Psalms created on Truth – Orthodoxy & her Psalterion

Introduction
The Psalms are among the most hauntingly beautiful songs and prayers that this world possesses; they are poems whose appeal is permanent and universal.
As an anthology of 150 gems the Psalter is
a work of consummate art,
a thing of beauty which is a joy for ever;
its loveliness increases.
The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God
which made David dance“,
said the late C. S. Lewis.

The Bible is a presentation of the Divine Drama in which we are all taking part.
The theme of the Drama is
the great acts and interventions of God,
past, present and future.
The Psalms are a distillation of the Old Testament and especially of the teaching
of the Hebrew Prophets.
They sum up
the whole Theology of the Old Testament.
They are the quintessence of the faith and devotion of Israel.
Yet they express the feelings and reactions
not only of one nation but of all mankind.
They reflect timelessly the universal hopes and fears, love and hate, joys and sorrows
of the human heart.
Individually they are the outcome of someone’s personal experience, though not perhaps all of them.
They reveal the varying moods of the human spirit from awestruck wonder at God’s mighty acts and the marvels of creation to groping perplexity at the apparent prosperity
of selfish scoundrels, from calm trust and deep certainty to cries of frustration
and desperation bordering on despair.
In these ancient poems we see the fundamental unity of mankind
and of the Old and New Testaments.
The unity is that of Promise and Fulfilment.

If the relic of a Saint or loved one is dear to us,
how much more precious is everything
connected with Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life.
The Psalter was both His Prayer Book and Song Book.
While dying on the Cross,
the only portion of Holy Scripture
that Christ quoted was the Psalter.
Of His seven last words, four of them are echoes from the Book of Psalms:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
[Psalm 21: 2; Matth.27:46; Marc.15: 34];
I thirst” [John.19: 28; Psalm 41: 2; 62: 2; 142: 6];
It is done, accomplished, finished” [Psalm 21: 32; John.19: 30];
“Into Your hands I entrust My spirit” [Psalm 30: 6; Luc.23: 46].

Fullness and Fulfilment
We only realize the full significance of the Psalms
as we read them in Christ, the Truth,
through His eyes, and in His Spirit.
Faith is vision. Unbelief is blindness.
If the Good News is veiled,
it is veiled only to those
who have lost their way.
When the Old Testament is read,
a veil lies over their minds.
Only in Christ is the veil removed.
The minds of unbelievers are so blinded by the god of this world
that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ
cannot dawn upon them.
God Who told light to shine out of darkness
has shone in our hearts with the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2Cor.4-6].
So let all Israel know for certain
that God has made Jesus Whom you crucified
both Lord and Messiah [Acts 2: 36].

Israel failed to respond to the Divine call
and commission to give God’s light and love to the world.
The vine lifted out of Egypt (Psalm.79: 9; Matth.2: 15) is Jesus; the True Vine [John.15].
As the true Israel He fulfils Israel’s mission,
so that from the Cross and Resurrection
the New and True Israel is the community of those
whose hearts receive by faith the Divine Word spoken in Him [Hebr.1: 2].
His life is offered that it may flow in our veins as the Blood of the New Covenant,
the fruit of the vine [Marc.14: 24],
the love that conquers death [1 Cor.15: 54-57].
When the risen Lord walked and talked
with Lucas and Cleophas:
He began with Moses and all the Prophets
and explained to them the passages
which referred to Himself in every part of the Scriptures
“.
And at Emmaus He added,
This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses
and in the Prophets and Psalms was bound to be fulfilled

Luc.24: 27, 44

The songs of Israel find their full meaning only in the New Adam.
The Psalmist’s voice is his Master’s voice.
It was the Spirit of Christ in the Prophets foretelling the sufferings in store for Christ and the Glories that would follow.
And it was revealed to them
that it was not for themselves
but for you that they were administering those very Mysteries,
Which have now been announced to you through those who preached the Gospel
to you in the Power of the Holy Spirit [1Petr.1: 11].
Christ’s Birth, Sufferings and Death,
His triumphant Resurrection and Ascension, and His coming in Judgment,
are all clearly portrayed in the Psalms,
not merely as historical events but as perpetual and saving realities.
The eternal Spirit transforms history into Theology.
Saint Athanasius the Great says that the line of the Psalmist,
Open your mouth wide
and I will fill it
[80: 11] refers
to receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit
“.
The outpouring of the Spirit is the fulfilment of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms.

Correspondence and Recapitulation
The Christian Church accepted the
Old Testament as sacred Scriptures.
The Apostles and Christian preachers and teachers cited passages of the Old Testament
as Prophecies of the events of the Gospel.
They also saw correspondences between things and events under the Old and New Covenants.
The Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law and the Covenant have their counterpart in the redemption of mankind through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the giving of the New Covenant in His blood [1Cor.11: 25]
and the new commandment which fulfils the Law [John.13: 34; Gal.5: 14; Rom.13: 10].
The temple at Jerusalem has its counterpart in the temple of the Church
composed of living stones [Eph.2: 20-22; 1Petr.2: 5].
The Heavenly Manna has its counterpart in
Jesus as the heavenly bread of life [John.6: 32-58].
The Creation of the earthly man has its counterpart
in the New Creation born in the death and Resurrection
of the Heavenly Man Who is the Lord from Heaven
[John.12: 24; 1Cor.15: 47-49; 2Cor.5: 17].
Adam, the head of a sinful race of mortals,
has his counterpart in Christ, the second Adam, the New Man,
the head of a race of immortals [1Cor.15: 45-49].
In all these ways the New Covenant recapitulates the Old Covenant.

Similarly Christ was seen to be both [High-]Priest and Victim [Hebr. 8: 1 – 9: 15].
He is the Sacrificial Lamb and also the Victorious King [John.1: 36; 18: 37].
He is the Good Shepherd and also the Lion of the tribe of Judah [Psalm. 22; John.10: 11; Rev.5: 5].
He is the Son of Man foreseen by the Prophet Daniel [7: 13,14] destined to receive an eternal Kingdom
and also the Son of God foreseen by the Prophet David [Psalm 2] destined to reign over all Creation.
Jesus fulfils the role of Israel by attaining
the Triumph of His kingdom and Exaltation through Humiliation and Obedience to the point of death [Marc.14: 21; Hebr.2: 5-9; Isaiah 53].

The Church also understood that Jesus was the Word
(John.1: 14; 1John.1: 1; Rev.19: 13].
He was Himself the utterance of God’s Love and Grace,
Light and Truth in the world.
The utterances of the Old Testament had been
partial, incomplete, fragmentary, preparatory, Prophetic.
In Jesus we have the fullness and finality of the Divine utterance.
Jesus embodies the Divine utterance both in His teaching and in Himself.
The Word and the Person are completely identical.
The Word Who became flesh [John.1: 14] was in origin and originally God [John.1: 1),
ever at work with the Father and the Spirit in the creation of the world [John.5: 17],
ever giving life and light to men and angels [John.1: 9].
And so we see that the Word is a Person.
Life is not something but Someone [Gal.2: 20; Phil.1: 21].
The whole pageant of the past is recapitulated
in the Gracious Personality of Jesus the Messiah.
He recapitulates in His Person the whole destiny of mankind [Eph.1: 10].
God has predestined men to become
conformed to the image of His Son [Rom.8: 29].

The Church and the Bible
Under both Old and New Covenants the Church preceded the Bible.
The essential role of the Church, as of the individual Christian,
is to bear witness to experience, to what has been seen and heard
[Acts 1: 8; 4: 20; 22: 15].
Man’s vocation and destiny are supernatural
[Hebr.3: 1; Rom.8: 29; 2Tim.1: 9; 1Cor.1: 2].
Scripture is a communication of Divine Light
to guide us in the way of perfection [Matth.5: 48].
To know Christ (Truth) is to love Him and be free [1John.4].
So a supernatural Revelation of God’s Nature, Will and Purpose is essential.
Such is the Word of God contained in the Bible.
It is a love-letter written by our Heavenly Father
and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race
on our pilgrimage towards our Heavenly country [Saint John Chrysostomos].
Readers of the Bible have the Church to guide them.
No Prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private interpretation,
nor can it be understood by one’s own powers.
For no Prophecy ever originated in the human will,
but Holy men of God spoke as they were prompted by the Holy Spirit [2Petr.1: 20].
It is the Church’s mission to interpret the Bible.
People who live humbly and honestly in the fellowship of the Church
have their minds conditioned
and attuned to understand the Scriptures
as the Revelation of the mind of God
[1Cor.2: 16; Phil.2: 5; 2Petr.3: 1]

The Nature of the Psalms
It would be a mistake to think that the Psalms
are a beautiful expression of nature Mysticism,
inspired by the natural beauty of the countryside
and the soothing sounds of softly murmuring streams.
They are rather the war-songs of the Prince of Peace,
the vigorous shouts and cries of the whole man,
responding or reacting with his whole being to the One Who comes to him in all the circumstances of life.
Jesus Himself tells us that we shall never see Him
until we say in every situation:
Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord” [Luc.13: 35].
In this matter of the Sanctification of the total man
made to love God with His whole nature
” [Luc.10: 27],
Israel was unlike the religions of the world.
The New Israel, the Church of Christ, inherits and continues this Tradition and
should develop it in an even more thoroughgoing manner.

