Orthodoxy, Pascha, Passover & the physical Resurrection from death

Yes, our bodies will be raised not spiritually or ethereally,
but physically and materially.
Our souls will be reunited with our transformed physical bodies,
brought back to life from the dead.
Scripture teaches this in many ways:

1.]. simply to speak of a “Resurrection”
of the dead is to imply physicality [bodily]:
At the Resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage;
they will be like the angels in Heaven.
But about the Resurrection of the dead
– have you not read what God said to you
Matth.22: 30-31;
You will be blessed; although they cannot repay you,
you will be repaid at the Resurrection of the righteous
Luc.14: 14;
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable
and we will be changed
1Cor.15: 52;
For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout,
with the Voice of the archangel, and with the Trump of God:
and the dead in Christ shall rise first
1Thess.4: 16
That is what a Resurrection is.
The Bible has no categories for the concept of a Resurrected Body
that remains dead and physically lying in a grave.

2.]. For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the Body of His Glory“.
Phil.3: 20-21,
this teaches us that Christ’s Resurrected Body is the pattern of our resurrection body.
We know that Christ was raised in a physical body
because the disciples ate with Him after the Resurrection;
Not to all the people, but unto witnesses
chosen before of God, even to us,
who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.
Acts 10: 41
and touched Him:
And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, Peace be to all.
And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him
Matthew 28: 9;
also when He told Thomas,
Put your finger here, and look at My hands.
Take your hand, and put it into My side.
Stop doubting, but believe
John 20: 27
Also, Jesus outright declared that His resurrection body was physical and touchable:
See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself;
touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh
and bones as you see that I have

Luc.24: 39;
also “that God has fulfilled this Promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus,
as it is also written in the 2nd Psalm
, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You’.
As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead,
no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way
‘I will give You the Holy and Sure blessings of David’.
Therefore He also says in another Psalm,
‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay’.
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation,
fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay;
but He whom God raised did not undergo decay

Acts 13:33-37
Since Christ’s Resurrection is the pattern of our resurrection,
we will therefore be raised in a physical body as well.

3.]. Romans 8:21-23 speaks in vers 23 of waiting for “the Redemption [recovery] of our bodies“.
Our bodies are not going to be thrown away.
They are going to be renewed, restored, revitalized.

4.]. Jesus speaks of the Resurrection
as involving the coming forth of individuals out of their tombs,
which clearly indicates a physical concept of the resurrection:
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming,
in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,
and will come forth;
those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life,
those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment
John 5: 28-29

5.]. the Old Testament speaks of the Resurrection as being physical:
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake,
these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt
Daniel 12: 2
Likewise, we read in Job:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
and whom my eyes shall see and not another.
My heart faints within Me
Job 19: 25-27

How long do we have to wait for this?
We haven’t to wait a long time, because with God there isn’t time,
so after our death we also have no watch to follow,
time is there and it is now.
The Resurrection of the body will occur
at the end of the age when Christ returns.
There are two main ways the Scriptures indicate this:

1.]. Many verses teach that our resurrected bodies
will be the same bodies that we have now,
except transformed into an immortal state.
Since God does not create new bodies for us from scratch,
but rather He Resurrects the body that dies,
it is clear that we do not receive our resurrection bodies immediately at death.
For our bodies very clearly and evidently remain here on earth and are laid to rest;
that’s the reason we have ‘a burial’, after death.

2.]. Many explicit verses declare that the Resurrection will not occur
until the end of the age when Christ returns.

But as for you, go your way to the end;
then you will enter into rest and rise again
for your allotted portion at the end of the age
Daniel 12: 13;
here an angel looks ahead to the Resurrection
as occurring at the end of the age.

For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him,
may have eternal life;
and I Myself will raise him up on the last day
John 6: 40, where Christ declares
that the resurrection will happen on the last day.
And this is the Father’s Will Who has sent Me,
that of all that He has given Me I should lose nothing,
but should raise it up again at the last day
John 6: 39
And: “No man can come to Me,
except the Father Who has sent Me draw him:
and I will raise him up at the last day
John 6: 44
And: “Whosoever eats My flesh, and drinks My blood,
has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day
John 6: 54
Martha said unto Him,
I know that Lazaros shall rise again
in the Resurrection at the last day
cf. John 11:24

Paul specifies this meaning even further, stating in 1 Corinthians 15:23
that we will be raised at the return of Christ:
Each [will be raised] in his own order:
Christ the first fruits,
after that those who are Christ’s at His coming

In 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 he also looks ahead to the resurrection as something that will occur not until Christ comes back: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

All Christians will be glorified together
The fact that the resurrection will happen at the return of Christ has important implications:
It means that glorification will be a corporate reality
and not an individual experience
that happens to each believer separately at death.
All Christians will be raised into glory together.
While we all lived at different periods of time,
we all came to faith at different times,
and we all will have died at different times
[except for those who lived until Christ returns],
it is an amazing thing that God has planned things such
that our glorification will occur at the same time.
What a great encouragement it is to know
that the believers of the past are waiting for us
to finish the race ourselves so that we can all experience
the great joy of glorification together.

Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us
an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
while we look not at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen;
for the things which are seen are temporal,
but the things which are not seen are eternal.
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down,
we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven;
inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked.
For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened,
because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed,
in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God,
who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
Therefore, being always of good courage,
and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord
– for we walk by faith, not by sight- we are of good courage,
I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
What will happen when you die?
By “you” I mean believers in Jesus Christ.
If you are not a believer, the aim of these messages is
to wake you up from the slumber of indifference
to the question of death and eternity and to motivate you to consider Jesus Christ
as the only way to eternal life and the only escape from hell and eternal death.
I am the way the Truth and the Life,
no one comes to the Father but by Me
John 14: 6
There is no other way to God.

I will try to answer from Scripture the question,
“What happens immediately at the moment of death?” In the following four weeks the questions will be:

What happens to you at the coming of Christ?

What happens to believers at the Judgment?
What is our final place: a distant Heaven,
or the New Earth where lions and lambs lie down in Peace?
What is the most essential bridge that links this life and the next?
Why This Theme Is Crucial to Consider
There is a long list of reasons why this theme seems crucial to me for our consideration.
Let me mention a few of them:

1.]. The Possibilities of Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery
The possibilities for joy and misery after you die are trillions of times greater than in the few years on this earth before you die. The Bible compares this life to a vapor that appears as you breathe on a cold winter morning and then vanishes (James 4:14). The Bible describes the time after death as “ages of ages.” Not just one or two ages of thousands of years, but ages of ages; thousands and thousands of ages (Revelation 14:11). It matters infinitely what happens to you after you die.

2.]. The Question of Authentic Faith
This theme forces the question as to whether our faith is real, substantial, biblical faith in objective, external reality outside ourselves. Namely, is our faith in God or is it a mere subjective experience of feelings and thoughts inside ourselves that function as an emotional cushion to soften the bumps of life and give us a network of friends. Facing eternity has an amazing effect of sobering us out of religious delusions.

3.]. The Centrality of God
Thinking about death and eternity helps keep God as the center of our lives by testing whether we are more in love with this world than we are in love with God himself. Does the thought of dying give us more pain at losing what we love on earth than it gives us joy at gaining Christ?

4.]. The Call to Christian Courage
When the biblical truth of this theme grips you, it frees you from fear and gives courage to live the most radical, self-sacrificing life of love. The person who can truly say, “To die is gain,” will be able to say like no one else, “To live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). But if you can’t say, “To die is gain,” then you will you will probably say, in one degree or another, “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Being sure of what happens when you die is indispensable as a believer in Christ for your daily courage and for not losing heart through the pain and the diminishing health of this life.

That brings us to our text.
Providing the Basis of Not Losing Heart

What Paul is doing in 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:10 is showing the Corinthians
why he does not lose heart in spite of all the troubles and afflictions [2Cor.4: 8-12].
Especially in view of the fact that he knows he is dying; his body is wearing away.
read: “Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day
2Cor. 4: 16

It is utterly crucial that we not lose heart.
Some of you have taken such a pounding physically
and financially and relationally that you have often been tempted
to “lose heart“; to give up.
To say, “It isn’t worth it“. – “Who cares?
Paul faced the same temptation [2Cor.4: 8-12]
and this text holds one of the keys
to why he did not lose heart.

To show that this really is crucial to his point here,
look at verses 6 and 8 of chapter 5 which is part of the same train of thought.
Verse 6: “Therefore, being always of good courage . . . ”
Verse 8: “We are of good courage, I say“.
We’ll come back to these verses in moment,
but the point now is simply to show you
that what Paul is doing here is giving the basis
of being of good courage
and not losing heart.
That is the effect I would like it to have on you.

The Threat: His Body Is Decaying
Now let’s go back to 4: 16
and follow his line of thought to see
what is threatening to make Paul lose heart and lose courage
and what is keeping him from losing heart.

Verse 16: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying . . . ”
Here is the threat he is dealing with:
His body—”the outer man“—is decaying; it is wearing out.
He can’t see the way he used to [and there were probably no glasses].
He can’t hear the way he used to.
He does not recover from beatings the way he used to.
His strength walking from town to town
does not hold up the way it used to.
He sees the wrinkles in his face and neck.
His memory is not as good.
His joints get stiff when he sits still.
In other words, he knows that he, like everybody else, is dying.
His outer man is decaying.
That’s the threat to his courage and joy.

Now Why Doesn’t He Lose Heart?
The first part of the answer is again in verse 16:
Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day“.
He doesn’t lose heart because day by day his heart,
his inner man, is being renewed.
If his decaying body tends to make him lose heart,
something else tends to make him gain heart.
What is it?

Fixing His Eyes on What Can’t Be Seen
His renewed heart comes from something very strange:
it comes from looking at what he can’t see.
Verse 18:
–>We look not at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen;
for the things which are seen are temporal,
but the things which are not seen are eternal“.
This is Paul’s way of not losing heart:
looking at what you can’t see.

Recall how Jesus criticized the religious leaders in his day:
Seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear
Matth.13: 13
In other words there was something to “see” in Jesus’ life
and teaching which they didn’t see but should have seen.
That has got to be reversed if we are to get our hope
and our courage from Jesus and not lose heart.
It has to be said of us,
Not seeing, they see; and not hearing, they hear“.
That’s what Paul was doing in verse 18;
he was looking at things that are not seen.

Paul illustrates this in chapter 5, verse 7:
–>We walk by faith, not by sight“.
This doesn’t mean that we leap into the dark without evidence of what’s there.
But it does mean that the most precious and important realities in the world
are beyond our senses now, and we just  “look” at them (v. 18)
through what we know of Christ from faithful witnesses
who have seen Him and heard His Voice.
We strengthen our hearts
– we renew our courage –
by fixing the gaze of our hearts on invisible, objective Truth
that we learn about through the testimony of those
who knew Christ and were taught by Him [cf. Eph.1: 18-23].

Looking to the Unseen Weight of Glory Being Prepared
What Truth?
What do we fix our gaze on to experience day by day
the renewal of the inner man in the face of death?

To answer this we look back to verse 17 for a powerful summary statement,
and we look forward into chapter 5 for the unpacking of this summary statement.

Verse 17: We renew our inner man each day by looking at this truth:
Momentary, light affliction is producing for us
an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison“.

The decaying of your body is not meaningless.
The pain, pressure, frustration, and affliction are not happening in vain.
They are not vanishing into a black hole of pointless suffering.
Instead this “momentary, light affliction
[he calls it that even though it lasted for years
and was unremitting and often excruciating]
is producing for us an eternal weight of Glory
far beyond all comparison“.

In other words, the unseen things that Paul looks at
to renew his inner man is the immense weight of glory
that is being prepared for him not just after,
but through and by, the wasting away of his body.
There is a correlation between the decay of Paul’s body
and the display of Paul’s Glory.
When he is hurting, he fixes his eyes not on how heavy the hurt is,
but on how heavy the glory will be because of the hurt.

What Does This Unseen Glory Consist Of?
Now what does he see when he looks to the unseen glory? As he goes on in chapter five he fills in some of what he sees as he looks at the unseen.

Now the next two messages concern these verses: the resurrection body and the judgment of believers. But neither of these is the focus of this message. So if I pass over something too quickly, read the next sermon.

Verses 1–5 are about the hope of receiving new, glorious bodies at the resurrection.
Verses 9–10 are about the judgment and Paul’s effort to please Christ the Judge.
Our focus is on verses 6–8, the hope of being with Christ immediately when you die.

