OrthoAnalytika

Sunday of the Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council.
Matthew 5:14-10.

Fr. Anthony continues his Summer sermon series on relationships, this time focusing on what healthy Christian relationships do do improve discernment.  Enjoy the show! 

Direct download: 20240714-RelationshipDiscernment.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

In today's homily, Fr. Anthony gives a lesson on spiritual development (Conscience, Law, Grace) inspired by St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians (3:23-29; 4:1-5);
Brethren, before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons Enjoy the show!

PS. The homily got the sisterly seal of approval!

 

Direct download: 20240707-LawConscienceGrace.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:00pm EDT

In this homily offered on the Sunday of the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles (and All Saints!), Fr. Anthony talks about the need for all of us to cherish our loved ones (to include our bishops, the heirs of the Apostles!), noting that gossiping is antithetical to this.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20240630-GossipingEcclesiology.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:48pm EDT

St. John 17:1-13.  Fr. Anthony continues his series of pithy homilies on relationships, this time describing how the sin of Arius (DON'T BE ARIUS!) destroys the possibility of healthy unity.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20240616-DontBeArius.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:47pm EDT

Gospel: John 9:1-38.

Summer brings heat to Anderson SC... it also brings shorter homilies!  Fr. Anthony continues his summer homily series on relationships by looking at what the blind man can teach us about living with and loving one another.  Enjoy the show!  

Direct download: 20240609-BlindMan.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:43pm EDT

In today's edition of "Father, Speak a Word," Fr. Gregory Jensen and Fr. Anthony Perkins talk about the temptation of betraying their own callings by idealizing a romantic vision of monasticism and either trying to impliment it in their parishes or "wagging their tales" after it.  They use Fr. Gregory's "Father, speak a word" substack article "Puppies Wagging Their Tales; Some thoughts about the lack of vocational fidelity" as a springboard. There's also some rank punditry towards the end that some listeners might find interesting.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20240425-FSAW.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:57pm EDT

The Way of Ascetics; Tito Colliander
Chapter Twenty-Six: ON THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE

... The narrow way has no end: its quality is eternity. There every moment is a moment of beginning-the present includes the future: the day of judgment; the present includes the past: creation; for Christ is timelessly present everywhere, both in hell and in heaven. With the coming of the One, plurality disappears, even in time and space. Everything happens simultaneously, now and here and everywhere, in the depths of your heart. There you meet what you sought: the depth and height and breadth of the Cross: the Saviour and salvation. ...

Recorded at Christ the Savior, Anderson SC.

Direct download: Ascetics-Chapter26.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 10:29am EDT

Homily on the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt

Fr. Anthony compares the lives of the Theotokos and St. Mary of Egypt, noting that our path looks much more like that of the latter, especially given our culture's immersion in social media, consumerism, aggressive politics, and pornography.  Thank God that he has given us His Way of salvation despite all this!

Direct download: 20240421-TheMarysandUs.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 10:59am EDT

In this edition of "Father, Speak a Word" Fr. Anthony Perkins and Fr. Gregory Jensen talk about the joy of evangelizing a world full of people seeking something real.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20240418-FSAW.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 5:52pm EDT

Homily of the Sunday of St. John of the Ladder

Today Fr. Anthony riffed on this gem, found towards the beginning of The Ladder.  He describes the beautiful way of perfection in Christ planned for all those who do not live in monestaries.  

Step One: On Renunciation
21. Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: ‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’ 
I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate anyone; be sure you go to church; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness; 3 and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.’

Direct download: 20240414-Ladder.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 10:51am EDT

Way of Ascetics; Tito Colliander
Chapter Twenty-Five: ON THE JESUS PRAYER

...  Especially should the beginner beware of everything that has the slightest tendency to mysticism. The Jesus Prayer is an activity, a practical work and a means by which you enable yourself to receive and use the power called God's grace-constantly present, however hidden, within the baptized person-in order that it may bear fruit. Prayer fructifies this power in our soul; it has no other purpose. It is a hammer that crushes a shell: a hammer is hard and its stroke hurts. Abandon every thought of pleasantness, rapture, heavenly voices: there is only one way to the kingdom of God, and that is the way of the Cross. And to hang crucified on a tree is horrible torment. Expect nothing else.  ...

Recorded at Christ the Savior in Anderson SC.

Direct download: Ascetics-Chapter25.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 10:23am EDT

Homily of the Sunday of the Cross

From Bishop Nicholas (DOMSE Newsletter):

The Church has placed the Cross in the middle of Great and Holy Lent, the third Sunday of the Fast, for a very specific reason! 