The Jews prayed and worshipped with spirit, soul and body.
They beat their breasts, clapped their hands, stretched out their arms,
fell prostrate on the ground; they sang, they shouted, they danced;
they used drums, tambourines, cymbals, castanets, bells, horns, trumpets, pipes,
and various stringed instruments.
We find these features in the Psalms.
Saint Isaac the Syrian says:
Every prayer in which the body does not participate
and by which the heart is not affected
should be reckoned as an abortion without a soul
“.

Varieties of prayer are found in the Psalms:
Worship and Bowing Down, Love and Adoration, Meditation and Contemplation,
Stillness and Watching, Waiting and Listening, Hope and Desire,
Acts of Faith and Trust, Praise and Blessing,
Exaltation and Magnification, Repentance and Confession,
Weeping and Groaning, Exultation and Thanksgiving, Joy and Gladness,
Vows and Affirmations, Exorcism and Adjuration, Surrender and Submission,
Petition and Intercession.
We need to learn afresh the Christian use of the Psalter.
One reason for the neglect of the Psalms
in our devotional life is the disproportionate attention given
to critical and historical research in modern biblical study,
to the almost total exclusion of the Vital meaning
and Purpose of the Word of God.
To be ignorant of Scripture is not to know Christ“, says St. Jerome.

Practical Use of the Psalter
The Church never merely studied the Psalms.
They were her chief book of devotion.
Her divine Founder had quoted them,
had used them in prayer,
had explained them to His disciples,
and had died with them on His lips.
The Apostles ordered the faithful to use the Psalms both in their personal lives
and in community worship [Jac.5: 13; Col.3: 16; Eph.5: 19].
Saint Jerome tells us that at Saint Paula’s funeral in 404,
the Psalms were sung now in Greek, now in Latin, now in Syriac;
and this not only during the three days that elapsed before she was buried,
but throughout the rest of the week.
He also says that the Psalms sung in churches were also sung in the fields:
The toiling reaper sings Psalms as he works,
and the vine-grower, as he prunes his vines,
sings one of David’s songs. [so what are we doing during our daily work???]

At first the Psalter was the only hymnbook available.
Many both of the clergy and laity knew it by heart.
Saint Germanus in Constantinople and Saint Gregory in Rome
refused to consecrate as bishops men
who were unable to recite the Psalter.
A disused canon so ruled.
Even when the Church Services began to be compiled,
the Psalter was the Church’s first Service Book,
and it retains that position to this day.
All the services draw heavily upon the Psalms.
The Psalter is a quarry and treasury of Christian prayer and devotion.

Poetic Characteristics
The Psalms are poetry and this version retains the original poetic form
by printing the lines as in the Septuagint.
Much is lost when the Psalms are printed as prose.
Hebrew verse does not rhyme except occasionally and accidentally.
It is based on what is called parallelism, and is mostly in the form of couplets.
The second line of the couplet may be a repetition of the theme in different words,
or a contrast, or a heightened emphasis.
There is rhythm, but little metre.
Often there is a play on words, or assonance, or alliteration, or some figure of speech.
These are not reproducible in translation.
But the parallelism is clearly retained.
If the line endings occasionally rhyme,
that is quite incidental as in the original Hebrew.

It must not be thought that the parallelism of Hebrew poetry
merely means that the second line of every couplet
simply repeats the thought of the first line in different words.
Far from it. It may enrich or amplify the thought of the first line,
or it may modify it in other ways.
For example, the Prophet Isaiah writes [55: 7]:
Let the wicked forsake his ways and the sinful man his thoughts.
Or take the opening words of that wonderful outburst of praise
which the Holy Spirit put on Mary’s lips [Luc.1: 46]:
My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
“.
This does not mean that soul and spirit are therefore identical [cp. 1Thess.5: 23].
Rather it indicates that the second half of the couplet is a result of the first.
With my soul I magnify the Lord
[soul including understanding, intellect, memory, imagination, desire, will].
As a result of my growing consciousness and realization of the greatness
and goodness and glory of God,
my spirit is filled with joy and I exult in God my Saviour.
So the inspired lines are found to contain a simple technique
for the praise of God.

Divergences
Every new translation of the Psalter
has been made primarily for use in the Services
of the Orthodox Church.
It will be found to follow closely and often word for word previous versions made from the Hebrew.
It will also be found to differ widely in many places.
This is because the Orthodox Church
is committed to the Septuagint version of the Bible,
which was the Bible of the whole Christian Church
during the first thousand years of its existence.
It is also the version of the Bible that was used
and quoted by our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles, though they also occasionally referred to the Hebrew.
That is why it will be found that this version of the Psalms tallies in almost every instance
with the Psalms quoted in the New Testament whereas the Hebrew Psalms are often widely divergent.
For example, Psalm 4:5,
Be angry, yet do not sin, is quoted word for word by the Apostle Paul [Eph.4: 26].
The Hebrew gives quite a different reading.

If it is asked why the Septuagint often differs
so totally from the Massoretic text,
the answer probably is that Hebrew was a kind of shorthand,
entirely without vowels when the Psalms were written.
It is easy to see that a word like brd could be rendered
bread, bird, bard, brayed, broad, beard, bored, breed,
broody braid, bride, bred, buried.
It is not surprising that there are variant readings.
What is surprising is that the Septuagint
reproduces a vast amount of the Hebrew text almost verbatim,
so that we can often check the Massoretic.
Another reason for differences in the Septuagint
may be that the Seventy translators used a Hebrew version
that differed in many respects from the Massoretic text.

We cannot give footnotes to explain
how we arrive at every puzzling rendering of the Greek,
as it is not within our scope.
If we take a single instance, it will be seen
how lengthy and complicated such explanations could be.
In Psalm 101: 27, change them like clothing could be rendered,
roll them like clothing.
Actually there is a variant reading at this point,
some texts reading roll, others change.
As the thought suggested is
that of a person rolling or stripping off a worn-out garment,
we believe that the word change
faithfully conveys the sense of either Greek word
and also the meaning of the Hebrew original.
In fact, the idea of change and renewal and the rebirth of the soul
as a New Creation is a basic concept throughout Holy Scripture
[cp. John.3: 3-5; 2Cor.5: 17; Gal.6: 15; Eph.2: 10; 4: 24].

Songs with a Difference
The Psalms provide food for the fed up
and Heavenly bread in the wilderness.
But what about the stone-age ethics?
How does King Og aid
our Sanctification or help our prayer?
In some of the Psalms we seem to be thirsting not for God
but for our enemies’ blood.
Sometimes we seem to be howling war-cries with a tribe of savages.
How can we speak the Truth in love with Hebrew tribal’s
who even sink to sacrificing their sons and daughters to demons? [Psalm 105: 37]

 

The purpose of God’s written word of which the Psalms are a part is
to make known to men the saving Truths
that God has revealed to us about Himself in His eternal Being
and about His action in time and place and His plan for the new world order.
Christian Theology is essentially the knowledge of God
and His will revealed to man through God’s action in history, which is truly His story.
Orthodox Theology as a unity of knowledge
is a means to an end that transcends all knowledge.
This end is Union with God.
The Psalms sum up the whole Salvation history and theology of the Old Covenant.
The Lights and shadows of the total panorama are all here.

So the Psalms are unlike the sacred books of the world religions.
The Bible is the record of the life of a community
offered by the Church as divine revelation.
We see the living God in the movement of events.
It is not merely the history of a progressive revelation,
but history as Revelation.
The meaning of the events lies in man’s meeting with God.
The Prophet, like the Priest, is a public person.
His encounter with God is not merely private experience,
like that of the mystics and sages of the world religions.
The pressure of public events
is the normal occasion of the Prophet’s meeting with God.
The Truth which the encounter reveals to his mind is public property.
God’s Choice of the Prophet is not an act of favouritism,
but an invitation or call to special responsibility [cp. Amos 3: 2].
The word of God which gives the vital meaning to history always has a twofold action:
– it is the word of crisis and judgment,
– and it is the creative word of renewal and regeneration.
If anyone is in the Truth, there is a New Creation [cp. 2Cor.5: 17].
Judgment is followed by the New Heavens and New Earth [2Petr.3: 13]
and the Universal Restoration of all things  {Acts 3:21].
The Light that judges us, Transfigures and Saves us” [John.12: 47].
In Your Light we see light” [Psalm 35: 10].
The supreme message of the Psalter is that the Vision of God,
to know and love Him, to trust and obey Him;
and to offer Him the Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving
is eternal life and happiness [John 6: 40; 17: 3; Luc.10: 25- 28; 1Petr.1: 8f].