His Great, Final Hope
But let me read you the verses about the resurrection body because there is a crucial connection between this hope and the hope of being with Christ (without a new body) immediately when you die. Verses 1–5:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down [he’s talking about his body which is decaying], we have a building from God [a building as opposed to a tent for a house—that is, something more durable and lasting, namely, a new resurrection body],
a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house [this “tent-house,” our present body] we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from Heaven [that is, our resurrection body; he mixes metaphors here shifting back and forth now between being clothed and being housed]; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked [in other words, he does not prefer to put off his present body like a garment and become a disembodied soul—that’s what nakedness means].
For indeed while we are in this tent [this mortal body], we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed [we don’t want to be a bodiless soul], but to be clothed [on top of our present clothes—he wants the second coming of Christ to happen so that he will not have to die and be without a body, but rather have his present body swallowed up in the glorious resurrection life of the new body], in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now
He Who prepared us for this very purpose is God,
Who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

We’ll talk more about this in the next message.
For now, here’s the crucial point:
If Paul had his preference, he would choose to receive his new resurrection body at the second coming of Christ without having to die.
And the reason he gives is that the experience of “nakedness”
– that is being stripped of his body –
is not something as good as having his body swallowed up by life
as he is changed in the twinkling of an eye at the second coming of Christ.

This means that the great final hope of the Christian is not to die and be freed from our bodies, but to be raised with new, glorious bodies, or, best of all, to be alive at the second coming so that we do not have to lose our body temporarily and be “naked” (souls without bodies, cf. Matthew 10:28; Revelation 6:9; Hebrews 12:23) until the Resurrection.

Present with the Lord Immediately After Death
But does that mean that dying and going to be with Christ does not happen,
or that it is not good?
No. Paul puts things back in perspective again in verses 6–8.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord [the full intimacy we long for is not possible here]
– for we walk by faith, not by sight –
we are of good courage,
I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body
and to be at home with the Lord.

Now get this. In verse 4 Paul says, “He does not want to be unclothed“.
His first preference is not to be “absent from the body“.
He says that in comparison to being over-clothed
with the New Resurrection Body
if he is alive at the second coming of Christ.
That would be his first preference.
But if that is not possible
– if the choice is between more life here by faith and going to be with Christ –
he prefers that God would take him;
EVEN IF it means nakedness, that is,
even if it means that he must be stripped of his body.

And the reason for this willingness to leave his body behind is not because the body is bad—O, how he wants the experience of the new resurrection body—but because being at home with the Lord is so irresistibly attractive to Paul. Verse 8:
I prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord“.

So Paul renews his inner man by looking to unseen things.
He looks at three possibilities and prefers them in descending order.
First, he prefers that Christ would come and clothe his mortal body with immortality so that he would not have to die and be an incomplete, disembodied soul.
But if God does not will that, Paul prefers to be absent from the body to living on here, because he loves Christ more than he loves anything else.
To be absent from the body will mean to be at home with the Lord;
a deeper intimacy and Greater at-homeness than anything we can know in this life.
Finally, if God wills that it is not time for the second coming or time for death,
then Paul will walk by faith and not by sight.

In that faith he will be of good courage
and even though his outer man is decaying,
his inner man will be renewed day-by-day
through this faith in the unseen weight of glory.

Examine yourself.
Do you share these biblical priorities
and values in life?
Do you long mainly for the second coming?
And secondly, do you long to be at home with Christ
even if it costs you the surrender of your body?
Third, are you committed to walk by faith
until He comes or until He calls?



Thursday & Friday in the Holy week – they hated Him “without any cause”

If the world hates you,
you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own.
Yet because you are not of the world,
but I chose you out of the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the word that I said to you,
‘A servant is not greater than his master’.
If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept My Word, they will keep yours also.
But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake,
because they do not know Him Who sent Me.
If I had not come and spoken to them,
they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
He who hates Me hates My Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which no one else did,
they would have no sin;
but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.
But this happened
that the word might be fulfilled
which is written in their law,
‘They hated Me without a cause’“.
John 15: 18-25

It is usually understood, that the quotation our Saviour here refers to
is to be found in David’s Psalm, where he says,
speaking of himself immediately and of the Saviour prophetically,
Let them not rejoice over me,
those who are unjustly my enemies
Those who hate me without a cause
Psalm 34: 19

Our Saviour refers to that as being applicable to Himself and thus He really tells us, in effect, that many of the Psalms are Messianic, or refer to the Messiah;
and therefore I did not accident,
when it is said that I believed the Psalms referred to the Saviour,
though He may have carried the Truth too far.
But it will be a good plan, in reading the Psalms,
if we continually look at them as alluding not so much to David,
as to the Man of Whom was the type, Jesus Christ, David’s Lord.

• No being was ever more lovely than our Saviour;
it would seem almost impossible not to have affection for Him.
Certainly at first sight it would seem far more difficult to hate Him than to love Him.
And yet, loveable as He was, yes, “altogether lovely“,
no being so early met with hatred
and no creature ever endured such a continual persecution as He had to suffer.
He is no sooner ushered into the world,
than the sword of Herod is ready to cut Him off
and the innocents of Bethlehem by their dreadful massacre,
gave a sad foretaste of the sufferings which Christ would endure
and of the hatred that men would pour upon His devoted Head.
From His first moment to the Cross,
save the temporary silence while He was a child,
it seemed as if all the world were in league against Him
and all men sought to destroy Him.
In different ways that hatred displayed itself, sometimes in overt deed,
as when they took Him to the brow of the hill and would have cast Him down headlong,
or when they took up stones again to stone Him,
because He said that Abraham desired to see His day
and saw it, and was glad.

At other times that hatred showed itself in words of slander,
such as these,
– “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say,
Behold a man gluttonous and a winebibber,
a friend of publicans and sinners.
But wisdom is justified of her children
Matth.11: 19
or in looks of contempt, as when they looked suspiciously at Him,
because He did eat with publicans and sinners
and sat down to table with unwashed hands.
At other times that hatred dwelt entirely in their thoughts
and they thought within themselves,
This man blasphemes“, because He said,
your sins be forgiven you“.
But at almost every time there was a hatred towards Christ;
and when they took Him and would have made Him king and
a shallow fleeting flood of popular applause would have wetted Him on to an unsteady throne,
even then there was a latent hatred towards Him,
only kept under by loaves and fishes,
which only wanted an equal quantity of loaves and fishes offered by the priests,
to develop it itself in the cry of
Crucify him, crucify him“,
instead of the shout of
Hosannah! blessed is He
that comes in the Name of the Lord
All grades of men hated Him.
Most men have to meet with some opposition;
but then it is frequently a class opposition
and there are other classes
who look at them with respect.
The demagogue, who is admired by the poor,
must expect to be despised by the rich;
and he who labours for the aristocracy,
of course meets with the contempt of the many.
But here was a Man Who walked among the people, Who loved them,
Who spoke to rich and poor as though they were [as indeed they are]
on one level in His blessed sight:
and yet all classes conspired to hate Him;
the priests cried Him down because he spoiled their dogmas;
the nobles would put Him to death because He spoke of being a king;
while the poor, for some reasons best known to themselves,
though they admired His eloquence,
and frequently would have fallen prostrate in worship before Him,
on account of the wondrous deeds He did,
even these, led by men who ought to have guided them better,
conspired to put Him to death
and to consummate their guilt by nailing Him to the Tree
and then wagging their heads, bade Him, if He could build a Temple in three days,
to save Himself and come down from the Cross.

Christ was the hated one,
the slandered and scorned;
He was “despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief
Isaiah 53: 3

Then, let us defend what the Saviour said,
– “They hated me without a cause“.
• And we remark, that, apart from the consideration of man’s sinfulness,
and Christ’s purity, there certainly is not cause, whatever to be discovered
why the world should have hated Him.
Let us regard Christ in His person.
Was there anything in Christ’s person as a man, when He lived in this world,
which had a natural tendency to make any person hate Him?
Let us remark, that there was an absence of almost everything
which excites hatred between man and man.
In the first place there was no great rank in Christ to excite envy.
It is a well-known fact that let a man be ever so good,
if He be at all lifted above His fellow-creatures by riches,
or by title, though one by one men will respect Him,
yet the many often speak against Him,
not so much for what He is, as for His rank and His title.
It seems to be natural to men in the mass to despise nobles;
each man, individually, thinks it a wonderful fine thing to know a lord;
but put men together and they will despise lords and even bishops
and speak very lightly of principalities and powers.
Now Christ had none of the outward circumstances of rank,
He had no chariot, no long sleeves, no elevation above His fellows;
when He walked abroad there were no heralds to attend Him,
there was no pomp to do Him honour.
In fact, one would think that Christ’s appearance
would naturally have engendered pity.
Instead of being lifted above men,
He did, in some sense, seem to be below them, for foxes had holes,
and the birds of the air had nests,
but the Son of Man had not where to lay His head.
The envy naturally excited by rank, station, and such-like,
could not have operated in Christ’s case;
there was nothing in His clothing to attract attention;
it was the clothing of the provincial of Galilee
-“of one piece, woven from the top throughout“[John 19: 23].
Nor was there anything in His rank.
He might have been the son of an ancient royal family,
but its royalty was apparently extinct
and He was only known as the son of the carpenter.
The hated Him, then, in that sense, “without a cause“.

• Many persons seem to have envy excited in them
against those who exercise rule or government over them.
The very fact of a man having authority over me
stirs up my evil passions
and I begin to look at him with suspicion,
because he is invested with that authority.
Some men naturally fall into the groove
and obey simply because the ruled is made;
principalities and powers are established
and they submit themselves for the Lord’s sake;
but the many seem to have a natural tendency
to kick against authority, simply because it is authority.
But if authorities and governments were changed every month,
I believe that in some countries, in historical Roesj for instance,
there would be revolutions as much under one government as under another;
in fact, they hate all government there and wish to be without law,
that each man may do what is right in his own eyes.
But this did not operate in Christ’s case,
– He was not a worldly king; He did not assume sway over the multitude.
It is True He was Lord over tempests and seas;
it is True He could command demons, and, if He pleased,
men must have been His obedient servants; but
– He did not assume power over them.
– He marshalled no armies, He promulgated no laws,
– He made Himself no great fellow in church or country; the people did just as they liked,
for all the authority He exercised over them.
In fact, instead of binding laws upon them which were severe,
– He seemed to have loosened the rigidity of their system; for when the adulterous woman, who, otherwise, would have been put to death, was brought before Him,
He said,
Neither do I condemn you” [John 8:11].
And He relaxed, to a certain extent,
the rigidity of the Sabbatical ordinance,
which was in some respects too burthensome,
saying, ” the Sabbath was made for man not man for the sabbath“[Marc.2: 27].
Surely, then, they hated Him “without a cause“.

• Some men make others dislike them because they are proud.
I know some men that I should have liked very well
if the starch had been left out of them;
I should really sympathize with them and admire them
if they had the least degree of condescension,
but they seem to walk about the world with such a style of pride!
They may not be proud
– very likely they are not; but, as an old divine said,
Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons
and healing people today and tomorrow,
and on the third day I will reach my goal’
Luc.13: 32
And, somehow or other,
the human mind cannot bear pride; we always kick against it.
But there was nothing of that in our Saviour.
How Humble He was! Why He stooped to anything.
He would wash His disciples’ feet;
and when He walked about among men,
there was no parade about Him, as if He would say to them,
See my talent, see my power, see my rank, see my dignity,
stand by, I am greater than you

No, He takes His seat there.
There is Matthew, the publican, sitting beside Him
and He does not think He is hurt by the publican,
although He is the worst of sinners;
and there is a harlot, He speaks to her;
there is another with seven devils
and He casts the devils out of her,
and another, who has the leprosy,
and He even touches the leper,
to show how Humble He was and
that there was nothing of pride about Him.

Could you have seen the Saviour;
He was the very archetype of humility!
There were none of your forms of etiquette and politeness about Him;
He had that True politeness which makes itself affable to all men,
because it is kind and loving to all.
There was no pride in the Saviour
and consequently there was nothing to excite men’s anger on that account.
Therefore, they hated Him “without a cause“.