The Church has placed the Cross in the middle of Great and Holy Lent, the third Sunday of the Fast, for a very specific reason!  By the third Sunday of the Fast, most of us have been abstaining from eating prescribed sumptuous foods for three weeks, participating in many services each week at inconvenient times of the day after having worked long hours, expanding our prayer rules, and reading spiritual books. Having done ascetical deeds, some of us are weary, tired, and may feel unsettled.

Prior to Christ being crucified, the cross was a sign of disobedience, a sign of unlawful activity, a sign of damnation, and a sign of condemnation. Thieves and criminals died on the cross so that society was “cleansed.” Jesus was considered one of those unlawful people despite the fact He had healed the sick, raised the dead, and performed miracles that had not been done by anyone else prior to His incarnation. He did not fit their earthly expectations with His divine plan! Therefore, He was crucified.

But after His resurrection, the Disciples, who effectively became apostles at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-42), began to change the common perception of the Cross as they began preaching the resurrected Jesus Christ. Having received the Holy Spirit, Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14-39) was emotionally moving and thought-provoking to the crowds. Thousands were baptized and started following Christ and His teachings through the words of the Apostles. The faithful’s view of the Cross began to change from a condemnation interpretation to a salvational reality, from a discouraging truth to an encouraging certainty, from a despair mentality to a hope mindset, and from a life destroying event to a life-giving actuality.

Such a change in demeanor toward the Cross urged the Church to utilize its power to inspire the faithful to take up the whole armor of God that they may be able to withstand in the evil day (Ephesians 6:13). That is why the Feast of the Cross has been celebrated on the third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent.

May God bless you and may the Holy Trinity protect you all!
+ Bishop Nicholas

Direct download: 20240407-BpNicholas-Cross.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 10:39am EDT

Today we cover Chapter 24 of Way of Ascetics, "On an Interpretation of Zacchaeus."  It has some beautiful imagery.  This class was accompanied by Thai Tofu Fresh Rolls and Gypsy soup.  If you are ever in the Anderson area, come and visit!

Direct download: Ascetics-Chapter24.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:53am EDT

Today Fr. Anthony wanted to share some ideas he's been playing with, resulting from his study of St. Gregory Palamas, theology (e.g. essence and energy), and relationships.  Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20240331-PalamasandRelationships.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:08pm EDT

Marriage as a Metaphor for Orthodoxy
Homily of St. Gregory Palamas

Today we celebrate the life and teachings of someone who really got it? St. Gregory Palamas; he experienced God's love for him in a real and tangible way, and he reflected that love back at God and on all those around him.

That's what we are to do, as well. To open ourselves up to the deifying warmth and light of God; and then to send our thanksgiving and praise back up to Him and to use the energy of His grace to serve those around us.

The Good News of the Gospel is that this is made possible and real through the life, death, and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ.

Although this Gospel really is simple, it has been elaborated with so many words and celebrated, confirmed, and taught (if not gilded) with so many rituals and denied by so many lies that it is understandable if we sometimes end up misunderstanding, judging, and even venerating the cup rather than that which it holds.

Perhaps a metaphor will help.

I have met at least two sets of people who think they understand the joy and transformation that marriage can bring.

One set thinks they know it because, while not married, they have their own version of it that seems to enjoy some of its benefits - most notably sex - without any institutional commitment.  The availability of internet porn means that this can even be done without the bother of having a partner.  No one can deny the reality of such experiences, but such experiences have precious little to do with the enduring joy of marriage.  Such people claim that they do not need to be married to experience the joy of sex - the physical part of "one-fleshedness"; but even when it comes to that (ie to sex), they have settled for something less satisfying than the real deal. And while intimacy is a powerful and even necessary part of marriage, it is hardly the primary source of the transformative joy that marriage brings. They think they understand things it well enough to do them their own way, but they don't, and their improper understanding leads them to accept something less than they should. Something that is actually counterproductive and harmful.

A second set which is equally troubling think they understand marriage because they have submitted themselves to the institution of marriage. They have had their ceremony, they wear their rings, and they share a house. But when you start speaking to them about the joy that comes from sharing a life with another person, you learn that their experience is quite different. Shallow.  Weak.  Joyless.  They are living the rituals of marriage, but they are missing the very thing those institutions are meant to hold and protect. They think they get it, but they don't, and their improper understanding leads them to accept something less than they should.

This is a great and wonderful mystery but, as with St. Paul, I speak not of marriage, but of the Church. (Ephesians 5:32)

St. Gregory Palamas fought against both of these misunderstandings about God.