The Divine Initiative
The Psalms are the Bible in miniature.
By a kind of Divine tom-tom
they drum into our consciousness the Truth
that we meet God in the world of persons, things and events.
Here and now we are to pass through the visible
and transient to the Invisible and True.
Yet the initiative always rests with God.
The word of God comes out of the everywhere into the here
and breaks into our life from beyond us.
The Bible is a record of God’s search for man.
The people of God are not those
who have a special bent or natural genius for religion.
Far from it.
All the saints would agree
that they had a natural bent for unbelief and waywardness,
but for the Grace of God. “We love because He first loved us” [1John 4: 19].
When we were still sinners Christ died for us [Rom.5: 8].
It was when we were sick and powerless to help ourselves . . . . . when we were enemies
that we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son
” [Rom.5: 6, 10].
His was the first Birth out of death [Col.1: 18].
Last but not least, the Psalms remind us of our response
to God’s love which means life from the dead.
It is the response of obedient love and loving obedience.
“I love You, O Lord, my Strength [Psalm 17: 1].

In the Psalms David speaks as if he were not going to die,
as if God would not leave him in hell or allow him to see corruption [15: 10].
Yet David died and his Kingdom vanished.
Now hear the Apostle Peter at Pentecost:
Men and brethren, I can speak freely to you about the Patriarch David:
he died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
But being a Prophet, he foresaw and spoke of the Resurrection of Christ,
when he said that his soul would not be left in hell,
nor would his flesh see corruption.
This Jesus God raised to life
and we are all His witnesses
” [Acts 2: 29f].

The Psalms were the utterances of both David and Christ.
God Who spoke in David and Who became incarnate as the Son of David
was speaking of His own coming into visibility
as the Divine Messiah and of His plan of Salvation.
This plan is only fully revealed in its fulfilment,
when men are filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
The incarnation of the Word
as the visible image of the invisible God [Col.1: 15]
is the supreme demonstration of the Divine Initiative and Intervention.
It is the Climax of God’s search for man
and the discovery and redemption of the lost image
and likeness in the Saviour’s death and Resurrection.

The Messiah
A striking and mysterious figure looms larger and larger
and gradually takes shape, as we read and re-read the Psalms.
He is the Son of God, appointed King on Zion to rule the nations [Psalm 2].
He is addressed as God, His kingdom is to last for ever,
His Reign is gentle and just, yet strong as iron.
He is lovely with a Beauty beyond the sons of men
and because of His love of justice and goodness
He has a joy surpassing His fellow men [Psalm 44].
He is a King and Judge Who shares the Throne of God.
He is a Priest, not in the Levitical line,
but an Eternal Priest-King like Melchizedek [Psalm 109].
His reign will bring lasting Peace and Justice,
all kings and nations will worship Him,
He will take special care of the poor and destitute
and in Him all the families of the earth will be blessed [Psalm 71].
Yet this Sovereign Ruler of nations
Whom all mankind will worship will undergo terrible sufferings,
will be treated as an outcast, a worm
and not a man, will endure outrageous handling by men
who have become more like wild beasts: bulls, lions and dogs.
And they will strip Him and pierce His hands and feet
and will then stand and gloat over Him [Psalm 21].
Yet when He comes in Judgment to claim His Kingdom,
it will be a world-wide assembly, including rich and poor alike,
who will all worship Him and partake of
a sacrificial meal in His honour [Psalm 21, 93, 95].
Such is the King Messiah, portrayed especially in
5 Messianic Psalms: 2, 21, 44, 71 and 109.
They foretell the advent, Kingdom, Priesthood, sufferings, death,
Resurrection and Ascension of the coming Redeemer.
But different facets of the same Face and Person
are sprinkled throughout the Psalter
and we need them all to get the full Portrait.

Figures and Symbols
The Psalms foreshadow in figure and symbol,
the way of life and freedom
• fully revealed only in the New Adam
[Rom.5: 12f., 1Cor.15: 21f.],
the New Noah, father of the new race
• who rise from the baptismal waters [1Petr.3: 20f; 2Petr.2: 5],
• the Prophet like Moses [Deut.18: 15, 18; John 1: 21, 46; 6: 14, 32; Acts 3: 22].
• So He explains the miracle of the bronze serpent
which Moses fixed to a sign-post or standard
and which brought a change of heart [Num.21: 9]:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life [John 3: 14].

But the crucial and decisive event of
the old Covenant history was the Exodus from Egypt,
which the Psalms mention so frequently.
Just as the Christian remembers and relives the Sacrifice of Christ
by the celebration of the Liturgy, so the Jew recalls and re-enacts the Exodus
by the celebration of the Passover.
This act of Worship is not just an escape from the present into the past,
but a means of actual experience.
The Passover ritual says:
In every generation it is a man’s duty to imagine
that he himself has escaped from Egypt” [cp. Ex.13: 8].

As Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage
through the Red Sea towards the Promised Land
and celebrated their escape or deliverance by the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb,
so Christ the True Lamb of God by His Sacrifice on the Cross
leads men through the red sea of His life-giving blood
out of the real slavery of sin
into the Glorious freedom of the Children of God,
Which is Heaven on earth or the Promised Land.
The Great theme of history is the conflict between belief and unbelief.
Human societies like human beings live by Faith
and die when Faith dies [Rom.1: 17; Jac.2: 20].
Faith is the light in which we see God.
As we grow in faith and love,
the Mystery and Unity of the Exodus
and Christ’s Passover becomes more and more
a matter of personal experience.
Yet the experience is not the essential reality,
but only an effect of the reality
which is infinitely beyond experience, namely God in us:
Christ in you [Col.1].

By faith in Christ [John 5: 24]
and by the New Birth [John 3: 3-5]
we enter a new dimension of life and become amphibians, living at once in time and eternity.
We are at the same time in the wilderness and in the Promised Land.
Our life is in Heaven [Phil.3: 20].
God has enthroned us with Christ in Heaven [Eph.2: 6].
The Songs of Zion will tell us again and again that by faith
we are Christ’s Body in this world [1Cor.12: 27]
and that He lives in us [Col.1: 27; 2: 6; Gal.2: 20].
– Be what you are! they keep saying.
– Be forgiven, be reconciled, be friends with God,
– be clean, be free, be filled with the Spirit,
– be whole, be Holy, be Children of God,
– be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven! [Phil.3: 20].

Some Difficulties
Some people object to parts of the Psalms
because they seem to contradict
the Divine Law of Love taught by Christ.
But the Mystery of the Divine wrath and vengeance
reveals the total incompatibility of evil with the Divine Nature.
You who love the Lord, hate evil” [Psalm 96: 10; Rom.12: 9].
Judgment and vengeance belong to God and must be left to Him [Deut.32: 35].
God’s Judgment is His Appearance, Manifestation, Epiphany [Psalms 49: 1-4; 79: 2; 93: 1].
In its Fullness this appearing or manifestation refers to the Incarnation,
when Christ becomes the visible criterion in Whose Light we see light [Psalm 35: 10].
All the evil and malice of the world culminates in the Crucifixion of Christ.
When vengeance is left to God,
it takes the form of the agony and death of the God-man.
God takes His own medicine.
With Christ we are to hate the reign of evil, the vile spirits and passions
that prevent the reign of Christ in our hearts and in the world.
As we hate and forsake sin, we become free
to love and pray and labour for God’s Reign and Rule on earth.

Spiritual things must be spiritually understood.
People contrast spirit and letter.
But what letter is there in the Word of God
Who says Himself, My words are spirit and life? [John 6: 63].
Truly the letter kills [2Cor.3: 6].
To a literalist the message and meaning of the Bible
is bound to elude his most meticulous search.
The resident aliens whom God’s people are to drive out of Canaan
are the enemies of the human soul.
The harsh Psalms are the strong weapons used by the Church to exorcize
and drive out evil spirits from the souls and bodies of men.
The weapons of our warfare are not material,
but are powerful with God for the overthrow of the enemy’s strongholds [2Cor.10: 4].
The Word of God which is the Sword of the Spirit [Eph.6: 17]
is given us to expel evil and idle thoughts and replace them
by the Divine Light of the Beauty of Holiness and Truth.
Let the word of God dwell in you richly [Col.3: 16].