• There are others that you cannot help disliking,
because they are so snappish, and waspish, and angry;
they look as if they were born on some terribly dark stormy day
and as if, in the mixture of their body, no small quantity of vinegar was employed.
You could not sit long with them, without feeling
that you have to keep your tongue in pretty tight chain;
you must not talk freely or there would be a quarrel,
for they would make you an offender for a word.
You may say,
Such an one is, no doubt a good man” [Matth.19:17];
but really, that temper of his I cannot bear it.
And when a man stands prominently before the public,
with a nasty sour disposition,
one feels inclined to dislike Him.
But there was nothing of this about our Saviour.
When He was reviled, He reviled not again“[1Petr.2: 23]:
if men spat in His face He said nothing to them;
and when they smote Him, He did not curse them;
He sat still and bore their scorn.
He walked through the world,
with contempt and infamy constantly poured upon him;
but “He answered not a word“[Matth.27: 14];
He was never angry.
You cannot find, in reading the Saviour’s life,
that He spoke one angry word,
save those words of Holy anger which He poured,
like scalding oil, upon the head of pharisaic pride;
then, indeed, His anger did boil, but it was Holy anger.
With such a loving, kind, gentle spirit, one would have thought
that he would have gone through the world as easily as possible.
But, notwithstanding all that, they hated him.
Truly, we can say, “They hated Him without a cause“.

• There is another set of people you can scarcely help disliking;
they are selfish people.
Now, we know some persons who are very excellent in temper,
who are extremely honest and upright, but they are so selfish!
When you are with them, you feel that they are just friends to you
for what they can get out of you; and when you have served their turn,
they will just lay you aside, and endeavour to find another.
In trying to do good, their good deed has an ulterior object,
but, somehow or other, they are always found out;
and no man in the world gets a greater share of public odium
than the man who lives a selfish life.
Among the most miserable men in the universe,
kicked about the world like a football, is the selfish collector.

But in Christ there was nothing selfish;
whatever He did, He did for others.
He had a marvellous Power of working Miracles,
but He would not even change a stone into bread for Himself” [Matth.4: 3];
He reserved His Miraculous Power for others;
He did not seem to have a particle of self in His whole nature.
In fact, the description of His life might be written very briefly:
He saved others, Himself He did not save“[Matth.27: 42].
He walked about; He touched the poorest, the meanest
and those who were the most sick;
He cared not what men might say of Him;
He seemed to have no regard for fame, or dignity, or ease, or honour.
Neither His bodily nor his mental comforts were in the least regarded by Him.
Self-sacrifice was the life of Christ;
but He did it with such an ease that it seemed no sacrifice.
Ah! beloved, in that sense certainly they hated Christ without a cause;
for there was nothing in Christ to excite their hatred
– in fact, there was everything, on the other hand,
to bind the whole world to love
and reverence a character so eminently unselfish.

• Another sort of people there are that I do not like, namely the hypocritical;
nay, I think I could even live with the selfish man, if I knew him to be selfish;
but the hypocrite, do not let him come anywhere near where I am.
Let a public man be a hypocrite once
and the world will scarcely trust him again; they will hate him.
But Christ was, in this particular, free from any blame;
and if they hated Him, they hated Him not for that,
for there never was a more unvarnished man than Christ.
He was called, you know, the child Jesus;
because as a child speaks itself out and has no reserve,
and no craftiness, even so was it with Jesus;
He had no affectation, no deceit.
There was no change about Him;
He was “without variableness or shadow of turning“[Jac.1: 17].
Whatever the world may say of Christ,
they never said they believed He was a hypocrite;
and among all the slanders they brought against Him,
they never disputed His sincerity.
Had they been able to show that He really had been imposing upon them,
they might have had some grounds for hating Him;
but He lived in the Sunlight of sincerity
and walked on the very mountain-top of continual observation.
He could not be a hypocrite and men knew He could not;
and yet men hated Him.
Verily, my friends, if you survey the character of Christ, in all its loveliness,
in all its benevolence, in all its sincerity, in all its self-devotion,
in all intense eagerness to benefit man, you must say, indeed,
“They hated him without a cause”
there was nothing in Christ’s person to lead men to hate Him.

• In the next place, was there anything in Christ’s errand
which could make people hate Him?
If they had asked Him, for what reason have you come from Heaven?
would there have been anything in His answer likely to excite their indignation and hatred?
I troy not. For what purpose did He come?
He came, first of all, to explain Mysteries
– to tell them what was meant by the Sacrificial Lamb,
what was the significance of the scape-goat,
what was intended by the Ark, the brazen serpent, and the pot of manna;
He came to rend the veil of the Holy of holies,
and to show men secrets they had never seen before.
Should they have hated one Who lifted the veil of Mystery
and made dark things light, and expounded riddles?
Should they have hated Him Who taught them
what Abraham desired to see, and what Prophets and kings had longed to know,
but died without a knowledge of?
Was there anything in that to make them hate Him?
What else did he come for?
He came on earth to reclaim the wanderer;
and is there anything in that that should make men hate Christ?
If He came to reform the drunkard, to reclaim the harlot,
and gather in the publicans and sinners,
and bring prodigals to their Father’s House again,
sure that is the Object with which every philanthropist should agree;
it is that for which our governments are formed and fashioned,
to bring men to a better state; and if Christ came for that purpose,
was there anything in that to make men hate him?
For what else did He come?
He came to heal the diseases of the body;
is that a legitimate object of hatred?
Shall I hate the Physician Who goes about
gratuitously healing all manner of diseases?
Are deaf ears unstopped, are mouths opened, are the dead raised,
are the blind made to see, and widows blest with their sons?
Are these causes why a man should be obnoxious?
Surely, He might well say,
For which of these works do you stone me?
If I have done good works wherefore speak ye against me?
“[John 10: 32].
But none of these works were the cause of men’s hatred;
they hated Him without a cause.

• And He came on earth to die, that sinners might not die?
Was that a cause of hatred?
Ought I to hate the Saviour,
because He came to quench the flames of hell for me?
Should I despise Him Who allowed His Father’s flaming sword
to be quenched in His own vital blood?
Shall I look with indignation upon the substitute
Who takes my sin and grief’s upon Him, and carries my sorrows?
Shall I hate and despise the man Who loved me better than He loved Himself
– Who loved me so much that He visited the gloomy grave for my Salvation?
Are these the causes of hatred?
Surely His errand was one
that ought to have made us sing His praise for ever,
and join the harps of angels in their rapturous songs.
“They hated Me without a cause.”

• But once more: was there anything in Christ’s doctrine
that should have made us hate Him?
No, we answer; there was nothing in His doctrine
that should have excited men’s hatred.
Take His pre-locked up doctrines.
Did He not teach us to do to others as we would they should to us?
Was He not also the exponent of everything lovely and honourable, and of good report?
And was not His teaching the very essence of virtue, so that if virtue’s Self had written it,
it could not have written such a perfect code of lovely morals, and excellent virtues.
Was it the ethical part of his doctrines that men hated?
He taught that rich and poor must stand on one level;
He taught that His Gospel was not to be confined to one particular church or nation,
but was to be Gloriously expansive, so as to cover the whole world?
This perhaps, was one principal reason of their hating Him;
but surely there was no justifiable cause for their indignation in this.
There was nothing in Christ to lead men to hate him.
“They hated him without a cause.”

• And now I come to dwell on man’s sin,
that He should have hated the Saviour without a cause.
Ah!, I will not tell you of man’s adulteries, and fornications,
and murders, and poisonings, and sodomies.
I will not tell you of man’s wars, and bloodsheds,
and cruelties, and rebellions;
If I want to tell you man’s sin,
I must tell you that man has to make up his mind
– that he put to death His God, and slew His Saviour;
and when I have told you that, I have given you the essence of all sin,
the master-piece of crime, the very pinnacle and climax of
the terrific pyramid of mortal guilt.
Man outdid himself when he put His Saviour to death,
and sin did out
– Herod when it slew the Lord of the universe,
the Lover of the race of man, Who came on earth to die.
Never does sin appear so exceedingly sinful
as when we see it pointed at the Person of Christ,
Whom it hated without a cause. In every other case,
when man has hated goodness, there have always been some extenuating circumstances.
We never do see goodness in this world without mixed ingredients;
however great may be any man’s goodness,
there is always some nail whereon we may hang a censure;
however excellent a man may be, there is always some fault
which may diminish our admiration of our love.
But in the Saviour there was nothing of this.
There was nothing that could blot the picture;
Holiness stood out to the very life; there was Holiness – only Holiness.
There was nothing in Him but Holiness:
and any person with half an eye can see, that the thing men hated was simply
that Christ was perfect; they could not have hated Him for anything else.
And thus you see the abominable, detestable evil of the human heart
– that man hates goodness simply because it is such.

• Brokenness we see nowadays is not what He intended:
domestic violence, corrupted governments,
resentful nations and bitter Church congregations.
We all know that when the Lord created this world,
everything was ‘Good‘ and ‘in order‘.
His purpose for Humanity is so that everyone
can enjoy this relationship with Him and worship Him.
But until we realize and truly understand
how fearfully and wonderfully we were made,
Whom we belong to and why we are even here,
we will not be able to fulfil God’s Purpose in the world.

Will we not help one another
to bring the beauty within each of us out?
Will we not allow our hearts to be broken
for what breaks Him?
Will we not use our God-given talents to serve our families,
neighbours or even strangers?
And will we not pour our hearts, thoughts and spirits
in seeking and searching for Him
in order to have more of His Love every day?

We are children of the King.
Let us do all this, and many more.
And now may you who hate Christ love Him;
that He would bring Himself to you now!
That He would show himself to you!
And then sure you must love Him at once.
He that believeth on the Lord Jesus will be sure to love Him
and he that love Him shall be saved.
That God would give you Faith
and give you Love,
for Christ Jesus’ sake!

Today is the day of your judgment. Do not fear.
Come, bare your back with Him Who bared His back and was not ashamed.
Come, turn your face, and turn it without looking backward,
as  the Prophet said about Him,
I turned not backward [never]”.
Isaiah 50: 5

Do not be afraid. Walk, step by step.
That is the Price of your minor sins,
the cost of violating God’s minor commandments.
Come, come with Me,
share this punishment that can wash your flesh, blood, and bones
and make you reborn with the flesh of a new-born babe.

Today is the Day of Judgment of mankind for minor sins.
Come, come, O sinners, those with a heavy conscience,
those burdened by sin; come, for this Day is yours.
Come to sate the passions of your conscience,
to live without a conscience burdened by sin,
not with a conscience that has sinned,
but with a conscience that has been purified
and cleansed to become whiter than snow [Psalm 50].

They clothed Him with a crimson robe
on the Day of the Cross,
which is in fulfilment of the Prophecy:
Who is this that comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah“,
Isaiah 63: 1
i.e., crimson robes stained with blood.
The mention of a crimson robe here has a beautiful reference to the cross:
Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow,
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool“.
Isaiah 1: 18
The wool here refers to the robe of the Lamb on the Cross.
They stripped Him, dressed Him in a crimson robe
and lifted Him up, revealing the royal robe.
Christ donned the robe of Glory,
the robe of Eternal Purity.

But when the Comforter is come,
Whom I will send unto you from the Father,
even the Spirit of truth, Which proceeds from the Father,
He shall testify of me:
And you also shall bear witness,
because you have been with Me
from the beginning
John 15: 26-27

Orthodoxy & Holy week, the first days of the Holy Week

  1. 1.       Monday of Holy Week &
    the blessed and Noble Joseph the All-Comely and
    the fig tree which was cursed and withered by the Lord

The story of Joseph, the All-Comely is told in the book of Genesis.
Joseph was the penultimate of  Patriarch Jacob’s 12 sons, and his favorite.
His father fashioned a “coat of many colors” for Joseph.
This, in addition to Joseph telling his brothers about dreams
that were not flattering to the brothers made them very envious.

One day, when out in the field, all the brothers  save Ruben (the eldest) and Benjamin,
who was yet to be born, conspired to kill Joseph.
Ruben suggested that instead they throw him into a pit
and wait to see what happened.
He intended to come back later and rescue Joseph,
in the meantime, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by some traders.
The brothers killed a sheep, and put its blood on Joseph’s coat,
which they had taken from him previously, and told their father
that Joseph had been torn to pieces by a wild animal.

