OrthoAnalytika

Homily – Prejudice, Objectivity, and Grit
St. Matthew 15.21-28

Gospel: Then Jesus left and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried; “have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; for my daughter is severely possessed by a devil.” But Jesus did not answer her at all. So his disciples came and pleaded; “send her away, for she is crying after us.” Jesus replied; “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and knelt before him saying; “Lord, help me.” And Jesus answered; “it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Then she said; “yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that moment.

Are we ashamed of the Christ? Should we be?

If you were not jarred by the language of this Gospel lesson, then I am not sure that you were paying attention. Did you hear what Jesus said to this poor woman? She came to him with a terrible problem, and how did he respond? First, he ignored her! Then, as if that was not bad enough, he told her that he did not come to help “her kind.” And then, to top it off, he pretty much called her a “dog” and told her that she was not worthy of his help! How can we deal with this? How are we to understand the rudeness that Christ exhibited to this brokenhearted and suffering mother?

It is a point of fact that when the Scriptures surprise or offend us (and it often does… or should!), that we should react with joy rather than sadness, anger, or disbelief – for we are about to have our understanding enlarged! That is certainly the case with today’s lesson. The fact that Christ’s words are so offensive is part of the point, part of the lesson. So what are we to learn from it?

Some theologians would explain that we have to look at the cultural context of the reading: Jesus was a Jew, and that this was how Jews thought about and treated the Gentiles. This is what some theologians say, but they are wrong. In charity, I should give them more credit: they are only mostly wrong. They are right in teaching that we should look at the cultural context of scripture, but they are completely wrong in believing that Jesus was shaped by it: Christ is utterly BEYOND culture. Remember: he was the Logos before time began. As a human, he was affected by his time and place, but as the source of wisdom he transcended the bigotries and prejudices of the world. Ironically, it was this very transcendence that led to his offensive treatment of the Canaanite woman. Let me explain.

Jesus recognized that there were aspects of worldly cultures that were literally demonic (e.g. Psalm 81; Psalm 95:5 1 Corinthians 10:20) and, as such, they were a serious obstacle to satisfying his desire that all men be saved. Through his language, he was awakening his audience to the absurdity of treating people based on their group rather than as unique persons in need of our love and attention. The disciples could not help but notice the huge gulf between what morality required and the way their prejudices would have them act. There is no room for prejudice or division in God’s love. Those who serve him must rise above their worldviews and see the world in the light of pure love and objectivity.

Again, Christ was using this encounter to teach his audience that love requires that we serve everyone who comes into our midst, regardless of the color of their skin, where they or their babas were born, or how much money they make.

So what about the poor woman? What if she had given up? Remember, we are not dealing with a common man here, but with the eternal God incarnate. He knew the woman’s heart in its entirety; not just the love she had for her daughter or the trust she had in the power of God to heal her, but also her grit. He knew that she would do anything within her power to save her daughter. She would persevere. She would overcome.

This is the second lesson I would have you learn today: the virtue of perseverance and grit.

On perseverance.

[Persistence – examples from regular life (including studies on the relative importance of “grit”)]

If perseverance matters for all these other parts of our lives, why shouldn’t we expect it to affect our spiritual life?

If we are persistent, if we persevere, then the changes we make in our lives – eating well, exercising, being more patient with our families, dealing properly with our addictions, praying and worshipping more, being more serious in our Orthodoxy – will become less about the goals we want to achieve and more an expression of who we are.

  • We would no longer eat well because we wanted to become healthy, we would eat well because we WERE healthy.
  • We would no longer exercise regularly because we wanted to become more fit, we would exercise regularly because we WERE fit.
  • We would no longer be more patient and loving with our families because we wanted our family life to be more enjoyable, we would be patient and loving with our families because our family life WAS more enjoyable.
  • We would no longer be more diligent in our prayer and worship life because we wanted to reduce stress and help others, but because we WERE LIVING stress-free and helpful lives.
  • We would no longer be more serious in our Orthodoxy in order to get into heaven or to become more holy, but because, through Holy Orthodoxy, we WERE ALREADY BECOMING holy and more worthy of a place in heaven.

Then we will have been transformed:

  • From dieters to health eaters.
  • From out of shape to fit.
  • From casualties of broken families to beneficiaries of healthy ones.
  • From stressed out and powerless, to peaceful and powerful.
  • From part-time Christians into saints.

While each of these begins with a single decision, a decision on its own is not enough. In order to change our habits we have to exhibit enough grit and determination to make our decisions real in our lives. People who are serious about making changes rededicate themselves to their decisions every morning, then take stock of their efforts every evening. Moreover, they constantly ask God for his strength and support and that he remove the stains their weakness has caused. This is true whether we are talking about food and exercise or the even more important decision to give our lives over to The Way Christ established for the healing and salvation of all his people; it takes grit to make it real. It takes determination.

A Warning

We have to be careful: the world is full of snake-oil salesmen who will try to sell us shortcuts to health and perfection, and our egos are the most convincing charlatans of the lot. But there are no shortcuts. A pill cannot make up for laziness. We cannot eat junk and lay around all the time and expect to be healthy. We cannot ignore your family and be a blessing to them. We cannot skip prayer and find lasting peace. We cannot forsake The Way of Orthodoxy and live a holy life. And we cannot do anything worth doing without grounding ourselves completely in Jesus Christ, the very source of all power and perfection. Anyone who tells us differently – to include our own egos or “consciences” – is setting us up for failure. We have to ignore them, roll up our sleeves, and get serious.

Conclusion

It takes a lot of effort to gain anything worthwhile. In his interaction with the Gentile woman in today’s Gospel, Christ was showing us that salvation and the qualities needed to obtain it are not limited to any race, class, or nationality. It is ours to take no matter the color of our skin or where we were born. Christ came to save us all. In him and his love – that is to say, in his Holy Orthodox Church – there are no Gentiles or Jews, no Americans or Syrians, no rich or poor. Only those who are alive in Christ. Remember, God is not a respecter of persons. He desires that all be saved. He is knocking at the door of every heart. We must all let him in. We must accept him as our Lord, God, and Savior. And this is more than a one time promise. We cannot just say a “sinners prayer” and expect to be saved. The kingdom of heaven is taken by force and we must constantly strive – dare I say “work!” for our salvation. But do not despair: through Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we all have access to the strength we need to persevere.

And the road that we must walk, the very “Way” that the persistent must follow is found in its fullness here at this parish and in this community of Christ the Savior in Anderson, SC.

 

Direct download: 20240218-PrejudiceandGrit.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:49pm EST

Bible Study – Job
Class Five: Job 2:16-7:14
The trial of ideas begins. 

Direct download: 20240214-Job02_16-07_14.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:35pm EST

Homily on the Talents

Main point: What do we with the riches God has given us? Multiply them! How? By investing all those riches in spiritual activities that provide a strong return on investment and having enough self-discipline not to waste them on activities that cause spiritual harm.

There are many kinds of riches that the Bible and Tradition teach about; today we’ll talk about spiritual and monetary riches.

How to Get a Good Return on Spiritual Riches

   Baptized Christians have all received riches (the grace of Baptism – a life in Christ!): what do we do with them?

   We do not all start with the same – we all have abilities and weaknesses

   But all are called to grow that which God has planted in our hearts

How do we grow them? It’s all about Orthopraxis. Discipleship. Evangelism. Everyone has to be involved in the ministries of the Church – and our parish must be set up to enable and encourage this.

How do we bury our talents? Not just by squandering them, but by refusing to develop and use them. By sitting on our hands. By seeking the minimum standard.

We need to grow the grace God has put into our hearts so that it overflows and brings comfort, joy, and healing to all those around us. We have to grow the investment of grace God made within our hearts. Orthodoxy is not about rules – Americans hate rules – it’s about getting a good return on the spiritual investment God made in us. Americans understand investments (and, while it may seem crass, it follows from the parable that Christ gave us). So…

   Encouraging us to pray in the morning and evening and at every meal time is sound spiritual investment advice;

   Encouraging us to come to services every Sunday and Feast Dayis sound spiritual investment advice;

   Encouraging us to read scripture and edifying literature everyday is sound spiritual investment advice.

   Encouraging every parish member should offer up their time in both worship AND ministry is sound spiritual investment advice.

   Extolling the benefits of tithing is giving us sound spiritual advice.

   Warning us that things like gossip, pornography, self-indulgence, hard-heartedness, and adultery are wicked sins and to be avoided, is sound spiritual investment advice.

Some people hear this – and I mean good people! – and they say “but Father… I don’t need to do all these things to be good. I’m nice. I already love people. I know that it is my duty to help my friends and my family and that is what I do. It comes naturally. I don’t need fasting and all that other stuff.” I LOVE hearing this! It is great to meet people who are born with such wonderful gifts. But being born with gifts doesn’t get them off the hook. My response to the way they rationalize their slothfulness goes something like this; “wonderful! God gave you FIVE TALENTS instead of just one or two – now you need to fast and do all that other stuff to invest those five and get five more!”

No one should mistake a naturally pleasant disposition or other natural attributes as some kind of grace they earned: these things are gifts from God and they must be developed. That’s what he is telling us today about getting into heaven. God expects more from those to whom He has given more – so get to work!

How to Get the Best (Spiritual Return) on Monetary Riches

But the Lord isn’t just teaching us about how to grow the grace He has given us. There is a lot to learn here and throughout the scriptures about what to do with our money. He tells us that everything that we have was given to us is for one purpose: growth in perfection. Growth in Christ. The healing of this world. The spreading of the Gospel. The increasing and superabundance of grace in our lives, our parish, and this world. As with spiritual gifts, not all of us are given the same gifts … but we are all called to grow what we have been given to the glory of God.

   Ten talents: These people have the possibility/ability to give up all their money and possessions and follow Christ. (e.g. the holy disciples and apostles). Not everyone has the ability to do this. Not everyone is strong enough. Thank God that some are. The witness of monks.

   Five talents: These people have too many God-blessed responsibilities to give up all their money and possessions, but they can offer up a large proportion of their income. Not everyone is strong enough to do this. This is only possible for people who have made a discipline of simplicity and budgeted towards giving and either have a large salary proportional to their needs or – much less likely - who have come into a windfall (joke about the lottery). Examples: Saint Joachim – 2/3; Zacheous: half plus; (and lest we think this is just for the rich) the widow’s mite.

   One talent – done right!!!: “what must I do to be saved” Orthopraxis! Follow the law and live a life a love. Give proportionally according to your income. Make sacrifices for the Gospel. Offer what you can and grow that grace!

 Important caveat: for most of us, Orthodoxy requires balancing competing commitments. When it comes to money, it really comes down budgeting and making every dollar count. Family responsibilities and paying debts are Christian obligations.  Duty done well is done to the glory of God. Our God is not a God of irresponsibility. We have to find the balance – but in finding that balance, we need to let Christian morality – and not vices like laziness, self-indulgence, or fear – be our guides. Saint Paul makes this clear in his second letter to the Corinthians (8:8-12 & 9:6-9; glossed a bit):

Now I want to tell you what God in his grace has done for the churches in Macedonia. Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, they have mixed their wonderful joy with their deep poverty, and the result has been an overflow of giving to others. They gave not only what they could afford but far more; and I can testify that they did it because they wanted to and not because of nagging on my part. They begged us to take the money so they could share in the joy of helping the Christians in Jerusalem. Best of all, they went beyond our highest hopes, for their first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to us, for whatever directions God might give to them through us.

 [This reminds me of the statistics that show no correlations between wealth and the proportion that is given to charity – just look at the faithfulness of the people in “poor” churches!]

 The people in this other church were so enthusiastic about helping out through sacrificial giving that we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to visit you and encourage you to complete your share in this same ministry of giving. You people there are leaders in so many ways—you have so much faith, so many good preachers, so much learning, so much enthusiasm, so much love… Now I want you to be leaders also in the spirit of cheerful giving.

 I am not giving you an order; I am not saying you must do it or how much you should give … But this is one way to show that your love and dedication is real, that it goes beyond mere words.

 You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus was: though he was so very rich, yet to help you he became so very poor, so that by being poor he could make you rich.

You were enthusiastic when you started down this path. Now let your early enthusiasm be equaled by your realistic action now. But hear this: if you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you haven’t.

 But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much. Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for God loves the cheerful giver. God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others. It is as the Scriptures say: “The godly man gives generously to the poor. His good deeds will be an honor to him forever.”

God loves a cheerful giver, one who offers up gifts of his own free will – without compulsion. Our lives – and the life of our parish – have to be modeled around this fact. We don’t do dues.  Dues are compulsory, whether they are a few hundred dollars or an imposition of the more biblical tithe. The extortion of income is the work of highway robbers and governments – not the parish.  So while some of us have the ability, discipline, and JOY to budget around a tithe, not everyone can. The command is to offer up what you can to the glory of God and building up of joy in your life.

Let me conclude:

The point is that all we have been given – both our spiritual and material gifts – has been given to us one purpose: the one thing needful.

 If we invest all those things that have been put into our care: our time, our abilities, and yes, our monetary treasures, into the service of the Most High, then in the day when we are called to account for the way we lived lives here on earth, we will hear those words that we know so well, “well done good and faithful servant – receive now your crown!’

And if not? God cannot force us into paradise against our will. If we decided in our lifetime to follow the example of the servant who hid his talent, then we will receive the same reward he did.  That’s the Gospel.

No matter how much – or little - we have been entrusted with, we have a choice; it is the same choice all people of all places and times are given. Here is how Joshua put back in his day (Joshua 24:14-15; with glosses):

So revere the One True God and serve Him in sincerity and truth. Put away forever the idols of your ancestors. Worship the One True God and Him alone.  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the false gods your ancestors served or the false gods of the land in which you now live. It is your choice. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

The Christian parish must be full of men and women – no matter their station, sinfulness, or abilities – who have made that same choice.  

 “As for me and my household – that is to say, as for me and all of you – I know that we will serve the Lord.”

 

Direct download: 20240211-Talents.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:35pm EST

In this episode of "Father, Speak a Word," Fr. Gregory Jensen, PhD and Fr. Anthony talk about why we should celebrate our shortcomings (as we repent of our sin).  The conversation is based on Fr. Gregory's substack article "It's Complicated; Thoughts On Falling Short of the Glory of God."  [The audio has been corrected.]

Direct download: 20240208-FSAW-Sin.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:00pm EST

Bible Study – Job
Class Four: Job 1:13 – 2:15

From the Orthodox Study Bible.

Job Loses His Children and Property

13.  Now there was a day when Job’s sons and daughters were drinking wine in the house of their elder brother,

14.  and behold, a messenger came to Job and said, “The yokes of oxen were plowing, and the female donkeys were feeding beside them.

15.  Then raiders came and took them captive and killed the servants with the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”

16.  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said to Job, “Fire fell from heaven and burned up the sheep, and likewise consumed the shepherds; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”

17.  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Horsemen formed three bands against us, surrounded the camels, took them captive, and killed the servants with the sword.  I alone have escaped to tell you!”

18.  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your sone and daughters were eating and drinking wine with their elder brother,

19.  and suddenly a great wind came from the desert and struck the hour corners of the house; and it fell on your children, and they died; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”

20.  Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved off the hair of his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped, saying,

21. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  As it seemed good to the Lord, so also it came to pass.  Blessed by the name of the Lord.”

22.  In all these things that happened, Job did not sin against the Lord or charge God with folly.

 

Let’s break this down.

St. Gregory the Great.

On the compounding of affliction.
Lo again, lest any thing should be wanting to his grief for the adversity that came of man, he brings tidings that bands of the Chaldeans had broken in, and lest the calamity that came from above should strike him with too little force, he shews that wrath is repeated in the heavens…
He who is not laid low by one wound is in consequence stricken twice and thrice, that at one time or another he may be struck to the very core. Thus the blow from the Sabeans had been reported, the Divine visitation by fire from heaven had been reported, tidings are brought of the plundering of the camels, by man again, and of the slaughter of his servants, and the fury of God’s displeasure is repeated, in that a fierce wind is shewn to have smitten the corners of the house, and to have overwhelmed his children. For because it is certain that without the Sovereign dictate the elements can never be put in motion, it is covertly implied that He, Who let them be stirred, did Himself stir up the elements against him, though, when Satan has once received the power from the Lord, he is able even to put the elements into commotion to serve his wicked designs.

On the timing of the attacks
We ought to observe what times are suited for temptations; for the devil chose that as the time for tempting, when he found the sons of the blessed Job engaged in feasting; for the adversary does not only cast about what to do, but also when to do it. Then though he had gotten the power, yet he sought a fitting season to work his overthrow, to this end, that by God’s disposal it might be recorded for our benefit, that the delight of full enjoyment is the forerunner of woe.