Other people object that they cannot sincerely say with some of the Psalms
that they are blameless, innocent, faithful, holy; it seems hypocritical.
Still others say that they do not share the agony and suffering of the Psalmist,
that their knees are not weak from fasting,
and how can they give thanks for joys and victories
they have never experienced?
The trouble with all these people is
that they have lost the sense of solidarity and unity with all mankind in Christ,
still less do they have a sense of the unity of all being in God.

After Pentecost when the Spirit restored men to unity, we read,
The whole Body of believers had one heart and soul, and none of them called any of his possessions his own, but everything was shared as common property“. Acts 4: 32
We cannot repeat too often that the Psalms refer to Christ and can be applied fully only to Him.
“But it is Christ in you Who is the hope of Glory for you”. Col.1: 27
He ever lives to make intercession in you,
with you, for you“. Hebr.7: 25
The Psalms teach us to enlarge our hearts or consciousness to embrace all mankind.
Remember those who suffer as if you shared their pain“.
Hebr.13: 3

Today we hear much of the priesthood of the laity.
The Psalms, if used aright, compel us to exercise our priesthood
and act as the voice of all mankind in Christ,
the one Mediator Priest and Intercessor.
We even act as the mouth of all dumb creation
to thank and glorify God for His Goodness.
The Angels in Heaven and all God’s creatures are invited to join the Divine praises.
To Him Who loves us and has washed us from our sins in His own blood
and made us a Kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father,
to Him be Glory and Triumph throughout endless ages [Rev.1: 5].
As we pray with and for all mankind,
we get a vision of hidden realities visible only to the eyes of faith
and we actually begin to see God’s New Creation taking shape.
When He appears, we shall be like Him,
for we shall see Him as He is [1John 3: 2].
If we are faithful, God will keep us till the end.
So Saint Athanasius explains Psalm 93:14 thus:
The Lord will guard His people in their troubles and afflictions
and He will direct and guide them until His Justice returns in judgment,
that is, until Christ judges the world;
for God has made Him our wisdom, our righteousness
,
our holiness and our redemption [1Cor.1: 30].
But disobedience always incurs God’s Judgment” [Jer.44].

The Cross is the Key
Og, Sehon, Pharaoh are so many troubles and trials.
“There is plenty of suffering and misery on earth”. 2Tim.3: 12
We make use of it aright when we offer it in union with the sufferings of Christ.
In union with Christ our sufferings assume infinite redemptive value,
just as a drop of water thrown into a great river does all that the river does“.
cf. Col.1: 24
In this way our sufferings are transformed into Light and Power and Joy.
We find true happiness by dying
because we can only enter Heaven
by dying to earthly things

cf. Acts 14: 22
That is why the Cross is the key to the Psalms, as it is the key to the Kingdom.
“Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,
it remains alone, merely a grain of wheat”.
John 12: 24
It is when Christ is lifted up that He draws all to Himself into the Unity of the Spirit.
It is by dying that Jesus has drawn all into the triumph of His Resurrection.
So Caiaphas prophesied “that Jesus would die for the nation
and not for the nation only, but to re-unite into one family
the scattered children of God
“.
John 11: 51, 52

Importance of the Psalterion
All the Psalms have as their aim the Glorification of God.
They were sung in the Temple, in the Synagogues, and in Jewish homes.
Today they are used by both Jews and Christians, uniting us in praise.
The Psalter is the hymnbook of the universal Church.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Book of Psalms.
The Hebrew poets took these timeless religious experiences
and made them the theme of their songs.
The Psalms are poems intended to be sung.
The Hebrew title means Songs of Praise.
But they can be read with a song in the heart,
they can be prayed in Spirit and Truth.
The inspired poets of Israel reflect the spiritual experience of the human soul.
So the Psalms belong to all mankind.
As there is no book in the New Testament corresponding to the Book of Psalms,
the Psalter belongs to both the New and Old Covenants
and forms a bridge linking the Old and New Testaments.
It is eloquent proof of the Unity of the Bible.
The Psalms constitute one of the most vital forms of prayer for men of all time.
Their Inspiration is expressly stated [2Sam.23: 1-5].

At the time when the Psalms were written they were not of such use
to those among whom they were written as they are to us,
for they were written to foretell the New Covenant among those
who lived under the Old Covenant [Saint Augustine].
The one great theme is Christ in regard to His inner life as the God-man
and in His past, present and future relations with the Church and the world.
The Psalter is the expression of the heart of the True man.
It is the Prophetic portrait [Icon] of the mind and heart of the coming Saviour.
God speaks to men in human words.
What wonderful Beauty there is in the words,
Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening Sacrifice [Psalm 140],
when applied to the one great Sacrifice of our Redemption
which was offered in the evening of the world
and on the eve of the Passover by the stretching out of the Saviour’s hands
to embrace all mankind on the Cross!
This we sing daily at Vespers.
What profound significance we can see in the words,
I will not die but live and proclaim the works of the Lord” [Psalm 117: 17],
when we refer them to the morning of the Resurrection and that first Easter Day
and the commission to the Apostles to make disciples of all nations!
This we sing daily at Matins. On Easter Day itself we sing.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it!
” [Psalm 117: 24].
And every day is the New day fresh from the and
in addition of the living God, so let us keep festival [1Cor.5: 8].

Inspiration
The inspiration of the Psalms as an integral part of inspired Scripture
is vouched for and guaranteed by Christ the Truth, Who asked the Pharisees:
How is it that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Christ Lord, saying Psalm 109: 1:
The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I put Thy enemies under Thy feet’“.
If David calls Him Lord, how can He be his son? [Matth.22: 43-45].
Christ classes the Psalms,
the chief book of the Chetubim or Hagiographa,
with the Law and the Prophets [Luc.24: 44].
Inspiration is explicitly defined in 2Tim.3: 16 and 2Petr.1: 20, 21.

Date and Authorship
The title of Psalm 89 attributes it to Moses.
The psalm itself recalls how the first generation of Israelites
were doomed to die in the wilderness
for their infidelity and disobedience.
So about 1280 B.C. some of the Psalms were probably being sung.
The titles ascribe 84 of the 150 to David, who lived about 1000 B.C.
So the earliest of the Psalms are well over 3000 years old
and the compilation covered perhaps 1000 years.
There are indications of editing at different dates.
For instance, after Psalm 71 an editor has added:
The songs of David the son of Jesse are ended.
But later we meet more Psalms attributed to David,
evidently inserted by other editors [90, 92, 93 etc.].
The Book of Psalms was perhaps completed
for the Jewish canon by about 300 B.C.
The Greek translation was made in Egypt
about 250 B.C. by Jews of the dispersion.

We cannot summarize the matter of authorship
better than by quoting the words of Saint Gregory the Dialogist:
Who was the author?
A very useless question as soon as we believe
that the book was the work of the Holy Spirit
Who dictated what was to be written.
If we received a letter from a Great Personage,
would we be curious to know what pen he used to write it?
“.

Historical Coverage
Besides studying the past, we can sing songs about it.
That is what the Psalmists did.
The whole History of the world as recorded in the Old Testament,
from the Creation of the universe till after the Babylonian Exile,
is put into poetry by the Psalmists.
Psalm 136 looks back to the Babylonian Exile
as a thing of the past [cp. also Psalm 125].

Unity and Divisions
The Psalms form a single book.
So our Lord refers to them [Luc.20: 42]
and so do His Apostles [Acts 1: 20].
The Orthodox Church has divided the Psalter
into 20 kathismas or sessions
[perhaps because it is customary to sit during the reading of a kathisma].
Each kathisma is further divided into 3 sections, marked by a Glory.
At each Glory it is customary to stand and sing as follows:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and
to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and to the ages of ages.                                                                                            Amen
“.
Mp3:  Romanian Orthodox Chant – Psalm 1,2,3 at Putna Monastery

Effect of the Psalms
People talk of haunted houses.
The Psalter is a house of prayer haunted by the Spirit of Christ
Who inspired the Psalms.
Used aright, they cannot fail to lift us above and beyond ourselves.
They confront us with God and we find ourselves haunted
by His presence and gradually brought face to face with Him.
They bring our hearts and minds into the presence of the living God.
They fill our minds with His Truth in order to unite us with His Love.
The Saints and Holy Fathers of the Church,
like the Patriarchs and Prophets of Israel,
were haunted by the living reality of the Redeemer
revealed to the world in the Psalter.
He is the Word of God hidden in these words of God.
As you persevere in praying the Psalms,
you will be drenched with the Holy Spirit
as the trees are drenched with the rain [Psalm 103: 16],
you will be rapt in God and penetrated from time to time
with vivid intuitions of His action,
your mind and heart will be purified.
The pure in heart know God as the Father of mercies
Who has so loved the world as to give His only Son for their redemption [John 3: 16]
and they see Him making all things New [Rev.21: 5].
They see and know Him not merely by faith, still less by speculation,
but by Interior and incommunicable Experience.
As we sing His Glories, we are led by Faith to see His vast activity in every aspect of life.
By beholding the Glory of the Lord, we are transformed into His likeness
from Glory to glory by the Spirit of God [2Cor.3: 18].
But this will only happen if we see Christ
as the way, the truth and the life of the Psalms [John 14: 6],
the Great God in Whom we live and move and have our being [Acts 17: 28].
As we persevere in seeking His Face, we find that the Psalms stir and arouse in us
the will to Believe and the will to Love.
By Faith and Love we pass into the realm of Eternal Reality
and new vistas of experience open before us [John 5: 24].