He was in the employ of Potiphar, an important man in Egypt.
Potiphar’s wife made many passes at Joseph, but he was chaste.
One day, when Joseph was alone in the house, his wife grabbed him
and he fled away naked. She made up a story about his advances
and Joseph was thrown in prison.
In prison, he interpreted the dream Pharaoh’s butler and baker
and his interpretation came true to the letter.
The butler was restored to Pharaoh’s service and the baker was executed.
The butler had promised to bring Joseph’s case before Pharaoh,
but forgot until Pharaoh  had a dream that none of his wise men could interpret.
The butler then remembered Joseph, and he correctly interpreted the dream
as prophesying seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.

Pharaoh put Joseph over all of Egypt, in order to prepare for the famine.
When the famine struck, Jacob sent his sons to get food in Egypt.
Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not know him.
After Benjamin also came to Egypt, much to the consternation of Jacob,
Joseph made himself known to his brothers in an incredibly emotional scene.
Soon thereafter, all of Jacob’s family moved to Egypt.

Joseph is a type of Christ:
There are many parallels between Joseph and our Lord Jesus Christ.
► Joseph was a slave “in body
– our Lord took on the form of a slave – humanity.
► Joseph was sold into slavery
because of the envy of his brothers for 20 pieces of silver
– Jesus our Saviour was sold for thirty pieces of silver
by his close confederate, the unworthy Apostle Judas,
because of the envy of the Jewish rulers.
► Joseph was cast in to a pit and later thrown into prison
– our Lord Jesus Christ went into the gloomy pit of Hell to save imprisoned humanity.
► Joseph did not complain about his lot,
– our Lord was silent in the face of His accusers.
► Joseph was chaste when tempted by Potiphar’s wife,
unlike the First Adam, who gave into temptation.
– the Second Adam, our Lord was perfectly sinless and showed us the way to perfect chastity.
► Joseph became Lord over Egypt [which represents sin].
– Jesus Christ is Lord over all of His human nature,
making us capable of becoming Lords over our Egypt – our human nature.
► Joseph was immersed in a land with many temptations
[especially since he became the second greatest man in Egypt],
an yet he remained chaste and good, and eventually saved all his people.
– our Lord was immersed in many temptations
and did not sin once, and eventually made us capable of perfection.
► He saved his people by feeding them bread in a time of famine.
– Jesus the Saviour saves mankind,
and feeds them with the bread of heaven – His body and blood.

Kontakion          Tn 8, Holy Monday Matins
Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph,
but his righteous son was seated in a chariot and honoured as a king.
For he was not enslaved to the pleasures of Egypt,
but he was glorified by God who sees the hearts of men
and bestows on them a crown incorruptible

Ikos       Tn8, Holy Monday Matins
Let us now add our lamentation to the lamentation of Jacob,
and let us weep with him for Joseph,
his wise and glorious son
who was enslaved in body but kept his soul free from bondage
and became lord over all Egypt.
For God grants unto his servants a Crown incorruptible

The barren Figtree
Then Christ told this parable:
A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.
So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard,
‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
‘Sir,’ the man replied,
‘leave it alone for one more year
and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.
If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down’

Luc.13: 6-9
In the parable of the barren fig tree, the owner is generally regarded as representing God,
Who had a fig tree [tree of knowledge] planted in his vineyard [the Garden of Eden]
and came seeking fruit [Righteous Works, which in part is a Mystery].
The Gardener [vinedresser] is God and the Vine is Jesus [the Tree of Life].
Fig trees were often planted in vineyards.
The fig tree was a common symbol for Israel
and may also have that meaning here,
or the tree in the Parable may refer to the religious leadership.
In either case, the Parable reflects Jesus offering his hearers
one last chance for repentance.
“These three years” logically refers to the period of Jesus’ Ministry.
The Parable has been connected to the Miracle of cursing the fig tree.
This Parable is one which our Lord may be said
to have put before his hearers twice; once in words,
once in action.

  1. 2.       Holy Tuesday & the Parable of the Ten Virgins
    The parable of the Ten Virgins teaches us
    that we must prepare ourselves now for the coming of Christ and prepare ourselves for the wait no matter how long it takes.

Our Lord first admonished His hearers
to pray and not to faint“;
His concluding remark is
And will not God revenge His elect
who cry to Him day and night and
will He have patience in their regard? I say to you, that He will quickly revenge them
                                                                               Luc.18: 7–8

The conclusion of the parable of the ten virgins
which also indicates this association:
Watch you therefore, because you know not the day or the hour”.
Matth.25: 13
In this parable the foolish virgins, by neglecting to take oil with their lamps,
failed to welcome the bridegroom at his arrival and,
consequently, merited the punishment of not participating in the wedding feast.
The debt is this.
Just as the virgins were obliged
to have their lamps burning when the bridegroom arrived,
so too the faithful are obliged to prepare for Christ’s coming
in judgment by their good works.
Those who do will enter into everlasting life,
but those who do not will be condemned
by those dreadful words:
Amen I say to you, I know you not“.

This central comparison is extended to other parts of the image.
The bridegroom Who bars the foolish virgins from the wedding feast
is Christ Who will reward each man according to his deeds.
The wedding feast, therefore, represents the everlasting happiness of Heaven.
The uncertainty regarding the time of the bridegroom’s arrival signifies
that the time of Christ’s second coming is hidden from us.
There are many other incidents in the parable
which have no supernatural counterpart.
It is of no significance, for example,
that while the bridegroom tarried all the virgins slept.
This is merely a detail enhancing the realism of Christ’s story.
The same is true of the refusal of the wise virgins to share their oil with the foolish.

  1. 3.       Wednesday, commemoration
    of the sinful Women who anointed the Lord Jesus with Myrrh
    The woman who was a harlot and
    who anointed the Lord with myrrh,
    while this took place a short time
    before the saving Passion.
    Judas from becoming a traitor,
    the woman is honoured by saying
    that her good deed would be related everywhere, throughout the whole world.

That nard, or rather myrrh, with which the harlot anointed Christ, was very costly.
It belonged to that type of compound called myrrh,
which Moses was commanded by God to make
for the anointing of priests and chief priests.
It is of this that David says,
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down to the beard,
to Aaron’s beard, running down to the edge of his garment” [Psalm 132 : 2].
It was a compound of four substances: myrrh, flowers, fragrant cinnamon, and oil.
It was called true or genuine, because skilled and trusted men were appointed
to prepare that which God had in a Mysterious manner revealed to Moses alone.
An alabaster jar is a glass vessel made with no handle,
which is also called a vykion.

We should know that today the deceitful Judas,
that lover of money,
that whelp of Satan, began the negotiations with the wicked Sanhedrin
to betray the Master for thirty pieces of silver.
Being indignant after Christ rebuked him
for showing concern for the cost of the oil of myrrh,
he sought out the Jews who were at the court of Caiaphas.
After taking council with the Jewish High Priests,
he searched for an opportunity to betray the Lord when He was alone,
for the Sanhedrin feared the multitude that followed Christ.

We see in today’s Gospel [Matth.26: 6-16]
that the sinful woman brought oil of myrrh to anoint Christ
while Judas brought his greed to the Sanhedrin.
She spread out her hair to wipe the Lord’s feet,
while Judas stretched out his hands for the money.
She rejoiced to pour out the very precious oil on the Lord,
while Judas made plans to sell the One who is above all price.
By anointing Christ, she acknowledged Him as Lord,
while Judas severed himself from the Master.
She was set free of her sins,
while Judas was entrapped and became a slave of the devil.
She tenderly kissed the feet of Christ, asking for forgiveness,
|while Judas plotted to betray the Lord with a kiss,
anticipating the silver.

Apolytikion of the Bridegroom
Behold! The bridegroom approaches in the middle of the night,
And blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching;
But unworthy he whom He shall find careless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul.
Be not overcome with sleep,
lest thou be given over to death and shut outside the kingdom.
But arise and cry:
Holy, holy, holy art Thou, O God!
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us!

Kontakion          Tn4
Though I have transgressed, O Good One,
more than the harlot,
I have never offered Thee a flood of tears.
but, praying in silence,
I fall down before Thee,
with love embracing Thy most pure feet,
that You as Master mayest grant me remission of sins.
And I cry to You, O Saviour:
Deliver me from the defilement of my evil deeds

Having come to hate the works of sin and carnal pleasure,
the woman who before had been a prodigal became chaste at once.
Calling to mind the magnitude of disgrace
and the condemnation of torment which harlots and profligates,
of whom I am first, shall endure, I also am afraid;
yet I foolishly continue in my evil ways.
But the woman who was a harlot, having been filled with fear,
hastened quickly to the Deliverer, crying out:
“O compassionate Lord Who loves mankind,
deliver me from the defilement of my evil deeds

The Exapostilarion [The Hymn of Light]
Your bridal chamber, O my Saviour, I see adorned,
and I have no raiment with which to enter therein.
Enlighten the garment of my soul,
O Giver of Light, and save me.

The Hymn of Cassia
O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins,
perceiving Your Divinity, became one of the Myrrhbearers,
bringing You ointment in tears before Your burial.
She cried,
– “Woe is me!
– “For I lived in a night of licentiousness,
moonless and dismal love of sin.
– “Accept the fount of my tears
O Thou who draws the waters of the sea from the clouds.
– “Bow down Your ear to the sighing of my heart,
– “O You Who did bow the Heavens in Your ineffable self-emptying,
– “that I may kiss Your most pure feet
and wipe them again with the hairs of my head,
– “the feet whose step Eve once heard in Paradise in the cool of the day,
when for fear she hid herself.
– “My sins are many. And who may search the depths of Thy judgments?
– ” O Saviour of souls, my Saviour,
– “despise not Your servant “in Your limitless mercy

► The extraordinary hymn of Kassia,
sung at the matins of Holy Wednesday,
is based on the above Gospel account of the sinful woman.
As Jesus is dining at the house of Simon, a Pharisee,
the sinful woman enters the house and begins anointing his feet with myrrh and tears
and wiping them with her hair.
This event, as recounted by Lucas,
takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ Public ministry,
although its commemoration has been placed
during the Bridegroom Matins of Holy Week
because of its symbolic interpretation
as a preparation for his burial.

Beginning of Holy Week – Palm Sunday, Gospel

On this Sunday we celebrate the
solemn Entry of the Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour.
Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him.
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume;
she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.
And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected,
“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?
It was worth a year’s wages”.
He did not say this because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag,
he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied.
“It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of My burial.
You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me”.
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came,
not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,
for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in Him.
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard
that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.
They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”.
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your King is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt”.
At first his disciples did not understand all this.
Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize
that these things had been written about him
and that these things had been done to him.
Now the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb
and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.
Many people, because they had heard
that He had performed this sign, went out to meet Him
John 12 : 1-18

During the first centuries of Christianity,
the feast of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem ‘ was celebrated along with the resurrection of Lazarus.
Later that day was brought forward a week, ie the day after the Saturday of Lazarus.

These two parties have a common theme :
The Triumph and Victory“.
According to the holy Evangelists,
Jesus sent ahead from Bethany to Jerusalem
two of his disciples ahead of him to get to go to prepare the celebration of Passover on a donkey; after they had brought him the animals entry begins in the historic city.

What the People had heard of the resurrection of Lazarus
was in response flocking to see Jesus and to welcome Him.
There had been an erroneous beliefs about the role of Christ formed.
It was thought that he would act , which would free the dynasty of the Romans
and slavery would destroy them as political leaders.

WHY the people, rein , as is often described in welcoming a king,
but watch how typical last year the Dam in Amsterdam was decorated to welcome, a new king of the Netherlands, named ‘Willem-Alexander’.
Everyone was decked out with palm branches in their hands and ran together to see Him and welcome . With green branches the whole Dam Square in Amsterdam was coloured orange.

In other places , they spread their clothes and some cut branches from the trees
and spread it on the street where Jesus would go along.
Everyone cried, “Hosanna, blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord, King of Israel“.

Note that the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem just two and a half kilometers,
as far as the Amsterdam Central Station to Dam Square.
With such ease is the World deal with the events .

During his earthly life of Jesus Christ,
the humble entry into the Holy City was the only visible sign of Triumph.
Just at the time when Jesus would avoid triumphalism and eulogies.

With the entry into Jerusalem on the back of an ASS Jesus demonstrates
humility and at the same time He realizes the Prophecy of the prophet Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion ,
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem,
Behold, your King cometh unto you:
He is Righteous and Victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a donkey foal of an ass!“.
Zechariah 9 : 9

Christ , therefore, come to Jerusalem,
Fear not, daughter of Sion:
behold , your King comes,
sitting on an ass ‘s colt“.
John 12 : 15
Israel withdraw to welcome Him. Honoured with an earthly king.
She is not interested in values ​​is not limited to a party upon temporary glory,
while His target was to free us from sin,
not of human slavery man.

