Orthodoxy & 40 days of Lent

After the Sunday of Last Judgement [meat-fare] we meet the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam & Eve from Paradise
[cheese-fare, forgiveness Sunday].
After todays Vespers we ask each other forgiveness and the 40 days of Lent start.
During the 40 days of Lent we have:
– Sunday of Orthodoxy
– Sunday of Gregory Palamas
– Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross
– Sunday of John Climacos [of Sinaï, author of the Ladder]
– Sunday of Mary of Egypt
– Lazaros Saturday and
– the Sunday of the entry of our Lord into Jerusalem [Palm Sunday]
The “Lent”, as just said, is the 40-days-during period
from the First Sunday of Lent until the Sunday of Palms.
This period is very strict fasting and spiritual struggle.

Strict fasting and spiritual struggle
doesn’t mean we only look after our consume of food;
we prepare ourselves by more reading and praying and
retire from public life to return to silence in a monastic way.
We can’t do this in our own way, we ask God
that we receive an awareness of His Power
in fasting, praying and reading.

If you need to prepare food for the rest of the family,
you can do that and continue your fast.
It demands more willpower on your part
not to eat everything you prepare.
Meditate on the goodness of God;
you can serve others, while abstaining yourself.
In this period you will be confronted with the lies of the Satan.
Satan will try to flatten, to circumvent or in the worst case
to terminate your deployment.
The excuses he will offer:
– Feeling that you are too old or too young or too sick
or too busy may be a half-likely excuse.
Even when you are fleshly not allowed to fast
you are able to have more silent moments by reading and praying.
The devil and his servants are very clever
and have the most vague excuses imaginable
for not fasting:
• Some actually make you think
that you are going to die if you are going on fasting.
• Some make you feel to have some type of reaction,
you can’t breathe. “It’s too hard for me“, they make you think;
and when you are trapped, you discontinue fasting.
• Some make you to intend to fast – next year.
It’s a good intention, but for the future, not today.
• Some make you actually fast – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
then it overcomes you to eat like no-one-else
and fall into the bed to ‘sleep it off’.
• Some make you feel to that it is enough
to abstain food from bedtime to break-fast.
• Some make you feel you can’t function
without meat or cheese in your stomach.
• Some make you to fast on wrong motives.
If you want to serve God, serve Him
and your neighbours with a pure motive.
If you want to deny the flesh, than do it
and stop making excuses.
• Some make you to profess to fast to please others.
In reality you stop at Mc-fat on the way home and eat heartily.
They make you think you are fooling someone, but you can’t fool God.
Fasting isn’t for the pleasure of other people, it’s done unto God.
In reality you are cheating yourself. God doesn’t benefit from your fasting.
Why play games with God? If you cannot be sincere in a fast,
God won’t be able to trust you with His blessings.
• Some make you to not start fast because you will be “misunderstood
and you don’t want to be criticized.
Well, that’s just part of it.
It’s wonderful to walk in the Power and anointing of God.
Some people will be critical of you, even when you are a priest or monk.
They may say you are “anti-social“. They may say [or write] many other unkind things.
But when they have a need, they will know who to call on.
When effective prayers have to be prayed, they will remember your dedication to God.
Don’t let what other people think or say hinder you.
Put your trust in God, obey only Him.

Every time on during this period of Lent, 40 days long, day and night.
Here and now you have to face the thing that has kept you from fasting and conquer it once and for all.
If gluttony has kept you from God’s best, He is ready to deliver you from that sin.
If food is your lord, cast it down
from its throne here and now
and let Christ reign and be the Lord of your life.
So you have a medical problem that prevents you fro fasting, God will find another way to heal you.
If His Will is that you fast and you are one of His children, His Will is that you fast.
And when you are not able to fast because of a medical problem, He wants to remove that obstacle so that you can have total victory in your life.
In that way you are healed in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, here and now.
If God is leading you to this period of Lent, fast then the full 40 days.
Lay aside every excuse; conquer the flesh and just do it as a good servant befits.

Orthodoxy & the need for support

Nothing equals prayer!
It makes the impossible possible,
and the difficult easy
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

The practice of going out into the wilderness
to seek God is a tradition well established in Church
as early as religion became God-centred in Jewish times.
The Prophets and the latest Prophet Saint John the Forerunner did the same,
as Saint Andrew of Crete testifies:
The Forerunner of Grace dwelt in the desert and all Judea and Samaria ran to hear Him”.
As we know Jesus went into the wilderness before He started His Holy Mission:
Jesus Himself was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted.
After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry
“.
Matth.4: 1,2

Jesus is our example.
He didn’t go into the wilderness to fulfil some Tradition of His fathers.
He went there to get the support of God, His Father in His coming life;and when He came forth from that solitary place,
no enemy could stand against Him:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the control of the devil,
because God was with Him
“.
Acts 10: 38

When Jesus returned to the synagogue in Nazareth,
He was permitted to have the appreciation of
a visitor and was given by the Jewish visitors
the privilege of reading the Scriptures in public.
The Holy Book was given to Him and He
was reading the periscope of Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because the Lord anointed me to preach Good News to the poor.
The Lord has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
“.
Luc.4: 18,19
Waiting upon God , the Father in prayer and fasting
had placed a special anointing upon the Life of our Lord Jesus and that special anointing enabled Him to do the works of God.
In great majority we need the support of God in our Church today, much attention and education has to be given to seeing that sinners come to be saved

and come to the real deep knowledge of Christ;
not the superficial knowledge based on familiar Tradition and Nationalism,
but to meet God, our Father in the real original way of Love.
Once the believers are saved [baptised] in our times, however,
very little is done to ensure that they receive an anointing of the Holy Spirit,
become effective and go forth to live Victorious Godly lives.
Once they are born and clothed in Christ,
we intemperance them, in a sense and leave them as powerless infants,
helpless against the evil intents of the enemy.
This is one of the reasons we don’t see any more the original miraculous demonstration
of God’s support in our churches these days because we have religious entertainers at the podium.
The clergy who are able to organise changes are not supported to arrange things,
because surviving in economic way is more important.
It’s more important to have big church-buildings
– officiousness because of having control over more parishes,
instead of seeking God’s best for our lives.
Clergy are beached in a political way
to put a certain “spinning” on things so that they become acceptable.
Those who work in the news media have done the same; preachers are take over the same method. It’s nowadays possible to sit in their services week after week and never feel uncomfortable, never feel challenged.
They make you feel totally satisfied with your present position in God:
The days are coming’, declares the sovereign Lord,
“when I will send you a famine through the land
– not a famine of food or thirst of water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
Man will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east,
searching the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.
In that day the lovely young women and strong men will faint because of thirst

Amos 8: 11-13

In this moment people are traveling long distances when they know that
the ‘True Word of the Lord‘ is being preached somewhere.
Because they are hungry for something more real, interesting and transforming;
it is not uncommon for people
to drive a hundred kilometres to church or to go halfway across the country, even to other countries for a Divine Liturgy,
or other Orthodox meetings.                                  God’s Word is being performed.
People are hungry for the supernatural because it can’t be found in
their church nearby, priests are looking for more luxury churches – self-satisfaction and personal control.
Many people looking for God are turning
to far-east religions and new-age thinking;
hungry people are susceptible to deceit.
Many devilish practices have been adopted
into corporate western countries in the guise of “productivity training“.
Eccentric practices are being taught in seminars sponsored by the largest corporations.
Many false prophets have entered [been forced] into our world
and many people are being deceived and are, in turn, deceiving others.
No amount of funding or re-education can stop this lucrative trend toward the occult.

The Church of our Lord is called back to basics,
to apply itself serious to battle.
We must return to the simple Gospel  and to the
Power of God that enables us to stand against any enemy.
The only hope is for God’s people to rise up in indignation and take control of this situation.
The only hope of reversing the gains of the enemy is through concerted prayer and fasting.

For more than sixty-five years
I have lived by the Word of God.
Nothing else was important for me.
It works. I can rely on it. It never fails.
I can write this without any reservation. I have no interest in playing the common church game in overruling people, by keeping them a-sleep.
God’s Power is greater than any other. We can use that Power by our behaviour,
by prayer and fasting; for prayer and fasting will open your spirt to the supernatural.

Many ministers are preaching more like civil-right activists today, instead of like men of deliverance.
There is no power in their message; there is no anointing in their hands; and nothing is happening under their leadership.
Many of them are really good people,
They are handsome, intelligent and caring.
But they have lost the Power of God.
They lost the formal behaviour; in formal days I have seen [Latin] priests, who were praying their official prayers [brevier – like the monks in monasteries] of the services of the day in the garden of the parish,
nowadays I don’t see any and I know they are more busy with other duties.
What do they have to offer? only social work?
Most of us are impressed by good preaching, by good communication
– we say: “He knows how to get his point across”.
But where are the miracles? Where is the Power of God?
It’s one thing to have a silver or golden tongue and another thing to see and experience the Power of God on a regular basis.
Preaching can be pleasant to the ears and be void of power.
Intellect doesn’t cast out devils. If it did we would be calling upon professors to deliver people who are tormented.
Men and woman of Power, whatever their status in life is,
are used of God to drive away evil spirits.
If your spiritual needs are not being met by your minister, your clergy,
it is time to shake the dust from your feet and go somewhere [in Orthodoxy]
where you can be fed, somewhere where God’s Power is in demonstration.
I know priests don’t like this freedom, this rebellious attitude, but I’m very selfish in regard to achieving the Kingdom of Heaven.
I don’t need a religious importance as deacon or priest to be admired, I know they are repulsed by this, but I do not let me catch in the nets of their offerings.
To go somewhere [in Orthodoxy] where you can be fed, somewhere
where God’s Power is in demonstration, is not always an easy move.
People are reluctant to move from one church to another, for many reasons.
– “My Grandmother grew up in this church“, they say.
They have a lot of friends in their old church.
And will another church be any better?
I understand these reservations, but don’t stay in ‘a dead church’ just because your parents were members there.
Find a church that means business for God.
Your own soul and the souls of your other family members are at stake!!!
Look for a community where people love Jesus enough to seek His Face and
present His word in Power and Glory.
Look for a church that has more than a few minutes of prayer at a time.