On Job’s response.
But in that it is added that he worshipped, it is plainly shewn that even in the midst of pain, he did not break forth against the decree of the Smiter. He was not altogether unmoved, lest by his very insensibility he should shew a contempt of God; nor was he completely in commotion, lest by excess of grief he should commit sin. But because there are two commandments of love, i. e. the love of God, and of our neighbour; that he might discharge the love of our neighbour, he paid the debt of mourning to his sons; that he might not forego the love of God, he performed the office of prayer amidst his groans. There are some that use to love God in prosperity, but in adversity to abate their love of Him from whom the stroke comes. But blessed Job, by that sign which he outwardly shewed in his distress, proved that he acknowledged the correction of his Father, but herein, that he continued humbly worshipping, he shewed that even under pain he did not give over the love of that Father.

But be it observed, that our enemy strikes us with as many darts as he afflicts us with temptations; for it is in a field of battle that we stand every day, every day we receive the weapons of his temptations. But we ourselves too send our javelins against him, if, when pierced with woes, we answer humbly.

Christological Interpretation
When his sons were destroyed in the ruin of the house, Job arose, because when Judæa was lost in unbelief, and when the Preachers were fallen in the death of fear, the Redeemer of mankind raised Himself from the death of His carnal nature; He shewed in what judgment He abandoned His persecutors to themselves. For His rising is the shewing with what severity he forsakes sinners, just as His lying down is the patient endurance of ills inflicted. He rises then, when He executes the decrees of justice against the reprobate. And hence He is rightly described to have rent his mantle. For what stood as the mantle of the Lord, but the Synagogue, which by the preaching of the Prophets clung to the expectation of His Incarnation? For in the same way that He is now clothed with those by whom He is loved, as Paul is witness, who says, That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot nor wrinkle; (for that which is described as having neither spot or wrinkle; ALLEG. Eph. 5:27. is surely made appear as a spiritual robe; and at once clean in practice, and stretched in hope;) so when Judæa believed Him as yet to be made Incarnate, it was no less a garment through its clinging to Him.

 

 

Job Loses His Health

2.1.  Then again as it so happened another day, the angels of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and the devil also came among them to present himself before the Lord.

2.  The Lord said to the devil, “Where did you come from?”  Then the devil said before the Lord, “I came here from walking around under heaven and going about all the earth.”

3.  Then the Lord said to the devil, “Have you considered my servant Job, since there is none like him on earth: an innocent, true, blameless, and God-fearing man, and one who abstains from every evil thing: Moreover he still holds fast to his integrity, though you told me to destroy his possessions without cause.”

4.  Then the devil answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin.  Whatever a man has he will pay in full for his life. 

5. Yet truly, stretch out Your hand and touch his bones and his flesh, and see if he will bless You to Your face.” 

6. So the Lord said to the devil, “Behold, I give him over to you; only spare his life.”

7. Thus the devil went out from the Lord and struck Job with malignant sores from head to foot.

8.  So he took a potsherd to scrape away the discharge and sat on a dunghill outside the city.

9.  When a period of time passed, his wife said to him, “How long will you hold out, saying,

10. ‘Behold, I will wait a little longer, looking for the hope of my salvation’?

11. Listen, your memory is wiped out from the earth; your sons and daughters, the pangs and pains of my womb, which I suffered in vain and with hardships.

12. You yourself are sitting down, spending the nights in the open air among the rottenness of worms;

13. and I go about. As a wanderer and a handmaid from place to place and from house to house waiting for the setting of the sun, so as to rest from my labors and pains that now beset me.

14. But say a word against the Lord and die!”

15.  Then Job looked at her and said, “You have spoken as one of the foolish women speaks.  If we accepted good things from the Lord’s hand, shall we not endure evil things?”  In all these things that happened to him, Job did not sin with his lips against God.

 

Let’s break this down.

St. John Chrysostom.  The angels.  Why does the author describe the angels in the act of presenting themselves daily before the Lord? He does so that we might learn no actual event is overlooked by God’s providence, and that the angels report what happens every day. Every day they are sent to settle some question, even though we ignore all this. That is the reason why they were created; that is their task, as the blessed Paul says, “They are sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” “And the devil,” the text says, “also came among them.” You know why the angels are present. But why is the devil present? The latter is present to tempt Job; the former, in order to regulate our matters. Why is the devil questioned again before the angels themselves? Because he had said before them, “He will curse you to your face.” What a shameless nature! He has dared come back!

St. John Chrysostom.  On the wife.  Notes that a long time passed, and she was not able to handle the temptations.  The devil hopes this will be like Eve. 

Fr. Patrick Reardon. 
Indeed, we do perceive a change in Job at this point. If he does not curse God, Job also does not explicitly bless God as he had done in his first affliction (1:21). Instead, he humbly submits to God’s will (2:10).  In each case, nonetheless, God’s confidence in Job is vindicated. Satan has done his worst to Job, but Job has not succumbed. Like Abraham in Genesis 22, Job has met the trial successfully. Having done his worst, Satan disappears and is never again mentioned in the book. The rest of the story concerns only God and human beings.

St. Gregory the Great.  On temptation.
The old adversary is wont to tempt mankind in two ways; viz. so as either to break the hearts of the steadfast by tribulation, or to melt them by persuasion. Against blessed Job then he strenuously exerted himself in both; for first upon the householder he brought loss of substance; the father he bereaved by the death of his children; the man that was in health he smote with putrid sores. But forasmuch as him, that was outwardly corrupt, he saw still to hold on sound within, and because he grudged him, whom he had stripped naked outwardly, to be inwardly enriched by the setting forth of his Maker’s praise, in his cunning he reflects and considers, that the champion of God is only raised up against him by the very means whereby he is pressed down, and being defeated he betakes himself to subtle appliances of temptations. For he has recourse again to his arts of ancient contrivance, and because he knows by what means Adam is prone to be deceived, he has recourse to Eve. For he saw that blessed Job amidst the repeated loss of his goods, the countless wounds of his strokes, stood unconquered, as it were, in a kind of fortress of virtues.

On the nature of evil.
See the enemy is every where broken, every where overcome, in all his appliances of temptation he has been brought to the ground, in that he has even lost that accustomed consolation which he derived from the woman. Amid these circumstances it is good to contemplate the holy man, without, void of goods, within, filled with God. When Paul viewed in himself the riches of internal wisdom, yet saw himself outwardly a corruptible body, he says, We have this treasure in earthen vessels. 2 Cor. 4:7. You see, the earthen vessel in blessed Job felt those gaping sores without, but this treasure remained entire within. For without he cracked in his wounds, but the treasure of wisdom unfailingly springing up within issued forth in words of holy instruction, saying, If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? meaning by the good, either the temporal or the eternal gifts of God, and by the evil, denoting the strokes of the present time, of which the Lord saith by the Prophet, I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. Is. 45:6, 7. Not that evil, which does not subsist by its own nature, is created by the Lord, but the Lord shews Himself as creating evil, when He turns into a scourge the things that have been created good for us, upon our doing evil, that the very same things should at the same time both by the pain which they inflict be to transgressors evil, and yet good by the nature whereby they have their being.

On how the Church responds to both kinds of “evil”
Holy men, when fastened upon by the war of afflictions, when at one and the same moment they are exposed to this party dealing them blows and to that urging persuasions, present to the one sort the shield of patience, at the other they launch the darts of instruction, and lift themselves up to either mode of warfare with a wonderful skill in virtue, so that they should at the same time both instruct with wisdom the froward counsels within, and contemn with courage the adverse events without; that by their instructions they may amend the one sort, and by their endurance put down the other. For the assailing foes they contemn by bearing them, and the crippled citizens they recover to a state of soundness, by sympathizing with them. Those they resist, that they may not draw off others also; they alarm themselves for these, lest they should wholly lose the life of righteousness.

And more on this
Holy men, when fastened upon by the war of afflictions, when at one and the same moment they are exposed to this party dealing them blows and to that urging persuasions, present to the one sort the shield of patience, at the other they launch the darts of instruction, and lift themselves up to either mode of warfare with a wonderful skill in virtue, so that they should at the same time both instruct with wisdom the froward counsels within, and contemn with courage the adverse events without; that by their instructions they may amend the one sort, and by their endurance put down the other. For the assailing foes they contemn by bearing them, and the crippled citizens they recover to a state of soundness, by sympathizing with them. Those they resist, that they may not draw off others also; they alarm themselves for these, lest they should wholly lose the life of righteousness.

___

Saint Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, vol. 1 (Oxford; London: John Henry Parker; J. G. F. and J. Rivington, 1844), 83.

Robert Charles Hill.  St. John Chrysostom Commentaries on the Sages, Volume One – Commentary on Job.  Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

Patrick Henry Reardon, The Trial of Job: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Job (Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2005), 22.

Manlio Simonetti and Marco Conti, eds., Job, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 4–5.

 

What we will cover next week:

The trial of ideas begins.  Job 2:16-7:14

Direct download: 20240207-Job01_13-02_9.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:53am EST

Homily Notes on Zacchaeus Sunday:
What makes a home?

Walk in – can you tell (that a place is a home)?

The feeling?

·       Feelings and intuition are unreliable; generally, they are the way the subconscious mind puts together other indicators

·       But to the sense our feelings are reliable, some places are haunted by memories of being home 

The clutter?” There is something to this.

·       Imperfect indicator (museums have lots of stuff… & I hear there are homes with no clutter)

·       Points to something else that is often associated with clutter

The rituals? There is something to this, as well.

·       All homes do have rituals, but they are similar to clutter (they ARE clutters of habits… and these habits form character)

·       Imperfect indicator

*** A home is where love lives. ***

Zacchaeus had a nice house.

·       But it wasn’t until Christ came that it was a place of love

·       “Today salvation has come to this house”

·       From the blessing of homes after Theophany; “O GOD OUR SAVIOR, the True Light, who wast baptized in the Jordan by John to renew all men by the laver of regeneration, and who didst deign to enter under the roof of Zacchaeus, thereby bringing salvation to him and to all his house: do thou, the same Lord, keep safe from harm all who dwell here; grant them thy blessing, purification, and bodily health; grant all their petitions which are unto salvation and life everlasting. For blessed art thou, O Lord, together with thy Father who is without beginning, and thy most holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.” 

Lesson here

·       Love blesses all things when it is present; friendships, teachers and students, workplace relationships…

·       Why is this? Why aren’t the kind of relationships Zaccheaus had – ones based on exploitation – blessed?

·       Because the God who created the rules is the One who is the source and animator of all love.

·       This is why intentionally invoking Him in our relationships makes them so much stronger. Marriages, families, friendships… they are strengthened when they are done IN THE NAME OF CHRIST.

Most especially true of us here. This is THE place of power.

·       Let us continue to bask in it.

·       As Christ grows in our midst and remakes us into perfect bearers of that love.

 

Direct download: 20240204-WhatisaHome.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:50am EST

Bible Study – Job
Class Two: Job 1: 6-12

From the Orthodox Study Bible.

Satan is Permitted to Test Job

6.  Then as it so happened one day that behold, the angels of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and the devil also came with them. 

7. The Lord said to the devil, “Where did you come from?” So the devil answered the Lord and said, “I came here after going about the earth and walking around under heaven.”

8. Then the Lord said to him, “Have you yet considered my servant Job, since there is none like him on the earth: a blameless, true, and God-fearing man, and one who abstains from every evil thing?”

9. So the devil answered and said before the Lord, “Does Job worship the Lord for no reason?

10. Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his cattle have increased in the and. 

11.  But stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and see if he will bless You to Your face.”

12.  Then the Lord said to the devil, “Behold, whatever he has I give into your hand; but do not touch him.”  Thus the devil went out from the Lord.

Let’s break this down.

v. 6; why were the angels of God presenting themselves before the Lord?

Many angels surround Him continually;

·      Anaphora of St. John Chrsysostom.  For all these things we give thanks unto Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son, and to Thy Holy Spirit; for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether seen or unseen; and we thank Thee for this Liturgy which Thou hast willed to accept at our hands, though there stand by Thee thousands of archangels and hosts of angels (Daniel 7:10) the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six- winged (Isiah 6:2) many-eyed (Revelations 4:8) who soar aloft, borne on their wings:  Singing the triumphant hymn, shouting, proclaiming, and saying: “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory’. (Isaiah 6:3) Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest. (Mathew 21:9, Mark 11:9-10, Psalms 118:26)

·      Hebrews 12:22.  But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,

   Possibly – they are part of His Divine Council

·      Psalm 81:1-2a; “God stood in the assembly of gods; He judges in the midst of gods,”  

·      Psalm 88: 9-13 (89:6-8). “The heavens shall confess Your wonders, O Lord, and Your truth in the church of the saints.  For who in the clouds shall be compared to the Lord and who among the sons of God shall be compared to the Lord?”

More likely – they are ministering angels

·      Hebrews 1:14.  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

·      Psalms 90:11.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

·      Matthew 18:10.  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Hesychius of Jerusalem (5th Century - not recognized as a saint): Was there ever a time when the angels did not stand before the Lord? Was it not written about them that “a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him”? (Daniel 7:11)But this coming, in our opinion, is that of the angels who had been sent to serve human beings. Paul actually says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” HOMILIES ON JOB 2.1.6.

More on v.6: why was the devil with him?

Note – the problem is why God would be talking with the devil, and why the devil could even stand to be in His presence.

One way to resolve this is to note that there are other places in scripture when God talks to the devil and demons (temptation in the wilderness, demons at Gardenes).

Another way is to say that it wasn’t really “THE Devil”, it was “The Satan”, which is a job title, “The Adversary.”  This takes us back to the Divine Council.  As Michael Heiser writes;

Evidence for exactly the same structures in the Israelite council is tenuous. Despite the fact that popular Israelite religion may have understood Yahweh as having a wife, Asherah (see Hess), it cannot be sustained that the religion of the prophets and biblical writers contained this element or that the idea was permissible. There is also no real evidence for the craftsman tier. However, the role of the śāṭān (see Satan), the accuser who openly challenges God on the matter of Job’s spiritual resilience, is readily apparent (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–6). In the divine council in Israelite religion Yahweh was the supreme authority over a divine bureaucracy that included a second tier of lesser ʾĕlōhîm (bĕnê ʾēlîm; bĕnê ʾĕlōhîm or bĕnê hāʾĕlōhîm) and a third tier of malʾākîm (“angels”). In the book of *Job some members of the council apparently have a mediatory role with respect to human beings (Job 5:1; 15:8; 16:19–21; cf. Heb 1:14).
M. S. Heiser, “Divine Council,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 114.

However, these are not the tacts that St. John Chrysostom took.  By his time, this Satan had been seen to be the same as the fallen angel in the garden etc.

·      He had a lot to say about how angels and demons are mixed together here on earth (even remarking on the headcover passage 1 Corinthians 11:10).  This has obvious implications for us and our spiritual lives!

·      He also said that there was no way the devil could talk to God in this way, and that this is written for the sake of the story (page 24).

Also his comment on being rich already putting Job into the arena. [NOTE: I was kidding/prodding about St. John being woke, but he was/is supremely concerned for the poor and the obligations of the rich. Before the term became altered and politicized, this made him a strong promoter of social justice.]

v. 7–8 Where Have You Come From?

St Gregory the Great: Satan’s “going to and fro on the earth” represents his exploring the hearts of the carnal. In this way he is seeking diligently for grounds of accusation against them. He “goes round about the earth,” for he surrounds human hearts in order to steal all that is good in them, that he may lodge evil in their minds, that he may occupy completely what he has taken over, that he may fully reign over what he has occupied, that he may possess the very lives of those he has perfected in sin. Note that he does not say he has been flying through the earth but that he has been “walking up and down it.” For in fact he is never easily dislodged from whomever he tempts. But where he finds a soft heart, he plants the foot of his wretched persuasion, so that by dwelling there, he may stamp the footprints of evil practice, and by a wickedness similar to his own he may render reprobate all whom he is able to overcome. But in spite of this, blessed Job is commended with these words, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” To him, whom divine inspiration strengthens to meet the enemy, God praises as it were even in the ears of Satan. For God’s praise of Job is the first evidence of Job’s virtues, so that they may be preserved when they are manifested. But the old enemy is enraged against the righteous the more he perceives that they are hedged around by the favor of God’s protection. MORALS ON THE BOOK OF JOB 2.65.66.

v. 1:9–10 Does Job Fear God for Nothing?

St. John Chrysostom: Do you see that Job’s wealth was a gift from God? Do you see that it was not the fruit of injustice? How Job had to suffer in order to demonstrate to people that his wealth was not the fruit of injustice! And behold, the devil himself bore witness to him from above and did not realize that he praised Job as well by saying that he had not acquired that wealth through illicit trading and through the oppression of others. Instead, Job owed his wealth to God’s blessing, and his security came from heaven. You would have not rejoiced if Job had not been virtuous. But the devil praised and covered him with laurels without realizing what he was doing. COMMENTARY ON JOB 1:10.

Manlio Simonetti and Marco Conti, eds., Job, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 4–5.

Robert Charles Hill.  St. John Chrysostom Commentaries on the Sages, Volume One – Commentary on Job.  Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

What we will cover next week:

Job loses his possessions, his children, and his health.  Job 1:7-22

Direct download: 20240131-Job01_6-12.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:41am EST

Homily – Bringing Grace to a Messy World
St Luke 18:35-43.  The healing of the blind beggar.

