paul gives thanks "to God Who always leads us in triumph in Christ" (vs. 14). The leadership role of a Pastor in a congregation has its source in the authority of the triumphant Christ. The Apostle Peter indicates this when he wrote to a regional scattering of congregations: "ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1 Pet. 2:25). Our Bishops, in appointing Pastors in all local congregations, do so in order to promote the advancement of Christ's victory among His people. At any given time, for a specific congregation, the Bishop will appoint a man he believes capable of leading that particular congregation to share in the triumph of Christ. Many factors may influence the Bishop's choice, but, in the final analysis, his desire is to see Pastors and congregations experience the Lord's victory in their life together as the People of God in a specific place.

    Of course when a pastor comes to a parish, there will be those who experience his ministry as a blessing and those who may not. St. Paul alludes to these varied reactions by using the image of fragrance from incense. Some members may find a pastor's ministry to have an enhancing "aroma," while others may find the same pastoral relationship something of a "stench" (vss. 15,16). The Apostle, however, views such reactions as going beyond mere like and dislike. As he points out, for some a pastor's presence and work gives off the aroma of death, while for others the same ministry works as an aroma that leads them deeper into true life in Christ (vs. 16).

    One might think that this difference of reactions would follow the line between those in the Church and those still outside in the world, but it does not seem always to divide neatly along those lines. We know that there are Pastors who fail, abuse, or even betray their people, and we know of congregations who have failed, abused, and betrayed their Priests. All of this is a sad commentary on the reality of sin, and as the Apostle says earlier in Second Corinthians, Satan has "his devices" (2 Cor. 2:11). Many of those who oppose a Pastor inside the Church disclose their own captivity to death. Let those who find themselves in opposition to their pastor be especially cautious! On the other hand, opposition or attraction to a Pastor by those outside the Church can have many reasons, some of which can lead them to life and to discovering true Orthodox Faith.

    Where does a Pastor's true authority lie? In the Orthodox Church, of course, a Priest does not serve without appointment of the Bishop and chief Pastor, who is the pastor of every local community in his diocese. But the Apostle directs us to another reality alongside ecclesiastical order: the power and authority that flows in a pastoral relationship is from the Holy Spirit. The movement of the Spirit in the heart of an assigning Bishop and in a Priest constitute a spiritual letter to a parish (vs. 3:3). When both "letters" are accepted by the parties to a pastoral relationship, the combination can be "read by all men" (vs. 2).

    O Lord, fill all Thy pastors with the gift of the Holy Spirit that they may worthily stand in innocency before Thine Altar to proclaim the Gospel of Thy kingdom and the word of true Life.

    [hr]

    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
     
  18. Oblio

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    [c]Wed., August 27, 2003
    Caesarios, Bishop of Arles, Confessor Hosios, Bishop of Cordova

    Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:4-11 Gospel: St. Matthew 23:29-39
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Pastoral Reflections III ~ Pastoral Authority: 2 Corinthians 3:4-11, especially vs. 8: "how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?" St. John Chrysostom when referring to his own call to pastoral authority, drew an example from the secular world and expressed strong doubts about his own personal adequacy to bear the authority of a Pastor: "if anyone in charge of a full-sized merchant ship, full of rowers, and laden with a costly freight, were to station me at the helm and bid me cross the Aegean or the Tyrrhene seas, I should recoil from the proposal at once." So far as the priesthood is concerned, St. John admits frankly, "I know my own soul, how feeble and puny it is; I know the magnitude of this ministry, and the great difficulty of the work: for more stormy billows vex the soul of the priest than the gales which disturb the sea."
    St. John's assessment of the priestly ministry is fair. Who is equal to the holy service of God? In today's reading, St. Paul reveals the only possible basis by which any man can reasonably assume pastoral authority. Note, however: what he teaches is pertinent to every Christian, because, being frail human beings, all who share in the life of the Church, ordained and lay alike, are far from equal to the demands which come with membership in the Body of Christ.

    St. Paul fully trusted his authority as an Apostle (vs .4). He knew he was no 'pedlar of the word of God' (2 Cor. 2:17) in need of written "epistles of commendation" (2 Cor. 3:1) to secure his position. As he pointed out to the Corinthians, "you are our epistle...written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God" (2 Cor. 3:2,3). Whence was his confidence? "through Christ toward God" (2 Cor. 3:4). The Lord Himself had confronted Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, brought him to repentance, and given him authority as His Apostle (Acts 9:3-15).

