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 EDT

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 EDT


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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

[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 EDT

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 EDT

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!


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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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!"


  • 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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT