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

April 1st – life & history of Saint Mary, Holy Mother of Egypt

From the Great Canon,
the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete,
heard in church during the service
at Wednesdaybefore the Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt.

It is good to hide the secret of a king,
but it is glorious to reveal
and preach the works of God
” [Tobit 12: 7].
So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness.
Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul.
And I  [so says Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem ►],
in writing the life of Saint Mary of Egypt,
am afraid to hide the works of God by silence.
Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth. [Matth.25: 18-25];
I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me.
And let no one think [continues Saint Sophronius]
that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel
—> may I never lie about Holy things!
If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record,
do not believe it, may the Lord have Mercy on them because,
reflecting on the weakness of human nature,
they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by Holy people.
But now we must begin to tell this most amazing story,
which has taken place in our generation.

There was a certain elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of the Holy life and speech,
who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs.
This elder’s name was Zosimas.
He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life
and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him
by his tutors as regard spiritual labours.
He had also added a good deal himself whilst labouring to subject his flesh to the will of the spirit.
And he had not failed in his aim.
He was so renowned for his spiritual life that many came to him from neighbouring monasteries
and some even from afar.
While doing all this, he never ceased to study the Divine Scriptures.
Whether resting, standing, working or eating food
[if the scraps he nibbled could be called food],
he incessantly and constantly had a single aim:
always to sing of God, and to practice the teaching of the Divine Scriptures.
Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother’s breast,
he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training
as an ascetic till he reached the age of 53.
After that, he began to be tormented with the thought
that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone,
saying to himself mentally,
Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me
and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished?
Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?

Thus thought the elder, when suddenly
an angel appeared to him and said:

Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course.
But there is no man who has attained perfection.
Before you lie unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished.
That you may know how many other ways lead to Salvation,
leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham
and go to the monastery by the River Jordan
“.

Zosimas did as he was told. he left the monastery in which he had lived from childhood
and went to the River Jordan.
At last he reached the community to which God had sent him.
Having knocked at the door of the monastery,
he told the monk who was the porter who he was;
and the porter told the abbot.
On being admitted to the abbot’s presence,
Zosimas made the usual monastic prostration and prayer.
Seeing that he was a monk the abbot asked:

Where do you come from, my brother
and why have you come to us poor old men?

Zosimas replied:

There is no need to speak about where I have come from,
but I have come, father, seeking spiritual profit,
for I have heard great things about your skill in leading souls to God
“.

My brother“, the abbot said to him,
Only God can heal the infirmity of the soul.
May He teach you and us His Divine ways and guide us.
But as it is the love of Christ that has moved you
to visit us poor old men, then stay with us,
if that is why you have come.
May the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for our Salvation
fill us all with the Grace of the Holy Spirit
“.

After this, Zosimas bowed to the abbot,
asked for his prayers and blessing, and stayed in the monastery.
There he saw elders proficient both in action and the contemplation of God,
aflame in spirit, working for the Lord.
They sang incessantly, they stood in prayer all night,
work was ever in their hands and Psalms on their lips.
Never an idle word was heard among them,
they know nothing about acquiring temporal goods or the cares of life.
But they had one desire —> to become in body like corpses.
Their constant food was the Word of God
and they sustained their bodies on bread and water,
as much as their love for God allowed them Seeing this,
Zosimas was greatly edified and
prepared for the struggle that lay before him.

Many days passed and the time drew near when all Christians fast and prepare themselves to worship the Divine Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
The monastery gates were kept always locked and only opened
when one of the community was sent out on some errand.
It was a desert place, not only unvisited by people of the world but even unknown to them.

There was a rule in that monastery which was the reason why God brought Zosimas there.
At the beginning of the Great Fast [on Forgiveness Sunday]
the priest celebrated the Divine Liturgy
and all partook of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
After the Holy Liturgy they went to the refectory
and would eat a little Lenten food.

Then all gathered in church, and after praying earnestly with prostrations,
the elders kissed one another and asked forgiveness.
And each made a prostration to the abbot
and asked his blessing and prayers for the struggle that lay before them.
After this, the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing,
“The Lord is my Light and my Saviour; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the Defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” [Psalm 26: 1]
and the rest of that Psalm, all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan.
Only one or two brothers were left in the monastery,
not to guard the property [for there was nothing to rob],
but so as not to leave the church without Divine Service.
Each took with him as much as he could or wanted in the way of food,
according to the needs of his body:
one would take a little bread, another some figs,
another dates or wheat soaked in water.
And some took nothing but their own body covered with rags and fed
when nature forced them to it on the plants that grew in the desert.

After crossing the Jordan, they all scattered far and wide in different directions.
And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed
—> neither to talk to one another, nor to know how each one lived and fasted.
If they did happen to catch sight of one another,
they went to another part of the country, living alone and always singing to God,
and at a definite time eating a very small quantity of food.
In this way they spent the whole of the fast
and used to return to the monastery
a week before the Resurrection of Christ, on Palm Sunday.
Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labour
and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert.
Such were rules of the monastery.
Every one of them whilst in the desert struggled with himself
before the Judge of the struggle — God — not seeking to please men
and fast before the eyes of all.
For what is done for the sake of men, to win praise and honour,
is not only useless to the one who does it
but sometimes the cause of great punishment.

Zosimas did the same as all.
And he went far, far into the desert with a secret hope of finding
some father who might be living there and who might be able
to satisfy his thirst and longing.
And he wandered on tireless, as if hurrying on to some definite place.
He had already walked for 20 days and when the 6th hour came he stopped
and, turning to the East, he began to sing the sixth Hour
and recite the customary prayers.
He used to break his journey thus at fixed hours of the day to rest a little,
to chant Psalms standing and to pray on bent knees.

And as he sang thus without turning his eyes from the Heavens,
he suddenly saw to the right of the hillock
on which he stood the semblance of a human body.
At first he was confused thinking he beheld a vision of the devil,
and even started with fear.
But, having guarded himself with the sign of the Cross and banished all fear,
he turned his gaze in that direction and in Truth saw some form gliding southwards.
It was naked, the skin dark as if burned up by the heat of the sun;
the hair on its head was white as a fleece,
and not long, falling just below its neck.
Zosimas was so overjoyed at beholding a human form
that he ran after it in pursuit, but reform fled from him. He followed.
At length, when he was near enough to be heard, he shouted:

Why do you run from an old man and a sinner?
Slave of the True God, wait for me, whoever you are,

in God’s name I tell you, for the love of God
for Whose sake you are living in the desert
“.

Forgive me for God’s sake,
but I cannot turn towards you and show you my face, Abba Zosimas.
For I am a woman and naked as you see
with the uncovered shame of my body.
But if you would like to fulfil one wish of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so that I can cover my body and can turn to you and ask for your blessing
“.

Here terror seized Zosimas, for he heard that she called him by name.
But he realized that she could not have done so
without knowing anything of him
if she had not had the power of spiritual insight.

He at once did as he was asked.
He took off his old, tattered cloak and threw it to her,
turning away as he did so.
She picked it up and was able to cover at least a part of her body.
The she turned to Zosimas and said:

Why did you wish, Abba Zosimas, to see a sinful woman?
What do you wish to hear or learn from me,
you who have not shrunk from such great struggles?

Zosimas threw himself on the ground and asked for her blessing.
She likewise bowed down before him.
And thus they lay on the ground prostrate asking for each other’s blessing.
And one word alone could be heard from both:
Bless me!“.
After a long while the woman said to Zosimas:

Abba Zosimas, it is you who must give blessing and pray.
You are dignified by the order of priesthood
and for many years you have been standing
before the Holy altar and offering the Sacrifice of the Divine Mysteries
“.

This flung Zosimas into even greater terror. At length with tears he said to her:

O mother, filled with the spirit, by your mode of life
it is evident that you live with God and have died to the world.
The Grace granted to you is apparent
—> for you have called me by name and recognized that I am a priest,
though you have never seen me before.
Grace is recognized not by one’s orders, but by Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
so give me your blessing for God’s sake, for I need your prayers
“.

Then giving way before the wish of the elder the woman said:

Blessed is God Who cares for the Salvation of men and their souls“.

Zosimas answered:

Amen“.

