OrthoAnalytika

Christ sent his disciples out to heal.  Today (7/14) we celebrate Sts. Cosmos and Damion, the Unmercenary Healers.  In this homily, Fr. Anthony reminds us that is our calling - not just that of clergy and medical professionals - to heal the brokenness of those around us.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-HowtoHealinChrist.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

This Liturgy was celebrated in Waynesville, NC as an outreach of St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown, PA and in anticipation of the mission (Holy Resurrection) that is scheduled to begin services in Waynesville on 18 August 2019.  The audio of the homily is not all that great (it was a small room, so Fr. Anthony kept his voice down as was a distance from the microphone, so we supplemented it with some of the music from the service.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-VisionforWaynesville.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Acts 2:1-11; John 7:37-52; 8:12.

God is love; the Father is love when He creates us and the world we are called to serve; the Son is love when He sacrifices Himself for our salvation; the Holy Spirit is love when He comforts, sustains, and strengthens us so that we can live in imitation of and in participation with them in this unifying love.

In our tradition, Pentecost is also known as Trinity Sunday, and it is important that we celebrate not just the coming of the Holy Spirit, but the way that all three persons of the Holy Trinity act out of one will, one essence, one “love” if you will. It is this love, variously referred to as grace or energy or gifts or living water, that allows us to grow beyond our fallen nature and selfishness and become vessels of that grace so that can unify ourselves with and in it and then share it with others. We acquire that grace not for ourselves only – for selfishness and the hoarding of love separates us from its source – but rather so that we can share it with others and draw them into this same transformation; the transformation of fallen and separated humanity, divided by passions and greed, into the family of God, the Christian nation, people who have become one in love as God is One in love. Not losing our individuality, but with all our blessed gifts directed efficiently towards their proper purposes.

Looking at the Epistle reading for today, it is worth asking what languages have to do with any of this. In general, a common language represents the healing of Babel.

But what is that language? Is it Hebrew? English? Binary code? Enochian? None of these are good enough. It isn't about the language, it is about the unity it allows. The pre-Babel language united the people, but it did not make them holy. That is the whole point: their unity was evil so God divided them so that the would have to work their evil separately, thus limited the damage it could do.

But there is something more we can learn from the focus on language and the ability of the Apostles to speak in ways that their hearers could understand.

Understanding is more than grammar. It's more than vocabulary. It's even more than learning the stories of the people who speak it. Understanding requires quieting our own minds and learning to hear the things people say. Listening is hard thing, it requires incredible humility. Without that, we hear only enough to manipulate, to demonize, to justify, to argue; but never enough to really know. Never enough to really love.

And this is why the Holy Spirit is tied into this process. We acquire the Holy Spirit when we empty ourselves of our passions and completely give our lives over to knowing and loving the other. And when we do that, we are able to communicate – commune! - with them at the deepest level.

In that love, we can share the source of love. This is what the apostles did at Pentecost. And because grace motivated and sustained their efforts, they were able to share the most important thing of all to the people around them: the Gospel. The words of transformation. The words of redemption. The words of love.

And when they heard it – when they were loved and drawn into its source, they separated themselves form all the things in their lives that were not good and holy, and joined themselves to the new humanity – the family of God (also known as the Church) – through through Baptism and the Holy Eucharist (the mysteries of union!).

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

It is hard to really listen. It is hard to really know someone else. It is so hard to love. One day, it will come naturally, through the grace of God.

But for now, we have some rules to guide us, most especially, the golden rule; “love your neighbor as yourself”. When we recognize that this call to imagine ourselves as not just our neighbor, but our enemies as well, and then treat them the way we want to be treated, then we have a guide to behavior that will allow us to live the life of love as we are being perfected by God's grace through the mysteries of repentance, and Eucharist.

 

May God strengthen us as we learn to love through the grace of God.

Direct download: Homily-Pentecost_and_the_Unifying_Language.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of the Man Born Blind
Acts 16:16:34
John 9:1-38

I strongly encourage you to spend time studying scripture. Not just reading it; it's not like a novel that is easy to follow or a textbook that lays everything out and then footnotes the hard stuff; it requires effort. And part of the effort is asking questions. We've talked about this before: the Bible, like Orthodoxy and everything else worthwhile, can handle scrutiny. Asking questions - not out of a desire to attack or discredit, but out of a desire to understand and even test – is the way our rational mind learns. Our subconscious mind learns through the repetition of ritual and story, but the rational part of our mind learns best from active and continuous dialogue. And here at St. Mary's we are creating a culture of safe, loving, and productive dialogue; so that we can fulfill the desire of God “that all be saved and come to the knowledge of God.”

I love this Gospel, because one of the obvious questions is asked straightaway; “why was this man born blind, is it because of his sin or his parents?”

Awesome. And our great teacher gives the answer, and he does it by stepping outside of their worldview and shifting it from sin to the power of God. It's a beautiful thing.

But there are other questions that come up to. And one of the most pressing and most obvious is; “if God has that power, and he used it on this random blind guy, why didn't he use it on …; why doesn't he use it on ….” And so on.

These are great questions. They are questions motivated by hearts that are broken with grief and a desire to bring comfort to people who are hurt and suffering.

There is an answer, but in order to give it, I need to come at it sideways, with a parable.

Why a parable? … Why make one up?

From our own experiences: the melt down on aisle four.

Parable:

Hungry child. Knows what is required to end that hunger. Demands that the parent end the hunger. Now. There is food in the shopping cart; it is there so that dinner can be made. No; the demand is more insistent. In a toddler, it takes on the form of the melt-down. But what if the toddler had words? What would they look like? Love! Where is the love? A child in need! Feed the child! If you love, you must feed the child!

Some in the store may even support this: “please feed the child!!!”

But what happens if the parent gives in to the tantrum?



Greater long term success and and satisfaction is found in learning about self-control and deferred gratification (not to mention the fact that bad behavior has negative consequences) than in satisfying cravings and hunger pain as soon at they show up.

The good parent will soldier on, make dinner with the child (or while he sits in time out watching it being made), and then be reminded – at dinner – about the regular cycles of the household rhythm. Eventually, when the child is hungry, he will not need to be reminded that dinner will come, that the love of the parent is real and that she really will take care of the child. It will all be automatic. The refusal to disrupt the plan and rhythm of the good household around the short-term desires of the child will be understood as necessary, or at least, acceptable.

The parable isn't perfect, but it provides a good start to understanding why good healed this blind man, but doesn't answer every request immediately and in the way we demand. Even when we insist that love requires such a response.

God healed the blind man for the same reason he accomplished all of his miraculous healings: so that we would know that we could trust Him that dinner really would be shared with all who desired to eat once it was actually time for that dinner to be held.

God has healed our diseases; God has granted us all immortal life.

Right now, we're in Aisle Four and hungry; we seem a long way from home and forever away from dinner time.

That doesn't give us license for us to have a melt-down on aisle four.

But if we do melt-down, remember that God is our good parent. He is patient. He won't love us any less, but life will go much easier for us – and all the other shoppers in aisle four and throughout the store – if we learn the value of self-control and defered gratification.

Christ is Risen, He is ascended into glory, and we will join Him there when it is time.

Direct download: Homily-BlindMan2019.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman; St. John 4:5-42.  What are we to learn about water that is more than water and the secret food that sustained Jesus?  Listen and find out!

Direct download: Homily-20190526.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:58pm EDT

St. John 5:1-15; Acts 9:32-42.  Three lessons: A Life lesson from St. John Chrysostom: We must persevere, even when there is no clear solution.  A moral lesson from St. Augustine: There is a time for being cared for and healed, but there is also a time for healing others. A theological lesson from St. John Chrysostom: God set it up this strange way to prepare us to understand the real healing that would come through baptism.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-ParalyticSunday2019.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:10pm EDT

Homily on Belief
St. John 20:19-31

Does God hate doubt? Did he shame doubters? No, He had a different approach.

He wants us to know the truth; but this is MUCH less about facts than it is about us knowing Him as the God. In St. John 14:6, He says “I am the Truth...”

He does not want us to remain in doubt about Him, His power, or His redeeming love for us. He wants us to believe in Him. Again, in John (11:26), He describes how important this belief is: it is the only way to have real life. But He is patient and will draw the earnest seeker into belief.

But what does it mean to believe in someone? It means that you can trust that person, trust their intentions, and trust their power to do what it is they are saying they will do.

In a healthy marriage, a husband believes in his wife and the wife believes in her husband. In a healthy home, children grow up believing in their parents; they trust them, their intentions, and their power.

When that belief is gone, no actions are going to be able to save the relationship. A spouse that is convinced their partner is going to find evidence – even if the mind has to make it up – to support that. And so the whole dynamic changes; without belief their can be no connection; no blessed unity; no harmony; no “life”.

Christ is worthy of our Trust. His intentions towards us are clear: He loves us and desires us to have eternal joy with Him and each other. His power to do what He has promised is similarly clear: He has risen from the dead. And He has given us reminders of all this: we share in His Body and Blood in part to keep the reality of His promise alive in us. To help us drive away the doubt.

You have united yourself to Christ. You believe in His love and you have accepted that love. You believe in His power and you have accepted that power.

The mind will still come up with doubts; but that is what the mind does. It comes up with ideas. Over time, as we learn to really trust Him, these doubt will trouble us less. But in the meantime, don't be afraid of your doubts. As in any good relationship, bring them out into the open. This is the safe place to do that; not here during worship, but here in this community. I guarantee you that you won't be the first to express the ideas your mind has come up with; incredibly intelligent and well-educated people and experienced people have thought those thoughts.

If those thoughts were generated out of love and a genuine desire to know, then working out the answers here in God's presence will be a holy act. History shows this without exception. The answers may be hard to hear, but being good isn't always easy.

History also shows that if we use questions out of malice or a desire to mock God or His children, that we will learn nothing from our dialogue with Him. But malice is a poison; the only way to cure it is by pulling out the poison. Facts don't help at all.

One last note about doubt. When you believe, do it gently, patiently, and with love as you share it with others. God did not mind people who came to Him with questions because He knew the connection of honest dialogue would bring them into a relationship – that is to say, a belief – in Him.

But He had no patience with people who believed so strongly in the wrong things that they hurt others for it, especially when they did this in His name. (Pharisees)

So believe in Christ; believe in His love for you, and His power to bring you into the only life worth living.

Direct download: Homily-StThomasSunday2019.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Lamentations/Praises from the Matins service of Holy Saturday.  Rdr. Nicholas Perkins sang the verses; Fr. Anthony Perkins (his father) sang the Psalm verses.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Holy_Saturday_Lamentations.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Palm Sunday Homily.  

Where do we get our spiritual strength? What is the source?  Is our spiritual health fragile and dependent on the circumstances, or is it robust?

Do the events and people in our lives “damage our calm”, or do we have the kind of “peace that passes all understanding” guarding our hearts?

The default setting is for our calm to be defined by the state of our ego; our pride.

  • When we feel insulted or taken for granted, our peace is threatened and our joy diminishes.

  • When people show appreciation for us, or praise us, we feel serenity and our joy abounds.

This really is a litmus test for our spiritual maturity: how do we respond to insults and a lack of appreciation; and how do we respond to praise.

If deepest state of being is offset by these things, then we have work to do.

The easy way: surround ourselves with the right kind of people! (safe places?)

A bit harder: mental games. Learn to write off or ignore criticism and look for positive things to cling to. This can include using theological ideas: “If God be for me, then who can be against me”; “I am a child of God; it's not my fault if these sinners don't see that.” Also games for praise.  Another way is to just check out - lots of ways to protect our ego.

But learning to hear criticism and praise objectively (and not through the needs of our ego) is necessary for our improvement!

God wants to have joy, and to have that joy in abundance; irrespective of our situation.

The God-man Jesus Christ demonstrated this in the events we are now celebrating:

  • Praise: Palm Sunday

  • Criticism: His Trial and Passion.

In neither case was He altered by them. His emotions were affected, but His sense of self and His sense of purpose was unchanged. Because He was never separated Himself from the Light and Truth that are themselves unchanging.

AND THAT IS THE ANSWER FOR US TO. To have Christ in us and us in Him; because no matter how much we work on them and no matter how we change our environment to make it easier for us to be content and happy, there is one even that our ego's can NEVER be strong enough to overcome...

Death. It faces us all. It faced Jesus. But He overcame it and through Him we can overcome it, too.

But only if we rely on Him and not our egos. And we can test how we are doing by looking at how our joy is affected by criticism and praise.

May God give us the courage to live in Him and Him in us so that we may overcome death and sin.

Direct download: Homily-PalmSunday2019.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:45pm EDT

St. Mark 10:32-45.  In this homily, Fr. Anthony shared three lessons from the life of St. Mary: the distinction between worldly happiness and an anti-fragile joy; how our sin alienates us from knowing and loving God and neighbor; and the difficult need to trust God with our transformation into divine children through and in His grace.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-TheWitnessofStMaryofEgypt.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross.

Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

Christ is talking as if “coming after” or “following” Him is something good. What is that all about? Where is He going? Where is He leading us?

Christ talks about “denying” ourselves. In the next verse He ties that to being willing to die.

This sounds important. We need to get it right.

Great lie: all religions are the same – but the devil himself can appear as an angel of light! (2 Corinthians 11:14).

  • Don't think that just having faith in SOMETHING is enough.

  • Why in the world are there so many warnings in the Bible about idolatry?

  • Some people focus on sexual sin, but even that is used as a metaphor for worshipping false gods (one is bad, but the other is worse; just as marriage is good but union with God in the Church is even better).

We need to get this cross thing right.

Is it just about perseverance? Everyone has their own cross to bear? Kind of, but even that needs to be grounded. We aren't just stoics, we are stoics of a certain type.

What is the cross? Pain. But just any pain?

Look to the prototype: we are Christians, and He is our standard. His cross was painful, but it was pain put to a certain use. It was sacrificial. He gave Himself as a sacrifice. All sacrifice is of something valuable, something hard. Pain is like that.

The cross was Christ's sacrifice on behalf of the people and world that He loved.

This gives us enough to work on: taking up our cross means doing things that are hard on behalf of others. It means denying what we might prefer so that others can thrive.

For Christ, that meant leaving the place where He was given the glory and honor that was His due to go live in a place where He would be disrespected, misunderstood, and even tortured; and He did it so that we – the ones He loves – could join Him in eternal glory.

When we voluntarily sacrifice our time, putting up with people who may misunderstand us, who may not value us, and who may never really appreciate what we are doing; and we do it out of a desire for their health and salvation...

Then we are taking up our cross and following Christ into glory.

So be patient when your ego tells you to lash out; be courageous when your instincts tell you to hide; figure out what love requires in each moment – and then dedicate yourself to it. THAT requires listening to the needs of the moment.

That is the cup that our Lord accepted in the Garden of Gethsemene that led to the salvation of the world – and drinking of that cup unites us to Him through His passion on the Cross into everlasting life with all the saints.

Direct download: Homily-TheCrossisSacrificingforOthers.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas

Notes:

So, when the saints contemplate this divine light within themselves, seeing it by the divinising communion of the Spirit, through the mysterious visitation of perfecting illuminations—then they behold the garment of their deification, their mind being glorified and filled by the grace of the Word, beautiful beyond measure in His splendour; just as the divinity of the Word on the mountain glorified with divine light the body conjoined to it. For “the glory which the Father gave Him”, He Himself has given to those obedient to Him, as the Gospel says, and “He willed that they should be with Him and contemplate His glory” (John 17:22,24). St. Gregory Palamas, The Triads, I, iii, 5.

 

The problem with words.

  • We need them, but...

The problem with words about God.

  • We need them, but...

  • Even the best words about God (scripture, prayer, Creed)

    • Always about us, wanting something, looking for answers to specific questions, challenging

    • This is like listening to someone only so you can figure out how to argue with them, or manipulate them, or figure out how much they can be trusted.

Go in and meet God as He really is

  • Not the puppet we have created (from last week) with our words

  • “Do you not know that you are the temple of God”; 1 Corinthians 3:16.

  • Our heart – that is to say, the best and most central part of our mind – is the altar, the place where God means to live and where we can go to meet Him.

  • Actually meet HIM, not our image of Him.

  • But the only way to see and know Him and the way to experience His grace is to let go of the wall of words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments that we build between us

    • I mean, it would be very strange for God to give us a place where we could meet Him, and then for us to build a wall to keep us from Him (like an iconostas with no doors!).

  • St. Gregory knew that it was possible to experience the grace of God when He went in silence into the Altar of His Mind. He knew this because this is described in Scripture, it is taught by the Church, and because just his thing was a regular part of his life. It took years of training to strip away the wall of words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments so that he could do it, but through constant effort and an apprenticeship with a good elder monk, he was able to do it.

  • This experience is available to us as well. Just as the grace of God comes so that we can be blessed by the sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, the Eucharist and so on; so too can we be blessed by the silent prayer in the presence of God.

Go out and meet our neighbor

 

There is another way that is related to the way of silence, and that is the way of service. Whenever we serve someone, we are serving Christ. Whenever we gather in His name – and this includes anything we do in the name of sacrificial Love – He is there. Christ God Himself told us this.

Here, the way of meeting is different, but the same discipline is required. We talked about this some last week; about how we need to transform the absurd theater of our mind – populated by terrible caricatures of our enemies and ridiculously over-wrought images of ourselves and our friends – and turn it into a fitting temple; adorned by icons that show the people in our lives in the light of Christ rather than in the light of our own biases and brokenness.

Note how much this picture of our mind fits with what we do here: we have this Church, a place designed for us to meet God – and we have it adorned with the images of men and women, and these images are intentionally done in a way that shows the way God loves and blesses them. We don't portray them in their sin, nor to we overdo or romanticize their beauty – it's not about them, it's about the Christ in them. Our minds can be the same. We go there to meet God and we bring the images of our loved ones – both friends and enemies – into His presence so that they can shine in His love.

And surely this is an act of love on our behalf. But if we really love our neighbor, this can only be part of the way we serve him. Just as we have to go out of this temple to take the Gospel to the world, so to do we have to take the love that we experience in the temple of our heart and mind to the people in our lives.

But remember how St. Gregory spent years tearing down the words and ideas and requests and demands and disappointments that were the bricks in the wall keeping Him from seeing and meeting God as He really was in the altar of the temple of our mind?

We have to do the same thing so that we can see and love the people in our lives as they really are. Even the best words we use to describe them; “wife”, “husband”, “son”, “daughter”, “father”, “mother”, and “friend” carry so much baggage and extra accumulated meaning and emotion that they distract us from the truth of the child of God before our eyes.

And so, just as we work to approach God in simplicity and awe and reverence; without words, and without judgment and without wanting anything but all that He is waiting and willing to give; let us do the same for our neighbor. And then the grace will transform us into holy images of His glory.

Direct download: Homily-HesychasmandLove.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Turning the Absurd Theater of our Mind into a Temple of God
Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy

Triumph of Orthodoxy. Yay Church (back from oppression)! Yay Theology (protected from heresy)! It's good, but to what end? They allow us to experience the love of God – and through it the salvation of our souls – in its purest form. Undiluted by lies and corruption.

We don't accept lies when it comes to the food we eat or the medicine we take. If a company put a good label on bad food or medicine, we would be outraged; whether they did it out of greed or ignorance. Why? Because we value our health AND because we value the truth. Everything breaks down once everyone gets to have their own version of truth. The wrong labels get put on things and we lose sight that there is even a reality to be known. When this happens, we cannot tell good from bad, right from wrong, healthy from disease, food from rubbish, medicine from snake oil. We fall prey to the chaos of our divisions.

The Irish poet Yeats nailed it when he wrote in his poem “The Second Coming”; “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”

The Sunday of Orthodoxy is a celebration of the bulwark against that anarchy: there is a Truth; there is a Unity, there is sanity and goodness in the world. We celebrate the victory of the Church because it is there to restore the pattern of love and unity; we celebrate the victory of Orthodox theology because it describes that pattern – it tells us The Way that the source of all goodness and health and power can work within our lives to bring healing and salvation.

The Truth is one as God is One; The Truth is One as He desires us to be One. This Truth has a label. That label is the Gospel. That label is Holy Orthodoxy.

But what does that all mean for us? We can mouth the words of perfect theology, we can surround ourselves with the images of perfect iconography, but how does that help us to live? How does it help us work out our salvation with fear and trembling? (Philippians 2:12) How does it help us to love God and our neighbor as ourselves? How does it help our bodies and souls become temples of the Living God, with His grace perfecting and enlivening us?

It comes down to love – for without that, even the best theology and best iconography is noise and corruption, but in order to love, there is some work to be done. Today I want to continue on the theme of discernment, using today's theme of iconography to help us.

The Absurd Theater of our Mind.

The relationship between what goes on in our minds and the actual state of the world is a bit dodgy.

This is true when it comes to the puppets of our neighbors that populate the theater of our mind. Think about how we create the images of people. Get data. Add data. But we don't do it well. It's always filtered and shaped by the story we are telling ourselves.

Over time, the play that goes on in our mind ends up bearing little resemblance to what is really going on. We end up hating and loving images, not the people they are supposed to represent. This is true even of the people that are closest to us. It's like in the art world: we often learn more about the artist than we do about the thing being portrayed. But it isn't even a good way to understand the artist, because the image he has of himself – that is shaping the image he is painting – is also distorted.

We cannot love others if we cannot know them. We cannot love ourselves if we do not know ourselves.

The practice of iconography: everything in the light of Christ. We have icons of Christ because God became human and we can paint him as the perfect human. We have icons of saints because they have been transformed in Christ. Love became man in Jesus Christ; and now love becomes in incarnate in all the saints.

We restore Truth and sanity to the theater of our mind when we paint the icons of our neighbor using the light of love. This requires charity. It requires patience. It requires continually adjusting the lines and the colors through forgiveness and humility.

When we retouch the image of ourselves so that they better match reality – and through this participate in our transformation from broken creatures into sons and daughters of God - we call it repentance. We repaint repainting the image of ourselves in our mind and the way we project ourselves in the world so that the reality, light, and love of Christ shines through us.

Matthew 6:22-23. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, our whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

When we continually improve the images in our minds according to the light of Christ and away from the chaos of our pride and brokenness, we transform our minds from a theater of the absurd into a temple of God, adorned with icons of His beloved children rather than puppets of our own madness.

The celebration of the triumph of Orthodoxy is a celebration of just this thing. And this is something we can all proclaim with gladness.

Direct download: Homily-TheaterofourMind.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:58pm EDT

he 2019 Great Lent Epistle of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine

To the God-beloved Pastors, Monastics, and all Faithful Children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora and Ukraine,

Beloved in the Lord: CHRIST IS AMONG US!

The Holy and Sacred Season of Great Lent is upon us! Each year, the Church offers us the Lenten season as a time of repentance and renewal. As for us, Orthodox Christians, the contemplation on this beautiful season of the Church year is a cause for much of spiritual joy!

There is real confusion in today’s world about the meaning of joy. Like happiness, joy is often seen as something that we can physically buy. We may be able to buy something that brings temporary pleasure: but we cannot buy joy. They must not be confused. Joy is a free gift from God.

This surreal and joyful season of Great Lent is an opportunity to be graced afresh by contemplating the presence of Christ in our lives. All our efforts to evangelize in our new millennium here in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in North America, Western Europe, Australia, South America and throughout Diaspora would be fruitless unless we ourselves have first contemplated on the presence of Christ in our relationship with the world around us. It is the presence of the One who has suffered, died and risen from the dead out of love for us. To be so loved by the God of love in the midst of all our sinfulness and human limitations, indeed, is a joyful experience. This is surely the starting point for the Lenten season and the key point in our reflection upon our path to salvation. It is all summarized in one word: conversion.

It resonates with a deep yearning and recognition within us. As we make our first prostrations, we are reminded of our own sinfulness.  Throughout the next 40 days we are called to repent and believe the Good News: God loves us. He sent His Beloved Son to suffer and die for us. He has risen from the dead and shares his new life with us. This is the heart of the Gospel. Lent refocuses our attention on this message of salvation, this good news through our ability to recognize and consider our identity as children of God.

Searching for our identity is part of life. We identify our “self” as a family member, spouse, sibling, clergyman, carpenter, farmer, doctor, entertainer or clerk. We also identify ourselves as Orthodox Christians, or as members of a parish. Identity involves discovering who we are as persons and what our role is by answering these questions: who am I, and why am I here? Growth in the awareness of our Christian identity is a lifelong process that shifts as we change. It is rooted in our Baptism, where we are transformed into our true identity as sons and daughters of the God. Holy Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians (“You should put away the old self of your former way of life . . . and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph 4:22, 24), challenges us to put away our former life and put on a new self. In other words, he tells us to turn from sinful ways and take on our new life in Christ. In so doing, we become one with Christ, where we find our true identity. We accept this challenge during the Great Lent, as we journey with Christ through life’s difficulties to eternal life.