Fasting is not a heavy burden, it is a joy. How is it for you not to be able to fast
while your brothers and sisters are moving in the same way.
While others look forward for a good meal, you with your community are looking forward to the opportunity to shut themselves away with God without distraction and draw closer to our
Heavenly Father.
Any community which has not learned to pray and fast will not have an effective demonstration of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
Which are the Manifestation of God’s Power in our midst.
Look for a community
where these frank Grace and Manifestation of God’s Power are showed.
Many people, when they think of looking for a church home, always think first of “pleasantness” or of “Love“.
While it’s good to look for loving people, we have to remember that the True Love of God, ”His Kind-heartedness”, is only manifested through His Power.
Everyone has a measure of love, even the people of the world.
God’s love, His Kind-heartedness is another level of love
which the world can never hope to realize.
The ministry of Jesus,
the Son of the living God was effective
because He was moved with Compassion“.
Jesus was God incarnated, He is love; for God is Love.
Yet, in order to effectively minister, He had to be moved with Compassion.
He received this God-breathed Love by waiting in the presence of the Father
in prayer and fasting.
If our Lord needed a special touch from the Father to effectively minister,
how much more we need God to do this great Miracle for us!
Not all communities that claim to love have this unpretentious kindness.
Without prayer and fasting we are not able to see the extremity of
the Good Message, the Gospel.
– You can’t have God’s best attentiveness for your live.
– You can’t be familiar with all that He has promised.
The promises of our Lord are not for the carnal;
they are not for those who walk in the flesh.
They are reserved for those who walk in the Holy Spirit
Why should you be as a warrior
disordered as a mighty man that can’t save?
Yet, O Lord,
You are in our midst
and we are called by Your name;
Don’t leave us!
“.
Jeremiah 14: 9
And every creature which is in Heaven,
on the earth, and under the earth,
and such as are in the sea,
and all that are in them, heard I saying,
Blessing, and Honour,
Glory and power,
be unto Him that sits on the Throne
for ever and ever,
Amen.

Orthodoxy & the period of Great Lent

The period of Great Lent is a period
to prepare for the Feast of feast – Pascha,
in which we re-clothe ourselves like
at the moment of our Baptism in Christ.
That’s why the Church calls us
to prepare ourselves by prayer and fasting.

The teaching of fasting and prayer seems
strangely out of place in our time.
Fasting is connected to sports, to get a restored body good-looking to others, instead of a method
to come near to our [inner Christian] principles.
Even most Christians have lost the habit of prayer and fasting
and most of our young believers are never well-educated to fast.
This is a catastrophe that saddens our Lord, Who is always waiting
for our coming-home.

For when we were in the flesh,
the motions of sins, which were by the law,
did work in our members
to bring forth fruit unto death
“.
Rom.7: 5

For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting,
you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself ?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58: 1-5

Fasting helps us reduce and conquer
the longings and requests of the flesh.
The body makes a wonderful servant, but a very poor master.
Fasting brings the carnal nature into
subjection so that the body becomes the servant
and the Spirit becomes the master.
We have to fast to control the flesh.

For I know that in me [that is, in my flesh]
dwells no good thing:
for to will is present with me;
but how to perform that
which is good I find not
“.
Rom.7: 18

God is disappointed because He knows that prayer and fasting
make us powerful in the spirit; the adversary delights
because without the Power of the Holy Spirit [Grace]
we are unable to offer him resistance.
Why have the mainstream of believers have abandoned
the practice of prayer and fasting?
Some of the believers have abandoned prayer and fasting
because they didn’t seem to be getting
the domino effects they were looking for.
They expected cash on the nail [dutch: butter with the fish] as real commercials;
They positioned the problem to God.
It’s not our attitude that we first look to ourselves,
it’s more easy to empty the blame on the other side.
When we pray and fast and do not experience a breakthrough, we are not used to blame ourselves.
We don’t ask ourselves:
Is there something in your life that needs to be dealt with?
Maybe our motives for fasting are wrong!

As children of God, we have to know the will of God for our lives.
Many countries in East & West are founded upon Godly principles.
Despite the infiltration of immorality and debauchery into the very heart of modern culture, a majority of people is still very religious.
We want to see positive changes in our society,
but we seem to do it in the wrong way.

“They ask me for just decisions
and seem ready for God to come near them
“.
Isaiah 58: 2
The people in the time of Isaiah also asked
– why God was not hearing their prayers;
– why God was producing no visible results
after their prayers and fasting.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

Isaiah 58: 3

These people thought they were serving God.
They thought they were believing His Word.
They were continuing their religious traditions
and working for social justice in their days.
Yet, when they quoted the promises and exercises their Faith, nothing happened.

The answer God gave them may surprise even our Russian or Greek Christians:
Yet on the day of your fasting,
you do as you please
and exploit all your workers“.
Isaiah 58: 3

If the people of Isaiah’s days were getting nowhere spiritually
because they were pleasure seekers, we are really in trouble in our times.
A great percentage of our time, our effort and our money
are now spent for things that bring us pleasure.
To most of us nothing is more important than our jobs
– nothing else than related to our jobs and the gathering of
over-luxury-income, more, more, and more only to consume.
We have more important things to do than prayer and fasting;
fasting is simply not in the schedule.
There is no time for it.

If God is not answering our prayers, something is wrong.
Our approach is wrong; our perception of God is wrong.
If we really put God first, He will never fail to put us first.
But if we put Him third, He is not owing a favour to us first;
he is not obligated to answer our very impulse and fancy.
If having fun is more important to us than having God’s favour on our lives,
there is not much hope for our spiritual future.
If our jobs and the results of it are more important to us than doing the will of God,
we are serious in trouble.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
“.
Isaiah 58: 4
Those who fasted actually had an evil purpose in doing so;
[collecting money or an admired dignified look of the bystanders].
God declared that this was not the fast He had chosen.
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58: 5

Prayer and fasting is not for the purpose of showing off.
It’s very a very personal act performed unto God, not to men.
The fast which God has chosen is very different.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter . . . . .
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Isaiah 58: 6-7

What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You want something but don’t get it.
You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.
You quarrel and fight.
You do not have, because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive,
because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get
on your pleasures.
James 4: 1-3

Fasting is not a tool to twist the arm of God
so that He will give you exactly what you want.
Fasting has a spiritual resolve, and that resolution is
to get your flesh out of the way
so that the Spirit of God [Grace] can enter into your life.
Fasting removes the barriers to communication with God
and allows the spirit man to commune directly
with the Heavenly Father – without any disruption.
When a person makes a determination to fast,
he is making a determination to remove obstacles in his life
to total submission to the Will of God.
No wonder that the adversary [the Satan]
is strong-minded to destroy this practice!
The adversary [the Satan] wants you to be poor,
to give free rein to your appetites . . . . .
until he consumes you.
The food-industry, the illegal drug industry
and the entertainment industry have much in common. They are all connected to the run-away appetites of our society.
Much of the poverty of our backlog neighbourhoods [ghettos] and their social projects are a direct result of this almost total loss of control.
Most of us who live comfortable in the prosperous nations have problems
with prayer and fasting because everything around us is designed
to charm to our flesh and its carnal desires.

But when we seek the Face of God through prayer and fasting, we push the flesh aside, denying the appetites the control they seek over us,
and allow our spirit man, who desires God,
to develop a strong relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Man is a triune being made up of body, soul and spirit.
It’s the spirit that came from God and longs to be
re-united with Him, as our Father.
When we give our spirit the opportunity he will reach out to God.
God will say: “reach out, I will be there” [a popular hit in my youth from the Bee Gees];
and we will communicate with Him.
These three parts of a person, however, strive [play progress] for influence.
Your spirit can influence your soul and your soul can influence your flesh.
If you are accustomed spiritually with God, your soul has no choice but to delight in the decisions of
your spiritual life.
Your flesh submits to the authority of your soul.
When the angel Gabriël appeared to the Theotokos, she reoonded immediately:
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
Luc.1: 46-47
               If your soul is magnifying the Lord, your flesh will bow in submission.
If your flesh has risen to authority in your life, however,
it will struggle with your spirit for dominance,
and the soul will obey the lusts of the flesh.
Fasting sets your spirit free to worship and serve God.
Fasting enables you to break the hold of the flesh
and brings your appetites into control.
It places you in submission to the Holy Spirit of God.
When this happens, you get answers to your prayers.