Three points:

Jesus did not stay in one place.

Jesus Christ is and was God.  It is fitting that He reside in the throne room of God, surrounded by the cherubim and seraphim, with His holiness reflecting off all the angels and archangels around Him.  But as the being of perfect love, He had to act on behalf of his beloved children (US!).  So He took flesh and became man.

Some would have expected Him to take up residence in the Temple or in the Governor’s House.  But instead He lived among common men and women and, for the last three years of His life, went from town to town so that everyone would know the Good News of salvation.  His body was the temple and He took His holiness, His healing love, and the truth of the Gospel everywhere He went.

We must do the same.  God resides within us.  We are called to love others as God loves us.  We are more than just disciples, we are Christ to the world– we are members of His body, the Church.  Others expect us to keep the reason for our joy and hope here in this building, but that is not how to love!  Yes, we invite the world to be transformed by joining us here, but love requires that we share the reason for joy and hope in the world.  We don’t hide it under a bushel (no!) we let it shine!

The Lord was traveling in today’s lesson, and we give a glimpse at what happened as He did.  We see that it isn’t always neat.  

Jesus – and his disciples – encountered the messiness of the world.

The world is a messy place.  Look what happened in today’s lesson: Christ and His entourage are almost to Jericho, and a beggar disrupts their travel.  This comes on the heels of other messy encounters: people having the nerve to bring their children up to Him to be blessed … a Rich Young Man questioning Jesus, and now this beggar!  I am willing to guess that, in their weaker moments, the disciples would have preferred Jesus stay in a place where they could control Him.  Then He could teach them – and anyone else who knew how to behave and knew what kind of questions were appropriate. 

But that would have been a different God, the God of Ivan Karamazov’s “Grand Inquisitor”.  Life is messy.  People have real problems, questions, and needs that do not fit into neat little categories.  And God goes out to meet them where they are.  As with the Rich Man, He may not always tell them what they want to hear, but there is the real sense that love required meeting people where they are (out in the world)… and then leading them to the cross and, through that, to the Resurrection and life eternal. 

We have to recognize the way our desire to control and mediate grace is more often a result of our own totalitarian pathology than a genuine desire to do God’s will.  Yes, grace leads to harmony; but demanding harmony before offering grace is like withholding medicine until a patient is well enough to deserve it.   

Everyone glorified God.

My final point may seem obvious, but it demands attention.  How did the people respond to the blind man’s healing?  Did they attack Jesus (they did in other places, as when He healed on the Sabbath)?  Were they upset that He wasted His time and power on a simple beggar when He could have done something more important?  Were they upset that they did not get their fair share of Jesus’ miracles on their own body (I bet all of them suffered from something!)?

No,  the Gospel says; “And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” 

This is the proper response to God’s love and power no matter how it matches our desires or expectations: glorification!  When we glorify God, we become more human, more happy, more resilient.  And when others see us glorifying God, not just here in the temple, but everywhere we see Him and His miraculous action in this world, they are naturally drawn to worship Him as well.

Yes, let’s continue to praise God and enjoy His miracles here within these walls, but let’s be like Jesus Himself and take the Good News out into the world and let our friends and neighbors – even our enemies – feel the healing grace that flows through our love for them.  Yes, it’s going to be messy and it may well mean that more unworthy beggars than kings feel the benefit of this grace; and it may end up meaning that we bring more grace to the lives of the people in communities of the upstate than to those in the great halls of Washington D.C. (that may seem to need it more).

But Christ cured the blindness of the beggar on the way to Jericho despite the all terrible things the powerful were doing in Rome.  Evangelism is local; it begins with the transformation of our hearts into overflowing fountains of grace that pour out to bless everyone we meet. May the Lord strengthen us as we spread His grace in a messy world.

Direct download: 20240128-ChristMoved.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:06pm EST

Bible Study – Job
Class Two: Job 1: 1-5

From the Orthodox Study Bible.

1.  Faithful Job and His Children

1 There was a man in the land of Austis, whose name was Job.  That man was true, blameless, righteous, and God-fearing, and he abstained from every evil thing.

2 Now he had seven sons and three daughters,

3 and his cattle consisted of seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred female donkeys in the pastures.  Moreover he possessed a very large number of house servants.  His works were also great on the earth, and that man was the most noble of all the men in the East.

4 His sons would visit one another and prepare a banquet every day, and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

5 When the days of their drinking were ended, Job sent and purified them; and he rose early in the morning and offered sacrifices for them according to their number, as well as one calf for the sins of their souls.  For Job said, “Lest my sons consider evil things in their mind against God.”  Therefore Job this continually.

From Fr. Patrick Reardon

The first chapter of Job describes him, in fact, as the embodiment of the ideals held out in the first psalm. Job “walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, / Nor stands in the path of sinners, / Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” On the contrary, he is “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, / That brings forth its fruit in its season, / Whose leaf also shall not wither; / And whatever he does shall prosper.”

Whereas the “man” in the first psalm is clearly a Jew, whose “delight is in the law of the Lord,” Job is only a man—any just man, anywhere. St. John Chrysostom drew special attention to the fact that Job is only a man, not a Jew. That is to say, Job does not enjoy the benefits of the revelation made to God’s chosen people. The only revelation known to Job is that which is accorded to all men, namely, that God “is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

The first verse of Job introduces the narrative prologue (1:1–2:13) preceding the lengthy and complicated dialogue that forms the long central core of the book. This prologue contains six scenes:

(1) an account of Job’s life and prosperity in 1:1–5;

(2) the first discussion in heaven in 1:6–12;

(3) Job’s loss of his children and possessions in 1:13–22;

(4) the second discussion in heaven in 2:1–7;

(5) Job’s affliction of the flesh in 2:7–10;

(6) the arrival of Job’s three friends in 2:11–13.

Chapter 1, then, contains the first three of these six scenes.

In the first scene (1:1–5) [this is the one we are covering today] Job is called a devout man who feared God, a man who “shunned evil.” He thus enjoyed the prosperity promised to such folk in Israel’s wisdom literature. As we have reflected in our introduction to this book, Job is the very embodiment of the prosperous just man held up as a model in the Book of Proverbs.

 

From the Orthodox Study Bible footnote

Note that Job was “blameless” and “abstained from every evil thing.”  Does that mean he is perfect?

·      Ecclesiastes 2:20/21.  For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.

·  Hebrews 4:15.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

 

St. Gregory the Great (he does literal and then two allegoricals)

On the description of Job. But it is the custom of narrators, when a wrestling match is woven into the story, first to describe the limbs of the combatants, how broad and strong the chest, how sound, how full their muscles swelled, how the belly below neither clogged by its weight, nor weakened by its shrunken size, that when they have first shewn the limbs to be fit for the combat, they may then at length describe their bold and mighty strokes. Thus because our athlete was about to combat the devil, the writer of the sacred story, recounting as it were before the exhibition in the arena the spiritual merits in this athlete, describes the members of the soul1, saying, And that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil; that when the powerful setting of the limbs is known, from this very strength we may already prognosticate also the victory to follow.

On sacrifices for his children (literal).  This circumstance demands our discreet consideration, that, when the days of feasting were past, he has recourse to the purification of a holocaust for each day severally; for the holy man knew that there can scarcely be feasting without offence; he knew that the revelry of feasts must be cleansed away by much purification of sacrifices, and whatever stains the sons had contracted in their own persons at their feasts, the father wiped out by the offering of a sacrifice; for there are certain evils which it is either scarcely possible, or it may be said wholly impossible, to banish from feasting. Thus almost always voluptuousness is the accompaniment of entertainments; for when the body is relaxed in the delight of refreshment, the heart yields itself to the admission of an empty joy. Whence it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Exod. 32:6.

More on the sacrifices (allegorical).  For we rise up early in the morning, when being penetrated with the light of compunction we leave the night of our human state, and open the eyes of the mind to the beams of the true light, and we offer a burnt offering for each son, when we offer up the sacrifice of prayer for each virtue, lest wisdom may uplift; or understanding, while it runs nimbly, deviate from the right path; or counsel, while it multiplies itself, grow into confusion; that fortitude, while it gives confidence, may not lead to precipitation, lest knowledge, while it knows and yet has no love, may swell the mind; lest piety, while it bends itself out of the right line, may become distorted; and lest fear, while it is unduly alarmed, may plunge one into the pit of despair. When then we pour out our prayers to the Lord in behalf of each several virtue, that it be free from alloy, what else do we but according to the number of our sons offer a burnt offering for each? for an holocaust is rendered ‘the whole burnt.’ Therefore to pay a ‘holocaust’ is to light up the whole soul with the fire of compunction, that the heart may burn on the altar of love, and consume the defilements of our thoughts, like the sins of our own offspring.

Saint Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, vol. 1 (Oxford; London: John Henry Parker; J. G. F. and J. Rivington, 1844), 34.

St. John Chrysostom

On wealth and temptation.  Do you not see that for people not on the alert wealth becomes the basis of falsehood.  This man was not like that, however, though: although he was wealthy, it was for you to learn that had wealth as an inclination towards evil, and that it is not wealth that is responsible [for sin] but free will.  [notes that later he also avoided the temptations of poverty].  Later, Job will explain how he came to be like this. 

On harmony.  Great harmony, the highest of goods; they were brought up to share their meals, keeping a common table, which makes no little contribution to good relations.  Do you see, dearly beloved, enjoyment accompanied by security?  Do you see family dining?  Do you see the well-knit group?

On the purification.  It was not from some bodily contamination, there being no Law by that stage, but from a mental one….: it was for sins that were hidden and not acknowledged [and he would certainly have done more if they were obvious]… This very process, in fact, became also instruction for his children, not only removal of their sins; people who are aware that punishment is God’s prerogative for both thoughts and sinful acts – their father, after all, would not have offered sacrifice if were not a sin he was anxious to cancel – and who constantly are instructed in this by sacrifices would be more hesitant if something like this happened in their case… Note how he gave them a lesson in harmony also in his sacrifice, offering one calf for them all as if for a single person… Which love in particular made him do it?  In my view, love for God and then love for his children.

Robert Charles Hill.  St. John Chrysostom Commentaries on the Sages, Volume One – Commentary on Job.  Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

What we will cover next week:

Satan is Permitted to Test Job; Job 1: 6-12.

Direct download: 20240124-Job01_1-5.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:07am EST

On Gratitude (with thanks to St. Nicholai Velimirovich)
Luke 17: 12-19 (The Ten Lepers, only one of whom returned)

[Started with a meditation on the virtues of hard work and gratitude; hard work so that we can be proud of what we have done and foster an appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into the making and sustaining of things. This makes us grateful for what we have, and especially the amount of effort that goes into gifts that we receive from others. But what if these virtues break down? What if there was a society where hard work was not required and gratitude was neither expected nor offered? What if everything was both easy and taken for granted? Would this be a society comprised of real men and women, or of spoiled children? Would those who understood the need for virtue – and who cultivated it within their own lives – [would they] not weep when they saw the corruption that surrounded them?]

We are taught through small things, not always being able to understand big ones.

  • If we cannot understand how our souls cannot live for a moment without God, we can see how our bodies cannot live for a moment without air.
  • If we cannot understand how we suffer a spiritual death when we go without prayer and the doing of good deeds, we can see how we suffer and die when we go without water and food.
  • If we cannot understand why it is that God expects our obedience, we can study why it is that commanders expect obedience from their soldiers and why architects expect it from their builders.

So it is with gratitude. If we do not understand why it is that God seeks our gratitude – and why He seeks it in both thought and action – we can look at why parents demand gratitude from their children.

  • We do parents require that their children thank them for everything, both large and small, that they receive from their parents?
    • Are parents enriched by the gratitude of their children?
    • Are they made more powerful?
    • Is it to feed their egos?
    • Does it give them more influence or status in society?
  • No, parents are not enriched by their children’s gratitude, and it takes time and effort to cultivate it in them. So parents spend time and effort on something that brings them no personal enrichment. Why do they do it?
    • They do it for love. They do it for the good of their children, so that they will grow up to be civilized and a benefit to society and their own families.
    • “A grateful man is valued wherever he goes; he is liked, he is welcomed, and he people are quick to help him.”

What would happen if parents stopped teaching their children gratitude? How would their children turn out? How would society turn out? Isn’t it every parent’s obligation, then to demand gratitude from their children?

And so it is with God. He does not need our thanks. There is no way to add to His infinite power. There is no way to add to his glory. He in no way benefits from the thanks that we give Him.

  • And yet He demands that we thank Him every morning for getting us through the night.
  • And yet He demands that we thank Him at every meal for the food on our tables.
  • And yet He demands that we thank Him that we thank Him every Sunday for the gift of His Son.

It seems like a lot, right? Couldn’t we just skip it? No. Not if we want to be human. Not if we want to be good.

  • It isn’t just about doing things to please God (He is what He is regardless of our actions),
  • and it isn’t really about doing things because we need to follow God’s rules.
  • It is about being (and becoming) good and doing what is right.

God desires that we be His children, through Christ, He has made this possible. Through our baptism and through our confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, we can join the ranks of the saints. This is not something to be taken for granted.

  • We are like the lepers who encountered Christ in today’s Gospel
    • Because of our disease, we are not fit to join the the saints and angels of God.
    • But Jesus Christ has healed us of our disease. He has nailed our sins to the Cross. He has restored our fallen humanity to a state of grace.
    • This is not something we have earned, nor is it something we deserve, nor is it something that Christ had to do.
  • All ten of the lepers received the gift of health and their ability to walk once more with those who are well in a healthy community. Only one was grateful.
    • Christ God suffered and died so that all of humanity could receive the gift of healing and eternal life, and the ability to live in everlasting joy with all the saints and angels.
    • What is our response?

Are we like the spoiled child that expects everything he receives (and more), that believes that everything is his due? If so, what kind of life can we expect to have? How can it not be stunted and incomplete? What kind of families and communities can we expect to grow around us?

Or are we like the the child who grows into the virtuous adult, the one who everyone likes to have in their company, who brings out the best in those around him? If so, will our lives not be better? Will our community not thrive? Will we not have shown – through God’s grace – that we belong with the saints?

We are not worthy of the gifts that God has given us. We accept them with open arms. We offer our thanks for them. And we join the ranks of holy ones and angels that continually proclaim His glory.

 

Direct download: 20240121-Gratitude.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:29pm EST

Bible Study – Job
Introduction

 

Job is the first book of the Wisdom genre in the Orthodox Bible.  The others are The Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach.

Date and Authorship: Unknown, but Job lived during the time of the Patriarchs (about 1600 BC).

From Fr. Joseph Farley;

The story of Job is traditionally based on the life of Jobab, king of Edom, mentioned in Genesis 36:33. (This ascription is also reflected in the final verses of the book as found in the Septuagint.) The tale of Job contains some of the best poetry ever written, and it recounts the suffering of a man who suffers unjustly, though he is completely righteous. His acquaintances (famous proverbially as “Job’s comforters”) assume his great suffering proves he has committed a great sin, but Job continues to deny it and to insist on his innocence. At the end of the story, God appears on the scene in a whirlwind to confound the worldly “wisdom” of Job’s tormenting “comforters,” reveal His power, and show the folly of supposing human wisdom is adequate to question the providence of God. He then restores to Job all that he has lost. A Septuagintal addition to the Hebrew text adds, “It is written that he will rise with those whom the Lord resurrects” (Job 42:1–8 OSB). Suffering leads eventually to resurrection.

We read the story of Job as a model of the sufferings of Christ, a foreshadowing of His Passion and Resurrection. Like Job, Christ was innocent yet suffered greatly. Like Job, Christ was vindicated by God at His Resurrection. Along with the story of Joseph the patriarch, the tale of Job reveals that in this age God’s chosen ones suffer unjustly. That the Messiah, “the Righteous One,” would suffer on a cross does not defy historical precedent. A crucified Christ is not a contradiction in terms. God’s servants have always suffered unjustly and been misunderstood by their “pious” contemporaries before being vindicated by God. It is for this reason that the Book of Job is read in church at the Presanctified Liturgies during Holy Week.  (Lawrence R. Farley, The Christian Old Testament: Looking at the Hebrew Scriptures through Christian Eyes (Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2012), 143–144.)

In Scripture

Genesis and the historical books (as Jobab).

Ezekiel 14:14.  Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.

Ezekiel 14:20.  Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.

James 5:11.  Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

Liturgical Use

Holy Week.  Monday (PSL): Job 1:1-12; Tuesday (PSL): Job 1:13-22; Wednesday (PSL): Job 2:1-15; Thursday (VDL): Job 38:1b-21); Friday (Vespers) Job 42:12-21.  Up until then, we had been reading Proverbs in that place in the service (Exodus replaces Genesis and Ezekiel replaces Isaiah).

Great Canon of St. Andrew (Canticle Four; in between Esau and Christ).