In the Church’s Tradition the season of Great and Holy Lent has always been accompanied by the Lenten efforts of prayer, fasting and acts of charity. We know that parishes will be providing many extra opportunities for prayer over the days of Lenten journey. We call upon you to greater attendance at liturgical services of the season. We hope that the participation in the Holy Mystery of Repentance over this time will be a real priority in your lives and in all parishes. We hope that the prayers of the Church will offer people an invitation to be touched, healed, forgiven, comforted and strengthened by our Lord. Also, at home we recommend a closer attention to times of prayer and fasting and moments of genuine devotion in family life.  

Secondly, our journey through Lent and preparation to more fitting celebration of Pascha – the Resurrection of our Lord - includes “willing service to our neighbor”. All Christian true conversion starts in the heart but never stays there. True spiritual conversion always seeks out acts of charity to give practical help to our neighbor in need. This is a vital aspect of who we are as children of God. 

We also encourage practical gestures of prayerful compassion to children. In this Lenten period, we must remember that our children are so often victims of human selfishness in today’s world and deserve special attention.During this Lent, perhaps we could find ways in our neighborhoods to share something of the importance of Christ Jesus to those who do not believe in Him. Such efforts can start so simply: with a kind word and gentle smile in His Name.

As we embark upon this Lenten journey, it is the time to renew ourselves as Orthodox Christians. Upon baptism we assumed the obligation of sharing the Good News of Christ with others, of defending the Holy Orthodox faith from persecution and of living a Christ-centered life of love for others. This six-week journey entails striving for humility and contrition before God in our repentance, seeking mutual forgiveness from others and contemplating our renewal in our prayers. Let us open our hearts to let in that, which is eternal, that which is Truth and not be blinded by the temporal world around us. Where there is light there is hope. Through His life and suffering for our salvation, we gain renewed hope in the light of Christ’s glorious victory over death and in eternal life. 

May our All-Merciful and Almighty Lord assist us on our journey through this Great Fast with humility and reverence so that we may be worthy to greet the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

With Hierarchical Blessings,

† YURIJ, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

† ANTONY, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and in the Diaspora

† JEREMIAH, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Brazil and South America

† DANIEL, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Western Europe

† ILARION, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

†ANDRIY, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Direct download: Homily-UOC-USA-Lenten_Epistle_.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

March's "Spiritually Speaking" was on how we, as Orthodox Christians - called to be God's imagers in the world - can solve the problems of the world and end its pain.  In this talk, Fr. Anthony looks at three strategies Christians use: the cultural warrior, the virtuous warrior, and the relationship builder.  Enjoy the talk!

Direct download: SS-FixingtheWorld.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:44pm EDT

Homily on the Sunday of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).  How do we miss seeing the need of the people around us?  How do we not respond to them with love?  It's tragic.  But in Christ we CAN see them and we CAN respond to their need... with the One Thing Needful.  [Want to know what a homily given right after a 12 hour (overnight) shift as part of the Trauma Team at the local hospital?  This is it..]

Direct download: Homily-HowCouldWeNotSeeThemandtheirNeed.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:30am EDT

Class covers Tito Colliander’s Way of the Ascetics, chapter 6.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-WayofAscetics02.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of the Prodigal Son
St. Luke 15:11-32

We are called to live a life of love; to bring healing, reconciliation, and harmonious joy to the world. This is the goal of every good person, and the reason we gather here every Sunday.

So why is it that the world is still broken? Even harder, why do we – who are committed to this way of life – still find our own lives so troubling and chaotic; often devoid of the peace we crave?

We are devoted to Christ, to His Gospel of light and love; why do we not enjoy the resilient joy that God promised to us, His children? We can understand why the people outside these doors are troubled by chaos, but us? We are not like them. They do not go to Church the way we do, they do not honor marriage the way we do, they do not work hard the way we do. They bring the chaos into their lives through the bad choices they make; but us? We have chosen a different way.

Oops.

Yes, that is right, as we discussed last week: we are the Pharisee. Because we have grown up with the parable of the Publican and Pharisee, we often dress our self-righteous piety up in the clothes of the Publican (“Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!”, we say as we wear our long phylacteries - I mean prayer ropes - so everyone can note our holiness). And when we reject the accusation that we are Pharisees (“I am not like them; I do this, I do that”!), we are sincere; we are not acting.

Our egos are protesting in earnest, defending us from the kind of painful introspection and sacrifice that is required for true repentance. Unfortunately, that same painful introspection, hard work, and repentance have to happen in order for the grace of God to stay with us, to bring us lasting peace, and to allow us to bring that peace to others.

Until then, even our words of peace are just more weapons that cause damage to those around us; they are clanging gongs that bring even more noise and spiritual pollution to a world that is already so heavy with it.

Last week, the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee challenged us to look at all our actions and reactions so that we can begin to see the way we are the Pharisee. I challenged us to look at how our egos work to blind us to the truth about ourselves. Today I encourage us to continue that work, but I want to add another discipline: to notice how our pride (our brokenness) blinds us to the truth about the people around us. The people we are called to serve. The people we are called to love and harmonize with.

Last week, the Pharisee's pride allowed him only to focus on the Publican's profession and miss the most important part of his constitution – his humility – and what was going on in his life – he was in the midst of such a profound change that he left “justified” and open to God's grace. How could he miss that? The same way we miss such things every moment of every day. And as a result, we are closed off to really enjoying – much less spreading – God's grace.

This week we have the same lesson; the Older Brother could only see his brother – the brother being saved! - through his own self-righteousness, for what it meant to him.

We are the Pharisee in last week's Gospel. We are the Older Brother in today's.

We aren't alone. This parable is part of a series of lessons Jesus gave after he heard the people of his day complaining that; He – Jesus Christ; “receives sinners and eats with them.” Looking back, we find it hard to believe that these people would be so selfish that they would not want God – or anyone who claimed to act in His name - to bring His love to people who they knew darn well did not deserve it.

We see that and, knowing that we are the ones He came to eat with, thank Him for sharing His meal with us. We see the grumbling of the scribes and Pharisees for what it is; self-satisfying judgment designed to prop up their own sense of holiness. Lord have mercy, how could they be so blind? Thank you, Jesus, that we are not like them!

Oh wait. We've done it again.

Christ used to parables of searching out and finding the lost sheep and the lost coin; as well as the parables of the Publican and the Pharisee and the parable of the Prodigal Son to teach the Scribes and Pharisees to see the people they were complaining about with new eyes and to see – and celebrated and help with - what He was trying to accomplish in their lives. We saw them as they were. He knew them. He loved them. And He worked for their salvation.

He is now trying to do the same thing for us.

We have accepted Christ. We have lived the life of the Prodigal and come back home. We are so thankful that He has forgiven us and given us a new life. This is the story of our lives, right? Well, it is ... but as soon as we are back our egos try to come back and we become the older brother. The one who feels at home in his father's house and is so selfish that he cannot see his own bitterness or celebrate the return of his lost brother, much less participate in his continuing salvation now that he was back. A sane and loving brother would have run out with the father and shared in the joy of their reunion and would have sacrificed to make him welcome.

We notice all the times that we are not welcomed, but do we notice the way that we judge and reject people in need? We notice the times that the world is hard and how much joy we have when we ourselves find comfort in the Lord, but do we notice the suffering of our brother and celebrate when he finds similar comfort? Do we offer that same comfort to him? If we only think of ourselves as the Prodigal, we will be stuck in an endless cycle of falling down and getting up. There is a sense in which this is the essence of the life in Christ, but it is not the goal. The goal is not to be the Prodigal Son; the goal isn't even to stop being a Pharisee or the older brother. The goal is – through the tears of the Publican and the repentance of Prodigal - to become like the Father.

To become like the Father who is so secure in Grace that He is constantly looks for opportunities to share that grace with others. Who sees everyone as a person to be loved and gently but persistently works for their good and He is the one who celebrates every time that good is achieved.

The religious people of Christ's day had a hard time getting this message. They continued to see themselves as righteous and thus keeping their hearts closed to the changes they needed to make. We are like that, too. And until we recognize that, until we see ourselves as being the Pharisee as much as we are the Publican, and as much Older Brother as Prodigal Son, we deceive ourselves and miss the opportunity to live and share a life of joy.

The Lord is here now. He sees us as we really are. He knows us, and He loves us. He wants to eat with us and all the other sinners here; so that we may be saved.

Despite the fact that we have been like the Publican by cooperating with the fallen powers of this world to oppress others; and like the Prodigal by squandering so many opportunities; and like the Publican and Older Brother in our selfishness and willful blindness;

He is here and He is running out to us, celebrating our willingness to reject our sins, our blindness, and our self-righteousness and our desire to live the kind of perfect life that our Father – His Father does; the kind of life that is made possible through Christ our Lord.

Direct download: Homily-ProdigalOlderSonPsychology.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:42pm EDT

Class covers Tito Colliander's Way of the Ascetics, chapters 1-5.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-WayofAscetics01_.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Publican and the Pharisee
St. Luke 18:9-14

The theme of Great Lent is repentance.

  • More than learning to say “sorry” (although this is important)

  • More than promising to “do better next time” (although this is important)

  • It is the process of making a real change; of becoming something else – something even better

  • Review of creating a soldier. Undo even things they may have been good at (shooting!)

This is hard work, it takes more than just a desire to “do better”. Our psychology: our ego – pride – digs in to defend itself and resist meaningful change.

  • We are very smart – we have blessed us with big and powerful brains. Scientists have argued – pretty convincingly – that they are hard-wired to protect our self-image rather than doing what we might expect a brain to do

    • We think of it like a computer or a good assistant: we give it orders and it does the math to figure out how to make it happen

    • Rather, it's default setting is to protect our definition of self from alteration, both by others, and this is one of the most powerful findings – from ourselves.

    • When we realize

      • First: that our concepts of self are flawed - at the very least by our genes and history (and healthy introspection and guided therapy is designed to uncover these things)

      • Second: that these flaws are setting us up for failure in things like relationships and the simple goal of enjoying life

      • Then we recognize both how important this work of repentance is AND because our incredibly brilliant and devious brains will be working to subvert the process... we begin to see HOW MUCH WORK IS AHEAD OF US.

    • An example of this subversion: trusting the system – any system - to get well.

      • We are instinctively disinclined to change – the ego is afraid – and while we consciously tell our brains that we want to change, the ego gives counter-orders and tells the brain to provide data that will subvert the process – CONFIRMATION BIAS. The result is a litany of reasons why any given system isn't worth investing time or energy in.

      • [Even when we select a system and supposedly commit to it, our ego will continually work in the background to undermine participation.]

      • And when the system is part of a religion – a religion staffed by fallible humans – then its not hard for our brains to find reasons why it is not worthy of our trust!

    • [example of fasting, of confession, of defining love]

Great Lent – and here I would include these preperatory weeks – is the “boot camp” system to jump start the process of healing and rebuilding our brokenness.

Today: the example of what we look like – a pharisee. Completely prey to his ego. It justifies himself and degrades the other. Classic. Almost as if Christ understood how our psychology worked!

Turns prayer – and religion itself – into blasphemy. It works directly against its original intent:

  • A life of joyful contentedness that brings that same blessing to those around them

  • This is what we do! We justify ourselves and demonize the other. Think about how we use even our religious ideas of virtue to define and attack others – at least we're not like them! And puff up ourselves.

  • Wait a second, don't do that – I will always see how others do it. What I won't notice is how I do it. That's the point.

  • We need to start paying attention to how and why we think the way we do – why we react to people and events – the way we do so that we can take the whole structure of brokenness that sets up for failure and rebuild it according to the truth.

Until then:

  • We cannot truly know and love ourselves.

  • We cannot truly know and love our neighbor.

  • And we cannot truly love God.

  • Nor can we receive His love – or that of our neighbor.

We need to get out of our own way. Trust the process. Buy into it. The “You” you get back will be worth the effort.

Direct download: Homily-PublicanPsychology.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:35pm EDT

Homily on Zacchaeus Sunday (St. Luke 19:1-10).  Christ brought salvation to Zachaeus "and his house"; He wants to do the same for us.  How can we get Him there - and how can we get Him to stay?  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-ChristintheHome.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on St. Luke 18:35-43, the healing of the blind man.  How does faith in Christ heal our blindness?  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-LearningtoSee.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:43pm EDT

Homily on St. Luke 18:18-27.  What would you do for eternal life?  Transhumanists and quantified selfers are willing to sacrifice A LOT in hopes of living a few extra decades.  Fr. Anthony discusses this and why the option Christ offers works (i.e. the mechanism) and why it is the best option.  Enjoy the show!  

Direct download: Homily-becominggodnottranshuman.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:24pm EDT

Matthew 4:12-17; Ephesians 4:7-13

The Baptism of John was the Baptism of repentance; we tend to distinguish his ministry from the ministry of Christ. But today we are reminded that Christ – the God who is love – also preached repentance. Why would He do this? Yes, for the forgiveness of sins. But there is more. Start over ... for what?

Today's epistle (Ephesians 4:7-13) reminds us of our goal: to become as Christ (i.e. “until we come... to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”). This certainly requires a lot of growth, but first it requires undoing, re-examining, and then re-building a lot of the habits that we have acquired. Especially the habits of our mind.

Love? How can we love without knowing? How can we love when our understand is imperfect? We may have the impulse of love – to help, to serve – but we are likely to make things worse. The advice of Hippocrates is vital: FIRST, DO NOT HARM.

Some of us are so strong in our desire to help that we impose ourself – and our ignorance – on others at every opportunity. This is so wrong.

It takes real effort – beginning and constantly sustained by repentance – to gain discernment.

Discernment isn't a fruit of reading books or taking classes or even of Chrismation or ordination. Nor does it come through a force of will, but through quieting the mind and learning to listen. Discernment is the fruit of a particular kind of attentiveness, a peaceful attentiveness that listens not to judge or to offer advice or even to help, but first to understand. When we work on this skill, and when we pay attention to the workings of our mind as we do this, we will soon learn how our misconceptions and prejudiced assumptions distort our understanding, how mistaken our diagnoses often are, and how much damage we can do when we follow our instincts. Moreover, as we work on this kenotic and peaceful attentiveness, we are likely to learn that even our desires to assist are the result of mixed motives that themselves need to be evaluated and re-created.

Al of this, this process of discovery and the purification of our senses and mind – is what is meant by this deeper kind of repentance or change of heart.

The result of it is a great patience and calm and the ability to love without reservation.

It also brings humility and the recognition that often times the best action is no action at all (other than prayer) and that the best judgment is to reserve judgment.

So this is the challenge that we get today: repent!

So let's pause before offering judgment or advice. Let us be humble enough to realize that the world will continue to spin without us sharing our wisdom or immediately rolling up our sleeves to fix someone. Let's spend time questioning our motives and intent.

And as we do this action of repentance, let's notice the way the Kingdom of Heaven Christ promises today opens up to us.

“Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

 

Direct download: Homily-RepentanceandtheKingdom.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday after Nativity - Matthew 2:13-23
Christ is Born!  Xhristos Razhdayetsya!

Many of us are still glowing from the joyous celebration of our Lord’s Nativity this past week. And for good reason! It is a time to celebrate with family, sharing stories, laughter, good food, and gifts. But mainly we celebrate the Incarnation - the Nativity of Christ - the birth of God in the flesh as a newborn child. The results of this event are enormous for us and a great cause for elation. Our Redeemer, the One who has come to save us from death, has been born. What could possibly be more worthy of celebration? There is a Romanian priest back in Rhode Island who, upon entering any gathering at any time of year will sing: Joy to the world!! We share his joy at the coming of Our Lord at Christmas.

On the day of Nativity, during the Divine Liturgy, the Gospel tells us about the wise men bringing gifts and offering them to the Christ child. We understand this as the proper way to respond to our Savior’s birth. We continue the tradition of giving each other gifts to this very day.

Yet today, on the first Sunday after Nativity, the Gospel strikes a very different tone. Herod doesn’t respond to Christ’s birth in quite the same way as the Magi, or as we do today. Instead of elation and joy, his response to the news of the Christ child’s birth is jealousy and murder. We hear of Rachel weeping inconsolably because her children are no more. Many of us are parents and can, or possibly can’t, imagine how Rachel felt. And let’s face it, you don’t have to be a parent to feel the gut-wrenching horror of this event. This is a devastating story.

Why, after celebrating one of the most sacred and joyous feasts of the year, and of all human history, does the church give us this story today?

The answer may be found in some of the names we use to refer to Christ:

  • In the Troparion for Nativity we heard this morning:

    • The Light of Wisdom

    • The Sun of Righteousness

  • Light of the World

  • Our Illuminator

  • Toward the end of Liturgy, in response to receiving Communion, we sing “We have seen the True Light”

One of the hymns we sing during the Nativity season describes Christ’s birth poetically:

Our Savior, the Dayspring from the east, has visited us from on high. And we who were in darkness have found the truth.”

Christ is the light that reveals what was once shrouded in darkness.

Now then, how many of us are afraid of the dark? Maybe when we were kids… It’s not hard to figure out why. Darkness conceals. It hides the unknown. Darkness is where scary things can lurk. Even if no actual evil is present, we imagine the worst when we are surrounded by darkness: the monster that lives under the bed, the mugger that waits near the ATM at night, and the judgment that we keep hidden within ourselves or that we fear others secretly hide from us.

And when you shine a light on the dark places it can be a harsh awakening for those who desired to remain concealed. Think of the way interrogators shine bright lights into the eyes of their suspects. That light can be blinding. For Herod, the light of Christ entering into the world had the same effect - the darkness within Herod was revealed in his murderous jealousy, and resulted in the slaughter of thousands of innocent children.

You might being thinking, “I am not Herod!” Indeed, we would never murder thousands of children in a jealous rage to preserve our own authority and power. But as with everything in Scripture, we are challenged to discern how this story DOES apply to us. In what ways do we act like Herod, rebelling against the light which would reveal the darkness within us?

 

Met Anthony Bloom once said “God can save the sinner that you are, but not the saint you pretend to be.”

Allowing the light of Christ into the deepest, darkest crevices of our hearts and minds, into our very souls, is hard. Making ourselves vulnerable by admitting our failings can be painful. But that pain is only the result of God’s healing energy. As with the stinging antiseptic we spray onto our fleshly wounds to clean them and prevent infection, God’s healing can initially feel even worse than the spiritual disease that has metastasized within us: our jealousy, our judgment, our hatred of people who disagree with us politically, the way we belittle people and gossip about them, our lack of patience, our covetousness, our lust, our greed, and our pride. And it is only through repentance and confession that we can be made well.

If we are truly open to receiving that light, this can’t only be done secretly in our own private prayer. While this is a good start, it is not enough to secretly acknowledge our fears and sins. Confession with a priest we trust is where we can truly open the doors to our heart and welcome Christ and His forgiveness in, and be restored to spiritual health! Even opening ourselves just a little bit can let enough of that light in to dispel the darkness lurking in our hearts.

St Porphyrios famously said, “Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Instead open a tiny aperture for light to enter and the darkness will disappear”

But we must be willing to open that door and acknowledge our brokenness, the ways in which we, like all, have fallen short of the glory of God. We must allow Christ’s birth to reveal the effects of sin and death in our hearts, just as His birth revealed the broken and distorted effects of sin and death in the world.

The Dayspring from the east is not just an infant who has the potential to grow into our Lord Jesus Christ. He IS Our Lord, and his incarnation sent shockwaves through the world. We often attribute the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry to His baptism, which we will celebrate this coming Saturday. However, His incarnation, His appearing on earth, in every way possible announced the beginning of an assault on sin and death. The coming of the Christ child is at once a cause for celebration by those who wish for salvation, and a call to arms against the forces of evil. When we hear of a “call to arms” we likely picture soldiers heading to the armory to grab their swords, bows and arrows, shields, rifles, and cannons. But how can this possibly relate to our celebration of Christmas?

Think about the names we heard for Christ earlier: they revolved around the theme of Christ being the Light of the world. There is another time of year when we here a Gospel message that describes Christ, the God-man, as the light that shines in the darkness. Does anyone remember when we hear this?

From the beginning of the Gospel of St John, on Pascha.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [a]comprehend it.

This is the Gospel the church puts at the center of our Liturgical celebration on Pascha, the feast of feasts. The culmination of our Liturgical worship for the entire year occurs on Pascha. The culmination of our entire understanding of salvation is revealed at Pascha. And the culmination of God’s plan for all of us and for each of us is made a reality on Pascha.

Christmas is ONLY relevant because of Pascha. All the feasts of the church, all of the events of Christ’s life, of Mary, the Birthgiver of God’s life, of the saints’ lives, and of OUR lives, derive their ultimate meaning from Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. And herein lies the answer to the question of how Christmas is a call to arms: it is not the call to equip ourselves with physical metal and fire. Instead, Christ calls us to sacrifice ourselves, as He did. The call to arms is a call to surrender myself, my ego, my fear, my self-justification, my lustful desires, my pride, NOT to double-down on those things in the vain hope that they will protect me from losing my identity. If I am a Christian, my identity is contained within Christ, who destroyed death by His death. Christmas is a declaration of war against death. And we already know who wins!

So, my brothers and sisters. I don’t know where each of you are on your spiritual journey. But I encourage you - if you go to confession frequently, God bless you! If you haven’t been to confession in the last year, make a point to go before Pascha. If you have gone to confession and been afraid or embarrassed to admit something that has been weighing on your heart, allow yourself to be vulnerable - trust your priest and trust in God - that by surrendering your pride and letting the light shine into your heart, you will not be destroyed, but instead you will destroy your sin.

Let us have the courage to emulate Christ, surrender ourselves to the warmth of His healing light, confess our sins, receive His forgiveness, and rejoice in His birth, baptism, and ultimate Resurrection as we proclaim CHRIST IS BORN! Xhristos Razhdayetsya!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Direct download: 20190113-LightEradicatesDarkness.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Paper presented at the International Orthodox Theological Association on 9-12 January 2019 in Iasi, Romania., 2019.
 
What is the relationship between ritual actions and moral development? How does Orthopraxis mold believers into virtuous people? More specifically, what role do common Orthodox practices like prostrations, prayer rules, fasting, and kissing the hands of priests and bishops play in the strengthening of certain "conservative" moral instincts (i.e. sanctity, respect for authority/tradition, and loyalty)? Answering these questions is of more than just academic interest: it can help us more successfully foster a parish and family life that creates authentic and well-rounded saints. This paper uses findings from the field of psychology and examples from parish life to discern the link between Orthodox rituals and Orthodox morality, making the case that Orthodox rituals play a role in training all three parts of the mind, but that it plays a special role in training the instincts or gut.
Direct download: IOTA-Talk-Perkins.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily: Luke 17:11-19 (28th Sunday after Pentecost)
Written by Sdn. David Murphy (edited by Fr. Anthony Perkins)
Given at St. Mary's (Pokrova) on 23 December 2018

The Gospel text before us today is a strange one. It is a miracle of the Lord, but not one where he touches someone, or tells them to get up, or even tells them that they are healed. He doesn’t do any of those things. In fact, the account of St. Luke does not even describe the actual healing at all. We are simply told that “as they went, they were cleansed.”

That’s it. No word of power, no command to rise and walk, no making mud and rubbing it on the eyes, no nothing. According to text, the only thing the Lord says to them at all is “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

And then there is this powerful line, the one that we are focusing on today;

And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”

As they went, they were cleansed.”

Jesus tells them what to do, they go off to do it, and somewhere along the way between Jesus and the priests, they are healed. The went and were made whole! After who knows how many years in isolation because they were lepers, they are miraculously cleansed and thus restored to their communities. They can now rejoin their families, loved ones, friends, neighbors, — everything they have missed. Their humanity is restored. The weight of sickness and separation is gone. They are able to live a life of joy and freedom. The kind of life that God desires for all His children.

This truly is a miracle: the restoration of community and communion between people long separated! Few things are more miraculous than this.

We could use a miracle. We are so heavily burdened by the weight of our oppression and suffer mightily in our loneliness and estrangement from our dearly beloved; an angst that is felt most heavily during this holiday season.