February 26th -Saint Photini [Svetlana (Russian), Ellen (Dutch)], the Great-Martyr and those with her

Today we celebrate the Great-Martyr, }
and Equal-to-the-Apostles,
Saint Photini, together with her family martyred with her.
Saint Photini was the Samaritain Woman who spoke
to Christ at Jacob’s Well
(told in John 4, and also celebrated the Fifth Sunday of Pascha).

quote on the Gospel of Saint John:
“The woman then left her water pot,
and went her way into the city,
and saith to the men,
Come, see a Man which told me all things
that ever I did;
is not this the Christ?”
Saint John Chrysostom

1.] We require much fervour and uproused zeal,
for without these it is impossible to obtain the blessings promised to us.
And to show this, Christ at one time saith,
Except a man take up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me”.
Matth.10: 38
at another,
I am come to send fire upon the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled?”.
Luc. 12: 49
by both these desiring to represent to us a disciple full of heat and fire,
and prepared for every danger.
Such an one was this woman – Saint Photini.
For so kindled was she by His words, that she left her water pot and
the purpose for which she came, ran into the city,
and drew all the people to Jesus.
Come”, she said,
see a Man which told me all things that ever I did”.

2.] Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water,
and when she had lighted upon the true Well,
she after that despised the material one;
teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters
to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them.
For what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also.
They when they were called, left their nets;
she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot,
and winged by joy performs the office of Evangelists.
And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip,
but having aroused a whole city and people,
so brought them to Him.

3.] “Observe too how prudently she speaks; she said not,
“Come and see the Christ,”
but with the same condescension by which Christ
had netted her she draws the men to Him; “Come,” she saith“,

see a Man who told me all that ever I did”.
She was not ashamed to say that He “told me all that ever I did”.
Yet she might have spoken otherwise,
“Come, see one that prophesieth”;
but when the soul is inflamed with Holy fire,
it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame,
but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it“.
Saint John Chrysostom – Homily 34

She left her sinful life and immediately preached Christ to her family and community.
After Pentecost, she, her five sisters [Anatole, Phota, Photis, Paraskevi, & Kyriaki]
and her two sons (Victor, who later was renamed by Christ “Photinos”, and Joses] were baptized.
They all became great preachers of Christ
in many different places, including Smyrna in Asia Minor, Carthage in North Africa, and finally in Rome, where they stood up to the Emperor Nero’s endless tortures
[including beatings, poisonings, blindings, imprisonment, temptations, crucifixion, burning in a furnace, etc.],
all while managing to convert one of his Dukes [Saint Sebastian], his daughter [Saint Anthousa], and his magician [Saint Theoklitos],
who all were martyred and are celebrated also on this day.
Their entire Martyrion is found in the Neon Eklogion by
Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, and
most of the important details can be found in various places.
Saint Photini is considered a Patron Saint for those repentant and those suffering carnal temptations, for those with physical or spiritual blindness, and
for those suffering diseases of the head and trembling disorders.
The people of Smyrna in Asia Minor have great love and devotion to the Saint,
so much so that they constructed her magnificent Metropolis Church in only 40 days.
She has worked and continues to work endless miracles
throughout the world by the Grace of Christ.

Apolytikion      3rd Tone
All illumined by the Holy Spirit,
You did drink with great and ardent longing of the waters.
Christ Saviour gave unto you;
and with the streams of Salvation was you refreshed,
which you abundantly gave to those a-thirst.
O Great Martyr and True peer of Apostles,
Photine, entreat Christ God to grant
great mercy unto us.

Απολυτίκιο
Θείω Πνεύματι καταυγασθείσα,
και τοις νάμασι, καταρδευθείσα, παρά Χριστού του Σωτήρος,
πανεύφημε, της σωτηρίας το ύδωρ κατέπιες,
και τοις διψώσι αφθόνως μετέδωσας,
Μεγαλομάρτυς και Ισαπόστολε Φωτεινή,
Χριστόν τον Θεόν ικέτευε, σωθήναι τας ψυχάς ημών.

Kontakion       3rd Tn
Photini the glorious, the crown and glory of the Martyrs,
hath this day ascended to the shining mansions of Heaven,
and she calleth all together to sing her praises,
that they might be recompensed with her hallowed graces.
Let us all with faith and longing extol her gladly
in hymns of triumph and joy.

February 26th – Saint Porphyrios the paralytic of Gaza [346 – 420]

Continue intently in prayer,
being vigilant in it
with thanksgiving“.
Col.4: 2

Saint Porphyrios, Bishop of Gaza, was born in
about the year 346
in Thessalonika  [Macedonia – Greece].
His parents were people of substance,
and this allowed Saint Porphyrios
to receive a optimal education.
Having the inclination for monastic life,
at twelve years of age he left his native region
and set off to Egypt, where he was an ascetic in the Nitrian desert
under the guidance of the monk Makarios the Great [January 19th].
There also he met Blessed Jerome [June 15th],
who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries;
he set off with him to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places and  to reverence
the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord [Sept. 14th], after which he resettled into the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds.

There Saint Porphyrios fell
under a serious malady of paralysis.
Unable to walk, he would have to crawl to the divine services.
For healing he decided to go to the Holy Places of Jerusalem.
One time, when fully paralysed, as
he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha,
the Lord sent His servant into a salvific vision in his sleep.


Saint Porphyrios beheld Jesus Christ, descending with the Cross
and turning to him with the words:
Take this Wood and preserve it“.
Awakening, he sensed himself healthy.
The words of the Saviuor were soon fulfilled:
the Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained Saint Porphyrios to the priestly dignity
and appointed him curator of  the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord.
And it was during this time that Saint Porphyrios received
his portion of an inheritance from his parents
– four thousand gold coins.
All this he gave away to the needy and  for the embellishing of the churches of God.

In 395 the bishop of the city of Gaza [in Palestine] died.
The local Christians set out to Caesarea to Metropolitan John  with a request
to provide them a new bishop, who would be able to
contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and
were harassing the Christians there.
The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to summon the Jerusalem presbyter Porphyrios.
With fear and trembling the ascetic accepted the dignity of bishop, and
with tears he prostrated himself before the Life-Creating Wood
and then set off to fulfill his new obedience.

In Gaza he found all of only three Christian churches, but of the pagan temples and idols there were a great many.
During this time there had occurred a long spell without rain, causing a severe drought.
The pagan priests brought offerings to their idols, but the woes did not cease.
Saint Porphyrios imposed a fast for all the Christians;
he then had the all-night vigil,
followed by going around all the city in a church procession.
Immediately the sky covered over with storm clouds,
thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down.
Seeing this miracle, many a pagan cried out:
Christ is indeed the One True God“!
As a result of this, there came to be united to
the Church through Holy Baptism 127 men, 35 women and 14 children,
and soon after this, another 110 men.

But the pagans just like before still harassed the Christians,
passed them over for public office, and
burdened them down with taxes.
Saint Porphyrios and the Metropolitan of Caesarea John set off to Constantinople,
to seek redress from the emperor.
Saint John Chrysostom [November 14th, January 27th and 30th] received them
and rendered them active assistance.

Saints John and Porphyrios were presented to
the empress Eudoxia who at that time was expecting a child.
“Intercede for us”, – said the bishops to the empress -,
and the Lord will send thee a son, who shalt reign during thine lifetime“.
Eudoxia very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters.
And actually through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial family.
In consequence of this, the emperor in the year 401 issued an edict directing the destruction of the pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of privileges to Christians.
Moreover, the emperor bestowed on the saints the means for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on the locale of the chief pagan temple there.

Saint Porphyrios to the very end of his life upheld Christianity in Gaza and
guarded well his flock from the vexatious pagans.
Through the prayers of the saint there occurred numerous miracles and healings.
Over the course of 25 years the arch-pastor guided his veritable flock and
reposed at an advanced age, in the year 420.

Hymn of Praise to Saint Porphyrios, the Paralytic
Monk Marcos asked Saint Porphyrios:
You were paralytic, holy father,
On your knees, to church you crawled,
My hand in yours, you held
Yesterday thus and today otherwise
At night you were ill, behold healthy you dawned
So suddenly, who healed you?
Of the rare physician, tell me the name“.

To Marcos, Porphyrius replied:
My Healer, is my Creator,
Last night on Golgotha, I fell asleep
By severe pain, completely overpowered,
As though in person, I saw clearly in a dream
On the Cross, my Lord hanging,
and on the other cross, the good Thief.
as I saw, so I cried out!
‘O God and Lord, remember me,
in Your Kingdom, remember me!’
The Good Lord, said to the thief:
‘Go down and heal his body,
as I healed your soul’.
Quickly the thief, the cross descended,
embraced me, kissed me, and raised me up,
saying: ‘To our Savior, draw near!’
At that moment, the Lord also descended the Cross,
lifted the Cross and  He placed it on me.

As soon as I, with my hands, grabbed the Cross,
immediately I stood and was immediately made whole.

To God my Creator, all the Glory will be,
To Christ my Saviour, all the Glory will be!”.
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich

Apolytikion    4th Tn
“The truth of things has revealed you
to your flock as a rule of faith,
an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance;
for this cause, you have achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty.
O Father and Hierarch Porphyrios,
intercede with Christ God that our souls will be saved.

Kontakion              2nd Tn
Arrayed with a most sacred life,
you was adorned with the priestly vestment,
O all-blessed and godly-minded Porphyrius;
and you are conspicuous for miracles of healing,
interceding unceasingly for us all.