    Every person who unites himself to Christ and then extends love to the undeserving, speaks against fraud or injustice, refuses to lie, cheat or indulge his cravings, is acting on a similar "trust through Christ." Every such act participates in the pastoral work of the Great Shepherd and bears in itself the full authority of God. Such is our powerful yet humble position!

    Despite having received his credentials for ministry directly from the Lord, the Apostle Paul remained modest: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves..." (2 Cor. 3:5). He viewed himself as a mere recipient of the powers of an Apostle. Later in this Epistle, after describing an amazing array of achievements (2 Cor. 11:22-12:4), he says bluntly, "of my self I will not boast except in my infirmities" (2 Cor. 12:5).

    How then could St. Paul function as an Apostle? "...our sufficiency is from God, Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant" (2 Cor. 3:5). In what manner? by the working of the Spirit; "for...the Spirit gives life" (vs. 6). Whenever our Faith is challenged and we are called upon to stand up for the Gospel, we too can anticipate that God will make us sufficient in and through the indwelling presence and action of the life-giving Holy Spirit.

    St. Paul was confident because he knew that his efforts would last. Looking back historically, who can say that he was not absolutely correct? What made him certain in that early period? He suggests: "...if the ministry...written and engraved on stones was glorious....how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?" (vss. 7-8). There is no comparing the earlier, partial revelation of the Mosaic law with the Incarnation of the Lord and His gift of the Spirit. All other ministries are superseded in Christ (vss. 9,10). Christian Faith "is much more glorious," for it endures into all eternity. No cup of water given in the Lord's Name is wasted (Mt. 25:37-40). Let the Faith which we have received give us confidence before God.

    It is meet and right to worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in Essence.

    [hr]

    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
     
  19. Oblio

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    [hr]
    [c]Thursday, August 28, 2003
    The Venerable Moses the Ethiopian

    Epistle: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 Gospel: St. Matthew 24:13-28
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Pastoral Reflections IV ~ Obstacles And Temptations: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, especially vs. 1: "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart." Yesterday we explored St. Paul's reflections concerning pastoral authority and observed that every Christian in the Church commits to sharing in the Lord's work as the Pastor of the world. Christ our God expects ordained and lay persons alike to engage in His ministry.
    Today, the Apostle discusses some common obstacles which could have subverted his ministry or tempted him away from carrying out his service as a Pastor. Let us examine these obstacles and temptations as serious potential difficulties facing each one of us.

    In the opening verse of this portion of the Epistle, St. Paul reveals that ministry and membership in Christ are intertwined, a fact that encouraged him (vs. 1). The same should be true for all the Faithful, for to become a Christian is to receive the mercy of God and a share in the Lord's pastoral work. Awakening to membership in Christ, we are caused to repent because of the Lord's great mercy. In the exchange between man and God, man's heart awakens as it receives cleansing and healing. Cleansing is followed by consciousness of a God-given mandate to extend the mercy which one has received. Thus ministry is born, and caring and sharing come alive. The needs of others are perceived in a new light. Let us heed St. Paul's experience: "If God can love this most sinful man, then He loves all men, and so must I" (see vs. 2).

    Beloved of the Lord, let us love others. God's mercy is fuel; let it ignite our love for the unlovable, extend our care to the hateful, teach us to give when being used and to "go the second mile" (Mt. 5:41). God's mercy makes such actions possible, helps us not to waver nor to become discouraged by abuse, but to allow Christ's pastoral ministry to shine through us.

    The primary obstacles to the pastoral ministry are the temptation to serve one's self first and to resign to weariness and indifference. The call of the Lord is a call to struggle, to act as a Christian. Therefore, let us determine to say with St. Paul, "we do not lose heart!"

    Think again of the mercy we have received. It leads the Faithful to renounce "the hidden things of shame" (2 Cor. 4:2). All adults who receive Baptism, Chrismation and the Holy Gifts, begin with confession. For those of us who grow up in the Faith, the need for confession comes more often as we mature. When the Apostle received God's mercy, he walked no more "in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but, by manifestation of the truth" (vs. 2). Thereafter, he commended himself as an living example of what Christ can accomplish in anyone. Of course there are temptations to fall back into sinful ways, "As when a dog goes to his own vomit, and becomes abominable" (Prov. 26:11). St. Mark the Ascetic calls this "prepossession," the potential to be occupied mentally again by that which held us previously. There is an involuntary dimension to prepossession since former sins continue in our memory. However, as we seek to serve in the Lord's pastoral work, it is essential to resist temptation - even the temptation to think about sins we have confessed - for return to sin can gravely mar our care for others.