And both rose to their feet. Then the woman asked the elder:

Why have you come, man of God, to me who am so sinful?
Why do you wish to see a woman naked an devoid of every virtue?
Though I know one thing —> the Grace of the Holy Spirit
has brought you to render me a service in time.
Tell me, father, how are the Christian peoples living?
And the kings? How is the Church guided?”.

Zosimas said:

By your prayers, mother, Christ has granted lasting peace to all.
But fulfil the unworthy petition of an old man
and pray for the whole world and for me who am a sinner,
so that my wanderings in the desert may not be fruitless
“.

She answered:

You who are a priest, Abba Zosimas,
it is you who must pray for me and for all —> for this is your calling.
But as we must all be obedient, I will gladly do what you ask
“.

And with these words she turned to the East,
and raising her eyes to Heaven and stretching out her hands,
she began to pray in a whisper.
One could not hear separate words, so that Zosimas could not understand
anything that she said in her prayers.
Meanwhile he stood, according to his own word, all in a flutter,
looking at the ground without saying a word.
And he swore, calling God to witness,
that when at length he thought that her prayer was very long,
he took his eyes off the ground and saw
that she was raised about a forearm’s distance from the ground
and stood praying in the air.
When he saw this, even greater terror seized him
and he fell on the ground weeping and repeating may times,
Lord have mercy“.

And whilst lying prostrate on the ground he was tempted by a thought:
Is it not a spirit, and perhaps her prayer is hypocrisy.

But at the very same moment the woman turned round,
raised the elder from the ground and said:
Why do thought confuse you, Abba, and tempt you about me,
as if I were a spirit and a dissembler in prayer?
Know, Holy father, that I am only a sinful woman,
though I am guarded by Holy baptism.
And I am no spirit but earth and ashes, and flesh alone“.

And with these words she guarded herself with the sign of the Cross
on her forehead, eyes, mouth and breast, saying:
May God defend us from the evil one and from his designs,
for fierce is his struggle against us“.

Hearing and seeing this, the elder fell to the ground
and embracing her feet, he said with tears:
I beg you, by the Name of Christ our God,
Who was born of a Virgin,
for Whose sake you have stripped yourself,
for Whose sake you have exhausted your flesh,
do not hide from your slave,
who you are and whence and how you came
into this desert.
Tell me everything so that
the marvellous works of God may become known.
A hidden wisdom and a secret treasure
—> what profit is there in them?
Tell me all, I implore you.
For not out of vanity or for self-display will you speak
but to reveal the truth to me, an unworthy sinner.
I believe in God, for whom you live and whom you serve.
I believe that He led me into this desert so as to show me His ways in regard to you.
It is not in our power to resist the plans of God.
If it were not the will of God that you and your life would be known,
He would not have allowed be to see you
and would not have strengthened me to undertake this journey,
one like me who never before dared to leave his cell“.

Much more said Abba Zosimas. But the woman raised him and said:
I am ashamed, Abba, to speak to you of my disgraceful life, forgive me for God’s sake!
But as you have already seen my naked body I shall likewise lay bare before you my work, so that you may know with what shame and obscenity my soul is filled.
I was not running away out of vanity, as you thought,
for what have I to be proud of —> I who was the chosen vessel of the devil?
But when I start my story you will run from me,
as from a snake, for your ears will not be able to bear the vileness of my actions.
But I shall tell you all without hiding anything,
only imploring you first of all to pray incessantly for me,
so that I may find Mercy on the day of Judgment“.

The elder wept and the woman began her Story:
My native land, holy father, was Egypt.
Already during the lifetime of my parents, when I was twelve years old,
I renounced their love and went to Alexandria.
I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood
and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality.
It is more becoming to speak of this briefly,
so that you may just know my passion and my lechery.
For about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that.
I was like a fire of public debauch.
And it was not for the sake of gain —> here I speak the pure truth.
Often when they wished to pay me, I refused the money.
I acted in this way so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain me,
doing free of charge what gave me pleasure.
Do not think that I was rich and that was the reason why I did not take money.
I lived by begging, often by spinning flax,
but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth.
This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life.
That is how I lived.
Then one summer I saw a large crowd of Libyans and Egyptians running towards the sea. I asked one of them, ‘Where are these men hurrying to?’
He replied, ‘They are all going to Jerusalem
for the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross,
which takes place in a few days’.
I said to him, ‘Will they take me with them if I wish to go?’
‘No one will hinder you if you have money to pay for the journey and for food’.
And I said to him, ‘To tell you truth, I have no money, neither have I food.
But I shall go with them and shall go aboard.
And they shall feed me, whether they want to or not.
I have a body —> they shall take it instead of pay for the journey’.
I was suddenly filled with a desire to go, Abba,
to have more lovers who could satisfy my passion.
I told you, Abba Zosimas, not to force me to tell you of my disgrace.
God is my witness, I am afraid of defiling you and the very air with my words“.
Zosimas, weeping, replied to her:
Speak on for God’s sake, mother,
speak and do not break the thread of such an edifying tale“.

And, resuming her story, she went on:
That youth, on hearing my shameless words, laughed and went off.
While I, throwing away my spinning wheel,
ran off towards the sea in the direction which everyone seemed to be taking.
and seeing some young men standing on the shore, about ten or more of them,
full of vigour and alert in their movements,
I decided that they would do for my purpose
[it seemed that some of them were waiting for more travellers
whilst others had gone ashore].
Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying,
‘Take me with you to the place you are going to;
you will not find me superfluous’.
I also added a few more words calling forth general laughter.
Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat.
Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once.

How shall I relate to you what happened after this?
Whose tongue can tell,
whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage!
And to all this I frequently forced those miserable youths even against their own will.
There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher.
I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness,
how the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive,
when I had entangled in my net so many souls.
But I think God was seeking my repentance.
For He does not desire the death of a sinner
but magnanimously awaits his return to Him.
At last we arrived in Jerusalem.
I spent the days before the festival in the town,
living the save kind of life, perhaps even worse.
I was not content with the youths I had seduced at sea
and who had helped be to get to Jerusalem;
many others — citizens of the town and foreigners — I also seduced.

The holy day of the Exaltation of the Cross dawned
while I was still flying about — hunting for youths.
At daybreak I saw that everyone was hurrying to the church,
so I ran with the rest.
When the hour for the Holy Elevation approached,
I was trying to make my way in with the crowd
which was struggling to get through the church doors.
I ad at last squeezed through with great difficulty
almost to the entrance of the temple, from which the life-giving Tree of the Cross
was being shown to the people.
But when I trod on the doorstep which everyone passed, I was stopped by some force which prevented by entering.
Meanwhile I was brushed aside by the crowd
and found myself standing alone in the porch.
Thinking that this had happened because of my woman’s weakness,
I again began to work my way into the crowd,
trying to elbow myself forward.
But in vain I struggled.
Again my feet trod on the doorstep over which others were entering the church without encountering any obstacle.
I alone seemed to remain unaccepted by the church.
It was as if there was a detachment of soldiers standing there to oppose my entrance.
Once again I was excluded by the same mighty force and again I stood in the porch.

Having repeated my attempt three or four times,
at last I felt exhausted and had no more strength to push and to be puched,
so I went aside and stood in a corner of the porch.
And only then with great difficulty it began to dawn on me,
and I began to understand the reason
why I was prevented from being admitted to see the life-giving Cross.
The word of Salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that
it was my unclean life which barred the entrance to me.
I began to weep and lament and beat my breast, and to sigh from the depths of my heart.
And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the icon of the most holy Mother of God.
And turning to Her my bodily and spiritual eyes I said:

‘O Lady, Mother of God, Who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word,
I know, O how well I know, that it is no honour or praise to You
when one so impure and depraved as I look up to Your icon, O ever-virgin,
Who didst keep Your body and soul in purity.
rightly do I inspire hatred and disgust before Your virginal purity.
But I have heard that God Who was born of You became man
on purpose to call sinners to repentance.
Then help me, for I have no other help.
Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me.
Allow me to see the venerable Tree on which He Who was born of You
suffered in the flesh and on which He shed His holy Blood
for the redemption of sinners an for me, unworthy as I am.
Be my faithful witness before Your Son
that I will never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication,
but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross
I will renounce the world and its temptations
and will go wherever You wilt lead me’.