On the one hand, there were people (like the Bogamils - basically medieval Pentecostals) who thought they could really experience God without the institution and sacraments of the Church. This is like having sex without marriage or even without a partner; it may be real in some sense, but it is not healthy nor is it real in the way that a committed sacramental relationship with God in Church is real.  These heretics thought they got it, but they didn't, and their improper understanding led them to accept something less than they should have.  Something that is actually counterproductive and harmful.

On the other hand, there were those (like Barlaam and the Churchians) who thought that the rituals and sacraments of the Church were the only way to know God. They did not believe that it was possible to experience God.  They believed that the teaching that we are to enjoy union with God through Christ was just a metaphor for belief. And they believed that the noetic experience of God that monastic ascetics had when they opened themselves up to the Divine Nature of God was just a simple emotion and not a metaphysical or supernatural reality. They thought they got it, but they didn't, and their improper understanding led them to accept something less than they should have.  It was a joyless religion, lacking the possibility of deeper union with God.

God is real and we were meant to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We are Orthodox Christians. We have not settled for something less than we should. We are not just going through the motions when we pray and participate in the rituals of the Church; we are opening ourselves up to God. We allow His grace to heal and transform us, and then we offer and share this transforming grace with the world.

Direct download: 20240331-PalamasandMarraige.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 8:04pm EDT

Today, Fr. Anthony covers Chapter Twenty-Three: ON TIMES OF DARKNESS with the faithful of Christ the Savior in Anderson SC.  We changed the format a bit, having the class as we enjoyed our after-Presanctified collation of PB&J's, PB&B's, collard greens, and tobouli. Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 20240327-Ascetics_23.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 11:35am EDT

Chapter Twenty-Two: ON THE USE OF MATERIAL THINGS

WE are made up of soul and body; the two cannot be separated in our conduct. Let the physical therefore come to your aid: Christ knew our weakness and for our sake used words and gestures, spittle and earth as media. For our sake He let His power flow from the fringe of His garment (Matthew 9:20; 14:36), from the handkerchiefs or aprons that were carried away from the apostle Paul's body (Acts I9:I2), yes, from the shadow of the apostle Peter (Acts 5:I5).

Therefore use all that is of earth as a staff of remembrance on your troublesome wandering along the narrow way. May the whiteness of the snow and the blue of the heavens, the jewelled eye of the fly and the scorching of the flame, and all of creation that meets your senses, remind you of your Creator; but make use especially of what the Church offers you to help you yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness (Romans 6:19). First of all, the Lord's Holy Communion. But likewise the other mysteries, or sacraments, and the holy Scriptures. And the Church offers you also the holy icons of the Mother of God, the angels and the saints; and prayer before them, and candles and incense, holy water and the gleam of gold, and singing. Receive all this with gratitude and use it all for your upbuilding and encouragement, improvement and benefit as you travel further.

Give free outlet to your love for the generous Lord of love, kiss the Cross and the icons, adorn them with flowers; if only evil be crushed with silence, the good will be allowed to breathe freely. If what is given in love is received with love, the scope of love is increased and enlarged, and this is the aim of your work. The greater the river, the wider the delta.

Use your own body, too, as an aid in the struggle. Trim it down and make it independent of earthly whims. Let it share your trouble: you wish to learn humility, so let the body also be humble and bow to the ground. Fall on your knees with your face to the earth as often as you can in privacy, but get up at once, for after a fall follows restoration in Christ.

Make the sign of the Cross assiduously: it is a wordless prayer. In a brief moment, independent of sluggish words, it gives expression to your will to share Christ's life and crucify your flesh, and willingly, without grumbling, to receive all that the Holy Trinity sends. Moreover, the sign of the Cross is a weapon against evil spirits: use this weapon often and with reflection.

A house is never built until the scaffolding is raised. Only the strong man has no need of outward support. But are you strong? Are you not the weakest among the weak? Are you not a child?

Direct download: 20240320-Ascetics_22-2.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:33pm EDT

Matthew 6:14-21
Romans 13:11-14:4

In today’s Gospel, the Lord tells us to lay up treasures in heaven, how do we do that?

It’s not hard. And it’s, it’s actually a lot easier than fully investing in your 401k. Because the amount of love that is available to your heart, to share with others, that will then compound back into your own heart has no limit – its source is unending. The problem is that we are so often closing our hearts.

One of the things that I study as a political scientist is polarization. And there is no doubt – the data are clear – that our society is plagued by polarization. We have lost the ability to see the good in people who do not think, look, or move like we do. This is a problem.

