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
“.

Ikos
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,
“Hosanna!”
“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“.

April 11th – Saint Antipas, Bishop of Pergamum [† 92]

Many Christian traditions believe Saint Antipas to be the Antipas referred to in the Book of Revelation.
Revelation says [as it were from the mouth of Christ,
Who says to the Angel – that is, the Bishop of the Church of Pergamom]:
I know your works, and where you live, even where Satan’s seat is;
and you hold fast My Name, and have not denied My Faith,
even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful Martyr,
who was slain among you, where Satan dwells
Rev 2: 13

According to Christian Tradition, John the Apostle ordained his disciple Antipas
as bishop of Pergamon during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian.
The traditional account goes on to say Antipas was martyred in ca. 92 AD by burning in a brazen bull-shaped altar used for casting out demons worshiped by the local population.
There is a tradition of oil (“manna of the saints”) being secreted from the relics of Saint Antipas.
Some Christians pray to this saint for ailments of the teeth.

Dismissal Hymn              1st Tn
The celebrated hierarch and Pergamom’s first prelate,
the fellow-contestant of Martyrs and most divine myrrh-streamer,
come let the faithful honour now wise Antipas,
who truly is a great and swift healer of severely afflicted teeth
and cry to him with our whole soul,
‘Glory to Christ that has glorified you.
Glory to Him that has crowned you.
Glory to Him that works healing for all through you’
“.

Kontakion          8th Tn
To the Hierarch and renowned Great Martyr of the Lord,
to the most excellent protector of all Pergamom,
to him that cast our common foe down in ruin,
to Antipas let us sing praises as is due,
for he heals them that suffer from afflicted teeth.
Let us cry with love,
‘Rejoice, O thrice-blessed Father’
“.

April 9th – Saint Monk-Martyr Bademus [Vadim, †376], Archimandrite of Persia

Saint Monk-Martyr Bademus lived in
the 4th century in the Persian city of Bethlapeta,
and was descended from a rich and illustrious family.
In his youth, he was enlightened with the Christian teaching.
The Saint gave away all his wealth to the poor
and withdrew into the wilderness,
where he founded a Monastery.
He would go up on a mountain for solitary prayer
and once was permitted to behold
the Glory of God.

During this period the Persian emperor Sapor [310 – 381] began to persecute Christians.
They arrested Saint Bademus and his seven disciples and tortured them in prison, hoping that they would renounce Christ and worship the sun and fire.
But Saint Bademus and his disciples held firmly to the Christian Faith.
The confessors spent four months in jail.
One of the associates of the emperor Sapor, Nirsanes,
was a Christian and suffered imprisonment for this.
He did not hold up under torture and denied Christ,
promising to fulfil whatever the emperor commanded.
Sapor demanded that Nirsanes personally cut off the head of Saint Bademus.
For this he was promised a reprieve and great rewards.
Nirsanes was not able to overcome his fear of new tortures
and he agreed to follow the path of betrayal walked by Judas.

When they brought Saint Bademus to him,
he took the sword and turned toward him,
but overcome by conscience, he trembled and stood petrified.
Saint Bademus said to him,
Has your wickedness now reached this point, Nirsanes,
that you should not only renounce God, but also murder His servants?
Woe to you, accursed one!
What will you do on that day when you stand before the Dread Judgment Seat?
What answer will you give to God?
I am prepared to die for Christ,
but I don’t want to receive death at your hands
“.

Nirsanes struck with the sword, but his hands shook
and he could not behead the Saint immediately
and the fire-worshippers began to call him a coward.
The holy Martyr Bademus stood motionless,
enduring many terrible blows,
until the murderer succeeded in cutting off his head.

The just punishment for his misdeeds were not slow in overtaking the hapless fellow.
Tormented by his conscience, he did away with himself, throwing himself on a sword.
After the death of the emperor Sapor,
the seven disciples of Saint Bademus were released from prison.
Saint Bademus is the patron saint of all those
who were baptized with the name Vadim.

6th week of Lent ending with Saturday of Lazaros & Palm Sunday

Great Lent ends at Vespers on
the evening of the Sixth Friday,
and the Lenten cycle of Old Testament readings is brought to an end
[Genesis ends with the account of the burial of Joseph, who is a type of Christ].
At that same service, the celebration of Lazarus Saturday begins.