Thus I spoke and as if acquiring some hope in firm faith
and feeling some confidence in the Mercy of the Mother of God,
I left the place where I stood praying.
And I went again and mingled with the crowd
that was pushing its way into the temple.
And no one seemed to thwart me, no one hindered my entering the church.
I was possessed with trembling, and was almost in delirium.
Having got as far as the doors which I could not reach before
— as if the same force which had hindered me cleared the way for me —
I now entered without difficulty and found myself within the holy place.
And so it was I saw the life-giving Cross.
I saw too the Mysteries of God and how the Lord accepts repentance.
Throwing myself on the ground, I worshipped that holy earth and kissed it with trembling.
The I came out of the church and went to her who had promised to be my security,
to the place where I had sealed my vow.
And bending my knees before the Virgin Mother of God,
I addressed to her such words as these:

‘O loving Lady, You have shown me Your great love for all men.
Glory to God Who receives the repentance of sinners through You.
What more can I recollect or say, I who am so sinful?
It is time for me, O Lady to fulfil my vow, according to Your witness.
Now lead me by the hand along the path of repentance!’
And at these words I heard a voice from on high:

‘If you cross the Jordan you will find glorious rest’. Hearing this voice and having faith that it was for me, I cried to the Mother of God:
‘O Lady, Lady, do not forsake me!’
With these words I left the porch of the church and set off on my journey.|As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gave me three coins, saying:
‘Sister, take these’.
And, taking the money,
I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey, as a blessed gift.
I asked the person who sold the bread: ‘Which is the way to the Jordan?’
I was directed to the city gate which led that way.
Running on I passed the gates and still weeping went on my journey.
Those I met I asked the way, and after walking for the rest of that day
[I think it was nine o’clock when I saw the Cross]
I at length reached at sunset the Church of Saint John the Baptist
which stood on the banks of the Jordan.
After praying in the temple, I went down to the Jordan and rinsed my face and hands in its holy waters.
I partook of the holy and life-giving Mysteries in the Church of the Forerunner and ate half of one of my loaves.
Then, after drinking some water from Jordan, I lay down and passed the night on the ground.          In the morning I found a small boat and crossed to the opposite bank.
I again prayed to Our Lady to lead me whither she wished.
Then I found myself in this desert and since then up to this very day
I am estranged from all, keeping away from people
and running away from everyone.
And I live here clinging to my God Who saves all|
who turn to Him from faintheartedness and storms“.

Zosimas asked her:
How many years have gone by since you began to live in this desert?“.

She replied:
Forty-seven years have already gone by, I think, since I left the holy city“.

Zosimas asked:
But what food do you find?“.

The woman said:
I had two and a half loaves when I crossed the Jordan.
Soon they dried up and became hard as rock.
Eating a little I gradually finished them after a few years“.

Zosimas asked.
Can it be that without getting ill you have lived so many years thus,
without suffering in any way from such a complete change?“.

The woman answered:
You remind me, Zosimas, of what I dare not speak of.
For when I recall all the dangers which I overcame
and all the violent thoughts which confused me,
I am again afraid that they will take possession of me“.

Zosimas said:
Do not hide from me anything;speak to me without concealing anything“.

And she said to him:
Believe me, Abba, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts
—> mad desires and passions.
When I was about to partake of food,
I used to begin to regret the meat and fish which of which I had so much in Egypt.
I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much.
for I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water.
I used to burn and succumb with thirst.
The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and confused me greatly,
edging me on to sing satanic songs which I had learned once.
But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast
and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert.
In my thoughts I returned to the icon of the Mother of God which had received me
and to her I cried in prayer.
I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing.
And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see light at last
which seemed to shine on me from everywhere.
And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended.

And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication,
how can I express them to you, Abba?
A fire was kindled in my miserable heart
which seemed to burn me up completely
and to awake in me a thirst for embraces.
As soon as this craving came to me,
I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears,
as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience
and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime.
And I did not rise from the ground
[sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night]
until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me
and chased away the thoughts that possessed me.
But always I turned to the eyes of my mind to my Protectress,
asking Her to extend help to one who was sinking fast in the waves of the desert.
And I always had her as my Helper and the Accepter of my repentance.
And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers.
And since then even till now the Mother of God helps me in everything
and leads me as it were by the hand
“.

Zosimas asked:
Can it be that you did not need food and clothing?“.

She answered:
|”After finishing the loaves I had, of which I spoke, for seventeen years I have fed on herbs and all that can be found in the desert.
The clothes I had when I crossed the Jordan became torn and worn out.
I suffered greatly from the cold and greatly from the extreme heat.
At times the sun burned me up and at other times I shivered from the frost and frequently falling to the ground I lay without breath and without motion.
I struggled with many afflictions and with terrible temptations.
But from that time till now the Power of God in numerous ways
had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body.
When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me
I have imperishable food for hope of Salvation.
I am fed and clothed by the all-Powerful Word of God, the Lord of all.
For it is not by bread alone that man lives.
And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge,
hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks [Job 24; Hebr.11: 38]”.

Hearing that she cited words Scripture, from Moses and Job,
Zosimas asked her:
And so you have read the Psalms and other books?“.
She smiled at this and said to the elder:
Believe me,
I have not seen a human face
ever since I crossed the Jordan,
except yours today.
I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert.
I never learned from books.
I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them.
But the word of God which is alive and active,
by itself teaches a man knowledge.
And so this is the end of my tale.
But, as I asked you in the beginning,
so even now I implore you for the sake of the Incarnate word of God,
to pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner“.

Thus concluding here tale she bowed down before him.
And with tears the elder exclaimed:
Blessed is God Who creates the Great and Wondrous, the Glorious and Marvellous without end.
Blessed is God Who has shown me
how He rewards those who fear Him.
Truly, O Lord, You did not forsake
those who seek You!”.

And the woman,
not allowing the elder to bow down before her, said:
I beg you, holy father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our God and Saviour,
tell no one what you have heard, until God delivers me of this earth.
And how depart in peace and again next year you shall see me, and I you,
if God will preserve us in His great Mercy.
But for God’s sake, do as I ask you.
Next year during Lent do not cross the Jordan,
as is your custom in the monastery“.

Zosimas was amazed to hear
that she know the rules of the monastery
and could only say:
Glory to God Who bestows great Gifts on those who love Him“.

She continued:
Remain, Abba, in the monastery.
And even if you wish to depart, you will not be to do so.
And at sunset of the Holy day of the Last super,
put some of the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ into a holy vessel
worthy to hold such Mysteries for me, and bring it.
And wait for me on the banks of the Jordan
adjoining the inhabited parts of the land,
so that I can come and partake of the life-giving Gifts.
For, since the time I communicated in the temple of the Forerunner
before crossing the Jordan even to this day
I have not approached the Holy Mysteries.
And I thirst for them with irrepressible love and longing.
And therefore I ask and implore you to grant me my wish,
bring me the life-giving Mysteries at the very hour
when Our Lord made His disciples partake of His Divine Supper.
Tell John the Abbot of the monastery where you live.
Look to yourself and to your brothers,
for there is much that needs correction.
Only do not say this now,
but when God guides you.
Pray for me!”.

With these words she vanished in the depths of the desert.
And Zosimas, falling down on his knees and bowing down to the ground
on which she had stood, sent up glory and thanks to God.
And, after wandering through the desert,
he returned to the monastery on the day all the brothers returned.

For the whole year he kept silent, not daring to tell anyone of what he had seen.
But in his should he pray to God to give him another chance of seeing the ascetic’s dear face.
And when at length the first Sunday of the Great Fast came,
all went out into the desert with the customary prayers
and the singing of Psalms.
Only Zosimas was held back by illness — he lay in a fever.
And then he remembered what the saint had said to him:
And even if you wish to depart,
you will not be able to do so
“.

Many days passed and at last recovering from his illness he remained in the monastery.
And when attain the monks returned and the day of the Last Supper dawned,
he did as he had been ordered. and placing some of the most pure Body and Blood
into a small chalice and putting
some gifts and dates and lentils soaked in water into a small basket,
he departed for the desert and reached the banks of the Jordan
and sat down to wait for the Saint.
He waited for a long while and then began to doubt.
Then raising his eyes to heaven, he began to pray:

Grant me O Lord, to behold that which You has allowed be to behold once.
Do not let me depart in vain, being the burden of my sins
“.