The Voice and The Voices
The Church functions as a voice.
Its ministers are servants of the word [Luc.1: 2].
The Word of life was made visible. Life is a Person.
The eternal life that was with the Father was made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard we declare to you,
that you may share our fellowship,
the life we share with the Father and His Son in the unity of the Spirit,
that our joy may be complete [1John 1: 1-4].
In one who is obedient to His word,
the Divine love has indeed reached perfection [1John 2: 5].
In the Psalms many voices are audible:
• sometimes it is the Psalmist Who speaks,
• sometimes a fool, sometimes Israel,
• sometimes the soul, sometimes evil spirits,
• sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Spirit;
• sometimes the Messiah seems to be identified with Israel,
as in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.
With these swift transitions,
it is often difficult at first sight to tell who is the speaker.
As in the Psalms, so it is in our lives:
• “Be still and know I am” [Psalm 45: 11].
• “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening” [1Sam.3: 9].
The good Shepherd says,
• “My sheep hear My voice” [John 10: 27].
• The voice of the Psalmist is the Voice of Christ.
• The Voice of the bride is the Voice of the Bridegroom.
“He who hears you, hears Me” [Luc.10: 16].

Come you also
– And the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’.
– And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come’.
– And let everyone who is thirsty come,
– and let everyone who has the will to do so take the water of life as a free gift [Rev.22: 17].
– Here the Spirit of God and the Church with one voice
invite every living soul to come to the only fountain of life and happiness.
– Then every listening soul is told to cry out of the depths of his hunger and need, Come!
Finally the thirsty and needy and willing are told to come
and receive the Water of Life freely.

Here we have two comings:
– the final coming of Christ to the world and
– the coming of each soul to Christ.
In fact, Christ comes to us continually in all the changes and chances of our lives,
supremely in the Mystery of Communion [1Cor.11: 23-30; John.6: 31-58],
and in many special Manifestations of His real Presence [John.14: 19-23].
The Psalms tell us that we cannot find
satisfaction in sin or work or riches or culture or honour and glory.
But in Jesus we find here and now Satisfaction and Happiness, Pardon, Purity and Peace:
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for Righteousness [Christ],
for they will be satisfied [Matth.5: 6).
Pardon: In Him we have the forgiveness of our sins [Eph.1: 7].
Purity: He has washed us from our sins in His own blood [Rev.1: 5].
Peace: My peace I give you (Jn. 14:27). He is our Peace [Eph.2: 14].

And so we watch in eager expectation
for the coming of the Son of God in power and glory,
praying and working for that golden age foreseen and foretold
by the holy Prophets where God’s Will of perfect Love is done on earth
as it is in Heaven.
Let us take as our motto the words of the Psalmist:
I will live to please the Lord in the land of the living [Psalm 114: 9],
the Promised Land, the honeycomb of the earth [Ez.20: 6 LXX],
peace beyond all understanding [Phil.4: 7],
the joy of the Lord [Matth.25: 23],
Heaven within you [Luc.17: 21],
Divine life in the soul of man [2Cor.5: 15],
sharing the Divine Nature [2Petr.1: 4].
He who has the Son has the Life [1John 5: 12].
Come, Lord Jesus, come [Rev.22: 20].

Panegyric on the Psalms [from Saint John Chrysostom – Extract]
If we keep vigil in Church, David comes first, last and central.
If early in the morning we want songs and hymns, first, last and central is David again.
If we are occupied with the funeral solemnities of those who have fallen asleep,
or if virgins sit at home and spin,
David is first, last and central.
O amazing wonder!

Many who have made little progress in literature know the Psalter by heart.
Nor is it only in cities and churches that David is famous;
in the village market, in the desert, and in uninhabitable land,
he excites the praise of God.
In monasteries, among those holy choirs of angelic armies,
David is first, last and central.
In the convents of virgins, where are the communities of those who imitate Mary;
in the deserts where there are men crucified to the world,
who live their life in Heaven with God,
David is first, last and central.
All other men at night are overcome by sleep.
David alone is active, and gathering the servants of God into Seraphic bands,
he turns earth into Heaven, and converts men into Angels”.
cf. Father Lazaros Moore – 1st printed 1966

Psalms created on Truth – sitting at the rivers of Babylon [Psalm 136]

And the Lord humbled you
and suffered you to hunger
and fed you with manna,
which you didn’t know, neither did your fathers know;
that the Lord might make you know
that man doth not live by bread alone,
but by every Word that proceeds
out of the mouth of the Lord
man does live“.
Deut.8: 3

The Lord tests His children
in the wilderness for forty days [years]
– Eating manna taught them
that man lives by the Word of God.
– Their clothing did not wear out.
– The Lord humiliated them.
– If they serve other gods,
they will perish.

Other nations are driven out of the promised Land
because of their wickedness.
– Moses evaluate the rebellions of Israel
and tells how he mediated
between the people and the Lord.
On two occasions Moses went
without food and water for forty days.

The tables of stone
containing the Ten Commandments
are placed in the altar [ark].
All that God requires is
that we Love and serve Him
– How great and mighty is the Lord!

You shall Love and obey the Lord your God
– If the children of Israel obey,
they will be blessed with rain and harvests
and will drive out mighty nations
– We have to learn God’s laws and teach them
– Blessings flow from obedience;
offensive terms are present in dis-obedience.

We have to destroy the worldly gods and places of worship
– The Lord will elect where His people will worship.
– The frustrating of blood is forbidden.
– Church’s worship have to be conform
to the Divine standard.

I told you before “How soon we forget!
That is more than just a clever saying, it is the truth.
Sports fans forget that their team won last year,
when they begin to lose this year.
Children forget the sacrifices their parents make for them.
Students forget what teachers taught them.
We forget faces, dates, places,
and even the names of old friends.
But fortunately, most of what we forget
is not all that serious.
For many of us forgetfulness
is just one of many signs of aging.

Remember Your God
Problems of memory though come not only through advancing age,
but are endemic in us all.
Scripture calls us to remember for an important reason.
The world does not need so much
to be informed as to be reminded
” [Thomas More]
The Bible says again and again
Forget not!” and “Remember!“;
and so we do during these days of Lent.
We are sitting at the rivers of Babylon
and we remember how we have to be:
– an Image of our Creator;
– rooted in the character of God.
And God does save us through
the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
It is Christ Who knows and experiences
the laments for and with us,
and it is Christ Who we find our confidence in
to praise Him in the storms of our life.

Moses at the Burning Bush
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”;
and He said,
Therefore you shall say to your sons,
‘I AM has sent me to you’
“.
God, furthermore, said to Moses,
Therefore you shall say to your sons,
‘The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you’
“.
This is My name forever
and this is My memorial-Name to all generations
Go and gather your elders together and say to them,
‘The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
‘,
has appeared to me, saying,
“I am indeed concerned about you
and what has been done to you in Egypt . . . . .

[in the desert/the wilderness].
cf. Ex.3: 14-16

The call to remember is a command to meditate on who God is.
To remember is not so much a warning to master a wealth of facts about God
as it is a reminder of the awful possibility
that we can forget our dependence upon Him.
The command to remember here is given
as Church is poised to possess their inheritance,
the promised land.
There existed the very real possibility
that we would cease to remember all God did for us
as we found we no longer had to depend on Him for everything we have.
When we enjoy the wealth of the land He provides for us,
we will forget it came from Him.
It is ironic that we may find ourselves forgetting Him
because of the many blessings that He has given us.
When our hands are full
we forget the lessons we learned
when our hands were empty.