    There are other obstacles to pastoral ministry, principally the spiritual blindness of others. Darkness is everywhere, for the "god of this age has blinded" many minds and hearts (2 Cor. 4:4). As the Apostle commends himself "to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (vs. 2), he becomes a shining light. Let us also commend ourselves to others, for when Light is present there is no darkness: "God...commanded light to shine out of darkness...in the face of Jesus Christ" (vs. 6). The Spirit Who dwells in us shines in our hearts to reveal God's mercy to others.

    O Christ, let Thy light shine within us that all may see Thee in us, Thine earthen vessels.

    [hr]

    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
     
  20. Oblio

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    [hr]
    [c]
    Friday, August 29, 2003
    The Beheading of John the Forerunner and Baptist

    Epistle: Acts 13:25-33 Strict Fast Gospel: St. Matthew 6:14-30
    [/c]

    [hr]

    Eternally Begotten: Acts 13:25-33, especially vs. 33: "God has fulfilled this [the sending of a Savior] for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee.'" The third kathisma of the Orthros of this Feast addresses the worthy Forerunner John thus: "Thou of everlasting memory...didst declare the splendor-bearing Sun shining forth, preaching the Creator to the people in the wilderness, the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world...." Here is a liturgical acclamation which acknowledges what God accomplished at the hand of the Baptizer and explains why the Church addresses John as the great "Prophet of Prophets."
    The Forerunner was the first person to announce the breaking dawn of history's greatest season - the days of the promised One, the Savior of Israel (Acts 13:23). St. John recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the One, "the sandals of Whose feet I am not worthy to loose," and as the "Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world" (vs. 25; Jn. 1:29). Further, the Blessed John was the first to witness the initial manifestation of the Trinity (vs. 33; Mt. 3:17; Jn. 1:32-34), a theophany that occurred at the Lord's Baptism and at St. John's hand - for the voice of the Father declared Jesus to be His beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.

    The Lord God carefully prepared the way for the Incarnation of the Word among men. For centuries, He raised up Prophets who offered glimpses of the coming great King. They foretold the coming of One Who would rule all the nations, Who would reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, Who would establish and uphold God's Kingdom in justice and righteousness forever (Is. 9:7), upon Whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest (Is. 11:2).

    The revelation concerning the Person of Christ steadily expanded, beginning from the earliest prophets until the days of the Baptizer. Further, the Lord Himself revealed to His disciples and all who would receive His words that "no man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, Which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (Jn. 1:18). Further, Jesus declared the essential unity between Himself and God the Father: "I and My Father are One" (Jn. 10:30). In three years of preparation, Jesus' disciples heard, saw, and handled "the Word of life," and then they declared, "we have seen [Him], and bear witness, and shew...that eternal life, which was with the Father...was manifested unto us" (1 Jn. 1:1,2).

    After the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, the Apostles sought to convey everywhere the Truth Whom they knew personally - God Himself Who had visited His people (Lk. 1:68). To communicate the Truth, they called the Lord Jesus by special names to express His unity with the Father: God's Beloved Son (Lk. 3:22), the only Begotten of the Father (Jn. 1:14), God's own Son (Rom. 8: 3,32), or as St. Paul preached when he quoted from the Prophet David, "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee" (Psalm 2:7 LXX).

    Through subsequent centuries, the Fathers of the Church, to defend the Apostolic message one phrase at a time, found precise language to refute all misinterpretations of the term "Begotten." Against certain early gnostic teachers, who theorized that Jesus was God only in the guise of a man but not a genuine flesh-and-blood person, the Fathers declared that He was "Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father." The Church, with the Apostles, understands that the "Begetting" of God the Word occurs eternally from the Father, and that there never was a time when He was not, since He was "Begotten before all worlds."

    From the Fatherly bosom Thou art inseparable, O sweet Jesus, Thou eternally-Begotten Son of God, and Deliverer of the world; Send Thy comforting Spirit to sanctify our souls.


    [hr]

    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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