So how do we get our miracle? How do we get our healing? We know, like these ten lepers, that it can only come from Christ. There is no question about that, if for no other reason than that we have tried every thing else. Healing and reconciliation are found in Him.

The question is: How do we get him to heal us? It's not like we can imitate the lepers, find out where He will be, and cry out to Him as He comes by.

Or is it?

Christ is as much in our midst as He was in the midst of those lepers two thousand years ago in northern Israel. Moreover, the Good News is that He has already told us so many times what we need to do to be healed – we just haven't really had the ears to hear it! Moreover, we don't have to hope or wait for a miracle, there is a real sense in which it has already been accomplished – it just waits for us to become part of it.

After all, Jesus ‘finished’ everything on the Cross and then triumphed over death, hell, and the grave. And He extends the promise and the power of His resurrection life – to everyone who will unite themselves to Him and follow His commands.

We have given our lives to Him, now what is it that He is trying to tell us to do? We have cried out to Him as He is here in our midst saying the same words of longing that the lepers said in today's Gospel lesson; “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

He is the High Priest who knows the pain of our sickness and separation and He is the One with the power to heal it. And what does He command? As we silence our minds and open our ears to hear His command, what does He ask of us?

Again, think back for a moment to our ten lepers. It was as they were on their way to do what Christ told them to do that they were healed. When they started out to go find the priests, they were still lepers. They acted in obedience to Christ before any healing had taken place at all. They trusted Him at His word and demonstrated that faith by being obedient to Him.

So what is the Lord asking us to do today so that we might be healed? He is ready and waiting, merciful and loving, extending His healing touch. What do we need to do so that we can receive that healing? So that we can know His joy?

  • Who are we angry with, or against whom who have we been holding a grudge?

  • Is there someone we know we have wronged, but just can’t make ourselves apologize and come clean?

  • Do we have patterns of sin in our lives that we are allowing to go unchecked and untreated?

  • Is there a hard but needed conversation that we have been avoiding for a long time?

  • Are we part of patterns of behavior in our families that are unhealthy?

  • Am we avoiding major changes in our lives that we know we need to make but are just too afraid or too lazy to do?

It is important for us to remember that as Christ calls us to obedience, He also equips us and makes us able - by His grace - to do what He has asked of us. We aren’t in this alone. He is always with us, and He has also given us one another.

The Lord told the lepers to go and make their way to the priests. When they left they were still lepers, but on the way they were made clean and restored to their community.

He has told us to take our own sins, to confess and repent of them – and show ourselves to the priests.

Let us make the story of the lepers our own story, especially this most crucial part;

And so it was that as they went, they were healed.” And then, like them, may we also find healing, reconciliation, and joy through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Direct download: Homily_on_Joining_the_Lepers_on_The_Way.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:03pm EDT

Homily on St. Luke 18:18-30.
Notes.

When one first become a soldier, they take away everything: hair,  clothes, identification, money. Relationships. Why?

So that The Mission will become our mission.

Can't you just add the mission to what was already there? No.  Mercenaries are always unreliable. Their loyalty is based on a calculation.  The soldier's is instinctive.

Think of marriage; what happens if the new life as “shared flesh” starts with all the baggage of the old life?

The training of a soldier and the building of a new life in marriage are great metaphors for how to live in Christ. It's not enough to just add the mission of God – virtuous life, evangelism, sacrifice – on top of our old selves. You end up trying to balance these things against everything else. Doing good becomes a calculation rather than a way of life.

As Christ God puts it in St. Matthew (6:24) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

We empty ourselves of everything we have; this is what allows us to receive everything good He has prepared for us.

This includes our cares:

1 Peter 5:6-7. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your cares and concerns on him, for he cares about you.

Psalm 55:22. Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

But that's not all: creating a new life in Christ is not like playing Go Fish. “I don't want these – you take them.”  It's everything. Otherwise our loyalty remains divided. Giving up our cares will make us feel better for a while, but being reborn as a little “g” god – and this is the God's intent – feels better forever. So we can't stop with giving up our anxiety.

It includes our family.  Christ's words about this are found in Luke 14:26 and Matthew 10:37. We have to be willing to give up our family.

It includes our money.  Today's lesson.

Our very lives.  Christ in John 12:25 points out that this need for sacrifice includes our very own lives. 

The interpretation of this radical sense of sacrifice; of giving things up; of starting fresh and new is confirmed in our baptismal service in which put do death the old man (in the water) and rise up as a new one in Christ. We have given up our life; but the life we get back – one comprised of the very same skin, bones, heart, and brain – is a better one. It is one that is remade in Christ and pledged to service of God, His children, and His world.

  • Family done poorly... family done well...
  • Money done poorly... money done well...
  • Attention and caring done poorly... attention done well...

The yoke of the world (slavery to the world) that is oppressive, hard to bear, and leads to death. So we give it up! Give it all up! And then take up the yoke of virtue and righteousness – we take up the yoke of the Lord. And pledged to him and the carrying out of his will, we are no longer slaves or mercenaries whose joy lasts only as long as circumstances allow, but sons and daughters of the living god, deified and divinized through his grace.

This new way is, to quote Christ God “easy and light.”

Matthew 11:29-30. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

So let's not be like the rich man who went away sad. Let's lay everything, our cares and concerns, our family, our riches, even our life itself, at the foot of God.

Those things that are holy and true will be part of our new life in Christ (as He showed us at our baptism); and they will be part of our strength rather than things that potential divide us from God and the carrying out of His will that all become saved. They will become a blessing because they will take on their proper function.

Direct download: Homily_on_Becoming_a_New_Man_in_Christ.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

28th Sunday after Pentecost.
Luke 24:36-53 and Colossians 1:12-18.
Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_on_Finding_Life_in_Christ.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Luke 12:16-21 (The Rich Man and His Granaries)

Until we figure out who we are, our actions have no purpose. We will end up doing one thing one day, and something contrary the next.

Because we are fallen, our default purpose is selfish and egoistic and sees other people based on what they can do for us. Some days we see benefit in working with and helping other people, but other days we see no benefit from helping them and so we ignore them or even work against them.

So it is with all of our riches, whether they are material or spiritual. Our default setting, in our selfishness, is to dole them out tactically – if at all – based on our feelings will bring the greatest security, influence, pleasure, or the most of whatever will satisfy the emotional impulse that is dominating us at the time. People with friendly emotions will share more, people who are dominated by fear will invest in protection, people who are more epicurean will invest in luxuries, people who crave status will use their resources to show off, and so on.

This has a certain kind of logic, but it is the logic of the world, not the logic of the Logos; nor is it the way to live a joyful life here or in the eternal life that is to come.

We need to know who we are. We are certainly more than our emotions. They are a poor guide to living well and a poor guide for making sound decisions.

So who are we? What were we made for? We are sons and daughters of the Most-High, created to accomplish God's will that humans and humanity are healed and brought into a joyful fellowship with one another and with Him now and in the world to come.

Understanding this allows us to rise above our captivity to our feelings and act in ways that are productive.

The rich man in today's Gospel didn't get this. He made the decision about how to use his extra grain based on his feelings rather than on who he was called to be.

It isn't just that the grain that could have been used to feed the poor will now rot and be stolen; it is that it could have been used to create and sustain connections with the poor to create a bond with them that would have pulled the rich man out of his existential loneliness and completely selfish concerns.

It would have opened a world of fellowship and virtue to him; a world that is denied to all who confine themselves to serving just their feelings; a world that would have transformed him into something greater, something that would have transcended the simple creature his genes and environment alone would have allowed.

Spiritual resources are the same. If we hoard or spend them just according to our feelings, we are no better than the rich man in the parable. They will rot and fester and disappear when they could have become the thing that feeds the hungry, connects us to them, and draws us all up into the glory of God.

We – as individuals, as a parish, and as the Orthodox Church - have an abundance of material and spiritual goods. Far more than we need for our comfort and sustenance. This bounty was not meant to be hoarded, but to be shared; not because we are nice or because we want more friends, but because it is our calling to serve others, to draw us all into unity with God through Christ Jesus. This is the only way to change the wealth of this world – both material and spiritual – into an internal inheritance.

Direct download: Homily_-_We_Need_Purpose.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Bible Study #46: The Life of David III
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 29 November 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 22. David gathers an army; Saul has the prophets killed.

St. Ambrose. It's not great to run. For the just engage in many struggles. Does an athlete contend only once? How often, after he has won many victor’s crowns, is he overcome in another contest! How often it happens that one who has frequently gained the victory sometimes hesitates and is held fast in uncertainty! And it frequently comes to pass that a brave man is contending with brave men and greater struggles arise, where proofs of strength are greater. Thus, when David sought to flee to avoid the adversary, he also did not find his wings. He was driven here and there in an uncertain struggle.… But David is still in the cave—that is, in the flesh—in the cavern of his body, as it were, as he fights with King Saul, the son of hardness, and with the power of that spiritual prince who is not visible but is comprehensible.

St. Athanasius. But it is better than tyranny. For if it is a bad thing to flee, it is much worse to persecute. The one party hides himself to escape death, the other persecutes with a desire to kill. It is written in the Scriptures that we ought to flee; but he that seeks to destroy transgresses the law and also is himself the occasion of the other’s flight. If then they [the Arians] reproach me with my flight, let them be more ashamed of their own persecution. Let them cease to conspire, and those who flee will immediately cease to do so. But they, instead of giving up their wickedness, are employing every means to obtain possession of my person, not perceiving that the flight of those who are persecuted is a strong argument against those who persecute. For no one flees from the gentle and the humane, but from the cruel and the evil-minded. “Every one that was in distress and every one that was in debt” fled from Saul and took refuge with David. But this is the reason why these men [those persecuting Athanasius] desire to cut off those who are in concealment, that there may be no evidence forthcoming of their own wickedness. But in this their minds seem to be blinded with their usual error. For the more the flight of their enemies becomes known, so much the more notorious will be the destruction or the banishment which their treachery has brought upon them. So whether they kill them outright, their death will be the more loudly noised abroad against them, or whether they drive them into banishment, they will but be sending forth everywhere monuments of their own iniquity.

St. Ephraim the Syrian. David as a Christ, Saul as a Herod, the prophets as the babes.

Indeed, when Saul heard that the priests had helped David unwittingly, he had them brought to him, and he killed them. It was fitting for you too that innocent blood be hung about your neck, as was Saul’s case. But the Son of David escaped from your hands amid the Gentiles. David was persecuted by Saul, just as the Son was by Herod. The priests were slain because of David, and the infants because of our Lord. Abiathar escaped from the priests, as John did from the infants.7 In [the person of] Abiathar the priesthood of the house of Eli was brought to an end, and in John the prophecy of the sons of Jacob was terminated. =

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 23. David wins a battle, consults the Lord, then hides again

Note that David is confirmed as a type of priest (eating the show bread), prophet (consulting the ephod), and warrior-king (goliath's sword).

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 24. David spares Saul's life and Saul prophecies about David's future.

St. Jerome. Psalm 141 is the fruit of this persecution.

Saul, unaware of David’s hiding place, also entered the cave in order to take care of his needs, I presume.… Accordingly, this psalm of David is accepted for certain in the name of the Lord; Saul appears as the devil, and the cave becomes this world. The devil, furthermore, does not discharge any good into this world, but only dung and corruption. Then, too, the cave symbolizes this world because its light is very imperfect when compared with the light of the future world, albeit the Lord, on coming into this world as light, brightens it up considerably. That is why the apostle, in relation to the Father, speaks of him “who is the brightness of his glory.” (Hebrews 1:3) Now just as David entered the cave in his flight from Saul, the Lord, too, has come into this world and has suffered persecution.

St. Gregory of Nyssa. David is a model of self control.

This is why the coming together of Saul, who was in pursuit of murder, and of David, who was shunning murder, in the cave is described after many events which it had preceded. The authority to kill was reversed in this event, since the one who was being pursued for execution had authority over the slaughter of his killer, and although he had the right, so far as retribution against his enemy was concerned, he stayed his power so far as consisted with the right and killed his own anger in himself instead of his enemy.

St. Augustine. This self-control is out of respect for Saul's anointing.

The very oil with which he was anointed (the chrism by token of which he was called a “Christ”) must be understood symbolically as pointing to a profound mystery. David himself so religiously respected this anointed state that he was conscience-stricken when, in a dark cave where Saul had entered to ease himself, David came up, unseen, from behind and cut off a tiny piece of Saul’s robe. David did this merely to have evidence later how he had spared Saul when he could have killed him, thus hoping to disabuse Saul of the idea which drove him implacably to pursue David as his foe. Nevertheless, David quaked with fear that perhaps merely by so touching Saul’s garments he was guilty of sacrilege.… Such deep religious reverence was paid to this foreshadowing figure, not for what it was in itself but precisely because of the reality it typified.

St. Ambrose. What goes around comes around.

What a virtuous action that was, when David wished rather to spare the king his enemy, though he could have injured him! How useful, too, it was, for it helped him when he succeeded to the throne. For all learned to be faithful to their king and not to seize the kingdom but to fear and reverence him. Thus what is virtuous was preferred to what was useful, and then usefulness followed on what was virtuous.

St. Basil the Great. Even kindness cannot defeat envy.

Not even this act of benevolence moved Saul, however. Again he gathered an army and again he set out in pursuit, until he was a second time apprehended by David in the cave where he more clearly revealed his own iniquity and made the virtue of David even more resplendent. Envy is the most savage form of hatred. Favors render those who are hostile to us for any other reason more tractable, but kind treatment shown to an envious and spiteful person only aggravates his dislike. The greater the favors he receives, the more displeased and vexed and ill-disposed he becomes.

Next week: more hide and seek, evil deeds by Saul, and finally his death.

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: BS-20181129-LifeofDavid3.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Ephesians 4:1-6

Live worthily; live up to your high calling!

What is this calling? We are made in God's image and have been given power to change the world for a specific purpose: to heal the divisions among us and to raise all mankind up into the glory of God. The Gospel is that this has been made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of the God-man Jesus-Christ. But the Lord has entrusted us, to continue the work that He began. That is our calling, and St. Paul is reminding us that we need to work to be “worthy” of it.

This is not the way we usually talk, so let me put it another way:

The boss has given us a job to do and has given us the tools to do it. We need to commit ourselves to the work and to using the tools well.

Have you ever worked in a place where there were people who shirked? Where people didn't care about the quality of their work? What was that like? Did the work get done? What about them?

That's what it is like in our world. We have a job, we have tools, the question is – what kind of workers are we going to be?

St. Paul doesn't stop there. He tells us how to use the tools. Fantastic. He's got experience on the job and is giving us some advice. This is how it should be. Not all jobs are like that; some just make you figure it all out on your own. So what kind of advice does he give?

Be humble and be patient.

Why?

The goal is unity. We have been given power: why not wield it?! We know the right ways, why not impose them?! We want people to stop fighting, why not subdue and control them?

NO! Freedom. The unity must be voluntary. In the end, the kind of team built this way is much stronger than any other and because it is peaceful, it is able to bring peace. It conquers the nations not through force or coercion, but because it models the kind of life that others want and then invites them to share in it.

You can attain unity through threats, and you can attain unity through bribes. But that is a false unity.

God wants a unity of friends, united not by force, or place of birth, or kinship ties but by what he calls the bond of peace. Peace not as the absence of violence or disagreement, but as a positive force that keeps things together. It is the kind of peace that flows through things and strengthens them. It is the uniting energy that we often call love.

May God now strengthen us through His Body and Blood so that we can lead lives worthy of this calling.

Direct download: Homily_on_Our_High_Calling.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Peace of the Cross and the Safety of the State
Ephesians 2:14-22

Christ has “broken down the dividing wall of hostility” between us; reconciling all his believing children to God and one another “through the cross, thereby bringing an end to hostility.”

The Cross – sacrifice to the point of death – is the way that this is achieved. An emptying of the self so that others might be saved and that the will of God might be achieved. Two humble souls can enjoy union and continual growth in Christ. They can be reconciled to one another and to God. They enjoy a taste of the Kingdom to come here on earth. We get this appetizer (as it were) in healthy marriages, friendships, and parishes; but it is also the destiny of nations. In the age to come there is only one nation – sundered peoples brought into a single humanity – a new nation in Christ. But in order for this union to happen, there must be real humility.

Without all sides surrendering to love and the will of God, there can be no true peace; only an end to violence. This is the Gospel of the Cross. Death to sin and a new life in Christ.

And this is where we find ourselves today. As with death, we know that Christ has brought an end to our division and allows us to be One as He is One; joyous, peaceful, and continually progressing through the endless stages of perfection in peace ... but still living in a world where lives come to an end and violence between nations ceases only so long as strength and vigilance are maintained.

And so we come to the juxtaposition of this Epistle with our celebration of Veteran's Day.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month; temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I. And yet we still have war. People and nations still prey on and threaten one another. Even when we are between wars, we no not have the peace of Christ, but the peace of strength. And where we do not have the peace of strength, we have war and the lessons of martyrdom. Our Church prays and works for the Peace of Christ; and as that peace is worked for and anticipated, we pray for and support the peace that comes from military might. This is the practice and teaching of the Church.

Right after the anaphora we pray:
We also offer You this spiritual worship for the whole world, for the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and for all those who live in purity and holiness. And for those in public service; permit them, Lord, to serve and govern in peace, that in their tranquility we may lead a calm and quiet life, in all Godliness and purity.

From our Morning Prayers:
Lord, save and have mercy on our civil authorities; protect our nation with peace, subduing our every foe and adversary. Fill the hearts of our leaders with peaceful, benevolent thoughts for your Holy Church and for all Your people so that we, in their tranquility, may lead a peaceful and quiet life in true faith and in all godliness and purity.

And from St. Paul (1 Timothy 2:1-2):
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.

And how is this peace that we pray for maintained? Through the sacrifice of men and women in our armed forces and police who are willing to put our security and comfort ahead of their own.

It is obtained and maintained by soldiers, sailors, marines, and first responders who are willing to suffer, to fight, to die, and yes, even to kill - not out of glory or any kind of sinful passion; but only so that we – in the peaceful space their efforts create and sustain - might pursue perfection in Christ, and through this an end to all wars achieved not through military victory or a well thought out and executed set of treaties and institutions; but through the union of all people and nations into one humanity, humbled and perfected in Christ. [how's that for a run-on sentence?! Ed.]

We thank all of our veterans and those serving now for your willingness to live the kind of life that allows us the freedom to pursue true and lasting peace.

We pray that Lord our God grant that we always be so blessed with men and women [like these] who are willing to sacrifice their lives for us and we pray that He gives us, the civilians, the strength and commitment to live in such a way that their efforts are not squandered through our impiety, selfishness, and unwillingness to live and spread the Gospel.

Allow all of us to surrender ourselves to you, Lord, through the Cross, so that our Union may be eternal and the peace between us become real and unending.

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Security_of_the_State_vs_the_Peace_of_Christ.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:26pm EDT

Bible Study #44: David the Vagabond
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 08 November 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 18. Saul hates David and tries to get him killed. It doesn't work.

St. John Chrysostom: Envy is bad. But now notice in this incident how much trouble the passion of envy caused: when the king saw this young man enjoying such popularity and the dancing crowds calling out, “Saul’s conquests ran into thousands, David’s into tens of thousands,” he didn’t take kindly to their words … but overwhelmed by envy, he now repaid his benefactor with the opposite treatment, and the one whom he should have recognized as his savior and benefactor he endeavored to do away with. What an extraordinary degree of frenzy! What excess of madness! The man who had won him the gift of life and had freed his whole army from the foreigner’s rage he now suspected as an enemy, and, instead of the man’s good deeds remaining fresh in his memory and prevailing over passion, the clarity of his thinking was dulled with envy as though by a kind of drunkenness, and he regarded his benefactor as his enemy. That is what the evil of this passion is like, you see: it first has a bad effect on the person giving birth to it.

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 19. Saul keeps trying to kill David, but he keeps failing (with help). Fun with prophets at Ramah.

St. John Chrysostom: Sometimes deceit really is best. And not in war only, but also in peace the need of deceit may be found, not merely in reference to the affairs of the state but also in private life, in the dealings of husband with wife and wife with husband, son with father, friend with friend, and also children with a parent. For the daughter of Saul would not have been able to rescue her husband out of Saul’s hands except by deceiving her father. And her brother, wishing to save him whom she had rescued when he was again in danger, made use of the same weapon as the wife.

St. Augustine: Giving prophecies isn't a sign of saintliness. When they delayed and what Saul had ordered wasn’t done, he came himself. Was he too innocent? Was he also sent by some authority, and not ill-intentioned of his own free will? Yet the Spirit of God leaped on him too, and he began to prophesy. There you are, Saul is prophesying, he has the gift of prophecy, but he has not got charity. He has become a kind of instrument to be touched by the Spirit, not one to be cleansed by the Spirit. The Spirit of God, you see, touches some hearts to set them prophesying, and yet does not cleanse them.… And so the Spirit of God did not cleanse Saul the persecutor, but all the same it touched him to make him prophesy. Caiaphas, the chief priest, was a persecutor of Christ; and yet he uttered a prophecy when he said, “It is right and proper that one man should die, and not the whole nation perish.” The Evangelist went on to explain this as a prophecy and said, “He did not, however, say this of himself, but being high priest, he prophesied.” Caiaphas prophesied, Saul prophesied; they had the gift of prophecy, but they didn’t have charity. Did Caiaphas have charity, considering he persecuted the Son of God, who was brought to us by charity? Did Saul have charity, who persecuted the one by whose hand he had been delivered from his enemies, so that he was guilty not only of envy but also of ingratitude? So we have proved that it is possible for you to have prophesy and not to have charity. But prophecy does you no good, according to the apostle: “If I do not have charity,” he says, “I am nothing.”He doesn’t say, “Prophesy is nothing,” or “Faith is nothing,” but “I myself am nothing, if I don’t have charity.”

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 20. Intrigue at the Palace; Jonathan is loyal to David.

St. Ambrose: good friendships are awesome. For that commendable friendship which maintains virtue is to be preferred most certainly to wealth or honors or power. It is not apt to be preferred to virtue indeed, but to follow after it. So it was with Jonathan, who for his affection’s sake avoided neither his father’s displeasure nor the danger to his own safety.

1 Kingdoms/Samuel 21. David and the showbread; David the lunatic.

St. John Chrysostom: God, not circumstances, provide security. In similar fashion, whenever we have God on our side, even if we are utterly alone, we will live more securely than those who dwell in the cities. After all, the grace of God is the greatest security and the most impregnable fortification. To prove to you how the person who, in fact, lives utterly alone turns out to be more secure and efficacious than a person living in the middle of cities and enjoying plenty of human assistance, let us see how David, though shifting from place to place and living like a nomad, was protected by the hand from above, whereas Saul, who in fact was in the middle of cities and had armies at his command, bodyguards and shieldbearers as well, still spent each day in fear and dread of enemy assaults. Whereas the one man, although alone and with no one else in his company, had no need of assistance from human beings, the other, by contrast, needed his help, despite wearing a diadem and being clad in purple. The king stood in need of the shepherd; the wearer of the crown had need of the peasant.

St. John Cassian: Just because it was okay for David doesn't make it okay for us.

No wonder that these dispensations were uprightly made use of in the Old Testament and that holy men sometimes lied in praiseworthy or at least in pardonable fashion, since we see that far greater things were permitted them because it was a time of beginnings. For what is there to wonder at that when the blessed David was fleeing Saul and Ahimelech the priest asked him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” he replied and said, “The king gave me a commission and said, Let no one know the reason why you were sent, for I have also appointed my servants to such and such a place”? And again: “Do you have a spear or a sword at hand? For I did not bring my sword and my weapons with me because the king’s business was urgent”? Or what happened when he was brought to Achish, the king of Gath, and made believe that he was insane and raging, and “changed his countenance before them, and fell down between their hands, and dashed himself against the door of the gate, and his spittle ran down his beard”? For, after all, they lawfully enjoyed flocks of wives and concubines, and no sin was imputed to them on this account. Besides that, they also frequently spilled their enemies’ blood with their own hands, and this was held not only to be irreprehensible but even praiseworthy.

We see that, in the light of the gospel, these things have been utterly forbidden, such that none of them can be committed without very serious sin and sacrilege. Likewise we believe that no lie, in however pious a form, can be made use of by anyone in a pardonable way, to say nothing of praiseworthily, according to the words of the Lord: “Let your speech be yes, yes, no, no. Whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” The apostle also agrees with this: “Do not lie to one another.”