And then another thought struck him:
And what is she does come?
There is no boat; how will she cross the Jordan
to come to me who am so unworthy?”.

And as he was pondering thus he saw the holy woman appear
and stand on the other side of the river.
Zosimas got up rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God.
And again the thought came to him that she could not cross the Jordan.
Then he saw that she made the sign of the Cross over
the waters of the Jordan
[and the night was a moonlight one, as he related afterwards]
and then she at once stepped on to the waters
and began walking across the surface towards him.
And when he wanted to prostrate himself,
she cried to him while still walking on the water:
What are you doing, Abba, you are a priest
and carrying the Divine Gifts!
“.
He obeyed her and on reaching the shore she said to the elder:
Bless, father, bless me!“.
He answered her trembling,
for a state of confusion had overcome him at the sight of the miracle:
Truly God did not lie when He promised that
when we purify ourselves we shall be like Him.
Glory to You, Christ our God,
Who has shown me through this Your slave
how far away I stand from perfection“.

Here the woman asked him to say the Creed and our Father.
He began, she finished the prayer and according to the custom of that time
gave him the kiss of Peace on the lips.
Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries,
she raised her hands to Heaven
and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming:
Now let You Your servant depart in Peace, O Lord,
according to Your word;
for my eyes have seen Your Salvation“.

Then she said to the elder:
Forgive me, Abba, for asking you, but fulfil another wish of mine.
Go now to the monastery and let God’s Grace guard you. And next year come again to the same place where I first met you. Come for God’s sake, for you shall again see me, for such is the will of God“.

He said to her:
From this day on I would like to follow you
and always see your holy face.
But now fulfil the one and only wish of an old man
and take a little of the food I have brought for you“.

And he showed her the basket,
while she just touched the lentils with the tips of her fingers
and taking three grains said that the Holy spirit guards
the substance of the soul unpolluted.
Then she said:

Pray, for God’s sake pray for me
and remember a miserable wretch
“.

Touching the Saint’s feet and asking for her prayers for the Church,
the kingdom and himself, he let her depart with tears,
while he went off sighing and sorrowful,
for he could not hope to vanquish the invincible.
Meanwhile she again made the sign of the Cross over the Jordan
and stepped on to the waters and crossed over as before.
And the elder returned filled with joy and terror,
accusing himself of not having asked the saint her name.
But he decided to do so next year.

And when another year had passed, he again went into the desert.
He reached the same spot but could see no sign of anyone.
So raising his eyes to heaven as before, he prayed:
Show me, O Lord, Your pure treasure,
which You have concealed in the desert.
Show me, I pray You, the angel in the flesh,
of which the world is not worthy“.

Then on the opposite bank of the river,
her face turned towards the rising sun,
he saw the saint lying dead.
Her hands were crossed according to custom
and her face was turned to the East.
Running up he shed tears over the saint’s feet
and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else.

For a long time he wept.
Then reciting the appointed Psalms,
he said the burial prayers and thought to himself:
“Must I bury the body of a Saint?
Or will this be contrary to her wishes?”
And then he saw words traced on the ground by her head:
Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary.
Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me,
who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt,
called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord’s Passion,
after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries“.
[Saint Mary died in 522 A. D.]

Reading this the elder was glad to know the Saint’s name.
He understood too that as soon as she had partaken of the Divine Mysteries
on the shore of the Jordan she was at once transported to the place where she died.
The distance which Zosimas had taken twenty days to cover,
Mary had evidently traversed in an hour
and had at once surrendered her soul to God.
Then Zosimas thought:
It is time to do as she wished.
But how am I to dig a grave with nothing in my hands?“.

And then he saw nearby a small piece of wood left by some traveller in the desert.
Picking it up he began to dig the ground.
But the earth was hard and dry and did not yield to the efforts of the elder.
He grew tired and covered with sweat.
He sighed from the depths of his soul
and lifting up his eyes he saw a big lion
standing close to the saint’s body and licking her feet.
At the sight of the lion he trembled with fear,
especially when he called to mind Mary’s words
that she had never seen wild beasts in the desert.
But guarding himself with the sign of the Cross,
the thought came to him that the Power of the one lying there would protect him and keep him unharmed.
Meanwhile the lion drew nearer to him, expressing affection by every movement.

Zosimas said to the lion:
The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried.
But I am old and have not the strength to dig the grave
[for I have no spade and it would take too long to go and get one],
so can you carry out the work with your claws?
Then we can commit to the earth the mortal temple of the Saint“.
While he was still speaking
the lion with his front paws began to dig
a hole deep enough to bury the body.

Again the elder washed the feet of the saint with his tears and calling on her to pray for all, covered the body with earth in
the presence of the lion.
It was as it had been, naked and uncovered by anything but the tattered cloak which had been given to her by Zosimas
and with which Mary, turning away, had managed to cover part of her body.
Then both departed.
The lion went off into the depth of the desert like a lamb,
while Zosimas returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ our Lord.
And on reaching the monastery he told all the brothers about everything
and all marvelled on hearing of God’s Miracles.
And with fear and love they kept the memory of the Saint.

Abbot John, as Saint Mary had previously told Abba Zosimas,
found a number of things wrong in the monastery and got rid of them with God’s help.
And Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery,
almost attaining the age of a hundred and passed to eternal life.
The monks kept this story without writing it down
and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.

But I [adds Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem] as soon as I heard it, wrote it down.
Perhaps someone else, better informed, has already written the life of the Saint,
but as far as I could, I have recorded everything, putting truth above all else.
May God Who works amazing Miracles and generously bestows Gifts
on those who turn to Him with faith, reward those
who seek Light for themselves in this story,
who hear, read and are zealous to write it,
and may He grant them the lot of blessed Mary
together with all who at different times have pleased God
by their pious thoughts and labours.

And let us also give Glory to God, the eternal King,
that He may grant us too His mercy in the day of Judgment
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom belongs
all Glory, Honour, Dominion and Adoration
with the Eternal Father and the Most Holy and Life-giving Spirit,
now and always, and thought all ages.
Amen.

Apolytikion       Tn 8
“In you the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother;
for taking up your cross, you did follow Christ,
and by your deeds you did teach us to overlook the flesh,
for it passes away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal.
Wherefore, O righteous Mary,
your spirit rejoices with the Angels”.
Mp3 » Apolyticion Saint Mary of Egypt

Kontakion          Tn 4
Having escaped the gloom of sin, O blest Mary,
and shining brightly with the light of repentance,
You did present your heart to Christ, O glorious one,
bringing Him His Holy and all-immaculate Mother
as a greatly merciful and most bold intercessor.
Hence, You have found the pardon of your sins
and with the Angles rejoice for evermore
“.

The End and Glory Be to God!
Mp3 [english] »
Doxastikon – 5th Sunday of Lent; Mary of Egypt

Cf. The Great Canon,
the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete
,
Internet Medieval Source Book,
a collection of public domain,
copy-permitted and electronically
available texts related
to Medieval and Byzantine History

March 31th – Saint Hypatius the Wonderworker, bishop of Gangra [†326]

Saint Hypatius the Wonderworker,
Hypatius of Gangra [Υπάτιος Γαγγρών]
was Hieromartyr; titular Bishop of Gangra, Asia Minor.
He was present at the First Ecumenical Council
where he supported Saint Athanasius the Great
against the Arian heresy.
There is not much information about his life.
On the road from Constantinople to Gangra in year 326,
followers of Novatus and Felicissimus attacked him
in a desolate place
and threw him into a muddy swamp.
A woman who was amongst the attackers,
struck him on the head with a rock,
delivering a killing blow.
Immediately after, she went mad and started hitting herself with the same stone.
She was healed only
after they brought her back to the Saint’s burial place.
The saint’s body was found by some Christians
who ran to the city of Gangra
and the inhabitants of the city came and buried the Saint,
their beloved Metropolite.
After his death, the relics of the Saint became famous for numerous miracles.
For that reason, he is called a Wonderworker.
The servant of the Almighty God, stands always
with the angels before the great High Priest,
Christ our Lord to pray for us all.

from a Georgian Site:
——————–
You’re asking me, brother, Almaskhan,
feeling the fire, fire, fire,
What are the drawbacks?        fires what!
The Black Sea is to the top of the damaskhan, you can not put it out,
I get to the heart of the fire I am:
( ______________________

Psalms created on Truth – Orthodoxy & her Psalterion

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

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

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

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

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

Luc.24: 27, 44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 28th – Saint Stephen, the wonderworker of Triglia

Saint Stephen, Confessor was Igumen of Triglia Monastery.
He suffered under the iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian [813-820].
From a young age, the holy ascetic dedicated his life to God
and received monastic tonsure.
He later became head of the Triglia monastery near Constantinople.