It’s not just a problem when we’re on-line or when we’re watching the news where so much of this feeds to our hearts. The problem is that we take in this spirit of the world; we take in the spirit of division. This spirit is diabolical.

And we bring it into our own hearts where it sows confusion. We bring it into our families. We let it affect our friendships. And heaven forbid, it even affects us here [in the Church]. That is not the way it should be.

It should go the other way. We should seek peace within our hearts. We should let go of all of the words the world has given for us to judge one another. And to justify ourselves, and demonize “them”. We [should let those words] go. And then we should live in the love … and let the grace of God transform our hearts. So that then when we relate to our family, when we relate to our friends … there’s something magical that happens; there’s a transformation that occurs.

People who have suffered from the divisions of the world then find healing. The grace that you have in Christ, you bring to them and there’s a resonance of your heart with theirs. And in that time, you remember who you are. And we remember who we are collectively. All of our lives, our friendships, our families, our parishes, then become an alternative to the world. They look at us and they say; “how is it that those people despite their differences, love one another.” And they will desire the same.

Every moment gives us so many opportunities to offer this way of abundant grace. One of the words that we use to describe the mechanisms of this process. Is patience. You cannot love people that are different than you without patience. 

And when we offer that patience to someone else. That’s grace. That’s God operating through you and blessing your relationship with someone else; and then when you receive that patience as a gift. I’m blessed every day with the patience of the people in my life.

Another one, though, is the one that we’re focusing on today. And relationships cannot endure without it. That is forgiveness. [I like to joke with the parishes that I serve that I just show them pretty quickly, how fallible I am. So that I can show them the ability and give them an opportunity to forgive.] So often our relationships are based on our ability to project perfection. As a priest, I convince everyone of my holiness and my ability to do everything perfectly. But it breaks down eventually; your relationship with your wife, your husband, your kids, your parents, cannot be based on that kind of artificial mask, because the mask will be shown to have no relationship to the broken person you need to allow to breath and speak in order for grace to abound. We have to allow people – people that we can trust - to see that we are vulnerable, let them see our brokenness. So that they can offer forgiveness and pour their love in. So the grace can grow. And then a mistake becomes an opportunity for God to manifest himself in this world, and for the world to become just a little bit better. Because when we forgive someone, we are acting in Christ; we are bringing his love and his way into it.

When on the other hand, we do as the world has taught us – and we see the very worst in everyone. And we focus on that and bring that up. The devil rejoices, division grows in the world a bit further, it grows; and we end up supporting the one we reject – that we ceremonially spit on and then turn around and commit to the way of patience of the forbearance of forgiveness, of looking for that good in the other, and allowing that to define our relationship. And then as they do that back towards us, we are both reminded whom we are in and in whom we live and love and life no longer becomes this drudgery of one bit of pain followed by the next with no promise of anything. And instead it becomes an opportunity to get this… [and it’s all] thanks to our own brokenness, of moving in love from grace to higher grace. This is the way that the Lord has established for us. Let us rejoice.

Direct download: New_Recording_97-20240317-homily.m4a
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 2:13pm EDT

Bible Study – Job
Class Six: Job 8:1-11:1; 11:1-42:22  
From the Orthodox Study Bible. 

JOB 8: [Bildad’s nonsense]

TO THE EARS OF BILDAD, JOB’S SECOND RESPONDENT, a man even less tolerant than Eliphaz, the foregoing lament seems to be an attack on the justice of God and the entire moral order. Unlike Eliphaz, however, Bildad is able to make no argument on the basis of his own personal experience. He is obliged to argue, rather, solely from the moral tradition, which he does not understand very well. Indeed, Bildad treats the moral structure of the world in a nearly impersonal way. To the mind of Bildad, the effects of sin follow automatically, as the inevitable effects of a sufficient cause. The presence of the effect, that is, implies the presence of the cause.

If Eliphaz’s argument had been too personal, bordering on the purely subjective, the argument of Bildad may be called too objective, bordering on the purely mechanical. In the mind of Bildad the principle of retributive justice functions nearly as a law of nature, or what the religions of India call the Law of Karma.

Both Eliphaz and Job show signs of knowing God personally, but we discern nothing of this in Bildad. Between Bildad and Job, therefore, there is even less of a meeting of minds than there was between Eliphaz and Job.

We should remember, on the other hand, that Job himself has never raised the abstract question of the divine justice; he has shown no interest, so far, in the problems of theodicy. Up to this point in the story, Job has been concerned only with his own problems, and his lament has been entirely personal, not theoretical.

