OrthoAnalytika

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

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

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

Questions:

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

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

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

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

Patristic Answers:

On the selection of David.

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

On the evil spirit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 11. Saul leads like a boss.

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

Chapter 12. Samuel rains on Saul's coronation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week: David is anointed and tames a demon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

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

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

Spiritually Speaking - 07 October 2018
Fr. Anthony Perkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Here are some themes prominent in the funeral service:

    • Those who trust God are under His protection

    • The life that comes from following God’s commandments

    • The necessity of remission/forgiveness of sins

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

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

    • Achieving a place of refreshment

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

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

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

    • Christ as Savior; Conqueror of Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intro on the Effect of Holiness and Evil.

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

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

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

1 Kingdom 5. Fun with Dagon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

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

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


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

On Fostering and Defending a Culture of Cheerful Giving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Augustine says this of her hymn;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography

St. Andrew of Crete. The Great Canon.

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

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