Sunday of cheese- fare, the expulsion of Adam from Paradise & Forgiveness Sunday

“Blessed are the Merciful,
for they shall obtain Mercy”.
Matth.5: 7

Lord, we were estranged before from Paradise, because of eating from the Tree.
Therefore, lead us into it again by Your Cross and by Your Passion,
my Saviour and my God.
Fortify us therein that we may fulfil our fast
with becoming purity, and
worship Your Divine Resurrection and Passover of Salvation,
by the intercessions of Your Mother
“.
from Orthros       Tn 2

For those observing the Lenten Fast,
Cheese-Fare Sunday is the last day on which eggs and dairy are eaten before Pascha.

On Cheese-Fare Sunday, we also commemorate
the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise,
entering into the Lenten fast in
remembrance of mankind’s separation from God through disobeying his commandment to
fast from the fruit of the Tree.
Furthermore, many faithful attend Forgiveness Vespers on Sunday evening, asking forgiveness from each other in accordance with the Lord’s words:
If you forgive men their trespasses,
your Heavenly Father will forgive you;
but if you do not forgive men their trespasses,
neither will your Heavenly Father forgive
you your trespasses
“.
Matth.6: 14

What is the first step in forgiveness?
To pray as Christ did on while on His Cross.
Christ prayed for those who crucified Him:
Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do“.
Luc.23: 34
To the confession of the good thief next to Jesus on the Cross,
saying of himself and his fellow criminal of their crucifixion:
And we indeed justly;
for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds;
but this man has done nothing wrong
“.
And he said,
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom“.
And Jesus said to him,
Truly, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise
“.
Luc.23: 41-43
Throughout His public life Jesus also preached forgiveness:
“. . .bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you
. . .”
Luc.6: 28
He practiced his own preaching
while enduring the agony on the Cross
to conquer sin and death for Salvation.
Is it any wonder Saint Isaac of Syria comments:
As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold,
so in comparison God’s use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy
“.
In this context the words of Saint James are so compelling:
For judgment will be merciless to
one who has shown no mercy;
Mercy triumphs over Judgment
”.
Jac.2: 13
As Christ himself said:
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear”.
Marc.4: 23

Let us remind ourselves again of
the necessity to follow Our Lord’s injunction
to pray for those who offend us.
As the Evangelist records:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you. . . .
“.
Matth.5: 44
It just so happens that praying for someone
who has offended us may be both
the first act of forgiveness some may be capable of
in the beginning of the forgiveness process and
at the same time lead to a deeper level of forgiveness.

Any prayer for one who has offended us has to
conform to the love that God has for all of us.
All prayer for forgiveness must be done with
purity of heart and with the fullness of God’s love.
This is to say, we must pray that
– they reach out to God,
– Glorify His Holy Name and
– in turn God embrace them in His Bosom.
It is so easy to pray with conditional or impure prayer.
I will only forgive if the other person fulfils some condition.
This may be to ask or beg forgiveness.
It may be to say or pray:
“God send them to hell”.
To do this would be to forget
the spiritual insight of Saint Silouan the Athonite
[written by father Sophrony Sacharov, 1999].
– To someone who
declared with evident satisfaction
that ‘God will punish all
[sinners].
They will burn in everlasting fire“.
– Saint Silouan replied:
Tell me, supposing you went to Paradise and
there you looked down and saw someone burning in hell-fire
– would you feel happy?
“.
It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault” [was the response].
– The Staretz answered him in a sorrowful countenance.
Love could not bear that“, he said.
We must pray for all“.

Prayer for others in general will increase
selfless concern for others and simultaneously enhance forgiveness.
For Orthodox Christian these results should not be surprising,
since Grace builds on nature
“.
Morelli

The shared common goal for all mankind is that they be enlivened by Christ and
that all be with Him in Paradise.
We share the knowledge that we are all made in God’s image, called to be like Him, have been re-born and put on the robe of salvation and light by our baptism, and
can receive Christ, indwelling in us by
receiving His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
“. . . the more you are in suffering and difficulties and
are ‘desperate’ for God, the more He is going to come to your aid,
reveal Who He is and show you the way out . . .

Seraphim Rose

We who are members of Christ’s Body,
the Church, have been offered
the fullness of His gifts.
Let us recall Our Lord’s own words:
Everyone to whom much is given,
of him will much be required
“.
So, when you are suffering in any way,
pray to the Lord and say:
Thanks to You, my Lord,
that I may bear Your Mercy“.

Saturday of cheese-fare – commemorations of all monks & nuns

To the souls of the Righteous,
whose memory abided
forever, do I offer these my words
as abiding oblations
“.
Having led us gently through the preceding Feasts, the God-bearing Fathers have prepared us for the arena of Lent and  led us away from luxury and satiety.

They have instructed us with fear of the future Judgment and have skill-fully cleansed us by anticipation during Cheese-fare week,
having placed two fast days in the middle of the preceding week,
in order gradually to rouse us to fasting.
Behold, they now set in our midst
those who lived lives of sanctity,
through their many labours and toils, both men and women, so that,
by reminding us of their struggles,
they might make us more vigorous for the contest, and so that,
having their lives as an example and guide, and
eliciting their alliance and aid,
we might disrobe for spiritual exertions,
taking it into account that they shared in
the same nature as ourselves.
For, just as generals, when their armies are arrayed and
are already standing in line, stir up their own troops by
recounting examples and memories of men of old who
fought with distinction and valour, and the troops,
stimulated thereby with the hope of Victory,
set out wholeheartedly for combat, so
also do the God-bearing Fathers wisely act in our case.

Encouraging both men and women to spiritual contests through the example of those who have lived in holiness,
in this way they bring them to the arena of great Lent, in order that,
looking to their lives as an excellent prototype,
we might attain to the many different kinds of virtue, as each of us is able:
first, love, and then conscious abstinence from unseemly works and deeds, and
fasting itself, that is, not just from food, but also
from the sins of the tongue, anger, sins of the eyes, and,
to put it simply, refraining from all that is evil.
For this reason, the Holy Fathers appointed the present commemoration of
all the Ascetic Saints, adducing those who were well-pleasing to God
for fasting and other good works,
urging us to proceed, in their image, to the arena of the virtues, and
exhorting us to arm ourselves valiantly against the passions and
the demons,
reckoning that if we show zeal equal to theirs, there is no impediment
to our achieving all that they achieved and
being vouchsafed the same rewards;
for, they shared in the same nature as ourselves.

Concerning Cheese-fare week,
when it was previously permitted to eat meat, some say that
Emperor Heraklios decreed its present form.
After campaigning against Chosroës and the Persians for six years,
he vowed to God that, if he prevailed against them,
he would alter this week and make it intermediate between fasting and feasting,
which he did.
In my opinion, although this may have been the case,
the Holy Fathers devised this week as kind of preparatory cleansing,
lest we should become disgruntled at being led straight from consuming meat and overeating to
extreme abstinence from food and damage our physical health,
and so that, by abstaining gently and gradually from rich and delectable foods, we might, like recalcitrant horses, through
a reduced intake of food, accept the bridle of fasting.
That which they devised for the soul through Parables,
they also did for the body, little by little
removing impediments to fasting.

Kontakion          Plagal 4rth Tn
As preachers of true piety who silenced all impiety, Lord,
You have made the whole host of God-bearing Saints
shine forth with splendour on the world.
By their prayers and entreaties,
keep all them that extol and sincerely
magnify You in perfect peace,
to chant and to sing to You:
Alleluia
“.

Never, never, never let anyone
tell you that, in order to be Orthodox,
you also have to be a-look-alike to those believers
from other [
eastern] countries.
The West was Orthodox for thousand years and
her venerable Divine Liturgy is far older
than any of her heresies
“.
Saint John Maximovitch of Shanghai and
San Francisco

“. . . . . By the intercessions of all Your Ascetic Saints,
O Christ our God, have mercy on us, sinners . . . . .

Orthodoxy & the Mercy of God

For this cause
neither does God hinder
the temptations as they come on…
to teach you that you are
become much stronger
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

The Power of God’s Mercy
We continually oppress God’s Mercy.
Also man, created in the image of God,
has much in common with his Creator,
but predominantly property of alms and benefactions are those near him
to approach the Lord.
Christ voices his life by constantly benefaction to others:
And the whole multitude sought to touch Him
for there went virtue out of him;
and they were healed
“.
Luc.6: 19
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve and to give His Life
as a ransom for many

Marc.10: 45
as a Sample and fruits of His great Love for people.
As poor brethren,
we are either hungry either sick and needy.
As a brother of Christ,
after you have put on Christ.
When your inner self has the same Baptism as Christ, participate in the same cases in point,
obey the same Laws of God,
participate in the same Divine Eucharist
and have the same hope as all Christians“.
Saint Gregory the Theologian
The mystery of communion in the Church is that each of us who belong to the Church needs to leave the closed world of his individuality
and accept the ‘companionship’ of others who “break bread” with us.
– We must think not in terms of ‘me’ but ‘we’.
– That’s why every day we pray ‘our’ Father, ‘our’ daily bread.
– Breaking down the barriers between us and our neighbours is the first pre-requisite for entering the Divine Life
to which we are called.
– We need to be liberated from all that imprisons us and isolates us:
fear and mistrust towards others,
greed and selfishness,
unwillingness to run the risk of defencelessness
to which we expose ourselves
when we are open to Love.
The merciful heart makes a human heir of God’s Kingdom
and not to both large gifts,
such as Miracles, pro-active Charisma,
the great Wisdom of the mind, etc.

