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