Thou hast heard of Job, O my soul, who was justified on a dung heap; yet thou hast not imitated his courage nor hast thou shown any firmness of will in the face of thy trials and temptations but hast proved cowardly and weak. He that once sat upon a throne now lies naked on a dung heap, covered with his sores. He that had many children and was once admired by all is suddenly bereft of children and is left without a home; yet for him the dung heap is a palace, and his sores a chain of pearls.

Purpose:  Wisdom.

Resources for our study.

Orthodox Study Bible; St. John Chrystostom’s commentary; St. Gregory the Great’s Commentary; Fr. Patrick Reardon’s The Trial of Job.  Dictionary of Wisdom and the Psalms (IVP). Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

Some initial thoughts:

It is about suffering, but mostly about how to relate to God in suffering.  Losing faith in God is one of the biggest temptations that suffering can bring.

Parts of it are not easy to read (negativity; structure; poetry).  Not always clear what is being taught.

Fr. Patrick refers to is as a "trial".  That’s good.  But who is on trial?  Is it Job?

Three of his friends (pagan kings!), Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, present traditional religious ways of relating to God (or the gods) during suffering (suffering is retribution; requires appeasement).  You may end up sympathizing with some of what they say, but their understanding of God and how to relate to Him is flawed. 

Elihu, his fourth friend offers a more correct understanding of God, but his witness is tainted by His pride and by twisting the facts (even though he, unlike the others, wanted to present Job as righteous).  He does seem to act as a sort of (an imperfect) prophet to Yahweh (who speaks right after his speech) not just by describing God’s glory but by holding Job accountable for the arrogance of his previous appeal.    God condemns the other friends, but Elihuh is not mentioned.  However, his theology is not reliable (it is really a reformulation of the same retribution principle).

Job’s continual defense of himself is his righteousness.  He does end up needing to repent of his accusations against and doubts in God.

In the end, Job’s righteousness is affirmed, Job’s goods are restored, and God’s justice is confirmed.

Direct download: 20240117-IntrotoJob.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:51pm EST

Ephesians 4:7-13.  In this homily (hostage situation?), Fr. Anthony talks about the temptations new technology brings for getting ecclesiology wrong.  Noting that bad ecclesiology is bad theology, he offers to help everyone find their calling and develop their gifts, but warns that we need be careful to take our time and not fall into (or prey to!!!) prophecying, teaching, and preaching outside the blessing of the Church.   Enjoy the show.

Direct download: 2024014-EccelsialDisruption.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:54am EST

The Banquet

St. Luke 14:16-24

·      Greatest tragedies in history

o   Separation from God

o   Separation from one another

·      Two of the great epidemics of our time resulted from this

o   Loneliness: we were made for community (yes, even introverts!)

o   Meaning:

§  We were made for a home, with a strong and enduring identity

§  We were made for a purpose, with an important part to play, and given the gifts and potential to play that part well.

§  Last week: when we have our community, we know our part and are developing our gifts, the result is a symphony or beautiful transformation.

o   Without community and a song, purpose, or being part of a plan, we are sure to suffer

·      This is our experience of sin.  We have missed the mark of our calling, of being part of the things for which we were made

·      So what is the solution?

o   A theological math problem, with the calculus of proper soteriology coming to rescue?

o   A juridical problem, with a proper understanding of God’s justice and the role of His Son’s sacrifice in appeasing it?

·      No, I framed the problem of sin the way I did so that we could approach it properly: we have a relationship problem.  We are separated from God and one another and thus suffer from loneliness and a lack of meaning.

·      Today’s Gospel flows naturally from this understanding, and it corrects some imperfections in some Western theology that compound the problem and make a proper diagnosis all but impossible. 

o   Some “Western” Christians might slip the mathematical and juridical approaches and recognize that the restoration of a relationship with God is central.  But their God is angry and even, dare I say it, capricious.  And like an abusive father or husband, the key to assuaging his wrath is to satisfy it with the death of His son.  This is a terrible theology, and Christ dismisses it with today’s description of the feast as the solution to the world’s pain.

·      The Kingdom of Heaven is a great meal to which we are all invited.

·      Are you lonely?

o   A meal!  Why is it so great?  At festal meals, we learn to leave aside all the petty things that have divided us.  Around a family table, we are reminded of who we are and what family we belong to and can relax into this.  When strangers come, there need be no awkwardness as the purpose is fixed and everyone is fed.  All of us have good things in common at the supper table.  We lay aside all of our pettiness to engage in this beautiful fellowship.

o   But it is also the meal of the king.  The invitation is the invitation to a restored relationship with Him.  And through accepting the invitation we restore our relations with one another. 

o   And because of the nature of the food that is offered, the restoration of the relationship grows and the problems of loneliness and meaning fade to nothing.  And neither exist at all in the great banquet which is to come.

·      This shows the love of our God and the beauty of True Theology.  Restoration comes not from solving theological math problems, getting the right lawyer, or creating a codependency with a wrathful God.

·      Restoration comes in accepting God’s invitation to a place at His Holy Table and to Feast at His Holy Supper.

·      Some chose not to come – and we pray that they repent and come to the table before it is too late.

·      But for us the way is clear, we have accepted the invitation, and thus we are being cured of the pain of sin and its separation.

 

 

 

 

Direct download: 20231217-SalvationasBanquet.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:24pm EST

Father Speak a Word.  Today Fr. Anthony talks with Fr. Gregory Jensen, PhD, about his recent essay, "Friendship."  They cover the differences between friendships based on utility, pleasure, and virtue, noting that a virtuous friendship cannot be rushed, assumed, or coerced.  They also compare the virtuous friendship, which needs to be reciprocal, with the relationship between a priest and his parishioners (which should not be reciprocal in that way).  This leads to the basic truth that "priests need priests" (the theme of Fr. Anthony's now defunct AFR podcast, Good Guys Wear Black).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20231212-Friendship.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:37pm EST

ST. PAUL'S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 6:10-17

Brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

There is much evil in this world.  It causes so much suffering.  We know that something needs to be done.  But how can we confront it?  It has marched through the institutions – and so we find ourselves outnumbered and outgunned.  How are we supposed to win this war?  And then, in today’s epistle reading, we are reminded what is available to us:  the whole armor and weaponry of God.

Those of us who have come to Orthodoxy from outside often feel this most acutely, but we have all seen first-hand how inadequate heterodox theologies are to deal with the hideous strength of the powers of the world.  Becoming Orthodox can feel like getting a whole set of power-ups.  We gird up our loins – our passions – with the self-assurance of the truth and then up-armor with +5 Breastplate of Righteousness, the +5 Shield of Faith, the +5 Helmet of Salvation, and most especially the +5 Vorpal Sword of the Spirit.  Girded with this kit, we are finally ready to wade back into battle so that we can destroy the enemy and all his power and all his pride and all his pomp.

But who is that enemy and who do we actually end up fighting?

We all know that St. Paul begins this reading by reminding us that our true enemies are the demons, but is that how we act?  Do we let the Armor of God protect us from the flaming darts of the evil one so that we can withstand the evil day and bring healing to the victims of the demons’ war against mankind, moving among the fallen and exhausted to bring comfort and healing?  Or do we instead call anyone who has fallen under the sway and influence of the rulers of the present darkness “enemy” and fight them?  Do we see conversations with our alleged human enemies as opportunities for healing and growth or as opportunities for hand-to-hand combat with us playing the part of the Holy Warrior and the other the part of the evil incarnate?

The image of spiritual warfare is a powerful one, and the armor of God is a critical component of it.  But I’m not sure we are mature enough to benefit from this image.  Because the powers of the world have tricked pretty much everyone into framing pretty much everything of any importance in terms of war and violence, we end up fighting on its terms, doing its dirty work even as we us Orthodox words and memes to justify it.  There is great danger here.  Our alleged use of the armor and weapon of God becomes blasphemous when we use them against their true intent. We are so eager to wade into battle using our new kit that we forget that our Commission is to save, not destroy.  They are what allow us to abide in the shelter of the Most High, protected from the terror of the night and every other demonic assault so that we can go about sharing the light with those who live in darkness.

Again, the image of spiritual warfare resonates with us because we live in a world that has bought into the idea of warfare.  Unfortunately, it does not use this image in the way the Church does.  Instead of using it as a metaphor for spiritual struggle, it uses the images and emotions of warfare to provide justifications for self-righteousness, polarization, and the demonization of the other.  It uses it to increase division – the very goal of Satan, the Arch-heretic and Divider.  Real spiritual warfare requires love, but it’s hard for us to be and share love when are mobilized for this kind of war. 

The Armor of God can shield our hearts and protect its love against the pestilence that walks in darkness and the destruction that wastes at noonday, but what is there to protect when we have given our hearts over to hating and destroying the children of God?

And so I want to offer another image for this work we are called to do.  Today in this Archdiocese we celebrate our musicians.  So I am going to share St. Paul’s message in a musical key:

Put on the whole harmony of God.   

There is a lot of discord out in the world, and people suffer from it.  We see the damage and it breaks our hearts.  We abhor the noise and want something better for us, for our children, for everyone and everything.  God is the source of beauty and he has called us to share that beauty in a way that brings the crooked ways of discord into resolution.

Do we do this by just wading into the noise and playing louder?  Do you see how that would just add to the discord?  Moreover, do you see how it makes people less open to experiencing the beauty of the Gospel music?  How the negative emotions this approach creates make people unwilling to take us and our message seriously? 

It is also doubtful that someone who approaches the work of harmony in this way could even hold onto the idea and reality of beauty.  You can’t transform noise by making more of it, and trying to do so is more likely to make us deaf to both the harmony of the spheres and – here’s a new idea - any potential resonances in the music others are playing. 

You see, it isn’t “the world” that makes this noise, it’s people.  And because God made the structure of sound “good” and the people who use that sound “very good”, it is not possible to make music that is purely bad, music that is nothing but noise.  If we listen closely, we can find parts of it that – despite sin and heresy – we can hear as good and useful.  And if we have truly put on the harmony of God, we can grab onto those bits of logi and move with them in grace towards glory. 

Here I have in mind not the Christian who wanders into the middle of a bacchanalian mass-caucaphony of clanging symbols and off-key wailing. While the whole harmony of God will keep us sane in the midst of such things, I have in mind conversations with people whose idea of beauty and music have been informed by an exposure to a lifetime of siren songs, battle hymns, and riotous concerts. Look for the good that still remains in their music and harmonize with it. Gently find the wounds their song reveals and provide comfort.  The mere act of conversing with genuine attention and love allows space for grace, even if the words that the other is speaking are utter nonsense.  [to quote our funeral service] In such a moment, it is the connection -not the words - that is True and that can provide the opportunity to transform the funeral dirge of their demon-tainted or demon-inspired confusion into the hymn, “alleluia.”  This kind of duet is what makes the deserts bloom and the crooked straight, it is the way of bringing God’s beauty to bear on the ugliness of blight and make it bloom.  And this change can happen if we put on the whole harmony of God.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about this kind of transformation, but this message of resolving dissonance into glory isn’t just from the Silmarillion, it’s from the Gospel.

In order to do participate in this great work, we need to have immersed ourselves in worship, prayer, and charitable work; we must have submitted ourselves so completely to God’s will that His Love has transformed us into love and His Beauty has transformed us into beauty. 

It is then that we see within everything, even within the polemical battle hymns of our opponents, notes or themes that can be accented, valued, and moved through harmonic progressions towards and into the melody of the Gospel.

St. Paul did this with the unknown God at the Aeropagaus.  He was in the midst of a place dedicated to the worship of fallen gods.  Such a place is full of discordant tunes and distorted lyrics.  But in the midst of it, he found a note that he could focus on and use to evangelize.  St. Justin did the same with pagan mythologies. 

Do we have enough love, enough true harmony in us, to hear bits of beauty in the music of our enemies?  To see a desire for something good within their hearts?  If we can’t, we aren’t trying hard enough.  Its nobility, its virtue, may be misplaced, but that’s just the establishment of a relationship and the subsequent development of conversations – that is to say, it is just a sustained duet - away from being transformed from dissonance into beauty.  If St. Paul can do it with a demonic pantheon, we can do it with political ideologies, propaganda, and heterodox religions.

Yes, we can use the words of the Fathers to justify hatred and self-righteousness and win rhetorical battles.  Yes, we can play good music really loud in hopes of drowning out the bad – but neither solves the problems of the world’s pain. Quite the opposite.  That’s because neither approach is really Orthodox, even if the words we use and the music we play come straight from components of Orthodox Tradition.

However, when we love so much that we are able to see the good in others and nurture it using the good that God has grown within us, the world becomes a better place.

That’s the Harmony of God and it brings the melody of our salvation.

Direct download: 20231210-HarmonyofGod.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:20pm EST

Father Speak a Word - Training the Youth

Today Fr. Anthony talks with Fr. Gregory about his latest substack article; "When Adults Fail to Mentor Youth: A Lifetime of Failure for Graduation."  In the spirit of St. Paul, they spend most of the conversation talking about the natural endurance of the family and comparing it with the generational decline in commitment to parish life and rituals.  They also spend time talking about parenting and priesthood leadership styles.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20231207-TrainingYouth.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:33pm EST

Nativity Bible Study

The first Lord I Call verse from the Vespers of Nativity:

Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord, as we sing of this present mystery.
The wall which divided God from man has been destroyed. The flaming sword withdraws from Eden's gate;
The cherubim withdraw from the Tree of Life,
and I, who had been cast out through my disobedience, now feast on the delights of paradise:
For today the father's perfect image, marked with the stamp of His eternity, has taken the form of a servant.
Without undergoing change He is born from an unwedded mother; He was true God, and He remains the same,
but through His love for mankind,
He has become what He never was: true man! Come, O faithful, let us cry to Him:
O God, born of a virgin, have mercy on us!

The most concentrated alternation of scripture and hymnographic commentary occurs during the Royal Hours.

First Hour
Psalms: Psalm 5 (a morning psalm in its usual place), Psalm 44 (Messianic Psalm about the wedding; Hebrews 1:8 confirms; also used in vesting prayers and Proskomedia), Psalm 45 (Be still and know; God is with us). 
Prokimen:  Psalm 2: 7,8). The Lord said unto Me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance.
Readings:  Micah 5:2–4 (Prophecy of Bethlehem), Hebrews:1:1-13 (St. Paul interprets the OT and explains the divinity of XC). St. Matthew 1:18-25 (Narrative: birth).
A Hymn:  Prepare, O Bethlehem, and let the manger make ready and the cave receive; for truth hath come, and shadow hath passed. And God hath appeared to mankind from the Virgin, taking our likeness and deifying our nature. Wherefore, Adam and Eve are made new, crying, Goodwill hath appeared on earth to save our race.
Third Hour
Psalms: Psalm 66 (a song of the Resurrection), Psalm 86 (A prophecy on the meaning of the Nativity and the uniting of the nations in the Church), Psalm 50 (usual Psalm).
Prokimen:  Isaiah 9:6. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder 
Readings: Baruch 3:35-4:4 (Wisdom appeared on earth and lived among mankind). Galatians 3:23-29 (we are one in Christ).  St. Luke 2:1-20 (narrative: shepherds).
A Hymn: Tell us, O Joseph, how it is that thou dost bring the Virgin whom thou didst receive from the holy places to Bethlehem great with child? And he replieth, saying, I have searched the Prophets, and it was revealed to me by the angel. Therefore, I am convinced that Mary shall give birth in an inexplicable manner to God, whom Magi from the east shall come to worship and to serve with precious gifts. Wherefore, O Thou who wast incarnate for our sakes, glory to Thee.
Sixth Hour
Psalms: Psalm 71 (prophesy of the Messiah; includes Magi/Kings), Psalm 131 (Messianic; also points to nations), Psalm 90 (usual Psalm).
Prokimen: Psalm 109:4,1. From the womb before the morning star I bore Thee. Said the Lord to my Lord: Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.  
Readings.  Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 9-10 (Virgin birth; God is with us!).  Hebrews 1:10-2:3 (Christ is greater than the angels). St. Matthew 2:1-12 (Narrative: wise men)
A Hymn:  Listen, O heaven, and give ear, O earth. Let the foundations shake, and let trembling fall on all below the earth; for God hath dwelt in a creation of flesh; and He Who made creation with a precious hand is seen in the womb of a created one. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.
Ninth Hour
Psalms: Psalm 109 (Messianic; see above), Psalm 110 (a hymn of joyous praise), Psalm 85 (usual Psalm)
Prokimen:  Psalm 86:4-5.  And of the mother Zion, it shall be said, this and that man is born in her and the Highest Himself hath founded her. His foundations are in the holy mountains.
Readings:  Isaiah 9:6-7 (for unto us a child is born!), Hebrews 2:11-18 (Christ became a man), St. Matthew 2:13-23 (go to Egypt!)
A Hymn.  Verily, Herod was overtaken by astonishment when he saw the piety of the Magi. And having been overridden with wrath, he began to inquire of them about the time. He robbed the mothers of their children and ruthlessly reaped the tender bodies of the babes. And the breasts dried up, and the springs of milk failed. Great then was the calamity. Wherefore, being gathered, O believers, in true worship, let us adore the Nativity of Christ.