St Ambrose: But some laws really have been abrogated. If they accuse, yet Christ excuses, and he makes the souls that he wishes, that follow him, similar to David, who ate the loaves of proposition outside of the law—for even then he foresaw in his mind the prophetic mysteries of a new grace.

Christ Himself: I am Lord (St. Luke 6:1-5). On a sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath?” And Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.”

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. IVP.

Direct download: BS-20181108-LifeofDavid1.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
St. Luke 16:19-31

So much to learn here. Focus on a lesson it gives to us as members of a parish that has been given the fullness of the faith.

For us: We are the Rich Man and this is the place where we feast scrumptiously and wear kingly garments.

  • The Eucharist – it is the great feast, a feast without end. Always a banquet and there is always more.

  • Our Kingly Robes – we have put on Christ. Our baptismal garments transform us into sons of God, ones who act in the “Name of God”, and rulers of the age to come.

  • The place of our feasting is beautiful, separated from the cares and disasters of the world. When we come through the gates of this temple we are entering into a special place and special time. A place of beauty and song and fellowship that contrasts so starkly with the disharmony and ugliness that seems to dominate life outside the gates.

It is an amazing fact. We are beyond rich, beyond blessed. This feast, the transformation, the protection and beauty. Isn't this the way life is meant to be lived?

Yes it is. But putting this beauty into the context of the parable helps us realize how badly we have failed.

The Rich Man is the main player in the parable, the one whose example we are meant to learn from.

But it is not a good example. It is a look in the mirror that is designed to move us to change. To get us to appreciate the purpose of the blessings we receive and to see the great evil if we horde these blessings.

There is more than enough here for us to share, but we have hoarded our blessings so long that we know no other way. We bemoan the loss of our loved ones and the empty pews around us, but fail to notice and help the many Lazarus' at our door.

Nor is it just a matter of finding ways to invite the spiritually malnourished to this banquet, we have to break out of the habits of our personal and parish lives that isolate us from them; the many ways that we ourselves segregate our life in Christ that we experience and love here at St. Mary's from the way we live in our homes, our friendships, and all of our other activities. We do not see Lazarus outside our gates to the extent that we only look for God here in this Church and only look for spiritual nourishment within these walls.

The “food of which we know not” that Christ speaks of is not just Eucharistic or His union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is the nourishment that we receive when we share our lives with others, and especially those in need. This is one of the constituent motivations behind the Eucharist: Christ offering Himself, His time, His attention – His very life – so that people who are suffering might be saved. We have the opportunity to make this same sacrifice to the people in our families, our friendships, and our lives every moment of every day.

When we begin to see God in every person in our life and not just in the icons and experiences within these walls, when we begin to see that the it is our love and service that can help nourish them and bring them to the banquet, then we will have begun to learn the lesson of the Parable of the Rich Man.

 

Direct download: Homily_on_Seeing_and_Feasting_with_Lazarus.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Fr. Anthony shares an encounter he had after Thursday's Bible Study class and describes how Christianity addresses the three existential crises of humanity: meaning, loneliness, and death.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: SS-XCandourOurExistentialCrises.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Bible Study #43: David and Goliath
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 01 November 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

A Giant Warmup to Get Ready for Goliath.

Genesis 6:4. There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Numbers 13:33. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak [i.e. the Anakim] came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

Deuteronomy 2:10-11a. The Emim had dwelt there in times past, a people as great and numerous and tall as the Anakim. They were also regarded as giants, like the Anakim...

Deuteronomy 3:13. The rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to half the tribe of Manasseh. All the region of Argob, with all Bashan, was called the land of the giants. [See also Amos 2:9: “Yet it was I [God] who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars,and he was as strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath.

Joshua 11:21-22. And at that time Joshua came and cut off the Anakim from the mountains: from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. None of the Anakim were left in the land of the children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod.

And how big were the giants?

Og the King of Bashan (of the Rephaim) has a bed that was nine cubits in length and four cubits in width (Deuteronomy 3:11). This is about thirteen feet six inches by six feet.

How about Goliath? The Hebrew version of 1 Samuel 17:4 says his height was “six cubits and a span”. This is about 9 feet, 9 inches. The Septuagint version has “four cubits and a span”, or six feet six inches. This is confirmed by the Dead Sea Scroll version. Even at six foot six inches, Goliath would have been a giant compared to everyone else (average five feet tall).

1 Kingdoms/Samuel Chapter 17. David and Goliath

St. Bede: Jesse as God the Father, David as Jesus. He sends Him to save His people and defeat evil. The ten cheeses are the Ten Commandments. The “ephah” is the Holy Trinity (three measures).

St. John Cassius: On choosing the right weapons. We sometimes see a bad example drawn from good things. For if someone presumes to do the same things but not with the same disposition and orientation or with unlike virtue, he easily falls into the snares of deception and death on account of those very things from which others acquire the fruits of eternal life. That brave boy who was set against the most warlike giant in a contest of arms would certainly have experienced this if he had put on Saul’s manly and heavy armor, with which a person of more robust age would have laid low whole troops of the enemy. This would undoubtedly have imperiled the boy, except that with wise discretion he chose the kind of weaponry that was appropriate for his youth and armed himself against the dreadful foe not with the breastplate and shield that he saw others outfitted with but with the projectiles that he himself was able to fight with.

St. Maximos of Turin: Heavenly weapons are better. Therefore, brothers, let us arm ourselves with heavenly weapons for the coming judgment of the world: let us gird on the breastplate of faith, protect ourselves with the helmet of salvation, and defend ourselves with the word of God as with a spiritual sword. For the one who is arrayed with these weapons does not fear present disturbance and is not afraid of future judgment, since holy David, protected with this devotion, killed the very strong and armed Goliath without weapons and struck down the warlike man, girt about with defenses on all sides, by the strength of his faith alone. For although holy David did not put on a helmet, strap on a shield, or use a lance, he killed Goliath. He killed him, however, not with an iron spear but with a spiritual sword, for although he appeared weaponless in the eyes of human beings, yet he was adequately armed with divine grace. But the spiritual sword itself was not a sword, since it was not by the sword but by a stone that Goliath died when he was struck down. We read in the Scriptures that Christ is figuratively designated by the word stone, as the prophet says: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” Therefore, when Goliath is struck by a stone, he is struck down by the power of Christ. ...

But there is no one who does not realize that this took place figuratively. For David had also put on armor beforehand but, since he was so heavy and awkward in it that he could hardly walk, he removed it at once, signifying that the weapons of this world are vain and superfluous things and that the person who chooses to involve himself in them will have no unimpeded road to heaven, since he will be too heavy and encumbered to walk. At the same time this teaches us that victory is not to be hoped for from arms alone but is to be prayed for in the name of the Savior.

Note that Goliath invoked his gods and David invoked The God. Goliath was the champion of the pagan gods that remained in the Holy Land. He was more than just the greatest warrior of the Philistines; he represented them and their pantheon. Similarly, David was more than just a hero of the Israelites; he represented God's nation and represents God as His anointed one and imager.

Verse 16b; Verse 43b; Verse 45 – 47.

Bibliography

Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm. Lexham Press.

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. IVP.

Direct download: BS-20181101-DavidandGoliath.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on St. Luke 8:4-15 (the Parable of the Sower)

Love God, love your neighbor. Simple, right? We all do and now enjoy a blissful life, free of all stress, and strong with ability to easily overcome all challenges. Class dismissed. Nope.

The command is easy, but for most people this love simply doesn't seem to take root. For some, it doesn't ever even seem to have started sprouting at all!

The parable of the seeds and the different soils is so apt.

But why is it so hard to love God? To love our neighbor? Love is awesome; God is awesome, our neighbor is, if not completely awesome, at least a human being, deserving of our support, encouragement, and sacrifice. Didn't our hearts break yesterday when we heard of strangers being massacred at the synagogue yesterday? Isn't that proof that we, at the very least, have the instinct and capacity to follow these two simple commandments – to love?

Yes, it does. But odds are, the loss and outrage we feel will not last. History suggests that our desire to create a more peaceful society will last about as long as the media stokes our outrage and that the outrage will not provide the motivation to make the sacrifices necessary foe us to make the changes in our lives that will allow us to become the kind of peaceful people that can reliably counter violence.

We are the seeds on the rocks; who “sprang up,” then “withered away because they lacked moisture.” We received the word with joy; but have no root; we believe for a while but then when actual work is required – when it comes time to change ourselves rather than just criticizing the world, we fall away.

We shouldn't be surprised that we fail at loving God and loving our neighbor. Look at how we do with romance and even marriage. We don't love. We have strong feelings then refuse to make the sacrifices and changes to ourselves to allow love to flourish even in the face of temptations.

We aren't serious about love. We are serious about our feelings. Our feelings of outrage at our enemies, our feelings of outrage at our neighbors; our warm and fuzzy feelings of devotion to our flavor-of-the-day romantic partners, both real and virtual. Our alternating feelings of outrage and towards thankfulness towards our God (as if we had ever really taken the time to know Him).

We are Christians. Better yet, we are human beings. Made in the image of God. With the power to be His hands and heart and the calling to bring peace and prosperity to the world. But we refuse to take the challenge of love seriously.

There are always excuses not to engage. To stay home. To horde our spiritual and material resources. To keep our roots from going deep.

Am I being too harsh? After all, all of us here have offered up these, the very best hours of the week. We could have done anything with them, but we have gathered here to offer them to God or, at the very least, to sacrifice them for the peace and support of our family. This is good, but it's not magic. If the rest of our week isn't dedicated to making those same kind of sacrifices – made within the contexts of family life, work life, and friendships, then the roots won't take.

Even if you take Communion. Again, it's not magic. The goal is to have Christ is us and us in Him, but He won't turn you into his meat puppet. He wants friends to work with Him, not slaves. He wants to be strong and courageous, patient and kind because you are living a live of strength, courage, patience and kindness; not because He has given you some kind of magic pill on a spoon. Communion is real and the grace is real. But putting this grace into someone who isn't serious about love – about real sacrificial love – is like putting premium gas into broke down car with a leaky tank. It won't somehow transform a rusty POS into a performance car, ready for the weekend show. That kind of change takes work AND gasoline.

We're here at this Liturgy and we're here in this life. Let's not waste our time and let's not waste the time we have to to good. Let's deny our selfishness, our laziness, and our pride... and learn to love.

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Harvest_of_Nothing.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:57pm EDT

Bible Study #42: The Rise of David the Christ (1 Kingdom/Samuel 11-15)
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 25 October 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

1 Kingdoms (Samuel) 16. The Spirit of God enters David and leaves Saul.

Questions:

  • What do we learn about the Way of God from His selection of David? How can we put that lesson to good use in our own lives?

  • David the Christ prefigures Jesus the Christ. How do we fit into this model?

  • Saul was also a Christ. But God took His Spirit from Him and an evil spirit of the Lord tormented him. What are we to make of this? Does God cause this?

  • One of the signs that Jesus is the Christ is His power over demons. David the Christ was given some of that power to assist King Saul.

Patristic Answers:

On the selection of David.

St. Clement of Alexandria. People have gone beyond the limits of impropriety. They have invented mirrors to reflect all this artificial beautification of theirs, as if it were nobility of character or self-improvement. They should, rather, conceal such deception with a veil. It did the handsome Narcissus no good to gaze on his own image, as the Greek myth tells us. If Moses forbade his people to fashion any image to take the place of God, is it right for these women to study their reflected images for no other reason that to distort the natural features of their faces? In much the same way, when Samuel the prophet was sent to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as king, and when he brought out his chrism as soon as he saw the oldest son, admiring his handsomeness and height, Scripture tells us, “The Lord said to him: ‘Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For man sees those things that appear, but the Lord beholds the heart.’” He finally anointed not the one who was fair in body but the one who was fair of soul. If the Lord places more importance on beauty of soul than on that of the body, what must he think of artificial beautification when he abhors so thoroughly every sort of lie? “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

On the evil spirit.

St. Athanasius. Therefore, when a person falls from the Spirit for any wickedness, if he repents after his fall, the grace remains irrevocably to the one who is willing; otherwise he who has fallen is no longer in God (because that Holy Spirit and Paraclete which is in God has deserted him), but this sinner shall be in him to whom he has subjected himself, as took place in Saul’s instance; for the Spirit of God departed from him and an evil spirit was afflicting him.

St. Jerome. Again, that you may be sure that God curbs the spirit of pride, recall how the good spirit of God departed from Saul and an evil spirit troubled him. Holy Writ says, “And an evil spirit of God troubled him,” a spirit from God. Does God, then, have an evil spirit? Not at all. God had withdrawn so that afterwards an evil spirit might trouble Saul. In that sense, the spirit of God is called evil. Finally, holy David, knowing that God could take away the spirit of princes, entreats him, “And do not take your holy spirit from me.”

Psalm 90; A help in times of trouble (to include exorcisms and spiritual warfare).

Michael Heiser. The Naked Bible Podcast, episode 87.  https://www.nakedbiblepodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Transcript-87-Exorcism.pdf

K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (2nd extensively rev. ed., p. 854). Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans.

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 264). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: BS-20181025-EnterDavid.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In this homily, Fr. Anthony goes back to basics (and the beginning) to explain why it is so important that we have Christ in us and us in Him.  It was the Sunday of the 7th Ecumenical Council, and readings he used were St. John 17:1-13, St. Luke 17:11-16, Galatians 2:16-20, and Hebrews 13::7-16. Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Mechanism_of_Salvation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:52pm EDT

Bible Study #41: Saul and His Downfall (1 Kingdom/Samuel 11-15)
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 18 October 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Chapter 11. Saul leads like a boss.

Venerable Bede. The Evil One wants to distort our vision. Some of the faithful people in the church often consented to be genuinely and lovingly allied with and to serve obediently teachers whom they deemed to be as “wise as serpents” in their frequent meditation on the Scriptures, but these preservers of peace in the church did not know that these teachers were not as “innocent as doves.” But because there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed these “creators of falsehoods” and “worshipers of false doctrines” immediately showed themselves not to have the eyes of their heart illuminated. They were unable to say, “Our eyes are like doves,” but on the contrary they long to take away the right eyes of their hearers, that is, the perception of heavenly and supernal contemplation, and to turn them aside to view only evil and perverse matters and to render them powerless in the war which we wage “against spiritual powers of iniquity in heavenly places.” Nahash wanted to deprive the men of Jabesh of their right eyes so that they would not be able to see anything they needed to see for their defense against the enemy since they would have covered the left side of their face with their shields in battle.

Chapter 12. Samuel rains on Saul's coronation.

St. John Chrysostom. Samuel knows how to work the crowd and get them to hear the stakes. For Samuel also put together a high panegyric upon himself, when he anointed Saul, saying, “Whose ass have I taken, or calf, or shoes? Or have I oppressed any of you?” And yet no one finds fault with him. And the reason is because he did not say it by way of setting off himself, but because he was going to appoint a king, he wishes under the form of a defense [of himself] to instruct him to be meek and gentle.… But when he saw that they [the people] would not be hindered by any of these things [the ways of the king] but were incurably distempered, he thus both spared them and composed their king to gentleness. Therefore he also takes him to witness. For indeed no one was then bringing suit or charge against Saul that he needed to defend himself, but Samuel said those things in order to make him better. And therefore also he added, to take down his pride, “If you will listen, you and your king,” such and such good things shall be yours, “but if you will not listen, then the reverse of all.”

Chapter 13. Saul ruins his chance; Samuel prophesies a new leader “after God's own heart.”

St. John Chrysostom. How Saul's madness went from small to great. And mark it, he [the devil] desired to bring Saul into [the] superstition of witchcraft. But if he had counseled this at the beginning, the other would not have given heed; for how should he, who was even driving them out? Therefore gently and by little and little he leads him on to it. For when he had disobeyed Samuel and had caused the burnt offering to be offered, when he was not present, being blamed for it, he says, “The compulsion from the enemy was too great,” and when he ought to have bewailed, he felt as though he had done nothing. Again God gave him the commands about the Amalekites, but he transgressed these too. Then he proceeded to his crimes about David, and thus slipping easily and little by little he did not stop, until he came to the very pit of destruction and cast himself in.

Apostolic Constitutions. Each order has its own role. As, therefore, it was not lawful for one of another tribe, that was not a Levite, to offer anything or to approach the altar without the priest, so also do you do nothing without the bishop; for if any one does anything without the bishop, he does it to no purpose. For it will not be esteemed as of any avail to him. For as Saul, when he had offered without Samuel, was told, “It will not avail for you,” so every person among the laity, doing anything without the priest, labors in vain.

Venerable Bede. Don't go to battle without your weapons. Because Israel did not have arms, it abandoned the country to its enemies. We too grant our enemy an opportunity by our laziness in reading or consulting spiritual teachers, just as the Israelites did by their neglect of making arms or seeking Israelite smiths for them. Consequently, the enemy uses the opportunity to bring in their weapons of godlessness against the other virtues, just as the Philistines invaded the boundaries of the holy land.

Chapter 14. Jonathan is a hero; Saul continues to show his lack of wisdom.

St. Jerome. Don't neglect the fasts! Saul, as it is written in the first book of Kings [Samuel], pronounced a curse on him who ate bread before the evening, and until he had avenged himself upon his enemies. So none of his troops tasted any food while all the people of the land ate. And so binding was a solemn fast once it was proclaimed to the Lord, that Jonathan, to whom the victory was due, was taken by lot and could not escape the charge of sinning in ignorance, and his father’s hand was raised against him, and the prayers of the people barely saved him.

Chapter 15. The Lord removes his blessing from Saul for disobedience.

Apostolic Constitutions. On the sin of indulgence (not mercy). But he who does not consider these things, will, contrary to justice, spare him who deserves punishment; as Saul spared Agag, and Eli his sons, “who knew not the Lord.” Such a one profanes his own dignity and that church of God which is in his parish. Such a one is esteemed unjust before God and holy men, as affording occasion of scandal to many of the newly baptized and to the catechumens; as also to the youth of both sexes, to whom a woe belongs, add “a millstone about his neck,” and drowning, on account of his guilt.

St. Gregory the Great. On the need for humility. Thus Saul, after merit of humility, became swollen with pride, when in the height of power: for his humility he was preferred, for his pride rejected; as the Lord attests, who says, “When you were little in your own sight, did I not make you the head of the tribes of Israel?” He had before seen himself little in his own eyes, but, when propped up by temporal power, he no longer saw himself little. For, preferring himself in comparison with others because he had more power than all, he esteemed himself great above all. Yet in a wonderful way, when he was little with himself, he was great with God; but, when he appeared great with himself, he was little with God. Thus commonly, while the mind is inflated from an affluence of subordinates, it becomes corrupted to a flux of pride, the very summit of power being pander to desire.

St. Augustine. Not everyone who says they are sorry means it. Saul, too, when he was reproved by Samuel, said, “I have sinned.” Why, then, was he not considered fit to be told, as David was, that the Lord had pardoned his sin? Is there favoritism with God? Far from it. While to the human ear the words were the same, the divine eye saw a difference in the heart. The lesson for us to learn from these things is that the kingdom of heaven is within us and that we must worship God from our inmost feelings, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth may speak, instead of honoring him with our lips, like the people of old, while our hearts are far from him. We may learn also to judge people, whose hearts we cannot see, only as God judges, who sees what we cannot, and who cannot be biased or misled.

Next Week: David is anointed and tames a demon.

Bibliography
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 242-258).IVP.

Direct download: BS-20181018-SaulsPoorChoices.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The celebration of the Pokrova (the Protection of the Mother of God) is, in part, a celebration of the wonders that God works in the world when people dedicate themselves to living in Him and Him in them.  Today, Fr. Anthony focuses on how He restores beauty, unity, and victory through the priesthood of His people.

Direct download: Homily_on_Pokrova_and_the_Restoration_of_Beauty_Unity_and_Victory.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:17pm EDT

Bible Study #40: A King Like the Other Nations
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 11 October 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Some News. The Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has established Communion with the UAOC and the UOC-KP.

1 Kingdoms (1 Samuel) 7. The Arc and Samuel help bring orthodoxy and peace to the Hebrews for twenty years.

St. Gregory the Great. On the Twenty Years. Now what does it mean when it is said that all Israel “lay at rest after the Lord in the twentieth year,” except that the height of the perfection of the elect does not consist in the might of a good work but in the virtue of contemplation? To rest after the Lord is to cling to the imitation of our Redeemer with invincible love. And, if someone contemplates those inexpressible joys of our citizenship above but does not learn to love mightily—for often he can be diverted to love of the world—he by no means rests for the Lord. Thus, when the ark remained in Kiriath-jearim and the days were prolonged, all of Israel rested after the Lord. Surely, while the knowledge of the mind of the elect was raised up into the experience of divine delight, and while the lights of the spiritual virtues gathered beneath the light of restored glory, Israel was able to hold on all the more tenaciously to the imitation of our Lord, to the degree that they, illuminated by the immense lights of virtue, were not able to perceive those shadows by which they were divided from the light.

St. Basil the Great. On God and the gods. In Scripture “one” and “only” are not predicated of God to mark distinction from the Son and the Holy Spirit but to exclude the unreal gods falsely so called. As for instance, “The Lord alone did lead them and there was no strange god with them,” (Deuteronomy 32:12) and “then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth and served the Lord only (1 Kings 7:4). and again the words of Paul: “Just as there be gods many, and lords many, yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things. (1 Corinthians 8:5-6)”

St. Leo the Great. The Role of Fasting in Repentance and Victory. At one time the Hebrew people and all the Israelite tribes, because of the offensiveness of their sins, were held under the heavy domination of the Philistines. In order to be able to overcome their enemies, as the sacred history shows, they restored strength of soul and body with a self-imposed fast. They had judged rightly that they deserved that hard and wretched subjection because of neglect of God’s commandments and the corruption of their lives, and that in vain did they fight with weapons unless they had first made war on their sins. By abstaining, therefore, from food and drink they imposed the penalty of severe punishment on themselves, and to conquer their enemies, they first conquered the enticement of gluttony in themselves. In this way it happened that the fierce adversaries and harsh masters yielded to those who were fasting whom they had overcome when they had been full.

1 Kingdoms 8-10. The Hebrews Demand and Get a King.

8. St. Cyprian of Carthage. Don't Grumble against Your Priests! And that we may know that this voice of God came forth with his true and greatest majesty to honor and avenge his priests.… In the book of Kings [Samuel] also when Samuel, the priest, was despised, as you know, by the people of the Jews on account of his old age, the angry Lord cried out and said, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me.” And to avenge this, he raised over them King Saul, who afflicted them with grave injuries and trod under foot and pressed the proud people with all insults and punishments that the priest scorned might be avenged on the proud people by divine vengeance.(See also the Apostolic Constitutions)

9. St. John Chrysostom. Don't Blame God – or Responsibility – for Your Sin. Saul, that son of Kish, was not himself at all ambitious of becoming a king but was going in quest of his asses and came to ask the prophet about them. The prophet, however, proceeded to speak to him of the kingdom, but not even then did he run greedily after it, though he heard about it from a prophet, but drew back and deprecated it, saying, “Who am I, and what is my father’s house?” What then? When he made a bad use of the honor which had been given him by God, were those words of his able to rescue him from the wrath of him who had made him king? … [A]ll such arguments are weak as excuses, and not only weak but perilous, inasmuch as they rather kindle the wrath of God. For he who has been promoted to great honor by God must not advance the greatness of his honor as an excuse for his errors but should make God’s special favor toward him the motive for further improvement … we ought to be ... ambitious at all times to make the most of such powers as we have, and to be reverent both in speech and thought.

10. St. John Chrysostom. On Chrismation. Furthermore, whenever someone had to be chosen and anointed, the grace of the Spirit would wing its way down and the oil would run on the forehead of the elect. Prophets fulfilled these ministries.

10. St. Gregory the Great. On the Temptations of Power. It is common experience that in the school of adversity the heart is forced to discipline itself; but when one has achieved supreme rule, it is at once changed and puffed up by the experience of his high estate. It was thus that Saul, realizing at first his unworthiness, fled from the honor of governing but presently assumed it and was puffed up with pride. By his desire for honor before the people and wishing not to be blamed before them, he alienated him who had anointed him to be king.

10. St. Augustine. On Discernment and the Spirit. First, you ask that I explain how it can be said in the first book of Kings [Samuel], “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul,” when it is said elsewhere “There was an evil spirit from the Lord in Saul.” … “The Spirit blows where he wills,” and no one’s soul can be fouled by contact with the Spirit of prophecy, for it extends everywhere on account of its purity. Yet, it does not affect everyone in the same way; the Spirit’s infusion in some people confers images of things, others are granted the mental fruit of understanding, others are given both by inspiration, and still others know nothing. But the Spirit works through infusion in two ways. … One way is through the mental fruit of understanding, when the significance and relevance of the things demonstrated through images is revealed, which is a more certain prophecy [and the other is through ecstatic visions].