A great ascetic of the desert named Saint Isaac the Syrian,
describes how it should be a merciful heart,
or how is the man philanthropist.
We must burn the heart out of love
– for the whole Creation
– to fight for people,
– in act of kindness of hunters
– in favour of animals,
– in favour of the demons, if possible.
A man who has such a heart his tears are unstoppable.
He can’t hear or see suffering some damage
and not disgusting, not to weep.
Praying with tears and in favour of the enemy, in favour of the kind.
All and all be the Mercy coming from God.
We see, then, how a tear can give us
the opportunity to do our own God’s Kingdom.

how we manifest our love for others
Simply facts of everyday’s life will judge us;
no wisdom, no [political] power and strength,
not material wealth and money,
not bodily celebrity [fame] and beauty.
Not those that have a value
that Judgment Day other is proceeding
just as we see in everyday’s life.
–  plate of food, a financial encouragement for the others,
– a sympathy goes to those who have hard times,
– a simple visit to the uncomfortable.
All this is done in a silent way,
without fanfare and publications.
A Christian who believes in actively faith,
avoid spectacular events and those pompous ways;
we have re-cycled our years.
The only thing that will get in next life is charity,
which is an advocate for our God.

Every day’s Gospel is addressed to all of us
who honour the Image of Jesus Christ,
but forget to mark the animated image of
a man who is the contrary.
We must always remember Faith stands entirely alone.
A justified man, no doubt, will always be a Holy man.
True believing will always be accompanied by Godly living.
But that which gives a man a saving interest in Christ,
is not his living, but his Faith.
If we would know whether our faith is genuine,
we do well to ask ourselves how we are living.
But if we would know whether we are justified by Christ,
there is but one question to be asked.
That question is: “Do we believe?
“We are not enriched by fortune ,
but by Divinity . . . . .”.
Saint Gregory the Theologian
So let us enrich not only by material possessions,
but in piety.
Let us be community in every poor as would occur,
what God is for us all to find
and we just ask for Mercy.
We are called to overcome our differences,
– to bring peace and
reconciliation where there is conflict,
– to offer the world a message of hope.
We are called to reach out
– to those in need,
generously sharing our earthly goods
with those less fortunate than ourselves.
And we are called
– to proclaim unceasingly
the death and Resurrection of our Lord until He comes.
Through Him, with Him and in Him,
in the unity [that is the Holy Spirit’s Grace to the Church],
let us give honour and glory to God our heavenly Father
in the company of all the Angels and Saints
Who sing His praises for ever.

Psalms created on Truth – PSALM 22

Psalm 22 which begins with the words,
The Lord is my Shepherd“,
is probably one of the best known, most often quoted
and memorized of all David’s beautiful hymns.
It has always occupied an important place in the spiritual life of the Orthodox Christian,
and is one of the Psalms included in the order of
preparation for the reception of Holy Communion.

In the early Church

the Catechumens, especially as the time
for their Baptism drew near, were made familiar with its contents and were even obliged to learn it by heart.
It seems, however, that its meaning was not fully explained to them until after they had received the Grace of the All-holy Spirit
in the Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and the Holy Eucharist.

We gave you the Psalm,
beloved children who hurriedly approach the Baptism of Christ,
so that you might learn it by heart.
But, it is necessary, because of its mystical, hidden meaning,
that we explain it to you, with the Light of Divine Grace

Saint Augustine – sermon

The Fathers of the Church saw in Psalm 22
both a Prophecy and a summary of the Mysteries
[Lat. Sacraments] of Christian initiation:
By this Psalm, Christ teaches the Church that,
first of all, you must become
a sheep of the Good Shepherd:
the Catechetical Instruction guides you to the pastures and fountains of doctrine.
Then you must be buried with Him into death by Baptism.
But this is not death, but a shadow and image of death.
Then He prepares the Mystical table.
Then He anoints you with the oil of the Spirit.
And finally He presents the Holy Wine
that gladdens the heart of man
and produces that sober inebriation characteristic of the true Christian
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa – catechesis

It is to be noted that then, as now,
our Orthodox Church used the Greek Old Testament
[the Septuagint – it is Psalm 22 in Greek language],
and the understanding of its Mystical meaning was based on this version.
The traditional meaning given the Psalm in our Church
is obscured in a few phrases of the most widely known English translations, since they follow the Hebrew rather than the Greek.
In the following selection of commentaries on the six verses, we give first the King James translation and in the parentheses a more or less literal translation of the Septuagint.

The Lord is my Shepherd [The Lord shepherds me];
I shall not want [I shall lack nothing].
Psalm 22: 1
David invites you to be one of the sheep
whose Shepherd is Christ and who lack no good thing.
The Good Shepherd makes Himself everything for you:
pasture, water of rest, food, dwelling place, and the way of Righteousness,
and He gives you the Comforter, distributing His Grace according to your needs
”.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
Those who belong to Christ
“have as their guide not a simple holy man, as Israel had Moses,
but the Prince of Shepherds and the Teacher of doctrine,
in Whom are found all the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge”.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd:
He shall gather the lambs with His arm,
and carry them in His bosom,
and shall gently lead those that are young . . . . .
they shall not hunger nor thirst;
neither shall the heat nor sun smite them . . . . .
Isaiah 40: 11; 49: 10

• “He makes me to lie down in green pastures
[He has made me to dwell in a place of verdure]:
He leads me beside the still waters
[He has nourished me beside the waters of rest]”.
Psalm 22: 2
“The place of verdure [green pastures]
means the ever-fresh words of Holy Scripture,
which nourishes the hearts of believers
and gives them spiritual strength”.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
“The waters of rest means, no doubt,
Holy Baptism, by which the weight of sin is removed”.
After having fed the person who comes to Him in faith with His word,
the Lord leads him to the waters of Baptism,
making him a sheep of His Holy Flock [Church],
Whose destiny is only to enter into God’s rest.
There remains therefore a rest to the people of God . . . . .
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest .
. . . .”
Hebrews 4: 9,11
[“Rest” in both Hebrews 4 and in Psalm 22 is ἀνάπαυσις (Gr. Anapausis)
means cessation from labour, refreshment].

• “He restores my soul [He has converted my soul]:
He leads me in the paths of Righteousness for His Name’s sake.
[He has led me . . . . .]
Psalm 22: 3
David speaks of his own experience:
after having learned of God’s ways
he strayed from the paths of righteousness
and fell into deadly sin.
His experience in this Psalm becomes a Prophecy:
anyone, no matter how far he may have strayed from God,
in Christ may be converted
and return to the way of righteousness
and learn to do God’s will.

• Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
[. . . . . though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death . . . . .]:
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff
they comfort me
[. . . . . they have comforted me]
Psalm 22: 4
It is necessary for you to be buried in death with Him by Baptism.
But it is not really death, but a shadow and image of death
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
For we are Baptized into the death of Christ,
Baptism is called the shadow and image of death,
in face of which there is no longer anything to fear
“.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
The last part of this verse refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“He comforts the believer, or guides him,
with the rod and staff [the Shepherd’s crook] of the Spirit,
for the One who guides or comforts is the Spirit
[the Paraclete – the Greek verb here is παρεκάλεσαν “parekalesan”]
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
And I will pray the Father,
and He shall give you another Comforter,
that He may abide with you for ever . . . . .
when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come,
He will guide you into all Truth . . . . .

John 14: 16; 16: 13
– the verb translated “He has led. . . . . ” in vs. 3 of the Psalm,
and “will guide” in John is “hodigise” and “hodigisei” in Greek).

• “You prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies
[. . . . . in the presence of those that afflict me . . . . .]:
You anoints my head with oil; my cup runs over
[. . . . . Your cup which inebriates me, how excellent it is].
Psalm 22: 5

What does David mean by this [“You has prepared a table . . . . .”]
if not the mystical and spiritual table which God has prepared for us? . . . . .
He anointed your head on the forehead with the seal of God,
which you did receive so that you might bear the seal impressed as
the sign of consecration to God.
And you see that David is speaking of the Holy Chalice, over
Which Christ said after giving thanks,
‘This is the Chalice of My Blood‘”.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Having abandoned the remains of the former error
and renewed his youth like that of an eagle,
the newly baptized hurriedly approaches the Celestial Banquet.
He arrives, and seeing the altar prepared, he exclaims,
‘You has prepared a table before me…’
“.
Saint Ambrose
In these lines the Word clearly designates
the Mystical [lat. Sacramental] unction
[Chrism]
and the Holy Sacrifice of Christ’s Table“.
Eusebius of Caesarea
The Holy Spirit expresses in the Psalms the same figure of the Eucharist
when the Lord’s Chalice is mentioned;
‘Your Cup which inebriates me, how excellent it is!’
But the inebriation which the Lord’s Chalice gives is not similar to that of profane wine.
It intoxicates in such a way that it does not make one lose his reason;
it leads souls to Spiritual Wisdom…
“.
Saint Cyprian of Carthage
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
But Peter…said unto them…these are not drunken, as you suppose . . . . .
but this is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joël:
and it shall come to pass in the last day, said God,
I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh:
and your sons and daughters shall Prophesy,
and your young men shall see Visions,
and your old men shall dream Dreams
“.
Acts 2: 13-17

• Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
[. . . . . Mercy shall pursue me . . . . .];
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 22: 6
Christ, providing the soul with the wine
‘that makes glad
[Joy] the heart of men’,
provokes in it that sober intoxication
which elevates the dispositions of the heart
from transitory to eternal things . . . . .
He who has tasted, in fact, this inebriation trades
the ephemeral for that which has no end
and remains in the house of the Lord
all the days of his life
“.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Psalms created on Thruth – Psalm 23

[In Orthodoxy after Psalm 22, Psalm 23 is used as a preparation-psalm to prepair at home to recieve Holy Communion!]