When persecution again began against holy icons,
the Saintly Igumen was summoned for questioning
and they tried to force him
to sign a document rejecting the veneration of icons.
Saint Stephen steadfastly refused to betray Orthodoxy
and he boldly denounced the emperor for his impiety.
They subjected the Saint to cruel torments,
after which they sent him to prison in the year 815.
Weakened and sick,
the holy Confessor Stephen
soon died in prison from his sufferings and received the Crown of Martyrs.

– Tirilye is a town in Bursa Province, Mudanya, Turkey,
situated 12 km west of Mudanya.
It is a township along the Marmara Sea shoreline.
Trilye has been an important religious center for Orthodox Christians for a long time.
The area, which was inhabited since 5th Century BC,
was formerly known as Τρίγλεια [Trigleia] or Βρύλλειον [Brylleion].
The most important historical structure in Τρίγλεια (Triglea) is
that of the Byzantine Aya Todori Church, known today as the Fatih Mosque.
The Monastery of Saint Sergios of Medikion [Μονή Αγίου Σεργίου του Μηδικίου],
established in 780, commonly simply known as the Medikion monastery [Μονή Μηδικίου],
and later as the Monastery of the Holy Fathers [Μονή των Πατέρων]
is a ruined Byzantine-era monastery near modern Tirilye in Turkey.
It is best known for the role its founders played
in opposing Byzantine Iconoclasm.
The monastery was burned down in 1800, and was rebuilt in 1801,
but was in a derelict condition during Hasluck’s visit later in the century.
Hasluck described the katholikon as “magnificent” and wrote
that it was ornamented with originally arched and black and white mosaics in the courtyard. Pancenko, who came here in 1910, drew the attention to the old icons
and likened it to “a museum where Greek Church pictures are exhibited“.
Evangelides [1889] defined the church as a large rectangle and he added:
It has no roof and columns,
it is almost like a large inn
deserted by its owner…
“.

March 27th – Saint Matrona of Thessalonika [3rd-4th cnt.]

According to the early-Christian Martyrology,
Matrona was the Christian servant-maid of a Jewish mistress,
named Pantilla, the wife of the governor of Thessalonica.
Pantilla constantly mocked Matrona for her faith in Christ
and tried to convert her to Judaism.

Saint Matrona, who believed in Christ from her youth,
still prayed to the Saviour Christ
and secretly went to church
unbeknownst to her vengeful mistress.

Pantilla, learning that Saint Matrona had been to church, asked,
Why won’t you come to our synagogue,
instead of attending the Christian church?
“.
Saint Matrona boldly answered,
Because God is present in the Christian church,
but He has departed from the Jewish synagogue
“.
Pantilla went into a rage and beat Saint Matrona, tied her up
and shut her in a dark closet.
In the morning, Pantilla discovered
that Saint Matrona had been freed of her bonds
by an unknown Power.

In a rage, Pantilla beat the Martyr almost to death,
then bound her even more tightly and locked her in the closet.
The door was sealed so that no one could help her.
The holy martyr remained there for four days without food or water
and when Pantilla opened the door,
she again found Saint Matrona free of her bonds
and standing at prayer.

Pantilla flogged the Holy Martyr
and left the skin hanging in strips from her body.
She locked her in the closet again
where Saint Matrona gave up her spirit to God
and thus received the Crown of her confession.

Pantilla had the Holy Martyr’s body thrown from the roof of her house.
Christians took up the much-suffered body of Saint Matrona and buried it.
Later, Bishop Alexander of Thessalonica
built a church dedicated to the holy Martyr.
Her holy relics, glorified by many Miracles,
were placed in this church.

The judgment of God soon overtook the evil Pantilla.
Standing on the roof at the very place
where the body of Saint Matrona had been thrown,
she stumbled and fell to the pavement.
Her body was smashed
and so she received her just reward for her sin.

According to archaeological evidence and various written sources,
the monastery of Saint Matrona was
one of the first three monasteries of Thessaloniki.
The  historians have noted that until the beginning of iconoclasm [726],
there is reference to a “monastery of Saint Matrona,
located outside the walls of Thesssaloniki, with strong fortification.
It existed about the end of the sixth
and the beginning of the seventh century”.

The book of the Miracles of Saint Demetrius
mentions also a church dedicated to Saint Matrona.
This church, which was near the Via Egnatia in the old centre, is also mentioned by the Archbishop of Thessaloniki, Alexander.
In the account of the saint’s deeds we read:
Άθλησις της Αγίας Μάρτυρος Ματρώνης εκ πόλεως Θεσσαλονίκης. Αυτή θεράπαινα υπήρξε Παντίλλης τινός Ιουδαίας, γυναικός στρατοπεδάρχου εν τη Θεσσαλονικέων πόλει“; translated:
Miracle of the Holy Martyr Matrona of Thessaloniki.
She cured a Jewess named Pantilla,
the wife of a garrison commander
in the city of the Thessalonians
“.

Apolytikion       Tn 3
With undaunted spirit you preserved the Faith,
And your soul, Matrona, was not enslaved by the cruelty of your torturers.
You excelled in contest, slaying the crafty one
and were mystically wedded to the Lord of creation.
Fervently entreat him to deliver us from all harm!
“.

Kontakion          Tn 4
Filled with the light of the Spirit, O Matrona,
you regarded your prison cell as a bridal chamber;
and from it you hastened
to your radiant dwelling in the heavens, crying out:
‘In divine love for You, O Word,
I gladly endured scourging’s’“.

Orthodoxy & peaceable prayer

I have loved,
because the Lord shall hear
the voice of my supplication;
for He inclined His ear to me,
and in my days
I shall call upon Him“.
Psalm 114: 1,2

Spending time developing
our own personal relationship with the Lord
is a valuable investment of our time.
God has made it possible for us
to communicate with Him through our prayers.
He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible.
Therefore, the more we pray and read His Word, the deeper our relationship with Him will be.

Prayer is a vital link in our relationship with God.
An held in reserve controller to help us
to be more effective
in our communication with God
can be remembered by periodical Actions:

Adoration
– This means I worship God for Who He is
rather than for what He does.
In adoration we verbalize our worship, praise, honour, and exaltation of God.
Many of the Psalms help us focus on the attributes of God,
such as His loving kindness, His mercy, His majesty and others.
Adoration is expressing our love for Him through our words.

Confession
– As we begin our prayer with a worshipful adoration of God,
the Holy Spirit will often reveal any sin in our life
that needs to be confessed.
To confess means to “agree with“.
In other words, I agree with God concerning my sin
– that it is sin.
I also agree with God
that the blood of Jesus Christ
has paid for that sin.
This leads me to thank Him
for His forgiveness.

Thanksgiving
– Giving thanks expresses faith and faith pleases God.
In giving thanks we are expressing verbally
our gratefulness and appreciation for what God does.
Thanksgiving is also saying, “God I trust You“.
It is the opposite of grumbling and becoming bitter.

Supplication
– Supplication with thanksgiving is letting
our requests be made known to God.
We are praying for everything that concerns us,
as well as for the needs of others.
Supplication includes intercession and petition.
Periodical actions helps us to be “on the alert” in our prayers.

Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests
be made known to God
“.
Phil.4: 6

I am exhorted to make my requests known to God,
but how can I pray with confidence?
Four key words answer this question:

1.].  Abide
Abiding is the key to successful praying.
Jesus states,
If you abide in Me and My words abide in you,
ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you

John 15: 7
The Apostle Paul adds,
Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you“.
Col 3: 16

2.].  Ask.
Jesus tells us,
Ask, and it shall be given to you;
seek and you shall find;
knock and it shall be opened to you.
For every one who asks receives;
and he who seeks finds;
and to him who knocks it shall be opened
“.
Matth.7: 7, 8
Someone told me once,
when we get to heaven we’ll find a lot of unopened packages
with our name on them because we did not claim them through prayer.

3.].  Believe.
Matthew tells us,
Everything you ask in prayer,
believing you shall receive
”.
Matth.21: 22
Faith, which is an attitude of believing
and this pleases God.

4.].  Receive.
If you are abiding in Christ
and if you have asked, believing, get ready to receive the answer.
In other words, when you pray for rain, carry an umbrella.
Ask and you will receive,
that your joy may be made full
“.
John 16: 24

Remember these four words
to pray with resourcefulness:
abide, ask, believe and receive.
– One of the things you can be assured of is
that God does answer your prayers
as sometimes He answers right away
or He makes us wait
and as a real Father He will even say no.
– •  I would connect praying to God
like telling my Father my deep problems
and after I have prayed about the problems
then my heart feels light.
– •  When I pray the first thing I ask is
God to reveal to me any area where I have sinned
if I told a white lie, became impatient
and got angry for no reason or any other area.
•  I ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins and the next phase
•  I ask Christ to fill me with his Holy Spirit.
You see if there is sin in your life that is not confessed
then God can’t hear you
so when your sin is confessed
then God will hear
what you are saying.
It is kind of like defragging a computer
if there is so much ‘junk’ in ‘my head’
God will not be able to hear me
till I have asked for forgiveness.

Many people don’t understand the Holy Spirit
as when we ask for forgiveness
and ask Christ to fill us with the Holy Spirit
then the Holy Spirit will give us a peace
that we have not known before.
During your prayers you will then find that
the Holy Spirit will put things in your mind
for you to pray for [even your enemies].
Often when I am praying I ask the Holy Spirit
to reveal to me who I need to pray for
and he will do so.
Praying is not just asking for things
that we want or think that we need
however prayer is an exercise in faith.
I am not able to pray for four hours at a time!
I pray in short prayers
and I find if I pray with my typing on my iPhone or lap top
then I am focused on who or what I need to prayer for.
My biggest prayer always is
that God will give me joy in this very dark world
so others will see the difference in my life.
The very thing that Satan wishes is
to prevent you and me from praying and he has no power over us
however he does have the power of suggestion
in fact he does not even know
what we are thinking!

I hope this helps a little prayer is meant from the heart
and when you seek Christ through prayer,
reading the Scripture and the Holy Fathers
He will teach you how to pray.
Often prayer is not a heat up solution as many people pray
and think how it comes God did not answer a prayer.
Prayer is communicating with God
through Christ and with the Holy Spirit
and allowing God to show us his will
and often he tries to teach us patience.

‘God grant me the Serenity                   => in dutch 
to accept things
I cannot change,
the Courage
to change the things I can
and the Wisdom
to know the difference’.

and be found in Him,
not having my own righteousness,
which is of the law, but that which is through the Faith of Christ,
the Righteousness Which is of God by Faith:
that I may know Him, and the Power of His Resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being made conformable unto His death;
if by any means I might attain
unto the Resurrection of the dead.
Not as though I had already attained,
either were already perfect:
but I follow after,
if that I may apprehend
that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark
for the prize of the high Calling of God
in Christ Jesus
“.
Phil.3: 9-14

Orthodoxy & the visit at the home of the two sisters

“Trust in the Lord at all times;
people, pour out your heart before Him:
God is a refuge for us”.
Psalm 61: 8

In the Gospel of Lucas,
Jesus visits the home of two sisters
named Mary and Martha,
living in an unnamed village.
Mary is contrasted with her sister Martha,
who was “cumbered about many things
Luc.10: 40
while Jesus was their guest,
while Mary had chosen “the better part“,
that of listening to the master’s discourse.

Though they are not specifically named as such in the Gospels, the Orthodox Church counts Mary and Martha among the Myrrh-bearing Women.
These faithful followers of Jesus stood at Golgotha during the Crucifixion of Jesus
and later came to His tomb early on the morning following the Sabbath with myrrh,
according to the Jewish tradition, to anoint their Lord’s body.
The Myrrh-bearers became the first witnesses
to the Resurrection of Jesus, finding the empty tomb
and hearing the joyful News
from an angel.

Orthodox tradition also relates that Mary’s brother Lazaros was cast out of Jerusalem
in the persecution against the Jerusalem Church
following the Martyrdom of Saint Stephanos.
His sisters Mary and Martha fled Judea with him,
assisting him in the proclaiming of the Gospel in various lands.
The three later moved to Cyprus,
where Lazarus became the first Bishop of Kition [today Larnaca].
All three died in Cyprus.

You are the only one who makes the choice
Have you ever met an individual that just seemed to have God all over them?
It seemed that they possessed a walk with the Lord
that was head and shoulders above anything you have ever experienced yourself
and you wondered how they accomplished it.
Well, I have been there! I think the answer lies in what they have discovered.
It just seems to me that some people have learned
to abide at the feet of Jesus as they go through life
and this translates into peace of heart,
Power of life and Purpose before God.
I want that kind of life for myself! How about you?
I would like to be constantly and consistently filled
with the Holy Spirit of God
and I would like to be found at the feet of Jesus.

The Gospels mention a woman named Mary.
She was the sister of Lazarus and Martha
and she is mentioned 3 times in the Gospel account.
Every time Mary is mentioned, she is always found
at the feet of Jesus.
Her experiences there can teach us
all some valuable lessons about our own walk with the Lord.
Today, we want to take a few minutes
and join Mary at the feet of Jesus.

1.]. a place of stillness [Luc.10; 38-42]
Martha opened her home to Jesus and did her best to be a good hostess.
Mary, on the other had opened her heart to Jesus
and tried her best just to love the Lord.
She found a place where:
a.] She Could forget her Cares –
while Martha was “cumbered“,
Mary was sitting, calmly listening to the Words of Jesus.
When we come into His presence, [i.e., in prayer, Bible reading, worship, etc.],
the burdens of life tend to grow amazingly light.
It would do many Christians good to learn to sit in His presence and forget about the cares of the whole World.
Learn to love the Lord more than your worries
and you will be able to find that calm place
in His blessed Presence.
When we focus our attention on Him,
other things tend to become very shadowy [Phil.4: 6-9]

b.] She could feed her Soul
– Martha was worried over physical nourishment
while Mary was more concerned
with getting her soul fed.
In His presence, we will find food for our souls and strength for our journey.
It is no wonder that many Christians are weak and lacking in spiritual vitality.
They never take the time to just come into His Presence and feed on Him!
We need soul food, or we will dry up spiritually! [2Tim.2: 15; Job 23: 12; 1Petr.2: 2]

c.]. She could focus her priorities
– Looking in on this scene at Martha’s home,
we can tell what each sister’s priorities were.
Martha was concerned with preparing the meal and serving her guests.
Mary, however, was more concerned with being in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Often, the level of spirituality we are able to achieve in life is directly related to the time we are willing
to spend in His presence.
If everything in our lives takes
precedence over being with the Lord,
then we are in danger at the heart of our experience.
Even being overly busy in His work,
to the point where we have no time
to spend at His feet, is a bad thing.
[your first love – Rev. 2: 1-7]
The more time one spends at His feet,
the easier it is to make it a priority in life.
The larger He gets in our eyes, the smaller other things seem to become.
Ask yourself this question:
Is sitting at Jesus’ feet a priority in my life?
We need to seek this Place of stillness before the Lord!

d.] She could find herself
– In sitting at Jesus’ feet, Mary found fulfilment and contentment.
What she found at His feet was worth more than all the money in the world can buy.
In fact, in just sitting at the Lord’s feet,
Mary found something that millions live their entire lives and never discover.
She found acceptance and true contentment.
Those things alone are worth spending time in His presence.
If we as Christians could learn the value of spending time in at His feet,
a lot of psychiatrists and psychologists would have to go out of business.
God has promised us that we can find rest at His feet [2Tim.1: 17].