Bibliography

Basil of Caesarea. Saint Basil: The Letters. (E. Capps, T. E. Page, W. H. D. Rouse, & G. P. Goold, Eds., R. J. Deferrari & M. R. P. McGuire, Trans.) (Vol. 1, p. 59). London; New York; Cambridge, MA: William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Harvard University Press.”

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: BS-20181011-AKingLiketheNations.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Spiritually Speaking - 07 October 2018
Fr. Anthony Perkins

Funerals –helping the grieving, helping the departed and trusting God.

Main Sources: Mark Bailey & Fr. Paul Meyendorff (SVS Lecture, 2006)

We do not live in a death denying Church. Liturgy deals multi-dimensionally with the image of death through the poems and structure of the service.

  • According to Prof. Bailey, there is a Macro-problem: some themes seem to be missing (Baptism and Resurrection). An exception is Bright Week. Why are these subdued/missing?

  • Micro-problem: How can we arrange and perform it so that it serves people best?

  • Micro-problem: there is very little planning for funerals. Often very little advanced notice. Chanters (or choir directors) and priest MUST plan ahead to avoid stress and pressure and ensure that the services are done well. What does that mean? What is a “good service”?

Worship is a mystery: good liturgy should change the worshippers. They should be different – stronger, less anxious, more trusting – after the service than before.

  • The funeral service should take the worshipers through the occasion of death into a living appreciation of the resurrection, with all the peace, hope, and repentance that this entails.

  • We face the reality of the loss – often with very difficult images (e.g. “Why are you silent, my friend?”), but place that within the context of God’s mercy and joy.

  • We can either serve the funeral so that it helps or hinders the process of transition.

  • Don’t turn it into a choral concert where the music overshadows the service. Must understand the purpose in order to perform it well

  • Don’t sing it mundanely or matter of factly. The singers are not detached from the occasion. They are participants. The funeral is for all the living, exerting them to prepare. It is as much for the living as the dead.

  • Don’t infuse the service with contrived “sad-sounding music”. Sadness is one of the emotions that is right, but solemnity, progression, and repentance are also appropriate.

  • Don’t abbreviate the service so much that it keeps the Psalms and hymns from serving their designed purpose. They balance themes and work with the Gospel and Epistle to address the necessary questions and provide the useful context and understanding. They go from difficult to comforting; from confrontational to reassuring; and we need it all!

  • Here are some themes prominent in the funeral service:

    • Those who trust God are under His protection

    • The life that comes from following God’s commandments

    • The necessity of remission/forgiveness of sins

    • Eternal rest and tranquility (e.g. green pastures)

    • Final Judgment, and a request for mercy from a just sentence

    • Achieving a place of refreshment

    • The soul continues though the body does not (for now)

    • The sacrifice of the martyrs and their place in the Heavenly Choir

    • Grief of death – and it pointing to repentance and God’s mercy

    • Christ as Savior; Conqueror of Death

The service is not a one-time shot. Not only is it part of a life-time (eternity!) of individual and communal worship, there are other services that radiate out from the moment of death.

  • Before death: prayers for wellness, prayers to prepare the soul to separate from the body (i.e. for a good death).

  • After death: Prayer at the departure of the soul from the body. Psalms. Panakhida at the wake. Funeral. 3, 9, 40 day and yearly memorials. Memorial Liturgies.

Doing the Funeral Service(s) Well: Redundancy vs. Reiteration:

Challenge: the service is repetitive, but is it all repetition to be avoided?

  • Some repetition is useful, but some is not (and was unintentional – the example of the Vigil Service). The latter should be avoided, when possible to avoid wasted energy/effort.

  • Psychologically, reiteration is probably useful for grieving people. The themes of the funeral can eventually penetrate their hearts and bring them joy.

  • But there is a lot of pressure to cut the service down. This must be done prayerfully so that the service is not a wasteful mockery. Lots of variation. Abbreviate thoughtfully.

Highlights from the Order of Service (there is MUCH variation). Based on Matins, and especially the Matins of Holy Saturday (Lamentations/Praises).

  • Psalm 90: He who dwells in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of the God of heaven. A Psalm of protection against all enemies (to include death).

  • Psalm 118 (aka 18th Kathisma, w/ three stases) and Eulogiteria. A meditation about the life that comes from following the law (and separation that comes from transgressing it). VERY LONG.

    • We take verses 1 & 2; 72, 92, & 93; 174, 175, & 176). I consider this is the absolute minimum (although some use even fewer – or skip it altogether). The refrains go from v. 12, to Have mercy on Your servant, to Alleluia (changing w/ the Stasis).

    • Look at the words that we are singing for the departed (who has lost the use of his/hers) during Stasis 2 & 3.

    • The Eulogitera continues these themes (then goes to intercession): The Choir of the Saints have found the Fountain of Life and the Door of Paradise. May I also find the way through repentance. I am a lost sheep; call me, O Savior, and save me…. Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your servant…

  • Psalm 50. Psalm of Repentance. Have mercy on me O God, have mercy on me…

  • The Canon. This is often heavily cut, leaving only the framework. We put in at least one verse for each of the Odes that we sing, e.g. (taken from Ode Three): Having at first instructed me, the prodigal, with many signs and wonders, finally, as You are compassionate, You emptied Yourself. And then having found me whom you sought, You saved me.

  • The Kondak (sung as part of Ode 6): With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Your servant, where sickness and sorrow are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting. You only are immortal, Who has created and fashioned man. For out of the earth were we mortals made, and unto the same earth shall we return again, as You commanded when You made me, saying unto me: “For dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.” Whither we mortals all shall go, making our lamentation into the song: Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

  • The Hymns of St. John Damascus (one for each Tone; we do 1, 3, 5, & 8). These are poetic hymns that go straight to the heart, forcing us to confront the reality of death. E.g.
    (Tone 8) I weep and I wail when I think upon death, and behold our beauty, created in the likeness of God, lying in the tomb, disfigured, bereft of glory and form. O Marvel! What is this mystery concerning us? Why have we been given over unto corruption? And why have we been wedded unto death? Truly as it is written by the command of God, who giveth the departed rest.

  • The Beatitudes. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

  • Epistle (Thes 4:13-17) , Gospel (St. John 5: 24-30 (et al)) , associated verses, and homily.

  • The Hymns of the Last Kiss (we add Psalm 22 (23)- why?). Like Hymns of St. John, these provide brutal honesty. E.g. : Tell us now brother/sister, where do you go from us silently and without a word. Look back and console your weeping relatives and comfort your friends. Behold the grief and the tears shed for you. Where now are your relatives and friends? Behold, we part! Indeed, all human endeavor is vanity.

  • The Tropars for the Departed, Absolution, Memory Eternal.

 

Question: How does this differ from other funerals? Is the brutality of the hymns good?

Direct download: Spiritually_Speaking_-_On_the_Funeral_Service.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:45pm EDT

Throw down your net!
Homily on St. Luke 5:1-11

Who knew better about how to catch fish than Peter and the rest of the PROFESSIONAL FISHERMEN out in their boats? Jesus? What did He know about fishing?

We see the reasonableness of His suggestion because we see it within the context of His success and His power over water, His power over fish, and that it wasn't really about catching fish anyways. But more on that later.

All of us are experts in certain things, and we really are called to put our expertise in service to the church. We are blessed by your voices, your organizational skills, your accounting acumen, and, of course, your mastery of the culinary arts. You share this with us and we are better for it and God is glorified in it.

But what about when it comes to the main way that we are called to show our love for God and one another? The one thing that all of us, no matter our age or profession, are called to make the center of our lives, the thing that defines – or should define- our routines and our parish culture?

The Sunday Liturgy. Just as the evening meal should be the center of family life, so to should this Holy Supper be the center of our life. It is the primary way we feed ourselves, the primary way we evangelize our community, and the primary way we transform this world. In other words, it is the main way we become better people – with Christ in us and us in Him; that our community becomes more patient and loving and eager to share the Gospel with others, and it becomes the way that the Uncreated Energies of God work to bring peace and joy to the world that groans in agony.

But sometimes it can leave us feeling a lot like the disciples did after fishing all night without catching anything.

And like them, when we are called to “do it again,” we have our rational and well-founded responses on how it won't work and how to make it better. This is because we judge it based on our own experience and expertise.

  • Is it entertaining? What would increase its entertainment value? (it will never be able to compete with a good concert; and it certainly won't be worth the hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month that its enthusiastic supporters give). The example of language. The example of shortening it. The example of shortening it. We'll certainly do what we can to make the music good and the setting beautiful, but we can't compete with the alternatives if secular entertainment is our standard.

  • Is it educational? What would increase its pedagogical value? Better sermons on Youtube; certainly better lectures and Bible studies. We'll certainly do what we can, but we can't compete with the alternatives if that is our standard.

Of course, to those who have prepared for it, the Liturgy is enjoyable and educational. But that isn't really the point.

It wasn't really about catching fish. It was about living and sharing the Gospel. By following the Lord's command – in love – they did just that and the world was blessed by their work (much more than if they had just stuck to their professional opinion about fishing).

It's not about filling our pews or about filling our coffers. It's about loving one another and the Lord in joy. He has told us to do that here together each Sunday morning – and to invite others to join us (even if it hasn't worked before).

In hindsight it was obvious that it was right to follow the Lord's instruction when came to catching fish; it is no less obvious that it is right now when it comes to living and spreading the Gospel.

Direct download: Homily_on_Casting_the_Net.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:21pm EDT

Bible Study #39: The Ark and the (Personal) Ontology of Holiness (1 Kingdoms 4-6)
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 04 October 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Intro on the Effect of Holiness and Evil.

1 Kingdom 4. How the Israelites lost the Arc of the Covenant!

1 Kingdom 4:3-4. Note from the OSB: The people did not realize that their defeat came from the hand of God. But rather than discovering why God allowed them to be defeated and repenting of their unfaithfulness, they think that having the ark with them will ensure that God is with them. God is NOT to be manipulated or objectified!

Note that 30,000 Israelite soldiers died, as did Hophni and Phinehas. It's all related. Just because we are the priests and chosen people of the Great God does NOT make us better at worldly things (like war) than those around us. St. Jerome notes that Eli, the equivalent of a bishop, was punished for his sons lack of chastity and points out that all the children of bishops need to be chaste.

1 Kingdom 5. Fun with Dagon.

More on Dagon. Of the remaining Biblical references to Dagan/Dagon, note may be made of other passages which confirm the association of the god with the Philistines. In Judges 16:23 the Philistine chiefs assemble, presumably in the temple of Dagon, to offer sacrifice of thanksgiving to Dagon for their capture of Samson. Dagon is called ‘their/our god’ and he receives a zebaḥ gādōl, ‘a great sacrifice’. Although it is not explicitly stated here that there was a Dagon temple at Gaza, no change of locale is implied and it seems likely that there was such a temple, since there appear to have been many temples of the god. Joshua 15:41 and 19:27, where the placename Beth-Dagon occurs, imply there were such temples in Judah and in Asher. According to 1 Chronicles 10:10 the head of Saul was initially displayed by the Philistines as a trophy of war in a temple of Dagon. This appears to have been at Beth-Shan (1 Samuel 31:10). That the cult of Dagon persisted into the intertestamental period is clear from 1 Macc 10:83–84, according to which the High Priest Jonathan burned down the temple of Dagon in Azotus, i.e. Ashdod, which had become the place of refuge of the cavalry of Apollonius, governor of Coele-Syria.

St. John Chrysostom. In short, if you believe the place is holy because the law and the books of prophets are there, then it is time for you to believe that idols and the temples of idols are holy. Once, when the Jews were at war, the people of Ashdod conquered them, took their ark and brought it into their own temple. Did the fact that it contained the ark make their temple a holy place? By no means! It continued to be profane and unclean, as the events immediately proved. For God wanted to teach the enemies of the Jews that the defeat was not due to God’s weakness but to the transgressions of those who worshiped him. And so the ark, which had been taken as booty in war, gave proof of its own power in an alien land by twice throwing the idol to the ground so that the idol was broken. The ark was so far from making that temple a holy place that it even openly attacked it.

The Venerable Bede. When those who delight in idolatry see the power of Christ against their own gods, they do not wish to embrace faith in him, lest on account of their faith alone they be compelled to reject the whole pantheon of their gods. When false Christians see that because of their faith in Christ the sins which they love are now forbidden to them, they ward off with all their might the very piety called forth by their faith, so that they might not end up being ordered at the behest of their faith to quench the desires they serve instead of God. … They do not understand that there is a great difference between simply being ignorant and refusing to learn what you have studied and ought to know.

Note: they moved the ark to three different cities, hoping that one of the local deities would be able to overcome the power of the Ark. It didn't work.

1Kingdom 6. Getting the Arc back to the Israelites. Samuel takes charge.

Even after the Philistines decided to send the Ark back, they were punished for their disrespect.

Cassiodorius. We read in the first book of Kings [Samuel] that because of the damage done to the consecrated ark the foreigners were smitten on their hinder parts, so that they even suffered the dreadful fate of being gnawed alive by mice. This remains a perennial reproach on them, because no other was punished in this way. Similarly he afflicts sinners in the afterlife … they are so devoured by mice when the devil’s hostile troop surrounds them.

St. Gregory the Great. For observe, when the calves were shut up at home, the cows, which are fastened to the wagon bearing the ark of the Lord, moan and go their way, they give forth lowings from deep within, and yet [they] never alter their steps from following the path. They feel love indeed shown by compassion but never bend their necks behind. Thus, they must go on their way, who, being placed under the yoke of the sacred law, henceforth carry the Lord’s ark in interior knowledge, so as never to deviate from the course of righteousness which they have entered upon, in order to take compassion on the necessities of relatives. For Beth-shemesh is rendered “the house of the sun.” Thus to go to Beth-shemesh with the ark of the Lord placed on them is in company with heavenly knowledge to draw near to the seat of light eternal. But we are then really going on toward Beth-shemesh when, in walking the path of righteousness, we never turn aside onto the adjoining side-paths of error, not even for the sake of the affection we bear for our offspring.

St. Justin Martyr. In the execution of this plan, the cows, without any human guidance, proceeded not to the place from where the tabernacle had been taken but to the farm of a man named Hoshea (the same name as his whose name was changed to Jesus [Joshua], as was said above, and who led your people into the promised land and distributed it among them by lot). When the cows came to this farm, they halted. Thus it was shown to you that they were guided by the powerful name [of Jesus], just as the survivors among your people who fled Egypt were guided into the promised land by him whose name was changed from Hoshea to Jesus [Joshua].

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Healey, J. F. (1999). Dagon. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (2nd extensively rev. ed., p. 218). Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans.


Direct download: BS-20181004-SupernaturalCageMatch.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

On Fostering and Defending a Culture of Cheerful Giving

St. Paul says today that we should not give grudgingly or out of coercion, but out of his heart – because God loves a cheerful giver.

It is tempting to think of this in purely utilitarian terms: if we do this, more money will be given to charity, whether that is in support of the poor, in support of evangelism, or whatever.

And it is true that this would have an effect.  But this is NOT the only – or even the main – purpose of St. Paul's teaching.

St. John Chrysostom (a great friend of the poor and admonisher of the rich);  “God appointed almsgiving not only for the nourishment of the needy but also for the benefit of the providers, and much more so for the latter than for the former.”

And it is certainly true that this will improve the disposition of the giver. Attitude may not be everything, but it is a lot; especially when it is tied to actions that benefit others.  This turns an excuse for grumbling into the exercise of virtue; of an opportunity to just dig a deeper grave to a chance to climb up just a little higher on the ladder towards perfection and lasting joy.

But even that doesn't exhaust the great benefit of cheerful giving; you see this virtue of cheerful action is generalizable past the giving of money into every action of our lives. MOREOVER, it's benefits go beyond the individuals directly involved to the culture they are a part of.

Robert Putnum: Making Democracy Work:  Culture of Trust vs. Culture of Patronage.

What would happen if we could relax and just be good to one another? If we gave without thinking of what we might get in return? If we could sacrifice without having to worry about being cheated or taken advantage of. If we could give knowing that everyone else was doing the same; and that our attitude as much as our efforts were creating an icon of the Kingdom of God here on earth?

Compare that to the opposite: Giving out of coercion, knowing that if I gave selflessly it would just disappear because others were too lazy; that …

Families and parishes are designed to be icons of the Kingdom; not of tyranny, but of cheerful giving in all things. But it can only work if there is a critical mass of people who are willing to live this way.

Axelrod “The Evolution of Cooperation” How many predators and shirkers to transform a trusting culture into the broken one?

The equivalent in parish life? A few trying to sustain everything. The temptation? USE COERSION!  Higher dues, shaming, exhaustion, “checking out”.

The real answer: cheerful giving. As individuals – always (it's the winning stragtegy no matter what – martyr or evangelist). As a parish? Coercive parishes die. Joyful parishes live. Which one?

Direct download: Homily_on_the_Culture_of_Cheerful_Giving.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:49pm EDT

Bible Study #38 – Hannah and the Cost of Bad Priests
St. Mary's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Allentown PA
Fr. Anthony Perkins, 27 September 2018

Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Intro on Bad Priests – why is it so terrible, who is to blame, and how do we fix it?

1 Kingdoms (aka 1 Samuel). Written by the Prophet Samuel around 1000 BC.

On Hannah. She is barren. She promises to dedicate a son to the Lord (1 Kingdoms 1:11). Note that the Hebrew version is different.

Here is the Great Canon on this episode (from the Beatitudes on the Thursday of the Fifth Week):

Chaste Hannah when praying moved her lips in praise, while her voice was not yet heard; but yet, though barren, she bears a son her prayer deserved.

Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom.

Hannah's child, the great Samuel, was reckoned among the Judges, and he was brought up in Arimathea and in the House of the Lord. Imitate him, my soul, and before judging others, judge your own actions. (I Kings 16:13. )

Remember us, O Master, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom.

She is granted a son (Samuel) whom she takes to Eli when he is weaned. Her hymn of thanksgiving and dedication is wonderful (1 Kingdoms 2:1-10).

St. Augustine says this of her hymn;

Are these words going to be regarded as simply the words of one mere woman giving thanks for the birth of her son? Are people’s minds so turned away from the light of truth that they do not feel that the words poured out by this woman transcend the limit of her own thoughts? Surely, anyone who is appropriately moved by the events whose fulfillment has already begun, even in this earthly pilgrimage, must listen to these words and observe and recognize that through this woman (whose very name, Hannah, means “God’s grace”), there speaks, by the spirit of prophecy, the Christian religion itself, the City of God itself, whose king and founder is Christ.

Samuel really is a man of God from his youth up. Even when he is young, his purity and piety is contrasted with the wickedness of the “Priests of the Lord” (who “did not know the Lord”) Hophni and Phinehas, Eli's sons. Their doom, along with that of their father, is proclaimed by “a man of God” (1 Samuel 2:27-36).

The Canon says this about Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas (Beatitudes & Song 5);

You, my soul, for lack of understanding have drawn upon yourself the priest Eli's condemnation, by allowing the passions to act sinfully in you, as he allowed his children.

Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely and on My account.

Aaron offered to God the fire pure and undefiled; but Hophni and Phinehas, like you, my soul, offered to God a foul and rebellious life.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

Note the comparison with Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Eli was a prophet and Hophni and Phinehas were priests. The priests were wicked, but Eli shares their condemnation. What was his sin?

St. Chrysostom describes one of the reasons bad priests are such a burden.

When rulers are honored by their people, this too is reckoned against them; as in the case of Eli it is said, “Did I not choose him out of his father’s house?” But when they are insulted, as in the instance of Samuel, God said, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me.” Therefore insult is their gain, honor their burden. What I say, therefore, is for your sakes, not for theirs. He that honors the priest will honor God also; and he who has learned to despise the priest will sooner or later insult God.

St. John Chrysostom recognizes the danger of following Eli's example of excessive lenience;

Hence I beg you to offer a hand to our children lest we ourselves become liable for what is committed by them. Are you not aware of what happened to old Eli for not properly correcting his sons’ shortcomings? I mean, when a disease requires surgery, it rapidly becomes incurable if the physician is bent on treating it with skin ointments and does not apply the appropriate remedy. In just the same way it behooved that old man to take appropriate action regarding his sons’ failing, but by being guilty of excessive tolerance he too shared in their punishment.

St. Basil the Great puts it all into perspective and sets the stage for next week:

Because their father [Eli] did not chastise them with enough severity … he moved the forbearance of God to wrath so great that foreign peoples rose up against them and killed those sons of his in war in one day. His entire nation, furthermore, was vanquished, and a considerable number of his people fell. Now, this happened even with the ark of the holy covenant of God nearby—an unheard of thing—so that the ark, which it was not lawful at any time for the Israelites or even for all their priests themselves to touch and which was kept in a special place, was carried hither and yon by impious hands and was put in the shrines of idols instead of the holy temples. Under such circumstances one can readily conjecture the amount of laughter and mockery that was inflicted upon the very name of God by these foreigners. Add to this, also, that Eli himself is recorded to have met a most pitiable end after hearing the threat that his seed would be removed from the priestly dignity; and so it happened.

Such, then, were the disasters which befell that nation. Such griefs did the father suffer because of the iniquity of his sons, even though no accusation was ever made against Eli’s personal life. Moreover, he did not bear with those sons of his silence, but he earnestly exhorted them not to persist longer in those same wicked deeds, saying, “Do not act this way, my sons; for I hear no good report concerning you.” And to stress the enormity of their sin, he confronted them with an alarming view of their perilous state. “If one man shall sin against another,” he said, “they will pray for him to the Lord; but if a man shall sin against God, who shall pray for him?” Yet, as I said, because he did not exercise a suitable rigor of zeal in their regard, the disaster recounted above took place. And so I find throughout the Old Testament a great many instances of this kind illustrating the condemnation of all disobedience.

Bibliography

St. Andrew of Crete. The Great Canon.

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 209). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: BS-20180927-HannahandBadPriests.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on St. John 3:13-17 (Sunday before the Cross).

Are we open to an experience of God in the Holy Liturgy? Much of our dissatisfaction with “Church” comes from the fact that we are not. But this is what we were made for. The movements, ritual, music, and theology are all perfectly designed to make the Divine Liturgy the perfect medium for us to experience God. But it's not automatic. It takes preparation: is there anything worth having that doesn't?

We are used to an easy fix. Quick entertainment. Quick results. “Hard work? No! We're entitled to easy! In fact, we don't even need Church. It's too hard and boring.” But if that is what we think, then it is a sure sign that either the parish is not offering the fullness of the faith (which is rare but does happen) or that we ourselves have all but lost – through our own neglect - our ability to experience God at all.

So how do we prepare?

It's not really about being “good”, at least not in the way that we think about about it. That's like taking a test. “How did I do this week”. “I had a good week”. Go through the list. It's not about that kind of evaluation, it's about holiness (being “perfect as God is perfect” - Matthew 5:48). Holiness is not an attribute that we can ever have on our own. It only comes from our proximity to God, from the extent we have allowed his uncreated energies, his Grace, to reside in us and change us.

This requires that we refuse to have dealings with things, ideas, and actions that would distance us from God AND that we continually renew our connection with him through attentiveness, gratitude, and prayer.

If we have worked on this all week, then when we come to Liturgy on Sunday, we are ready to really experience Him in and with us; we will be transported to heaven just as He comes to us on earth; and we will truly have become his sons and daughters.

This is the requirement of belief in today's Gospel and this is how God works through that belief to save us.

Direct download: Homily_on_Holiness_and_the_Experience_of_God.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:46pm EDT

In this, the first class of the new Liturgical Year (given on the Eve of the Nativity of the Birthgiver of God), Fr. Anthony talks about the need to keep everything, to include Scripture, connected to God through the Church.  He also shares a reflection Fr. Harry Linsenbigler wrote on the Wisdom of Solomon and Autocephaly in Ukraine.

Direct download: BS-20180920-ContextisEverything.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:49pm EDT

Fr. Anthony interviews Fr. Harry Linsenbigler (Canonist for the UOC-USA) about the Ukrainian Autocephaly and whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a legitimate role in it.
Direct download: 20180913-FrHarry-EPCanonsUK.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:19pm EDT

Parish Politics Threaten Evangelism – A Parable

It was a long Summer. 