But wait there is more!

Jewish Expectations/Prophecies of the Messiah

The Messiah would be the “seed of a woman” come to destroy the work of the Devil. Not long after Creation, God prophesied to the serpent Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). The implication was that Eve’s descendant would undo the damage that Satan had caused.  Huge impact on the Jewish mind and imagination. (1 John 3:8). (Also see: Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 20:10.)

A prophet like unto Moses. This was prophesied by Moses, himself:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him’.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, NKJV).

Like Moses, the Messiah would be a leader, a prophet, a lawgiver, a deliverer, a teacher, a priest, an anointed one, a mediator, a human and one of God’s chosen people (a Jew) performing the role of intermediary between God and man—speaking the words of God. Both Moses and Jesus performed many miracles validating their message. As infants, both their lives were threatened by evil kings, and both were supernaturally protected from harm. Both spent their early years in Egypt. Both taught new truths from God. Both cured lepers (Num 12:10-15; Matt. 8:2-3) and confronted demonic powers. Both were initially doubted in their roles by their siblings. Moses lifted up the brazen serpent to heal all his people who had faith; Jesus was lifted up on the cross to heal all who would have faith in Him. Moses appointed 70 elders to rule Israel (Num. 11:16-17); Jesus appointed 70 disciples to teach the nations (Luke 10:1, 17). And there are many other parallels between the lives of Moses and Jesus.

The Messiah would be a descendant of Noah’s son, Shem. Noah said, “Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant (Gen. 9:26-27). Chapter 10 goes on list descendants of Shem, noting that he was ancestor of Eber (Heber: Luke 3:35), the founder of the Hebrew race.  Noah associated Shem especially with the worship of God, recognizing the dominantly spiritual motivations of Shem and thus implying that God’s promised Deliverer would ultimately come from Shem. The Semitic nations have included the Hebrews, Arabs, Assyrians, Persians, Syrians and other strongly religious-minded peoples.

More specifically, he would come from a descendant of Shem named Abraham ( Genesis 22:18; 12; 17; 22). Fulfilled: See Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1.

More specifically, he would be a descendant of Abraham’s son, Isaac, not Ishmael (Gen. 17; 21). Fulfilled: See Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1.
More specifically, he would be a descendant of Isaac’s son, Jacob, not Esau (Gen. 28; 35:10-12; Num. 24:17). Fulfilled: See Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1.

More specifically, he would be a descendant of Judah, not of the other eleven brothers of Jacob. Fulfilled: See Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1.

More specifically, he would be a descendant of the family of Jesse in the tribe of Judah (Isaiah 11:1-5). Fulfilled: See Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23-38.

More specifically, he would be of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Jeremiah 23:5; Psalm 89:3-4). Fulfilled: See Christ’s genealogy in Matthew 1; Luke 1:27, 32, 69. Note: Since the Jewish genealogical records were destroyed in 70 A.D., along with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it would not be possible for a Messiah imposter who was born later to prove his lineage back to David and thus fulfill this prophecy.

He will be born in a small city called Bethlehem, specifically the one formerly known as Ephratah (Micah 5:2 – 1H). Fulfilled: Luke 2:4-20. Note: Christ’s birth in Bethlehem was apparently not by the choice of Mary and Joseph; it was forced upon them by Caesar Augustus’ taxation decree which required Joseph to leave his home in the city of Nazareth and return to his place of origin to pay the tax.

He will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14- 6H). Fulfilled: Matthew 1; Luke 1.

He will be a priest after the order of Melchisedek (Melchisedec) (Psalm 110:4). Fulfilled: Hebrews 5:6

The scepter shall not pass from the tribe of Judah until the Messiah comes. In other words, He will come before Israel loses its right to judge her own people. The patriarch Jacob prophesied this:

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10)

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Sanhedrin of Israel lost the right to truly judge its own people when it lost the right to pass death penalties in 11 A.D. (Josephus, Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 13). Jesus Christ was certainly born before 11 A.D.

He will come while the Temple of Jerusalem is standing ( Malachi 3:1; Psalm 118:26; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 11:13; Haggai 2:7-9). Fulfilled: Matthew 21:12, etc. (Note: The Temple did not exist at certain periods in Jewish history, and it was finally destroyed in 70 A.D.)

A worldly ruler.  Since the fall of the Davidic kingly dynasty, the expectation was that the Messiah would restore that dynasty so that he would rule as the human “son of God”. (Isaiah 9:6-7 – 9H)

He will be divine; the Son of Man. (Daniel 7:13; Isaiah 7:14- C)

He would be the revelation of God; God with us. (Baruch 4:4 – 3H; Isaiah 8:9)

Direct download: 20231206-NativityProphecies.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:40pm EST

Ephesians 5: 8 – 19

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “ Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

An Exposition on Today’s Epistle Lesson
We have chosen the light over the darkness – therefore we have to walk as children of the light; as St. Paul puts it, “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord”
What is acceptable to the Lord?  God does not hide this from us; nor do we have to search for it.  He reminds us every single day…  through the rituals He has prescribed for us through the Church.
The Psalm we recite in our morning prayers says that it is not burnt offerings, but rather a “broken and contrite heart” that God does not despise. Surely this is primal.  I say this not only because of the prominent place this Psalm has in our morning prayer, but the way this theme is reinforced by all the penitential prayers that accompany it.
Continual repentance is acceptable to the Lord – to use the imagery of today’s epistle, we must “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them”: repentance requires opening up all the hidden closets – all the secret dark places – to the Light of Christ. And as this Light exposes the things that lurk in these places, we pull them out and offer them to the Lord in confession by name.
As we do this, as we find, expose, and sacrifice all the dark secrets, sins, habits, and histories that have blighted our souls; we walk more surely as “children of the light”, enjoying the blessings and joy that God has promised to those who follow Him.
God reminds us of this every day not just to tell us how important it is, but also because He knows how hard it is for us.  Yes, it is hard for us to change bad habits and patterns of thought, but often it is hard for us to even recognize that we have a problem.  The Light of Christ is pure and illuminates all of our sins, but our vision is still clouded.  God is working with our faith to heal our vision, as in today’s Gospel, but in the meantime there are things in our lives that we just don’t see – or perhaps see but do not think are important.
This brings us to a difficult but vital part of today’s reading: we don’t just expose the darkness in our own lives, but the darkness in the lives of those with whom we share love and trust and are thus able to hear us.  As St. John Chrysostom puts it;
You call God, “Father”, and those whom you love “brother;” but then when you see your beloved committing unnumbered wickednesses, you care more about his feelings and what he thinks about you than what is good for him?  I beg you, don’t think this way.  The stronger the bond, the more we are obliged to speak about sin.
Are those you love at enmity with one another? Reconcile them. Did you see them being jealous or coveting? Call them on it. Did you see them wronged? Stand up in their defense. This is why the bonds of love and friendship exist: so that we may be of use one to another. A man will listen in a different spirit to a friend than to someone he doesn’t know. He may regard a stranger or someone he isn’t close to with suspicion; he may not even trust a teacher; but a friend?  A friend he may trust..
Today’s reading stops just short of making this even clearer when St. Paul writes; “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”  The relationship of mutual submission provides the mechanism of discernment and accountability.  The people who love us can help us see things that we need to work on and will share this information in a way that we can hear; without manipulation or aggression.  After the line on mutual submission, St. Paul provides marriage as the ideal setting for such a relationship and then points to marriage as a type, with the Church as its prototype.  
We need each other, but only to the extent we are willing to love and be loved.  Within such a relationship, figuring out what is acceptable to God is a natural part of the relationship.
In conclusion, God made the world good and made us to thrive in it. This can only happen if we dedicate ourselves to this cause – and do so with purpose and resolve. Practically, this means avoiding taking pleasure in those things that God despises: deceit, hatred, darkness, etc. and reveling in those things that He has given us for our enjoyment and edification (community, light, joy, selfless service, charity, pursuit of truth, dedication to honest craft and creation).
And listen to these words St. Paul finishes with today as he describes what the conversations look like between people who are in love with the light and despise the darkness; we speak “to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” 
Let all of our thoughts, all of our conversations, and all of our actions become hymns expressing our joy of being in and growing in the Love of Our Lord together.

Direct download: 20231203-Exposing_Darkness.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:24pm EST

Father Speak a Work - Ministry, Harmony, Resilience

Fr. Gregory Jensen, Ph.D., and Fr. Anthony talk about how important it is for priests to have balanced lives.  This means more than scheduling "self-care;" it means adjusting our activities and approaches so that a graceful harmony is maintained between our capabilities and resources and the needs of those whom we serve.  We should be at our best when we lead worship, preach, teach, and work with others.  This requires that we build adequate time in our schedules for surges (Fr. Gregory suggests 15 hours of unscheduled time for a 40-hour work week), recovery and recreation.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20231130-HarmonyandResiliance.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:28pm EST

[We're still having audio issues - the mic cut off half-way through.  I re-read the second half but you'll notice the change.  Thank you for your patience as we continue to work on this.]

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  Ephesians 4:1-6

St. Paul was a great theologian.  He had trained the lowest part of his mind (instincts, gut) through his ascetic submission to the Law and working through the constant temptation of the “thorn in the flesh”; he had trained his intellect by training under great teachers before and after his conversion; and he had trained his nous or heart through direct and awesome encounters with God.

Most importantly, St. Paul was a pastor.  He lived according to the same standard that he taught: that all things be done so that some might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. 

As St. John Chrysostom describes it;

It is the virtue of teachers not to try to win the praise or respect of those under their authority, but to do everything with the single objective of their salvation.  This is what makes them teachers rather than tyrants.  After all, God does not give them authority so that they could enjoy rewards for themselves, but so that they might disregard their own interests in order to build up the flock.  This is a teacher’s duty.  Such a one was the blessed Paul, a man who was free from all manner of vanity, and was contented to be not just as those whom he taught, but even as the very least even of them. It is for this reason that he even calls himself their servant, and so generally speaks in a tone of supplication. Observe how he writes nothing dictatorial, nothing imperious, but everything as one chastened and subdued.

Today we hear the first of such words that he was directing to his flock in Ephesus, a coastal town in what is now western Turkey, across the Aegean Sea from Greece. These words were directed to the Christians at Ephesus almost two thousand years ago, but they could just as easily have been written for us here in the Upstate.

St. Paul begins by describing himself, saying,

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord.”

St. John Chrysostom composed what most have been an entire hour-long homily on just this line. It is well worth reading, and I recommend it to you. The thing that I would like to bring out of it today is that he was reminding his readers that St. Paul had what is sometimes called “skin in the game.” He was not just someone who was giving the people he served good advice, he was someone who considered what he was telling them so important that he was willing to suffer for saying and living it. St. Paul was brilliant. He could have had a career doing anything involving knowledge or leadership, but he chose and stuck with being an evangelist even though it took him to prison and martyrdom.

Psychology shows that we take people more seriously when they have skin in the game. When leaders don’t have skin in the game, they come off as hypocrites and, even if their intentions are good, untrustworthy.

As St. John points out, St. Paul had skin in the game. We can trust him. He is not a hypocrite. He is worthy of our attention.

St. Paul goes on to say;

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,”

What is this calling to which we have been called? To tithe? To come to church? To give to the poor? To be nice to one another? These are all worth doing, but they are not our calling. As St. Paul writes in the very next chapter, our calling is much greater than these; we are called to be members of god’s holy council (Ephesians 2:22) and to reign with Him on high (Ephesians 2:6)! Could there be any higher a calling? No.

In this, we are raised up to live and serve with the very angels and all the hosts of heaven.

Knowing the magnitude of the calling, how can we walk worthily? By putting on airs? By acting as though we were deserving of so great an honor? By lording it over one another? Surely this is our temptation. Experiments have shown how power goes to people’s heads and changes them into monsters. Is this how we can walk worthily? No! St. Paul knew this temptation and he had mastered it in his own life. He saw it threatening his flock, so he shared the secret of “walking worthily”, juxtaposing it with both the honor we have been promised and the great temptation it brings.

How can this be done?  How can we avoid the temptation that brought even the greatest of all the created host of heaven – Lucifer to ruin? 

Answering this, St. Paul continues;

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness”

How can we be lowly when we have been raised up so high? Because we know that we are not worthy of it. We appreciate the difference between what we have earned and what we have been given. We recognize that we have been bought with a price, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Lowliness and gratitude work within our hearts to make us worthy through humility.

It is this that then leads us towards the next way that we walk worthily;

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness,”

Gentleness. How often are we gentle with one another? Is it a habit of our hearts, or is it something that we only do when we are in the mood for it and when others behave in a way that is worthy of our kindness?

I think we know the answer, and we should be heartbroken, repent, and walk this better way.

If we can gain enough humility to see and be grateful for all that God has done for us despite our sin, then the next step on this walk is to imitate His beneficence in our relations with others, no matter how much hellfire their wicked actions and evil hearts have earned from us [sic].

After all, you and I deserve the hellfire. We are certainly not worthy of God’s gentleness … and yet He is gentle and kind. Kind enough to do everything within His power to protect us from hell and all its torment.

But what about us?  Is this how we treat others?  Or do we instead create our own sort of hellfire and vengeance to inflict on those who dare to cross us? Again, is this how we walk worthily? Is this how we show that we truly belong in God’s grace and in His heavenly kingdom? Where is the love?  Where is the virtue? 

Do I even need to point out that the offenses others commit against us pale in comparison to those we inflict on God?  And that their offenses are inflated through the distorting lens of our own pride, if not created altogether out of whole cloth?  We must do better; we count the slights of others to justifications for vengeance. 

Rather we must do as St. Paul says, calling us to walk;

… with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,”

St. Paul tells us to put up with one another. Again, we are showing we belong with the Lord by imitating Him. He suffered persecution, the horrible passion, and death on the cross for us.

We walk worthily as God the Son’s brothers and sisters and as God the Father’s sons and daughters when we suffer for one another. And most often this suffering takes the form not of physical pain, but by offering patience and kindness when our instincts tell us someone deserves a rebuke.

We walk worthily when we are willing to suffer in silence when others seem – or may even be - worthy of actual suffering.

Do you see how this works? Do you see how much it goes against our fallen instincts?

But this really is the way of the Christian – it is our high calling.

And we should suffer “longly” not in weakness, but in strength. The Lord could have obliterated the Romans and Jews that attacked Him, but for their salvation, He held His power in check… knowing that the best use of His power was to willingly endure sacrifice so that they could be saved. He knew that the greatest victory did not come with winning the immediate battle with His oppressors, but by winning the war against all oppression through His lowliness, His gentleness, His longsufferingness, and His love.

We can and must do the same.

All these things require incredible strength. They require incredible courage.

But if we do them, they bring the reward of the places in the kingdom of heaven that God has set aside for all his saints and; to circle back – the reward of good teachers -  that of drawing others towards the same.

Direct download: 20231126-Gentleness.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:08pm EST

Father Speak a Work - Confession and the Holistic Art of Healing

In today's conversation on the priesthood, Fr. Gregory Jensen, Ph.D. talks with Fr. Anthony about why we can't get to holiness by maximizing our resistance to certain sins and why an approach based on virtue is bound to be more effective.  He also reminds us that it is best to think of confession as a process, with the confessor meeting the penitent where he/she is and helping (en-couraging!) them to grow from there.  Enjoy the show!  

Direct download: 20231122-CongfessionandHolisticHealing.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:01pm EST

Today's Bible Study on Genesis 13 and 14 covers Abram and Lot moving apart, the War of the Nine Kings, and the mysterious encounter with Melchizedek.  While Fr. Anthony relies primarily on St. John Chrysostom, he also draws from Fr. Patrick Reardon, St. Ambrose (numerology!), and academic research (via the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Old Testemant).  Enjoy the show!

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Abraham II
Fr. Anthony Perkins

Chapter 13.  Abram solves a problem and keeps everyone safe; the Lord makes a promise.

From Fr. Patrick Reardon

When Abram left Egypt, he and his family were very wealthy, because of Pharaoh’s generosity to someone he was trying to gain as a brother-in-law. Now Abram and Lot find that the sheer size of their flocks requires them to live apart (vv. 1–7). The story of their separation (vv. 8–13) demonstrates Abram’s humility in giving his younger relative the choice of the land (v. 9), while he himself takes what is left. This humble action of Abram illustrates the meaning of the Lord’s saying that the meek shall inherit the earth. Abraham’s descendants, not Lot’s, will inherit all this land. In this story we discern the non-assertive quality of Abram’s faith. He is not only meek; he is also a peacemaker. Meekness and peacemaking are qualities of the man of faith.

Lot serves in this story as a kind of foil to Abram. The meek and peaceful Abram takes what is left, whereas Lot, obviously having failed to do a proper survey of the neighborhood, chooses to live in Sodom. This was to prove one of the worst real estate choices in history.