Time of Investigation
Your Investment in family-live
during these days of Lent, pays benefits later!
Meekness has always been a characteristic of
the Godly [Ps.37: 11]. It’s the only quality
that Jesus ever ascribed to Himself:
– “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and you shall find rest
unto your souls

Matth.11: 29

Meekness
So what is meekness?
The Greeks used the word ”πραότητα” to refer to ‘the taming of a wild horse.
The animal hadn’t lost its strength,
but all of the power of that animal
had been brought under control.
To be meek is to be under
the controlling Power of the Holy Spirit.
It involves our submission to God’s authority
and it involves the yielding of our rights.
It is linked with what the Bible refers to
as by Grace being filled with the Holy Spirit [Pentecost].
If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour
then you have all of the Holy Spirit that you’re ever going to get.
The Holy Spirit is one of the manifestations of God. You can’t just have a bit of Him.
Either you have the Spirit of God or you don’t.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
he is none of His
”.
Romans 8: 9
The filling of the Holy Spirit
has nothing to do with getting more
of the Holy Spirit
but it has everything to do with
the Holy Spirit getting more of you.
The Holy Spirit wants to fill and control every area in our lives; but He does not force Himself upon us.
He wants us to yield to Him
the right to every single area of our lives
until they are under His control and Lordship.
This is the way of blessing and success.
The meeker we become
the less upset and angry we will be
when we don’t get our own way.
Meekness is the antidote to anger.

► ►► The contemporary spiritual, theological problem concerns the person [πρόσωπο] …
Revelation reveals that “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
If He says, “I AM” it means that He is a person.
The word “I” has great significance.
For it expresses the person. God says:
Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”.
Gen.1: 26
Science cannot say this. Only revelation can say this.
And we need to base ourselves on revelation,
which the Lord never refuted …

Theology is the content of our prayers.
And an example of this theology is the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great
[every Sunday served during Lent].
The whole anaphora is Theology and is expressed through prayer.
But then Theology comes as a state of being.
John the Theologian, from an academic point of view,
was not a theologian, but he says things simply.
His theology, however, is a state of being.
Whatever he says becomes dogma for everyone.
But the only study that enables us
to sense what God is like,
is the ascetic life according to
the commandments of the Gospel.
When our life is lived according to the will of God,
then we understand that there cannot be a difference
between the commandments and the mind of God Himself.
When we think according to the commandments,
then our mind gets used to thinking as God Himself thinks.
And regarding Theosis, they say: but what is theosis?
With obedience to the abbot from the beginning,
one’s will is cut off,
then in obedience to the Gospel commandments
one reaches this state.
We do small things but the results must become Great.
Through obedience we enter into the life of divine Being.
We have good descriptions of this in
the writings of Saint Nicodemus, the Athonite.
I have told others, as well, that
when they learn things from the world,
they are living in sin.
They need to free themselves through Asceticism.
This is how I tried to make them understand the need for patience.
[Just as the Incarnation was a great kenotic act,
where Christ God became man as one person
and bore our sins patiently with humility and love.
In following Him, we become true persons in Him
and realize our life and fully live our freedom.
It is here where personhood finds its greatest achievement:
in putting on Christ and His indwelling in us
by the Holy Spirit sent from God the Father.
The very essence of our life must become
constant personal encounter with Christ,
and in this we become truly persons, truly free, truly loving.
This is how personhood is understood in Theosis.
We fulfil our personhood in living in Christ
and His dwelling within us,
and inasmuch as He has perfected humanity,
He raises us in freedom, in love,
to the fulfilment of our humanity,
as true persons in Him].
father Sophrony [Sakharov 1896-1993]

Psalm 136 chanted during the Sunday liturgies
during Great Lent instead of the regular Communion hymn,
just before Holy Communion:
1.] Mp3  by George Papanikolaos from Samos, Greece.
Ἐπι των ποταμών Βαβυλωνος -By The Waters of Babylon [Psalm 136] – 3rd Tn
2.] Mp3 by Sirin (Сирин) Ensemble, Russia.
Sirin (Сирин) Ensemble – ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ [Psalm 136}

Tekst Psalm 136:
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down”, they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”.
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us“.

Wherever you go,
have God ever before your eyes“.
Saint Antony the Great

Preparing to receive Holy Communion

The most important element
in the spiritual renewal of
the Orthodox Christian is the Mystery [lat.Sacrament] of Holy Communion.
It is the one Mystery that transcends all other Mysteries.
When we receive Holy Communion we receive Jesus Himself into us.
So great is this Mystery that we are left without any possible response which would express what God has done.
Therefore, we offer the only answer we can give,
Thank you‘.

The Greek word for Thanksgiving is “Ευχαριστω” [“Eucharisto”].
We refer to Holy Communion as “the Unity with God” and
offer thanksgiving to God for this great Mystery
whereby God not only sanctifies the bread and wine,
but also changes them into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The bread and wine do not change into the body and blood of Jesus Christ
until the blessing and thanksgiving has been completed.
This happens at every Divine Liturgy.
We praise Thee,
we bless Thee,
we give thanks to Thee, O Lord,
and we pray to Thee, O our God
“.
While the choir sings the above hymn,
the priest prays for the descent of the Holy Sprit,
Who transforms the elements on the altar
into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood,
you have no life in you…
For My flesh is food indeed,
and My blood is drink indeed
“.
John 6:53, 55

Therefore, if receiving the Eucharist is receiving Jesus Christ, our Lord
we must take care to approach the Eucharist in a proper manner.
The way we approach this awesome mystery determines
whether our participation will be a blessing in our lives,
or whether we are condemning ourselves.

Fasting
– Fasting is a spiritual discipline which was and is
intended to enhance our participation in the Eucharist
– it is not to be seen as an excuse
to keep away from the Chalice.
– Fasting is a discipline which is not restricted only to food.
It is more than simply not eating.
It is also not lying, stealing, cheating, committing adultery,
gossiping, quarrelling etc.
We must abstain from all forms of evil.
To think that by only setting a few days aside
to omit certain foods from our diet
makes us worthy to receive the Eucharist
is to be spiritually naive.

It is not uncommon to hear Orthodox Christians say
they are fasting on Wednesday and Friday
because they plan to take Communion at Sunday Liturgy.
In reality, the practice of Wednesday and Friday fasting
has never been purposefully linked to participation in the Eucharist.
Orthodox Christians are required to fast on those two days of the week
regardless if they are going to take Holy Communion or not.
The Holy Apostles Sixty-Ninth Canon of the Church
This same Canon requires that fasting be maintained throughout Great Lent also.
No mention is made of the Eucharist.
In other words, regular fasting must be a way of life.

Many Orthodox Christians extend the Wednesday and Friday fast to Saturday.
They reason that if they fast on Wednesday and Friday in preparation for the Eucharist on Sunday,
it does not seem right not to fast on Saturday, the day prior to receiving Communion.
However, in so doing, they violate
the sixty fourth Canon of the Holy Apostles
which specifically forbids ever fasting on Saturday,
the day God rested after creation.
Exceptions to this Canon
– Holy Saturday and a few other major feast days
should they fall on a Saturday.

The Eucharistic Fast involves total abstinence from any food or drink
in the morning prior to receiving the Eucharist.
If therefore, you keep the Eucharistic Fast, and
there exists no moral reason for you to stay away from Chalice,
you become obligated to come forward
and receive Christ as He is offered at the liturgy.

To assert that one has not fasted on the previous Wednesday and Friday
and therefore cannot come forward for Communion,
is, by itself, an insufficient cause to abstain from the Eucharist.

So strongly did the Church feel about this
that we find in the ninth Apostolic Canon of the Holy Apostle,
the following:
“All those faithful who enter and listen to the Scriptures,
but do not stay for prayer and Holy Communion must be excommunicated,
on the grounds that they are causing the Church a breach of Order”.
The early Orthodox Church attended liturgy for one reason – the Eucharist.

Saint John Cassian, writes,
We must not avoid Communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful.
We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul
but with much humility and faith considering ourselves unworthy.
Otherwise it is impossible to receive communion once a year,
as certain people do such people manifest
more pride than humility for when they receive,
they think of themselves as worthy
“.

Fasting was never intended to be a barrier to keep us from Christ,
but a bridge to lead us to fuller participation in the life of Christ.

Confession
In general, two views emerge concerning Confession and the Eucharist.
– The first sees Confession as necessary before each participation in the Eucharist.
– The second sees Confession as a periodic practice not required
before every participation in the Eucharist.

The result of viewing Confession as a pre-requisite to every participation in the Eucharist
is that it does not enhance one’s spiritual life but hinders it.
It hinders it because Confession becomes an excuse not to take Holy Communion,
much like fasting becomes
an excuse to stay away from the Chalice.