Bildad, for his part, does not demonstrate even the limited compassion of Eliphaz. We note, for example, his comments about Job’s now perished children. In the light of Job’s own concern for the moral wellbeing of those children early in the book (1:5), there is an especially cruel irony in Bildad’s speculation on their moral state: “If your sons have sinned against [God], He has cast them away for their transgression” (8:4). What a dreadful thing to say to a man who loved his sons as Job did!

Like Eliphaz before him, Bildad urges Job to repent (8:5–7), for such, he says, is the teaching of traditional morality (8:8–10).

Clearly, Bildad is unfamiliar with the God worshipped by Job, the God portrayed in the opening chapters of this book. Bildad knows nothing of a personal God who puts man to the test through the trial of his faith. Bildad’s divinity is, on the contrary, a nearly mechanistic adjudicator who functions entirely as a moral arbiter of human behavior, not a loving, redemptive God who shapes man’s destiny through His personal interest and intervention.

Nonetheless, in his comments about Job’s final lot Bildad speaks with an unintended irony, because in fact Job’s latter end will surpass his beginning (8:7), and “God will not cast away the blameless” (8:20—tam; cf. 1:1, 8; 2:3). On our first reading of the story, we do not know this yet, of course, because we do not know, on our first reading, how the story will end (for example 42:12).

So many comments made by Job’s friends, including these by Bildad in this chapter, are full of ironic, nearly prophetic meaning, which will become clear only at the story’s end, so the reader does not perceive this meaning on his first trip through the book. As Edgar Allen Poe argued in his review of Bleak House by Charles Dickens, the truly great stories cannot be understood on a single reading, because the entire narrative must be known before the deeper significance of the individual episodes can become manifest. As Poe remarked, we do not understand any great story well until our second reading of it. This insight is preeminently helpful in the case of the Book of Job.

JOB 11 [Zophar’s nonsense]

WE NOW COME TO THE FIRST SPEECH OF ZOPHAR, Job’s most strident critic, a man who can appeal to neither personal religious experience (as did Eliphaz) nor inherited moral tradition (as did Bildad). Possessed of neither resource, Zophar’s contribution is what we may call “third-hand.” He bases his criticism on his own theory of wisdom. Although he treats his theory as self-evidently true, we recognize it as only a personal bias.

Moreover, Zophar seems to identify his own personal perception of wisdom as the wisdom of God Himself. Whereas Bildad had endeavored to defend the divine justice, Zophar tries to glorify “divine” wisdom in Job’s case. If it is difficult to see justice verified in Job’s sufferings, however, it is even harder to see wisdom verified by those sufferings.

Like the two earlier speakers, Zophar calls on Job to repent in order to regain the divine favor. (This is a rather common misunderstanding that claims, “If things aren’t going well for you, you should go figure out how you have offended God, because He is obviously displeased with you.”)

Zophar also resorts to sarcasm. Although this particular rhetorical form is perfectly legitimate in some circumstances (and the prophets, beginning with Elijah, use it often), sarcasm becomes merely an instrument of cruelty when directed at someone who is suffering incomprehensible pain. In the present case, Job suffers in an extreme way, pushed to the very limits of his endurance. It is such a one that Zophar has the vile temerity to call a “man full of talk” (11:2), a liar (11:3), a vain man (11:11–12), and wicked (11:14, 20).

The final two verses (19–20) contain an implied warning against the “death wish” to which Job has several times given voice. This very sentiment, Zophar says, stands as evidence of Job’s wickedness.

The author of the Book of Job surely understands this extended criticism by Zophar as an exercise in irony. Though the context of his speech proves the speaker himself insensitive and nearly irrational in his personal cruelty, there is an undeniable eloquence in his description of the divine wisdom (11:7–9) and his assertion of the moral quality of human existence (11:10–12). Moreover, those very rewards that Zophar promises to Job in the event of his repentance (11:13–18) do, in fact, fall into Job’s life at the end of the book.

In this story of Job, men are not divided into those who have wisdom and those who don’t. In the Book of Job no one is really wise. There is no real wise man, as there is in, say, the Book of Proverbs. While wisdom is ever present in the plot of the story, no character in the story has a clear grasp of it. True wisdom will not stand manifest until God, near the end of the narrative, speaks for Himself. Even then God will not disclose to Job the particulars of His dealings with him throughout the story.