It all started when I got an e-mail from someone asking if he could come to Liturgy.  He also asked about membership and taking Communion.  I did my usual thing, underscoring that everyone was welcome to experience God and fellowship here, and explaining what I would do to help him prepare for Communion and membership.

A great start, right?  Well, it ended well, but it wasn’t easy.

Come to find out, Tom (not his real name) was born and baptized at our parish.  However, as with many urban parishes, ours went through some serious problems.  I won’t go through all of them, but for about a decade the neighborhood was dangerous (no parking lot, cars broken into, people threatened on the street even during Pascha and Nativity) and membership dropped.  For a while we even went without regular priestly coverage.  During that time, his family joined a parish in the Northern suburbs that was safe, was growing, and offered regular access to the Mysteries.  Still, it wasn’t easy.  Tom’s family never fit in.  When, as an adult, he finally got sick of people making fun of his accent and calling his family racists (they were originally from the South), he left and worshipped on his own.  That was fine until he had kids.  As with many in this situation, he wanted his children to be brought up in the tradition of their family.  His wife was up for it, too.

He went once, by himself, to the suburban church and was attacked by the priest (the priest confirmed that Tom was excommunicated according to the Canons of the Church because he had voluntarily refused to come to Communion for more than three weeks and had worshipped for so many years on his own) and the laity (the lay leaders of the parish reminded him that he was twenty years in arrears on his dues and he was not welcome until he paid up; they also made fun of his pickup truck).  They all wanted their pound of flesh.  I’d love to say that this was out of character, but that is the culture of that parish.  I guess it works if you’re on the inside.

Tom did some research and found out that our neighborhood was now safe and that our parish was thriving (we haven’t done great about getting our neighbors to come, but we have attracted many families from various other areas of the city and Western suburbs) and that’s when he decided to get in touch.

I invited Tom and his family to start worshipping with us and we worked out a program of individualized catachesis/preparation to bring him back into Communion and to prepare his wife and children for Baptism and Chrismation.  I’ve done this before, and it’s awesome to be a part of.  So awesome.  It went better than you can even imagine.

However, when the other priest heard about it, he started a smear campaign against me, against my parish, and against Tom and his family.  This was very painful, but that pain was completely trumped and transformed by the joy of bringing a family into such a deep relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Orthodox Church (Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia)!

Due to the way they demonized us and the many walls they built between us (Canons!  Propriety!  Parish Order!  Pound of Flesh!), I doubt that the relations between that priest and me and between our parishes will heal any time soon, but who knows?  I look forward to the restoration of our brotherhood.  Until then, they do their thing and we do ours.

Looking back, I don’t see how I could have acted any differently.  This was a family that needed Christ and there were just too many stumbling blocks put in their way at the other parish (and remember, he was baptized here!).  And they have really thrived and we with them, Glory to God!

Direct download: 20180914-AParableonUkraine.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:38pm EDT

Homily Notes: Being Nice is NOT Enough
[These notes probably bear little resemblance to what was actually preached as they spent all Sunday morning at home on the printer - rookie mistake!!!] 

Gospel Lesson:  St. Matthew 22:35-46 (The Great Commandment)

Great lesson for the start of the school year: “what is the most important thing ever?” Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind!

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: To love God with the whole heart is the cause of every good. The second commandment includes the righteous acts we do toward other people. The first commandment prepares the way for the second and in turn is established by the second. For the person who is grounded in the love of God clearly also loves his neighbor in all things himself. The kind of person who fulfills these two commandments experiences all the commandments.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2002). Matthew 14-28 (pp. 157–158). InterVarsity Press.

Why is it so important? What can't we just skip to the second one, as the non-believers do? Isn't it enough just to love?

No. We have to be intentionally connected to the SOURCE of love. It's like how our homes need to be connected to the generators through the power grid. We might be able to create enough energy “off-grid” to power some things some of the time, but in order for it to be consistent, we need to be on the grid, and that grid needs to be connected to the generators.

Without that, our “love” of your neighbor is going to be based on how we are feeling, and that is a terrible way to love. We can see how well this works just by looking around. Everyone can be nice and sacrificial and patient when it feels right; but who is willing to do it when it is hard and unpleasant?

Loving God with complete openness, humility, and awe allows His love to strengthen us; it also grants the ability to see God in our neighbor – even our enemy – so that when we are serving Him we are also serving Him and thus remain “hooked up to the grid”, so to speak.

There is another point worth making because our context hides it from us: this openness, humility, and awe – this love of God with the whole heart, soul, and mind – needs to be done in community. It is made to be done within the Church. The Church is not just for us; it is the place where the conduit of love connecting us with God and one another is the purest and strongest.

Of course we can create connections without God, playing with institutions and laws and the distribution of power in hopes of finding an optimal solution [and we've done a pretty good job of that in our country because we have tried to create a system where the drive to take care of the self and the family requires one to find ways to serve the needs of others and where the earnest desire to serve others is rewarded with the ability to care for oneself and one's family]... but even so, this can only go so far.

Without the connection to God and the ability to see the image of God in all our neighbors, we are still governed and limited by our own power and our own feelings and motivations. Without reliable access to the source of Goodness, Patience, Love, and Courage, even our system will either break down into an anarchy of competing feelings or calcify into a totalitarianism where one group's idea of love – rooted in fallen ideologies and tribal egoism – will create a hell on earth.

It is not enough to be connected to one another and to try to “be nice.” Let me give one more example before I conclude. Many of us are connected to zillions of neighbors through social media. And when it works well, it is wonderful. But have you noticed how often it sours? How, even those we love and know to be good post things that create pain and division? Even groups that are explicitly Christian can dissolve into into hellish pits of division, hurt feelings, and wickedness. We've all seen it, it isn't good, and there has to be a better way.

There is, and what we are called to do, that thing we called “Orthodox Christianity” is it.

Being nice is not enough. Being “Christian” is not enough. That niceness and that “Christianity” need to be continually reinforced by the grace of God. This is only done through love, and this love is meant to be cultivated, experience, and shared within the Church and from the Church to the world.

The fullness of that Church is meant to be found here at St. Mary's. If we open our hearts and our community to God through sincere worship and immersion in the sacraments; if we open our hearts to and serve one another and the hurting neighbors in our community; the conduit of love will be opened to maximum throttle and the grace of God will light us up and turn us into a beacon of hope and security to the world.

May our light so shine among men that they will see our good deeds and be drawn to worship the God who is in heaven.

 

Direct download: 20180909-Homily_on_Why_We_Need_to_Love_God.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:03pm EDT

Homily Notes on the Wedding Feast (St. Matthew 22:1-14)

Invitation to the Wedding Feast: we don't intuit the context (why not just RSVP? – gnashing of teeth for wearing the wrong clothes!?). What is missing? Mutual obligation! Respect! Duty! Love! Wear the garment – the uniform – the king gave you!

Speaking of uniform: reword the parable with a more familiar context.

The kingdom has been invaded so the king mobilized the elite forces. They refused. Killed their officers. Result? Treason. Death. Is that okay? Next? Mobilized the National Guard. Gave them everything they needed. Sent them to the front to do their duty and exercise their love. One soldier refused to take up his weapon and wear his uniform. This was not a mistake or simple laziness and it was more than mere cowardice; it was a deliberate act of rebellion. Against his sworn duty, against the legitimate authority, against his home and the homes of his neighbors. During a time of war. Doesn't such a one deserve to go where there will be gnashing of teeth?

We have a duty to God. He has mobilized us to bring peace. Are we committed? How does our uniform – baptismal garment – look? Sinless, blameless life? No? Wash that uniform!

Is our weapon – the sword of truth – clean? Do we know how to use it? It is a weapon of love, its slashes are the exercise of patience and its thrusts are acts of service and its counter-thrusts are the movements of forgiveness.

Is our armor strong? It is the combination of humility – humility makes the fragile ego invulnerable – and God's grace.

The Lord has mobilized us here. We have a duty and obligation to do His will. It is His will that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. Let us now pray and work towards the accomplishment of that very thing.

 

Direct download: 20180902-Homily_on_Obligation.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:04pm EDT

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
St. Matthew 21:33-42

The primary purpose of this parable at the time it was given was to warn God's chosen people that God had sent His Son – who was now among them – to see how the stewards of his vineyards were doing; to remind them what they had done to the prophets, and to ensure them that if they mistreated the Son of God was in their midst, there would be a terrible accounting.

We need to understand this lesson, but less because of what was going on then and much more because of what is going on now. The primary purpose of this parable NOW is to warn US. We – the tenants and stewards of St. Mary's and of the Church at large - are the Jews in this parable and this parish and the Church is the vineyard.

We see from the structure of the parable that there is a great temptation for tenants and stewards to misbehave; to think of the leased property as their own. We also know from experience that, just as in the parable, evil men will take advantage of the lack of transparency and oversight in situations like this to abuse the innocent and destroy those who question their actions and the illegitimacy of their claim of authority.

It is our calling to manage the vineyard properly, according to the Commands of God. To see that all of its fruits are offered both to the glory of God and to the service of our neighbor... NOT for our own glory.

How are we doing in this? As your pastor I can honestly tell you that there is much here that is done absolutely in accordance with those Commandments: glorify God and serve your neighbor. In fact, right now we are taking the best moments of the week and offering up the very fruit of the vine and wheat of the harvest so that the hungry and thirsty in our midst can be fed. This is the first calling of the parish, and while we could do a better job of inviting our hungry and thirsty neighbors to come and join us, we are completely dedicated to this thing.

This dedication is also seen in our charitable ministries and outreach, and in the way that we care for one another and for every former stranger that comes into our lives. Glory to God. I am sure that we have entertained many angels unawares.

But we must admit that there are things for which we must answer. The harming of innocents in our midst is an abomination and, because of where it occurs and in Whose Name we work, a blasphemy. It would be better for those who harm the innocent that a millstone where hung around their neck and they were thrown in the midst of the sea. These are the words of our Master and He is deadly serious.

It is easy for us to say; “no, Lord – not us.” And it is true that this parish has been protected from the sorts of things that have been occurring in so many of the parishes around us. Thank God.

But we have to take the challenge seriously. It is not enough for us to be blameless. We are running the vineyard and we are responsible for what happens here. As Paschal Psalm 81 proclaims, we must:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

This is not just a passive protection, although that is part of it, but a call to hold one another accountable and to bring justice.

Christ is in our midst – we are gathered here in His name, we called Him here! And there will be an accounting.

  • Are we running our lives, our families, our parish, and the Church according to God's will?

  • Do we protect the innocent from physical predation?

  • Do we protect the innocent from spiritual predation, to include all the lies that our society tells them about themselves, about God; and especially when it denies the reality of sin and our need for the salvation that Christ alone offers?

  • Do we protect, honor, and listen to the prophets who come into our midst to point out our failings and who call us to rededicate ourselves to Christ, His Church, and the Gospel?

  • Do we protect, honor, and serve God's Son when He comes into our midst as the hungry, the thirsty, the powerless, and the afflicted?

We are blessed to have been leased a beautiful vineyard. We repent of the times we have shirked our duties and used it for our own glory and against the will of God.

As we celebrate this Liturgy, offering “Thine own of Thine own”, we rededicate ourselves to working to the Glory of God and to the love of our neighbor.





Direct download: 20180826-Homily_on_the_Vinyard.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:19pm EDT

One of the most important questions: Who is Jesus the Christ (Joshua the Messiah)?

1.  Man (prophet) who lived 2000 years ago. Very wise. Set an example of love, sacrifice, and a commitment to virtue that we should all emulate.

Better than nothing (but not enough).

But wait there is more – and this is the best part:

2.  That He is also God. The God who was God before the world began; the one “through Whom all things are made.”

This feast – and the historical event it commemorates – forces us to move beyond a purely human Jesus to begin understanding the Mystery of him being both fully man (in fact, the ideal man) and fully God.

The unbearable light? The cloud? The voice? When you study the history in the Old Testament, you have to notice that these are all things that only happen around encounters with THE GOD.

3.  But here's the payoff. It's not just about who Jesus is: it is a celebration of WHY Jesus is. This event on Mount Tabor happened on the way to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.

Jesus isn't just 100% human and 100% God – He is the One who came to set us free from sin, to give us the power that protects us from death itself. He is the one that will be our protector and our deliverer.

If we repent of our sins and accept Him – the One who is both God and man – as our God, our deliverer, and our protector; He adopts us as His sons and daughters and delivers us into the kingdom of His glory.

Like the seeds of the spring blossomed into the fruit we see here before us, so will we be transformed from what we are today into radiant children of God.

We have accepted Him as Lord and Master – let us now celebrate this Transfiguration.

Direct download: Transfiguration_Homily_-_Who_is_the_Christ.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:44pm EDT

Homily on St. Matthew 18:23-35: The forgiving Lord and the unforgiving servant.  The main theme of today's homily is that we have the power to transform the world for the better (through gratitude and mercy) or the worse (through ingratitude and tyranny).  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20180812-ThePowerofGratitude.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:53am EDT

The Post-Communion Prayers of the Holy Orthodox Church from the Prayer Book of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Direct download: UOC-USA_Post-Communion_Prayers.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:09am EDT

The Communion Prayers of the Holy Orthodox Church from the Prayer Book of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Direct download: UOC-USA_Communion_Prayers.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:07am EDT

The Evening Prayers of the Holy Orthodox Church from the Prayer Book of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Direct download: UOC-USA_Evening_Prayers.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:46pm EDT

The Morning Prayers of the Holy Orthodox Church from the Prayer Book of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Direct download: UOC-USA_Morning_Prayers.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:44pm EDT

The Service of Repentance is designed to help believers enter into the spirit of contrition as they prepare for the traditional Rite of Confession.  This version consists of the Trisagion prayers, Psalm 50, the Prayer of Manasseh, The Canon of Repentance (abridged), and the the Litany of Repentance.  The Canon of Repentance intentionally resembles sections of the Funeral Service.

Direct download: ServiceofRepentance.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:54pm EDT

Today's Gospel (Matthew 14:22-34) includes the powerful image of Christ taming the storm and saving Peter from drowning.  Not only has He used this power to bring peace to our lives; He has given us the power - and responsibility - to do it for others.  The calm of Christ in us and us in Him must be shared with the world around us!

Direct download: 20180729-PoweroverChaos.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:12pm EDT

We have trust backwards, claiming to trust God in the big things (i.e. of the soul) while demonstrating little if any trust God in the little things (i.e. of the body).  In His homily on Matthew 14: 14-22, St. John Chrysostom makes the point that the disciples were only ready to believe that Christ was the master of the unseen world after they had learned that he was the master of the things they could see.  If we have skipped that first step - as is evidenced when we exhibit no confidence in His ability to rightly govern and bless our bodies and our budgets - it is quite possible that we are fooling ourselves when we say we trust him to rightly govern and bless our souls. 

Direct download: 20180722-OnScarcity.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:01pm EDT

Homily on Romans 15:1-7, focusing on the role of patience in the Christian life.

Direct download: 20180715-Patience.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

A meditation on Romans 10:9-10:  If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180701-LifeinChrist.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:06pm EDT

In this (short, Summer) homily for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Fr. Anthony reflects on Romans 6:23; "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180624-WagesofSin.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:09pm EDT

It was such a blessing to be back at St. Michael's in Woonsocket.  The homily builds on St. Paul's words "there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:11; a wonderful line to remember on "All Saints of [Your Nation] Day") to put the BIG QUESTIONS of the day into perspective.

Direct download: 20180610-Identity.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of All Saints
Sunday after Pentecost

Lives of the Saints: every day is an opportunity to learn, and then to remember.

One thing you will notice right away is that the saints were not the same. Some were martyrs, some were soldiers, some were preachers, some were bakers, some were known for their fasting, others for their courage, others for their patience, others for their charity. Some for their piety and others for their dedication.

This is encouraging because we are not all the same. The call to sainthood is not a call to become exactly the same. Growing up, many of us had Mother Theresa as a great example of sainthood; and she is an awesome saint, but could she have been a warrior saint? She certainly had the tenacity and courage, but did she have the physical strength?

Saints are all different because people are all different. Society's need for variation does not go away as it becomes more holy. The Church is the new humanity – the old humanity restored through Christ. But the new humanity still needs to eat, so it has to have virtuous farmers and bakers; it still needs protection so it has to have virtuous soldiers and police; it still needs to learn about the world so it has to have virtuous teachers, peoples' needs still need to be identified and met so we need entrepreneurs and investors. People still get sick so we need medical professionals and administrators.

The thing that makes the lives of the saints different is not what they did or do, but the Spirit in which they do it. The motivation of the saint is not greed or fear or power or attention. The motivation of the saint is to manifest the will of God in every moment. To see what each moment requires and satisfy it with virtue.

The moment requires something different from the baker that from the soldier; something different form the child than from the parent.

So the first charge to you, the saints, priests, and pastors of this parish is to know yourself: and especially your vocation and strengths – and work with God to perfect you and your service.

Perfection is not just some kind of warm fuzzy – I've got God living in my heart – but the ability to bring perfect intent and action into the world.

This leads to the second charge: listen to the moment – and then transform it with perfect action.

You won't always get it right, but if you work at it, you'll get better over time. And it is this kind of grace in action that will save your soul and bring salvation to those around you.

Direct download: 20180603-All_Saints-Corrected.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily for Pentecost (on Confession)
John 20:19-23 (Matins Gospel); Acts 2:1-11; John 7:37-52; 8:12

Lots of powers associated with the Holy Spirit in scripture and popular culture.

  • Handle Snakes

  • Drink poison

  • Languages

  • Glowing with Light

But what use are those things?

  • Snakes? Leave them alone or kill them

  • Poison? Clean water and poison warnings

  • Languages? Not a huge issue any more

  • Glowing with Light? Electricity

No practical need for these things (except for a demonstration of God's power).

God desires that all of us have joy; and that we be one in perfection as God is [one in perfection].

What is it that causes the most pain in life? Snakes? Poison? Darkness?

No: the thing that makes life so difficult – and a living hell for many people – is that we are messed up. We are messed up as individuals and when circumstances force us together, we are even more messed up in community. The existential angst of loneliness and societal dysfunction are a result of our brokenness as people and as a people.

God sees that. He knows our pain. He feels it more keenly than we do because he knows everyone's pain that every has been, is, and will ever be.

And so He sent His His Son and the Holy Spirit to comfort and save us.

What is the super-power that the Holy Spirit gives us? Let me two fundamental powers that will make your life better and more joyful.

  • Prophecy. Not the end days – again, who cares? Does it solve any problems? No, the knowledge of your own brokenness (not the brokenness of others – that's too easy). Without that, the second power is meaningless.

  • The forgiveness of sins. St. John; “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

  • Our prayer about and invocation of the Holy Spirit affirms this as the primary power - “heal our infirmities”

  • Why, out of all the powers God could have given his apostles – could have given the Church – would He focus on the power to forgive sins?

Because it is what we is truly necessary to bring an end to your pain and to the pain of the world's pain and confusion.

Yes, Confession is the superpower. And it is always available for you to use here at St. Mary's. Throw away the kryptonite of pride, exercise that power of the Holy Spirit through true repentance, and save the world.

Direct download: 20180527-PentecostandConfession.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Bible Study #36: Ruth
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
22 May 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

The Book of Ruth

Ruth was a Moabite. Moabites were descendants of Lot. They lived on the East side of the Dead Sea. This history takes place during the time of Judges, about 1300 BC. Ruth, a Gentile, is the great-grandmother of David (and thus an ancestor of Jesus Christ).

Chapter One. The death of husband and sons.
St. Jerome: restrain your grief (comparison for pastoral guidance).
You call to mind [your daughter's] companionship, her conversation and her endearing ways; and you cannot endure the thought that you have lost them all. I pardon you the tears of a mother, but I ask you to restrain your grief. When I think of the parent, I cannot blame you for weeping, but when I think of the Christian and the recluse, the mother disappears from my view. Your wound is still fresh, and any touch of mine, however gentle, is more likely to inflame than to heal it. Yet why do you not try to overcome by reason a grief which time must inevitably assuage? Naomi, fleeing because of famine to the land of Moab, there lost her husband and her sons. Yet when she was thus deprived of her natural protectors, Ruth, a stranger, never left her side. And see what a great thing it is to comfort a lonely woman: Ruth, for her reward, is made an ancestor of Christ.9 Consider the great trials which Job endured, and you will see that you are over-delicate. Amid the ruins of his house, the pains of his sores, his countless bereavements, and, last of all, the snares laid for him by his wife, he still lifted up his eyes to heaven and maintained his patience unbroken. I know what you are going to say “All this befell him as a righteous man, to try his righteousness.” Well, choose which alternative you please. Either you are holy, in which case God is putting your holiness to the proof; or else you are a sinner, in which case you have no right to complain. For if so, you endure far less than your deserts.

St. Paulinus of Nola. Daughters as a metaphor for The Big Choice. Next pass with eager eyes to Ruth, who with one short book separates eras—the end of the period of the judges and the beginning of Samuel. It seems a short account, but it depicts the symbolism of the great conflict when the two sisters separate to go their different ways. Ruth follows after her holy mother-in-law, whereas Orpah abandons her; one daughter-in-law demonstrates faithlessness, the other fidelity. The one puts God before country, the other puts country before life. Does not such disharmony continue through the universe, one part following God and the other falling headlong through the world? If only the two groups seeking death and salvation were equal! But the broad road seduces many, and those who glide on the easy downward course are snatched off headlong by sin which cannot be revoked.

St. Ambrose of Milan. Ruth as an example for us in the Church. Ruth entered the church and was made an Israelite, and [she] deserved to be counted among God’s greatest servants; chosen on account of the kinship of her soul, not of her body. We should emulate her because, just as she deserved this prerogative because of her behavior, [we] may be counted among the favored elect in the church of the Lord. Continuing in our Father’s house, we might, through her example, say to him who, like Paul or any other bishop, [who] calls us to worship God, your people are my people, and your God my God.

Chapter Two. Ruth and Boaz meet.

Ruth's virtue include hard work and humility; but they worked with grace to bless her.

Romans 11:19-24. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

Ephesians 2:11-16. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall[a] of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.

The Orthodox Study Bible argues that the meal Ruth is invited to represents the Eucharist (ft 2:14).

What a beautiful blessing; “And Na′omi said to her daughter-in-law, 'Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!'” Ruth 2:21.

Chapter Three. The Threshing Floor.

St. John Chrysostom. Virtue. Those things which happened to Ruth should be seen as figures. For she was an outsider and had fallen into extreme penury; but Boaz, seeing her, did not despise her on account of her poverty, nor was he horrified on account of her impiety; even as Christ received the church, who was both a stranger and laboring, in need of great good things. Ruth is not joined with her consort before forsaking her parents and her nation and her native land: never was anyone so much ennobled by marriage. Thus the church was not made loveable to her spouse before she had forsaken her prior customs. The prophet says, “Forget your people.”

Chapter Four. Happily ever after.

Ephraim the Syrian. In praise of virtue. Let Tamar rejoice that her Lord has come, for her name announced the son of her Lord, and her appellation called you to come to her. By you honorable women made themselves contemptible, [you] the One who makes all chaste. She stole you at the crossroads, [you] who prepared the road to the house of the kingdom. Since she stole life, the sword was insufficient to kill her. Ruth lay down with a man on the threshing floor for your sake. Her love was bold for your sake. She teaches boldness to all penitents. Her ears held in contempt all [other] voices for the sake of your voice. The fiery coal that crept into the bed of Boaz went up and lay down. She saw the Chief Priest hidden in his loins, the fire for his censer. She ran and became the heifer of Boaz. For you she brought forth the fatted ox. She went gleaning for love of you; she gathered straw. You repaid her quickly the wage of her humiliation: instead of ears [of wheat], the Root of kings, and instead of straw, the Sheaf of Life that descends from her.

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: 20180522-Ruth.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

May his memory be eternal!
 
Very Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha, 62 of Bethlehem, PA., faithful servant of God who has fallen asleep this Wednesday, May 16, 2018, at his home.
 
Born in the Ternopil Region of Ukraine he was the son of the late Prokip Zawierucha and Jaroslawa (Drozdecka) Zawierucha. Fr. Bazyl was the husband of Anna T. (Putting) Zawierucha. He lived and studied in Rome from 1966, earning an STB at Gregorian University and SEOL at Pontificium Institutum Orientale. Entering the priesthood in April of 1981, serving as the priest of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Northampton, PA. for the past 27 years.
 