Confession itself, of course, is not a hindrance, but people [even priests] make it a hindrance.
It is not uncommon to hear from individuals
that they are not regular participants in the Eucharist
because they have not been to Confession.

The Church, does not require a Confession
from her people every time they wish to partake of the Eucharist.
However, if it is your practice to receive the Eucharist
only a few times per year at certain times,
your Priest may rightfully insist that you go to Confession !!!
If it is your practice to partake of the Eucharist rarely,
it is probable that your whole approach to the Eucharist could,
and should, be questioned.

If you resolve to be a regular participant in the Eucharist,
as every Orthodox should be, you should plan on periodic Confession.
This is defined by your Parish-priest [not the bishop!!!]
and usually it means anywhere from once a month
to once every six months.

It is not acceptable in the tradition of the Church
to keep away from the Eucharist using Confession as an excuse.
The Mystery [lat.Sacrament] of Confession exists
to enhance our approach to the Eucharist,
not to impede it.

Frequency of Participation
Did you know that the first Orthodox Christians
took Holy Communion every day?
That’s right, they could not think of going through a day
without taking the Eucharist.
So strongly did the early Orthodox Christians feel about this
that they introduced the 9th Apostolic Canon
that anyone who did not stay for prayer and Holy Communion
must be excommunicated.
This shows how seriously the Eucharist
should be taken when offered on Sundays.
Those who attend Sunday liturgy
and do not take Holy Communion regularly
should consider not going at all
unless their intention is to receive the Eucharist.

Christians sin constantly. Sin is part of our life. Everybody is a sinner, the clergy also.
Therefore forgiveness must also be a part of our life.
Constant sin requires constant forgiveness.
If we say we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us
“.
John 1: 8

The Eucharist, approached in the correct manner,
takes away our sin and gives us the strength to draw closer to God.
What is the correct manner?
The answer is found in the liturgy itself
when the Priest presents the Chalice and intones,
With the fear of God, faith and love, draw near“.
Therefore, if you do not have a valid reason for not partaking,
you are obliged to receive the Eucharist.

If you have kept the Eucharistic Fast
[ie – not eaten or drunk anything after waking up in the morning],
and if you approach with “fear of God, faith and love“,
and there is no moral or canonical reason to impede you
– you must go forward when you hear the call.

To live a life of infrequent participation in the Eucharist
means spiritual sickness.
It may be you fail to be regular in your partaking of the Eucharist
because you feel unworthy.
In this case, the question must be asked;
when will you be worthy?
Of course, if you wait until you are worthy,
forget it, you will never be able to approach the Chalice.
One of the reasons we must constantly go forward
is precisely because we are unworthy.

Should you still not be able to accept the fact
that you should be a regular participant in the Eucharist,
you must question yourself.
Why do you feel this way?
Are you aware that there does exist someone
who stands to gain by your staying away from the Chalice?
That person is the devil.
The longer you stay away from the Eucharist,
the stronger the devil’s influence in your life.
Do you want to overcome the devil?
Than receive Jesus Christ.
– The Body of God both deifies and nourishes.
– It deifies the spirit and nourishes the mind.
– It heals, purifies, enlightens and sanctifies the body and soul.
– It helps us to turn away from every fantasy,
evil practice and diabolical activity which work subconsciously in our members.
– It increases virtue and perfection for Communion
with the Holy Spirit as a provision of salvation and eternal life.

If you know that you will receive the body and blood of Christ on Sunday
then during the week you will begin to discipline yourself
and make a determined effort to overcome your passions.
– You will make every effort not to sin.
– You will pray and fast with relative ease
for you are preparing your body and soul to receive Christ.
– You clean and tidy your house [your heart] to receive the King
to whom no other King can be compared.
And once you receive the Eucharist,
Christ gives you the spiritual gifts to ward off the temptations of the devil
which war continuously against you
and assist you to climb the ladder of Divine Ascent.
This especialy during the preparation of Pascha,
which we call Great Lent.
Prayers for preparation Holy Communion

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
“.

Orthodoxy & Big-heartedly life

the hopeful Tradition of the Church
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and shield.
Yea our hearts are glad in Him,
because we trust in His holy Name.
Let Your steadfast Love,
O Lord be upon us,
even as we hope in You
“.
Psalm 32: 20-22

For in this hope we are saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait for it with Patience
“.
                                                                 Rom.8: 24-25

Hope is the assurance of the good outcome
of our lives lived by faith in God.
Hope is the power of certain conviction
that the life built on faith
will produce its fruits.
Hope is the confidence,
that despite all darkness and sin,
the light of the loving forgiveness of God
is upon us to do with us and for us,
what we ourselves cannot do.

The virtue of hope goes together
with the power of faith.
Patriarch Abraham,
In hope believed against hope
that he should be the father of many nations
”.
Rom. 4: 18
And hope, like faith, is in that which is not seen.

The opposite of hope is
despondency and despair.
According to the spiritual tradition of the Church,
the state of despondency and despair
is the most grievous and horrible condition
that a person can be in.
It is the worst and most harmful of the sinful states possible for the soul.

The loss of hope is the worst possible state because without hope,
nothing else is possible; certainly not faith.
If a person is faithless, he can be chastised and convinced.
If a person is proud, he can be humbled;
impure, he can be cleansed; weak, he can be strengthened;
wicked, he can be made righteous.
But if a person is despondent and despairing,
the very condition of his sickness is such
that his heart and soul are dead and unresponsive to the grace of God
and the support of family [his brothers].

…the force of despondence…
overwhelms him and oppresses his soul;
and this is a taste of hell because it produces a thousand temptations:
con- fusion, irritation, protesting and bewailing one’s lot, wrong thoughts,
wandering from place to place, and so on.
Saint Isaäc of Syriä, 6th cnt. in “Directions on Spiritual Training

The demon of despondency,
which is called the noon-day demon” [Psalm 90: 6]
is more grievous than all others. […]
It arouses in him vexation against the place
and mode of life itself and his work,
adding that there is no more love among his family [his brethren],
and no one to comfort him. (…)
Then it provokes in him a longing for other places…
Evagrius of Pontus, 4th cnt. in To Anatolius: “On Eight Thoughts

The only remedy for despair is humility and patience,
the steadfast holding to the life of faith,
even without conviction or feeling.
It is the simplification of life by going through each day,
one day at a time, with the continual observances,
however external, of scriptural reading, liturgical worship,
fasting, prayer, and work.
In the advice of Saint Benedict [6th cnt.],
it is to remain stable in one’s place,
and to “to what you are doing” as well as you can,
with all possible attention.

In the advice of
Saint Seraphim of Sarov [19th cnt.]:
It is to visit with spiritual friends,
with those who are hopeful, merciful, joyful and strong.
It is to stand fast to the end
while passing through aridity and darkness,
until the light of blessed hope and comfort are found.
There is no other way,
and “those who find it are few”.
Matth.7: 14

But when one “fights and conquers against despondency and despair,
this struggle is followed by a peaceful state and
the soul becomes filled with ineffable joy“.
Evagrius of Pontus, To Anatolius: On Eight Thoughts

When we are attacked by the demon of despondency
– the most grievous of all, but who more than all makes the soul experienced –
let us divide our soul in two, and making one part the comforter
and the other part the comforted,
let us sow seeds of good hope in ourselves,
singing with David the psalmist:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I will again praise Him,
my help and my God”.
Psalm 41: 5 &
Evagrius of Pontus, To Anatolius: “Texts on Active Life

Sometimes people think that a certain “lack of hope” is a Christian virtue.
They think that by proclaiming that “all is lost
they please God by their humility and sorrow over sins,
their own and those of the world.

They think that the more they concentrate on the evils of men,
the more they exalt the strength of the wicked, the more they sigh and say,
There is no help for US In God!”,
the more righteous and pious they become.
But this is all wrong.
It has nothing to do with the patient suffering at the hands of the wicked,
and the patient struggle against the powers of evil that the righteous must endure,
being absolutely certain of their ultimate and total victory in God,
the source of their strength and their hope.

It is no virtue to feel weak and
helpless in the presence of the wicked.
It is no virtue to consider oneself totally
at the mercy of evil and sin.
It is a virtue rather to be always
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation
knowing and believing
that the final Victory is God’s.
Rom.12: 12

 

Orthodoxy & the inner interchanges

Heavenly King,
the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere and fills all things;
Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life
– come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity,
and save our souls, O Good One“.
Prayer to Holy Spirit

Prayer
“… prayer … actualizes our ascent to and
union with the Deity…
when our prayer, through its fervent compunction, transcends the passions and conceptual thoughts; for the intellect,
while still passion-dominated, cannot be united to God.
Thus so long as the intellect when praying remains in a passion-charged state,
it will not obtain mercy; but to the extent that it can dispel distractive thoughts it will experience inward grief, and in so far as it experiences such grief
it will partake of God’s mercy.
And if with humility it continues to savour this mercy
it will transform entirely the aspect of the soul that it accessible to passion

Saint Gregory Palamas – On Prayer and Purity of Heart

Keep your heart with all vigilance;
for from it flow the spring of life
“[Prov. 4: 23].