From St. Gregory the Great

Ver. 3. Doth God pervert judgment? Or doth the Almighty pervert justice?

xxxvi. 59. These things blessed Job had neither in speaking denied, nor yet was ignorant of them in holding his tongue. But all bold persons, as we have said, speak with big words even well known truths, that in telling of them they may appear to be learned. They scorn to hold their peace in a spirit of modesty, lest they should be thought to be silent from ignorance. But it is to be known that they then extol the rectitude of God’s justice, when security from ill uplifts themselves in joy, while blows are dealt to other men; when they see themselves enjoying prosperity in their affairs, and others harassed with adversity. For whilst they do wickedly, and yet believe themselves righteous, the benefit of prosperity attending them, they imagine to be due to their own merits; and they infer that God does not visit unjustly, in proportion as upon themselves, as being righteous, no cloud of misfortune falls. But if the power of correction from above touches their life but in the least degree, being struck they directly break loose against the policy of the Divine inquest, which a little while before, unharmed, they made much of in expressing admiration of it, and they deny that judgment to be just, which is at odds with their own ways; they canvass the equity of God’s dealings, they fly out in words of contradiction, and being chastened because they have done wrong, they do worse. Hence it is well spoken by the Psalmist against the confession of the sinner, He will confess to Thee, when Thou doest well to him. Ps. 49:18. For the voice of confession is disregarded, when it is shaped by the joyfulness of prosperity. But that confession alone possesses merit of much weight, which the force of pain has no power to part from the truth of the rule of right, and which adversity, the test of the heart, sharpens out even to the sentence of the lips. Therefore it is no wonder that Bildad commends the justice of God, in that he experiences no hurt therefrom.

60. Now whereas we have said that the friends of blessed Job bear the likeness of heretics, it is well for us to point out briefly, how the words of Bildad accord with the wheedling ways of heretics. For whilst in their own idea they see the Holy Church corrected with temporal visitations, they swell the bolder in the bigness of their perverted preaching, and putting forward the righteousness of the Divine probation, they maintain that they prosper by virtue of their merits; but they avouch that she is rewarded with deserved chastisements, and thereupon without delay they seek by beguiling words a way to steal upon her, in the midst of her sorrows, and they strike a blow at the lives of some, by making the deaths of others a reproach, as if those were now visited with deserved death, who refused to hold worthy opinions concerning God.

We have heard what Job, his wife, and his three friends have to say.  They cycle through similar things several times.  Next week, we will briefly see what a new speaker, Elihuh has to say and spend most of the class – the last one before Great Lent – to look at God’s conversation with Job.  During Great Lent, we will work through chapters of Tito Coriander’s Way of Ascetics.

 

 

Scriptural review 

Mentioned historically as Jobab in Genesis (4), Joshua (1), and 1 Chronicles (5)

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

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

Liturgical review

Mentioned (through James) at Holy Unction; “You have heard of the patience of Job.”

From the Funeral for a Priest

Beatitudes: Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

  “Why do you lament me bitterly, O men? Why do you murmur in vain?” he that has been translated proclaims unto all. For death is rest for all. Therefore, let us listen to the voice of Job saying, “Death is rest unto man.” But give rest with Thy Saints, O God, unto him whom Thou hast received.

Ode Six:

  I remind you, O my brethren, my children, and my friends, that you forget me not when you pray to the Lord. I pray, I ask, and I make entreaty, that you remember these words, and weep for me, day and night. As said Job unto his friends, so I say unto you: Sit again and say: Alleluia.

  Forsaking all things, we depart, and naked and afflicted we become. For beauty withers like grass, but only we men delude ourselves. Thou wast born naked, O wretched one, and altogether naked shall you stand there. Dream not, O man, in this life, but only groan always with weeping: Alleluia.

  If thou, O man, hast been merciful to a man, he shall be merciful there unto thee. And if thou hast been compassionate to any orphan, he shall deliver you there from need. If in this life thou hast covered the naked, there he shall cover thee, and sing the psalm: Alleluia.

Triodion

Wednesday of Cheesfare Week; Matins Canticle Eight

Let us preserve these virtues: the fortitude of Job, the singlemindedness of Jacob, the faith of Abraham, the chastity of Joseph and the courage of David.

Saturday of Cheesefare Week; Matins; Canticle Two

… a second Job was Benjamin in his constancy …

Thursday of Clean Week (and Thursday of the Fifth Week); Great Canon Ode 4

Thou hast heard, O my soul, of Job justified on a dung-hill, but thou hast not imitated his fortitude. In all thine experiences and trials and temptations, thou hast not kept firmly to thy purpose but hast proved inconstant.

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

Once he sat upon a throne, but now he sits upon a dung-hill, naked and covered with sores. Once he was blessed with many children and admired by all, but suddenly he is childless and homeless. Yet he counted the dung-hill as a palace and his sores as pearls.