In addition to his responsibilities at Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary UOC, Fr. Bazyl held the title of Provost for St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary in S. Bound Brook, NJ; He was a member of Council of Metropolia (Board of Directors) of UOC of the USA. He held the position of Vice President of Consistory of UOC of USA, and Director of Consistory office of the UOC Relations.
 
He is survived by his wife Anna , children; Oliver, Anastasia, and Sebastian and his sister Wira, and brother Peter.
 
Memorial Contributions: May be offered in his memory to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Orphanage Fund C/O the funeral home. Online condolences may be offered to the family at www.schislerfuneralhomes.com
 
Published in Morning Call on May 18, 2018
 
Fr. Bazyl was a wonderful Christian priest and pastor, a gifted professor, a wise mentor, and a good and trustworthy friend.  I miss him.
Direct download: Panakhida_for_Fr._Bazyl_Zawierucha.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT

Homily: the Sunday after Ascension
The Celebration of First Confessions
John 17:1-13

At the end of today's Gospel, Jesus – the Son of God – tells us that He has taken all the love and teaching that His Father – God – gave Him and shared it with the people of the world so that they may have true joy “fulfilled in themselves.”

God wants to give us the skills and power so that we can be good and joyful NO MATTER WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND US. His Son had those skills and that power – He got them from His Father. He was so skilled and powerful that He held onto that true joy even through the many sacrifices He made on His heroic journey, even through His suffering on the Cross.

We need that power and we need those skills because life is hard. It's easy to be joyful, patient, and good when life is all warm and fuzzy. But what about when it's cold and sharp like needles? How long does our patience and goodness last when the thorns start poking into our skin? When the cold and wet has made its way into our bones?

It is in hard times that we learn how weak we are in goodness; we lash out at others – the ones whom we were called to help as the thorns and cold hurt them adding to the damage that they sustain – we or retreat into our shell – making the world even colder and doing nothing to heal the pain of those around us.

This is not what we were made for. We were made to be the heroes that beat back the ravaging thorns; the courageous medic – like Private Desmond Doss of Hacksaw Ridge – who continue to save those in need despite the great risk and damage to their own bodies.

We were made to have that kind of courage – that is the kind of courage the world needs to help with its groaning. The Lord wants all His children to have joy – but He sees that they suffer. So first He gave His Son the necessary skills and power – and now His Son wants to pass them on to us.

 

What are those skills? What are those powers? How can we get them?

It takes training: the continuous repetition of useful actions.

***

Part of that training is Confession. Today we welcome S____ and L____ into the Training Academy for courageous warriors and medics of virtue and power.

How does confession work? It keeps us good and healthy so that we can wield power correctly.

The body needs water to sustain itself. If that water is full of good vitamins and minerals, then it's even better.

What happens when we drink dirty water? Soldiers have to keep their canteens and cups clean and drink only potable water. Dirty cup + clean water? No good. Clean cup + dirty water? No good (the cup is no longer clean). Confession is how we keep the cup clean.

Every bit of anger, impatience, mean-ness, jealousy, laziness, and disrespect puts a chunk of dirt into that canteen. You can shake it out on your own and continue to drink from it, but you can see how that might still make you sick. And being sick, you just become more likely to get angry, mean, jealous, and disrespectful – and your cup just fills up with clumps of dirt even faster.

What would you do if your cup was so dirty it made you sick? You'd clean it.

The Lord tells us that He will give us “Living Water”. This is to drink, but it is also to clean.

Thanks to you confession, your cup is now clean. Repentance has allowed God's “Living Water” to wash it out. You can now drink that “Living Water” without polluting it. You can now resume your training, so that you can grow into warriors and medics of virtue and power.

The world needs you to be good. It needs you to be powerful. It needs you to be courageous.

God wants you to be good, to be powerful, and to be courageous.

He has given you your families and the Church to train you and give you the power and skills you need.

May God bless your service to Him for many, many years!

 

 

 

 

Direct download: 20180520-HomilyonConfession.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The Sunday of the Man Born Blind (St. John 9:1-38)

Psychologists and theologians agree: In their default setting, our minds are wired not for discerning truth but social standing.  The path to objectivity involves humility, immersing ourselves in discerning communities (e.g. of science and traditional Orthodox faith), and developing a relationship with the source of all Truth, the Incarnate Logos (through whom all things are made).

Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180513-HomilyonBlindness.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:55pm EDT

Bible Study #34: Joshua and Judges
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
08 May 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Map of Tribal Divisions from bible-printables.com: Twelve Tribes = Twelve Sons = Twelve Places ???

Warming up with some Tidbits from the Rest of Joshua:

On the Varying Inheritances (St. Jerome)

Why did two tribes and a half dwell on the other side of Jordan, a district abounding in cattle, while the remaining nine tribes and a half either drove out the old inhabitants from their possessions or dwelled with them? Why did the tribe of Levi receive no portion in the land but have the Lord for its portion? And how is it that of the priests and Levites, themselves, the high priest alone entered the Holy of Holies where were the cherubim and the mercy seat? … If you do away with the gradations of the tabernacle, the temple, the church, if, to use a common military phrase, all upon the right hand are to be “up to the same standard,” bishops are to no purpose, priests in vain, deacons useless. Why do virgins persevere? Widows toil? Why do married women practice continence? And yet if we repent of our sins, we are all brought to the level of the Apostles.

Joshua 17:13. This is a fulfillment of Genesis 9:27 (props to St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Joshua 17:16-18 (generalizable). For if at last we come to perfection, then the Canaanite is said to have been exterminated by us and handed over to death [through the mortification of the flesh]... to clear the woodland that is in us means cutting useless and unfruitful trees out of us so as to renew it so that we can reap fruit “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mt 13:8,23) from it. (Origin)

Joshua 20:1-9. The refugee cities. The length of the sentence only makes sense as a prophecy of Christ . (St. Ambrose of Milan). St. Jerome points out that sins committed in ignorance are still sinful.

Joshua 22:32-34. The purpose of the temple is suspected, clarified, then celebrated.

Joshua 24:12. God used wasps?! (St. Augustine gives literal and symbolic meanings)

Joshua 23: 12, 13 & 16. Joshua warns the people vs. intermarriage (do you remember Balaam?).

Joshua 24: 14-28. Joshua warns the people about idolatry. What does the stone symbolize?

[A Note on Bashan and the giants of the coast? Maybe later.]

Judges 2. A summary of what is to come.

From St. John Cassius (on why the conquest was not done by God all at once).

And if we may illustrate the incomparable mercy of our Creator from something earthly, not as being equal in kindness but as an illustration of mercy: if a tender and anxious nurse carries an infant in her bosom for a long time in order sometime to teach it to walk, and first allows it to crawl, then supports it that by the aid of her right hand it may lean on its alternate steps, presently leaves it for a little and if she sees it tottering at all, catches hold of it and grabs at it when falling, when down picks it up, and either shields it from a fall or allows it to fall lightly, and sets it up again after a tumble, but when she has brought it up to boyhood or the strength of youth or early manhood, lays upon it some burdens or labors by which it may be not overwhelmed but exercised, and allows it to vie with those of its own age; how much more does the heavenly Father of all know whom to carry in the bosom of his grace, whom to train to virtue in his sight by the exercise of free will, and yet he helps him in his efforts, hears him when he calls, leaves him not when he seeks him, and sometimes snatches him from peril even without his knowing it.

Ending prayer/hymn: Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem! / The glory of the Lord has shone on thee. / Exult now, and be glad, O Zion! / Be radiant, O pure Theotokos, / in the Resurrection of thy Son!

Next Week: Let's meet some Judges!!!

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Chapter 25.

Direct download: 20180508-JoshuasTidbits.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily on Sowing
St. John 4:5-42

The metaphor of agriculture.

1 (Introduction). You have to reap when the crop is ready. If it's ready and you don't reap it – what happens?

  • Something – or someone – else will reap it (e.g. birds w/ blueberries)

  • It spoils.

  • It does not make it to the reaping floor where it can be transformed into its greatest and intended use/purpose

2. (The Word) The Samaritans were a crop that was ready for the harvest.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

The spiritual sowing indicates those who tilled beforehand by the voice of the prophets. The multitude of spiritual ears is those brought to the faith that is shown through Christ. But the harvest is white, in other words, already ripe for faith, and confirmed toward a godly life. But the sickle of the reaper is the glittering and sharp word of the apostle, cutting away the hearers from the worship according to the law and transferring them to the floor, that is, to the church of God. There, they are bruised and pressed by good works and shall be set forth as pure wheat worthy of the divine harvest.

It is important to realize that if Christ and the apostles did not reap the harvest, then these people – and their souls - would be lost

  • Someone else will reap and gather them.

  • They will spoil (internal pride and imagination)

  • They will not be transformed from something transient and vulnerable into something greater (living bread?)

3. (Conclusion – the Application) The world is the field of the Lord; the Church is the place where the transformation of wheat into the Living Bread occurs.

  • To speak less metaphorically,

    • The world is full of people who were made for something better. They are finite and vulnerable; and in need of something real and truly good;

    • But they were made to be immortal and powerful; and constantly sustained and strengthened by the unending source of everything good and true and real.

    • They are ready to be transformed from children of the fallen world into the immortal sons and daughters of the perfect God.

  • Their stories are all different. They are not monotheistic Samaritans as were those in today's Gospel or pagan Hellenists like those in today's epistle. When it comes to their world-view, some are atheists, some are agnostics, but they are full of the potential, the yearning, and the readiness to changed into something better.

    • [It should noted that not all of them are ready for the transformation: they still need tending. And there are fields that have not been sown at all.  Some sow, some tend, and some reap.]

In today's Gospel, the Lord shows how this work is done. It is work we are called to. If we don't do it – if we as a parish and we as believers – don't give our time connecting with the Samaritans and Hellenists of our time – then they will be lost. And us? We will have failed in the One Thing the Lord commanded us to do and we will be worse than lost.

Let us now commit ourselves to the transformation of ourselves into the children of God so that we may become the evangelists of that transformation – the ones that plant, tend, and gather - and this parish into the place where the gathered souls are themselves transformed.

Direct download: 20180506-HomilyonSowing.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:56pm EDT

Bible Study #33: The Kherem Wars of Joshua/Jesus
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
01 May 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Warm up question (an old one revisited):
Why is God working through humanity to renew and spread the lost pattern of Eden? Why not just magic it back (e.g. in the Promised Land) and put them there? Why turn Joshua into a warrior of kherem (i.e. of purity)? Many would contrast the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New. We can't. Can kherem be done in love? Under what circumstances would love REQUIRE it? Take-away: God is the shepherd that loves his sheep.

Joshua 9: The Deception of the Gibeonites

St. Ambrose. Joshua was deceived because he was good. So sacred was one’s promised word held in those days that no one would believe that others could try to deceive. Who could find fault with the saints in this, namely, that they should consider others to have the same feelings as themselves and suppose no one would lie because truth was their own companion? They do not know what deceit is, they gladly believe of others what they themselves are, while they cannot suspect others to be what they themselves are not. Hence Solomon says, “An innocent man believes every word.” We must not blame his readiness to believe but should rather praise his goodness. To know nothing of anything that may injure another, this is to be innocent. And although he is cheated by another, still he thinks well of all, for he thinks there is good faith in all [he also uses it to teach that friendship with Christ generates hostility from others].

Joshua 10: Joshua Purifies the Southern Parts

Count how many places were given over “to destruction” with nothing “left remaining”.

St. Ambrose. But how brave was Joshua the son of Nun, who in one battle laid low five kings together with their people! Again, when he fought against the Gibeonites and feared that night might stop him from gaining the victory, he called out with deep faith and high spirit: “Let the sun stand still”; and it stood still until the victory was complete [he also uses this to compare Joshua to Moses].

St. John Chrysostom. Consider how great of value is the righteous man. Joshua the son of Nun said, “Let the sun stand still at Gibeon, the moon at the valley of Elom [Aijalon],” and it was so. Let then the whole world come, or rather two or three, or four, or ten, or twenty worlds, and let them say and do this; yet they shall not be able. But the friend of God commanded the creatures of his friend, or rather he besought his friend, and the servants yielded, and the one below gave command to those above. Do you see that these things are fulfilling their appointed course for service?

St. Jerome. five kings who previously reigned in the land of promise and opposed the gospel army were overcome in battle with Joshua. I think it is clearly to be understood that before the Lord led his people from Egypt and circumcised them, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch had the dominion, and that to these, as to five princes, everything was subject. And when they took refuge in the cave of the body and in a place of darkness, Jesus entered the body itself and killed them, that the source of their power might be the instrument of their death.

Joshua Purifies the Northern Parts

Origin.

In prior readings, the king of Jerusalem had assembled four other kings with him against Jesus [Joshua] and against the sons of Israel. But now no longer does someone assemble four or five; on the contrary, see how great a multitude one person assembles.…

You see how many swarms of opposing powers and of malicious demons may be stirred up against Jesus [Joshua] and the Israelite army. Before the coming of our Lord and Savior, all those demons, undisturbed and secure, were occupying human spirits and ruled in their minds and bodies. But when “grace appeared” in the world, the mercy “of God our Savior” instructs us to live piously and purely in this world, separated from every contagion of sin, so that each soul may receive its liberty and the “image of God”3 in which it was created from the beginning. Because of this, fights and battles spring forth from their iniquitous old possessors. If the first ones are overthrown, far more rise up afterwards, and they unite into one and conspire in evil, always remote from the good. And if they are conquered for a second time, again a third time other more wicked powers will rise up. So perhaps the more the people of God are increased, and the more they thrive and are multiplied, there are that many more who conspire to assault.

What was the real target? Joshua 11:21–23 provides the answer.

St. Augustine. One should not at all think it a horrible cruelty that Joshua did not leave anyone alive in those cities that fell to him, for God himself had ordered this. However, whoever for this reason thinks that God himself must be cruel and does not wish to believe then that the true God was the author of the Old Testament judges as perversely about the works of God as he does about the sins of human beings. Such people do not know what each person ought to suffer. Consequently, they think it a great evil when that which is about to fall is thrown down and when mortals die.
It is asked how [it can be true that Joshua conquered all the Promised Land], since the Hebrews were not altogether able to capture all the cities of those seven nations either in the times after the judges or in the times of the kings. But one must understand it to mean that Joshua never approached any city with hostile intent that he did not capture. Or it may mean that no city remained uncaptured except for those which were in the regions mentioned above. For those regions were enumerated in which there were cities concerning which the conclusion was made: “and he captured all of them in war.”

St. Ephraim the Syrian. Whoever believes in me will also do the works which I do, and will do even greater ones. And where is this word which he said, “The disciple is not greater than his master” [illustrated]?6 For example, Moses killed only three kings, but Joshua killed thirty. [Moses] persevered in prayer, made supplication, but did not enter [the promised land]. It was Joshua rather who entered and shared out the inheritance.8 Likewise, Samuel was greater than Eli, and Elisha received a double portion of his master’s spirit after his ascension, like the Lord our Savior, for his disciples effected twice through their signs.

Teaching Point: Note what this implies for reclaiming the sanctified territory of our hearts and bodies!

Next Week: Judges!!!

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Chapter 25.

Direct download: 20180501-JoshuasVictories.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sunday of the Paralytic
John 5:1-15

Prologue: the Gospel only makes sense within its context.

Rules for living well:

  • Do the best you can.
  • Always strive to do better.
  • When you mess up, admit it, clean it up, and repent.

The paralytic exhibits this way of life:

  • Doing the best he could, based on who he was and what he knew (doesn't mean he was doing it right!).
  • Trying to do better. Two indicators of this:
    • He had been trying for cures all his life and was still at it.
    • When he encountered a better way of doing things – the way that Christ gave him! - he took it.
  • Mess up: change.
    • His willingness to leave a routine he had been committed to is part of this, but the main indicator of this came later:
    • The Lord told Him to stop sinning or things would get even worse for him.

How is it even possible not to sin? It only makes sense within the context of Gospel: the Lord had the power to forgive sins, because He knew we would continue to sin even after He ascended into glory at the Ascension, He gave that power to the ministers of the Church;  

“Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20: 21-23).

The paralytic was doing the best he could; Christ offered Him a better way that would not only heal him, but provided for his continual improvement.

We have to follow his example. We are trying hard to live a good life, but is it really the best we can do? Christ is offering the real path – our attempt to improve our lives should include listening to Him and following His instructions. When we mess up – and we will mess up – He has offered a way for us to recover and get back on track: we have to own our mistakes, repent, and get right back on track.

Direct download: 20180429-TheWayoftheParalytic.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Bible Study #32: The Curse of Jericho
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
24 April 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

Warm up question:
What is a curse? Are they real, or only as real as people think they are? Blessings have psychological and “true” effects (e.g. confession); is it the same (in reverse) for curses? Think less about the manipulation of positive and negative energies than about opening ourselves of up the grace of God and the intercession of the saints or ... the actions and even possession of evil powers.

The Curse of Jericho

Jericho 6:17-19.

From Origen. Don't Pollute the Faith.
This is what is indicated by these words: Take heed that you have nothing worldly in you, that you bring down with you to the church neither worldly customs nor faults nor equivocations of the age. But let all worldly ways be anathema to you. Do not mix mundane things with divine; do not introduce worldly matters into the mysteries of the church.

This is what John also sounds with the trumpet of his epistle, saying, “Do not love the world or the things that are in the world.” And likewise Paul: “Do not,” he says, “be conformed to this world.” For those who do these things accept what is anathema. But also those introduce anathema into the churches who, for example, celebrate the solemnities of the nations even though they are Christians. Those who eagerly seek the lives and deeds of humans from the courses of the stars, who inquire of the flight of birds and other things of this type that were observed in the former age, carry what is anathema from Jericho into the church and pollute the camp of the Lord and cause the people of God to be overcome. But there are also many other sins through which anathema from Jericho is introduced into the church, through which the people of God are overcome and overthrown by enemies. Does not the apostle also teach these same things when he says, “A little leaven spoils the whole lump”?

Notice that the “solemnities of the nations” seem to be rituals associated with old gods. The dialogue about what previous symbols etc. can be incorporated and blessed and what can't is always interesting. For the Jews there were two mechanisms involved: 1) intentionally breaking commands that *God Himself* had given and 2) doing rituals and holding onto idols of foreign gods.

A Reminder on the Concept of Herem (taboo).
A human... may not enjoy the use of an object designated as ḥērem, for this would transgress the limits between his domain, with its protective socio-legal organization, and the outside non-classificatory domain and cause disequilibrium to encroach upon the former. Should such misuse occur, the perpetrator himself becomes contaminated by the object of the ḥērem and must be subjected to the same treatment as that object in order to ward off the consequent dangers to his community... (“Taboo” by Malul, p. 826).

Joshua 7:1-5. What Happened at Ai – Episode I.

From Origin. The Tongue of Gold.
But also we should not let it be passed over without comment that by one sinner wrath comes upon all the people.…

But let us also see what sort of sin this person did. He stole, it says, “a tongue of gold” and placed it in his own tent.

I do not think so great a force of sin was in that theft of a little gold that it defiled the innumerable church of the Lord. But let us see if a deeper understanding does not reveal the enormity and severity of the sin. There is much elegance in words and much beauty in the discourses of philosophers and rhetoricians, who are all of the city of Jericho, that is, people of this world. If, therefore, you should find among the philosophers perverse doctrines beautified by the assertions of a splendid discourse, this is the “tongue of gold.” But beware that the splendor of the performance does not beguile you, that the beauty of the golden discourse not seize you. Remember that Jesus [Joshua] commanded all the gold found in Jericho to be anathema. If you read a poet with properly measured verses, weaving gods and goddesses in a very bright tune, do not be seduced by the sweetness of eloquence, for it is the “tongue of gold.” If you take it up and place it in your tent, if you introduce into your heart those things that are declared by the [poets and philosophers], then you will pollute the whole church of the Lord.

St. John Chrysostom. How Bad for Us?
Suppose any one should carefully examine all the communicants in the world, what kind of transgression is there which he would not detect? And what if he examined those in authority? Would he not find them eagerly bent upon gain? Making traffic of high places? Envious, malignant, vainglorious, gluttonous and slaves to money?

Where then there is such impiety as this going on, what dreadful calamity must we not expect? And to be assured how severe vengeance they incur who are guilty of such sins as these, consider the examples of old. One single man, a common soldier, stole the sacred property, and all were struck. You know, doubtless, the history I mean? I am speaking of Achan the son of Carmi, the man who stole the consecrated spoil.…

On account of all these things, let us take heed to ourselves. Do you not see these wars? Do you not hear of these disasters? Do you learn no lesson from these things? Nations and whole cities are swallowed up and destroyed, and myriads as many again are enslaved to the barbarians.

If hell does not bring us to our senses, yet let these things. What, are these too mere threats, are they not facts that have already taken place? Great is the punishment they have suffered, yet a greater still shall we suffer, who are not brought to our senses even by their fate.

Sylvian the Priest of Marsailles. How the Taint Works.
The church of God is as the eye. As a speck of dirt, even though small, which falls into the eye blinds the sight completely, in the same way, if some, even though they are a few in the body of the church, commit filthy acts, they block almost all the light of the splendor of the church.

Joshua 7:19-26. The Confession and Punishment of Achen.

St. Jerome. Why so Harsh? The same reason that the nations were given over to the sword.

Joshua 8. What Happened at Ai – Episode II. They won. Completely. With tactics.
Origin. We ought not to leave any of those demons deeply within, whose dwelling place is chaos and who rule in the abyss, but to destroy them all.

Teaching Point: Do what God instructs even when the end result is not clear.

Bibliography

Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Malul, M. (1999). Taboo. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible. Brill; Eerdmans.

Direct download: 20180424-CurseatJericho.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Ritual, Myrrhbearers, and Dealing with Insult to Injury
St. Mark 15:43-16:8

Notes (that I mostly ignored)
We have a concept: adding insult to injury. It describes how tough it is when something bad has already happened and then something happens that makes the same situation even worse.

This is what happened to the myrrhbearing women: their beloved had been killed unjustly in a ignoble and humiliating way. They were heartbroken. Then when they went to begin the time-tested rituals – mingling myrrh with tears - that would guide them through their pain into acceptance and healing... the body was gone. They were deprived even of this comfort.

This is not part of our culture, so we don't get this. We receive it as data: the stone is rolled away and the body is gone. But for them, it was much more. Not an invitation to explore the mystery, but an insult to injury.

Anointing the body was the way their culture had developed to help people to help them handle death and to work through all the emotions and temptations that the death of a loved one brings. It's not just something to do – although Lord knows “keeping busy” is useful when we are struggling with strong emotions – it's therapy. A group of friends and family tending to the body of their beloved. There is something useful to be done. All traditional cultures do things like this. To us, it sounds morbid; but to them our way of dealing with death is as impersonal as our American way of dealing with dinner (i.e. not spending time preparing it; not gathering around a table; just getting calories in while do other things). Impersonal. Clinical. Heartbreaking. An opportunity to do something well – voluntarily surrendered.

The Myrrhbearers weren't just on the way to the tomb to make sure the body was buried properly, they were participating in a cultural ritual of love. Sacrificing their time and the best that they could find to honor the life of their beloved and deepening the connection they had with him.

They had their facts wrong, but they had everything else right; and this made all the difference for them... They become the apostles to the disciples – telling them of the Lord's resurrection.

[I want you to note that the disciples did not believe them. Could it be that this was because they gathered behind closed doors out of fear whereas the myrrhbearers ignored their fear and allowed love to make them brave?

Are we afraid for ourselves? Are we afraid for the Lord? Can anything good come from fear?]

The Myrrhbearers thought they knew who their Lord was, and they were wrong – He was so much more than they could have imagined. They thought that the temple of His body was dead and empty, something to be preserved; but it was alive, not needing their care, but demanding their awe and prompting them to action. They were able to make the transition from grief to joy – from funeral dirge to alleluia (as our funeral service says) because they were there for all right reasons, even though they had the facts wrong.

We need to make that same transition, not just when it comes to death, but when it comes to our mutual life in Christ here at St. Mary's.

There is a temptation for us to believe that there is no life in Church apart from the life we bring to it; that it is in need of our care; that we must preserve it. That it will decay unless we anoint it. We have our rituals that bring us closer together as we love this, our parish, a parish that offers the fullness of the Church, the Church being the Body of Our Beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

But that is not the kind of service that the Lord requires: He is not a corpse in need of embalming; but the Living God whose very presence here demands our awe and whose love must prompt us to serve the world He died to make whole.