For from within, out of the heart of man,
come evil thoughts
“[Marc.7: 21].

So shun youthful passions and aim at
righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along
with those who call upon the Lord
from a pure heart
“[2Tim. 2:22].

In its biblical concept, the heart is the source of all the potentiality of the spiritual and physical life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the spring of life“. Prov. 4: 23
This applies not only to good potentialities but to evil ones as well: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander“. Matth.15: 19
So the heart has become the expression of the final condition of man, whether he be good or evil: “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil“[Luc.6:45].
This means that the inclinations of the inmost heart set the tone of the whole man – they colour his thoughts, his words, and his deeds.
Man’s speech thus inevitably betrays the nature of his heart: “For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks“[Luc.6: 45].
So man’s words usually testify to the state
of his heart.
They can justify him or condemn him:
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned“. [Matth.12: 37]
The relationship between one’s heart
and one’s lips is defined by the Apostle Paul as follows: “For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved“[Rom.10: 10]. So when the heart believes, the lips must confess what kind of faith is in the heart.

However, the Bible tells us that it is possible for
two kinds of hearts to exist side by side in man,
one expressing his true nature and another falsifying his thoughts, words and deeds.
In the latter case, a person talks of good deeds and actually does them to give people the false impression that he is virtuous, while in fact he is wicked:
You brood of vipers! How can you speak of good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks“.
Matth.12: 34
From the words of the Lord, we learn that it is impossible for man to speak good words out of himself while being wicked. Good words coming from an evil source could only occur with the help of an auxiliary power – or of another heart implanted by the devil to mimic good deeds. We can infer this from the way our Lord describes those who counterfeit good deeds as a “brood of vipers“.
The viper is a symbolical expression of the devil. Here the intention behind showing off virtue is to safeguard evil and guarantee its lasting effect – which is the very work of the devil. The devil’s work, with regard of the heart, is not merely confined to contaminating it with evil desires. It is not just that he makes the devil treasured up in the heart produce evil. He even adds to this the possibility of giving man another heart from which he can speak gilded words. This he does to keep the evil intent and make sure that it is carried out.
As for God’s work concerning the heart, it is the complete removal of the evil heart and the creation of a new one that he implants into man. Thus, when man’s heart is transformed into a new heart, man of necessity is turned into another man:
Then the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall prophesy with them and be turned into another man . . .  When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart“.
1Sam.10: 6,9
In the Bible, the good News, the reality of creating a new heart for man goes hand in hand with three basic actions:
1.] contrition of the sinner’s heart;
2.] man’s complete cleansing or purging from within; and
3.] the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
These three actions we find most clearly expressed in Psalm 50 of the Prophet David:

Have mercy upon me, o God, according to Your steadfast Love;
According to Your abundance Mercy blot out my transgressions.
wash me thoroughly from my iniquity . . .

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,
and I shall be whiter than snow . . .
Create in me a clean heart. O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence, and
take not Your Holy Spirit from me . . .
A broken and contrite heart, o God, You will not despise”.

However, the creation of a new heart for a person in the Old Commitment [O.T.] was an exceptional and individual case. In the New Commitment [N.T.], the act became universal, not merely to create a new heart, but for creating a whole new man.
We find these three actions implied in the Mystery of Baptism. We find within it the image of cleansing and inward purging: “[He] cleaned their hearts by Faith“[Acts 15: 9]. This takes place during the burial in water in the Name of Christ. However, cleansing and purging cannot happen except through contrition of heart. It calls for genuine repentance a complete ˂-turn from sin. It is on account of this that forgiveness is granted; “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit“[Acts 2: 38]. That is, by thorough cleansing and purging through Faith and Repentance, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. It has thus become possible for every man to obtain the new creation and the new heart – by water and the Spirit, through Faith and Repentance.

However, purification of the heart through faith and repentance is one thing, but the acceptance of a heart newly created and purified by the Holy Spirit is another.
There is a crucial distinction between the two.
Purification of the heart is a necessary and vital activity in which we should be intimately involved.
But the creation of a new and a pure heart is an action that transcends our nature and belongs to God alone. God’s work should be adjoined to our own.
To the extent that we purify our own hearts from evil by faith and repentance, we become able to embrace the new heart created within us in God’s image.
In other words, insofar as we hate wickedness, are distressed by evil passions and thoughts, and abhor acts of sin, we become able to embrace the power of holiness.
This power dwells in us as a new nature, with the activity of divine love and the promptings, or intimations, of righteousness. Not only that, but as we strive to purify our hearts from the darkness of sin, which blinds our spiritual sight, we become able to face the truth, letting it live within us and penetrate to the very roots of our being. In other words, the more we can emerge in the power of the new, divine man: “Seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after te image of the creator“[Col.3: 9,10].
We thus enter the sphere of ascetical theology.
Ascetical theology makes out man’s labor and struggle, which are sustained by Grace, an essential basis for the gifts of God.
Such gifts, however, transcend human action and nature.
The ascetic fathers in general set purification of the heart as a vital basis for Salvation.
It qualifies us for the revealing of the new man, that we may live in the newness of live as spiritual men in Christ.

In its patristic concept, the heart, [η χαρδια], is identical with its biblical concept.
The fathers of the Church consider the “heart” in its spiritual and patristic sense corresponds to what medical jargon calls the brain.
This is true both of its characteristics
and its activity.
It may even be more than that.
It is the centre of faculties, talents, intelligence, insight, volition, wisdom, vision – all of which emanate from it and pour into it:
In the same way the heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which tests the thoughts that accuse and defend
Saint Macarios, the Great [In the fifty Homilies; 43-7] – Intoxicated with God.
In the same homily, Saint Macarios describes the heart as a “workshop of justice, righteousness, unrighteousness“. He also says that though the heart may be the meeting place of all evils,
it may be a meeting place for God and His Angels:
And when Grace gives pasture to the heart, it rules over all the members and the thoughts“.
For there in the heart, the mind abides as well all the thoughts of the soul and all its hopes.
This is how Grace penetrates throughout
all parts of the body [Spiritual Homily 15-20].

From this, we infer that the Fathers of the Church
see Grace pervading all our faculties: the mind, the will, the conscience, and the physical members of the body.
But all this depends on Grace
reigning first and foremost over the heart.
In other words, if Grace reigns over a person’s heart,
it changes its very nature
the result is a new spiritual nature.
This is where the value of the purification of the heart [received by Baptism]
is clearly shown; it is a preparation
for the indwelling of Grace.
Saint Macarios the Great insists that the evil heart contaminates the will.
It corrupts the natural inclinations and instincts of a man. Without his knowing of, everything that such a person sees and touches becomes impure for him:
So, on the contray, as many as a sons of darkness, sin has control over their heart and infiltrates into all his members.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts“[Matth.15: 19].
And thus diffused throughout sin covers man with darkness . . . Just as water runs through a pipe, so also sin runs through the heart and the thoughts.
All those who deny these statements are refuted end ridiculed by sin itself, which is always intent on victory.
For evil tries to hide itself end remain undetected in man’s mind [Macarios the great Homily 15-21].

Hence, first among man’s struggles and concerns is to purify his heart.
His endeavour is to overcome the deviations of the will and to correct the inclinations and instincs that have been subjected to the rule of evil.
This means that he has to confront the tendency of his heart toward evil activity.
He has to bridle it, curb it and finally destroy this tendency.
In his fifteenth homily, Saint Macarios describes the heart as “The place of Christ in which He retires” . He also describes it as “the Captain [who] rules and directs all the sailors“. Also, “it is like a chariot.
The reins, horses, and the whole apparatus are under one driver. When he wishes, he drives the chariot at high speed. When he wants, he stops it. Wherever he wishes to steer the chariot, there it goed. For the whole chariot is under the power of the driver. So also the heart
“.
Saint Macarios thus expresses the crucial rule of the heart as a captain of the ship of our life. It is the driver of the chariot that our bodies pull. If the captain is ignorant or foolish, what will become of the ship?  Or, if the driver is careless or crazy, what will the end of the chariot and its horses be?
If the house is impure how can the King dwell or rest in it?

Mattá al-Miskīn – Orthodox Prayer Life: “The Inner Way“.