At the feet of Jesus we can see:
that next to a Place of stillness
and a Place of supplication [John 11: 32]
we can see:
That our Lord’s has interest in the need of His People
– When Jesus arrived in Bethany,
Martha ran out to meet Him.
In their conversation, Jesus demonstrated a great concern for and interest in their need.
After speaking with Martha, Jesus apparently calls for Mary.
He is concerned about the grief and pain that they are experiencing.

Every ‘child of God’ needs to understand
that Jesus cares about our need.
He is interested in what we are experiencing [Hebr.4: 15].
Never think for an instant that God does not care for you.
– That is the devil’s lie!
Jesus is extremely interested in everything
you are facing in life:
Though the Lord is high,
and He respect unto the lowly
“.
Psalm 137: 6
The word “respect” means “to see, discern, behold“.
This tells us that the Lord is looking down at our lives
and He misses nothing that affects His children:
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?
and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear you not therefore,
you are of more value
than many sparrows
“.
Matth.10: 19-31

Our Lord’s Invitation To His People
– Jesus called for Mary
to come unto Himself.
She responded and came.
There, she was able to place
her burdens upon the Lord.
The Lord has invited
all His children to come unto Him and experience what He can do in a time of crisis
Cast your burden upon the Lord
and He shall sustain you:
He will never suffer
the righteous to be moved
“.
Matth.11: 28; 1Petr.5: 7; Isaiah 55: 22

Isn’t it amazing that the Person
Who can do the most, the quickest
is often the last One we turn
in a time of need.
=> Resources are to be used persistently,
without question in time of need.
Doctors are to be sent for in sickness.
Lawyers are to be consulted when property
or character needs defence.
The help of all friends is to be sought.
But still after all,
the first thing to be done is to cry to the Lord Jesus for help.
Whether or not you come to Him in a time of trouble,
His invitation is stands.

Mary heard that Jesus was calling her,
she ran to meet Him. What a lesson for God’s children!
When the time of crisis comes, Jesus is always near.
Run quickly to Him and He will meet your need!

Apolyticion        Tn 4
Today is the beginning of our Salvation,
The revelation of the eternal Mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
the Lord is with You!

4th Sunday of Lent – Saint John Climacos – through prayer and fasting

Then one of the crowd answered and said,
“Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.
And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth,
and becomes rigid.
So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.
He answered him and said,
“O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?
How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me“.
Then they brought him to Him.
And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him
and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him? “.
And he said,
“From childhood. And often he has thrown him
both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.
But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us“.
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes“.
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears,
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! “.
When Jesus saw that the people came running together,
He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it:
“Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you,
come out of him and enter him no more! “.
Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him.
And he became as one dead, so that many said,
“He is dead“.
But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately,
“Why could we not cast it out? “.
So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting“.
Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee,
and He did not want anyone to know it.
For He taught His disciples and said to them,
“The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men,
and they will kill Him.
And after He is killed,
He will rise the third day.
Marc.9: 17-31

As Christians, we often experience the same frustrations
that the father of the demon possessed child
and the disciples did in today’s Gospel.
Many times people come to the Church
seeking help from God in their prayers,
but their prayers go unanswered.
And many times we as Christians want to help
some family suffering in some great need,
and yet we are unable to provide the particular spiritual help they need,
and we see them languishing in their pain despite our best efforts to help them.

Jesus tells the disciples
that in the particular case brought to them
by the father in today’s Gospel Lesson,
that the only way to resolve the spiritual problem
is through prayer and fasting.
The Gospel Lesson is given to us
at this time of year because we are in Great Lent
that season where we are supposed
to  be engaged in intense prayer and fasting.
And in today’s lesson
we come to understand fasting and prayer
as an act of love for others.
For the ‘self-denial‘ of Lenten fasting
isn’t praised in today’s Gospel lesson
as a means for us to attain Salvation for our own souls,
but rather as a means to drive out evil spirits from the world.

We aren’t fasting for our own selfish interests
– to gain our own Salvation;
we are fasting to help liberate our fellow humans from demonic influence.
Fasting in this sense is not about “ME”.
It is about God’s love for the world
and that some of God’s Kingdom goals only can be accomplished
through intense prayer and fasting.
This of course presents to us the counter-intuitive notion
that for Christians to live for the world, means ‘to pray and fast’.

This 4th Sunday of Great Lent we remember Saint John Climacus
who wrote a book about a ladder reaching to Heaven.
It is a symbolic image which serves to remind us as Christians
that we are on a sojourn.
All of Great Lent is a journey, prayer, fasting, charity and repentance
are the ways we move along this journey toward our destination:
the Kingdom of God.

We are reminded through Lent that the world we live in is the world of the Fall,
a world in which sin and death are still dominant players.
We are reminded that the world we live in is not the Paradise
wherein God put the first human beings,
nor even is this the world into which Eve and Adam were expelled,
because our world is after the Great Flood
and so many things separate us from Paradise and Adam and Eve.
This world also is not the Kingdom of God:
death and corruption and suffering are the signs of this.

So we are sojourning through a time and place which are neither are original home nor our final destination.
We need to actively travel through this time and place and again I remind you this means repentance, going to confession,
being generous and charitable, forgiving others, asking forgiveness,
praying, studying the Scriptures, fasting
and focusing on loving God and neighbour.

The reality of our spiritual sojourn on earth is
that we don’t see the entire picture of what is happening,
what has happened, or what is yet to come.
We know that Jesus is the Son of God
Who came into the world and Who descended into Hades, the place of the dead.
He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.
Christ reveals to us that there is this greater reality:
that place from which He came and to which He returned after His life on earth.
And He revealed to us that the place of the dead is not our final destination either.
Christ reveals to us that we normally see
only a part the entire cosmos which God created.
This is why we are often troubled by our inability
to understand what is going on in the world.

We can observe only the world of the Fall,
a world in which death, earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear melt downs take place.
It is a world in which the powers opposed to God still operate.
Hebrews 2:14 tells us that it is the devil who has power over death.
We cannot accomplish God’s will through death – not through abortion, capital punishment or bombing enemies into submission.
Death is an enemy of God and of humankind.
Death is not even the way to heaven:
the phrase “die and go to Heaven”
does not occur in the New Testament.

God is destroying both death and the devil.
The world of the Fall is not a world of Justice.
People die unfairly and due to events
that are no fault of their own.
It is a world in which humans afflict death on one another to try to gain control over each other,
even in Church.
That reminds us that we live in the world of the Fall,
for again as Hebrews 2:14 tells us,
the devil has the power of death.

We are sojourning through this world.
We have the power to transform our own lives through the Gospel
– to live not relying on the power of death,
but on that power which destroys death.

Orthodoxy & the departed Saints pray for us

This done, in like manner
there appeared a man with gray hairs
and exceeding glorious,
who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty.
Then Onias answered, saying,
‘This is a lover of  the brethren, who prays much for the people
and for the holy city, 
to wit, Jeremiah, the Prophet of God’“.
2Mac.15: 13-14

This was the vision which was seen by the courageous Judas Maccabee.
The first to appear to him from the other world was Onias the high priest and after that the holy Prophet Jeremiah.
Just as Moses and Elijah were seen in Glory by the apostles on Mount Tabor,
thus, at one time Judas Maccabee saw the Prophet Jeremiah in Glory.
Not even before the Resurrected Christ did God the Merciful
leave men without proof of life after death.
In Christian times, however, those proofs are without number and without end.
Whoever, even after all of this, doubts in life after death,
that one stands under the curse of his sin as under his grave stone.
As inanimate things cannot see the light of day,
so neither can he see who doubts life which is and to which there is no end.

But, behold with what kind of Glory is
the Prophet Jeremiah wedded in the other life! “Gray hairs and exceeding glorious“;
– around him a certain indescribable dignity,
– a certain bright aureole,
– a certain inexpressible pleasure
– and beauty.
He who was dragged and beaten by men
to whom he communicated and imparted
the will of God
– and who was a captive in prison
– and a martyr in a fetid hole
– and who was ridiculed as folly
– and was tried as a traitor
– and finally, as a transgressor,
was stoned to death.
However, one is the judgment of sinners,
another is the judgment of God.
The most humiliated among men became wedded with angelic Glory before God.

