OrthoAnalytika

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

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