The resurrection of Lazarus is understood as
a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Jesus,
and many of the Resurrection hymns
normally chanted on Sunday
[and which will be replaced the next day with hymns for Palm Sunday] are chanted at Matins
on the morning of Lazarus Saturday.

Palm Sunday differs from the previous Sundays
in that it is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church.
None of the normal Lenten material is chanted on Palm Sunday, and fish, wine and oil are permitted in the Trapeza.
The blessing of Palms [or pussywillow] takes place at Matins on Sunday morning,
and everyone stands holding palms
and lit candles during the important moments of the service.

This is especially significant at the Great Entrance
during the Divine Liturgy on Palm Sunday morning,
since liturgically that entrance recreates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The themes of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday are tied together,
and some of the same hymns [including one of the Apolytikia] are chanted on both days.

When we were baptized, we were baptized into Christ’s death.
How often have you heard that idea? It is such a strange idea to modern mind.
Let’s leave aside for a moment the adults who come for baptism.
Let us, rather, call to mind all those young couples who come so gladly to the font,
bringing with them their new born and for what?
To have their children baptized into someone’s death!
The mind recoils in horror.
Surely, our modern sensibilities suspect something very strange in this idea,
something primitive, even something morbid.
Yet that is what happened to us when were went down into the waters.
Apostle Paul tells us so himself:
Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized
into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Therefore we were buried with Him in baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the Glory of the Father,
even so we should walk in newness of life
“.
Rom.6: 3-4

What a paradox we find here:
the modern mind, the worldly, secular mind; the very mind
which demands ready abortion for the unwanted;
easy death for those no longer valued;
perfect embryos, disposing of the surplus,
that very mind, terrified of and wanting to deny that we die,
hides behind its own artificial forms of life
until our very humanity is abolished.
Devilish work indeed!
Such a mind, fixed upon hedonism, comfort and the pursuit of self-gratification
wants nothing to do, indeed,
wants to know nothing about sacrifice
and dying and self-mortification.

But if we who are in Christ know anything at all,
it is this:
that we have entered intoHhis Death.
As the expression goes:
‘been there; done that; bought the tee-shirt!’
Yes, we shall all die, if we are talking of that
biological event,
that breakdown of our physical form but of death itself?
What of the real death beyond the separation of the soul from the body?
Where is our fear? For we have died already.
Mystically, spiritually, that is to say, in reality, we have already died.
Our bodies went down into the water but our souls went down with Christ into Hades.
That Mystery, that Pearl of great Price is now buried within our hearts
– no wonder we want that for our children as well as ourselves.
But what is the point of the blessed Apostle’s assertion
that we were baptized into a death?
So we should walk in newness of life“.
► That is the point; ► that is our struggle.
► That has been the very point of the Great and Holy Week,
that we become now and forever
what we became at our baptism: New People!

Without this day, the Great Sabbath,
the day Christ both rested in the tomb in His Body whilst His Soul was in Hades,
proclaiming the Gospel to the dead – without this day there is no such thing as baptism.
The whole point of this day is
that Christ has fulfilled the old Mosaic Passover.
He has gone through not the Red Sea as the children of Israel but the Great Sea of Death.
And He has done this as our Pioneer,
blazing the trail for us who follow Him.
For those who deny this, for the rest of the world, those without this faith, all they can do is walk to their inevitable end, like people with their eyes tight shut, walking towards the precipice.
They are already dying
but we have been reborn into Life.
We are a New People:
that is why we cannot live like the rest and
join them on their stumbling over the edge.

If you have been at the services during Holy Week,
if you have listened attentively to the readings,
you might have noticed two general themes:
Yes, indeed, the Resurrection, of course
but also the Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ,
this time in Glory.
The Parousia is the final intent and purpose in the mind of God
whereby all things in this life will be brought to their End.
This end is not the final running out of steam,
a mere conclusion in the sense of being no more.
Rather, ‘End’ here means the very purpose
and goal of the whole Divine Dispensation.
Like the end of a race,
the aim is not just to stop running
but to win.