● “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul
Psalm 23: 1
Hieromartyr Cyprian , bishop of Carthage [Augustus 31th] said, that in the primitive times the minister was used to prepare
the people’s minds to pray,
by prefacing
lift up your hearts
[Gr. “
σηκώστε τις καρδιές σας“].
The Jews at this day write upon the walls of their synagogues these words,
פילה בלו שבננה צפה בלו נשמה [Tephillah belo cavannah ceguph belo neshamah]; that is,
A prayer without the intention of the affection
is like a body without a soul.
And yet their devotion is a mere outside, said one
– a brainless head and a soulless body:
This people draw nigh to Me with their lips,
but their heart is far from Me

Isaiah 29: 13
A carnal man can as little lift up his heart in prayer, as a mole can fly.
David finds it a hard task; since the best heart is lumpish, and naturally bears downwards, as the poise of a clock, as the lead of a net.
Let us therefore
“lay aside every weight, and
the sin that does so easily besets us”;
and pray to God to draw us up to Himself.

● “O my God, I trust in You, let me not be ashamed“.
Psalm 23: 2
My God
This title is more dear than the name,
which is used in the first sentence.
Already the sweet singer has drawn nearer to his heavenly helper,
for he makes bold to grasp him with the hand of assured possession,
calling him, my God.

The more than celestial music of that word – “My God!
It is to be observed that the psalmist does not deny expression
to those gracious feelings with which God had favoured him;
he does not fall into loathsome mock modesty,
but finding in his soul a desire to seek the Lord he avows it;
believing that he had a rightful interest in God he declares it,
and knowing that he had confidence in his God he professes it;
my God, I trust in thee.

Faith is the cable which binds our boat to the shore,
and by pulling at it we draw ourselves to the land;
faith unites us to God,
and then draws us near to him.
As long as the anchor of faith holds there is no fear in the worst tempest;
if that should fail us there would be no hope left.
We must see to it that our faith is sound and strong,
for otherwise prayer cannot prevail with God.
Woe to the warrior who throws away his shield;
what defense can be found for him who finds no defense in his God?
Let me not be ashamed.
Let no my disappointed hopes make me feel ashamed
of my former testimonies of thy faithfulness.
Many were on the watch for this.
The best of men have their enemies,
and should pray against them
that they may not see their wicked desires accomplished.
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
Suffer no wicked mouth to make blasphemous mirth
out of my distresses by asking,
Where is thy God?“.
There is a great jealousy in believers for the honour of God,
and they cannot endure that unbelievers should taunt them
with the failure of their expectations from the God of their Salvation.
All other trusts will end in disappointment and eternal shame,
but our confidence shall never be confounded.

● “For all who wait upon You shall not be ashamed;
let those be ashamed who act lawlessly in vain
“.
Psalm 23: 3
Let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Let shame be sent to the right owner, even to
those that deal disloyally, unprovoked on my part.
And so it was;
for Achitophel hanged himself;
Absalom was trussed up by the hand of God, and dispatched by Joab;
the people that conspired with him, partly perished by the sword, and
partly fled home, much ashamed of their enterprise.
The holy Power of prayer!
What may not the Saints have for asking?

● “Make known Your ways to me, O Lord,
and teach me Your paths
“.
Psalm 23: 4
Do what you know, and God will teach you what to do.
Do what you know to be your present duty,
and God will acquaint you with your future duty
as it comes to be present.
Make it your business to avoid known omissions,
and God will keep you from feared commissions.
This rule is of great moment,
and therefore I will charge it upon you by express Scripture.
Show me Your ways, my Lord, i.e., those ways wherein I cannot err.
Teach me Your paths, i.e., that narrow path which is too commonly unknown,
those commands that are most strict and difficult.
There are the “ways” of men, and the “Ways” of God;
the “paths” of sin, and the “Paths” of Righteousness:
there are ” Your ways,” and there are my ways;
Yours the ways of Truth, mine the ways of error;
Your which are good in Your eyes,
and mine which are good in mine eyes;
Yours which lead to Heaven, mine which lead to hell.
Wherefore, show me Your ways, my Lord; teach me Your Paths,
lest I mistake my own ways for Yours;
yea, lead me in the Truth, and teach me,
lest I turn out of Your ways into mine own: show me Your ways,
by the Ministry of Your Word;
teach me Your paths, in the guidance of Your Spirit,
lead me in Your Truth“,
by the assistance of Your Grace.

● “Lead me in Your truth  and teach me,
for You are the God of my Salvation,
and on You I wait all the day
“.
Psalm 23: 5
A  little child having begun to walk,
asks to be still led onward by its parent’s helping hand,
and to be further instructed in the alphabet of Truth.
Experimental teaching is the burden of this prayer.
Lead me according to Your Truth, and prove Yourself faithful;
lead me into Truth that I may know its preciousness,
lead me by the way of Truth that I may manifest its Spirit.
David knew much,
but he felt his ignorance and desired to be still in the Lord’s school;
four times over in these two verses he applies
for a scholarship in the college of Grace.

1.] Though it be a long day, though we be kept waiting a great while,
quite beyond our own reckoning; though when we have waited long,
we are still put to wait longer, and are bid, with the Prophet’s servant,
to go yet seven times 1Kings 18: 43, before we perceive the least sign of Mercy coming …

2.] Though it be a dark day, yet let us wait upon God all the day.
Though while we are kept waiting for what God will do,
we are kept in the dark concerning what he is doing,
and what is best for us to do, yet let us be content to wait in the dark.
Though we see not our signs, though there is none to tell us how long,
yet let us resolve to wait, how long so ever it may be;
for though what God doth we know not now,
yet we shall know hereafter when the Mystery of God shall be finished …

3.] Though it be a stormy day, yet we must wait upon God all the day.
Though we are not only becalmed, and do not get forward, but though the wind be contrary,
and drive us back; nay, though it be boisterous, and the church be tossed with tempests,
and ready to sink, yet we must hope the best, yet we must wait, and weather the storm by patience. It is some comfort that Christ is in the ship; the church’s cause is Christ’s own cause,
He has espoused it, and He will own it; He is embarked in the same bottom with his people,
and therefore why are you fearful? …
To wait on God, is —

4.] To live a life of desire towards God; to wait on him as the beggar waits on his benefactor, with earnest desire to receive supplies from him,
as the sick and sore at Bethesda’s pool waited for the stirring of the water,
and attended in the porches with desire to be helped in and healed …

5.] It is to live a life of delight in God, as the lover waits on his beloved.
Desire is Love in motion, as a bird upon the wing;
delight is Love at rest, as a bird upon the nest;
now, though our desire must still be so towards God,
as that we must be wishing for more of God,
yet our delight must be so in God,
as that we must never wish for more than God …

6.] It is to live of dependence on God, as the child waits on his father,
whom he has confidence in, and on whom he casts all his care.
To wait on God is to expect all good to come to us from him,
as the Worker of all good for us and in us, the Giver of all good to us,
and the Protector of us from all evil.
Thus David explains himself Psalms 61: 5,
My soul, wait you only upon God,” and continue still to do so,
for “my expectation is from Him…..”

7.] It is to live a life of devotedness to God,
as the servant waits on His Master, ready to observe His Will,
and to do His Work, and in everything to consult His Honour and Interest.
To wait on God is entirely and unreservedly
to refer ourselves to His wise and Holy directions and disposals,
and cheerfully to acquiesce in them, and comply with them,
even when it’s not asked by people.
The servant that waits on His Master,
chooses not his own way, but follows his Master step by step.
Thus must we wait on God,
as those that have no will of our own
but what is wholly resolved into his,
and must therefore study
to accommodate ourselves to His.

● “Remember Your compassion,
Lord and Your Mercy,
for they are from of old
“.
Psalm 23: 6
We are usually tempted in seasons of affliction
to fear that our God has forgotten us,
or forgotten his usual kindness towards us;
hence the soul doth as it were put the Lord in remembrance,
and beseech him to recollect those deeds of love
which once he wrought towards it.
There is a Holy boldness which ventures thus to deal with the Most High,
let us cultivate it; but there is also an unholy unbelief which suggests our fears,
let us strive against it with all our might.
What gems are those two expressions,
tender Mercies and loving Kindnesses!“.
They are the virgin honey of language;
for sweetness no words can excel them;
but as for the gracious favours which are intended by them,
language fails to describe them.

If the Lord will only do unto us in the future as in the past, we shall be well content.
We seek no change in the Divine action,
we only crave that the river of Grace may never cease to flow.
For they have been ever of old.
A more correct translation would be “from eternity“.
David was a sound believer in the doctrine of God’s eternal Love.
The Lord’s loving kindnesses are no novelties.
When we plead with Him to bestow them upon us,
we can urge use and custom of the most ancient kind.
In courts of law men make much of precedents,
and  we may plead them at the Throne of Grace.
Faith must make use of experiences
and read them over unto God,
out of the register of a sanctified memory,
as a recorder to him who cannot forget
“.
With a unchangeable God it is a most effectual argument
to remind him of his ancient mercies and his eternal love.
By tracing all that we enjoy to the fountain head of everlasting love
we shall greatly cheer our hearts,
and those do us but sorry service who try to dissuade us
from meditating upon election and its kindred topics.