We are called to emulate the women in today's Gospel as they transitioned from myrrhbearers to apostles; like theirs, our tears have to change from tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

If we are afraid, we will miss the Good News of the Resurrection and will only live in fear – behind closed doors. Ignoring all the news of a better way. Insult and injury will continue to pile overtop one another as we lose the never ending battle against disappointments.

Our tithes, our work in the kitchen, our music, all the efforts that we put into our parish life are no longer done to preserve a corpse – much less a building – but given in service of the living God who is present here and fills all things. A God who cannot die. A God who has called us to join Him as He transforms this world into a more fitting place for all his children.

Let us now continue making our transition from sorrow to joy through our ritual participation in our Lord's death and resurrection, the holy Eucharist.

Direct download: 20180422-MyrrhbearersRitual.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:35pm EDT

Bible Study #31: The Battle of Jericho
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
17 April 2018

Opening Prayer:  
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

 

Warm up question:
Why does God appoint leaders (messiahs) and prophets in the Old Testament? Why not just communicate His will directly with every human being personally? What can we learn about His plan for us from the way He works with us (i.e. the human race).

The Battle of Jericho (and this is the right time of year to remember it!)

Joshua 2: send in the spies and cue the harlot with the heart of gold
St. Jerome. Why two spies? After the law [i.e. Moses] was dead—Jesus desires to lead his people into the gospel [Holy Land] and sends out two men on secret mission to Jericho. Two messengers he sends: one to the circumcised; the other to the Gentiles, Peter and Paul. Jericho seeks to kill them; the harlot takes them in, meaning, of course, the church gathered together from the Gentiles.
St. Caesarius of Arles. Why two spies? Joshua sent two spies because the true Joshua (i.e. Jesus) was going to give two commands of love. In truth, what else do the men whom the true Joshua sends announce to us except that we should love God and our neighbor?
Origen. Why a harlot? Because the church, as I have often said, gathered from the multitude of Gentiles, was then called a prostitute (because it had gone after false gods), therefore the church is found in the figure of Rahab, the hostess of saints (“the unfaithful wife is sanctified through her faithful husband” 1Corinthians 7-14).
St. Paul (Hebrews 11:31) By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
St. James (James 2:25) Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
[And note that she is part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ! Matthew 1:5]
St. Augustine. Is deception okay? Lying is wrong … As for its being written that God dealt well with the Hebrew midwives and with Rahab the harlot of Jericho, he did not deal well with them because they lied but because they were merciful to the men of God. And so, it was not their deception that was rewarded, but their benevolence; the benignity of their intention, not the iniquity of their invention.
St. Jerome. Even the cord has meaning. So, too, with a mystic reference to the shedding of blood, it was a scarlet cord which the harlot Rahab (a type of the church) hung in her window that she might be saved at the destruction of Jericho.

Joshua 3-4: the Ark allows the people to pass over the Jordan (read during Theophany)
Why did the “Jordan turn back”? Note the similarities with the crossing of the Red Sea. Joshua is “exalted” at the Jordan as Jesus is. We are baptized into the Gospel as the Israelites crossed the Jordan to get to the Holy Land.

Joshua 5: The Circumcision, the Passover, and The Angel (read on Holy Saturday)
Note:
no one who is unclean can celebrate the Passover. This is why they waited until all were circumcised and healed to celebrate it. The timing of the switch from manna is interesting.
Origen. On discernment. And so you must beware and exercise great care in order to discern with knowledge the kinds of visions, just as Joshua the son of Nun, when he saw a vision and knew there was temptation in it, immediately asked the one who appeared to him and said, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” So, then, the soul progresses when it comes to the place where it begins to distinguish between visions; and it is proved to be spiritual if it knows how to discern them all. That is why, as well, one of the spiritual gifts, given by the Holy Spirit, is mentioned as “the ability to distinguish between spirits.”
Origen. On holiness. [T]he chief of the army of the power of the Lord sanctifies every place to which he comes, for Jericho itself was not a holy place. But because the chief of the army of God came there, the place is said to be holy.
St. Jerome. On the safety of God's presence. Now, grasp the mystical meaning of Holy Writ. As long as we are walking through the wilderness, it is necessary that we wear sandals to cover and protect our feet, but when we shall have entered the Land of Promise, we shall hear with Jesus [Joshua], the son of Nave [Nun]: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place upon which you are standing is holy.”

Joshua 6: The destruction and cursing of Jericho
Tertullian. Points out that one of the seven days MUST have been a Sabbath (and that, in general, the Law was not universal or atemporal). Interesting to think of the seventh day as the day when things culminate and order prevails.
St. Maximus of Turin. On preaching. We believe that the priestly trumpets of that age were nothing other than the preaching of the priests of this age, by which we do not cease to announce, with a dreadful sound, something harsh to sinners, to speak of what is dismal, and to strike the ears of evildoers with, as it were, a threatening roar, since no one can resist the sacred sounds and no one can gainsay them. For how could feeling creatures not tremble at the word of God when at that time even unfeeling ones were shaken? And how could human hardheartedness resist what a stone fortification could not withstand? For just as, when the stone walls were destroyed, the clash of the trumpets reached the people within, so also now, when evil thoughts have been destroyed, the preaching of the priests penetrates to the bare parts of the soul, for the soul is found bare before the Word of God when its every evil deed is destroyed. And that the soul is bare before God the holy apostle says, “But all things are bare and uncovered to his eyes.” In this regard, before the soul knows God and accepts the truth of the faith, it veils itself, so to speak, under superstitious works and surrounds itself with something like a wall of perversity, such that it might seem to be able to remain impregnable within the fortifications of its own evildoing. But when the sacred sound thunders, its rashness is overthrown, its thinking is destroyed, and all the defenses of its superstitions break asunder in such a way that, remaining unprotected, as it is written, the Word of God might penetrate even to the division of its spirit and its inmost parts. Just as the ring of the sacred sound destroyed, captured and took vengeance on a hardhearted people then, so also now the priestly preaching subjugates, captures and takes vengeance on a sinful people.
St. John Chrysostom. On repentance and salvation. Compares “Let Rahab live.” to the Gospel.
Teaching Point: Do what God instructs even when the end result is not clear.

Bibliography
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 8). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Direct download: 20180417-BattleatJericho.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Trust, Magic, and the Meltdown on Aisle Three
Homily on St. Thomas Sunday
Fr. Anthony Perkins

One of the themes in today's Gospel reading is belief. We live in a world where it is hard to know what to believe. It's no longer just a matter of media spin, we cannot even agree on the facts themselves (example of gas attack). It threatens to drag us down into the hell of the man whom we heard declare last week; “what is truth?” (Pilate in John 18:38) Perhaps this is nowhere more true than when we are talking about belief in God.

Dealing with belief is hard; it has a lot of psychological baggage associated with it. Today I would like to deal with it in its purest form; not as a measurement of a person's relationship to a set of propositions, but as trust in a specific person.

Let's get even more specific and start with an example we can relate to, the example of a marriage and the trust between a husband and a wife. Even if we have never been married, we have experience with this. We know how good things are when it is there and we know how terrible – how bent, crooked, rough, and dry – things are when it is missing.

What does it mean when a husband believes in his wife? Does it mean he understands her? No. (As if!) It means that he trusts her. He knows that she is committed to her marriage and her family, that all of her decisions and actions are devoted to its health and protection, that she loves and sacrifices for it, and that they are part of the same team.

Again, it does not require that he understands her. There is always more to learn, and learning and the good listening and communication that contribute to it is important, but the main thing is trust. Without that, there is no relationship. [Recorder ran out of tape here, BTW] No peace. No real cooperation. No unity. Just, perhaps, coordinated loneliness. They are not an icon of the fulfillment of God's desire that we “all be one as He and His Father are one” (John 17), but an icon of the world's brokenness, its bentness, its roughness, and its dryness.

Similarly, we can look at the relationship of children with their parents and see the value of trust.

How wonderful is the relationship between mother and child! Love and sacrifice on the one side, and faith and obedience on the other. Has a child any other path to happiness than that of faith [trust] in its mother and obedience to her? Is there anything more monstrous than a child that has no faith [trust] in its mother, and does not obey her?

[Faith is the purest path to knowledge. Anyone who turns from this path becomes shameful and impure. Faith is the quickest path to knowledge. Anyone who turns from this path will lag on his way. Where there is faith there is counsel; where there is no faith, counsel is of no help. Where there is faith, there is dialogue; where faith is lacking, dialogue is also lacking; then doubt and temptation take the place of dialogue...

Oh what a sorry sight it is when two mortal men meet, both creatures of Him who also created the seraphim, and one speaks to the other to tempt him, and the one listens to the other with doubt! There is only one sorrier sight than this, and that is when a created man listens to the words of his Creator in the Gospel, and doubts them.]

p. 213-214, “Homily on the First Sunday after Easter” of Homilies by [St.]Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic”

What do good parents want for their children? A common answer is that parents want their children to be happy. We should be dubious about this: it is a trap. A better goal – and the one that our Father desires for us is that we be good [as He is good]. This is not about following rules, but about goodness, about sacrificing for what is right. About the development of virtue.

The parent may offer happiness as a reward for doing good. But happiness on it's own? No. That does not create trustworthy adults that are willing to sacrifice for their beloved – it creates selfish and superficial people who judge every transaction on the amount of happiness it brings them.

Come at concept sideways: magic. Magic involves is the manipulation of supernatural forces. The magician is the one who attempts to cajole, flatter, bind or bargain with them to get them to do what they want, often on behalf of a client. Magic, magicians, and their familiar spirits are all judged based on whether they deliver. It's transactional and selfish.

This is NOT the way the world is meant to work. The deeper magic is about relationships enjoyed NOT for what they deliver but for the enjoyment of love itself. It's about shared lives, grounded in mutual sacrifice and the development and exercise of virtue. It most certainly is NOT about manipulation.

To go back to the point about trust and belief, God is not judged by whether we can manipulate Him into giving us what we want or even what we believe is best for the world and its suffering people.

We cannot be like the tyrannical child that throws a fit in the grocery store because he is hungry; but rather like the good child that trusts that when the parents say a meal is waiting at home – it is there.

Let us enter now into the preparatory feast of our good Father.

Direct download: 20180415-Trust.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Homily for Palm Sunday
Philippians 4:4-9; John 12:1-18

How far are we willing to go for what is true?

How far are we willing to go for what is good (virtuous)?

How far are we willing to go for peace (not the cheap peace of appeasement, but the real peace of a battle well fought and a race well run)?

Imagine a world ruled by darkness. A place where there is no light. Where fear of the unknown and fear of injury have paralyzed people into inaction and have led them to accept all the injustices the rulers of the world of darkness impose on them. There may be some stories that some people tell about a bringer of light that would liberate them from the oppressive gloom; but in the meantime darkness reigns. For many, even the possibility of such a thing as light is outrageous; for them it is the myth and opiate of those who are too weak to accept the world as it really is. Of course, this attitude towards the light is the official dogma of the rulers of the darkness and they do what they can to mock and punish the dreamers and rabble-rousers who oppose it.

Then one day something miraculous occurs: the light-bearer comes.

As you can imagine, the first response was a jubilant awe. All those who had hoped for his coming ran to greet him. Children laughed and sang and delighted crowds thronged around him as he made his way into the city.

Today we are swept up in this same jubilation: it is Palm and Willow Sunday! We celebrate the coming of the Deliverer; after generations of oppression the source of Freedom has come into our midst!

But we know what comes next, not just because we know our history, but because we understand how things work: the rulers of this world – led by the prince of darkness, the deceiver – have no interest in freedom or light or truth or goodness. Quite the opposite. And what are these things – mere ideas - when compared to the reality and raw power of darkness and death? When so many of the oppressed preferred the peace of appeasement and the predictability of the status quo to the uncomfortable truths the light revealed and the challenge of difficult change that real virtue would now require.

The coming of the light threatened to expose not just the evil that had come to dominate the world, but the evil that resides in the heart of every man. No one can see this truth and remain satisfied with the world and themselves as they are. The choice is either change... or darkness. Is it any wonder that we preferred the darkness? That we cheered the hardest when we called out “crucify him, crucify him”? That we asked that the curse fall on us and on our children?

We are again at this same crossroads with the same choice to make: the light has come to a world of darkness. So I ask again:

How far are we willing to go for what is true?

How far are we willing to go for what is good (virtuous)?

How far are we willing to go for peace (not the cheap peace of appeasement, but the real peace of a battle well fought and a race well run)?

Direct download: 20180401-Deliverance.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:06pm EDT

Homily on the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt (St. Mark 10:32-45)

What are you willing to sacrifice for a better life? To improve the lives of those around you?

The power of deferred gratification. Save now – for something big later.

  • We use this for all kinds of things: retirement accounts, education, residencies

  • Think back: what sacrifices did you make in the past in order to obtain something you really wanted? Was it worth it?

  • Some even look at the Christian life as a cosmic deferred gratification scheme: give up a bit of time and money now at the local parish and get into that awesome retirement community in the sky

But what if that wasn't what Christianity was about at all? What if it was less about sacrificing now for something I want later, and more about sacrifice as a means to become a better person now? What if living a life of sacrifice brought you a better life NOT because it allowed you to save up to get more and better stuff, but because it transformed you into a new person. Less broken, less needy, more joyful, more content, and more powerful?

  • This is exactly what psychological studies have found. The marshmallow test.

  • A strong sacrifice muscle is not just associated with the ability to getter stuff: researchers found that people with a strong one have better life outcomes, as measured by various “life measures”.

What are we willing to sacrifice to become better people, to become what our tradition calls “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17), a “new self” (Ephesians 4:24). That will, more importantly, allow us to bring comfort, healing, and joy to all those around us whose lives are bing ruined by a world that is often cruel, brutal, and merciless in its oppression?

As people who have accepted that Christ is the Son of God, what are we willing to give up that will charge that acceptance with the kind of supernatural power that will allow us to join St. Paul in saying that it is “no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me?”

It's sacrifice. That's why silly things like giving up food and more difficult things like offering a substantial portion of our income to the church and other charities and of spending a substantial amount of time in prayer, worship, and community service are all built into what early Christians called “The Way”, but that we call “Orthodox Christianity”.

Any thing worth having requires hard work. All good things require sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ made the salvation of mankind – a very good thing – possible. We are meant to imitate him in that so that, as St. Paul said, we might “save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

This is what Christ meant when He said in today's Gospel; “whoever will be great will serve... and the one that desires to be first will become a slave.”

That is the way of Christ and it is The Way of the Christian. It will give us a better life and improves the lives of those around us.

May the Lord strengthen as we dedicate ourselves to sacrifice our time, our tithes, and everything we hold dear out of our love of God and desire to serve – and save - our neighbor.

Direct download: 20180325-OnSacrifice.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:15pm EDT

A Meditation on St. John's “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”

The farmer's wealth is gathered on the threshing floor and in the wine press, but the wealth and knowledge of the monk is gathered during the evenings and the night hours while standing at prayer and engaged in spiritual activity. Step 20 (on vigil), 10.

When the day is over, the vendor sits down and counts his profits; but the acetic does so when the psalmody is over. Step 20 (on vigil), 18.

Stillness of the body is the knowledge and composure of the habits and feelings. And stillness of soul is the knowledge of one's thoughts and an inviolable mind. Step 27 (on stillness), 2.

What is Orthodox Tradition? Why is it important for us to immerse ourselves in the worship and rigors of Orthodoxy?

At the visible level, one that can be observed and studied by scientists, tradition is the accumulation of rituals and ideas that are directed towards a purpose. In the case of Orthodox Tradition, that purpose is the formation of good and strong human beings, good and strong families, and good and strong communities.

We know that, left to their own devices, children will go selfish and feral (spoiled, if you will); that family structures will morph into tyranny or disintegrate altogether, and communities will do the same.

On the other hand, good ideas and useful rituals allow humans, families, and societies a way out of this nasty and brutish life. Through Orthodox ritual and belief, the passions are tamed. The child learns self-control, the family finds grounding, and the community naturally brings safety, healing, and guidance to all its members. Beliefs and rituals that do these things are continually reaffirmed through our participation in them and those that prove counter-productive are adjusted. This is done slowly, and with a recognition that there is a wisdom in tradition that is seldom obvious to the impatient.

But there are other forces at play; there is an invisible level. God continually works through His prophets, His Christ, His Holy Spirit, and His Church to grant discernment to individuals, yes, but mostly to the community as a whole. The rituals and ideas of Orthodoxy are not just useful (although they are), they are inspired and strengthen by grace. Even more importantly, Orthodox Tradition is not directed primarily to the perfection of people, families, and communities, but to their salvation. To put it in theological language, we are not just learning to subdue our baser instincts, we are being saved and drawn deeper into infinite perfection through our life in Christ and Holy Orthodoxy.

If you look around, you cannot help but notice that all reasonably healthy, traditional societies have religious systems that have accumulated ideas and rituals that civilize their adherents. Because there is only one human race and we all have the same line between good and evil dividing our hearts, there is a lot of overlap in their ideas and rituals. Virtue is encouraged; vice is shamed and disciplined; and the unity of the good is proclaimed and celebrated. To the extent that we have become lax in our own devotion, we are encouraged by their witness.

But there is no need to go anywhere else to experience the one thing needful for every person, family, and community. It is found in its fullness in Holy Orthodoxy and its benefits can be enjoyed completely here at St. Mary's (and every other parish that was, is, or ever will be).

Let us immerse ourselves in that fullness now, as we continue our celebration of God's love for us, His people, and His world.

Direct download: 20180318-LadderandTradition.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:58pm EDT

Homily on the Third Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.

Notes:

Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Self Denial.

  • We deny ourselves those things that lead us into sin. This sounds easy, but it isn't.

  • We fight/play as we train. When we fast, we are denying ourselves something good – why?

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

Losing our life.

  • This is poetic language. The life we lose is the one that isn't worth living. It's joys, such as they are, are temporary and counter-productive. The life we are giving up is the one that leads to annihilation of the good within us.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

  • We give up our desire to gain victory to THIS WORLD – a world that groans in sin – so that we can gain victory through Jesus Christ. This world will destroy our souls if we submit ourselves to its logics and its promises.

  • The Way that Jesus offers to us goes against the logic of the world, but it protects the soul and brings the kind of contentment, joy, and victory that lasts forever.

The whole lesson began with the words “if you would follow me (come after me)...”

  • The Way that Christ walked is hard: the symbol we use to represent it is the cross. But remember where the road He walked led. It did not end at the cross, but went through the cross, through the Resurrection, to the Ascension into glory.

  • He did not blaze this trail for Himself – He was returning to the place that was His from before the beginning.

  • He blazed the trail for us. Now all we have to do is follow in His footsteps.

May God strengthen us as we travel together along The Way.

 

 

Direct download: 20180311-Cross.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:10pm EDT

Marriage as a Metaphor for Orthodoxy
Homily of St. Gregory Palamas

Today we celebrate the life and teachings of someone who really got it – St. Gregory Palamas; he experienced God's love for him in a real and tangible way, and he reflected that love back at God and on all those around him.

That's what we are to do, as well. To open ourselves up to the deifying warmth and light of God; and then to send our thanksgiving and praise back up to Him and to use the energy of His grace to serve those around us.

The Good News of the Gospel is that this is made possible and real through the life, death, and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ.

Although this Gospel really is simple, it has been elaborated with so many words and celebrated, confirmed and taught (if not gilded) with so many rituals – and denied by so many lies – that it is understandable if we sometimes mistake and judge the cup rather than that which it holds.

Perhaps a metaphor will help.

I have met people who think they understand the joy and transformation that marriage can bring.

One set thinks they know it because, while not married, they have their own version of it called “pornography” or really any kind of sex outside of marriage. We cannot deny the reality of that experience, but I hope you realize that it has very little to do with the enduring joy of marriage. They will claim that they do not need to be married to experience the joy of sex; but even when it comes to that, they have settled for something less satisfying and less real. And while intimacy is a powerful and necessary part of marriage, it is hardly the primary source of the transformative joy that marriage provides. They think they get it, but they don't, and their improper understanding leads them to accept something less than they should.

A second set which is equally troubling think they understand marriage because they themselves are committed to the institution of marriage. They have had their ceremony, they wear their rings, and they share a house. But when you start speaking to them about the joy that comes from sharing a life with another person, you learn that their experience is quite different. They are living the rituals of marriage, but they are missing the thing those institutions is meant to hold and protect. They think they get it, but they don't, and their improper understanding leads them to accept something less than they should.

This is a great and wonderful mystery but, as with St. Paul, I speak not of marriage, but of the Church. (Ephesians 5:32)

St. Gregory Palamas fought against both of these misunderstandings about God.

One the one hand, there were people (like the Bogamils) who thought they could really experience God without the Church. This is like having sex without marriage; it may be real in some sense, but it is not healthy nor is it real in the way that a committed sacramental relationship with God in Church is real. They thought they got it, but they didn't, and their improper understanding led them to accept something less than they should have.

On the other hand were those who thought is was enough to participate in the rituals and sacraments of the Church. That the experience of God was not something that was possible, that union with Him through Christ was a metaphor for belief, and that the joy to be had through opening oneself up to the Divine Nature of God was a simple emotion and not a metaphysical or supernatural reality. They thought they got it, but they didn't, and their improper understanding led them to accept something less than they should have.

God is real and we were meant to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We are Orthodox Christians. We have not settled for something less than we should. We are not just going through the motions when we pray and participate in the rituals of the Church; we are opening ourselves up to God. We allow His grace to heal and transform us, and then we offer and share this transforming grace with the world.



Direct download: 20180304-Palamas.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:48pm EDT

How does the Gospel transform lives? There is no enchantment that goes through parish rosters to change those listed on it into heirs of the Most High.  It's not even enough for us to mutter the right theological incantation.  So what does it take?  Faith and works.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180225-FaithandWorks.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:46pm EDT

The homily is the Epistle of the Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops outside Ukraine on Great Lent.  The extra words and music were taken from the service of forgiveness at the end of Divine Liturgy.

Direct download: 20180218-Forgiveness.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:49pm EDT

Today we present the third possible explanation for the cleansing of the Holy Land.  It seems that the requirement for complete destruction was only directed towards those tribes that had giants in them; was this the continuation of the "war of seeds" prophesied in Genesis 3:15?  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180214-BS-DevilsofCanaan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

There are broken and despairing people in this world; it is our charge to care for them. We can justify our indifference with all kinds of religion and sophistry, but in the end our deeds will be laid bare. Homily on the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

Direct download: 20180211-LastJudgment.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

In this class we continue trying to understand the conquest of the Holy Land in the Old Testament.  Fr. Anthony makes the case that there is more to morality than just being nice and that we cannot understand the Old Testament if we don't accept that violence is sometimes necessary.  

Direct download: 20180207-BS-PreLentenII.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Three lessons from the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Direct download: 2018024-ProdigalSon.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

We often hear that "Home is where the heart is", and this is certainly true.  But what if the longing we felt towards home could be satisfied not by a place, but by a condition of being?  What if we could "be" in that place where we find joyful contentment at any time and at any place?  What if home really was - or could be - WHAT the heart is? 

Direct download: 20180204-HeartHome.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am EDT

We live in a fantasy world. A world in which there is no need for us to change. But we are not well, we are simply deluded. May the Lord God protect us from the Pharisee in our minds that wants to tell us lies about ourselves and our neighbors and give us the humility – and through that the justification - of the Publican.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180128-PublicandPharisee.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:28pm EDT

In edition to finishing up the Book of Numbers, we start a three part series addressing the brutality of the cleansing and taking of the Promised Land.  It's a tough topic.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180123-BS-Transjordan.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:54pm EDT

From Youngstown, OH.  This was the Sunday after Theophany, Zacchaeus Sunday, and the day after Volodymyr and Gennie Esther's wedding.  This homily claims they are all connected.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180121-AfterTheophany.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

On this day, the Church celebrates the Resurrection(like every Sunday) and the Circumcision of Christ (the 8th day after the Nativity) and begins preparing for the celebration of the Baptism of Christ (the Sunday before Theophany).  In this homily, Fr. Anthony connects the dots between them all.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20180114-Circumcision.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:57pm EDT

In this homily, given on the Sunday before the Nativity in 2017, Fr. Anthony explains why Jesus (i.e. Joshua) is the name the Angel of Great Counsel gives for the Incarnate Christ.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20171231-JoshuaII.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:29pm EDT

It is both the second Sunday before the Nativity and, at least for most of our neighbors, the day before the Nativity.  In this homily Fr. Anthony talks about why we remember our Forefathers on this day and gives us advice on how to make peace the center of our pattern. Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20171224-PeacefulPattern.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:11pm EDT