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

A man of great wealth and righteous, abounding in riches and cattle, clothed in royal dignity, in crown and purple robe, Job became suddenly a beggar, stripped of wealth, glory and kingship.

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

If he who was righteous and blameless above all men did not escape the snares and pits of the deceiver, what wilt thou do, wretched and sin-loving soul, when some sudden misfortune befalls thee?

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

I have defiled my body, I have stained my spirit, and I am all covered with wounds: but as physician, O Christ, heal both body and spirit for me through repentance. Wash, purify and cleanse me, O my Saviour, and make me whiter than snow.

Read at Vespers/PSL on Monday of Holy Week: Job 1:1–12.

Read at Vespers/PSL on Tuesday of Holy Week: Job 1:13–22.

Read at Vespers/PSL on Wednesday of Holy Week: Job 2:1–10.

Read at Vespers/Vesperal Liturgy on Thursday of Holy Week: Job 38:1–21; 42:1–5.

Read at Vespers on Friday of Holy Week: Job 42:12–17 (LXX ending)

---

Job 38  FROM FR. PATRICK REARDON

NOW THE LORD HIMSELF WILL SPEAK, for the first time since chapter 2. After all, Job has been asking for God to speak (cf. 13:22; 23:5; 30:20; 31:35), and now he will get a great deal more than he anticipated. With a mere gesture, as it were, God proceeds to brush aside all the theories and pseudoproblems of the preceding chapters.

… [Whirlwind, Lord] …

At this point, all philosophical discussion comes to an end. There are questions, to be sure, but the questions now come from the Lord. Indeed, we observe in this chapter that God does not answer Job’s earlier questions. The Lord does not so much as even notice those questions; He renders them hopelessly irrelevant. He has His own questions to put to Job.

The purpose of these questions is not merely to bewilder Job. These questions have to do, rather, with God’s providence over all things. The Lord is suggesting to Job that His providence over Job’s own life is even more subtle and majestic than these easier questions which God proposes and which Job cannot begin to answer, questions about the construction of the world (verses 4–15), the courses of the heavenly bodies (verses 31–38), the marvels of earth and sea (verses 16–30), and animal life (38:39–39:30). Utterly surrounded by things that he cannot understand, will Job still demand to know mysteries even more mysterious?

If the world itself contains creatures that seem improbable and bewildering to the human mind, should not man anticipate that there are even more improbable and bewildering aspects to the subtler forms of the divine providence? God will not be reduced simply to an answer to Job’s shallow questions. Indeed, the divine voice from the whirlwind never once deigns even to notice Job’s questions. They are implicitly subsumed into a mercy vaster and far richer.

Implicit in these questions to Job is the quiet reminder of the Lord’s affectionate provision for all His creatures. If God so cares for the birds of the air and the plants of the fields, how much more for Job!

39 - 41. On the Behemoth and the Leviathan

Both behemoth and Leviathan are God’s household pets, as it were, creatures that He cares for with gentle concern, His very playmates (compare Psalms 104[103]:26). God is pleased with them. Job cannot take the measure of these animals, but the Lord does.

What, then, do these considerations say to Job? Well, Job has been treading on some very dangerous ground through some of this book, and it is about time that he manifest a bit more deference before things he does not understand. Behemoth and Leviathan show that the endeavor to transgress the limits of human understanding is not merely futile. There is about it a strong element of danger. A man can be devoured by it.

It is remarkable that God’s last narrative to Job resembles nothing so much as a fairy tale, or at least that darker part of a fairy tale that deals with dragons. Instead of pleading His case with Job, as Job has often requested, the Lord deals with him as with a child. Job must return to his childhood’s sense of awe and wonder, so the Lord tells him a children’s story about a couple of unimaginably dangerous dragons. These dragons, nonetheless, are only pets in the hands of God. Job is left simply with the story. It is the Lord’s final word in the argument.

42.  Finale

THE TRIAL OF JOB IS OVER. This last chapter of this book contains (1) a statement of repentance by Job (verses 1–6), (2) the Lord’s reprimand of Eliphaz and his companions (verses 7–8), and (3) a final narrative section, at the end of which Job begins the second half of his life (verses 9–17). The book begins and ends, then, in narrative form.

First, one observes in Job’s repentance that he arrives at a new state of humility, not from a consideration of his own sins, but by an experience of God’s overwhelming power and glory. (Compare Peter in Luke 5:1–8.) When God finally reveals Himself to Job, the revelation is different from anything Job either sought or expected, but clearly he is not disappointed.