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem symbolizes the qualifications
of the witness of the earthly life of our Lord.
In a few days they will testify against Him,
and He will be slain to defeat death
and to give to all mankind.
Life on the cross

Palm Sunday reminds us of honouring this sacred entry
and simultaneously reads the event in which the inhabitants of Jerusalem be identified.
We are pleased with our Lord and King, who is sung in our churches:
“Hosanna, blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord”.
With these words we confess that Christ is King and our Lord .

Too often we forget in our daily lives,
that God’s Kingdom is already installed on the earth
since the day of the Resurrection, and the day of our Baptism, this meal has accomplished .

The biblical meaning of Jerusalem is
that it is a whole history of salvation and redemption,
the Holy City is the coming of God on earth displays.
The Kingdom settled in Jerusalem
and is a global Kingdom and the Ecumenical Man embraces all creation.
This moment was the fulfilment of all the Promises that God gave to man.

The Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem expresses an eternal sense.
It shows man in reality the Divine and Eternal Kingdom of God.

This jubilation gives meaning to the time and the ultimate and eternal purpose.
The kingdom of God is revealed to the world
as the Resurrection of Christ
and His Presence human history transforms.

By participating in the Service section of Palm Sunday
we innovate and we confess that the Kingdom of God,
an ultimate meaning and reflects the scope of our lives.

We confess that everything in our lives and the world belongs to Christ
and nothing can be taken from the unique participation
because there are no areas where Christ ruled the world .

We proclaim this way indefinite ecumenical responsibilities of each of us in human history,
which reflects the state of the universal mission of the Church.
This is so because the Church is the only sure way to Salvation
through its entire life of the Mysteries [Lat. Sacraments].

We have gone through the King why Jews were hailed at the time
and we endorse this the way we live, on the way to Calvary, to the Cross and the Grave.

We know that this short Triumph also the sacrifice of the prologue [for the final game].

The Kingdom of God is visible,
but in the human ignorance it is now around us
pretended nothing of all these shocking events occurred.
As if the God-man did not die on the Cross
and was not Resurrected from the dead.

But we Christians believe in the coming Kingdom
and constantly speak of this commitment by the confession of the Creed.
The Kingdom of God is and will always be, the Kingdom “really makes everything” [Sanctify]
and with Christ as the only King.

In the Divine Liturgy we retrieve events from the past to mind .

But the greatest significance and power of the Holy Office is the fact
that the memories conveys the present, in the face of reality.

On Palm Sunday this reality gives us the King’s participation in this event and our response.
Christ is not historically triumphantly into Jerusalem, He did this once and for all.

“Symbols ” are no longer necessary,
because he has not died on the Cross for you to inform us to “interpret” His life.
But ask us a real, genuine acceptance of Faith by paying attention to the significance of His crucifixion and Resurrection.

It is obvious to keep.
The sacred promise that we confess our baptism fixed this Palm Sunday and Passover
to renew every year.
They keep us throughout our lives God’s Kingdom rule in mind,
that is the message that the Church gives us on our way to our Father’s House,
and its true meaning to bring about.

If you really want to come to Christ [as Christians want to be],
you need to see life with its horizontal and vertical dimensions.
Only then can we understand that the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ
is the only way for all People on earth .

Apolytikion       tn 4
With You also buried in Baptism
Thou us by Thy Resurrection
eternal life bestowed
and we sing to You , Christ our God ,
and we cry
Hosanna in the highest .
Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord“.

Kondakion         tn 6
In Heaven, seated on a Throne ,
but on earth a beast of burden ,
Thou , O Christ God ,
the hymns of Angels and
accepted the song of children ,
You who shouted :
Blessed is he that cometh ,
to call Adam again“.

Psalms created on Truth – PSALM 70 – How to grow old

O God, in You I hope;
may I never be put to shame.
Deliver me in your righteousness,
and set me free;
Incline Your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a God for Protection
and a strong place for Salvation,
for You are my Foundation and my refuge.
O my God,
deliver me from the hand of the sinner,
from the hand of those who transgress the Law and act un-justly;
for You are my patience, O Lord;
the Lord from my youth.
by You I have been supported from birth;
from my mother’s womb You have been my Protector;
My song shall be always of You.
I am become as a wonder to many,
and You are my strong Helper.
Let my mouth be filled with Your praise,
that I may sing of Your Glory
and of Your Magnificence all the day long.
Do not abandon me in the time of old age;
when my strength fails do not forsake me.
For my enemies speak against me,
and those who watch for my soul plot together,
saying, “God forsook him; pursue and lay hold of him,
for there is no deliverer”.
o God, do not stand far off from me;
O my God, give heed to help me.
Let those who falsely accuse my soul
be shamed and forsaken;
let those who seek evils for me
be covered with shame and reproach.
But I will hope continually,
and I will add to all Your praise.
My mouth shall proclaim Your Righteousness,
Your Salvation all the day,
for I am not acquainted with learning.
I shall enter into the Power of the Lord;
O Lord, I shall remember Your Righteousness,
Yours alone.
You taught me, O God, from my youth,
and from then until now I will
proclaim Your Wonders.
And even to old age and to my last breath,
O God, do not abandon me,
until I proclaim Your Arm to every
coming generation,
your mighty Deeds and Your
O God, I proclaim the magnificent
Things You did,
even to the highest Heaven;
O God, Who is like You?
How great end evil are the afflictions
You showed me,
and You returned, and made me live;
and You raised me up again from the
depths of the earth.
You multiplied Your Greatness,
and You returned and comforted me;|You brought me up again from the
depth of the earth.
Truly, I will give thanks to You with the
instrument of a Psalm, o God;
I will sing to You with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will greatly rejoice
when I sing to You:
So will my soul,
which You redeemed.
My tongue shall meditate on
Your Righteousness all the day long,
when those who seek evils for me
are dishonoured and shamed“.
Psalm 70
Mp3: Psalmul 70 [Romanian] 

εις σαλωμων ο θεος το κριμα σου τω βασιλει δος
και την δικαιοσυνην σου τω υιω του βασιλεως
κρινειν τον λαον σου εν δικαιοσυνη
και τους πτωχους σου εν κρισει
αναλαβετω τα ορη ειρηνην τω λαω σου
και οι βουνοι εν δικαιοσυνη
κρινει τους πτωχους του λαου
και σωσει τους υιους των πενητων
και ταπεινωσει συκοφαντην
και συμπαραμενει τω ηλιω
και προ της σεληνης γενεας γενεων
και καταβησεται ως υετος επι ποκον
και ωσει σταγονες σταζουσαι επι την γην
ανατελει εν ταις ημεραις αυτου δικαιοσυνη
και πληθος ειρηνης εως ου ανταναιρεθη η σεληνη
και κατακυριευσει απο θαλασσης εως θαλασσης
και απο ποταμου εως περατων της οικουμενης
ενωπιον αυτου προπεσουνται αιθιοπες
και οι εχθροι αυτου χουν λειξουσιν
βασιλεις θαρσις και αι νησοι δωρα προσοισουσιν βασιλεις αραβων
και σαβα δωρα προσαξουσιν
και προσκυνησουσιν αυτω παντες οι βασιλεις παντα τα εθνη δουλευσουσιν αυτω
οτι ερρυσατο πτωχον εκ χειρος δυναστου
και πενητα ω ουχ υπηρχεν βοηθος
φεισεται πτωχου και πενητος
και ψυχας πενητων σωσει
εκ τοκου και εξ αδικιας λυτρωσεται τας ψυχας αυτων
και εντιμον το ονομα αυτων ενωπιον αυτου
και ζησεται και δοθησεται αυτω εκ του χρυσιου της αραβιας κ
αι προσευξονται περι αυτου δια παντος ολην την ημεραν ευλογησουσιν αυτον
εσται στηριγμα εν τη γη επ’ ακρων των ορεων υπεραρθησεται υπερ τον λιβανον
ο καρπος αυτου και εξανθησουσιν εκ πολεως ωσει χορτος της γης
εστω το ονομα αυτου ευλογημενον εις τους αιωνας προ του ηλιου διαμενει το ονομα αυτου
και ευλογηθησονται εν αυτω πασαι αι φυλαι της γης παντα τα εθνη μακαριουσιν αυτον
ευλογητος κυριος ο θεος ο θεος ισραηλ ο ποιων θαυμασια μονος
και ευλογητον το ονομα της δοξης αυτου εις τον αιωνα
και εις τον αιωνα του αιωνος
και πληρωθησεται της δοξης αυτου πασα η γη γενοιτο γενοιτο
εξελιπον οι υμνοι δαυιδ του υιου ιεσσαι

I am the first one taken captive
In Psalm 70 teaches the [Orthodox] Church
about deliverance  from  taken captive to the devil and his angels [my enemies vs 10; Eph 6: 12].
For these enemies ensnared mankind in the fear of death and the lifetime of bondage it begotten“.
Hebr.2: 15
But from birth to death, we are delivered
by the Lord Jesus Christ from fear.
For we are delivered and set free in His Righteousness,
on which we meditate . . . . .
all the day long . . . . .

Everyone born into this world becomes a captive of Satan by birth.
We are called children of Hell,
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte
and when he is made, you make him twofold more
the child of hell than yourselves
Matth.23: 15
Every individual born into this world is a captive of Satan,
as his parents are captives
– all are born under the power of the devil and his angels.
Salvation then is a deliverance from the power of the devil
and a Translation into the Kingdom of God [Col. l: 13].
The law of the slave:
If a slave married while he was yet a slave,
even though he obtained his freedom at the end of seven years,
his wife and children born while in slavery still belonged to the slave master
until they were able to obtain their freedom individually.
Though you and I may be redeemed by the Grace of God,
delivered from Satan by God’s power, yet our children born to us are captives of Satan.
They are captives by birth. Now you let that soak into your heart, Mother!
Let that soak into your heart, Father
Ex.21: 2-4
Christ said: “You are of your father the devil,
and the lusts of your father you will do“.
John 8: 44
So every individual out of Christ is a captive of Satan,
held prisoner by Satan, a child of Satan, and a child of Hell,
until he is redeemed by the Blood of Christ
and delivered by power from Satan.

With these thoughts in mind,
let’s notice now the conditions of Satan’s captives.
Every individual held captive by Satan is in the kingdom of Satan,
which is the kingdom of darkness [Acts 26: 18].
Paul was commanded to preach to turn sinners
– “from darkness to Light
and from the power of Satan unto God“.
This great truth is also stated in,
Who [God] has delivered us from the power of darkness
and has translated us into the Kingdom of His Dear Son“.
Col.1: 13
Sinners of today are not in the place that God put them
when He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden;
they have been transported into another kingdom, into a far country [Luc.15: 13].
They are far away from God, from the New Covenant and from His Son.
How long will I take counsel in my soul,
having grief in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 12: 3

The “freeing from sin”,
and also the “making them servants to righteousness
Rom. 6: 18, which is better than any freedom.
For God has done the same
as if a person were to take an orphan,
who had been carried away by savages into their own country
and were not only to free him from captivity,
but were to set a kind father ever him
and bring him to very great dignity.
And this has been done in our case;
for it was not our old evils alone that He freed us from,
since He even led us to the life of angels
and paved the way for us to the best conversation;
handing us over to the safe keeping of Righteousness
and killing our former evils and deadening the old man
and leading us to an immortal life.

So when you could see your own situation,
you would be the most unhappy subject
that Satan ever had in his kingdom.
I know I am writing to some Orthodox believers
who are very unhappy to say to be a sinner.
Ah, you are stirred, you are deeply moved. You are miserable.
The only reason a sinner is content in his present state
is because he is asleep in Satan’s lap,
We know that we are children of God
and that the whole world is
under the control of the evil one
1John 5: 19
I am a sinner, this is my shameful case.
I am a captive of Satan. Once I was there.
When God opened my eyes and showed me my awful, ruined condition,
when He showed me that I was held captive by Satan,
that I could not flee his territory – I could not break his bands!
Knowing that He had proclaimed liberty unto the captives,
I cried unto the Lord and He heard my cry,
He broke the bands of Satan, and set me free
– gave me liberty in Christ Jesus, the Lord!