The present chapter closes with God’s solemn asseveration to Abram, promising him the land and the “seed” (vv. 14–18). Unfortunately the rich ambivalence of this latter noun (zera‘ in Hebrew, sperma in Greek, semen in Latin) is lost in more recent translations that substitute the politically correct but entirely prosaic “descendants” for “seed” (vv. 15–16).

Besides Sodom, two other important Canaanite cities are introduced in this chapter, Bethel (still called Luz at this period—cf. 28:19) and Hebron. Both of these cities will be extremely important in subsequent biblical history, and Abram is credited with making each of them a place of worship (vv. 4, 18).

Patrick Henry Reardon, Creation and the Patriarchal Histories: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Genesis (Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2008), 70–71.

St. John Chrysostom on the trip from Egypt.

(5) Do you see the extent of God’s providence? Abram left to find relief from famine, and came back not simply enjoying relief from famine but invested with great wealth and untold reputation, his identity well-known to everyone: now the inhabitants of Canaan gained a more precise idea of the good man’s virtue by seeing this sudden transformation that had taken place—the stranger who had gone down into Egypt as a refugee and vagabond now flush with so much wealth. Notice how he had not become less resolute or devoted under the influence of great prosperity or the abundance of wealth, but rather he pressed on once more to that place where he had formerly been before going down into Egypt. “He went into the desert,” the text says, “to the place where his tent had formerly been, to the place of the altar which he had made there in the beginning. He called on the name of the Lord God.”

St. John Chrysostom on Abram’s gift to Lot.

(15) “Abram stayed in the land of Canaan,” the text goes on, “whereas Lot settled in the cities of the region, pitching his tent in Sodom. Now, the people of Sodom were very wicked sinners in God’s sight.” Do you observe Lot having regard only for the nature of the land and not considering the wickedness of the inhabitants? What good, after all, is fertility of land and abundance of produce when the inhabitants are evil in their ways? On the other hand, what harm could come from solitude and a simple lifestyle when the inhabitants are more restrained? …
Lest we prolong the sermon to great length, however, let us terminate it at this point and postpone the sequel to next time while giving you this exhortation, to imitate the patriarch by never aspiring after the first places but rather heeding blessed Paul’s words, “outdoing one another in respect,” especially our superiors, and being anxious to take second place in everything. This, in fact, means filling first place, as Christ himself said, “ ‘Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’ ” So what could parallel this, when by ceding pride of place to others we ourselves enjoy greater esteem, and by showing them special honor we bring ourselves into the highest honor? …
This is enough talking, however, to encourage you and to show you that by giving alms, meager though they be, we receive great rewards from the Lord. By this stage, you see, the sermon has gone to an exhortation in almsgiving because, as you recall, we told you that the patriarch ceded part of the country to Lot, letting him have the most beautiful area in the region while taking the worst land for himself, and so he was accorded such generosity from God that the promise made him by God surpassed all thought and imagination.

St. Ambrose goes deeper.

“He was very rich,” as is natural for one who was not lacking in any good thing, who did not covet the goods of others, because he lacked nothing of what he would have wished to regard as his own. For this is what it means to be rich: to have what is sufficient to satisfy one’s own desires. Frugality has a measure. Richness does not. Its measure is in the will of the seeker. He was rich in cattle, in silver and gold. What does this mean? I do not think that the intention is to praise the riches of this world but the righteousness of this man. Thus I understand cattle to be the bodily senses, because they are irrational. Silver represents the word and gold the mind. Abraham was indeed rich, because he was in control of his irrational senses. Indeed, he tamed them and made them docile, so that they might participate in rationality. His word was radiant with the brightness of faith, purified by the grace of spiritual discipline. His mind was full of prudence. And this is why the good mind is compared with gold, because just as gold is more precious than other metals, so the good mind is the best part among those that make up the human substance. So the richness of the wise man consists in these three things: in sensation, in word and in mind. Their order establishes a gradation, as we read also in the apostle: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”4 The mind too, then, is the greatest, because it is the mind that grinds the spiritual grain to purify the senses and the word. The character of the wise man is preserved at every point.

So it is that through the simple facts of Abraham’s life great doctrines are expounded and illustrated. Rich indeed is the one who enriches even the arguments of the philosophers, who would formulate their precepts on the basis of his conduct. It was his riches, then, that Scripture had brought to light.

Chapter 14.  War and a Mysterious Priest

Background.  Chederloamer controlled the area north and east of Canaan., ruling over at many kings/kingdoms.  Five rulers in the south, including the kings of both Sodom and Gomorrah went into rebellion against him.  Chederloamer won and took possessions, food, and slaves, including Lot (whom they may have targeted).  Note from the Divine Council worldview: there were giants on both sides.  Jewish commentators even put Nimrod (as a loyal king) and Og (losing side – messenger to Abraham), but this is pure speculation (but the names of the tribes are associated with the Nephalim).

Abram, now looking like a warlord, takes mean and “smote them.”  The king of Sodom comes out of hiding and asks for his stuff.  Again showing his meekness, Abram keeps very little, except some for the allies who came with him.

St. John Chrysostom, On the battles;

Consider in this case, I ask you, dearly beloved, the greatness of heart exemplified in the just man’s virtue. Trusting in the power of God, he was not cowed by the force of the enemy when he learned of the rout they had caused, first by falling upon all the tribes and prevailing against the Amalekites and all the others, and then by engaging the Sodomites, putting them to flight and seizing all their property (?). The reason, you see, why sacred Scripture described all this to us ahead of time, as well as all they achieved through their bravery, was that you might learn that the patriarch prevailed against them not by physical strength but through faith in God. [He] achieved all this under the protection of help from on high, not by wielding weapons and arrows and spears or by drawing bows or raising shields but with a few retainers of his own household.

Note that St. Ambrose shows that the number 318 is the number of Chist’s crusifiction (T IH in Greek).

Now for the REAL FUN: Melchizedek (14:18-20)

Most important: type of Christ and the Eucharist.

The Christian interpretation of the story of Melchizedek begins with Hebrews 7, where Melchizedek is interpreted with the help of Psalm 109(110):4 as a figure of Christ the true high priest.

Psalm 109:1-4.
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send forth the rod of Thy power from Zion, and rule in the midst of Thine enemies.  With Thee is the beginning in the day of Thy power, in the brightness of Your holyones. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:1-3,15-17, 24-26 (quoted in Fr. Patrick Reardon).
“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, … first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.… And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come … according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: ‘You are a priest forever / According to the order of Melchizedek.’ … But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (vv. 1–3, 15–17, 24–26).

Abraham’s encounter with the king of Sodom reveals God’s providence (CHRYSOSTOM). The offering of bread and wine, not mentioned by the author of Hebrews, is seen to increase the resemblance between Melchizedek and Christ (CYPRIAN). Melchizedek is also identified with Shem, the son of Noah, who had received the priesthood from his father (EPHREM). Melchizedek resembles Christ in that he had no family history (CHRYSOSTOM). With Melchi-zedek there first appeared the sacrifice now offered by Christians (AUGUSTINE). The fact that Abraham offered tithes to Melchizedek shows that he was humble even in victory (AMBROSE).

Mark Sheridan, ed., Genesis 12–50, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 25.

And from the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible;
The very special interpretation of Gen 14 and Ps 110 presented [in Hebrews] cannot be understood without taking into account contemporaneous Melchizedek interpretations in Jewish sources, viz. (a) Josephus, (b) Philo, and (c) Qumran. Together with (d) Hebrews they present a very composite picture of Melchizedek."

According to Josephus, Melchizedek was the first one to build the temple and to act as priest of God. In Ant. I 179181 the story of Gen 14:1820 is told with some minor embellishments. The name of Melchizedek is mentioned and again translated as righteous king’. Josephus adds that by common consent this was what he was and that for that reason Melchizedek was made priest of God. In both places Melchizedek is described as king and priest.

In Philo’s perspective Melchizedek as a king and priest does not cease to be an historical person but at the same time serves as the embodiment of the divine orthos logos and transcends history.

In the Melchizedek text from Qumran cave 4, Melchizedek serves as the deliverer prophesied in Isaiah and Psalm 82 and a divine being assisted by the host of heaven.

J. Reiling, “Melchizedek,” ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 561.

 

 

Direct download: 20231122-Abraham02.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:42am EST

Ephesians 2:14-22.  Fr. Anthony gives his brain a much needed break by reading the homily.  It's on his favorite theme - harmonious and joyful unity in Christ.  Enjoy the show! 

 

Homily – On Unity (Ephesians 2: 14-22)

 

The Reading from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Ephesians. [2:14-22]: Christ is our peace, Who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, * by abolishing in His Flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, * and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the Cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. * And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; * for through Him we both have access in One Spirit to the Father. * So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, * built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, * in Whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; * in Whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The mystery of unity.

Unity is one of the primary mysteries of the world. We yearn for it – the desire to be understood, to be recognized, to be loved, to be valued, to be needed – these are all dim reminders that we are called to a deep and enduring fellowship; a fellowship that nurtures us and allows us to nurture others so that we all grow towards God and perfection together.

This reality of unity is proclaimed throughout scripture (most powerfully in Christ’s High Priestly Prayer found in the Gospel according to St. John, chapter 17). It flows and emanates from the pre-existing foundational reality of the Trinity: three Persons united into one God. Today I want you to note how many times we refer to and pray this reality our liturgy – it permeates our prayers, empowers our Sacraments, and informs every aspect of our faith.

It is this unity that St. Paul is professing in today’s epistle reading. The specific case he is referring to is the unity of Jews and Gentiles, but this is a subset of a more generalized phenomenon. And it is this phenomenon that I want to address today.

If it (unity) really is the answer to so many of our deepest psychological and spiritual needs - to be understood, recognized, loved, needed, valued – needs that have thus far been poorly addressed and misdiagnosed, how is it to be achieved? How can we have the peace that St. Paul promises? The joy that God desires for us?  Three points.

1. Must be recreated.

Listen to St. John Chrysostom as he makes this point;

Observe thou, that it is not that the Gentile is become a Jew, but that both the one and the other are entered into another condition. It was not with a view of merely making this last other than he was, but rather, in order to create the two anew. And well does he on all occasions employ the word “create,” and does not say “change,” in order to point out the power of what was done, and that even though this creation is invisible, yet it is a real creation, and this must be our starting point….  (St. John Chrysostom, Homily V on Ephesians)

The goal is not to make all Americans into Syrians or Syrians into Greeks or Europeans into Africans or Asians into Persians: the point is to make all into something new and greater; a new man, a new woman, and new mankind. To create a new body, a new mind, a new soul. There is a name for this new man, this new Adam – we call him a Christian; and there is a name for the union of such new persons – we call it the Church.

2. Must go through the Cross. 

St. Paul makes it clear in today’s reading that the way to achieve reconciliation and peace is through the Cross. The Cross destroys the old man, the one that is selfish and small, the one who filters even the best concepts, such as love and charity, through the filter of his own ego. There can be no real union with someone who is only interested in what they get from the other person; who only wants to be a friend to puff themselves up; who only wants to be a lover in order to satisfy himself. This filter of egoism is deeply rooted – the science of psychology demonstrates how our pride affects (and contaminates) everything we do. The problem is that even actions that look good are counter-productive for purposes of true union if they are not done with the proper spirit. Politeness and pretty words may be enough to satisfy the needs of civility and cooperation, but not to achieve the kind of peace that we were made for – and for which we so deeply long. The only way to deal with this deep-rooted weed of pride is to pull it up and destroy it. The only way to fix this old man is to hang him on the cross. It will be painful, but the new man that is resurrected will be capable of so many beautiful things; things that the old man cannot even dream of. He will gain true meaning and lasting happiness.

At least, he will gain these things until that weed comes back and the old man rears his ugly head once again. Our first death and recreation take place at baptism – all the others take place at confession (the baptisms of tears) This dynamic of unity and crucifixion is a continual one – until the time when the fruit of the resurrection is enjoyed in its fullness.

3. All members of the union must do it

If not? Dysfunction. Lies. Despondency. We know this because we have seen dysfunctional relationships. We have seen the heartbreak it causes when both members of a marriage are not “all in”. We have seen how one spouse will enable the other spouse’s egoism in an attempt to make their union last; but unless there is change, unless both partners sacrifice themselves for their love, then this is a false union.  This is why the courting process is so important – and why it really should involve both time and the advice of wise and loving friends and family. We have seen how unequal yoking can destroy people and the institution of marriage itself – this is bad enough. But [as St. Paul points out] marriage is an icon of something even greater: the Church. And the damage done when all its members – and especially its leaders – are not “all in” is even greater.

Conclusion: falling in love – and staying there 

I fear that I have taken something beautiful and turned it into a bit of a bogeyman. Speaking about crosses can give the wrong idea. It’s not all about pain. It’s about connection. Not just the connection that comes from falling in love (which is fun), but the harmony that comes from staying there.  There is nothing more enjoyable because it is what we were made for. Christ has destroyed the wall of division.  Through Him we can harmony and holiness through fellowship.

So fall in love with Christ; give your heart to Him. Only through Him is such a blessed union possible. It is through Him that we are remade, free from the division and divisiveness of sin.  He was incarnate, suffered and died, and was resurrected for this very purpose. So open your heart to him and give him all your love, all your trust; your mind, your body, and your soul – and then learn to love your neighbor as yourself.  He will grant you peace in Him and with His saints. 

This is the joyful unity we are called to, and it is why we are here. Unity through Christ is the purpose of this parish and the reason for our membership in it.

Direct download: 20231119-WallofDivision.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:45am EST

Father Speak a Work - Preaching as a Job Interview for Confession

St. John of the Ladder writes "we ought first to question and examine, and even, so to speak, test our helmsman, so as not to mistake the sailor for the pilot, a sick man for a doctor, a passionate for a dispassionate man, the sea for a harbor, and so bring about the speedy shipwreck of our soul."  While he was writing for monastics, it is also important that non-monastic believers use discernment when selecting a spiritual father.  In this episode, Fr. Anthony talks with Fr. Gregory about this, starting with the idea that the way the priest preaches and interacts with people during coffee hour serves as a sort of job interview for selection as confessor.  Fr. Gregory is an ideal interlocutor on this, not just because he has a Ph.D. in Personality Theory and Religion, but because he has faced significant challenges during his priestly service and come through them stronger and, glory to God, wiser.  You can read Fr. Gregory's work at his substacks, Father Speak a Word (on the Desert Fathers) and Orthodox Social Thought, from Cruelty to Charity.  You can also follow him on X/Twitter at @frgregoryj.  He is the priest of Sts. Cyril and Methodius mission in Madison WI.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20231116-PreachingasanApplicationforConfession.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:17pm EST

Genesis 11:22-12:20.  We start with a review of the latter part of Shem's genealogy, go through Abram's movement to Haran, his father's death, his movement to Canaan, and his time in Egypt (!).  The latter included a discussion of Abram and Sarai's deception (half-truth).  We rely primarily on St. John Chrysostom for our understanding.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20231115-Abraham01.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:40pm EST

In today's Introduction to Orthodoxy class, Fr. Anthony follows up on Sdn. Scott's excellent class last week (alas, unrecorded!).  Whereas Sdn. Scott covered the theology and history of confession, Fr. Anthony gave practical advice on how to prepare and how confession is done at Christ the Savior in Anderson SC.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-Confession-II.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:27pm EST

Luke 10:25-37; 2 Corinthians 9:6-11.  "Some days it starts out chicken and ends up duck".  That was definitely the case today.  Fr. Anthony is planning on reading his homilies for a while to give his brain a much-needed break.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20231112-GoodSamaritan.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:02pm EST

What happens when Fr. Anthony talks about his favorite subjects (the supernatural, the paranormal, the Scriptures, and Theology) without notes?  Well, it's a bit of a meandering mess of well-intentioned talk.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20231101-ParanormalEpisode.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:55pm EST

Luke 8:41-56.  Fr. Anthony draws on St. Nikolai Velimirovich to describe the relevance of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and the raising of Jairus' Daughter.

Direct download: 20231029-SicknessandDeath.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:55pm EST

Today we cover part of the genealogy of Noah, focusing on the line of Ham/Canaan.  That means we get to talk about Nimrod, the Tower of Babel, the Divine Council, and how the nations forsook their angelic shepherds.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20231025-Genesis10-11.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:21am EST

The original class on Genesis 7, 8, and the beginning of 9 did not record well, so I recorded this one while I was getting ready for teaching Genesis 10 and 11.  Thanks for your patience and enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20231018b-Genesis789.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:09am EST

Luke 8:26-39.  In this homily on Christ's exorcism of the demon (Legion) of Gardenes, Fr. Anthony notes that a dark eye exagerates the danger of storms, graveyards, and demons and encourages us to trust in the God who 1) loves us and 2) has command over all of creation.

Direct download: 20231022-DontFear.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:01pm EST

Today Fr. Anthony takes us through the two primary Orthodox interpretations of Genesis 6: 1-4 (Sethite and supernatural) and the nephalim/giants, sharing a variety of patristic sources.  He ends with the commentary offered in 1 Enoch. 

Here are the verses under consideration (King James Version):  And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.  And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Direct download: 20231004-Genesis_6.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:47pm EST

2 Corinthians 9:6-11; St. Luke 7:11-16.  After sharing a brief meditation on the epistle reading (we are temples, made for divinity), Fr. Anthony talks about the requirement that we love our enemies, noting that it is made harder when our fallen imaginations constantly create them almost ex-nihilo and when our tribal propagandists  are feeding us with a constant stream of opposition research that makes hating people we have not even met seem natural and righteous.  We have to find a different way to think about others, to include those few who really are objectively seeking to cause our ruin.  We have to be transformed into love so that our vision makes the justification for that love obvious (St. Matthew 6:22-23).  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20231001-LovingEnemies.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:24pm EST

Today we talk about murder, the geneologies of death and sin, the technologies (that seem to have been) given to man by fallen gods and God Himself, and Cain's line as evidence of our need for the Law and the Prophets - and better yet Christ Himself!  The recording is a bit odd - it cut off a couple of times during the class so I filled in the gaps with a narrative summary.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230927-Genesis_4-5.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:03am EST

Luke 5: 1-11.  In this homily on the catching of fish (and men), Fr. Anthony riffs on the homily St. Nikolai Velimirovic gave, looking at it through the lens of Psalm 126:1a; "Except the Lord build the house, they that build labour in vain."  After taking us through a tour of the conversion of Egypt and Kyivan Rus' and the way they were tempted to mix their previous pagan techniques with the True Faith, Fr. Anthony warns us that we are similarly tempted to bind God rather than enter into a relationship of love with Him.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230924-BuildWell.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:25pm EST

In this edition of our Intro to Orthodoxy series, Fr. Anthony talks about the benefits of a prayer rule and of spending some time regularly in silent (but NOT monastic!) prayer.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20230924-Class-Prayer.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:32am EST

This evening we continue working our way through the creation as described in Genesis 2 & 3.  This includes talking about the fall and how our ability to image the Logos in creation was affected and how that is changed through our union with the new Adam/humanity - Jesus Christ (the Incarnate Logos).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230920-Genesis_2-3.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:17pm EST

Fr. David Randolph of blessed memory, talked about how much he and everyone enjoyed Q&A classes about his homily on Sunday afternoons.  Fr. Anthony decided to give it a shot.  It went pretty well, glory to God.  Then he segued into a summary of the lessons on pride, how Orthodoxy heals us from it, and introduced the topic of next week's topic - hesychasm.  Enjoy the show.!

Direct download: 20230917-OnCrossesEtc.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:01pm EST

St. Mark 8:34-38; 9:1.  Before getting to the point about denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Christ, Fr. Anthony deals with the preliminary issue of not crucifying others.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230917-DontBeATyrant.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:44pm EST

After summarizing the Orthodox approach to scripture, Fr. Anthony begins a verse by verse examination of Genesis One.  We made it up to "Image and Likeness!"

Review.

  • We have to read texts according to their purpose and scope. The purpose of the Bible is to describe the economy of our salvation (i.e. mankind’s sin, Christ/Messiah as our savior).

  • The Bible is inspired; God spoke through prophets and scribes who automatically presented His revelations in their own language, with their own symbols, and in a way that their immediate audiences would understand.

  • Our worldview (our language, symbols, and stories) is very different from those of the prophets, scribes, and their immediate audience; mirror-imaging can lead to incorrect understandings of the Bible, God, and His plan for us.

Useful Materials

Genesis One (read the first four days using Septuagint and Hebrew translations; pause to make points).

1. In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void [Tohu wa bohu]; and darkness was on the face of the deep. 2. And the Spirit of God [!] was hovering over the face of the waters [where did they come from?] 3. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light [!]. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day [?], and the darkness He called Night [?]. So the evening and the morning were the first day [liturgical time!].

6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven [use of ancient cosmology does not need to be explained away or excused; the explanation is functional, not astronomical/geographical!] . So the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.[imagery of the Nile – agricultural, miraculous, dependable]

11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind [we’ll explore this “according to its kind later; order is important in the temple!], whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night [why the ambigious language? De-divinization of creation!]. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Some Observations

  • Although there are similarities with the creation myths of surrounding nations, the contrasts are stark; the Hebrews are given a new way of understand God and the world.
    • E.g. The Enuma Elish (Babylon, at least 7th century BC) has Marduk overcoming chaos (personified in Tiamat); he then creates the heaven and earth by splitting her.
    • In the Genesis creation account, creation is demythologized (e.g. deep/chaos, sun, stars). These sorts of things show up later, but the creation account is kept pristine so as to make the distinction between Creator and creation clear.
  • There is a pattern (7 days, 7 “it was good’s”; things are “according to their kind”) that speaks not just to poetry, but to liturgical use.
    • Speaking of liturgy, note that evening is the beginning of the day (as with Vespers).
    • You can imagine this being chanted/sung the way we do Psalm 103 at Vespers (creation!).
  • Creation is spoken into being. See also the Gospel of John 1 (“In the beginning was the Word…”) and Amos 8 (fear a famine of the Word). Also see C.S. Lewis The Magician’s Nephew.
  • We know that creation is ex nihilo (from nothing), but that is not necessarily being asserted here (although many say it is).
  • This is not a description of a factory of creation (i.e. the “how” of creation), but a functional creation (purpose and meaning).

Some Examples of the Functional Creation

  • Day One: The creation of time.
  • Day Two: Room for people to live. Weather.
  • Day Three: Production of food.

Some Commentary:

St. Augustine, One the Literal Interpretation of Genesis 3:10.

Scripture called heaven and earth that formless matter of the universe, which was changed into formed and beautiful natures by God’s ineffable command.… This heaven and earth, which were confused and mixed up, were suited to receive forms from God their maker.

Basil the Great; Hexaemeron 1.5.

It appears, indeed, that even before this world an order of things existed of which our mind can form an idea but of which we can say nothing, because it is too lofty a subject for men who are but beginners and are still babes in knowledge. The birth of the world was preceded by a condition of things suitable for the exercise of supernatural powers, outstripping the limits of time, eternal and infinite. The Creator and Demiurge of the universe perfected his works in it, spiritual light for the happiness of all who love the Lord, intellectual and invisible natures, all the orderly arrangement of pure intelligences who are beyond the reach of our mind and of whom we cannot even discover the names.

Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne (excerpted from On Being)

I mean, this is an extraordinary thing, Genesis 1 … things don’t quite come in the right order. I mean, it’s striking that it begins with energy for light, “Let there be light.” It’s striking that life starts in the waters and moves onto the land.

But of course … the sun and moon and stars only come on the fourth day. And of course, there wouldn’t be any life without the stars, because that’s where they make the raw material for life. So that isn’t right. And we believe that one of the reasons, we believe in theology, one of the reasons why the sun, moon and stars come downstream, so to speak, is that the writer is wanting to say the sun and the moon aren’t deities. They’re not to be worshipped….

They are creatures just like everything else. And that shows us that what we’re reading is a theologically oriented thing and not a scientifically oriented thing. I mean, you have to figure out, when you read something and you want to read it respectfully, you have to figure out what it is you’re reading. Is it poetry or is it prose? If you read poetry and think it’s prose, you will make the most astonishing mistakes. [And Genesis 1…] is much more like a poem than like prose. And that’s, in a sense, the sadness of the “creationist” so-called position, that these people who are really wanting to be respectful to scripture are, I think, ironically, being disrespectful, because they’re not using it in the right way.

Walton, J. H. (pp. 49–50).

The creation account in Genesis 1 can then be seen to begin with no functions rather than with no material. At this point, however, it is important to establish what we mean when we talk of functions… In the ancient world, function was not the result of material properties, but the result of purpose. The sun looks down on all and is associated with the god of justice. It functions as a marker for time and seasons. When the ancient texts talk about how something functions in an ordered system, the system under discussion is not a cosmic or ecological system. It is a system inhabited by beings…In the Old Testament God has no needs and focuses functionality around people. We will see increasing evidence of this understanding as we move through the remainder of Genesis 1. Consequently, functionality cannot exist without people in the picture. In Genesis people are not put in place until day six, but functionality is established with their needs and situation in mind.

Major Points for Discussion

Who is God (i.e. what does “Elohim” mean?).  Elohim is a plural noun that can either describe beings from the/a spiritual realm (e.g. gods, angels, maybe even ghosts) or the One Uncreated God (it’s obvious which one it is by grammatical context).

What does “according to its kind” mean?  It is not an attack on science.  Here’s a gem of a quote from St. Augustine’s tract against Felix the Manichean (quoted here);

In the Gospel we do not read that the Lord said: I send you the Holy Spirit so that He might teach you all about the course of the sun and the moon. The Lord wanted to make Christians, not astronomers. You learn at school all the useful things you need to know about nature. It is true that Christ said that the Holy Spirit will come to lead us into all truth, but He is not speaking there about the course of the sun and the moon. If you think that knowledge about these things belongs to the truth that Christ promised through the Holy Spirit, then I ask you: how many stars are there? I say that such things do not belong to Christian teaching…whereas you affirm that this teaching includes knowledge about how the world was made and what takes place in the world. 

The point being made is that 1) there is an order to creation that is logical (and created through the Logos!) and 2) the multitude of creation reflects God’s glory and purpose.  God led the Hebrews to make seeing things “according to their kind a virtuous instinct.  What do we lose when we don’t?

Who is God talking to when He says “Let US make man…”?  Different explanations.  Could be the “Royal We” (not likely).  Could be the Heavenly Hosts (i.e. the Divine Council).  The main explanation (because we read in the light of Christ) is the Trinity.

What is “The Image of God”?  Lots of good answers (ask for some).  At the very least, it means that we re-present God in creation (just as Christ does as the New Adam; “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Colossians 1:15).

What is the “Likeness of God”?  Again, many good answers.  The usual one is that it is His purity and holiness (theosis).  This is something we have to grow into (more on that once we talk more about mankind).

Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230920-Genesis_1-1.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:55pm EST

Today Fr. Anthony continues his introduction to Orthodoxy by talking about something very real and necessary - how our pride handicaps our ability to have healthy relationships and thus fulfilling God's desire that we be one as He (God) is One (John 17:21).  In this case, the main example is mirror imaging.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230910-MirrorImaging.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:39pm EST

John 3:13-17.  Why did God have Moses create an image (a statue) of a serpent to deliver them from the pain of sin (grumbling) and what does that teach us about the the use and misuse of icons?  Two things about this homily - the first is that Fr. Anthony's iPhone decided to use his hearing aid as the microphone for the recording (with mixed results); the second is that he forgot to use the later generations of Israelites' use of the bronze serpent as an idol (he corrected that at the end of Liturgy).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230910-BronzeSerpentsandIdolatry.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:24pm EST

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

An Important Prologue (from Fr. Stephen’s The Whole Counsel)

·      Inspiration.  2 Peter 1:19-21.  And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, than no prophecy of Scripture is of any private origin, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men, being carried by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God (OSB & FSDY).   Note that these “men” did this at different times, using different styles, and the writing was not done all at once.  For example, the Torah is of Mosaic origin, but its language and style are from later times (and I don’t have in mind E, Y, D, P).  Inspiration includes speaking, writing, editing, copying, translating, and compiling scripture. 

·      Inerrancy.  A bit on the term.  18th century gave rise to a “scientific” way of looking at scripture.  This doesn’t just mean taking out the supernatural elements, but breaking texts apart and said to be of different and conflicting sources.  Conservative American Protestants reacted by publishing “The Fundamentals.”  They argued that the Scriptures were inerrant (without error).  The Liberal Protestants were opposed to this view, saying that they were affected by the limitations of the people and cultures of the times in which they were written.  This difference about inerrancy could have been bridged through nuance, but then they moved further apart, with the “fundamentalists” equating literal/materialist with inerrant and the liberal side becoming more interested in a reconstructed social gospel.  Orthodoxy teaches that the Scriptures do not contain errors, but it has a strong tolerance for ambiguities.  “In large part, this is because the Church has never approached the world on the basis of the Scriptures; rather the Scriptures function internally, with the Church and her worship.”  Orthodoxy is not concerned with identifying and reconciling “errors” in scripture, but in what it (with all its richness) calls us to be.

·      Sola Scriptura.  The Reformation put Scripture as the key to evaluating tradition and the teaching authority of the Church; the Roman Catholics make the teaching authority of the Church key (magisterium).  Orthodoxy sidesteps this approach because it recognizes that Christ Himself is the Truth.  We are not turning to scripture, tradition, and the Church to learn about Christ; we are coming to know God experientially, being united with and in Christ Himself.  John 15:26-27 (following the logic of 2 Peter above), has the Holy Spirit (continuously revealing “Tradition”) and the witness of those who saw/knew God (ie Scriptures); “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”  We do not recognize competing sources of authority (Church, Tradition, Scripture), but see it all as the way we come to know Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit 

The Source(s) of the Bible

Following Christ, the Apostles, and the Early Church, the Orthodox Church primarily uses the Septuagint.  The Torah section was an official translation completed well before the Incarnation of Christ. 

  • This makes it more “objective” than the post-Incarnational Jewish Masoretic Text and Canon (most Roman Catholic and Protestant Bibles rely primarily on the Masoretic text).  The Masoretic text was prepared after the loss of the Temple and the rise of Christianity (with the addition of vowels etc.).
  • The Septuagint differs little from the Masoretic Text; both are supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The Dead Sea Scrolls help demonstrate that there was textual diversity before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
  • There is NO SINGLE CANON OF ORTHODOX SCRIPTURE.  We have the books we use liturgically and the books we read.  All of them are useful.

How the Bible is Organized
New Testament (we’ll cover it later) and Old Testament.

Old Testament Organization (Septuagint organization) 

  • The Torah.  According to tradition, it was revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai (most connect it with Moses (e.g. Exodus 33:11 & Galatians 3:19), but admit to it being touched by many hands).  The five books of the Torah are also called the Five Books of the Law, the Pentateuch and the Books of Moses.
    • Genesis (beginning).  God’s creation of the world, the fall of mankind, and the three patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)
    • Exodus (departure).  The early life of Moses, the Israelite escape from Egypt, and revelations at Mount Sinai.
    • Leviticus (of the Levites).  Historically, takes place at the foot of Sinai and continues to describe how God is to be honored and how Israelites are to live.
    • Numbers (you’ll see!).  Describes the Israelites’ time in the desert up to their arrival at the banks of the Jordan.
    • Deuteronomy (second law).  Moses’ last words to the Israelites.  His death.
  • The Books of History.  The history of Israel from their arrival at the promised land to just before the Incarnation.  They are thought to have been written well after the events they describe.  The Books of History are Joshua (the conquering of the promised land), Judges (The Israelites struggle with righteousness and idolatry), Ruth, I Kingdoms (aka I Samuel), II Kingdoms (II Samuel), III Kingdoms (I Kings), IV Kingdoms (II Kings), I Paraleipomenon (I Chronicles), II Paraleipomenon (II Chronicles), Nehemiah, I Esdras, II Esdras (Ezra), Tobit, Judith, Esther, I Maccabees, II Maccabees, III Maccabees.
  • Books of Wisdom.   Psalms, Prayer of Manasseh, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs or Canticle of Canticles), Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach (aka Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach; aka Ecclesiasticus) 
  •  The Prophets.  
    • Minor prophets:  Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zecharia, Malachi
    • Major prophets:  Isaiah, Jeremiah (includes Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah), Ezekiel, Daniel (includes the Song of the Three Children).

Why did some early Christians want to ban the Old Testament from the Biblical Canon?  Why do we care about the Old Testament?  It is “The Scriptures” referred to in the New Testament.  It is about God, Christ, and God’s plan for the world.

Direct download: 20230906-Class-Intro.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:45pm EST

In this, the first part of a series (Fall, Sunday afternoon adult education), Fr. Anthony provides an introduction to the Orthodox conception of the mind, how pride corrupts it, and how Orthodoxy heals and perfects it.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20230903-Class-Pride.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:50pm EST

St. Matthew 21:33-42.  The Parable of the Vineyard.  After describing the most immediate meaning of the parable (a warning and prophecy to the Jewish leaders), Fr. Anthony applies the lessons to the mission of the parish and the transformation of the mind.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230903-VinyardoftheMind-2.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:01pm EST

Matthew 19:16-26.  The reading on the rich young man, the camel, and the needle.  After wrapping up his series on community virtues (let all be done in love), Fr. Anthony draws on St. Nikolai Velimirovic, to distinguish between eternal life (salvation) and perfection (theosis).  [Note - the point Fr. Anthony was making about not becoming uncreated was that we always remain creatures, even though we be perfected by God's uncreated energies).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230827-Theosis.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:25pm EST

Today it is my blessing to share an interview with Fr. Eugen Rosu.  Fr. Eugen has been a priest for 31 years, married for 32 years, and enjoying fatherhood for 11 years.  He recently published the book "Church Ministries on a Shoestring Budget" to share his experience and encourage evangelism. The book offers information on establishing ministries that engage the parish and stir community interest. His Grace Bishop John Abdalah writes the book's introduction, and the book has received significant praise from very well-known Orthodox clergy.  I really enjoyed our conversation and I know you will to!