All through this book, Job has been proclaiming his personal integrity, but now this consideration is not even in the picture; he has forgotten all about any alleged personal integrity. It is no longer pertinent to his relationship to God (verse 6). Job is justified by faith, not by any claims to personal integrity. All that is in the past, and Job leaves it behind.

Second, the Lord then turns and deals with the three comforters who have failed so miserably in their task. Presuming to speak for the Almighty, they have fallen woefully short of the glory of God.

Consequently, Job is appointed to be the intercessor on their behalf. Ironically, the offering that God prescribes to be made on behalf of the three comforters (verse 8) is identical to that which Job had offered for his children out of fear that they might have cursed God (1:5). The Book of Job both begins and ends, then, with Job and worship and intercession. In just two verses (7–8) the Lord four times speaks of “My servant Job,” exactly as He had spoken of Job to Satan at the beginning of the book. But Job, for his part, must bear no grudge against his friends, and he is blessed by the Lord in the very act of his praying for them (verse 10).

Ezekiel, remembering Job’s prayer more than his patience, listed him with Noah and Daniel, all three of whom he took to be men endowed with singular powers of intercession before the Most High (Ezekiel 14:14–20).

The divine reprimand of Job’s counselors also implies that their many accusations against Job were groundless. Indeed, Job had earlier warned them of God’s impending anger with them in this matter (13:7–11), and now that warning is proved accurate (verse 7). Also, ironically, whereas Job’s friends fail utterly in their efforts to comfort him throughout almost the entire book, they succeed at the end (verse 11).

Third, in the closing narrative we learn that Job lives 140 years, exactly twice the normal span of a man’s life (cf. Psalm 90[89]:10). Each of his first seven sons and three daughters is replaced at the end of the story, and all of his original livestock is exactly doubled (Job 1:3; 42:12). St. John Chrysostom catches the sense of this final section of Job:

  His sufferings were the occasion of great benefit. His substance was doubled, his reward increased, his righteousness enlarged, his crown made more lustrous, his reward more glorious. He lost his children, but he received, not those restored, but others in their place, and even those he still held in assurance unto the Resurrection (Homilies on 2 Timothy 7).

___

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

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

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

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

Orthodox Church, The Lenten Triodion, trans. Kallistos Ware with Mother Mary, The Service Books of the Orthodox Church (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002), 222.

Mother Mary, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, trans., The Lenten Triodion: Supplementary Texts, The Service Books of the Orthodox Church (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2007), 60.

Orthodox Church, The Lenten Triodion, trans. Kallistos Ware with Mother Mary, The Service Books of the Orthodox Church (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002), 559.

St. Tikhon’s Monastery, trans., The Great Book of Needs: Expanded and Supplemented, vol. III (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002), 283.

 

 

 

 

Direct download: 20240306-Job8-11.mp3
Category:Orthodox Podcast -- posted at: 1:05pm EDT

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

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

Are we ashamed of the Christ? Should we be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On perseverance.

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

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

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

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

Then we will have been transformed:

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

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

A Warning

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

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

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

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

Homily on the Talents

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

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

How to Get a Good Return on Spiritual Riches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me conclude:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

From the Orthodox Study Bible.

Job Loses His Children and Property

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let’s break this down.

St. Gregory the Great.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Job Loses His Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let’s break this down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___

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

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

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

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

 

What we will cover next week:

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

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

Homily Notes on Zacchaeus Sunday:
What makes a home?

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

The feeling?

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

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

The clutter?” There is something to this.

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

·       Points to something else that is often associated with clutter

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

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

·       Imperfect indicator

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

Zacchaeus had a nice house.

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

·       “Today salvation has come to this house”

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

Lesson here

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

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

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

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

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

·       Let us continue to bask in it.

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

 

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

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

From the Orthodox Study Bible.

Satan is Permitted to Test Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s break this down.

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

Many angels surround Him continually;

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

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

   Possibly – they are part of His Divine Council

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

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

More likely – they are ministering angels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

v. 7–8 Where Have You Come From?

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

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

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

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

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

What we will cover next week:

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

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

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

Three points:

Jesus did not stay in one place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone glorified God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Orthodox Study Bible.

1.  Faithful Job and His Children

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

2 Now he had seven sons and three daughters,

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

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

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

From Fr. Patrick Reardon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From the Orthodox Study Bible footnote

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

St. John Chrysostom

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

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

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

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

What we will cover next week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bible Study – Job
Introduction

 

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

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

From Fr. Joseph Farley;

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

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

In Scripture

Genesis and the historical books (as Jobab).

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

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

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

Liturgical Use

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

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

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

Purpose:  Wisdom.

Resources for our study.

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

Some initial thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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