OrthoAnalytika

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • In the Troparion for Nativity we heard this morning:

    • The Light of Wisdom

    • The Sun of Righteousness

  • Light of the World

  • Our Illuminator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As they went, they were cleansed.”

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

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

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

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

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

Or is it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that The Mission will become our mission.

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

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

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

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

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

This includes our cares:

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

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

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

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

It includes our money.  Today's lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Ambrose. What goes around comes around.

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

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

Ephesians 4:1-6

Live worthily; live up to your high calling!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be humble and be patient.

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

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