Direct download: 20230818-FrEugenRosu.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:53pm EST

Matthew 18:23-35.  The parable on forgiveness (the wicked servant).  God desires us to be one as He is one.  This is good and beautiful (!), but it isn't easy because we (unlike God) we are not holy!  This means that we need to learn to forgive.  After assuring us that God requires forgiveness but NOT codependence or enabling, Fr. Anthony describes the three levels of forgiveness and how they allow us to grow in harmony and holiness (while protecting us from vampiric wolves).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230820-Forgiveness.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:36pm EST

In this homily on the healing/exorcism of the lunatic (St. Matthew 17:14-23), after talking about the life skill of monitoring the response to and use of compliments and criticism, Fr. Anthony continues his metaphor of the mind as terrain that has considerable ungoverned territory.  The prayer and fasting that Christ says is required for advanced exorcism help to increase faith by developing the believer's capacity for (neptic) graceful single-mindedness.  This allows the believer to ignore the orcs spewing out of the Mordor of his mind until such time as he has the faith to level Mount Doom (or move it into the sea).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230813-IgnoretheOrcs.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:15pm EST

Matthew 17:1-9.  Fr. Anthony shares St. Leo's wisdom in drawing our attention to the way Transfiguration prepares us for the persecution of both Christ and His Church.  Oh, and Fr. Anthony tried out a new Bluetooth mic.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230806-Transfiguration.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:27pm EST

Matthew 14:14-22 (Feeding the Five Thousand).  After sharing a life-skill for living in community (ie leading with patience), Fr. Anthony shares some of the levels of meaning the Church provides when it preaches/teaches on the feeding of the five thousand.  He finishes with St. John Chrysostom's point about bringing what you have so the Lord can bless it, multiply it, and use to His glory and the feeding of His people.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230730-FeedFiveThousand.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:49pm EST

Romans 15:1-7.  St. Paul didn't want Christians to let their pieties around food keep them from connecting with and evangelizing their neighbors.  We might not do this with food, but we are certainly tempted to do it with our national and ecclesial politics, among other things.  Today Fr. Anthony encourages us to meet people where they are, connect with them, and guide them to Christ.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230723-BeartheBurdens.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:18pm EST

Today was the celebration of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the Council that followed just twenty years after the Ecumenical Council at Ephesus; both councils clarified the proper way to understand and describe Jesus Christ being fully God and fully man.  In his remarks (not a classic homily), Fr. Anthony described the critical role humility plays in theological discernment and love.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230716-AMessofaHomily.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:26pm EST

Romans 10:1-10; Matthew 8:28-9:1.  Today Fr. Anthony continues last week's theme of reclaiming the ungoverned places using the events at Gardenes as a case study of how societies - and our minds - often react (unfortunately, last week's was not recorded - Fr. Anthony plans on doing an extended version for both YouTube and this podcast).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230709-Gardenes.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:40pm EST

Today Fr. Anthony interviews Fr. David Randolph.  Fr. David converted to Orthodoxy from the Episcopal Church in the 90's.  He served as the pastor of Christ the Savior Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson SC from 1998 to his retirement in 2018.  He has a great love for prison ministry.  This is part of a series of interviews designed to share preserve and share the history of Christ the Savior parish.  

Direct download: 20230624-FrDavidInterview.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:53pm EST

Romans 2:10-16; St. Matthew 4:18-23.  On our own, we make a mess.  We need solid leadership.  Today Fr. Anthony shares some wisdom from Mp. Saba and Bp. Nicholas.  Sdn. Scott thought the homily was a winner; "he got in Tolkien, the Simpsons, Blockbuster, and made serious Father's Day points!"  We've been having audio recording issues; today we are trying out a lapel microphone - let us know if it helps.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230618-Culture.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:51pm EST

Matthew 10:32-33,37-38; 19:27-30.  We are all called to be holy, but even after having united ourselves to Christ, it requires effort.  Our willpower is not enough - rituals (graceful habits) can help.  Today Fr. Anthony presents a sort of two by two table of rituals; secular vs. sacred and bee (enlightened attitude) vs. fly (worldly attitude).  It's a bit of a mess, but he was travel-weary and, bless his heart, he means well.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230611-AllSaints.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:51pm EST

Pentecost.  After offering a brief reflection on green as the color of Pentecost in the East, Fr. Anthony talks about how the Spirit's divinity allows us to do Church, marriage, and friendship in and toward blessed and joyful unity.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230604-Pentecost.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:37pm EST

John 17:1-13.  Sunday after Ascension, Commemorating the 318 Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea.  Today Fr. Anthony offers a reflection on the mystery of fellowship, noting that while that of the nation can point us toward something greater, only Christ can save.  He briefly describes how Christ created a new humanity for full fellowship through His Incarnation.  Note that he misused the word "essence" when he was describing the new shared humanity we have in Christ (he repents sincerely!).  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20230528-SundayafterPentecost.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:20pm EST

St. John 9: 1-38.  Despite his preference for the theme of light and enlightenment, Fr. Anthony decided to preach some meat - maybe even some gristle, using the double baptism of spittle and pool.  His main point seems to have been that we really do need to learn how to submit ourselves to God and His Church.  While it is not recorded, he talked for a few minutes at the end of liturgy about practical cases of poor discernment and the resulting need for Church discipline.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230521-TheBlindMan.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:56pm EST

In this meditation on the Samaritan Woman (John 4:5-42), Fr. Anthony continues his series on mystagogy by talking about the wonder that there is such a thing as water and a glass to hold it, moves on from there to living water and chalices, and from there to seeing beauty even in our enemies.  If nothing else, it's interesting to hear what Fr. Anthony sounds like when he gets a decent night's sleep.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230514-HomilyonSamaritanWoman.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:48pm EST

Today, Fr. Anthony gives a talk introducing the parish's new "Divine Liturgy" pew book.  Most of it was spent reviewing Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green's essay "12 Things I Wish I'd Known" as it became an opportunity for people to ask questions about parish practices.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20230510-DL1.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:04pm EST

Sunday of the Paralytic.  Fr. Anthony continues preaching on mystagogy, describing what the encounter on the road to Emmaus, Christ's healing of the paralytic at the Sheep Pool, and the healing of Aeneas and the raising of Tabatha in Acts have to teach us about how to experience grace more deeply in Holy Orthodoxy.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230507-HomilyonParalytic.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:43pm EST

Mark 15:43-16:8.  The Sunday of the Myrrhbearers.  Today Fr. Anthony introduces mystagogy, talking about the ways Orthodoxy works to make His will that "we be one as He is one" a reality.   Christ is risen and lives and communicates with us continuously.  We need to learn the language He uses from the inside (rather than through translation).  To do this, we need to spend time with Him on the mountain (in our soul) and then learn what we have learned as we worship and serve.  The audio quality isn't great (it was an awkward placement for the recorder and he stepped in front of it towards the end) and he misses several of his segues, but perhaps that adds to the mystery.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230430-HomilyonMyrrhbearers.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:30pm EST

St. John 20:19-31. Fr. Anthony offers a reflection on the problem of discernment, how it affected the thoughts of the disciple Thomas, and why Orthodoxy really is the answer to the problems of knowing and belief.  

Direct download: 20230423-HomilyonStThomas.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:04pm EST

Palm Sunday.  John 12:1-18.  Fr. Anthony offers a reflection on how our minds join the pharisees and scribes in rebellion against the coming of Christ into His Temple.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230409-HomilyonPalmSunday.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:39pm EST

This is part of the talk Fr. Anthony gave for the UOL Retreat in Philadelphia, PA on 1 April 2023.  The theme was "Be Still and Know."  This excerpt followed Natalie Bilynsky's excellent review of mindfulness, an account of its popularity and results, and what separates it from Orthodoxy.  In this portion of his talk, Fr. Anthony describes the Orthodox Way of the Heart, focusing a lot of his attention on how it frees us from our negative and distracting inner dialogues.  These retreats are always wonderful - consider joining us next year!

Direct download: 20230401-FirstTalk.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:09pm EST

In today's class, Fr. Anthony talks about some of the practical considerations surrounding death.  One of the most useful things he recommends is to fill out a "Five Wishes" packet.  The class was offered with thanks to David Murphy for providing the outline.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230326-ClassonDeath.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 7:52pm EST

In this homily on St. Mark 9:17-31, offered on the Sunday of St. John of the Ladder, Fr. Anthony says something or other about exorcisms, fasting, and the Resurrection.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230326-HomilyonSomething.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:05pm EST

Today Fr. Anthony offers a class on ecclesiology, focusing on the various clerical ranks and their purpose.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-Ecclesiology.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:44pm EST

Homily from the Great Lenten Sunday of the Cross (Hebrews 4:14-5:6; Mark 8:34-9:1).  Fr. Anthony offers a meditation on ways that we can take up our cross and follow Christ.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-CrossandGrace.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:38pm EST

Fr. Anthony continues taking us through Tito Coliander's Way of Ascetics (SVS Press), covering chapter twenty, "On Fasting" and twenty-one, "One the Avoidance of Extravagance."  It's also an opportunity to hear what happens when a teacher runs out of both energy and intellect.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: WayofAscetics-20-21.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:34pm EST

Hebrews (1:10-2:3) and Mark. (2:1-12).  The Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas.  Fr. Anthony offers a reflection on the need for quiet (and for holy friends).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-PalamasandQuiet.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:23pm EST

Today, Fr. Anthony continues introducing the class to the basics of Orthodoxy, talking about the cycles of worship and how they redeem the time.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-RedeemingtheTime.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:57pm EST

Fr. Anthony continues taking us through Tito Coliander's Way of Ascetics (SVS Press), covering chapter nineteen; "On the Bodily and Mental Accompaniments of Prayer."  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: WayofAscetics-19.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:44pm EST

In today's class, Fr. Anthony talks about faith and about the essential theology that Orthodox Christians need to commit themselves to.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-OrthodoxFaith.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:15pm EST

John 1: 43-51.  Today Fr. Anthony demonstrates the challenge of pollen and sudafed-affected thinking, offering a meditation on the ease of doing theology wrong (as the iconoclasts did), the importance of finding a source we can trust (e.g. the Church and its Divine Liturgy), and of letting the Church's way of discerning become our way.  Enjoy the show.

Direct download: Homily-TriumphofOrthodoxy.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:07pm EST

This evening, Fr. Anthony continues taking us through Tito Coriander's Way of Ascetics (SVS Press), focusing on chapter eighteen "On Prayer."  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: WayofAscetics-18.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:48pm EST

In today's class, Father Anthony introduces us to the basics of Orthodox Architecture, using Christ the Savior (Anderson SC) as an example.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Class-Architecture101.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:41pm EST

St. Matthew 6: 14-21.  The Sunday of the Expulsion from Paradise, Forgiveness, and Cheesefare.  Today Fr. Anthony talks about the need for forgiveness in our fallen world, how we often get it wrong, and what happens when we get it right.  Not a bad day, glory to God.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-FallForgivenessandKingdom.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:34pm EST

Today Fr. Anthony continues leading us through Tito Coliander's "Way of Ascetics" (St. Vladimir Seminary Press), covering chapter seventeen, "On Prayer."  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: WayofAscetics-17.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:07pm EST

Christ the Savior parish in Anderson SC is blessed with an increasing number of inquirers and catechumens.  This class on sacramental theology and the sacraments is the introductory class to the series, Introduction to Orthodoxy.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: Class-TheSacraments.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:37pm EST

1 Corinthians 8:8-13; 9:1-2 (On Fasting) ; Matthew 25:31-46 (On the Judgment).  After describing the pastoral implications of the epistle lesson on fasting, Fr. Anthony describes what the parable of the last judgment tells us about Christ.  Enjoy the show!

 

 

Direct download: Homily-Meatfare.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:28pm EST

In this homily on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Fr. Anthony warns about the danger of moving to a foreign spiritual land and encourages us to me like the Father in our instinct for love.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-ProdigalSon.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:23pm EST

Today Fr. Anthony interviews Lori, a founding member of Christ the Savior parish in Anderson, SC.  Listen as she describes how the parish started in the 90's with a group of Episcopalians who felt abandoned by the changes in that Christian group, spent a time as continuing Anglicans, and then converted as a parish to Orthodoxy into the Western Rite vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.  This conversation is part of Fr. Anthony's effort to collect, preserve, and share the history of Christ the Savior parish (orthodoxanderson.org).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20230224-LoriInterview.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:18pm EST

St. Matthew 15:21-28.  In this homily on the healing of the Canaanite's daughter, Fr. Anthony talks about BBQ, the faith of the Canaanite woman, and the necessary repentance of the Israelites.  Along the way, he warns against saying that Jesus was prejudiced against the Canaanites due to his cultural context.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-CanaanBBQandRepentence.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 3:02pm EST

In this homily given on the (kind of) Sunday of Zacchaeus, Fr. Anthony points out inconsistencies across Orthodox lectionaries, using it as an opportunity to make a plea for humility and the kind of repentance Zacchaeus had. Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-HoldingOpinionsGently.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:50pm EST

In this unevenly executed but well-intentioned meditation on Luke 17:12-19 (the ten lepers), Fr. Anthony talks about moving from transactional gratitude, beyond optimism, into an awful thanksgiving.  Enjoy the show!  

Direct download: Homily-InAweofCreation.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:11pm EST

Colossians 2:8-12; Luke 2:20-21; 40-52.  Fr. Anthony gives a straightforward homily on the Circumcision, using the name of Jesus/Joshua to frame a discussion of the incarnation, law vs. grace, and the need to be transformed by grace.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-CircumcisionofChrist.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:51pm EST

The second-best homily you will hear all year (the first being his Paschal homily)!

Direct download: Homily-StJohnChrysostomNativityHomily.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:56pm EST

In this meditation on Colossians 3:4-11 and Luke 14:16-24, Fr. Anthony speaks on the need to submit to the duty and propriety of love rather than chasing ephemeral joys (distractions).  Without this, we miss out on the meaning and significance of the many invitations to banquets that we are given and sadly choose to take care of other things that feel more important and enjoyable.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: Homily-TheBanquetofEveryMoment.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:26pm EST

Ephesians 2:14-22 (wall of separation), Luke 10:25-37 (eye of the camel).  In this homily (hostage situation?), Fr. Anthony notes how far our experience is from that promised by the Gospel.  He suggests that it is our unwillingness to take our commitment to perfection (I have united myself to Christ!) seriously.  He provides ways to gauge our spiritual maturity (how we respond to praise and criticism; how tightly we hold onto ideas and things that are not necessary) and offers the Orthodox Way as the most efficient way to increase the ability of God's grace to lift us into His Kingdom.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-SpiritualMaturity.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:28pm EST

Luke 12:16-21; Ephesians 2:4-10.  Alas, I still feel the effects of Covid (mind fog, a cough).  In this homily on overcoming our limitations through discipline and grace, I overshared (twice!), squashed three points, and overshot my landing.  Despite this, I hope you find something useful in there somewhere.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-Storehouses.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 6:01pm EST

Hebrews 7:26-8:2; Luke 10:25-37.  In this recap of today's homily (the recorder didn't work for the actual homily, so Fr. Anthony recorded this in the car on his way home), Fr. Anthony takes humanity to task for not loving God or our neighbor.  He also describes God's plan for rectifying this situation.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: HomilyRecap-GoodSamaritan.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:08pm EST

Fr. Anthony misplaced his recorder, so this homily is about a month old.  He talks about the need to imitate Christ on the Cross - and that means suffering for others NOT for ourselves.  And we should never do that alone.  Enjoy the show.

Direct download: Homily-TheCrossTogether.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:20pm EST

In this homily on the Parable on the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Fr. Anthony makes three points: that we are called to notice and care for the hungry and sick at our doorstep, that we are to called to notice and minister to all the suffering people in our midst (which is everyone) and that one of the best things to do is invite people to join us at the Eucharistic Feast.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: Homily-CaringaboutOthers.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:21pm EST

2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1 ; Luke 7:11-16.  After introducing perspective into the conversation about miracles, Fr. Anthony talks about the need for the mature Christian to move beyond using (just) the rules when seeking holiness and instead constantly looking and listening for opportunities for subtle repentance.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-HolinessBeautyandSubtleChanges.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:24pm EST

In this homily, Fr. Anthony continues to meditate on the meaning of the Cross.  This time, he combines three concepts: the purpose of Christ's passion (to heal and save others, not himself), the fact that we are called to be Christ (with him in us and us in him) and the unity of Christians in and as Christ's body to challenge us to live sacrificially in service to others.  Enjoy the show! 

Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:32am EST

2 Corinthians: 4:6-15 and Luke 5:1-11.  Fr. Anthony offers a meditation on how our culture sets us up for failure with fallen and incomplete anthropologies and ecclesiologies.  The answer is to live Orthodoxy in face-to-face relations (around the table).  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: Homily-GettingAnthropologyWrong.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 9:24pm EST

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