Sat, 30 November 2019
Nativity Bible Study
Review: What is the Bible? What isn’t it?
Like the Ethiopian Eunuch, we need the Church to interpret the Scriptures for us. The services of the Church are celebratory and poetic interpretations of the events described in Scripture. Historical narratives speak to the head while musical poetry speaks to the heart.
Let’s warm up with some of the hymns from the Matins (Vigil) service of the Nativity.
From the Kathisma. The first is purely descriptive.
Come, ye faithful, let us see * where Christ the Savior hath been born; * let us follow with the kings, * even the Magi from the East, * unto the place where the star doth direct their journey. * For there, the Angels’ hosts * sing praises ceaselessly; * shepherds in the field * offer a fitting song, * while saying, Glory in the highest * to Him this day born within the cave * from the pure Virgin and Theotokos * in Bethlehem of Judea.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
The second is descriptive, but is told from Mary’s view.
Why, O Mary, marv’lest thou, * amazed at that which is in thee? * Because I have given birth * in time unto the timeless Son, * yet none hath taught me concerning my Child’s conception: * without a man am I, * how shall I bear a Son? * Who hath ever seen * a birth without man’s seed? * But, as is written, where God willeth, * the order of nature is overcome. * Lo, Christ is born now of the pure Virgin * in Bethlehem of Judea.
Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
The third is a theological meditation on the unity of God and man in Christ Jesus.
He Whom nothing can contain, * how is He held within a womb? * And while in His Father’s arms, * how in His Mother’s pure embrace? * Such is His will and good pleasure, and as He knoweth. * For being without flesh, * He took flesh willingly; * for us, He Who Is * became what He was not. * Without forsaking His own nature, * He hath partaken of what we are. * For Christ is born now, twofold in nature, * to fill Heaven with mankind.
And another gem, from Ode 9:
I behold a strange and wonderful mystery: the cave a heaven, the Virgin a cherubic throne, and the manger a noble place in which hath lain Christ the uncontained God. Let us, therefore, praise and magnify Him.
The most concentrated alternation of scripture and hymnographic commentary occurs during the Royal Hours (and the Vesperal Liturgy).
Direct download: Class_-_Interpreting_Nativity_Scripture_with_Hymnography.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Sun, 24 November 2019
Enjoy the show!
Direct download: Talk_-_Sdn_John_Cummings_on_the_St_Moses_the_Black_Retreat_2019.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:00pm EST
Sun, 24 November 2019
St. Luke 10: 25-37. Homily on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. How does discipline lead to the freedom to love? Enjoy the show!
Direct download: Homily_-_The_Good_Samaritan_Discipline_and_Freedom.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 12:00pm EST
Sun, 17 November 2019
St. LUKE 12:16-21. The Lord said this parable: "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." As he said these things, he cried out: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Sun, 10 November 2019
In this homily on St. Luke 8:26-39, Fr. Anthony shows how easy it is to place our enemies as the villains of Gospel lessons... and reminds us that this is only because we see them through the log (pride!) in our own eyes. This recording also includes the Liturgy of the Faithful. Enjoy the show!
Sat, 9 November 2019
Our Faith: Church Architecture and the Movement of the Faithful
Opening Scripture: Psalm 29:1-2; Exodus 24:9-18; John 12: 3-8
Today’s Lesson: Beauty will Save the World
Questions for consideration:
Basic Orthodox Architecture
Discussion: The role of beauty in our lives. Do we really need all this stuff?
Next time (11/23 and 11/30): Nativity (Incarnation) Prophecies
Sun, 3 November 2019
Why did Christ pick a Samaritan as the Hero in this story?Homily on St. Luke 10:25-37
We know this lesson; we’ve heard it so many times! Perhaps you want to “test out of” this homily? We know that the Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that we need to have the courage and compassion to love all people that are in need; even those who are different than ourselves. We even get extra points for knowing the symbols in the story that point to the salvific power of the Church. This lesson on compassion for all provides a necessary corrective! Our instincts betray us. Our fallen post-Babel psychology is tribal, with many of our moral standards defined by differences between “us” and “them” rather than need.
But if that was the main point, why not make the Samaritan the one on the roadside and an ordinary Jew the one that helps him? Then the Jews listening to him would have known that they should love and help Samaritans, not just other Jews. Surely that would have been a more effective way to teach compassion towards the “other.” But Christ is the Great Teacher and scripture is a reliable guide to His teaching. Whenever we read something in the Bible that seems off, it is time for us to learn something new and unexpected. After all, as St. Paul wrote to Timothy;
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
So let’s look a little deeper and see if we can learn why it was that the Lord Jesus has a Samaritan saving a Jew, rather than the other way around.
1) First off, this parable continued a theme that Jesus returned to often. He had a lot of patience for everyone but the hypocritical leaders of the Jews, those who knew what the greatest commandments of the Law were (love God and love your neighbor), but refused to follow them. Contrasting the men that were held up as the “best of the best” with a lowly Samaritan showed that much of their behavior was was ungodly and to shame them towards repentance.