And yet behold how Heaven calls one,
whom the earth called false,
a traitor and a transgressor!
– “Lover of the brethren“;
this is how Heaven called him.
– “Lover of the brethren“;
who prays much for the people.
Finally, see how the Saints in Heaven pray to God for us!
Not sleeping, they are praying for us
– while we are asleep;
not eating, they are praying for us
– while we are eating and have over-eaten;
not sinning, they are praying for us
– while we are sinning.
O brethren, let us be ashamed before so many of our sincere friends.
Let us be ashamed,
let us be ashamed of so many prayers for us
by the Saints and let us join with their prayers.
O Lord All-wonderful,
forgive us our sinful slothfulness and dullness.
To You be glory and thanks always.
Amen“.
Saint Nicholai Velimirovich

When particularly dedicated Christians
consistently demonstrate throughout their lives
a great love for Christ and their fellow-man
and when they live and die in unusually vibrant Hope and Joy in Him,
they are remembered with special fervour
by their fellow Christians left behind on earth.
Accounts of their good deeds, their wise words, and very often,
miraculous events associated with their lives, are spread by word of mouth.
Miracles often occur at the graves of such individuals.
An excellent biblical account of such an occurrence
can be found in 2 Kings 13:20, 21.
Here, a man was raised to life merely
by coming into contact with the bones of Elisha.
In addition, miracles often occur in respect
to the earthly possessions of the Saints.
We are told in the New Testament that even Saint Paul’s handkerchiefs became instruments of God’s healing [Acts 19:11,12].
An example of such an event in recent times occurred at the death of Saint Nectarios.
Just after bishop Nectarios died, the nurses changing his clothing
threw his woolen undershirt onto the bed of a paralyzed man in the same room;
the invalid was healed, immediately standing up
and walking for the first time in many years [Chondropoulos, p. 265].
Knowledge of such events is further spread
when accounts of them are recorded and circulated.
This encourages more people
to ask the person for his or her Heavenly intercessions

[even though it’s not tolerated by a local archpriest,
who is behaving to be a staretz himself].

Thus the devotion to the person spreads in a very organic, spontaneous way.
Such developments usually lead the Church
to formally honour such particularly holy persons
through the process of canonization

[often called “Glorification” by the Orthodox]
.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church,
which has a very detailed, step-by-step procedure for canonization, the Orthodox Church simply recognizes officially the popular devotion which has spontaneously surrounded the memory of the holy man, woman, or child.

[It is good to remember
that the canonized saints
are of all ages and from all walks of life,
from soldier to monk/nun,
from bishop to family father/housewife
]
.
Usually this is done at a regional or national level, where awareness of the saint’s life tends to be greatest, but the other Orthodox Churches may announce their recognition of the canonization as well.
All this is done so that the popular piety
surrounding the saint is channelled and safeguarded
under the protective mantle of the Church
and so that those living beyond the local area
where the saint lived can become aware of him or her.

We can say is that it is clear that the Jews of the diaspora;
1.]. believed the Saints were alive,
2.]. believed the Saints were able to hear their prayers, and
3.]. believed the Saints were able to respond.
Therefore, it is not much of a stretch to understand how the early Christian church, being comprised mainly of Jews,
did not have any problem with intercessory prayer to the Saints.

Historical Witness
A belief in prayer to the Theotokos appears to be a quite early development.
The John Rylands Papyrus 470 is a fragment dated to around 250 A.D.
and containing the following prayer to the Theotokos:
Under your Mercy we take refuge, Mother of God!
Our prayers, do not despise in necessities,
but from the danger deliver us, only pure, only blessed‘.
Tribe and Villiers 2011

Notice, if you will, the dating of this fragment
– well before the time of the edict of Milan in 313 A.D.;
this papyrus dates to the time of Emperor Decius,
under whose reign there was a persecution of Christian laity across the empire.
This prayer, dating from a time of great persecution,
is still contained in the Greek Orthodox “Book of Hours”,
where it is one of the concluding prayers of the evening services;
also, the Orthodox sing this Hymn as the last dismissal Hymn
of daily Vespers during Great Lent. [Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia 2011]
The prayer is also used in the Roman Catholic Church,
where it is known as the ‘Sub tuum praesidium‘.
Mathewes-Green 2007, 85-86

Shawn Tribe and Henri de Villiers provide us
with the following theological analysis of this prayer.
Three fundamental Theological Truths are admirably synthesized:
– The special election of the Theotokos by God [“only blessed”].
– The perpetual Virginity of the Theotokos [“only pure”].
– The Divine Motherhood [“Theotokos”; “Mother
may be considered as a poor translation of Genitrix.
Tribe and Villiers 2011

We should also add the idea that the Theotokos hears our prayers
and, in some sense, answers them.
Thus prayer to the Theotokos,
along with a belief in her remaining ‘ever-virgin’,
is an expression of ante-Nicene Christianity,
rather than [as some suggest] a syncretic grafting of paganism
onto Christianity by a post-Constantine, apostate church.

Witness of the fathers [& others]
Saint John of Kronstadt waxes lyrical on this topic.
Pray, my brethren, to the Mother of God
when the storm of enmity and malice bursts forth in your house.
She, Who is all-merciful and all-powerful,
can easily pacify the hearts of men.
Peace and love proceed from the one God, as from their Source, and Our Lady
– in God, as the Mother of Christ the Peace, is ardent,
and prays for the peace of the whole world,
and above all of all Christians.
She has the all-merciful power of driving away from us
at Her sign the sub-celestial spirits of evil
–  those ever-vigilant and ardent sowers of enmity and malice amongst men,
whilst to all who have recourse with faith
and love to Her powerful protection,
She soon speedily gives both peace and love.
Be zealous yourselves also in preserving faith and love in your hearts;
for if you do not care for this,
then you will be unworthy of the intercession for you
– of the Mother of God;
be also most fervent and most reverent worshippers
[excerpt from the diary of Saint John of Kronstadt].
of the Mother of the Almighty Lord;
for it is truly meet to bless Her–the ever-blessed;
the entirely spotless Mother of our God,
the highest of all creatures,
the Mediatrix for the whole race of mankind.
Strive to train yourself in the spirit of humility,
for She Herself was more humble than any mortal,
and only looks lovingly upon the humble”.
He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden” [said She to Elisabeth],
of “God, Her Saviour.”
Saint John of Kronstadt 2010, Kindle Locations 3050-3059

The Sub tuum praesidium [written between 250 and 280]
precedes by several centuries
the Ave Mariain Christian prayer.

On the papyrus, we can read:
.ΠΟ
ΕΥCΠΑ
ΚΑΤΑΦΕ
ΘΕΟΤΟΚΕΤ
ΙΚΕCΙΑCΜΗΠΑ
ΕΙΔΗCΕΜΠΕΡΙCTAC
AΛΛΕΚΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΥ
…ΡΥCΑΙΗΜΑC
MONH
…HEΥΛΟΓ
That is this greek text:
Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν
εὐσπλαγχνίαν
καταφεύγομεν
Θεοτὸκε· τὰς ἡμῶν
ἱκεσίας μὴ παρ-
ίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνου
λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς
μόνη ἁγνὴ
μόνη εὐλογημένη.
A literal Latin version might be:
Sub tuam
misericordiam
confugimus,
Dei Genitrix ! nostras
deprecationes ne des-
picias in necessitatibus
sed a perditione
salva nos
sola pura,
sola benedicta.
And an English translation could be: 
Under your
mercy
we take refuge,
Mother of God! Our
prayers, do not despise
in necessities,
but from the danger
deliver us,
only pure,
only blessed.

the hymn is chanted in the context of a Vespers Service for Great Lent:
MP3: Χορός Ψαλτών Οι Κρήτες Μαΐστορες κατανυκτικός

The Saints are living,
– are aware of us
[as seen in the conversations between
Moses, Elijah, and the Transfigured Christ],
– fellowship with us,
– worship with us at the heavenly altar
[of which the earthly altar is but a shadow]
– and are able to speak with Jesus.
The author of Hebrews charges us
to keep in mind the Saints in Heaven,
the ‘Great Cloud of Witnesses’ [Hebr.12: 1]
– of whom constant mindfulness in some way helps us
avoid sin and keep us on the path towards Salvation.