● “Don’t remember the sins of my youth, nor of my ignorance;
but remember me according to Your Mercy,
because of Your loving kindness, O Lord
“.
Psalm 23: 7
Sin is the stumbling block.
This is the thing to be removed.
Lord, pass an act of oblivion for all my sins,
and  especially for the hot blooded wanton follies of my younger years.
Those offences which we remember with Repentance God forgets,
but if we forget them, justice will bring them forth to punishment.
The world winks at the sins of younger men,
and yet they are none so little after all;
the bones of our youthful feastings at Satan’s table
will stick painfully in our throats
when we are old men.
He who presumes upon his youth is poisoning his old age.
How large a tear may wet this page as some of us reflect upon the past!
Nor my transgressions. Another word for the same evils.
Sincere penitents cannot get through their confessions at a gallop;
they are constrained to use many bemoaning’s,
for their swarming sins smite them with so innumerable grief’s.
A painful sense of any one sin provokes the believer
to repentance for the whole mass of his iniquities.
Nothing but the fullest and clearest pardon
will satisfy a thoroughly awakened conscience.
David would have his sins not only forgiven, but forgotten.

According to Your Mercy remember You me for thy goodness’ sake, my Lord.
David and the dying thief  breathe the same prayer,
and doubtless they grounded it upon the same plea, viz.,
the free Grace and unmerited Goodness of God.
We dare not ask to have our portion measured from the balances of justice,
but we pray to be dealt with by the Hand of Mercy.

● “God and upright is the Lord;
therefore He will instruct sinners in His way
“.
Psalm 23: 8
Here the Goodness and Rectitude of the Divine Character are beheld
in friendly union; he who would see them thus united in bonds of perfect amity
must stand at the foot of the Cross and view them blended in the Sacrifice of the Lord
Jesus Christ.
It is no less true than wonderful that through the atonement the justice of God
pleads as strongly as His Grace for the Salvation of the sinners whom Jesus died to save.
Moreover, as a good man naturally endeavours to make others like Himself,
so will the Lord our God in his compassion bring sinners
into the Way of Holiness and conform them to His own image;
thus the Goodness of our God leads us to expect the reclaiming of sinful men.
We may not conclude from God’s Goodness
that he will save those sinners who continue to wander in their own ways,
but we may be assured that he will renew transgressors’ hearts
and guide them into the way of holiness.

Let those who desire to be delivered from sin take comfort from this.
God himself will condescend to be the Teacher of sinners.
What a ragged school is this for God to teach in!
God’s teaching is practical;
He teaches sinners not only the doctrine but the Way.

● “He will guide the gentle in Judgment;
He will teach the gentle His Ways
“.
Psalm 23: 9
The meek will he guide in Judgment.
Meek spirits are in high favour
with the Father of the meek and lowly Jesus,
for He sees in them the Image of his only begotten Son.
They know their need of Guidance,
and are willing to submit their own understandings to the Divine Will,
and therefore the Lord condescends to be their Guide.
Humble spirits are in this verse endowed with a rich inheritance;
let them be of good cheer.

Trouble puts gentle spirits to their wit’s ends,
and drives them to act without discretion,
but Grace comes to the rescue, enlightens their minds
to follow that which is just, and helps them to discern the way
in which the Lord would have them to go.
Proud of their own wisdom fools will not learn,
and therefore miss their road to Heaven,
but lowly hearts sit at Jesus’ feet, and find the gate of Glory,
for the meek will He teach His Way.
Blessed teacher! Favoured scholar! Divine lesson!
My soul, be you familiar with the whole.

● “And the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth for those
who seek His Covenant end His Testimonies
“.
Psalm 23: 10
This is a rule without exception.
God is good to those that be good.
Mercy and faithfulness shall abound towards those
who through mercy are made faithful.
Whatever outward appearances may threaten
we should settle it steadfastly in our minds
that while Grace enables us to obey the Lord’s Will
we need not fear that Providence will cause us any real loss.
There shall be Mercy in every unsavoury morsel, and faithfulness in every bitter drop;
let not our hearts be troubled, but let us rest by faith in the immutable Covenant of God,
which is ordered in all things and sure.

Yet this is not a general Truth to be trampled upon by swine,
it is a pearl for a child’s neck.
Gracious souls, by Faith resting upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus,
keep the Covenant of the Lord, and, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit,
they walk in his testimonies;
these will find all things working together for their good,
but to the sinner there is no such promise.
Keepers of the covenant shall be kept by the covenant;
those who follow the Lord’s commandments
shall find the Lord’s Mercy following them.

● “For Your name’s sake,
my Lord, pardon my sin, for it is great
“.
Psalm 23: 11
David pleads the greatness of his sin, and not the smallness of it:
he enforces his prayer with this consideration, that his sins are very heinous.
But how could he make this a plea for pardon?
Because the greater his iniquity was, the more need he had of pardon.
It is as much as if he had said,
Pardon mine iniquity,
for it is so great that I cannot bear the punishment;
my sin is so great that I am in necessity of pardon;
my case will be exceedingly miserable,
unless You be pleased to pardon me“.
He makes use of the greatness of his sin,
to enforce his plea for pardon, as a man would make use of
the greatness of calamity in begging for relief.

When a beggar begs for bread,
he will plead the greatness of his poverty and necessity.
When a man in distress cries for pity,
what more suitable plea can be urged than the extremity of his case?
And God allows such a plea as this:
for he is moved to mercy towards us by nothing in us,
but the miserableness of our case.
He doth not pity sinners because they are worthy,
but because they need his pity …
Herein does the Glory of Grace by the Redemption of Christ much consist;
namely, in its sufficiency for the pardon of the greatest sinners.
The whole contrivance of the way of salvation is for this end,
to glorify the free Grace of God.
God had it on His Heart from all eternity to glorify this attribute;
and therefore it is, that the device of saving sinners by Christ was conceived.
The greatness of Divine Grace appears very much in this,
that God by Christ saves the greatest offenders.
The greater the guilt of any sinner is,
the more glorious and wonderful is the Grace manifested in his pardon.
Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound“.
Rom.5: 20
The Apostle, when telling how great a sinner he had been,
takes notice of the abounding of Grace in his pardon,
of which his great guilt was the occasion.
Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious:
but I obtained Mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
And the Grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant
with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus
“.
1Tim.1: 13-14
The Redeemer is glorified, in that he proves sufficient to redeem
those who are exceeding sinful, in that his blood proves sufficient
to wash away the greatest guilt,
in that He is able to save men to the uttermost,
and in that He redeems even from the greatest misery.
It is the honour of Christ to save the greatest sinners,
when they come to Him, as it is the honour of a physician
that he cures the most desperate diseases or wounds.
Therefore, no doubt, Christ will be willing to save the greatest sinners,
if they come to Him; for He will not be backward to glorify Himself,
and to commend the value and virtue of His own Blood.
Seeing He hath so laid out Himself to redeem sinners,
he will not be unwilling to show
He is able to redeem to the uttermost.

● “Who is the man who fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way he chooses
“.
Psalm 23: 12
What man is he that feared the Lord?
Let the question provoke self examination.
Gospel privileges are not for every pretender.
Are you of the Royal seed or not?
Him shall He teach in the Way that He shall choose.
Those whose hearts are right
shall not err for want of Heavenly direction.
Where God sanctifies the heart he enlightens the head.

We all wish to choose our way;
but what a Mercy is it when the Lord directs that choice,
and makes free will to be goodwill!
If we make our will God’s Will,
God will let His Will have our will.
God does not violate our will,
but leaves much to our choice;
nevertheless, he instructs our wills,
and so we choose that
which is well pleasing in His sight.
The will should be subject to Law;
there is a way which we should choose,
but so ignorant are we that we need to be taught,
and so willful that none
but God Himself can teach us effectually.
I know, my Lord, that man’s way is not his own;
nor will a man go and prosper in his own pursuit
“.
Jeremia 10 : 19

● “His soul shall dwell among good things;
His seed shall inherit the earth
“.
Psalm 23: 13
He who fears God has nothing else to fear.
His soul shall dwell at ease. He shall lodge in the chamber of content.
One may sleep as soundly in the little bed in the corner as in the Great Bed of Ware;
it is not abundance but content that gives True ease.
Even here, having learned by Grace both to abound and be empty,
the believer dwells at ease; but how profound will be the ease of his soul forever!
There he will enjoy the Ease and Glory shall go together.
Like a warrior whose battles are over,
or a husbandman whose barns are full,
his soul shall take its ease, and be merry forever.
His seed shall inherit the earth.
God remembers Isaäc for the sake of Abraham, and Jacob for the sake of Isaäc.
Good men’s sons have a goodly portion to begin the world with,
but many of them, alas! turn a father’s blessing into a curse.
The promise is not broken because in some instances men
willfully refuse to receive it; moreover,
it is in its spiritual meaning that it now holds good;
our spiritual seed do inherit all that was meant by “the earth” or Canaan;
they receive the blessing of the New Covenant.
May the Lord make us the joyful parents of many spiritual children,
and we shall have no fears about their maintenance,
for the Lord will make each one of them princes in all the earth.