Then, I, sinner-friend,
I have not only been transported to the kingdom of darkness,
been plundered and robbed and stripped,
but I was conquered by the power of Satan.
I was no longer master of myself.
Who are taken captive by him at his will” [2Tim.2: 26].
My liberty is gone, and gone forever,
unless Christ delivers me;
I am a slave to the master of tyrants
and I am serving him to my own ruin.
I am not only his captive, a sinner-friend,
but, alas! I have no liberty.
I have to come and go at his stream and call;
I have to obey his every command, according to
I see another law at work in me,
waging war against the law of my mind
and making me a prisoner of the law of sin
at work within me
” [Rom. 7: 23].
I am a sinner-friend, if I get anything of any value, I can’t keep it;
the devil tears it from you.
If I receive a conviction of sin
and make a resolution to amend my life,
I can’t carry it out
– Satan will not rest until I have thrown it away.
I may be seemingly deeply moved under this message
and I may be made to cry out and say,
“Indeed that’s my condition;
this is describing me,
but I can’t retain the impressions.
All my resolutions pass away”.
It is because Satan will not let you keep them.
You are bent on pleasing Satan.
That’s right, but:
Christ has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son God loves
in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The Son of God is the image of the invisible God,
the Firstborn over all Creation
Col.1: 13-15
You may ask, “Why doesn’t God come and deliver me now?“.
My friend, it may be that He wants
you to realize fully what your condition is in Satan’s territory
so that you will never forget from whence He delivered you.

I want to tell you,
I’ll never forget from whence the Lord delivered this poor old sinner!
Never do I cease to thank my Deliverer, the Lord Jesus,
for hearing my cry, coming to my rescue,
taking me by force out of Satan’s net as his prisoner
and setting my feet upon the rock of freedom in Christ
and putting a new song in my mouth
a song of deliverance,
whereby I am praising Him daily
for Salvation and Deliverance.
O God, I proclaim
the Magnificent things You did,
even to the highest Heaven;
O God, Who is like You?
Psalm 70: 19

God’s Holy Personality is  Sublime,
unsearchable, exalted, and Glorious
is His Way of making men righteous.
His plan of righteousness uplifts men
from the gates of hell
to the country seat of Heaven.

Man is a great mystery,
a sacred mystery of God.
So great and so sacred,
that God Himself became man,
in order to give us understanding
of all the depth of the mystery of Man“.
Justinus Popovitch [1894 – 1979]

Psalms created on Truth – Psalm 12, – faith and trust in God

To speak of God’s “Grace” is
to put feeble words in the service of describing
the infinite goodness and love of God
which reaches out to his creatures prior
to their own reaching [Eph.2: 4,5; Rom.5: 8].
To speak of God’s Grace is to speak of God’s capacity
to initiate and complete His work of restoring
a broken world
and reconciling alienated people.
As the Kingdom of Grace, it does not come
because we pull it into the world,
but because God unceasingly works toward
its consummation with Christ’s return.

Yet, we get the wrong picture altogether
if we forget the unique shape of God’s ongoing activity.
God chose to create a world in which His ordinary, inadequate creatures – you and me – are invited to participate in the drama of God’s Kingdom activity.
He invites us to discover and play our role,
a role that always follows after at a distance,
but a genuine role nonetheless.

So we might say this: to pray
Your Kingdom come,
your will to be done
on earth and it is in Heaven” is
to confess a tension that requires of us not only Grace
– that God’s Kingdom comes by His Power alone
– but impatience as well.

To pray with impatience
is to recognize and confess that things are not as they should be
and not as they will be when the Kingdom of Christ comes in its completeness.
To pray with impatience is to be more dis-satisfied
than I am afraid most of us are
– or at least I have been.

In a world broken and marred by sin
– full of pain and confusion and our lives brimming with so many unfinished sentences –
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in Heaven
requires of us and fosters in us
a growing dis-satisfaction with the world as it stands.
To hunger and thirst,
to long and to ache for the Kingdom to come
is to pray as the same Grace and impatience
as the Psalmist did
How long O, Lord?
Will You forget me to the end?
How long will You turn Your Face from me?
How long will I take counsel in my soul,
having grief in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
look upon me and hear me, O Lord, my God;
enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep in death,
Lest my enemy say,
‘I prevailed against him’,
those who afflict me greatly rejoice,
if I am shaken.
But I hope in Your Mercy;
my heart shall greatly rejoice in Your Salvation;
I will sing to the Lord, Who shows kindness to me;
I will sing to the Name of the Lord Most High
Psalm 12

Ψαλμοί 12
Μέχρι πότε, Κύριε, θα με λησμονείς για πάντα; Μέχρι πότε θα κρύβεις από μένα το πρόσωπό σου;
Μέχρι πότε θα έχω βουλές μέσα στην ψυχή μου, οδύνες καθημερινά μέσα στην καρδιά μου; Μέχρι πότε θα υψώνεται επάνω μου ο εχθρός μου;
Επίβλεψε· εισάκουσέ με, Κύριε, Θεέ μου· φώτισε τα μάτια μου, μήπως κοιμηθώ τον ύπνο τού θανάτου·
μήπως και ο εχθρός μου πει: Υπερίσχυσα εναντίον του, κι αυτοί που με θλίβουν υπερχαρούν, αν σαλευτώ.
Εγώ, όμως, έλπισα στο έλεός σου· η καρδιά μου θα αγάλλεται στη σωτηρία σου.
Θα ψάλλω στον Κύριο, επειδή με αντάμειψε.

Must I bear pain in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
When do we have faith in God?
When things are going well, when our health is good
and our back account balanced?
The psalmist has pain in his soul and sorrow in his heart.
This is  David deep in suffering,
yet he says he has trusted in God’s steadfast love
and his heart shall rejoice in God’s Salvation!
We can learn a  great lesson by meditating on this concept.
David doesn’t say,
I’m suffering and when this is over, I’ll praise  my God“, or
As soon as life is going my way again, I’ll get back to  being thankful“.
Instead he trusts so much in God’s ultimate ability
to  save him from his misery,
that he rejoices in the middle of his sorrow!
This to me is ultimate Faith in God:
to trust in Him when everything is  going wrong,
to continue believing help is coming
even when the sky is  dark with threatening clouds
and no one comes forth to comfort us
[this Psalm is used in Great Compline and during Lent].

This comes from “We shall see him as He is
by Blessed Archmandrite Sophrony:
O Lord, I am weak.  Thou knowest this.
In fear I seek the way to Thee.  Despise me not.
Forsake me not in my fall.
Draw near even unto me, who am of no account, yet I thirst after Thee.
Take up Thine abode in me and do Thou Thyself perform in me all
that Thou hast commanded of us.  
Make me Thine for ever and ever, in love unshakable
It doesn’t give what Psalm it is.

April 4th – Saint Joseph, the Hymnographer

Saint Joseph was born in Sicily of pious and virtuous parents,
Plotinus and Agatha.    After the death of his parents, Joseph moved to Thessalonica where he was tonsured a monk.
As a monk, he was a model to all in fasting, extreme restraint, ceaseless prayer, chanting of the Psalms, vigils and labor.
The bishop of Thessalonica ordained him as priest [Hieromonk].
While visiting Thessalonica the distinguished Gregory Decapolis was so impressed with Joseph, because of his rare character,
that he invited him to his monastery in Constantinople.
When the flame of the Iconoclastic heresy erupted again under Leo V, the Armenian, Joseph was sent to Rome to call upon the Pope and the Roman Church to battle for Orthodoxy.

While en route, Joseph was captured by pirates and taken to Crete
where the heretics detained him in prison for six years.
Joseph rejoiced that he was made worthy to suffer for Christ and,
for that, he continually praised God, considering the iron chains on him
as an adornment of gold.
Early in the morning on Christmas day in the sixth year of Joseph’s imprisonment,
the wicked Emperor Leo was slain in church while attending Matins.
At that same moment, Saint Nicholas appeared to Joseph in prison and said to him:
Arise and follow me!
Joseph felt himself being elevated in the air and, all at once,
found himself before the gates of Constantinople.
All true believers rejoiced at his coming.
He composed canons and hymns for many Saints.
He possessed the “gift of discernment” for which Patriarch Photius appointed him
the spiritual father and confessor for priests recommending him as,
A man of God, an angel in the flesh and father of fathers”.
In extreme old age, Joseph gave up his soul to the Lord
Whom he faithfully served both in words and in hymns.
He died peacefully on the eve of Holy and Great Thursday in the year 883 A.D.

He who glorifies God, God also glorifies him.
This was clearly and abundantly shown in the lives of the Saints.
Saint Joseph the Hymnographer, indeed, glorified God in works,
in sufferings and in hymns.
God glorified him both in this life and after death.
During his life, the Holy Father Nicholas appeared to him in prison and freed him.
When Saint Joseph wondered whether he should compose
a Canon to the Apostle Bartholomew, this apostle appeared to him in radiant vestments
and said to Joseph that it is well-pleasing to God that he compose this Canon.
When Saint Joseph died, a citizen of Constantinople learned of
the Glory by which God glorified His chosen one.
This man had come into the church of Saint Theodore Phanariot
to beseech the saint to reveal to him where one of his escaped servants had hidden.
Because Saint Theodore was known among the people as a saint
who reveals where something is that had been lost or stolen,
he was called Phanariot, which means “The Revealer“.
For three days and three nights, this man prayed
and when he received no response from the saint,
he wanted to leave.
At that moment, Saint Theodore appeared to him in a vision saying:
Why do you become angry O man?.
Joseph the Hymnographer’s soul
was being separated from his body and we were with him.
When he died this night, all of us whom he glorified in hymns,
translated his soul to the Heavens
and placed it before the Face of God.
That is why I was tardy in not appearing to you”.

the Church as the Body of the Lord
Destroy this Temple
and in three days
I will raise it up
John 2: 19

Thus spoke the Lord to the wicked Jews about
the Temple of His body” [John 2: 21].
But since it was not given to the wicked to understand anything,
so also the Jews did not understand
and mocked Him.
The Lord did not rebuke them
for that but that which He spoke, occurred.
The Jews destroyed His Body
but He restored it again and raised it in Glory and Power.
The wicked punished God with destruction but God reprimanded the wicked by restoration. It is satisfying to the wicked ones to be able to show their power by killing
but, to God, there was Joy to show His Power by giving Life.
There is nothing as short-lived as the triumph of evil nor nothing
as lasting as the Triumph of Truth.

Destroy this temple”.
The Lord referred to His body as the Church.
Destroyed, that Church was crowded into a dark tomb
and by means of a heavy stone
prevented light from having access to it.
But, that Church was not in need of the light of the sun.
It had its own Light, its own Sun of Righteousness,
Who shone from within.
The tender Heavenly Hand removed the stone from the tomb
and the Lord resurrected in Glory and in Power.
That which once occurred to the All-Pure Body of Christ,
occurred many times later to the Church of the holy ones on earth.
The enemies of the Church cruelly persecuted and tormented it,
demolished it and buried it in darkness.
But, the Church after such bruises and confinement,
resurrected again with greater glory and power.
Just as the Church of His Body resurrected,
so it will at the end of time,
the Church of His holy ones
will Resurrect in Fullness and Perfection.

Resurrected Lord,
do not give us over to decay and eternal death,
but resurrect us to life eternal

Hymn   Tn 8
Who would not lament for you, my child,
as your end journey begins
from this world to another home?
For while still a little child,
all too soon from your mother’s arms,
as might a birdling on speeding wing upborne,
are you departed to Him that made all things.
O child, who from lament could refrain
when he beholds your lovely face,
which was like a gladsome rose,
now fading fast away?.
O Lord Who watches over children in the present life
and in the world to come because of their simplicity and innocence of mind,
abundantly satisfying them with a place in Abraham’s bosom,
bringing them to live in radiantly shining places
where the spirits of the righteous dwell;
receive in peace the soul of Your little servant [Name],
for You Yourself have said:
“Let the little children come to Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”.
For only Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven
and to You we ascribe Glory,
together with Your Eternal Father
and Your All; Holy, Good, and Life-creating Spirit,
both now and ever,
and to the ages of ages. Amen
cf. Orthodox Funeral Service for Infants

Orthodoxy & avoiding to fall as a prey to demons

Beware me for idleness“,
Saint Ephraïm the Syrian warns the hermits, for
without it a monk cannot fall
into the hands of those who strive to enslave him
Saint Ephraïm warns hermits not to neglect psalmody nor prayer because in abandoning them,
the solitary opens a door to the demons.