2) But wait, there’s more: the parable was designed to do more than shame the religious leaders, it was designed to shame all of the listeners; to point out that their own behavior would have been just as despicable as that of the priest and the Levite. Jesus was basically saying; “this is what your leaders would have done in this situation ... and you would have been tempted to do the same.” It wasn't necessary to put an ordinary Jew in the parable; two points make a line. They themselves were part of that line. Jesus had already described the line by describing the usual behavior of the men who were supposed to be the “best of the best.” These are the two points that make that line. The Jews would have seen that they are part of that line.
But Christ is not just bringing attention to the immorality of the Jews; He was describing the fallen psychology of all mankind (the “old man”, “Adam”) in general. Mankind (the “old man”, Adam) was caught in a rut – he was not virtuous. He was not courageous. He was too willing to define virtue based on what other people did or expected rather than on what virtue actually requires. It would take something jarring to get them to see this and to change. This parable is jarring. It goes against expectations.
The Samaritan in the parable is virtuous not because of who he is (i.e. the box society put in) but because of what he does; just as the priest and the Levite are cowardly and mean not because of who they are (i.e. the box society has put them in) but because of their actions. For a tribal people, this undermined the natural and expected order. And that disruption was necessary because that natural and expected order was ungodly and wrong.
3) There is a more subtle theological point that the Church would have us remember. The Samaritan is an outsider. It is an outsider, one who is only half-Jew – or half-man, as it were – that heals the dying man. The Orthodox Church teaches that the Samaritan in the parable represents Christ. He is counter-posed to the Jewish priest and Levite in the parable not just because He is also different – He is both fully man and fully God – but because He is the only one who can bring healing to the brokenness of humanity. As a good and virtuous man, He – unlike the Jewish leaders of His time – had the will to save all mankind; and as the All-Powerful God, He also had the power to do it. The Jewish law and temple worship that the Priest and Levite offer and lead cannot heal the wounds of mankind the way that Christ can. He is more than our High Priest, He is Christ our God, the Savior of the world.
[This theological point becomes even more powerful when we add in the fact that Christ is the New Adam, the new "mankind" if you will; and we are to climb out of our rut by joining Him as part of the new mankind, as part of the new Adam, the new mankind, the Church with Him as its head (for these are all the same thing) with all the grace, responsibility, and power that this represents].
In Conclusion, our psychology is the same as that of Christ's audience. We are called to be virtuous; to be courageous and caring, even when the world is not. But we have more than parables and Christ's example and teaching to help us. He is the source of all virtue and healing, and we are His body. If we accept Him as our God, then it is His virtue that defines us and His healing power that flows through our loving actions. But there is even more: we are still fallen and our psychology is still the same: for instance, we still look to others to see what the right behavior is. The parish, like the family, is called to be a community that is defined by its virtue and charity; the examples that we set for one another naturally create a community that is good. Moreover, our community then sets the example – becomes the leaven for – the entire nation and the world itself.
May God strengthen us as we live virtuous lives in Christ; for the good of our families, our parish, our nation, and the world.
Sat, 2 November 2019
Our Faith: Orthodox Christianity
Asceticism III: on Mysteries, Love, and Silence
Review. We have been called to a great purpose. In Christ it is possible. We need Him to be saved; we need Him to live the kind of lives we were meant to live. Lives of meaning and contented peace. Lives free of spiritual disease. Christ has the medicine that heals what truly ails us, but we need to have a relationship with Him to receive it. In the case of normal doctors, the mechanisms are things like conversation, prescriptions, and a healing touch. Through these, our relationship with our doctor gives us the opportunity for greater health. Christ is our Great Physician; what does a relationship with Him bring to us? What is the medicine He shares with us? Is it “work” to take the medicine?
We are sick. Our minds have become warped. We confuse our will with God’s and make an idol of our pride. We need to heal our minds. We cannot do this by reading books, even the right ones (although we can certainly make things worse by reading the wrong ones). Nor can we simply “try harder” to be good. Both of these simply act as offerings to our pride, trying to make it stronger so that it can overcome everything else. What we need to do is to quiet that pride and lower the mind to Christ. Hesychasm. God in us. Quiet. Peace. Restores truth and beauty to the center of our lives with the mind in its proper place as the executive of this beauty and truth.
So how do we achieve this peace? First, we have to immerse yourself in the Mysteries of the Church and you have to dedicate yourself to selfless love of and service to your neighbor (to include you spouses, your parents, your children, and even those people who unjustly seek to do you wrong). Next, you have to develop and follow a prayer rule. Spending five-ten minutes each evening and morning in prayer over an extended period of time is a prelude or warm-up for the way of silence.
The problem of thoughts – and the difficulty of finding silence. It’s hard, but you certainly won’t find it if you don’t try! And if you don’t, there is a real risk that the other two modes – being religious and being nice – will become distractions, taking us right back to where we were at the beginning of the story.
Which is why, my dear brothers and sisters, we need to develop the tools to bring peace to our lives and to those around us. “The creation waits with eager longing for the sons of God… because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19&21)
“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It’s called meditation.”~ Jonathan Haidt from The Happiness Hypothesis
How do you meditate?
Don’t get frustrated or upset or worry if you cannot keep focused on these prayers for very long. If you make this a regular part of your daily ritual, you will train your mind for peace. In times when you are losing your calm, a couple of deep breaths will be enough to bring you back to yourself.
Next Week: The Rhythms of Life and Worship