● “The Lord is the strength of those who fear Him,
and to those who fear Him, His Name is the Lord
“.
Psalm 23: 14
Some read it “the friendship“:
it signifies familiar intercourse, confidential intimacy, and select fellowship.
This is a great secret.
Carnal minds cannot guess what is intended by it,
and even believers cannot explain it in words,
for it must be felt to be known.

The higher Spiritual Life is necessarily a Path which the eagle’s eye hath not known,
and which the lion’s whelp has not travelled;
neither natural wisdom nor strength
can force a door into this inner chamber.
Saints have the key of Heaven’s hieroglyphics;
they can un-riddle celestial enigmas.
They are initiated into the fellowship of the skies;
they have heard words which it is not possible for them
to repeat to their fellows.
And He will show them His Covenant.
Its Antiquity, Security, Righteousness, Fullness, Graciousness and Excellence,
shall be revealed to their hearts and understandings,
and above all, their own part in it
shall be sealed to their souls by the witness of the Holy Spirit.
The designs of Love which the Lord has to his people in the Covenant of Grace,
He has been pleased to show to believers in the Book of Inspiration,
and by His Holy Spirit He leads us into the Mystery,
even the hidden Mystery of Redemption.
He who does not know the meaning of this verse,
will never learn it from a commentary;
let him look to the Cross,
for the secret lies there.

● “My eyes are always toward the Lord,
for He shall pluck my feet out of the trap
“.
Psalm 23: 15
Though we cannot see Him by reason of our present distance and darkness,
yet we must look towards Him, towards the Place where His honour dwells,
as those that desire the knowledge of Him and His Will,
and direct all to His honour as the mark we aim at, labouring in this,
that “whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him“.
The writer claims to be fixed in His Trust, and constant in His expectation;
he looks in confidence, and waits in hope.
We may add to this look of Faith and Hope the obedient look of service,
the humble look of reverence, the admiring look of wonder,
the studious look of meditation, and the tender look of affection.
Happy are those whose eyes are never removed from their God
The eye“, says Solomon,
is never satisfied with seeing“,
but this sight is the most satisfying in the world.
For he shall pluck my feet out of the net.

Observe the conflicting condition in which a gracious soul may be placed,
his eyes are in Heaven and yet his feet are sometimes in a net;
his nobler nature ceases not to behold the Glories of God,
while his baser parts are enduring the miseries of the world.
A net is the common metaphor for temptation.
The Lord often keeps his people from falling into it,
and if they have fallen he rescues them.
The word “pluck” is a rough word,
and Saints who have fallen into sin find
that the means of their restoration are not always easy to the flesh;
the Lord plucks at us sharply to let us feel that sin is an exceeding bitter thing.

But what a Mercy is here: Believer, be very Grateful for it.
The Lord will deliver us from the cunning devices of our cruel enemy,
and even if through infirmity we have fallen into sin,
He will not leave us to be utterly destroyed
but will pluck us out of our dangerous state; though our feet are in the net,
if our eyes are up unto God,
Mercy certainly will interpose.

● “Look upon me and have mercy upon me,
for I am only-begotten and poor
“.
Psalm 23: 16
His own eyes were fixed upon God,
but he feared that the Lord had averted His Face from him in anger.
Oftentimes unbelief suggests that God has turned His back upon us.
If we know that we turn to God we need not fear
that he will turn from us, but may boldly cry,
Turn You to me!”

The ground of quarrel is always in ourselves,
and when that is removed there is nothing
to prevent our full enjoyment of communion with God.
Have mercy upon me, a sinner”.
Saints still must stand upon the footing of Mercy;
notwithstanding all their experience they cannot get beyond the publican’s prayer,
Have mercy upon me, a sinner“.
For I am desolate and afflicted. He was lonely and bowed down.
Jesus was in the days of His flesh in just such a condition;
none could enter into the secret depths of His Sorrows,
He trod the winepress alone, and
hence He is able to succour in the fullest sense
those who tread the solitary path.

A desolate soul seeking heavenly company,
and an afflicted spirit crying for Divine Mercy.
David is a petitioner as well as a sufferer;
and those sorrows will never injure us that bring us near to God.
Three things he prays for:
1.] Deliverance.
This we are called to desire, consistently with resignation to the divine will.
2.] Notice.
A kind look from God is desirable at any time in any circumstances; but in affliction and pain, it is like life from the dead.
3.] Pardon.
Trials are apt to revive a sense of guilt.

● “The afflictions of my heart have been widened;
bring me out of my distresses
“.
Psalm 23: 17
When trouble penetrates the heart it is trouble indeed.
In the case before us, the heart was swollen with grief
like a lake surcharged with water by enormous floods;
this is used as an argument for deliverance, and it is a potent one.
When the darkest hour of the night arrives we may expect the dawn;
when the sea is at its lowest ebb the tide must surely turn;
and when our troubles are enlarged to the greatest degree,
then we may hopefully pray,
Lord, bring me out of my distresses“.
It has always been so with God’s people.
The road to Heaven is soaked with the tears and blood of the Saints.

● “Look on my humiliation and my pain and forgive all my sins“.
Psalm 23: 18
Note the many trials of the Saints;
here we have no less than six words all descriptive of woe.
Desolate, and afflicted, troubles enlarged, distresses, affliction, and pain“.
But note yet more the submissive and believing spirit of a true saint; all he asks for is,
Lord, look upon my evil plight“, he does not dictate, or even express a complaint;
a look from God will content him, and that being granted he asks no more.

Even more noteworthy is the way in which the believer under affliction discovers
the true source of all the mischief, and lays the axe at the root of it.
Forgive all my sins, is the cry of a soul
that is more sick of sin than of pain, and
would sooner be forgiven than healed.
Blessed is the man to whom sin is more unbearable than disease,
he shall not be long before the Lord shall both forgive his iniquity
and heal his diseases.
Men are slow to see the intimate connection between sin and sorrow,
a Grace taught heart alone feels it.
In sickness of body trust to our Lord, He is as powerful and
as willing to help us now
as He was to help others in the days of His flesh.
All things are possible to us if we believe.
It is but a word from Him to rebuke all storms and tempests whatsoever.
Therefore, with the means, run to Christ, that He may work with them,
and know that virtue and strength comes from Him to bless or curse all sorts of means.

● “Look on my enemies, because they multiply;
and they hate me with unjustified hatred
“.
Psalm 23: 19
Consider mine enemies.
Watch them, weigh them, check them, defeat them. For they are many.
They need the eyes of Argus to watch them, and the arms of Hercules to match them,
but the Lord is more than sufficient to defeat them.
The devils of hell and the evils of earth are all vanquished
when the Lord makes bare His arm.
They hate me with cruel hatred.
It is the breath of the serpent’s seed to hate;
their progenitor was a hater, and they themselves must needs imitate him.
No hate so cruel as that which is unreasonable and unjust.
A man can forgive one who had injured him,
but one whom he has injured he hates implacably.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves“,
is still our Master’s word to us.

● “Keep my soul, and deliver me;
let me not be ashamed, because I hope in You
“.
Psalm 23: 20
O keep my soul out of evil, and deliver me when I fall into it.
This is another version of the prayer,
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil“.

Let me not be ashamed.
This is the one fear which like a ghost haunted the Psalmist’s mind.
He trembled lest his faith should become the subject of ridicule
through the extremity of his affliction.
Noble hearts can brook anything but shame.
David was of such a chivalrous spirit, that he could endure any torment
rather than be put to dishonour.
For I put my trust in You.
And therefore the Name of God would be compromised if His servants were deserted;
this the believing heart can by no means endure.

● “The innocent and the upright cleave to me,
because I wait upon You, O Lord
“.
Psalm 23: 21
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.
What better practical safeguards can a man require?
If we do not prosper with these as our guides,
it is better for us to suffer adversity.
Even the ungodly world admits that
honesty is the best policy“.

The heir of heaven makes assurance doubly sure,
for apart from the rectitude of his public life,
he enlists the guardian care of Heaven in secret prayer:
for I wait on You“.
To pretend to wait on God without holiness of life is religious hypocrisy,
and to trust to our own integrity without calling upon God is presumptuous atheism.
Perhaps the integrity and uprightness referred to are those righteous attributes of God,
which Faith rests upon as a guarantee that the Lord will not forfeit His word.

● “Redeem Israël, O God,
out of all his afflictions
“.
Psalm 23: 22
Redeem Israël, O God, out of all his troubles.
This is a very comprehensive prayer,
including all the faithful and all their trials.
Sorrow had taught the Psalmist sympathy,
and given him communion with the tried people of God;
he therefore remembers them in his prayers.
Israël, the tried, the wrestling, the conquering hero,
fit representative of all the Saints.
Israël in Egypt, in the wilderness, in wars with Canaanites, in captivity,
fit type of the Church Militant on earth.

Jesus is the Redeemer from trouble as well as sin,
He is a complete Redeemer, and from every evil
He will rescue every Saint.
This most beautiful of “Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
closes with a sweet petition
– such an one, as every one of the true Israel of God
would wish to depart with on his lips.
“Redeem Israël, O God, out of all his troubles”.
It breathes the same holy aspiration as the aged Simeon’s
Lord! now let Your servant depart in Peace,
for mine eyes have seen Your Salvation
“.