The western liturgical tradition fixes this eschatology,
this Mystery of the end times, during Advent, just before the Nativity.
But we, Orthodox, place it here and now.
Particularly if you came to the Bridegroom Services,
the Orthros of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during this Great Week,
you will have been with Christ Who comes as a Bridegroom in the ancient world,
coming in the night to the wedding feast and the consummation of the marriage.
This intriguing mixture of Pascha with the Parousia, the Resurrection and the End,
suggests that the Raising of Christ from the dead is God’s final and very clear statement to mankind,
His Creature; His final Revelation before the End.
All that is left is for time to run its course in God’s good time, whilst to know the Resurrection is actually to arrive at the end,
that is, the very purpose of all things.
We were reborn for this; we joined Christ in his death for this.
This is our Destiny.

Today the Church has become the cave where they laid Him.
Here He rests and in resting the Mosaic laws comes to its end and goal.
Where of old God gave the last day of the week, the Saturday as a day of rest,
Christ has now kept the perfect Sabbath rest and fulfilled the Commandment.
Where before, Images were forbidden, now God has set before us an Image,
His very Self in a human Face; where once they were told of old,
do not steal, God has come like a thief in the night and robbed Satan of his kingdom,
despoiling him of souls held in bondage, harrowing hell
and Raising up those who had fallen.
For where the Law came through Moses,
Grace and Truth have come through Jesus Christ.

Every time we serve this Communion Sacrifice,
we, the New Israel, His Church,
manifest liturgically on earth
an Image of the Heavenly Realities.
Each service holds within it, Mystically,
the very Purpose and End of our human existence:
Resurrection in Christ.
Isaac was the Prototype,
redeemed from death by a ram.
Christ is the first fruits of the reality,
Who offered up his life-blood,
just as the lambs of the First [Old] Covenant were being slaughtered
in the Temple on the Day of Preparation.
Then He rose again when the Sabbath was over;
Rising on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the New Creation.
We are that New Creation of His, Created at our Baptism.
So that, where the world sees only death,
we see Newness of Life; where the outsiders pass by a tomb,
we behold the Marriage Chamber.
So it is that the Priest, preparing to offer the Anaphora
and laying the Sacred Vessels on the Holy Table,
says each time,:
As life-bearing, as more splendid than Paradise
and more radiant than any Royal Chamber,
O Christ, is shown forth Your Tomb,
the fountain of our Resurrection“.

We have indeed ‘been there
– we were baptized into Christ’s death; we have “done that
– we have died already;
we have even “bought the tee-shirt
– for as St. Paul says,
As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ“.

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
Righteousness.
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 –
praying
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 6th – Saint Platonida of Nisibis [Syria, †308]

Saint Platonida was at first a deaconess,
but afterwards withdrew into the Nisibis desert,
where she organized a women’s monastery.
The Rule of her monastery was distinguished for its strictness.
The sisters partook of food only once a day.
When they were not praying,
they spent their time in monastic labours and various obedience’s.

On Fridays, the day commemorating
the sufferings of Christ the Saviour on the Cross,
all work stopped, and the monks were in church
from morning until evening,
where between services they read
from Holy Scripture and from commentaries on it.

The biographies of the great philosophers,
such as Descartes and Kant,
relate that these desert seekers
spent whole days and nights sitting in their armchairs, engrossed in their thoughts.
Philosophy is deep, but deeper still is Theologic meditation, the greatest form of prayer,
which the Holy Fathers call Noetic Prayer.
The depth of communion in Spirit
which the Saints have with God is inconceivably great . . . . .
In the ceaseless contemplation of God and of the fortunes of the world,
in deep communion of prayer with God,
their spirit grew and their understanding of the ways of Salvation increased,
to which they would teach the people, who were being lost in their sins.
They would have to change their thoughts
and the senses of the people, to make them deeper.
To urge them to repent
and to change their perverted and evil ways.

Saint Platonida was for all the fellow-sisters
a living example of strict Monastic Asceticism,
meekness, and Love for neighbour.
Having reached a great old age,
Saint Platonida died peacefully
in the year 308.

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.

Conclusion
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.