Idleness is inactivity, as a Christian we have to be active.
The Judgement of God comes upon us not because we have neglected spiritual discipline,
as though God punishes us for legal omissions,
failing to accomplish our duty or
incorrect use of our resources;
but rather the judgement of God comes upon us through the torment of demons
because we ourselves have opened the door to them.
The spiritual disciplines help us shut the door;
without spiritual disciplines, our wandering mind, roaming lusts,
hidden fears and latent self-importance emerge, prying open the door
for the tormenting demons to enter.

“It is written,” Saint Ephraïm says,
He who is not subject to the will of God, is subject to his adversary“.
Spiritual disciplines are the primary way
we subject ourselves to the will of God.
For those in the Monastic life and especially for solitaries, those disciplines are all-consuming activities of prayer, reading, and work.
• But for us in the world, the spiritual disciples relate to our neighbour:
Love your neighbour, don’t kill him by words or behaviour,
don’t commit adultery, corrupt behaviour,
be kind, be content with what you have,
be generous to others, don’t judge, backbiting [slander],
weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

I imagine some of my readers are wondering:
Are these spiritual disciplines?
Yes. These are par excellence spiritual disciplines.
When we struggle to be kind or generous or content, we are struggling to be like Christ
and the door through which tormenting demons enter is pressed firmly shut.

Of course what we find out right away
when we seriously embark on the spiritual life
in the world is
that we fail miserably at keeping the spiritual disciplines that Christ and the Apostles commanded.
We find out right away that we cannot easily be kind,
even when we want to be kind
—> and then there are the many times
we don’t want to be kind!
We find out right away that within ourselves,
within the resources of our own will and desire,
we do not have what it takes
to practice the spiritual disciplines.
And because we fail to practice the disciplines,
the tormenting demons attack us
—> the door of our mind being left wide open for them.

Yet, it is the very suffering caused by the demons, the guilt, the confusion, the anger, the lustful passion, it is this very suffering that drives us to God in prayer.
It is our awareness of our great need
that turns us to God again and again for help.
But how do we pray?

Certainly, “Help, my Lord and my God!
is a good start.
However, in the same way that one might use home remedies for a minor cold or to mend a scratched knee,
yet will go to an expert in medicine for a serious condition;
so also in our spiritual life we go to the doctors,
the men and women who have spent a lifetime learning prayer.
We go to the Monastics,
and particularly to those Monastics [or Monastic Writings]
that have proven over time to be reliable
and helpful in producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit
in those who have heeded their advice.

– Remember, the goal is not to pray like a monk
while living in the world.
– The goal is to Love our neighbour as Christ
while we live in the world.
– Prayer rules and techniques are the means,
the means to transformation
so that we will be filled with the Holy Spirit
and show forth the love and life of Christ.
– We shut the door to the demons
and avoid God’s Judgment by actively pursuing the spiritual life.

This pursuit requires repentance and our own healing
and manifests itself in love of God and neighbour.
Prayer is a part of this, an essential part
—> I might even say an integral part of our pursuit of God
and of our shutting the door to the demons that torment us.
• But he who says the most prayers is not necessarily
[and not probably in my experience] the one
who is experiencing the most success
in the spiritual life in the world.
– The one who is succeeding in the spiritual life
is the one who is learning Love the unlovely,
– who is looking for opportunities to be generous to those who ask,
– who tries to shut down judgemental thoughts, and
– who is practicing kindness and mercy
even when he or she doesn’t feel like it.

Such a one will be heeding
the advice of Saint Ephraïm,
avoiding spiritual idleness
and therefore not becoming the prey
of his spiritual adversary.

5th Sunday of Lent – restored by the Blood of Christ

But when Christ came as High Priest of the good things
that are now already here,
He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands,
that is to say, is not a part of this Creation.
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves;  but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood,
thus obtaining Eternal Redemption.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer
sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean
sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.
How much more, then, will the Blood of Christ,
Who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,
so that we may serve the living God!“.
Hebr.9: 11-14

The Blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit
offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences
from acts that lead to death,
so that we may serve the living God!

Everyone has a conscience.
It affects the way we think and live.
Just listen to people talk, hear their excuses for actions
and observe the plastic looks portrayed.
The conscience has a bearing on every action, work, and relationship.
Many marriages are wrecked over guilty consciences.
Children often rebel due to guilty consciences.
It even determines how we approach God.

The very idea of a sinful person approaching a holy God unnerves a thinking person.
A conscience imprisoned by guilt
enslaves a person in his Worship,
Service, Prayer, Witness, and Affections.

What is this conscience?
The conscience is properly man’s inner knowledge of himself,
especially in the sense of his answerability for his motives
and actions in view of the fact that he,
as a creature made in the image of God,
stands before and must give an account of himself to his Creator

Inner knowledge of yourself” implies that the searchlights of the soul
peer into the caverns of the mind, discovering decaying bones and stolen treasures
hidden by a bent toward sin.
A man might live with decaying bones and hidden treasures
if he never had to give an answer for them.
But the Creator Who gave life and the conscience to those
who share in his image, also demands an accounting.

While it would appear that a guilty conscience would drive a man to God,
often the very opposite happens due to the grip of lost-ness upon the soul.
Men will try everything imaginable to relieve or avoid or stuff guilt.
Paul explains that when a man rejects the revelation God has given in the conscience
then he becomes hardened toward God and softened toward idolatrous and sinful behaviour.
[cf. Rom.1: 18-32]
In the end temporary measures to salve guilt are only that-temporary
and offer nothing of eternal value
that can give a person a right standing with God.
To pursue creative means of dealing with the conscience
is akin to grabbing after the wind.
Ultimately such pursuits are elusive and empty.
But God has made provision for sinful men
to have clean consciences before Him.

The first century audience receiving
the Epistle to the Hebrews
struggled over dealing with their guilt.
Would they find relief if they returned
to the ceremonial practices of Judaism?
To do so would be to live under the Old Covenant that was “becoming obsolete
rather than knowing the experience of the New Covenant relationship to God through Christ.
It would not be the sacrifice of bulls and goats
that would take away the guilt of sin.
Only the death of Christ delivers us from the guilt of sin
and liberates us to serve the living God.
How can we be sure of this?
Consider the “much more” of the death of Christ
in cleansing our consciences from sin.

1.]. Not to a certain extent!
The Apostle backtracks into territory familiar to his audience.
– They were brought up under the shadows of Judaism.
– They knew the intricacies practiced by the high priest
as he sought to approach God on behalf of the people.
So to help them understand the temporary nature of everything
they had lived with and now what they considered returning unto,
he paints a picture of a scene in the tabernacle
and the work of the high priest.

1a]. An untorn curtain
Rather than dealing with any symbolism found in “the earthly Sanctuary“,
the pastoral author tells them
of these things we cannot now speak in detail“.
Mystics have given detailed applications of symbolism for every thread in the tabernacle.
But not our writer since the point he wants to make is with all of the magnificence and pageantry of the Old Covenant practices,
the average Joe still had no access to God.
The veil remained untorn and the way to God inaccessible under the Old Covenant of Law.
Only in Jesus Christ was the curtain [veil] removed
and the way to God opened for all who believe.

The ancient writer believed that the Holy Spirit was the author of Scripture.
His statement in Hebr.9: 8 affirms this and demonstrates the continuity of Scripture
by the application he makes.
The Holy Spirit is signifying this,
that the way into the Holy Place has
not yet been disclosed
while the outer tabernacle is still standing,
which is a symbol for the present time
Look at the tabernacle.
Within it, if one could steal a look, would be
the Lampstand and the Table and the Sacred Bread“.
Here the priests in their order would move about to daily burn incense, offer prayers, and maintain the national Worship.
Beyond this was “The second veil . . . . .
which is called the Holy of Holies,
having a golden altar of incense and
the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold,
in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded,
and the tables of the Covenant;
and above it were the Cherubim of Glory overshadowing the Mercy Seat
A sense of awe fills the mind
when contemplating these consecrated symbols of worship under the Old Covenant.
But there is a major problem.
As long as the “outer tabernacle is still standing” or the focal point of worship,
then the way to God has not been known.
Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies.  And he could do so only once a year.
Every time he entered he did so with fear and trembling.
It was not a joyous entry but the most solemn of occasions in hope
that he would find acceptance by God
for himself and all the people.

So what is this pastor attempting to do?
He wants his congregation to wake up to
the reality that under the Old Covenant,
in spite of all the pageantry and symbolism,
there was no access to God.
The veil remained like an impenetrable wall
between the sinner and Almighty God.
The way into the Holy Place has not yet been disclosed
the Apostle tells them.
Why would anyone want to hang on
to a practice that left the veil intact?

Does some of this same spirit run through any of you?
Because of the pageantry and symbolism that pleases your senses you hang on
to a religious practice than cannot open the way to God.    As the Gospel writers tell us, upon Jesus Christ’s God-satisfying death at the Cross, the veil that barred access to God in the Holy of Holies
was torn from top to bottom!
God opened the way to him through His own Son [Matth.27: 51].

1b]. An unaffected conscience
But wait a minute, one might insist.
Were there not thousands of sacrifices offered and tons of gifts given under the old covenant?
That is correct.
But hear what our writer tells us,
Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered
which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience
It is not what we offer God that cleanses our conscience from sin.
While none of us have presented blood sacrifices upon a brazen altar
I would dare say that some have offered
bloodless sacrifices and gifts‘ in hope of clearing away the guilt of sin.

The predicament faced by the high priest
and all the people was that everything they did
related to only external Satisfaction.
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats
to take away sins
Hebr.10: 4

To further explain this our writer points out  that the sacrifices offered were for the priest
and “for the sins of the people committed in ignorance“.
It was the “slip-ups“, the unintentional sins that were atoned for by the high priest.
The wilful, rebellious, arrogant, cold-hearted practice of sin had no atonement.
That is why David faced a dilemma when he sinned against God by his wilful acts
toward Bathsheba and Uriah.
His appeal was not to a quick sacrifice
offered for his sin but to the Mercy of God.
You do not delight in sacrifice,
otherwise I would give it;
you are not pleased with burn offering“,
David cried [Psalm 50:16].
David had to look beyond the Sacrificial System
and the rituals of the tabernacle to have his conscience
cleansed from the guilt of sin.
He prayed,
Have Mercy, O Lord,
according to Your loving-kindness

or Mercy Covenant [Psalm 50: 1].
It was not the cut and dry statements of the Old Covenant
that satisfied David in time of guilt.
David trusted in God’s Covenant of Grace,
a Covenant that he did not fully understand,
but cast his hope upon.

1c]. An unaccomplished event
All of this boils down to an unaccomplished event.
The worship of the tabernacle and ceremonies of the high priest
were never intended to be the end-all for man in his relationship to God.
They functioned in the realm of the “not quite”
when it came to being in right relationship to God.
Our writer observes of the old covenant sacrificial system,
Since they relate only to food and drink and various washings,
regulations for the body imposed until a time of restoration
All of the Patriarchs and Prophets and people lived in the realm of the great until.
Everything done under the Old Covenant served as a stop-gap measure
until a time of Renovation“,
until the fullness of time when God would send
forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
so that He might redeem those who were under the Law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons
Gal.4: 4-5
During the time of David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, it had not happened.
But now, to the audience this writer addresses
the “time of restoration” through Christ had come.

The word “time” is not the Greek term for chronological time
but the word kairos, a term that refers to an event.
In this case it was a momentous,
even cataclysmic event that affected all of human history,
even all of eternity.
The “time of restoration ” summarizes the Incarnation, sinless life of Christ, atoning death, burial, and Resurrection.
It was a time of “restoration
or ‘restoring what was out of line
or putting in an ‘new order’ as some have termed it.
All of the practices in Judaism were fulfilled in this “time of restoration” in Christ.
There was no need to revert to shadows when the substance had come!

2.].  Much more New!
The Apostle was not denigrating the ceremonial practices of Judaism as if they did no good.
For indeed these practices helped to boost the confidence of the people to seek the Lord,
to find him as merciful and gracious.
But they were “imposed until a time of restoration”,
demonstrating the inadequacy of the Old Covenantal practices
in approaching God and knowing deliverance from the guilt of sin.
The Old Covenant never secured anything for the people, even the most earnest people.
Instead it pointed to the fulfilment in the New Covenant through Jesus Christ.
In contrast to an entire system that never secured anything for worshipers,
the writer now points to how much more Jesus Christ
has secured for all who trust in Him.

2a]. Secured redemption
The contrast with the work of the high priest is intentional.
He explains,
“Now when these things have been so prepared,
the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the Divine Worship,
but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed
in ignorance”.
Leviticus 16 describes the scene as the high priest
dons the white linen tunic covering linen undergarments, girded with a linen sash,
and wearing a linen turban,
he first takes a bull that he offers as a sin offering
for himself and his household.
With two handfuls of incense lofting aroma
as he places it upon the coals of his firepan,
he enters behind the veil carrying the blood of the slain bull.
Upon the Mercy seat and in front of it,
he sprinkles the blood seven times to atone for his own sins.
He slips out from behind the veil and returns with the blood of the goat of the sin offering,
bringing its blood inside the veil and sprinkling it upon the Mercy Seat to atone
for the sin of the people.
He must even make atonement for the tabernacle itself
due to the impurities of the people.
He then lays his hands upon a second goat, the scapegoat,
confessing the sins of the people over it
so that as it is led into the wilderness
it symbolically bears away the sins of the people.

What were the people to see through all of this ritual:
Properly understood, the ritual of the Day of Atonement
in its various parts was sacramental in character,
inviting the people to look beyond the sign to the reality,
yet to be fulfilled, when the perfect high priest would come,
able to represent them without hindrance of sin in the presence of God,
and would offer the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness
and the removal of their sins forever.

In contrast we find Jesus Christ!
But when Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things to come
[hence the Old Covenant practices were temporary
and were to be looked beyond to the Messiah],
He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle,
not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation;
and not through the blood of goats and calves,
but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all,
having obtained eternal redemption“.
Several questions are answered in this text.

First, who secured eternal redemption?
It was Jesus Christ, appearing as
a High Priest of the good things to come
that secured redemption.
The word, “obtained“, is in the aorist tense
and points back to one event that did the securing or obtaining of redemption.
Literally, the phrase is translated,
after He had secured eternal redemption“,
thus pointing to the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on the Cross,
redemption decisively secured there.
Jesus appeared in Heaven for us
after he had secured Eternal Redemption“, not to secure it.
Some have mistakenly thought that Jesus had to carry a basin of blood
into the Heavenly tabernacle just like the priest did in the earthly one.
But the text makes clear that the death of Christ
secured our redemption not a subsequent act.

Second, how did He secure eternal redemption?
“Not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood”.
The use of “blood” in the language of Scripture always implies death
and typically a vicious death.
“‘The blood of Christ’ means Christ’s death regarded as a sacrifice for sin….
In this context blood is not death in general
but death as seen as a sacrifice“.
Again, the language is very clear
that the redemptive work that took place refers
to the death of Jesus on the cross
so that his entrance into heaven was through
[Greek, dia or ‘by means of’ used instrumentally] his bloody death.
The idea of a blood sacrifice appears primitive in our day.
However we are not talking about pleasantries or socially acceptable behaviour in this context,
but the Satisfaction that God’s Justice demands.
How can a monetary offering satisfy Him who owns all?
How can good deeds assuage the wrath of Him
who has been offended by our sins?
How can some inanimate object or non-human creature
actually satisfy the wrath of God directed toward humanity?
How can ritual or ceremony appease God who is not so silly
as to be charmed like the brute gods of heathenism?
How can God overlook the infinite stain of mankind’s collective sin,
much less the initial offense of our representative,
Adam, in the Garden of Eden?
It was not the blood of Christ in a basin or vial or container
offered in Heaven that secured eternal redemption,
but the bloody death of the Son of God at the cross as God
caused the iniquities of us all to fall on Him
Isaiah 53: 6
Is that where your hope rests?

Third, what did Jesus secure?
While the priest could do nothing to
make the worshiper perfect in conscience“,
Jesus Christ, “through His own blood . . . obtained eternal redemption“.
The word “eternal” immediately qualifies
what Jesus has done as distinct from the temporal work of priests.
His work is eternal.
The work specifically s called “redemption”.
The word literally means, “to release by the payment of a price“.
The price was “through His own blood“.
The payment made was not to man or to the devil,
as some mistakenly say, but it was a payment to God.
It was the demand of God’s own righteousness.
It is a release from the curse of the Law.
One writer expressed it like this:
Like a black thundercloud the Law hung over men’s heads,
and they looked up to it in fear that
at any minute the lightning of the divine judgment
might flame out from its heart.
What could be done?
God took the initiative.
Christ came and on the Cross bore for us the doom which sin involved . . .
Christ bore the penalty which in strict justice we ought to have borne . . .
Death was the curse of the Law,
and that curse Christ took upon Himself.

The release points to deliverance from slavery to sin,
from the penalty of sin, from the guilt associated with sin,
and ultimately, deliverance from the wrath of God.
Deliverance from slavery is at the heart of this term,
and indeed, as our Substitute, Jesus Christ bore
the price of our slavery so that we might be set free
into the liberty of sons of God.

Fourth, how can I be certain that Jesus secured eternal redemption?
This is the point of the
“more perfect tabernacle, that is to say, not of this creation”.
As Jesus “entered the holy place once for all”
He secured forever our release from sin’s guilt
and liberated us into relationship to God.
While the priests were continually offering sacrifices,
Jesus offered one sacrifice “once for all”.
This means that the sacrifice of Christ can never be repeated;
it is complete and can never be added to;
and it is final, accepted by God in
the “more perfect tabernacle”.

A cleansed conscience is not found
by improved meditation techniques or psychotherapy.
It is the result of Faith in Jesus Christ
Who has obtained eternal redemption for you
by his complete, unrepeatable death on the Cross.

Jesus Christ is the only one
Who can deliver you from the guilt of sin.
Have you trusted Him alone
as your Redeemer?
Look to Christ by Faith, turn from your sin,
and rest in the sufficiency of
the Crucified and Risen Lord.

5th Sunday of Lent – Jesus predicts His death & the request of James and John

They were on their way up to Jerusalem,
with Jesus leading the way,
and the disciples were astonished,
while those who followed were afraid.
Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
“We are going up to Jerusalem”, He said,
“and the Son of Man will be delivered over
to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death
and will hand him over to the Gentiles,
who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.
Three days later He will rise”.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him.
“Teacher” they said,
“we want you to do for us whatever we ask”.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
He asked.
They replied,
“Let one of us sit at your right
and the other at your left in Your Glory?”.
“You don’t know what you are asking”,
Jesus said.
“Can you drink the cup I drink
or be baptized with the baptism
I am baptized with?”.
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them,
“You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism
I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.
These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared”.
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
Jesus called them together and said,
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them
and their high officials exercise authority over them.
Not so with you.
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you
must be your servant
and whoever wants to be first
must be slave of all.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve and to give His Life as a ransom for many
Marc. 10: 32b-45

As you think about the Orthodox Church,
who would you say holds Power and Authority in the Church?
How about the parish, who has Power and Authority in it?
Now who does Christ say should have authority in the Church?

I want you to note that Jesus did not say,
be a lowly servant in order to gain power and authority in the church.
All he taught us is that whoever desires greatness in God’s people
must humbly serve others, in the same way that the Lord, God and Saviour Jesus came and served, by sacrificing His Life.

I want now to offer you a few thoughts on Humility,
so that we might give further reflection
to the words of our Lord in today’s Gospel:
Amma Theodora said,
Neither asceticism, nor vigils, nor any kind of suffering are able to save, only genuine Humility can do that”.
Only Humility saves because no other virtue so effectively overcomes the natural human tendency to rely on oneself,
to look to one’s own achievements as the reason
for one’s happiness and well-being.
The Martyrdom of Obedience to serving the desires of another does more to loosening the tenacious grip of one’s own ego than any amount of fasting.
Amma Syncletica said,
Obedience is preferable to asceticism.
The one teaches pride, the other humility

Abba Poemen when asked
What is humility?” said,
It is when your brother sins against you
and you forgive him
before he comes
to ask for forgiveness

Abba Nau told this story about humility:
Once there was a monk who was angry at a fellow monk.
When the second learned of it,
he immediately came to the first monk to ask forgiveness,
but that monk refused to forgive.
The second monk went to his spiritual father
to seek counsel about the matter.
The elder monk told him,
‘Look closely at yourself and into your heart.
Do you really want to apologize to him,
or are you in your heart blaming him thinking
he really is responsible for the problem.
You are only trying to justify yourself,
that is why he won’t forgive you.
Remember, you must be humble,
even if he is the one who sinned,
you must settle it in your heart
that you are to blame and justify your brother’.
Convinced, the monk returned in True sorrow and
humility to the first monk,
but before he could say a word,
the first monk embraced him
and begged forgiveness.

As in the desert,
every day there are endless opportunities
in the parish community to assert oneself
and one’s opinions at the expense of others.
There are countless ways to insist on one’s status, to engage in petty disputes,
to hold grudges,
to respond to perceived injustices against yourself with righteous indignation.
Christ however teaches us
that we are not to behave like pagan rulers.
We are to overcome our natural tendencies
to grasp at rights and privileges by practicing Humility.
Our relationships within our community of believers
is to be on a different footing then human relationships
based upon Worldly standards.
Whoever of us wants to be great
must become servant of all.

Every day
there are endless opportunities to assert oneself
and one’s opinions at the expense of others,
– to insist on one’s status,
– to engage in petty disputes,
– to hold grudges,
– to respond to perceived injustices against oneself with righteous indignation.
And such responses are often natural and understandable.
However, monks search to overcome their natural tendency
to grasp at their own rights and privileges through the practice of Humility.
They want to place human relationships on a different footing,
to undermine the impulses which perpetuated discord and factionalism.
In short, they search to create an atmosphere
in which it would be easier to Love.
Consciously taking the lowest place
is a first step in this process.
In this sense,
Humility becomes an expression of Love.

Jesus is the Lord of Glory, the Son of God
and He comes to the world not to demonstrate
how a Lord can rule over others,
not to show us how to be masters and despots
and demand others to serve us.
Rather Jesus reveals Godly Lordship
as being a life of service to others.
Jesus doesn’t treat servants as lower than Himself,
but rather uplifts the Image of Servitude.
Jesus says,
you are right in calling me Lord and Master
but instead of taking your ideas about Lord and Master
from dictators and despots and slave owners,
learn the value of being a servant from Me.
The lifestyle Jesus models for us is that we become servants
and it is Jesus Christ Who gives total value to Service to others.
We become Lords when we become Servants,
service to others is being a Lord as Jesus is Lord.

James and John came to Jesus with their own self-interest in mind
and Jesus tells them self-interest is how tyrants behave.
If you want to be with me,
then learn to be Servants,
because I am a Servant, not a tyrant.

And servants need most of all to be attuned to the needs of others.
– What do the people around me need in order to be saved?
– What must I do to help those around me attain the Kingdom of God?
– What must I do to reveal the love of God to my neighbour?
– How can I help make Christ present to those whom I am with?

Jesus said,
Whoever among us wants to become great,
must be a servant

So it is service that each of us must seek, not greatness.
To seek greatness is to miss the mark of being followers of Jesus.

Before the Crucifixion Jesus tried to teach “this
when James and John came with their mother
to ask for the highest places in His Kingdom.
Did she initiate this request out of a mother’s loving ambition to have the best for her sons?
Or, did they ask her to intercede for them,
because she was one of the women who followed Jesus and helped pay his way —> putting Jesus in debt to her?
Either way, he did not promise thrones at his right and left.
Instead, he asked if they could share the Chalice, the Cup He had to drink,
the Cup of suffering.
It must have been a proud moment for this good mother
when her two sons replied with confidence,”Yes, we can“.
But at the first threat of suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, all the disciples were struck with fear for their lives, and they fled.
Perhaps James and John are fittingly called
Sons of Thunder“, not because of their father’s temper or their own tendency to violence, but
because of the reaction of Mrs. Zebedee
when she found out her boys had abandoned Jesus
and fled the Cup of suffering.
Can you hear her shouting,
“Just wait ’till I get my hands on those boys!”.
She did get hold of John and he was with this brave woman
when she stood at the foot of the Cross
while Jesus suffered and died.

When you go to sleep on your bed,
remember God’s blessings, His care for you
and thank Him for that
Saint Anthony the Great